Episode 33: Ted Sherman – Children’s fantasy poems

In this episode we look at children’s poetry with Bristol-based poet Ted Sherman. He reads from his book for eight to 12-year-olds Dungeon Days which reveals the hidden lives of the mythical creatures living in a typical Dungeons and Dragons dungeon. He also provides a masterclass in writing similar children’s fantasy poems.

We encounter a dwarf in search of a hobby outside his deadly day job, a skeleton with an unusual afterlife and truly monstrous school dinners served by a minotaur. Patrick also shares a poem about a very athletic crab.

Ted’s children’s fantasy character creation exercise

There might seem like a lot of steps to this but each one is quite easy and together they provide a good foundation for a poem that children will love.

  1. Choose your character’s species. Is it a witch, a mermaid, a giant or dwarf. It could be a superhero or some kind of animal.
  2. Describe the characters appearance including things like gender, age, size
  3. Name your character.
  4. What is your character’s job? Try picking something not typically associated with fantasy – i.e. a milkman, the prime minster, a train driver etc.
  5. Create a short, one or two sentence, back story in which there must be a twist, such as the goblin train driver can’t see the controls of the train because he is too small so has to find another way to drive it.
  6. Create a brief story plan – a starting point, a midpoint and the end, so that there is a strong narrative through the poem.
  7. Decide on a rhyme scheme and brainstorm rhyming words that you can use in your poem.

This should give you all you need to write your poem. You don’t have to stick to the plan – things are sure to change along the way. When you’ve written your poem please send it in. It might be featured on the blog or podcast. Poems can be sent here.

Ted Sherman is a father of 3. His poetry has been read on BBC Bristol Radio and has been performed as part of the Echoes and Edges Collab’ Sessions, He has been published in several haiku journals (including Modern Haiku and Seashores), and during lockdown he undertook a project to display the Dungeon Days poems in a woodland area of Bristol during lockdown (this was nominated for the Radio 4 All In The Mind awards).

You can find my poetry at

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 32: Adele Cordner – Poems from the pandemic

Black and white portrait of poet Adele Cordner
Photo by Pixels in time

Adele Cordner’s debut collection The Kitchen Sink Chronicles was written in the last year. It captures the fear, uncertainty and strangeness of lockdown while also finding moments of hope, resilience and joy.

Adele shares some poems from the book and offers an exercise to write poems of hope and resilience in response to the poem Swallow Chick below. They do not have to be about the pandemic but we can all do with some more positive and hopeful poems at this time. I hope you will be inspired to write something and share it. Please send submissions here.

The book is illustrated by Adele’s daughter, Florence Cordner, including this image from the poem Swallow Chick.

Swallow Chick by Florence Cordner

Swallow Chick

23rd April 2020

I ache for my daughter through these lockdown days
wandering the garden, taking photos on my phone
of first daffs then roses to send to her,

when, suddenly, there she is, my swallow chick
perched high on the aerial, so proud to be home.
I’d recognise those bright eyes anywhere.

Last June, I found her helpless on the garage floor,
her nest a mess of soil and feathers around her,
her parents darting frantically about my head.

I was nervous, but I knew she needed me,
cupped her heart in my hands and placed her
gently in a tree, her elders shrieking all the while.

But, straightaway, she launched herself to the ground,
hopped around my feet, brave and unaware
of the lurking cats anticipating a snack.

I stored her safe in a shoe box while I built a little cot,
gathering leaves, petals, feathers from her nest,
then tucked her up high on a garage shelf.

But, in moments, she was out again, put back
again and again, for days and days, until, at last,
from beam to beam, and out, she flew!

Now, she is back, sleek plumes, colours deepened,
tail feathers long and strong.
What was it like, Africa? I’ve never been.

As I take her photo, I imagine her there,
independent, exploring savannahs with her kind,
and the old, now familiar, ache returns.

Adele Cordner

The Kitchen Sink Chronicles is available from Adele’s website. Profits from copies purchased via this link will go to Crohn’s & Colitis UK, a charity close to Adele’s heart. www.adelecordner.com

The Kitchen Sink Chronicles, published by Hedgehog Press in 2021, is Adele’s first poetry collection. It charts her experience of the first six months of the Covid Pandemic. Adele’s poetry has been placed in many international poetry competitions including Poetry on the Lake, The Magic Oxygen Literary Prize and The Welsh Poetry Competition. Her poems have appeared in Red Poets Magazine and various anthologies including Ways To Peace and Poems For Grenfell Tower. She has also won poetry prizes in both Abergavenny and Upper Chapel Eisteddfods. Adele recently gained an MA (Distinction) in Scriptwriting from Bath Spa University. She is a member of Chepstow NaCOT and Newport Stanza poetry workshops, and a performer and director for Newport Playgoers Society and Everyman Theatre Cardiff. She also sings with The Singing Club in Chepstow. Adele, who was born in Newport, is a mum of four children and now lives in rural Monmouthshire, South Wales.

Illustration by Florence Cordner

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 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 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.

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.

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

Episode 26: Paul Chambers – Mastering haiku

meadowsweet
notes of a blackbird
after rain

Paul Chambers

Haiku may be short but the best are finely crafted with no excess words. Award-winning poet Paul Chambers has made this succinct, beautiful and often misunderstood form his specialty.

On this podcast he explains how the form works and shares some of his own haikus as well as explaining why it took three years to write the haiku above. He also offers a masterclass to get you started writing haiku. See below for details.

