Archive for the ‘Guest Bloggers’ Category:

Steph Pike – What Poetry Means To Me

Written on April 12th, 2013 by adminone shout

Steph Pike is an activist and performance poet. Her poetry is urgent, topical and eloquent. She has performed extensively across the country and has been published in several anthologies. Her first collection, Full of the Deep Bits was published in 2010. She is passionate about the transformative power of poetry, both personal and political.

Steph Pike Poet

“For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.” – Audre Lorde

Poetry communicates intensely and directly. Every word is carefully chosen; an undiluted, concentrate of words. Every word needs to be there. Poetry engages not just with our rational selves but equally with our emotional and spiritual selves; it’s impact is direct and intense. Poetry is shooting up words rather than smoking them. So when poetry engages us it does so profoundly and intensely, and can alter our perception and understanding irreversibly.

If we read a poem and understand that a stone is not what we thought; if our perceptions of a stone are altered irrevocably, then we come to know that our reality, every aspect of the world we inhabit – known and unknown to us – is a collection of ever changing perceptions, some different, some agreed upon to create a shared reality. Everything is a fiction that we are constantly inventing and reinventing, both individually and collectively. If we come to know this, then we come to understand that nothing is fixed, nothing is permanent. And if we know this then we come to know that anything and everything is possible. And then we can believe that we can dream, and not only dream, but that things can change, that anything is possible. We can believe that a better world is possible, that liberation and justice freedom are not just pipedreams but are attainable. And if our hopes and dreams were unarticulated feelings, and we see those given shape and form and life in a poem, if they are given voice then we can believe in the attainment of those dreams and in moving towards our dreams we turn words into actions. Poetry is a rabble-rouser, a revolutionary, a shamen, an outsider, a visionary. It calls us out of complacency, out of despair and hopelessness and onto the streets to fight for what we believe in.

Poetry does not dictate, it enters into dialogue with us. it encourages us to question not only our own beliefs and perceptions, but the to question those in power. And in questioning to find our own answers, but always to ask questions; to view ourselves and our world with a critical eye.

Poetry is many things to many people, but this is what poetry means to me, and this is the poetry I aspire to write. Poetry is beautiful and weird. And at the heart of all this is love. For revolution without love at its heart becomes tyranny, and words without love become empty.

“make it political as hell, and make it irrevocably beautiful” – Toni Morrison

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Angela Topping and The Muse

Written on February 8th, 2012 by adminno shouts

Since the age of 15 poetry has been my ruling passion when I found Robert Graves’ book The White Goddess in an obscure corner of the public library. I had already reached a point where poetry seemed the most important thing I could do for myself. I’d made up rhymes and sayings before I could write, and being the youngest child by a 12 year gap meant I had peace to think and live in the world of the imagination. I’d been waylaid by the urge to write a poem about Canada when I was 11, having heard all about it from some visiting boys. Suddenly there was a poem on the page and the thrill was immense.

By the age of 14, I was copying my poems up in neat and forcing my ‘collection’ on friends and family to read. I wrote in free verse before I knew what it was called. I just called it ‘non-rhyming poetry’. I was reading a lot of poetry, and because there was no money for books in my working class family, the library was my resource. I would copy out poems I could not bear to be without into a loose leaf folder, which I still have. Rupert Brooke (not the war poems) and Wilfred Owen were in there, W.H Auden’s ‘Lay Your Sleeping Head My Love’, Louis MacNiece, Edwin Muir, and many others, dependent entirely on what was on the shelves. I’d read Blake, Milton, Keats and John Drinkwater at primary school when on Friday afternoons we could choose poems from battered ancient anthologies, to recite to the class. Later I was to discover Emily Dickinson, John Donne and Robert Frost. I fell in love with T.S Eliot and learned about difficulty, at the same time as finding The Mersey Sound at the back of the cupboard in a house my sister had moved into, and begged it from her. Roger McGough, in particular, struck me as having some useful techniques.

