Happy 2nd Birthday, Poetry Café Refreshed

July marks the second birthday of Poetry Café – Refreshed, held on the third Wednesday of every month at Smokey Joe’s in Cheltenham.  We are looking forward to celebrating our continuing run of fine poetry from gifted poets – welcoming David J Costello as our guest poet on Wednesday 19 July.

For the record, here is our roll of honour – our guest poets – during our first 2 years, from August 2015 until July 2017:

John Alwyine-Mosely – August 2015
Tom Sastry – September 2015
Nina Lewis – October 2015
Avril Staple – November 2015
Brenda Read-Brown- December 2015

David Clarke – January 2016
Sue Johnson, Bob Woodroofe, Joy Thomas – February 2016
Paul Harris – March 2016
Matt Duggan – April 2016
Rachael Clyne – May 2016
Lesley Ingram – June 2016

Ben Banyard – July 2016
Patrick Osada – August 2016
Deborah Harvey – September 2016
Kathy Gee – October 2016
Claire Walker – November 2016
Anna Saunders – December 2016

David Calcutt – January 2017
Stephen Daniels – February  2017
Jennie Farley – March 2017
Sam Loveless – April 2017
Michael W Thomas – May 2017
Stuart Nunn – June 2017
David J Costello – July 2017

And we are looking forward to welcoming more talented poets in future months!

Jeff and Dan Phelps – August 2017
Angela Topping – September 2017
(October and November – being confirmed)
Ann Drysdale – December  2017

Here are some random photographs of guest poets’ posters and performances!

 

We look forward to another great year of Poetry Café Refreshed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheltenham Poetry Society’s Annual Awayday 2017

Every year for the past five years, Cheltenham Poetry Society has gone away for a full day of writing and getting to know each other better at the delightful venue of Dumbleton Hall on the Worcestershire/Gloucestershire border.  Every year, we have had glorious weather which has enabled us to break out of the excellent conference facilities in The Bredon Room into the grounds, which are truly excellent.  This year was no exception with regard to the weather – and the delights in the grounds included black swans and their cygnet on the lake, a heron in the trees, yellow flag irises in full bloom at the margin of the lake and vibrant rhododendrons.

As usual, Dumbleton Hall Hotel looked after us very well, with generous supplies of coffee, tea, pastries, cake and biscuits … and a hot buffet which catered for a wide variety of tastes.  David Ashbee and Stuart Nunn led the workshops on the theme of wood, trees and the landscape … which we gathered under the title ‘Seeing the Wood and the Trees’.  A record number of attendees (17) ended the day with at least a poem or two … some of us many more!  Attending were: David Ashbee, Stuart Nunn, Roger Turner, Michael Newman, Robin Gilbert, Belinda Rimmer, Gill Wyatt, Alice Ross, Marilyn Timms, Howard Timms, Judi Marsh, Annie Ellis, Kathryn Alderman, Gill Garrett, Samantha Pearse, Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe and me.

Oh, and the date is already in Dumbleton Hall’s calendar – and our own – for May 2018!

Here are photos from the day:

 

Cheltenham 300 Poetry Reading #1

Cheltenham Poetry Festival performed a selection of poems from the Cheltenham 300 Anthology at Cheltenham Poetry Festival in May.  The anthology of photographs and poems came out of the Society’s summer retreat – the Annual Awayday – in May 2016 – and we were thrilled to be able to showcase poems and projected photographs from the book at this event.  Thanks to Anna Saunders for the invitation, and to St Andrew’s Hall in Cheltenham for the venue.  Poets reading were Sheila Spence, Roger Turner, Michael Newman, Robin Gilbert, Belinda Rimmer, Marilyn Timms, Howard Timms, Annie Ellis, Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe, Alice Ross and me.  Photographs in the book, also shown on the day, were taken by Roger Turner and me.  Thanks to Howard Timms and Mr L for their part in facilitating their projection.  Thanks also to The Gloucestershire Echo for taking group photographs in Montpellier Gardens after the event and for a short report on the event in the newspaper.

In June we were thrilled to receive an invitation to perform in October’s prestigious Cheltenham Literature Festival, reading another selection of poems from the book, which we hope will again be illustrated with projected photographs.  We are also pleased that David Ashbee and Stuart Nunn, unable to join us in May, will be available for the Literature Festival reading which is part of the Locally Sourced programme featuring writers local to Gloucestershire.

