You can hear the podcast with Reuben here.
I have a poem on the blog Writers for Calais Refugees. I originally wrote it when I interviewed Reuben Woolley. He asked me to write a poem on the subject of abuse, the theme of his blog I am not a silent poet. I was inspired by a story about a lorry full of dead migrants found in Austria. When dead children started being washed up the media rather forgot about it but it was no less horrific as I hope the poem conveys. Read it here.
You can hear the podcast with Reuben here.
This Saturday I'm reading at the Hub Festival as part of the Megaverse lineup at the Urban Taphouse. I'll be be joining, in the words of organiser Will Ford, a mini multitude of poets and word slingers ready, willing and able to move or amuse you, to reveal their souls, their observations and comments on the world we live on and the lives we live on it.
The festival takes place throughout the weekend across a number of venues on Womanby Street. I don't know many of the bands playing so I'll enjoy wandering from place to place, seeing what I find.
I like to feed the spacemen,
swimming in the sky ...
My new pamphlet containing poems written last November is available. I'm quite pleased with it as a month's work. There are poems about Robin Hood, umbrellas, the moon, wasp honey and more. Copies cost £4 including P&P in the UK. Email for enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
2014 is the year I became Welsh. It feels like I’ve spent most of the time practising shorthand and applying for jobs but it turns out also did all of this:
I started the year with a gig I’ll remember for a long time joining poets Leanne Moden, Russell J Turner, Fay Roberts, Daisy TG, Nikki Marrone and Hollie McNish in a night of poetry accompanied live by Wooden Arms which was hosted by Shindig and Allographic. You can read about and listen to audio from the night here.
The centre of Cambridge was beautifully lit for the E-Luminate Festival which was a great event for photographers. I was pleased to make the shortlist of the festival’s photography competition with the picture of the Senate House railings below.
My poetry was also introduced to Macedonian audiences thanks to Afrodita Nikolova who published a couple of my poems in translation in the magazine Sh.
I also set up a website for students of Teeline shorthand with songs for them to practise with. The site was well received by students and tutors: musicalteeline.blogspot.co.uk.
A feature I wrote on poets Tim Clare, Mark Grist and Mixy graced the pages of Poetry News – the newsletter of The Poetry Society.
I was also on stage a lot of the time at Hammer and Tongue and Allographic and got to collaborate with musician Tom Adams. We decided to apply to perform at a showcase night for local artists at The Junction but it wasn’t until a day or two before the deadline that we decided what to perform. We hit on the idea of creating a musical, spoken word journey through Cambridge. The pitch was accepted giving us a couple of weeks to write and rehearse the material. Working with Tom whose reputation continues to go from strength to strength was an inspiration and I think we were both pleased with the end performance.
I caught several interesting performances at the Cambridge Literature Festival including poet Luke Wright and mathematician Simon Singh both entertaining and educational in their own unique ways. I also had the honour of doing a support slot for John Osbourne at Hammer and Tongue Cambridge.
I interviewed some interesting people including magician Alexis Arts who was the star of E-luminate earlier in the year and Melt-banana who made a ballistic return playing at The Portland Cambridge. I also got to catch up with Mark Grist who was doing his show at The Junction after appearing in Channel 4 show Mr Drew’s School For Boys.
I performed and watched other entertainment at Strawberry Fair which had good weather for its 40th anniversary.
I went to many gigs and festivals over the year but none more full on than Night Watch – an ambitious non-stop 24-hour arts festival at The Junction. I managed to stay awake most of the time and write about it all for Local Secrets.
I also took over FE Week’s publication On Campus as guest editor writing and researching an interesting variety of education news stories including this feature on a group of nursing students’ trip to India.
I was lucky enough to once again cover Cambridge Folk Festival for Drunken Werewolf and Local Secrets. I had my camera to snap the acts including Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison and Richard Thompson playing at the festival’s 50th anniversary.
I also had some success with my poetry when I was selected as a winner in a Waitrose poetry Competition judged by Roger Mcgough.
