Oldham Gallery -Dave Ball Exhibition – Poetry Workshop and Artist Talk

we began the workshop with quick introductions and a chat about why people had come along. Some were very new to poetry whilst others had been writing poetry for some time and some wanted to reignite their own poetry writing.

We spent a little time looking at the exhibition and using images selected from each section from A to C created lines or phrases which were gradually developed into poems.

We also selected a single image to consider in more detail using it for the inspiration to develop another piece of writing using a mind mapping approach.

The participants had fun, produced some great new writing and with an age range from 5 years old to a little older than myself proved that as long as you have the basics of the language and some suitable inspiration you can produce worthwhile poetry.

The tweet shown above from the Library service, who arranged the workshop, shows that the use of Dave Ball’s exhibition for inspiration was successful. I’m looking forward to meeting Dave this weekend to talk about his work and how the workshop was able to draw on it for our inspiration.

There is still time to visit the exhibition and tomorrow, Saturday 9th February, the artist Dave Ball who is normally based in Berlin, will be at the gallery to give a talk about his work. The artist talk will take place at 1:00pm and there is no need to book for this free event. You can find out more HERE

Photo Pointers 1 – Getting the right focus

As a photographer and tutor I am starting a series of occasional ” Photo Pointers” articles on this blog to give some guidance to those finding their way with photography. I will avoid using too much technical language or lots of formulae and numbers.

For those who would like to go into more depth I will be running workshops during the year and can also arrange 1 to 1 or small group sessions to suit. Please email me seamus@onepoetsvision.co.uk and I’ll be happy to discuss your requirements.

A couple of days ago I posted a trio of colourful images on my  Instagram account which provide a simple example of the ways a photographer can change the focal point of the same scene.

For this set of pictures four highlighter pens were stood up on my desk, each an inch or two apart.

Four highlighter pens with the closest being sharply focused

This first photograph shows just the pen that is nearest to the camera being sharp with all of the others looking blurred because they are out of focus.

To create this effect you set focus on the nib of the blue pen either by using the manual focus on your camera, or using automatic focus and placing the camera’s selected focus point exactly on the nib.

Setting a wide lens aperture will make sure that only the one pen is sharply focused and the wider the aperture you set on the camera the less of the image will be sharp, this effect is strongest when you are close to the subject.

Four highlighter pens with the second closest being sharply focused

The second photograph is similar to the previous one but the camera has been focused on the nib of the yellow pen and the same technique used to make sure only that pen is sharp.

Four highlighter pens with the 2nd and 3rd closest being sharply focused

The final image in this set has both the yellow and red pens sharply focused whilst the closer blue and furthest green pens are out of focus (not sharp).

To create this effect the lens is focused at a point between the yellow and red – this is fairly easy to achieve by focusing manually but it using automatic it is possible to focus on an object temporarily placed at the point where you want to focus and by keeping gentle pressure on the shutter button keep the focus set to that point, remove the object and take the picture. The real benefit of digital cameras is that you can take lots of shots making little adjustments until you are happy with the result. This kind of experimentation is really helpful when learning new techniques.

Small versions of my images can be viewed on my OnePoetsVision Instagram Feed or you can follow “onepoetsvison”; I also have a wide range of full sized high resolution downloadable images for sale on my OnePoetsVision Etsy Shop

Planning visit to Gallery Oldham for 2nd Feb workshop

Selfie of myself in front of the exhibitionThis afternoon I was able to go over to Oldham and spend some time in the gallery taking in David Ball exhibition “A to Z: The First Seven Years”.

On Saturday 2nd February I’ll be running a poetry workshop in this space using David’s exhibition and ongoing project for inspiration so today was all about finding some of that inspiration in preparation.

