Wenlock Poetry Festival #3 : The Busk, The 52-ers, The Gazette, The Finale

Wenlock Poetry Festival is so good on new things – and in 2015 a great New Thing was the Poetry Busk.  Designed and compered by the wonderful Liz Lefroy, the Poetry Busk packed in ten hours of non-stop poetry, in which so many voices were heard ‘below the Sheet’.  Here’s Liz in front of the Sheet.WPF 2015 Liz Lefroy

Here, in order of appearance, is everyone who read:
Jean Atkin, David Bingham, Steve Mearns, Kate Innes, Bethany Rivers, Suzanne Iuppa, Liz Berry, Andrew McMillan, Oliver Jones, Ted Eames, Keith Chandler, Ruth Cameron, Cathy Dreyer, Anna-May Laugher, Jonathan Edwards, Paul Francis, Emma Duffee, William McCartney, Lucy Cunningham, Immy May, Rennie Parker, Tanya Prudente, Adrian Perks, Vuyelwa Carlin, Charlie Wilkinson, Pauline Prior-Pitt, Ross Donlon, Jonny Denfhy, Colin Sutherhill, Tina Sederholm, Steve Thayne, Carol Caffrey Witherow, Hollie McNish, Josh Ekroy, Tom Wyre, Adrian Blackledge, Mary Cunningham, Gary Carr, Emma Purshouse, Graham Attenborough, Tom Wentworth, Nadia Kingsley, Martin White, Barry Tench, Dorothy Anne Prescott, Chris Kinsey, Robert Peake, Kevin Bamford, Roz Goddard, Jeff Phelps, Steve Griffiths, Emily Wilkinson, Jay Walker, Di Slaney, Lindsey Holland, Anna Lawrence, Lottie Holder, George Morehead, Rajesh Bhardwaj, Liz Lefroy, and Steve Harrison.

Everywhere, this year, was the 52 group, a torrent of talent set going by the amazing Jo Bell, who launched her new collection Kith (from the hugely impressive Nine Arches Press) to great acclaim.  Here she is, reading to Wenlock Pottery, absolutely stacked with 52-ers.WPF 2015 Jo Bell at 52
Here is Dominic Hammond, one of the team of young reviewers, holding up the incisive and incredibly professional Wenlock Poetry Festival Gazette, knocked out simultaneously to the events it described.  No kidding. WPF Fest Gazette and Dom

And the Finale.  Just after I finished my first set of poems, and was sitting next to Carol Ann Duffy watching Imtiaz Dharker perform her beautiful work from Over the Moon, I had a real moment of unreality, followed by such a rush of happiness and gratitude for this weekend, and all its wonders.  And LiTTLe MACHINe doing Adelstrop, and Jabberwocky.  Magic.  Thanks so much Anna Dreda, Lisa Blower, Jade Cancelliere and all the team.WPF JA reading


Wenlock Poetry Festival #2 : a Cabinet of Curiosities, Luck’s Weight and That Ambulance at Priory Hall

Volunteers cluster around the miracle-worker Emergency Poet, aka Deb Alma, on Saturday morning, as she sets up the Ambulance, ready for dozens of poetic consultations during the weekend.  Cake is likely to be applied, and tea.WPF 2015 volunteers at work

I was delighted by the beauty and intricate detail of The Cabinet of Curiosities, created by six artists and poet (Sue Challis, Jacqui Dodds, Julie Edwards, Jill Impey, Ann Kelcey, Elizabeth Turner, Mary V. Williams / Valentine Williams).  Here are tiny shoes.  And laces.WPF 2015 Cabinet of Curiosities 6

I took to writing tiny poems for them on my 1932 Imperial Good Companions Typewriter. Someone later stopped me in the High Street to ask where I got the ribbon (it’s a long story).WPF 2015 typewriter + poem

