Posts Tagged ‘Art Alert’


What is ANNOYING me this week?

People who can’t flex themselves away from their own agendas!

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

A Festival of Poets.


Brian Eno – Drums between the bells


This last week saw the culmination of three months work to organise the Nuneaton Summer Poetry day with the event itself.

My part in the day was as the poet in residence, observing the events and writing about them on the blog at http://nuneatonpoetryday.wordpress.com

The day started early and I arrived in the town to see the market team installing the last of the blue and white gazebos that make up the covers over the market stalls. They had been up far earlier than me to get them all into place so that the stall holders could set out their tables and start displaying their wares in time for the first customers who were starting to enter the town by 9:00.

As I said, I was early so headed to a coffee shop to grab a much needed eye-opener and to write my first two poems of the day ‘Early’ and ‘Coffee at 9:00 am’, I was joined by my partner in crime for the organisation of the day, Rach Flowers, who was dressed in her spectacular black dress and boots that any female Goth would be proud to wear.

We proceeded to meet the artists from Art Alert who were decorating the benches, inspired by poems that I had provided them, from Michael Drayton to Wordsworth to Blake and some modern poems, including one of my own, one from Mark Niel, the minstrel poet for the day. The benches were covered with cushions made from wall paper and included a newspaper inside of which was a copy of the poems that they used to inspire them.

It was interesting to watch to town folk as they were unsure whether they could sit on the benches and Art Alert had to put up signs to say “Please Do Sit on the Benches”, which I am sure one or two people managed to put the word “NOT” into when they read it. The easiest way was to lead the way and sit on the bench with my poem on which I had my photo taken. This seemed to do the trick and before long people were sitting on the benches and reading the poems in the newspapers.

I managed to get some words to use in a poem from the Art Alert team and very soon had the basis for my third poem ‘Benches’.

Art Alert also brought along a bright blue tree from which we hung poetry kites and other poems to make our Poetree, it was originally planned that the bench poems would hang as fruit from the tree, but as these were now in the newspapers, the tree was a little bare at the start of the day, but as the day progressed the poetry kites became the leaves and fruit and added to the colour of the day.

My base for blogging was the Community Café, which was proving a difficult venue for people to perform as the local people were not sure what to expect, Colin King was holding court in this location story telling and engaging with his audience, getting them involved with where the story went next.

I wrote the poem ‘Community Café’ as I sat and updated the blog, using the line ‘bending his words around the ears of Saturday’, where ‘Saturday’ is used as a collective noun for all that normally goes on in the town on Saturday, the market, the shoppers, the meeting of friends, they are always there.

Colin made full use of the space walking through it and projecting his voice with its wonderful Irish lilt. It is certainly as sense of theatre that helps to engage an audience; Colin was never static and could not be totally ignored.

This highlights the difficulty of working in such spaces, many poets read at poetry events, where they have an audience that has come to listen, an event such as this is challenging because most of the people have come to do their shopping, meet with friends and do their normal Saturday routine. Poets and story tellers can be ignored, unless they provide something that captures the imagination.

People don’t necessarily have to stop to listen; they can still wander along hearing the words as they float through the market stalls. There is also an argument that reading a poem out-loud in the street or anywhere is a ritual and that it does not matter whether anyone is listening, purely reciting the words as an act in itself is a worthy thing to do.

People like, the Brazilian Poet Márcio-André de Sousa, who I had the pleasure to meet in 2009 when he filled the Tin Angel Bar with sound poetry at Night Blue Fruit in Coventry. He ventured out to the Chernobyl Nuclear site in 2007 on what many considered a suicidal trip, purely to read poetry to the landscape, to the shell of this devastation, which he did for six hours.

What ever your thoughts on performance and the need or not for an audience, then I think events such as Nuneaton Summer Poetry Day needs to cater for both; those who see it as a ritual and those who want to engage with an audience, things to be considered for any future event.

The idea of a collaborative poem came to me quiet early in the process, I did it back in March with the Children at Birchwood Primary School in Polesworth, where we played with Kite Poetry and they gave me words to form the basis of the collaborative poem to be used on the poetry trail. I really liked the idea of words coming in to Nuneaton from all over the world and then being shaped into a poem that in some way reflected the day. Calls for words were put out on Facebook and Twitter and through the blog. Face book friends passed it on to their friends, and thanks to Gary Longden who really took hold of the idea and sent it to his friends in far distant places, many of who responded.