From Grammar school I went to university and discovered a lot more poets, though my own writing tailed off at this time. I was studying such wonderful literature from the modern and ancient world that I felt humbled. I remember I spent a long time trying to write a poem about a Grecian Urn, after Keats but based on one I had seen in Liverpool museum. I showed my poems to lots of my tutors and was given all sorts of advice. I had my first poem published (aside of the school magazine where almost every poet I know has their first efforts printed) in Arts Alive Merseyside, but was immediately dissatisfied with it. So I bought a copy of Frances Stillman’s The Poet’s Manual and Robin Skelton’s The Practice of Poetry and settled down into my apprenticeship to learn my craft. I had also met the poet Matt Simpson, who told me I ‘had something’ and a lecturer of mine said I had ‘decided talent’. This made up for my American Studies tutor who ‘rewrote’ my poems for me, horribly, turning personal experience into stereotype.

Two degrees later, during which time I had married, I descended into a difficult time. My father died and my mother was diagnosed as terminally ill. I had a job in the civil service and my shaky confidence was under mined by a bullying boss. I developed depression and had terrible nightmares. A day to the month after my mother died I was told I was expecting my first child. I slowly began to emerge from the darkness and take up my pen again. I booked a week at Arvon’s Lumb Bank Centre, choosing ‘Starting to Write’ even though I had been writing for so long. I wanted a new beginning.

Liz Lochhead was the poetry tutor and I booked an afternoon tutorial with her and with great fear, showed her my recent poems. She couldn’t have been more encouraging, telling me I was a born poet and HAD to get these poems published. Her belief in me made all the difference, as did her advice about resuming submitting to magazines. This is all much easier now with computers and the internet, but back then it meant trying to type poems up, and trying to find the magazines. The first one to accept me was Orbis. I wrote to Matt Simpson to tell him my news, including the beautiful baby girl I now had, we met up again and he invited me to join his workshop course in Runcorn. This was a formal critiquing workshop, where I learned to edit my poems, cope with criticism and was eventually told by Matt that I was ‘there’ and should look to publish a book or pamphlet. Rupert Loydell of Stride published my first collection in 1988, and my second ten years later. Imagine my joy when I bumped into Liz again at Alsager College (now part of MMU) where she was leading a workshop! I showed her my slim volume and she ran next door to where Carol Ann Duffy was also leading a workshop, saying ‘Hey, Carol Ann, look at this! I was there when some of these poems were written! Isn’t this great!’. She bought a copy (wouldn’t let me give her a copy) and was so delighted for me.

I’ve had bad luck too: my second collection was accidentally pulped after it has only been out for a year, and my third collection was published by a press which went out of business leaving a lot of poets high and dry, so was never properly promoted. I had to give up the freelance life for financial reasons in 1992 when my youngest daughter was in junior school, and teaching occupied me for sixteen years. My beloved Matt Simpson died in 2009, after a long, close friendship in which we critiqued each other’s poems and supported each other in many ways. Since I went back to freelancing, I have published a single collection for children with Salt as well as four chapbooks of adult poetry with a range of publishers.

I have never regretted my decision to dedicate my life to poetry. Graves says in The White Goddess that some people write poems but to be a poet you have to live for poetry. Matt Simpson called me a poet a few days before he died in hospital. Until that moment I never used the word poet about myself. That final gift from Matt has empowered me.

Angela Topping

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What Inpires You – Guest Blog

