The Launch of clew

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On Saturday 18th April, at the Duke of York pub in St Werburghs in Bristol my first pamphlet, clew, published by Hesterglock Press, was launched. This was along with Sarer Scotthorne’s first pamphlet, The Blood House, and Paul Hawkins’s first full length collection from Erbacce press, Contumacy

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l-r: Sheer Zed, Sarer Scotthorne, me, Paul Hawkins

As part of the Bristol Spring Poetry Festival this was a wonderful evening of us three poets coming together to read our work, and celebrate. Sheer Zed, a  fantastic multi-talented electronic musician, provided soundscapes to some of the poems, and a great set of his own work.

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It was a pleasure to be back at this lovely pub in a corner of the city that I spent time in occasionally when I lived in  Bristol many years ago. Strange and synchronistic to be back reading poetry and launching my first collection here, after ten years to the month of leaving. Also, to be supported by dear friends living there, who I have stayed in touch with, and amazingly, to have four brilliant mates from Wales drive across for the evening! And to meet and chat with new people in this friendly, vibrant place

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Sarer and Paul gave superb readings, hugely talented performers, and unique voices in poetry individually, as well as the partnership behind Hesterglock Press, which also publishes the vital Boscombe Revolution / Bosc:Rev magazine. I was chuffed to finally meet with Sheer Zed too, who I have been communicating with on social media for a while.

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I’m so grateful to Zed for composing soundtracks for some of my work. As someone who started off many years ago by singing in a band and making experimental music, it was really exciting to ‘out’ my frustrated vocalist and have that additional musical dimension to my work. I hope we get to work together again.

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There are plans to do a similar event in London but not sure when- keep an eye on the blog for details.

In the meantime Sarer and Paul’s work can be found via Hesterglock Press and Paul’s web site- I wrote a brief review of The Blood House, and have since spent more time with it and I would recommend you do so too. Here is Andie Berryman’s review of it. I have also read and re-read Contumacy, and it contains my favourite poem from last year which I return to over and over. Steve Willey wrote a great piece about it here.

Back on the 21st March, Sarer and Paul appeared on Jude Cowan Montague’s radio show, The News Agents on Resonance FM. Sarer beautifully read my poem, The Cleaning Cupboard, which was published in issue 3 of Boscombe Revolution. It’s a great programme with Jude and co-host Alice Foster discussing Hesterglock Press, and talking with Paul and Sarer about their work, including Paul’s up and coming publication, Place/Waste/Dissent, which is going to be published by Influx Press in October 2015. Listen in here!

Submissions to Bosc:Rev are open for the next issue- more info here.

Listen to some of Sheer Zed’s amazing remixes of poems by Sarer, Paul and me here.

You can buy my pamphlet clew here.

“Read ‘clew’ for a window on our times and a reminder of how poetry remains a resistant art.”Siobhán Campbell; poet

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clew

At the beginning of this year I was lucky enough to have a poem accepted for issue 3 of Boscombe Revolution, published by Hesterglock Press. I read said poem, and a few others, in Bristol, as part of the launch event, which was a fantastic evening of poetry, spoken word and fiction at the Duke of York pub in St. Werburghs.

This Saturday I am over the moon to be going back to the very same place to launch my debut poetry pamphlet, clew, which is also being published by Hesterglock Press. clew is named after the ball of thread Ariadne gave to Theseus to help him find his way out of the Labyrinth.

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I’ll be performing alongside Sarer Scotthorne, who recently published her first collection, The Blood House, and Paul Hawkins, who will be launching his collection, Contumacy, published by Erbacce. Adding to this will be music from Sheer Zed, Bristol-based electronic musician and artist, who will be providing ambient soundscapes for some of the poems. The event is part of the Bristol Spring Poetry Festival.

I feel very fortunate to have Hesterglock Press publishing my first collection of poetry. They have been wonderful to work with, and I am chuffed to bits with the finished result. For more info please visit the website.

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Surrey Steampunk Convivial IV -Utterly Bonkers Splendid!

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writing steampunk poems:

Recently I contacted Ben Henderson, who, along with his wife Tixia, organises the annual Surrey Steampunk Convivial, to see if I could offer my poetic services. He was very kind and accommodated my idea of having a steampunk poetry workshop as part of the event, which took place last weekend. I arrived bright and early on the day, to the Royal Oak pub in New Malden, the main venue for this weekend festival, along with the Christchurch Centre, conveniently across the road from the pub. The place was already buzzing with stalls selling various wonderful steampunk accoutrements in the shape of dragon-dwelling hats, goggles and spectacles, be-cogged and geared jewellery and vintage steampunk-style outfits.

