I’ve had a great week so far – feel slightly sad that the holiday is about to come to an end, but looking back just over this week, lots of lovely things have happened. Tuesday was my last session in the prison and the group of prisoners that Tony Walsh and I have been working with did a performance to about forty other prisoners. Because of the size of the library, the prisoners and I sat facing the audience at the front. Tony Walsh was coming in and out from the stacks of books to introduce each person before they read, so he may have had a slightly different view to me, but I thought the audience looked quite scary. I think this has something to do with the fact that at most poetry readings I’ve been to, the audience is dominated by women. Obviously, it being a male prison, they were mainly men, although there were a few female guards or education staff there. I don’t know if this is true of performance poetry nights, I’ll have to ask Tony if there are more men than women or vice versa. Anyway, even though the audience looked quite scary, they didn’t make a sound while the prisoners were reading. They listened to every word they said, clapped in the right places and seemed to generally enjoy themselves. I hope when our group get out of prison, they start to engage with the poetry community. They have a lot to offer, not just their talent and life experience, but the respect and support they showed for each other during the ten sessions. They would be an asset to any poetry group.
Then on Wednesday, my good friend Manon came to visit with her two daughters. It was a flying visit, they were off again on Thursday. I met Manon at the first ever writing residential course that I went to at Ty Newydd, which I think must have been four or five years ago. The tutors were Nigel Jenkins and Sarah Kennedy, and I can safely say that course completely changed my life. Nigel gave me the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given, which was to write every day, and read every day. He told me to think of it as being the same as practicing a musical instrument, which I could relate to. As much as I can, I’ve followed his advice to the letter. By a spooky coincidence, exactly a year after he first said that to me was when I had my first poem accepted for publication.
And Sarah was brilliant as well – warm, funny, encouraging, supportive. Sarah is an American poet, and I would recommend anybody to look her poetry up.
And of course, I met one of my closest friends on this course as well, Manon. After the course had finished we started a tradition of meeting up in random places (Hull, Bristol, Manchester) and going for a night out. Sometimes this would coincide with a literature festival, but mostly it would just be an excuse for a night out.
And yesterday, Friday I went to meet Ann Sansom, who is my editor for the pamphlet. She was really brilliant to work with, and had asked me to send her some new poems to look at as well. I think I’m going to replace a few of the poems in the pamphlet with a few new poems on her advice – and save the ones I take out for the first collection, whenever that happens.
It was interesting to discuss the poems with Ann in that much depth – a poem that I had bought to the last writing day which I thought was what I call a ‘something and nothing’ poem Ann thought should definately go in, because ‘it couldn’t have been written by anybody else’. The poem is about teaching the trumpet. I haven’t met any trumpet playing poets yet, but now I’ve written this, and agreed the poem should go in, I’m sure one will pop up!
And tonight is Poem and A Pint with Carole Coates, one of my favourite poets. When I hear her tonight, I might ask if I can put one of her poems up on here from her collection. She is a fantastic writer, and probably not as well known as she should be.