Written on April 18th, 2011 by adminno shouts

A F Harrold

When Sarah invited me to write something for this blog I asked her what sort of thing she had in mind, and she suggested (as cheesy as it sounds, she added) maybe something about ‘what inspires you’? So here goes on that. The last two years have been taken up, to a greater or lesser extent, with my mother’s illness, her death and then the aftermath (read: paperwork) that follows. I spent a lot of time visiting and staying with her while she was at home, and then living in her cottage when she moved into hospital and then a hospice in order to be able to make daily visits. During her illness, when the story was still an adventure with treatments and tests and possibilities, I recorded incidents and snatches in poems as we all do with interesting moments anyway. Not as catharsis (I had friends to bore with tales of practical and emotional hurdles, and they were very generous), but specifically in a way that I thought might be of interest to a reader. We all know the difference, even if it’s hard to pin down or specify, between keeping a diary and writing for a public, between selfish writing and selfless writing. It’s primarily that the one is deathly dull (like listening to someone else’s dreams), while the other manages to transcend the personal into something at once unique and specific and yet touching on universal matters. Think of a book like Douglas Dunn’s Elegies, for example. So these poems occupied the second half of 2009, almost to the exclusion of other topics, and on the whole they failed in reaching that interest threshold: the point where I think, ‘If someone else had written this would it move me/interest me?’ They are filed away in the bottom drawer either for cannibalisation later on, when they’ve simmered long enough, or for firelighting. Come the beginning of 2010 and the story had entirely lost its adventure and had become a waiting game that dragged on too long, and with that poetry had reduced to a trickle – there was little left to say that I hadn’t already attempted exploring. Nothing new was happening, bar boredom and sick bowls. When she died in May of that year it was a personal weight lifted, obviously, but as far as poetry went (which, to be honest, wasn’t the immediate top of my agenda) nothing shifted, I remained blocked. This wasn’t a problem, per se, wasn’t troubling: I remembered a similar blockage of at least six months or so after my father’s death in 2002 and besides, I was still gigging, still writing comic bits and performance things and occasional verse and theatre reviews, so I kept busy, but poetry was stalled. In August I began an epistolic poem, addressed to my mother, in a rather rebarbative tone. It was not angry as such, but explored the more unpleasant, ungentlemanly, feelings I’d had the previous autumn and winter as I’d (as it seemed) wasted my time visiting her in the hospice. I was having to live away from home and turn down work, in order to be near her because it had been made clear she really didn’t have very long to live at all. I visited every day aware it might be the last, and as each day went by without her dying I felt more bored and more resentful. These are natural responses, but loathsome to contemplate, and I needed to tell her about them, needed to be honest with her, hence beginning this poem. (It’s the line in Auden’s The Cave Of Making, addressed to Louis MacNeice, ‘I wish you hadn’t / caught that cold, but the dead we miss are easier / to talk to […]’ that always rings in my ears.) The poem stalled though, and as much as I battered and bargained with it, whittling and adding a line from time to time, it seemed to be going nowhere. I was writing it in an ornate form of my own invention, because I’m of the general opinion the more dangerous the emotion, the tighter the jacket, in order to keep something in check, and working my way through the scheme required hard work at all dictionaries, unpicking verses and reweaving the rhymes. It was inch by inch work, and the inches weren’t advancing for a long time. I knew, however, that this was the blockage that needed clearing before normal service could be resumed. Though the poem was begun in facing these harsh emotions still fresh and half-unacknowledged, it was finished in the early weeks of this new year in quite another frame of mind. By then the fires had died down, a happiness had arrived, life had settled, but although I no longer felt any of that hate or resentment, only the deep sadness that goes on continually, I could recall them, I knew them, and still felt that recording them (owning up to them) and sending them off and out (pointlessly) into the aether, as it were, was a necessary duty. (Auden again: ‘[…] when playing cards or drinking / or pulling faces are out of the question, what else is there / to do but talk to the voices / of conscience they have become? […]’) With that duty over, and the poem complete to my meagre satisfaction (whether it turns out to be a public poem, I don’t know yet, I’ll leave it a while and sound it out with some professionals before answering that question), other poems have now begun to come, still about her (it is easy to believe sometimes that there is only one woman any Englishman loves truly), but also on unrelated topics too. And writing freely again, having that feeling that it is possible to finish a poem, is both a relief and a sadness – it’s as if that period of my life has had a full stop set down, though that can hardly be true. As to the original question, about inspiration, there are of course two simple answers: firstly, if you ask a question like that, then you don’t understand what inspiration is; and secondly, if I knew where it came from, I’d be there now, instead of here writing this.

A.F. Harrold, January 20th 2011

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Dan Cooper – Guest Blog

Written on April 11th, 2011 by adminno shouts

Bio: Dan Cooper is a graphic designer, dj, poet and one half of Gloucestershire’s Experimental Electronica and Spoken Word duo Brown Torpedo. He lives in a bungalow in Cheltenham with his dog, a parrot and two rats.