I was interested in the words where they would come from, who else was thinking about Nuneaton and poetry, but could not come to the town itself, I wanted part of the festival to be accessible through the web, that it was a global event with its heart in Nuneaton.

I received words from across the globe, the farthest being from Waipu on the North Island of New Zealand 11,269 miles away, from the words provided I composed the poem ‘In a Single Moment’ which drew its theme from the 60 second slam and the idea that whilst the poets in Nuneaton were performing then around the world at the same time the other events were taking place. Unifying a set of individual acts in to the events at the Poetry Day. It seemed to me that the words were just as important as the places and the people who had sent them and that the poem should reflect this.

Since the day itself, another poet has also taken the words and created her own poem, which I hope to post on the blog in the next few days.

My last poem posted on the day was my poem ‘Nuneaton’, which I will admit was written in the days on the run up to the event rather than on the day itself. The reason for this was that I wanted to present the town with a more crafted poem, but also get my mind into the right state for writing as in the weeks running up to the festival I have not written much apart from this blog.

The poem uses the River Anker, which runs through the town but has been diverted under the streets and so as you wander around you may not know it was there, it uses the poet searching for the river on market day as its theme, and how this once sparkling ribbon in the landscape has now been replaced by the glints from the market stalls, until the poet spots the movement of the people and reflects that they flow as if mimicking the river.

The day finished in the Crown pub with an open mic, compered by Milton Keynes Poet Laureate Mark Niel who organised the slam and kept things flowing at the Fountain poetry stop. The night ended with music from the Folk band, Folklaw who were excellent and should not be missed if you get a chance to see them at festivals and venues around the Midlands.


My Lost Poet this week is not so much lost but yet to be discovered by most, despite having a well respected international reputation.

Marcio Andre (1978- ), as I mentioned above he is a amongst other things a sound poet, sculpting not just words but the manipulation of echoes, reverberation and sustained waves of sound into audio vistas.

This is not music and poetry, not talking over a jazz drum and bass line. The sounds that Marcio Andre produces often do not sooth and seduce the ear when they start, they often differing clashing sounds which as the piece progresses merge into an audio vista, which has all the wonder of the earth being formed. You have to stick with them, let yourself become accustomed to them, let you mind have time to work out what is happening and how to respond.

A tree grows so slowly that we do not hear it and we can appreciate the full grown beauty of it as it takes its place in the genius of the landscape. Yet if it grew from a seed to a full grown tree in seconds, morphing from the land, then all the sound that it makes as it grows happens all at once and every creak and ache would rupture the air filling it with sound as if something was being destroyed. The end result would not be any less beautiful, still the tree, still in its place in the landscape, but the noise would resonate and maybe change how we view the tree.

To me Marcio-Andre does this with his sound poems, providing us with the opportunity to stand in the landscape or enclosed space and hear things that we would not otherwise hear or even conceive.

Marcio-Andre is the first living poet to be included in this list, he has a significant body of work for his young age and is still developing, experimenting and following his thoughts, it is therefore inappropriate from me to try and encapsulate him as the poet in a few paragraphs, it is best that you search him out for yourself, on the web and in performance.

If you get the chance to hear Marcio-Andre sound poems live then it is an experience not to be missed, there is a video on website (no 7) of his performance at Night Blue Fruit at the Tin Angel, but it doesn’t capture the electric atmosphere of actually being there, the building, the shabby furniture and the audience were all part of the experience, it was as if the whole performance was viewed and heard from inside the loud-speaker, that you were not an observer/listener, but you were a channel for the sound, a biological-amplifier that was plugged into the sound system.

Start at his website which I have included below:


THE FIZZ 8 with Matt Merritt is coming up on the 19th July as Polesworth Abbey, please do try and come along and here Matt read his poems from nature.


Readings in July.

15th July – Spoken Worlds – Burton upon Trent.
19th July – The Fizz 8 – Polesworth Abbey.


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What is ANNOYING me this week?

Not writing poetry

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

A package of poetic things from a certain on-line book store.


