Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Polar Poets Return to Manchester

After a frenetic few weeks of readings and performances in a pub in Bath, a library in Bristol, a gallery in Haverfordwest and on a beach near Cardigan, I will be heading up to Manchester on Saturday for another Polar Poets event alongside Siobhan Logan.

In October last year, we were lucky enough to perform our multi-media poetry show, Arctic-ulate, at Manchester Science Festival. It was a sell-out event and, as a result of that, we have been invited back to the same venue, the John Rylands University Library (see photo) to offer another performance of Arctic-ulate and also to facilitate a writing workshop, between 2 and 4 p.m, on polar themes.

You can read a little more about our visit on the library's events page. There are still a few workshop places available and a couple of seats for the evening performance (from 6 p.m.) too. If you are interested in coming along, please phone 0161 306 0555 or email as soon as possible.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Remembrance for Lost Species

This Saturday, November 12th, I will be reading extinction-themed poetry from Where the Air is Rarefied at Feral Theatre's Funeral for the Great Auk on Poppit Sands, one of Pembrokeshire's loveliest beaches.

The Funeral is one of many similar events that are taking place throughout the U.K and beyond, as part of the Remembrance for Lost Species project.

In addition to poetry about, and a specially-written eulogy for, the Great Auk, the North Atlantic seabird that was persecuted and finally hunted to extinction in the mid-nineteenth century, there will be singing and storytelling. The funeral will be followed by a wake at a nearby café.

If you happen to be in West Wales on Saturday, please do think about coming along to support the event. It's due to get underway at 3.30 p.m.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Where the Air is Rarefied in Pembrokeshire

November is going to be another supremely busy month, about which I'll write more later. For now, though, here's just a quick post about the latest in the series of Where the Air is Rarefied exhibitions featuring my poetry and Pat Gregory's prints.

From 2nd - 28th November, our work will be on show in Haverfordwest Library Gallery in my favourite county, Pembrokeshire.

We're also pleased to be offering an event in the gallery on Tuesday 22nd November, from 6.30 - 8.30pm. The evening will feature a poetry performance (by me!), a presentation by Pat about the process of our collaboration, and a chance to view all the poems and prints. Tea and very lovely cake will be also be provided.

If you can't make the event, the gallery opening times are as follows:

Monday 9.30 am – 5 pm
Tuesday 9.30 am – 7 pm
Wednesday 9.30 am – 5 pm
Thursday 9.30 am – 5 pm
Friday 9.30 am – 7 pm
Saturday 9.30 am – 1 pm

And if you can't make it to Haverfordwest to see the exhibition at any time during November, all of the poems and prints are, of course, available now as a book, published by Cinnamon Press.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

National Poetry Day 2011

Here are a few of the events I'm involved in for National Poetry Day this year:

1) Last Friday, I was in London, in front of a packed audience at the BBC Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House to record the Saturday Live Poetry Pop-up, alongside the other regular Saturday Live poets. We were each commissioned to write a new poem especially for the event, and were also invited to share poems from past Saturday Live shows. Hosted by Richard Coles and with music by Cerys Mathews, the show will first be broadcast on Radio 4 Extra on National Poetry Day (this Thursday, 6th October, at 10 a.m.). It will also be shown on the BBC Big Screens in city centres up and down the country on the same day.

2) On Thursday, I'll be returning to one of my favourite Cardiff venues - Waterloo Gardens Teahouse - to perform alongside poet and singer-songwriter Maria Lindström from Sweden. The event is scheduled to start at 4.30 pm, with the Teahouse's legendary cakes available, as an accompaniment to the poetry and song, throughout the afternoon!

3) Next Sunday, 9th October, from 7 p.m, I'll be at the Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea, taking part in its first International Festival of Words. Storyteller Amanda Rackstraw and poet Ian Griffiths are among the other performers on Sunday, and there's a whole range of other poets, actors and musicians appearing at the Festival in the preceding days too.

Post-performance, I'm much looking forward to spending the night in the Birthplace. 5 Cwmdonkin Drive has been restored to its 1914 condition - Dylan's parents bought it as a new house just a few months before his birth - and it now offers bed and breakfast accommodation all year round. I wonder which room I'll be allocated...

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Busy-ness of Last Week

Just starting to get my breath back after last week's workshopping, exhibition-hanging, performing, train travelling, festival visiting... Here are a few of the highlights:

1) On Tuesday, I offered an eco-poetry performance at Swansea's Environment Centre, organised by Keith Ross of Swansea Green Party. The audience was attentive and enthusiastic and I especially enjoyed the lively, post-performance discussion. I also appreciated the thunderous, beautifully-timed rain-on-the-roof sound effects just as I was performing Never Forgets, my protest-poem about the illegal trade in elephant ivory, which contains the line 'that drumming you hear isn't rain'!