Brown Torpedo

Photo curtesy of Shelby Tree Photography

At around age 14, a couple of friends and I somehow got into ambient dance act The Orb at school, and really threw ourselves into it – listening to cassettes of either ‘Adventures Beyond The Ultra World’ or ‘U.F.Orb’ almost nightly and drawing the band’s logo in the margins of our maths books. I would try and produce my own zoned-out music by pasting sounds on top of one another in the Windows Sound Recorder. I remember a section of ‘Last Human’, a Red Dwarf novel, which I really liked and recorded myself reading it over the top of some of my efforts. I’m glad I’ve lost that tape as it would probably sound terrible… …although probably not a million miles away from what Brown Torpedo sound like today.

I had always liked hip hop. The Ghostbusters 2 rap, ‘T.U.R.T.L.E. Power’. I particularly came to relish the albums I would have to hide from my mum – Cypress Hill’s ‘Black Sunday’ and Snoop Doggy Dogg’s ‘Doggystyle’ (the first two CDs I ever bought). Timbalands work with Missy Elliot came a bit later, but was also something I used to listen to aLOT. Her first two albums are classics. Timbaland’s 1998 ‘Tim’s Bio: Life From Da Bassment’ was also a big influence once I’d got my head around it.

Academic progress at college and university became completely hi-jacked by an obsession with music. In particular Beck, who is still a favourite of mine now. Getting obsessed with Beck was like a gateway drug, Johnny Cash, James Brown, Prince, Aphex Twin, the gates were flung wide open.

My first band ‘proper’, Puppy Bucket & Donny Choonara, definitely drew on the influence of Beck and hip hop, egged on by UK hip hop (particularly from the Bristol area, Aspects, Fleapit, Parlour Talk), the emerging grime scene and the bedroom production ethics of the first album by The Streets – ‘Original Pirate Material’, also the ridiculousness of Squarepusher and Aphex Twin, elements of which we would throw into the mix usually just to amuse each other.

In PBDC, we had always improvised, usually late at night, in varying states of intoxication. My then partner in crime, Andrew (now the bassist in Thrill Collins) would play the guitar and we would both sing or rap, we would then speed up the recording and fall about laughing. After a while we would come together with the rest of our ‘label roster’ and group improvise, playing whatever was at hand – from Didgeridoos to Violins, drunkenly freestyling, beat boxing and yodelling.

In the band Ion Whistle with my friend Mark a couple of years ago, he got me more into liking black metal, doom metal and noise. Noise-wise, I’d always been kind of into Einsturzende Neubauten and bits of Whitehouse, I’d dipped my toe in Merzbow but didn’t realise how huge or prolific he was and hadn’t come across great acts like Wolf Eyes, Prurient or Black Dice yet, which I now really, really dig. Black Dice can take me back to the days of listening to The Orb on my walkman. I have since got into a lot more free improvisation stuff, whereas ten years ago I would just laugh at it because I didn’t understand it. I now think that sometimes you’re not supposed to understand it; it can be more primal or expressional. It’s the same with Noise music.

Now it’s the internet which has pulled my mind’s thumb out of the hole in the dam. Websites like and the Free Music Archive, as well as bands like Radioactive Sparrow (who have been throwing themselves into freeform mind-spasms for over 30 years now) are absolute treasure and I owe a debt to the net for these revelations.

On the more poetry side of things, Ginsberg and the beat poets have been of great inspiration to Brown Torpedo. At the start, fearing that we were somehow ‘doing poetry wrong’ we were reassured once we heard Ginsberg’s hardcore ‘Please Master’ or even read through the famous ‘Howl’ properly. Before then we would just sit in the pub with a notebook not really knowing what these things were that we were writing. We were scared to call it poetry, but they weren’t song lyrics and they weren’t rap lyrics. So now we’ve decided it is ‘poetry’, as much as anything can really be called poetry.

