Modus Operandi – a reunion exhibition for Bolton PGCE group

Today’s opening of a new exhibition titled “Modus Operandi” in the Gallery at St George’s House, Bolton, was an apt reunion for some of the students who completed our PGCE courses at The University of Bolton 10 years ago (or a little over) was a great reunion event as well as the launch of an exhibition to be proud of.

The exhibited work includes paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography and a book and gives a good feel for the wide range of artists who came to Bolton in 2006 to train as teachers and we are delighted to be joined in the exhibition by Mary Rudkin who had been one of our tutors in the course.

The work currently exhibited include; paintings by curator Jonathan Hughes, a book by Tom Baskeyfield, photography by Irena Siwiak Atamewan, Emma Dunne, Claire Massey and myself, sculpture from Paul Gilmore and mixed media from our former course tutor Mary Rudkin. A few images below give a feel for the content – if you are in Bolton it is certainly worth a visit.

Pictures of the exhibited artworks

I had been asked some time ago if I’d do a poetry reading at the launch and had happily agreed. Today as I looked at my poems, ready to start my reading, I remembered how much more challenging it can be to read in front of people you know, especially if you know each other from some role in life other than poetry.

Photo of Seamus reading his poetry at the event

Poetry at Modus Operandi launch

With that trepidation echoing through me I cleared my throat, introduced myself and told the audience what I was about to do and introduced my first poem “Seahorses” to be followed by a specially adapted poem just for this event “and finally “Different Dad” for a little bit of fun.

I was really pleased by the reception my work received and spent a while answering lots of questions about the poems, my writing in general and about workshops, writing groups and so on.

Gallery manager, Emma Kelly, spoke to me about the possibility of using the venue to run some of my creative writing and possibly other creative workshops so watch this space for potential announcements in the not too distant future.

Rochdale Artists 30th Anniversary Celebratory Event

A few months ago I was honoured to be invited to write and perform a poem for the 30th Anniversary of Rochdale Artists. In the run up to the event I worked on my poem which went through several iterations before I finally settled on placing a number of well known artists from the past in the context of Rochdale, past future and present.

The event took place today at The Coachhouse in Littleborough with a buffet lunch and an exhibition which will run for a month.

George Hardy, president of Rochdale Artists introduced the Mayor of Rochdale who spoke about the exhibition, his own interest in art and the importance of the arts to our society.

The Mayor’s comments were added to by Councillor Janet Emsley, cabinet member for communities and culture, who spoke of the value of such organisations and the people who run them. It was then time for my poem to have its first outing, having been previously only read out loud in an empty room.

I’ve reproduced the full poem, The Artists in Rochdale, below:


The Artists in Rochdale

By Broadfield’s pond, I paused,

to sit on Monet’s stool,

as rare morning-dappled-sunlight painted the lilies,

en plein air.

I wondered at Gaudi’s natural forms on the banks of the Roch,

and MacIntosh’s tulips grew in the borders

beyond the gates of Falinge Park.

In Healey’s deep Dell I listened to the water

tumbling, turning and smoothing the rocks

and I glimpsed Hepworth’s hammer and chisel

through the mid-day mist

and she knew; that I knew.

In the early afternoon,

just below Littleborough’s Summit,

under ominous clouds

Constable was painting the lock gates.

And as Lowry sketched the early evening workers

leaving Townhead Mill,

I saw Paul Gauguin painting the town,

in greens, oranges and reds with a dash of purple,

and was that Banksy skulking in the corners

on Toad Lane?

I found Braque’s brushes, still wet

In the bushes by Touchstones.

And Picasso’s palette blue, and blue

and blue

abandoned on a bench by the Butts

Beside half a can of Special Brew

And an uneaten slice of pizza

Mondrian taking “as little as possible of reality”,

shared his disapproval of Rochdale’s,

gone but not forgotten, Black Box;

It needed more lines, some blocks of colour.

It was just there;

that Boccioni

glimpsed a different future

on Riverside.

Matisse was still cutting cardboard corners

in Yorkshire Street.

