Poetry Comps and a MOOC

Jackie Kay is judging the Larkin and East Riding Poetry Prize, to be awarded at the Bridlington Poetry Festival 14-16 June at Sewerby Hall in Bridlington http://www.bridlington-poetry-festival.com/ Competition closing date 15th April, £3 entry fee per poem. Further details here http://www.bridlington-poetry-festival.com/East_Riding_Open_Poetry_Competition_2013.pdf

Peter and Ann Sampson are judging the Mclellan poetry competition awarded through the Isle of Arran Theatre and Arts Trust as part of the annual McLellan Festival. Closing date 30th June.  £5 per poem and £4 each for three or more poems. Further details here  http://www.arranart.com/atat/poetry.html#compr

The free online course on Modern & Contemporary American Poetry offered by the University of Pennsylvania is running for a second time in September 2013. Starting with Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, the course follows American poetry to the present day.  Further details at https://www.coursera.org/course/modernpoetry

Random poetry in public places

Poems on the underground

Poetry on the Underground is a great idea – but don’t stop at the underground and don’t keep it in London.  Let’s have random poetry in public places all over the UK; the sides of buses, in bus stops,  train stations, airports, advertising boards. Maybe start a ‘pick up a poem’ campaign. What happened to poetry in doctors surgeries? I remember Dr Geoff Lowe at Hull University talking about this many years ago. Rarely, has google let me down but all I can find is Geoff’s paper on the Health-related effects of creative and expressive writing http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=1537773 and the Poems in the Waiting Room site at http://www.poemsinthewaitingroom.org/index.html They may be connected – maybe not – but both have validity.

All over towns, small doctor’s surgeries are being replaced by corporate, depersonalised Health Centres. Here’s an idea. Alongside the the bland impressionistic pictures of flowers, there could be framed poems on the walls and with the donated magazines, poetry cards. It wouldn’t cost much and if poetry is good for you then it might help us feel better.


continuing the experience of resonance…

Guardian Poster Poems is giving permission to plagiarise. It calls for the writing of a poem containing a line which has already been published. The text can come from anywhere so long as it is not your own.  Here is an opportunity to continue the experience of resonance. When a line stands up on the page, or the sense of a poem reminds you of something long forgotten, instead of putting it to one side in isolation, you can take this opportunity to play with the feelings it evokes, follow your thoughts and see where they lead you. Writing for competitions and deadlines is a useful discipline and once a month the Guardian makes a new suggestion for content.  Licence to Steal is the best subject for some time. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2013/feb/08/poster-poems-steal-line

Universal truths; the language of politics and poetry

George Orwell

George Orwell is better known for prose than poetry but the essay Politics and the English Language has relevance for poets. For Orwell, political prose was designed deceive or ‘spin’ the truth. In a challenge to the spreading habit of convoluted writing this essay calls for a return to plain English with some sound advice for poets. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Never use a long word where a short one will do. If possible cut unnecessary words and never use the passive where you can use the active.  All standard guidance frequently found in DIY poetry books. A worn out metaphor or cliché suggests lack of original thinking whereas a new way of showing (not telling) can be enough to create a poem. Trimming a poem is also an essential art. Leave a new poem for a week and the superfluous words will make themselves known.

The ideas were later developed into Newspeak in 1984; a book whose impact must depend on when it was read. Reading 1983 in 2013 is less impressive than reading it prior to the development of digital surveillance. The internet and cctv has made the predicted future of Big Brother a frightening reality while political rhetoric is more widespread than ever. Orwell claimed language should be “an instrument for expressing and not for concealing thought” while those writers dealing in lies would inevitably become corrupted.

The power of poetry is resonance. Telling ‘it as it is’ or grounding fantasy in universal experience enables the reader to recognise universal truths. In the words of Orwell, now to be remembered annually on 21 January “Orwell Day”, anything other than dealing with truths allows writers not only to cheat themselves but their readers.

Politics and the English Language is available from http://theorwellprize.co.uk/george-orwell/by-orwell/essays-and-other-works/politics-and-the-english-language/