Flash In The Pantry: Pushing Up Daisies by Michael Murray

‘No, no, no,’ he was thinking as he was waking. ‘Too early.’

‘Damn birds. Damn, damn.’ His protestations lacked the vigour to drive him up and doing. He pulled the covers over his head. But he lay there tense. He knew; that was enough. Too much light. Too much…busyness. It was in the air. And it was stifling under there.

‘Someone turned on the heating? I’ll kill… The bills!’

But it wasn’t that. What it was, he knew, he had to shell-out for a new mattress. Sticking into his back again.

‘Memory foam. Not one of these…with metal bits sticking up into you…’

But at least this got him up and dressed.

‘Something…was it King Albert? Edward? Someone who shoulda known better, died through…tetanus…septicaemia…from a bed spring?’

And that had him washed and dressed, and presenting himself downstairs.

A cheer as he walked into the workshop. Sarky lot, he groused. He looked at their beaming, lively faces.

‘Come on, Granddad. Get this down you.’ A mug of strong tea. Too strong, His constitution…there’s a word from his younger days, when he had the gift o’ the gab… Well, his stomach could no longer take it.

They meant well. He looked at them again, felt a warmth for them. A part of him whipped out, ’Infectious. Infectious good-will.’ And that part of him knew that bode ill.

And then they brought out the chair. The wheelchair. He froze. That anger felt good; he felt better. Slightly. But he couldn’t sustain it. To his shame, and yet…relief, admit it…he slipped into it, as if into a made-to-measure suit. He thought about it, his old wardrobe, those suits up there. Maybe he could donate them. The styles, well. They say it all comes round every twenty years or so. So…

They were all looking at him. Their young, eager, and innocent expressions. It was an unhurried, but expectant look. Does that look have a name? He no longer cared…cared to follow through, find the lost connections. Is youth an expression? It’s…an age…thing…

‘Let him rest,’ they were saying, looking over to him. Benevolent, he thought, that’s it. That’s the word. He’d slumped. They’d left him near a window, and it was too bright, too hot.

‘Has one o’ yous put the heating on?’ But he couldn’t get the tone right. It came out like a snarl. Had he upset them now? But the bills!

‘Come on, old man,’ they were saying, gently – like to an old pet? No, there was respect in their faces, their manner. His students. And suddenly he felt proud of them.

‘Just this one last job, eh?’ They wheeled him to the engine room, lifted his hands to the iron wheel.

‘Easy, now,’ they soothed. ‘Just one last slow, steady push. Then it’s all over, eh. Plenty of sleep.

Those daisies don’t rise by themselves, Mr Winter.’

Flash In The Pantry: Jack by Andrew Williams

Birds sang in the bare branches of the trees. The air had a fresh, new smell to it, the very earth exhaling as the days grew longer. Mary pulled her winter jacket a little tighter around her shoulders. The sun was bright but it gave out little warmth. It would be a few more weeks before the jacket was no longer required.

Spring at last, Jack.’

She carefully set a canvas bag beside her and knelt down to tend the soil. She could feel the damp even through her denim jeans. They’d probably need to go in the wash later.

I thought that winter would never end. You’d like that, I suppose – school closing and all that snow for sledding.’

She took the gardening fork from her bag and began to dig into the earth. The cold and wet weather had left it packed together; no use for planting. Still, at least the weeds weren’t a problem yet, though they would be next month.

You remember that snowman we made last year? Ping pong balls for eyes and a carrot for a nose. I put one of your caps on it and said you looked like twins.’

The soil tilled, she put the fork aside and took a plastic wrapped bundle from her bag.

Crocuses,’ she said. ‘They’ll look lovely when they come up.’

She gently pushed the bulbs into the soil, then covered them back over. There was no need to water them; the ground was damp enough already.

She packed up her bag and stood up. A cold breeze blew over her and she shivered.

Mind you, the daffodils are coming up nicely. They should be flowering any day now.’

