Monday, 10 July 2017

MONDAY NIGHT NEWS - Festival Poets


This weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to the Ely Folk Festival, to do some poetry workshops as part of the Babylon Arts stand on the festival site.

Festival Times in the sunsheeeeeeiiiiinnne

Alongside Nathan, Anthea, Kate, Nick and Karen, we produced loads of fun activities for families over the weekend, including drawing, creative writing and song writing sessions.

The theme of the festival was 'Water' and 'Rivers' and as the Official Festival Poets, Kate Caoimhe Arthur and I were tasked with creating an Official Festival Poem, crowdsourced from ideas from across the site.

A representation of the Babylon Arts Festival Tent

This meant that we spent a lot of time gathering words from various festival-goers, and asking people about their favourite experiences messing about in the water. It was great fun talking to people and hearing about their adventures, and all the suggestions were really creative. In fact, it was a bit of a mission trying to fit all their beautiful suggestions into one poem!

Luckily, Kate is a whiz with words and after I'd suggested a concept, she got to work, speedily putting together a really wonderful poem!

It's no wonder she won this year's Fenland Poet Laureateship!

Official Festival Poets!

Then, on Sunday morning, we joined the song writing group on stage to share our creative stuff! The song writers had produced not one but two fantastic tunes, based on suggestions from workshop attendees, and the crowds were suitably impressed by their lyrical and musical prowess.

(My personal favourite was rhyming amigo with pinot grigio. Genius!)

The Band performing on stage

The festival poem was really well-received as well, and it was lovely to be able to perform it during the festival itself!

Our audience was slightly odd, mind you...

It was pretty hectic having to source, compile, write and perform a poem all in the space of one weekend, but honestly it was such a lovely experience, and it was also really nice getting to know Kate a little better as well. Hearing more about her plans for her Laureateship, I can't wait to see how her projects evolve over the course of the year!

And now, for the moment of truth; here's our festival poem. Thanks to everyone who contributed a word, a line or an image - we tried to include as many as we could!


The River Cloak

This cloak is made of rivers
Tay stitched to Ouse sewn to Lea
Springs from my shoulders
Spreading across my chest
In whorls and whirlpools
Mirror-still and ever-moving
Reflecting the sky and the seasons

This cloak is made of rivers
Yar sewn to Nene stitched to Tyne, silver splash lapels and
Cold ripples pinned to cuffs and collars
As pond skimmers gather along the hems
And jam-jar sticklebacks fill my pockets
Dappled sunlight glinting
Sparkling like diamonds
Lucid, limpid, shining in the sun

This cloak is made of rivers
The otter drops down its back with a cloop
An egret pierces the surface like a needle
Threading silvery fish glinting like oily ribs of light
Translucent in the black-green stream
Sometimes blue, sometimes black or green

This cloak is made of rivers
There are hidden kingdoms in its lining
Starfish, oysters, crabs and mermaids
Whispering in hushing voices and bubbling along the collar
Children are having fun along its banks
And animals take shelter in its folds.

This cloak is made of rivers
And every stitch is a single drop
And all of these drops are the water of life
Or usquebeagh. Pull it around your shoulders
Feel its gentle silkyness
Knot around your throat and flow
Down your body. Feel it renewing, refreshing
From puddle to estuary and from arm to arm.
Let the hush and swoosh of its floating voices
Bring the smooth calm to our gushing gathering.
Let it flow deep, and clear, and true; this cloak, made of rivers.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS - Poetry New Year’s Resolutions Six-Month Update

I thought it might be fun to do a ‘half-way through the year’ update on my Poetry New Year’s Resolutions – because there’s nothing like reminding everyone that we’re already half-way through 2017 to the relentless march of infinity seem more inevitable, am I right?

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-whimey things, eh?

Of course, I jest. Although it *is* a bit bloody terrifying how fast this year is going!

Anyway, here’s how I’m getting on with my poetry-based New Year’s Resolutions for 2017:

Resolution the first: Read at least ten poetry collections or anthologies
I’ve actually managed to read three collections/pamphlets so far this year: “Division Street” by Helen Mort, “Physical” by Andrew McMillan, and “Black Country” by Liz Berry. I realise that these are three REALLY SAFE choices, in that they’re three poets whose collections are really well-regarded, but I absolutely loved all three of them. Next on my list is Ocean Vuong’s “Night Sky with Exit Wounds” and “The Princess Saves Herself in this One” by Amanda Lovelace. I can’t wait to read them both!

How could I not love it with a title like that?

Resolution B: Do at least ten more workshops
So far this year I've done three workshops, with twelve more booked in for the latter part of the year. The workshops I've already done have been really good fun, tackling topics as diverse as humour, folklore, myth, and memory, as well as one wonderful workshop with kids from refugee backgrounds with English as their second language. I really love devising and delivering poetry workshops - it's one of my favourite parts of this poetry lark - so I'm really looking forward to giving some more soon. The next ones I've got booked in are happening at Ely Folk Festival on the 8th and 9th July, so catch us at the Babylon Gallery Arts tent at the festival if you're going along!

Museum of Cambridge Workshop - look at all those concentration faces!

Resolution iii: Go to at least twenty-five new (to me) poetry nights
I've managed to get to fourteen new (to me) poetry nights so far this year, including some fantastic events in places I've never performed before. I've had the opportunity to go to the likes of Leeds, Lincoln and Cardiff, so that's been really lovely to experience! That being said, I'm definitely going to keep up the pace if I want to get to my target!

Performing - in gif form! (Cheers to Fay Roberts for the gif!)

Four: Write a half-hour poetry set/show for performance
I've done absolutely nothing about this one. Nothing. I'm a bit embarrassed about it really... so let's just move on, shall we?

Move along, nothing to see here...

Resolution Cinco: Go to the Edinburgh Fringe!
I know I've talked about it before, but this year I've *finally* put my money where my mouth is and started planning for the Edinburgh Fringe! My AirBnB is booked, my annual leave has been allocated and I've bought a waterproof jacket. I am TOTALLY ready. This year, I am going to get there! I've even got a couple of gigs booked. So organised! I genuinely can't wait! So many exclamation marks!!!  !

Looking good, Edinburgh. Looking good.

Seriously though, it looks like I'm doing ok with my poetry-based resolutions at the moment. Maybe that Josh Judson was right about goal-driven writing? Check out his blog for all the details...