Monday, 28 June 2010

French House Party

While England were proving they're not a world class football team, I was wending my way along the Canal du Midi to work, every morning, peddling as elegantly as I could in the beautiful shade until I turned off the canal for the last five minutes towards Domaine St Raymond, HQ of The French House Party. Then I'd be in hard hitting sunshine, slightly delirious before facing the residents, my students, and our day of reading, writing and feasting ...

We had eight people this year - a mixed bunch as usual - ranging from 36 years old to 77. And naturally, considering the hugely diverse characters, they took a day to settle into their group dynamics and finding that they could get along just fine and dandily. I'm sure the fantastic food and local wines helped even the hardened independent to mellow into idle chat at the pool side.

And of course the writing workshop. Our beautiful classroom (yes, that's it to the left) meant we had the space to talk, stare into space, think, imagine and write. It's a beginners course, and I try to accomodate whatever people what to write, short stories, novels and memoirs - covering characterisation, creating atmosphere and plotting. Which generally works well, and opens people up to different ways into writing.

This was the third year I'd been there and the third year nobody was interested in poetry. And the third year I spent one morning bringing poetry to the table and while not asking them to write poems, at least asking them to read them and to consider what makes for the strength of language. By the end of the week, I had at least three converts to poetry writing and two more who wanted me to reccommend a good anthology. Ahh, the satisfaction.

And so, despite the 38' heat that meant I didn't get any of my work done in the afternoons (as usual I'd taken a bunch of paperwork, notes and books to work through), it was a productive week, meeting and getting to know people I'd never normally cross paths with, recalling schoolgirl French and eating the most fabulously ripe tomatoes.

This is what one of the participants made of it last year

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Word Soup - with or without cheese?

This is from the Word Soup first anniversary celebrations on Tuesday 22nd June

Extra Celebrations

While I'm busy sending the book out into the world, another book is being emblazoned around towns ... Word Soup, the Preston-based live literature night is one year old and has published an anthology to trumpet it.

And to trumpet that they've been illuminating buildings with poems from it. It being midsummer I was tucked up in my bed by the time they shone out (needing the dark to do it) but the kind people sent me these pics.

And then to trumpet the trumpet's trumpet they've got an evening of reading with a whole host of bods featured in the book tonight at The Continental Pub.

And what I'm especially excited about (not so much the taking part - I've had more than my fair share of readings recently, plus I've a six o'clock plane to Toulouse tomorrow for my luxury is-it-a-holiday-no-it's-work-week) is I'm reading with a bunch of fantastic Flax writers, who've I've worked with over the years. It'll be a thunderous round of back slapping and wide-grinning for the evening. And some great stories and poems too. Of course.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Launched to the North

A little like pictures of people dancing, photos of poetry readings aren't the most exciting, but I like this one cos it's got all four of us on stage. Naomi looking a little startled at what we're doing to her poem - the three on right of the stage are Mouthtrap riffing off and mashing up her poem as a cute segue from her reading to Mouthtrap's slot.

It was a subdued couple of numbers from us (probably because we'd had a bewildered reception on Sunday in Hebden Bridge), but beautifully paced and measured, lots of space and listening - by the audience as well as us. Lovely lovely. We were very pleased. As was I.

So that was the icing on an already fat, cream-slathered cake of an evening. A massive turn out (standing room only when Beth set the evening under way with two tunes) with people I'd not seen in years turning up, and people who hadn't seen each other in years catching up, and other people coming from all corners of the north to see people they'd never met. And everyone willing to participate in Steve Lewis's rendering of a couple of poems of mine, as requested. Bravo bravo for audience participation!

Between Beth and Steve was Naomi Foyle, who treated us to a short rendition of Grace of the Gamblers, a ballad of the pirate Grace O'Malley, as well as a bit of football (in a poem) and a trip around Sefton Park, lavishing us with the diversity of her new collection, The World Cup. Me too. Surrounded on stage by those who have been so important in my journey as poet and performer. Happy with my own selection that avoided all poems that might get me blubbering, although that didn't stop others ...

It was a gorgeously hot June evening, so the Maritime Museum's jetty was a brilliant outdoor space to spill out onto before and after the immaculately judged set. I couldn't have asked for it to be any different or better.

What support. What enthusiasm. What artistry. A great send off for the book. Bon Voyage! Good luck, you!

"It was such a lovely launch - I loved how all the different readers / performers fitted together... as important to you and your work and I LOVED Mouthtrap. I couldn't imagine what it was going to be like, but you all looked so happy and playful and pretty up there it made me smile. It sounded great and worked so well against Naomi's poem as well.
I want my book mouthtrapping now! I could have listened to you for loads and loads longer."

"We had a lovely time. Well-organised, and a showcase not only for poetic and musical skill and depth, but lots of warmth and charm."

"It'll look good to say on the CV to say that there were people queueing outside the door!"

"A great launch and lovely people."

Monday, 14 June 2010

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


So, with the mesmerising help of Linos Wengara Magaya and Los Bonobos, Host and The World Cup were sent on their merry way into the world.

Barely proof, but a photo from the end of the evening: I look slightly uncertain, possibly a little overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and success of the evening, while Naomi is clearly still buzzing from being both mc and reader.

The Iambic Arts Theatre was jammed with people I knew (from years ago when I lived in Brighton) and people I didn't. Jammed and buzzing. As much before with anticipation as after - with satiated relish? It was the sort of audience you dream of - superbly attentive during and very vocal in what they enjoyed afterwards. So I had some good conversations about sailing and monologues and what makes for quality in both.

Very odd now, four years in the making and it's done, bound and separate from me. Time to hear what other people make of it ...