Monday, 30 March 2015

FENLAND POET LAUREATE AWARDS 2015


On Friday 27th March, a gaggle of talented poets descended upon the Wisbech and Fenland Museum to take part in the fourth annual Fenland Poet Laureate Awards!

In  case you aren't aware of the Fenland Poet Laureate Awards (and if you're not, then wherever have you been for the past three years?!) the competition is part of a local initiative that allows writers to compete for the title of Fenland Poet Laureate, a role that allows the winner to lead projects to help raise the profile of creative writing in the Fens.

The competition also gives budding poets aged 10-17 the chance to compete for the prize of Young Fenland Poet Laureate, and the whole programme aims to establish lots of wonderful opportunities for all the short-listed poets and for the wider community too.

Basically, we want to help people in Fenland to get creative, giving everyone the chance to engage with poetry and creative writing!

Anyway, this year's competition was our largest yet - we received over 130 entries and we were completely overwhelmed by the excellent quality of the poems submitted!

All of the entries were judged anonymously, and our top ten finalists in each category were invited to read their poetry at the awards ceremony.

This year, the Young Fenland Poet Laureate prize was awarded to Harriet Munson for her poem ‘Incongruous’. We were really impressed by the vivid imagery in Harriet’s poem, and the way she managed to articulate the rich history of the Fens in a poem that beautifully captures the spirit of the area.

Second place was awarded to Alex Florance for his poem ‘Play Time’ and Anna Kober took third place with her piece entitled ‘Four Seasons in a Feather’. The seven highly commended poets in this category were Joe Bunker, Sana Khan, Alice Pealling, Georgina Puttock, Rajveer Sira, Kristina Tunnard and Kenzie Whyatt.

We also gave out a special merit prize for the best non-Fenland poem, and this was awarded to Cassandra Silva for her poem ‘My Box > Your Box’.

The winner of the adult category was Jonathan Totman. Jonathan’s poem, ‘Wicken Fen’, really impressed us. We loved the subtle, deliberate pacing, and haunting sparseness of the language, all of which perfectly mirrored the wild landscape of the Fens. The poem also has a depth to it that really captured our imaginations, and this really made it stand out during the judging process.

Second prize in the adult catagory was jointly awarded to William Alderson and Miriam Brown, and David Kerridge took third place. The six highly commended poets were Josh Bone, Nigel Hilliam, Helen Pletts, Alan Irving, Martin Simmonds and Dominic O’Sullivan. 

We had a fantastic turn out on the night, with almost eighty people attending. In fact, so many people wanted to see the show, that we had to split the event into two halves, in order to fit everyone in!

As you can imagine, it was a hectic, but very enjoyable evening. All of our short-listed poets performed beautifully, and it was actually really amazing to see so many people interested in, and inspired by, poetry in the Fens! 

We were also really proud to welcome Councillor and Mrs Hill, the Mayor and Mayoress of Wisbech, to the Fenland Poet Laureate Awards - and the mayoral bling certainly added a touch of glamour to the proceedings! 

The competition seems to be getting bigger and better each year, and this is all thanks to the hard work and diligence of organiser Elaine Ewart and Fenland Poet Laureate for 2014, Poppy Kleiser. We are also extremely grateful for the support we have received from various organisations and individuals who all come together to make this show happen!

With this in mind, we'd really like to thank the following people: David Wright, Nathan Jones, Karen Harvey, Atelier East, ADeC, the Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Lizzy Doe, Ben Brown, Pete ‘Cardinal’ Cox and Poppy Kleiser. We would also like to thank Wisbech Town Council and the Friends of Wisbech Museum for funding the awards ceremony. 

Congratulations to Harriet and Jonathan, and to all of our short-listed poets for the Fenland Poet Laureate Awards 2015!

Young Fenland Poet Laureate Finalists

Harriet Munson - Young FPL Winner

Fenland Poet Laureate Awards Finalists (Adult Category)

Winner Jonathan Totman collecting his award

Winner Jonathan Totman with the Mayor & Mayoress

All the Fenland Poet Laureates!

Monday, 23 March 2015

PROSE - Hell's Kitchen


I submitted a five-hundred word story to a local competition a few months ago, and yesterday I heard that it has been highly commended in the contest. I haven't written any prose for a long time, so it was nice to do something a little different for a change.

Hell's Kitchen

"I think there's something wrong with the cooker."

"What's the matter with it?"

She turned round in her seat to look at him, putting her book down in her lap as she did so. Henry's hair was singed, his eyebrows completely burnt away, and he wore the look of a man in shock. The remains of a scorched oven glove clung to his left hand.

"I don't really know.” He appeared dazed. “It's just that, well... All of a sudden it just got... really evil."

The book dropped to the floor as Isabel sprang to her feet.

"Evil?"

