Surrey New Writer’s Festival Part Two …..

Hello Poetry Lovers

Welcome to Part Two of this terrific event. Well, what can I say about Nikita Gill and Instagram Poetry?

Chaired by Sharron Green, this amazing Instagram poet, Nikita gave us a fascinating session.

This talented writer, poet and playwright, read from her poetry collection Where Hope Comes From, born from the first lockdown of March 2020. These were disturbing, poignant and gentle pieces, including Good Blood, about moving and wise words from the poet’s mother. How this touched us all, our own mother’s voices in our memories.

Nikita discussed with Sharron how Instagram is such a great platform for poetry and how her followers grew overnight.

Nikita also shared her love of Greek mythology and her current play on this absorbing subject, and how she was influenced by late Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Mary Oliver. This was a very worthy hour, and I learnt a lot. Please come back soon, Nikita.

So many names were a part of this great event, masterclasses with Ruth Brandt, and Michael Donkor. Magical Realism Readings, with Julia Armfield, among other amazing writers. Headlined by Diana Evans, author of the highly acclaimed Ordinary People. Not to mention closing with a great open mic session with the wonderful Robert Kiely.

A great weekend, catch this festival next year. Hopefully it may be in ‘real life’ by then.

Thanks for tuning in, PL’s. We’ll be back with more poetry antics real soon….

Surrey New Writers Festival – Part One

Hello Poetry Lovers

Well, I had the time of my life at the Surrey New Writer’s Festival yesterday. Intricately planned, with a wide range of writing sessions.

I adored the Taster Session of Poetic Compaction (getting started with short form poetry). Beautifully opened by Sharron Green and an in-depth introduction of why short form poetry, we discovered the joys of Rob Kiely who ran the class.

Poet in residence at the University of Surrey and author of Incomparable Poetry: An Essay on the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008 and Irish Literature and Simmering of a declarative void, Rob, passionate about his art, really was compulsive listening.

As was Sharron, as this prolific poet took us through short forms such as haiku, Elfchen’s, and my favourites, nonet and acrostic’s. These have been previously featured as poetry challenges on Instagram, so I’ve had great fun with them already.

Rob gave us many amusing and fascinating examples of short form poetry, the ones that moved me were

University Days

This poem has been removed for further study

Read Me

Thanks

Amazing short and witty pieces by the late Tom Raworth. I certainly intend to read more of his work.

Rob explained the feeling for writing short pieces that leads to more weight, and what a democratic art form it really was.

Then Rob gave us a 10 minute exercise finding a seed word, and to use it at the beginning and the end in reverse. I didn’t really get there but this was my attempt;

The Sandwich Affair

I got a sandwich from the Co-op. 

Pastrami.  New York Deli Style. 

“But how do you know?”,

I asked the young assistant, 

“Have you ever been to New York?” 

She looked at me blankly, and

I was stunned how she could be 

so uncooperative. 

So I haven’t really gone by the rules but it was great fun anyway. Also luckily, I was tucking into a sandwich from the Co-op, so I really did have rich pickings.

We all had great fun reading them out, followed by a fascinating Q&A session chaired by Sharron.

One interesting question was the argument for rhyming form against free verse. The most important answer to this was of being true to yourself. A concept I have been thinking about. My poetry is quite slaggy and very undisciplined but I have been pondering the very same thing. It’s a part of who I am, so thank you for putting that into words for me.

Great class, had a super time. Thank you so much for that.

Now tune in soon for Part II where I feature the wonderful Nikita Gill.

Dobby sitting there trying to work out any remote concept in poetry! She’d rather have fish – another great art form.

Surrey New Writer’s Festival…

Hello Poetry Lovers

I am so excited about this event next weekend. Fabulous guests and masterclasses, plus taster sessions like Teaching Your Character to Talk, and An Introduction to Short Form Poetry. There is a talk by poet and playwright, Nikita Gill, among many other treats. All classy material.

