Sunday, 28 December 2014

2014 in review

Is it a bit of cliché to do a 'Year in Review' post just before New Year's Eve? Yes. Yes it is. But I'm a big fan of cliché, so here's a little summary of 2014:

January // February // March
The first month of 2014 was a pretty busy one. I performed with Poets United at the Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival, put the finishing touches on my poem for the Whittlesey Museum, and performed at the University of Cambridge Union Arts Festival. I was also performed with Norwich band Wooden Arms, who set my poetry to music as part of a brilliant event hosted by Allographic and Shindig.(Bonus poem with music HERE)

In February, I wrote a large number of sonnets with  Russell J Turner, Adam Warne and Andy Bennett, for our third sonnet writing challenge, 28 Sonnets Later: the Heroic Crown! I also got the chance to be part of the judging committee to decide this year's Fenland Poet Laureate winners!

March was another busy month: we announced the winners of the Fenland Poet Laureate Awards, and I was invited to write a poem for International Women's Day and perform it in Peterborough to help raise money for the local Rape Crisis Centre. I also did my first gig in Stowmarket, as part of The Whole Shebang open mic night. Finally, I went up to Norwich, with Fay Roberts, Nikki Marrone and Daisy T-G for a Cambridge take-over at Headcrash Cabaret at the Birdcage in the Norwich Lanes.

Performing with Wooden Arms in January

April // May // June
In April, I completed my first NaPoWriMo, and managed to write thirty poems in thirty days! A few of them were all right too. (But some were truly terrible!) I also did my first Allographic: Other Voices guest performance in Cambridge, supporting fantastic Fenland Poet Elaine Ewart! On top of all that, I went down to Colchester for a night of music and poetry in Steve and Tina's front room! And I have to say, it was one of the nicest gigs I've ever been to - thanks guys!

My favourite gig in May was hosting She Grrrowls: Lost and Found in North London - a fantastic night of female performance, organised by the very lovely Carmina Masoliver.

In June, Fay Roberts invited us to do an hour of poetry at Strawberry Fair in Cambridge, so we put on our very first Fen Speak at Strawberry Fair show, giving some of our regular poets the chance to perform in a festival environment. I also performed at the annual Pimms and Poetry event at the Welney Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre, which was really good fun! I'm also really grateful to Johanna Boal, for inviting me to do a short set at the Beverley Folk Festival!

Fen Speak performers at Strawberry Fair in June
July // August // September
Most of July was taken up with my writer's residency at the Museum of Beyond in Aldeburgh, although I also found time to write a commissioned poem for a friend's wedding. The Museum of Beyond is a fantastic art exhibition and ecological investigation, made by Suffolk artist Fran Crowe. I stayed for three days and wrote nine poems about the exhibition - you can hear me read then at the Museum of Beyond Soundcloud page.

August was a month of festivals! I managed to perform at three glorious festivals: Camp Bestival in Devon, Folk East in Suffolk, and Bestival on the Isle of Wight! All three were brilliant, and I must say a huuuuuuuuge thanks to Amy Wragg at Get on the Soapbox events, for inviting me to all these wonderful places to do my poems! What a star!

September was the Hammer and Tongue Slam Final at the Royal Albert Hall, and it was incredible! We also had our first birthday party for Fen Speak, the open mic night I run with Elaine Ewart. Here's to many more years to come!

Our Names in Lights at Camp Bestival (August)

October // November // December
October was a quiet month, but things picked up again in November: I did a gig in London as part of Utter! Winners, and did a support slot for Attila the Stockbroker in Norwich. We also took Fen Speak on Tour, with an event in King's Lynn, courtesy of local poet Sue Burge.

In December, I was part of the Stony Stratford Christmas Lights Switch On in Milton Keynes, took part in the last ever Utter! London Paid Gig Contest and was part of Nikki Marrone's Spark the Word Winter event in aid of the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity.

Supporting Attila the Stockbroker in November

Well done for reading all of that! What a mission!

Seriously though, it's been an awesome year! Hope you've had a good one too! And here's to 2015!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

POEM - Our cat saves Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating this year! I've managed to write a Christmas themed poem this year. It's a mix of A Visit from Saint Nicholas and Home Alone - if both of those stories had a cat as the main character. I hope you like it!

Our cat saves Christmas
Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the flat
Not a creature was stirring, not even our cat.
The moggy was motionless, guarding the door.
She knew that he'd be there. This time, it was War!

Soon the intruder would creep through the flat,
Wheezing and gasping, for he was quite fat.
And none of the humans would notice the noise.
It was left to the cat now, to foil his ploy!