Discovery of Bob Cobbings sound poetry and things like the Burroughs and Gysin cutups have also seasoned our veg. Seeing videos of Marcel Duchamp or Hans Bennink on the internet, the rabbit hole gets deeper the more you poke around. I feel constantly rewarded. If I’d have felt this way about my subjects at uni, the grades would have been very different. My iTunes is now a sprawling mass of Dial-A-Poets, Lydia Lunch, Klaus Nomi, Xenakis… I wish I had bothered exploring more when I was younger… although I should have been studying anyway…

To find out more about Dan and his artistic endeavours go to:

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Let It All Out

Written on April 4th, 2011 by adminno shouts

Dan Holloway

On January 20th, I was lucky enough to do a reading of some of my work at the Literature Lounge, which meets every third Thursday of the month at the Poetry café in Covent Garden. It’s a wonderfully eclectic mix of poetry, humour, and ambience, and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who can make it (plus, from what I saw over the table on one of my friend’s dinner plates, it does a storming veggie quiche).

I was particularly struck by a series of poems read by Clare Waters. She read a haunting suite of four poems marking her twenty-five year relationship with her husband, who was in the audience. She gave a very moving introduction, about the need to talk about the lows as well as the highs, to do justice to the fullness of their relationship. The poems themselves were beautiful – sometimes raw, often moving, always honest.

For me, the best writing, be it fiction or poetry, always has this kind of honesty. Whatever the clothes we wrap it up in, which can be fantastical, historical, or set on the other side of the world, the most effective writing starts with some seed of truth. We hear a lot about the power of poetry to distill universal truths, the truths of love, beauty, history, aspiration and despair. The things, in short, that we all share but so rarely manage to articulate, it is the job of the poet to communicate.

Communication, building bridges where there are chasms, all kind of other things that sound frighteningly like that morning after the election speech of Mrs Thatcher’s in 1979, this is a wonderful aspiration. Yet, for me anyway, it is one that lies beyond our grasp. And I don’t think I really go along with that reaching for the starts and getting the moon thing.

It comes down to this. All those so-called universals, beauty, love, and the like; they are all so personal I find it impossible to find any common ground between us all. And if that’s the case, then all attempts to portray these truths will end up simply as our own gloss on the world – but dressed up as something universal.

I think there are two reasons why we continue to strive to capture things that are eternally true. The first is that there is something about art that’s spiritual, transcendent, something that lifts us out of the everyday. And the second, and I think this is something we seldom admit to ourselves, is that it is so much easier to speak about eternal, universal truths, than about specifics. It is so much easier to look “out there” than “in here”.

That’s what Clare did so well. She turned her artistic gaze inwards, and found something that really was true, and not pretending to be something else. And that’s the paradoxical thing about poetry. The one thing every human has in common is that we are all different, all gloriously individual. By focusing without compromise on our particular, individual truth, we are doing the one thing that really does connect us to everyone else. We are reaching out in our aloneness to every other solitary soul. Our aloneness is the one thing in which we are, truly, not alone.

Dress it up however you want, in strange wonderful worlds, in lands far away and times of old or yet to come, but try writing something that doesn’t look out – but in.

Dan Holloway runs eight cuts gallery and holds a monthly night of words and music at the O3 Gallery in Oxford Castle. He is the author of Songs from The Other Side of the Wall and life razorblades included

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Cheltenham Poetry Festival – Tickets

Written on January 10th, 2011 by admin2 shouts

Whether your taste is for punk poetry, page poetry or performance poetry – you will find plenty to feast on at Cheltenham Poetry Festival this March.

You can see the provisional programme (there will be some new events added over the next few weeks) at and tickets will be on sale at Cheltenham Town Hall on February 1st.

Our line up includes John Hegley, John Cooper Clarke, Rachel Pantechnicon, Michael Wilson, Alison Brackenbury, Angela France, NEW FABER poet Sam Riviere, plus a POLISH POETS showcase featuring Bohdan Piaskecki.

We also have TS ELIOT PRIZE WINNERS Philip Gross and George Szirtes, and some richly illustrated talks exploring the cross over between visual art and poetry which include Pascal Petite and The Gloucestershire Network of Writers.

