All posts filed under: Events

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 …

Sovereign Harbour Eastbourne - January

TGI February

January is really my least favourite month – I think it’s the short days and dark evenings that are so depressing.  It doesn’t help that the it’s the month of both my father’s death and my late mother’s birthday, so they are always both on my mind. However! Let’s not get gloomy. I did go to a couple of good poetry events and even sent a few poems out. I did a lot of reading. My ‘start a poem a day’ pledge didn’t quite run its course, but I did spend a good amount of time writing and in particular rewriting old poems.  I did manage to start eleven new poems. I also revived one that I’ve been fiddling with for four years, and which is shortly going to appear on the Mary Evans Picture Library ‘Poems and Pictures’ blog. Which is a fantastic resource, by the way – more on that in a future post. Meanwhile the ever-supportive Charles Johnson has taken some poems for Obsessed with Pipework, which I’m really pleased about. They are three of the ‘workplace’ themed …

Spam poetry at the Printworks, Hastings

Slam Dunk at the Printworks in Hastings

Last night I took the train (yes! there and back! and only slight delays!) to Hastings to Slam Dunk, a regular poetry night at the Printworks, where Hastings Stanza rep Antony Mair was doing a set. Although it’s not far away, Hastings is still a bit of an unknown quantity for me, but it has an unmistakeably youthful and creative vibe that’s irresistible. There’s an edge to it too – and my first challenge was to find the way in, which turned out to be down a dark alley and without any external signs…a cross between a speakeasy and some sort of squatters’ den – ha! (The experience reminded me of a ‘foreigners only’ bar in Rome about 30 years ago where you had to know the correct (unmarked) door to knock on, and someone slid open the hatch to check you were a) not Italian and b) not male. Men were allowed but only in the company of a woman, and in the proportion one-man-one-woman. I don’t think Rome was ready for any other relationship …

TS Eliot prize readings programme

TS Eliot Prize – workshop & readings

Katy Evans-Bush‘s TS Eliot shortlist workshop is fast becoming an institution. Now in its sixth year, it’s a fine precursor to the Prize readings which take place the following day, and the prize giving itself the day after that. The format is straightforward – Katy reads the ten shortlisted books, chooses from them a number of poems to discuss, and invites poets along to the Poetry School in Lambeth for a day to mull them over. I’ve been to one of these workshops once before and had a wonderful time. This time I had to confess I hadn’t read any of the collections, but in a way that’s part of the excitement – to be introduced to them by someone like Katy. Not only does she offer her thoughts and insights into the works, and invite us all into the discussion, but she also brings to the table her formidable background as a writer, reader and and literary critic. Plus the odd bit of insider gossip, of course. The TS Eliot Prize is probably the highest profile UK poetry prize and that’s …

Coffee-House Poetry at the Troubadour

Getting to and from London from the south coast is ten times harder than it used to be these days, as the rail company (which has a monopoly) has been running an unsatisfactory service for the last however many months – actually it could be a year or more. Two-day strikes pop up every three weeks or so, and that’s on top of the already reduced timetable. Trains are regularly cancelled at the last minute, even halfway through journeys. As a result, every time the train you’re on actually leaves a station you breathe a sigh of relief that it hasn’t terminated there. Factor in the cold and dark of night, and the prospect of going anywhere by train is rather stressful. And I have a choice at least – the situation for those millions of people who have to travel by Southern Rail every day for work must be unbearable. So it was a joy to actually make it to the Troubadour last night for Coffee-House Poetry. The second half was ‘What we should have said’, a …

living room window before

Poetry vs DIY, plus a few upcoming deadlines

It’s easy to lose the rhythm of blogging – I’ve been lacking the motivation lately, partly out of a feeling of ‘what is there really to say that makes a difference?’ And yet, there are always interesting things to say. I’ve recently been admiring Josephine Corcoran’s commitment to blogging every day during November – sometimes in-depth pieces and other times brief updates or musings. It’s all interesting. Similarly, one of my all-time favourite blogs is Jean Tubridy’s Social Bridge – impossible to classify in terms of its content, and always compelling. So what’s on my mind at the moment? Firstly, an increasing need to stay away from Facebook, TV news, the media generally. Is that an age thing – when nothing under the sun really seems new, or if it is, it often seems inconsequential? Perhaps also a ‘winter’s-coming-and-the-days-are-getting-shorter thing? Secondly, we’re approaching our first winter in our new home and the to-do list is as long as ever. It’s such an absorbing project that sometimes I’d just rather strip down a window sill or paint a …