The birds sang. She breathed deeply, feeling the crisp chill of the air in her lungs.

How is daddy? I miss you both, you know. It hurt me so much when you went to join him. But that wasn’t your fault, I know.’

She wiped away a speck of dirt from her eye.

Your daddy left when you were so young. Did you even remember him?’ She sighed, her breath like steam upon the cold air. ‘I suppose that doesn’t matter. You’re together now.’

The wind blew through the bare branches of the trees.

I should have paid more attention to you. I should have listened. And now all I have are these visits. I can’t hug you like I used to. I can’t kiss you on the cheek before you walk through the school gate. I let you down, and you were taken from me.’

She fought off the tears. She’d cried too many already.

I’m sorry, Jack. Mummy comes whenever she can. And now that spring is here, I’ll come every week. I promise.’

She turned away, following the path that led out of the gardens. Behind her, the polished black marble glistened under a coat of morning dew.

Books From The Pantry: Vicious by Michael Forester: Reviewed by Kev Milsom

Rule Two: The Game will be initiated upon the occurrence of an event, outside the control of the players, which establishes a tear in the curtain (“a random tear”). Players are free to observe the occurrence of the event if they wish. A player who initiates a tear in the curtain will forfeit the Game and may, at the discretion of the Arbiter, be excluded from any future Game.

Rule Three: The Arbiter will confirm the existence of a randomly established tear in the curtain by passing through the tear’.

It’s fair to say that the plotline to some novels are relatively straightforward and commonplace.

Boy meets girl…girl meets boy. Passions are ignited. Romantic poems are uttered. Mopey ballads are hurriedly composed and played under bedroom windows. There may be a cute and cuddly cat/dog/hamster/aardvark/dragon involved, especially for the ladies, somewhere down the line. A dangerous car chase, gunfight, swords or a set of fisticuffs shall be provided for the gentlemen readers. Perhaps, three quarters of the way through, a passage of doubt or trust shall ensue, whereby boy doubts girl and girl doubts boy, probably down to the fact that boy really doubts boy and girl deeply doubts girl. Ultimately, these silly doubts shall be hurriedly cast aside like the cellophane on an eagerly-awaited DVD and all shall end well, with a kiss and a song, complete with a merry, dual dance into the sunset.

As much as these types of novels are wonderful in their own way, it is a true pleasure to find that Michael Forester’s plotlines hold considerably more depth of meaning and a greater variety of incidents, as visibly demonstrated in his newest publication, Vicious.

OK…so let’s get the basics of the plotline…please remember to hold on tight. Firstly, we have a character called Tolly, or to give her full name Tolly Boudicca Tolpuddle Jones (Mother was a feminist, Father was a trade unionist); sometimes known merely as ‘Tracy’ Now Tolly is not what we would call a ‘one-dimensional character’, because Tolly has…well, to be quite frank, Tolly has enough personal issues to fill a celebrity’s mansion house, to its absolute mock-Tudor limits.

For a start, Tolly is a punk rocker. Not your contemporary, retro-punk, who wishes they had been alive when the likes of The Damned and The Clash were noisily rocking London to its roots in the mid-1970’s. No, Tolly is a genuine antique from that very era; one who witnessed the glories of the bygone days of angry music, blasting out to equally-angry, pogo-dancing, spitting crowds.

In particular, Tolly liked the Sex Pistols. Well…one Sex Pistol in particular…namely the bass player – Sid, of the Vicious variety. Not only did she like Sid Vicious, but they briefly shared a moment of rough passion in an alley after one gig, during which Sid had initiated foreplay by spitting and swearing loudly into Tolly’s face as she watched from the audience. Naturally, to Tolly, this was a sign of true love, destined by the Gods themselves.

Of course, Tolly’s life mission was now crystal clear – she and Sid were destined for each other and nothing/no-one would ever stand in their way, despite the fact that Sid showed not the merest sign of making this happen and refused to acknowledge her mortal existence. Undeterred, Tolly followed the path of her divine ‘holy grail’ in making Sid Vicious her soul mate; a path that would ultimately lead to elements of Trans-Atlantic arousal, denial, cheating, murder and theft.

