Friday, 16 October 2009

Poetry and Paninis in the Park

Join me for an afternoon of poetry and writing in Chesterfield's lovely Victorian Queen's Park.

Tuesday 20th October, 12.00 - 3.00pm
cost: £7 / £5 conc. - includes panini, sandwich or salad + coffee, tea or soft drink

To book: phone Alison Betteridge - 01773 831359

Meet at Queen's Park Pizzaria & Gelateria, North Lodge (beside the footbridge), Queen's Park, Chesterfield S40 2LD

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

And the new Derbyshire Poet Laureate is ...

Ann Atkinson! I'm delighted to be handing the helm of the Laureate Ship over to her and wish her a happy two years filled with poetic delights of every kind ... Here's Ann

“I have lived in Derbyshire in the Peak District for over thirty years. I grew up on Teesside in the fumes of the chemical industries, and went to school on Hartlepool’s Headland, and if now and then I admit to missing the sea, when I drive up over open moorland, the clear air, the familiar skyline of the Peaks never fails to lift my heart and call me home. In the same way, though I can trace my love of poetry to my childhood and a particular teacher, it is my home and family, the beautiful landscape and the people who live in it, that provide a constant source of inspiration.

Writing poetry, working with students and fellow writers, has been central to my life for many years. Recently, in my role as Poet Laureate of the Peak, I spent several days meeting people at Bakewell Show; this proved to be a rich source of material for a set of poems.
So I look forward to meeting more people, in more and more places in Derbyshire, people who have stories to tell and poems to write....and I hope I’ll be writing some too.”

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em ...

The Some Girls' Mothers crew (of which River - now ex-Derbyshire Poet Laureate - is proud to be a member) are running a writing workshop and performing on 18th October as part of Off The Shelf Festival. Tickets are booking fast so here are the links:

We sold out Chesterfield Library Theatre in March, so hoping for a great turn-out in Sheff.
Though the authors are primarily poets, SGM is a collection of prose stories about mothers & daughters. Check out our Facebook page.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

You Are Here

... is here! Thanks to everyone who came to Alfreton last week for the grand launch of the book, and celebration of the Laureate Ship and all who have sailed in her for the last two years. It was great to see so many familiar faces and to celebrate with everyone who's contributed. You Are Here will soon be available to borrow through Derbyshire libraries or you can find out how to buy a copy here.

National Poetry Day is on the horizon. This years theme is Heroes and Heroines. I'll be reading at Hear Women Poets, Here alongside 7 other poets - a poetry relay!

If you're a knitter or crochet-er you can join (this weekend) in creating the world's biggest knitted poem!

'The whole thing starts with a single knot
and needles. A word and pen.'
(from 'How to Knit a Poem' by Gwyneth Lewis)

Monday, 7 September 2009

Poetry Season is Here

As the damp squib of a summer fades it's time to gladden the heart with poems. There's plenty to choose from in the upcoming Manchester Literature Festival (15 - 25 Oct) and Sheffield's Off The Shelf Festival (10 - 31 Oct).

Closer to home, the Melbourne Arts Festival is underway (4th - 20th Sept) with a huge variety of live performances, as well as the Art and Architecture Trail. Wirksworth Festival (11th - 26th Sept) promises a wealth of contemporary visual art and performance.

If you're putting pen to paper, why not send an entry to the Big Issue in the North Poetry Competition, closing date 8th Oct, with the theme of Heroes & Heroines.

The National Poetry Competition (closing date 31 Oct) is particularly short on entries from Derbyshire and the East Midlands this year... so get writing!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Tree Treasure

Blog silence is due to much midday and midnight oil burned whilst writing & proofing a collection about my 2 years of laureateering. The book's working title is You Are Here. It'll be launched in September and I'll be handing over to a new DPL on 8th October, National Poetry Day.
I've also been spending time in the 'deep south' of Derbyshire, at Rosliston Forestry Centre, part of the National Forest , a 'forest in the making' that covers 200 square miles of Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. I've been writing poems with Year 4 from St Edward's Catholic Primary School, Swadlincote (here's a pic of us hard at work in the Meadow), and writing a trail that will lead visitors from place to place, and tree to tree. Thanks to Kate Allies and her hard-working team for all their friendliness and hospitality.
The poem trail will be installed this autumn, but in the meantime the cracking poems written by the St Edward's crew will be on display at Swad Library and Rosliston.
Photo: Carol Rowntree Jones, Media Relations Officer, National Forest Company

Friday, 17 July 2009

Amy, Pet Laureate

Beloved cat companion Amy was put to sleep on 25th June. She had been poorly for several months. Over 12 years she often collaborated in writing, by walking across the keyboard or by making muddy pawprints on draft poems.

