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Episode 40: John Hegley – Odes to John Keats and Fishy Acrostics

Picture: Polly Hancock

It’s a pleasure to welcome John Hegley, a poet who never fails to entertain with his words, wit, music and audience participation. In a career spanning over 40 years John has appeared on Radio 4 and Radio 1, been a regular at the Edinburgh Festival and been an inspirational tutor running creative writing classes and activities up and down the country.

He has recently published a collection of poems inspired by the life and work of John Keats with Caldew Press called A Scarcity of Biscuit. On the podcast he talks about how he came to know and appreciate Keats’ life and work starting with a residency at Keats’ house. He has continued to explore and write about the great romantic poet using his playful style of writing to reveal a lighter side to the tragic bard’s life.

John’s fish acrostics exercise

Make a paper fish and write an a poem on it with each line beginning with the letters of the word FISH and/or POISSON. See the video above for a demonstration and a couple of examples by Patrick below.

Please share your work as always. It would be great to see pictures of your fish on social media. Please post and tag @poetrynonstop. You can also send them by email here. Let’s create a shoal of poetic paper fish!

Handfish acrostic by Patrick Widdess
Poisson acrostic by Patrick Widdess

You can purchase A Scarcity of Biscuit from Caldew Press here. For John’s other work and activities, see his website: www.johnhegley.co.uk

Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast are available from the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

John Hegley – Funny Animal Poems

It’s a pleasure to welcome John Hegley to Poetry Non-Stop. John has entertained and inspired many over the years with his poetry, wit and music. He will be discussing his recent book A Scarcity of Biscuit inspired by the life and work of John Keats, as well as a fun creative writing exercise.

Here’s a taste of his work to entertain and fire up the imagination.

www.johnhegley.co.uk

Picture: Polly Hancock

Episode 39: Pete Goodrum – A Point of View

Pete Goodrum, poet and lifelong resident of Norwich, reads poems inspired by his city and invites listeners to write about places in their neighbourhood or hometown. 
He also talks about his long and varied writing career and what he has learnt along the way.

Pete’s writing from a different angle exercise

Pete says: “There’s the old adage that you should ‘write what know’ but I’m saying try to write a poem about somewhere you know but looked at in a different way. From a different angle. My ‘Market’ has everyday details amplified and the awnings become a duvet as it sleeps. My ‘City Hall’ is literally looking at the place from a different angle – the back – and in doing so allows the rear view to become not only a new look at the place but a metaphor for the gap between civic ceremony and governance, and the grim realities of ordinary life. It’s not a poem of dissatisfaction or rebellion – it’s observation.

“So, go to a place you know and  create a poem about it viewed  from a different angle, seen in another perspective. Lift it out of its setting to make a point beyond pure description.”

You can hear how Patrick used Google Maps to write an original poem about his neighbourhood on the podcast, along with Pete’s poems for inspiration.

Please send your poems here for the chance to be featured on the blog or podcast. We look forward to seeing what you’ve written.

You can find out more about Pete’s work and various publications here.

Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast are available from the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Pete Goodrum – A Marriage Through a Window

Pete Goodrum is a lifelong resident of Norwich with a passion for the city. Here is a poem from a set inspired by Norwich called City. You can hear him on the next podcast reading more poems and chatting about his varied writing career.

A Marriage Through a Window

The streamers and balloons were the obvious sign
that they were coming back, from honeymoon.

On autumn Saturdays the evening backlit windows
projected the parties. Sunday morning
bottles by the door and late drawn blinds said it all.

That first Christmas. The calmer gatherings as parents
visited. By spring one or other father was called on
to mow the front lawn as holidays abroad
became part of the new rituals.

A kitten appeared. Soon came the baby,
and the change in the rooms; piles of plastic toys
violating the holy beige of carpets.

There were women, and wine, in the afternoons
as she bonded with other mothers.
He arrived home later in the evenings,
and the weekend windows seldom showed much more

than the large tv screen and pizza boxes.
Most of the lights went out earlier now,
except sometimes the one by the side door that showed him,
late at night, with a cigarette and his ‘phone.

He comes by at weekends now. He drives a sports car,
and doesn’t stay. He looks worried.Torn somehow.
She has a four by four which she never seems to drive.
She stops smiling when he arrives.

Nobody hears them speak. Except once.
They were arguing, in the garden,
in front of the FOR SALE board

Pete Goodrum

Episode 38: Beth Hartley – Make Space for Poetry

Picture: Ken Cumberlidge

Beth Hartley shares poems from her debut collection, What if Stars, published by Allographic. She discusses the role poetry has had in her life and the joys of bringing her first book into the world. She also shows us how we can find poetry in our most familiar surroundings.

Beth’s Writing at Home exercise

Go into a room in your house or garden if you have one. Be still in it and allow it to talk to you. What is it giving your different senses? What is it telling you? Is it telling you about something that it likes or that needs doing? Hold yourself open to the influences of your place – even and especially as these places are the things you see every day. We tend to neglect what we see most often. Set a timer for a free write – then afterward, go back into that free write and work from that.

Beth shares her poem Before on the podcast, written using this technique. She says: “Before” is something I wrote about being up earlier than the rest of my household, a time I often use for writing, or planning, to be still. Senses also heighten memory and experiences and it’s good to explore those things in our work. I often use poetry to process experiences – like this, or sometimes dreams or performances. It helps my brain to make sense of all the things and also to remember things.

As always please share what you come up with for a chance to feature on the blog or podcast. You can submit poems here.