The Romsey Art Festival set the neighbourhood buzzing with shows, workshops and exhibitions. I had a busy day on the first Saturday as I did a pop-up poetry event at The Black Cat Cafe – writing poems for members of the public on whatever topics they chose. The poems can be read here. Then in the evening I performed at an event at CB2 which was covered on Local Secrets and Slate the Disco.
I also brought my radio show Headstand to a close after nearly seven years as I prepared to move Newport in Wales for a new job. I had a studio full of guests for the last show which you can listen to along with all the other shows on Mixcloud.
By 1st September I was living in Newport having uprooted myself from Cambridge to start a new job as copy editor. It was an exciting month for a number of reasons. I learnt that a letter I had written for the Letter to the Unknown Soldier memorial project was to be included in a book featuring a small selection of the 24,000 letters submitted to the website. I then heard that my poem in the Waitrose competition had come second overall earning me a stash of goodies and letter from Roger McGough.
I started to explore my new country including a trip to North Wales and the lovely coastal town of Conwy.
I also had the honour of competing in the national finals of the Hammer and Tongue Poetry slam representing Brighton. It was a fantastic day of non-stop poetry from performers from around the country including old friends such as Leanne Moden, Justina Kehinde, Fay Roberts and the founder Steve Larkin. There was also a captivating set from Kate Tempest who released one of my favourite albums of this or any other year, Everybody Down.
I was shortlisted for the NCTJ Awards for Excellence for the Musical Teeline site. Although I didn’t win this was a huge accomplishment especially as I only started the site because I failed my shorthand exam at the end of my journalism course.
I got to discover more of the delights that Newport has to offer. It gets overshadowed by Cardiff but I wouldn't hear anyone put it down. You can hear great live music at Le Pub, see Roman remains at Caerleon and there is the giant Meccano model which is the Transporter Bridge. Most breathtaking of all is the Wetlands nature reserve – 5 miles from my home along an attractive cycle route.
I spent the month writing a poem a day, following the prompts on Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog. I have attempted such challenges before but have always fallen behind after a few weeks. While I wouldn’t say everything I wrote was a masterpiece I did produce something every day and have enough poems I’m happy with to produce a chapbook.
I also attended a launch party for the Letters to the Unknown Soldier book and had a chance to meet the organisers and many other contributors including Andrew Motion.
I spent a few days visiting places in the surrounding region including Bristol where I made some connections on the spoken word scene, attending a couple of open mic events.
From Bristol I made an excursion to Wells which offered some striking photo opportunities.
I also visited Swansea where I could worship at the altar of Dylan Thomas. I hope to explore the surrounding countryside and coastline there, maybe when the weather's a bit more cheerful.
I was back in Cambridge briefly for Christmas, returning to Newport for work before the New Year. Whatever 2015 holds for me it’s fair to say I’ll be making the headlines!
The Romsey Art Festival gets underway this weekend for the second year. Last year was a huge success and a lot of fun to be involved with. I ran a poetry workshop with a number of exercises to get people writing poems straight away by responding to prompts and looking creatively at the world around them. It produced some great work, some of which you can read here.
This year I'm taking a possible overdose of my own medicine as I set up shop for the day in the Black Cat Cafe on Mill Road on Saturday. I will be writing poems based on prompts given by members of the public then displaying and tweeting them. I don't know how it's going to go but my theory is that being put under pressure will produce some interesting results.
I'll also share prompts as I get them so if you want to join in and write poems yourselves feel free. You can share them using #pwpoetry.
In the evening I'm reading at a gig at CB2 which features music from Karmadillo and Dr Peabody. I may have a few new poems to read by then.
I've been getting my housemate Rychard Carrington to help me train for the poetry writing. Here's a poem I wrote in about 15 minutes from the prompt 'window frames.'
The window is like a cat flap
For the sun to burst in
Shaking its mighty mane
And moonlight sleek as a Siamese
To creep silently through.
