Archive for the ‘Guest Bloggers’ Category:

I am a Man of Many Parts…

Written on February 27th, 2019 by adminno shouts

Peter Lay Performer, Poet, Publisher

Peter Lay Poet and Publisher

In my youth I wrote and performed songs. Later I became an artist but most of the time I’ve been a facilitator of other people’s talent. I was a Youth Worker and encouraged young people to follow their dreams. I began working with bands through the youth service and then went on to become a manager for several rock bands, both here and internationally. Arranging gigs, recording opportunities and promoting the bands was a real pleasure to me at that time…

It was exhilarating.

This is what prompted me to see how I could promote Josephine’s writing, as well as my own, and other people whose work might not fit into the accepted genres of todays publishing world. Gone are the days of having to follow the conventional agent/publisher route and so after some research I set up Black Eyes Publishing UK.

In the last few years I have begun to write more poetry and have written a dual language, cross cultural, metaphysical tale with a Chinese lady, ‘Yellow Over the Mountain’.

This was Black Eye’s first publication followed closely by Josephine Lay’s, ‘Inside Reality’, her first poetry book.

Black Eye’s has just published ZD Dicks (Ziggy)’s book, ‘Malcontent’ and there are several books in the pipe line from Josephine, myself and others. It is no longer necessary to print dozens of copies of a book and to pay large sums of money up front, Print-on-demand has altered all that when books can be ordered one day and delivered the next.

My passion for the art and philosophies of the East led me to communicating with people around the globe via artistic and cultural sites. This is how I met Zaiming Wang and how ‘Yellow Over the Mountain’ began. I have also begun to write poetry about my experiences when travelling, especially Japan. I have visited this country three times and during my last trip in November I experienced an emotional roller coaster when in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Several poems about this time are featured in my forthcoming poetry book, ‘Still Tilting at Windmills’.

I joined the Gloucestershire Poetry Society about a year ago when Josephine became interested in performance poetry. I perform some of my poetry on open mics but I am more interested in the production of books and facilitating other writers and poets to publish their work.

Derek Dohren

Written on February 20th, 2019 by adminno shouts

You may call me a poet if you want. I prefer the term ‘not a poet’. I believe we are all poets to a degree and only a true poet would attempt to distance him or herself from the crowd. The contrarian in me does those kind of backflips quite a lot I’m afraid. The truth is, I often sit in front of my laptop (my preferred mode of operation) and wait for the words to come. And wait a bit more. Usually this scenario unfolds at home, where distractions abound, but it may also involve sad and lonely hotel rooms on the morning after spoken word gigs. Nothing screams ‘not a poet’ more than not being able to write a single word when you’re really really trying to.

When the muse does take me and the words eventually flow there is most certainly a tangible feeling of not being the actual writer. I would call myself a mere conduit in those times, a vessel into which the words are being channelled. It’s fun and it’s joyous. Spooky I know. But I can tell the difference between a piece of poetry that has been given up to me and a piece I have forced out of myself. I believe art in its purest form is something otherworldly the artist, whatever the chosen medium of expression, has tapped into.

And it’s why I believe children make the best artists. Though perhaps lacking in the technical skills they have a direct line to the place where pure art comes from. Kids don’t have to navigate through years of social conditioning and prejudice. They don’t worry about rules, nor about how their efforts will be received. They just naturally tune in to the right vibe. They don’t call themselves artists because they don’t see themselves that way. They’re just having fun. And that’s the key to it all.

The price of growing up is we lose the childlike connection to the ether we are all born with. Our first task as writers, musicians, painters, sculptors is to think of ourselves as ‘not a writer/musician/painter/sculptor’. Only once that barrier is down, can the fun can really start.

Derek Rohren in Bristol

Derek Dohren is a Gloucestershire based poet who finds much of his inspiration while driving buses through the Forest of Dean. He hastens to add that he does not ‘write and drive’, but rather makes mental notes of life’s absurdities as they present themselves to him, often in the guise of unwitting passengers. He also writes a lot (perhaps too much) about tea and cakes. His first poetry collection, ‘The Man Who Wasn’t Isabel’ is currently being compiled.

He has previously published two books, ‘Ghost on the Wall’, the authorised biography of Liverpool FC manager Roy Evans, ISBN-13 978-1840188325, and the autobiographical ‘The Cats of the River Darro’, ISBN-13 978-1478315537.

Derek is also a painter and winner of Artist and Illustrator magazine ‘Landscape Artist of the Year, 2009’. His work, and selected poetry, can be seen at and his paintings and photography on the Facebook page ‘The Art of Derek Dohren’.

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Belinda Rimmer

Written on February 12th, 2019 by adminno shouts

Belinda Rimmer Bio:


I first trained as a psychiatric nurse and worked with troubled teenagers both in NHS settings and as a school counsellor. I have also worked as a dance development officer, performance arts lecturer and creative arts practitioner in schools, theatres and for the Arts Council.


I have been published widely in magazines, on-line journals and anthologies. In 2017, I won the Poetry in Motion Competition to turn my poem into a film, since shown Internationally. In April 2018, I supported Gill McEvoy at Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

Other highlights include, shortlisted for Poem of the Month in Ink, Sweat & Tears; undertaking a collaboration with Wildlife Photographer of the Year finalist (published with Whole Terrain) and second place in the Ambit Poetry Competition, 2018, with a reading at Tate Modern.

My biggest achievement is being awarded joint winner in the 2018 Indigo Dreams First Pamphlet Competition. My pamphlet, Touching Sharks in Monaco, will be published later this year.

