New page for “Examples, samples etc.”

A photo of some old and new dip-pens

A bunch of pens

Over the last week or so I’ve been busily updating parts of my website to make it easier to find things quickly. One of main changes is this new “Examples, samples etc.” page where you can quickly access some of my work.

I’ve also been adding a few audio recordings of some of my poems taken from recent performances in Rochdale and Oldham and these have been included this new page along with written versions.

Photo of Seamus reading on the radio

Reading on the radio – photo courtesy of Hannah

Other changes to the site include another new page “Events & appearances” where you can easily find out about where I am reading my poetry and running workshops, complete with links to recordings, reports and reviews from the events where available.

 

 

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

Reading at Eroica 2016

 

Oldham Library on National Poetry Day

Now as the metaphorical poetic dust settles on National Poetry Day 2016 it is time to look back and reflect on a busy and rewarding day. My day started with an early trip to Pleckgate High School in Blackburn and my morning there is the subject of its own blog post HERE. In the evening after a quick change and a bite to eat I was off to run a session for Oldham Libraries.

Way back in May I had a message from Oldham Library asking if I was available to run an evening poetry session for National Poetry Day in October. A little discussion followed around the nature of the session required, times and fees and the session was duly booked. Some basic biographical information, detail of the workshop and a photo were provided for publicity purposes and all was set with 5 months still to go.

A few days before the event I was contacted by the super-helpful Sam Thornley from the Library to enquire if there was anything I would need for the session and make sure all was in hand. On the day it was Sam who met me as I arrived at the Library, showed me to the performance are and to the dressing room complete with tea and coffee and a key so that I could leave things securely. This this was the first time I’ve been offered a dressing room; I found myself wishing that I’d not get ready before leaving the house.

I started the session by sharing a few of my poems and a couple by Seamus Heaney and Pablo Neruda and followed that up with a brief chat with the participants. It turned out, as it often does, that some people were already fairly accomplished writers with a number coming from various local writing groups, others were keen to refine or develop skills and techniques whilst some others had not yet written any poetry at all.

I based the session on my Power of Poetry workshop (see details of my workshops HERE) and everyone got involved in discussion and creating something brand new. Samples of some lines/thoughts from the participants are shown below:

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As we headed home Sam was already collecting the first feedback from participants so that the next morning he could email me with some feedback including:

  • the audience found the session to be fantastic!
  • We have had many rating the workshop as excellent
  • one lady told us it was “life changing”; many have even requested that we host similar events more often in the future.

I am of course delighted with this feedback and look forward to further opportunities to work with Oldham Library.

 

Pleckgate High School – Blackburn – National Poetry Day

A bright and early start took me over the rather beautiful hills to Blackburn while the sun was coming up and before the roads got too busy. I arrived at school and having signed in I was taken to the library to prepare with coffee and a biscuit kindly provided by librarian Carol Holland.

The programme for the morning was to include two sessions for children from Year 8 and one session for children from Year 7. Then I’d have a little time to relax before lunch and an open floor session for students and teachers. With a bottle of water and flipchart at the ready I was ready to begin.

The first 45 youngsters were ushered in and we were ready to roll. I asked them what they had expected a poet to be like, the answers were great:

  • They have beards
  • They have eyes
  • They can talk
  • They look like anybody
  • They have glasses
  • They are highly educated
  • They have eyes
  • They have a pen
  • They are intelligent

A quick chat about messages (the theme for the day) revealed that text messages and various mobile apps were most popular for this group but they were pretty knowledgable about less mode ways of sending messages too. They knew about carrier pigeons, facial expressions, smoke signals and of course the good old letter sent through the post, one even suggested the letters by types on a typewriter.

Soon we were into the swing with poetry starting with Jabberwocky, followed by one of my own poems and then heading off to create a mini production based around Albert and the Lion.

These young people did themselves, and their school, proud being willing to take part, getting thoroughly involved and having a good time too. There were some very impressive performances from fearsome lions, slightly casual parents and a couple of very evasive zoo managers not to mention a trio of Alberts who managed to be eaten extremely well. They also showed great understanding and a real willingness to discuss issues and give considered responses.

