Sunday, 24 July 2016

POEM - Boatswain

A couple of weeks' ago, I was involved in a poetry event at Newstead Abbey, the ancestral home of the poet Lord Byron. Since then, I've found myself thinking a lot about Byron's writing, and about the house itself.

George Gordon Byron was a pretty complicated character who wrote some beautiful poetry, but the thing that always strikes me whenever I got to Newstead is the enormous tomb in the garden, which Byron dedicated to his dog Boatswain, who died of rabies in 1808. The monument includes a long poetic inscription (which you can read here) and I really like it because it proves that people have been going doe-eyed over their pets for at least two-hundred years. This makes me feel better about the five-hundred photos of my cat I have stored on my phone.

As you can see if you read the Epitaph on the tomb, Byron really loved that dog. In fact, if anyone ever loves me as much as Byron loved Boatswain, I will be happy woman! (Although the love between Byron and his dog was strictly platonic, so don't get any funny ideas there!)

Anyway, I like to do a cover version where I can, so I thought that Boatswain would be the perfect topic for a re-imagining of the classic Byron poem 'She Walks in Beauty'. My version is called 'He rolls in goose poo':

He rolls in goose poo

He rolls in goose poo to impress
the rabbits, who are half his size.
His waking thoughts, no one can guess;
There's puzzlement deep in his eyes.
He's not a beauty, he's a mess;
His pungent smell attracts the flies.

He's got a limp, a gammy paw,
And struggles with incontinence.
He's frequently sick on the floor
But still you treat him like a prince.
His foibles make you love him more -
The rest of us are unconvinced.

And when he dies, you'll build a shrine,
Ensure an epitaph is penned
To speak the truth in every line
And mourn the passing of a friend.
A peerless, canine paradigm
Who loved you to the bitter end.

What a good doggy! Yes you are!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

TUESDAY NIGHT NEWS - Words for Walls, Art Gallery Soundscapes and Wandering Poets


Well, it’s been a good few weeks since my last missive, so I thought I’d better tell you what I’ve been up to in all those days away from my computer.

Brace yourselves, we’re in for a long ol’ post:

On Thursday 30th July, I snuck down to Rough Trade in Nottingham for the DIY Poets gig. It was a really great night, with brilliant poetry from the ‘Over Land Over Sea' anthology of poems in solidarity with refugees, and a fantastic musical set from Stacey McMullen. Much of the work presented at the event had a political edge to it, given that the referendum result was still ringing in our ears, and it was really interested to hear people’s views on the whole situation.

I even managed to read a couple of new ones (Like I said I would!) and I got a really positive response from the crowd.

In fact, one of the audience members liked it so much that she got it up on the Experience Nottingham, and you can read it here. The Sheriff of Nottingham even retweeted it – which made me feel like a character in a Kevin Costner movie! (Ask your mum, kids!)

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen

Then, on Monday 4th July, I went along to Broadway in the city centre to facilitate a poetry workshop on behalf of the Words for Walls project.

It was an afternoon gig, which meant that a lot of people weren’t able to make it because of clashes with work and school, but we did get a really fantastic group of participants in the end and their work was so good!

We produced some poetry based on the themes of identity and belonging, while also using films and filmmaking as a way to create new writing. Although we didn’t get through all the exercises I’d planned, it was a really fun experience, and I’m hoping that Broadway will let me do some more project work with them in 2016/17. Watch this space!

Massive thanks to Cynthia, Ioney, Chris and Philip for attending the workshop on the day, and huge thanks to Nicola and Philip for all their support on the project.

And, there’s still time for you to submit a poem to the Words for Walls project as well! The project aims to celebrate the Nottingham by bringing poems by local people into public spaces across the city. So, if you have a connection to Nottingham, you can submit a poem, and selected pieces will be displayed in the Autumn, in cinemas, galleries, bus stations and the like.

You can read all the details about the project and details of how to submit your poem on the Words for Walls website. Go on, submit your poem now!


On Friday 8th July, I popped down to the basement in the Bonington Building at Nottingham Trent University to record some poems for the Bonington Gallery Listening Booth. The booth is a tiny one-person art space, specifically designed for sound sculptures and audio-only pieces. It’s open for all the students to use, and also exhibits work by more established artists. So obviously, it seemed like the perfect spot for a bit of spoken word!

Rob the technician is massively knowledgeable about all things SOUND, and it was really interesting to see all the different mics and doo-hickies, and how they each made the poems sound so different.
It was also really weird performing a whole fifteen minute set to an empty room, but I think I managed!

In fact, I’m pretty pleased with how it came out. There are some old favourites on there and a couple of newer pieces too, and Rob’s suggested that we think about adding in a couple of elements of sound design too, which is super exciting! I’m of half a mind to add some cowbell, but I’m not quite sure it would be appropriate.

