Finally found a good time to write about what could be the most exciting opportunity Creative Arts Practice has thrown my way – getting commissioned by Seven Stories National Centre for Children’s Books! The whole cohort was invited to send proposals for Seven Stories’ night at the Late Shows, and mine was one of the ones that got accepted!
I’m putting together a programme of pop-up performances throughout the evening, which will be Friday the 19th of May. They’ll be many talented poets and musicians spread throughout the building, spinning stories in one form or another. I might even get to do a set myself, if I’m not run off my feet. If you’re in Newcastle or that neck of the woods, come down the Ouseburn Valley and check it out! The whole city will be full of cultural events and people wandering around with beer and/or glowsticks.
No doubt I’ll be plugging this more actively at the week progresses. Keep an eye out for updates on specific performers as well – I’m really exciting about some of the people I’ve managed to get on-board.
For those interested in finding out how this came about, along with other Creative Arts Practice things I’ve been up to this year, check out my course blog (it’ll be up there once various technical difficulties are resolved).
Been a bit snowed under this last week, what with one of my deadlines being quietly moved forward by three days without anyone telling me (hahahahahaha I survived), but something awesome happened this weekend – Team Edinburgh won another slam! Me, Catherine, Joe and Doug (those talented bastards) went to down to London to compete in the Hammer and Tongue National Slam Final, having qualified at Unislam. We went up against some incredible teams from the various different branches of Hammer and Tongue in two rounds of group pieces, and we won!
It was a great weekend. It was also exhausting – it ran for around 8 hours on the Saturday and 4 on the Sunday – but it was jam-packed with some incredible talent: Theresa Lola (who won the singles competition) and Kat Francois, to name just two. There were some familiar faces from the Edinburgh scene – Matthew Macdonald and Iona Lee – and a whole host of incredible performers. It was kickass.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to sleep forever.
I’m off to sleep forever.
I uprooted a shrub at my grandmother’s today
and it really didn’t want to go.
It had the resilience of wood, yes
and the tenacity of a planted heart
(fibrous veins pump more slowly)
but it was also more resourceful
fighting back more coarse and forceful
than I ever expected from a vegetable.
It rallied every trick of nature.
Fought against me root and claw
old branch, new shoot, prickle-leaf and more.
Attacked me with its nettle neighbours,
trip-slip-stung me to the floor
and knowing absolutely what the mud must think of me.
Its defences ran deep, see
but I was determined too.
Siege-ready they were, my forces
well-trained in the art of undermining.
I planted foot on trunk and pushed it
I planted foot on spade and shunted
I planted foot on spade and hand on trunk
and pushed and heaved and grunting, sunk
until I rip-tore it with a cracking;
pebbles, worms from the soil a-bleeding
a knotted trophy in my workshop glove.
ripe for re-planting.
Something’s up in Little Dudley
where the local book group meets
there’s a tension at the bowling green
there are whispers in the streets.
See, this has always been the Woolf Pack’s town
since a time before my birth
when my Nan and Mrs Dalloway
drove the Grandmothers Grimm off their turf.
But there’s a new threat on the scene these days
at the lakehouse in the park
where, with graffiti cans in wrinkled hands,
the Milton’s Angels left their mark.
So Nan’s going round to Josephine’s
and calling up Brigid as well
so they can gather up the posse
and send those basic biddies back to hell.
“Bring To the Lighthouse and Orlando
and A Room of One’s Own will be critical,”
she says to make sure that those crotchety crones
are gonna choke on their Werther’s Originals.
So its handbags at dawn
for a literary war
they’ve got their hatpins
got their letter-openers drawn
and witty quotations
spun cleverly into threatening prognostications
not lost on their brimstony foes
(they’re pulling hair, they’re stomping toes)
a hellish host of demon dames
with a hundred late fees to their nefarious names.
But at last the Woolf Pack wins the day
and may all OAP book groups know
that my Nan is better than your Nan
and your Nan can come have a go.
Photo credit: Monty Python
When the whale
– it was a flying fish in life –
dies, crabs and gulls will flock to it
hollowing out a temple on the beach
for you to live in for a while.
There will be a salt-gash.
It will tear
from your stinging eyes
to your churning guts
to the pit of your stomach
where the harpoon is still
You will be visited by a wise woman
to discuss the gash and the service,
tailor your drowning to the one who threw you ice-cold into it.
She will invite you to dig deep
to find the ambergris
used in the balm of another person’s sleeping
wearing concrete slippers.
She knows how to make useful things
from the corsetbone and baleen
Call it ballast
to keep you stable through the ceremony
call it a life raft
to keep you afloat in the turbulent wake of
Art by Elena Purlyte.
Exciting news – I made a thing! A physical thing that exists, in collaboration with the excellent Elena Purlyte. Its a collection of illustrated poems – my poems, her art – that has been in the works for a good long while now. Check out some preview images below!
The title is in reference to the way people used to understand fairies and household spirits and pagan gods before they got bundled in with everything else that was either satanic or imaginary. I could go on about this idea at length (and maybe I will, in another post), but the gist is that they’re something ‘between’ heaven and hell. Supernatural, but still earthly. The pamphlet is essentially a collection of flights of fancy, some lighthearted, some darker, so the title Middle Spirits seemed like a good fit!
(I realise all this sound a bit pretentious and high flown, but that was pretty much the opposite of the point – I wanted to use poetry to express imagination in a way that *doesn’t* require you to understand metre or have read Wordsworth)
We’re most at the end of what was essentially a ‘trial run’ of printing and selling them, largely on a personal basis, which we did to get an idea of what they would look like and how much it would cost to get them made in that particular way (we used a website called Inky Little Fingers, if you’re interested). There are a few copies left from the first run, but essentially we’d like to figure out more properly how we’re going to sell and promote them before we print any more. If you’d be interested copy, drop me an email at email@example.com and I’ll see what I can do – if nothing else it will give me an idea of how much interest there is.
The two of us have a few different ideas for what might come next, potentially accompanying the first ‘proper’ print run. Prints, perhaps. Buttons, maybe. Tote bags, potentially (if only because me and Elena really want our own ones). And maybe even a second, shorter collection with a tighter focus. But in the meantime, it just feels so good to have something I can hold in my hands. Hype!
It’s alive! Lightning has struck, and the old blogging impulses have lurched back into life like something from an 80s horror film. Now that I’ve got my fancy-pants lit degree, and with the launch of the pamphlet and the start of my new course (more on both of those soon!) I thought now was as good a time as any resurrect my blog.
Long-story-short, the entire next 12 or so months should be more-or-less dedicated to creative activities of one kind of another, and I wanted to make this blog into a kind of artistic profile while still keeping it as a place to post just like before. New posts will be under ‘Blog’, old posts under ‘Archive’ and the rest should (fingers-crossed) be a showcase of all my most recent artsy endeavours.
Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CC_No_26_Frankenstein_2.JPG