I have an MA in Fine and Media Arts, University of Gloucestershire (1998), and a PhD in Women’s Voices in Contemporary Poetry, MMU (2007). Both are practice based.

Belinda Rimmer Poet


I wrote teenage angst poetry (which I have since burnt!). Aged seventeen, I had a very strange poem published which was heavily influenced by my love of David Bowie. I didn’t pursue writing again until many years later.

During my MA I started adding text to my solo dance pieces. This wasn’t poetry for the page, but I guess it was a take on performance poetry. Forced to give up dance in my late forties I looked to writing as a main creative outlet.

I became increasingly interested in women’s voices in contemporary poetry and undertook a PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University. This explored the idea that certain types of poetry might be drawn from a pre verbal quality, drawing on fragments, sound, rhythm etc. I devised some ‘poems’ to illustrate my theory but they weren’t for publication. After spending seven years reading the poetry of other writers, I felt inspired to find my own poetic voice. I only started to take my poetry writing more seriously about two years ago.


Curiosity or a need to make sense of the world is a driving force in my poetry. I write to connect with others, both artistically and personally, and to explore my own life – the themes of childhood and personal relationships run through my work. My most successful poems seem to be the ones that express something meaningful to me, but I always try to leave space for readers to find points of understanding too.

I draw upon both memory and forgetfulness, filling in the gaps with fiction. I like blurred edges, work that questions what is real and what is imagined, the small details that can say so much. Since a child I have often felt on the outside, at the edges of things, and this finds its way into my work. There are therapeutic benefits to poetry, but my main aim is to create something with artistic integrity. I like free-verse for the fluidity it allows. I am slowly learning more about form but rarely use it.

Nature and ecological concerns are other sources of inspiration. My poem about global warming, turned into a film by Diana Taylor, has been shown at several international poetry film festivals: Lisbon, Montreal and the Blue Danube International Film Festival.

The desire to write has gained in intensity over the past two years. It took a while for me to submit work as I feared rejection. But I’ve come to accept that this is part of the process. Some successes soften the blow.

I continually strive to explore and to improve my writing through workshops and on-line courses.

Poets I Admire:

I am excited by poets who take risks and draw upon personal experience. I admire Anne Michaels, Sharon Olds, Liz Berry, Jacob Polley, Harold Pinter, e e cummings, Walt Whitman, Pascale Petit, Carol Ann Duffy (who I always return to), Carrie Etter, Emily Dickinson and Jacqueline Saphra. Some recent favourites, Zelda Chappel, Wendy Pratt and Bryony Littlefair, all from small presses.

I especially love the hybrid work of Tania Hershman.

We are very lucky to have so many inspirational local poets too.

Thoughts on the Poetry World:

I believe poetry is in a very healthy state. There are plenty of opportunities in Gloucestershire to share poetry. I attend Buzzwords (it took me several months to build up the courage to read) and Poetry Cafe Refreshed.

Cheltenham Poetry Festival is wonderful and brings so many poets to the town. Gloucester is doing great things too. I hope that in a small way I am contributing something to this rich and creative atmosphere.

You can find out more about Belinda on her website or following her on twitter at @belrimmer

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Writing With The Land By Nimue Brown

Written on February 6th, 2019 by adminno shouts

Nimue Nimue Brown writes poetry, fiction and non-fiction and is co-creator of the Hopeless Maine graphic novel series. She lives in Stroud, Gloucestershire.

I’ve written poetry every since I could hold a pen and in my early childhood scratching, the natural world featured heavily. It was what I cared about. It’s still a very large percentage of what I care about and write about.

I write nature poetry because I want to bring the wild world to people who may be disconnected from it. In practice my current poetry isn’t about ‘nature’ in a broad sense, but about specific details. Encounters with otters, incidents on walks, how I feel about certain hills… I want to name things and be precise and evoke them for other people. I want to write things that will encourage others to look more closely at the world they live in.

Nature isn’t away in some pristine distant place. Nature is with us in our towns and cities. I write about urban foxes sometimes. I have a lot of encounters with them, and also with local deer, who wander through the industrial estates sometimes, moving between the woodland around the cycle track and the wilder bits of land alongside the canal.

As I walk for transport, I encounter wild things most days. I don’t go out looking for material for poems, but if something strikes me while I’m walking, I’ll think about it. If a few words line up, I’ll find some time to sit down with a pen and see what I can make of it. When I was younger I tended to write in the heat of emotions. These days I like to take my time and ferment and simmer ideas over a period of days before I try to get them down. I usually do a few re-drafts.

I like poetry as a way of connecting people with everything else –it’s easy to emote and in this form, narrative isn’t necessary. I can use words to give a sense of other living beings as distinct individuals living their own lives for their own reasons. Humans objectify the rest of life on Earth, treating other sentient beings as objects for our use and consumption. I don’t want to write nature poetry that contributes to this – if we dwell on the picturesque surfaces, on how we benefit from nature, on nature as exotic and separate, we can write about it while pedalling all the wrong things.

I hope what I write encourages people not to view everything non-human as a consumable. Be it the weather, or a landscape, or an encounter with a bird, I want to place humans in the contact of everything else, as participants, but not owners or users. Sometimes I’m subtle about this, other times less so. This is a recent example of my work that pulls together much of what I’ve been talking about here – the specific-ness of the encounter, the sense of human participation in the natural world, and avoiding the feeling of being a user or consumer of ‘nature’ or of ‘nature’ being a utility for human benefit.

