Confessions of a Renfield, a chat with author and poet Dan Oram


Dan Oran in full flow

One of the best things about the thriving literary scene in my home town of Walsall is that I’m constantly bumping into exciting performers I’ve never heard before. One of these is the talented Dan Oram an author and poet from Walsall I met sometime ago at an open mic who writes fantastically on a number of subjects and never ceases to entertain audiences when he performs. Over a pint of two the other day he revealed his new novella Confessions of a Renfield will be launched soon and I thought it would be great to get him to answer a few questions about this new book, his influences and love of performing. Please read on and enjoy.

Q. Can you tell readers all about your new book Confessions of a Renfield?

Confessions of a Renfield is about a guy named Jimmy. Now, Jimmy’s life is fairly normal, except for Emily. They share a kind of on-off relationship. Sometimes she’s around, sometimes she’s away, but he loves her in his own way. The problem is, one day, she’s going to kill him. You see, Emily is a Vampire. Jimmy is one of her Renfields. The book covers the worst two weeks of Jimmy’s life as a new & ruthless Vampire hunter comes to town and wrecks his life.

Q. Another string to your literary bow is that you write poetry as well, which came first writing stories or poems and how do you differentiate between writing one or the other when an idea comes into your head?

I have been writing stories as long as I can remember. One of the earliest things I wrote was back in school. We had been given the task of creating a Superhero. I created the character Prambo, a baby with superpowers. The poetry came later. I was going though a bad time in my life and the poetry became an outlet for my feelings and fears.

When it comes to the difference between writing poetry and prose, I think it is the initial inspiration or thought that guides an idea in one direction or another. If I see a conversation or a scene in my head, it invariably ends up as prose. My poetry comes from less-defined thoughts. Many of my poems come from an emotion or a feeling. For example, one of my short stories, ‘Aftermath and After’ came from an image of the characters stood on top of a ruined shopping centre. As I started working through the characters I began to shape a conversation around them. On the other hand, the poem ‘Repeat until Death’ stemmed from my frustration at having to work with what can be described as an ‘invisible’ illness.

Sometimes, I have to run with an idea to see if it fits as prose or a poem and ‘feel out’ what it should be. One good example of this is the song ‘Autumn’ It started life as a short prose piece. Sometime later I adapted it as a poem, but I was never really happy with it in that form. One day I was playing around with my guitar and hit on a chord scheme that seemed to fit the poem and eventually, the poem became a song.

Just to point out, ‘Autumn’ is the only song I have ever written that has been good enough to be performed.

Q. You are quite the performer on the open mic scene and I and I know many others are impressed at your ability to perform rather than read your work. Any tips for poets or writers on how best to get their work over?

Tips on performing poetry and prose, hmm. First things first, if you want to perform your work, don’t read it, perform it. I know that seems obvious, but it is an important distinction. Every poem has its own rhythm and feel. Feel here is the important word. You have to find the emotions in the piece and follow them through, once you understand the emotion, then you can start adding in the performance. The next thing is, possibly, the most boring. Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice. You need to be able to let the flow of the poem take you along, and that only comes with saying it over and over and over. Listen to the words you use instead of the ones on the page. I find that many of my poems are very different after reciting them out time after time. The final, and most important point of all. Pick a point to stop making changes. Many of my poems are either Open or Locked. You can go back and back making change after change, learn to pick an end point to editing. Don’t forget, that could be after you have performed it a few times.

When performing prose, there are differences. I’m not the type of person who can ‘do all the voices’ and I’m jealous of those that can. This doesn’t mean that you can’t speak with the ‘voice’ of the character. Each character uses different words and sentence structure. If, after reading a section of prose or story out loud, you realise all the characters sound the same, go back and make each voice distinct. This is a good thing for all writers of prose, people don’t usually speak in perfect grammar. Writers are always driven to make sure that everything is spell and grammar checked. When it comes to people talking, the rules go out of the window. If you make your characters speak in a realistic way, then your performances will also be improved. One thing I find does help when performing short pieces of prose is music. I have recited several of my short pieces to music and I have found that it has enhanced the piece greatly. It’s something I haven’t tried with poetry yet. The rules are simple, no lyrics or words are involved as they will clash with the words you want to say and check timings. Is your story long enough? It the piece of music suitable for the story? Again, practice, practice, practice. Also, make sure you have a way of playing the music loud enough to be heard. Some venues will have a set up that supports this but be prepared.

