There are so many good poetry events around these days, like the launch of Sarah Mnatzagianan’s new pamphlet, Lemonade in the Armenian Quarter, this Sunday 20th March,(details available at Against the Grain Poetry Press) or Stav Poleg’s first collection, The City, on 6th April (go to Carcanet website to register). These are both on Zoom which has been fantastic in extending the reach of poetry events in the last couple of years and enabling the poetry world to stay connected but I have missed the excitement and camaraderie of attending actual physical events. These are now starting to reappear and I’m very much looking forward to one on Saturday 26th March; the Carlisle Poetry Symposium, at Tullie House. I’m extra excited because I’m running a workshop there from 11-12.30 and also doing a reading in the afternoon. The workshop will include writing exercises using poems and other objects as prompts and there’ll hopefully be time for a couple of poetry games. if you haven’t played ‘Poetry Countdown’ yet, you’re in for a treat! The afternoon will consist of readings from poets interspersed by open mic slots all coordinated by the wonderful Andrew Hopkins who started the symposiums a few years ago. There is also a pop up poetry bookshop, with books available from all the participating poets. The workshop will be suitable for everyone and you’ll hopefully end up with several drafts of new poems by the end. Tullie House is a lovely venue, so do come along and join me. To book your place for the workshop go to https://andyhopkinspoet.wordpress.com/workshops/
What an exciting evening we had; poems about animals, surgical instruments, being a step mother and morris dancing! Here is the link to the reading, I hope you enjoy. There is a poem about the death of an animal which a friend said should carry a ‘mascara warning’ as it made her cry, so be prepared for that one all you mascara wearers!
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.
Not long to go now, the week long folk extravaganza that is Sidmouth Folk Festival is only a couple of weeks away! Music, dance, singing, storytelling and now poetry are all on the programme. In the elegant and relaxed atmosphere of the Drawing room of the Royal Glen Hotel from 11.30- 1pm Sunday to Thursday, we’ll be using a variety of prompts and devices to stimulate our poetry brains. No previous writing experience is necessary, the workshops are suitable for novices as well as more experienced writers. They are stand alone but the more you come to, the more fun you’ll have! The subjects for this year’s workshops include ‘poetry of sound and silence’, ‘how to write a ballad’ and ‘poetry games’. If you’ve never experienced ‘Poetry Countdown’ or ‘Poetry what’s in the Bag?’ come along and find out! There’s also a chance to perform in the poetry slot in the Friday Morning Showcase concert.
New for this year is also Sidmouth’s first Poetry Open Mic. It will be held at The Woodlands Hotel on Tuesday 6th August from 5-7pm. Sign up on the door to read for up to four minutes, either your own work or bring along a favourite poem or two you’d like to share. Experienced writers or new poets welcome, or if you don’t want to read, the Woodlands is a perfect place to relax for a couple of hours and just listen to poetry. There will also be a chance to hear me read, I can always guarantee some poems about animals but also watch out for one or two about Morris dancing! I will be joined by a local poet, the amazing Jan Dean, whose work as a Poet-in-Schools has inspired new generations. She also writes ‘Poetry for grown-ups’ and her reading style and unique take on life are guaranteed to have you entertained and enthralled.
Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
I’ve just realised that the poem we created in the poetry workshops last year is up on the Festival website! We had such a great time, the participants were enthusiastic and inspiring, all I really had to do was draw the whole thing together. I’m running the workshops again this year, they are open to all ages and suitable for people that write poems regularly or people that have never written one before. Rumours are, there’ll also be an open mic this year…
Do come and join me, you can just come to the poetry events or join in with some of the other amazing music, singing or dancing events. Folk week really is one of the most special weeks of the year, ‘a rainbow coloured riot of colour and sound’
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!
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.