Tuesday, 4 April 2017

TUESDAY NIGHT NEWS - La Raza, City of Literature and the Fenland Poet Laureate Awards 2017

Hello hello hello! Apologies, once again for being the Amazing Disappearing Woman just recently, but it’s been very busy of late here at poetry towers! And even though that means that the ol’ blog gets a bit neglected, when I do get the chance to write some stuff down, there’s lots to tell! So, let’s get down to it, shall we?

Back on Sunday 26th March, I swooped (swope?) down to Cambridge to take part in Sunday Night Lives at La Raza in Cambridge.

I used to work in Cambridge so it was lovely to be back in the city and particularly lovely to see some recognisable faces too!

There were great live sets from Afrodita Nikolova and Fay Roberts (who has just been shortlisted for a Saboteur Award – Go Fay!) and marvellous music from Max Bianco, Jo Ash and Rebecca Heyne. The whole thing was fantastically hosted by Mark McGivern and I even got the chance to do a couple of new poems in my set, which was lovely!

Even better, Fay’s camera took its own initiative and stitched together a load of my photos into a very jazzy little gif:

What a jiffle-bum!

I had no idea I was so fidgety on stage!

Then, on Friday 31st March, it was time for the sixth annual Fenland Poet Laureate Awards, which was very pleased to be hosting alongside the very wonderful Jonathan Totman!


In case you haven’t heard of it (And if not, why not?!) the Fenland Poet Laureate Awards are an annual competition celebrating poetry in Fenland, which is an area of very marshy land in North and East Cambridgeshire, West Norfolk and South Lincolnshire.

Each year, local writers are encouraged to submit poems reflecting some aspect of the Fens, the judges choose their favourites, and the winner is crowned Fenland Poet Laureate for the year! The laureate can then use their year in post to develop projects, organise events and generally raise the profile of poetry in the area.

Judge Rebecca Watts performing at the awards ceremony

Since I started coordinating the awards in 2014, I’ve always been massively impressed with the high quality of poems we receive.

This year, we had over 110 entries and our judges picked their top eight poems in each category. Our finalists were then invited to read their poetry at the awards ceremony, which took place at March Town Hall in Cambridgeshire.

This year, the Young Fenland Poet Laureate prize was awarded to Sophie Lutkin for her poem ‘In Situ’. I tell you, I was so impressed with this poem I genuinely thought we’d accidentally put one of the adults’ poems in the young people’s category by mistake. Sophie’s piece, which was about the archaeological finds at Must Farm in Whittlesey, showed such a mature sense of language and tone, and contained a beautiful central metaphor that really took my breath away!

Second place went to Oliver Williams for his poem ‘My Fenland Journey’, and Georgina Melia was placed third with her piece ‘Homeland Glory’. There were also five highly commended poets in this 10-17 age group: Ivy Birmingham, Thomas Fox, Thomas Kane, Tia MacNab and Phoebe Oram.

The winners in the adult category FPL 2017

The winner of the adult category was Kate Caoimhe Arthur with her poem ‘Tree’. Kate’s poem was absolutely stunning, and the judges chose it as their winner because of its original perspective. “Where most poems celebrated the wide openness of the fens landscape,” the judges said “this poem engaged with the negative implications of not being able to hide within it. It investigated the psychological impacts of the landscape, and in the final stanza drew this dirt and darkness into a domestic setting.”

Liz Davies took second place for her poem ‘A Wet Summer on the Fens’, and third prize went to Jacqueline Ogden for her poem ‘Waterways’. The five highly commended poets in the adult category were Tony Bowland, Beth Hartley, Rosemary Jones, Dominic O'Sullivan, and Sue Welfare.

Massive congratulations to Sophie and to Kate, and to all the other finalists who were kind enough to share their poetry with us this year!

My hosting style is somewhat chaotic... exhibit A above

Then, on Monday 3rd April, I was lucky enough to be asked to do some filming with the lovely people at Nottingham City of Literature, a local organisation that promotes creative writing within Nottingham.

They’d seen me performing my poem ‘No Such Thing as a Bacon Roll’ at the Nottingham Line of Light Launch back in November, and had expressed an interest in putting it on film for their website and youtube channel and I was keen to get involved, particularly with the Nottingham Poetry Festival just around the corner!

The piece is a list poem all about how much I like Nottingham, and Matt Turpin the projects manager is planning to film lots of different people saying lines from the poem, then splice it all together into a kind of vox pop mash-up. It’s such an awesome idea and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Here’s a sneak peak of some stills from yesterday’s shoot; I hope I make few silly faces in the final edit!

Whatever is going on with my face?!

Tomorrow, I’m heading down to Cambridge again to talk to the folks at the Museum of Cambridge about a new project that we’re putting together for the summer term. Then, I’ll be back in Nottingham in the evening for to do a little set at a music and poetry night at JT Soar in Sneinton. I’m performing alongside the mighty Miggy Angel and the brilliant Betty Blakey, so it promises to be a cracking night. And it’s free to get in! You should definitely come along if you can!

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