At once, on the landing, there came such a clatter,
The cat ran and hid – her bravado was shattered.
And then, came a scratching of key finding lock,
The cat stood stock still, her brain still in shock.

From under the Christmas tree then, the cat saw
A man with a bin bag slip in though the door.
His eyes were red-rimmed, and his clothes stank of gin.
And he had yellow hair sticking out of his chin.

A vagabond villain, so sneaky and quick,
The cat knew at once that this guy was a prick.
He swept through the room, eyeing all the swag,
And started to slip things into his bin bag.

“An X-box! A laptop! These presents and trinkets!
“And look! These kind folk have left brandy and biscuits!”
He sat down to eat, and the cat saw her chance,
She skirted the sofa, and made her advance.

She slid round the table and up to the chair,
The man was distracted and quite unaware.
The cat felt her heart leap, her nerves all a-tangle,
But bravely she sunk her teeth deep in his ankle.

The man bit his tongue down to stifle his screams,
But the cat held on tight, griping flesh through the jeans.
The man kicked the cat off, and loudly he swore,
Then both of them noticed the chap by the door.

He wore shining fur, from his head to his toes,
He had twinkly eyes, and a rosy red nose.
And out from his bundle, a pistol he drew,
“I think that you had better leave now, don't you?”

The thief was disgruntled, but couldn't compete
with a gun-toting rival, and made his retreat.
The cat, slightly shaken, bristled with fear
For this was the geezer who'd wronged her last year!

The old man Ho-ho'd, and then he cried “Blast it!
“He's had all my biscuits and brandy, that bastard!”
The man scratched his chin, under beard white as snow,
And said, “I see where you're hiding, you know.”

He reached for the cat, as he came close
She hissed and she threatened to scratch his red nose!
“Shhh,” said the stranger. “There's nothing to fear,
“And I'm sorry I stood on your tail last year.”

But, though he protested, the cat wouldn't budge –
There's nothing so strong as a cat with a grudge.
So he tidied the room, and left all the gifts,
And went to continue his festive night shift.

He'd given her turkey, on a silvery dish
(For that was her one special Christmas-y wish)
And as she devoured her holiday haul,
She mused that Saint Nick was quite nice, after all.


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

POEM - Arrested Development

I've started writing poems again - so here's a new one for you. It's about being motivated by unusual objects...

Arrested Development
When I was small, I was in the Girl Scouts
(For twenty-eight days – but I think it still counts)
And in that brief time, I was gently conditioned
To shun wealth and money as normal ambitions.

See, in the Girl Scouts, if you have stuff to do,
You're aiming for merits, and that pulls you through.
You get little badges for each task completed
I almost had three (not to sound too conceited).

But, though I was driven, I wasn't obsessed,
I just wanted badges, and that was my quest.
No matter the challenge, or how hard the slog,
I drooled over badges, just like Pavlov's Dog.

But, now that I'm older, I've just figured out
Why I'm so lazy: those bloody Girl Scouts!
I can't get excited by cash-based incentives,
Without earning badges, I can't be contented!

So, I have a suggestion – please, just hear me out –
I think we should start up the Grown Up Girl Scouts.

Then, we could have badges for sleeping on sofas,
Or going to meetings still really hungover.
And there could be badges for selling our souls,
And drinking red wine out of cereal bowls.

Badges for making ten pounds last three weeks.
For sharing with housemates who give us the creeps.
For having a curry, instead of a run,
For throwing house parties where nobody comes.

And there would be badges for bullshit endurance;
For not having savings or getting insurance.
For making our tea from what's left on the shelf
(It's nearly two weeks since I poisoned myself).

And we could have badges for tall expectations,
For leaky apartments and job applications.
Not getting a pension, or having a mortgage,
For still having half of our stuff locked in storage.

For just having jobs, not high-flying careers,
For living off sandwiches, pasta, and beers.
And knowing our parents were married with kids
By our age. The thought of that scares me to bits.

But we're doing ok. We're not dead, or in jail.
We do have some plans – just not all the details.
We don't need an iron, or a skincare regime,
Coz it turns out that life's not as hard as it seems.

We'll sort it all out, all it takes is some practice
And, failing all that, we'll have shit-loads of badges.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

NEWS - Spark the Word, Fen Speak and the last ever Utter!

On Tuesday night I went down to the Amersham Arms in New Cross to take part in the last ever Utter! Spoken Word event in London.


