Tuesday, 26 May 2015

TUESDAY NIGHT NEWS - Bus Poems for the Peterborough Green Festival

I don’t know if you remember me telling you, but a few months ago I was asked to contribute some poems to the Peterborough Green Festival. Well, the wait is finally over and the podcast containing recordings of all the poems has just been released!

But before I give you a link to the podcast itself, let me tell you a little bit about the project and the festival itself:

 So, the Green Festival is this long-running initiative in Peterborough, which first appeared in the city in the early nineties. Peterborough is really proud of its environmental record, with over 350 green businesses in area and the largest number of zero carbon homes in the UK, plus a huge number of eco-schools (Which look amazing, by the way!) so it makes sense that the city would want to show off its green credentials!

This year, the Green Festival used the theme ‘sustainable transport’ to celebrate various environmental organizations in the city, raising awareness of local projects, green spaces, heritage crafting, carbon neutral initiatives, food, farming, biodiversity and recycling.

The Poetry on the Buses Project was supported by funding from Arts Council England and led by marvelous local poet and promoter, Keely Mills. Keely commissioned poems about sustainable transport from a small number of local writers, and also accidentally became the unofficial poet-in-residence on Peterborough’s major bus routes! 

In fact, she ended up spending three months riding the main bus routes in the city, using her journeys as inspiration for a series of poems celebrating Peterborough and its public transport system!

I know you’re probably laughing at me right now. You’re thinking, “Poems about buses? What a boring subject!”

And you’d be right, kinda. Buses are not a glamorous mode of transport. They’re often overlooked in literature (for often, read: always) and bus journeys are pretty much always seen as frustratingly prosaic.

But I think that sharing public space with so many other people – people who you wouldn’t otherwise associate with in your ‘real’ life – gives you a huge opportunity to see things from a new perspective. Plus, you often see the city from a completely different angle: able to stare at the shop fronts and houses – and see over fences and walls – in a way that you can’t when zipping past in your own car.

To me, it’s these altered perspectives that make buses an unlikely but rewarding place for inspiration.

And anyway, who said that poems had to be all Flowers and Greek Mythology?

Piss off, Zeus!

Anyway, after our poems were written, we popped along to the ‘Beat This’ community music studio to get our poems recorded. It was a fairly surreal experience, especially since local residents were recording versions of our poems too! Louise and Mihail read my poems for me, and they both did a superb job!

In fact, the whole podcast sounds completely amazing! You can check it out here: http://www.pect.org.uk/working-with-us/business-sector/green-festival-2015-poetry-on-the-buses-project

And the podcast will not be confined to the internet! Oh no! You’ll also be able to hear it playing in loads of different places across Peterborough this week, including the Queensgate Footbridge, the city market, the Rivergate shopping centre, Serpentine Green shopping centre, and some of the city’s top radio stations!

So huge thanks go to Keely for asking me to be involved in this project. And, if you’re keen to read my commissioned poems, have a gander further down the page. Let me know what you think!

If you’re a nosy parker,
Then you’re in for a treat!
There’s stories flying thick and fast
So save yourself a seat.

Sit just behind the driver –
Don’t put your headphones in!
And when the bus moves off again,
The magic will begin.

You might hear Amal talking
About his latest job,
Or hear the schoolgirls chattering
About their new heart throb.

You might catch Lauren’s story;
She’s saving for a flat.
Or overhear Frank tell his friend
About his farting cat.

You might hear Grace and Nina
Talk all about their girls:
Two doctors and a diplomat –
One day they’ll save the world!

Meanwhile, Marcel and Inga
Are teaching Bertie Dutch.
He hasn’t got a word right yet,
But it doesn’t matter much.

Now Cyril, Stan and Tyrell
Are contemplating tea.
But Bolognese or Roasted Lamb?
They can’t agree, you see.

And Daymo’s showing Enid
The way to work her phone.
They’ve mastered Angry Birds, and now
They’re looking at ringtones.

The old men swap nostalgia
In return for boiled sweets.
The youngsters talk about their dreams
On far off city streets.

Their words are crossing cultures
And bridging the divide.
Commutes are made more bearable
By talking, side by side.

I could ride this bus all day
And listen to their stories.
The murmuring mosaics of
A thousand trials and glories.

