October News…

If you see October, can you ask it where it’s gone? ūüėÄ I can’t believe it’s morphed into November! This is always the busiest¬†time of year for me but it feels like it more so than ever this year.

It’s been all go with Off the Shelf Festival of Words and various Hive related events including readings from Lauren¬†Hollingsworth Smith¬†and Georgie Woodhead with TS Eliot winning poet Roger Robinson, and Warda Yassin was crowned Sheffield’s new poet laureate (which is just brilliant news!)¬†earlier this month – and it actually involved a live event, albeit at a very distanced Crucible¬†Theatre. She’s also been shortlisted in the Women’s Poetry Prize. So proud of her and how she’s flying right not. Also her work on Hive’s Mixing Roots project.

I’ve been¬†working away on lots of¬†podcast content in between teaching, and designing and editing an anthology of poetry and fiction by the¬†Sheffield Children in Care Council. It’s just back from the printers and I’m so pleased with how it’s turned out and all the work of the young people; many of whom, wouldn’t have called themselves writers not so long ago. I’ve been working with them on Zoom for the last few months and I’m going to miss them! They’ve written some brilliant work too, including some really powerful group pieces.¬† You can join us on Zoom for their launch on Thursday 12th Nov (link to follow). They really deserve your ears!

I’ll leave this here with a wonderful podcast I recently put together¬†– Young, Gifted & Black, (in collaboration with REMA for Black History Month) showcasing the voices of up and coming local young poets of African heritage¬†I have the pleasure¬†of working with via Hive. They are: Taina Maneus, Verta Lune, Danae Wellington, Warda Yassin and Sile Sibanda. I hope you’ll bring joy to your ears¬†by listening¬†it >>

Hello Autumn

Good evening.. October is here and so quickly! It’s always¬†one of the busiest times of year and despite lockdown, it’s still full-on.¬†So, a few wee updates…

Next week I’m leading a workshop for Wakefield LitFest which I’m looking forward to. If you’re a young person 14-25 in the Wakefield region with a poetry itch to scratch, get in touch!

Also, the fantastic Birdlife Podcast is here!¬†And let’s be honest, when don’t we need birdsong? I for one feel that the birds of spring were pure magic going into lockdown. Even if you’re not into birds, I would definitely recommend the poetry side. Dave the Dunnock is a must listen! I’ve got a poem about wrens on there too.

It’s Off the Shelf Festival of Words starting next week in Sheffield (except it’s everywhere because it’s mostly online!). Hive is involved with various young writer happening. You can find out more here.

Aurora Poetry Prize 2020

I’m just updating this post to say – I’m delighted to have been awarded first place in the Aurora Poetry Prize! Not really sure what to say so I won’t add anything else except, I’m so grateful to Writing East Midlands and to Helen Mort who judged and said lovely things about my work. Such a lovely boost. Thank you!

Lovely bit of news! I’ve been shortlisted for the Aurora Poetry Prize 2020 judged by Helen Mort. Really boosted to be in the top 10 considering they had 900 entries between poetry and fiction! I think they will announce the winners in early Sept.¬† In other news the brilliant Mixing Roots is back with Hive, led by three of the most inspirational young women I’m honoured to know – Warda Yassin, Danae Wellington & Sile Sibanda. If you are or know of, any young people of colour aged 14 to 21 in South Yorkshire, please send them our way or come through yourself! ūüôā

Inventory of Small Pleasures (poem)

A while back, I mentioned I’d been asked to write a poem for the Small Pleasures project with Dina Sheffield. Along with 9 other poets, and 10 artists, this is the result of our creative doings:¬†www.smallpleasuresproject.com/anthology, a wonderful¬†range of work exploring all things small and pleasurable during lockdown.¬†As mine is quite long on the page, I’ve recorded an audio version here (so it’s accessible to my mum!) and anyone else who wants to listen. Thanks again to Jemima, Evelyn and all at Dina for the opportunity to turn something of lockdown into art!

Our Rotherham film poem commission

I’m so¬†proud to have written this poem with Rotherham Young Writers celebrating Rotherham for Yorkshire Day 2020 commissioned by RMBC. And that it’s been made into a film by¬†the brilliant John Slemenek at¬†Studio Bokehgo.

The poem came together through poetry workshopping and note gathering with Rotherham Young Writers, and such were the reams everyone had to say about it, the full version of the poem (hopefully to be recorded soon!) was twice as long as what was possible for the film.

