Cambridge-based poet Fay Roberts was recently appointed poet in residence at Peterborough Market for the Syntax Poetry Festival. They became intimately acquainted with the people and history of this place they came to see as still being at the heart of the city if sometimes undervalued. The experience has spurred them on to bring poetry to a wider audience and to places it doesn’t usually belong especially in Cambridge where they have been the driving force behind a thriving poetry and spoken word scene for many years.
Fay talks about their experiences of the residency and shares some of the poems they wrote. They also offer a writing exercise to get anyone writing a poem about anything – or lemons in the first instance.
Set a timer for two minutes and write as many words and phrases you associate with the word Lemons. There are no “correct” associations! And if your mind springs off into other associations from those associated words and phrases, write those down as well.
Review your list/ paragraph/ three words/ scrawl. Anything else to add to your toolkit? Take one minute maximum to do that.
Set a timer for ten minutes and start writing, using the words and phrases in your toolkit. Let yourself write freely, just as you did during the toolkit section – this is your poem, and there’s no “correct” way for it to be. Be sure to check your timer occasionally so that you know when it’s time to start rounding off what you’re writing
Review your poem/ microfiction/ anecdote/ epic ode to citrus. Does it need anything to finish it off, or is it done now? Take two minutes maximum to roughly polish, chop, and round it off.
Congratulations! You have written a new piece. It took you fifteen minutes and it’s pretty damned good, if you say so yourself. And you now have a simple technique to get you started when you have something specific that you want/ need to write about.
So, when life gives you lemons write poetry! You can hear how Patrick got on at the end of the podcast and as always please share your own responses by email here or on social media using #poetrynonstop.
Writing can be a lonely business but collaboration has always been at the heart of Wesley Freeman Smith’s practice. The Cambridge-based writer and artist began promoting events which brought together musicians, poets and visual artists in churches, basements and other grand and modest venues to perform, collaborate and share their creativity side-by-side. From promoting others work he has stepped up to the mic himself on his latest project Catching Shadows a collaboration between himself and musician Theresa Elflein. Their debut release Fuse features Wesley’s abstract poetry set to music provided by guest collaborator Anna Schuschu. Wesley talks about his latest project and working with artists across borders – artistic and geographical – to create art which is more than the sum of its parts.
Wesley also invites you to write a poem in response to one or more of these images he sourced for a ghost story writing project. You can hear a couple of his poems and one written by Patrick. Please share your own on social media using #poetrynonstop or via email here.
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Luke Wright was a Blur fan and budding band frontman like so many of us in his teens. It was seeing Ross Sutherland and John Cooper Clarke perform poetry that set him on the path to a career in poetry. While he rejects the term performance poet he has excelled both in writing and performing. His poetry and blistering stage presence has impressed audiences around the world. As he put the finishing touches to his latest play The Remains of Logan Dankworth, Luke took time to look back on the first 20 years of his career sharing anecdotes and insights which are sure to inspire all poets, writers and performers. He also shares a few new poems.
For a writing prompt Luke challenges you to write a poem in 15 minutes:
Pick a word/phrase at random from a book. You don’t have to go with the first one you pick, but don’t spend all night on it, have three goes perhaps. Once you have your word or phrase set a clock for 15 minutes. In that time write a complete first draft of a poem.
You can hear one of Luke’s poems that started from this speedwriting technique and find out how far Patrick got writing a poem in 15 minutes.
As always please share your poems which maybe featured on the blog or podcast. You can send them here.
Cambridge-based poet Michael Brown discusses ekphrastic poetry. He reads poems inspired by various pictures and other artworks particularly the work of Francis Bacon. Michael explains how he translates pictures into words and invites listeners to write an ekphrastic poem:
Go to a gallery or find a piece of artwork that really speaks volumes to you in an art book. Perhaps wonder in the gallery first then read what you can about the piece and have it visually present when you write. The traditional way would be to recreate the image or imagery through the written word. However whatever the piece inspires let the poem take you to where it needs to.
Patrick responds to the prompt with a poem inspired by Melancholy III by Edvard Munch.
Please share your ekphrastic poems via email or on social media using #poetrynonstop. Please also use the same hash tag to share pictures which would be good for ekphrastic poems. Who knows what poems they might inspire.
