What kind of poet am I?

For a quite while I have been struggling with how to describe myself as a poet.

People are perhaps familiar with the terms “performance poet” or “page poet” and then there are   the “slam poets” and those with specific styles like “punk poets” or “beat poets”.

When I refer to myself as a “poet” people invariably ask me what I do. Well of course I can say that I write poetry but of course I do more; but do I perform?

Picture of Seamus reading with a large Union Jack projected in the background

Reading at Eroica 2016

In essence I feel that performance has an element of putting on a persona, or being something different from what you are when you are away from the stage or microphone – it conveys an element of acting. I realised that when I’m in front of an audience or a microphone I’m not acting. What the audience gets is me, Seamus Kelly the poet, telling you things in my own words, with my own emotions and with my own character; the same one you’d find if you talk to me about art, politics or bike racing. It isn’t a performance and I’m fairly clear that I’m not a performance poet.

As for being a “slam poet” I’d not count myself in that group, I’ve done a couple; but over a period of over 10 years I don’t think that qualifies me as a slam poet.

I do write poetry on some sort of page, in a notebook, on a computer, on a tablet and a couple of times on a phone and I’ve turned some of them into a collection in the form of a book for people to read. So all my poetry exists on the page but far more people have heard my poems from my lips than have read them on a page so I’m pretty sure I can’t really be a page poet.

Picture of Seamus with presenter Nicky

Pictured after the show at Roche Valley Radio

I’m certainly neither a punk poet or a beat poet.

So what kind of poet am I?

It might seem strange to be vexed by such a question but I know that others have the same dilemma and some very well known poets have had issues around being categorised as performance poets when they are just being themselves and not putting on an act. This has actually exercised my mind on and off for some considerable time but today I think I’ve come up with the answer.

Eroica set 2016 A

Set list for Eroica 2016

What kind of poet am I?
I am happy to define myself as a “live poet” – that means you can see or hear me read, recite, whisper, shout or otherwise vocalise my poems in my own voice, with my own personality, my own character and no acting. What you see and hear is “live poetry”

Next time I’m asked I know what to say:

 

 

“Seamus Kelly, Live Poet!”

 

Comments and questions very welcome….

Kultura – August 2016 with James Nash

A short trip up the road to Todmorden for Kultura at Kava is always rewarded with a mixture of quality poetry, unexpected insights from the guest lecturer and of course and excellent cup of coffee.

kultura james nash

The guest lecturer last week was James Nash, top Yorkshire poet, who gave an interesting talk about how growing up in urban environments and now spending a significant proportion of his time in the country has influenced his writing, reading and life. He referenced influential writers, poets and songwriters  and I particularly enjoyed the section about walking along a dark country lane in Wales with references to both Wordsworth and Henry Vaughan. Having spent much of my time in the country James’ experiences often contrasted with my own and I was inspired to draft a little piece after the lecture reflecting my own experience of the total darkness in the countryside as a teenager.

Picture of James Nash lecture and my notes

James Nash’s lecture and my notes from the evening

Feature poet for the night was Atar Hadari, Israeli born poet, writer, playwright actor and mentor with a mix of poems giving new ways of looking at familiar stories from the Old Testament in his own words and translations of works from other writers. He read from his translation of Bialik, from his own book, Rebrandt’s Bible and spoke fondly of his mum rescuing the lamps of deceased Jews. Entertaining, thought provoking and (for some perhaps) a little controversial – great stuff.

John Foggin then read and led the discussion of his favourite poem (at least for the moment) and the evening ended with the open mic session featuring:

Anthony Costelloe, Shirley-Anne Kennedy, Jessica, Jonathan, Simon, Annie, Robert, John and myself.

There are only a few more of these monthly sessions left, as after three busy and successful years, Anthony will be folding up his compere’s music stand with a final flourish at the end of this year.

Remaining dates are – 29 September, 27 October, 24 November and 15 December 2016

And did I mention the coffee – it will still be served at Kava after Kultura has gone….

 

Hannah’s Bookshelf – Guest poet on North Manchester FM – 3 Sept 2016

What a great time I had on the radio yesterday afternoon. Having appeared in a brief slot to read some poetry on North Manchester Radio back in July I was delighted to be invited back as the guest on Hannah’s Bookshelf yesterday.

You can find the program on North Manchester Radio HERE.

For a reading, performance or a workshop we (writers and poets) can always prepare fairly comprehensively; usually having a plan with a few extra options so that it can be varied to fit the mood and needs of the audience.

Photo of Seamus reading on the radio

Reading on the radio – photo courtesy of Hannah

As a guest on the radio that preparation is a little different. In this case I knew the show consisted of two sections. In the first I’d be chatting about writing and poetry so it was just a case of having poems, being myself and being prepared to discuss whatever came up. In the second I would talk about three books I’d choose to save in the event of an apocalypse; for this section I could have a good think in advance, select my books, find something to say about why I’d chosen them and make sure they were not already saved by previous guests.

