Clare Shaw, Kendal Poetry Festival

Clare Shaw, Kendal Poetry Festival

This was the first time I have ever seen Clare perform live. We have looked at her poems at poetry club in the past and I have read both of her collections – so I knew that I was going to be in for a treat. However, I couldn’t have pre-empted what I received when I watched her perform. She was absolutely amazing. She had the room in the palm of her hand, one second laughing, and in the next crying. I know that sounds like a cliché, but it is genuinely how she made the audience feel.

A particularly memorable part of her performance was when she read one of her poems alongside another poet’s. She was doing this as an emotional response to the shootings in Orlando which had occurred just days earlier. The poems she performed were ‘The Garden of Love’ by William Blake and then without a break her own poem ‘I do not believe in silence’. It was extremely powerful. I noticed several people crying, while others were wiping their eyes.

Clare also performed some of her new poems, about the effect of flooding in her area. To be honest, I don’t usually enjoy poems with subject matters such as this – but with some Clare Shaw magic I was totally captivated.

If you get the opportunity to see Clare live just do it. She is incredible.

#ShoutingBack at Everyday Sexism

#ShoutingBack at Everyday Sexism

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This book has revolutionised my thinking. Seriously. I was wandering through my life thinking that I haven’t really been a victim of sexism – and then I read this book and realised that things I thought had been ‘banter’; or I’d thought I’d been oversensitive about are pretty terrible.

I remember every PE lesson boys plucking my bra – once making it come undone, and my friend had to redo it for me in the middle of the hockey field.

I remember boys taking pictures of my legs on the bus and threatening to post them online. I did report this – thank goodness, but I’ve never thought of that incident in this light. Women are not sexual objects to be taken pictures of without permission. What gives someone that right?

I remember boys shouting that I had a ‘camel toe’ the first time I wore trousers to school.

I remember having to use urban dictionary for a friend whose boyfriend kept on calling her ‘frigid’. We were thirteen and didn’t have a clue.

I remember taking up jogging at the age of fourteen and giving up because the only route I could take was over a motorway bridge. I got honked at by so many lorry drivers.

I remember the relief I felt being offered to trail a kilt at school so that I didn’t have to wear a pencil skirt anymore.

There were other instances which I’m not going to mention. One in particular which was pretty awful.

I can’t believe I just assumed all of these instances to be ‘boys will be boys’, ‘banter’ or just a part of life.

I know my experiences are very minor. But look at the impact these things have had on my life. I hated PE. I was scared on the bus. I am self-conscious about what I wear.

These are just my experiences – and I bet every woman has a story like or worse than the experiences I have had. Why do we put up with this?

Equally, why should men have to put up with inequalities such as the presumption that they can’t care for children alone. Why are little children told to ‘man up’ and ‘stop acting like a girl’? Why are men facing discrimination when they become nurses or hairdressers?

I would firmly press a copy of this book into anyone’s hand. Everyone must read this book.

Barriers need to be broken. This needs to stop.

Yeonmi Park – Escaping North Korea

Yeonmi Park – Escaping North Korea

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Before I start this post I would just like to say that I found Yeonmi to be such an inspirational person I decided to write a poem about her journey. It is, of course, dedicated to Yeonmi but also to the millions of people under the North Korean regime.

I first read Yeonmi’s book ‘In order to live’ after I noticed it creeping up the Amazon bestsellers with hundreds of amazing reviews. What instantly struck me about this book is that Yeonmi says in a sentence what some people would write a whole book about – that is how much she has been through.

Having read the book I found it so amazing to see such a huge Human Rights activist right in front of me. She highlighted that there are so many Human rights abuses in North Korea – from no free speech to no right of free movement. She did say that there are limited but very important things that people can do to help the situation if they feel they want to help:

  1. Petition the Chinese government to accept North Korean refugees as Political Refugees
  2. Petition the Chinese government to stop sending North Korean refugees back – to possible death or prison camps
  3. Educate yourself. The everyday reality of life in North Korea is not hugely talked about.
  4. Educate your friends. Discuss the issues and make others aware.
  5. If you feel that you would like to, research organisations that are working to get information into North Korea. For example, Yeonmi talked about an organisation that throws pen drives filled with information over the Chinese border and into North Korea.

