Sunday, 21 February 2016

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Leicester, Sonnets and Poetry is Dead Good

Hello there. Me again. How are things? This week I have managed not to injure myself with flying cutlery (see last week's post for further details of that little mishap) so I think that means that I am Winning At Life. I also did some other stuff this week:

The 28 Sonnets Later project is still going strong, and we’ve just passed the half-way mark with only two weeks left to go before the end. This is one project that always seems to go really quickly, and I’m really enjoying it this year so I don’t want it to end! Writing about pieces of visual art is proving to be both inspiring and interesting, plus I’m getting to know lots of artworks that I’d never even heard of, so my mind is certainly being broadened! Which is good. (I think.)

If you live a busy life, you might not have had the time to read every single sonnet we wrote last week. So here’s a list of links for you to feast your eyes upon:
#15 – Release (or The Volta) by Andy Bennett
#16 – She flips (her future) by Russell J Turner
#17 – Falling through the cracks by Leanne Moden
#18 – Hiding by Adam Warne
#19 – - end - stop by Andy Bennett
#20 – Shoot the Girls and Fuck the Boys by Russell J Turner
#21 – Self-Portrait by Leanne Moden

Sonnet #17 was a bit of a tricky one for me because the piece of art in question – Movement in Squares 1961 by Bridget Riley – is one of those optical illusions that seems to move and undulate as you look at it. And I’ll be honest, the whole painting left me feeling a little bit motion-sick.

Movement in Squares 1961 by Bridget Riley

My first attempt at writing this sonnet focused on that motion-sickness, and the resulting poem was quite angry, and just not very ‘me’. I also felt bad for Andy, who chose this painting, and I didn’t want to upset him by writing a wanky sonnet, so I decided to write a completely new poem, twelve hours before the deadline.

Andy likes Riley painting because it made him think of a really difficult chess board, and I borrowed this idea to write a poem that’s partly about chess, but really about social inequality. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

As well as all that sonnet writing, I also had a real-life gig on Tuesday night, as part of Poetry is Dead Good at the Jam Cafe.

I absolutely LOVE Poetry is Dead Good (PIDG), so I was really excited to get a small supporting slot at this month’s event. PIDG is both really cool, and amazingly relaxed and supportive, and the events are very much tailored to the young/student contingent of Nottingham. This is AWESOME, because it means you get a lot of really great enthusiastic poets on the open mic, but it is also ever so slightly intimidating, because there are all these very cool university students there, and my comparative uncoolness is very very noticeable in these kinds of situations.

I needn’t have worried though, because the audience were really friendly and supportive, and lots of people bought my pamphlet and said nice things about my poems. I even managed to say the word ‘cock’ just as a small blonde child entered the building with its parents (before it was hurriedly ushered away by those same parents). I am officially a corrupting influence. Ooops.

I really enjoyed Andy Szpuk’s set, which featured material from his Austerity Cafe Rhyme Opera, and Future Shinjuku played a great selection of experimental yet accessible tunes, which the crowd really loved. headliner R A Villanueva gave an absolutely mesmerising performance, with precisely-observed writing that made the audience do those noises that you always hear at the end of really really beautiful poems. This is the sign of a particularly attentive (and spellbound) audience.

I managed to procure a copy of R A Villanueva’s book at the end of the night, and I’m really enjoying reading it so far! You should definitely get hold of it too, if you haven’t already.

Next week, I’m doing poetry with the University of Leicester’s Mental Health Awareness and Support Society at Firebug in Leicester, performing alongside some other poets from the House of Verse team. The event will be raising money for the B-eat eating disorders charity, which is bloody good cause, and I’m really looking forward to reading a couple of new poems based on the theme of ‘self-esteem’.

As well as poetry and a ‘body diversity’ fashion show, there’ll also be a performance from the University of Leicester Burlesque Society. So that’ll be good fun, I reckon.