But every window needs its frame
Solid bars defining the boundaries
Of the room's private theatre
Enhancing its scenery
A section of sky perfectly rendered
Rooftops catching rays
from the sun lingering in the wings.
Window frames hold the world at bay,
Keep it from pouring
With the might of a tsunami
Into this tiny room.
I've had fun going round town with my camera the last couple of weeks photographing the light installations that were part of the E-luminate festival. I was delighted the above photo was shortlisted for the photography competition. See more photos here.
I also managed to make a video with accompanying music on my new iPad.
Last Saturday I joined a terrific lineup of poets from Cambridge and around in a special evening of music and spoken word. We were accompanied by Norwich band Wooden Arms, who, after only a brief rehearsal improvised an amazing sound track as we performed our work.
The event was organised by Shindig and Allographic and held in the beautiful surroundings of the Unitarian Church. It was great to see the local media get behind the event. I was interviewed for Slate The Disco and The Cambridge News.
Fay Roberts opened the evening and the natural musicality of her poetry was perfectly accentuated by Wooden Arms. She compered the night saying lovely things about the rest of us.
Leanne Moden was up next up. She always surprises and often shocks with her sense of humour. Wooden Arms took it in their stride sound tracking every line about terrible kissers and real life sex. She raised plenty of laughs and made sure everyone was in a good mood for my set. I have done a few musical collaborations before and Wooden Arms did a wonderful job adding colour and melody to my humble words.
During the evening Wooden Arms played some of their own songs from their last EP and forthcoming release. They will be back in Cambridge next month to play at the next Shindig on 14th February.
The band got a break during a set by Hollie Mcnish, a poet whose reputation has spread far beyond Cambridge. Her " knack for spouting brilliant, stomach knotting sense about motherhood, boobs and immigration," as Cambridge News put it always has audiences hanging on her every word.
Three more poets took the stage in the second half. Russell J Turner performed extracts from his spoken word play. The gruff tales of sex and booze had a different mood and Wooden Arms responded perfectly with roughed up jazz and melancholy folk. Nikki Marrone gave a stirring performance with poems about war and overcoming adversity. Her final piece I Carry The Fire was well-known to many in the audience but it was transformed by Wooden Arms' accompaniment.
Daisy TG brought things to a close with an extended piece about life, love and music in London. The length of the piece allowed a rich dialogue to build between poet and musicians and was a rousing conclusion to the show in a packed venue.
Last week I came to the end of my 14 week journalism course at Brighton Journalist Works. Exams have been sat, portfolios submitted and the two groups Blue Steel and Frost have disbanded to make their way in the world of journalism. It feels strange for everything that has dominated my life over the last three months to be at an end and now here I am back in my old room at my old home in Cambridge.
I don't feel much like a journalist but maybe that's not surprising. Studying something is different to doing it in the real world. I'll get a taste of that with work experience in the new year.
It's easy to feel deflated at this stage but there are many accomplishments I can take pride in:
We have been introduced to a whole raft of tools for the modern journalist on the NCTJ course at Brighton Journalist Works. Anyone who was not on Twitter when the course started had to catch up fast. At least it isn't as difficult as shorthand.
A new one to me was Storify. The idea is you compile content from other sites such as Youtube, Twitter and blogs to create a story. It's an interesting concept and helps to make sense of the slew of information that gets published around news stories. It can be used to present contrasting reports of the same event, bring together different strands of complex news stories or compile a selection of tweets and blog posts into a coherent discussion on a topic.
On the other hand it could encourage a culture where journalists spend all day in front of the computer redistributing content rather than getting outside and reporting news first hand. Nick Davis from The Guardian who gave a talk to The NUJ in Brighton last week talked about this comparing it to Plato's Cave - an analogy which describes people living their lives in a cave watching shadows on the wall oblivious to the real world outside.
Overall Storify is a powerful tool which has gained credibility with users including The BBC, The National Geographic and The Whitehouse.
Here's my first story documenting the news that Metallica are to play Antarctica.