Here is a link to a couple of the poems from Auscultation
Roadblock, was Seren’s featured Friday poem at the end of June and is the story of an evening visit to an injured horse. Below that is a video of Miss Freak’s Whelping Forceps, a poem about the design of this specialist instrument and how men and women have different approaches and ultimately
in the feral hours where instinct loosens
itself from shadows, it’s Miss Freaks we reach for
It’s a collection of poems written over the last 8 or 9 years but I suppose really a record of 30 years experience as a veterinary surgeon, stepmother and mother.
Auscultation means listening and specifically, in medicine, listening to sounds that come from the body’s internal organs. I have spent 30 years listening to animals and their inner sounds but also the concerns of owners and the stories of how animals play a central role in many of their lives. I’ve heard stories of cruelty and horror but also of such love and empathy I have been moved to tears. The consulting room really is a privileged place and the role of a veterinary surgeon can feel like a balance between healer, confessor and counselor at times.
The language of animals; how to restrain, coax and understand them is a skill learnt over a lifetime and I am still learning. I am constantly in awe of animals, their ability to adapt to situations and interpret them, their stubbornness, playfulness and honesty and in the case of horses and farm animals, their sheer bulk and majesty too. There are also poems about euthanasia and ending an animal’s life, the part of the job that all vets dread. These are the animals that wake you in the dark hours and make you question what you do. It’s a sad fact that the veterinary profession has the highest rate of suicide of any of the professions and this is explored in a few of the poems.
Other poems in the book are about my childhood and my experiences of being a stepmother and mother and the rollercoaster ride that parenthood takes you on. Here, listening and being listened to are central themes too, how the voice of a child can be ignored and the damage that can do and how we interpret motherhood according to our own experiences. The last section in the book is about being a step mother, the joy and heartache that brought and how, in fairy stories, stepmothers are always portrayed as the evil ones. These poems are deeply personal and a record from my point of view and of course the situation for all blended families is different and highly nuanced.
There will be a launch reading on Zoom on 13th July. Do get in touch if you’d like to be sent an invitation.
One of the biggest disappointments of the whole Covid pandemic has been the cancellation of all the summer folk festivals. One of the longest running and best folk festivals in the world is Sidmouth Folk Festival. In the first week of August every year, a little seaside town on the South coast of Britain explodes in a jubilation of traditional song, dance and music. People from all over the world come back year after year to participate in an astounding variety of workshops, concerts, dances and sessions. I am lucky enough to lead the poetry events at the festival with a series of workshops and other events. The festival had already incurred costs this year before it had to be cancelled and they have just launched a crowdfunding event to ensure the viability of the festival next year. There are some amazing rewards, so please check out the site and consider donating. There is also a 1 to 1 poetry mentoring workshop with me and you don’t have to come to the festival to make use of this. It can be done online. More details here
The poetry workshops at Sidmouth Folk Week were so much fun. We wrote poems about Great Grandfather’s violins, dragon mountains, Brexit, the inventor of the shopping mall and of course the seagulls The quick and hungry Gods of the Church of the Webbed Feet. It was such a great experience to lead the sessions with people of all ages and backgrounds and they worked so hard and with such energy and enthusiasm, despite some of them being up to the early hours singing and dancing and maybe having a little drink or two. The performance on the main stage of the Ham marque was amazing and a several of the participants joined me in reading our collaborative Sidmouth poem which had people laughing out loud as well as bringing a lump to the throat as someone in the audience told me later.
So thank you to all of the people that came to the workshops over the week, to the Folk Week organisers who took a chance and incorporated poetry writing into the festival line up and to all the kind comments from people who came up to me afterwards and said how much they’d enjoyed the poem. Special thanks to Jan Dean a very special local poet and friend who came to some of the workshops and contributed the line in the collaborative poem which sums up the joy and feeling of Folk Week – Folk Week is Sidmouth with it’s corsets off!
And the best thing? They’ve invited me back next year, so we can do it all over again!
After the success of the Kimpton Folk Festival poetry workshop, it’s on to Sidmouth Folk Week 3rd- 10th August. I’ll be holding five poetry writing workshops from Sunday to Thursday at the lovely Royal Glen Hotel, 11.30am – 1pm. These are stand alone workshops so you can come to individual ones or even better all five. We’ll be reading poems about the sea and ballads about doomed lovers ( always a popular folk theme!) and then using these and other writing prompts to write our own poems. There’s also a chance to read poems written during the week at the Friday showcase concert. It’s the first time there’s been poetry at Sidmouth, so a chance to show how poetry fits in anywhere. You can also swim in the sea, eat lots of ice cream, dance the night away as various ceilidhs and listen to some of the best folk music in the world, how exciting is that!
Good news, due to some extra funding the workshops at Kimpton Folk Festival are now absolutely free! The weather is set to be perfect, so what better way to spend a day; a poetry workshop at 2pm, then relaxing with a drink on the village green listening to some amazing music, a story or two, then going to a ceilidh or a concert. Sounds perfect to me, see you there!
Poetry is being added into the mix of music , dance and storytelling this year and I’m delighted to be running a poetry workshop in the afternoon. Kimpton Folk Festival is a lovely one day festival in the village of Kimpton in Hertfordshire. There’s plenty to do and see including dancing, a variety of workshops, open mic concerts, real ales, artisan street food, crafts, children’s games, buskers, storytellers, ceilidh- and a full day of free concerts on the village green.
First exciting news of 2018! – Sidmouth Folk Festival the amazing week long celebration of music, song and dance that has been part of the festival calendar since 1955 is introducing poetry workshops this year and I’ll be running them! The festival in Devon is known for featuring established stars of the folk scene as well as emerging artists and has a huge range of concerts, sessions, ceilidhs, talks, story telling and spectacular dance displays as well as over 200 workshops. Accompanied by the sound of seagulls and Morris dancers, I’ll be showing you that anyone can write a poem, all you need is a pen, some paper and your imagination.