Noir by Charlotte Gann

Charlotte Gann book launch

It’s always a joy to hear poet friend Charlotte giving a reading. There’s a weight to her voice, a rootedness … it’s hard to explain what I mean. There’s no act, no funny stuff. She presents her poems simply, and they just seem to appear in the room – completely in the proper place – like great trees that have been growing for hundreds of years. Last night was the first launch of Noir, Charlotte’s first full-length collection, published by HappenStance, and it was in her home town of Lewes. It was my home too, for fourteen years (just passing through!), and it’s still slightly weird to go back to, especially on (almost) the eve of Bonfire, its biggest day of the year. I walked down the High Street and Sarah Barnsley and I almost didn’t recognise each other in the dark as we waited to cross the road. Spookily appropriate for the book’s title. But everything about the event was the opposite of noir – a wonderful gathering of friends, family and supporters, a happy audience. I loved …

Cuckmere Haven by Eric Ravilious, Towner Gallery Eastbourne

Quick update on things

It’s been a tricky month so far for finding the time and inclination to blog, so I thought I’d write a quick update. I have a lovely guest post waiting in the wings, which I’m planning to post up later in the week. So … the last three weeks have been strange to say the least, as I’ve been travelling over to Brighton each weekday for radiotherapy. It’s an hour or more each way on the bus, but it has to be one of the most scenic bus routes in the country: climbing up onto the South Downs with views of the sea on three sides, skirting Friston Forest and down into Cuckmere Haven with its gorgeous meandering river. It’s less pretty after that but views of the sea are never far away. I’ve read three novels and had fun observing my travelling companions and taking in all the quirks of bus life. It’s almost taken my mind off the reality of having to go every day to lie naked from the waist up in a freezing room while strangers …

andrew mcmillan photographed by Innes Morrison

Notes from a workshop with Andrew McMillan

As promised in my last post, here are my notes from the workshop I did on Saturday at the South Downs Poetry Festival, with Andrew McMillan. I’m including links at the end to other workshop notes, in case you find these posts useful. I was really impressed with Andrew’s workshop. It’s tricky to teach a one-off session like this when you’ve no way of knowing who is coming to the session nor what they hope to get from it. As well as asking us to each say (briefly) what we hoped to take away, he also offered participants the chance to feed back after every exercise, and the chance to read aloud the example poems. Andrew had planned the session well and we motored through a lot of great material, but his calm and relaxed style meant it never felt hurried or forced. That’s exactly what I want as a participant – to feel challenged by the material, confident in the teacher and unaware of time passing. So here’s a summary, in which I hope I’ve captured the essential …

Robin & Jess at South Downs Poetry Festival

At the South Downs Poetry Festival

When Tim Dawes came to Lewes just a few months ago to talk about his plans for a South Downs Poetry Festival, I admit I was sceptical about whether it could be done in such a short timeframe. But hats off to him, the event happened and from what I can tell, it was a super success. After a poetry bike ride taking in the length of the South Downs, plus numerous readings and workshops throughout the area, things culminated in a day-long event in Petersfield on Saturday, which I was very pleased to be a part of. I was there with fellow Telltale Poet Jess Mookherjee, flying the Telltale flag, socialising with fellow publishers/poets and taking in readings and workshops where possible. Being a new festival, it was on a small scale – which made it actually all the more fun. With smallness comes intimacy – everyone was relaxed, poets and organisers accessible, and there was time and space to really talk to people. And we brought cookies – free edibles are always a …