Each guest on Hannah’s Bookshelf selects three books and the choices are added to Hannah’s The Library at the End of Days  which is well worth a look and gives an insight into the range of guests on the show. My choices will be added to the site shortly and are titles by Gerald Durrell, Pablo Neruda and Seamus Heaney.

The whole show will be available online in a couple of days and I’ll post a link HERE.

Hannah has a great, relaxed and supportive style and the discussion flowed naturally including how I first got into poetry, when we reach the point of calling ourselves “poets” and a discussion about some of the things poets do as well as writing poems (e.g. workshops, events, readings, listening to and reading other poets etc.). A handful of poems were added into the mix and two hours simply flew by.

Great fun this radio stuff and it certainly gets easier with practice.

Feedback from Weaving Words – 22nd August 2016

Wow! What a great night over at Heywood Library on Monday.

Manchester pens 1Usually for an event in August we can expect low numbers as people are busy childminding, taking holidays and have lots of things to do other than go out and listen to a poet and take part in a writing workshop. Not this time – the room was full to capacity pushing the Edwardian air conditioning (little windows that opened with a pole) to its limits.

After a lovely (and not yet earned) brew and biscuits and a quick reorganisation of the furniture so everyone had somewhere to sit I was introduced by Eileen Earnshaw for the first “performance” part of the session. As I had planned I used mostly more recent poems supplemented by a few from my book and with excellent responses from the audience we all had a good time talking about bike racing, being an outsider, family, money, politics and modern society.

After the half hour “reading” (performance/reading/telling? – that is a discussion for another post) had flown by it was time for the workshop. We talked about what poetry is and I laid out a few simple rules for the session, gave some examples and offered some advice as I steered the group into creating their own poems of 16 lines. As always in workshop situations I was amazed by the way 20 people can put such different slants on a subject and the stunning and varied ways in which words could be combined to add impact.

New poemWe had poems about people, about places, about words and even about motorbikes and as the session went on I spent time supporting each of the participants whether through ideas, phrasing, choice of words, rhymes etc. Every now and then I’d come across something that really grabbed my attention and that was so clever, unique and powerful that with the permission of the writer would share it with the whole group.

We ended with some of the poets reading their work or having me read to the group on their behalf. Several of the attendees had never written poetry before but you really would know from hearing or seeing their words.

I’m grateful to Weaving Words and Eileen Earnshaw for inviting me to run this session, to Rochdale council and Punam Ramchurn for organising the venue and funding, to Heywood Library for their welcome and facilities and of course to to participants who threw themselves into the session and produced work to be very proud of. Thanks all. Below is some of the feedback received at the event:

Responses:

  • Did you enjoy the session   –  Yes:15     No:0
  • Was the session useful   – Yes:16     No:0
  • Would you attend future sessions   –     Yes:14 No:1
Comments:
  • Excellent, Inspiring
  • Very innovative, learning something new every session
  • Very useful for a technique to write in a more interesting and layered way
  • Really enjoyed the session and I nearly wrote my first poem (to be completed). Thank you very much
  • Great workshop, thought provoking
  • Lovely poetry and great workshop
  • Learnt loads, Seamus was great, loved the poetry and was helpful & encouraging during his workshop

Weaving Words Workshop – ready to roll

With my performance and workshop due tomorrow evening (Monday 22nd August) I had a look over my notes as final preparation – watched over by photos of two very special ladies. The session, organised by Weaving Words and Rochdale Library Service, takes place at Heywood Library and starts at 6.30pm with tea, coffee and biscuits and will run until about 8.30pm.

Picture showing Preparations for Weaving Words August Workshop

Preparations for Weaving Words August Workshop

After a performance of some of my poems including some of my newest ones as well as some from my book Thinking Too Much I’ll be leading a poetry workshop.

The session will be suitable for experienced and aspiring poets as well as those who haven’t tried their hands at poetry. We’ll look at what poetry is all about and then of course, with some support and prompts, everyone will have the chance to produce and perhaps share some brand new poetry. Most of all we should all have fun.

We’ll finish with a chat and for those who’d like to there will be a chance to buy a copy of my book.

It is always a privilege to see and hear brand new work, brand new ideas and to help people discover their own capabilities so I’m really looking forward to the session and it will be nice to catch up with Weaving Words group.

 

Kultura – Kava Cafe, Todmorden, June 2016

If you are looking for something a little different, something a little more intellectual, something more sophisticated or just a poetry evening with really good coffee then Kava Cafe in Todmorden is the place to go.