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Yeonmi talked about her childhood – she spent a month aged eight without her mother or proper food during famine. Her desperation for a ‘bucket of bread’. Escaping over the border with her mother. Sexual abuse aged only thirteen. Having to hide in China. Making the trek through the Gobi desert to Mongolia. Learning South Korean culture. Her educational successes.

She was so lovely when I got the opportunity to speak with her after the event. All she wants is to see a free North Korea. She talked about the death threats that she receives over Twitter and YouTube from North Korea. When asked if this scared her she just replied “If I was in North Korea right now I would be dead, I just live every day the best I can”.

Yeonmi is now studying for a degree in Finance in America, and working as a Human Rights Activist. This woman is so incredibly strong, She has come from a background where she thought that the ‘birds and mice’ would hear her and report her. A background where she thought the ‘Dear Leader’ controlled the weather. Just look at her now!

In dedication to the millions still trapped in North Korea

A life outside

My brain exhales after

fifteen years holding

thoughts in.

 

It sinks into a sofa the

Kims don’t control –

southern leather holding

my skin.

 

Choices fizz against my

tongue like sherbet – too

overwhelmed by

 

14 different brands of rice.

 

I nurture the seeds of my

new mind.

 

I am a teacher

marking work. That was

wrong and

 

this is right.

 

Prem Baby Hats – for a year!

Prem Baby Hats – for a year!

I left hospital after a six month stay almost exactly a year ago. I am so grateful to live in a country where I am not now fighting with my insurer, or saddled with hundreds of thousands of pounds of debt. I am so lucky to have the medications I need supplied to me.
I wanted to do something as a little ‘thank you’ to the health service. So I decided to knit premature baby hats. I found the charity Baby Beanies online and decided to get in contact. This charity accepts donations of hats and distributes them to where they are most needed. I even received an email from the lady running it to tell me where they were sent!
I decided that I wanted to knit as many hats as the days I had been in hospital. When I worked the number of days out online I was in hospital for 162 days. That’s a long time. Also, that’s a lot of hats…
However, I have managed to knit a grand total of 179 hats! I still have a few left to send off. I don’t think I’m going to stop knitting them – to be honest I’m quite addicted.
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Postcard challenge

Postcard challenge

The other day my mum and I were in TK Maxx and I noticed that Joanna Basford’s ‘Lost Ocean’ postcards were vastly reduced. I decided to buy them for travelling or my hospital bag.

However, when I unpacked them I found that they are probably the most intricate designs I have ever seen – very beautiful, but very difficult. So I decided to set up a little project and log it on this blog. I’m going to aim to colour one or more of these postcards in per week and then send them off to people who have had a significant impact on my life or who I haven’t seen in a while.

I’ll keep posting about this but I’ve already finished the first postcard. It was about the most intricate thing I have ever done.

Kendal Poetry Festival!

Kendal Poetry Festival!

Over the past few weeks poets across Kendal have been preparing for the first ever Kendal Poetry Festival. It was held from the 24th to the 26th June.

A few months ago I entered the competition to be the Young Poet in Residence at the festival. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it. A couple of weeks later I received an email to tell me that I had actually won it! The judge was David Tait – a hugely respected poet, so this added to the honour. Being Young Poet in Residence added a few extra exciting details to my weekend. It meant that I got two performance slots alongside famous poets, I hosted an open mic and I got two one hour mentoring sessions. These mentoring were delivered by Clare Shaw who has to be one of my favourite poets of all time. It was so lovely to be able to discuss my work with someone else for that length of time, and I can honestly say that my writing has improved through her suggestions. They were invaluable. The reaction to my poems at my readings was incredible – like nothing I ever thought I would experience. As I am typing this I still can’t believe all of the encouragement and kind words people had for my work. I think it has special significance because these people did not know me – they didn’t have to come up to me afterwards and give me a compliment, they could have just walked past.