Doors open at 7:30pm and tickets are £10 on the door. See you there!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - DIY Poets, 28 Sonnets Later and videos galore

Hello hello hello. How are things? I accidentally stabbed myself with a bread knife today while being over-zealous with my sandwiches. I also did some other stuff this week:

First up, I need to just say that this year's 28 Sonnets Later project is *so* much fun! I absolutely love writing poems based on randomly picked works of art, and the work by Andy, Adam, and Russell has been bloody brilliant so far!

In case you’re not yet up to date with 28SL, here’s the links to this week's poems:
#8 – Splatter by Russell J Turner
#9 – The Art Collector by Leanne Moden
#10 – The Banquet by Adam Warne
#11 – Indispensable by Andy Bennett
#12 – The Gods' Eternal Game by Russell J Turner
#13 – Post-Apocalyptic Advertising by Leanne Moden
#14 – Valentine's Day Sonnet by Adam Warne

Andy's poem about Tracy Emin's bed has been liked by the people who run Tracy's twitter account. If that isn't a celebrity endorsement, I don't know what is!

My next sonnet is going to be a weird one, because it's based on a piece of art that I actually can't look at for longer than a minute without feeling deeply queasy. Tune in to the 28 Sonnets Later website on Wednesday to find out whether I manage to write fourteen lines about it without being sick!

Away from cyber space (Honestly, who says that, these days! It's not 1998, Leanne!) I spent my Thursday evening last week in the company of a fine group of poets, for the DIY Poets show at the Maze on Mansfield Road.

It was a great night, with some really strong performances from the DIY-ers, and a great set from musicians Pop Orchestra.

I was really chuffed to be given a headline set at this particular gig, and I performed a mix of old and new poems, which seemed to go down really well. I also got my cameraman (read: long-suffering boyfriend) to take some videos of my performance. See below:

The main reason for doing some illicit videoing is so I have some decent 'performance' stuff to use in festival applications. However, it also means that I can *finally* start a youtube channel, like all the cool kids!

There are only four videos up there at the moment, but hopefully, we'll shoot some more at different gigs in the future. (If I can persuade my cameraman, that is!)

Next week, I'm doing a short set as part of Poetry is Dead Good, which is at the Jam Cafe in central Nottingham. They'll also have sets from Andy Szpuk and headliner R A Villanueva, plus loads of open mic sets and music from Future Shinjuku, so come on down if you can! The show starts at 7:30pm. See you there!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

WEDNESDAY NIGHT NEWS – 28 Sonnets Later, the Poetry Library and Thursday Night Lates

Last week was so busy! And I was all ready to do this super-long blog all about it, but then I got floored by a virus. I'm only just starting to feel human again! But anyway, there was some good stuff going on last week:

28 Sonnets Later 2016 has finally started, and the first weeks' worth of poems are now up on the website!

This year, Andy, Adam, Russell and I are doing Ekphrastic sonnets – that is, poems based on pictures. We’ve each chosen some of our favourite pieces of art, and we’ll take it in turns to write a sonnet a day about the pieces.

So far, I’ve had a gorgeous image from Cindy Sherman, and a great classical painting by Jacques Louis David. Some of the other sonneteers have already written about great works of architecture, installations and even a grotty single bed!

In case you’re finding it hard to keep track, here’s some links to each of the sonnets from the first week:
#1 – Hitchcock Blonde by Leanne Moden
#2 – Outside by Adam Warne
#3 – My Bed: Tracy Emin, 1998 by Andy Bennett
#4 – The Outrun by Russell J Turner
#5 – War is Hell by Leanne Moden
#6 – The Scream by Adam Warne
#7 – Finis by Andy Bennett

Then, last Thursday night, I trundled up the M6 to Manchester for the Quiet Compère event at the Whitworth Gallery on the University of Manchester campus. The event was organised by Sarah L Dixon, a local poet and events coordinator, who has been putting on National poetry tours for the past three years. She’d called the Quiet Compère because she likes the poetry to speak for itself. This is a brilliant ethos because it means that her line-ups are always filled with an incredibly wide variety of people and styles.