A monthly session, run by Anthony Costello and Shirley-Anne Kennedy, Kultura takes a different format from most open mic poetry events with a guest lecturer, a feature poet and a reading and discussion of a favourite poem all of which is followed by an open mic session generally with around 8 slots available. It is also unusual in that the majority of the audience does not consist of those aiming to read in the open mic. All of this leads to an informative, thought-provoking evening with plenty of entertainment.

The next Kultura will take place on 25th August 2016 and the poetry lecture will be by James Morgan Nash and the feature poet is Atar Hadari.

You can find more about Kultura from their own blog at: Kultura Blog

Below you can see my notes, in original scribbled form and the edited version from the Kultura session in June 2016 with the topic of the lecture reflected in my doodled sketches relating to vision and eyes:

Image of: My notes from Culture ready to be typed up

My notes from Kultura ready to be typed up

For this session the guest lecturer was unable to attend and that slot was filled at short notice by Anthony Costello himself and his chosen subject was “The Eye of Coleridge”. As is often the case I was unsure whether the subject would prove interesting and as is also usually the case I found it interesting, informative and entertaining – a particularly good job by Anthony considering the short notice he had for preparation. There were elements of Coleridge’s personal life and health that were knew to me and with examples of references to eyes in his work and his view s a seer or magician there was plenty to learn. The lectures are available in printed form at Kultura including copies for previous lectures.

The feature poet for the night was Peter Riley, award winning author of 10 books of poetry as well as being a well respected editor and essayist. Peter read his “earliest readable poem” and also from a sequence of verse written in his time in a traditional village in Transylvania which was under threat from modern life. Perter followed these with a few poems from north Derbyshire and the edge of the Peak District. Peter’s poems, which are full of atmosphere and create great little sketches of the places and people, were very well received by the audience.

Gaia Holmes shared and led the discussion of “Homing” by Liz Berry before an open mic session with 8 readers closed the session.

 

Performance and Workshop – Heywood – 22nd August

I’m really looking forward to delivering a special session for the Weaving Words writing group in Heywood. The group normally meet in Rochdale but are not yet able to return to their base at No.1 Riverside due to damage from the floods at the start of the year. In the meantime they have made Heywood Central Library a second home and this event will take place there – you can find the location from this link: Location map – Heywood Central Library

You can keep up to date with Weaving Words session and activities on their Facebook Page by clicking here: Weaving Words on Facebook

Image of the Flyer for Weaving Words workshop

Flyer for Weaving Words workshop

All are welcome and the session will start, as all the best session do, with tea, coffee and biscuits from 6.30pm to 7.00pm. Costs are kindly being covered by Rochdale Library Service and there is no charge for the session.

I’ll read a few poems from my book, Thinking Too Much, plus some newer work and then lead a workshop designed to get everyone writing some poetry. Whether they’ve never written poetry or are past-masters at the art I promise that participants will come away with something brand new to be proud of. They’ll probably even want to share their work with their fellow attendees….

After the workshop I’ll be speaking about all things writing with Eileen Earnshaw from Weaving words there will be time for a chat and of course a chance to buy copies of my book.

Touchstones Creative Writing Group – Sketching with Words

Looking forward to facilitating at Touchstones in Rochdale on Thursday and currently putting the finishing touches to this edition of my workshop “Sketching with Words”.

All are welcome, including non-members, for the session which runs from 2.00pm to 4.00pm.

Image of Flyer from Touchstones Creative Writing Group

Flyer from Touchstones Creative Writing Group

Participants will ideally bring something to write with (pen, pencil, paper, back of an envelope, tablet, computer etc.) and other than that just an open mind and their own imagination.

We’ll run through some techniques and ideas and of course there will be plenty of opportunity to write and develop new pieces.

See you there….

North Manchester Radio

It was really great to meet up with fellow poets Joy France, AndyN, George Mellor, Sharon Lowe and William Michael Neary for the North Manchester Radio Bookshelf poetry special with Kate Hannah.

Seamus performs on North Manchester radio

Seamus performs on North Manchester radio

I was on along with Joy and enjoyed sharing a few poems, listening to a few of Joy’s and then we were off to be followed by the next poets. Here you can see a photo snapped by presenter Hannah as I performed my short set of poems.

If you missed the show you can find more information on Hannah’s site HERE and you can also listen to the show on mixcloud by clicking HERE

North Manchester FM Radio – Sat 23rd July

A few days ago top poet, Tony Walsh (Longfella), put out a call on behalf of North Manchester Radio and Hannah Kate for poets to appear on a special live version of her regular Bookshelf programme.
After a look at the station’s website – Northmanchester.fm – I decided that this was a show I’d be happy to involved with. Hannah broadcasts her Bookshelf programme weekly with a range of literary guests and topics and does this alongside her other life as an academic researcher, lecturer and writer. You can find out more on her website here – hannahkate.net

Time

So tonight I’m busy finalising a short set for tomorrow’s programme where I’ll be appearing (if one can “appear” on the radio) along with fellow poets Joy France, Andy N, William Michael Neary, Sharon Lowe and George Melling.