Finally … finally, have fun, enjoy your poems and prose!

The cover to Dan’s new book.

Q. What inspires you? Do you have any favourite authors, poets, musicians that have influenced your work?

Speaking as a creative type, everything inspires me, from rush hour traffic through people’s conversations overheard at a Coffee shop to listening to Radio 4.

Speaking seriously though, my greatest love is reading. I love reading. Not all of it is top notch literature, but books is books neh? I started reading stuff like Tolkien and David Eddings when I was at school, but I think two books changed my view of, well, everything and they were ‘Weaveworld’ by Clive Barker and ‘Neuromancer’ by William Gibson.

I love cyberpunk with its man-machine interfaces and hyper-real description. I don’t like all of Gibson’s work, but Neuromancer (and the other two ‘Count Zero’ and ‘Mona Lisa Overdrive’) has a real emptiness to it. Like a road movie in an urban setting. Despite the pressing mass of humanity surrounding them, each character seemed more alone than anyone. This staccato rhythm of Hyper speed events and the almost obsessional detail of the pauses between them, really gripped me.

Weaveworld is possibly the richest, most beautiful, ugly, sensual, brain-meltingly textured thing I have ever read. the combination of sexual allure and revulsion the book inspires sometimes is breath taking. I still find it a pleasure to read.

On the poetry side, my first exposure to poetry was a little book called ‘You Tell Me.’ It was series of poems by Roger McGough and Michael Rosen. I learned that poems didn’t have to rhyme, didn’t have to go rumpty tumpty tumpty one/ rumpty tumpty tumpty done. Another inspiration, although not always in a positive way, was the school book ‘Dragonsteeth’. It featured poems by Seamus Heaney, Walt Whitman and Ted Hughes. The two that always stood out to me where ‘The Projectionist’s Nightmare’ by Brian Patten and ‘The Computer’s First Christmas Card’ by Edwin Morgan.

I think that, more than anything, the poetry I have encountered since I set off down this particular Rabbit Hole of a calling had inspired me most. I am always surprised and delighted by the poetry I encounter on the local scene

Q. After Confessions has been launched what are your next plans, is there anything else you’re working on or would like to do?

In the near future I am going to keep writing poems as they come to me. Eventually, I’d like to write enough poems to release a small book, but my first love is performing them live.

I am also continuing to work on my full-length novel ‘Welcome Back Victoria.’ This is a novel set in a Dystopian Britain. It’s about mind control, Virtual Reality and a group dedicated to overthrowing the newly crowned Queen Victoria. It’s about overcoming apathy and complacency, standing up and doing what’s right in a world that is conditioned not to think.

Another project I am working on is expanding a long-short story I wrote called Contact Sickness. It’s another sci-fi about contact with an alien race and the effects of dealing with the psychological consequences of that contact. A lot of people know me are aware of the alien race as the ‘Space Badgers’ but I hope to release this as a Novella.

Q. Where can folk find you online if they want to keep up with what you’re doing?

I am still coming to terms with the New Social Media, luddite that I am, but I have a Facebook page at Dan Oram – Author or email me at DanOramAuthor@gmail.com

I’d like to say a big thank you to Dan for taking the time to answer my questions, Confessions will be launched at Eerie Ink Tattoo Parlour in Walsall on the evening of July 20th.

BUY THE BOOK HERE

This interview was carried out by Richard Archer for the blog Poems and More. If you copy and paste this article into another blog site please have the decency to leave this sentence in instead of reposting it as your own work.