In honour of animal companions everywhere here are some links:

Alison Brackenbury's Cat Poems (scroll down the page)

There's also a cracking interview & poem by recent TS Eliot prize-winner Jen Hadfield, in the recent Mslexia (Jul 09): 'In the same way' about her cat Sophie.

And here's one of mine, for Amy and the pets of Derbyshire and beyond who remind us what's really important in life.

2.53 a.m.
Leave your rush-hour sweat and classroom roar.
Leave your sprint towards the train door,
double-bookings, lost notes, stagnant mail,
your desk pitched in its papery white grave.

For miles around you sense collective weight
of heads on pillows, dreams' cast-lists.
Nothing can be done. No-one to phone;
even the West Coast's on the freeway heading home.

Water slides into a glass like well-earned sleep
and as you slump across the sofa, dark takes shape;
insists you curl up, make a lap. Sink now
to purring and the deep fur of the night. Be cat.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Looking for a Laureate

Could you be Derbyshire's next Poet Laureate? I'll be handing the baton over to the next DPL on National Poetry Day in October. The laureateship is open to all who live, work or study in Derbyshire. Download the application details here. Closing date is 17th July.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Hooray for Holmewood

It was sunny all round today for the launch of the Holmewood songs and poems written by The Holmewood Team at the Macintyre Centre. A brilliant performance by everyone - even the audience! Thanks to everyone who took part. Here are some pics of the performers starring in the Ten Days of Holmewood, the display being unveiled and most importantly - the cakes!

Monday, 15 June 2009

The Magic Attic

It lived up to its name! A dozen of us spent a most enjoyable day using the resources of this amazing local and family history archive as inspiration for writing. A big thank-you to Graham Nutt who's been a volunteer at the Attic for over 20 years, and to Marion and Jackie who assisted on the day. The Attic can be found online here and at Sharpe's Pottery Museum, West St, Swadlincote SE11 9DG. It is a mine of information about South Derbyshire, N.W. Leicestershire and East Staffs, with newspapers dating back to 1782, local family records from 1640, maps and 22,000 photos from 1842 onwards.
(Photo from the Attic's collection:
Gresley Fire Brick clay mine c.1956)

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Bibliophiles in Borrowash

On the hottest day of the year, a fine crowd came to the reading at Borrowash Library this week. The librarians had laid on home-made cakes, including butterfly buns! The cakes came a very close second to the poetry on the evaluation forms.

Next week will find me at the Magic Attic, Swadlincote on Wednesday for a writing workshop using the Attic's fantastic family and local history archives. On Friday I'll be at Buxton Library for a workshop as part of National Carers' Week. If you are a carer, come along 10 am - 12 for some positive reflections & gentle writing about your experiences.

It's full steam ahead with the upcoming Celebration of Holmewood on 15th June, when the Holmewood Team from the Macintyre Centre will be helping me to perform five songs and poems they have written celebrating community life.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Congratulations to Carol Ann Duffy!

... the UK's first female poet laureate since the laureateship was created 341 years ago ... Here's a short interview with the Guardian, and the Wikipedia entry.

Mixed with the happy news is the sad news that the much-loved poet UA Fanthorpe died last week at the age of 79. She was the first real poet I met, when she came to give a reading at my school many moons ago. Premonitions is Carol Ann's recent poem dedicated to her memory.

