Episode 46: Harry Baker – Unashamed

World Slam champion Harry Baker was in Norwich recently performing his latest show Unashamed at Norwich Arts Centre. He took time out for a chat and to perform a couple of poems for Poetry Non-Stop. He talks about his latest show, surviving lockdown and his creative process along with a fun, simple but potentially challenging writing exercise…

Harry’s A-Z writing exercise

Harry performs his poem A-Z and that quite simply is the challenge, but you can make it as complex as you like with Harry’s poem flowing seamlessly from letter to letter covering topics as diverse as dinosaurs and Peperami in its whistle stop tour of world history. Or you can just have fun making silly alliterative sentences like: Alligators acting to an audience of androids.

As always do send your poems in or share on social media taking @poetrynonstop. You can also email poems in here.

Harry is on tour throughout the UK and possibly further afield. You can find news, tour dates etc. at his website www.harrybaker.co

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Episode 45: Brent Hagen – Jimi Halloween and Spooky Senryu

The Japanese tradition of Jimi Halloween sees participants celebrate the mundane moments in life from taking a sip of coffee while wearing your face mask to mistaking a plastic bag for a cat or hesitating to board an elevator. You can find more examples here.

For today’s guest, Brent Hagen, this celebrating of the mundane is in the same spirit as senryu. Senryu is a Japanese form similar to haiku but which focuses on human foibles, often in a humorous way. A couple of famous examples are:

Bury me when I die
Beneath a wine barrel In a tavern.
With any luck
The cask will leak.
Morikya Sen-an (d. 1838)

Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house casually
Kobayashi Issa

And some by Brent:

hummingbirds
aren’t nearly as anxious
as they seem

having to wear glasses
isn’t depressing
anytime I want
i’ve got impressionism

thanks, sequoia
for rescuing
the color orange


Exercise: Write a spooky senryu

If you try to observe and pay attention to the world around you, you will start to notice the small moments that are celebrated in senryu and Jimi Halloween costumes. Things you hear in conversation and read in the paper can also spark ideas. For Halloween try writing something with a spooky twist, but which is also frightfully mundane. Here’s an example from Brent:

Do you hear that?
That sound?
It’s the
Drip
Drip
Drip
of drip
coffee

We’d love to read your senryu so please share them here for possible inclusion on the blog or on future podcasts.

Brent Hagen is a poet who enjoys teaching English in Tokyo. He has a particular fondness for puns, which he views as haiku on vacation.

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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.

Episode 44: Linda Collins – Sign language for the Death of Reason

Picture: Oamaru Mail

Linda Collins is a poet from New Zealand and currently living in Norwich. She found poetry following the death of her 17-year-old daughter which led to extensive writing and studying and the publication of her collection Sign Language for the Death of Reason.

Linda talks about how to address tragic and difficult experiences in life and shares some poems from her book. She also offers the following exercise:

Write a poem based on the stupid things people have said to you following a painful situation in your life.

Reflecting on difficult, hurtful experiences might be uncomfortable but putting your thoughts down on paper can be cathartic, even if you don’t come up with a poem. You might also take inspiration from things that people have said to other people you know.

You are, as always, encouraged to share any poems you write. Please send them here for possible inclusion on the blog or on future podcasts.

Linda Collins (she/her) has a debut poetry collection, Sign Language for the Death of Reason (Math Paper Press),  and is the author of the memoir Loss Adjustment (Ethos Books Singapore; Awa Press New Zealand).  She is runner-up in the Mslexia Poetry Contest, and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in Poetry last year. She’s doing the Poetry MA at UEA.

You can learn more about her work and her daughter, Victoria, on her website: lindacollinswriter.com

If you’ve been affected by the issues discussed in this episode help is always available. The Samaritans can be contacted 24 hours a day on 116 123 or samaritans.org in the UK.

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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.

Episode 43: Nathan Nicolau – Mindfulness for poets

Nathan Nicolau was jobless and battling depression. He came close to taking his life, but then he began to fight back. During his recovery he discovered poetry, and started getting work accepted in journals and winning competitions. In this interview Nathan’s passion for poetry is evident as he offers advice and encouragement for anyone who writes or is going through hard times. Drawing on Buddhist philosophy, he shares practices which are great for writing and living.

