Freeverse Poetry Festival


Orators and their Opinions open mic and Walsall Poetry Society are proud to announce that this summer they are getting together to bring you Freeverse, a free poetry festival featuring poets from Walsall, the West Midlands and Beyond.

Freeverse will take place on Saturday 6th July at Brownhills Community Centre
starting at midday and the best thing is it’s all free to attend, here’s the line up for the day.

Willis the Poet aka Rik Sanders

““Willis the Poet is without a doubt one of the funniest poets it has been my pleasure to hear perform. His easy yet intensely witty interaction with his audience makes every performance a time of laughter, hilarity and sheer out and out fun!”

Rik will not only be performing but also hosting a comedy poetry open mic – sign up on the day – welcoming all poets new and old to step up and make people laugh

Holly Daffurn

“Holly Daffurn’s work rages from the political to the confessional, flitting from witty anecdotes to stark cutting observations. Featuring a combination of rhythmical and fast-paced poems mixed in with carefully crafted passages that shrug off any expectation of rhyme, the uniting feature in all of her work is a distinct and brazen honesty.”

Holly will be headlining one of the three open mics that will take place at the festival.

Samantha Roden, R M Francis and Paul McDonald

Also three Original Plus poets from the region will read from their recently published chapbooks. Paul McDonald is a Walsall based award winning poet, novelists, flash fiction writer and academic. His work has been widely published, including Tindal Street Press, Indigo Dreams, Cinnamon Press, V.Press and Original Plus. He’s Course Leader for Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton, author of three novels five poetry collections and a recently published flash fiction collection. Samantha Roden grew up in Birmingham, and now resides in Wolverhampton. She is a poet, academic and educational author and was named one of Eyewear Publishing’s Best New British and Irish Poets, 2017 . Her first Pamphlet, Catch Ourselves in Glass, was published in June 2017 by Original Plus Books. R . M Francis is a writer from Dudley, Visiting Lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton, and author of four poetry chapbooks, placed with the Black Light Engine Room, Lapwing Publishing and Original Plus his first full collection with Smokestack Books and his debut novel with Wild Pressed Books are due out in 2020.

Headlining our third and final open mic will be two local poets Gerald Kells and Paul Elwell, then finishing the day we will have our main event.

Steve Pottinger, Dave Pitt and Emma Purshouse aka Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists.

“Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists are a collective of Black Country poets who believe in changing the world one poem at a time. They’re funny, serious, and thoughtful by turns. Above all, they’re very entertaining.”

As if that wasn’t enough local poet Scarlett Ward will be running a poetry workshop during the day as well.

Scarlett Ward

Find Your Voice.

FYV is a workshop that will be ran by Midlands poet Scarlett Ward and special guest poet Sallyanne Rock. We will be looking at examples of Poets that use their accents, colloquialisms and tone of voice to strengthen the sense of identity within their poetry, and looking how we can use them as inspiration when we come to writing our own work. Hints, prompts, games and tips- all in a laid-back and friendly atmosphere. Free entry, 3.30pm, 20 spaces available, 45 mins duration. Dow be nervous mucka, we’m here to have a laff.

Scarlett Ward is a 26 year old Wiccan Poet working from Cannock, Staffordshire. She came 3rd place in the WoLf poetry competition as judged by Roy McFarlane in January 2019, and her debut collection ‘ache’ is to be released this summer with Verve Poetry Press.

Sallyanne Rock is a poet and writer living in Worcestershire. Her work appears in various journals online and in print, and she has performed her poetry across the Midlands region.She is currently working with Writing West Midlands as an Assistant Writer, running a series of creative writing workshops for young people.

So here’s the running schedule for the day.

Midday – doors open

12:15 Introduction and welcome

12:30 WIllis the Poet set plus poetry open mic with a comedy theme – sign up on the day.

13:20 break

13:40 Open mic headlined by Holly Daffurn – sign up on the day.