We look at each other

I look at the otter, and, wondrously, the otter looks at me.
I do not wish to objectify the otter so will speak of her, as she.
I neither wish to misgender, a fellow mammal either;
Size, and sightings suggest range, suggesting a female.

She is hunting opposite an industrial estate in winter dawn.
On a week day, she is eating something yards from me.
And she looks back, dark eyes intense and interested.
Exploring me, contemplating my role and presence.

I look at nature a lot. I pay attention, observe and spot.
Watch for wildlife, tree tending, fish finding, moth marvelling.
It is one thing to stand outside and look at nature,
Another to stand inside nature, to be seen as well as seeing.

When nature looks back and you are not alone, but witnessed,
When nature looking back ceases to be generic, becomes specific.
This deer resting beneath this hedge, this heron gazing critically
This swan in search of seed offerings, and today
This otter who takes interest, watches the watcher.

When eyes meet mine and I am another spirit of place,
Another denizen of the land, encountering, then ‘nature’ is me
And I am as much nature as the tree above me or
The robin in the tree inches from my face.

I am in this place, and this place is in me
Robin, and tree, and otter and me
And we look at each other.

I blog regularly at – which sometimes includes poetry.

You can buy my collection Mapping the Contours here – and here’s a video of me reading the title poem –

For anyone really keen on my stuff, Patreon supporters get a poem in the first week of each month.

Jason Conway – Guest Poet

Written on February 4th, 2018 by adminno shouts

I started my poetry journey back in July 2016 during a family holiday in Woolacombe UK. I had a surfing lesson and whilst swimming in the sea I gazed into the horizon and had an epiphany. I rushed back to the caravan I was staying in and was compelled to write a poem ‘Life’s Water Dance’. I thought nothing more of it until the 17th October 2016 when a friend told me that they were creating a brand-new poetry society for Gloucester, The Gloucester Poetry Society and asked if I would join.

So, I started to write regularly and very quickly found my passion for poetry and started to help to promote the society and its new open mic event in the city. I then started to read my work at local open mic events leading to me hosting a number events for the Society.

In September 2017 I successfully Crowdfunded a poetry anthology, Poetry Without Pretension (Published by Wiggly Pets Press), for the Society and I am now a multi published poet, with my work due to be published in 2 poetry anthologies and 1 business book in 2018, as well as my own book of poetry due at the end of February.

One great part of being in the Society is that members are set weekly and monthly challenges, so there is a constant source of topics to help keep my writing.

My inspiration mainly comes from my love of the natural world. I love escaping into nature and adventuring as much as possible, to the beach, coast, forest, mountains, hills or just a local park. I often write about man’s wanton destruction of the world around us, to help people reconnect with nature and hopefully change their attitudes and do more to help the environment. To offset the negative, I also write about the great beauty and energy of nature. We all lead busy lives and for me there seems to be an ever growing disconnect between people and nature, especially children, whom in my opinion, are too consumed with technology to venture outside and enjoy the wonders all around them.

Nature calms my mind and inspires me in so many ways. It not only influences my writing, it benefits my art, photography, design and marketing skills. If I’m ever down or feel stuck with a problem, I’ll take a trip into nature and very soon the issue is resolved. I get a great sense of perspective and grounding and feel recharged by it, plus there is so much to study in nature, from the texture of trees and stones, to random patterns, spotting faces in objects, tiny insects, the power and beauty of water, the way light plays in a woodland to the smell of leaves, rain and the breeze. I often daydream and imagine that I’m a leaf, an insect or inanimate objects to see the world through their eyes. I class myself as a professional daydreamer as it’s helped me to be who I am today, not only as a writer, but a multidisciplinary artist, designer and creative thinker.

I love to challenge myself with my writing and in life in general. I’ve been on an incredible journey of self-discovery over the past few years and have changed my mindset and lifestyle to live a richer and more fulfilling life. I live with less, declutter my life, set challenges, change my work life balance to enjoy more experiences and I’ve changed my business to make me more mobile, so I can work from anywhere. As a result, I have also been writing more empowering and inspirational poems based on my life experiences and reading.

So where do I see myself progressing with my poetry? Well, I am loving the journey so far and I have so much to learn, so I am very happy with things as they are. I do want to improve my performance skills as much as possible, to help deliver more power to the words and tell a better story. I have more books planned after my first solo book and would love to work more on memorising my poems. I have been merging poetry with art for the past year which is something I will continue to explore as they both influence and inspire each other. I have written poems about painting and sketches I have created and also photographs that I have taken. I’d love to have an exhibition this year that mixes the two forms together to help people to reconnect with nature, but on a much deeper and more personal level.

Jason Conway

Jason Conway

Poet Bio

Jason Conway is a poet from Gloucester, UK. He started writing poetry in July 2016 after experiencing an epiphany whilst surfing and was compelled to write and he hasn’t looked back since. He uses the Pen Name of Th31nkWarri0r.

Jason’s biggest inspiration is the natural world, he is very passionate about the environment and man’s progressive devastation to it. He is also an artist, designer and photographer, always studying his surroundings for ideas and connections.

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The Quiet Compere

Written on November 14th, 2015 by adminone shout

I am Sarah L Dixon, also known as The Quiet Compere.

Why did I make Cheltenham the Finale of the tour?

Four years ago I knew very little about Cheltenham and had never been. Now, even though I have mainly visited in November (for reasons made clear below) I have an image of very white-washed walls and Greek blue sky. It feels like being near the sea to me, even though I am assured, with my sketchy geography, it is about as far away as you can be from the sea when in the UK!

