Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Poet James Nash at Quarry Mount Primary School

Beowulf visits Quarry Mount

Sally Andrews writes:
A cold coming we had of it … OK, wrong literary reference (The Magi by T S Elliot) but on a bone-chilling November morning we had a lovely warm welcome at Quarry Mount from Ms Aspin and her year 5 class.  They had been studying Beowulf, another epic poem, but this one at least 1000 years old.  The story told makes particular use of alliterative language and the youngsters took to the form with skill and imagination, retelling the story in their own creative writing.  A new twist on a tale from another millennium.
Poet-hero James Nash
Working once again with James Nash, local published poet - who has been reading his work to audiences for two decades - they even gave him some advice about the performances of their original writing.  Reading out to an assembly of peers, parents, other school personnel and adult visitors, they convinced themselves the audience were just pineapples – and there was little evidence of nerves.  Brio and confidence with performing, delight and pride shown in smiles and body language speaking volumes.  Marvellous to see in nine-year-olds!  Who amongst us wouldn't be nervous to perform in front of peers and parents?

This 'pineapple' was delighted by some wonderfully original work: battling Beowulf, gruesome Grendel, scared soldiers telling tales by the flickering flames of the fire – we got alliteration all right. Along with caves, magical swords, gushing blood , sharp yellow teeth … you got the picture very vividly from their work.

Some of the memorable lines of poetry from the children were:

Soldier slowly waking

Who knows what will happen every second we think

Mysterious man creeping at the door

His yellow broken teeth, his arms as big as trees

Sound like a bag being burst open

The mysterious door opened

His mother came for revenge, I snatched her head off.

One parent said of his son beforehand, “ He is really excited about it, despite being really nervous – it is an opportunity for him to express himself.”  Another mum confided that her daughter spoke Arabic but that this opportunity had developed her writing in English and she was now much more confident with her writing.

Ms Price, the classroom support assistant spoke of the change in one young man who had really taken flight with his writing, learning how drafting, editing and redrafting were all necessary steps to the production of a final piece fit for performance.

Year 5's class teacher Ms Aspin said that the class had gained so much confidence in reading out loud and headteacher Ms Hendley added they had so enjoyed the breadth of opportunity that experiencing poetry with a professional poet had given them.

Curriculum leader Mrs Smith was so grateful for the opportunity to have a poet inspire creative literacy in children who didn't always have English as a first language, and recounted that one young man said the poetry workshops were “The best club I have ever been to.”

Comments from the youngsters when asked what was best about the project included:

Learning how to do poetry

Seeing poetry books

Learning new things

It was fun!

They will remember how proud they were of their work and how making your feelings obvious might inspire others to write honestly and with emotion.

Last words to the parents:

I loved it, it was wonderful

I thought this event was a great idea as it helps the children build confidence to read out in front of people

I thought all the children did really well; they were confident and very brave; I love the way parents can get involved

Thank you again to Leeds council's Inner North West Area Management Committee who funded the work once again.  In difficult times it is good to see that creative arts are still supported.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Ralf Thenior in Leeds - Headingley on 21 September 2017

Peter Spafford writes:
I want to put the word out about Ralf Thenior, a poet from Dortmund who is spending a week in Leeds from Sept 17th. I’ve organised a few readings/events for Ralf - it would be great if you could make it along to one or more of them.

Ralf Thenior - Ein Dichter aus Dortmund
Ralf’s visit is part of a Dortmund-Leeds exchange I've initiated - I’m going to Dortmund in October for a week to read at the Literature Festival there. The exchange is a pilot, bravely funded by Leeds City Council; a chance for each poet to meet a new place and write our own poems about the other's city. It’s a deliberate attempt, in the wake of recent events, to reach out to the writing communities of other European cities. Dortmund is twinned with Leeds and seemed a good place to start.

Here are the events:
TUESDAY 19th, 7.30pm: Ralf will co-host Love The Words with me on Chapel FM. Listen at He will be reading, talking about Dortmund, translation, life in general, and chatting to guests.

WEDNESDAY 20th 12noon: Ralf is talking to young people studying German at Lawnswood High School.

