Troubadour of the Hills

Happy New Year! It’s 2019, and the Troubadour of the Hills project is filling my thoughts.  It’s such a lovely poetry job to be asked to do.  The project is a joint venture for Ledbury Poetry Festival and Malvern Hills AONB, and it was launched on National Poetry Day in October.  I’ve already done some schools work, taking local children into the woods under the Malverns to make poetry – and there are more walks and workshops coming up before Ledbury Poetry Festival in July.

I’ve written my first commissioned poem for the project.  It’s based on a 7 mile circular walk, which you can plot on the map by following the poem. Here it is.

One uncertain history

Wide horns and white
medieval flanks.
Heavy as sighs,
the park cattle linger
by a shrinking pool.

Bromesberrow, oaked, milky

I’m lit along the wood-edge.
Blond light off corn stubble,
a sky full of rain and light.
In one ear, press of hide on saplings,
the unseen deer retreat

Raggedstone, steep, sallow

A bellwether sheep
leads a long file past me,
roman nose to soiled tail.
They beat the cloven common
into the common

Hollybed, pale, trodden

Come out at the car park
red car, yellow car, sweet,
seedy blackberries.
Rain runs down me,
down the hill, and down the hour

The Gullet, fogged, viridian

The hills are always here.
They wear away.
They stay, grip close
the patience of the igneous.
Their fossils sit me out

Midsummer Hill, bedrock, bowl-sky

Banked with shades and shadows
winding up inside a slope
the deep lane remembers everything
forgets remembers.
I misremember everything, I know

Chase End Hill, white cumulus, concrete trig

You can find a recording of me reading it on Ledbury Poetry Festival’s website here, and please do contribute your own poems about hills to the same page. There are lots there already, and we’re really enjoying them!

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A new project – Creative Conversations

I’ve just started work with Creative Conversations, led by Arts Alive and Media Active. This three year partnership development links experienced agencies for arts and health to help establish new creative opportunities for people aged 55 and over. Participants may want to develop their own creative ideas, acquire new skills that can be shared with others, or may simply wish to try something new.

This is a really exciting project, collaborative and specifically in search of new ways of working. Professional musicians, poets, writers and digital artists will regularly visit various groups and venues to have creative conversations, gather stories, share music, write songs and poems, make films and digital drawings.  Over the next two years we will be collecting these and feeding them into the production of a touring Variety Show and exhibition; this will tour around to many small community spaces and village halls across the county, celebrating older people and putting their creativity quite literally centre stage.

I’ve just done the first ‘taster’ sessions at Shropshire day and community centres – and we’ve had a wonderful time making poems together from stimuli such as a heavy horse bridle –

On Clee Hill there was a Shire
across the railway line.
Sometimes my cousin’s husband
would put a saddle on that horse
and ride it 
like a medieval knight.

I saw a Shire horse in a field,
before our time.

and on a different day, from a painting by Anthea Craigmyle –

I write down what people say, trying to keep up, trying to keep the way and the exact words they choose, then we read them back.  Maybe add a bit more.  When we’re done, I chop it up with the scissors, do a swift shuffle and edit, then sellotape the bits back together.  Then we read it all again, much clapping and laughing.  Here’s one:

I thought it were one of them roundabouts.
Can you write Yorkshire?
I said a leprechaun, but no,
a unicorn by the river.

We three kings,
being as it’s coming to Christmas,
and a spotty dog, all
on their way to Bethlehem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spell to be a Unicorn for one day only

Christmas is coming! I’ve just been The Spellwright again for  glorious Ludlow Medieval Fayre, wearing my best big dress and thermal underwear, writing spell after spell in the Hands on History tent.  For two days my fingers have been soaked in black ink, and I’ve used up an amazing amount of sealing wax.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a selection of requested spells:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start 2019 with Café Writing!

Start 2019 with some Café Writing! Join me for six weekly sessions of inventive prompts, ideas and lots of encouragement, not least being fuelled by Ludlow Kitchen’s exceptional coffee and cake!

This will the third series of Café Writing at Ludlow Kitchen. I love teaching this course, always a joy.

Stir a pint of midnight into a sack of fog

I had to lie down on the sofa and hold onto a cup of tea afterwards, but I had the most amazing weekend at Shrewsbury Museum in the company of a seemingly endless stream of inventive young witches and wizards #MuseumsAreMagic.

Staff at the Museum had done a stunning job lighting the staircase with candles, providing a hatstand to leave your portkey on, a wand shop, a potions chamber – and provided me with a vast wizard’s throne and a high table decked with quills and sinister pots. I brought my own skulls.

Here’s a selection of Spells:

and more below.  I always ask the customer for their thoughts on the spell, and then incorporate their words where I can.  Sometimes I can get their age, or their birthday month in there too, as with the Spell for a Mermaid.  You will notice one of the Shape Shifter spells (above) was very effective.

 

 

 

Troubadour of the Hills

I’m delighted to tell you I’ve been appointed the first-ever ‘Troubadour of the Hills’ for Ledbury Poetry Festival and Malvern Hills AONB.  The project launches next Thursday 4 October at 10am when I’ll perform at a National Poetry Day event at Ledbury Books and Maps.

