Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Zoom

In my last blog post I talked about the impact of COVID and mentioned that I had been attending a number of online poetry events, usually via Zoom. It looks as though my collection will have to be launched online. so I need to understand what works and doesn't. My diary is now full of online poetry events - on some evenings I have as many as three events to choose from and on weekends I could be all day on Zoom overdosing on poetry.

We all thought this would be a temporary phenomenon, but a lot of people have been enjoying poetry online and realising that the internet allow syou to go to poetry events all over the world. I suspect that even when the live events restart (which may be a long way off) the online poetry scene will continue.

Okay there are downsides, but online poetry events do allow you to go round the world, to hear poets you would never hear otherwise and even to read at open mics there. Importantly online poetry allows people who cannot access in-the-flesh events because of where they live or because of disability to access a world they would be excluded from. Somewhere out there is a poet or poetry event organizer who sees the potential of this brave new digital world, who sees a new path for poetry.

I thought I might share with you some of the online poetry event organisers whose work I have enjoyed. I know there are some I have missed out and there are loads more I don't know about.  Please add any you know of in the comments or email them to me and I will add them to this post. 

Book Publishers:
Book launches by Carcanet Press: https://www.carcanet.co.uk/events.shtml
Launches and other readings organised by Seren Books: https://www.serenbooks.com/events
Book launches by Nine Arches Press: https://www.facebook.com/NineArchesPress/

Poetry Festivals
Cheltenham Poetry Festival is offering an amazing programme of readings and workshops: https://cheltenhampoetryfestival.com/
Ledbury Poetry Festival has a 2-day online festival on 4th and 5th July https://www.poetry-festival.co.uk/festival-online-programme-register-for-events/
Gloucester Poetry Festival is also offering some great readings:   https://www.facebook.com/GloucesterPoetryFestival/

Poetry Groups
Gloucestershire Poetry Society's Crafty Crows events offer invited readers and open mics: https://www.facebook.com/groups/thegloucesterpoetrysociety/
Poetry Norwich has a monthly event https://www.facebook.com/VoltaPoetryNorwich/
Swindon's spoken word event Ooh Beehive is also now online: https://www.facebook.com/OoohBeehive/
Dear Listener - in Worcester is also now Digilistener:
 https://www.facebook.com/DearListenerOpenMic/
Cafe Writers in Norwich - invited readers and open mic http://www.cafewriters.co.uk/
Poets Cafe in Reading - nvited readers and open mic: https://www.facebook.com/ReadingStanzaPoetsCafe
York Spoken Word - open mic https://www.facebook.com/YorkSpokenWord

Poetry Magazines
A number of poetry magazines are having online launches including Poetry London, Poetry Ireland, Butcher's Dog, Poetry Review, and Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal.

Other
The Poetry Book Society has events on its Instagram account: @poetrybooksociety
Helen Ivory and Martin Figura have launched Live from the Butchery:  https://www.facebook.com/Live-from-The-Butchery-100380041704407



Thursday, 30 April 2020

Writing In the Time Of Covid 19


There is a Czech saying that my friend Hannah regularly quoted at me: "How to make God laugh - tell him your plans". My plans for this year were considerable. With my collection Owl Unbound due out this year, I had plans to build up my reputation at poetry readings, to network, to continue sending out to magazines, and of course to launch the book. God must have found them very amusing.

Even the sending out to magazines is becoming less easy as some print magazines are having problems with their printers. My publishers are having problems with their distributors. However online there is a surge in Zoom, Hangout and similar forms of internet events. I have enjoyed being a member of the audience at some of these. The Cheltenham Poetry Festival is organising a series of online workshops this summer and I am helping out with these.

And yet, online poetry for all its attactions, is not the same as being in a room with people. Technology (especially mine) has a habit of failing at the worst time. The connection falters and sometimes fails altogether, words are mangled, images of poets freeze. Nor is it possible to get the non-verbal feedback one gets when reading.

There has been a flurry of covid poems (some of them brilliant and some awful) and several covid anthologies are calling for poems, including one being produced by the Gloucestershire Poet Laureate, Z.D Dicks. Write Where We Are Now is an initiative by the Manchester Writing School and fronted by Carol Ann Duffy, creating online a living record of the crisis.

