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.

 

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.

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”

 

Countdown to Eroica Britannia 2016

Last year the organisers of the UK’s greatest festival of all things cycling and vintage gave me a slot to perform my poetry in their Arts tent. The experience was terrific and you can read about it in my posts from last year’s event.

nib with ink 7

Pen nib with red ink

I am really delighted to say that I’ve been invited back for the 2016 Festival and will be performing at noon on Saturday 18th June.

I’m busy planning my set for the event and I’ll be sure to include some of my poems about cycling and of course some of my newest poetry. It would be safe to assume that the set
will be designed to entertain, to inform and most of all to give pause for thought.

I’ll be reading work from my book “Thinking Too Much” and a range of my more recent work including some about my own family which, although very personal to me, are likely to resonate with any listener. There will be copies of my book available for sale and I’ll be very happy to sign copies after the performance, I may also have a selection of my vintage cycling images for sale and will be happy to take orders on the day.

Come on Hat poem

Here’s one of my recent poems under development- Come on Hat – it may well feature at Eroica Britannia 2016

The full set-list will evolve over the next couple of weeks but it is sure to include:

Too Soon – a poem that looks back to my 3 year old memory of my Grandad and the photo, still displayed in his house, that takes me back 52 years before he was taken too soon.

A minute and a half – one and a half minutes of words that hurt less but evoke the memory and feelings of racing up Monsall Head – a hill that some thousands of riders will tackle the day after my performance; in my case at a much more sedate pace than in the 1980s!

Entitlement – A brief look at the Lance Armstrong story and the American Dream (with a line nicked from John Mellencamp).

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”

Thinking Too Much at Bar Vibe – 1st October 2015

A new Rochdale venue, Bar Vibe on Drake Street, and the first of the Fringe events for the Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival.
Bar Vibe, set up by a local charitable organisation, offers a place for people (mainly young people) to perform and create music with a nice stage, an alcohol-free bar, large lounge/study area and a recording studio. Add in the opportunities for music tuition and editing and this looks like a great new facility; they’ve even got a collection of house instruments for those who don’t have access to one of their own.
But for one night this was the home of poetry.
Reading from my new book at Bar Vibe
Introduced by Norman Warwick I read some poems from my book and some newer poems which along with an interview and discussion session hosted by Norm were recorded for All Across The Arts and Crescent Radio.

A great audience joined in the conversation as we talked about outsiders, the creative life, motivation and how (and maybe why) we write.

Norman Warwick asks the questions at Bar Vibe

Audience members then had a chance to share one of their own poems, or a favourite from someone else with the chance for some instant feedback or critique.

Eileen Earnshaw read from Tony Walsh’s excellent “Sex & Love & Rock and Roll” with a rendition of “A Girl, Like, Y’know” that was full of power, belief and passion – I’m sure Tony would have been proud that his poem in the voice of a teenage girl could be given such life by a lady who won’t mind me mentioning that she’s past 70. The audience loved it and demanded another and were treated to “She Never” also from Tony’s book – we could have just let her carry on, this was so good, but others were still to follow.

Marian Tonge gave us “The Enemy” one of her own poems reflecting on war with two soldiers from different sides and the powerful vision of ‘A man, the same as me’ and the local reference in the term ‘dying pals’. Marian then treated us to “Gorilla” a great fun look through the eyes of a nicotine addicted ape – super stuff indeed.

Jackie Philips next up with her poem “What makes a woman” with the balance between ‘strength and champagne’, ‘stubborn, bold’, fury gently controlled and the ‘occasional stinky fart’. She followed this with “And then came man” a tale of man’s lack of care for our planet with the quiet yet powerful phrase ‘polar ice warmed for him’. The audience and I loved it and next on stage was Paul Jelen.

Paul’s quietly spoken poetry isn’t loud and it never needs to be, he says all that he needs to say in calm and measured tone and with deep thought. Paul read two poems “Room” and his second poem “Heaven” with the wonderful line ‘became the loudness of clocks’.

A brief pause to let Paul’s words seep in and Norm was back on stage for a quick poem and to ask for another couple from me to finish the evening.

