Sense, Sentences and Sensibility – building poems from scratch


I’m running a poetry workshop on Friday.  I keep quiet about poetry most of the time, but the opportunity came up (through Spread the Word), and I’ve been flexing my poetry muscles at the Poetry Cafe’s Poetry@3, Poetry at Mr Lawrence’s and the Towersey Festival recently, so here I go!

I’ll be exploring how poems work and finding your own voice through use of as many senses as possible (very possibly using props!)  Suitable for novice and more experienced writers of poetry.

Join me at

Donald Hope Library
Cavendish House, High Street, Colliers Wood, London SW19 2HR
Friday 21st February between 1-3pm. FREE!

Towersey Tales – and video


We had such a lot of fun at Towersey, courtesy of Spread the Word, and a wide variety of venues were performed at. Audience for readings between 30 and 100, participants for workshops around 30, and some of them came back and did the workshop again!

Here are some snippets of video of me performing on the Friday in the Ceilidh tent (reading, before you imagine me prancing about the dance floor) though I was tempted – excellent bands.

And here are some photos of us all doing our thing. All copyright me, apart from the one of me, which is copyright Debs Newbold.

debs sunday

Debs story telling – the disappearing pub

debs saturday

Debs Newbold outwitting death

debs sat am

Debs Newbold all around the Wrekin

debs being taught to tweet

debs being taught to tweet

david friday

David McGrath reading various tales of Rickshaw driving

david saturday 2

david sunday

esther sunday

Esther Poyer reading poems about fruit cake and homesickness, and growing up in South London

esther saturday

esther friday

paul saturday

Paul Sherreard reading poems about pencils and romans…

paul sunday

Me reading about 17th century folk songs made flesh, with all the incest and murder definitely left in. I think the audience were a bit shocked…

so something for everyone really.

Tom Banks

and finally Tom Banks reading from the Great Galloon, in which a balloon/galleon plies the open sky…

Towersey countdown #SpreadtheWordThree


So, here’s the plan: Myself and two other hand chosen operatives will infiltrate the festival that has been held in Towersey, a small Oxfordshire village for years and years, and turn what has until now been a folk music event into a celebration of the spoken word.  Watches have been synchronised, and train timetables perused.  Our cover stories have been delivered to Paul “Shaz” Sherreard who will bamboozle the organisers with claims of earthiness and compellingness and other nessiness. The cunning plan involves Agent Rickshaw “David McGrath” going deep cover and actually camping, whilst I am considering fooling the late night audience by singing my stories. Oh yes, there is nothing we won’t stoop to in our mission to Spread the Word. (evil maniacal laughter).

Towersey-headerAh-hem. yes, so, what’s actually happening is that those nice people at Spread the Word have got us a gig at the Towersey Festival over the August Bank Holiday, where David McGrath (a fellow Arachne Press author), Esther Poyer (a poet) and me, otherwise known as #SpreadtheWordThree (I wasn’t making that bit up) will perform on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday in various venues at various times, and also run workshops to recruit new agents… I mean explore the joys of writing with the festival audience.

Actually I’m an inveterate folkie so I’m looking forward to the music! I hope the timing of our performances and workshops will allow me to listen to The Unthanks, Show of Hands, The Poozies and The Home Service, The Spooky Mens Chorale, and maybe galumph about to a Ceilidh band at some point.

The Arsonist’s Demise


National Short Story Week is coming to a close, and with it all my good intentions to do some writing in honour of the event.  Having a house full of builders isn’t conducive to creativity, even when they are charming, careful and considerate, which they are.

I did however make it to Spread the Word’s Genre writing day Guilty Pleasures last Saturday. This was enormous fun, and had I not put my notebook down somewhere I no longer recall, I would now be blogging in more detail about the event… it’s probably under a dust sheet somewhere, so the introduction of my new character, Peggy Marsh will have to wait until the builders go and I unearth her.  (and at some point I might blog about the importance of stationery to the writing process – or not!) Peggy resulted from an excellent workshop on Historical Fiction run by Imogen Robertson.  Imogen supplied us with packs of source material – letters, diaries, pictures from a century we were not already researching, and asked us to come up with a character study.  I didn’t read them very carefully, a flick through was enough – Hogarth’s painting of his servants, Mary Granville recommending boiled snails for a cough, a passing reference to Dr Johnson, a snapshot atmosphere from the lighting of one of the paintings and the cacophony outside the musicians window in one of Hogarth’s prints; my own knowledge of Hogarth’s connections with Captain Coram’s Foundling Hospital (a place chock full of stories) … and it worked, but I can’t find it, so that’s for another day.

John Cooper of Bratton

In the spirit of that exercise however, another genealogy letter. This one stems from a memoir written by my partner’s great-great aunt Sarah, about her grandfather, John Cooper, who was a Baptist preacher in the southwest, and for a time kept a school, which ended in disaster.  Sarah was something of a fantasist (her version of the family tree goes in an unbroken line to William the Conqueror, skipping three generations where she  had nothing to rely on) but Cooper was a genuinely fascinating character who married three times and had nineteen children; more happened in his life than he can possibly have deserved, and one of these days, I will write a doorstop sized family saga about him and his prodigious family.

So this ‘letter’ is written by John Cooper after the second time his school has burnt down, and the culprit has been apprehended.  I image him, sitting at the desk where he later wrote sermons, writing and re-writing this letter, aware that he has very little time, but must  get the tone and the wording absolutely right, to mitigate the shock and distress of his message.

The Arsonist’s Demise

To await R- S- Esq., at the Bear Hotel, Devizes.

For his immediate and private attention.

Bratton, Wilts

23rd Sept. 1789

Sir –

I beg you forgive me, I write in haste, being unable to bring you this terrible news in person, and concerned that you receive it away from the public regard.  I wish I need not add to your already grievous woes, but I fear I must.

Sir, your Son is no more.

Being taken before the magistrate and committed to Devizes Prison upon his confefsion, he begged me to visit him in that dreary spot, with which, as his Friend, and ‘In Loco Parentis’, I complied most willingly, and lent him my kerchief against the chill in that place.  To my great horror and regret I find myself the unwitting instrument of his demise.  The child has strangled himself with the self-same kerchief, lent him, so I believed, as a comforter.

Whilst my distrefs cannot be compared to that of a grieving parent, nor to the anguish of the boy himself, believe me Sir, quite overcome at this dreadful turn of events.  Although through your Son’s actions, I and Mr Williams are now quite without resource, and indeed Mr Williams and family without domicile, the child was dear to us both.  I wish we had understood his wretchednefs sooner.

I pray for you and your wife, and for the poor boy’s unhappy Soul.

Yours, Sir, in any service I may do you.

J o. Cooper

more genealogy letters here The Imposter and One Finger Typing

copyright Cherry Potts 2010