All posts filed under: Courses

Sky above Clouds by Georgia O'Keeffe

Both sides now

A smooth drive to London yesterday for Anne-Marie Fyfe’s newest workshop, on the theme of clouds.  As in ‘I wandered lonely as…’, or ‘from both sides now..’ And yes, Joni Mitchell did make an appearance, as did Debussy, Django Reinhardt, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson, John Lennon, The Wizard of Oz and a range of Surrealist art, amongst others. I’ve said this before, but I really do think these workshops are the best I’ve experienced. With so much stimulation – verbal, visual, musical – the sheer pace of it (although it never feels hurried), and the continuous nature of the exercises, you have no time to lose focus. It doesn’t matter if something doesn’t ‘click’ because there’s another question or exercise coming right up. Nothing seems to distract, not even the relentless traffic and sirens of the Old Brompton Road. You are immersed, coming up for air after two hours and wondering where the time went. Anne-Marie plans these workshops well in advance. Not only are there plenty of materials and handouts but it’s obvious that a …

Coffee-House poetry workshop

Coffee-House poetry workshops with Anne-Marie Fyfe

Last weekend I was at the Troubadour in London on a Sunday afternoon for one of Anne-Marie Fyfe’s themed writing workshops. It was intense without feeling like hard work – I felt I’d been challenged and came away with a number of useful seedlings of ideas that may one day make their way into poems or other creative writing. Which is, I think, the best possible result. Writing workshops are a funny thing – as a participant, I often quickly get irritated or restless when invited to do a piece of ‘free writing’ or ‘imagine you’re five years old and you’ve just seen your first elephant’ or whatever. More often than not, nothing comes into my head, or else I just write reams of nonsense which just makes my hand ache. If it goes on for too long I look around at everyone else furiously writing and feel a bit resentful that I’m wasting precious writing time trying to write about ‘a time in my life when… [insert insignificant episode here].’ And then I get fed up with …

Real Poet luggage tag

Today’s poetry world – where do we all fit in?

This is a guest post by Ann Perrin. Ann and I both attend a fortnightly poetry course in which we are introduced to poets, movements and styles, with the aim of improving our writing. The sessions also include writing exercises and about once a term each poet gets a chance to workshop a couple of poems with the group. The group started out with about 15 participants but it’s usually around 10. I’ve known Ann for a while, mainly from meeting her at poetry events in Brighton or at the Troubadour in London. She’s a great supporter of workshops, readings and open mics. Our poetry course has an online forum, but it doesn’t get used very much. So when Ann posted this heartfelt piece I asked if I could reproduce it here. I think she brings up some interesting, if thorny questions:  about writing poetry for a particular audience (or not), about ‘legitimacy’ in the poetry world, on competition (and competitions), even the uses of workshopping one’s work with relative strangers. Ann asked these questions to the others …

aldeburgh beach

What I’ve been up to, and look ahead to Aldeburgh

Just a quick update and a look ahead to the weekend … I was excited to see the T S Eliot Prize shortlist, especially as it included the excellent debut collection from Sarah Howe – Loop of Jade – which I mini-reviewed on this blog a short while ago.  I’ve already signed up for Katy Evans-Bush‘s excellent preview day when we look at all the shortlisted collections as curated by Katy. I went this a couple of years ago and it really enhanced my enjoyment of the readings night. Recommended! I’ve also bought a couple of the books on the list – Mark Doty’s Deep Lane and Don Paterson’s 40 Sonnets. I’m trying not to read any reviews of the books before I talk about them on the The Reading List, in case they influence me, and I’m trying so hard to learn how to review/critique. Speaking of DP – I’ve booked to go hear him and Liz Berry read at The Print Room on 15th December…actually off the back of hearing Liz read on the podcast Transatlantic Poetry – …

view of south cliff beach Eastbourne

Readings, launches & seeds of a new project or two

We’ve been in Eastbourne a month. It probably sounds daft but I’ve been struck at how mild it seems to be here compared to Lewes or Brighton. The latter in particular. And yet they’re only a few miles away. Maybe we don’t get those biting Brighton winds here? But today I’ve spent all day at the computer.  I have a pretty good 180 degree view of the weather from where I’m sitting and let me tell you there was no reason to go out today. If you read my post last week you’ll know I was out and about last week though – lots of lovely readings, poetry gatherings and a very low-key talk to the ladies of the SWWJ about blogging, twitter and the like. It’s always a pleasure to read alongside wonderful poets and last week was no exception – on Friday it was an intimate affair at the Albion Beatnik in Oxford, where Martin Malone was celebrating the launch of his new collection Cur (more on that in a post very soon). My fellow readers in …

