I’ve been so busy that I can barely believe it’s been four weeks since my last blog.
‘How is the book going?’ people keep asking. My reply at the moment is tentative but consistent, ‘It’s going.’ I am making progress but I am aware I still have quite a way to go. Between helping my son revise, working towards Arts Awards for Ilkley Young Writers, writing workshops and assisting on a family willow sculpture making day at The Hepworth Wakefield (good fun in the bank holiday sun), I have managed to maintained my focus on ‘Skybound’ and I’m pleased about that. Incidentally, if you’re interested in my workshop work, you can read updates about one of the projects I’m working on at the Artlink blog
For the first time in a while I have no pieces out in the literary world which means I don’t even have a miniscule chance of reaping any prizes. The few competitions I had entered with some of my newer work have now all announced their results and unfortunately my poems were not among the winners. But that is O.K. – this is a time to sow.
Speaking of sowing, I had a pipe dream of spending some of the summer in a field. On a friend’s prompting, I applied for a spot at Glastonbury’s Poetry and Words tent. I knew it was a longshot and wasn’t at all surprised that I didn’t get it. The process was useful though because it reminded me that I need more footage of me performing that is available online. Thanks to Pippa Hennessy, who filmed That Room at ‘Beeston Poets Presents Versions of The North’ in Nottingham, I have one to start me off, even if I am performing for the audience rather than the camera!
The previous week had seen the launch of the book edited by Ian Parks and published by Five Leaves at The Flux Gallery. It was a wonderful evening that really highlighted the many strengths of Yorkshire poetry and I have never seen so many poets in such a small space. This is the first collection of Yorkshire poetry that has been published since Vernon Scannell’s ‘Contemporary Yorkshire Poetry’ was brought out in 1984 and I am proud to be a part of it. I’ll leave it to you to discover what the collection has to offer but highly recommend you buy it, not for my two poems but for the many other gems contained within. You can buy direct from Five Leaves or from me when you see me. See what Ian McMillan makes of it:
The event in Beeston was packed – unusual for a poetry reading in a library! It was a very literary crowd and they listened intently to the varied readings by Ian Parks, Elizabeth Barrett, me and another, exceptionally clever, fellow graduate from the ‘Yorkshire Art Circus Writing Development Programme’ Steve Ely. It was a delight to read and to listen to all of the poems and to discover Elizabeth’s beautiful emotive sonnets about her mother.
After the readings I had a chat with Ed Ferrari who had recorded an audio version of Mine (not the type of mine that recurs in the anthology) and wanted to perform a close reading of the poem on his blog. This is a first for me and I really enjoyed his take on it. He intends to do more close readings of performance poems so visit his blog to find out what’s hot or not in performance poetry and feel free to comment. The fantastic performance poet Kate Tempest is up there already. Thanks to Mahmoud Darwish for the starting point for ‘Mine’ and Angela Topping for the workshop that helped to produce it.
I’ve been fortunate enough to receive a commission from Grassington Festival to create poetic texts that will be displayed on ten umbrellas and hung in the square. I’ve started work on the words already and am finding that umbrellas are incredibly interesting and inspiring. Do come along to one of the events between 14th and 29th June and let me know what you think of the brollies.
Forthcoming Open Workshops for Adults at The Hepworth Wakefield
Weds 22nd May 10-12 or 1-3 Writing Between The Walls
For those new to exploring art through creative writing and performance, a taster session drawing on the Hepworth environment for inspiration at the bargain price of £3.
Sun 23rd June 10.30-4 Making the Ordinary Extraordinary and the Extraordinary Ordinary
Using magical realism and fantasy as our forms, we will use Hepworth’s graphic works as a starting point. The titles of the graphic works bring with them a wealth of associated histories, myths, legends and religious stories for us to explore. In this session, we will develop modern day versions of the ancient tales referenced by Hepworth and, in contrast, will find the magic or extraordinary in the glorious everyday as depicted in The Milner White Collection. Aspects of writing explored will include plot, free writing and written and verbal storytelling. There will be opportunities for feedback on work.
To book for any of my Hepworth workshops and for further information please contact the learning team on 01924 247398.
18th-24th May is the WEA Adult Learners Week. Look out for the free tasters they have on offer, including Creative Writing. There is also a very reasonably-priced summer writing residential planned with Alison Taft and James Nash so watch out for that too.
The Mae Writers
2.00 on Thursday 23rd May at Moortown Methodist Church
Come down and listen to the wonderful writings produced by a great group of over 55s and have a chat with us over a cuppa.
The Leeds Big Bookend
7.45 pm on Tuesday 4th June at Santiagos in The Grand Arcade Leeds
Cost: £3 on door
Splash a creaking boat through a miscellany of stories, songs and poems of the sea. Featuring performances by Matt Bellwood, SJ Bradley, Becky Cherriman, Ian Pepper, and Mason Henry Summers, with sea shanties courtesy of The Leeds Loiners and We Died at Sea (organised by Fictions of Every Kind).
N.B. We will be performing folk tales and the work of literary greats.
Beverley Folk Festival
A lunchtime spot on Saturday 22nd June. Exact time and venue tbc. I’ll be reading for approximately twenty minutes as will three or four other Yorkshire poets, including Miles Salter.
Versions of The North at Poetry By Heart
7.30 pm on 31st July at Heart Cafe, Bennet Road, Headingley, LS6 3HN, with Ed Reiss, Steve Ely, Linda Marshall, and Andrew Oldham. Introduced by editor Ian Parks
As you can see, May and June is brimming for me and that’s not to mention the task of nightly revising as I helping my son wade through his GCSE exams. So, apart from the above, I’m afraid I may not be as active on the Leeds literary scene over the next month as I have been recently (although there is some dispute as to whether Leeds has any literary presence at all). It won’t be the first time, unfortunately. I was disappointed to miss at least two launches this month: Matthew Hedley Stoppard’s launch of ‘A Family Behind Glass’ last night and Steve Nash’s ‘Taking The Long Way Home’. I very much look forward to reading their collections as well as the others I have bought or been given during the last few weeks.