The best of  Gil Scott Heron – RIP


The last week has seen so much happening on the Nuneaton Poetry Day, which now has its own blog and twitter sites:



So all future updates will be posted on these sites rather than this blog.

I have however been selecting poems to be used by a group of artists from Art Alert (http://www.artalertnuneaton.com/who-we-are.htm) who will be using them to provide the inspiration in decorating the benches in the town centre. The poems I have selected are from 1590 to the present day and represent some of the real gems in Post Medieval English Poetry. There are sixteen in all, with a mix of well known poems that are full of imagery and modern poems written by local poets.

As of the time of writing I am still awaiting confirmation for permission to use one of the poems, which may result in me having to substitute this poem with another, which I hope I do not have to do as the selected poem is a wonderful poem on a subject that is not normally associated with the poet and I would like to think that we can widen the audience for poets who are perhaps pigeon holed into writing on specific themes and their other work is overlooked. Not so much a lost poet, but lost poems.

I am sorry to be a little vague on the details of the poem and the poet, but I dealing with his estate that controls the copyright and it would be unfair to give any further details at this stage.

The weekend saw me in much need of a break and some relaxation. This started on Saturday with a leisurely start and then an afternoon trip to Sole Suckers to have my feet nibbled by Garra Rufa fish.

Now I know people cringe at the thought of fish nibbling at your toes or the idea that other people have put their feet in the water. But that never bothered me and I had no qualms or anxieties about doing this.

You also read reports about so called dodgy operators, but the staff at Sole Suckers were very knowledgeable and constantly checked the tanks, ensuring that the temperatures and purity of the water was right. The water is constantly filtered and the fish are rested between sessions on a rotation basis.

The fish are a brownie reddish colour and ranged from one to two inches long. They don’t have teeth and they just suck at your feet. The bigger fish give you more of tingle, like minute electric shocks that are quite relaxing and must be similar to reflexology in providing minute, though I am not at all knowledgeable on how these things work, so I could way off the mark. All I know is it was a most enjoyable experience and I am going back for some more next Saturday.  

Sunday saw a trip to the seaside, as we headed to Hunstanton, which is about 130 miles from Tamworth and took about two and half hours to get there.  This was a decision taken over a couple of ciders in the local pub at 10pm the night before.

I love this almost spontaneous approach, no fuss or major planning. Just a basic picnic, fill up the car with fuel and hit the road. So Sunday morning dawned, a little overcast but that was not going to stop us and we set off listening to the Archers omnibus on radio 4.

Hunstanton or “Sunny Hunny” is fairly quiet town on the East Coast. It is developing into one of the more tasteful seaside resorts. OK it has it’s fairground and the usual ice cream, beach wear and burger kiosks, but it is clean and has some nice looking restaurants and cafes, including the Tamworth Tearooms – which the waitress was not sure where the name came from and said it was something to do with someone called Tamworth, however there was a picture of a Sandyback on the wall so I am of the opinion that it may well have something to do with the town that I now call home.

There are several miles of beach mainly shingle but it is pleasant to walk upon even though the tide was out, heading down the side of the Wash through to Heacham and Snettisham.

We never got to visit the Old town or the cliffs or Sandringham, which is a couple of miles away, so it sounds like a few days in Norfolk are on the cards before the summer is out.

I have placed Hunstanton as second to Filey in my list favourite seaside towns, they have a charm that harks back to the middle of the last century, they are not in-your-face the way some places are, they do the contemporary in a quiet, unassuming way, they show and not tell; these are places for writers to set their stories and poets to reflect upon.

Congratulations to my good friend Colin Henchley whose play Sin has been given a second call from Nottingham Playhouse, which means he has to take the original 5 minute play and develop it into 10 minutes for a second performance.

More details can be found here:


I am still making a Call for films for the Polesworth International Poetry Film festival in November. I have had several poets / filmmakers come forward and will be actively gathering the films offered so far over the coming weeks, but there is still space for some more, so please contact me if you are interested in submitting a film.

This coming week is really busy, with two readings, a trip to the theatre, a birthday party and a writers meeting. That will see me in Coventry, Nottingham and Birmingham.


Readings in June and July.

7th June – Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s Coventry.