Friday, 24 April 2009

holmewood is a happy place

I'm at Holmewood Community Centre today and my guest editor is Tina, over to her...

i go to holmewood every day and i like going swimming and playing on the nintendo wii.

i like coming to holmewood day centre and i like going out with friends.

today we have doing a poem about holmewood and we talked about what people like to do and we have been for a walk along the five pits trail and we have been writing a song about holmewood.

bye for now see you later.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Barnsley and Beyond

Recent blog silence is down to a busy few weeks. I've been buzzing between Swadlincote (Pingle School Young Writers, aka The Alliterative Allsorts), Lea Primary School, Chesterfield, Holmewood and Matlock. I've even been over the border - with the dynamic Barnsley Writers (some of their 20-strong group are in the pic).

Couple of weeks ago I was on the Jerwood Aldeburgh 'To & From a First Collection' course. Brilliant bunch of poets including Helen Mort whose one-woman show A Pint for the Ghost will be touring haunted locations later this year, accompanied by the ghosts of Derbyshire and South Yorkshire...

Other news: If you like poems in your Inbox, the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre will send you one a week, from presses in UK & Ireland.

If you're at the stage of putting together a poetry pamphlet check out the Templar Pamphlet & Book Competition, closing date 30th April 2009. Based in Bakewell, Templar also run the Derwent Poetry Festival.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Some Girls' Mothers: The Birth

Thanks to everyone who packed out Chesterfield Library's Lecture Theatre last Thursday for the grand launch, and sorry to those who couldn't get in. 190 tickets sold - who knew! There's video clips and more at Route Online. Route = Ian Daley and Isabel Galan, the nicest, most writer-friendly publishers one could wish for.

This week I've been in the fair city of Derby, running poetry workshops in the Adult Learners' Centre and the Library as part of Creative Thought - a project inspired by the Silk Mill museum and its collections.

Upcoming: On Sat 4th April I'll be at the Readers' Day at County Hall, Matlock, stirring up a poetry frenzy, with luck. For tickets call Priscilla Baily on 01773 831359.

Friday, 20 February 2009


A thousand cheers for Jo Bell (Derbyshire born & bred). Her brilliant collection Navigation, contains poems she wrote as Cheshire Poet Laureate 2007 and many others, including one of my favourites - Blessing for a Child.

I also commend to you Jo's blog (a sight more jolly than mine) and any workshops that she might run in your vicinity (I've just been on one and it was full-tilt, top-to-toe poetry).

Other news: if you or anyone you know is in Year 9 at The Pingle School, Swadlincote, there's a brand new writers' group starting up. I'll be running the first session in the school library on 3rd March.

And - on Thursday 5th March to celebrate International Women's Day and World Book Day, I'm launching Some Girls' Mothers alongside my five fellow authors. SGM is a collection of stories about mothers and daughters. Chesterfield Library, S40 1QN (lecture theatre by the basement cafe) at 7.30pm. See you there!
Pic: Jo on her canal boat. Credit: Andy Pratt

Monday, 2 February 2009

Poets with Derbyshire connections: an occasional series

Born in Birmingham, Roy Fisher has lived in Derbyshire for many years. A jazz pianist as well as a writer, his poetry is most often associated with the post-industrial landscape of the Midlands but has universal appeal. Here's an interview from 1989, and here's Roy reading his poems on the Poetry Archive. Published by Bloodaxe, some of Roy's books are out-of-print but you can find them if you look. He'll be eighty next year and a celebratory volume is being planned.

'.. anything I have seen, I've only seen by virtue of having been very inattentive or rebellious at school, and looking at what was out of the corner of the picture, what was outside the frame.' - Roy Fisher

(photo by Caroline Forbes)

Friday, 9 January 2009

Happy New Writing Year

Great start to the year in the company of fine folk from Longford (nr Ashbourne) and environs (Longford Lane, Hollington, Ednaston, Smalley, Derby, and even Staffordshire!) who gathered yesterday in Cubley Village Hall to 'Write from Scratch' and leap into poetry. Many thanks to Angela Churchill from Longford Book Group for superlative organising. I'll be in that neck of the woods again on April 21st, reading at Ashbourne Library.

Closer at hand, I'm reading at Spoken Word Antics, upstairs at the Red Deer, Pitt St, Sheffield next Tues 13th January, 8pm for 8.30pm, and selling copies of 'The Purpose of Your Visit' and 'Some Girls' Mothers' with all proceeds to medical aid for Gaza.