Saturday, 25 July 2015


Blimey! Has it really been 23 days since my last post?!

Suffice to say, things have been really really epically busy here at Poetry Towers, what with our relocation Up North and everything.

(Actually, we're only going as far as Nottingham - but that still counts as Up North to me. Hurrah for the East Midlands!)

So, other than finding a new house, getting a new job, moving one hundred miles north, and other general upheaval, what have I been up to this month? Well, I managed to squeeze in a couple of poetry-based activities too!

Hold your breath;* this is going to be a long post:

On Friday 26th June, I went down to Ramsey to facilitate a creative writing workshop as part of the Arts Alive in Libraries and Creative People and Places initiatives. These workshops are funded by Arts Council England with the aim of providing creative opportunities for people in rural areas and increasing participation in the arts in general. It's a really great initiative, and I'm delighted to be part of it!

My first workshop at Ramsey Library was great fun, and the two participants who took part were both really enthusiastic and talented too! We focused on writing exercises inspired by the history of Ramsey and everyone seemed to enjoy the session. I know I did anyway!

(And did you know that when Ramsey's Abbey was destroyed by Henry VIII in the 1530s, the stone was recycled and used to build parts of Trinity and St John's Colleges in Cambridge? Cheeky!)

Ramsey Abbey Ruins

Then, on Wednesday 8th July, I went back to Ramsey Library to do another workshop, this time with a group of kids aged 13 - 17. At least, that was the plan. In reality, a mixture of unreliable public transport and bad weather meant that only one person was able to make it in the end.

I started the session a little disappointed - but I needn't have worried! As it turned out, the workshop worked really well as a one-to-one session, and we even had time to talk about he publishing industry too. And, it turns out that Harry Potter based-questions are the easiest way to connect with bookish teenagers. I should have known!

A good way to make friends with teenagers

Straight after this, I was invited to perform some poems at friend's wedding, which was completely terrifying! And, if you know anything at all about my usual set list, you'll understand why I had to write a brand new poem, in order to have something suitable to read! In the end, I wrote a love poem in which the central metaphor is snail sex. (You can listen to me reading it here.) This also wasn't suitable, but I read it anyway!

Andy and Alice had booked an incredible line up for their wedding entertainment, including poetry from Martin Figura and John Osborne, music from Jonathan Marriott, comedic compères in the form of Tom Butterworth and Yanny Mac. It was a pretty awesome day! Congratulations to Andy and Alice!

Then, on Wednesday 15th July, I *finally* made it down to Forget What You Heard (About Spoken Word), an incredibly well-respected poetry night in the basement of a pub in Hackney. Rik and Matt run an excellent night, and the standard of performance in the open mic was mind-blowing! Many of the poets used their time on stage to explore some pretty dark themes, and the show was really cathartic as a result. I had an awesome time, and I can't wait to go back to FWYH(ASW) soon!

Gurning at the microphone (Photo by Tyrone Lewis)

On Friday 17th July, I hopped in my car and trundled down the A14 to Essex, to take part in the Lightbulb Festival in Colchester. Oh my goodness! What a brilliant event! Mark Harris' tender, heartfelt poetry about everyday life was beautifully realised, and Martin Newell was the perfect headliner, telling jokes and stories and playing songs in between recitations of his marvellous poems.

I did a few poems too, and the small crowd was really warm and welcoming. I sold five poetry pamphlets and landed another gig in Colchester to boot, so I'm really glad I made it (especially after a spot of traffic on the A12 almost stopped play!).

We're almost caught up now, so prepare yourselves for the home straight!

On Tuesday last week, I made my way up to Sawtry Library for my third workshop as part of the Arts Alive in Libraries sessions. We had seven participants this time, and it was great to experience working with a larger group.

Again, we used local history as a springboard for creative writing, and it was really brilliant to see how the participants interpreted each exercise in a myriad of different and creative ways! I can't wait for the next workshop in the series, which I'll be co-facilitating with Jonathan Totman, the current Fenland Poet Laureate!

Phew! That was a lot of stuff to get through, wasn't it? Well done for sticking with me though! As a reward for your commitment, here's a photo of an impromptu performance I gave in St Ives earlier today. You'll be pleased hear that the crowd were incredibly supportive (if a little distracted by river weeds!). 

An appreciative audience

*Please don't hold your breath - your eyes might fall out.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

POEM - Tub Thumping

I'm still fully obsessed by the Pop Sonnets Tumblr, which rewrites modern pop songs, transforming them into Shakespearian sonnets.

I wanted to do something similar, but with a different form of poetry, so I figured that villanelles would work pretty well for songs with really repetitive lyrics.

So, here's my attempt at a villanelle, based one of the most well-known - and most repetitive - songs from the nineties. The title very much gives it away. I hope you like it!

Tub Thumping 

You cannot keep me down, try as you might,
I will not live my life so piously.
When I’m knocked down, I rise again to fight.

And I will gladly piss away the night,
Battling against sobriety.
You cannot keep me down, try as you might.

So, if you stay a moment, I’ll recite
The drinks that I have drunk defiantly.
When I’m knocked down, I rise again to fight.

The lager is rebellion and the bite
Of whiskey smashes all propriety!
You cannot keep me down, try as you might.

And though the vodka makes it hard to write
A villanelle of any quality,
When I’m knocked down, I rise again to fight.

And when I’m in the pub (As is my right!)
I can’t stand up – and that’s the irony.
You cannot keep me down, try as you might:
When I’m knocked down, I rise again to fight.