Meanwhile, Here’s a photographic record of the event in May’s Poetry Festival which I had the great pleasure of introducing – as well as reading one of my own poems from the book:

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Sharon Larkin
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Sheila Spence
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Robin Gilbert
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Belinda Rimmer
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Roger Turner
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Alice Ross
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Howard Timms
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Marilyn Timms
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Michael Newman
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Annie Ellis
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Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe

 

‘When that Aprille with his showers soot …’

April’s Poetry Café at Smokey Joe’s in Cheltenham was refreshed by the poetry, voice and presence of Sam Loveless. Here are some photos of Sam in action and a slideshow of the event, including the lovely gathering of Open Mic poets.  You will see that, at one stage, we were entertained by a poetic duet from Sam and Stephen Daniels.  Sam’s Andean headgear was an additional treat!

Photos of Sam … and Stephen …

 

And the slideshow, including open mic poets:

 

 

Regular host, Roger Turner, was unfortunately unable to be at Poetry Café Refreshed in April … a chance for me to run amok 😉

 

 

 

 

Another Exciting Poetry Year Beckons

Lots of new ventures lie ahead in Larkin (no relation) Poetryland next year:

1.  The Good Dadhood Poetry Project.

Between 1 January and 17 June (Father’s Day), the website Good Dadhood will be live, receiving submissions of poems in honour of fathers.  Why?  Why not!  More information about the project is being posted on the site shortly. By mid-June, we should have a good store of Good Dad poems. I’ll then take stock and decide what to do next in terms of bringing the Best Good Dad Poems together in some form.

2. The Kickstart Poetry Project

This new venture starts on 3 January, under the auspices of a Cheltenham Poetry Society. This is a monthly series of workshops, following Jo Bell’s book 52 – The Book and picking up on the success of Jo’s 2014 on-line poetry writing project.  I’m really looking forward to working with a group of local poets who are all eagerly anticipating getting started!

3. Poets Alive

Another year of the poetry reading group meeting begins shortly, under the benevolent banner of Cheltenham Poetry Society! The first meeting on Tuesday 17 January will be considering the poetry of W H Auden. Poets are invited to bring poems by Auden – and also examples of their own work which make an interesting comparison or contrast with the ones they have chosen to bring by Auden. Other poets on the menu for 2017 include T S Eliot, Billy Collins, D H Lawrence and Gillian Clarke.  It’s going to be lovely being back in the CPS chair after a much-needed break last year.

4. Poetry Café – Refreshed

Held at Cheltenham’s unique venue, Smokey Joe’s, this popular monthly “guest poet and open mic night” restarts on 18 January when we (host Roger Turner and I) look forward to welcoming David Calcutt as guest poet.  We have an equally exciting line-up of poets for the rest of the year, and also look forward to the open mic participants who go from strength to strength month on month.

5.  Cheltenham Arts Council’s first meeting of 2017

This takes place on 11 January when we will be looking forward to the awards we will be making in the coming year, and especially the award ceremony in March. I’m slightly daunted at the prospect of heading up these ventures, in what is my first year in the CAC Chair, but there is a wonderfully  supportive committee to keep me on track.

6.  Regular and Special Poetry Events

Back to Cheltenham Poetry Society – I’ll be collaborating with other talented members to run our monthly series of workshops, reading and writing groups .. and also our special events, including the annual lecture in March, when David Clarke will be talking on the subject of German Poetry, and the annual Awayday retreat scheduled for May.  I’m also looking forward to continuing promoting the ‘Cheltenham 300’ anthology of poems and photographs – which came out of workshops at the 2016 CPS Awayday.  We’re especially looking forward to giving a reading – with photo projection – at Cheltenham Poetry Festival in May, thanks to CPF Director, Anna Saunders.

7. Finally – and personally – I’m full of anticipation at the prospect of attending a Cinnamon Press poetry residential in North Wales later in January. There will, no doubt, be a separate blog post about it after the event!

So, there’s an exciting start in prospect to a poetry-full year.

Keep poeting!

Review of 2016 – mentor, monitor, mantra

It has been a year of mountain climbing and a little valley exploring.  High peaks have included:

Taking over the chair of Cheltenham Arts Council from Karen Jones – a hard act to follow. But there is a  lovely, dedicated committee of people from across the wide spectrum of the arts in Cheltenham to keep me on track. I’m learning so much – thanks to these mentors – and ‘network like an over-excited millennial’ has quickly become my mantra in this new ‘job’.

