Saturday, 24 October 2015

An Evening with Lemn Sissay at Hopwood Hall College

Sometimes when we see a poet perform we might see some new views, gain some insights, find some inspiration or even to learn something about ourselves.

Last night in Middleton it would be fair to say that watching and listening to Lemn Sissay we were privileged to find all of the above in abundance along with real depth of emotion and not a few laughs. The newly appointed Chancellor of the University of Manchester was on brilliant form and shared much of his own story and experience along with a great selection of his poems.

No cameras allowed in the auditorium so here's a picture of two of Lemn's books

In his own words he tends to be "non-linear" and in what appeared to be unrehearsed asides he would drift from the introduction to one of his poems into a chat about something from his life and then back again to eventually read the poem. Both his poetry and his comments were absolutely crammed with terrific insight and a great understanding of life.

Having been brought up in care he has a great understanding of the effects that the care system can have on young people and his thoughts on the Red Box (the "Break Glass in case of Fire" boxes) ought to be compulsory reading for all working on the care system as well as anyone involved in teaching young people. He spoke a great deal about the need for affirmation which we all share and the validation that family, and the search for family, can sometimes offer.

Alongside stories about his ethnic origin, the meaning of his name and some of the many places where he has performed he did of course read plenty of his poems. There were poems about inequality, sad poems, happy poems, a short poem "My dad is a pilot" about his Nigerian father, a single love poem "Invisible kisses" and even a children's poem.

Lemn Sissay's face is elastic, his voice madly flexible and his hands expressive. This was truly inspiring performance from a man who seems to thoroughly enjoy sharing, who has a quick incisive mind and wit and delivers it all in such a natural manner with little sign of an ego.

If a poet, a child grown up in care, a man with a social conscience and a man who exudes belief and equality; if such a man can be a university chancellor then maybe we really can make the world a better place.

I'm seriously enjoying dipping into the books I just had to bring home with me.

The event was part of Rochdale's Literature and Ideas Festival 2015.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A poem about difference

Last week I did something very unusual for me; I wrote a poem directly onto my computer, no rough ideas in my notebook, no scribbled alterations, just straight onto the computer and then edited a few times. There will be a few more edits for certain.

I don't think this will be a regular thing as the process felt less comfortable than the one I usually use. On the other hand once I had the idea I decided I wanted this poem quickly to be able to share at a particular event and I must admit the computer only process took less time overall.

The result?

Well the audiences at 2 events gave it a pretty big thumbs up.

What does all of this mean? To me it serves as a reminder that there are very many different ways to turn thoughts and ideas into finished writing and poems and that even for the same writer different methods are appropriate and helpful at different times.

The poem itself talks about being an outsider through differences over the years, in this case using the difference from those following and perhaps idolising the more prevalent and popular music of the time.

I'm not going to post the full poem here but a small section of it goes like this:

"In seventy-two
They were all crazy now
Slain by Slade
And I listened to five year old bookends
Still hearing Old Friends
Sat on their park bench"

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Fifth Birthday for Thinking Too Much Blog

Exactly 5 years ago today I started this blog. My first post copied below set out my intentions:

"This blog will contain a variety of my poems, some will be new ones as I finish them and some will be poems I have written previously. My poetry is often written with performance in mind and I regularly perform at Write Out Loud venues in the North West of England."

Five years on how things have changed on the writing front (nowadays I call it poeting);

After an initial flurry of activity I found myself so busy with work and other commitments that although still writing and doing lots of other creative stuff I just didn't have time for the blog and it slipped with very little activity in 2013 and 2014.

Earlier this year things started to pick up as I looked forward to my biggest ever gig - The Eroica  Britannia Festival so I started planning and at the same time blogging a bit more often and decided that I should finally put together that collection of poetry that had been rattling around as an idea in my mind for the last few years.

Eroica was brilliant and helped me to think of being a poet in a different way - I started to think of it as a much bigger part of who I am, I started to call myself a poet. I've performed more widely, Wherever I go I'm a poet and I've developed the confidence to say so, no more do I say "I write a few poems" now I'll just say it as it is "I'm a poet".