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The Freevese Poetry Festival – A review


Yesterday Brownhills Community Centre opened their doors to host Walsall’s first poetry festival and after the end of a fantastically successful day I think it’s fair to say the area opened its heart to poetry.

In planning since October last year Freevese is the brainchild of Matt Humphries, Ian Davies and myself Richard Archer, our idea being to run a poetry event that would feature talented poets across the region coupled with the chance for local poets to share their work, all to an audience who might be new to poetry.

So what of the day itself? The festival opened with local comic poet Rik Sanders aka Willis the Poet who shared the stage with some of the areas funniest poets before launching in to a blisteringly hilarious comic set of his own. I think it was fair to say this was the funniest I have ever seen Rik and with the audience in tears of laughter Freeverse was off to a brilliant start.

Next up was the first of the festival’s open mic sessions, headlined by the fantastic Holly Daffurn whose raw emotional poetry shone with warmth and beauty, wowing the audience. The festival was always about allowing local poets to join in so it was great to follow Holly with a selection of the area’s talent all bringing their unique voices to the stage.

This was followed by Rob Francis and Paul McDonald and a selection of their pupils from the Department of English at Wolverhampton University. Rob and Paul read from their published works while their pupils entertained the audience with their poems and stories. It was great to have the festival supported by the University and for them to give their time to perform at the event.

While the Wolverhampton University read the festival also ran a free poetry workshop, organised by Scarlett Ward and Sallyanne Rock the workshop was on the theme of finding your poetic voice and was very well attended. Afterwards poets spoke of how the workshop had inspired them to write a poem on its themes and all agreed it had been a great inspirational event.

Sallyanne Rock and Scarlett Ward at the Freeverse Festival, photo by Scarlett Ward

Following on form this was the last of the Festival’s open mic sessions. Opened by local poet Paul Elwell and finished by another great poet from the area Gerald Kells, a great selection of the region’s poets took the mic showing how fantastic the poetry talent is in the region.

Sadly all good things must come to an end and it was time for the final act to take the stage. Poets, Prattlers and Pandiemonailists are a local poetry collective better known as Steve Pottinger, Emma Purshouse and Dave Pitt who finished the day with a marvellous set of poems that were linked in one way or another. The audience enjoyed poems, on the perils of the internet, lost hats and minicab receptionists, all delivered in PPP’s brilliant chaotic entertaining style.

And just like that the Festival was over, nine months of planning culminating in seven wonderful hours of poetry on the day, after thank yous and cheers it was time for everyone to head home. But not after hearing the fantastic news that Freevese will return next year, hope to see you there.

Richard Archer, Mat Humphries and Ian Davies, photo by Jo Humphries.

So all that remains is the thanks.

Thank you to all out headline acts and thank you to everyone who took up the mic to perform in our open mic sets.

Thank you to Scarlett and Sallyanne for running the workshop.

Thank your to Creative Black Country for funding the event and Wolverhampton University for their support.

Thank you to Brownhills Community Centre for hosting the day.

Special big thanks to Jo Humphries for running the merchandise stall and helping sort out the feedback cards.

Fianlly a big thank you to everyone who attended, helped promote the day on socail media or by word of mouth and took the time to tell us how much they enjoyed the festival.

Here’s to the next one.

 

 

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.

Nirvana’s in Bloom, a chat with poet Tina J. Cox.


I first met Tina J. Cox at an open mic and workshop, where I enjoyed her powerful poems and performance. When I recently learnt she was publishing a new book of poetry entitled “Nirvana’s in Bloom,” to be released on March 13th, a book I’ve been privileged to see an advanced copy of. I thought it would be great to have a chat via email. Here are the results of that and I hope you enjoy it.

Q1. Please could you tell readers about your new poetry collection “Nivarna’s in Bloom,” where did you take the inspiration for the title from and what poems can they expect to find within its pages?