Thankfully, in 2008, despite Sid being long deceased, Tolly notices a new intern at her workplace, named Henry. The meaning of life suddenly becomes clear. Henry is, without doubt, the reincarnation of Sid Vicious. Thus, Tolly simply HAS to have him for the remainder of eternity and Lord help anyone who stands in her way.

Unfortunately, Henry has some major issues of his own, as he seeks to woo the love of his life, Laura, but has woken up to find a miniature, ugly, ebony talisman in his bedroom, which suddenly springs to life and becomes animated. The talisman – known to Henry as Talis-Man, or simply Talis – spends most of his time in Henry’s pocket, naturally creating chaos in his daily life, especially in his most private of moments with Laura.

And what of Laura? Well, Tolly has her demonic addiction to Sid Vicious and Henry has a tiny, animated talisman causing havoc in his young life, but – not to be outdone – Laura has an angel friend called Gabriel and believes herself to be the future mother of the next Messiah.

Add in a charlatan minister of God, some ethereal characters playing some form of Divine board game throughout the length of the book and you have the basis of ‘Vicious’.

So, the plotline is busier than a bus load of bees. How does it scan for the reader and will we need a notebook, pen & abacus to keep up with unfolding events?

Thankfully, no, for we have an exceptionally talented writer in Michael Forester. The characters are deliciously complex, but the prose takes careful time to explain each step of the way, leaving us in no doubt as to who is who, where/when they are and precisely what is occurring. The ‘when’ part of this is doubly important, as Michael frequently swings us back to the 1970s to tell parts of Tolly’s story but, as each chapter begins with the name of the character being explored and the exact date on which this happens, the reader is never unsure of events.

As usual, Michael’s writing is precise, to the point and positively splattered with fine humour; the latter employed most effectively to bring lightness to some darker elements of the story; particularly surrounding Tolly’s tragic attempts to make sense of the world around her.

The characters in Vicious are clearly individual and never dull. The plotline never once crosses into the world of mediocrity. Michael’s descriptive talents ensure that the reader is always aware of what is happening, even when story events steer us into the world of ‘weirdly odd’.

A thoroughly good read and very much recommended.

Get your copy of Vicious

Inky Flash Fiction: The Battle by Sharon Clark

Battle was being waged right outside Stephanie’s bedroom. Again!

She’d opened her curtains to a perfect Spring morning. Daffodils bobbed their happy heads in a gentle breeze. Blackbirds filled the air with their joyful song. The fresh green scent of awakening foliage drifted through the open window. All was harmonious except for the all-out war atop her potentilla.

The magpie was back. His head rocked to and fro as he attempted to wrench a slender spear of new growth from the bush. He was a powerhouse of a bird, strong and determined, the metallic blue of his tail and wings shimmering like armour in the early sunlight. Beautiful but deadly as he yanked at his prize, not caring about the curl of unborn leaf at its tip.

One for sorrow, Stephanie thought, as the stem was torn mercilessly from the defenceless bush. If this carried on her poor potentilla would be nothing but a skeleton. Why did this wretched bird have to pick on her garden?

Suddenly the wind chimes sang out. The bush quivered in the unexpected breath of air, shaking the magpie loose. In a flap of wings he dropped the torn-off stem, which promptly tumbled into the basket-weave centre of the bush. Two for joy, thought Stephanie, although she knew the victory was a hollow one. There was no way to graft the torn twig back onto its parent. Better that the magpie should have it rather than tear off yet more.

The magpie seemed to be in agreement. Landing again, his greedy eyes focused on the fallen prize, but before he could act a flash of dusty brown darted into the tangled heart of the bush, snatched the stem from its resting place and took off. A cheeky snip of a sparrow – faster, smarter and smaller than the magpie.