Finally I gave up the day job.

Creative work is where my heart lies and I'm working towards making a living from it. All the experience of writing, of creating and delivering workshops voluntarily and my teaching experience can surely combine to create myself a role where I can do something I really care about, support other people and put bread on the table (figuratively as I tend to make my own bread).

It is a massive step and not limited to poetry alone, I'm also creating images (mainly digital) and getting back into teaching art and photography with some plans for new kinds of workshop developing right now.

Exciting and a bit scary - but then isn't life like that much of the time anyway.

Wonder what I'll be saying in another 5 years.....

Monday, 12 October 2015

Rochdale Fringe Festival gathering pace – Norman Warwick at The Baum 8th October 2015

Thursday 8th July saw second of the Rochdale Fringe Festival events, in the lead up to the Rochdale Literature and ideas Festival, and the final Baum showcase performance from Norman Warwick.

Norman Warwick in his farewell performance
As I said in my introduction this was a man who needed no introduction; Norm has been a mainstay of the Rochdale arts scene especially through All Across The Arts, Just Poets and the Touchstones Creative Writing Group. There are many writers and artists who have gained so much from working with, being encouraged by and promoted by Norm through the wide range of events, workshops, newspaper column, radio show and his enthusiasm to offer advice, critique and do whatever he can to contribute.

Many of us turned out at the Baum to listen to Norm who was welcomed with a proper Rochdale Rapturous Round of applause and he certainly didn't disappoint as the whole room laughed along as he told us of a first trip to the barbers, felt the love and hope as his miner dances with the goddess from 'off the silver screen' and were moved by his performance of "Lost in the fadeaway diamond time" telling us of the lost of his dear friend and songwriting superstar Townes Van Zandt.

With an open-mic style read around (see pics below) Norm and the audience were regaled poetry and prose from young and old with tales of life from the mundane to the fantastic (or perhaps ridiculous) with a range as varied, entertaining and powerful as we've come to expect at this venue. Great stuff!

As Norm heads off to a sunnier retirement he is not likely to stop inspiring, entertaining and supporting artists and Rochdale's loss will be Lanzarote's gain.

Meanwhile it falls to those of us remaining to ensure that we continue to have a thriving, developing and welcoming arts scene in Rochdale into the future building on foundations to which Norm has contributes so much over the years.

Superheroes of Slam - Huddersfield 7th October 2015

After an introduction by Julian Jordan who reminded us that slams are the blood sport of poetry and explained the rules and scoring the slam got underway:

Dave Morgan opens the slam performances

Dave Morgan (above) was up first, the most difficult slot in a slam and a chance for the judges to settle. I was fourth or fifth and unlike my previous go at a slam I didn't feel too nervous.

After an interesting first half with really diverse poems 5 poets with the highest scores had qualified for the final. I wasn't either too surprised or too disappointed to find myself in the other half; realising that my style lends itself more to a different and less competitive style and learning more about what it takes to deliver a potential winning poem.

The final saw many high scores but at the end the highest scores were awarded to Rose Condo who, in agreement with the judges, I felt was the strongest performer of the night. Rose will now have a place in the Manchester based final of the Commonword Super Heroes of Slam.

Slam winner Rose Condo

Julian was right; this is the blood sport of poetry but it was also a great night out and credit to the newish venue Bar 1:22 in Huddersfield which is likely to find itself hosting spoken word more frequently in the future.

I said in a previous post (3rd August) that entering the slam would be stepping outside my comfort zone  trigger some creativity and give myself a deadline.

All of that turned out to be true but as the day of the slam approached I stepped much further outside my comfort zone, gave up that day job, started establishing my own creative business and re-registered with agencies do some part time teaching.

I'm writing as much as I can, creating some new workshops, developing new images for sale, making and remaking contacts and getting out on the poetry scene as much as I can.

It is a bit scary, it is exciting and although outside of the norm, out of my comfort zone and a bit precarious it has made me feel rejuvenated, more comfortable and sane than I've felt for ages and I find myself looking forwards - wondering just how far I can go rather than whether to go at all.

