new year, same old solidarity

Welcome to 2022. We kicked it off (poetically) with Yes We Cant on Sunday, and our little collective will be meeting up next week – over a virtual pint and virtual battered chips, which we know full well won’t be a patch on the real thing – to hatch our plans for the coming year.

We know there will be poetry slams, and Wolves Lit Fest, and Yes We Cant already. We’ve also chosen the local charity whose work we’ll be supporting (see this blog for how we do that). Last year, we focussed on The Well foodbank, who do so much to alleviate the worst of the poverty and hunger in our city. This year, we’ll be raising money for the equally invaluable Wolverhampton City of Sanctuary, who help and support asylum seekers and refugees locally, and challenge the hostility and discrimination they face. You can read about their work here.

Thanks to you, we raised over £300 for The Well in 2021. That’s poetry, and poets, making a difference. Let’s see what we can do in 2022.

fund-raising rabbit

Back in pre-pandemic days, when we still held our monthly spoken word night Yes We Cant in the Pretty Bricks, we’d put an empty pint glass in front of our Fund-Raising Rabbit (a stuffed toy, if you’re wondering) for folk to throw in any shrapnel they couldn’t be bothered taking home. At the end of the year, we’d add up the total of the change thrown in there, and donate it to a local charity.

Each year since then, PPP has continued to raise money for a designated charity in our region. This is made up of a % of the fees we get for running slams and workshops, along with money which is left over from our online Yes We Cant nights once we’ve paid our feature poets.

This year, thanks to the generosity of audience members at our pay-as-you-feel events, we’ve raised a total of £341.24 for The Well foodbank in Wolverhampton, who do such vitally important work in helping care for the most vulnerable and needy folk in our city. We’ll be sending that their way very soon.

Thank you all for your help in making that possible, you wonderful people. We wish every one of you a happy and healthy festive season, and all the best for 2022. See you on a Zoom screen soon!

tick tock, tick tock…

It’s just a hunch, but we reckon that a lot of you – the people who visit our website and read our blogs – are poets. Or dabble in poetry to a greater or lesser extent. So we reckon it’s worth making sure you know that you’ve got just over two weeks left to send your poems in to the Wolves Lit Fest poetry competition, which closes as the clock strikes midnight on December 31st.

This is the fifth year that we’ve organised the competition for the festival, and we’re delighted that this year the value of the three 3rd prizes has increased from £25 to £50 (1st prize remains £400, 2nd £150). As a Wolverhampton poetry collective which spends a lot of its time encouraging people to give writing poetry a go, we’re even more delighted that this year’s competition features new and additional prizes for poems sent in by people living in a WV postcode.

As with all competitions, you’ve got to be in it to win it. This year, the theme of both festival and competition is ‘sounds of the city’, and our judge Casey Bailey (poet laureate of Birmingham) will pick the winning poems early in January 2022. Tell him what it’s like where you live. Or in a place where you used to live. Or would like to live. Tell him what it’s like when the community comes together to party, when the stadium fills with sports fans, when the shops shut and your town falls quiet, or when you take a late night bus through your city’s empty streets. Let your imagination run riot. Take Casey to places he doesn’t yet know. And do it all before we ring in the new year, and 2022.

You’ll find the competition rules, details of how to enter, and the Paypal link here. Happy writing, and… good luck!!

Xmas Yes We Cant

The final Yes We Cant of the year is almost upon us, and what a night it’s going to be! We always aim to bring the best in UK poetry to our events, and we’re delighted that Jane Burn – whose work is consistently placed in poetry competitions, who has been nominated for both the Pushcart and Forward prizes, and whose collection ‘Be Feared’ is now out on Nine Arches Press – will be our headline poet. She may even bring her ukulele. We’re also decidedly chuffed that Rick Sanders (aka Willis the Poet) will be beaming his whimsical goodness down the Internet from Dudley to be our ‘Alf Ender, and that we’ll have ten open-mic poets (there’s just one spot left at the time of writing) completing this cavalcade of poetry!

Jane will also be running an online poetry workshop for PPP that afternoon (Sunday December 5th) on the theme of mythology and fairy tale. It will run from 2-4pm, will have a maximum of 14 participants, and will cost £10 per person (payable in advance). We still have a few places left on this, so if you’d like one, get in touch sharpish! In order to make this workshop as accessible as possible, PPP will cover the cost of two places for folk on low incomes. If you need one of those, let us know when you apply.

November, already?