THURSDAY 21st, 7pm: In The Neighbourhood, at Oxfam Books, Headingley. Ralf, myself, and Matthew Bellwood will be reading and talking about our respective neighbourhoods. Free event in collaboration with Headingley Litfest.

FRIDAY 22nd, 1pm: Ralf is reading and talking at Leeds Central Library, 1pm. Free event.

FRIDAY 22ND, 7pm: House gig at my gaff, with French chansons performed by Encore. Limited space, but let me know if you want to come along.

I really want to make Ralf welcome. He’s a fascinating poet, working in three languages, and - not incidentally - a very curious and engaging human.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Peacejam in Leeds - join the laureates!

It's just up the road from Headingley...  and well worth going to!

The online link for registration is . The early bird offer is £55 for the two days for students.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Patrick Lodge and Hannah Stone - Poetry

Richard Wilcocks writes:

They have a lot in common, Hannah Stone and Patrick Lodge, and they know it well. This delectable, intimate evening in Headingley Library (26 July) was well-prepared as a joint venture. In an ideal world, we would all have sat down to dine like gourmets at some stage, but wine and crisps had to be our only bodily sustenance as we listened to so many intelligent and affecting poems, served with great confidence. And libraries are not suitable for dinner parties anyway.

Hannah Stone gave us evidence of her increasing sophistication as she read from her second collection Missing Miles, published this year by Indigo Dreams. There are many references to the books in her canon, and a classical world is constantly shimmering somewhere on her horizon, with titles like ‘Penelope’ and ‘Hubris’ indicating an interest in the Greeks, though the Romans are there too: like any sophisticated poet, she has re-read Ovid’s Metamorphoses, but the poem which deals with that is the very opposite of dusty and academic. It is clever and witty. She gives Ovid a convincing afterlife.

Twice-born Bacchus spent the rest of his natural
boozing and belching...

You can catch his devotee today;
he’ll be propping up the bar
after a session in the gym,
branded tee-shirt sculpting honed abs,
a regular Adonis in Adidas.

But it was the close autobiographical, the family stuff, which got to me most. Memories of her late father, who had dementia, to be specific. ‘Protection Racket’ links music from a Bechstein piano with a scene in her parents’ house when her mother ‘cajoles the unresponsive figure’ of her father after she has played some of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.  That one was truly moving.

Patrick Lodge is the sort of world traveller who tends to be described as ‘inveterate’, but that would be wrong, and not just because of the cliché. He does not bore with his holiday snaps. He has a knack of putting his finger (his pen?) on all those details which can be recognised as aspects of our universal humanity, as, in his Valley Press collection Shenanigans, we look through his lenses at scenes in Greece, Vietnam, Spain, Wales, Cambodia and other destinations. He is the only poet I have met who has been translated into Vietnamese, and his poem on Cambodia’s equivalent of Auschwitz, ‘Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Phnom Penh’, written plainly and directly, addresses the reader and the listener with enormous force:

Look, a death pit
dug in a playground;
bone wrists still tied,
skulls blindfolded
as if the dead
might see their killers,
point reproachfully.

But again, his early memories affected me the most. Before he read ‘Yiannis in His Bar’ he told us that the Yiannis in the title, who ‘conjures the punch of rock ‘n’ roll, the smell/ of patchouli and lust in the backstreets’ was a real character encountered on family visits to a Greek island, seen again many years afterwards, causing him to be strangely amazed at how he had grown old. And then there was the poem about his late father (‘a daydreamed man’), ‘Sure of Father: VE Day, 2015’ who was brought back to mind by a late-night film from 1942 and the Andrews Sisters singing ‘Don’t sit Under The Apple Tree’.

Audience Comments

Great well-prepared event. Fantastic poetry. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Fantastic evening. Funny, moving, inspiring poems.

A well planned and progressive programme. A joy after so many mumbling, unprepared offerings.

An excellent night, and I was heeding their fine poems and their splendid readings

A lovely evocative evening of excellent poetry - a good and varied selection, enjoyed the evening very much.

Good to listen to both poets - sorry I couldn't stay for the second half.

They were both on their mettle. Hannah was in fine fettle and Patrick Lodge is no Splodge

I enjoyed these readings, would come more often if there were others.

Great event!