At the Festival Launch on Friday, I read some poems from Luck’s Weight, the exhibition and the pamphlet (in collaboration with photographer and writer Andrew Fusek Peters), and it was a real pleasure to share this work with so many people over the weekend.
How Time Is In Fields JEAN ATKIN  artwork & poem 1 CROP





WPF 2015 Luck's Weight 2



















Wenlock Poetry Festival #1: under the stars and out of doors

WPF Expanding 1 In two and a half jam-packed Festival days afloat on words, everyone who could wangle a ticket clambered into the planetarium which housed E-X-P-A-N-D-I-N-G the Universe in 45 minutes.  Two poets, Nadia Kingsley and Emma Purshouse, an astrophysicist, Professor Trevor Ponman and musician Giancarlo Facchinetti have made something breathtaking.  You lie on your back in the dark, the baroque ceiling opens to the stars, and you’re away.
‘Before the Big Bang, there was no before’.
WPF Expanding 4

Out on the streets of Much Wenlock, poets and audiences scampered in all directions, cramming in events.  So much hugging on street corners!

WPF 2015 round Wenlock sign crop

Under the Corn Market was Wild Wenlock, brainchild of Emily Wilkinson, who had magicked up tepees, which, when you put your head inside, were playing poems.  Small children were tucked up on cushions, listening.  More children made Things, everybody talked, and behind the tepees Wenlock Library offered Rhyme Time, when performers nipped in for a few minutes to share poems with passing tots.  I went and recited Queen Nefertiti to a round-eyed little audience.

WPF 2015 Wild Wenlock 1

Wenlock is small and lovely, and many people stopped to read the great cherry Poetree in the churchyard, on their way to coffee, cake and conversation in Priory Hall.

WPF 2015 Cherry Poet Tree


Wenlock Poetry Festival : Poetry is wakeful, in plain view

wpf-01-s600x600Well, only days to go before Wenlock Poetry Festival!  The Festival launches on Friday 24 April with Kei Miller, Hannah Lowe and Luke Kennard, with Mia Cunningham – and it sweeps to a close on Sunday night 26 April when the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Queen’s Gold Medallist Imtiaz Dharker, Little Machine and, er, me, take to the stage in the Finale.

As Poet in Residence, I’m hugely looking forward to being based in Much Wenlock all weekend, and oxter-deep in poetry.  My collaborative poetry and photography exhibition Luck’s Weight, opens on Friday at the official Festival launch, and will be in Priory Hall all weekend.  Then at 9am on Saturday morning I’m taking part in the lovely Poetry Breakfast in Tea on the Square, with Anna Dreda and Steve Harrison. WGood Companion Typewriterords, coffee, croissants, this must be what heaven looks like.  Next I’m starting off the Wenlock Poetry Busk, which opens at 12 noon in the Methodist Church, and in between events (and my own efforts to go to as many as possible) you’ll find me thundering away on my 1932 Imperial Typewriter in a corner of Priory Hall – please interrupt, I’m sure I’ll need to rest my fingers…  I aim to hear the wonderful Jonathan Edwards, and I’m hugely looking forward to Michael Rosen (supported by my friend Paul Francis) on Saturday night.

Come Sunday I want to snatch a few minutes in the Ambulance with my friend Deb Alma, the Emergency Poet.  I’ve been her assistant (Nurse Verse) before, but reckon it’s my turn on the couch to be soothed and given my poetic prescription.  I also want to go see what Wenlock’s Publisher in Residence is up to  – that’s Jane Commane at the discerning, innovative Nine Arches Press.

Then at 1pm I’m In Conversation with Roz Goddard up at The Edge.  Roz is a wonderful poet, and furthermore I’ve been lucky enough to work with her (with her West Midlands Readers’ Network hat on) all winter as Reader in Residence at Southwater Library, and she is, simply, magic.  Then I’m involved in presenting the prizes for Wenlock International Poetry Competition, which was judged by Imtiaz Dharker, one of my own very favourite poets.  I helped with the sift, and the quality was terrific – so the winners have really earned it.