Henry nodded gravely and beckoned for her to follow him.

As they left the living room, Isabel noticed how hot she felt. Slick patches of condensation glistened on the walls of the corridor - as if the paint were melting right off the brickwork - and a loud, deep humming throbbed through her body, growing louder with each step towards the kitchen.

The whole house stank of sulphur.

At the end of the corridor, the smell was even worse and the heat was almost unbearable. The door to the kitchen was closed but beyond the wooden panels, she thought she could hear screaming.

“Did you leave the radio on it there?”

He stepped aside. “See for yourself.”

Isabel gripped the handle and threw open the door. Inside, the room was ablaze. Smoke billowed from the extractor fan in the ceiling and flames danced across the linoleum floor like lightning. The doors of the kitchen cabinets flapped manically, while grey, dead fingers curled around the edges of the fridge, beckoning and making obscene gestures.

The newly-possessed kettle, toaster and microwave had slipped their moorings, their plugs dangling as they swooped and dived around the room. The kettle knocked a pot plant into the fire, and its leaves exploding in a flash of blue light.

The oven door was wide open, slack-jawed, as if bawling in terror. A pair of shining red eyes peered out from its depths, and an unhinged cackling could be heard echoing out from under the grill. Large purple flames crackled on the hob and the flooring had melted away in an arcane semi-circle around the evil appliance.

Isabel smiled. Jumping over the burning patches of lava that had appeared on the linoleum, she swept across the kitchen and pressed the 'reset' button on the cooker.

In an instant, the flames and smoke were sucked back into the oven. The grey hands disappeared, and the screaming stopped. The flying appliances fell to the floor with a crash.

“What the hell was that?” Henry gasped, peering into the room from the hallway.

“It's ok! You must have just accidentally pressed the 'open a portal to hell' button” said Isabel. “It's an unusual setting, but great for steaks.”

Henry turned very pale.

“Is this going to void our warranty?” He asked.

'Hell' (Hortus deliciarum manuscript 1180)

Friday, 20 March 2015

FRIDAY NIGHT NEWS - Speakeasys and Soundscapes


Hello there! It’s been a long while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that – it’s actually been a little bit quiet around here of late, so I haven’t had much to blog about.

Luckily, lots of lovely opportunities have arisen in the past few days, so here I am again to bang on about poetry for a bit.

Speakeasy in Cambridge:
A few weeks ago – on Sunday 8th March to be precise – I went down to Cambridge to take part in Speakeasy at the ADC.

Run by poet and promoter Charlotte Higgins, Speakeasy caters primarily for students at the city's universities. The show itself is a mix of featured acts and an open poetry slam, and the whole evening has a really friendly vibe to it.

Despite this, I was a bit worried that I’d be the oldest person in the room by a considerable margin, and that worry was fully realized when I arrived. I was at least ten years older than everyone else, including the bar staff! Damn student towns!

I’m joking of course, but it was really cool to see so many students in the audience. Poetry really is the new Rock and Roll!

On the night I attended, there were featured sets from Charlotte Higgins and Antosh Wojcik, as well as a guest set from Abbi Brown, the winner of the previous Speakeasy slam.

All three featured acts were absolutely fantastic, and their very different styles complimented each other beautifully. I especially enjoyed Charlotte’s poem about the original Hans Christian Anderson version of the Little Mermaid (A fairly gory tale, perfect for poetry!) and Antosh’s euphoric and incredible tribute to dancing.

It was the first time I’d ever seen Abbi perform, and her poems were epic and lyrical, spinning delicate narratives full of sorrow and hope. It was awesome.

I put my name in the hat for the slam and it was a tough contest, with some brilliant performances from the other contestants. The whole night was so much fun, and I’m really looking forward to the next one in Michaelmas Term!

Fenland Poet Laureate Awards 2015:
I’ve also been busy helping to organize the next Fenland Poet Laureate Award Ceremony, which is happening next week!

Where has the time gone?!



There’s been a lot to do this year and I’ll be hosting on the night, so I’m a little bit nervous about that. But I am REALLY excited about hearing all the poets read their poems, and I’m thrilled to be announcing this year’s Fenland Poet Laureate!

Plus, we’re slowly building up awareness of Fenland poetry, and tickets for the show have been incredibly popular this year. In fact, we’re already so oversubscribed that we’ve had to break the night up into two parts, so that we can fit all of our audience in!

How amazing is that?

And the Mayor and Mayoress of Wisbech will be coming too – so no pressure there then!

The Fenland Poet Laureate Awards start at 7pm on Friday 27th March at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum in Wisbech.

Tickets are free, but if you’d like to join us, please do book ahead of time to ensure a seat! You can book your tickets by emailing: fenlandpoetlaureate@gmail.com

And we’ll see you there!