I had a good look at lots of the pictures and spent quite some time soaking in the atmosphere and even watching the reactions of those visiting the exhibition.Things that occurred to me included:

  • The scale of the exhibits surprised meA picture of one section of the exhibition
  • The scale of the task for the artist is hard to comprehend
  • The word “scale” is a good few years further through the alphabet
  • What if the dictionary were indexed by years and months rather than pages?
  • I wonder if he can really complete it
  • What happens when he reaches the word “unfinished”?
  • I speak at around 100 words a minute so it would take me almost 20 minutes just to read a list of the words represented on the walls – only 20 minutes to list 7 years of work….
  • I wonder if, having moved from drawings and illustrations to photos, the artist will embrace other ways of visualising as the project develops
  • I wonder if I could talk to the artist about this….

Some of the pictures are what we might expect but others are really personal, unusual and clever interpretations of the word, I loved the image for asylum shown here:

One of the artist's images with an asylum seeker hiding on a truck

I’m looking forward to the workshop even more having completed today’s visit.

Selfi in front of photos representing letters starting with the letter C

Save the dates – Altrincham Word Fest returns in May 2019

The second Altrincham Word Fest will run from 11th to 26th May 2019 at various venues in the town and promises to be even more exciting that the first edition held in 2018.

Last year’s festival followed a poetry event created by Anne Early and Yoko Isami as part of the Hidden Arts Festival in 2017. That first festival in 2018 proved to be a great, popular success with demand for new events and bigger venues for 2019 and Anne and Yoko are putting the finishing touches to the schedule of events in May.

So why am I, a Rochdale poet, so keen to promote this event?

  • Is it because I’ve been invited back to Altrincham for the 3rd year in a row (1st year was the Hidden Arts Festival)? Perhaps a little bit….
  • Is it because it has a great line up of talent? Well it does….
  • Is it because it celebrates writing and literature? Well it does….
  • Is it because it is different from other Literature Festivals? Yes, absolutely!

This is a festival that does something different, this is a festival for writers; it puts its energies into encouraging all of us to go out and create, to write our own literature and to share the joy of writing; and it does that through workshops, performances, writer events and of course the open mic (that I’ll be hosting again in 2019).

As a writer I experience and see the benefits people from all walks of life, of all ages and with all levels of experience can gain from putting their thoughts and ideas into words. I know the value in terms of enjoyment, fulfilment, health and well-being that writing can bring and to be involved in a festival that promotes this is both a privilege and a great pleasure.

Dates for the specific events will be appearing soon on the www.altrinchamwordfest.com website and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

National Storytelling Week Poetry Work Shop – Inspired by Dave Ball – Oldham Gallery

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been asked by Oldham Library to produce and facilitate a new poetry workshop in Oldham’s Art Gallery.

The workshop is linked to a current exhibition of work, A to Z: The First Seven Years, by artist David Ball. The exhibition runs until March 2nd in Gallery 2. The artist is producing a drawing visualising every word in the Concise Oxford Dictionary – starting from A (with 461 words) the work is currently at the letter C. The project has taken 7 years so far and Dave expects to take another 28 years to finish. Some of the drawings and photographs produced so far are currently exhibited in the gallery in Oldham and some can be seen on the artist’s website by CLICKING HERE.

Taking the work by Dave Ball as its inspiration this poetry workshop will give writers the chance to create some brand new poetry themed around words from the dictionary beginning with A, B and C.  We’ll look at how inspiration drives creative people and how inspiration, such as this exhibition, can be turned into a plan or outline for a new poem and will take participants through the evolution of the piece.  There will be opportunities (for those who want to) share their work during the workshop and the gallery and library have kindly agreed to display writing produced in the workshop.

No specialist equipment is required and all writers are welcome from those just starting out to professionals.

The event is listed on the Oldham library website HERE and you can book places through EventBrite by CLICKING HERE

 

 

 

OnePoetsVision for 2019

Self portrait with cameraI set up the OnePoetsVision blog so that all of my creative work whether it is visual or in words could share a home. In the last year I’ve also posted lots of my images, mainly photographic but also drawings and prints, on my OnePoetsVision Instagram page having set myself an image a day challenge #shaysimageaday .