It’s been so lovely to see the emotional responses to the film and the pride people feel for Rotherham that’s reflected so beautifully in it. In recent years, it’s had a lot of bad press weighing it down, but it’s such an amazing town and people, with, as the poem says, so much heritage and natural beauty. Rotherham Young Writers and I are very proud to have represented it.

Thanks to RMBC Events team: Jane, Sarah and all for working with our vision for this poem and trusting us to do Rotherham proud!
We also must thank: Emma Sharpe (REMA), Jen Booth, Tair Rafiq and Karen Eynon for letting us pick their brains!

Small Pleasures

July news!¬†– I’m delighted to have poems forthcoming in two poetry anthologies with Fly on the Wall Press and Fragmented Voices, about, of all things, Manchester and… love! I’m also 1 of 10 poets who’ve also been commissioned¬†to write a poem for Dina Sheffield’s Small Pleasures project happening through July. You can find out more here.

Gladstone’s Reading

Quick update to say I’ve just spotted this recording of me reading at Gladstone’s Library in Feb! Thanks to the lovely Jannat at Poetry Wales.

Write Where We Are Now

So happy to be part of such a fab poetic document of our times via Carol Ann Duffy’s Write Where We Are Now project.

Via Manchester Met University the project is a poetic document of our pandemic times via date and place logged poems from an amazing array of emerging and established poets. One of my favourite poets, Billy Collins is even there!  

Trust me, when Carol Ann emailed me saying she wanted my poem for the project I was buzzing!  Check out a wide range of really brilliant work from all over the world.

My poem, Wish You Were Here
Write Where We Are Now website
Twitter handles:  #WWWAN @McrWritingSchl 

Georgie & Lauren win the New Poets Prize

I’m so very blooming chuffed to say Hive young writers – Georgie Woodhead & Lauren Hollingsworth-Smith are two¬†of¬†four winners of the 2020 New Poets Prize!

It‚Äôs been an absolute honour to mentor Georgie & Lauren these last few years and hear their voices develop. I’m very, very proud of what they‚Äôve achieved through Hive. Who says we don‚Äôt have young poetry talent in the North (a poetry editor told me recently ‘it‚Äôs all in London‚Äô). Not true!

And wait until you read them! Georgie is only 17 (the youngest you can be to enter the prize) and Lauren 18. I’m so excited for them. Both will have their debut pamphlets Takeaway (GW) & Ugly Bird (LHS) published with The Poetry Business in 2021!

Huge Congrats also to Gboyega Odubanjo and Lucy Holt the other two winners!

Mother’s Milk Prize

It’s been a while! And since I last blogged, the world has become a very different and difficult place in so many ways. It’s still hard to fully digest the enormity of it all, even weeks after lockdown started in the UK. I’m running workshops online as the new normal, keeping busy, and being thankful for everything I have right now.

As it is for¬†everyone, the worry keeps seeping in though. It’s a daily job for all of us to try and prevent it from flooding in too much. I’ve also recently been told I’m possibly higher risk by the shielding¬†team due to issues I had during cancer treatment. In some ways, I‚Äôm reminded of¬†that year a lot¬†(2015),¬†the way everything feels like a strange parallel bubble to normal life.

Anyway, I digress. Just an update¬†with some good news ‚Äď I’m delighted to be a runner up in the Mother’s Milk Prize¬†for my poem Walk by the Thames.¬† It was a difficult poem to write¬†and I was never sure about writing it. Thank you Mother’s Milk Books¬†and judges Ruth Aylett & Beth McDonough for the lovely comments:

Essentially, although all the poems chosen are very different from one another, what they all share is a commitment not only to their story, but to language and to the discipline of poetry. Those standing out from the others showed evidence of not only writing but of careful reading of poetry. Each of them found an unexpected way into the subject. ‘Walk by the Thames’, which came from a different, but equally, unpredictable place, controlled its narrative and pace beautifully in quatrains. What a fabulous final line.

This was a lovely boost! I’ve also not blogged since my Poetry Wales reading at Gladstone’s Library, which was such a lovely night, and since seeing my double spread in The Rialto, two poems about journeys to and from the sea. One dark, one light! Thank you to both for publishing my work.

Anyway, I hope this finds you safe and well, reader. All best to you, and to us all, and let’s hope the world looks brighter soon.