From the moment we get up till the time we close our eyes on the night, everything is sensory, rather than emotion, I have tried to capture everything felt through the day as that, although there is emotion in there too. Emotion is always important. Surprisingly, the inspiration for the name didn’t come from Nirvana’s brilliant Song called ‘In Bloom’….I actually felt that everyday we work towards our own idea of a Nirvana every day. What your idea of Nirvana is perhaps different to mine & that is completely fine, but I think I have covered pretty much everything in there of morning to evening. Right from rising in the morning, our heaven will be there at the end of the day and it is in bloom.

Q2. Although this may be hard do you have a favourite poem in your new collection and if so what is it and what was the inspiration behind it?

I have to be honest and say, that one is really difficult. However, I can pick one out that is further into the book, which is based on a complete overloaded day, it is called Overload also, in every which way possible, visually and audio. I do try to convey also how it is for someone on the Autistic Spectrum. It’s very difficult to vocalise emotions & feelings about something as we have to take a little longer to internalise and process things. It’s great being in a position, where I can create poetry that keeps everyone informed too, in different experiences or feelings of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. Albeit, we all handle these experiences differently.

Q.3 You’re a very prolific writer of poetry books what else have you written, and could you pick a favourite from among them that you think sums up your feelings towards poetry?

The very first two books that I produced called ‘Feelings, Stuff & Things’ and also ‘Rhyme & Reason with Autism’, were actually written before I knew I had Asperger’s Syndrome and was on the Autistic Spectrum. So, I would have been in my twenties/thirties. There is a BIG difference in my poetry, I find then, perhaps, compared to now, immature and I can see why younger readers have found them more appealing than adults. It’s also, from a time when a lot was going in my life, my children were young and I was experiencing difficulties in a relationship….so those two books, were, I didn’t realise at the time, therapy. It is quite one thing to be able to look back in life at events, remember them again. But, to know that I captured certain times that mean a lot to me regarding my children growing up and also how it made me feel at the time, is blissful.

‘Kieran & Kristian’, is the one I am referring to. I remember sitting up in bed and writing that, on an evening. While the boys, were in their room watching T.V. When I completed it, I called them in and read it for them. It made my oldest, who was then only about 8 fill up, with tears.

The cover to Tina’s new book

Q4. How did you get into poetry and how long did it take you to start writing then start publishing books?

I have always been creative, in my teens I could do stories much more easily than I can now, but later in adult life, during difficult times I wrote poetry and as previously said the first two books, ‘Feelings, Stuff & Things’ and also ‘Rhyme & Reason with Autism’, I wrote in my twenties and thirties. Although, not formatted in any particular way, they were sitting on my laptop and I decided to take everyone’s advice, who had previously said about publishing and did it in April 2018. Within a matter of weeks, because they were already ‘there’, I had two books made.

Since then, I haven’t stopped.

Q5. A lot of people would like to publish their own poetry collection, do you have any tips for them on what websites to use and how to go about it etc?

Whatever is in your mind, at that time, get it on paper. It doesn’t matter if ‘you’ don’t think at that time it’s good or ground breaking. We can always edit but sometimes when we haven’t jotted something down, it’s forgotten and cannot be retrieved. Also, your own particular style will change over time and to look back where you started to where you are now and in the style you now write is a way to almost gauge your own progress, I have found. It’s also nice to look back on ‘yourself’, in a I find nostalgic way.

Q6. Once the new book is launched what’s next for you?

Ahhh, I definitely want to ‘better’ performing them. I have so much inspiration from friends made since beginning this journey and even if I thought I wasn’t bad before, which I thought, to performing there wouldn’t be much to it. BUT I was SO wrong. From dealing with your own anxiety to intonation and pronunciation. I have such a long way to go, in regards to performing though. Also, definitely more writing. That will never stop.

Q7. If folk want to follow you online and read your poetry where’s the best place to find you?

I have a Facebook Page TinaJCox-Author
I have Twitter @tinajcoxpoetry
I also have instagram Tina_J_Cox

Many thanks for taking the time to interview me.

Thank you Tina for taking the time to answer my questions, if you want to see TIna’s collection of books here is a link to her Amazon page.