2021 is simply flying by. We’ve one more Yes We Cant and one more helping of PASTA for the year, and we’re already up to our eyes in preparations for Wolves Lit Fest (February 4-6, 2022). We’ve a date for the poetry slam at the Arena Theatre – one of our favourite nights of the whole year, if we’re honest – a day devoted to local writers’ groups running at the Lighthouse, and a great selection of Fringe shows lined up in a brand-new venue on the Saturday of the festival.

Ahead of all that, the Wolves Lit Fest poetry competition is open right now! It’s bigger and better than ever, with more money available in prizes than ever before, new prizes for poems from a WV postcode, and Birmingham poet laureate Casey Bailey as our judge. You’ve got until midnight on December 31st to enter, and all the information you’ll need (as well as the all-important Paypal button so you can pay for your entries!) is here. Please read the rules carefully – and good luck!!

Home, Away, and all other options

Sometimes – like over the past few weeks – we’ve so much on that writing a blog to let the world* know what we’re up to just falls off the list. We’ve been busy feeling our way out of lockdown, and working out which events can safely return to being ‘live’ and which will have to stay online, for now at least.

PASTA had a highly successful return to the Arena Theatre last month, and how utterly marvellous it was to be in a venue with other poets again. We didn’t quite realise how much we’d missed it. We’ll be serving it up once more on Tuesday October 19th, when the theme for the first half is ‘new partners’. Entry to this event is free, but audience numbers in the venue will be capped at 25, so we advise booking your ticket early. You can do that here. There are an unlimited number of livestream audience spaces.  We’ll once again be accepting a small number of audio or video contributions – for either half – from people who can’t come along on the night. Email davethepitt@gmail.com if you’d like to grab one of those.

Meanwhile, this Wednesday 13th October, our latest episode of Home & Away will take place online. It’s the last of our ‘Home Nations’ events, with three excellent poets from Wales – Dominic Williams, Lottie Williams, and Mark Lyndon – performing in the second half, and the Midlands represented by ourselves with support from Ann Atkins, Anne Babbs, and George Bastow. It’ll be a pay-as-you-feel event, with money going to pay the poets from Wales. Get in touch to book a place in our audience, and be ready to enjoy a night of considerable wordcraft!

*at least the small part of it which enjoys poetry and follows our blogs!

P.S. Here’s the info on the Welsh poets taking part in Home & Away. We hope to see you there!

Dominic Williams is a poet, a performer and a creative collaborator he has performed at festivals in Sweden, Wales Ireland and the USA. He is the MC of West Wales most established spoken-word open-mic night Cerddi yn Cwrw and is one half of the improvised performance act Your Strangest Friend along with Swedish contemporary dancer Stina Nilsson.

Lottie Williams is full time mum / part time MA Creative Writing student at Swansea University.  She has poetry and flash fiction published in magazines, and has taken part in Being Human festival, Coracle Europe Festival and Landed Festival 2021. The beauty of poetry and spoken word make her feel alive!

A retired teacher, Mark Lyndon is a performance poet and singer from Swansea who has read at myriad festivals. Mark is often inspired to write about his native South Wales. He has also published two books of his poetry and has had numerous pieces included in one British and two international anthologies.

Virtual Edinburgh

Four years ago – god, how time flies – we took our spoken word theatre show ‘Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists’ up to the Edinburgh Free Fringe for a week. It was wonderful. We stood in the sunshine and handed out flyers to passers-by (some of them even came along to watch the show!), we chatted to other artists and joined their audience, we found time for a guest spot or two in other venues, and we enjoyed every minute of it.

Fast forward to last Spring and the first lockdown, and we found ourselves with time on our hands. So we decided to reprise and update the show, setting it in the framework of a Zoom event. This new virtual show became part of last year’s Ludlow Fringe, and Morecambe Fringe, where it won an award for ‘best adapted show during a global pandemic’ which is something which makes us grin every time we think about it.

Now, the show is going back to the PBH Free Fringe in Edinburgh. It’ll be virtual, of course, as so much of the Fringe is this year, and you can enjoy it at 7.00pm each evening from 6th to 30th August. In true Fringe tradition, you can even throw some money in the virtual hat if you think it’s worth it (spoiler alert: it’s so worth it). You’ll find the info about our show here. Check out the other shows in the Fringe too. There’s always some wonderful pieces, just waiting to be discovered.

Shakespeare, poetry, and you

For the past several months, we’ve been busy co-ordinating the Poetry on the Shakespeare Line project, celebrating the fact that all eighteen stations on the route from Birmingham Moor Street to Stratford-upon-Avon are now being cared for by station adopter groups.