So if anyone needs a facilitator, a compere, a poet, needs some workshops, needs some commissioned writing, wants some new images or just some inspirational words just give me a shout....

Friday, 9 October 2015

Thinking Too Much at Bar Vibe - 1st October 2015

A new Rochdale venue, Bar Vibe on Drake Street, and the first of the Fringe events for the Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival.

Bar Vibe, set up by a local charitable organisation, offers a place for people (mainly young people) to perform and create music with a nice stage, an alcohol-free bar, large lounge/study area and a recording studio. Add in the opportunities for music tuition and editing and this looks like a great new facility; they've even got a collection of house instruments for those who don't have access to one of their own.

But for one night this was the home of poetry.

Reading from my new book at Bar Vibe
Introduced by Norman Warwick I read some poems from my book and some newer poems which along with an interview and discussion session hosted by Norm were recorded for All Across The Arts and Crescent Radio.

A great audience joined in the conversation as we talked about outsiders, the creative life, motivation and how (and maybe why) we write.

Norman Warwick asks the questions at Bar Vibe
Audience members then had a chance to share one of their own poems, or a favourite from someone else with the chance for some instant feedback or critique.

Eileen Earnshaw read from Tony Walsh's excellent "Sex & Love & Rock and Roll" with a rendition of "A Girl, Like, Y'know" that was full of power, belief and passion - I'm sure Tony would have been proud that his poem in the voice of a teenage girl could be given such life by a lady who won't mind me mentioning that she's past 70. The audience loved it and demanded another and were treated to "She Never" also from Tony's book - we could have just let her carry on, this was so good, but others were still to follow.

Marian Tonge gave us "The Enemy" one of her own poems reflecting on war with two soldiers from different sides and the powerful vision of 'A man, the same as me' and the local reference in the term 'dying pals'. Marian then treated us to "Gorilla" a great fun look through the eyes of a nicotine addicted ape - super stuff indeed.

Jackie Philips next up with her poem "What makes a woman" with the balance between 'strength and champagne', 'stubborn, bold', fury gently controlled and the 'occasional stinky fart'. She followed this with "And then came man" a tale of man's lack of care for our planet with the quiet yet powerful phrase 'polar ice warmed for him'. The audience and I loved it and next on stage was Paul Jelen.

Paul's quietly spoken poetry isn't loud and it never needs to be, he says all that he needs to say in calm and measured tone and with deep thought. Paul read two poems "Room" and his second poem "Heaven" with the wonderful line 'became the loudness of clocks'.

A brief pause to let Paul's words seep in and Norm was back on stage for a quick poem and to ask for another couple from me to finish the evening.

My enormous gratitude goes to those who came and shared the evening with me and especially to Norm for his usual excellent compering and interviewing skills, to the venue, to Maggie for soothing my brow and keeping me going, to Steve Cooke and Eileen Earnshaw for helping to arrange the event and to those people who bought copies of "Thinking Too Much", my collection of poems, available fro £7 per copy.

My full set list was:

The churn
People riding bikes
The Hood
Stranger conversations
A platform I don't know
The curse
Badger Brushes and Brass
A minute and a half

Coffee House Night - 28th September 2015

Coffee House Night, Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, Monday 28 September 2015

Looking for something new, a chance to hear new voices and enjoy new venues we headed over to Huddersfield for the Coffee House Night;

Queen's Coffee Shop at the Lawrence Batley Theatre
Coffee House Night opened a new season on Monday 28th September in Queenie’s Coffee Shop at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield. We were welcomed on arrival by organiser, compere and performance poet Rose Condo.

Rose opened the night with a poem and introduced the first open-mic poets including a stand-out, 5 minute set from the youngest poet in the room, Theo Ayres, with his unique, imaginative and creative style.

The Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield

The first special guest Wigan’s Louise Fazackerley wound up the first half of the night in terrific style with her powerful tales of everyday life in the North. After a brief break to refresh drinks Rose introduced the next of open-mic poets. I read two of my own poems and then the second special guest David Jarman, poet and songwriter from York, entertained with his brand of rapid fire rhythm and rhyme to finish the session.

