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.

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.

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).

An Evening with Lemn Sissay at Hopwood Hall College

Sometimes when we see a poet perform we might see some new views, gain some insights, find some inspiration or even to learn something about ourselves.

Last night in Middleton it would be fair to say that watching and listening to Lemn Sissay we were privileged to find all of the above in abundance along with real depth of emotion and not a few laughs. The newly appointed Chancellor of the University of Manchester was on brilliant form and shared much of his own story and experience along with a great selection of his poems.

Lemn Sissay Books b
No cameras allowed in the auditorium so here’s a picture of two of Lemn’s books – purchased and signed on the night

In his own words he tends to be “non-linear” and in what appeared to be unrehearsed asides he would drift from the introduction to one of his poems into a chat about something from his life and then back again to eventually read the poem. Both his poetry and his comments were absolutely crammed with terrific insight and a great understanding of life.

Having been brought up in care he has a great understanding of the effects that the care system can have on young people and his thoughts on the Red Box (the “Break Glass in case of Fire” boxes) ought to be compulsory reading for all working on the care system as well as anyone involved in teaching young people. He spoke a great deal about the need for affirmation which we all share and the validation that family, and the search for family, can sometimes offer.

Alongside stories about his ethnic origin, the meaning of his name and some of the many places where he has performed he did of course read plenty of his poems. There were poems about inequality, sad poems, happy poems, a short poem “My dad is a pilot” about his Nigerian father, a single love poem “Invisible kisses” and even a children’s poem.

Lemn Sissay’s face is elastic, his voice madly flexible and his hands expressive. This was truly inspiring performance from a man who seems to thoroughly enjoy sharing, who has a quick incisive mind and wit and delivers it all in such a natural manner with little sign of an ego.

If a poet, a child grown up in care, a man with a social conscience and a man who exudes belief and equality; if such a man can be a university chancellor then maybe we really can make the world a better place.

I’m seriously enjoying dipping into the books I just had to bring home with me.

The event was part of Rochdale’s Literature and Ideas Festival 2015.

Rochdale Fringe Festival gathering pace – Norman Warwick at The Baum 8th October 2015

Thursday 8th July saw second of the Rochdale Fringe Festival events, in the lead up to the Rochdale Literature and ideas Festival, and the final Baum showcase performance from Norman Warwick.

Norm pensive
Norman Warwick in his farewell performance

As I said in my introduction this was a man who needed no introduction; Norm has been a mainstay of the Rochdale arts scene especially through All Across The Arts, Just Poets and the Touchstones Creative Writing Group. There are many writers and artists who have gained so much from working with, being encouraged by and promoted by Norm through the wide range of events, workshops, newspaper column, radio show and his enthusiasm to offer advice, critique and do whatever he can to contribute.

Many of us turned out at the Baum to listen to Norm who was welcomed with a proper Rochdale Rapturous Round of applause and he certainly didn’t disappoint as the whole room laughed along as he told us of a first trip to the barbers, felt the love and hope as his miner dances with the goddess from ‘off the silver screen’ and were moved by his performance of “Lost in the fadeaway diamond time” telling us of the lost of his dear friend and songwriting superstar Townes Van Zandt.

With an open-mic style read around (see pics below) Norm and the audience were regaled poetry and prose from young and old with tales of life from the mundane to the fantastic (or perhaps ridiculous) with a range as varied, entertaining and powerful as we’ve come to expect at this venue. Great stuff!

As Norm heads off to a sunnier retirement he is not likely to stop inspiring, entertaining and supporting artists and Rochdale’s loss will be Lanzarote’s gain.

Meanwhile it falls to those of us remaining to ensure that we continue to have a thriving, developing and welcoming arts scene in Rochdale into the future building on foundations to which Norm has contributes so much over the 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

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

Coffee House Night – 28th September 2015

Coffee House Night, Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, Monday 28 September 2015
Looking for something new, a chance to hear new voices and enjoy new venues we headed over to Huddersfield for the Coffee House Night;

Queen’s Coffee Shop at the Lawrence Batley Theatre
FullSizeRender

Coffee House Night opened a new season on Monday 28th September in Queenie’s Coffee Shop at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield. We were welcomed on arrival by organiser, compere and performance poet Rose Condo.

Rose opened the night with a poem and introduced the first open-mic poets including a stand-out, 5 minute set from the youngest poet in the room, Theo Ayres, with his unique, imaginative and creative style.

The Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield
IMG_1752
The first special guest Wigan’s Louise Fazackerley wound up the first half of the night in terrific style with her powerful tales of everyday life in the North. After a brief break to refresh drinks Rose introduced the next of open-mic poets. I read two of my own poems and then the second special guest David Jarman, poet and songwriter from York, entertained with his brand of rapid fire rhythm and rhyme to finish the session.

This was an entertaining night with an appreciative audience in a café with excellent drinks and cakes – what more could a poet want; except another Coffee House Night on 26 October?