If that’s not enough to inspire you we have MASTERCLASSES and workshops for the budding (and experienced) poets among you, a poetry themed MURDER MYSTERY event in the atmospheric chapel of Francis Close Hall for those of you who fancy a little sleuthing and the electrifying live literature show FLASH staring Sara-Jane Arbury and Lucy English,

The Fragmented Beefheart licks, Fall-inspired lyrical splurge, psychedelic drizzle, of punk poets THE COURTESY GROUP kick off our music programme which also includes a poetry inspired performance by Cheltenham Improvisers Orchestra and an event dedicated to THE MUSIC OF JOHN CLARE featuring Composer and musician Gordon Tyrrall’s beautiful settings of John Clare poems as well as a few of the rare tunes collected by John Clare.

If that’s not enough we also have A Tribute to Poet Valerie Clarke with a guest slot from MIMI KHALVATI plus a reading from the highly acclaimed poet Cliff Yates with music support from local legend Men Diamler.

On the last night you can help us put the party around the arts at our final night knees which features the hilarious Crispin Thomas’s Out To Lunch and The Side Dishes and BROWN TORPEDO as well as a host of guest poets!

Tickets will be available from The Box Office at Cheltenham Town Hall on February 1 – please join us in our first year!

Visual Poetry

Written on February 26th, 2010 by admin2 shouts

Peter Ciccariello’s “Credible report III”

Image by [Peter Ciccariello’s]( “Credible report III”

Visual Poetry

Visual poetry (also called VisPo and concrete poetry) is poetry in which the visual element is as important—or sometimes more important—than the verbal one. It’s meant to be seen. All poetry has a visual component, but visual poetry self-consciously emphasizes and exploits images in the creation of meaning. To many, these poems are not just literary works, but works of art.

While some claim that visual poetry has existed since humanity’s first use of writing, many see its modern Western beginnings either in 1896 with Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés or around 1914 with the work of Guillaume Apollinaire and Italian Futurist F.T. Marinetti.

Visual poetry experienced a renaissance in the 1950s and 1960s on the European continent and in Brazil with the movement known as concrete poetry.

Eugen Gomringer, “Wind”

Haroldo de Campos, “Nasce Morre”

Throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s—and afterwards—people also created poetry incorporating more complex pictures. Some labeled it “visual poetry” as a category distinct from concrete poetry. How concrete and visual poetry are classified and related to each other is still open to debate.

Carol Stetser, “Hierogram”

K.S. Ernst and Sheila Murphy, “Vortextique”

Peter Ciccariello, “Proposed monument to the language of rupture”

Today many visual poets have incorporated sound and motion in their poetry:

Visual poetry takes a variety of forms. The genre has an elasticity that leads to ever-widening avenues for creation of meaning. The links to the poets here give are just a tiny taste of its rich world.


Guest blogger Melissa D. Johnston

Her own visual poetry and art work can be seen on Artwalk

Learn more about her at Windspirit Girl (also includes flash fiction and essays)

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Silent Voice – Mental Health and Creativity

Written on February 24th, 2010 by adminno shouts

Silent Voice

There are many advantages to expressing yourself creatively. Have you ever wondered why for example poetry and art is so expressive, why it brings about such strong feelings in the person reading/seeing it? When you’re angry, upset, frustrated – or happy for that matter – do you ever grab a pen and just write it all down? A letter to a friend, a journal entry, a poem…

We were asked by WoPoWriMo to write something about the advantages of using poetry to express creatively some of the struggles faced by those suffering from mental health problems. Many of those reading this will already be poets – experienced or budding – so you will already be aware of the advantages writing creatively can bring to your own mental wellbeing, whether you suffer from mental ill health or not.

There are many studies highlighting the positive effects of writing or expressing oneself creatively to overcome difficult times – and indeed art therapy seems to be increasingly popular. That creative outlets are so encouraged in many branches of care speaks volumes to its effectiveness. An example of such a study is Mcardle, S. & R. Byrt (2001) “Fiction, poetry and mental health: expressive and therapeutic uses of literature” in the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, Volume 8 Issue 6, Pages 517 – 524; however there is an abundance of literature out there supporting these advantages.

