Episode 31: Des Mannay – Writing Family History

Unless you enter things, unless you send poems off to get published, enter competitions… It’s by doing that that you make links and you never know what those links lead to.

Des Mannay

Wise words from Newport poet Des Mannay whose poems are reached further than he could have imagined. His raw, witty, personal and often political poems have attracted the attention of editors and competition judges leading to opportunities to perform and publish across the globe and beyond… Seriously – some of his poems are due to be sent to the moon!

On this podcast he reads from his debut collection Sod ‘Em – and Tomorrow, and shares a writing exercise on family history:

“Take a story or myth which is a part of your family history. Reflect on how you fit in as part of that story.”

Everyone’s family background offers rich material for writing. Des talks about his background and how you can learn more about yours to respond to the writing exercise.

You are more than welcome to submit poems written in response to the prompt here. We’d love to read them and they may be featured on the blog or podcast.

Des has also embraced the global community that has grown through poetry events held on Zoom. Here are a few he recommends attending:

Poetry in the Brew

Write and Release

Like a blot from the blue

Live Poets Society

You can buy Des’s book here. Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast can be purchased via the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Episode 30: Ella Duffy – Mythology

Selkies, Medusa, moss children and other myths and legends inspire poems in this podcast with Manchester-based poet Ella Duffy. Ella reads from her books New Hunger and Rootstalk and discusses how she finds inspiration in mythology and the natural world. She also invites listeners to write a poem inspired by myths, fairy tales and legends.

Ella’s Mythology writing exercise

For this writing exercise, you’ll begin your own reimagining of an existing story, from either mythology or fairytale, folklore or legend. It can be interesting to think about your reimagining as a form of translation; some aspects of the story will remain the same, while others may shift entirely.

Listen to the podcast for more ideas on how to approach this exercise and Patrick’s response which imagines Medusa’s head being kept in a Marks and Spencer bag for life.

As always please share your poems. They could be featured on the blog or podcast. Please send them here.

To read more of Ella’s poems and buy her books see her website elladuffy.co.uk.

You can also buy New Hunger and other books by podcast guests via the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Ella Duffy – Chill


Ella Duffy reads a poem from her pamphlet New Hunger. Ella draws on mythology and the natural world in her vivid and powerful poems which she will be discussing on this week’s podcast.

Bio: Ella Duffy’s poetry has appeared in Ambit, the Rialto and the North, among others. Her debut pamphlet, New Hunger, was published by Smith|Doorstop in May 2020. Her recent pamphlet, Rootstalk, was published by Hazel Press in November 2020.

Purchase Ella’s book and books by former podcast guests via the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop and help cover the running costs of this podcast.

Episode 29: Abbie Neale – Poetry in Clothing

Our relationship with clothing is lifelong and intimate. It defines who we are and can both reveal and hide our character and emotions. Our wardrobes hold our memories and darkest secrets. What poems are woven into the fabric of the clothes you have known during your life?

Abbie Neale shares poems from her debut collection Threadbare in which she uses clothing to address often quite dark and sensitive topics and experiences. She also invites you to write a clothing based poem.

Abbie’s clothing prompt

Think of an item of clothing (real or imaginary) and develop a poem around that – What does it look/smell/feel like? Where is it? Is it ordinary or remarkable? What’s possibly been left in its pockets and what does this tell us about the person it belongs to? Where can the poem go from here?

As always submissions of poems in response to the prompt are welcome and could be shared on the blog or podcast. Please send them in here.

Find out more about Abbie on her website or find her on social media: Instagram @abbie.neale, Art Instagram: @abbie.neale.art, Twitter: @AbbieeNeale

Abbie’s book Threadbare is available from the Poetry Non-Stop bookstore. Bookshop.org supports independent bookstores and purchases made via this link earn commission to support this podcast. You can find Abbie’s book along with many others from previous podcast guests.

Abbie Neale – Overwintering

The first guest of 2021 is Abbie Neale who will be talking about her debut collection Threadbare on the next podcast. Here is one of her more recent poems broadcast on BBC Radio Norfolk and recorded by BBC Voices.

Abbie Neale is a writer, actor and painter. She holds a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Warwick University, with an intercalated year studying Acting and Scriptwriting at Monash in Australia. In 2019, she won the international prize in the York Mix Poetry Competition and the New Poets Prize run by The Poetry Business, who published her debut pamphlet ‘Threadbare’ this June. Her poetry has appeared in The North, Strix MagazineWhirlagust, Re-side, Crannóg, Bath Magg and Abridged. 

You can find her online at Instagram: @abbie.neale, Art Instagram: @abbie.neale.art, Twitter: @AbbieeNeale

You can buy Threadbare here. Poetry Non-Stop receives a commission for purchases made via this link.