Ok. So four years ago I was coming to Cheltenham for a conference about how Art and Medicine interact (more about that below). I decided I would run a poetry event there, despite knowing no-one in the area and started making friends there through social media. I booked a venue and ten poets and this was the first event I ran outside Manchester (I had no idea this event would be the beginning of a path that led me to 2 12 date tours in 2014 and 2015).

This first event away from home did not come without its challenges. The venue I had booked closed down about three weeks before the date. Determined that this would only be a hurdle and not flatten it I asked around and Adam Horowitz (one of the performers) suggested a space called Meantime Art Space and I contacted Sarah and she was a superstar, spoke with the person whose art was displayed, sorted out some beers for the night and even took me for noodles when I arrived making my first impression on both Cheltenham and my first impression of a noodle bar positive.

I had a buzz that lasted days when the night went well, poets turned up, I met poets I had only seen online and all stuck to time limits and were friendly. Each year I have run an event the night before Medicine Unboxed. I am still searching for the perfect venue. The second year it was in the Frog and Fiddle’s Barn, which I am sure is delightful in summer months. It was a bare brick wall space with high ceilings, a stage and PA system. On a cold November night it felt like being in a barn. Last year I ran a medical-themed poetry night at The Strand. We had a downstairs room and thankfully a mic (as the party in the bar was particularly rowdy and we were divided only by a curtain). This year we have booked the upstairs space at The Strand as I tread my Cheltenham venues learning curve.

Cheltenham was just the beginning

After the Cheltenham gig I decided to takeover Poetry by Heart in Leeds for a month with six poets I knew from workshops, Arvon courses, events and Facebook. The gig was cracking. When my job in the NHS was disappeared and I started doing spreadsheets for my neighbour’s company from home between school runs I saw an opportunity. I was fuelled by an Apples an Snakes masterclass presented by Tony Walsh about “How to promote yourself, your poetry, your events” that I has attended two weeks before the job went awry.

I had disregarded the section about applying for funding at the time. I am not funny. I am not perfomancey. Why would anyone fund my tour? But then, the tour didn’t have to be about me. What did I do at every event I ran. I quietly planned, promoted and hosted these events with attention to detail that was noted and appreciated by performers and venues. Could I take the ten poets x ten minutes format on tour?

I was aware this format had been employed in the North East at Take Ten, but only after it had evolved at my nights as a format that filled a gap in the circuit. Many established nights had 2-4 minute open mic and 15-30 minute guest spots, but not many gave poets the opportunity for something in between. I know I was terrified the first time I had to fill a guest spot with poems (when before all I had 2-3 minutes).

So the format was born and funding application bids submitted

The Quiet Compere Tour has been Arts Council funded and has so far been to 23 cities, putting on shows with 10 local poets reading for 10 minutes each. I like to introduce poets only by name rather than huge bibliography. Let the poems do the talking. We have a mix of established and less well known performers, and it’s the latter that often steal the show!

The Finale of 2015 tour – Friday 20th November 2015 7pm doors. 7:30pm start

Quiet Compere 2015 Cheltenham

Finale Thoughts

Events in Birmingham, Worcester and Oxford have all been hugely successful and I would be delighted to see some of the performers and friends from those areas in the audience.

Look out for Kickstarter to part fund 2016 tour very soon

Quiet Compere Advice:

Play. Enjoy. Try different styles. Find other poets you trust. Get feedback. Be honest. Pursue butterflies. Stretch yourself. Try not to over-edit.

How I fell in love with Cheltenham

I worked in NHS admin for 17 years and when I returned from Maternity Leave received a link to a conference called Medicine Unboxed. This is a conference master-minded (he is director and curator) by Samir Guglani, Consultant Clinical Oncologist at Gloucester Hospital. The first year I attended Sam engaged in every debate on the same level as the expert panels, or even more strikingly in one-to-ones. I have now attended the past three years (themes Belief, Voice and Frontiers) This year’s theme is Mortality (and as spent over half of NHS life as a Histopathology and/or Post Mortem secretary) this is of particular interest to me. Samir Guglani was a performer at the Oxford event in May and I met Kiran Millwood Hargrave, who is in the Cheltenham line-up through Medicine Unboxed and Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

Medicine Unboxed ticket link here

On Writing – Guest Blogger

Written on February 10th, 2015 by adminno shouts

Bethany W Pope

Bethany W Pope

On Writing

Every writer that I have ever spoken to has had either a bad or an isolated childhood. Some have had childhoods that were both at once. Some self-isolated, withdrawing into worlds of their own creation where exciting things happened that they could understand, unlike the dull-seeming emotional complexity of the adult world. In any case, a writer must always be a reader first and nothing in the world gets children to read like removing all other entertainment options.

My family was always on the move. I left the town of my birth (Waynesville, North Carolina) a few weeks after a surgeon carved me from my mother’s womb. I was taken to Edinburgh where I lived in an underground flat (beside St Giles Church) and lingered there long enough to learn to speak and pick up a warped version of the local accent. When I was two, my father joined the navy as a chaplain and we moved to Subic Bay in the Philippines. While we were there, my parents met the lady who would become my foster-mother, my sister was adopted, and my brother was born. At seven (nearly eight) I returned to the states and spent the next five years sloshing about in swamps and switching schools (from the semi-posh private that expelled me for re-animating a cow’s heart with a car battery, to the insane Seventh Day Adventist venture whose principal prayed over me in existential despair because I ate a ham sandwich) before my mother’s health and my father’s finances collapsed to the point where I had to be placed in a South Carolina orphanage. When I emerged, I was fifteen, silent, and emotionally scarred. But I had grown into a poet.