Yampy


 

When My mom bought me home from hospital
all ten and a half pounds of me – pride of the ward
I was paraded for the neighbours.~
My mom remembers that
as I sucked my foot Pauline from number 14
took one look at me and said.
“He looks soft in the head
I think he’s puddled,
no, no he’s yampy.”
And just like that an old phrase
was fitted round a young boy
who started to grow into it.
“He’s Yampy.” My neighbours said about me when I was young,
as I rode my Grifter bicycle no-handed past their shocked faces,
laughing as I crashed into their beloved shrubs.
“He’s Yampy.” They whispered from behind their windows
as I walked to school,
laces untied, shirt hanging out, head in the clouds.
Teachers echoed these taunts.
“Could do better, must try harder, slacker.”
I didn’t care as I couldn’t change
as yampy was encoded into my DNA.
Fast forward I grew up – a bit – and discovered beer.
“He’s Yampy after a few.” They said in my local.
“He’s Yampy before he’s walked in the door.” Was the reply.
Fag in my gob, pint in my hand I joined in the laughter.
When I met my wife she used to laugh at my bad memory
“Come on you yampy bugger ,” she’d say.
“Why can’t you remember my favourite drink?
Why can’t you remember when my birthday is?
Why can’t you remember your own poems?”
It’s true us yampys do have memory problems,
our brains are like attics
stuffed with junk that we think one day might
come in useful again.
Then when we want to remember something we
struggle to find it,
often forgetting why we wanted it in the first place.

When my daughter was born people said,
thinking they were out of my earshot.
“I hope she takes after her mom.”
I ignored them as I cradled my new born, writing a poem about her in my head.
Poetry I know, I was as surprised as you.
But us yampys are drawn to poetry like
a seagull is drawn to chips.
Snatching ideas and words, squawking them back out
cackling like the bird brains we are.
Poetry was one of the many plasters I applied to my brain,
I tried drugs legal and not but
being yampy cannot be cured only
lulled into drowsiness until
it snaps awake at 12 am demanding your attention,
like a pet dog demands an urgent midnight piss.
Recently I thought about burning all my old school reports,
then I thought about burning all my old school photos,
then I thought about burning all the mementoes of my teenage years.
But I didn’t think about burning my bridges
I’m yampy not stupid.

 

Yampy is a local term where I live to describe someone who is daft or losing the plot.

Quick plug this poem features in my latest poetry collection A Pigeon among the cats.

The UK version can be found here, paperback or Kindle

The US version can be found here, paperback or Kindle

The Journey to Happiness a chat with poet Sarah Battison


Sarah Battison

One of the great things about the vibrant poetry scene in my home town of Walsall is that I get to meet and listen to a lot of talented new poets starting their poetry journey. Sarah Battison was one of those poets who I had the privilege of meeting earlier this year, her poetry was raw and powerful and she bought the open mic to its knees with her words. Now she has her first poetry collection – The Journey to Happiness – available I thought it would be great to catch up with her for a chat.

Q. Congratulations on the publication of your debut poetry collection The Journey to Happiness, would you mind letting readers know what inspired the title and what they can expect to find within the book?

A. When I was just 16 I featured in a drug and alcohol special on Midlands today for being a young drinker. After I completed my interview the reporter asked me what my plans were for the future. Even back then I knew I wanted to write The Journey to Happiness and the title just stuck with me ever since. The book is about the battles I have faced in my life, the struggles, the trials and all the times I felt like giving up. For me this was a journey, one that so far seemed never-ending, but I knew it was happiness that I wanted to find. The title of this book is representative of the search I have been completing , the search for acceptance, for truth, for love and most importantly the search for happiness.

Q. I know you only recently started to perform your poetry at events, what made you want to get out there and share your poetry and what tips do you have for poets thinking of taking the same steps?