While the Utter! banner lives on, with regular events in Luton and in Gravesend, London promoter Richard Tyrone Jones is hanging up his poetry promoting boots after ten years, in order to have a little more time for other projects. Tuesday's grand finale was a fantastic send-off, with all previous Paid Gig Contest winners battling it out for a massive helping of poetry kudos (and a big cash prize).

There were so many great performances on the night. I particularly enjoyed Daisy Thurston-Gent's wonderful space-themed poem, Laurence O'Reilly's heart-wrenching tribute to introverts, and Frog Morris' puppet poetry - complete with stuffed badger! I also really loved Rose Drew's political poetry and Laurie Bolger's ode to Shoreditch - which always makes me smile.  

Mancunian poet Tom Gill stormed through two heats, winning his place in the final where he was up against previous winners George Edward Chopping and Ali Brumfitt. Chopping's brittle persona and witty, surrealist poetry went down well with the audience, and Gill's poem about becoming estranged from his old school friends hit all the right notes, but in the end Ali Brumfitt came out on top with a cheeky piece about the pleasures of chocolate over sex. 

It was a fantastic show, and I was really pleased to be a part of it.

On Wednesday, we had our last Fen Speak open mic night of the year, at the Babylon Gallery in Ely. As usual, we had an great mix of styles and themes, including a beautiful poem about bereavement, a fab piece about Ely in the early morning, a wonderful story about rabbit pies, and a poem generated by predictive text! One of our regular contributors also wrote a poem about Fen Speak, which was really nice to hear!

I'm always so delighted at how enthusiastic people are about Fen Speak - we have a really good group of regulars, many of whom are beginning to be recognised for their talents through publishing deals and other projects too. I'm incredibly proud of all of them, and although we can't take any credit for their successes, I hope that Fen Speak has helped, in some small way, to boost their confidence in their abilities.

Then, on Friday, I went along to Relevant Records in Cambridge, for Spark the Word: Letters to Winter, an event organised by local poet and promoter Nikki Marrone to help raise money for the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity.

It was a fantastic show, with music from local band Mouth, artwork by Sensibly Insane, and poetry sets from the Skinny Poet (Jody Lee), Tim Knight, and Daisy Thurston-Gent. I also did a few poems to kick things off, doing a few pieces that I don't usually perform.

The shop was full to bursting, and we made loads of money for the charity too! Hoorah!

Now, I'm on holiday for the next two weeks, so expect and influx of blogposts over Christmas and the New Year! I'm really looking forward to having some time to write some new poems - so keep an eye out for them too!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

NEWS - Catching up on the last couple of weeks

I know I say it every time, but it really *has* been a busy couple of weeks here at Poetry Towers! So here's a little catch up post about our last couple of events, and all the other stuff that's been going on lately:

On Friday 28th November, Elaine Ewart and I sauntered up the A10 to King's Lynn to host the first Fen Speak open mic night in West Norfolk. Billed as Fen Speak on Tour, the event was organised by the local poet Sue Burge, who did a fantastic job with the marketing for the night.

In fact, by the time we were due to begin, the room was full to bursting with over forty people, including over twenty five performers! Not bad for a poetry night!

As well as our excellent open mic-ers, we had a feature set from Poppy Kleiser, the current Fenland Poet Laureate. Elaine and I both got the chance to read some of our own poetry too, and we were really happy to receive such a warm reception from the audience.

We had a fantastic night, and I'm looking forward to doing more Fen Speak on Tour events in 2015. (Watch this space!)

On Saturday 29th November, I travelled to Milton Keynes to take part in the Stony Stratford Christmas Lights Switch On Celebrations!

Photo courtesy: Fay Roberts
I performed alongside fellow Cambridge poets Fay Roberts, Riaz Moola and Emma Ormond, and we had a fine time. I was really impressed by the high standard of poetry and storytelling at the event, and I'd really recommend the Stony Stratford Christmas Lights Switch On Celebrations to anyone passing that way during next year's festive period.

As for me? I'll definitely be checking out Scribal Gathering, Stony's regular open mic night, in the New Year!

As well as all that, I've also been sorting out the edits for a new pamphlet of poetry (due out in January 2015) and chatting with friend and fellow poet Alex Tyler about a potential collaboration for 2015. The project's all very hush hush at the moment, but I'm really excited about it!

Finally, we're still trying to let everyone know about this year's Fenland Poet Laureate Competition! So, if you live in the Fens, and you think you could write a poem about your area, we'd love to hear from you! The deadline for entries is 31st January 2015, and all the details can be found on the Atelier East website.

And the best part? It's free to enter the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition - so get scribbling!

Last year's Fenland Poet Laureate Finalists (2014)