Episode 28: Helen Ivory – The Anatomical Venus

Picture: Dave Gutteridge

Poet and visual artist Helen Ivory discusses her latest collection The Anatomical Venus. The poems explore how women have been portrayed as ‘other’; as witches; as hysterics with wandering wombs and as beautiful corpses cast in wax, or on mortuary slabs in TV box sets. 

The Anatomical Venus takes its name from life-size wax figures of women that could be dissected and were used in medical studies. Find out more about them here. Artwork by Helen Ivory.

Helen discusses the historic texts which inspired the poems written in the course of six years extensive research. She also invites listeners to explore historical texts as a source for new poems.

Writing from primary historical texts

There are many places to find primary texts: Libraries, books, newspapers, archives and online. Enjoy reading at first and see what you can discover. When something captures your imagination try writing a poem using some of the phrases and tone of the text. A good site to browse is www.eyewitnesstohistory.com

Helen Ivory edits the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears and teaches creative writing online for the UEA/WCN. A book of mixed media poems Hear What the Moon Told Me is published by KFS, and chapbook Maps of the Abandoned City by SurVision.  She has work translated into Polish and Ukrainian as part of the Versopolis  project.

Helen Ivory – The Hanged Woman Addresses The Reverend Heinrich Kramer

The next guest on the podcast is Helen Ivory. Here she is reading a poem from her latest collection The Anatomical Venus. Helen’s readings are always captivating. The poems contain striking language and vivid imagery and her explanations about where they came from are fascinating. Helen will be sharing some more poems from The Anatomical Venus and discussing how she wrote them along with how to use primary historic texts to write poems.

www.helenivory.co.uk

Episode 27: Ramona Herdman – Drafting and redrafting

Ramona Herdman

Any serious poet knows the importance of redrafting. A poem can go through numerous drafts and change beyond recognition from the first jottings in a notebook to final published piece. It is also a difficult practice which takes time and effort to develop. It can be hard to see how to improve poems which either seem to be finished or failed attempts.

On this podcast Ramona Herdman talks about how her poem ‘My name is Legion: for we are many’ started off as drafts of two quite different poems. It went on to win the Hamish Canham Prize in 2017.

She also shares some poems from her latest pamphlet ‘A warm and snouting thing’, published by The Emma Press in September 2019 and shortlisted for the 2020 East Anglian Book Awards.

Ramona’s exercise for revisiting draft poems

Choose two existing draft poems that aren’t quite working – find one where you like something about the form and another where you like something about the content/subject matter and try to combine them somehow into one. There should be an element of surprise that they’re not both about the same thing, but there is some way of making the two subjects speak to each other.

Alternatively, if there is a subject you’ve been trying to write about for a while but haven’t got where you wanted, review your existing draft poems on that subject, note down a few of the best lines/phrases/images and then try to combine them to make a new poem. Or take a set form (a sonnet, rhyming quatrains, a ballad) and write a completely new poem on the subject, but being led by the form.

This podcast regularly invites you to try writing new poems so this is a great opportunity to develop something you have already written. Maybe there is a poem you started in response to one of the other prompts which you can develop using these ideas. If you don’t have any draft poems take some of the poems you think are finished and play around with them. Whatever comes up, you’ll still have the previous versions so you’ve got nothing to lose.

As always, do share your poems. They could be featured on the blog or a future podcast. You can send them here.

To learn more about Ramona and buy her books visit ramonaherdman.wordpress.com

Ramona Herdman – Marilyn

Ramona Herdman

Here’s a poem from upcoming podcast guest Ramona Herdman. Ramona lives in Norwich and her latest pamphlet, ‘A warm and snouting thing’, was published by The Emma Press in September 2019. It is shortlisted for the 2020 East Anglian Book Awards.

Marilyn

How can we blame you for blurring life
with alcohol and barbiturates,
when we all want to rub our faces blind
on your soft stomach, your breasts,

have you breathe sad bourbon fumes
into our mouths, sing a song
then sparkle a quip, tap a tune
in perfect syncopation?

You were born with one bit of luck (your looks)
and you used it like a mountain –
years of work, snow-blindness, crampon hooks,
and the whole of your life climbing.

They tell your marriages like a fairy tale –
the boy next door, the sports star,
the sensitive intellectual –
like counting to three means happy ever after.

Holly Golightly was written for you:
wild animal, living on change
for the restroom. The mean reds, the blues.
Poor slob, poor cat with no name.

Marilyn, you’re the ghost of trying.
Snowfield face and sequinned sheath.
Work and wanting and wanting in that white-out smile.
You make me hold my breath.

I watch you shimmy, in clothes too tight to walk in –
jello on springs, kissing Hitler – in heels that hurt,
thigh sliding round thigh, down the platform.
Hassled by steam and a wah-wah tune. Perfect.

R.Herdman