The Tunbridge Wells Poetry Festival was originally conceived and ministered by Sarah Miles of Paperswans Press and the baton was then passed to the current committee in 2020, only for their plans to be scuppered by Covid-19 and the lockdown restrictions arising from it.
Now in August 2021 it is up and running again and the full listing is below.
Covid Safety: The Festival offers a mixture of online and face-to-face events. We will work with our venues to ensure that all government guidelines are followed.
In February Katie Griffiths and I met on Zoom to discuss ‘Moonbather’, the poem Katie had suggested we might make into a poetry film. ‘Moonbather’ has the two components that make for a good poetry film: layers and space. I asked Katie to tell me about the poem. (I used to be nervous asking a poet what their poem was about, but it is an obvious question as I want to hear it from the perspective of it being written – even though I will already have my own thoughts on it.)
We discussed the music and I suggested it included some ‘humming’. A month or so later Katie sent me a soundtrack she had been working on. It was in three bits, which recycle, with the chorus lasting a bit longer each time.
I thought this is brilliant, I had developed the idea of a fairy-tale-like setting for the film and Katie’s music was perfect for that. I had read and re-read the lines to the point that I woke up with them in my mind. I did what I usually do, that is to sit in my car in a carpark, the space giving me a different perspective. I looked for the significant lines and visualised the poem, thinking how I could frame it. I broke the poem down to find where the space was, keeping the line breaks but moving the stanza breaks (and then on the timeline I cut the audio track at the points where I had made these breaks). This was an important step but by the final version it was pretty much as it was before.
I headed to an orchard to film but when I got there the footpath had been closed due to bad weather. By chance I came across a nearby woodland where I set up the tripod in several places and panned the camera (I made it appear to be by moonlight in post editing).
I had to return when it was windier to get movement in the top branches of the tall trees. I later discovered that the area was ‘Friary Wood’ which was once a monastic settlement of an order founded in France. That seemed so apt! On the way home from the woods, I came across a stagnant pond – a poem that asks a question might need something reflective (without being too much of a cliché), I thought!
I wanted a human element in the wood and Chaucer Cameron provided this aspect by being filmed against a green screen and moving a little to the soundtrack being played. I also subtly merged the text of Au Clair de la Lune onto the woodland floor towards the end.
At one stage I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I felt I had made two films – one for the poem and another for the music – neither of which were satisfactory alone, and I could not find a way of bringing them together. At that point I copied and pasted to a new timeline, mixed things up a little and worked more freely until I was happy with the result. (There’s a point in most of my poetry films where I think it best to give up – my inner critic doesn’t know about the other timeline thing!)
Katie and I shared some email correspondence about the music which resulted in just the vocals at the start, some adjustments to volume and timing, and a musical round at the end.
Haunting sound effects at the start of the film add mystery, then a lone voice is heard humming, and the volume gradually builds until the first line: “She is slink and fall”. Movement then begins in the forest as shadows appear and fade. There are two turning points in the music and film. The first turn comes two minutes in at “Will you try to save her?”, and the viewer is in effect looking into the reflective surface of the water. The main turn comes at “sister sister shake out your limbs” – the figure is seen in the treetop silhouetted against the moon, the vocal, Au Clair de la Lune, begins and the music moves up an octave and becomes more energetic. At this point the forest changes and becomes a fairy-tale in itself.
Helen Dewbery established Poetry Film Live, an online poetry film journal. Her poetry films have been shown at poetry events and festivals in the UK and internationally. She provides online and face to face training, as well as curating and talking about poetry film at festivals. Helen is co-director of The Big Poetry Weekend in Swindon, UK.
Katie Griffiths grew up in Ottawa, Canada, in a family originally from Northern Ireland. She came second in 2018’s National Poetry Competition. Her pamphlet, My Shrink is Pregnant, was a winner in Live Canon’s 2019 pamphlet competition. She was published in Primers Volume One by Nine Arches Press, and her first full-length collection, The Attitudes, was published in April, also by Nine Arches Press. She’s a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen and Red Door Poets, and is singer-songwriter in the band A Woman in Goggles.
Watch the film trailer for The Attitudes
This Kilt of Many Colours is David Bleiman’s first poetry pamphlet, out now from Dempsey & Windle.