There were already several steampunks milling about wearing fantastic garb, drinking tea, and settling in for the excitement to come. A few people dared to try out a writing exercises or two and below is my friend Anna’s rather marvellous poem, which captures the spirit of the Convivial perfectly:

 

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Anna Stickney’s poem:

I wandered lonely as a clockwork snail,

that clanks along o’er cranky planks,

when all at once I saw a crowd,

a host, of extravagant steampunks

beside the cakes, beneath the teapot,

duelling and posing at the Royal Oak.

 

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 loading the specially-built cannon for the ‘fling a familiar’ contest

The two days were a blur of familiar-flinging, snail-racing, tea-duelling, steampunk morris dancing, belly dancing, anamatronic steampunk R&B, snake-snuggling, beer drinking, corset-limbo, radio-play performing, superb steampunk dj soundtracks, shadow-puppet theatre, intellectual superciliousness slamming, storytelling, great live music and bands to dance to and many other bizarre, eccentric and hilarious-but-always so so stylish- steampunk occupations to keep everyone busy.

 

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‘Be Splendid’ is the motto of the steampunk, and indeed it was, and as well as all the fun and frivolity, the Convivial was marked by the friendliness, generosity, good humour and welcoming attitude of everyone there, especially to the newbies amongst us, of which I was one. But- no more a newbie- I am hoping to be back for more creative steampunk mayhem this August, when, due to its’ popularity, there will be a second Surrey Steampunk Convivial of 2015, where I hear rumours of marquees in the beer garden…and possibly flamingo croquet…?

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So please, grab your top hat, goggles, corset and kraken….and join in the fun!

More pics from the event below.

For more information head over to the Surrey Steampunk Convivial website here.

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Diggory mole makes it into the hat

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the purple platypus winner

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‘around the world in 8o days’ radio play

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serious dunking – click here for tea duelling rules

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tense atmosphere at the tea-duelling

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tea-duelling champion

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preparing to snail race

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umbrella duelling

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Herr Doktor’s Raygun

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me, trying to hold on to the super-speedy corn snake

 

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Ichabod Steam’s animatronic  Steampunk band

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 sword-wielding belly dancers!

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the winner of corset limbo shows how it’s done

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 Darren Gooding’s amazing storytelling

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shadow puppet theatre!

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audience participation invloved languishing and carrying a bagful of sky

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 intellectual superciliousness slam…nincompoops!

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 me reading some steampunk’d poems

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the marvellous Moth with Ben and Tixia

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Choro Bandido

 

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

 

 

 

#Declutter 1: Plastic Wood

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This is the Year of the Horse but in my house it is also the Year of the Declutter. It might even be the first in Two Years of Declutter. The loft is slowly emptying and giving up its dusty (understatement) Scooby-Doo web encrusted treasures, which are then sorted into piles of ‘keep/bin/charity shop/ebay’. This inevitably went in the bin and whatever ‘Plastic Wood’ was I will never know as the tin was jammed shut and I guessed from its lightness that the contents were long gone…

Out-of-body-in-the-flesh: Seeing Coil Play Live 10 years ago

At the time I was still married, still living in Bristol, living a completely different life to the one I have now. Since 2002 I’d been on a path of re-discovery, of working out why I was feeling so out of sync with myself. There were lots of reasons…seeing Coil was another piece of the puzzle falling into place, if you’ll forgive the cliche.

I’m not sure when I first heard Coil- it was some time in the late eighties, and it was probably ‘S is for Sleep’ from The Elephant Table LP, which my boyfriend of the time had.

I remember him coming home with the Horse Rotovator LP and it changed everything, and profoundly influenced our own music-making and thinking. After that we bought all the Coil music we could. I still have my vinyl copies of Scatology, the Hellraiser themes and a signed copy of Windowpane, amongst other Coil goodies, all stashed in the loft, waiting for the time when I eventually have space for them again. I’m not a completist and apart from a few bits and bobs on cd I don’t have many of the recording they went on to make in the nineties and early noughties. Besides, my life changed and I was no longer making music, although I was still being creative in other ways from time to time.

