Monthly Archives: October 2014

Upcoming poetry events – North Yorkshire

It feels like there is a lot of poetry in the air, what with commemorations: for World War One unearthing the verse of that time; for the 50th year since Edith Sitwell died; and for what would have been Dylan Thomas’s 100th birthday. Amongst it all there are plenty of reminders that poetry is not something academic and distant, but something which speaks from one heart to another and something which people turn to in troubled and troubling times.

There are many words and images which are being used to engage our 21st sensibilities with the reality of WW1. I’ve been very touched by some of the diary entries I’ve heard on TV and radio. However, there is nothing like a choice poem to prick at both heart and brain, not to mention raise the question, what would I have done?

I had always thought Edith Sitwell had only tackled WW2 in her poetry, until I was told about ‘The Dancers’ from her Clowns’ Houses collection. It starts:

The floors are slippery with blood:
The world gyrates too. God is good
That while His wind blows out the light
For those who hourly die for us –
We still can dance each night.

I am continually bemused that she is best known for ‘Façade’ when she wrote verse such as this.

I was also fascinated by the Radio 4 documentary about Dylan Thomas’s popularity in West and East Germany during the Cold War: Apparently, poetry was particularly popular as a means of protest in East Germany because it could hide much behind a metaphor (and the censors lacked imagination). Plus it was short, so did not arouse suspicions when the supply of paper and printing were state controlled. Made me wonder what I would put out there under such restricted conditions.

So what of poetry today? Well, certainly here in North Yorkshire, we are lucky to have a flourishing scene. At the end of November a new anthology will be published by called ‘A Pocketful of Windows – to Gaze, Reach or Crawl Through.’pocket full of windows

It will be launched at two exciting events. At 7.30pm on the 27th of November 2014, at North Bridlington Library (YO16 6YD), readings from the anthology will be followed by a performance of the ‘The Remarkable Mr Rutherford’ (Brid’s own unofficial poet laureate) by the duo ‘The Hull to Scarborough Line’.

On Friday, the 5th of December 2014, at 7.30pm, the launch will be at and will be accompanied by an Open Mic (entry to the event, £2). So if you’ve got the urge to perform a song, a short piece of prose or a poem, book your space and come along. Poets are far better off in a crowd!


Breaking through in a noisy world

It’s not often that I find myself musing over Bono of U2 or something he’s uttered. However, his apology for the free download to iTune users did snag my attention. He said (I imagine very much tongue in cheek) the mega-group’s action was partly due to a ‘Deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years mightn’t be heard. There’s a lot of noise out there. I guess we got a little noisy ourselves to get through it.’

OK U2 don’t have to dread not being heard nor getting through the noise, but there’s a lot of us who pour our life into our creative work who do. Inadvertently Bono had said something important.

As a recently launched ‘indie’ publisher, I am struggling to know how to promote my work without coming over as an obnoxious big-head or as utterly tedious. I recently discovered that Twitter will stop you ‘following’ people if the ratio between the number you ‘follow’ and those who ‘follow’ you is ‘too large’. I found myself in this category and put out a call for help. One recommended blog I read suggested that if this happens then your tweets must be boring. Oh dear. Another lesson sharply taken.

Bono is right, it’s a noisy world out there, and (in contrast to his) my voice is unlikely to get a massive airing. In addition, he touched on the idea that it might also be noisy inside a creative person’s head when the uncertainty takes hold. Being an ‘indie’ publisher it is so easy to lose confidence – in the quality of your work; in the production values of the book you are putting together; in your skills as editor, publisher, publicist. I am, therefore, extremely grateful to anyone who has taken the time to let me know what they think of my story Adrift which I brought out on Kindle a few weeks back. I have received some wonderful affirmations and I need to hold onto them. Listening to them rather than the doubts. Letting them chime loud through the noise.Venicepaint

Adrift by Kate Evans is available on Kindle:

A short story about five people who travel to Venice and find themselves emotionally adrift in their search for love.


Edith Sitwell – beyond the Façade

Fifty years on from her death, I had hoped that during 2014 we would find ways for more people to discover Edith Sitwell’s work, going beyond the myths (some perpetuated by Edith herself) and going further in terms of her poetry than her best known, Façade. I am happy to report, I think we have achieved this.

Earlier in the year we held a performance poetry workshop under the auspices of the Stephen Joseph’s Theatre Out Reach Festival. In April, we had an event during Scarborough Flare based around Edith’s poetry which culminated in a group poem created by the audience . In May, young people took part in a day at Woodend Creative Industries Centre organised with the University of Hull, Scarborough campus outreach. And the Poetry Society ran an international poetry competition for their Young Poets’ Network.

Then on National Poetry Day, the 2nd of October, Dr Deborah Longworth of Birmingham University gave her talk: ‘We all have the remote air of a legend’ The Sitwells, Sitwellism  and Sitwelliana in the 1920s. Fifty people attended and from the rich discussion which followed were engaged and informed by what they heard. Deborah’s talk reminded us all that there are many routes to talking about Edith and her brothers as they were involved in supporting and bringing together all the art forms – from dance to music to visual arts to writing.

Deborah suggested that Edith had been stripped of her rightful place within the fore-front of modernist literature because she and her siblings were too self-promoting. The acolytes of modernism preached that the author should be altogether absent from their work. A stance still argued over by writers today.

I was interested to learn more about the Wheels anthologies Edith edited. I had always been curious about why she had written so eloquently about the Second World War and yet the First had not come into her poetry. I now wonder if it was because she was content with publishing the anti-war and pacifist work of others in Wheels, including that of Wilfred Owen. Perhaps she felt they had more to say than she.

We have another chance to peek behind the façade on November the 1st. Chris Beevers, archivist at the Sitwell seat of Renishaw, will be speaking at the Friends of Scarborough Library meeting. She will be talking about the private woman as revealed through her personal letters. It will fit in another piece of the ever fascinating puzzle which is Edith Sitwell.

History is written by the successful

This Saturday I enjoyed myself at the Beverley Literature Festival, attending a variety of events delivered in a variety of styles. My companion for the day (who I know loves me very much) said, ‘It’ll be you up there one day.’ ‘Maybe,’ I replied. And then came the oft repeated mantra, ‘If you don’t believe it yourself it will never happen.’

This piece of folk-lore comes, I think, from various interviews with ‘successful’ people which have concluded that part of their winning formula was the capacity to imagine themselves being where they wanted to be. However, how many interviews have been done with people who held onto the insane belief that they would achieve their goals and never did? Not many, is my guess, since how would you find these people?

Don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly able to imagine myself on literature festival panels, winning the Booker, being given my five minutes on the BBC Breakfast sofa. And, indeed, probably spend several minutes a week doing so. My problem is that if I use these trappings of fame to define my success and they never happen, Bev Lit Fest1 010where does that leave me? A failure.

I know all I can do is write to the best of my ability and put my work before an audience as best I can with my limited resources. These are the only two things I can control. Everything else is down to luck and other people. I was interested that later on, the wonderful Sarah Waters during her event said her writing career had gone far beyond her initial modest ambitions. Not imagining herself being interviewed by James Nash in Beverley Minster has obviously not held her back.