Not only this, but I had all of the usual programme of the weekend to enjoy. There were so many amazing poets performing. I can’t say that there was a single reading that I didn’t enjoy. However, I did have some highlights for me these were: Clare Shaw who paid tribute to the Orlando LGBT club shootings and read about her experience of flooding; Greta Stoddart who read her poem ‘The Curtain’ which is one of my all-time favourites and Helen Mort who read from her new collection about mountaineering women. It still makes me smile to think that I have seen this people in the flesh.

I also went to the Poetry Business Workshop with Peter and Ann Samson. It was such a well-timed and productive workshop. I have so many ‘baby poems’ (no, not poems about babies but poems I need to continue working on) sitting on the backburner now thanks to this workshop.

The young writers group I attend had a workshop run by Clare Shaw. This was such an amazing time to work individually but also as a group. It gave me the opportunity to experience a ‘group poem’ – something I have never done before. A ‘group poem’ means reading your work straight after the last person without a break. We created some pretty amazing poems as a collective.

Overall, the weekend was just a dream – and such an opportunity. I would like to thank all of the Brewery Poets who have put hours into making the festival a reality. It was something I never thought I would experience. I never thought I would read my work to a sold out audience or have people comment about my work in the positive way that they did.

Thank you to Martin Copley for providing the below picture.

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Published

Published

2018

‘Dear Body’ Poetry pamphlet published (available from ‘shop’ in the menu bar)

Acumen – January 2018

Under the radar – January 2018

Poetry Salzburg – March 2018

‘Dear Body’ Reviewed in Acumen 91, July 2018 –  “This is a moving and salutary poetry collection, the poems precise and controlled, expressive without excess or sentimentality. It contains valuable lessons for those of us fortunate enough to live without such imprisoning health problems.” [continues for a whole page].

‘Dear Body’ Reviewed in The London Grip magazine (linked).

Winner of the Young Poets prize in the Poem and a Pint 2018 competition for my poem ‘Grandad’.

Poem used in the River of Words, Kendal Poetry Festival 2018

Poem due to appear in the Cumbrian Anthology published by Handstand Press.

2017

Poem in the Write to be counted anthology link HERE

Poems in Listening to Youth anthology Paper Swans link HERE

Huddersfield Literature festival finalist for the poem ‘anxiety’.

Article on poetry and personal experience published on the Young Poets Network – https://ypn.poetrysociety.org.uk/features/poetry-and-personal-experience/

Published in the North Magazine as part of an article on Dove Cottage Young Poets ‘Staying back a year’ and ‘Questions’.

Winner of the North West Cultural Education award in Personal achievement

Finalist in the National Memory day best young writer poetry competition – http://nationalmemoryday.org.uk/national-memory-day-writing-competition-shortlist-announced/?platform=hootsuite

2016

This won the Oxfam ‘Even it up’ poetry challenge for 15- 18 year olds ‘Equals’ – http://ypn.poetrysociety.org.uk/uncategorized/equals

This poem was published on the Kendal Poetry festival blog on a post about my residency ‘Hair’ – http://www.kendalpoetryfestival.co.uk/708-2/

This was published in ‘The Carrot’ magazine ‘Memory’ – http://www.thecarrot.org.uk/memory/

This was published on the Lakes Alive website in an article about my residency at the festival, working alongside the Poetry Takeaway and reading under the art installation moon. ‘Our limestone moon’ – http://lakesalive.co.uk/news/2016/lakes-alive-festival-poet-in-residence

This won the Young Poets Network ‘Behind the Curtain’ competition with the V&A museum. ‘Clean’ – http://ypn.poetrysociety.org.uk/workshop/behind-the-curtain-a-poetry-challenge-with-the-va/

Published on the Wordsworth Trust website: https://wordsworth.org.uk/learn/young-poets/hannah-hodgson.html

I won the Amnesty International Youth Lyrics award in 2015 with ‘Nowhere Citizen’fullsizeoutput_6f5