‘In woods we forget things, at the wood edge we tell stories’

Print screen blog cropI’m very excited to say I’ve got funding for a new project, which will take place this autumn.  It’s called ‘In woods we forget things, at the wood edge we tell stories‘ – click for a blog which will document our progress.  The project is funded by Shropshire Hills AONB and Shropshire Housing Group, and many many thanks to them.

The project will provide opportunities for three different groups from the community in south Shropshire to spend time in native woodlands, learn real, useful conservation skills, respond to place through poetry, and perform their own new site-specific work.

The three groups involved are from:

  • Bishop’s Castle Primary School
  • St Mary’s CE Primary School, Bucknell
  • The Working Together Group – a Ludlow-based registered charity who provide a focus for people with learning disabilities and their families

These groups are matched, respectively, with woodlands at:

  • Brook Vessons, Stiperstones
  • Tru Wood, Bucknell
  • Brineddin Wood, Chapel Lawn

I’m really looking forward to starting work on this.

 

 

 

‘The Crow House’ – event in Ludlow

The Crow House_Jean Atkin FRONTcover

This Saturday 13th August, I’ll be doing an Author Event for ‘The Crow House’ in Castle Bookshop on Castle Square in Ludlow, from 2pm to 3.30pm.  Map link here.

‘The Crow House’ is a timeslip children’s thriller set in Wigtown, which happens to be Scotland’s Book Town.  Odd and alarming things begin to happen in No. 71 North Main Street – or ‘The Crow House’ as Holly and Callum discover it was once known.

As they reluctantly begin to trust each other, Holly and Callum find out that The Crow House is old.  It has unsafe secrets and doors that aren’t like other doors.

Oh – and I’m going to take my Crow to Castle Bookshop on Saturday – come and meet him!
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Wigtown kirkyard crop bw

Young Writers do Pop Up Poetry

Kay reads

Yesterday a group of talented young writers filled Kidderminster Library with words in a Pop Up Poetry & Zine Exhibition to mark the end of this year of writing with me.  We’re part of Writing West Midlands’ Spark Young Writers Groups and we meet once a month from September to June to explore all the possibilities of creative writing.  There are Spark Young Writers groups right across the West Midlands, each led by a professional writer and supported by an assistant writer, and great fun, and affordable.  More about Spark Young Writers here – sign up now for next year!

It’s been a fantastic year.  Actually, I’ve worked with this group now for two and a half years, and I’m moving to start working with a new group this coming September.  I’m both looking forward to meeting the new group, and already bereft without Kiddi Young Writers…

The quality of the writing, and the effort, focus and creative talent that’s gone into their zines, is remarkable (as several members of the public told us yesterday).  I hope Kay, Abi, John, Toby, Izzy, Aeryn, Lauren, Beth, Ellie and Adam will keep on writing – and I do know they’ll have a brilliant time with poet and writer Roz Goddard, who’s taking over the group in September.

A big thank you to all members, past and present, of Kidderminster Young Writers, to Nicholas Tulloch, assistant writer this year, to Caroline and Paul and all the other staff at Kidderminster Library and especially to staff of Writing West Midlands, who do the most incredible job providing opportunities for writing to the whole community.  Kidderminster Young Writers have been great.  I’m so looking forward to Telford Young Writers in September.

‘Around the Crow the weather’

It rained on Welshpool Poetry Festival, but didn’t dampen this great little celebration of words in Mid Wales.  I read with Gillian Clarke on the final evening, and am now wallowing in the delights of her new Picador Selected Poems.

But before that I ran a workshop for children.  Here’s a few pics and some very promising lines from a group of focused and inventive young poets.

Welshpool Crow wshop Jun2016 (3)

A Tramp of Poets for Arvon

I’m just back from a gift of a week, staying at The Hurst for the inaugural Poetry with Walking Retreat, led by David Morley.

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Sixteen pairs of walking boots littered the hall, and it was very interesting, going for group walks and yet being alert to the possibilities for poetry.  It worked, slightly to my surprise.  (I’d planned to disappear on my own now and then if it didn’t).  But the group was lovely, and rapidly bonded to become a very supportive and creative community.  Helped on by the truly marvellous food…

I’d met David at various events, but hadn’t experienced the high tide of energy, irrepressible curiosity and sheer knowledge before.  He did a lot more than he needed to, including providing one to one sessions for us (mine was exciting and challenging and fruitful).  He filled the workshop room with books and handouts and bits of bone and feather, took us out with a bat detector and a great device that you can point at a tree to hear birdsong several times louder than life.  He trained us all how to call owls.  He made us see asemic writing in the woods.  Here’s some:

The steady rhythm of walking is good, I think, for writing.  I scribbled constantly and illegibly in my scruffy small notebook as we put in the miles through coppice, hillside and river paths in the mornings, and then wrote all afternoon.  There is something magical about The Hurst – a mellow, thinking house.  Steve Ely was our guest poet, rolling up in an ex Forestry Commission van with a lamping light on top.  He was great.

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Early in the week David provided us all with a photocopy of Clun dialect words and meanings, and loosed us on the village with the resulting short dialect poems.  I have to say I enjoyed this a lot.  Not great art, but great fun.  I hid mine in a shop. And it was such fun to walk with poets – they look around themselves so much.  They are so nosy.

Do a Pen 2 Mic workshop here in Ludlow!

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Pen 2 Mic will see you write a brand new poem and perform it on the same day. Focusing on places and locations that mean something special to you, you’ll create a new work and learn some vital performance tips before taking to the mic.

Fun and informal, Pen 2 Mic is a two hour afternoon session focusing on writing, editing and mic training followed by an evening public performance.

Run by the friendly and energetic Wordshoppers, Jean Atkin and Liz Hyder, Pen 2 Mic will help build your confidence and experience in performing and reading your own work to an audience.

Wednesday 1st June

2-4pm followed by an evening performance at 7.30pm.

£10.

Please book your tickets by calling Appletree on 0845 548 5449 or email hello@the-appletree.org.  Or click this link.

Poetry and #dementiaawarenessweek

Best_Margaret

Margaret pointing to the pink windowsill

At 8am this morning I was on the phone to BBC Hereford & Worcester, talking about making poems with people living with dementia, and later on, I was in Highwell House Nursing Home in Bromyard, really making poems.

I shared printouts of a painting by Joan Eardley around the room of ten people.  Not everyone has dementia, though several have it quite badly.  I’ve been working with this group for over a year. Today, Joan Eardley’s painting of 1950s children on the streets of the Gorbals proved very popular with everyone.  I write down (a desperate scribble) exactly what they say:
“Oh they’re joyous!  They’re real children”.
“You can see your own children in there”.
“Look at the mum’s tired face”.
“I love the little boy in the braces. His trousers are too big.  His face is too thin”.

After a while I read back to them my scrambled notes, ‘so far’.  Everyone listens, and then I go back round the room, speaking to individuals and persuading further contributions.

Later, at home, I put together a group of poems.  I don’t add any of my own words, but I restructure the ones I took down in my notes.  I think this is today’s favourite.

Pink Windowsill

Red hair, red cardigan buttoned at the top. What’s that dark
in her hair?  Oh, is it the shadows?
I was always knitting cardigans
for my own children.

Mother’s tried to brighten the windowsill
by painting it pink.

Words from Jean, Jim, Peter, Iris, Cecil, John, Isobel, Margaret, Jean, Stella

Next week I’ll take the poems back to the group and we’ll read them and enjoy them slowly – and probably twice.

And then we’ll make some more.