But today was a less public, but (I reckon) more energetic Troubadour happening, in the marvellous company of Y5/Y6 of Bosbury Primary School at Old Colwall.  A cold night was warming to golden sun under the Malverns when I turned up.

We were welcomed into an attractively dilapidated 19th century conservatory beside Old Colwall’s extraordinary Cloud Hedge. The plan was to work with the children so they had the chance to respond in poetry to both the Cloud Hedge and Old Colwall’s 1000+ year old yew on the hillside.ToTH Bosbury Sch_Sept2018 (1)

We explored the Cloud Hedge, which dates back to the 18th century (at least). Children raced through its passageways, stroked its bark, discovered the strange red sap of the yew that helps associate it with blood and death. We talked about yews in churchyards, yews cut for longbows, yew that lasts longer than an iron post.

ToTH Bosbury Sch_Sept2018 (2)

Then we went back into the conservatory and wrote. Each pair of children provided me with a line for a collaborative class poem which I scribbled down then edited over my sandwich at lunchtime. Here it is:

The Cloud Hedge
has leaves like bubbles in air
has twisted faces that mutter in the wind
The Cloud Hedge
is shady like a tent and stormy like the Channel
is a mysterious tunnel stretched like a witch’s broom
is textured like bubbles outside, and inside dark and poisonous
The Cloud Hedge
has branches that flow through an everlasting maze
has branches that flow like water
has branches that reach to sky like hands reach to the heart
The Cloud Hedge
is ancient spindled roots
is green patchwork silky leaves
is puffy and shady like a comfy dream
The Cloud Hedge
has spooky spidery branches
has hot air going in but cold air coming out
is fat like a hippopotamus tree
The Cloud Hedge
is a dark sharp spike, a pin that blows in the wind
is as grumpy as a cloud
The Cloud Hedge
swallowed us like flies
never stopping to wait for us
the dark green silky dim curved green long stretched-out
Cloud Hedge

We had enormous fun performing this, with everyone doing ‘The Cloud Hedge’ each time I raised my pencil!

Then there was cake.

And after that we all set off through a field and up a steep hill to visit the great Yew of Old Colwall.

The Yew is simply massive, a vast core trunk that sends tremendous branches out to all sides. The branches arch, re-root and grow further great spurs.  The tree must have a radius of 40 yards or so.  It was wonderful to see the children clamber into the tree, scrambling along branches, wriggling into the forks, feet dangling down, Poem Notes in hand and in use.

Back in the conservatory we wrote tankas about climbing in the Yew.  Some absolutely outstanding writing – here’s some:

We finished the afternoon with a poetry reading, and shared so many wonderful and brand new poems about the yews. Huge thanks to all at Old Colwall, not forgetting Hetty the extremely popular dog.

‘At midnight, pick half a pound of hail out of a blue lake’

In the midst of summer 2018’s heatwave comes Ledbury Poetry Festival, rich with words and sunstruck sofas out on the cobbled lane as ever.  Dressed rather warmly in my best ‘medieval wise-woman’ garb, with large straw hat, I set up in the Walled Garden alongside a colourful spread of tents and stalls providing entertainment to all.

I wrote spells for all ages, requests ranging from dinosaur seeds to relief from headaches. It was an inky joy.  Thank you Ledbury!

Words from the Vaults

This spring I’ve been working with a great group of people who’ve been attending ‘Creative Writing in the Museum Vaults’.  Ludlow houses the county’s precious and extraordinary Museum Resources, and this series of workshops allowed us access to the ‘Vaults’ and the wonders they contain.  Throughout all of this we were expertly supported by Ludlow Curator Abigail Cox, and by Fay Bailey at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

During April everyone can come to Ludlow Library and Museum Resources Centre, and read wonderful new poems inspired by some of the artefacts we met in the ‘Vaults’.  And next week, there’s a special, one-off reading – open to the public.  There will be cake.

Final reading poster #3

Here’s a glimpse (too many reflections) of just some of the work on display in the foyer of Ludlow Library and Museum Resources Centre.

And meet the handsome Dr Hickman, and Lizzie Prudence’s delicious words…

DSCF7220

What a treat
warm intelligence lighting
strong brown eyes
shining out among the dull
bewhiskered dignitaries.

If Jane had seen you
dancing across the
Assembly Rooms floor
she might have chosen
you for Darcy.

 

The impact of a distinguisher at a vaseboard

Cafe Writing is once again under way in lovely Ludlow Kitchen at the Food Centre, Bromfield.  I run these workshops for people who wish to write poetry or prose while enjoying a good coffee, and sometimes a pastry too.  This morning a dozen ingenious minds created a Dicsaurus.

I had asked everyone to invent a new word using two words handily hanging around the beautiful conservatory in which we’re working in Ludlow Kitchen.  So – a vaseboard derives from a cupboard.  And a vase.

Then all new words were passed to the left (or right, or somewhere, this bit was creatively chaotic) and a definition invented for the new word.  Which we then shared, through raucous laughter, fine coffee and cake.

The word Dicsaurus was duly invented to explain what we’d done.  Here it is:

CW Dicsaurus

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