A. To be honest Richard the reason I first began showing my face on the poetry scene was for my own healing processes. I had just come out of a devastatingly damaging relationship and was trying to overcome many of my emotional issues by sharing them out loud. This process became so helpful for my own mental health that I decided to continue attending events and sharing my poetry. I had always hidden my love for writing, writing in secret and I knew that it was the right time to start letting people see and hear my words. As soon as I began sharing I knew that it was something I was always meant to do, everyone I have met so far has been so friendly and offered nothing but words of encouragement.
What would I say to new poets? I would say, don’t hesitate in going to these sort of events. They are such a friendly bunch of people who share the same love of words, everyone listens, everyone encourages and the feeling you get when people approach you afterwards to tell you how much they liked your piece or how much they relate is magnificent. Honestly, do it yesterday!

Q. Would you mind telling us a little about your favourite poem in the book, what inspired it and why it’s your favourite?

A. I think one of my favourite poems in the book is called ‘Escaping my wrong love’. The reason I love this piece so much is because this is actually one of my more recent poems which was written for a poetry slam in Stafford. It was my first attempt at a slam and I actually came second place! The content of this piece was honestly so hard for me to write, but now when I read it back I love it because it tells everyone exactly how I feel. It was based on the theme of ‘escape’ and I think even just reading this poem out loud gave me some inner peace. This is one of the first poems I have done where I have tried to use internal rhyme and I love the way it flows from the tongue. Definitely one of the ones I am proud of !

Sarah Battison performing from her book

Q. When did you start to write poetry, who or what were your influences and who are your favourite poets?

A. I started writing poetry when I was about 6 years old, writing little poems in my bedroom at night! As I got older I took more of an interest in stories so poems kind of took a back seat. When I began my University degree and learnt a little more about poetic devices I was inspired to take up poetry again and have been writing them daily since then.
Having suffered with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression for most of my life this has always been at the forefront of my poetry topics. I tend to find that as soon as my pen touches the paper most of my inner feelings come out and most of my poetry tends to be quite dark.
In terms of inspiration, I have always loved the poem ‘Spellbound’ by Emily Bronte, I believe it is one of the only poems she ever wrote and something just sang to me from that piece, I have loved it ever since. I have always liked Carol Ann Duffy and Wordsworth. Another 2 poets who inspired me to begin my journey into spoken word were Rudy Francisco and Sabrina Benaim, their words evoked deep emotions in me and I found myself binge watching their videos.

Q. Now the book is out what are your future plans poetry wise?

A.I intend to market this book as much as I can because I want these words to be out there. I have been through many experiences that have nearly ended my life but I came out the other side and I want this experience to help others, motivate and inspire others and to say, you can get through this if you fight! I also want to look at creating ‘The Journey to Happiness’ as a novel version in the future. In terms of my poetry, I intend to sharpen my spoken word skills and attend as many events as I can, as well as submitting my pieces to many journals and literary magazines . I am already making notes on a new collection, one that I hope will be published through a publisher rather than self-publishing. Either way, I am going nowhere and intend to stick around on the poetry scene for a long time!!

Q. Where can folk find you and your book online?

A. The book can be found on Amazon here. It is available as a paperback version for £9.99 and also on Kindle for an introductory price of £2.99.

I also regularly update my WordPress blog which can be found at : livelifewithsarah.wordpress.com

My twitter details are @BattisonSarah, my Facebook page is The Journey to Happiness and I can also be contacted on sarahbattison.author@outlook.com

I just want to say, if anyone reads my book and would like to have a chat, whether this be about the book itself or maybe they have some relatable issues and need some advice, you can contact me on any of the above channels and I will always be willing to listen.
Much love, Sarah xx

Thank you Sarah for taking the time out to answer my questions, I recently finished reading The Journey to Happiness and can certainly recommend it as a powerful debut collection of poetry, why not give it a try.

The Walsall Hippo


Solitary concrete guardian of Walsall,
unmoving in your eternal vigil.
Never sleeping day or night,
uncaring what the elements throw at you.

The town’s stone Mona Lisa,
smiling enigmatically at passers-by.
Patiently posing for visitor selfies,
never complaining about pigeons.