The lovely poet Sharron Green is also organising this great event. Look Sharron up on http://Rhymesnroses.com

These are some of the wonderful things being featured;

I’m looking forward to Ruth Brandt and the open mic session on Sunday night, where I’m doing a 5 minute spot.

For more information and tickets go to http://Surreynewwritersfest.com. Or look them up on Facebook or Instagram. Or Sharron Green on rhymes_n_roses.

Thanks for tuning in, PL’s. I hope to see you at the Festival.

We’ll be back with some poetry antics real soon…..

The Return of the Poetry Basket….

Isn’t it great to see The Poetry Basket return?! And don’t you love looking in it? Well, today it contains Outside In, a wonderful new pamphlet from talented poet Polly Bull. And we know what comes next, don’t we? A review of this intriguing collection… read on…

Outside In by Polly Bull

Well, I’ve come across an exciting new publishing label called Wordville.

A promising press to look out for.  Not only that, Wordville has brought out a vibrant collection from talented poet, Polly Bull. 

 I have had the privilege of seeing Polly perform at Celine’s Salon and Chip Martin’s Speakeasy. An insightful experience and highly recommended.  

Titled Outside In, this classily designed book gives us an elegant collection of twenty poems. In memory of the poet’s father,  we’re taken into the intimacy of family life. Greeted by Cheese Course, a sharp and detailed picture of family rituals.  These are tableau moments that we all look back on, and the poet has clearly put this over.  

My personal favourite is Senseless, because we truly see a child’s perspective and loneliness of parents being absent. Inside Outside, is a thoughtful reflection of family and eternal memories.  We are drawn into the natural atmosphere of this piece.  

Bedsit Belongings is absorbing due to the vivid detail and things we accumulate and live with and barely regard. The last line I yearn for the sound of other people coming home strikes a painful chord of loneliness. 

Falling Awake is full of irresistible images, with the alluring tinge of optimism.  Unkind Flowers, a four lined piece that says volumes in its subtext, moves us with its edginess.

There is a poignant tribute to Olive Sabina Gifford Bull that draws us into mothers, grandparents and the talents and abilities that die out with our loved ones. Yet they can be so painfully recalled.   Extraordinarily moving. Details such as the loud, clackety typewriter and the kudos of a detached house are to be treasured.

A sincere and moving collection tightly worded in an elegant book. Seriously worth a look.

Treat yourself to Polly’s collection now – available from Amazon.co.uk and Pollybull.org

I hope you enjoyed the Poetry Basket’s reappearance, tune in soon for more poetry antics…….

My Agent

Hello Poetry Lovers,

Isn’t this an intriguing title?! And don’t we all dream of having a hot agent routing for us? I always imagine them to have big cigars and tied to two (proper) phones like Robert Evans or Lou Grade. And in my case, shake my hand at the end of a performance giving me their gilt-edged card.

So, the lovely and talented poet, Trisha Broomfield has penned a beautiful piece called My Agent. Our complete ideal of a classy representation. Do read on

My Agent

My agent will be tall and dark

My agent will have flair

Like John Steed he’ll be special

Be smooth and debonair.

My agent will be courteous

My agent will be rare

Like Illya Kuryakin (although he was blonde)

He’ll have amazing hair

My agent will be stoic

Be brave and do or dare

And much like Simon Templar

Disarm with just a stare

My agent will be handsome

He’ll seemingly not care

Resembling 007

A sardonic smile he’ll wear

He won’t be Austin Powers

He won’t appear all bare

He won’t be Johnny English

My goodness what a pair

She may be Marta Hari

Or Cathy Gale so fair

whoever will be quite convinced

I am the new Voltaire!

Trisha Broomfield 2021

Wasn’t that just a dream piece?! And the core of our fantasies. And Illya Kuryakin! Wasn’t he wonderful?!

Well, hold on in there, we could still be discovered by these golden people.

Thank you so much, Trisha. A wonderful poem.

Tune in real soon, PL’s, where we’ll have the return of the Poetry Basket and a hot review.