Sadly 2018 has involved bereavements and health issues for myself and family and my work as a poet, writer and teacher of writing and photography has been impacted. My image a day challenge and this blog both stalled but are relaunching this weekend.

A batch of batteries in negativeAs a rule I don’t really do New Year Resolutions, but I am starting to feel recharged and have plans to make 2019 the year that I build on the work I began after giving up my full time work in Summer 2015.

 

 

What will 2019 look like?

Well there will be more of the following:

  • performances
  • events
  • new writing workshops
  • new poems
  • new photographic images
  • new drawings
  • new linocut prints

There are also a couple of specific projects I am excited to be starting one being a collection of poems and the other involving illustration – there will be more detail in the coming months.

 

A project to reboot the creative mind

Screenshot of the first image for my challenge - a dried poppy seed head

My first #shaysimageaday challenge image from Dec 2018

Pretty much every creative person will occasionally get stranded in the metaphorical doldrums, we suffer a creative block. The cause can be anything from tiredness, apathy or fear to events in our busy lives overtaking us. The solutions are many and books have been written about how to move beyond the block and regain our creativity.

Six months ago I found myself feeling creatively stymied, I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t drawing and I wasn’t making images. The circumstances that led me to that point are not important, the important thing is how I was able to more on. This post is an initial look at that process and how it has helped me. Should this approach help others then that would be a real bonus.

I decided in late December 2017 that to stimulate my mind and create something new to focus on I would set myself a challenge: every day I would make a brand new image and that image would be posted online on Instagram. The challenge would be called “#shaysimageaday” and I would use that hashtag on my posts. Images can be photographs (most of them are), drawings, prints or images made from words (as long as the words can create an image in the reader’s mind) and there is no target length for this challenge – as long a it is fun and I’m learning then I might as well keep going!

At first I expected the challenge might run for a few weeks. My very first post on the day I decided on the challenge was the poppy head pictured at the top of this article. There was no advance plan for the images and I generally decide on a subject during the day but strangely enough six months later I find myself posting images of poppy seed heads collected in the last few days from our garden. In the meantime there have been images of all sorts of man-made and natural objects and there have been plenty of shots taken outdoors. The latest image is shown here:

An image of a wild poppy seed head with others in the background being blurred

Wild poppy seed heads

The bottom line is that setting myself this challenge has really delivered as I hoped it would and I believe it has gone further than that and the personal and creative benefits have been, and continue to be of real value to me. A nice bonus is that I’ve amassed a collection of over 180 new images with which I am very pleased.

I’m sharing this post partly so that the challenge might offer some value to others as well.

In future posts on this blog I will show more examples of the images created and explain some of the methods I’ve used; meanwhile here area couple more of the images

A photo of my linocut print of Whitby Pier being carved

A photo of my linocut print of Whitby Pier being carved

A drawing from classic cars at Vintage Village in Stockport

A drawing from classic cars at Vintage Village in Stockport

Altrincham Word Fest – May 2018

Last year I was invited by Anne Early and Yoko Isami to perform and host a poetry event as part of the Hidden Altrincham Arts Festival.

The event, in September, at Riddles (specialist spirits retailer) was a great success but little did I know at the time that the seeds had been sown to create a brand new festival focused on writing and literature; but they had well and truly been sown and the result  is Altrincham Word Fest 2018.

Altrincham Word Fest has a unique selling point: all literature festivals focus on encouraging and sharing a love of literature and reading but this new festival on the block really focuses on giving people the chance, and a gentle nudge, to create their own writing.

I am of course delighted to be part of this exciting new event on the literary calendar and you can find details of all of the events and book places by following the links below:

Sat 12th May – 13:30 to 15:30 – Life writing and personal narrative workshop with Kate Feld

Sun 13th May – 13:30 to 15:30 – Creating powerful characters with Sarah Cassidy

Sun 13th May – 13:30 to 15:30 – The stories we could tell a workshop for young people 14-18 with Seamus Kelly

Thur 17th May – 19:00 to 21:00 – An evening with Paul Carroll self-publisher extraordinaire

Sun 20th May – 13:30 to 15:30 – Creating content online with We Blog North

Thur 24th May – 19:00 to 21:00 – Poetry open-mic night hosted by Seamus Kelly

Sat 26th May – 14:00 to 16:00 – The Power of Poetry with Seamus Kelly

Sun 27th May – The art of flash fiction – How to write a short story in 150 words with David Gaffney

…..