Damian Hirst was counting sheep

by the Arndale

and that tent pitched at Rakewood?

not camping with the scouts,

but artwork with Tracey.

As evening faded to night

Vincent gazed into the sky over Cronkeyshaw

And whipped up a storm in oils.

I caught a dazed Dali doodling

and dallying a little too long in the Baum

and time just melted,


and drifted away

I met Toulouse living it up in the Olde Boar’s Head

and in a quiet corner Miss Stansfield posed for Leonardo.

Seurat and Signat were arguing at the bar

each making their point,

by point,

by point,

a million times.

And Rembrandt peered out of the darkness

And was that really Duchamp I saw,

taking the p*** in The Regal Moon?

And I swear I found a piece of Vincent’s ear

in the gutter by the Flying Horse

And where are the artists now?

The creation, the endeavour, the wit

Where now, the watercolours, the oils,

the pencils, the inks,

the charcoal and pastels?

Well the artists are still right here

and only the names have changed.

With their riggers, their filberts and mops,

with Kolinsky sable and Russian squirrel

with Taklon and badger and hog.

An apothecary of Cambium, Cobolt and Zinc

With their Prussian Blue and French Aquamarine

And their whites; their whites

So many shades of white

And they’re talking and painting,

and looking and drawing.

And they’re;

on the walls.

And they’re watching and waiting.

If you linger, to look, a little longer

you might be an unwitting model,

like Miss Stansfield with Leonardo.

You may be drawn

or drawn-in,

to a chat,

a cup of tea

and a Rochdale world of art,

because after 30 years;

there is life-still

in the artists,

in Rochdale,




Weaving Words Radio Show on Defiant Radio

I was delighted to be invited by Eileen Earnshaw (top Rochdale Poet, cooperator, leader of writing and reading groups, student of creative writing and of course mother and grandmother) to be the guest on her very first “Weaving Words Poetry Radio Show” recorded and broadcast yesterday on Defiant Radio, Rochdale’s newest and fast growing radio station.

Eileen opened by asking about the role cycling had played in my past and recent work on the Connect2Poetry project leading into a discussion of what it is to be a poet. We also talked about forthcoming events especially the Fringe event for the Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival which will take place from 11.00am to 3.00pm on Sunday 22nd October, at which I will deliver a poetry set alongside other local poets and performers including music from Between the Vines.

Eileen played music from Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash and of course a tune from Tom Petty who had sadly passed away the previous night.

We had a great chat with great music and a few poems, a couple of which had not been aired before – the poems included:

  • Come on Hat
  • An Understanding
  • A Platform I don’t know

If you are looking for an insight into how a radio show like this is recorded you can hear some of the conversation accidentally recorded on an open microphone whilst John Mellencamp’s Pink Houses was playing – but for her ever radio first show I was very impressed with my host.

You can here the show by clicking on the link below:

Poetry at Eroica Britannia 2017

Photo of Seamus reading at Eroica Britannia 2017

Shay the Poet at Eroica Britannia 2017 (picture courtesy of Howard Broughton)

The weather often plays an important role in outdoor festivals and this vintage cycling festival is no exception; following last year’s event on waterlogged site this year the unusually hot and dry weather meant there would be plenty of people queuing in the shade of the beer tents for liquid refreshments ad a break from the searing sun.

I was proud to be back at Eroica for the third year and sharing live poetry and spoken word to new audiences away from the traditional libraries and back rooms of pubs. Poetry is becoming more mainstream and my 2.00pm set was staged in the Britannia Arms, temporary pub for the weekend, and the place was packed and noisy; fortunately there was a good sound system and my voice carries well.

As always I had my set list prepared in advance and also as always I had additional material to hand so that changes could be made depending on the mood of the room or indeed my own mood.

Having been announced on stage I began my set with a cycling poem, People Riding Bikes, which was well received and confirmed that people near the far end of the marquee could here me. You can listen to a recording of that reading by clicking play below:


The rest of the set consisted of:

The Curse, Standby, A minute and a half, Entitlement, Truncated, Dead Eyes, Domestique, Saffron Vultures, Seahorses, Mental Stuttering, A platform I don’t know and Honed.

