Activities and Commissions
As an experienced teacher and workshop leader, I am able to deliver creative activities to all ages, and help everyone to feel that they have tapped into their potential as a writer.
Past courses have taken place at Ludlow Resource Centre and Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, focussing on using historic collections to inspire powerful work.
My writing is particularly suited to residencies, as I enjoy working collaboratively and in response to particular objects or buildings.
In Winter 2016, I wrote a sequence of Stained Glass poems during a residency at ‘Heavenly Lights – The Stained Glass Art of Margaret Rope’ at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery. These poems are now published in my collection – Flocks of Words.
I always enjoy performing and giving talks to audiences of all sizes. Groups, such as U3A’s, Friends of Libraries, Book Clubs and WI’s, have enjoyed my illustrated talk about the Medieval History of Shropshire. Poetry performances of any length are possible (within reason!) Past venues have included Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery (supporting Jo Bell), the Birmingham Literature Festival and Wenlock Poetry Festival.
“Thank you so much for coming to talk to Harley and Kenley reading groups about your wonderful novel. We all really enjoyed meeting you and learning about the circumstances that inspired you to write. Your slides really brought your book alive for us.” Jean – Harley Reading Group
This community poem came out of a residency at the Minton Library in Stoke-on-Trent during the Fun Palaces weekend October 2015.
It emerged from quotes from the potters and artists who visited that weekend.
Muck and Magic – for the Potters of Stoke
Clay is some kind of living thing –
a beast that’s hard to gauge.
It cries out to be changed and formed –
but fights at every stage.
It deceives us with its softness
and undoes our best attempts.
The next pot will be your best pot –
but today’s must pay the rent.
In touching clay we touch the past –
the skills, the pride, the ground
of men and women in black and white
who made Stoke strong and sound.
The mix must shine just like an eye –
a glass one – they would say.
They passed on lots of little tricks
we say ourselves today.
The firing phase is hazardous –
the ware can break apart.
If fire wins out – then all is lost –
if man – we call it art.
For clay has chemical innocence –
and you have to go along
with all its idiosyncrasies
so the pot can sing its song.
“Just read the community poem Muck and Magic. Unbelievable, I recognised my words, they’ve taken on so much more meaning. The impact gave me goose pimples.
This poem captures so well why I love to work with clay . . . I can now point to your poem and say that’s what I’m about and that’s what the exhibition’s about.“
Steve Shaw (Pottery artist)
I have written poems to order on topics as varied as rare breed sheep, the geology of Shropshire and a butcher’s shop. I always discuss the requirements for the poem carefully and share drafts before the final version is printed. Please contact me to discuss ideas and costs.
This example was written as a Christmas present for a man with a small herd of Balwen rams:
Across the bare trees of the winter wood
and the gentle fall of field from Wenlock Edge,
they look towards their land of hill and heaven,
where one ram stood against the cold of ’47
and lived. And these are of his lineage:
five white-bearded, formal gentlemen.
But their horns curl around scarred faces.
They gaze at bright grass and furtive deer,
out-stare the passers-by, ignore the dogs
and know exactly when to stand as sentry
by the gate, for Andy and the sheep nut bucket.
They jostle to their customary trough places,
hot breath misting as the sweet feed spills,
and eat the bread of this land of plenty.
Now fat and full, they lie close by the shed,
thin legs under frosted barrel bellies,
and wait for wind and ice from western hills.
For ewes and battle, scented on the air.
For prints in snow, hard black on white.
For grey skies, grey stones, the clash of horns,
the winter challenge, the willing fight.
“Everybody loves it! Mr B has it placed perfectly so that all visitors get a chance to read it.”