I left school, worked for a veterinarian (performing more than a few illicit surgeries) and wrote poems, in secret, which I buried in the yard.

I ran away from home as a young teenager and went off to university. While I never graduated from high school, my test scores were high enough to earn a full scholarship. While I was there, I made the kind of friends who noticed when the irritable urge to write was on me and who said things like, ‘You’re being a bitch, Bethany. Go write and don’t come back until you’ve finished something you’re willing to show us.’ When I finished, they read it, and offered helpful, loving criticism. I started studying my art openly, and seriously. I had very good teachers. I went on to get my masters at Trinity, Carmarthen and my PhD at Aberystwyth University where I met my husband, and greatest supporter, Matthew David Clarke.

Writing makes me feel like a real person, for as long as I am doing it, and not like something somebody made up. Writing is fun, but it is not something that I do primarily for enjoyment. You know you are a writer if it is what you have to do in order to live. You know that you are a writer if you will forgo sleep, food, or career advancement in order to get it done. You write in order to please God, please yourself, or advance the horizon of human knowledge one small fraction of a centimetre. You write because to do otherwise is a kind of spiritual suicide.

If you want to write well, you must read everything. Read fifty pages of prose for every one that you write. Read fifty poems for every line of yours. Read old things. Read new things. Read for, at least, five hours a day. It’s not impossible. Sleep less. Stop watching television. I work on my writing for a total of eight to twelve hours a day. I read (and write) at the gym. My favourite writing place is on the stepper. I set that machine to high and then let her rip. This enables me to sink into my work, to lose myself totally. Sometimes, I forget where I am and look up, inky and confused; wondering where all that time went. Then I go home and get to work editing. I’ve drafted all of my books at my local gym. It takes me less time to draft than it does to edit. I read one novel and one collection a day. Text books take me a little bit longer, but I read them too. I favour psychology, art history, and biology.

Lately, I’ve become very interested in forms. My last two books (Crown of Thorns, Oneiros Books 2013, and Undisturbed Circles, Lapwing 2014) are composed of sonnet crowns with acrostics. The sonnets in Crown of Thorns are very loose in terms of structure. They vary from eleven to fourteen syllables per line and are augmented by an acrostic that runs the length of the left margin. They are autobiographical and deal with my family life and my time in the orphanage. The crowns in Undisturbed circles are much more structurally complex. Here is an example, taken from the form key at the beginning of the book:

The Labyrinth is a heroic sonnet crown. This piece is technically intricate. Each sonnet is prefaced by a brief narrative prose-poem that I used to set the tone for the grouping. The sonnets themselves are enhanced by 28-character double-acrostics that runs down the left hand margin and continues down the right hand side of the lines. There are fifteen acrostics for fifteen sections and, taken together, they form a poem that contributes to the narrative. The first fourteen poems end with the same line, drawing the reader further into the story. Since this is a heroic crown of sonnets, the final sonnet is constructed of the first lines of the previous sonnets, laid out in order. Each sonnet is followed by a 5×5 (five lines of five syllables) that tells a dreamlike parallel narrative. ‘The Labyrinth’ is a map of my mind; not all of it, of course, but it hits a few of the highlights. A poem from Undisturbed Circles can be found here.

I am interested in form because I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and a pretty bad case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Both conditions are very ritualistic, in terms of symptoms, very structured and limiting, but they shape my thoughts in such a way that I can see things about the world that other people seem to miss. I am interested in the odd freedom that can be found inside of a prison. We are limited by our brains, our histories, and our cultures, but somehow, as a species, we manage to bring beauty out of those rusty old traps. Strict adherence to form allows me to generate a sense of myth, and an intensity that my free-verse poems never allowed. I do not think that poetry can ever be ‘safe’ or conventionally acceptable and still remain true. Truth is dangerous. Form is dangerous; the temptation is to allow the form to overwhelm the narrative. The goal is to create a narrative that disguises the form, so that deeper levels of meaning are present for those who want to dig them out, but are not necessary in order to read or enjoy the text. Challenge is a thrill for some people – myself included.

Lately, I have been working on a series of acrostic sestinas and acrostic sestina crowns. The acrostics run down the left hand margin. I am interested in the obsessive tone that the sestina demands, and I would very much like to use one to create a working, fluid narrative. Currently, my pet project is an acrostic sestina cycle that re-tells the story of Job. You can see an example of one of my acrostic sestinas on Ink, Sweat, and Tears. 

More examples of my work are available, should you be interested, on my website:

About the Autor

Bethany W Pope is an LBA winning author, and a finalist for the Faulkner-Wisdom Awards, the Cinnamon Press Novel competition, and the Ink, Sweat and Tears poetry commission, placed third in the Bare Fiction Poetry Competition and she was recently highly commended in this year’s Poetry London Competition. She was recently nominated for the 2014 Pushcart Prize. She received her PhD from Aberystwyth University’s Creative Writing program, and her MA from the University of Wales Trinity St David. She has published several collections of poetry: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012) Crown of Thorns, (Oneiros Books, 2013), and The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), and Undisturbed Circles (Lapwing, 2014). Her first novel, Masque, shall be published by Seren in 2016. Her work has appeared in: Anon; Art Times; Ampersand; The Galway Review; The Prague Review; Sentinel Quarterly; The Delinquent; De/Tached; The Writer’s Hub; The Blue Max Review; Envoi; Poetry London; New Welsh Review; Poetry Review Salzburg; Sentinel Literary Quarterly; Every Day Poems; The Brooklyn Voice; And Other Poems; Magma; The Prague Review; Words & Music; Music & Literature; The Coffin Factory; The Quarterly Conversation; Tribe; Turbulence; Tears in the Fence; Ink, Sweat and Tears; Bone Orchard; Acumen, The Antigonish Review, Bare Fiction, The Broadsheet, Ariadne’s Thread, The Black Light Engine Room, The Lampeter Review London Grip and Planet. Her work is due to appear in the following anthologies: The Poet’s Quest for God (Eyewear), Gothic Anthology (Parthian Books), and Raving Beauties (Bloodaxe Books).