This was an entertaining night with an appreciative audience in a cafĂ© with excellent drinks and cakes – what more could a poet want; except another Cofee House Night on 26 October?

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Thinking Too Much - The book

Thinking Too Much
a collection of poems by Seamus Kelly

After many hours of toil, editing poems, editing them again, writing an introduction, managing contents, layout, cover and back cover design and liaising with the printers; I finally have my book.

In fact I have a box of books:

Thinking Too Much - They're here!

"Quien descubre el quien soy descubrira el quien eres"

The quote above from Pablo Neruda's La Injustica seemed appropriate for inclusion after the introduction; speaking as it does about discovering others through discovering oneself.

Contents page - Thinking Too Muc
There are 34 poems in the book covering a wide range of issues from family, love, death and illness, to my own views on society and some of the things that are wrong with it. It isn't all doom and gloom of course and there are amusing and hopefully inspiring tales in this short collection and I hope readers might make a few discoveries of their own.

So "Thinking Too Much" is here now.

I'll be finalising a launch event shortly and you'll be able to read the announcement here, but for those who just can't wait....

You can catch me and buy a copy at a poetry or writing event for £7 per copy - I'll be happy to sign it for you.

If you would prefer to have a copy delivered to your door then that can be arranged by emailing me at info@seamuskellypoetry and I can arrange payment through PayPal

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Open Mic at the Red Lion, Littleborough

Finding out at the last minute that there was to be an open mic night in Littleborough at The Red Lion last night, 24th August, I finished my tea and hurried to get changed to see what was going on.

Arriving a few minutes after the start, I grabbed a Ginger Beer at the bar, and took a seat in the gap

between readers. As I settled to listen to the next poet I found myself sharing a table with Pam Igoe Hall who I hadn't met in a good few years since she was a regular at our Weaving Words writing group at Rochdale Library. Pam had taken a few years off from writing but is back with a vengeance and during the evening read two poems which struck a chord with the audience.

As well as a few seasoned regulars there were a good number of new faces around the room some of whom had never seen a poetry event before and one of those, Ian, even got up and read some classic poems.

The event was organised by Robin Parker, of Langley Writers, who read the story of Noah and his Ark with a new twist from his book, the Edenfield Scrolls.

Joe the Rochdale Ranter had a rant about Jeremey Kyle, and why not? Rhyming Ron should perhaps add a bit more alliteration and change his name to "Rather Rude Rhyming Ron" after performing two poems about the seedier side of life had the audience in stitches.

To finish the evening Norman Warwick gave a very powerful and emotionally charged rendition of his poem about the loss of his dear friend Townes Van Zandt - The Fade Away Diamond Time.

Into this mix during the first half I added some light amusement with "Different Dad" which you can read here. In the second half I was more serious with my poem about being lost in grief; "A Platform I Don't Know" - that one you'll be able to read in my soon to be launched book "Thinking Too Much"

You can read a little bit more about the book in my next post.....

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The Business of Writing

Funny thing about all this poetry; the more you get involved, the more you perform, the more you hear and the more you read the more you tend to write.

Nothing prompts a flurry of creative activity like having a looming deadline, a performance or a workshop to deliver.

I've usually got a few things on the go, anything from three to half a dozen; when a deadline looms at least a couple of those will get finished.

Once the writing starts then it multiplies, even when you've not got a pen, dictaphone or a computer to hand stuff is still happening in your mind - if I seem a bit distant sometimes that might be why. Finishing one or two of those "on-the-go" poems inevitably leads to more than that number of new ideas filling pages of the notebook - and it is almost always a notebook.

Some of the time I've also got other, non-poetic, writing on the go as well, at the moment and for the last year or so that means a couple of rather large stories that somehow keep rolling around in my mind and bit by bit start appearing on paper or on a memory chip. The current ones involve; bikes, a revolutionary tale, some elements of steampunk, some dark stuff, a fair few struggles and a bit of hope; all the things you tend to find in fairly lengthy stories.

