Thanks to Yaffle

During the past year, with Covid concern easing and more poetry events starting up again, I still had to remain cautious of face-to-face meetings, for reasons I won’t go into here. Zoom therefore continued to offer lifelines in the form of poetry launches, readings and workshops … and opportunities to spend time polishing my Welsh, with classes offered by Learn Welsh Gwent. I was, and remain grateful to everyone who has provided an outlet for creativity and learning via Zoom over the past two and a half years.

Not least among these ‘generous providers’ of time and expertise have been Mark Connors and Gill Lambert whose Wednesday Wordship sessions I enjoyed, on a long run of Wednesdays in 2021/22. The formula Gill and Mark have developed for these, based on single-word prompts, is particularly fruitful. Encouraging everyone attending to ‘pitch in’ with examples of ‘the word’ in phrases and sayings, fires up the creative energy in all the ‘classmates’ … and, importantly, breaks the ice and keeps it bubbling throughout the session. There is a break for about 45 minutes where we all ‘go away’ to write drafts of poems inspired by the words, phrases and ideas generated in the first part of the workshop, then we rejoin Zoom to share our drafts. A very productive method of writing, from which I personally ended up with some 25 poems from the sessions I attended.

One of these was the poem ‘Knit’ which has subsequently proved popular in various on-line poetry readings. It was inspired by the word ‘cast’ and its drafting coincided with the final stages of the Yaffle Competition 2022. Why I didn’t enter the competition I don’t really know … except that I enter very few! I was therefore surprised, and delighted, to be contacted by Mark and Gill to play a part in the final round of judging the competition, basically considering the shortlist and putting the anonymised poems in order of merit, as I saw it. Obviously, Mark and Gill had already gone through this process themselves, but it’s always handy to have a ‘third opinion’!

I enjoyed the process immensely, marvelling at the range of subjects and voices presented by the shortlisted poems. There were many memorable poems … but three, very different, poems leapt out at me and I had no hesitation of awarding them marks which placed them in first, second and third position on ‘my list’. I believe these decisions lined up with those Mark and Gill had already arrived at which gave us all assurance that we had ‘got it right’.

The Yaffle website carries the results of the competition, and Mark and Gill generously gave space for the notes I made when I was considering the shortlisted poems, You can read them here:

https://www.yafflepress.co.uk/competition-1

Hearty congratulations to Sue Burge, Ian Harker and Holly Bars whose poems were placed in the First, Second and Third positions respectively.

Assisting in the judging of the competition was reward enough for me! But Mark and Gill kindly invited me to offer a poem for the editors’ section in the Whirlagust III anthology of Yaffle competition poems which has just been published – containing the prizewinning, highly commended and commended poems on the shortlist … as well as the longlisted poems, and poems by Mark and Gill. It promises to be a rich and varied volume! I look forward to reacquainting myself with the shortlisted works … and to discovering more poems and poets in the longlist.

The icing on the cake was attending the launch of Whirlagust III, and the celebration of the winners and shortlisted poems, at the event on Zoom on 22 September. It was a really lovely event, made all the more so by the hosts, Gill and Mark, who make all their events and workshops so enjoyable with their welcoming, relaxed and affable style. Thank you, both, for a thoroughly positive experience all round.

Watch out for the arrival of Whirlagust III on the Yaffle website. It will be available for purchase here shortly: https://www.yafflepress.co.uk/anthologies

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:

 

A Poetry Kick

The first session of Kickstart Poetry in Cheltenham on 3 January exceeded my expectations in terms of numbers attending – given that it was so early in the New Year, and a cold night at that. We were very grateful to Parmoor House for finding us a bigger room than the one we normally use, which would have been a little too cosy!

Early feedback suggests that fellow Kickstarters agree that the workshop and supplementary information posted in our own Facebook group is helpful.  Here are some of their comments:


“Thanks for this wonderfully detailed information … and for hosting us yesterday. I really enjoyed it and enjoyed hearing some wonderful poetry.” 
“Really enjoyed the workshop last night. A good kickstart to the new year. Very helpful info thank you … No excuses but to get started now”.
“Have already put down ideas for three of the poems. Couldn’t stop poetry thinking last night.”
“I enjoyed it, thank you … lots of interesting ideas.”
“It was fab and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
“Thanks for a great session … Your group has a good mix of people, poetry and styles. I really feel that I can gain from the structure of it.”

“I very much enjoyed the session … and look forward to more in the coming months and working on the prompts in the book.”
“Fab time this evening at CPS Kickstart poetry workshop based on Jo Bell’s 52 … Good to have a structure to work with.”

“Very well done … pace, tone and level just right … generating plenty of enthusiasm.”

So, the new-style workshops under the auspices of Cheltenham Poetry Society seem to be a worthwhile addition to the Society’s calendar.

Credit must go to Jo Bell, whose book 52 – Write a poem a week.  Start now. Keep going published by Nine Arches Press is the inspiration for the workshops.  We’ve identified 12 primary prompts to write on in the monthly workshops in 2017, but also drawn up a timetable to keep people on track if they want to take up the challenge of writing 52 poems during the year.

Writing a first draft for one of the 12 primary prompts occupies the first part of each workshop, followed by a read-round, and a ten minute break for a drink and a chat – perhaps about publication opportunities and successes.  In the second half we’ll be   bringing pre-written poems (on the 3 or 4 other prompts for the month) to the workshop for feedback.  There will also be a quick look forward to the prompts for the following month.  Comprehensive handouts accompany the sessions but all participants have been encouraged to buy a copy of the 52 book … and The Very Best of 52 book from Nine Arches Press.

Thanks to Roger Turner, Annie Ellis, Samantha Pearse, Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe, Gill Wyatt, Penny Howarth, Frankie March, Belinda Rimmer, Kathryn Alderman, Judith van Dijkhuizen, Alice Ross, Marilyn Timms and Howard Timms for supporting the workshop.  See you on 7 February!  Meanwhile, feel free to post draft poems in the closed Facebook Group for kindly comments from other members of the workshop series.  This does not amount to publication; your finalised poems will be free to be submitted to magazines, ezines, anthologies and competitions.  And build your (next) collection with Kickstart Poetry!