2) Thanks to the day spent hanging work in the gallery of Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon, the latest Where the Air is Rarefied exhibition, featuring Pat Gregory's prints and my poems, is now on and can be viewed until October 4th. Many of the original prints that feature in our recently-published joint collection are on sale, as are a range of digital prints.

3) On Saturday, I travelled up to Yorkshire, to Saltaire, for Arctic-ulate, my latest Polar Poets gig with Siobhan Logan. This was a joint British Science Festival/Saltaire Festival event. In the photo above, we'd just gained access to our Shipley College venue, had set up all the technical equipment and were starting to think about doing a run-through of our show - since we live so far apart, rehearsal time, in the pre-show hours, is precious indeed.

I wish there'd been the time/opportunity to check out more events from both Festivals but I did at least have a couple of hours on Sunday in which to wander along the canal and explore some of the UNESCO World Heritage site before the long train journey back to Cardiff.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Uncivilisation 2011

Over a week has passed since I got back from Uncivilisation 2011 - this year's Dark Mountain Festival at the Sustainability Centre in Hampshire - and I'm still reflecting on all the discussions, conversations, talks, readings, workshops and performances that took place over the course of the weekend.

I was directly involved in two sessions again this year - the first, my 'animate earth' poetry workshop, inspired by some of the ideas in David Abram's The Spell of the Sensuous, took place in the woods in the only rain of the weekend. (It seems to be an unwritten law that all my outdoor writing workshops must take place in the rain!) Later, I took part in a poetry reading and panel discussion on Wild Writing with Paul Kingsnorth, Adrienne Odasso and Em Strang, in the lovely woodland space (pictured).

The weekend offered so many highlights (listening to Jay Griffiths, alongside Benny Wenda of the Free West Papua campaign; meeting, at long last, Sharon Blackie of Two Ravens Press; Mario Petrucci speaking on poetry as a source of sustenance in the Sustainable Age; the after-dark woodland participatory theatre piece, Liminal...) and I wish I had more time now to elaborate on them all. You can, though, get more of a flavour of the festival's ethos and atmosphere, as well as an insight into many of the other sessions and performances I haven't mentioned, in this review in The Independent.

And in a future blog post, I'll offer some thoughts on Dark Mountain 2, the project's second volume of uncivilised writing, in which an extract from one of my art-poetry collaborations with printmaker Pat Gregory, appears.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bathhouse Bard

It was, without a doubt, one of the most interesting venues in which I've been lucky enough to perform. As the photo on the left suggests, I was submerged for the evening in the ruins of the Roman Baths in Caerleon - though what looks like water is actually just a very effective watery projection!

I mostly shared poems from my new collection, Where the Air is Rarefied - and realise I will never again have such a perfect location in which to perform the opening poem, Nerrivik, about the Inuit goddess of the sea!

This Bathhouse Bard event was part of the annual Caerleon Festival, to which I was making a return visit, having first appeared there back in 2007. This time, I was joined by creative writing students from the University of Wales, Newport, plus several local writers, all of whom read a selection of their poetry in the first half of the evening.

Many thanks to Maggie Corke for organising the event (and for her superb post-performance supper!) Thanks, too, to Brian Dawson for the photograph.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Wilder Vein e-book

Just a quick post to mention that A Wilder Vein, the non-fiction anthology focusing on the relationship between people and the wild places of Britain and Ireland, in which a prose piece of mine appears, is now available as an e-book at the Two Ravens Press website.

Edited by Linda Cracknell and with a foreword by Robert Macfarlane, the anthology received some very enthusiastic reviews when it was first published in 2009:

A Wilder Vein (edited by Linda Cracknell; Two Ravens Press. £10.99) is an anthology linking writers with the natural world. Its theme is the wilder places of Britain, and its object an exploration of "new ways of seeing". One way, articulated by Gerry Loose, is to follow what the writer sees almost in real time, taking in tiny details: the way young holly sprays from an oak or how scabs of lichen decorate the rocks. A landscape, suggests Robert Macfarlane in his foreword, is defined not only by what it is but by the way we see it: "certain thoughts might be possible only in certain places". If we lose those places, we are losing kinds of imagination too. - The Independent - a recommended book for Christmas 2009.

Here is a book in which 18 writers – poets, novelists, anthropologists and natural historians – visit the uninhabited regions of our crowded little archipelago and meditate on what these places mean; and while individually the results are often sparklingly written and utterly transporting, taken together they also reinforce a point Macfarlane makes in his introduction: that "certain thoughts might be possible only in certain places, such that when we lose those places, we are losing kinds of imagination as well" - The Scotsman

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Neil Gunn Writing Competition

I'm thrilled to have heard that I've been awarded joint first prize in the adult poetry section of the 2010/11 Neil Gunn Writing Competition. It's a biennial competition, organised by The Highland Council and the Neil Gunn Trust and this time, the theme was 'A Wrong Turning', inspired by a quote from Gunn's Highland River - 'Our river took a wrong turning somewhere! But we haven't forgotten the source.'