50 pages, £8
“Reading David’s poemario transported me to dusty village squares, faint echoes of joyful gatherings still lingering around the tables outside the bars, which had in turn borne witness to violent events that shaped the identity of the people and places explored in this collection. David weaves his personal history with that of his family’s journey, in the weft and weave of the fabric that makes up his sense of self and linguistic identity. The half-remembered melodies and incantations of his grandparents are woven with the hope and tenderness of a lullaby for his own granddaughter. The reader is part of this process of handing down wisdom and words through the generations. There is a sense that as people move on, they bring their words with them unaltered, building linguistic monuments instead of physical ones. Regrets and rituals are half understood but fully felt as the reader is put in the position of the child who participates in ceremonies and hears the family stories repeated without fully comprehending them, layers of meaning gathering over the decades. Languages are expertly woven into the colourful fabric, leaving the reader with a feeling of Heimweh for places we have never visited and for languages we have never spoken. We are all made of stardust…y somos todos polvo de las estrellas. It’s a braw collection that will keep readers searching for a piece of their own identity in the multilingual mix.”
Cate Hamilton, educator, linguist and researcher
Lacquer wood fiddler
In Red Square grannies sweep the snow,
men with hungry eyes
come on the coach,
bribe our driver,
pull wild cats with ear flaps
from a canvas bag.
In the Lenin hills
veterans sell army caps
and all their glory badges
of a worthless war.
I need some trophy trinket
but I will not find you here
but posed and presented,
wood freezing your anguish
in the GUM department store.
you hold your fiddle
in a fingerless fist
and throw back your head
to a pudding bowl hat
and yet your eyes
are closed and ringed
and the stubble on your chin
shadows a restless moon.
What is your melody,
my yidl mit’n fidl?
Who inscribed ‘Ayy’ on your base?
Who carved and shlepped you
from your shtetl?
My friend, you need to ask?
The klezmer I play for your ten roubles
is singing in your granny’s voice
and ‘Ayy’ is the cry that falls
from the roof of the burning barn
when the Cossacks ride out
in the morning.
(For a September granddaughter)
Given to light,
of southern suburbs,
catches the rowan fruits
to feed a song thrush.
As you come in
and where you go,
the rowan tree will care for you
and grow as you shall grow.
In the night, Rowan,
when you and I can’t sleep,
the poem that I planted yesterday
is fruiting clusters,
on every branch.
Be deep, enchanting as a tree,
peaceful, persistent as a poem,
stand shelter, smiling at the door
and share your sparkling fruit
with all these hungry birds
who want to sing with you
the winter through.
For further details, including Youtube videos and UK purchases (free of p&p), click here:
To purchase for delivery outside the UK, click here:
Chatting to Ronnie Goodyer about IDP and Saboteur Awards wins…
This year you won two categories in the Saboteur Awards – no mean feat. Can you tell me what it means to you to have been voted Most Innovative Publisher?
It was the second time we’d been honoured with this, the first time was in 2017 and it felt just as wonderful. It’s been a difficult time for us all and the indie publishing industry was no exception. Bookshops closed, printers and others with less staff/longer turnaround etc To not only survive this but emerge strongly and with sufficient people thinking we were worthy of their vote just made our hearts sing. We are acutely aware that these awards are mostly down to the energy and enthusiasm of our Indigo community: our Indigo Dreamers must have supported us in droves! We shepherd a team of fantastic poets and it highlights them too, which is terrific and deserved.
What exciting things do you have planned for next year and has this year’s win enticed you down the road less travelled to explore new ventures?
We’ll actually be publishing fewer books than recent years. The pandemic has taught us all to evaluate time, and we will be working on poetry projects that we commission or request, continue as normal with our 3 magazines, and our own writing. Indigo have just published an innovative anthology, Dear Dylan, which not only contained ‘poems after’ Dylan but ‘letters to’ him. What would today’s poets like to say to him? We have a few more ‘different’ ideas along these lines and will also be publishing the second anthology with League Against Cruel Sports (Ronnie is poet-in-residence). We published the first in their near 100 year history.