A caw of indignation rent the air as the magpie gave voice to this upheaval of the pecking order. Now it would definitely have to renew its attack on the bush.

Stephanie reached for her hairbrush and rapped hard on the window to scare the bird off. He glanced up, tilted his head insolently and then renewed his assault. Furious she raised the brush for another rap, but then inspiration struck.

A few moments later she stepped into the garden. The magpie eyed her suspiciously, shifting its weight from one foot to another atop the potentilla.

She held out her hand, palm up, a tangle of dark-brown hair from her brush clearly visible.

‘A peace offering,’ she said. ‘Stop attacking my bush and you can have this.’ She walked slowly to the bird table, and snagged the hair onto the hook of the peanut container.

The magpie watched her back away. Then, with a sharp caw, he flew to the table, snatched up the hair, and set off for a higgledy-piggledy nest in a silver birch.

‘Three for a girl or four for a boy?’ she mused, as she went in search of more nesting material.

Inky Flash Fiction Spring Competition 2018: Winner: A Deuce Of Spring Brides by Lavinia Murray

I am a Right Madam and I know my place. It’s here. Up is a weight-loss Moon under a sheet, rolling inexorably to the right on this mild Spring dusk. Down is Peace-Rose lying by my feet with babies crawling out of her ears as she sleeps on the Historic Battlefield. Manageably small babies, bean-sized, earwax coated, armed with miniature pikes and muskets – one even trundles a tiny cannon. Homeward-bound nest-ready birds pick up and stick the tiny babies to the nearest glass pane (a slanted viewing window into the earth below where the unclaimed/resistant-to-ritual-burial battlefield bones are dragged in mordant procession by the earth worms who curate them). The earwax, similar in tackiness to sticky notes, means that the babies slowly riprap down the window and are lost in the tussocks beneath. Oh yes, the Spring Moon winds-wends beneath a sheet. I wake Peace-Rose and we toddle home to frame our mud-spattered, hand-made lace wedding veil. It will cover the walls of our front room seven times over and the pattern tells a tale – it is like the Bayeux Tapestry with holes. It tells the story of one Spring Day years back when we had a double wedding, two brides marrying two Spring gusts of air which were driven to the Register Office by a rotating fan.

Our Spring husbands, those great gusts, those great winds, fill a double-bed duvet cover each with the ends knotted, like a pair of big balloons, and they float in the air, anchored by extendable dog leashes with their grips forced into the ground by a single tent hook. Our husbands will slowly leak away and join the prevailing winds and then we can marry again; we two Spring Brides can hitch ourselves to whomsoever. Put on our Spring lace veil and say ‘yes’ to a bluster or a breeze.

Our issue from previous Spring’s high wind marriages heft the curtains about. Push, Shove and Flutter. Shake, Shiver and Twitch. Thrash, Ripple and Fill.

Spring brides holding ourselves like a persistent drone in your eardrum. Marry us.

I am Carmel, Peace-Rose’s irregular Spring twin. I am a Herm. I am a counter marking the planting of a boundary. I make faux human ashes out of clay cat litter and I pack it into urns and I sell it to people who have lost track of ancestors. In Spring I create eleven new imaginary deceased entities out of grey clay cat litter and pack it loosely into ceramic or brushed-steel urns. Sometimes in Spring I scatter cat litter in the Gusts-my-Husband. When I got married my grandmother’s ashes were scattered on me, for I was the bride of a Nor’ Easterly smelling of dead-men’s feet. Peace-Rose married a former Trade Wind and did very nicely. Their children veered wildly and were imprisoned all Spring in a weathervane.

Inky Flash Fiction Spring Competition 2018: Runner Up: The Drip by A.K.Hepburn

The girl Moth had never been outside of the cave. Born amongst the steady drip-drip of the rocky pinnacles that hung from the ceiling. Playing on stone, dimly lit by the precious blubber flames. Her mother pointed out constellations of glowing bugs on the ceiling: the Tiger, the Big Walrus, the Bear. She didn’t understand the names. Outside the Great Cold raged, as it always had.

