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:

Pleckgate High School – National Poetry Day 2017

Picture of Students' poetry display at Pleckgate High SchoolToday I was delighted to be at Pleckgate to provide a series of sessions for students as part of National Poetry Day.

The welcome was lovely and I have to say that each time I’ve visited I’ve found both students and staff to be attentive and supportive. More importantly perhaps they’ve been open to learn about poetry, hear examples, to get involved in active discussion and even a little acting.

With four groups of students including years 7, 8 and 10 I was kept busy, and happy, helping to inspire and being inspired myself. Each group had a discussion of concepts of freedom and each student wrote a sentence or just their thoughts some of which are shown in the images below.

All of those thoughts, 180 or so, of them will be read and collated to create a poetic interpretation to be shared back in school. My early reading is proving to be really enlightening and I’m looking forward to reading the remainder.

Once we’d done the “hard” work around freedom it was time to have some fun with poems; and we certainly did.

At lunchtime students and staff came together to share some of their own new work and some favourite poems. The variety and the quality of the writing by the young people was astounding and bodes well for the future.

Links to the school’s own report and photos from the day will be added here as soon as they are available.

Is a poem ever really finished?

As a poet who also runs writing workshops one of the most frequent debates I come across is about when or whether a poem is finished.

On the face of it it might seem a fairly straight forward issue, especially to anyone who isn’t a writer and more specifically a poet. Say I’ve written a poem, I’ve read it through a number of times, made some changes, taken it out to live events and considered the audience reaction and the way the words flowed (or didn’t) and maybe made some more changes. Eventually I might well have submitted that poem for publication or included it in a book. Is that poem now finished?

In the past I might well have thought so but recently I’ve realised that such a view might have been a little short-sighted.

Take a band who become famous and tour around the world for 20 years. Everywhere they go their audience expect to hear that old favourite song, the one that everyone knows. But the band have played it so many times that they’ve started to make little tweaks, the odd word here or there or maybe a change in the instrumentation. They still perform the same song but not exactly as it was 20 years ago. They’ve become more accomplished as singers, songwriters and musicians and it is really no surprise that they now see better ways with that old song.

What about Bob Dylan’s “Knocking’ on Heaven’s Door” which Dylan himself has recorded in various versions, mostly longer that the original and which has been covered and changed by many others including some cases where whole new verses have been added and some cases where a band has recorded more than on different version of Dylan’s song. Will “Knocking’ on Heaven’s Door” ever really be finished?

Poems are a bit like that, they can evolve.

If they were a B-side that never got played or did little more than balance out the numbers on an album, the track everyone skipped over, then maybe they are finished. They’ll lie there unlisted, unread and certainly no longer performed. Those poems and those songs might well be finished; maybe.

But the rest?

I doubt that I could ever say definitively that any of my poems are finished.

And what if someone changes it after I’m gone?

A whole new world of finished/unfinished would open up. Maybe all of Beethoven’s Symphonies were unfinished and all of them change each time a new conductor and a new orchestra, or even just a new audience, get their hands and ears around them.

I’m not supposed to be here – Touchstones, Rochdale, 7th September

With just one week to go to this event here’s a picture of my temporary workspace as I produce some new writing using the same prompts and processes we’ll be using in the workshop. Its a bit early to be sure, as titles for me tend to come at the end of the writing process, but I think this one might end up being titled “A short walk”, Remember the Touchstones Creative Writing Group meet on the first Thursday of each month the with a different facilitator each time ensuring a wide range of workshops and activities. The session is open to all and new members are always welcome.

 

 

On Thursday  7th SeptemberI’ll be at Touchstones to deliver my brand new workshop entitled “I’m not supposed to be here” for the Touchstones Creative Writing Group.

In this session I will challenge writers to put themselves, metaphorically, into situations they wouldn’t expect to find themselves in. I’ll have something new written for the session to give a starting point for discussion after which we’ll launch ourselves into our unexpected situations and with prompts and encouragement create some new writing with brand new perspectives

In technical terms the overall aim is to encourage writers to go beyond their own personal experience and bring their personalities and skills to bear on unfamiliar places, situations and times, thus broadening the range of their writing.

The Touchstones Creative Writing Group has a strong group of writers across all genres including poetry, prose, monologues and scripts as well as new and aspirational writers looking to develop their skills. This workshop is designed to support both new and experienced writers across all genres and is open to members and prospective members of the group.

“I’m not supposed to be here”- Touchstones, Rochdale, 2.00pm, 7th September –  I’m definitely supposed to be there so why not come along and join in the fun.

The Art Café in Touchstones will be open so why not pop along for a brew and a chat before the session? You’ll probably find me there eating their handmade cakes!

If you’d like to talk about booking one of my workshops for your own group or organisation please email me at info@seamuskellypoetry.co.uk. Details of my other workshops can be found by clicking here.