The National Self Harm Network’s ‘Silent Voice’ poetry book is an anthology of poems written by members of the charity’s support forum. It is a collection of works, written by those with personal experience of self harm, exploring a variety of topics and feelings. It is a collection, which encompasses both the positive and negative emotions which may be felt, exploring both the despair of darker days, as well as hope for the future. As stated in the foreword, it’s a book in which ‘the reader is invited to follow a journey from the darkest time through recovery from self harm – through times of sadness and happy moments, with humour and compassion.

“Self-harm happens when we can’t communicate our feelings, when words fail us, and pain is written out instead upon the body. But words don’t fail these young writers; they deal honestly with the pain, frustration and anger that lie behind such desperate acts. I hope the writing itself has helped them come to terms with their feelings; I’m sure it can go on to help others, whether self-harmers themselves, or the people who love them.” – Jo Baker, author of ‘Offcomer’,’ The Mermaid’s Child’ and ‘The Telling’, and lecturer in Creative Writing at Lancaster University

The idea for the book was conceived from the support forum’s Creativity board, a place in which people are encouraged to find alternative outlets for emotions, through the use of poetry, words and art. Self harm is complex and an individual’s relationship with self harm will vary greatly. However the charity takes a pro-active stance in trying to help members find an alternative form of expression and outlet for emotions and believe that activities like poetry can be an effective aid in helping a person move towards recovery and help reduce the incidences of self harm.

We have seen from many of our online members how writing – in general, although poetry seems to be the most popular way of expressing oneself on our Creativity board – has helped them express some of the thoughts and feelings they never dared talk about elsewhere. It’s helped many come out of their shell and eventually express themselves (through poetry or otherwise) to family, friends or health professionals which has meant they have been able to get the help they need and deserve.

It is hoped that Silent Voice will highlight the link between creativity and mental health, in a positive way, highlighting a productive outlet for emotions as well as raising awareness and understanding around the subject of self harm.

You can purchase the book for £5.99 including free postage and packaging within the UK. Please contact us for details of postage and packaging outside of the UK.

Cheques and postal orders can be sent to PO Box 7264, Nottingham NG1 6WJ, made payable to National Self Harm Network. You can also pay via PayPal: if paying by PayPal please note that you are required to also send an email to to inform us that you have made a payment.

Adam Horovitz – Guest Blogger

Written on February 22nd, 2010 by adminno shouts

Adam Horovitz

The mantle of ‘Poet’ is a strange and heavy garment, one that can really only be conferred on a person by others. I tell people I write poetry but I am still wary of openly calling myself a poet; afraid, I think, that such boldness may drive the urge to write away. The only place I have ever brazenly admitted to being a poet was in the job centre, during the years after college that I spent signing on – it unnerved them and gave me time to look for work I wanted to do.

I have been writing since childhood. I was brought up by two poet parents, so I have been exposed to poetry and its cadences, rhythms and subtle changes for years. Both my parents put poetry in my way as a child and – as many children do – I wrote earnestly and eagerly. Unlike most children, I continued to do so. It was a line of communication with my parents. Certainly they both talked to me about my writing and, later, criticized it. When I was 21, I told my father I wanted to write for a living. He asked me – joking, I’m sure – why didn’t I become an accountant instead and keep him in the style he’d like to become accustomed to. It was, by that time, a little too late – I’d got the taste for writing.

I was subsumed in poetry, art and landscape, so I was shown the best side of bohemia as a child. I grew up in Cider with Rosie country rather than London. Robert Graves described my father as “incorrigibly urban”, but he and my mother raised me to be incorrigibly rural – “piping down the valleys wild”. I had a very Blakean, innocent childhood between birth and the age of nine.

I’m lucky, then, that I can tap into that and into the rhythms of verse that I was unavoidably in contact with as a child, as I rely heavily on Damascene inspiration to write. I am not at all keen on sitting down and deciding to write ‘a Poem’. There has to be a spark of life in the capturing of art – exercise and escape are required. This can mean that many months will go by without a thing worth speaking about leaving my pen.