Men went out to hunt. Moth’s father wrapped thick, woolly skins around himself until she could see only his eyes. He’d take up the flinty spear and disappear into the Light. She’d begged to go with him, but he’d never let her; said her toes would all turn black like Old Gulp. Gulp didn’t go out to hunt anymore. Sometimes they came back hauling some big hunk of furry flesh to cook over the blubber flame; sometimes with nothing at all and their stomachs would gnaw. Sometimes they’d come back missing one or two of their number.

Wondering what was out there, Moth imagined the rocky ceiling to be much higher and the walls to be further apart. Her mother said that, out there, the woolly beasts they ate ran ferociously around on their four legs. Someone daubed an image on the cave wall in wet red clay, and Moth tried to animate it with her imagination. Then there was the Cold White, which followed the hunters back as a dusting on their furs, then soon disappeared into wetness. Once, she’d peeked a little further than permitted, and the Cold White was all she could see. It filled her vision and flurried around too quickly. It bit at her face, and she hurried back inside.

The Drip began gradually. They hardly noticed it at first. Then it became more persistent. Dampness permeated the floor and walls as water leeched through the cracks. Puddles formed. Somewhere deeper in the rock, a rushing sound grew into a roar. Too wet to stay, they wrapped up and edged cautiously toward the Light, flinty spears raised.

The further Moth stepped, the more her eyes stung. At first she thought it was the Cold White, like before, but then she realised that although it was White, it was not actually Cold, but rather more warm, like the blubber flame. Gradually opening her squinting eyes, she realised, too, that it was hardly even white, but more golden. The Golden Warm, she thought. This was new. The White coated the ground, but it was peppered with green – with life. She looked up; the ceiling was impossibly, dizzyingly far away. She didn’t have a name for the colour.

They wrapped themselves in furs; huddled around a blubber flame. The orb of Golden Warm sank and disappeared, but it wasn’t unbearably cold. (Moth wondered if it would return; she hoped it would.) The far-away ceiling grew dim. Distantly, above, the glow worms lit up one by one, just like home. In her mind, she traced them into pictures; gave them new names.

Books From The Pantry: Cry Baby by Gareth Writer-Davies: Reviewed by Giles Turnbull

There is a sense of transport and movement in Gareth Writer-Davies’ poetry collection, Cry Baby. The pamphlet opens with the title poem which reveals a sense of disappointment that pervades the writing from start to finish:

I was not the imagined girl
ready for gingham ribbons and ankle socks
I was something else … a fist of a child
who bit my mother’s breast
and kicked out at rainbows.

In ‘Milko’:

the milk van delivered
dairy goods
for breakfast and pud
like a carnival float
the bouncing cargo
of gold and silver tops
danced in the crate
as if the party ends at the child’s front door.

These are very sparse poems, not weighted down with adjectives and adverbs; punctuation is rarely present and upper case letters are reserved for proper nouns. The poems are all short, the detail pared back to the bone. It creates a no-fuss remembrance of childhood from the adult’s perspective; a truth that invites no argument:

and when the little train stopped for breath
I came up for air
in Kentish Town
alone and inexact
my parents
two hundred feet below
lost in the puzzle of the map
(from ‘The Train Is Coming’)

The effect is not dissimilar to standing in front of Munch’s painting, The Scream, suspecting there is an immense story lurking in the unspoken words underneath the visible anguish. The poem ‘Child’ suggests that the feeling has persisted into adulthood:

I have grown used to the idea
and set a trap
using the window as a mirror

I am startled
by my own silhouette

Short as they are, there are some intriguing tales in this pamphlet. How the mother tries to escape by swimming the estuary to Ynyslas (in ‘Swimming At Aberdovey’), and how the child’s sister is kicked out of home for having sex with her boyfriend (in ‘Lilac Ladies’). There are moments of humour, such as in ‘Pyjamas’:

when once I saw a yellowhammer
and confusing it for a tennis ball
hammered it for six […] sometimes
there was a knock on the door
then I’d dream
I was walking the streets in my pyjamas.