Pyramid Poetry for young people who have a disability


Here’s my promised update for my Pyramid Poetry session at Touchstones this morning:

A diverse group of young people arrived at Touchstones, dropped off by parents and careers and greeted by the very able staff from Sun Sports and Link4Life, with even less idea what to expect than this poet. Once everyone was happy, support allocated and introductions made we were all ready for action.

We played a rhyming game, we talked about poems and I shared some poetry from C S Lewis and Spike Milligan (deadly serious stuff obviously) and then we chatted about Egypt with young people telling me about the Nile, Pharaohs, tombs, pyramids the desert, oasis snakes etc.

Then we had a look at the format for Poetry Pyramids and put a few words together as  examples and handed out some sheets of Ancient Egyptian prompts and they were off.

For a frantic hour or so young poets looked for the right words, talked about what they wanted to say and jotting by down lines before adding their words to their poetic pyramids.

I wound up the session reading to the group from their pyramids and the room filled with praise and beaming smiles confirmed the pride in an excellent morning’s work.

Occasionally writers like myself get the chance to do something new and challenging and any such chance should be grabbed with both hands.

So in the morning on Friday 11th August I’ll be at Touchstones in Rochdale with my brand new poetry session.

Photo of ancient Egyptian tablet

Egyptian tablet

In the school holidays Link4Life, Rochdale’s cultural and leisure trust, run a range of activities for young people with a disability. I was delighted to be asked to run a session on poetry, as part of this programme.

As the current exhibition in the Heritage Gallery at Touchstones is “Ancient Egypt: Life along the River Nile” the session will take its inspiration from that exhibition and we’ll be incorporating a range of specific Ancient Egyptian themes into special pyramid poems (my new format specially designed and only to be revealed at this workshop).

Whilst planning the session I’ve spent some time in the exhibit and considering the age of these objects they are truly staggering. The exhibition itself has been well curated and there is plenty of information available including a range of books for young people to dip into and an activity area in the form of a boat sailing down the Nile. Here are a few photos showing some of the artefacts on display:

photo of Small ancient Egyptian statues

Small ancient Egyptian statues

 

Photo of Ancient Egyptian storage jars and utensils

Ancient Egyptian storage jars and crockery

I’ll post more details after the session hopefully with some samples of the work produced by the children.

Eroica Britannia 2017 – Shay the poet returns

In just a week’s time I’ll be stepping up to perform at Britains festival of cycling and all things vintage, Eroica Britannia.

The Festival runs from from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th of June 2017 and Frinden Grange in the Peak District and I’ll be performing at 2.00pm on Saturday.

My health has not allowed me to take part in the ride around one of the spectacular Peak District routes this year but I’m looking forward to sharing some of my poetry with an audience including old friends and new, poetry enthusiasts and those who “only came for the vintage bikes”. Well you might ask:

What has that Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

Well there’s all the vintage bikes

Yeah but apart from the vintage bikes what has the Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

Well what about the rides, and the vintage bike rides?

Yeah the vintage bikes and the vintage bike rides obviously, but what has the Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

There’s the stunning Peak District scenery

Yeah, yeah, the vintage bikes and the rides and the stunning Peak District scenery, but what has the Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

And the music

Yeah, OK the vintage bikes, the rides, the stunning Peak District scenery and the music, but what has the Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

And the vintage outfits?

And all the activities for kids?

Yeah the vintage bikes, the rides, the stunning Peak District scenery, the music, the vintage outfits and all the activities for the kids, but what has the Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

And the shopping?

And the amazing range of food and drink?

And the roaming entertainers?

And the best in show?

Yeah, that goes without saying; the vintage bikes, the rides, the stunning Peak District scenery, the music, the vintage outfits, all the activities for the kids, the shopping, the amazing food and drink, the roaming entertainers and the best in show, but what has the Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

And the mini velodrome, the Lancaster Bomber fly past, and the camping and glamping?

Yeah, the vintage bikes, the rides, the stunning Peak District scenery, the music, the vintage outfits, all the activities for the kids, the shopping, the amazing food and drink, the roaming entertainers and the best in show, the mini velodrome, the Lancaster Bomber fly past, and the camping and glamping, but what has the Eroica Britannia festival got for me?

And the bloke doing poetry?

What? There’s a bloke doing poetry? at a vintage cycling festival? Well why didn’t you tell me? What’s he doing?

Well he’ll do some poems about people and places and bikes and stuff

So this Eroica Britannia festival has the vintage bikes, the rides, the stunning Peak District scenery, the music, the vintage outfits, the shopping, the amazing food and drink, the roaming entertainers and the best in show, the mini velodrome, the Lancaster Bomber fly past, the camping and glamping, and the bloke doing poetry about people and places and bikes and stuff. You know what I think I might give it a go….