Publications and other stuff:
Publications sometimes feel a bit like buses (in that you wait ages for one and then two show up at once) and the last couple of weeks have been particularly bus-like for me!

If poems are like buses, then flash fiction is like a bendy bus

Firstly, I was really pleased to hear that one of my poems was published in an anthology of poems about addiction.

“The Whole Desolate Day” is edited by Lisa Zaran and published by Little Lark Press, with poems from writers from across the world.

I originally submitted my poem to this project in 2011, and the lovely people at Little Lark Press had been working really hard behind the scenes to put this book together – despite a hefty number of obstacles – and now it’s here!

The finished publication looks great, and was really worth the wait! “The Whole Desolate Day” is available on Amazon, and you can find out more about the anthology at the Little Lark Press website.

My poem ‘Perspective’ was also accepted for publication this week, as part of the second issue of Slim Volume – a collection of poems about place entitled ‘Wherever You Roam’.

Published by Pankhearst and edited by Kate Garrett, this collection will be out in May this year, and I’m really looking forward to getting my mucky paws on a copy! In the mean time, I'm going buy myself the first collection, Slim Volume: No Love Lost.

Soundscapes:
Finally this week, I just need to tell that I’ve been asked to write a poem for a soundscape installation to celebrate The Green Festival in Peterborough this summer!

How cool is that?

Green Festival commissioned artist Keely Mills is coordinating the project, and she has asked us to take inspiration from the themes of sustainable transport and unloved spaces. Our finished poems will then be recorded and played in some of Peterborough’s urban spaces in the run up to the Green Festival.

It’s a really cool idea and I’m really chuffed to be involved.

Plus I spent a lot of time on the buses in Peterborough in my (misspent) youth, so I’ve got plenty of experience to draw upon!

Aaaaaaaaand the best thing about the project is that we get to record our own poems in a posh recording studio! How fun does that sound? The answer is: very!

So yeah, that’s what’s going on at the moment. It's all been a bit bus-heavy, hasn't it? That's ok though, buses are cool. And here's what happens if you type 'cool bus' into google:

Source

I am definitely writing a poem about that bad boy!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

POEM - Equal

Hey, guess what? I've written a new poem!

Well, maybe 'written' and 'poem' are not quite the right words... Basically I've done a thing, and I wanted to show it to you.

However, in order to experience it fully, you'll need to listen to this song as you read it:



What a weird video, am I right?

Anyway, I decided to rewrite the lyrics to that classic eighties power ballad, in order to reflect an alternative point of view. (Sorry Bonny!)
I hope you like it:

Where have all the good men gone?
They’ve been here all the while.
My standards were impossible –
I need substance over style!
There are no white knights, just normal decent guys.
See, Hercules was never real,
And I’ve opened up my eyes:

I need an equal, I'm holding out for an equal
As a partner in life.
He doesn’t need strength
And he doesn’t need speed
And I don’t care about shape or size.

I need an equal, I'm holding out for an equal
Till the morning light.
He’s got to be kind,
An enquiring mind,
And he'll know I’m a girl, not a prize.

Somewhere after lectures
In my wildest fantasies,
I’m not some damsel in distress
With a man, who’ll set me free.
Both of us will have free choice
Of who will share our world.
And – if I was that way inclined –
My man might be a girl.

I need an equal, I'm holding out for an equal
As a partner in crime.
With mutual respect
I know we’ll connect
And we’ll be both detached and entwined.

I need an equal, I'm holding out for an equal
To defy social mores.
And I won’t idolize him,
Be mean or chastise him;
I’ll love both his strengths and his flaws.

I need an equal, I'm holding out for an equal
Who will like my tattoos.
Someone who let’s me
Be me and just gets me,
And I’ll do the same for him too.

I need an equal, I'm holding out for an equal
As the Gin to my Lime.
And if he’s still single,
And if he likes Pringles,
I’m taking his number tonight.

I need an equal.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - All these things that I've done


Has it really been two weeks since my last blog? I guess we've got a bit of catching up to do, haven't we. Are you sure you're ready for a big ol' blogpost? Ok, let's go:

On Wednesday 18th Feb, we hosted another excellent Fen Speak open mic night at the Babylon Gallery in Ely. We were treated to a story about polite armed robbers in India, a spooky tale about Black Shuck (the demon dog of the Fens) and even a bit of creative non-fiction from our co-founder Elaine Ewart, who read to us from her Masters Thesis about the German Island of Heligoland.

In fact, Elaine's piece, 'Heligoland: An Ecology of Exile'  recently won second prize in the New Welsh Writing Awards, and she thoroughly deserved the accolade! Go check out the video she and the other finalists made here! Do it!

Anyway, on Saturday 21st Feb, I snuck down to Changing Spaces - a beautiful art space in Cambridge - for a night of poetry and storytelling to compliment the We Make Monsters exhibition.