Working with Roger Turner to establish Poetry Café – Refreshed at Smokey Joe’s, Cheltenham has been an ongoing pleasure. I have loved welcoming all the guest poets and open mic performers – from Glos, South Glos, Worcs, Somerset, Oxon, Berks, Herefords, Wilts, Avon and Dorset! ‘Refreshed’ has become known for its friendly, relaxed, welcoming atmosphere, and – of course – its exciting poetry. Monitoring the rise and rise of this monthly event has been a source of considerable satisfaction.  With thanks to Smokey Joe’s for such a great venue – and a menu that is definitely worth monitoring at regular intervals!

Publishing Cheltenham 300, the Cheltenham Poetry Society’s anthology of poems and photographs to mark the Tercentenary of the town as a spa, offered a rich learning experience for me personally. It all sprang from an inspiring Awayday idea, very image-focused from the start … and so it was inevitable that the ensuing book would combine two passions shared by a number of CPS members  – poetry and photography. The richness of this particular learning experience came from choosing poems from those submitted, collaborating with Roger Turner (trusted mentor) on editing, sequencing and taking/selecting images. Investigating sources for some of the images and pursuing copyright permissions were other opportunities to ‘learn stuff’ … as were working with the printer to optimise layout, with a couple of ‘back to the drawing board’ moments!  Chris Griffiths at Stroudprint has been a most patient mentor!  His experience and advice were invaluable. The book was published in November, and according to my monitoring – akin to that of a new parent – it is selling well, at the Suffolk Anthology Bookshop, thanks to Helene. Many copies are also being sold  by the contributing poets, and by mail order (via email  cheltenhampoetrysociety@gmail.com). We have two events/readings coming up early in 2017, when my mantra will no doubt be:  ‘the book will be on sale at the end of the reading’.

An enjoyable morning was spent in early December with Rona Laycock – accomplished writer and experienced mentor – in The Writer’s Room at Corinium Radio, Cirencester. I loved sharing four of my poems from the ‘I Walk on Fire’ event (held in Cheltenham in October – to celebrate Dylan Thomas) … so my Corinium Radio spot had a Welsh flavour, satisfying another of my passions. Monitoring the programme as it went out – worldwide – was a ‘hold your breath’ moment … but I didn’t actually hate the sound of my own voice … because I thought it sounded like someone else! Another mantra:  it’s never too late to try something new.

Nor is it ever too late to have another go at something done previously.   A few years ago I participated in judging the poetry entries for the Gloucestershire Writers Network competition – the first time I’d judged one.  Earlier this year, Stuart Nunn asked me to judge the poetry entries for the Chipping Sodbury competition.  This was an enjoyable experience, with some obvious front runners during preliminary readings.  It took several more readings to place them in order.  The winner took me by surprise.  As I read and reread it, I began to realise that there were rich literary threads and social commentary running right through it. They had not been obvious on a preliminary reading, but an outstanding image towards the end of the poem alerted me to the fact that something deeper was going on in this poem than was at first apparent.  I appreciated the fact that this poet didn’t go for an easy option. The poem offered the reader the satisfaction of teasing out the meaning just beneath the superficial. A worthy winner.  And another lesson learned in the satisfaction and rewards of inviting a reader to ‘go deeper’ … another mantra.

Submissions-wise, it has been my most productive year ever, with a record number of acceptances and few rejections – according to fastidious monitoring via Excel spreadsheet. Much of this success can be traced back to the 52 Project in 2014.  Surely Jo Bell remains all participating poets’ favourite mentor! Her mantra – cut the last two lines – remains valuable advice.

But the ‘mentor of the year award, 2016’ for me personally has to be Ann Drysdale.  I can’t thank her enough for her experience, wisdom and patience as we’ve worked on my manuscript.

Glancing ahead to 2017, I look forward to more learning experiences – with a Cinnamon Press residential led by Jan Fortune – another brilliant mentor and champion of new writing.  This opportunity to learn will take place early in the New Year (back to Wales again – excellent!). I’ll also be beginning another stint in the Chair of Cheltenham Poetry Society next year, with a new series of workshops running throughout 2017 based on Jo Bell’s 52 book. As a new venture for the Society, I’ll be monitoring the success of the workshops, and learning much by mentoring some of those who attend. If there’s one thing my year teaching Welsh to Adult beginners taught me, it is that tutors learn as much by teaching learners as learners learn from tutors! My all-time favourite mantra remains “Never stop learning” …

At the head of this end-of-year resumé, is a word cloud containing elements from the titles of the poems I hope to see ‘out there’ in 2017.  I’ll be monitoring their progress with the utmost interest!  “Go, words!”