The award ceremony was in Inverness last Tuesday and, sadly, I wasn't able to get there, but a lovely certificate and a very delicious prizewinning cheque arrived through the post this morning. I've entered so few poetry competitions this year - just two, I think - so I feel especially lucky to have had such good news about this one.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Launch Reflections

I'm still coming back down to earth after the launch of Where the Air is Rarefied, my new collection of poetry, with prints by Pat Gregory, last Wednesday evening. It really couldn't have gone better.

In spite of my usual pre-event frets that there would only be a handful of people in the audience, the Norwegian Church Arts Centre was packed to its newly-refurbished rafters. Well over a hundred people came along (in fact, we ran out of chairs!), and I much enjoyed chatting to friends old and new once Pat and I had finished doing our performance/presentation.

As I said at the time, so many thanks are due - to Jan Fortune of Cinnamon Press (pictured below) for publishing the collection (in these financially challenging times, it's a huge undertaking to publish any book, let alone one containing full colour prints), to Philip Gross for his pre-publication endorsement and for being an enthusiastic audience member on the night, to Tony at the Norwegian Church for helping the event to run smoothly, and to Ruth Bradshaw for some lovely atmospheric soprano saxophone music before and after the poetry part of the evening.

Finally, for those of you who weren't able to make the launch and who may be interested in buying a copy of the book, I now have a Paypal button on the Where the Air is Rarefied page on my website.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Two Days Since and Two Days to Go...

Two days ago, I was in London for my resident poet slot on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live, now presented by Richard Coles. The studio guest was actor/director Richard Wilson, still probably best known for his television role as Victor Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave.

As usual, I had to write two new poems for the show - for my first, short, top-of-the-show piece, I focused on climate change, in recognition/celebration of World Environment Day. My second, longer poem was written in response to a story about two men in the late 1960s, who bought a lion cub from Harrods and lived with him in their Chelsea flat for some years, until his eventual rehoming in Kenya. You can listen to the full show, and find out further details about the content, here.

Meanwhile, in just two days, on Wednesday 8th June at 7.30 pm, my new poetry collection, Where the Air is Rarefied, a collaboration with visual artist Pat Gregory, will be launched. All are welcome to come along to Cardiff's Norwegian Church Arts Centre for an evening of poetry, prints, drinks, cake and chat!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

'Landlines' poetry competition

I'm in the midst of a majorly busy few weeks of preparation for both my next Arctic trip and the launch of my new poetry collection, while also battling to keep on top of all the mentoring, tutoring, editing and workshopping that I'm currently involved in. I seem to be even more inundated with emails than usual - but one that's recently brought me real pleasure, rather than just the demand for an immediate response, came from the deputy editor of the National Trust Magazine.

I was very chuffed to learn that a new poem, Flock, that I'd entered for the National Trust's 'Landlines' poetry competition, on the theme of the outdoors, has been shortlisted/highly commended - one of 12 out of some 1700 entries, I think. I haven't entered many poetry competitions at all lately (only one other this year, I think), so the news was especially unexpected. Flock is quite linguistically playful, too, and I wasn't at all convinced it was competition material.

The full results of the competition, including the winning poems (as chosen by adjudicators Jo Bell and Ian McMillan) can be seen here.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Launch of 'Where the Air is Rarefied'

All are warmly invited to the launch of my new collection of poetry, Where the Air is Rarefied, with prints by Pat Gregory, on Wednesday June 8th, at 7.30 pm, at the Norwegian Church Arts Centre, Cardiff Bay.

Published by Cinnamon Press, the collection is the culmination of a long-term collaboration with Pat. And given that it's an exploration, through poetry and prints, of environmental and mythological themes relating to 'the North', we're both thrilled that the launch will be happening at the newly-refurbished Norwegian Church.

I'll be offering a performance of a selection of the poems and Pat will chat about the process of our collaboration too. Thereafter, we hope people will linger long to help us celebrate - the café-bar will be open for drinks, snacks, cakes etc. all evening.

Hope to see you there!

Pre-publication endorsement of Where the Air is Rarefied by Philip Gross:

The subject-matter of this collaboration builds on the concerns and subjects of Susan Richardson's previous volume,
Creatures of the Intertidal Zone, but the interplay with visual art has stimulated a new freedom and experiment with language...pushing her work well beyond her previous comfort zones and...marking her emergence into a new breadth and vividness of voice, a new stage in her life as a poet.

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