The second and third groups were equally engaged and engaging and the morning was flying by in a blur of poems, discussions and lots of questions.

Thats one of the things about young people aged 11 and 12; they are still comfortable asking questions, they don’t worry too much about what you can and what you cannot ask. During the day I was asked lots of questions and some of the best were:

  • why are you a poet?
  • When did you first start writing poetry?
  • Will you read us your favourite poem?
  • How long does it take to write a poem?
  • How much do poets get paid?

All in all a grand morning sharing my passion for poetry with young people and hopefully igniting a few metaphorical sparks along the way.

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….

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.

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.

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.

Touchstones Creative Writing Group – “Writing to Order” workshop – February 2016

Rochdale Town Hall
Rochdale Town Hall,
a stones throw from Touchstones

Rochdale’s Touchstones Creative Writing Group (TCWG) invited me to run two of their monthly workshops during 2016 and I was delighted to accept their invitation and to deliver my brand new “Writing to Order” workshop for their February session.

The session shows how any writer or anyone who aspires to be a writer for whatever reason can benefit from some tips and techniques from professional writers.

The TCWG is a very enthusiastic group and with 19 people attending we were assured of plenty of questions, productive discussions and of course a fair amount of creative writing. After introducing the session with a short section of my poem, “I’m a bloody poet now”, I explained that basis of the session, some of the learning outcomes and set the mood by reading another of my poems, “Blank”, which talks about the problem faced by a writer trying to get past the blank page.

The whole group contributed to discussions, took part in the writing exercises and kept me on my toes with a constant stream of intelligent questions – a facilitator really can’t ask for more than that.

I am now really looking forward to reading some of the completed work from the session and also to my next session for TCWG, in August, when I will be delivering another of this year’s new workshops “Sketching with Words”.

“Writing to Order “is just one of a number of workshops that I offer to writing groups, schools and community groups; SEE MY BLOG POST HERE for details of my other workshops.

Fees and further details of my workshops are available by email:   info@seamuskellypoetry.co.uk

NEW WRITING WORKSHOPS FOR 2016

I am very pleased to announce my brand new collection of writing workshops for 2016. 
Seamus pic 2 for biog
Seamus Kelly
Poet, Writer,
Teacher & FacilitatorRochdale, UK

The Worlds Inside My Head (Adults/KS4/KS3)

Using objects and images to stimulate creative ideas and create and perform short poems or stories of the worlds inside our heads.
High Speed Haiku (Adults/KS4/KS3)
 
Introducing the Haiku form, its origins, history and “rules” and developing new work on a range of traditional and modern themes.
 
In My Own Voice (Adults/KS4)
 
Helping developing writers to trust and believe in their own voice with examples from well known poets and writers.
 
Writing to Order (Adults/KS4)
 
A workshop using the techniques of professional writers to help writers become more creative, more productive and to expand their horizons.
 
Sketching with Words (Adults/KS4)
 
Using a range of tools and techniques to record people, places events and ideas and how to develop those in our writing.
Bespoke workshops and readings are also available; all designed to provide inspiration, engagement, writer development and entertainment with the focus chosen by the commissioning organisation or group.
 
My workshops are delivered as two hour sessions and are suitable for adults (age 16+) and children at Keystage 3 (ages 11-14) or Keystage 4 (ages 14 to 16), as indicated above for each workshop.
 
All workshops include the provision of copies of the relevant resources for the group leader or school staff including copies of poems, relevant links and, where requested, a digital audio recording of the participants work.
Further Details:You can contact me to discuss workshops, bespoke sessions and fees or make bookings by email at info@seamuskellypoetry.co.uk

A poem about difference

Last week I did something very unusual for me; I wrote a poem directly onto my computer, no rough ideas in my notebook, no scribbled alterations, just straight onto the computer and then edited a few times. There will be a few more edits for certain.

I don’t think this will be a regular thing as the process felt less comfortable than the one I usually use. On the other hand once I had the idea I decided I wanted this poem quickly to be able to share at a particular event and I must admit the computer only process took less time overall.
The result?

Well the audiences at 2 events gave it a pretty big thumbs up.

What does all of this mean? To me it serves as a reminder that there are very many different ways to turn thoughts and ideas into finished writing and poems and that even for the same writer different methods are appropriate and helpful at different times.