That’s not to say that I don’t write every day. I do. Every day I sit for ten to thirty minutes and write a stream of consciousness. Sometimes my morning stream of consciousness pen-and-head clearences get stored in the old tea box I keep writings in, more often they are disposed of. I will, at some point, dispose of all drafts, abortive poems and notes. If I’m ever studied in schools or Universities, I have no wish leave too many signposts for students. The best path into a poem’s deeper structure is the one you find for yourself, not the one you’re dragged to by the nose.

I believe it’s essential to keep the pen and the subconscious oiled – this is why I agreed to write this piece for WOPOWRIMO. You may not get more than one lasting poem out of the process of writing something every day, but the practice will more than likely make it easier to write a great poem when the inspiration comes in the future. Sometimes commissions can open the floodgates – I had one of my most productive years of writing last year after someone commissioned me to respond in verse to her exhibition and it turned out to be on a subject I had been considering already. That happy confluence lead to all sort of new rivulets of ideas. Since November, the spring has dried up. So, like a nomad, I move on and live and hope I find another spring.

I know I can be better at this poetry-writing lark, that each poem has to be better than the last. If one relies on inspiration alone, one becomes lazy. If one writes purely for the sake of writing, one can become stale. It’s a hard slog getting oneself into the position where one might be able to write poetry that is powerful, accessible and which packs a hell of a punch. But it’s worth trying. It’s always worth trying.

Adam Horovitz

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A poet out of water

Written on February 20th, 2010 by adminno shouts

Angie Belcher on the joys and japes of producing a stand-up poetry gig.

Angie Belcher

Running a stand -up poetry night always seems so easy on paper. Select poets, invite punters. Mix. Yet I always shudder a little when asked to run a Stand-up poetry night because of my unflinching obsession with creating the best possible variables to encourage the most investment, inclusion and permission. This while sounding like a banking equation is basically the creation of ways to allow your audience to shut up and laugh, each in the right place. I imagine that most people think that this is a given, yet I spend a shockingly large amount of time worrying that this wont happen. When I run Music events this is never quite as important as I don’t need an audience to pay perfect attention to the band, yet with comedy and poetry it’s integral. Investment is a person’s belief that they have given up something so that they believe they will miss out if they don’t pay attention to the performer. This is often pseudo-controlled by over zealous compers but one of the simplest ways of doing this is to charge a nominal fee on the door, this creates a feeling that they have invested in the show and therefore they will want to pay attention. The same effect however can be achieved by having a burly bloke on the door who looks like he eats Jack Russels for breakfast.

I have often found my self in free gigs where the audience roams in and out not quite registering that the lady in the corner is doing her bestest poetry, whereby I compete for attention with the fruit machine. I wonder what the pubs intention was in having invited stand –ups in the first place. It’s difficult to feel confident on stage while the land lord of the pub makes it quite clear that you’re not quite as important as the football score he loudly announces to his punters while you’re on stage. Therefore at my gigs it’s essential that I make my acts feel welcome, often to the point of psychosis. When I started running nights I was just so grateful that my acts had turned up and that I didn’t have to fill 2 hours with me that I would practically force my tongue down their throat on arrival.

Secondly, I have a Tetris like obsession for creating the perfect physical space so that absolutely no-one can sit at the bar, or sneak off and have (god forbid) a private chat. This means that everyone gets crammed into the front in a vice- like system which means that everyone feels like they are in the front row, thus confusing all the people that promise themselves never to sit in the front row at a comedy night.

I must say though that recently I have been broadening my stand-up poetry environment. Last year I performed in a run down area of Bristol in the middle of a traffic roundabout on a Sunday morning at 9 am in the pouring rain while the only audience was a collection of local heroin addicts who were most amused that a bunch of poets had come to entertain them. Strangely enough though I found the whole thing quite liberating. I couldn’t control the variables, my mascara had run down my face and the threat of violence loomed large in my shaky stanzas. It was a hoot however and funnily enough got asked to do a really good gig in the warmth and in a proper building and that off the back of it. The moral there is never turn down a gig, unless you think you can compete with stoke beating man city 2-0.

Angie Belcher

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