William Humphreys – Guest Blogger

Written on February 25th, 2014 by adminno shouts

Poet Will Humphreys

Will shares some of his thoughts, on writing his collection, in a fluid lyrical way.

“I can’t tell you what’s in my head. If I did you’d never feel safe sleeping next to me again”, She said…

Relationships, to me, are like trees. You start with a seed and feed it. It grows and puts down roots and pushes branches into the air of life. Some of those branches become the core that holds everything together, they are the fundamental rules, boundaries, and emotions that help you weather the storms.

Some times branches break, because they are moving in the wrong direction and are not feeding the rest of the tree. This is natural attrition and a healthy part of growth. Other branches, the fundamental rules branches are there to help you weather the hardest storms and keep you true, safe and healthy – ready to grow new branches when the sun arrives again.

In my experience relationships can’t always recover from a storm that breaks one of these core branches. Oh, you might fix it back in place, brace it and the bark will heal, but underneath it will never be as strong as it was before. It will always be the first to snap when tension is placed upon it.

I remember with vivid clarity the first time I fell in love. At least what I believed was love, in terms that any normal twelve year old can understand. She was a year older than me, which at that age, is a huge gap; especially as she was a well travelled and highly educated girl who knew exactly what she wanted. Way out of my league!

She was thirteen. Long red hair, pale complexion with the most delicate freckles, strawberry coloured lips, skinny legs that poked out of a mini skirt made out of different coloured suede patches; and one lung.

I never found out the true reason for the missing lung as she like to joke about it, but I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t torn out during a shark attack; which was one of the many stories she told.

For one glorious summer I followed her around like a lost kitten. Eager to hear every word she uttered and to look at her all day long. Having been staying with her pen-friend, who lived in the next road, I was utterly crushed, when summer holidays came to a close and she waved goodbye, as she was driven off to the airport.

For the next three decades I made my way through life and loves. Sometimes stopping for a while and sometimes not. Sometimes knowing I had to move on, and sometimes being moved on, when I desperately needed to stay. There were also times when love was taken from me far too soon, and I never got to find out if there was more. Life is not something you can control. All you can do is learn how to manage yourself, within life.

I learned a lot about what love really is, and what it is not. And I learned most of all that love is something that can only be experienced, never taught and is nothing to do with ‘you’ but everything to do with the person that is the focus of your feelings.

Throughout those years, I wrote about my feelings and experiences. Sometimes using reams of paper through long sleepless weeks of angst. Sometimes it was a brief note on a napkin, while sipping a coffee. It was my expression of feelings, my self-analysis, my efforts to understand and my exorcism, all rolled into one.

I kept my scribbling’s, all of them. I don’t recall making a conscious decision to do so, and it seemed to happen by itself.

“I can’t tell you what’s in my head. If I did you’d never feel safe sleeping next to me again”, She said.….

That was the moment, when in my mid forties, I suddenly realised the relationship I was in, was never going to work. The reality and inevitable outcome had been pasted to walls, doors ceilings and windows all around me, for a year or more. But my heart chose to ignore the signs.

So, as does typically happen in these circumstances, life pops up and gives you a seriously solid lesson to learn. One that you can’t ignore and cant walk away from. One that breaks a branch that you believed in your heart was unbreakable. It does this to bring you to the point of realisation and to urge you into action. Self-preservation, to be precise.

You see, we can want something so bad, that it clouds all evidence telling us this isn’t it. Once this relationship ended and still reeling from the highly emotional and painful way they frequently end, I made a promise to myself. Never again would I get into a long-term relationship, and definitely never again would I marry.

That, was the pain talking.

After a few months, I found by accident in the attic, a large box. Contained within were the scribbling’s. Diaries, notebooks, bits of paper, cards and all manner of items with emotions written all over them.

Several days, and many bottles of wine later I had read through the lot. The memories flooded back. The happy times, the pain, the laughter and tears, were all in there. Also the beauty, the learning’s, those once in a lifetime experiences that my busy mind had placed into the darkest corners. Lost and found.

Something happened to me after reading the words I had written. I reached an understanding about myself. I decide that love was something that had given me so much, both the good and the bad, that I could never exclude it from my world.

SO, I made a pact with my head and heart. We decided together, once we had healed properly from the last eclipse, that we would go forth with an open mind and an open heart – as wide and free as we knew how. We would challenge the world to bring to us the most outstanding love that had ever been and to embrace it and enrobe ourselves with it, because whatever it brought with it, good and bad, it would give us more of life than anything else could.

As a mark of my commitment, I decide to write up all my notes, prose and poetry and publish them in a book. For all to see. Not for self vanity, but to share with people the things I had experienced, and to state categorically in its final page, that no matter what, I would keep my heart open to the feelings that had fed my life and the opportunity to love again.