The Handbag

Hello Poetry Lovers

Today, I’m going to feature a (very loose) sonnet called Handbag. A vital part of our lives, and the things we share with it.

Now, I realise women poets will identify with this more than you men, however, I believe man bags are all the go now, so you can still be drawn in.

Handbag

Today my handbag is lime green,

a subscription gift from My Weekly.

My first ever one was cream coloured,

with an elegant long chain.

Bought for twenty shillings at a local shop.

I can still smell the leather emporium.

Luxurious, expensive and my only visit.

The bag contained my Mum’s old lipstick

At eleven, there was nothing else to put in it.

I once had a fiddly clutch bag that I

danced around at the disco, holding

pound notes for the cab fare home.

When this one goes, I’ll replace it

with a Happy Shopper bag.

Heather Moulson 2021

I hope you liked that short piece, PL’s. It can be an absorbing subject as we put half our world in these things. So personal and intimate. Any bag pieces, do send them along…

Thanks for tuning in, Poetry Lovers. We’ll be back real soon……

Memory Corner….

Happy Easter, Poetry Lovers. Two days away from those chocolate eggs……..

However, put them aside for now, and get in the DeLorean as we drive to 18th March 2019 for a fabulous Dempsey & Windle launch at The Poetry Cafe.

I would say 2019 was definitely my year as a poet and that this was the swinging start

This is my wonderful and first pamphlet, Bunty, I miss you!

I was so proud as my lovely friends came to support me, and I was happy to share my poetry with them….

The ambience in that small arena was palpable and everyone rooted for each other. Among the other pamphlets being launched was the talented David Cooke and his absorbing ‘Reel to Reel’ collection.

I was very proud to have my first pamphlet published by Dempsey & Windle AKA the fabulous Donall and wonderful Jan.

They’re very select about the work they accept, so I felt very privileged. The joy of having your work published is something hard to describe for the uninitiated, but it’s such a unique sense of achievement.

Thank you so much for that memory.

Right you lot! Back in that DeLorean. There’s lawns to mow, and dusting to be done. Not to mention defleaing the cat. Where is Dobby??

Whoops! I can see she’s getting away! Put that accelerator down!

Tune in soon for more poetry antics …….

INTERVIEW…….

(Rapturous Applause)

The host glides elegantly down the stairs..

Now, settle down, everybody and queue nicely.

(Crowd nearly out of control with excitement. Security return early from their fag break)

Today we are honoured to have the wonderful, talented and enigmatic Robert Garnham

. (Pandemonium)

Host bangs a ruler on the desk

(There is instant silence )

That’s better, because we’re all very excited to welcome Robert Garnham

(Our esteemed guest wafts elegantly down the lighted stairs)

Welcome, Robert. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Absolute pleasure, Heather. thank you for having me.

(audience go wild with frenzied cries of ‘Robert etc’)

So so glad you could join us.

.(Ripples of agreement)

And may I say I love those tartan Oxford bags and paisley shirt.

oh thank you, took all night to turn these up. I don’t remember Noddy Holder having any trouble.

That’s because he had stacked platform boots. You’d better get yourself to Freeman, Hardy & Willis.

Now, Robert

(Host sweeps everything off her desk in a brutal fashion. Audience and esteemed guest looks nervous)

Down to brass tacks – Tell us about your background

I have the most unusual background to be a performance poet in that I didn’t actually start until I was in my late thirties, and only then by accident.

I’d always written short stories but hardly sent them out anywhere. I grew up in a part of Englefield Green in Surrey known as the ‘Forest Estate’ and went to school in Staines, and then my first job at Sainsbury’s.

At the same time, I’d always known I was gay, but at the time of late ‘80s and early ‘90s there wasn’t the representation on the media like there is now, beyond the usual stereotypes, and looking back, I was probably a little camp. This was probably mistaken as being an aspiration to poshness by those I grew up with!

In 1996 my parents moved down to Devon and I went with them. I took evening ‘A’ Level classes and finally got good grades. I then progressed to seven years of Open University and obtained a degree in English Literature, then obtaining a post grad degree in Museum Management with the University of Leicester. But all the time I was still writing silly stories and not showing anyone.