I was particularly pleased with the audience reaction to my new poem, written for and completed in time for this event, “Saffron Vultures” which is about cycle racing and in particular motor-paced racing at the Saffron Lane Stadium in Leicester which sadly closed some years ago. The poem is perhaps my longest at about 4.5 minutes so I had been concerned about holding the audience’s attention – fortunately I needn’t have worried.

Picture of Seamus with Brian Robinson

With Brian Robinson at Eroica (pic courtesy of Howard Broughton)

To cap a great afternoon I had the good fortune to sit and chat with an all time cycling legend, Brian Robinson (now aged 85) the first British cyclist to ever win a stage in the Tour de France amongst many other world class events.

A brilliant day, although the sun could perhaps have been turned down a tad!



New writing – who, what, where & why?

In my last post I said that I would talk about some of my new writing; so this post, albeit somewhat later than expected, is built around that idea.

I thought it might be interesting to look at who or what I am writing about, where I write and the most important question which is why. So for a number of my more recently completes poems I’ve set out answers to those questions – I think I may learn more from this than my readers do – it would be really interesting to hear back from readers perhaps with their own answers to some of those questions….

So here goes, some poems I’ve completed recently (there are always a few still in development at any time and in some ways my poems are never really finished):

Mental Stuttering

Who? – This is partly about me but also about anyone reading or performing with an audience.

What? – The poem looks at how whilst being calm and professional on the outside we can still be stuttering and stumbling on the inside.

Where? – I started to make notes on this idea straight after a poetry event and then worked on it at home over a period of time.

Why? – This is always likely to be the hardest question and in this instance it came from watching people reading for their first time and remembering how that felt. Perhaps I wrote is as a reminder to myself that the poem always differs a little every time it is read – because of my own internal mental stuttering.


An understanding of cattle

Who? – This is a poem about my Dad and there’s a fair bit of my uncle Dan, one of his brothers, in there too.

What? – The poem talks about the nature of people through the way they can develop an understanding of other animals. The understanding of cattle becomes a metaphor for a much wider understanding of life and the attributes that make that possible.

Where? – I can’t remember when I first started on this poem but it has developed in my notebook for a good few months before becoming a single piece to be edited and formed into a “completed” poem. The work has often been done in quiet moments wherever I happen to be and strangely that matched the theme quite well.

Why? – Something reminded me that most people don’t seem to understand most animals very well and the concept of the poem was there straight away. It quickly became a poem about my Dad and memories of my Uncle Dan also fitted in so it becomes part of a growing collection of writing about family.


Swabbed for MRSA

Who? – This one is about my own personal experience.

What? – I wrote this about being in hospital overnight to be checked over for some sort of heart irregularity. It turned out to be a fairly fruitless visit because my heart refused to misbehave while I was there but I wrote about some of the things going on overnight.

Where? – I actually started making notes and putting together a few lines on my mobile phone while I was in the hospital. The development then took place over a year later whilst pausing for a brew or whilst working in my office.

Why? – It started as a record of what it was like to be admitted with an erratic heart beat and it felt significant and topically current that the first thing they did was swab me for MRSA.


Write Out Loud – Sale – 15th Nov 2016

After driving around a little while my satnav tried to work out where I was I took a short walk to the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale (SEE HERE FOR MORE INFO)waterside-arts-centre

First impressions: I was met at the door by a very helpful staff member who asked me whether I was a guest or audience member, checked my name and politely directed me to the bar where the event organiser would be. A good start and credit to the venue.

As I walked into the bar Sarah Pritchard the organiser introduced herself and introduced those who were already present including her co-host Mo and my fellow guest Laura Taylor. I’ve seen Laura perform some time ago but not met her for a while. Although I arrived on my own in a location where I knew nobody I never felt alone – this was certainly one of the most welcoming events I’ve attended.

Once the poetry started the two co-hosts each read a couple of pieces before Laura delivered her set including comments about how her poetic journey had developed and some truly excellent poems – body could fail to be moved by her first poem about a difficult childhood which is very cleverly written and very powerful. Laura has sometimes been seen as a punk poet, a protest poet or a political poet but tonight she showed real range and versatility as a poet.

