I have a poem, Old Bits of Cloud, in the Love The Words poetry competition winners anthology. The competition is run as part of International Dylan Thomas Day and this year the theme was water. You can download and read the anthology here.
In February I was asked to produce a podcast for an event by the Dead Women Poets Society at Norwich Forum. Each event or séance features women poets resurrecting a woman poet who did not receive the recognition she deserved. The living poets talk about the poet's life and accomplishments, share their work and talk about how they influenced them. They read a poem inspired by their chosen poet. This event features Caroline Bird vividly bringing Anna Wickham's wild spirit into the room and Jade Cuttle resurrecting Gisèle Prassinos through song. There is also an open mic section.
Standing at the back of the room, one of only a few men present, I was thrilled by the wealth of poetry shared from poets living and dead. I'm proud to be able to bring you this recording.
The fish who left the ocean
There was a fish who had the notion
life was better outside the ocean.
“Are you mad?” The others said.
“If we leave we’ll soon be dead.”
“Don’t be silly,” the fish declared.
“That’s just a tale to make us scared.
“They’ve got us trapped down here you see,
“it’s cold and gloomy as can be.”
Dissatisfaction slowly grew
among the other fish he knew.
One day all across the sea
rose a cry of “let us leave!”
The fish all gathered in a band
and made their way onto the land.
All around was dry and bare.
They started gasping hard for air.
“What shall we do?” The fishes cried
“I think we’re all about to die.”
Then their leader shrugged and said:
“I hadn’t planned this far ahead.”
One fish wheezed: “Quick let’s go home,”
before collapsing with a groan.
There on the shore the fish all died
musing on their foolish lives.
If you choose to leave the place you know
Make careful plans before you go.
As a teenager, one of my biggest influences was Mark Radcliffe’s late-night show on Radio One. Four nights a week it was an oasis of cutting edge music, art and culture. Among the regular guests were poets including Simon Armitage, John Hegley and Ian McMillan. They not only read their own poems but contributions sent in by listeners following prompts and writing exercises. Ian McMillan called it homework.
They were lonely, difficult years as I navigated adolescence and the pressures of school and exams but in this after-hours poetry community I felt I belonged. I was a regular correspondent and some of my poems even made it onto the airwaves. I cringe to think how awful they were. But being prompted to write and having a platform on national radio to share my efforts was motivating. It developed my creative skills and built confidence as I headed towards taking a degree in English and Creative Writing.
In my new podcast Poetry Non-Stop (and its predecessor Headstand) I have tried to create the same community. Each episode is an interview with a poet and showcase of their work but I also ask each guest to give listeners a writing exercise or prompt. So far I am the only one who has responded to these but I hope anyone who listens tries them as well.
I have found the experience of writing to these prompts challenging and unexpected as I have been led to write a variety of poems that I would never have written otherwise. A prompt on borders and intimacy led me to write about a library which lies on the US-Canada border that I heard about on This American Life. A recipe for roast goose randomly picked from a Hungarian cookbook formed the basis of a vignette about a repressed housewife and an exercise to write about life experiences using metaphor prompted me to use a news story about rescued flamingoes to explore feelings of isolation and struggling to fit in.
Birds kept coming up in the poems for some reason. Having noticed this I neither tried to avoid writing about them or include them but each time I finished a poem I realised another bird had found its way in somehow.
The podcast is going out each Thursday via Soundcloud and the usual podcast providers for an initial run of six episodes but more are in the pipeline. I have been lucky to talk to some really brilliant and accomplished poets who have been very generous with their time and in sharing their poetry. But getting a wider network of listeners taking inspiration from these talented writers and sharing their own poems is an equally important aim for this project. Whether you are a seasoned poet or have never written poetry before I encourage you to tune in, enjoy the poems and then pick up your pen and do your homework!
Poems can be submitted via email, posted on the website or shared on social media using the hashtag #poetrynonstop.
Poetry Non-Stop poets
I've just made my debut on Norwich based comedy panel show Idiot Wind. I've finally put all those hours listening to I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, Just a Minute, The News Quiz etc to good use. You can hear me and the panel discussing ways to avoid getting burgled on holiday, practical uses for goats and my favourite cheese among other topics.
Please like on Facebook, follow on Twitter and subscribe wherever you usually get your podcasts for more episodes featuring me and other funnier folk.
I’ve gained quite a lot of experience in performance poetry over the years. I’ve had bad gigs - forgetting lines, feeling ill, reading over people talking at badly run events. I’ve also had my triumphs - winning poetry slams, receiving compliments and even drinks from audience members, I’ve been booked for feature slots and had strangers telling me they remember poems they heard weeks or months ago. But there’s always more to learn, especially if you’re being taught by one of the UK’s foremost writers and performers Lemn Sissay.
Let There Be Voice! was a five-day residential course in performance poetry led by Lemn at the Garsdale Retreat. This fairly new centre in the Yorkshire Dales is based in a splendid Edwardian house walking distance from Garsdale Station and run by Hamish and Rebecca, a couple of former teachers who have thrown their heart and soul into their new venture. They have created a haven for writers where they can develop their craft under the guidance of top tutors and away from the bustle of everyday life. The groups are small. There were six on this course plus Hamish who joined most of the sessions. The homecooked food provided by Rebecca is delicious and plentiful and it’s a good thing there is so much countryside around where you can walk it off!
From the moment Lemn arrived it was clear this would be no ordinary poetry course. His energy, enthusiasm and creativity were infectious. Throughout the week he was our tutor, mentor, entertainer and friend. In our first session he directed us to write about our name. “Where does it come from? How do you feel about it? Did you ever want to be called something else? Do you have a nickname?” The directions became a performance as we began to write and he continued pacing the room. “What does your name mean? Which person made you feel special when they said your name? What stories are attached to your name?”
I found myself writing about the earliest memories of my name, the origins of my surname, the ways people misspell and mispronounce it. I wrote about how my first name David links me to past generations and the confusion caused by being known by my middle name. There was much more I could have written after the exercise finished and later in the week those notes grew into a poem I didn’t know I had in me.
"My name is Patrick