Mapping Memories, Over the Fields talk at The Museum of Futures

I am currently writing a talk about the new Over the Fields poetry map called ‘Mapping Memories’, for the Free University of Seething’s lecture series. My talk takes place next Tuesday, 19th January at the Museum of Futures,Brighton Road, Surbiton (Facebook event here). More about the delightful world of Seething in another post soon….
I’ve spoken about the map several times in the past but not since it was published. I will be talking about why I decided to write about the space my family calls ‘Over the Fields’, and why this had to be a poetry map and not a book. I will also discuss some of the history of the place, read some poems and talk about what I hope to do with it next. Hope to see you there!

 

Never Pounce on a Porcupine #Imbolc #NatureWords

???????????????????????????????“Never pounce on a porcupine!” was my son’s conversation opener this morning- wise advice, nice use of alliteration- and the perfect way to start this post, my first of 2015.

The word alliteration has been added to the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary- however porcupine has been removed. Can you pounce on ‘a rodent with a coat of sharp spines, or quills’? Probably- although you would be foolish to do so- and the alliteration does not exist without the word porcupine. How much meaning is being lost in removing this one word, which tells us, rather delightfully,  all we need to know about this creature? The same goes for the word piglet – it is no longer in the Oxford Junior Dictionary- it has been removed. Where would Winnie the Pooh be without Piglet? Piglet’s favourite food is acorns– or as he refers to them, “haycorns” – another word which has been deemed irrelevant to children’s vocabulary in the 21st century. Alliteratively (and poetically): Pink Piglet- yes…Pink Baby Pig- No….

Acorn comes from the Middle English- it is a very old word which we have been using for hundreds of years- but will children now refer to acorns as ‘fruit of an oak, consisting of a single-seeded, thick-walled nut set in a woody, cuplike base’? No- because, according to the Oxford University Press, who publish the Oxford Junior Dictionary, these words have been removed to make way for words which are more suitable and relevant to the indoor and technology-focused lifestyles of children now.
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primrose is another word to have gone from the OJD

This erasure of nature-based words from the Oxford Junior Dictionary is not a new situation- but has received more press coverage again recently. Religious and magical words (bishop, goblin, elf, sin) removed in 2007, have been added to with words such as catkin and even conker, in the 2012 edition. Words that in my opinion are still intrinsic to childhood itself, and to our relationship, education about, and understanding of the natural world around us.

The Guardian ran a piece on this in January, and many writers including Margaret Atwood and Michael Morpurgo have written to the OUP regarding this worrying state of affairs.

As a poet and a writer who writes about place, and as a mother of a seven year old, I felt determined to do something to raise awareness about this but until this weekend I wasn’t sure what that would be.

But…this weekend I went to Glastonbury to meet up with dear friends and celebrate Imbolc with them, also known as Brigid. Brigid or Bridie is the Goddess of Inspiration, Blacksmiths, Fire and also Poetry. This is a celebration of the First Stirrings- where the begins of growth are apparent: in snowdrops, the first lambing, and green shorts daring to peek out in the freezing weather.DSC02656

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After the celebration at the White Spring, we came out into the bright, watery-sun morning and gathered in a circle across Well House Lane, between the White Spring and the Red Spring at Chalice Well. There was an open invitation for people to share their thoughts, inspiration, songs and poetry. This is an event I always try to get to, as it is a great way to begin the year proper, and is a joyful meeting of like minds and community, in the best place to be.

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Some amazing poetry was performed and read, a wonderful guided visualisation was offered, inspirational stories were told, and the ever-joyful Hemp man was there to impress the gathered throng with the benefits of hemp consumption and production.

I had chosen two poems to read, and thought I had neatly folded them into my bag, but on arrival realised I had left them behind. I was disappointed for a moment but instead I found the printed list list of nature words which have been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary lurking unexpectedly in my rucksack. It was after Lisa Goodwin performed her fantastic poem, which included the repeated line What would Bridie Do? that I knew I had to do it.

She asked if anyone else would like to contribute and I stepped into the circle and explained that the Oxford Junior Dictionary had removed a significant amount of nature words, and that as this was a day for poets, language and inspiration, that this seemed the right place to say some of them, and would everyone repeat them as I spoke them?

Here are all of the words, with the ones I remember saying, shouting even, highlighted.

adder, ass, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox,oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel, wren. Acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran,bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip,crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender,leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow
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crocus- omitted from the OJD
I picked them out randomly, and in the moment but as I stood there and said them myself, and heard them come back at me, with the audible surprise and indignation in some people’s voices, I realised the power and meaning attached to these words, especially to people who feel spiritually connected to nature, to the earth, to the turning year, to the seasons….
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 I am very glad I did it, and afterwards, as we walked through the side gate into Chalice Well, and headed towards the warmth of the fire, and cups of coffee and ample blocks of delicious banana cake, a few people approached me to talk about it. So if a few more people know about this then these words will be fought for more fervently, as they should be.
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This is how we communicate our connection to nature, as well as claim our heritage and our traditions. For example think about what the word ‘conker’ conjures in you….
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the words won’t die because they aren’t included in one children’s dictionary- but it is symbolic and symptomatic of the disconnection with nature that is not only happening but also apparently being accepted as ‘normal’ in many sections of society. George Monbiot wrote a great piece in The Guardian about children losing their connection to nature and the future implications of this, which is worth reading.
After my nature-word incanting at the weekend my aim is to explore some of these words with my son this year and post the results on here from time to time.
I hope that OUP reconsider their decision and send out a positive message by putting these words back into the next edition of their junior dictionary. For updates on the campaign to bring the words back, this is the place to go: http://www.naturemusicpoetry.com/campaigns.html
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To finish up, and as something to consider…here are some of the words that have taken the place of the words above…what do they mean to you?
Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and
paste, analogue Celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate,EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate,
endangered, Euro Apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum,
classify, chronological, block graph

 

 

 

Rhythm & Muse : It’s been Ekphrastic

Rhythm and Muse has its final evening of poetry and music tonight, at the Ram Jam club in Kingston Upon Thames. I am very sorry to miss it due to other long-standing plans but I will be thinking of them.