The resulting book was Longing, Love, Loss and Beyond. It contains a reality that I have found resonates with others. People have told me that they have found things in my words that deeply meant something to them. And for this I am most humbled. I keep writing and know I always will. It is part of me and it is a good thing.

Little did I know, that not many years later, I would be guided through seemingly disastrous circumstances, to a love that was like nothing I had ever experienced before. But that, as they say, is another story…….

For those of you in Cheltenham, Waterstones is currently offering this wonderful book.

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Lyrical Challenges – Tips To Write Song Lyrics

Written on February 10th, 2014 by adminno shouts

Mike Dixon

About Mike

The Goal is to Have a Goal

First things first. When setting a lyric challenge having a goal is the key. If you’ve got no reason to write a song you won’t get a word written down. Often the reason is heartbreak or sitting there bored with your guitar in hand and happening upon something to explore. Setting a goal with a song challenge is a more proactive way of writing songs.

Once you have a goal you have something to work towards, whether it’s write one song by the end of the day, or write a song a day.

A Creative Goal

The next thing is to have a goal that inspires some interesting creative angles. It’s very easy to become stale in musical style and lyrical theme, something to put your outside your comfort zone, but also something to make you take different approaches to those you’d would normally take.

For instance, a title for a song normally doesn’t come to mind till you’ve written a song. Start with a handful of titles, pick one and and explore what it could mean. “See you on the other side of goodbye” – Could be about the end of a relationship, or it could be about what happens after a relationship has ended and lovers want to remain friends. Or it could be about someone dying and the morning process.

Your Starter For 10

Ok so there’s a few suggestions for lyrical challenges to get your started

  1. Title Ideas – Lists 10 potential song titles (and lyrics) per day
  2. Write a Reply – Find a favourite song and write a reply song
  3. A novel idea – Try and capture the main theme of a favourite character in a novel in a song
  4. 5 Minute Rush – A great way to quiet your inner critic set a timer and write as much of a song as you can in 5 minutes.
  5. Change Position – If you’re songs are normally written in the first person, or normally from a narrator’s point of view then switch it up. Force yourself to use another perspective.
  6. One a Day – Similar to some bloggers, taking a 30 day challenge of a song. Write one song a day for 30 days. It doesn’t have to be a good song. But the act of writing every day will encourage your brain to generate more lyrics all the time and doing anything for 30 days in a row is a great way of starting to form a habit.

Take Advantage Of Your Little Thoughts

Whilst this doesn’t quite fit in as a challenge, I implore every lyricist to buy some of these soft pocket notebooks and carrying one of these very pocketable pen and take them absolutely everywhere with you! The times when I’ve written the most lyrics are the times when I’m most idea and my brain has time to wander.

I might have a few minutes on a bus or a tube and my mind idly wanders through one thought or another, maybe driven by what I see in front of me, or maybe I’m lost in my own mind. But then BAM! I’m hit but a beautiful turn of phrase or way of perceiving something that I’d not thought of before. If I can capture that right there and then I have a chance of working it into a song. Otherwise it’s gone forever!

I’ve tried to mimic this spontaneous note taking using my ever-present smart phone instead. However there’s something so unforgiving about typing text into a phone that means I lose the meaning almost as much as if I’d never written it down at all.

Good luck with your lyric writing!

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Poetry and Me – Guest Blogger

Written on February 5th, 2014 by adminno shouts

Mab Jones


Mab Jones is the first ever Resident Poet in the National Botanic Garden of Wales. She is a comic, social media tartlet, event organiser, and all-round ‘litrepreneur’. Her “delightful comic verse, articulate and imaginative” (Three Weeks) has graced nearly 700 stages all over the UK, as well as in the USA and Japan. Her latest project, Dylan’s Angels, is currently accepting bookings, and her first poetry collection is due out this autumn. Find out more at

When I was a child, I wanted to be an artist. I drew pictures all the time, constantly, scribbling in all my exercise books, and asking for ‘drawing stuff’ every birthday and Christmas. However, I was also an avid reader, and fancied myself a writer – age about 10 I asked for a typewriter from Santa, and I got my wish. I never really wrote anything, though. All my energy went into drawing, I rested by reading, and the stories I absorbed seemed to inspire my imagination and make me draw even more… I loved books like ‘Tale of a One-Way Street and other stories‘, with beautiful text (Joan Aiken) and illustrations (Jan Pienkowski). Much later, I wrote my MA dissertation on the relationship between Dickens and his illustrators, in particular George Cruikshank, and my aim one day is to create something that I both write and draw. I’d like to work with an illustrator, of course. But I do greatly admire poets such as John Hegley and Phill Jupitus, who can do both.

In any case, I then won an assisted place to go to what some say is the best school in Wales – Howell’s School in Llandaf. My local school, the one I should have gone to, was widely considered to be the worst (Glan Ely). The contrast between my school life (school song written by Rudyard Kipling, royal visits, lacrosse and tennis, etc.) contrasted greatly with my working class home life. It created a posh/chav dichotomy in my character, which you can see in my poems/performance. Actually, I dislike both of those words, but I enjoy using the fact I can appear both very upper class and as common as muck in what I do. And, I like entertaining people, but I also can’t seem to help addressing serious concerns and trying to make people think.