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.

Why do I read poets from other cultures?

Image made up of many words relating to poetryAs a poet one might be expected to read quite a lot of poetry.

That isn’t a universal truth, but then nothing is; or if there is we haven’t really discovered and understood it yet.

Some poets do not read any other poet’s work for a wide range of reasons, examples I’ve come across include; not wishing to be influenced too much, concern that they might accidentally copy or plagiarise someone else’s words and quite commonly that “these are my thoughts, my words, they come from inside of me and they have no relationship to anything else that has been written, they can’t be changed” (or words to that effect). These are sometimes similar reasons why some poets chose not to edit. Maybe that will be the topic for a future post.

I am not one of those poets.

I do read other poets’ work.

Apart from British and Irish poetry my current bookshelf includes poetry from Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Russia, Poland, Spain and of course the USA (yes, that counts as overseas too).

Why?

Firstly reading poetry is fun, sometimes thought provoking, annoying or sad but always enlightening.

Poets from all cultures tend to write about pretty much universal themes; family, love, loss, death, society and nature; but different cultures tend to view some of these things differently and that in itself makes their work interesting to read. Added to that the actual structures of language are fundamental to how poetry works and in different languages poets will by definition express themselves differently.

Sadly I can only read fluently in English so I am relying on the translators to have kept as much of the original cultural, rhythmic and feel of the poets’ native language versions. Ideally for European languages I prefer to read the English translation with the native language version alongside because although I can’t really read the originals properly I can get a feel for the rhythm and flow and see how the language was structured.

This is where things get interesting; word sequences vary from one language to another and in poetry those word sequences are carefully chosen by the poet rather than always using the most obvious or common turns of phrase.

Additionally the subject matter varies between cultures. Almost all poets talk about a mixture of autobiography, life, death, hardship, love, society, politics and frequently nature. Views of such things are very different between cultures.

For example in countries where freedoms are very limited the poets will often write about freedom as much as they will about the lack of those freedoms whereas in countries that have much greater freedoms those freedoms can be somewhat taken for granted and the poets tend not to place so much emphasis on them.

Another example is the poetic treatment of death. In the UK death is something people don’t talk about if they can help it, something that although inevitable can be ignored and something that people and society find hard to address. Contrast the UK attitude to death with that in Ireland or Latin America where, although life is valued and celebrated, society doesn’t hide death and makes a much bigger fuss of it. A quick read of Seamus Heaney or perhaps Pablo Neruda will show the different attitudes.

As a poet I hope that I bring new perspectives to issues, that I talk about them in new and different ways and I know that by reading overseas poets I can broaden my own experience and further develop my own abilities as a writer.

In a series of future blogs I intend to focus each piece on a poet (or poets) from a different culture and show why I find that work interesting, broadening and worth reading. Perhaps that would be useful for any poet.

 

National Poetry Day 2017 – 28th September – Freedom

Photo of early autumn seed pods

Early Autumn seed pods

As Autumn begins National Poetry Day also arrives, on 28th September 2017, with its annual celebration inspiring people throughout the UK to enjoy, discover and share poems.

Could there possibly be a bigger or more pertinent theme for National Poetry Day than this year’s choice “Freedom”?

There will be events around the UK with schools, libraries and writing groups and I’m delighted to be heading over to Pleckgate High School in Blackburn where I will work on some classic poems with young people and share the work of pupils and staff. The day is intended to inspire and there is no doubt that working with young people is always inspirational.

You can read about last year’s event by clicking here and I will of course report on the event afterwards.

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.