14:30 Break

14:50 R M Francis, Paul McDoanld and Samantha Roden

15:40 Break

16:10 Open mic headlined by Greald Kells and Paul Elwell – sign up on the day

17:20 Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists.

Please note the venue provides free parking and provides refreshments plus drinks – alcoholic and non alcoholic. Entry to the event is free if you do like the acts you see and wish to support them then the performers will be operating a contribute what you want system by passing the hat round.

Freeverse is supported and sponsored by Creative Black Country and supported by the University of Wolverhampton.

For queries and questions or more information please email WalsallPoetrySociety@gmail.com

A big thanks you to everyone involved with supporting this festival, thanks to all our guest poets for agreeing to perform, thanks to Brownhills Community Centre for letting us use their space and a big thank you to Matthew Cash of Burdizzo Banners who came up with the festival logo.

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I don’t want a Fitbit thank you


The missus said, “I think you’re unfit bab,
you’ve started to wheeze like a horse that’s smoked too many fags,
your sweat smells like the meat from a donor kebab,
you know what you need, you need a Fitbit.”

Ok, but tell me how is some plastic on my wrist,
going to stop me smoking or getting pissed,
unless each time I raise a pint or fag to my lips
it electrocutes me.

So to cut a long story short I did briefly wear a Fitbit
even though I didn’t want to be a bit fit,
and I think exercise is well just shit,
as it interrupts my naps.

Fitbits are daft as they beep excitedly when you get out your chair
saying well done your exercising but I don’t care
I was only going to the kitchen where
I believe there’s a packet of chocolate hob nobs.

Then there was the time my Fitbit said my pulse rate was healthy
which might have been because stealthily
I was looking at a woman who was quite seductively
eating chips.

I started to get cross with family members telling me how many steps they took
and say I’m really not interested, here comes my foot
doing the only work out I like, kicking you in the butt
switch that Fitbit off – I did…

…then I hit it with a hammer
then I threw it in the bin
then I pushed the bin into a lake…

that’s enough exercise for this week.

Love is


Love is like a fresh cup of coffee,
even though it burns you hold tight.
Its sharpness jolts
yet you still want more
before it turns cold.

Love is like a foreign language
in which everyone is fluent except you
and in spite of all your efforts,
you constantly struggle
to be understood.

Love is like the end of the world,
you panic, you want to hide
but you don’t want to die alone.
So you run out on to the street and scream,
“I’m ready for this.”

Easter is Coming, Brace Yourself


According to my local supermarket
Easter always starts
at exactly 9am on Boxing Day.
This is when the creased wrapping paper
and half-pulled crackers are
tossed unceremoniously into
the store’s reduced aisle
and pushing them aside
showing no mercy
comes the inevitable tide of chocolate eggs.

So you could easily be fooled into
thinking that Easter is imminent and
to confuse matters more the weather
decides it would be fun to be unseasonal as well.
Unexpected sunshine plays tricks
making you believe it’s time to put
your winter coat away.
Then the cold weather returns with a snap
violently blasting waves of wintry wind
while the rain beats a tattoo on windows and roof

So the only thoughts in my chilly brain
when Easter really arrives are
that I’m getting sick of the unpredictable weather and
I’m also horrified to discover that I’m
growing sick of the chocolate mountain in my house.
Although I reckon that when Easter departs
I’ll probably still be sick of the weather
But I know one thing is certain
I will never stay sick
of chocolate eggs.

I Built This Poem


I constructed these words from scraps of leather and bricks,
forged them in the white hot heat of love and relationships.
I wrote these words while in the Arboretum or down by the cut,
inspiration flowing like smoke from my cigarette butt.
These are words that came to me on the bus or in my flat,
I wrote them down late at night on the wrapper of my kebab.
I took words from literature and scrawl from toilet walls
I took everything I loved and etched it deeply it on to my soul.