My enormous gratitude goes to those who came and shared the evening with me and especially to Norm for his usual excellent compering and interviewing skills, to the venue, to Maggie for soothing my brow and keeping me going, to Steve Cooke and Eileen Earnshaw for helping to arrange the event and to those people who bought copies of “Thinking Too Much”, my collection of poems, available fro £7 per copy.

My full set list was:

The churn
Seahorses
Standby
People riding bikes
The Hood
Stranger conversations
A platform I don’t know
The curse
Canakkale
Badger Brushes and Brass
A minute and a half
Honed

Thinking Too Much – The book

Thinking Too Much
a collection of poems by Seamus Kelly

After many hours of toil, editing poems, editing them again, writing an introduction, managing contents, layout, cover and back cover design and liaising with the printers; I finally have my book.

In fact I have a box of books:

booksThinking Too Much – They’re here!
“Quien descubre el quien soy descubrira el quien eres”

The quote above from Pablo Neruda’s La Injustica seemed appropriate for inclusion after the introduction; speaking as it does about discovering others through discovering oneself.

Thinking too much contents page  Contents page – Thinking Too Muc

There are 34 poems in the book covering a wide range of issues from family, love, death and illness, to my own views on society and some of the things that are wrong with it. It isn’t all doom and gloom of course and there are amusing and hopefully inspiring tales in this short collection and I hope readers might make a few discoveries of their own.

So “Thinking Too Much” is here now.

I’ll be finalising a launch event shortly and you’ll be able to read the announcement here, but for those who just can’t wait….

You can catch me and buy a copy at a poetry or writing event for £7 per copy – I’ll be happy to sign it for you.

If you would prefer to have a copy delivered to your door then that can be arranged by emailing me at info@seamuskellypoetry and I can arrange payment through PayPal

The Spoken Word Shindig #23, Hebden Bridge

Last night I headed over to Hebden Bridge for edition number 23 of the Spoken Word Shindig organised by the inimitable Winston Plowes. Nelson’s Wine Bar was crowded from the start and provided a terrific audience who thanks to Winston’s expertly set up PA could hear every word and every pause.

Winston opened the night with an announcement about a future evening in September which will aim to be inclusive for people with hearing impairments and his announcement was given simultaneously in British Sign Language (BSL) by his daughter Maisie. On the night Michael Wilson will be performing and he is renowned not only for his excellent poetry but also for performing his work verbally and using BSL.

Great performances followed from Victoria Gatehouse supporting main guest Noel Whittall before the open mic with a full complement of 14 poets with some really outstanding work not least two really serious and thought provoking sets from Steven Anderson (now known to Winston as “Mr Shindig) and “H”. We were entertained, provoked and perhaps occasionally bewildered and even had guitar accompaniment from one performer; the applause and cheers told the story of a great night.

When I came up to perform at number 13 I had intended to do my anti fox hunting poem, but moved by others poems I chose to do “Not like the rest” a true and sad tale about mental illness, inadequate services and suicide – you can read it here.

First though I decided to read a brand new poem “Strictured Structures” which had started the evening as some ideas and notes in my notebook shown above complete with smudging from condensation dripping from my glass as I wrote. Its about the essence of poetry, mine in particular, and apart from the opening line “I’m an acrostic agnostic” it isn’t available on-line.

Overall another great Shindig night in Hebden that proves that Winston and Nelson’s are doing something right!

Café Frug – Open mic – St. Ives Arts Club

A regular Thursday night event, Café Frug, at St Ives Art Club features local poets, writers, musicians  and slots for people like myself visiting or on their holidays. The Arts Club has been running since 1890 and provides a wide range of artistic opportunities within the historical seafront building on the harbour including a gallery downstairs and a theatre complete with stage, lights etc. upstairs.

Find out more about the club and its activities at: http://www.stivesartsclub.org/index.html

The evening is run by Bob Devereux, something of a local legend and a talented poet with a unique style. Bob has been writing and performing poetry since touring with bands in the early 1970s and is still going strong in 2015 at the age of 75. As well as his poetry Bob is an abstract expressionist artist, a librettist and teacher. You can read more about Bob online or catch some of his performances on YouTube.

