Twelve Poems about Chickens – Candlestick Press
















I’m so delighted to have a poem from my pamphlet, ‘The Henkeeper’s Almanac’ picked up by Candlestick Press, for their beautiful new book ‘Twelve Poems about Chickens’.   Here are poems which celebrate the quirks and curiosities of chickens.  Sentiments range from Sir Charles Sedley’s 17th century complaint at an early wakening:

Thou Cursed Cock, with thy perpetual Noise,
May’st thou be Capon made, and lose thy Voice

to a meditation by Kay Ryan on a chick breaking out of the egg:

It can’t afford doubt.  Who can?
Doubt uses albumen 
at twice the rate of work.

‘Those dabbing hens I ferociously love’ – how I do love Norman McCaig’s poem ‘Cock before dawn’.

The West and the East are measured from me…
It’s time I crowed.  The sun will be waiting.

I’ve had cockerels with just this megalomaniac streak, rigid on a wallhead in the morning, crowing insanely at all they can see.

I contributed a little poem about a black Araucana hen I used to keep in Scotland, drinking from the pond in a blowy March.

Her feathers blow backwards
but she hops out
onto a stone and sips
pondwater.  Frogspawn
ripples in the gusts.
She tips up her head.
Her bright comb’s
a first flower.

March Araucana

Young Writers making zines

Upstairs in Kidderminster Library this afternoon, the Writing West Midlands Young Writers’ Group are making zines.  They’re using their own creative writing and research, with some quite amazing artistic talent, to create personal zines to show off their work.  Have a look!

Zine making Feb 2016 (4)
Zine page by Bethany Dickenson
Zine making Feb 2016 (9)
Zine page by Kay Flower
Zine making Feb 2016 (12)
Hard at work
Zine making Feb 2016 (16)
Zine page by Eleanor Withers

Zine making Feb 2016 (13)

Zine making Feb 2016 (17)
Zine title page by Bethany Dickenson

The young people in this group are teenagers.  We have a ridiculous amount of fun, and they produce extraordinary work.  And we do have some spare spaces now!  So if you know a literary teen, then encourage them to come along.  It’s once a month, for two hours, costs a mere £6, and I lead it, along with friendly and talented assistant writer (also a published poet) Nicholas Tulloch.  Find out more here at Writing West Midlands.  You can just follow the links to book, or get in touch with WWM who will answer any questions you may have.

Finding Treasure in the Marches

Finding Treasure workshop 2016 (12)
Part of the Nummus Hoard, plough-dragged in its field

This morning 12 poets joined me and Peter Reavill, our regional Finds Liaison Officer, in a workshop exploring just some of the treasure trove of the Welsh Marches.  Peter blew us away with a mix of archaeological precision and rich storytelling – the hedge under which someone, in 1645, buried the Bitterley Hoard; the river ford where someone wrenched the Dinham Pommel from a sword, then hurled it into the waters of the Teme; the rhythmic, hour-after-hour sound of someone dressing a cutting-stone in the Paleolithic.

Finding Treasure workshop 2016 (1)
On the top floor of Ludlow Library, Peter Reavill makes handaxes new. 

Despite time being as ever too short, the poets produced the beginnings of characterful, muscular work.  Here they all are.

Finding Treasure workshop 2016 (10)
Poets deep in concentration, Peter still using every minute too.

And here’s the tyg, a 17th century loving cup.  On a night in 1645, the tyg’s owner drained his eggy, clovey, honeyed posset, then stacked it with his stash of coins, some of which dated back to Elizabethan shillings.  Perhaps the Royalists were going door-to-door in search of contributions to the cause.  Our man was having none of that.  He buried it.  But never dug it up.

Finding Treasure workshop 2016 (14)
The tyg, in which the Bitterley Hoard was found.  Left, the remains of a kid purse inside it.

I am so thrilled that in a mere two and a half hours the group came up with such exciting starts to poems.  More #FindingTreasure events are planned!  We’ll be publishing the poems that result!

Finding Treasure workshop 2016 (17)
Extract: A Charm Against Uncertain Borders, by Jean Atkin


Room 204 opens for applications!

writing west mids

West Midlands writers: Room 204 opens for applications

I’m very happy to recommend Room 204 to poets and writers!  I was selected for 2013-14’s cohort.  Not only did it provide me with a lot of expert, seasoned advice and real opportunities, but I got to meet a whole network of writers and organisations who have been improving my professional life ever since.  So apply!

Writers across the West Midlands are invited to apply to be part of this year’s Room 204 – the year-long support and career development programme run by Writing West Midlands. Now in its fifth year, Room 204 recruits between 10 and 15 writers a year, writing in all genres from poetry and prose to radio and TV scripts, and gives them each over £1,000 worth of career support.

The deadline for submissions is Thursday 25 February and you can find the full submission details here.

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