Monster by Alan Rogerson

As the name suggests, We Make Monsters is a collection of illustrations depicting weird and wonderful imaginary creatures. The art was created by local illustrators Alan Rogerson and Abi Stevens, and the week-long installation was included monster masking making workshops, drawing classes, and story writing.

The event that I went along to, Beasts and Bards, happened on the very last evening of the exhibition, when a gaggle of writers descended on the venue to share their most monstrous work!

Contributions on the night came courtesy of Patrick Widdess, Fay Roberts, Gytha Lodge, JS Watts and Lindum Greene, and the whole thing was fantastic! I especially enjoyed Fay's story about the Inuit princess Sedna, and how she become Goddess of the Sea. (Spoiler alert: it was pretty grim!)

I also really loved Patrick's Icelandic ghost story, and the wonderful werewolf poem from JS Watts. Gytha's epic coming of age fantasy story was completely compelling, and the chilling warnings in Lindum's poetry sent shivers down my spine. Or maybe it was just the rabbit head mask that was creeping me out?

Either way, it was a brilliant evening, and a chance to hear new material from some of my favourite local writers!

On Sunday 22nd Feb, I nipped across to Peterborough to meet Pete 'Cardinal' Cox and Poppy Kleiser, and to read through the 131 entries for this year's Fenland Poet Laureate Competition!

The standard of poetry was really high this year and it was a total pleasure to read through them all.

The entries were anonymised, so we only received the printed poems, without any names or identifying marks on them. Instead, each poem was given a serial number, which corresponded to a spreadsheet with all the details of the entrants. And not knowing who had written each poem made the whole thing seem even more exciting!

Anyway, the shortlisted poets will be formally announced this week, and I'll definitely let you lot know as soon as I can! It's all so exciting! Can you tell I'm excited?

The winners will be announced at the special Fenland Poet Laureate Awards Ceremony on Friday 27th March 2015.


On Monday 23rd Feb I shuffled down to the Big Smoke to take part in Listen Softly London, a brilliant monthly poetry show, which takes place in the upstairs room at the Crown in Southwark. I was a little nervous beforehand (I don't think I'll ever lose those pre-performance nerves!) but our host, the very lovely Mr Dominic Stevenson, was incredibly welcoming, and the audience was really warm and friendly.

Steve Pottinger took to the stage first, lamenting the poor research in certain recent reports from Fox News and warning of the perils of climbing onto the property ladder. Steve's poems were witty and sharply observed, and his performance was an excellent start to the show!

Next up, Alice Furse read to us from her debut novel 'Everybody Knows This is Nowhere'. It's a tale of post-university malaise and the existential dread that comes from being in your mid-twenties. If art is meant to hold up a mirror to life, then this novel definitely reflects how I felt at twenty four. It's bleak and brilliant, with loads of laugh out loud moments. Definitely worth seeking out to read.

Anthony Hett, the third poet on the bill, brought a whole new energy to the room when he took to the stage. His poetry was quiet, intense and beautiful, and the strong narrative thread that ran through all his work made his performance utterly compelling.

I read a few poems from my latest pamphlet - and freaked out a few people with 'Shaving Grace' - but the performance actually went down pretty well. I managed to sell eight copies of my pamphlet (enough to buy myself a cheeky cheeseburger on the way home) and added a few more new friends to my twitter feed - which is lovely!

In fact, I'd say that Listen Softly London was probably one of my favourite gigs that I've done for a long time. So, if you're ever in Southwark, make sure you check them out! Next month's gig is on Monday 23rd March, and tickets are available for We Got Tickets.

(Sorry for the long blog! Don't worry, we're nearly at the end!)

On Saturday 28th Feb, I went along to the Espresso Library in Cambridge to do a few poems in support of David Allen, a performance poet who is doing ten gigs in ten cities in ten days, and cycling between each destination - at combined distance of over 700 miles!!! It's all for charity, and Dave is raising money for eleven organisations. You can find out more about his journey here.

On the night, we heard poems from Fay Roberts, Abi Palmer, Tim Knight, Emma Ormond and Daisy T-G, as well as a full set from the man himself - having just left the saddle not thirty minutes before he was due on stage! What a star! And what a great gig too!

UPDATE: The event in Cambridge raised £108.80 for Centre 33. If you didn't make it down and fancy giving a worthy cause a little of your cash, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/GoodToTalkCam

I pulled a lot of weird faces in my performance:

Photo Courtesy of Daisy T-G

And, I think that's it for the last fortnight. If you've managed to read all the way to the end of this long and rambling blog post, then you have my eternal gratitude. Also, here is a picture of a Komodo Dragon wearing a party hat. Don't say I never give you anything!

Source