 

 

Metaphor: the long story – Touchstones Creative Writing Group

Having facilitated two sessions for Touchstones Creative Writing Group in 2016 it was lovely to be invited back to do two more sessions in 2017 for the well established Rochdale group.

For my first, on Thursday 6th April, I decided to go with my brand new workshop “Metaphor: the long story”. The blurb (which of course I’ve written myself) says:

Metaphor can add interest, power and character to writing in any form. This workshop will concentrate on metaphor in poetry giving new and experienced writers the chance to learn about and experiment with new ways of using metaphor to add character and interest to their writing. We’ll look at examples and develop our own knowledge before taking the leap (metaphorically) into creating some brand new work.”

Bringing out a brand new workshop for the first time is always fun and keeps things interesting and in this case with a relatively technical sounding session I hoped that people would not be deterred….

Far from it….

Over 20 participants arrived and after a brief introduction they were ready to go. Within such a large group there will always be a wide range of abilities and experience so we started off with discussion and examples of the use of metaphor and explored the knowledge the group already had.

That introduction was followed by a competitive game, The Metaphors Challenge, where two teams were pitted against each other to score points by coming up with unusual or preferably brand new metaphors.

After some further exploration including the use of extended metaphor it was time to write and if with a bit of imagination we could harness the power of so many pens furiously scratching their ideas and stories (with plentiful use of metaphor) onto paper we could surely reduce our need for both fossil fuels and television.

The end result was over 20 brand new pieces of writing, stories and poetry, and everyone with some new ideas, something new to work on or develop.

Overall a lovely and productive afternoon.

Looking forwards to the next session in September!

 

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.

 

Writing as a career – a review

new-poem-200715Strange business this writing stuff; we get so involved in the creative process that the other jobs, seemingly more mundane or prosaic get pushed back.

To be a writer one simply needs to write. To be a prolific writer one needs to write a great deal. We can dedicate our whole lives to writing and ignore the mundane; forget washing, cleaning and even to a large extent eating.

We can become writing machines putting all of our thoughts on paper, tablets, computers or dictaphones.

So it really is true that anyone can be a writer.

There are of course some really big “buts” coming:

  1. You can spend your whole life writing to the exclusion of all else BUT it doesn’t make your writing good.
  2. You can spend your whole life writing to the exclusion of all else BUT it doesn’t pay the bills.
  3. You can spend your whole life writing to the exclusion of all else BUT it doesn’t feed the family.
  4. You can spend your whole life writing to the exclusion of all else BUT that isn’t very professional.

So if you are no longer satisfied with your status as a happy amateur, if you want to find a wider audience or swim in a bigger pond then you’ll need to become proactive, make some changes and embrace some of the things you haven’t done yet.

In my case I began the process by looking at what I could do along with my writing to start to develop a career doing this thing that I love. I’ve always been something of a teacher, I love the feeling I get when I’ve helped someone learn something new, gain confidence or learn new skills so passing on my love of writing to others was an obvious choice.

Over the last 12 years or so (from long before I considered writing as a career option) I’ve produced and delivered a good number of workshops for writers. More recently, as a serious career step, I created several new workshops ready to deliver to anyone from the age of about 8. I got myself bookings and ran workshops and readings with consistently good feedback and towards the end of the year it was time to stretch myself again. I’ve still some areas to push a bit more to consider myself more professional and these include:

  • Producing some proper publicity materials
  • Actively promoting my workshops to new organisations and schools
  • Developing communications through a mailing list
  • Developing some new workshops and materials for 2017
  • Developing a new market in staff development and inspirational talks
  • Developing a longer term plan – something to carry me through the next few years

So what else?

  • I’ve started submitting some work to publishers
  • I’ve started entering some work into competitions
  • I’ve taken my work to new audiences
  • I’ve learnt to make audio recordings of my work and use those recordings for publicity etc.

These might seem like simple everyday tasks, and in reality they are, but in the development of a writer they are either milestones or hurdles to be passed before moving on to the next level. Perhaps some of these are made more difficult by the writers’ biggest hurdle “the fear of rejection” even though rejection is common for even the most successful writers. It is important to see each rejection as what it is, i.e. that the particular piece of writing in that particular form didn’t meet the needs of the person rejecting it. It might be that the writing was not good enough but assuming that you are serious about developing as a writer then you’ll want to improve the writing and make it better.

Occasionally a plan doesn’t quite work as anticipated, for example when the “sound guy” at your biggest gig of the year forgets to press the record button. The most important thing in those situations is to keep on moving forwards and not to be held back by worries about what might have been.

So as we head into a new year I’ll be concentrating on these areas but of course none of that is worth a minute of your time unless you continue to create new writing – there’ll be more about new writing in my next post.

 

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

 

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.

 

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.