Anyway, all that’s left for me to do is come up with a name for the whole thing. I’m crap at titles, so this is going to be a difficult one, and if you have any ideas, you should definitely let me know! The best I’ve come up with so far is ‘Modenifesto’, and I kind of stole that off Catlin Moran, so…

Then, on Sunday 10th July, I hotfooted it up to Newstead Abbey for their Wonderful Words and Wandering Poets event.

Photo by Andy Jakeman

Newstead Abbey is Byron’s old gaff, so it’s bursting to the brim with poetic history. But, because the gardens and grounds are so spectacular, most people who visit don’t bother going into the house. Newstead Poet in Residence Becky Cullen thought this was a bit of a shame, so she devised a fantastic programme of events to entice people into the building.

There were poetry tours of the house, led by Becky herself, choral performances in the orangery, a string duet in the sitting room, and games, crafts and storytelling for the little ones in the grounds.

There were also six Wandering Poets (including me) who were tasked with giving out information, and encouraging people to try the tours by reading and reciting poetry to them in the gardens.

Now, I know most of you are thinking that pestering the public with poetry sounds like a bit of a rubbish gig, but I am a massive fan of people-bothering, and a huge narcissist to boot, so it was a completely perfect day out for me!

Wandering poets (currently standing still) 

In fact, my poetic partner Kyle and I received a lot of positive comments on the day, and Kyle's reading was so good that he almost moved an older lady to tears! PLUS I managed to placate a crying child with a rendition of 'The Owl and The Pussycat'! And anyone who knows me knows that I am not good with toddlers in normal circumstances. So you can bet that I'll be putting that on my Business Cards from now on!

'Leanne Moden, poet, performer, event organiser, and child-calmer extraordinaire!'

I like the sound of that!


Sunday, 3 July 2016

POEM - No Such Thing as a Bacon Roll

On Monday afternoon, I'm going to be hosting a poetry workshop at the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham. (The workshop is actually open to all ages - despite the website saying it's only for 16-21 year olds!) 

One of the themes of this workshop will be film/cinema. One of the exercises will involve writing about Nottingham in the style of a film script. So of course, I had to have a go at that myself too! 

Here's my attempt. It's a little list poem about Nottingham, in the style of Trainspotting:

No Such Thing as a Bacon Roll

Choose Life. Choose a cob.

Choose a canal.

Choose Sneinton Market and Forest Fields,
Goose Fairs and Market Squares,
Stone Lions and Nottingham Lace.

Choose walking through the arboretum on a warm summer’s evening
Or bombing through Radford on the back of a bicycle.

Trawling for vintage togs and vegan grub in Hockley
Or trying in vain to pet the deer in Wollaton park.

Choose a castle that isn’t even a castle.

Choose music around every corner and more art galleries than you can
Shake a stick at.

Choose the rebels.
And the underdogs.

Choose DH Lawrence, Brian Clough and Lord Byron.
Nell Gwyn and Su Pollard;
Alan Silitoe and Torvill & Dean.

Choose Paul Smith.

Choose some of the best inventions of the twentieth century:
Ibuprofen and fMRI machines,
HP Sauce and Supermarket Sweep.

Choose Trent Bridge and Meadow Lane,
The Motorpoint Arena and the City Ground.

Rayleigh Bikes and Boots the Chemist.

Choose the Alley Cafe. Choose Sat Bains.
Choose stumbling out of Ocean at 4am with no idea where your shoes are.

Bright green trams and pictures of Robin Hood absolutely everywhere.

Choose friendly conversations with strangers on buses.
Choose tekkin the mick and not gerrin a mard on.

Choose one of the most diverse communities in the UK.

Choose life. Choose a cob.

Friday, 1 July 2016

POEM - Picking up the pieces

I read an article recently about a family who were no longer on speaking terms, due to their respective leave / remain opinions on #Brexit. 

Although I am genuinely gutted by last week's result, which will probably do the UK (or what's left of it) a lot of harm in the long-run, I feel desperately sorry for the rifts the vote has created in families and communities. There's been a reported rise in hate crimes off the back of the referendum vote, which is utterly despicable, and what Britain needs now is for all people on both sides of the debate to come together to stamp out intolerance. 

This poem is about that. It's a 'skinny poem', which is a form with eleven lines, in which the first and final line have the same words in them (though not necessarily in the same order), and the second, sixth and tenth lines form the refrain. I hope you like it: 


Picking up the pieces
When you cry
"I didn't vote for this"
As unintended consequences bite
Like broken glass.
When you sneer
"I didn't vote for this"
Smug as a soothsayer
Standing in the ruins
Remember that I will still hold you – even though
I didn't vote for this –
When you cry.