We designed the project to have three parts. In part one, Birmingham poet laureate Casey Bailey wrote and recorded a specially commissioned poem for the whole line, and we created a video to go with it. You can watch that here. In part two, we brought together eighteen of the Midlands’ finest poets, and asked each of them to write a piece for one of the stations, so that all the stops – and all the adopter groups – along the line have a poem commemorating their locality. The audio of these poems was uploaded to the Overhear app, and passengers travelling along the line can listen to them on their mobile phone as they pass through the stations. Watch out, too, for the poems appearing on posters at each station later this summer. (and in the meantime, you can read them all here, if you want to)

Part three of the Poetry on the Shakespeare Line project starts today. We believe passionately that poetry is for everyone. That whoever you are, you can enjoy poetry and – just as importantly – have fun writing it. We want your haiku about the Shakespeare Line. If you’re wondering what a haiku is, it’s a three-line, seventeen-syllable poem. A little snapshot of a moment. And it doesn’t even have to rhyme. We’ve explained all about it in this short video.

Have a go at creating a haiku while you’re gazing out of the carriage window. Or waiting for your train to arrive. Tell us about a past journey, or your hopes for a future one. Send your thoughts to us (in seventeen syllables) by sending them to @pandemonialists on Twitter, or emailing them to poetsprattlerspandemonialists@gmail.com and watch for us sharing them with the wider world.

bostin’ blather

We’re always up for a challenge. Very often, it’s one we’ve set ourselves – we come up with an idea, get all excited about it, and since no-one in PPP is the kind of person to put the brakes on it, it’s happening before we know it. Which explains how we came to spend Saturday running six – yes, six – online poetry workshops in one day.

They were run in conjunction with the Black Country Living Museum, as part of the F Words project, supported by Creative Black Country, and were a chance to celebrate our region. Participants had the opportunity to write poems exploring their memories of our part of the world, make use of our dialect in their work, and maybe invent new meanings for words like bibble or wammel. We also championed an entirely new poetic form: the Oy-Ku (a haiku written in Black Country dialect, with translations into Queen’s English for those who might need it, since you ask).

Oh, and to add to the challenge we decided we’d create a PDF booklet of all work written and submitted to us in the course of the day, and send it out to everyone who’d taken part before the end of the evening. Reader, we did. And there’s some bostin’ work in it, too.

Not bad going for a Saturday.

We had a day off on Sunday, mind.

eighteen poems

This morning, our ‘Poetry on the Shakespeare Line’ project took a huge leap forward with the release of eighteen poems – one for each station along the line from Birmingham Moor Street to Stratford-upon-Avon – specially written for the stations and their surroundings. They’ve been created by eighteen of the West Midlands’ finest poets, with five former Birmingham poet laureates and several award-winning poets involved, and the range of voices represents the diversity and vibrancy of our region.

From now until the end of October, passengers on the Shakespeare Line (or folk simply visiting the stations) can listen to and download audio of the poems by using the Overhear app on their mobile phones. Whatever your taste in poetry – even if you think you don’t like it at all – there will be something for you. There are poems of wit and humour, history and hope, the role of spirit-lifting green spaces along the route and the importance of the Shakespeare Line in connecting people and communities.

Our thanks to all the poets involved for bringing their skill and their craft to this project. From Moor Street to Stratford, they are: Joe Cook, Nafeesa Hamid, Kurly McGeachie, Jasmine Gardosi, Hannah Swingler, Kibriya Mehrban, Spoz, Dreadlock Alien, Dave Pitt, Emma Purshouse, Roz Goddard, Steve Pottinger, Nellie Cole, Matt Black, Julie Boden, Jane Commane, Matt Windle, and Stanley Iyanu.

Thanks, too, to Fay Easton and her colleagues at West Midlands Railway for making this project possible, and to all the station adopter groups along the line who supplied the fascinating local knowledge which helped flavour the poems. We couldn’t have done it without them.

Later this year, the poems will be installed on noticeboards at each station, together with the ‘Pride of Place’ poem which thanks all of the volunteers and communities for their ongoing support for the railways, and Casey Bailey’s poem for the whole Shakespeare Line which kick-started this project on The Bard’s birthday (April 23rd, if you didn’t know). You can watch the video of that poem here, and it’s well worth five minutes (two minutes fifty-five seconds actually) of your time.

Expect to hear us talking about this on BBC Radio WM and BBC Radio CWR over the weekend, too…