You can pick up the programme locally on 106.6FM or online at northmanchester.fm/listen and the broadcast will run from 2.00pm to 3.00pm.

 

 

An 80th birthday poem; “Can you hear it?”

My father-in-law turned 80 last week so my wife organised a party at award winning local pub; The Baum in Rochdale.

A few days before the event the question of maybe producing a poem to be read at the event was raised and of course I was delighted to offer to write something for the occasion. It is at times like this, when the poet has to produce something suited to an occasion and on a short time-scale, that all the techniques I pass on through workshops really come into their own.

First of all there are a few decisions to be taken which will help shape the final work e.g.;

  • What is the function of the piece (this one was mainly to amuse or entertain)
  • What is the target audience
  • What style of poem are we aiming for

In this case I knew that the poem needed to entertain, to make people smile or laugh and at the same time perhaps tell them something new about the subject. For an 80th birthday the subject had to be the octagenarian himself. Even with someone you know there will be interesting and amusing things you don’t know about them that might well make very useful content for the poem (adventures, misadventures, specialist skills or knowledge etc.) so it is well worth talking to others to research your subject.

A picture of my notebook showing the original ideas

The initial ideas – words and images

Using the idea generating techniques I frequently promote I initially jotted ideas into my notebook both in words and visual forms. In this case I knew the subject was well-travelled and having found out some of the places he had visited I did some on-line research so that I could include relevant details in the poem. Ideas from the research were added to the initial notes.

A picture of a print of the finished poem "Can you hear it"

The finished poem, “Can you hear it?”

At the start of the process I often have little idea as to the eventual form of the finished poem, I start with ideas and words and as lines start to form then the rhythm of the piece gradually establishes itself. For an amusing piece I find that rhyme can be quite useful and once I have a set of rough verses I will spend some time considering some rhymes and the patterns they might form. I never treat rhyme as a strict rule and if for example the second and forth lines of the verses have rhyming words to finish them that won’t stop me including a verse (or more) without the rhymes or with a completely different pattern.

Once I’ve reached the stage of a fairly complete poem I will read it out loud to see how it sounds and how it can be improved. After 2 or 3 edits I will, if possible, share the work with someone else to get feedback and help to further refine it. In this case my wife, Maggie, provided valuable input to the development process. There comes a point where I’ll decide that the poem is complete, it has usually migrated to the word processor by that stage and I will save a “final” version and often print it. Of course after that whenever I look closely at the poem and read it a few more times I often make further changes; About then the poem acquires a title, this one became “can you hear it?”. I’m not sure if a poem is ever fully completed.

The poem itself may appear on this blog in due course but here are a few lines with references to John’s adventures through the years:

“The mighty Mekong isn’t flowing / as they try to catch the word”

“and beside the Seinne in Paris / Marcel Marceau paused; mid-mime”

“And as he strides across the mountains / Mr. Mills has all they style, /but he hasn’t had much water / walking mile after mile after mile.”

The acid test of course is the reaction from the chosen audience. Did they get it, did they enjoy it, did they smile, did they laugh in the right places, did they applaud naturally and did they do that terribly British thing of coming over quietly afterwards to say “Good poem, mate!”? Did the person you had written about appreciate and enjoy it?

Picture of John and Eileen at his 80th birthday party

John and Eileen

This time the answer was yes to all of the above so justifying my confidence in the creative processes and to some extent my ability to write to suit the purpose.

Poetic Summer Preparations

With students well into the exam season and schools starting to wind down towards the end of their year it is time for a poet to prepare for the Summer.

The great thing for a poet is having plenty of ideas to work with and I’m in the fortunate position of having, at least half a dozen in progress right now and a few themes waiting to be developed.

works in progress small

There is a new collection slowly developing with the focus of family and friends and a number of ideas for illustrating some of my existing work – more on that here as it progresses. My first collection, “Thinking Too Much”, is available as an ebook from Amazon or you can email here to buy a copy.

There are workshops to polish and refresh for a couple of writing groups, libraries and a reading group and for schools when they return from the Summer holidays.

National Poetry Day falls on the first Thursday of October and the theme for 2016 is “Messages” so I’ll be tweaking some of my workshops to fit in more closely. Unfortunately I am fully booked on the day itself but I still have some availability during the week.

Add to the mix the relaunch of a writing group, a couple of small commissions and the events I hope to take in it should be a fairly busy summer.

All the time I will also be working on my collections of photography and images. Images can be purchased on a range of formats including prints from 10″x8″ size to customisable framed prints and even printed onto mugs. To purchase images go to www.imagesbyseamuskelly.co.uk