I’d never use a private jet,
So don’t ask me to try.
This bus is filled with laughter
As the city passes by.

And when we round the corner,
I curse the butcher’s shop.
See, I’ve become so lost in talk,
I’ve missed my blumming stop!

The Bus Driver
Our driver knows this city off by heart.
He traces routes upon his well-worn palms –
His knowledge isn’t science, it’s an art;
It takes more than a jam to shake his calm.
He knows just how to act, and plays his part
From Bretton down to Stanground and Park Farm.
He loves this job: the roads, the early starts.
The traffics lights have still retained their charm.
The regulars all call him ‘Juke Box Jim’
Because he knows the words to every song.
He treats each tune just like a choral hymn –
Encouraging us all to sing along. 
Being in his bus is such an honour:
I love it when he listens to Madonna!

Friday, 15 May 2015

POEM - Office Haiku

The office smells of
Wet fish and disappointment.
The same as always.

We make invoices
Into flightless paper cranes.
It passes the time.

The telephone rings
Cutting through my hangover.
I pray for my bed.

We pay for our tea
With pens and buy sandwiches
With bent paperclips.

Resources are low:
Ring binders are like gold dust.
I stockpile Tipp-Ex.

Don’t have feelings, which is why
Why we hate them all.

With no coffee left,
There’s nothing here for me now;
Go on without me.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

POEM - Appendix

This poem was written on day 6 of the #NaPoWriMo, and was inspired by my friend Laura, who had her appendix removed last year.

I like the ones in articles and, inside books, they're fine
But the one that burst inside of me was a total waste of time.

See, my appendix wasn't filled with useful information;
Mine was like a ticking bomb of pus and inflammation.

Things were going fine until my guts pushed “self destruct”.
(And when your stomach wants you dead that's when you know you're fucked.)

My appendix must have found diplomacy outmoded –
It didn't tell me what was wrong: instead, it just exploded.

I would have listened to complaints; I would have compromised.
I'd eat more fruit and vegetables. (At least, I would have tried!)

My scar looks cool, and now my guts continue unimpeded,
Appendix gone – despite the fuss, I didn't really need it.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

POEM - The Colour Wheel

So, I promised that I'd publish a few of my #NaPoWriMo poems on this blog. 

I wrote 'In Defense of Pink' on Day 4 of #NaPoWriMo and then I had to write a follow-up poem, 'A Retraction', on day 11, to clarify my views on the colour purple. I hope you like them both!

In Defense of Pink
When I ask you what you think
About the humble colour pink,
I see your shoulders sink
As you consider what to say.

And then you whisper darkly,
“We’re a little old for Barbie.”
And that’s true, but only partly,
Coz Mattel don’t own the shade.*

And while undercooked magenta
Might resemble cold placenta,
There’s no need to lament a
Splash of coral or cerise.

So don’t look down your nose
At the pinker shades of mauve
And understand that rose
 Is not the villain of the piece.

It’s the music – when it comes –
And it’s the colour of your lungs,
It’s your mouth and throat and tongue,
Painted bright like cherry drops.

And it isn’t just for lipstick –
 Coz Flamingos are terrific,
And it’s not some girly gimmick.
If you think that, you should stop!

See, it’s all refracted light
But it doesn’t seem quite right
That pink’s maligned, despite
Being cursed by circumstance.

Coz it’s only since the forties
That we’ve had these categories.
Let’s change these dated stories
And give pink another chance!

It’s the colour of smoked salmon,
And of ham and jam and gammon.
The evidence is damning:
Pink is still a winning cause!

And, if I’m not mistaken,
Without pink, we’d have no bacon!
If that thought leaves you shaken,
Then I’ll give you room to pause.

Pink's a strong and noble hue,
Plus it’s just as good as blue!
And there's something we can do
To advance its luckless fate:

So remind us Pink is tough,
And it's not just girly fluff.
Plus it rhymes with other stuff –
Not like purple.

Stupid Purple.