9th June – Memoirs Poetry – Erdington Library Birmingham.

17th June – Spoken Worlds – Burton upon Trent.

2nd July – Summer Poetry Day – Nuneaton.

5th July – Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s Coventry.

15th July – Spoken Worlds – Burton upon Trent.

16th July – Lichfield Festival – Lichfield.

19th July – The Fizz 8 – Polesworth Abbey.

23rd July – Love Parks Festival – Polesworth Abbey  Green  Park.

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What is ANNOYING me this week?


What is DELIGHTING me this week?

My Birthday BBQ


Clogs – Stick Music.



As many of you know my email account was abducted by aliens or persons unknown, who appear to be inBarcelona. Now why they picked on me, I really don’t know, it is not as if I am a Manchester United fan.

I am, however a great admirer of the Gaudi and Miro and was thoroughly impressed with the Neu Camp stadium. I love the poem “Song in the Dead Calm” by Carles Riba and often seek out other Catalan poets. So why me, is beyond me. I was however heartened that so many of my friends and family were concerned and contacted me, mostly not fooled by the email sent out requesting funds be transferred.

When the initial concern had blown over, there was a mass of on-line critiquing on Facebook. The bogus email was taken apart to reveal the badly constructed piece of prose that had been sent out by these aliens or unknown persons. Most pointed out the lazy use of language and spelling. Some even went as far as analysing the sentence structure and pointed out that it was most likely written in another language and then translated into English using an on-line translator or a babel fish inserted into the ear of the perpetrator.

I would like to thank everyone who took time and expressed concern about this event and I am now highly amused by all the references to me being lost inSpainin emails, posts and in person, all at my expense, but gladly not to the expense of my friends and family.

Needless the say I have moved email address leaving the ruins of the old address to be found by some Cyber Archaeologist in the far distant future, what a fascinating episode of  Time Team that will make!

Poets Trail update.

This week has seen more work on the designs for the Poets Trail installations and the sourcing of some of the materials on which to present them; with a piece of slate and four pieces of leather now found and donated to be crafted into the final form for the trail.

I will keep you posted as things progress.

The Fantastic Nuneaton Summer Poetry Day on the 2nd July is moving on a pace with Mark Niel (http://www.akickinthearts.co.uk/),the bard of Milton Keynes coming on board to bring his unique brand of poetry to the market place. Mark will be running the first ever outdoor 60 second poetry slam along with other events throughout the day, including being the Minstrel Poet who will make up rhymes to any given word, for a fee of course to go to the Mary Ann Evans Hospice.

Rae Gee is bringing a prose element to the event providing more spoken word opportunities. Rae has thrown open a challenge to me as the Festival poet, she will wear her Victorian Steam Punk outfit if I will wear my famous red jacket – The challenge has been accepted.

Art Alert, (http://www.artalertnuneaton.com/who-we-are.htm),a group of local, talented artists, whose philosophy is not unlike my own, that is, to create artistic and exhibition opportunities for themselves, they will be decorating the benches around the town centre in a poetic theme with lines from famous poems with associations with North Warwickshire. The full poems will be found hanging like fruit from the Poetree.

Waterstones will be selling a range of poetry and hosting some spoken word events. (http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/)

There will be several Poetry Stops around the town where poetic voices will be raised among the shoppers, market traders, booksellers and librarians.

I will be blogging and tweeting as part of my role as Festival Poet, writing poetry from the sense of place, capturing words from the people in the market place, taking lines from tweets, I will be setting up the blog and the twitter accounts over the next week and will start promoting them here.

There will be two bookmakers, that is the book binding kind rather than the gambling sort. Julie De Bastion (http://www.julie.debastion.com/)  and Helen Wilson who will offer people opportunities to explore this craft of making their own books. Julie will also be story telling around myths and legends.

There will be poetry kites for the children to make which will all add to colour and theatre of the day.

Colin King will be Story Telling in the story telling café (http://www.storytimes.co.uk/) and Wow Impro will be performing comedy, improvisation and spoken word out on the street. (http://www.wowimpro.co.uk/)

Several poets have already signed up to read but there is still space for more poets to come and share their work and raise their profile on the Midlands poetry scene.

Please contact me if you want to read or be involved.