By 2009 I decided that all I seemed to do was work or study, so I decided to go and see some culture. The only culture advertised in the local paper in Paignton was a night of ‘performance poetry’, so I went along. The host was a lovely chap called Chris Brooks and I asked for a slot next month and he said Yes. But then I realised that I didn’t actually have any poems. So I spent the next month writing a couple of (awful) poems which I ‘performed’ and the audience laughed in all the right places. I realised then that instead of keeping all these humorous pieces to myself, I could share them. Also, it was a drug, that laughter! I became hooked.

I’ve been performing ever since, all over the UK, and in places like Berlin and New York, the Albert Hall, theatres, festivals. And wow, imagine if I’d never gone along to that performance poetry night in 2009!

That’s just fascinating, Robert. 2009 was a turning point year for you.

Yes, these quirks and twists of fate, eh? And look how far you’ve come…..When did poetry and comedy become a part of your life?

Comedy has always been a part of my life. My late father loved comedy and would listen to or watch all kinds of things, so long as it made him laugh. I’ve probably got the same sense of humour. Indeed, my Dad was one of the funniest people I knew.

I’d listen to radio comedy, cassettes and records, not caring who it was so long as it made me laugh. Adrian Juste’s show on radio One where he’d play comedy snippets between the songs, would lead me to look up the ones who made me laugh.

I also read a huge amount of humour books, a really diverse mix including Flann O’Brien, Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker and I include poets such as John Hegley, Pam Ayers and Ivor Cutler.

Oh I adored Adrian Juste! Saturday afternoons as I recall. And Dorothy Parker I could read again and again. And that wonderful John Hegley! They’re all spot on.

What about poetry?

Poetry? Hmm..I’ll be honest and say I hated poetry when I was younger. I just didn’t get it! Poetry seemed to be stand-up poetry but without jokes or a punchline. It never seemed to have a meaning to me. There’s a joke in my new show about my school not being very cultural, and it was true. It didn’t even have a drama department, though my wonderful English teacher encouraged my writing. But when it came to poetry, he was flogging a dead horse. Mind you, we were a class of Neanderthals.

It was only when I was doing my literature degree that I first got into poetry. I hated the modules that we had to spend on poems. The big names left me so bored, and it didn’t help that we did the Romantics, then Seamus Heaney talking about those bloody bog people, then it was TS Eliot and I wanted to shout at the page, “For gods sake, don’t beat around the bush, if you want to say something, then bloody well say it!”

Then we did Frank O’Hara and WOW! He used conversational language and wrote poems about things like going out to eat a hot dog and drink cola, and he wrote about being gay in 1950’s Manhattan and it completely changed my view of poetry. I took Heaney and Eliot’s books out from the library and whispered, ‘Sorry…Sorry…I didn’t mean it!’

Even so, I still wouldn’t say that I’m a voracious reader of poetry. I love performance poetry but I’m sad to report poetry has never been a big part of my life (Yet..?).

(Enthusiastic applause)

What a learning curve, Robert. Again that twist of fate, and that education is truly wasted on the young.

Performance poetry is tops with me too. Keats will send me to sleep for example (forgive me).

Who were your biggest influences?

My influences change all the time and most of them aren’t poets. I just like anyone eccentric and doesn’t care what other people think, and express themselves.

I really got into pop music in the early ‘80s and the arrival of the Pet Shop Boys coincided with my formative years, and their whole career can be measured against what I was doing at the time. Their use of language and rhythm and the imagery of their songs, the way they make me feel so happy listening to their work, the fact that they’re still making music, the way they constantly reinvent themselves, their unashamed eccentricity, the irony, the campiness….

You can also add to the mix Laurie Anderson whose work always takes the listener/viewer to sublime places, but with a gentle touch of humour. Ivor Cutler, whose slightly surreal style makes the listener see the world differently. Jerry Seinfeld who makes the mundane hilarious. Bob Newhart who was a big part of my childhood. His calm ‘button-down’ style with its halting, nervous delivery is probably the biggest influence on my performance style.