Michael also reads poems from his upcoming collection Meet Me at the Harbour which evoke memorable images with a few well chosen words.
Michael Brown was born in Manchester in 1983. He completed Meet Me at the Harbour whilst staying in his favourite place in the world, Charlestown, Cornwall, and in lighthouses owned by Trinity House. He lives in Cambridge with his husband and their adopted son. Michael is currently working on his short novel on climate change The Cage.
Twenty years after he died, Sally Festing inherited an archive of her father’s letters and diaries. Through these she learnt how her aunt and uncle, who she never knew, had been destroyed by schizophrenia. The suffering of his brother and sister drove her father, the neuroscientist Derek Richter, to establish the Mental Health Foundation. Sally talks with familiarity, respect and affection for relatives she got to know largely through studying her father’s records. Her poems vividly capture the lives of people whose suffering led to greater understanding and support for those suffering mental illness.
Sally also offers a writing exercise for writing poems from letters:
“Look at a few letters from the same person. He or she doesn’t need to be family, lots of poets write letters. I suppose they could equally well be emails.
“I’ve books of letters by Keats, and WS Graham. The last has always been an inspiration to me. His letters are pure poetry.
“A method I suggest to come up with a poem, is to copy out lines that interest, on a large page and read through until gradually, a form suggests itself that sends a message.”
So find some letters, see where it takes you and do share the results. Email here or share on social media using #poetrynonstop. The best will be featured on the blog and future podcasts.
The biographical and surreal meet in Julia Webb’s second collection Threat. She shares a few poems and discusses the experiences which inspired them.
She also sets a writing exercise on memories:
Joe Brainard wrote a book length poem called ‘I Remember’ (you can read an extract here) where each line starts with “I remember”. This has been copied a lot but is a good way to free you up and get memories flowing. Start each line with “I remember” and just keep going – thoughts that come up can be from any time in your life and don’t have to be related to one another.
In the second part of the exercise take a memory and expand on it – don’t be precious about the actual details – it is OK to change things if it makes the poem better. Sometimes you might have to have two or three goes at writing about the same subject. One way to be more detached from your subject matter is to use the titles of people you are writing about rather than their names – for example: my mother, your mother, father, brother, uncle etc.
Please send your responses in here or share on social media using #poetrynonstop.
Julia Webb grew up in Thetford, a small town in rural Norfolk. She has a BA in Creative Writing from Norwich University College of the Arts and an MA (poetry) from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Norwich where she teaches creative writing and is a poetry editor for Lighthouse, a journal for new writing. In 2011 she won the Poetry Society’s Stanza competition. Her poem ‘Sisters’ was highly commended in the 2016 Forward Prize. In 2016 she was writer in residence on Norwich Market. Her first collection, Bird Sisters, was published by Nine Arches Press in 2016.
Threat and Julia’s first collection Bird Sisters are available here.
If you have enjoyed this episode please help me make more by donating via Patreon or Paypal. All contributions gratefully received.
Leanne Moden felt like she’d finally found her place in the world when she accidentally became a teenage goth in rural Norfolk in 2002. In 2019 this became the starting point of her debut show spoken word Skip Skip Skip about finding your identity through music and discovering your tribe. She talks about developing the show and preparing to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe as well as sharing a few poems.
Leanne also offers this prompt for writing about your hometown:
In my show, I write about my home town, talking about how I imagined it when I was growing up there, fifteen years ago. One of the most interesting ways of talking about place is by using personification to articulate character. In this prompt, I want you to imagine the city, town or village you live in, and think about how you would describe it if it were a person. What would the person look like, sound like, and what would their relationship be with you? (This place is my sister. This place is a stranger.) Think about personality, how they dress, how they talk, how they walk. Remember to be really specific. Take fifteen minutes to write around this topic, then refine your writing into a poem.
Good luck with writing your own poems. Please share them via email or on social media using #poetrynonstop. Tune in to hear Patrick conjure up a poem that personifies Norwich.
Leanne is performing Skip Skip Skip at the at the Banshee Labyrinth in Edinburgh every day from 17 to 25th August at 7pm. For details of this and other events see her Facebook page.