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Two Sides of the Severn 1

Since Christmas I’ve been working on Two Sides of the Severn, a project funded and managed by Wenlock Poetry Festival to help primary school children enjoy, access and create poetry.  The project will also assist the established poetry festival in Shropshire to develop and encourage young audiences, and it’s funded through a Clore Poetry and Literature Award.

mw-y5-trip-13feb-9The power plant was far, at night, red-eyed
like a robot when you were small.

During Two Sides of the Severn I’ve introduced children from two primary schools to the work of A E Housman, Mary Webb and my own poems about Shropshire, before setting off outdoors for the children to create their own poetry by responding to place.

The schools are in Much Wenlock (south of the Severn) and in Telford New Town (north of it).  The schools are governed by different local authorities, and wouldn’t normally work together, so it’s been an innovative collaboration with new experiences for the children, their teachers and the Poetry Festival.

With the children and their teachers, I walked in woods on both sides of the Severn, and they wrote their Poem Notes, which we used for writing once we were back in the classroom.

It’s been a real joy going outside in the winter with the children, who really rose to the occasion and created marvellous collaborative poems.  Here’s a few glimpses of what we’ve been doing so far.  The words below the photos are taken from the children’s collaborative poems.

rh-trip-16feb17-10-cropTrees flickered like candles on my birthday.

 

dscf3735A scarlet elfin cup grows on a branch of pure love.

 

rh-trip-16feb17-13Later that day I saw blue wellingtons that smelt like violets.

 

rh-trip-16feb17-12What wasn’t there to see was the River Severn.
What wasn’t there to see was foxes, but I could smell them.

Now we’re moving on to writing individual short poems, and then we’ll be working on ways to perform the collaborative poems to an audience – one school to the other.  And then finally there’ll be a proper, full-on performance with a big audience, lights and raked seating!

 

 

Thinking about Children’s Poetry

A fascinating blog post from Josephine Corcoran, looking at children’s poetry, Winchester Poetry Festival and a 2015 issue of Modern Poetry in Translation magazine  which had a focus on children’s poetry in translation. Serious, important stuff.  Also fun.  Here it is.

Ahead of Winchester Poetry Festival which runs from Friday 7 October to Sunday 9 October, and because I’m teaching some poetry workshops for children at Trowbridge Town Hall on National Poetr…

Source: Thinking about Children’s Poetry

‘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.