The Whitworth

And so it was on Thursday night, when ten fantastic poets filled the main hall at the Whitworth to share their poetry. The event was really well attended, and I really enjoyed it. (Even though I did lower the tone somewhat with one or two of my poems!)

I’m hoping to get back up to Manchester for more poetry in the future, so if you know of any good open mic nights, let me know!

Also this week, I got an email from James at Stewed Rhubarb Press. (The people who published my pamphlet last year.) Turns out that the Southbank Centre have asked for copies of the entire Stewed Rhubarb back catalogue - including Liaisons - for filing in their Poetry Library.

Needless to say, I was unnecessarily excited about this, not least because it all feels really blumming professional! I know it’s unlikely that many people will see my pamphlet in the library, or ask for it or anything like that, but just knowing that it’s there makes me feel all tingly inside!

Finally this week, I’ve been chatting to the people from the Malt Cross about another Crosswords poetry night in their caves, and we’ve agreed to hold another one on Wednesday 9th March. I’m really excited about it, and I’ve already booked an awesome headline act! Entry is £2 each, and all the details are over on the facebook events page. Hope to see some of you there!

Next week, I’ll be doing some poems as part of the DIY Poets event at the Maze on Mansfield Road. They’ll be performances from loads of other DIY poets, and a special musical guest as well, so it’s shaping up to be a pretty awesome night. Tickets are £3 each and the show starts at 8pm.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

POEM - Learning to Swim

As part of the Thursday Lates Quiet Compère session at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester that happened earlier today, our host Sarah L Dixon asked each of the performers to write a poem based on one of the artworks on display.

There are loads of beautiful pieces in the gallery's collection, but Aquarelle by Sue Palmer really caught my eye.

Courtesy of the Whitworth Gallery

 What at first looks like a photograph of water is actually a beautiful swirling design printed onto glazed cotton, and the artistry of it really took my breath away. It also reminded me of a conversation I had overheard at the swimming pool recently...

Learning to Swim

It's not that I'm scared
Or under-prepared –
It's just that I don't have the gear.

I need armbands and goggles
So my eyes don't get soggy;
You swim, and I'll wait over here.

No, I'm not frightened.
It does sound inviting!
I can't think of anything better.

I'm sure it's not cold,
And I'm frequently told
It's like walking but just a bit wetter.

Before we get in
Did you see that grey fin?
I'm positive it was a shark.

I know we're indoors
But that didn't stop Jaws.
Let's ditch this and go to the park.

All right, fine, okay!
You can have it your way.
But I'll blame you if I die of shock.

I had a big lunch
And now I've got a hunch
That I'll sink to the depths like a rock.

Okay, if I agree
Not to go near the sea
Then maybe I don't have to learn?

I feel really sick
So we have to leave, quick.
I can't swim when I've got heartburn.

When I see my friends
In the pool's shallow end
I'm suddenly not quite so scared.

"Get out of here, Mum
"I'm off to have fun.
"I'll swim, and you wait over there."

Monday, 1 February 2016

POEM - Happiness

Last week I did some workshops with the some year seven boys at a school in London. One of the things I asked them to do was think about their senses when writing poetry. I asked them to think about smells, sounds, tastes and textures, and they came up with some really great work! I also wrote a little bit poem of my own:


Happiness smells like
Lavender and honeysuckle
Musty old books on attic-room shelves
Wood smoke and wet leaves
Hot fish and chips smothered in vinegar

Happiness tastes like
Cherry lip balm
Vanilla ice cream with a chocolate flake
Sea salt in the air
A massive pile of chicken nuggets

Happiness feels like
A woolly jumper on a winter's day
Wearing your comfiest shoes
Laying down on freshly-cut grass
Running your fingers through blancmange

Happiness sounds like
A duck's quack
A samba beat on a Cassio keyboard
Birds singing in the hedges
The theme tune to your favourite TV show

Happiness looks like
Boiled sweets and new notebooks
Fields racing by the train window
A huge chocolate cake
Googly eyes on a greetings card