One has the working title of "Circling the Darkness" which I liked so much I almost nicked it for a poem but it has far too much material in there to fit into a poem (unless it were one of those single-poem books). There's a picture of the notebook where it started here:

They don't have verses or stanzas but tend instead to have chapters and they don't necessarily come in the right order. And they have characters who don't necessarily end up the way they were first envisaged. they have plots which can go off unexpectedly to new area and they may at some time in the future have endings, just maybe. A bit like poems they might start off with a title but I expect that like poems the title, the one they end up with, will come along at the end of the process which in these cases might be a very long time away.

The business of writing would take much more time than there is available, even if you stopped doing everything else so I've come to the realisation that in the end it really does need to be treated as a business or a project. It needs to be allocated to certain times, it needs to have some kind of targets (for motivation - you might even call them deadlines - although that might be a title for a collection of poems....), it needs to be organised and to be considered successful it needs to have some kind of an end result.

So I'm looking at a project management approach to some of my writing. The project won't always be something like "To produce a poem about xxxx"; it is often likely to be to work with the idea of xxxx and if there is a poem or a story in there then write it.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Comfort Zones - The slam

When I wrote a recent blog post about an open mic in the very busy Union Inn in St. Ives I mentioned the benefit of stepping outside of one's comfort zone (see more here).

Prior to that I'd had the amazing experience of performing at the Eroica Festival in Bakewell, Derbyshire (see more here).

So now I've been home for a couple of weeks, gone out to work in the daytime, headed out to a familiar open mic night (see the previous post about Shindig #23 here) and to some extent dropped back into my comfort zone.

It seems that its time to step outside of my comfort zone again so I've done something I've not done for a very long time. Something I last did when my confidence as a poet and as a performer really wasn't ready. Back then as a "novice" there was little to no pressure but now I've got my own expectations to meet, I need to satisfy my own perception of quality; so this time there will be pressure. This time it will be outside my comfort zone.

Yes I've entered a slam. Huddersfield round of Superheroes of Slam - Bar 1:22, 7th October.

Not just turn up on the night an think OK I'll give it a shot, but entered well in advance, early enough to need to prepare, to need to know I will give it my best shot. Winning or losing won't matter (he lied!) but I'll need to feel that I've done myself and my material justice.

So a new deadline looms and creativity not so much sparks but gets dragged kicking, panicking and screaming into action....

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Spoken Word Shindig #23, Hebden Bridge

Last night I headed over to Hebden Bridge for edition number 23 of the Spoken Word Shindig organised by the inimitable Winston Plowes. Nelson's Wine Bar was crowded from the start and provided a terrific audience who thanks to Winston's expertly set up PA could hear every word and every pause.

Winston opened the night with an announcement about a future evening in September which will aim to be inclusive for people with hearing impairments and his announcement was given simultaneously in British Sign Language (BSL) by his daughter Maisie. On the night Michael Wilson will be performing and he is renowned not only for his excellent poetry but also for performing his work verbally and using BSL.

Great performances followed from Victoria Gatehouse supporting main guest Noel Whittall before the open mic with a full complement of 14 poets with some really outstanding work not least two really serious and thought provoking sets from Steven Anderson (now known to Winston as "Mr Shindig) and "H". We were entertained, provoked and perhaps occasionally bewildered and even had guitar accompaniment from one performer; the applause and cheers told the story of a great night.

When I came up to perform at number 13 I had intended to do my anti fox hunting poem, but moved by others poems I chose to do "Not like the rest" a true and sad tale about mental illness, inadequate services and suicide - you can read it here.

First though I decided to read a brand new poem "Strictured Structures" which had started the evening as some ideas and notes in my notebook shown above complete with smudging from condensation dripping from my glass as I wrote. Its about the essence of poetry, mine in particular, and apart from the opening line "I'm an acrostic agnostic" it isn't available on-line.

Overall another great Shindig night in Hebden that proves that Winston and Nelson's are doing something right!