When you read this pamphlet from start to finish, you really do get to experience the child growing to adulthood like you are part of the family.

Cry Baby by Gareth Writer-Davies is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

Books From The Pantry: Survivalism by A. K. Hepburn: Reviewed by Giles Turnbull

A.K. Hepburn’s poetry pamphlet, Survivalism, leaves you in no doubt that these poems are deliciously dangerous. The very first lines of the first poem alert the reader to the inescapable intrusion of shadows under the trees:

Lauren was a pianist.
I could tell that from the way
her fingers played the protrusion
of my hip bone, sprawling on the
hillside,
ignoring something threatening
brewing just below the horizon.

Poets have always battled with matters of life and death. In the poetry of Ted Hughes, crows are symbolic of creation. In ‘The Crow People’ Hepburn gives us her take on crows:

The crow people
Walk upright,
Smudgy charcoal outlines
On grey concrete

To me this reads like a picture of a city full of commuters who:

Leer and gape,
Gaudy faces open
In mockery

evoking a scene similar to that in part 1 of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land:

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many.

By the third poem, ‘Coracle’, we have images of dead animals and dead trees:

He drifted up the spine
of the Pennines.
Peaks jutted from the water
like the vertebrae
of a long-dead whale
breaching the surface
[…]
an English sea,
breaking over the
skeletons of old oaks
littering the sea floor.

A few poems further on and we find pianistic Lauren again. This time it is ‘On the Coldest Night of the Year’, with the:

electricity off, fractals
forming inside the glass.
Outside, it’s eighteen below

and:

Lauren’s fingers glide
through a Nocturne, until
they’re too blue, too numb
to wring out another tune

the last notes of this poem bringing with them further death.

As we get to the title poem, Survivalism, we have almost become accustomed to the world being none-too hospitable. I was reminded of The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins. In that book, Katniss Eberdeen risks her life to salvage a bright orange backpack which contains a ‘half-gallon plastic bottle with a cap for carrying water that’s bone dry’ amongst other things. In this poem our survivor also has a knapsack and a:

Water bottle, leaching
chemicals, probably

There are, appropriately enough, 13 poems in this pamphlet, beginning with ‘Before’ and ending with ‘Apocalypse, Then’. If you enjoy your worlds dystopian, as I do, you will love them — it may be wise to wear thimbles on your fingertips whilst reading, lest turning the pages slices them clean off.

Get your copy of Survivalism

Poetry Drawer: Modern-Day Ms. Dickinson’s 5am Diary Entry-Sleepless Starting Summer Not In Seattle by Gerard Sarnat

A blue-blooded rock-ribbed Amherstian —
Confined to home — I do seem quite adverse
To going out much — except by poem or coffin.

Often one niece might bring me her new baby
— Liav’s quarter Turkish + quarter Iraqi — post
Hebrew diaspora she equates it to be half Israeli.

Then Sis’s 2nd girl — along with both boys — will
Fly in a blue metal bird – from what maybe were
Mexican Possessions when Emily was born in 1830.

After Memorial Day holidays — recognitions of fallen
U.S. soldiers which once were thought to have begun
as markers decorating graves during our unCivil War —

Around about the time that Woman in White became
Reclusive – whispering to visitors from the other side
Of a hewn oak door – started getting carted to doctors.

If these innards & outards score A-OK, you ladies I grew
Up near but haven’t seen since turning 30 — are slotted to
Spend July 4th convening here within my garden cottage.

Inky Interview Exclusive: Award Winning Poet Sara Hirsch at The Storyhouse, Chester: with Claire Faulkner

I often find poetry at its most magical when I least expect it. So when I stumbled into The Storyhouse in Chester one rainy afternoon, looked up at the balcony and saw in child’s handwriting ‘this poem is a map made of lines. Just lines. Why don’t you take one and see where it leads you’. I was immediately hooked and spent the next hour walking around the building reading the poetry installations which emerged from the WayWord festival.

