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

 

Eroica Britannia – The Universal Citizen – a little irony!

So the big day arrived and there I was sitting waiting over to one side of the stage and as the announcer stepped up introduce me I waited for the signal to climb the few steps to the stage.

I’d finally settled on the poems to complete the set the previous evening and they were printed and ready in my hand with a copy of my book as back-up should I decide to make any changes to the set as I went along. All pretty normal except that my hand that was shaking less than it usually might and I was feeling quite calm.

The signal came I stepped onto the steps, thanked the compere for her lovely introduction and walked up to the single microphone in the middle of the stage. There had been no soundcheck so I was a little surprised by the strength of the foldback speakers but at least I knew the audience would be able to hear:

“Hello

I’m Seamus

And I’m

I’m a poet….”

With those first few lines of one of my longest lived poems I introduced myself and hopefully set the mood.

As I did so the organisers projected a massive fluttering Union Jack on the large screen behind me. I had absolutely no idea and as I talked to the audience I had no reason to look back.

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

Reading at Eroica 2016

Photograph courtesy of my friend Howard Broughton.

My poetry doesn’t shy away from issues and it is no secret that my strong beliefs in social justice and fair treatment for ALL human beings are dear to me and feature large in my writing.

So as I stood (unknowing) in front of that massive symbol of national pride I read “Universal Citizen” pointing out that we are all the same regardless of where we happen to be born, I read “Not like the rest” criticising successive governments for failing to treat some people properly and I read poems about my own Irish (immigrant) background.

I now know (because they told me) that some of the audience loved the irony of that juxtaposition of myself and my words against that flag.

To me Nationalism is all about pride based on things other people have done in a place where we happen to be born or originate from. Of course we can be justifiably proud of our backgrounds but the flag, like all national flags, is not just a symbol of pride and of belonging but it can also be an emblem of difference, a symbol of we are better than you and if not used with care it can become divisive.

I love the place I was born, I love the places my parents were born. There are also other places I have come to love.

I don’t wave flags because where I happened to have been born and where my parents happened to have been born makes me no better, no worse, no more entitled or no more deserving than anyone else.

I am the Universal Citizen; whether you wave a flag behind me or not!

 

As for the set itself? Well the audience were great, very responsive and very attentive. People reacted to all of the less obvious references in the poems although very few picked up the references to Pancho and Lefty. The applause was warm and I was particularly pleased when people I’ve never met before came along to buy copies of my book which of course I was very happy to dedicate for them.

Sunshine and Poetry – Best way to work

This morning the sun has been shining, the mercury nudged past 24 degrees and the garden bench beckoned. I’ve dealt with emails, checked the social media and then set to work in this rather warm and temporary office.

My set list for Eroica Britannia (now only 11 days away) needed some more thought and, as I tend to doodle while I think, I have ended up with the illustrated set list as shown below:

Picture of the set list with doodles

Set list for Eroica 2016

I’ve yet to decide the order for the set but I know where it will start and I have a pretty good idea where it will finish too and the middle will always find its own way if necessary.

Perhaps I’ll produce some printed copies for the audience once it is finalised – I’d be interested to know if people think this is a good idea; please comment here or let me know on Facebook at – “shaycycles”

 

Eroica Set List grows

With just 2 weeks today until Britain’s most handsome festival of all things cycling and vintage my set list is taking shape. Like myself it has become a bit larger than it ought to be and over the next couple of weeks it needs to trim down a little.

Picture of my developing set list for Eroica 2016 in notebook

My developing set list for Eroica 2016

There are a poems that have been heard around the country, poems that have only been heard close to home and a few that have never yet been heard in public. The task challenge in finalising a set list is to appeal to the audience, to get over whatever messages are intended, to give the audience a range of emotional experiences and of course to do the things we love to do. For my Eroica set the questions include:

How many poems about cycling? (currently 5 or 6 on the long-list)

How many political poems? (tricky just days before the referendum, 1 or 2 on the shortlist)

How many personal and family poems? (a few that have wide enough appeal)

Can I risk the really serious subjects? (can I avoid them – no – so yes there’s a few in the long list)

Can I risk making the audience cry? (can I even stop them crying)

Should I give them something to laugh or smile about? (of course – even if just to stop them crying)

How many old ones?

How many new ones?

How many can I fit into a half hour set with room to breathe, to listen, to digest, to laugh or cry and to chat with the audience?

So here I am in the middle of the night adding and subtracting from the list, a mini-referendum for each poem; in or out?

And as I think I’m nearly there I wonder about finishing one or two of the bunch of poems still under construction, but it gets late and “what if they aren’t ready, what if they won’t be good enough?” and the poet tries to get some sleep.