Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Advice on the Organisation of Arts Festivals

Give it a sensible name.
If it isn’t the biggest, the best, the first,
call it something else – something that fits.
Don’t aspire for international acclaim at the outset;
national accolades will suffice, or even better start
with those thoughts only in your head, unspoken.

Don’t alarm the sponsors with wild gesticulations.
Do not frighten the skittish volunteer
with inflated numbers and aspirations -
she would pull together 50 poets but cannot muster 400
without more time, more help and valium -
nor give the task to the boy who says he can do anything, everything
then doesn’t.

Don’t say too soon we’ll laugh about it later.
Don’t claim to have an army of volunteers
when there are only ten. Don’t leave
most of the publicity to the final week
... and to the boy who says we will do anything, everything
then doesn’t.

Don’t speak in generalisations or hyperbole
to journalists who will print it all as gospel
– they get little enough right as it is,
give them a chance at truth.

Don’t change your mind and say it was ever thus.
Don’t promise a kazoo band and a record-breaking attempt
at the highest number of people to recite Hamlet’s soliloquy in unison,
when you have only your own kazoo, your own voice.

Don’t get carried away with the dream
when no-one else is even sleeping.
But don’t be dissuaded by the nay-sayers, or discouraged by
those who sit resolutely at meetings offering nothing
or the others - who write a list of criticisms
in a poem for a cheap laugh
when they know just how hard this is.
Trust them to help you.

Don’t be crushed by
the silence of the crowd at the call for volunteers.
nor send the pedants packing with a wave of your hand
– you may need them later.

Don’t forget:
You cannot actually paint the town red
(There are rules about that sort of thing)
You cannot hide the musicians.
You cannot hood the artists.
You cannot herd the poets.
You cannot do all of this alone, nobody can,
especially the boy who says he will do anything, everything
then doesn’t.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Wall Rage

By popular demand, part umpteen of the continuing saga of my neighbour's wall.

Those who've recently joined us can catch up in these posts: My Builder Hell, A Blank Canvas and Bl**dy Builders. In brief - neighbours I don't get on with anyway knocked down the low party wall between our two side passages and built - in a very drawn out and intrusive way - an extension where the new party wall is now the side of their house and 4m high.

In short, very tall.

I solicited suggestions here - a mural, climbing wall or squash court? - but you all said to plant nice things up it to detract from the utter, utter brickiness of it.

There's also the issue of their new patio which is raised to such exalted heights that it now affords a fine vantage point over my garden, negating the major selling point of the wall, which was to 'improve privacy'.

Incident number 1

Anyway, throughout this whole saga, there have been 'words' and voices have been raised, and last week I did end up hosing down their 2 year old grandchild.

That sounds bad, doesn't it?

Let's go back a bit. Not long ago the man next door decided to climb up and hose down the builder-grubbied roof of their new conservatory... all over my line of nearly-dry washing! So they've got 'previous' as they say in the cop shows. So when another line of washing got doused by a big jet of water spraying over the fence, I took it badly, and ran down to complain to the daughter who had given the hose to her child.

'He's only two,' she said. That parental cop-out that excuses all behaviour. Not a word of apology.

'I'm not shouting at him, I'm shouting at you,' I shouted.

There followed a lively discourse about consideration for neighbours, effective supervision, it being a free country and the sainted child being within his rights to do as he pleased.

I was taking the (now damp again) washing in when another big jet of water came over, wetting myself and more of the washing. Then the red mist came....

It's ok. I wasn't aiming for the child, or her particularly, and there were no screams. And it was only water.

'I think you're being very childish!' She shouted.

And she wasn't wrong. But that's how it gets you. She's lucky I didn't have a weapon, like this!

Incident number 2

And now they're complaining about the wisteria we've planted up 'their' wall. And, especially, the little tiny hooks we put in to hold a wire to train it a bit.

'What do you think you're doing!!' Screams the missus. 'You mustn't put anything up our wall - we paid for that!'

I know I should just walk away, but I can't help engage. I am, to be fair, a bit stressed at the moment and this isn't helping. I just can't bear injustice. So there followed an escalating discourse on the concept of 'party wall' - even if you pull it down and rebuild it, it's a party wall. Though if they think we shouldn't put anything in it on this side, that probably explains why they haven't put our side gate back, which was removed when they took the original wall down!


Saturday, 25 June 2011

How Orange would you like it?

While you're all deciding which blog post I should write, I'm popping in this one as it's quick and this is my lunch break.

One of the ways library work is theraputic (and there are others) is the cutting out of paper with blunt-ended scissors for displays to to promote events/themes.