Nathan’s mindfulness writing exercise

Take a walk somewhere, be it outside or just in your home. Observe objects for what they are, not what you think they are. For example, instead of seeing a couch as something you sit on, see the couch as it is. Perhaps how much it has sunken in overtime or how many people have sat on it appeals to you. Start writing a poem both describing that object and then reframe it to how it makes you feel.

Listen to the podcast to hear Nathan discuss this exercise and share examples of his work.

As always, please share your responses for possible inclusion on future podcasts or the blog. You can send poems here.

Nathan Nicolau is a writer/poet based in Charlotte, NC. Since his published debut in 2019, his poetry, essays, and fiction have been featured on multiple websites and magazines. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of New Note Poetry, an online poetry magazine. Find out more about him at nathannicolau.com

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please consider showing your support with a donation via ko-fi.com

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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.

Episode 42: Alan Parry – Life’s Poetic Moments

Merseyside poet, playwright and poetry editor Alan Parry joins us to read from his new collection Echoes from Rare Swan Press. He talks about how we can explore our lives and find stories and poems from our experiences and memories. He also talks about his many other projects including the growth of his poetry and arts collective The Broken Spine.

Alan’s writing exercise

My day job is a Lecturer in English, I work with students who struggle to tell their own stories and one of my favourite promts is to encourage free writing in response to a favourite photograph of their youth. What can you tell me is going on in that image? Who took it? Who is there? Where is it? I ask them to make zero attempt to be poetic, or factual, just get the story out and on paper. Time yourself I say, give yourself fifteen minutes to get down what you can, then spend as long as you need tidying it up. I can help my students edit their work and I’m prepared to read your work and offer advice on Twitter to anybody who has a go at responding to this prompt. Tell me your story! Dan Kitson once said that we spend our lives being told that the world does not revolve around us, but from our individual perspectives it kind of does. We see everything from our own eyes. I think that this is so true and can be harnessed effectively.

Please send your poems here for feedback from Alan and to feature on future episodes.

Alan Parry is a poet, playwright and poetry editor from Merseyside, England. He is an English Literature graduate and English teacher. Alan enjoys gritty realism, open ends, miniature schnauzers and 60s girl groups. He has previously had work published by Dream Noir, Streetcake Magazine, Black Bough Poetry, Porridge, Ghost City Press, Anti-Heroin Chic, and others. He cites Alan Bennett, Jack Kerouac, and James Joyce as inspiration. His debut collection, Neon Ghosts, is available from The Broken Spine website. In 2021, Alan
formed the collective The Southport Poets with Paul Robert Mullen, Mary Earnshaw, and David Walshe and their debut, Belisima, was released by Dreich in autumn 2021.

Last month’s NaPoWriMo series provided a wealth of prompts with some fantastic responses. We finish this episode with a poem from Will Ingrams who not only contributed a prompt but submitted a poem every day. He shares his Ode to a Flying Fish from Daisy Thurston Gent’s prompt.

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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.

Send us your NaPoWriMo poems

That’s it for NaPoWriMo 2022. Thank you to the 30 poets who have offered such a variety of poems and prompts over the month which I know have inspired many fantastic poems already. Thanks also to everyone who has shared poems during the month. It has been a pleasure to read them.

NaPoWriMo may have finished but in a way this is just the beginning. You’ll hopefully have lots of ideas and first drafts that you can develop over the coming months. I would love to feature them on the podcast so please send text and recordings of up to three poems from NaPoWriMo before May 31. If you don’t want to record you can send the text and I’ll do my best to read it. Please send submissions here.

If you haven’t heard all the podcasts you can still catch up with the playlist below, and make sure you subscribe to catch all future podcasts.

NaPoWriMo Day 30: Pete Goodrum – Poetry

It’s the final day of NaPoWriMo. Congratulations if you’ve been keeping up every day but hopefully you’ve at least enjoyed writing and listening to some great poems – and there’s one more to go. Pete Goodrum returns to share a prompt you will definitely have something to say about after the last month…

I’d like you to write a poem about… Poetry. If you’re interested in poetry, take some time to think about what you think about poetry.