Pandemics have been a subject I have been interested in for decades. The threat and reality of the plague appears in my Healer's Shadow trilogy. And in my files I have an unfinished poem cycle about the impact of illness and environmental depredation on the collapse of the Roman Empire.

In the last month I have written two poems that might be termed covid poems. But as is usually the way with what I write they aren't a direct take on the subject. I am cautious about writing about covid now. Everything I write comes from somewhere in my brain where it has been brewing for a while. It is linked to my mental wellbeing.

Never has it been more the case that we write about what we must. For some people that is about virus, for others they need to write about anything but. The current anthologies can only capture a snapshot, and a valid one, but the best work on the subject may well be written in hindsight.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Doors Close, Doors Open


I was chatting to an old school friend of mine last week and we both commented on how sometimes your life can suddenly change: doors close and new ones open. They certainly have for me over the past year.

My life in the Czech Republic has ended. Out of the blue a buyer came forward with an offer for my house there and I could not refuse. Last month I spent a fortnight in the country getting rid of most of my things and storing a few others, handing in my Czech residency papers, and handing over the keys. The door to my Czech home literally closed.

I am near to closing another literal door. As I said in the a previous post my mother died at the end of June and my life as a carer came to an end. Of course there has been work to do for her since her death. Over the last month I have been clearing one room a week in her house. It will take me another four weeks before the house is in a state ready to be put on the market.

The door that has opened is of course poetry. With my collection with Indigo Dreams (now called Owl Unbound) due out later in the year I have work to do. Firstly there is the editting of the collection prior to sending the finished version to Indigo Dreams, this I think is pretty well done. Then there is the need to get some readings sorted. The best place to sell books is at readings and that means getting my name around ahead of the book launch.

In the last two months I have given readings in Gloucester and Bristol, as well as at the launch of Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal (I had three poems in the magazine) and at open mic's in Stroud, Gloucester and Cheltenham. I must confess I loved performing my poetry. It gives me such as buzz.

The other poetry work I have been busy with is helping Anna Saunders with her Cheltenham Poetry Festival. As I may have said elsewhere in this blog I have a background in organising community events, so it isn't hard to get back into the swing of working on an event. It is great to be able just to help out, rather than be the director.

There will be more about the Festival in another post, but for now here is the link to the amazing programme Anna has put together: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/cheltenhampoetryfestival
With performers as diverse as hip-hop legend JPDL and former Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, there really is something for everyone.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Blogging about the Czech Republic

My first venture into blogging was with my Czech blog. I have just posted a post on it about why I blog, here's the link

Adventures in the Czech Republic: Blogging: One wonderful thing about my life in this country has been this blog. I don't think I fully realized its importance to me until ...

Friday, 15 November 2019

Aldeburgh Poetry Festival - some lessons


Last weekend was the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. My husband and I had been planning a trip to Suffolk for over a year and the festival gave the perfect motivation to go. Whilst I was at the Festival primarily as a lover of poetry, I was also there as a member of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival team. Aldeburgh, like Cheltenham, is run by volunteers, so I was making mental notes as to what worked and what didn't.

On the Friday we only went to the evening event a storytelling session led by Martin Shaw, having spent the rest of the day at Thorpeness, Snape and Sutton Hoo (more of that in a future blogpost). Shaw was a revelation, he kept the audience rapt with his retelling of two folktales. On Saturday I dedicated myself to poetry, while my husband visited churches and villages for his English Buildings Blog before rejoining me for the evening reading. On Sunday we went together to two back-to-back readings before heading off to our B and B exhausted.

This is the first time I have so intensively attended a poetry festival and it won't be my last. I really enjoyed it, but it takes some stamina! I listened to four hours of poetry on the Saturday plus taking part in the Paint me a Poem workshop led by the excellent Grace Nichols. When I was to organize training and conferences professionally I learned that the maximum length of time someone can listen in one session was 45 minutes and that was for much younger brains than mine.

The structure of the readings at Aldeburgh helped keep my concentration by having (with the exception of Martin Shaw's storytelling session on Friday more a theatrical experience that a poetry reading) multiple readers for each one-hour session. In the Carcanet 50th anniversary celebration there were six poets, but most sessions there were three. The festival was programmed to allow a 30-minute break between readings, which was good allowing me to stretch my legs, visit the loo and peruse the bookstall, but not enough to allow for buying and drinking a coffee.