The Grey Horse pub, which the Ram Jam club is part of, is going to be under new ownership from January 2015, so this will be the last regular Rhythm and Muse event for a while. But it won’t be the end of R&M, and there may be festival specials and other goodies to look forward to- the advice is to check the website and facebook for updates.

If you can go tonight I would urge you to do so. Apart from the terrific lineup, including the inimitable LiTTLe MACHiNe, who Carol Ann Duffy declares are ‘The most brilliant music and poetry band I’ve seen in decades’ (see below), there will be plenty of festive cheer. If you are very lucky you may even get to witness the on-the-spot poetry of Nick Poole- once witnessed, never to be forgotten! Most of all, I can guarantee you will have lots of fun.

I found out about Rhythm and Muse while I was a student at Kingston University, and soon went along to experience the delights on offer. I found a dynamic mix of musical acts and excellent poets performing in a small, ram-jam packed venue. I have witnessed some great poetry at R&M, from the likes of Roger McGough, Martin Daws, Mario Petrucci, A F Harrold, Katrina Naomi and many many others – you can see the full list here.

One of the best things about R&M is its enthusiastic and loyal audience, who were also willing to listen to anyone who was brave enough to sign up  for an open mic spot. I’ve read my work many times, and benefitted from the friendly and supportive atmosphere. I took part in the legendary R&M Slam, writing a poem written especially for the occasion, which has become a staple of many of my readings since. The open mic at R&M in particular has been very important in helping me to gain confidence and find my voice as a poet, and I am very grateful for it.

I was at Rhythm and Muse’s night at The Rose Theatre, where I was lucky enough to see John Cooper Clarke, and, afterwards, to see my review of the show published and syndicated through the local press.

R&M’s longstanding relationship with Kingston University has seen them organise creative writing workshops at the Stanley Picker Gallery, of which I am fortunate enough to have attended a couple. One of these bore fruit in the form of a whole R&M night devoted to the poems and writings which were inspired by The Liquid Game, Boudicca’s incredible installation in the gallery, earlier this year.

Kingston Writing School has held events with R&M on campus, and many of my peers who studied creative writing at Kingston University have read their poems at Rhythm and Muse open mic, and students I have taught have carried on the tradition.

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A massive Congratulations to Alison Hill, Alice Thurling, Nick Poole, Judith Watts and everyone who has helped to make Rhythm and Muse such a success and such an important part of the creative life of us local poets and writers. It will be missed. Thank you!

 

 

Cultural Histories at Kingston double feature: That’s not how I remember it

???????????????????????????????This Thursday, 18th December, I will be speaking with Dr Alison Baverstock, as part of a Cultural Histories at Kingston University double feature, titled: “That’s not how I remember it.”

Dr Baverstock, associate professor of publishing at Kingston University, will be speaking about her extensive research into self-publishing and in particular the processes of externalising the internal, and how this impacts on both writer and those offering associated publishing services. She has recently written an ebook for The Guardian about how to negotiate highly personal writing projects – and what to do with them once you have finished. Should they be shared or left in a drawer for others to discover in future?

I will be speaking the effect that place has on us; in particular how where you grow up affects you at the time – and impacts on your life in future. I will also talk about the writing of memoirs in relation to place and the memories we hold, and offer a scholarly analysis of how other writers have approached and handled these issues.

Full details of the event here.

Moving on…

I enjoyed the Small Stone exercise but have been so busy with other writing and poetry-related activities that it has fallen away to the roadside as I have jogged on, trying to keep up with myself for the last month.

I’m about far enough away from the experience of my last year at university to have the beginnings of some perspective on it. A vague way of saying that I think I have come through the worst of the MFA-dissertation-and-teaching-qualification madness I succumbed to.

The dust is settling after a total of five years of full time higher education and it feels good. For a long time afterwards I was rushing everywhere, panicking about not getting things done on time, until one day, quite recently, I realised I can set my own agenda now. There is, at last, more time for other things apart from writing assignments.

I feel happier than I have done in years.

Apart from that though I have been feverishly filling up that time with writing projects….of course… More about those and other stuff soon.

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The Imaginarium, Millenium Square, Brizzol

New Year

I wanted to write one of those ‘best bits of the year’ posts for 2013 but it’s all a mad blur, so as random factors pop into my brain I shall blog about them, randomly…

In the meantime my son has gone back to school today, after telling me last night on the way home from Beavers that he hates school and wants “to stay at home, watch TV and play swordfighting all day”. After various complaints this morning ranging from having to get up to why did I polish his shoes he went off quite happily.

So now I have to get back to doing what I do…what do I do…oh yes, writing and teaching…no longer studying…looking for gainful employment… gizzajob!

I am about to begin two new creative writing projects which will keep me busy for most of this year- more about them once they’re underway…

I am also now in a position to read the stacks of books that have been growing steadily whilst I have been at university. My aim is to read one a week if possible. Let’s call it a resolution. I am slowly working my way through the pile of books my lovely friend and bibliophile Annie lent me (2 years ago-sorry Annie! It has been a joy to read purely for pleasure and not have to deconstruct and analyse everything, although this is a hard habit to break once you’ve been doing it for a while.