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!

Poetry Café – Refreshed, December 2016

We were pleased to have Anna Saunders as guest poet at our last Poetry Café – Refreshed of 2016, with her honed, image-rich poetry and delightful introductions. And the open mic was joyously eclectic!

Here is a photographic record of the event, including all the open mic poets on the night.  It features guest poet Anna Saunders, Refreshed’s host Roger Turner, Martin Lytton, Clive Oseman, Aled Thomas, Robin Gilbert, Jennie Farley, Dee Russell-Thomas, Belinda Rimmer,  Christine Whittemore, Najiba Mrakadeh-Keane, Michael Newman, Annie Ellis, Dave JPDL, Gill Wyatt, Chris Hemingway, Peter Wyton, Refreshed’s organizer Sharon Larkin, Howard Timms, Marilyn Timms.  With thanks to all friends and supporters in the audience too!

See you all in 2017.  Until then have a HAPPY CHRISTMAS and JOY-FILLED NEW YEAR!

With best wishes from Poetry Café – Refreshed.

 

 

 

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!”

Refreshed by Poetry

Over recent months, I’ve been pleased to work with Roger Turner to support Poetry Café – Refreshed at Smokey Joe’s in Cheltenham.  Roger hosts this monthly event, set in the wonderful American Diner-themed café in an exciting area of the town which is currently undergoing redevelopment.  This will soon be a bustling social quarter of Cheltenham, including the Brewery Complex of cinema, leisure facilities and restaurants. Poetry Café – Refreshed includes an open mic.

It has been a great pleasure to invite poets I’ve come to know through Jo Bell’s wonderful 52 initiative to be guest poets at Refreshed.  So far this has included John Alwyine-Mosely (August) and Tom Sastry  (September), both from Bristol, and Nina Lewis (October) from Bromsgrove – all wonderful poets. Their readings were very well received and we look forward to welcoming other 52-ers to be guest poets over the coming year

On 11 November Avril Staple from Gloucester will be the guest poet at Refreshed.  Many poets in Cheltenham and Gloucester know Avril well from Angela France’s wonderful Buzzwords (7pm first Sunday of the month, Exmoor Arms, Bath Road, Cheltenham). I know Avril’s work first-hand from the Creative and Critical Writing MA we did at the University of Gloucestershire in 2010 – and also from Poetry Factory, a Cheltenham-based group we both belonged to during 2012-13, along with David Clarke, Anna Saunders and others.

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with Avril at Refreshed, and with a great crowd of open mic poets. But first, I hope to meet up with Avril and the regulars at Buzzwords this Sunday, 1 November, when Jonathan Edwards and Mike Jenkins will be running the workshop and reading as guest poets.  As an enthusiast for Welsh poetry, I am personally very much looking forward to this.

The open mic at Buzzwords is always first rate.  Local poets are indebted to Angela France for her tireless work in support of poetry; Buzzwords is the longest-running poetry performance opportunity in the area, with an impressive “back list” of guest poets.  Angela teaches at the University of Gloucestershire and gained her PhD there this year.  So it is great news that Angela was recently appointed Cheltenham’s Poet in Residence.

It will be great to reconnect with poetry enthusiasts during November at the many events Cheltenham has to offer.