A retraction
I was wrong – I see that now –
My errors typed and verbal.
See, if you write in slanted rhyme,
There’s nothing wrong with purple.                            
I slagged it off, without due cause;
I’m dumber than a gerbil!
Coz if you think outside the box
There’s loads that rhymes with purple!
I’m sorry for my wrongful slight;
In truth, I’m prone to burble.
But now I’ve been enlightened,
I will gladly wear more purple.
Donatello was the best
Of all the Ninja Turtles,
And that’s what tips the scales for me
To favour greater purple.
So, at last, I’m finally free,
Unfastened like a girdle.
I know that loving pink is fab,
And so is loving purple. 

Monday, 4 May 2015

MONDAY NIGHT NEWS - NaPoWriMo, Fen Speak On Tour, and the Poetry Rivals Slam

So, we're now four days into May, and I still haven't told you how I got on with my NaPoWriMo challenge yet, have I?

I was writing alongside a great group of East Anglian poets (Poppy Kleiser, Fay Roberts, Russell J Turner, Nikki Marrone, Daisy T-G, Mal Content, and Emma Ormond) and we were each aiming to write thirty poems in thirty days.

So, how did we all get on?

Well, everyone really upped their game this year, and the poetry was at an incredibly high standard. We all managed to stretch our horizons, stepping out of our comfort zones and experimenting with form, rhyme and structure. Poets who normally write in free verse tried their hand at rhyming, while others had a go at stream of consciousness writing, and I even managed a couple of poems without rhyming at all!

In the end, I wrote thirty two poems over the course of the month, and I really enjoyed the shared experience of writing with friends and writing to a regular deadline. I don't think I could keep up that frenetic pace all year, but at least it shows that I can write quickly when I want to!

In fact, I managed to write a univocalism, a found poem, two abecedarian poems and even a clogyrnach! Plus I wrote at least five poems that will probably make their way into my performances, in some form or another. I'm planning to re-post them on this blog in the coming days - so watch out for those!


 In other news, we had an absolutely glorious Fen Speak On Tour event on Friday night at Thoresby College in King's Lynn.

The event was organised by local poet and workshop leader Sue Burge, and featured guest performances from Harriet Munson and Jonathan Totman, as well as a wonderful variety of performers on our open mic list. 

It was fantastic to hear Harriet read her Young Fenland Poet Laureate award-winning poem, and Jonathan gave a captivating performance. (His first in office as Fenland Poet Laureate 2015!)

All of our open mic poets were brilliant - with poems about Seahenge, motherhood and the writer Fanny Burney standing out as particular favourites for me.

I also got a chance to read two of my NaPoWriMo poems - companion pieces about the colours Pink and Purple - and they seemed to go down really well. 

In fact, the whole show was really went swimmingly, and we're already planning our next Fen Speak On Tour event in King's Lynn. Keep an eye out for more information in the Autumn!

And, if that wasn't enough poetry for one week, I spent my Saturday afternoon at the Central Library in Peterborough, taking part in the Grand Finals of this year's Poetry Rivals Slam.

The competition was fierce, with sixty finalists competing for the top prize of a Publishing Contract worth £2000!

And it was amazing to hear so many excellent poets performing in one place! I particularly liked Tom Evans' poem about his beard, Juliet Borland's pun-tastic golf poem, the line in Tony Noon's poem about 'dancing in the craters on the moon', and Hannah Eiseman-Renyard's gorgeous love poem. In truth, there were at least twenty poets who deserved to win.

I don't think anyone envied the job of the judges in this slam!


Still, our glamorous judges Fay Roberts, MC Mixy and Ben Mellor managed to come to a conclusion in the end - after much deliberation - and the prize was presented to Jim Clarkson. Jim's poem, 'Things To Come', was an amazingly descriptive piece of writing, filled with dense, dazzling imagery, and Jim read it beautifully on the night. He made a very worthy winner, and I'm looking forward to seeing his collection when it's published. Well done Jim!

There were also three highly commended poets. Tom Kwei was commended for his intensely clever and witty wordplay in his poem 'Third Person', while Robert Awosusi's poem 'Anger Management' was a huge hit with the audience, making them laugh out loud without compromising on its potent social message. The final highly commended poet was Poppy Kleiser (A former Fenland Poet Laureate - we know how to pick the rising stars!) whose beautiful, lyrical poem 'The Optimist' realy caught the judges' ears.

Although I didn't place in this year's competition, I really enjoyed the show, and I'm looking forward to entering again next year!