Your second win was for the collaborative work, Forest more or less which Elton John described as “a great way to start the weekend”. How did Elton John get to read it(!)
Ah, Sir Elton! Ronnie used to run his own Celebrity Management/Publishing company and often sends books off when he feels people would like them. He has his private address and we sent a copy to him and his partner. He sent a hand-written letter back with extremely kind and personal comments.
And you contribute to the League when a member buys a copy?
Yes, the League generously mentioned the book on social media and we reciprocated by donating when orders received by members. We’re strong believers in animal rights and welcomed the opportunity to help.
Head over to their site HERE
Play Lists is Jessica Mookherjee’s new book out now from Broken Sleep Books.
38 pages, £6.50
“A collection of poetry dripping with nostalgia for a time when love was a name on a pencil case, rock and roll meant everything and the world seemed so much wider. Mookherjee’s poems are bedazzled with glossy and alluring figures; Bowie, Bryan Ferry and Iggy Pop all feature as Mookherjee grows from school crushes, first dates and small town escapism to the excitement of being a young adult in London. Play Lists is an absorbing and tender stroll through the golden years.”
The sun and air were your best friends, you were cool
breezes at the back of the class with them,
they didn’t get your jokes but I laughed. I was at the front
taking notes. Heartbeat like a sickening ship as you put
an arm round my neck at break and asked
why I hadn’t been to school for weeks. The other boys
distracted looking down Lucy King’s shirt, you kissed
my hand and asked if I was into the Smiths.
Those lunch breaks dancing in the playing fields
waving bits of grass, twigs and flowers, sprawled
with our over long jumpers as we laughed. You’re the only one
I know that think’s they’re funny, I mean who says
‘heaven knows’ anyway? So we kept our shaded secrets
until I knew the weight of the summer crushed me.
Comic caper, dressed like the Velvets, gave himself haircuts
and false names. Pick this card, stick it in the fridge to keep it
the coolest trick. A Waterloo Sunset while he sipped
cola in a Soho bar. London cooled, he met her at the bus stop
on Islington Green, St James’ park, a party on Caledonian Road.
He met her in the Samuel Becket , pretended he wasn’t looking,
Call me the devil, the horned one. Could explain herself on a night bus
to Clerkenwell, sometimes Baudelaire, other times beer
and jellied eels. It was his turn, what a co-incidence, he said,
Primal Scream, football, Oasis and cocaine, he offered her Molly
and thirty quid. Cartoon girlfriend, she wept tears Oh Brad.
Won’t you take me out? She tired, the bands waned and the mixer
didn’t fix her, play me a torch song, she didn’t like his answer,
or his reveal, You can be Betty Blue and I can be Walter Mitty.
In the heat of a new, improved city, where the bands played
footie on top of HMV, she took the card from up her sleeve,
said she wanted something real, rubbed him out.
For tickets to the launch of this book and others click the link below:
Mist and Mountain Creative Residency, in collaboration with Gerard Rochford’s Literary Executors, are delighted to launch The Gerard Rochford Poetry Prize 2021.
Writers are invited to submit an original poem in English on the theme of ‘Family’ to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org before the competition closing date of 30 June 2021.
The winning poet and two runners up will be announced on Sunday 1 September 2021 with the publication of their winning entries on the Mist and Mountain Creative Residency website and Gerard Rochford Poetry page.
The winner will receive a large, bespoke commemorative plate, courtesy of Campbeltown Pottery, featuring an excerpt of Gerard Rochford’s poetry and £150.
Two runners ups will each receive a small, bespoke commemorative plate and £50.
I’ve always had an ambition to write, specifically a fictional story for children. I have the title, lead character and plot intention (if not an actual plot) clear in my mind. But aside from sporadic attempts on holidays to start writing it, my masterpiece has hovered patiently in the wings for many years, unformed, waiting to be told. And yet to my surprise, this week I find myself penning the final chapter of a business book, The Future of Time, due to be published early next year. It’s making me ponder: what form does a story take? What does a storyteller look like?
My English teacher at school advised me not to do English A-level alongside French and Spanish. Apparently Maths would be far more useful. I disagreed then and still do now (I never used trigonometry or calculus again). But being the obedient type, I obligingly sweated over Maths instead. Somehow, despite exploring vast quantities of international literature during my A-levels and my degree, the idea lodged in my head that I wasn’t cut out for creative writing or storytelling. That was reinforced by my career choices: I’ve always worked in the world of business, not books.