For more information on Beth Hartley and to buy her book visit: linktr.ee/PoetryBees

Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast are available from the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Beth Hartley – Suggested Development

Picture: Ken Cumberlidge

Beth Hartley shares a poem from her debut collection What if Stars published by Allographic. Former podcast guest Leanne Moden calls it “a gorgeous, lyrical collection, exploring the intersection between our physical and emotional landscapes.”

Look out for Beth on the podcast talking about the collection and sharing more poems.

Suggested Development

Do not come at me and say
“Barren featureless landscape;
no merit in this earth.”
I urge you to look further,
for I have seen it roll in the dark
and swallow people up whole
leaving only cellophane to mark
places where you can slip over the edge
so easily.
Where even slowed to a horse walk
it can claim you:
wet fingers crawling, grasping.

I urge you to look further,
for where the land meets the water
they have become one.
Driving in the dark you are surrounded
by waves of earth.
Navigating the causeway,
listening to the wash and drag
of wind in wheat and potatoes.
Where the blaze of oil seed rape
will blind you;
A rough sown patchwork
laid rippling upon the land.

I urge you to look further
than the flat that you suppose,
to see the gentle undulation,
a tide not even Vermuyden could abate.
The flow of village ridge
and sweeping fall away.
Under this wide sky,
you will see swan and diver
where the rain gets in.
Winter wise and wonder
from the border to the gate.

More than a building plot.
Far better than bare.
Why don’t you watch what grows
when you leave the land alone?
We are your veg box and your farm assured:
it feeds a family, it feeds a soul.
I urge you to look further
than convention would dictate.

Dedicated to Rachel, with (a modicum of) love.

When? – Will Ingrams

Gaia by Luke Jerram at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich

Here’s an abracadabra poem by Will Ingrams. Hopefully it will conjure up a bit of green magic as Cop 26 begins.

You can learn more about the abracadabra form on the recent podcast with Ken Cumberlidge here.

When?

And when should we panic? The countries that mine
coal and strangle the planet want time to
‘adjust’, while our leaders decline to
fund wider replacement of gas
burning boilers, so how can
we maintain the hope that
a granddaughter’s child
might find himself
blessed with a
world like
this?

Will Ingrams

Episode 37: Ken Cumberlidge – Abracadabra

Many budding poets are put off by forms with complicated rules restricting what they want to say and how they can say it. In this episode Ken Cumberlidge explains that working within rules and limitations can give your creativity a boost and help you find new ideas and original ways of expressing yourself. The more restrictions you have the better!

Ken also talks about how he discovered poetry at a young age with the help of a wonderful English teacher. Performing at poetry nights in Liverpool in his teens helped him overcome a stammer and he went on to have a long career as an actor. It’s an inspiring story for anyone interested in writing or performing.

Ken’s abracadabra and bibliomancy exercise

While listening to the podcast and doing the exercise you will find it useful to refer to Ken’s poem here.

The abracadabra form was created by another former podcast guest Fay Roberts. It is based on the abracadabra sigel with the first line having 11 syllables (one for each letter) then going down by one each time to end with a single syllable on the last line.

But this restriction alone is not enough for Ken who combines it with with another technique for generating material to work with – bibliomancy. This involves randomly selecting passages from two different books (non-fiction works best) and using them as a starting point for a poem. As a further restriction Ken limits himself only to the words in the two passages to construct his poem with all its syllable restrictions.

Try to write an abracadabra poem. You can use as many of the other limitations as you want. It is certainly a good idea to give yourself a few rules for the first draft or two. If, as the poem develops, you feel it would work better with other words or a different form that’s OK. The rules are there to inspire and challenge, not hold you back.

The link above includes Ken’s poem and the source texts with the words and phrases highlighted that were used in the poem.

As always please send in your poems. It would be great to share them on the podcast or blog. You can submit poems here. Thanks to everyone who submitted great supermarket poems in response to John Osborne’s prompt on the last podcast.

You can find more of Ken’s poetry on Soundcloud and Youtube via the links here. His final poem in the podcast “Contactless” was first published in June 2021, in Issue 7 of “As Above So Below”, edited by Bethany Rivers. You can read it here.

Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast are available from the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Ken Cumberlidge – To Whom it May Concern

The next guest on Poetry Non-Stop is Ken Cumberlidge. Ken is a former actor with a lifelong love of poetry and the performing arts. This video showcases his brilliant writing, skilful stage craft and unshakeable opinions on poetry. Be sure to tune into the podcast later this week, when Ken shares more of his poems and wisdom from his lifetime as a poet and performer.

This video is also introduced by another former podcast guest Fay Roberts.

Service Announcement – Roger Hare

Here’s another poem written in response to John Osborne’s supermarket poetry exercise. It’s great to see the variety of responses to this exercise and all the places that poems end up from the seemingly mundane starting point of the supermarket.

Service Announcement

Could Jane take a pan and brush
and bucket and cloth 
to aisle two please. A jar of strawberry
jam has been dropped. I thought
you would be best as I know you have
a youngster prone to vomiting so
are good at cleaning up.

Your little one is three now, isn’t that
right? Four-&-a-half years on
from when we were an item, tho’ I had
quickly realised we wouldn’t be right
for each other
really. 

But I was surprised when James moved
in 
so soon after and more so 
when I found out you were to have 
a baby together straight away;
it was one of the things we crossed 
words about.

Could someone please go to aisle 4
before I give up the mic – and stop me
from buying any more
if I try to.

Roger Hare