Tuesday, 27 March 2012

I walk with Squirrels!

I had a great week last week! I had my first week as poet in residence at University Centre, Milton Keynes This has given me a base to work from and somehow, I seem to get more done than when at home.

It's been a week of learning, attending workshops and catching up with people as well as gigs.  I continue to learn poems for the debut of "Poetry Jukebox" at Wenlock Poetry Festival  and this where the title of this post comes from. I'm getting up early to canal along the canal whilst trying to learn the thirty classic poems that form the basis of the show. This morning, I seemed to see a lot of squirrels and as I walked, read and recited, they seemed to acompany me from tree to tree.

I confess to feeling a wonderful sense of freedom at the moment. Perhaps it's the honeymoon feeling of goinf full time but this morning at 9am having walked for an hour and invigorated by the testostorone-laden verse of WE Henley's Invictus, I found an outward expression of the inner freedom. I went for a ride on a zip-wire in a children's playground. Yep! That's right! An eighteen-stone, 48 year-old man at 9am on a beautiful sunny day, when most sensible people are settling in top desks for the day, I rode on a zip wire! It wasn't too long and the gradient didn't seem that steep so I guessed the ride would be a piece of cake. And so it was. Stopping however was a different matter! It is amazing the momentum that can be built up in such a short ride and to be literally pulled up short had a jarring effect. I just about held on and continued my walk home with a smile on my face. 

I leave you with a little poem inspired by the week's news.

Keep writin' and recitin'


An unpopular opinion

I like David Cameron
I think he's a very nice guy.
He's makes a great Prime Minister
At least, the best that money can buy!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Things you need to know when going full time as a poet

1 No one is going to do stuff for you and sadly, stuff will not do itself.

2 A lot of your day will still look like proper work, because it is.

3 Try and get 3 things done every working day.

4 Daytime TV is kryptonite to getting things done.

5 People lie. Mostly unintentionally and in a well-meaning manner but the effect is the same.

6 Some promoters, agents, fellow poets, publishers, bookers etc. are angels. Cherish them!

7 Some promoters, agents, fellow poets, publishers, bookers etc. are arseholes.

8 Never let arseholes know they are arseholes.

9 There will be rejections and disappointments but that does not make you less talented or valued.

10 That unfamiliar pain in your cheeks and jaw…. is a smile.

© Mark Niel www.akickinthearts.co.uk

Monday, 19 March 2012

What a week!

I've had a great week which has given me a real feeling of making progress as a freelance poet so... :))  It included some fantastic news and ended with a big gig on a theatre stage meeting real celebrities.

I enjoyed taking part in Scribal Gathering at the Bull Hotel in Stony Stratford on Tuesday. Many thanks to the team and the host Richard Frost as well as Open Mic contributors. A nice set from new Stony Stratford Bard Danni Antagonist and ex-Bard Ian Freemantle made for a good evening and I was pleased to be the poetry headline act to partner Harry Pane's wonderful singer/songwriter set.

One of the things that a few poets have told me is that every gig is a showcase and an opportunity to be seen and I've heard a lot of the phrase "You never know...." as in you never know who may be there, watching; you never know what it might lead to etc. When I started doing open mics four years ago, I took as my motto the Woody Allen quote "80% of success is turning up" Well that all combined to give me some encouragement as I had two enquiries for paid work after the gig. One of which has been confirmed!

The other exciting news is that I have been appointed as poet in residence for University Centre, Milton Keynes. This gives me a base to work from in exchange for contact with students and partnership in some projects. I'm very grateful to UCMK for the opportunity. I voiced a narrative for a digital media student's animated poem last week and that was very cool. I hope we can put it on You tube when the project is finished.

The week was rounded off woth the finals of the Best of Bucks Talent Show at Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury. I was pleased to do well and entertain a crowd of several hundred people which is a rarity for poetry. I got to meet the host Bobby Davro and I had great comments form the panel of Pete Winkelmann, Joelle Taylor and Dave Lee Travis. DLT stunned me with the comment, "That wasn't poetry, that was pure magic" which WILL be on my website soon!  I was very pleased to do so well and nail my set in front of a large audience when my nerves were very stretched. Congratulations to the winner Becca Hoodless.