I sat on your back when I was young,
now I bring my daughter to perch on you.
Hoping that in the future,
You’ll be here to help keep up this tradition.

The fantastic Lost Haiku project, poetry in the wild


A good friend and talented writer and poet James Josiah has started a wonderful project on Facebook and Twitter called lost haiku. The premise is simple, members of the group write haiku, James prints them off and leaves them on his travels for people to find and enjoy.

Here’s James description of the project

I’ve written a load of haiku this year, like 50+ so far and I couldn’t really figure out what to do with them and I’m not really into the whole publishing my work thing any more (long story) So what I’m doing is printing them off, laminating them and then leaving them out in the wild for folks to find and… I dunno maybe share them or hide them elsewhere?
Now I don’t go very far so if you would like to help me disperse them that would be great. If you’d like to contribute a haiku or four that would be tremendous.
I’m on twitter as @losthaiku and will be using the hashtag #losthaiku as well (I’ve also written this info on the back of the ones I’ve left out thus far)

I’m a member and big fan of the project and I’m proud to say one of my haiku was recently released into the wilds of Manchester, where hopefully someone will find and enjoy it.

If this project seems like fun to you it’s easy to get involved, click here to follow lost haiku on twitter here

Or ask to join the Facebook group by clicking here

 

 

Awake at 3am a conversation with Leanne Cooper


I recently found time to have a chat with Walsall poet and storyteller Leanne Cooper following the release of her excellent debut collection ” Awake at 3am.” Leanne had lots of interesting things to say so I hope you’ll enjoy this talk with one of the rising stars in my local poetry scene.

Q. Awake at 3AM is a fantastic emotional roller coaster of a collection with some very personal poetry. How do you feel now it’s released and available and everyone can read your work?

A. Well, first of all I want to thank you for asking me to do this interview, and for yet again making me feel like a celebrity! Your support, and kind words mean the world to me, thank you.
If I am completely honest… I am terrified. I have always been scared of what people will say, and think of me as a person, and this worry is there with my writing too. I have had so much support from other people on the poetry scene – yourself included – which has given me the courage to put myself out there. My anxiety is crazy at the moment, and I am dreading my first bad review or criticism; but I have to remind myself that that is eventually going to happen… not everyone will enjoy my work and that’s fine… I can’t let it be a big deal, but instead take it on board, learn from it, and better myself.

 

Q. If you can pick one, what is your favourite poem from the book and why?

A. Haha.. Well … that would be like asking me which of my children is my favourite. I love them both equally, but for different reasons; the same applies with my poetry. Each piece holds a part of me, and brings with it deep meaning and emotion… I couldn’t name just one, even if I tried. Out of every poem in the book, Wynter, Jade, Belonging, Our Intricate Demise, J, and I Wonder are the ones that were fuelled by the most intense of my emotions, so I guess you could say I have a closer connection with those than some of my others.

 

Q. After reading the book I was quite shocked to read of some of the things you’ve been through and I applaud your desire to share these poems. How did you tackle writing when the topic is so emotive and personal to you?

A. I had to. When my emotions are at their extreme and most intense, I have no choice but to write. Not only is it something that I enjoy, and do for fun; it is also my therapy. I write myself out of my own head, and writing has saved me on more than one occasion. I am not ashamed to admit some of the stuff I have had to deal with over the years has been tough – unbelievable even – but I hope that through sharing my experiences, I can help those who are going through similar situations. Something that I am most passionate about, is supporting victims of domestic abuse. I went through over 7 years of hell and came out the other side. During that time I didn’t write, was ridiculed when I tried to, and told that I would never amount to anything. Although Awake at 3am doesn’t really represent that time in my life, and only slightly touches upon it, I feel that it has proved to some extent that I have moved on and demonstrated my ability as a writer.

 

Q. In your book you also included an excellent short story. How do you decide if an idea will make a poem or story and what is the difference between writing them?