There are so many others! Edith Sitwell, David Byrne, Salena Godden, Melanie Branton, Dandy Darkly (look him up!), Rachel Pantechnicon, Byron Vincent. The list goes on!

Well, Robert, I have lost count of how many times I’ve swooned hearing those names. The stunning Pet Shop Boys – they’re a part of me too.

And Bob Newhart! I loved The Driving Instructor! A great childhood influence.

Now, I believe you’re working on a new show, and a collection. Fill us in…

I was fortunate to have two books published by Burning Eye, ‘Nice’ and ‘Zebra’. Amazingly, they let me do a third. ‘Nice’ had been mostly about sexual matters and the funny side to being LGBT, ‘Zebra’ had been a more introspective affair about wider LGBT issues, and I was incredibly proud of both.

In 2018, the idea for a third book was mooted and the world at that time seemed a pretty miserable place, and it seemed that it would be nice to write a collection that would be fun and positive and be about mental health and being proud of who you are. So I decided that the book would be called ‘Yay!’

Of course the world got even more serious with the pandemic and everything, but my personal brief to myself would be that the book would have all comedy, happy, silly but still quite meaningful poems about life, identity and other things. There is one very serious poem halfway through about mental health and those dark thoughts which probably come to us all.

The book should be out in May and I’m really looking forward to unleashing it on the world.

The book will be accompanied by a brand new show. This had already been decided before Lockdown. I don’t think I would have committed to a brand new show had I known! I started writing it in April 2020, then rehearsing and learning it in November. I’ve been working on some dates and I can reveal it will be coming to Guildford on July 13th! We are also making a film of it in a completely empty theatre next month, which will hopefully be available on streaming from the spring.

The show has the title ‘Yay!’ The Search for Happiness’ and follows the adventures of a poet who becomes a poet in residence on a ship in his quest to get to the root of what it means to be happy. There, that’s a scoop for you!

(Wild applause)

Robert, I am bowled over here! So fascinating and prolific

( ripple of applause and awe)

AND I will be in that front row at Guildford! July won’t come quick enough!

Now the dreaded question – What’s the best gig you’ve ever done, and the worst?

I’ll start with the worst first, I don’t want to end the interview on a downer. I have a weird relationship with the Edinburgh Fringe. I’ve been going as a performer since 2014, and I went a couple of times before that just to watch. In 2016, I put my own solo show together called ‘Static’. I was really pleased with it and I’d taken it round all the fringes in the UK. It was half poetry, half performance art/miming, during which I’d work through complicated silent procedures with props. I’d worked with a director, the wonderful Ziggy Abd el Malak, and he’d shown me how to move slowly, and treat props with reverence, and treat silence, and be ever so calm on stage. This had gone down very well at other venues.

Anyway, I arrived in Edinburgh with my big box of props, only to find that my venue was a roped off corner of a sports themed bar! With a TV constantly tuned to whatever sports event was on that day. So I’d find myself performing against a backdrop of football and beered-up lads yelling ‘Kick him in the balls!’

As for the best gig, hmm…. I’m so lucky that I have so many to choose from. The best nights are those when people start laughing early and carry on laughing all the way through, so the energy in the room is maintained.

I often record my gigs, such as Bristol at the Arnolfini with an audience of around 200. Also I was fortunate enough to do the Hammer and Tongue Tour in 2019, visiting six different cities over a week and a bit.

But for me, the highlight of my performing career was headlining at the Duplex Cabaret in New York. This historic venue has hosted some of the biggest names in comedy and LGBT cabaret and is right in the LGBT village. My set went incredibly well and I met such lovely people. I was scared that my humour wouldn’t translate to a US audience but it went down so well!

Afterwards I went upstairs with the other performers to the flat over the venue, used as a green room, and there I was, surrounded by drag artists and cabaret singers, drinking and chatting on an incredibly hot night in Manhattan, and I didn’t want it to ever end! I was a long, long way from Staines Sainsbury’s!