When I got to high school, I happened to see a display of GCSE level art in my first week, and I suddenly felt like I didn’t want to be an artist any more. I realised in one sinking instant that the level I had been taught at so far meant I wasn’t as good as the girls here, and I would probably never be as good. I think now that this was a silly thing to think, because if I had been determined I could have caught up and made myself improve. But, at the time, I compared myself, with much older girls actually, and gave up on that idea altogether.

After that, I just wanted to be a writer. I still love art, though, and I am okay at drawing. But, I focused on the other thing, especially after the age of 13 when I got 90% in the English exam, coming top in the year, and I realised I had some sort of talent with words. My parents didn’t notice that I had come top. I felt ignored at home, but I was lucky in that I always had one teacher at every school I went to who singled me out and made it their mission to encourage me. These teachers were always female. In Howell’s, it was a woman called Mrs Maylin, who most of the other girls hated, because she was so strict. I liked this, however, because it made me work harder. I found it quite easy to coast along, generally achieving a ‘B’ level in most subjects, without ever doing much work. I never revised for exams, for instance. But, I did revise for English, because I loved it, and because the teacher made me want to do well, and as a result I always did.

However, I only wanted to be a poet very recently. I thought I would end up a novelist, especially because I consumed the things when I was younger. It was only when I was 29, and had received a new writers’ bursary from Literature Wales, giving me time to write, that I started penning little poems, as a bit of light relief from the novel. The novel got to about 80,000 words, but it’s a very turgid thing. I hope it never sees the light of day! The poems were really good fun to write, though, and I somehow ended up doing them at an open mic in Cardiff one night. I remember my hands were shaking horribly. But, I enjoyed the adrenaline rush, and the applause, so I did it again… The third open mic I read at was run by Literature Wales, which is where then-Executive Director, poet Peter Finch, saw me, and used his powers to add me onto the list of contenders at the Welsh heat of the BBC Radio 4 National Poetry Slam. I got through, and my 5th gig, then, was in London, on national radio, and I got paid, and put up in a nice hotel, and realised there was a thing called ‘spoken word’… And so, I thought I’d continue with that!

Since then, I’ve performed nearly 700 times… I supported Porky the Poet (Phill Jupitus) at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer, with my friend and comedy partner Clare Ferguson-Walker (who is a poet and an artist, un-coincidentally), I’ve gigged in the US and Japan, I’ve headlined for Apples & Snakes, and performed at Latitude, and am having my first book out with Burning Eye Books in October… I gig, run workshops, write a column on live literature events for Wales’s biggest listings and arts mag, Buzz, do some social media stuff, organise events, and so on. I’ve collaborated with cool people, I travel about a fair bit, I have a lovely writer boyfriend called Johnny Giles, who I think is a true poetic genius. I have a very happy and active poetry life! I feel I am very lucky, because there is no line between what I love doing and what I do for a living… My work is my hobby is my life is my love, really!

However, I often feel like I am ‘two poets’ inside, one a Wendy Cope/Pam Ayres-style comic, the other more a sort of Mary Oliver/Sharon Olds style. I enjoy making people laugh, but then I have this other voice that is, at the risk of sounding terribly pretentious, more mystically-inclined. I keep writing because I love making people laugh, but also because I don’t feel that voice is fully developed. It comes from a different place to the funny one. At one point, a couple of years ago, I felt like I was under a sort of curse, to always be hilarious… Even the serious things I attempted turned out funny. I stopped writing poems for a bit, for a couple of years, actually, though no-one really noticed as I had written so many before… I had some kidney problems for about a year and a half, too, but I went a lot of changes during that period. Now, I’ve started to write more in that other voice/style, which you can see on my blog, and I’ve also accepted my comic self much more, choosing to see the ability to make people laugh as more a blessing than otherwise.

I think I started writing poems as a sort of therapy. I was having therapy at the time…! When I was a child and teenager, I suffered from Selective Mutism, but this was only diagnosed at the age of 30, after I began writing and expressing myself. You can read a bit about that in this Apples and Snakes blog. Most of my early comic poems came from feeling angry… I think there is a link between comedy and rage! It’s a way of dealing with that emotion… I feel much less angry now, and so my ink comes from other emotions. I love the beauty of nature, and I am resident poet in the National Botanic Garden of Wales. That’s one well of ink I’ve been dipping into recently. Another is the fact I am in love… Sometimes I feel bubbles of feeling come up from my heart as if they were physical things, and then they come out of my hand in the form of writing. Recently, I wrote a poem in my sleep! You can read that one here. Anyway, at the moment, I feel like I am changing as a writer, and learning new modes and means of expression.

Poetry for me is a way of life.

I think there are a fair few poets who feel this way, too. I admire Jo Bell, Helen Ivory, and Dominic Berry, people who write and read every single day; who want to spread the joy of this amazing art we could never be without, and who write beautiful blogs, share news of comps and opportunities on their social media profiles, who run events, and who encourage others to write and read and develop as well, by example as well as directly. I aspire towards that type of generosity; I like to encourage others, and enjoy putting on events and things so that others can have space for their own voices to develop. I see poetry as inclusive, rather than exclusive. Poets who think of poetry as some special, refined, highly rarefied art, only for the super-intelligent and Godlike amongst us, are not the poets I particularly like or get on well with.

As for me – I feel I am about one twentieth of the poet I am going to be. T.S. Elliot said it takes twenty years to find your poetic voice. In which case, I am only just over six years old! I am terribly pleased with the poems I’ve been writing recently, both funny and not-funny, and I feel very happy with how my life is as a result of becoming/realising I am a poet. Yay poetry, basically! I don’t know who, where, or how I’d be without it.

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