When we arrived around 7.30pm we met Bob who introduced himself, I told him that I’d been at The Union on Monday evening and after hearing me read one of the musicians, Pete Low, suggested I come along to the Frug. Bob said they’d love to hear some poems and told us that things would kick off around 8.15pm giving us plenty of time to go and grab some chips on the seafront.

After an opening short set by Bob accompanied by talented guitarist Adrian O’Reilly the open mic session opened and I was invited on stage to read a few poems.

The theatre is an intimate setting and the acoustics were great and it was really nice to be able to speak and be heard clearly throughout the room without needing a microphone.

Sitting on the well lit stage with the audience almost in darkness was very new to me but after a few moments I could see the audience well enough to be able to communicate with them and having briefly introduced myself I read three poems:

  • Seahorses – A story about my teacher in the last years of primary school, Mr. O’Connell, who really did keep seahorses outside the classroom (you can read “Seahorses” here)
  • Standby – quickly got the audience on side with its take on modern life and how things have changed changed (you can read “Standby” here)
  • Dead Eyes – a painfully sad poem about child soldiers which had the audience listening in total silence before applause and several expressions of “Wow!” after it finished (you can read “Dead Eyes” here)

That was a good amount to perform at most open mic nights but this had been part 1 and after a short break and a couple of tunes from Adrian we had a second round of performances and I was asked for another three poems. This time I read the following:

  • Blank – a poem about trying to write when under time pressure. The audience, many of whom were writers, clearly understood and recognised the issues and it was very warmly received (you can read “Blank” here)
  • The Curse- another short and sad poem this time about dementia (you can read “The Curse” here)
  • Different Dad – a slightly silly poem to lift the mood and entertain and which left the audience laughing and smiling (you can read “Different Dad” here)
The night was wound up in style by Bob and Adrian and we headed off into the fresh sea air at around 11.00pm.
Another excellent session and well worth going, either to listen or to perform, if you are ever in St Ives on a Thursday night, check the website (above) to make sure Café Frug is happening that week and bring your own drink – glasses are provided.
Admission is £4.00 each but performers get free admission.

Open Mic – The Union, St. Ives

Sometimes stepping outside your comfort zone is a good way to develop confidence and skills. Whilst on holiday I read that there was an open mic night at The Union Inn in St Ives. Having walked past the pub the previous night, with my wife Maggie, it was clear that this is not a quiet venue but one filled with atmosphere and noise – great for the musicians who would perform but challenging for a poet – and I was the only poet!

There was plenty of music from wannabes to experienced musicians and the mood was loud and lively. Maggie and I watched, and listened to, a wide variety of performances from folk to rock and the crowd were tapping feet and singing along almost as soon as things got going a little after 9.00pm.

At around 11.00pm, after plenty of music filling the crowded bar, Mickey, the host and lead performer for the night, told me I’d be up next.

Facing a very crowded pub with a busy bar full of punters I was unsure of how they’d react, they’d come for a drink and to enjoy the music so having been introduced I led off with Standby – good for my confidence as most people tend to understand the theme and quickly get engaged. Sure enough almost as soon as I had introduced myself and started my first poem, Standby, with the words; “My old television had a big old switch, on and off, with a clunk” the whole crowd, at least 60 or 70 people crammed in, stopped chattering and I had a really appreciative and attentive audience. (You can read Standby here: here)

I followed with my anti-war poem Dead Eyes about child soldiers and you could hear a pin drop and there were tears in a few eyes. A brief pause to let the poem sink in, or just caused by the impact of the poem and then they applauded, a kind of polite applause at first then building up as the audience appreciate the feelings they’ve just experienced. (You can read Dead Eyes here: here)

Mickey asked me for one more poem so I went with Different Dad which can always pick the audience back up and they were happy, smiling and cheering with their applause as I finished and said my thank-you’s. (You can read Different Dad here)

We stayed until midnight listening to more music, tapping feet and singing along. I declined Mickey’s offer to join himself and fellow musicians at the microphone, this time to sing along, he may have been impressed by my poetry but I’m not so sure about my singing voice!

We would certainly recommend this night for anyone visiting St. Ives and if you are a poet then why not step outside that comfort zone, take that risk – I did and it paid dividends giving a massive buzz, building confidence and reminding me that my poetry doesn’t have to be delivered in the traditional “friendly, supportive” setting.

What a night, what a buzz!