Nuneaton Summer Day of Poetry

Date 2nd July –Place Nuneaton Town Centre 11:00am till 3:00pm and the Crown Pub 6:30pm to 8:30pm.

* Festival Poet – Mal Dewhirst * Minstrel Poet – Mark Niel * 

Readings, Slams, Poetry Kites, Story Telling, Bookmaking, Blog and Tweets, Book sales, Open mic.

Raising money for the Mary Ann Evans Hospice.


With the Ledbury Poetry Festival only a month away, with a fantastic programme of events some of which I hope to get too.  


It seems appropriate in the run up to the festival that my lost poet this week should be:

William Langland (ca. 1332 – ca. 1386)

I am grateful to Myfanwy Fox who reminded me of Langland as a lost poet whose associations with the Malvern Hills and Ledbury is very much conjecture based upon the settings of his works as very little is known of his life.

Langland it is suggested in the book New light on Piers Plowman, By Allan H Bright published by Oxford University Press in 1928, was born in Ledbury, in fact the book goes as far to identify two strips of land on the borders of Ledbury and Colwell parishes know as Longland and that the house that stood here in the 14th Century was the birthplace of William Langland, hence my link to the forthcoming Poetry Festival.

If Bright’s interpretation is correct then the site today is on the A449 into Ledbury and is now two cottages known as Haysebrook Cottages.



It is also nearby Malvern that Langland has associations and it is Malvern that is a special place for me as it was where the whole of my primary school descended on a day in July 1968 for the annual school trip. A trip to walk the full length of the hills, quite a challenge for primary school children but one that we relished and walked taking in each breath at the magnificent views of the Worcestershire countryside out towards Wales to the west and the Warwickshire countryside to the east.

Malvern is also where my elder brother, Eddie, studied at around the same time. It is where he first got involved seriously in theatre, even though his studies where in electrical engineering. I remember his occasional visits home at weekends. Especially the wonder that was fired up in my mind, when on Sunday our dad would drive him out towards Bromsgrove to get the Midland Red Bus (the 144, It still runs from Birmingham to Worcester) as Eddie headed back to this wonderful place. It was even better if Dad took him back all the way and I got to go along for the ride.

So I see Malvern as a poetic place as did Langland. It is his Piers Plowman or William’s Visions of Piers Plowman to give its full title that gives the hints to Langland’s origins with his descriptions of Malvern and the surrounding area.

Piers Plowman tells of the vision of the humble plowman as he falls asleep in the Malvern Hills and sees a tower set upon a hill and in a deep valley a fortress – these represent heaven and hell. The alliterative allegory poem which is in part theological and part social satire is a quest to find the true Christian life in the time of medieval Catholicism and sees the plowman searching out the three characters: Dowel (do well), Dobet (do better) and Dobest (do best).

The poem attacks the corruption of the nobility and the leading members of the church. It is an expression of the opinions of the poor, providing an insight into their daily lives and is therefore a very important manuscript. Many critics see Piers Plowman, along with Chaucer’s Canterbury tales and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as the three great works of early English literature.

This was the start of the Piers Plowman Tradition, which saw poets such as Spenser, use the character of Piers as a symbol of the relationship between the commoners and the nobility, satirically reflecting economic, political, social and religious grievances of the commoner with the power bases of the church and the crown.

Langland’s first version was published in 1362 and he continued to work on it throughout the rest of his life, creating several versions (possibly 14), providing scholars much to explore in their interpretations and quest to find the real William Langland.

The version I have is a translation of the “B” Text by Terence Tiller which in turn used the translation of W.W. Skeat.

More information on William Langland can be found at:


Myfanwy Fox’s blog Fox Tales can be found at:


Oh yes I nearly forgot, I also had a birthday!


Readings in June and July.

7th June – Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s Coventry.

9th June – Memoirs Poetry – Erdington Library Birmingham.

17th June – Spoken Worlds – Burton upon Trent.

2nd July – Summer Poetry Day – Nuneaton.

5th July – Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s Coventry.

15th July – Spoken Worlds – Burton upon Trent.

16th July – Lichfield Festival – Lichfield.

19th July – The Fizz 8 – Polesworth Abbey.

23rd July – Love Parks Festival – Polesworth Abbey Green Park.

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