It’s over. I can finally speak in prose again. Hampshire Cultural Trust let me loose across the county for twelve months, and it has been a busy time. You can read my half-year pause, which took us up to our Hat Fair team of poets in Winchester in early July – more details of that day here.
I’ve just sent my final report to Angela Hicken at Hampshire Cultural Trust, detailing what I’ve been up to. Going back through my calendar has brought home to me just how many events I’ve been involved with, and perhaps explained why I overheard one of my children telling the other when there was yet another babysitter booked ‘but it’s very good for Mummy’s career’.
There were many highlights in the second half of the year. In July, I led a workshop as part of the South Downs Poetry Festival and shared an evening reading in Havant with my predecessor, Joan McGavin (Hampshire Poet 2014).
August I spent with my kids. After hearing their earlier comment I thought I’d better get some parenting points in.
In September I ran an all-day workshop at Winchester Discovery Centre. I shared two newly commissioned poems at the Hampshire Heritage event, where I read with Stephen Boyce and Robyn Bolam. We were upstairs at the River Cottage Canteen in Winchester, which produced such delicious-smelling food during our readings we were all famished by the time we’d finished. I was also invited to be the Stockbridge Poetry Café guest speaker, where I met some lovely people and enjoyed hearing a ukelele. Poets keep interesting company.
October was the month I moved the fastest. For National Poetry Day on 6th, we produced my Messages-themed commissioned poem on a bookmark and distributed them to libraries across the county – I wonder how many people worked out my riddle. Earlier that week I had another ridiculously early morning at BBC Radio Solent to enthuse about National Poetry Day. Kermit flails really don’t come across on radio, but apparently I sounded very chirpy so it must have helped.
I spent the day itself running two school workshops for children in Years 3 and 6, on the Messages theme, and judging four poetry competitions. There were some top messages in bottles, I can tell you. One was so watertight I nearly couldn’t get in to read it.
Then there was the Winchester Poetry Festival: I went to as many events as I could. The Hampshire Writers’ Society had asked me to judge their Poetry Competition, so I went along to their event to give my feedback and hand out prizes.
At the end of October I took part in the So To Speak Showcase: part of Southampton Festivals. I’d been commissioned to ‘respond’ to British Art Show 8, which toured the UK last year and was in Southampton in the autumn. I wrote a nine-poem sequence, and was filmed performing it. Apparently there has been a glitch getting it online, but I’ll link when it is.
In November I gave a talk to Southampton Writing Buddies, ran my second workshop at Winchester Discovery Centre, and visited a Southampton primary school to deliver three workshops for Year 6 kids all about kennings to fit in with their Anglo Saxon project. Honestly, by the end of that day, having worked with a total of 90 children, my already high esteem for teachers was off the scale. Brilliant fun, but a lie down needed afterwards with the smallest of sherries.
In December I approached the Poetry Society about setting up a new Stanza group, after fielding numerous requests during my year to start some kind of critiquing forum for poetry writers. Stanzas are affiliated to the Poetry Society: Hampshire already has two (one in Portsmouth, the other in Southampton), so I thought the North Hampshire area could benefit. Lovely Paul McGrane at the Poetry Society agreed, and he has contacted all PoSoc members in the postcode areas I specified (around 40). As I find out who is interested over the next few weeks I’ll arrange our first meeting (in Winchester) and take it from there. If you would like to come along, you can let me know via my Contact page on this site, or on Twitter. You don’t have to be a member of the Poetry Society, but when I’ve finished outlining the benefits I think you’ll want to be.
During all this, I have been finalising the manuscript for my first collection, Don’t Ask, which is out with Eyewear Publishing in February. I may have mentioned this before.
So: the visible legacy of my year as Hampshire Poet 2016 will be 16 new poems, the online record of Written By Women at Basingstoke Literary Festival, and a North Hampshire Stanza group. Less tangible are the many friends I’ve made over the year, and the brilliant work I’ve heard and seen being written at all my workshops and events. I was told by a parent of a Year 1 child that she now writes ‘all the time’ and loves poetry. Calling that a win.