Poetry Book Fair

Poetry Book Fair excitement, plus my poetry gets a leg up

September so often seems like the shortest month – why is that? At the moment it’s also looking like the craziest this year. We have to move out of our house by 23rd, which is little more than a couple of weeks away. And no, we haven’t started packing yet, because we don’t have any boxes because we haven’t confirmed the movers because we don’t actually know where we’re moving to yet – UGH. There are a lot of ‘ifs’. But ‘if’ they all work out then it’s all going to be fine. I’m very grateful for your thoughts and good wishes. Thank you. On the poetry front, I’ve been reading (as you know) but haven’t been doing much writing. Nevertheless I’ve been blessed with a number of rejections recently, which has freed up quite a few poems for submitting elsewhere! How’s that for positivism! (Oh no, that’s not the word is it?  but you get my meaning). Good news: those lovely peeps at New Writing South have offered me a place on their ‘NWS10’ scheme, which …

A Bridge (not) Too Far – workshop with Anne-Marie Fyfe

Today I made my first visit to the Troubadour cafe, after thinking about it for a long time – I thought I’d start by going to one of Anne-Marie Fyfe‘s Coffee House Poetry workshops, which always sound enticing. The theme was ‘bridges’, and the first irony of the day was my inability to locate Wandsworth Bridge, despite the satnav lady giving it her best shot. Thankfully I managed it second time around. I’m glad I drove – although it’s a couple of hours away from where I live, parking around the Troubadour is free and easy on a Sunday, whereas the rail service from the South coast is non-existent on Sundays, making for miserable four-hour journeys. And it was pouring with rain when I left so jumping into the car was wonderful. There’s something a tad intimidating about the Troubadour cafe – the door is solid and heavy so it’s as if you have to be ‘in the know’ to enter. The interior is, well, quirky. As I quietly ordered my cup of tea, wondering if I’d …

A writing retreat, and other treats

I always think of January as being a bit dreary, so it tends to be the time of year I make plans for things to look forward to. Number one is a short writing retreat – I did a DIY retreat a couple of years ago and got a lot out of it – not least of all enough material to produce two decent poems.  But I was a bit lonely – so this time I’ve booked 3 nights away rather than four, at a National Trust flat in Standen, an Arts & Crafts house which I’ve always loved visiting. I’ll have free range access to all the gardens and grounds while I’m there and a cosy flat in the servants quarters where I can read and write. Are you jealous yet?! That will be in March, when the days will be slightly longer and who knows, maybe warmer too. I’ve also booked onto an afternoon workshop with Anne-Marie Fyfe on the theme of ‘a bridge too far’ in February, and this workshop offered by Poetry Swindon also …

Don Share

Notes from a Don Share masterclass

What is it about poets called Don? There’s Don Paterson for starters. Don. Paterson. And now Don Share.  Maybe it’s the the power/mafia connotations (Don Corleone). Or the suggestion of raffishness (Don Juan). Or the hidden warning: not DO but DON’t. So here’s the thing: picture sixteen or so poets perched in a circle, hothoused in a room of the Richard Jefferies Museum on the edge of Swindon. All eyes and ears are on the Editor of Poetry, Don Share, who’s been flown in from Chicago for the Swindon Festival of Poetry. No-one quite knows what to expect, but I for one am hoping not to have to do any work at all, other than listen and take the odd note. And that’s exactly what happened. After the initial introductions, Don had a pretty good idea of just how much ambition and urgency was present in the room, and he set to answering our (mostly unspoken) questions. In the afternoon, there was some expectation that we’d all subject Don to one of our poems, for him to offer some …

Launches, readings, online course, a new book … busy autumn

Someone posted recently on Twitter that poetry seemed to be “mostly about reading, writing and waiting”.  I know I’ve certainly had that kind of year up until a few weeks ago. I’d have to wait to do one of my ‘stock takes’ to see if I’ve been sending out less work this year than last, it’s felt a bit like the doldrums but in reality it may just be that I’ve had more rejections this year than before. I love autumn, and right now I’m feeling busy and fulfilled with various projects on the go, so maybe there’s a little momentum building. The first half of the year was mostly about writing (non fiction) books, the first of which is scheduled for release in November. This Monday (29th) I’m giving a talk / leading a discussion for Hastings & St Leonards Writers’ Hub  about social media and blogging, as a prelim to my one-day courses for New Writing South – the first of which is coming up in October. I also have a piece to …