Hearing Coil play live was something I never thought I would get the opportunity to do, to see them performing out-of-body-in-the-flesh.

The closest I got to meeting them was years before, when I wore my John Crancher shirt, emblazoned with gold devils, to a gig we were all at, maybe Meat Beat Manifesto, and they had joked that they wouldn’t release their next record until I gave it to them (I didn’t) …

They played the Ocean in Hackney, long since gone, on what I remember as a hot and dusty Sunday evening. Where my ex was desperate to leave by the end of the gig, I was desperate to stay to the very last, even after they’d finished, and ‘Feed the Birds’ from Mary Poppins was blaring out of the PA. I’m very thankful I got to see Jhonn and Sleazy play live- it was as beautiful, disconcerting and transporting as I had hoped it would be. RIP.

Magick moments.

(The Quietus wrote a great piece on Coil in 2011 to honour the first anniversary of Peter Christopherson’s (aka Sleazy) passing. Find it here)

 

 

 

The British 10k

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On Sunday 13th July me, my son and my Dad left the house at 7am and got on a train to Waterloo. On the train, and when we got to London there were lots of people in running gear, many of them wearing tshirts proclaiming the charity they were raising money for by running the British 10k.

It’s a big race- 25000 people taking part, all ages and levels of ability. I was definitely a bit nervous. Although I’ve run a couple of races before this was the first really big run I’d entered. Once I’d dropped off my bag at one of the many numbered bays and said goodbye to the Nipper who was ‘bored’ and wanted to drag his Grandad off to explore, I followed the other runners to the route and found myself queueing up by The Ritz on Piccadilly. It was about 20-30 minutes of slowly shuffling along with the crowd before we got to the starting line but by this point I was buzzing and ready to go.

This was the first time I’d run 10k. I’d been training and had been running about three times a week, the longest distance I’d completed up to this point was 7km. Then a couple of weeks before, very stupidly, I’d worn a pair of gorgeous shoes I’d found in the back of my wardrobe, only realising too late why they were in the back of my wardrobe. Ouch! Hello blisters- not the worst thing to happen- especially if you’ve ever seen dancers’ feet- or the footage (ahem) of Eddie Izzard running his marathon of marathons… so I had no excuses really but it did make me wary of running the longer distances I had hoped to in the last weeks of my training. And then I hurt my right foot a few days before the race when I spent a day walking around London.

But by the time I was lining up to start all thoughts of sore feet vanished and I was enjoying the atmosphere. I am a very slow runner and that’s fine by me- I got to plod around central London with thousands of other people, on what started as a grey, damp morning, and by the time I’d finished had turned into a gorgeous sunny Sunday. I am still amazed I am able to run at all, having been the sickly child at school, always off sick, and unable to do PE. Then a few years ago being diagnosed with post-viral fatigue was such a shock – at the time I never thought I’d be able to do half the things I had taken for granted, ever again. But here I am running 10k, cycling to work and having a super busy life.

I am very very lucky- I do however try to pace myself, and I get very tired sometimes- I can’t push myself as hard as I used to and I try and stay within my limits (most of the time). Running seems good for this- I’ve found that mentally it helps me to focus on my writing, and physically it gives me stamina and is also a great stress buster. I can judge how I’m feeling and tailor how far I run, how often and how fast (mainly not very fast). But I can do it and I am able to keep doing it.

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to complete 10k on the day but when I got to the 5k point I knew I’d be fine and at that point I even speeded up and loved every minute of the rest of the run.  I raised £190 for Gingerbread – thanks to the support and generosity of the people who sponsored me. Single parents deal with many different challenges and Gingerbread is the go-to charity for people in this situation who need advice and support on a whole range of issues affecting them.

Before my Mum died, in fact just when she had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and was in hospital, now eight years ago, we got to talking about running and for some reason I made a promise to her that I would run a half marathon. Maybe she was saying I should keep fit and look after myself, I don’t know. But I have never forgotten this.The next time I run, I am hoping it will be a half-marathon and I would like to raise money for Macmillan. The Macmillan nurses who looked after my mum were amazing, and it would be a way of keeping my promise to her and doing something positive with my run. But I’m not going to do it until I am ready- watch this space!

In the meantime THANK YOU again to everyone who sponsored me and supported me. XXX