logoSheffield is holding its very first Poetry Festival on the weekend of April 1-3rd, with “fringe” events in the days preceding and following.

You can find out more at: http://www.sheffieldpoetryfestival.org.uk/home.html where you can also download the full festival brochure. There are 34 events to choose from (I’m involved in a couple) including readings by Simon Armitage, George Szirtes, Geoff Hattersley, Geraldine Monk, Helen Mort, Ben Wilkinson, Chris Jones (on the Forward Prize shortlist last year), Elizabeth Barrett, Mark GoodwinMatthew Hollis, Maurice Riordan, Harriet Tarlo, local laureates Ann Atkinson and River Wolton and many local poets, less well known, but well worth hearing nevertheless.

The group I belong to, The Tuesday Poets, have a themed event “Out of Place” planned for March 29th, 7.30 at Bank Street Arts.

There are also launches of new books, an event for children, a poetry walk, a garden party, talks, social gatherings where you can meet many of the poets taking part and even a “poetry university challenge” in which notables from the two Sheffield universities show how little they really know about poetry.

It’s bound to be fun and interesting. Some of it might be exciting. If its successful, the hope is to make it a regular event, so please come along and support it.

I had a pleasant time at the Newark Prize reading yesterday. C.J. Allen, who has many competition successes, also read, and I was pleased to find that a friend of mine also had been recognised in the competition: Lou Wilford, with two poems in the runners up.

On the way home I suddenly realised I’m already involved in as many poetry events this year as I was in the whole of last year. This is partly because of my recent luck in competitions: following Newark, I’ve the event at the Moorland Discovery Centre, Longshaw Estate on March 12th, and the Awel Aman Tawe award at Pontardawe in late Feb – although that’s perhaps a bit far away.

Then the Sheffield Poetry Festival and its fringe in late March and early April (the festival proper starts on April 1st) has me down potentially for a poetry walk and a garden party (for Art in the Park), a rather exciting event from the Tuesday Poets called “Out of Place”, a reading as part of the celebration of ten years of Matter, and then our annual MA students’ reading, too, although that’s not really part of the festival, I guess.

Then there’s also the open mike Speakeasy next week, which I haven’t been to for ages; and I’ve been asked to read at “Unquiet Desperation”, a local poetry get together.  Finally, I’m working on an installation of children’s autumn haiku for the Winter Gardens, due to be installed in the first week of Feb, and then repeated with a variation as “Four Seasons” again the in the Winter Gardens in April.

A busy time. Really nice that my work is being enjoyed, though.

is the name of an anthology to be published by Cinnamon Press in Spring 2011. I’ll have four poems in it, as I was shortlisted in their pamphlet competition (but didn’t make the final cut). The poems are: Litany (I wrote for my daughter, Natasha); In the Vice Provost’s Garden (which was written actually overlooking the garden of the vice provost of King’s College, Cambridge); Seven Summers (a sequence of seven haiku I wrote for the Sheffield Haiku trail, describing seven distinct summers of my life); and, The Song of Yellow Skin, which is one of the poems from my woman and warfare sequence on Kim Phuc. Strangely now, four of those six poems have been taken, but not the key, central, poem See Kim Run (although thei was recently workshopped by Michael Laskey, so maybe I’ve now an improved version).

Here’s an update of my events in the near future (mainly within Off the Shelf).

Oct 6th, 20th and 27th, 5pm till 7: Poetry workshop, Methodist Chapel, Denby Dale: A free workshop organised by Art in the Park

Oct 9th, 12.30: The Word Tent: Sheffield Town Hall (with Angelina Ayers) – reading. A free event.

Oct 13th, 1-3: Greenhill Library, Sheffield: an introductory workshop for writers. A free event, organised by Art in the Park.

Oct 13th, 7.15: Launch of Matter #10, Readings at Blackwell’s Bookshop, Sheffield. Free.

Oct 21st, 7.00: Readings by Matter #10 writers, Riverside pub, Sheffield. Free.

Oct 23rd, 10am till 4pm: An Art and poetry workshop (with Angelina Ayers), Bank Street Arts Centre, Bank Street, Sheffield. £4/£3 (Supported by Bank St and by Blackwell’s Bookshop)

Oct 26th, 12.30-5.00: Drop in Poetry Clinic, Bank Street Arts Centre, Bank Street, Sheffield. A free resource. Drop in to the poetry cafe anytime for chat, reading, workshopping, discussion of poets and poetry.

Oct 26th, 6.30-10.00pm: Tuesday Poets on a Tuesday, Fusion Cafe, Sheffield. £12 for food. Book in advance.

Nov 4th, 7.00:  Launch of Matter #10, Readings at London Review Bookshop, London. Free.

Oct 9th to Oct 26th: as part of Off the Shelf, we’ve organised a series of “Poets in Residence for a day” at Bank St Arts Centre, Bank St, Sheffield. Come along to work with a different poet every day (except Sundays and Mondays). Twenty different local poets, supported by Noel and Angelina Ayers, will be on hand to help you with your work, or to talk about their own.

