Better

I had forgotten this about writing. It can make you feel better. It can solidify your thoughts and feelings about something- but then cause them to become fluid again. It can represent you accepting something and thus beginning to change it. As soon as I wrote about being Grumpy Poet and not having a Platform, illustrations of why not to be Grumpy Poet and how I do have a platform flooded in. A workshop session with Gifted and Talented students in Newton Aycliffe in which we explored ways for them to spread creative teaching and learning. An inspiring community arts worker (Katy Milne) at Greenfield School who is passionate about embedding creativity in schools in a way that goes beyond the box ticking. Twitter reminding me of the Creative Agent Gayle Sutherland who I worked with on a slightly ill fated radio project but who is getting all sorts of amazing digital type projects into schools (including ones by Ewan Macintosh, the man who masterminded the SNP’s massively successful Internet campaign). A few offers of interesting gigs. Reading poems by clearly enormously truthful poets like Maitreyabandhu and David Tait (Both winners in the Smith/Doorstop pamphlet competition).

I went on Radio Newcastle’s Breakfast Show panel. Remembered how I prefer to feel I’ve been truthful in order to feel like I’ve had a platform but that it’s not always so straightforward. The show involves provoking listeners to ring in and respond. A few years ago I’d do that by being an extreme version of me as Mad Libertarian Poet, which provoked the more vocal of the show’s right wing listeners to ring in and be cross. Then the show remit changed to be less about controversy and more about discussion. Now I oblige by sharing my very average liberal views about things like Geordie Shore (daft), Super injunctions (sort of wrong/right) and hospital parking (Gasp-too expensive). That’s somehow less satisfying than being the pantomime me was- and feels weirdly less truthful- though I was taking both approaches to satisfy a show remit rather than myself. My most ordinary opinions bore me rigid. Maybe that’s why I do poems. Then last night, the short slot I did on Arthur Smith’s Balham Bash show was on Radio 4. I haven’t listened as I will cringe- besides, I was there. But I did a bit of stand up and some poems. More me I suppose than me talking. I remember being conscious of not wanting to go over my 5 minutes time and may have done under. Kevin Eldon was also on and very funny as the spoof poet Paul Hamilton. Couldn’t spot much gap between him as spoof and me as real poet. Though, talking to him after, it sounds like he has something of the real poet in him, as I have something of the pantomime in me. Anyway, to conclude- writing something might lead you to the opposite and pantomime can be closer to reality than prosaic attempts at truth. Therefore, find the right platform for you, but don’t get too big for your shoes. Sorted.

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Re; Search

In the hallowed land of Borders bookshop I got a “How to Research”  book by the Open University Press and have constructed a short questionnaire for the writers I’m going to interview in the next couple of weeks. They’re writers who already do lots of work with young people and work with New Writing North alot.

It feels good to actually be doing something concrete now. Quite alot of things I’ve done this week have fed into my thinking. But more in a mushy sort of way. “Full on Futures” was a day organised by Creative Partnerships at Arc to get year 9s motivated to think on creative careers. I did very practical half hour workshops, getting them to storytell, speak about themselves and explore their opinions on the value of creativity- but what I didn’t do, and couldn’t have done at this point was advise some sort of obvious career path into writing. (and I don’t think it’s enough just to say “Write!”, though heck, that does help). Claire, the North East Apples and Snakes co ordinator was there handing out info and it does feel that hopefully that performance poetry organisation may plug some gaps, but there is still a big, gaping void mostly for writers aged 11-18.

I’ve also been to the launch event of the African writers Festival at the Northern Writers Centre and been inspired by Ben Okri (“Doesn’t life have a dream like quality?” and Jackie Kay, in very different ways. Then, last night, a gig at the Chillingham Arms in which I tried out a new poem on stage and hoped it might give me a key to the one woman show I’m doing (as an associate artist for the Live Literature Consortium). I also heard a writer say that working in schools made them tired (and knew that feeling so well, but wonder if anything can help balance this for writers?). 

Now I’m getting on with writing a poem for the Journal Culture Awards (that will somehow mention all 39 nominees and be interesting and funny and read well on the night…) I’m looking forward to freer time for writing from September for a while, but for a now feel like I’m learning a hundred things a day and really caring about the role of writing again. For a time after I’d finished my family memoir that somehow drained away for a while. Now I keep coming up with plans to get more people writing and reading and more voices heard. Being in the centre of that again is encouraging the feeling I think. So many people and organisations are doing it.  Which ones will stick?