Meet Me at the Hippo


We always met at the hippo
it’s a local tradition that we adopted.
Sitting by Walsall’s concrete enigma
sharing our chips with greedy pigeons
chugging MD 20/20 down,
as the town ebbed and flowed around us
like the drift of flotsam on the canal.

Then chips finished, paper and
bottles were shoved in overflowing bins.
We’d flick away the stubs of Marlboro lights
stagger off to indie disco nights,
saying to the hippo.
“See you again soon.”

But as the years danced by we
just stopped returning, as
joints stiffened like concrete and
hair became striped with hippo grey.
We swapped wooden benches for an IKEA sofa,
chips are now delivered, along with
craft beer bought by the ASDA delivery man.
We changed
but so did the hippo.

You see that hippo
that carefree hippo of the people
also grew up.
I passed him the other day
outside the library,
perhaps he’s turned intellectual ?
Anyway, I asked him why
he turned his back on the people who loved him.
He’s still thinking
about his answer.

 

yes my home town does have a statue of a hippo just like in the picture and for many years it was always a popular place to meet.

If I Were Not Me – A chat with poet and author Dale Parnell


Dale Parnell in action

When I first met local poet Dale Parnell he had yet to step fully into the world of poetry
as he was promoting his excellent book of short stories, “The Green Cathedral.” 
Now, not only is he an author and a poet but he has just published his debut collection of poetry , “If I Were Not Me,” so I thought this would be an ideal time to fire off some questions to Dale via email and find out about his new collection and more.

Q. Can you tell folk about your new poetry collection, “If I Were Not Me?” What inspired the title and what poems can readers enjoy inside and how did you find putting it together and which poem/s are your favourite?

This is my first attempt at putting together a poetry collection. I wanted to record where I’m up to with poetry, it’s been a very recent endeavour for me, only starting in 2017 really after I published my first short story collection. I suppose I wanted something solid that represents what I’ve done so far. I’ve been reading some of these poems out at open mic poetry events and the feedback has been very kind and encouraging. Having a book is also a good way to draw a line under the poems I’ve done so far, I can look at them and say, OK, that’s what I’ve done so far, what can I do next?
With regards to the title, I’d love to be able to say that it holds some deep and personal meaning, but really it came about from trying to design a cover for the book. I played around with the idea of calling the collection “38” in reference to the last poem in the book, being the age that marked a kind of milestone in my life (19 years living in Norfolk, 19 years living in Staffordshire) but I never felt comfortable with it. I started going through some old photographs that I have saved on my laptop and found the image of a tree at sunrise that was taken on a camping trip I took with some friends a number of years ago. A lot of the poems in the collection are about nature, most notably “A Tree”. The poem and the image seemed perfectly suited for each other, and re-reading the poem the line “I think if I were not me” jumped out at me. I could pretend that the whole thing was deliberate and has a second meaning around the themes of mental health that are also in many of the poems, but I don’t think I could keep a straight face!
The poems are a bit of a mixture, there are a few concerning nature, a few about my experiences dealing with mental health issues, and a few about relationships. When I was putting the collection together I found a lot of older “poems” that I had written over the years. Some of them weren’t actually that bad, some needed a fresh edit, and some were just awful! But what I found was some writings from years ago dealing with some of my less than successful relationships. I thought it was interesting to show these in contrast to the newer poems inspired by my wonderful wife, Thelma.
As well as these, there are a few just plain goofy poems, things like “Goblin Soup”, and I couldn’t tell you where they come from.
I suppose I’ve never wanted to limit myself to one type of writing or one style, one genre – and sometimes a collection that is too heavily themed around one idea or one topic can feel a bit dull for me – it works for some people and that’s great, but I do know that a lot of my writing can lean towards melancholy or just outright misery, and I didn’t want to subject anyone to an entire book of that!
So, putting the book together was fairly easy. I re-read all of my finished poems a few times and then started moving them into different folders – ‘good’, ‘bad’ and ‘needs some more work’. When I had a nice selection that I was happy with I did some final edits and put them in alphabetical order. I played with the idea of grouping them into themes, but when I’d created the alphabetical list, I saw that it actually created a nice mixture of short and long, happy and sad poems that will hopefully keep a reader’s attention.
There are a lot of favourite poems in the book, a lot that mean something to me and are about a specific person or memory that are special to me. But I think “What kind of man am I?” just tops the list. This is inspired by a real event and was the first time I really wanted to write something about myself being a flawed person. I’m not proud of how I responded on that day, and this poem is a reminder to myself that I should always think and look past the initial hasty conclusions that we can all sometimes make.