A. I honestly do not know. It may sound crazy, but I don’t decide… the ideas form themselves, and lead me to where they want to go. Even with my poetry I don’t decide which style I am going to write in, if it will be spoken word, what metre etc. I will get an idea pop into my head – yes, that is usually at 3am when I am trying to sleep – and I’ll write it down…. the idea will just flow. The more I write, the more ideas will come. The short story ‘Why Doesn’t it Happen’ which is at the beginning of my book, came from listening to a song by a band called Bitch Alert. The song in my story is a real song, I just wrote about the nostalgia surrounding that song, and added some fictional scenes to it. By the way I highly recommend that people listen to the song (Loveson) to get a better understanding of my protagonist’s emotions.

 

Q. As someone who is making a name for themselves on the local open mic circuit what advice do you have for anyone thinking of performing their poetry for the first time?

A. Do it. Just go for it. I had panic attacks for days before, and after my first performance, but I am so glad that I forced myself to go for that very first time. Yes, it is scary, but it is so worth it. If you are in the West Midlands area, the Walsall poets are such a supportive group, and along with some of the poets from Cannock, and Stafford; it is like a family of like-minded people, who encourage and believe in each other. It is a very positive and up-lifting vibe… definitely a safe space in which to introduce yourself. Not only have I been given the opportunity to share my work with a wider audience, and further my career; I have also met some extremely talented people (who I am still very much star struck by, even now), and I have made some amazing friends. I definitely feel that my writing and appreciation for poetry has improved too. From seeing other poets perform, and listening to their words, I have learned so much more already, and have been introduced to new ways of writing and performing – spoken word, for example… I didn’t really get that before, but now I am quite into it, and aspire to write some of my own spoken word pieces to perform at open mics in the future.

 

Q. Now your book is out what next?

A. I am already working on my second and third books! Haha! So yeah, I have 2 more poetry books which I am working on that will delve even deeper than Awake at 3am did. The one will be exclusively about the darker side of love… an alternative romance if you will… the second will be exploring the effects of mental illness – depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia etc. Again, these will be poems which are personal to me and entirely about my experiences with the subjects. Other than that, I have 2 novels that I have been working on for a few years now, so I am hoping to finish them as soon as possible! I am, however, the self-proclaimed queen of procrastination so who knows when I will actually finish them. I also hope to be attending a lot more poetry events and open mics across the Midlands, which I am really looking forward to!

 

Q. Where can folk find you online?

A. I have numerous social media accounts now, but the main places to find my work are Facebook, and WordPress. From these sites you will also be able to access my Instagram, and Twitter. I am not really into twitter, so I do apologise for not having a big presence on there. Please come and find me on Facebook, I would love to hear from people and get some opinions on my work!

Facebook.com/LeanneCooper.Author

LeanneCooperAuthor.Wordpress.com

Buy Leanne’s book Awake at 3am via Amazon by clicking here

Are you a local author with a book to promote, please contact me if you’d like to feature on this site.

Help support Southcart Books


Recently my local bookshop Southcart Books have come close to closing due to no fault of their own, after a successful online petition the shop has been granted a short reprieve. Here’s the latest news from owner Scott Carter…

***SHOP CLOSURE UPDATE***
we have managed to secure a short reprieve from our landlords if we can hit financial targets they have set us ( better than being kicked out friday ) , what that means in real time is that over the next 6 weeks we have got to sell a mighty amount of books(good job we have 1000s in stock) , so please think of us for your book buying needs either in the shop itself or via our online buying platform , please visit our eBay store below , this is a slight weight off our shoulders but now the real hard work begins

http://stores.ebay.co.uk/southcartbooks/

or you can kindly donate directly via this link

paypal.me/southcartbooks

Sign and share the petition to save the shop and show your support by clicking here

I would like to add myself that Southcart is a huge supporter of the arts in my home town, hosting free poetry and authors events. I’ve launched books at the shop as have others and I can honestly say that without the shop the town and the artistic community they support will lose out. Please help if you can.