After a brief but entertaining flirtation with retail at Harrods, I spent 15 years in management consulting helping big UK and multinational companies to implement large-scale changes in their organisations and HR functions. This might sound dry and impersonal but it was the opposite. Yes there were numbers involved but mainly, it was about people and human dramas playing out in the workplace. Changes that are imposed on us in our work lives – like mergers and restructurings – can be exciting, stressful and sometimes traumatic. Our jobs enable us to pay our bills but for many of us, our work also shapes an essential part of our identity and purpose. So we care deeply when we discover our job is at risk, our team is being re-organised or our work responsibilities reshaped.
I conducted hundreds of focus groups and interviews with people in all kinds of roles and at all levels, listening to their views, concerns and hopes for the future. Feelings and emotions frequently ran high. People needed to tell someone their story, their anecdotes about working there and how they felt about what was happening. Some were excited, others fearful, others angry. I listened and listened. I felt a weight of responsibility to help their voices be heard. Not to gloss over the details and the impact, but to reflect these back to business leaders. To remind those leaders of the humanity they held in their hands, as well as their business plans. Not just to report the facts but the emotions and experiences that added depth and meaning. The hopes and fears, questions and ideas that I’d heard. I wanted to honour what people had shared with me and to amplify their voices. It’s not easy to be heard in a workforce of thousands. Over the years I wrote countless reports, presentations and communications for many different audiences, never thinking I was storytelling.
I continued to listen to people’s stories in my next role running professional networks in the City of London. I heard high-profile businessmen and women talk about how they’d reached the lofty heights of their careers. I spoke with people who were just starting out, who’d fought tooth and nail to land their first job in a prestigious firm. People in their 30s and 40s returning apprehensively to work after a career break or a new baby. Older workers what their late stage career might look like. I interviewed, wrote articles and white papers, spoke at conferences and to the press, brought people together to discuss topics of mutual interest. Still I didn’t think I was storytelling.
Now I work independently, speaking and advising on creating workplaces where everyone can flourish. And yes, I write too. My business book is about how organisations can manage working time better and by doing so, boost the productivity, diversity and wellbeing of their workforce. Writing this book and reflecting on the creative experience has led me to realise that I am indeed a story teller and I always have been. I tell other people’s stories. I collect them, weave them together, see the common threads, look curiously into the gaps. And with my book, I’m telling my own story of how our world of work could change for the better.
Maybe one day, sooner than I think, I’ll write that children’s novel too.
Against the Grain Press is giving away a pamphlet with every copy of Arrival at Elsewhere – the Saboteur Awards shortlisted Best Collaboration. A hundred voices speak with elegance and cohesion in this beautifully sculpted book. The presses poets include Denise Bundred, Chaucer Cameron, Benjamin Cusden, Olga Dermott-Bond, Michelle Diaz, Carl Griffin, Anna Kisby, S.A. Leavesley, Jane Lovell, Sean Magnus Martin, Cheryl Moskowitz, Colin Pink, Natalie Shaw and Claire Walker.
Follow the link to their site HERE
Managed by the Festival Friends, the competition has grown from small beginnings in 2007 and now attracts entries locally, nationally and internationally; Our Poet of the Year 2020 was local poet Charlotte Cornell, and in 2019 it was Mara Adamitz Scrupe from Philadelphia, USA.
Entries are £5 per poem and must be accompanied by an entry form.
All work is judged anonymously. A longlist (approximately 35 poems) will be announced later in the year and published in an anthology. From this list a shortlist will be drawn with the selected poets invited to read their work at the Awards Evening, taking place on National Poetry Day, 7 October (Covid-19 restrictions allowing).
The winner, announced at the Awards, will become the Poet of the Year 2021 and receive a prize of £200. Second place receives £100 and third place £50. At the Awards Evening there are two more prizes; the Best-Read Poem receives a bottle of sparkling wine, and the People’s Choice- as chosen by the audience from the anthology – receives £25.
Further details HERE
Listen to last year’s winner…