Think about poetry itself. Think about how to construct a poem about poetry. Will it rhyme? Will it be in particular poetic form. What message are you trying to convey?

I wrote this poem after I witnessed some unexpected and very sceptical visitors to a poetry night be completely won over by an open mic session.

Let’s be honest.

Let’s at last be honest.
You never really liked me, let alone loved me.

Yes, there were moments, in your teens
when you thought it good to have me around.
You showed off about knowing me,
even sometimes used my words to impress others,
but it soon faded.

In fact, and I hate to raise it,
but you rubbished me, told the world,
or your world at least,
that I had no place, no use,
and that you had no need of me.

Except of course, now and then,
with women more than men
you’d try not to hide
your sensitive side
and you’d touch some hearts
with the romantic parts
because after all
that’s all you recall.
The easy bits
the cheesey bits.

And then I was forgotten again.
Until you needed me.
You’d call on me at weddings of course.
Yes, I was useful for those.
Even at christenings you’d search me out
to add a touching note.

Oh, and funerals. Yes, you wanted me then.
You’ve summonsed me to attend,
to be there, at the end,
to play my part
to help you explain your breaking heart.

But in all the years in between
as I’ve changed and grown,
when I’ve ranted and excited,
inspired and delighted
loved and detested
expressed and protested –

Through all of that, you’ve ignored me.

But I’ve never gone away.

I’m here.
Remember me now?
Yes, that’s right.
Whisper it.

I’m poetry.

Pete Goodrum

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

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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.

NaPoWriMo Day 29: Christina Thatcher – Journeys

It’s nearly the end of the month and what a journey it has been. And that is today’s prompt with Christina Thatcher making a welcome return to Poetry Non-Stop for NaPoWriMo.

Write a poem which includes a bus or train journey. You may want to consider what is passing by outside the window, the sounds or conversations happening inside or even the memories that this journey invokes.

Interweaving 

On the bus from Pontypridd to Cardiff, a
woman braids her hair, an apple’s breadth

from the rattling window where ffordd and
farmland meet. How strange to see this here,  

after so many years: my mother’s mane in
this faraway place—her flyaways breaking  

loose, her split end static darting faster than
spooked sheep. How strange this electric  

urge to release my own locks from their stale
ponytail and mimic these braids:

the same weave as these horses,
the same soft as these women.

Christina Thatcher

First published in A470 anthology (Arachne Press, 2022)

Christina Thatcher is a Creative Writing Lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University. She keeps busy off campus as Poetry Editor for The Cardiff Review, a tutor for The Poetry School, a member of the Literature Wales Management Board and as a freelance workshop facilitator across the UK. Her poetry and short stories have featured in over 50 publications including Ambit, Magma, North American Review, Poetry Wales, The London Magazine and more. She has published two poetry collections with Parthian Books: More than you were (2017) and How to Carry Fire (2020). To learn more about Christina’s work please visit her website: christinathatcher.com or follow her on Twitter @writetoempower.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please consider showing your support with a donation via ko-fi.com

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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.

NaPoWriMo Day 28: Gabrielle O’Donovan – Give voice to nature

Connect with the natural world for today’s NaPoWriMo prompt from Gabrielle O’Donovan.

Be the voice of something in the natural world

My prompt is to write a poem in the first person from the point of view of something in the natural world that is not a bird or animal – for instance a tree, a river, a cloud. It’s a chance to observe, free associate, have fun. If you can, go outside for inspiration, and spend some time with whatever you are giving a voice to.
I wrote some short poems about trees a few years ago when I was working with Roselle Angwin and recommend her book ‘A Spell in the Forest – Book One. Tongues in Trees’. For more inspiration, you could read Don Patterson’s wonderful sonnet, ‘The Wave’, or Louise Gluck’s ‘The Wild Iris’.
My two short poems are on Willows, and it is worth noting that it is currently Willow month in the Ogham tree calendar.