It’s busy, busy, busy at the moment.

Sheffield’s Literary Festival, “Off the Shelf” begins in October. I’m in five events, and most of them are attached to other activities. Matter #10 will be launched, a golden magazine, so there’ll be two events launching and reading from it (at Blackwells on 13th Oct and Riverside on 21st Oct) and a third, excitingly, at the London Review  Bookshop (7pm Nov 4th). With Angelina Ayers, we’ll also be Bank Street’s Poetry Cafe reps at the Word Tent Launch of OTS on the 9th Oct. Angelina and I will also be running a day long workshop at Bank St Poetry Cafe linking poetry and art (you get to do a bit of both). I’ll be running a community writing workshop at Greenhill Library in Sheffield on the 13th. Finally, as a member of the brilliant Tuesday Poets we’ll be launching our new CD of poetry on the 26th Oct at Fusion Cafe.

Additionally, for the length and breadth of OTS Angelina and I are organising a “Poet in Residence for a Day” scheme at Bank St, so budding writers can drop on every day and work with a different poet. Some great poets are committing to this idea, making themselves available for what is a programme of free poetry workshops/consultations nearly a month long. I’m not sure there’s been an event like this before.

All of these things, in different ways, need organising and preparing for: whether it’s sorting out a programme, rehearsing, recording, planning the CD or simply encouraging fellow poets to sit in the Poetry Cafe and share their expertise.

But I’m also delivering several workshops for Art in the Park. I did a couple for Nook Lane Junior School, in Stannington and the year 3s seemed to have a great time. They certainly produced dozens of wonderful poems. Today we gave poetry workshops in Wither Woods, at Denby Dale (near Wakefield). Although the weather was a bit fractious, around 30 people turned up to write poems in the woodlands.

If you live in or near Denby Dale, I’m also running a series of free writing workshops in the evenings. Although they’re primarily focused on poetry, I’ll be aiming to deal with the whole range of interests of whoever turns up: whether its short stories, novels, life writing, children’s writing – even journalism, perhaps. You can come along to one session or all of them.

And I’m still continuing with the Poetry Business Writing School. This month we have to write a poem a day for a fortnight, and send six poems for commentary by a fellow poet AND find a poem that we can face receiving feedback on from Michael Laskey, of all people. (And also read Coleridge and Wordsworth in our spare time).

The upshot is, I’ve not been sending out so many poems for publication or competition. It’s nice, therefore, to find this week that readers of Orbis #51 have voted my poem “Presumably Butterflies” the best in the mag, and the Yeovil Poetry Competition gave me a Highly Commended, which is pretty good, too.

Alongside “Exploding Poetry” Bank St is running some readings. Last week I organised a reading for students of the MA Writing from Hallam University. It went very well. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and the readings themselves were absolutely excellent.

Next week there are two readings: George Szirtes on the 4th, and on Friday the 5th, the Tuesday Poets, the writing group I belong to. There’ll be nine of us, as Seni Seneviratne is at an international poetry workshop in Egypt. If you don’t know the group, we are: Jenny Hockey, Margaret Lewis, Beverley Nadin, Cora Greenhill, Sally Goldsmith, Fay Musselwhite, Lisa Wallace, Val Binney, Noel Williams and Seni Seneviratne.

In Sheffield’s Off the Shelf 2009 our audience filled the Fusion Café. We had to turn away thirty more people. Forge Today reviewed that evening as: “a unique insight into human experience, becoming more than an evening of poetry readings but in many ways a fully formed living anthology”.  Between us we have four collections, two pamphlets, one CD, one shortlist for an Eric Gregory award, around 20 competition successes, publication in more than 60 magazines and several poems on Radio 4.

6.15 to 8.00: Friday 5th March

At: Bank Street Arts Centre

Admission Free

There’ll be some familiar works, but many new ones.

The Tuesday Poets had their first public outing on the 30th, and now have their first review, at: http://www.forgetoday.com/page1084/Review-Friday-Nightwith-The-Tuesday-Poets

It’s a really positive review, which is great for all of us, though it would’ve been nice if all the poets could’ve had a mention: every set was a strong one, so to single out any of us seems a little unfair. Nevertheless, I’m really pleased.

On Friday the Tuesday Poets gav etheir first public reading as a group. We had:

Jenny Hockey

Margaret Lewis  

Beverley Nadin

Cora Greenhill

Sally Goldsmith

Fay Musselwhite

Lisa Wallace

Val Binney

Seni Seneviratne

me

We held it at the Fusion Cafe on Arundel Street Sheffield, which has just won an award for the best Cafe in Sheffield (which I’d confidently agree with). It was a spectacularly successful night, combining really lovely food with some marvellous poetry from everyone, including also two moving songs, from Sally and Seni.

Everyone seemed to have a good time. Even Melvyn and his staff running the place seemed to get some pleasure out of our work, and we felt we really felt we’d done a good job.

There’s no telling if we’ll do it again – but I hope we do. We had to disappoint over 30 people this time who couldn’t get tickets, so that in itself suggests we need a repeat performance.