The poem itself talks about being an outsider through differences over the years, in this case using the difference from those following and perhaps idolising the more prevalent and popular music of the time.

I’m not going to post the full poem here but a small section of it goes like this:

“In seventy-two

They were all crazy now

Slain by Slade

And I listened to five year old bookends

Still hearing Old Friends

Sat on their park bench”

Fifth Birthday for Thinking Too Much Blog

Exactly 5 years ago today I started this blog. My first post copied below set out my intentions:

“This blog will contain a variety of my poems, some will be new ones as I finish them and some will be poems I have written previously. My poetry is often written with performance in mind and I regularly perform at Write Out Loud venues in the North West of England.”

Five years on how things have changed on the writing front (nowadays I call it poeting);

After an initial flurry of activity I found myself so busy with work and other commitments that although still writing and doing lots of other creative stuff I just didn’t have time for the blog and it slipped with very little activity in 2013 and 2014.

Earlier this year things started to pick up as I looked forward to my biggest ever gig – The Eroica  Britannia Festival so I started planning and at the same time blogging a bit more often and decided that I should finally put together that collection of poetry that had been rattling around as an idea in my mind for the last few years.

Eroica was brilliant and helped me to think of being a poet in a different way – I started to think of it as a much bigger part of who I am, I started to call myself a poet. I’ve performed more widely, Wherever I go I’m a poet and I’ve developed the confidence to say so, no more do I say “I write a few poems” now I’ll just say it as it is “I’m a poet”.

Finally I gave up the day job.

Creative work is where my heart lies and I’m working towards making a living from it. All the experience of writing, of creating and delivering workshops voluntarily and my teaching experience can surely combine to create myself a role where I can do something I really care about, support other people and put bread on the table (figuratively as I tend to make my own bread).

It is a massive step and not limited to poetry alone, I’m also creating images (mainly digital) and getting back into teaching art and photography with some plans for new kinds of workshop developing right now.

Exciting and a bit scary – but then isn’t life like that much of the time anyway.

Wonder what I’ll be saying in another 5 years…..

Superheroes of Slam – Huddersfield 7th October 2015

After an introduction by Julian Jordan who reminded us that slams are the blood sport of poetry and explained the rules and scoring the slam got underway:

IMG_1759
Dave Morgan opens the slam performances

Dave Morgan (above) was up first, the most difficult slot in a slam and a chance for the judges to settle. I was fourth or fifth and unlike my previous go at a slam I didn’t feel too nervous.

After an interesting first half with really diverse poems 5 poets with the highest scores had qualified for the final. I wasn’t either too surprised or too disappointed to find myself in the other half; realising that my style lends itself more to a different and less competitive style and learning more about what it takes to deliver a potential winning poem.

The final saw many high scores but at the end the highest scores were awarded to Rose Condo who, in agreement with the judges, I felt was the strongest performer of the night. Rose will now have a place in the Manchester based final of the Commonword Super Heroes of Slam.

IMG_1767
Slam winner Rose Condo

Julian was right; this is the blood sport of poetry but it was also a great night out and credit to the newish venue Bar 1:22 in Huddersfield which is likely to find itself hosting spoken word more frequently in the future.

I said in a previous post (3rd August) that entering the slam would be stepping outside my comfort zone  trigger some creativity and give myself a deadline.

All of that turned out to be true but as the day of the slam approached I stepped much further outside my comfort zone, gave up that day job, started establishing my own creative business and re-registered with agencies do some part time teaching.

I’m writing as much as I can, creating some new workshops, developing new images for sale, making and remaking contacts and getting out on the poetry scene as much as I can.

It is a bit scary, it is exciting and although outside of the norm, out of my comfort zone and a bit precarious it has made me feel rejuvenated, more comfortable and sane than I’ve felt for ages and I find myself looking forwards – wondering just how far I can go rather than whether to go at all.

So if anyone needs a facilitator, a compere, a poet, needs some workshops, needs some commissioned writing, wants some new images or just some inspirational words just give me a shout….

info@seamuskellypoetry.co.uk
www.imagesbyseamuskelly.co.uk