Chris Beckett for London Grip and his 24/7B thoughts here.
A call from lovely Robyn at the Poetry Society. ‘Interflora have been in touch’ she said ‘And they want someone to write a formula for the perfect love poem to assist bouquet-buying customers with their romantic messages on flower cards this Valentine’s Day. Are you up for it?’
I pondered hard. There’s no such thing as a formula for a poem of course … but all the work I do via Jaybird is to do with connecting poetry with new audiences, so I thought that I probably could find a way to jink and wangle some sort of poem recipe that stayed true to my beliefs about the utterly unformulaic nature of the art, but also provided some genuine advice for people wanting to turn a memorable phrase for their Valentine sweethearts. Besides, the title poem of my last book is about a flower stall, I’m currently researching Keats’ floral imagery for another Joy Forever event and we’re working on a garden poetry programme at the Poetry School – flowers and love and poetry are already as entwined in my thought processes as ivy climbing up grapevine.
Here’s what I came up with – x(p + b + c + o)
A week to go till Valentine’s Day. Plenty of time to write something beautiful.
Best Friends Forever … a new anthology December 2, 2014
The launch last night of this lovely thing - an anthology of poems about female friendship, edited by Amy Key and published by The Emma Press.
I’d always wanted to write a poem about Rizzo (most magnificent of the Pink Ladies girl gang in ‘Grease’), and when I did the maths last year and worked out that she’d be 70 now, I thought Amy’s BFF call-out for poems would be the perfect spur to write her a birthday tribute. ‘O God, 70, Can You Believe?? Come Over. No Cake’ is on page 48 – other poets included are Rachael Allen, Emily Berry, Liz Berry, Sophia Blackwell, Sophie Collins, Nia Davies, Francine Elena, Annie Freud, Sophie Herxheimer, Holly Hopkins, Emma Jeremy, Suzanne Joinson, Angela Kirby, Fran Lock, Amy Mackelden, Sharanya Manivannan, Kathryn Maris, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Rebecca Perry, Rachel Piercey, Kathy Pimlott, Andrea Quinlan, Jacqueline Saphra, Brenda Shaughnessy, Catherine Smith, Martha Sprackland, Camellia Stafford, Claire Trévien, Megan Watkins, Laura Webb and Alison Winch.
J Bird in Jaywick October 9, 2014
Last year, I worked on my first proper residency, as a guest of Essex County Council. The brief? To work with various community groups in Jaywick on the Essex coast (officially Britain’s most deprived region) to create a poem to be permanently installed round the base of their Martello Tower. I kept a separate blog about the experience here http://poetinthetower.wordpress.com/, but now the project is complete: the main poem has been cast in concrete set in a ring round the tower. I wrote two more poems with groups in Jaywick – one was based on the favourite flowers of the allotment society, and one was a shaped collection of the short and long term plans of visitors to Clacton Airshow, the edges of which could be seen from Jaywick beach. The flower one didn’t quite work, but I was pleased with the Red Arrows poem which featured both cheese rolls and chihuahuas.
Here’s the main poem. It’s installed to be read clockwise from the entrance to the tower, all the way round and back to the entrance, and to read it, you have to walk it. The stanza lengths (1 line, 2 lines, 3 lines, 2 lines, 1 line which WordPress won’t let me reproduce, grr) correspond to the stepped design of the reclaimed timber pathway that circles the tower – the tower stands in concentric rings of wooden walkway, gravel, concrete poem and wildflowers, like ripples. In between the words are stamped the regimental badges of the soldiers who were garrisoned in the tower in the early 1800s. Jaywick is a place buffeted by environmental and social forces, so I made something that means as you walk a clockwise circle to read the poem, you perform some sort of spell of enclosure and protection.
Take a turn about the tower.
Follow in the bootsteps of the soldiers who came here
to guard the sea, to keep the coast clear.
Through summer’s heat and winter’s gales
soldiers, staunch as brick-built walls,
watched the horizon, watched out for sails.
A circle protects what’s yours to defend:
to walk this path is to stand your ground.
Follow the soldiers, follow them round.
Walthamstow Garden Party July 23, 2014
I’ve just cut out 300 paper hearts on which you can write foodie love poems on Saturday and Sunday at the Appetite Festival part of the Garden Party. And preparations for the latest A Joy Forever – also on Saturday and Sunday – are coming along lovely …
These are some of the poems written with visitors to the Poetry Picnic as part of Poetry International …
Pizza News … July 16, 2014
I’m part of the Summer Season, an informal series of readings happening in at the City Pride in Clerkenwell (with magnificent pizza available). The readings will happen over four Thursday evenings. Each event will feature eight poets reading for eight minutes each. The line-up for this second event features Julia Bird, Amy Key, Fran Lock, Alex McDonald, Bobby Parker, Kate Potts, Richard Scott and Jacqueline Smith. Co-hosted by Roddy Lumsden and Abigail Parry. Free event – 28 Farringdon Lane EC1R 3AU. More details here.