Gosh Robert! What a dream come true! I almost felt the atmosphere and elation of Manhattan there! Amazing anecdote. Fabulous.

I have sat through people trying to perform in a noisy bar in Edinburgh and really felt for them. What a learning curve!

Thank you so much for coming on the show, an enthralling interview and July can’t come quick enough for me!

Now, dressed like that, you must be off somewhere impressive. Featuring at the Slagg’s Cafe perhaps?

Well, you’re right about these trousers and I really want to be like Noddy Holder or Dave Hill. So I’m off up the Kings Road to get some platforms. Four inch heels, if possible. Also, a crushed velvet hat.

Then it’s back home for an episode of Z Cars and walking practise

Wonderful. That reminds me, I need a two-tone skirt.

Thank you so much for coming on the show and being so engaging and enthralling.

(Huge huge applause. Security look nervous)

Our esteemed guest walks cautiously up the lighted stairs.

Wasn’t Robert Garnham just amazing, Poetry lovers?! Do check out his wonderful website for details of gigs and join me at Guildford if you can

http://Professorofwhimsy.com

Thank you for watching. Keep tuned for more poetry antics soon…..

Back on the Train…

Hello Poetry Lovers

No, I’m not back on the train yet but I wanted to return to this fascinating subject.

The DeLorean has pulled up, so get in for late 1977 and see what my life was like when I worked for six months at High Holborn. (Forgive the perm! They really were the way to go then).

Train Journey ‘77

I powdered my face before the 8.01.

Lipstick applied by the time we reached London Fields.

Liverpool Street toilets had a big mirror

where I would darken my lashes and

spread tawny brown over my eyelids.

Twenty pence tube fare to High Holborn

or a bus at half the price.

Going past Holborn Viaduct, my pal and colleague

Theresa would yawn at the bus stop.

Before I realised she wasn’t my friend at all,

a painful lesson of people putting themselves first.

Her lipstick was bright red, mine was a deep chilli.

A coffee and fag before sorting dockets.

I didn’t have to touch my face for the rest of the day.

Well, betrayal and beauty tips in one nostalgic train journey. Life lessons are painful but the make up softened the blow. Incidentally, this passed muster with Mrs Slagg Just one whiff of pain……

Thanks for tuning in, PL’s. Keep watching for more poetry antics.

Dolls House Villanelle

Hello PL’s

Would you believe I took on a Villanelle this week. Something that’s always looked so extraordinarily complex and I actually conquered it – sort of! I mean Sestina’s – forget them! They’re the devil! So so hard, but a villanelle is kind of a softer cousin. The one that you could get away with things, and beat at football – that sort of thing.

Worringly, I’ve written it about Plastic Paul and the Dollshouse. My favourite subject. Rejected by Mrs Slagg, I’m afraid. No toffs allowed in her establishment, and all that.

Anyway, read on……

Dolls House Memories

You sat there in your plastic chair

your manufactured eyes stared stonily ahead

And you didn’t see me at all

I gave you the world, dining sets and

tiny hard food you wouldn’t taste – and a toilet

with a sink that never got wet

Your wife figure sat lifelessly next to you

I coveted her yellow hair, and tiny hands but,

like her husband, she didn’t see me at all.

When I put you side by side on the pricey

brass bed where sleep never came,

I used to wish I could lie there with you.

Abandoning you when it was time for tea,

bringing joy while knowing none yourself,

you didn’t see me at all

Now, from the loft, your red hair peeling away,

eyes barely present, you’re still fresh from the toy shop.

I wish you could see me the same way

But you don’t see me at all.

Heather Moulson 2021

Errie perhaps, or just pathetic? I’m always hoping those dolls house members will see me one day.

Anyway, I hope you can see me – sort of. Thanks for tuning in, Poetry Lovers. Any villanelle’s welcome. Just don’t count on Mrs Slagg’s support.

Be back with more poetry antics soon……..

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