Salix Babylonica
I am diva of the riverside
I am Monet’s moody blue
I am star-crossed lovers
I am Salome’s seductive dance
I am a coloratura trill
I am the shiver in your spine
the risk of letting go

Crack Willow
I am the hawk’s eye view
I am the blackbird’s call
I am cricket’s straight bat
I am the arch of the harp
I am the song of the wind
I am weaving the earth
flickering your dreams

Gabrielle O’Donovan

Gabrielle O’Donovan is an Australian living on the Cheshire edge of Manchester. She is a member of Second Light women poets’ network and has been published in anthologies, journals, and alongside art exhibitions in the UK, France, and Australia.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please consider showing your support with a donation via ko-fi.com

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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.

NaPoWriMo Day 27: Peter Wallis – Sevenling

Peter Wallis introduces us to a short form the sevenling for today’s NaPoWriMo prompt. He says:

a Sevenling – a seven line
poem consisting of two three-line stanzas and a single final line.
It is a form devised by Roddy Lumsden. I was lucky enough to be taught about it at a workshop
of his.
He took the idea from a poem by Anna Akhmatova (here translated by D. M. Thomas)


He loved three things alone:
White peacocks, evensong,
Old maps of America.

He hated crying children,
And raspberry jam with his tea,
And womanish hysteria.

. . . And he married me.

The first three lines should contain an element of three – three connected or contrasting
statements, or a list of three details, names or possibilities. This can take up all of the three lines
or be contained anywhere within them.
Then, lines four to six should similarly contain an element of three, connected directly or
indirectly or not at all.
The seventh line should act as a narrative summary or punchline or as an unusual juxtaposition.
There are no set metrical rules, but being such a short form, some rhythm, metre or rhyme is
desirable.
To give the form a recognizable shape, it should be set out in two stanzas of three lines, with a
solitary seventh, last line.
Titles are not required. A sevenling should be titled Sevenling followed by the first few words in
parenthesis.
The tone of the sevenling should be mysterious, offbeat or disturbing, giving a feeling that only
part of the story is being told. The poem should have a certain ambience which invites
guesswork from the reader.

Lists of three and the number seven are magical things.
I find this exercise best if you can approach it lightly. Aim to jot down several attempts and then
go back to the one that you feel most drawn to.
Don’t overcomplicate things – Akhmatova’s poem has just seven end-stopped lines.
Start with three of anything – the last three novel you read, three favourite holiday destinations,
favourite foods or drinks, three ways to sign off emails, three schoolfriends, three wishes . . .
I find that the first two stanzas are relatively easy to come up with.
What takes the time is the final line which cuts across expectations. You might find yourself
redrafting this in the back of your mind throughout the day.
In the original workshop, as I was a teacher, I used “Reading, Writing and Arithmetic” (The
three Rs).


Back to basics.
Reading, Writing and Arithmetic,
the curriculum says.

Then I jumped to my father questioning me after school. He wanted signs of academic progress.

What did you do at school today?
Was it good? Tell me
your best thing.

and finally
Miss Crowther’s dress had seven petticoats.

The one thing I gloried in was the teacher’s full skirt, not having twigged what my father thought
school was for.
More recently, as part of a project about allotments, I wrote:

SEVENLING (He set to work) 
  
He set to work and planted 
three rows of radishes, 
two of lettuce, one of peas. 
 
The home he left was cheerless. 
Home welcomed his return. 
He changed his clothes. 
 
Anniversaries can be made of such afternoons.

Peter Wallis is a U.K. based poet and Hawthornden Fellow. He won publication of a pamphlet, Articles of Twinship, in the Bare Fiction Debut Poetry Collection Competition 2015 (copies available via the Contact Page at peterwallis.co.uk). His poems have been widely published and have both shortlisted and longlisted in the National Poetry Competition. He is Submissions Editor for the U.K. charity “Poems in the Waiting Room”.

Please share your responses to today’s prompt either in the comments or via email. The best submissions will be featured in future podcasts.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast please consider showing your support with a donation via ko-fi.com

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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.