Paul’s haiku writing exercise

I think it is important to centre your focus primarily on the subject, and not on form or syllable-counting. Haiku poetry is the sharing of a sensory experience, usually set against the backdrop of the seasons. This exercise allows you to explore this:

Write the words ‘summer night’ at the top of the page. In your mind, place yourself in a familiar location on a summer night, such as your garden or on a beach. Then create a bullet-point list of everything you can experience through your senses (see, hear, touch, taste, smell) in that place on a summer night. Begin with obvious things, such as waves crashing or the moon shining, and then start to notice the smaller things, such as the taste of salt on the breeze, or sea fleas running over stones. Then, using ‘summer night’ as the first line of your haiku, write lines two and three using imagery from your sensory list. Such as:

summer night
sea waves crashing
through moonlight

summer night
sea fleas running
over moonlit stones

You can repeat this as many times as you like, and you can explore different seasonal settings too, such as ‘winter morning’, or ‘departing spring’.

As always do share your haiku for possible inclusion on the podcast or blog. Please send submissions here.

Thanks to Le Pub in Newport for providing a quiet, Covid-secure venue for the first face-to-face recording in over six months.

Paul Chambers is an award-winning haiku poet and the Editor of the Wales Haiku JournalTo date he has published two full-length collections of poetry, and has had work appear in some of the world’s most prestigious journals and anthologies, including Modern Haiku, Presence, Frogpond, the Heron’s Nest, the Atlanta Review, and the Red Moon Anthology. A selection of his haiku has also been published in the celebrated North American poetry series, A New Resonance.

Paul’s haiku has been described as ‘a poetic spell’ (Modern Haiku), and he has contributed creative and critical material to the Times Literary Supplement, the BBC, NHK World, the Arts Council of Wales and the Wales Arts Review, as well as national Japanese newspapers, the Mainichi and the Asahi Shimbun.

He has won the Museum of Haiku Literature Award, the NHK Haiku Masters Award, the Golden Triangle Haiku Award, and has been shortlisted for both the Haiku Foundation’s Distinguished Book Award and Distinguished Poem Award – the most prestigious prizes in the field of English-language haiku. 

www.paulchambershaiku.com

Episode 25: Jonathan Davidson – A Common Place

Jonathan Davidson has been writing poetry for 30 years. He also likes to read other people’s poems for entertainment and inspiration and share the joy they bring. His latest book a Common Place is more than just a poetry collection. It contains favourite poems by other poets, a commentary, gazetteer and lots and lots of footnotes.

In this interview Jonathan talks with passion about poetry and his other interests including apples and bricks. He is generous with his advice from his long writing career.

The podcast is in two parts. In the first Jonathan talks about one poem from the book Printing. He explains the background and his writing process and invites listeners to take inspiration from other technological processes: “Identify a technological process – it could be ancient like windmills or recent like open heart surgery – and write a poem in response to this process but about your own life.”

Jonathan recommends learning about the process you’ve chosen and the language around it and build some of this language and knowledge into your poem.

In the second part Jonathan talks about A Common Place and why he chose to break with convention to produce a poetry collection with various other bits added in. He also shares a couple more poems from the book.

As always it would be great to read the technological poems you write and share them on the blog or podcast. Please submit them here.

You can find out more about Jonathan Davidson via the link below and you can buy A Common Place here.

www.jonathandavidson.net

Picture: Lee Allen

Episode 24: John McCullough – Stationery Poems to Move You

John McCullough

John McCullough discusses his poem Stationery from the Costa Award shortlisted collection Reckless Paper Birds. He talks about the various elements that influenced the poem: From his love life to social media posts. He invites listeners to write a poem using items of stationery as metaphors for life and relationships.

www.johnmccullough.co.uk

Write a stationery poem

“Though the voice of ‘Stationery’ is quite anxious and manic, the poem is subtly structured not only through the jaunty, indented stanzas like steps but also through a series of images taken from the world of stationery. I’d like you to write a poem which uses one or more items of stationery as a metaphor for either a relationship or for society at large. What does it mean to be written in pencil rather than ink or to be stapled? There’s inevitably immediate potential for humour here but I’d also like you to think about how this strange perspective might be used to probe deeper territory, how adopting this unusual angle might allow you to investigate the different ways that people interact with each other.”

Pick up your pen and notebook and see what inspires you. Send your poems here and you could be featured on the blog or in a future podcast.

Check out Reckless Paper Birds and John’s other books published by Penned in the Margins.

Episode 22: Alexander Rhodes – One Foot in the Rave

Alexander Rhodes found his way into the poetry scene through a combination of chance, hard work and raw talent. He has performed up and down the country and taken his award-winning verse play One Foot in the Rave to the Edinburgh Fringe and on tour. It tells the story of how he was thrown out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and became a rave DJ.

In this podcast he talks about how he became a poet and performer in a conversation rich in anecdotes and great poetry.

For a writing prompt Alexander responded with:

Transhumanism for dummies

“I like the subtle inferences of those words, and also we are accelerating towards Superintelligent AI with very little discussion among the artistic community – so now would be a good time as any.”

You can hear how Patrick and Alexander responded to this topic, and it’s an area Alexander is researching for a forthcoming novel. Do share your own responses to the prompt here or in the comments for possible inclusion on a future podcast or on the blog.

Alexander will be touring One Foot in the Rave again when lockdown is lifted and has a new show due to start touring in 2021.

Twitter @joineduppoetry
Instagram @AlexanderRhodes-poetry
alexanderrhodes.me.uk
onefootintherave.co.uk