Sunday, 18 January 2015

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - My New Pamphlet and Other Adventures

I have exciting news! My new poetry pamphlet has arrived!

Rachel and James at Stewed Rhubarb Press have been working diligently for the past couple of months to edit, format and print this slim volume and I couldn't be happier with the result! The pamphlet looks great, thanks to the fantastic way James has designed it. And Rachel's excellent editing skills ensured that all my spelling mistakes and misused semi-colons were extinguished! I've thanked them both about a million times already but one more time couldn't hurt: Thank You Stewed Rhubarb!

So, here's how it looks:

I'm really pleased with it! Especially since it includes poems that I regularly perform, along side poems that I've never read out loud to anyone. It makes for quite an exciting mix! I've already sold six but there are still plenty left, and I'm really looking forward to taking them with me on my poetry travels this year! 

Of course, Stewed Rhubarb also publish loads of other pamphlets (by much better poets than me) so if you like that sort of thing, head to their website to check out their full collection!

The last couple of weeks have been super busy. I've done poems at the Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival (with the very lovely Peterborough based poetry group, Poets United) and supported Luke Wright at Hammer and Tongue in Cambridge, which was pretty exciting too!

I always really love going to the Straw Bear Festival. It's this weird local tradition where people wear straw suits and parade through the streets, with loads of morris dancers and folk musicians (plus plenty of beer for the spectators). Then the straw suits are burned on a bonfire to ensure a good harvest for the year ahead. It all sounds a bit 'Wicker Man' but don't worry - no real bears are harmed in the making of the Straw Bear Festival!

The Straw Bear (right, obviously)

The gig at Hammer and Tongue in Cambridge was pretty marvellous too. The crowd we so enthusiastic and welcoming, and I managed to sell six copies of my pamphlet as well! I did a couple of new poems, and they went down really well, so I'm hoping to stick them in my regular set list from now on. Of course, Luke Wright's performance put mine in the shade - and the slammers were incredibly impressive too - but I really loved it. In fact, it may have been my best gig of the year so far!

Finally this week, I spent Friday night in Huntingdon, helping to judge the Cambridgeshire Final of the Poetry by Heart competition.

There were nine contestants this year and each of them had been tasked with learning three poems to recite for the competition: one from before 1914; one from after 1914; and one from the First World War itself. As each student performed their choices, the judges (including me!) marked them for their evidence of understanding, accuracy and the level of difficulty of the poem.

My very official judging pack

It was an incredibly close competition and at least five of the nine competitors were good enough to win. In fact, I was really impressed by the level of confidence each of the finalists showed. It seemed as though they'd all worked really hard, not just to learn their poems and give a good performance, but also to really understand what it was they were saying, which was fantastic to see and hear.

In the end, Adam Vale from Parkside Community College in Trumpington came first. Congratulations Adam! He'll go on to represent the county at the national finals, which this year will be held on home turf at Homerton College in Cambridge.

Homerton College (very swanky!)

A massive congratulations should also go to Richard Young and the team from the Cambridgeshire Library Services, who did a brilliant job organising the event, and to all the teachers who inspired their pupils to take part. But for me, the contestants' performances were what made the night special.

I'm going to try to get hold of tickets for the grand final, and I'll let you know how I get on, if I manage to worm my way into that! 

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