Tuesday, 19 April 2016

NEWS - Mud Press, Crosswords, and the New Fenland Poet Laureate

Apologies for the radio silence re: news over the last couple of weeks – I’ve been massively busy, and I just haven’t had the time to put together a post!

That being said, I have managed to put up a few of my #NaPoWriMo poems on the blog, so hopefully you have had some fun reading those.

I haven’t written too many serious poems as part of the thirty-day challenge this time around, and many of the poems I have written fall into my standard ABAB rhyme scheme. It’s an easy structure for me, and it sort of my ‘default poetry position’. But #NaPoWriMo is supposed to be about challenging yourself and writing outside of your comfort zone. So, with that in mind, I’m going to strive to vary the pacing a little bit in the last third of the month.

I’m not sure how successful I’ll be, but I will keep you posted!

Last week, I went back home to the flatlands, to help out with this year’s Fenland Poet Laureate Awards ceremony, which was absolutely fantastic!

Some of our winners on stage

In case you don’t know about the awards, they’re a local initiative that celebrates creative writing in the area of North Cambridgeshire, West Norfolk and South East Lincolnshire known as the Fens. It’s very rural area, characterised by its brutally beautiful landscape, wide skies, and unique history. I’m a Fenland girl born and bred, so I might be a little bit biased, but I think it’s a wonderful place, and one that’s often overlooked by arts organisations.

This is part of the reason that the Fenland Poet Laureate Awards were set up, and the competition is now in its fifth year, giving local writers the chance to compose poems on the theme of ‘The Fens’ and compete for the title of Fenland Poet Laureate!

This year, the award organisers (Me, Elaine Ewart, Poppy Kleiser and Jonathan Totman) managed to get hold of a little bit of money, courtesy of a Market Place Development Commission Fund from the very lovely people at Market Place Creative People and Places, which is part of Arts Council England. The money allowed us to expand our ambitions for the awards show, and we were very lucky to also receive support from ADeC, 20 Twenty Productions CIC, and Ely City Council.

In the end, we welcomed over ninety people to our awards ceremony on Friday 8th April, and it was a brilliant event, with performances from all our short-listed poets, as well as a headline set from fantastic poet (and painter) John Lyons, plus live music courtesy of local band Karen and Co.

John Lyons performing

Our lovely judges awarded the Young Fenland Poet Laureate prize to Tashi Marley for her poem ‘I am’, while Mary Livingstone won first prize in the adult category for with her poem ‘From Maramures to the Fens’.

For a full list of all the winners, and all the information about this year’s awards ceremony, check out the Atelier East Website. You can also see a selection of the short-listed poems here. I'd recommend having a look at them, they're bloody lovely!

Mary Livingstone (centre) with all the other FPLs

Then, last Wednesday, I hosted another fantastic Crosswords open mic night, in the caves underneath Nottingham.

Despite having to compete with Kate Tempest (who was performing at Rough Trade on the same night) we still managed to attract a good audience, and the open mic was particularly strong this time around!

We started with a thought-provoking set of poems from DIY Poet Martin Dean, whose poems focused on classical architecture in the Mediterranean, and his dazzling imagery was far better than any postcard!

Next, we heard from TC, and his performance focused on themes of identity. His first piece, about an imagined local hero, gave us a lot of food for thought about the nature of role models. Leicester-based poet, Jodie Hannis impressed next with two incredibly powerful spoken word pieces, the first, an ode to positivity, and the second, a frank and often harrowing response to those comments from Stephen Fry about the survivors of abuse.

Sarah Crutwell performed a superb and deeply affecting piece about mental illness and homelessness, while Melanie blew us all away with her heartfelt critique of uniformity. Then, Martin Grey shifted the tone with his absurdist masterpiece ‘Grilled Shoes’ and an unusual take on the love poem, stuffed to bursting with very funny puns!

Frank performing at Crosswords

Next up, Frank McMahon read three excellent poems about guitars, eighties hair metal, and the colour brown (respectively), while Hazel Warren’s autobiographical pieces about her brother, and about a long lost love were deceptively gentle, and filled with incredibly relatable moments. Clare Stewart concluded the open mic with some great poems, including the wonderfully angry repetition in her poem about scrap, and everyone’s favourite ode to a cold sore!

I’m always really impressed by the standard of open mic performances in Nottingham, but this has to be one of my favourites so far – it really was a fabulous mix of tones and styles, darkness and light, rhyme and free verse. I really loved it!

And, if that wasn’t enough entertainment for you, we also had a brilliant headline set from Derby-based poet Dan Weber, who is one of my favourite local poets at the moment. Dan is one sixth of the Twisted Tongues collective who regularly put on events and shows in Derby, and his poetry is irreverent, witty engaging, and sprinkled with the just the right amount of smut! On the night, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand, performing loads of poems from his debut show: Project 28, which frankly dissects what it’s like to be single at twenty eight.

Crosswords is fast becoming a great little community of writers, and the venue is probably the quirkiest in Nottingham. If you haven’t been along yet, you should definitely check it out (and I’m not just saying that because it’s my event!) The next event is on Wednesday 11th May, in the caves under the Malt Cross. Doors open at 7:30pm and the show starts at 8pm. Check out our facebook event for further details.

I was also really delighted to find out that one of my poems has been chosen for the latest Mud Press anthology W O M A N. As you can probably guess the title, the publication is all about gender, feminism and femininity in the twenty-first century, and I’m really excited to be part of it!

I’m not yet sure when it’ll be published, but I’d advise you to follow Mud Press on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with all their news. They are a really cool small poetry press, and I predict massive things for them in the future!

Next week:
Next Thursday 28th April, I’ll be popping along to Bang! Said the Gun in Manchester to take part in their fresh meat slam. Wish me luck and, if you’re in the Manchester area, why not come along to help cheer me on. You can find all the ticket information here.

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