I've also made progress on  memorising poems for Poetry Jukebox so I'm very pleased with my work this week.

Best to you. Keep writin' and recitin'


Monday, 12 March 2012

The working poet's week

So I'm still trying to find my rythmn for the working week now I'm a professional poet and performer although I seem to have lots to do and can be busy most of the day. I'm learning lots and one of my favourite days so far was playing apprentice to AF Harrold's Poetry Sorcerer in a school in Dunstable last week. Enormous fun to shout at children and see them create some wonderful lines after Ashley's wise, funny and stimulating prompting.

One of the things that is top of my "To Do" list is learning the poems for my new show which will be premiered at Wenlock Poetry Festival is just over ONE MONTH'S TIME! (Sorry for my terrified capitals there!)

The show is called Poetry Jukebox and is based on a newspaper article last year called "30 classic poems everyone should know". I'm taking it upon myself to learn the poems and the audience will get to choose which of them they want to hear and the order in which they will be performed. Easy eh!

So today has been the first day of a new regime to start leaning them in earnest! The poems I've looked at are: So We'll go more a roving (Byron); I hear America singing (Whitman); Poor Old Lady (Anon); Funeral Blues (Auden) and Crossing the Bar (Tennyson).

My father passed away a few months ago so Funeral Blues has obvioulsy provoked a few emotions as I read and rehearsed it. It's also stimulated an original poem which I print below. It's in the style of a triplet poem. This is a poem with three stanzas of three lines, each line three words long. I like this economy of words and the poem seems very like a haiku or senyru; briefly exploring a single thought.

Berst wishes and keep writin' and recitin'


In Stillness

Make my heart
part roadside shrine
to their memory,

tended with flowers
until the sting
is full drawn.

Let them shine
and burn forever;
still bringing love.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Breaking News

Ok I admit, a lot of this news has already “broke” due to excessive sloth on my part in not updating the blog for a couple of minths. So here is a thumbnail sketch on activities (personal and public) since last October.

• It became clear in October that my Dad had fallen very ill. Sadly, his condition rapidly deteriorated and he passed away on 1 November. This naturally absorbed a lot of my time and attention and I honoured most of the gigs in my diary but didn’t look for too many more.

• I did enjoy all the gigs I did around this time and I was pleased as my Dad was a performer too so I felt I was performing in his memory. I had a bizarre mix of wonderful experiences which included performing at Laughter Track Comedy Club in Oxford, playing at the Stables in Milton Keynes (a renowned music venue) and reading at the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire Community Church Service.

• In January, I was advised that redundancies were likely at my workplace. After twenty years in Financial Services, I was ready for a change of pace so I decided to make a go of being a full time creative artist using the redundancy money as a financial cushion. I am now a professional! (Yes my appearance fees have gone up!)

• Also in January, I was honoured to receive the Farrago Zoo Award for “Best performance by a UK Poet”. Many thanks to those who voted and John Paul for his continuing commitment to staging Poetry Slams and giving so many poets a stage for their talent. I am amazed at his sticking power for keeping events going for so long.

• I continue to write and perform as Milton Keynes’ Poet Laureate and a poem I wrote in support of Milton Keynes bid for City Status was sent to the Queen in a Christmas Card by the council. I performed it on BBC 3 Counties radio as part of my regular Wednesday morning breakfast show slot (104.5 FM if you’re in MK) and it turned into a piece on the website, a piece on Anglia news and local press.

So to bring you right up to date, I’ve finished “work” work and I’ve started living the life of a full time poet and writer. Early signs are encouraging but I need ideas and leads to turn into real work, so please give me a shout if I can help with anything!

The most immediate events you might be interested in are:

Best of Bucks Talent show at Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury , Sunday 18th March.

I’ve made the final of this show which is in a big posh 1200 seater theatre. The host is Bobby Davro and there will be a celebrity judging panel including Dave Lee Travis. Tickets are £10.


Waltham Forest festival of Theatre

My one act play “Being Nice” opens this festival of one act plays at the Assembly Hall Theatre, Chingford. Tickets are £7/£4


Keep writin’ and recitin’