Two Sides of the Severn 2

With four rather marvellous collaborative class poems completed by Much Wenlock Primary School (South of the Severn) and Redhill Primary School (North of the Severn), I went back in to work with the children on creating individual poems.  We did this by using their original Poem Notes, made outdoors, plus prompted writing I’d done with them after their trips – and then we developed these ideas to create tankas.  Some drafts below:

Meantime, when they weren’t working on their tankas, the children were making huge poetry collages with artist Emily Wilkinson.

MW Workshop4 + art (10)


RH Wshop3 5VK (10)

and then we wrote up the tankas onto postcards, and shared them –

Two Sides of the Severn has been developed and supported by Clore Poetry  and Literature Awards, the Arts Council and the Trustees of Wenlock Poetry Festival.


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!



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!

My World Poetry Day Workshop

Jean at Logan Garden 2013 credit Brenda WhiteIt’s World Poetry Day on Saturday March 21st 2015, and to celebrate, and as Poet in Residence for Wenlock Poetry Festival, I’ll be hosting an exclusive workshop at the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

I’m going to be leading a poetry workshop sparked by the world’s marvels, helping you map untrodden paths into new poems through a series of engaging activities and prompts.  Bring with you a picture or an object which represents for you one of the Seven Wonders of the World!  The workshop will also set aside some time to discuss and edit your emerging work.

The workshop will run from 10am – 12.30pm.

Tickets are priced at £18 (to include coffee, tea and biscuits).

Places are limited so booking is essential. Please email with your contact details to book a place.

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