But what about the poetry I hear you say. There were usually two readings and a workshop going on at the same time, so inevitably I was unable to get to everything I wanted to, but it was great to be spoiled for choice. The highlights for me were the workshop, Carmen Bugan's amazing poetry, Alison Brackenbury, Martin Shaw, Kaddy Benyon, Sean Hewitt and young poet, Jamie Osborn. The last three were poets whose work I was unfamiliar with.

We drove back on Monday and had the added pleasure of conversing with Alison Brackenbury as we did so.


Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Indigo Dreams Publishing



Yesterday I received an email from Indigo Dreams Publishing to say that they want to publish a collection of my poems. I have to keep pinching myself to make sure that this is really happening. I had managed to persuade myself that there was no chance of an acceptance, so their response came as a complete surprise.

Indigo Dreams were the first poetry publisher I submitted my collection to. They were top of my list for a number of reasons.

Firstly I think my poetry fits with their list. Their magazine The Dawntreader was the first one to accept my work when I started sending it out again last year. The poem they published was the "Credo" from a sequence of mystical poems about returning to the Cotswolds. It was one which I felt might be hard to place, but The Dawntreader specifically is interested in a range of subjects , such as myth, legend, landscape, nature, spirituality and love - that play an important part in my work.

Another reason for choosing IDP is that Ronnie and Dawn at Indigo Dreams have a reputation for looking after their poets. I saw them in action at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival in April and liked what I saw. I also liked the poets who read in their showcase at the Festival, especially Jean Atkin and Allyson Hallett.

One thing that matters to me is that Indigo Dreams seem to choose the poets and poetry they like and think their audience will like, rather than follow fashion. Indeed I rather think that some publishers would have turned me down simply because of my age!

This last year has been an amazing journey for me. I little thought as I looked at the new Indigo Dreams books on display at the National Poetry Library only last September that in 2020 my name would be on the cover of one of their books. I want to thank Dawn and Ronnie for this opportunity, especially Dawn whose kind words when accepting "Credo" for The Dawntreader gave me much-needed confidence. There are a few other poets I owe thanks to - Angela France of Buzzwords and Anna Saunders, both of whom suggested I apply to Indigo Dreams; Alison Brackenbury, who was so kind to me when I arrived at my first Buzzwords meeting; Christine Whittemore for reading the collection and giving feedback; and Michael Horovitz for reminding me that I was good.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Learning To Have Lost

The following review, first appeared on my magic realism review blog here: https://magic-realism-books.blogspot.com/2019/10/learning-to-have-lost-by-oz-hardwicke.html


Oz Hardwick’s collection of prose poems Learning to have lost  the passing of time, memory, old age, illness, death and how these resonate and move within and around each other . True to form, Hardwick achieves a sense of a musical refrain and rhythm underpinning and connecting this absorbing collection. While the subject matter is weighty and the pain from the litany of loss candidly expressed, a resolute humour asserts itself throughout that is sometimes sinister, sometimes surreal, often surprising and enormously engaging.
Goodreads description

I was fortunate to hear Oz Hardwick read from this collection and from his most recent book The Lithium Codex at the Poetry Cafe Refreshed in Cheltenham. Both are collections of prose poems - put simply poems without line breaks, or prose with the rhythm and sensibilities of poetry. But that definition does not do prose poetry justice, it combines elements of both prose and poetry, existing in some sort of liminal space, not unlike magic realism. Maybe that is why I found so much magic realism in these poems. 

In Graduation a man opens his old school bag and sees that the books had all grown back into trees, with damp grass all around, and there were birds, like notes on telegraph wires, singing a song he'd written in an abandoned bandstand. The Universal Petting Zoo opens with the words Every time she returns from feeding the animals, she is smallerI could go on quoting sublime bits from every poem, where reality shifts as you read and suddenly you are somewhere else, somewhere no less true. I love the way Oz Hardwick's poems riff. It isn't a surprise that  Hardwick is also a musician. Nor was I surprised to hear that Hardwick is influenced by Richard Brautigan ( I reviewed Brautigan's Sombrero Fallout in this blog here). 

I love this slim book of poetry. Do buy a copy, but guard it. I lent my copy to my husband and had to fight to get it back!