In these hard times, it can be tempting to pull back from what is strange. For poets, writers and artists, this may limit our parameters, and make it more difficult to connect with new audiences. To resist this narrowing, for the past eighteen months I’ve been facilitating a workshop for poets who address themes found to be less welcome or easy.
My poems respond to same-sex, sexual abuse in childhood, and its aftermath in adult life. Others among our group explore migration, queerness, mental health, class privilege and exclusion, gender rebellion – and our beautiful, bodily beings.
Multi-national, complexly oriented, and variously aged, each of us is also a poet of witness. Political in our awareness, we are committed to creative innovation and experimentation – and the realisation of beauty in multiple forms and tongues. Because of its subject matters, our work can feel vulnerable and exposing in draft. To be part of a community of fellow poets, who have your back, is powerful – and necessary.
Our workshop, and its network of mutual nurture, came about when Paul McGrane offered the space above the Poetry Cafe in Betterton Street to anyone wanting to set up the Covent Garden Stanza group. For me, that represented an opportunity to bring together individual poets that I had met through different classes, readings and workshops.
Within nine months, we had outgrown our first home, and moved to a free access public space. We operate a ‘yoghurt culture’ of co-creation and practice shared, collective promotion. Now that some of our poets are publishing their debut pamphlets, it seems logical to extend our conversation of difference into the public sphere, initially through two live events taking place in London this May – although we hope also to travel further afield.
On May 9, I will be hosting our free MASS PUBLICATION CELEBRATION NO. 1, at Burley Fisher Books between 7-9 pm. Edward Garvey-Long, Joanna Ingham, Natalie Linh Bolderston, Karen Smith, Jeffery Sugarman and Natalie Whittaker will be reading from their debut pamphlets, with a short ‘rising start’ slot from Isabelle Baafi, another of our poets. The link is here:
On 18 May, three of us will be performing within the Poetry Society poem-a-thon at the Poetry Cafe in Betterton Street, where we first met as a group. I’m on at 2.10, followed immediately by fellow poet Julie Irigaray at 2.20, with our third member, Natalie Whittaker on at 5.00. The event, which raises money to support the work of the Poetry Society, runs from midday until 10p.m, and features 60 amazing poets.
If you would like to donate to support work of the Poetry Society, Julie Irigaray, Natalie Whittaker and I are raising funds jointly under our Covent Garden Stanza group name. The link is here.
18 May at the Poetry Cafe in Betterton Street Poem-a-thon details here.
We would warmly welcome anyone free to join us on either 9 May at Burley Fisher Books, or 18 May at the Poetry Cafe in Betterton Street, to further our project of hearing the less welcome. Celebrate the powerful work being made by our poets – and be part of changing how people perceive the world we share.