I shall rush off to catch Oversteps Poets reading at Wenlock Pottery, then back to the final performance of Expanding the Universe – a unique event involving two poets, a musician and an astrophysicist.  I’d love to see Kathleen Jamie (supported by my friend Liz Lefroy) if I can – and then I need to get ready for that Finale.  Find a minute to eat something.  If I can.

Being Poet in Residence at Wenlock this year has been filled with wonderful opportunities that I’m so grateful for.  This Festival really has a very special atmosphere, and is run by amazing people. Make sure you come and join in if you can!

‘How I trained my woodlouse’…

Yesterday my group of home-educated kids came round and we wrote poems to woodlice.  Woodlouse Poems finger boxThere was a lot of kindly louse handling, and not a few moments of losing them in the sofa or capturing them as they made for the safety of Under the Rug.  We talked about their habits, their food, the length of their lives and the pleasing fact that a mother woodlouse carries her eggs in a little pouch, marsupial-style, until they hatch out.  We wrote and read aloud, and re-wrote.

Woodlouse Poems Jonah's poem
Jonah’s poem: the trained woodlouse


Woodlouse Poems Loreta's poem cutup
Loreta cut up her poem and rearranged it


Read in front of the fire,/ read out in the shed./ Read in bed.

A wonderful last Saturday in Southwater Library at our Readers’ Day! It’s the conclusion to my six months there as Reader in Residence, and it was great!

Southwater Reads

Southwater Readers Day Rob reading Robert Harper from Shrewsbury Poetry Stanza

Last Saturday was a wonderful day!  Thank you the great staff at Southwater Library, and also West Midlands Readers’ Network. Southwater Readers’ Day involved sharp-witted teenagers writing a Doctor Who radio play with Birmingham-based writer William Gallagher; Shrewsbury Poetry Stanza came over for the occasion and performed at the foot of Southwater’s escalators, drawing audiences who came racing back for later pop-up poetry readings; Jake Evans the storyteller led a group of skilfully bewitched children and parents on a Story Walk – and William Gallagher rounded off the day with his fabled Get Writing workshop, in which he demonstrates to participants how very distractable they really are.

Southwater Readers Day Giant Poem in prepI sat and typed on my vintage 1932 Good Companions typewriter, which clatters.  I made a start on a Giant Poem for Southwater Library, and encouraged interruptions from library-goers.  Lots of people stopped by and added lines…

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Southwater Readers’ Day : Saturday 11th April


I’m looking forward to Southwater Readers’ Day, next Saturday, when the library will be packed with happenings all celebrating the written word!  The event will complete my winter’s residency at this buzzing new library in Telford – but I’m sure I’ll be back!  The residency has been developed and managed by Southwater Library in Telford and West Midlands Readers Network.  We are grateful for funding support from Arts Council England.

Good Companion TypewriterSo from 11am to 3pm on Saturday, I’ll be at Southwater Library, thundering away on my vintage typewriter – do come and interrupt me, it’s very hard work.  Everyone is encouraged to join in and help create a Giant Southwater Poem which will be displayed later in the Library.

You’ll also find an utterly extra-terrestrial Write a Doctor Who Radio Play (Right Now) workshop with William Gallagher, who has written a string of successful Doctor Who radio plays.  This workshop is from 11am to 12 noon.

I’m so pleased to welcome The Escalator Poets – aka the excellent Shrewsbury Poetry Stanza, there to provide pop-up poetry to surprise and delight. They’ll be performing for 15 minutes at 12 noon, 1.30pm & 2.30pm.

And at 2pm families can join award-winning storyteller Jake Evans for one of his legendary Story Walks – or  – take your place on the Get Writing workshop with Birmingham-based writer William Gallagher from 2pm to 3pm, to help you tackle writer productivity.

You can turn up to workshops and the Story Walk on the day, or book in advance by ringing Southwater Library on 01952 382915.

More on our Facebook Event Page here.  Follow us on Twitter @southwaterreads

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