A massive slab of overtime has crushed writing over the last three weeks but, today, I rise from the ashes – definitely feeling the muscles aching – and I have the prospect of a visit to Worcester Cathedral’s historic library this first day off to delight me.
First, a quick plug: Cheltenham Poetry Festival is on NOW. I shall be in Cheltenham for most of this coming Saturday, seeing various shows and will be reading a two-minute poem with the Buzzwords Showcase that accompanies Ros Barber’s event.
Meanwhile, three marvellous projects which I became involved with months ago have borne results:
For Rhino in a Shrinking World
South African poet Harry Owens was so distressed by the ever-increasing poaching of wild rhino (the rarer they become, the more valuable their horn on the black market for curing … nothing) that he decided to do what he could to promote their conservation. What can a poet do? We don’t have vast fortunes; we don’t have political clout. Harry called on the poetry community for support; he decided to produce a book to raise awareness of the rhinos’ plight and to raise funds for conservation. I learned of his project via FaceBook and sent some poems, which were accepted. Poets from all over the world have sent rhino-, conservation- and Africa-themed poems. The result is an amazing book, For Rhino in a Shrinking World, which was published on World Book Day.
The Colverstone Review
Last summer I was conversing (online – I have never been to Paris, alas) with author Stephen Thompson. He mentioned he was planning a literary review magazine: would I care to review poetry? I said, quite honestly (though with, I admit, a pang at letting slip an opportunity), that I don’t feel qualified, since my background is not at all literary and I don’t know enough to place new work in context. This discussion included a brief autobiographical detour. Fascinating, he said, can you write about your journey to poetry? So I did. And now I find myself in rather awesome company in the first ever edition of The Colverstone Review. It’s the most personal thing I have ever written: eek.
Fit To Work: Poets Against Atos
More recently, UK poet Mark Burnhope has been – like many of us! – sickened by our ever-caring (sarcasm alert) ConDem government’s brutal targeting of the disabled, tarring them as skivers and worse as well as cutting funding. I hope anyone reading my blog would be aware of the horrors of the Atos assessment (where Atos have been paid to do the dirty work for the ConDems, so our politicians can shake their heads and say, ‘It’s out of our hands’.) Mark also decided to DO something, also appealed to the online poetry community and, from that, he and fellow editors have produced a rolling online protest poetry anthology, Fit To Work: Poets Against Atos. Please reblog the anthology site, share it with your friends, publicise it at your church – whatever you can to spread the awareness. It’s a continuing blog of poetry: submissions are open; why not send something to aid the cause? One thing the ConDems are good at is U-turns, especially if embarrassed. Let’s shine a light on their nastiness. I’ll also have a poem appearing on the site; I’ve now shared it at readings three times and it seems to work; had a phone call the day after a reading from someone moved by it.
Finally, a plug for Malvern’s local ConFab Cabaret: next event May 21
The first ConFab at Re Con was, indeed, fab: full of energy, humour, warmth and cracking performances. Anyone can have a go for the open mic sections – and two minutes is enough to make contact with the audience but not enough to be (too) painful if something doesn’t quite work. I read a poem that’ll be out on Ink, Sweat & Tears sometime soon (so you’ll have to wait to read it till then) for my two minute open mic slot and it got a good reaction. I felt reet loved-up by the end of the evening. Seeing that more events were planned, I suggested an element of audience participation. ‘Great idea!’ said the organisers, ‘We’ll call it Fox Pops: you can run it.’ Er…
Anyway, Fox Pops won’t be scary – you won’t have to stand on stage (though I do recommend those 2-minute open mic slots for a thrill!) – but it will, I hope, be inclusive. (If you’re of a Radio 4 persuasion, think of the audience answers on The Now Show; or the audience poem from Wondermentalist: that kind of approach.). We will pose a question, the audience will provide answers: the best selection will be read out.
Moral of today’s Fox Tales:
Online connections can be incredibly rewarding. I find myself involved in the projects above simply because I stepped forward – with appropriate submissions, yes, that also matters – when their call was out. This is the kind of thing FaceBook and Twitter are good for. Don’t be pushy but don’t be scared: be honest with yourself and with editors – if you think you can do it, why not have a go?
Talking of which, why not bring something along to ConFab Cabaret in May?
See you there!