Q. As well as being a poet I know you write short stories as well. When inspiration strikes how do you decide that an idea is going to become a poem or a story?

I generally know from the very start if something is going to be a short story or a poem. Short stories tend to start in my head as almost complete ideas, or at least a beginning and a middle. A lot of my poems have started as a phrase or line, something that sticks in my head and begins to suggest the next line and so on. I also tend to write poems in response to my own life and how I am feeling at any given moment. There may be a slight hint of myself in some of the stories I write, but on the whole, they are fictional creations.
The only exception so far is a poem called “House Clearances Available”, which will feature in my second collection of short stories. For a long time I was trying to write a short story about a man getting trapped in a haunted second hand / antiques shop, a place where the items are somehow imbued with all the negative emotions that they had absorbed in the houses they had come from. But I was never happy with it, I started it four or five times and could never get the tone right. One morning sitting in bed I decided to try the idea as a poem, I don’t know where the whim came from, but it flew out of me and the poem as it stands is almost identical to that first draft.
Since then I have been mindful of considering whether new ideas would work as stories or poems. Maybe one day I will try re-writing one of my short stories as a poem, it would make an interesting writing exercise.

Q. As if you’re not busy enough I know you run a storytelling open mic in Cannock, can you tell folks a little about the event and what goes on there?

Yes, we have the third ‘Cannock Tales’ event coming up on the 1st April. I love the open mic events that are available locally and I think it’s amazing that there are so many opportunities for people to get out there in front of an audience to read their works. But as a short story author I’ve always found it a bit frustrating that I could never really get into a story given the time limitation. I completely understand that you can only have 5 minutes or so with most events in order for everyone to get a chance to read, but I kept searching for events that would give you longer to read an entire story. When I couldn’t find anything it occurred to me that I could try and run an event myself. I spoke to my local pub, the brilliant Stumble Inn on Walsall Road, Cannock and they agreed to let me use their back room. The idea is to give three authors 30 minutes each so that they can read an entire short story, or a good solid chunk of a novel. We have a break in between so people can refresh their drinks and chat with the authors (and hopefully buy a book or two) before moving on to the next author. So far we have started off well, if a little light on audience numbers, but I’m hoping that will grow as more people learn about the event. If nothing else, so far it has proved a great way for local authors to meet up and have a natter with a pint and it may be that this is the way the event will grow in the future. At the moment we meet up on the first Monday evening of every other month, but if people are interested and want more then I’m very happy to arrange it for every month.

The cover to Dale’s new book

Q. What was your introduction to poetry? Did you first read it at school or elsewhere, can you tell readers what started you down the poetry track?