A number of open mic slots followed and although I din’t know most of the names other than Cynthia Buell Thomas and Joy France I was impressed by the work presented and thoroughly enjoyed listening.

It was then time for my own guest slot and as I chatted about my own journey in poetry I read poems that seemed to fit including On the Edge, Seahorses and the short anti-war Truncated.

After my set it was time for a break after which everyone, including the guests, was invited to read another poem before the evening ended with warm and sincerely meant applause and lots of chat between all of those present. It was also nice to meet and chat to Paul Neads of Flapjack Press.

Nobody rushed off early which is a sign of a good night – thanks for having me as a guest poet and well done to the team!

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


Rochdale Literature Festival Fringe – Vibe – 23rd October 2016

The Fringe event at Vibe on Drake Street in Rochdale had grown this year. Over 70 people crammed in this morning to see and hear a range of acts and they were certainly not disappointed.

Organiser Steve Cooke and compere Norman Warwick professionally introduced the acts, smoothed the technical issues and put everyone at their ease.

After some last minute alterations to the programme I was to follow a performance by Touchstones Creative Writing Groups (Pulling Threads their performance arm) who gave a very powerful and moving performance of their 1st World War commemorative piece. A quick change to my set saw my short poem about our government’s decision to bomb Syria prefaced by an appropriate verse from “Where have all the flowers gone” by Pete Seeger.

My set then included “A platform I don’t know”, “Infinity”, “Mental stuttering”, “Funeral poems”, “Come on Hat” and ended with a poem about my uncle Pat called “Come on hat”.

You can find a recording of A platform I don’t know by CLICKING HERE

I’ll add or link to a review of the event in the next few days.

A week is a long time in poetry (or is it?)

jam-seamusOr of course it is, and of course it isn’t!

Thats the beauty of poetry, you can make of it what you will.

This stuff is all about words, meanings and how we put things together; for example in the line above “make of it what you will” means to you can interpret something as you desire (“will” understood as the expression of the future tense) but can equally be read as you can make of it the thing you are going to make (“will” this time understood as the expression of an inevitable event).

That’s the thing with poetry, it can be taken in different ways, the writer can decide whether to determine what the reader or listener is likely to hear or the poet can leave the reader to create their own interpretations. Anyway enough of this grammatical chicanery; a week is a long time in poetry.

So is a week a long time in poetry?

Sometimes it can feel that way as an anticipated event draws near and preparation is done at a nice leisurely pace, other times when there is to be too little time to prepare that week can fly by in what seems like an instant.

This week for me involves lots of work on our upgraded kitchen (tiling, electrical sockets and a bit of decorating so far) as well as  3 poetry events and hopefully a bit of time to think and to write something new. The literary content of the week looks a bit like this:

  • This evening we’ll be relaxing in Littleborough at Robin Parker’s open mic event (at the Red Lion from 7.30pm). Last year this was a really pleasant evening with the chance to see and hear some brand new poets and to catch up with a couple I’d not seen for quite a while. This event has the added bonus of being within walking distance from home.
  • Tomorrow I may be delivering a workshop although even at this stage the exact details are still to be confirmed because I’ve been asked to step in as a last minute replacement for the facilitator who has been unable to take part.
  • On Friday I’ll be heading off with my wife to see author Joanne Harris (writer of novels including “Chocolat” with her new book “Different Class”) as part of Rochdale’s Literary and Ideas Festival.
  • Finally on Sunday as part of theFringe events for the 2016 Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival I will be delivering a 20 minute set at Bar Vibe on Drake Street. The event will kick off at 11.00am with Steve Cooke opening and introducing Norman Warwick, back briefly from his retirement in Lanzarote, and a string of local talent in writing and music. I’ll be taking the stage at 13.10 and expect to bring some new and some old, some happy and some sad and of course I’ll probably change my mind depending on the prevailing mood of the event.

So this week is a busy one poetically and that makes it feel like a relatively short week in poetry after all.


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….

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:


  • 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
  • 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