I still haven't worked out if it's to satisfy an inner need in the Borrowers or ourselves.

This was our year to host Wirral's celebration of the Orange Prize for fiction so everything had to be orange: displays, posters, tickets, books, clothes, balloons. These pics are just the tip of the orangeberg.

I had to be orange too - having unilaterally declared myself 'Poet in Residence' at the library (well, we didn't have one). But I had no poems involving oranges. (Not like my mate Colin's
'Zen and the art of peeling an orange' (2nd poem down on that link) - but I couldn't use one of his as they usually involve genitalia and this is no exception). And nothing really rhymes with orange anyway.

These pics don't do justice to just how orange the library was that night. I read my (non-orange) poems and the Borrowers were lovely and Nothing Bad Happened.

I'll have to think about what else a 'Poet in Residence' should do - any ideas?

p.s. One of the books that didn't win was
Roomby Emma Donaghue - an extraordinary book that is quite heart-stopping in the middle, and which you emerge from, hours later, looking at the world in a slightly different way. Highly recommended.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Here's some blog posts you COULD have had

Yes, yes. I know!

I may appear to have been letting the grass grow between the keys, but I've been rather busy and the blog has slipped by the wayside.

I realised I was spending the equivalent of one working day* a week doing this blog (and the same co-editing Poetry24), which doesn't leave much time for other stuff.

So my blog posts may become shorter, or there may be more gaps in between posts - which is better?

Here's a list of blog posts I would have written in the last week or so:

  1. How Orange do you want it? (me declaring myself Poet in Residence at the library in time for the Orange Prize)
  2. Reminiscences of the Fiesta of the Gran Poder de Senor Jesus in La Paz (with nose-picking showgirls in sequins and feathers)
  3. Snakes in the compost: living The Good Life in Wales (not me. I don't live a 'good' life)
  4. You can't herd poets (or How not to organise an arts festival)
  5. Schmoozing a Book Launch: How to become one of the 'Literati'
  6. Situation Worsens (nearly coming to fisticuffs with neighbour re 'that wall')
  7. Me and The Scaffold (the band, not the wall)
  8. Another Triumph, Darlings (a bit of a gloat)

Where am I going with all of this? I'm not entirely sure, but vote for which one you missed me not writing the most, and I'll write it. How 'bout that?

Here comes the tumbleweed...

* a 'normal' working day - not one a library one, where I work 11hours every Monday!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Rain Dog Man

Over at Poetry24 today there's rather a good poem about homelessness from someone who has never written poetry before.
Apart from sleeping in the odd bus station (I say 'sleeping') and once on a beach, and that time I left home forever with just a carrier bag, my only brush with homelessness was winning the Big Issue in the North 'Big Scribble' Poetry Competition a couple of years ago. I'm interested what you make of the winning poem, which was inspired by this chap.

Can you tell who he is yet?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Get out of that!

Another pic from the weekend.

This what the B&B meant by 'secure parking'.

This was going to be my 'Silent Sunday' pic but I can't seem to upload photos from the Batberry device.

That would never happen to Batgirl.

Also, her car would have been able to fly out.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Fairy tales... and furry tails

I had a great weekend in Lancaster at the launch of Flashmob - Flax026 - a collection of short fiction which is now available to download free and includes me reading my (true) story: Brother - killed by radiator.

My favourite part was the work of Claire Massey who was launching another Litfest publication: A Book Tale - Flax027, an extraordinary modern fairytale featuring a dress made out of pages of a book (pictured). Isn't it, quite literally, fabulous? Again, you can download it for free by clicking on the link.

At the event I met Sarah-Clare Conlon (who describes herself as a 'Lit Chick' ... damn! I wish I'd thought of that!) , author of the very readable Words and Fixtures - where she talks about the event and describes the 2nd story I read as a 'bit of smut' when there's no mention of actual genitalia. Decide for yourself by reading Parallel Conservatory here.

I also met Ben from We Hate Words - a brand new e-zine which invites short articles on writers (and words) that really wrankle. Now hate is an almost entirely terrible thing, but guess who's in the first issue? Moi, with my hate-affair with the word 'robust.'

Also, David Hartley of 'Do a Barrel Roll' - a real life bunny-hugger who writes amazing single-sentence stories.

Now don't tell any other poets, but my main feeling from the weekend is this:- maybe there are too many poetry events and not enough story ones?

Do you like to listen to stories or prefer to read them? ...Or would you rather just hug your bunny (not a euphemism)?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Rejection, acceptance and an invitation

No, I'm not dead in a ditch. Ta for asking.