It’s interesting, I’ve been asked a few times how long I’ve been writing poetry and so on, and I always reply that it’s a very recent development. I did study poetry at school as part of my English GSCE, but when I think about it, I remember winning a poetry prize at middle school and having my poem published in the school newsletter – I think it was about the walk-through shark tank at a local Sealife Centre, where you walk underneath the curved glass ceiling.
But I think the first time I really took notice of poetry was in my early teens watching an episode of The Simpsons. It was one of the Halloween specials where they recreated The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe and was narrated by James Earl Jones. I fell in love with the poem and managed to track down a tiny paperback book that had The Raven and a small number of Poe’s other works. It must have been a special collector’s library edition; the book was about as big as an iPhone and for a while it lived in my coat pocket. This then led me to Poe’s short stories, but apart from re-reading The Raven over and over again, I didn’t really read poetry for a long time.
When I published my collection of short stories, “The Green Cathedral” I was looking for any local bookshops that might be interested in stocking it for me, and I discovered Southcart Books in Walsall (very sadly no longer there!) and I was invited to read at one of their events. And then suddenly there you all were, a community of writers right under my nose, writing fiction and poetry, all of it excellent, and I think it must have stirred up that old poetry monster lying dormant. I started trying to write poems, I looked up old pieces of not quite fiction I had written years ago and gave them a polish only to discover it was poetry all along. I found out about the poetry night at Caffe Del Nino in Cannock, run by the very talented Scarlett Ward, and it was actually here that I popped my poetry reading cherry. And it grew from there. The more local poets I met, the more I loved the community and the art form itself. Now I find that I start to get a bit twitchy if I haven’t written a new poem in a while!

Q. If you could only take one collection of poetry to a desert island, which collection would it be and why?

This is a tricky one. Being a relative new buyer of poetry books I don’t have a huge collection. Most of my collection is books by the local poets that I have met, and I don’t want to play favourites, but I think it would have to be “Bullet Verse” by Matt Humphries. I love this book; Matt’s voice really shines through and I count myself genuinely lucky to be able to call him a friend. The book also contains what may be my favourite poem of all time, “The Word”.
I would also have to sneak in my little collection of Poe – I reckon I could hide it between the pages and it’s so small it hardly counts anyway. Its that or I’d have to quickly copy The Raven onto my arm in permanent marker!

Q. Where can you be found online if readers want to find out what your up to?

I decided early on that I wanted to concentrate mostly on Facebook. Almost everyone you speak to has an opinion on which is the best social media platform to use, and if you did all of them, I honestly don’t know when you’d sleep!
So you can find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/shortfictionauthor, which works as an allusion to the fact that I write short stories, and that I’m only 5’6”!
I try to regularly post any updates about my writing and books and any signings, or events I’m going to. This is also where all the information for the Cannock Tales storytelling events can be found.
My books are also listed on Goodreads if anyone fancies leaving me a review!

I’d like to thank Richard for inviting me to take part in this interview and for his help in putting my first collection of poetry together – your very kind feedback means a lot. I’d also like to thank you and the many other poets I have met in the past almost two years for entertaining, moving and inspiring me to re-discover poetry in all its glory!

Always a pleasure to help Dale, I’ve read both your short story and poetry collection and thoroughly enjoyed both and thanks again for agreeing to take part in my interview.

Click here to buy If I Were Not Me.

Poison Pen


My pen has become a viper in my hand,
each time I start to write
it shakes off its cold-blooded slumber
to strike the paper,
injecting venom in to my words.
And now I fear to stop writing,
worrying that if I even briefly pause
this viper will then turn on me.

 

Before I Go I Want to…


Before I go I want to …

Not be dependant any more on my meds
End the pain within my head.
Not lie about how I feel like a fraud
Conquer the petty set backs that get me annoyed.
Remove all the monkeys from my back
Give optimism another crack
Be proud to display my scars
Escape from my illnesses’ prison bars.
Find a grain of hope in which to believe
Wear my heart proudly on my sleeve.
Recover my long lost inner peace
Have just one night of uninterrupted sleep.

Sandcastle


Dark clouds are gathering behind my eyes,
inside my head an imperfect storm is brewing.
Black waves of thoughts froth and swell
then surge and crash
against my resolve.

A resolve that is a castle,
a castle built of sand.
Whose smooth walls have
withstood many storms and
although some of its parapets
crumble today the rest stands firm.

Once the storm passes I
lower my drawbridge, then
as for the rock pools of doubt
left behind, I tread carefully
round them.Wary of what
they might conceal.