The poems are written by children from three local schools; Tushingham-with-Gringley C of E Primary School, J.H. Godwin Primary School, and Queen’s Park High School. The pupils took part in workshops with award winning poet Sara Hirsch, and together they created poems about identity, libraries, history, and stories.

The verses are all surprising, inspirational and delightful to read.

‘I Come From…’ opens with the lines:

I come from reading at the dead of night

as quietly as a fingertip turning a page.

Each poem appears on the walls in the child’s own handwriting, and this adds an extra impact when viewing the installation.

In ‘This Library…’ The Storyhouse is described as:

a tornado

sucking you into an adventure

it is another dimension

When trying to answer the question in the poem ‘What is History?’, the children have written:

It is a complex question waiting to be asked

It is a record player that has stopped working

A guitar that has been played a little too much.

And further on in the poem, history is described as:

a locked door

a code waiting to be cracked

it is lonely

a broken time machine

I enjoyed the experience of finding the poems, and took delight from the positive input that the children must have had in the writing and creative process. I wanted to know more about the installation, so I contacted Sara for more information.

What was your involvement in the WayWord festival?

I worked with local primary school children in January to create the poems for the walls of the Storehouse, to be unveiled during the WayWord festival. I then returned during the festival itself to perform a family show and lead a workshop for the 16-25 youth theatre group, so I got to see the finished poetry murals for myself. They look fabulous and I was so proud to see the children’s poetry displayed in such a unique way around the building.

How did the children react to the poetry workshops?

They really loved them! I never know in advance what the reaction will be and how the children will take to me and my workshops. But these ones were particularly memorable, perhaps because we were working towards an end goal. The fact that they knew their words might make it onto the walls of this amazing building really got them excited and it created a brilliant atmosphere in all 3 schools I visited. I usually really like the fact that my workshops aren’t leading up to anything in particular, as it takes the pressure off the kids to create something ‘finished’. But this was really different and really gave the kids a sense of pride in their work, because it was being valued by a venue that they love and respect.

Were you surprised by their reaction?

I was surprised with how they stepped up to the challenge and worked together to produce something really grown up and professional. I usually set no expectations on a workshop so that the children are free to explore their ideas and imagination. So the fact that they were so focussed on creating something they would be proud to show off to the public was really amazing.

Seeing the verse displayed in the children’s own handwriting is extremely effective. How did this idea develop?

Isn’t it! I really can’t claim the credit for this idea. It was thought up by the Storyhouse and the designer (Matt Lewis) and I just did what I was told! However, it was a big part of the workshops – to get the kids to write up their lines in their own handwriting and it was really fun to be a part of it. My rule in all my workshops is to be as messy as possible (scribble things out, say whatever comes into your head etc.) and so giving them permission to carry this idea on for the final product was really liberating. I love that there are spelling mistakes in the poems. It makes them feel really authentic.

Do you think it’s important to encourage children to write poetry?

Of course! Regardless of the fact that it is fun, educational and creative – giving young people the chance to express themselves in different ways is so important for emotional wellbeing and development. Creativity is being sucked from the curriculum, which is an absolute travesty and so the more poets, authors, artists and creatives we can get visiting schools, and giving kids an alternative to the academic standards they are constantly measured against, the better.

Can you share with us what other projects you’re currently working on?

I am currently setting up a spoken word production company in New Zealand called Motif Poetry with Kiwi poet/producer Ben Fagan. I will be heading up the education side of it and hopefully it will eventually be an international venture to connect poetry scenes in the UK and down under. I am also running a lot of international workshops at the moment (I will have performed in 7 countries before the end of March so far this year!) and am working on my third poetry collection which explores feminism and architecture. So lots going on…but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Image credits: Mark Carline