I've been very busy: projects, clear-outs, work, events... even sending stuff out (stories, poems, madey-up stuff) and getting it sent back mostly.

In fact, can any of you writerly-types out there top this:
4 rejections in one 24hr period!

That's so bad it's good!

Having expertly perfected the art of rejection, you may except some introspection. But am I dejected? No!

Because in the midst of rejection there is acceptance:

Acceptance that some fall on stony ground... but also REAL acceptances:

  • My poem Excavation was accepted by Shot Glass Review.
  • Another poem was accepted by Shit Creek Review - to be published later this year.
  • Another won 2nd prize in Northampton Open Poetry Competition's rhyming category - again I'll put a link up when it's online.

Flash Mob launch

I'm also very proud to have been chosen for one of Lancaster Litfest's prestigious publications - Flash Mob (Flax026) - click on that link and scroll down to listen to me reading my story Brother - Killed by Radiator, and the other fine stories too, or you can read it HERE.

The collection (pictured above) is being launched this Saturday, 11th June at The Storey, Lancaster from 3pm - it's a free event and you're all welcome to come along for readings, wine and nibbles if you are anywhere near Lancaster. You'll be able to download it from the link above once its launched.

p.s. If you want to avoid rejection and losing, here are a few useful hints and tips from Who the fudge is Benjamin Judge

Monday, 6 June 2011

Some more pictures of sunny West Kirby

Following on from yesterday's Silent Sunday post, I thought I'd put up some more pics of the seafront about ten minutes walk from where I live.

This is West Kirby, on the north west tip of the Wirral peninsular in Merseyside:

It's a fine place to live - a lot of the Liverpool players live just up the coast from here in 'posher' Calday.

We even have a wee island off the coast - Hilbre Island, which you can just see here on the horizon. You can walk out to it when the tide's out.

One of my favourite walks is around the Marine Lake - which gives views of Hilbre, the Irish Sea, the North Wales coast and back to town.

I love the way people on the causeway around the lake look as thought they're walking on water... which they often were before they raised it a bit!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

More Assistance Dogs

Following on from the Duke of Edinburgh (... gosh, I never thought I'd be saying those words), I've thought of some more possible assistance dogs - hopefully a tad more politically correct than his idea.

Chatty dogs for the reticent

Ridiculous dogs for the sensible

Thinking dogs for the stupid

Attractive dogs for the ugly

Scintillating dogs for the dull

Hot dogs for the chilly

Organised dogs for the scatter-brained

Instant dogs for the impatient

Shaggy dogs for the socially inept

Tasty dogs for the hungry

and (although I don't think this will catch on) Living dogs for the dead

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Mink knickers and water damage

I was disappointed to miss the Duke of Edinburgh's* visit to my home town earlier this week - I would have enjoyed listening out for more gaffes.

Famous for saying the wrong thing, the Queen's hubby is 90 next week, and to celebrate The Independent printed a fantastic list of 90 of his best foot-in-mouth moments:

"I would like to go to Russia very much – although the bastards murdered half my family."

...which include racism:

"British women can't cook." To Scottish Women's Institute .


"I thought it was against the law these days for a woman to solicit." To a woman solicitor.


"The problem with London is the tourists. They cause the congestion. If we could just stop the tourism, we could stop the congestion."

... insensitivity:

"People usually say that after a fire it is water damage that is the worst. We are still drying out Windsor Castle." To survivors of the Lockerbie bombings in 1993.

and the difficult-to-master double whammy:

"Do you know they have eating dogs for the anorexic now?" To a wheelchair-bound lady with a guide dog.


"You're not wearing mink knickers, are you?" To fashion writer Serena French at a World Wildlife Fund gathering in 1993

I've got a soft spot for the old duffer and the way he just says what he thinks. As he says himself: "I have never been noticeably reticent about talking on subjects about which I know nothing." I know the feeling.

Of course The Independent does have an axe to grind. Here's an exchange at a Golden Jubilee event in 2002:

Philip: "Who are you?"
Simon Kelner: "I'm the editor-in-chief of The Independent, Sir."
Philip: "What are you doing here?"
Kelner: "You invited me."
Philip: "Well, you didn't have to come!"

So anyway, he was in Wirral to judge a model boat competition, apparently. This is the Marine Lake here. I may post some more pics of it if you're interested... we have an evening view of people on the footpath that encircles it and an aerial view. Nice huh?

* Yes, the same Duke of Edinburgh as in 'Duke of Edinburgh Awards' for young people had this to say about them: "Young people are the same as they always were. They are just as ignorant."