Writing prompt – piano

Blue piano cr Judy Darley

This is the second piano to make it onto my Writing Prompts column. What it is about their keys and chords that ripples so many stories into existence?

The last one was prompted by my dad. This one came about thanks to my mum. After an evening out she headed off to the bus station, then sent me a message to tell me the following:

“I missed the bus by 5 minutes! BUT it was O.K, waiting at the bus station as I had a free concert. One of the Bristol pianos was there and a couple of students turned up and began to play lovely music. The one who did the most playing was excellent, and didn’t seem able to tear himself away. I wondered if they were there all night!”
What a magical scene. A bus station almost empty but for a 70-something woman. The arrival of two students, the discovery of a piano, and music filtering through the air.
Use this image to dream up a tale. How might the listener and the pianist be altered by their encounter?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I might publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Poetry review – Sax Burglar Blues by Robert Walton

Sax Burglar Blues by Robert WaltonA verve for life rollicks beneath the poems in Robert Walton’s first collection for Seren. Pinned to the page, they jostle in place – I have the impression of them being eager to flurry off downstream, seeking new sights and new adventures.

Perhaps it’s the tumult of years inside them that’s caused this. Walton’s debut came out in 1978, and while the intervening years included plenty of publications of individual poems and even a chapbook, this, emerging 39 years later, is the second full book from the accomplished poet.

Walton refers to the expanse of time as an effort of procrastination, but I suspect his delight in actually living, rather than pondering, is part of the reason for the lengthy gap.

His appetite for the world ensures even the most ordinary sighting can be reconfigured, and through Walton’s eyes, a man with a double bass on his back becomes a Kafka-esque “armour-plated coleoptera.”

Elsewhere, an evening’s ironing is laced with tenderness and grace. Memories redrafted are rippled through with uncommon beauty, as a teacher’s words transform into “red kites playing the thermals over the Teifi.”

Humour shines throughout, making the moments of poignancy all the more striking. In The Only Medicine we meet his powerhouse Nanna. Elsewhere we get more of an insight into his own inner life. In Man and Boy, an utter sense of comfort and safety surfaces, while in Up the Bluebirds!, an effort to please is revealed through the simple detail of a scarf that: “lies folded in the dark.’

I’m pretty sure there’s a double-meaning on the word lie – a child’s treachery perhaps built on the love of and for his father. There’s a subtle shame behind the subterfuge, but also a faint self-mockery, not for failing to gain a fanaticism for football, for so yearning to do so. Walton is a man riddled with self-awareness, in both senses of the word, and blessed with an ability to take himself admirably lightly. Just as he sees the glory in everyday occurrences, he recognises the qualities in the paths he’s chosen, and of those he’s turned from.

There’s a fondness for those distant paths, however, which shines up brief flashes of appreciation into something powerful enough to stop you in your tracks. Under Robert’s gaze, the world is full of wonder.

This never more apparent than in his beautifully weighted poem Greenland, in which the scope widens then narrows with breathtaking skill as we take in a snowbound steppe that was once pulsed with life. Robert gather us up in his wings and swoop inwards to deposit us into a moment of dizzying intimacy, beside the white pillow where his mother’s head rests and he is willing her eyes to open.

Sax Burglar Blues by Robert Walton is published by SerenBuy your copy from Amazon.

Read my review of A Watchful Astronomy by Paul Deaton.

What are you reading? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to Judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Gemini Magazine Poetry Open competition

Arnos Vale kissing trees cr Judy DarleyGemini Magazine is now accepting entries for its seventh annual Poetry Open competition. With a deadline of 2nd January 2018, this offers the perfect chance to get next year off to a poetic start!

Entry costs $7.

The grand prize is $1,000. Second place wins $100 and four honorable mentions will each receive $25. All six finalists will be published online in the March 2018 issue of Gemini. The entry fee is $7 for each batch of three poems.

Editor David Bright says: “We are open to any type of poetry, any subject matter, any length: prose, rhyming, free verse, ballads, sonnets, haiku . . . Scroll down the Poetry Open page to see the broad range of work from previous winners and finalists.”

Find full details here http://www.gemini-magazine.com/poetryopen.html

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at Judy(at)socket creative(dot)com.

Writing prompt – lens

Flying in Laugharne by Judy DarleyI was looking at some photos I took in Laugharne this summer and almost deleted this one because of a strange mark I mistook for a smudge on the lens.

But then I zoomed in a little and discovered a slightly blurry image of a bird in flight, or perhaps a pterosaur.

Flying in Laugharne crop by Judy Darley

It made me consider how easily this could create a plot twist in a story, as your character notices something unexpected or revealing in a photo they thought they knew…

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Apply to be Bristol’s City Poet

Clifton Suspension Bridge cr JDarley

Poets are invited to apply to become Bristol’s new City Poet.

Miles Chambers was appointed the first City Poet following his rendition of his specially composed work ‘Bristol, Bristol’ at the official swearing-in ceremony for Mayor Rees in May 2016.

If you live in and love Bristol, this could be the chance to rhapsodise about our hilly, creative, quirky metropolis. The winner will be required to compose 10 poems for specific events or projects and will take part in public performances and community engagement activities during Mayor Marvin Rees’ second term in office between May 2018 and May 2020.

The prestigious role of the City Poet is managed by Bristol Cultural Development Partnership as part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas in association with the Mayor’s Office. The City Poet is given an annual fee of £5,000 for the core poems.

Events that current City Poet Miles Chambers has performed at include the Mayor’s Annual State of the City Address in 2016 and 2017, the council’s Annual General Meeting and at a city twinning celebration, as well as appearing in a video for Bristol Energy.

“It’s fantastic that we can continue the post of City Poet, which has been filled by Miles Chambers over the past year,” says Marvin Rees. “Miles’ gift with words has enriched several important events in the city and I’m thankful to him for sharing his distinctive voice with us. I’m looking forward to being involved in the process of appointing a new City Poet and would encourage all poets who love this city to apply. Being the next City Poet is a huge opportunity and I can’t wait to read your submissions.”

Applicants should be experienced poets living in Bristol who already have work published in print and/or online. In addition to filling in an application form, you need to submit two poems (new works or ones already published) of up to 65 lines, one of which should have Bristol as its subject matter. You also need to include a personal statement of around 300 words expressing what you feel you would bring to the role.

The application deadline is Friday 1 December 2017. 

The decision will be made in January 2018 with a handover from the present City Poet Miles Chambers to the new city poet in May 2018.

Find out more and apply here.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

Hay Festival Winter Weekend

Hay Festival Winter Weekend montage1The folks at Hay Festival Winter Weekend have announced the line-up for their largest winter festival to date, giving you plenty to rev up your writing this frosty season. It all takes place in Hay-on-Wye from 23rd till 26th November 2017.

See how many participating writers and speakers you can spot in the montage above. Inspiring participants include novelists, storytellers, illustrators, journalists, comedians, chefs, sports tars, composers, musicians, poets, actors, broadcasters and more. Look out for Robert Macfarlane, Jeanette Winterson, Shazia Mirza, Matt Haig, Nikesh Shukla, Patrick Barkham; Matt Lucas, Catrin Stewart, Jeremy Vine, Monty Don, Jackie Morris, Gillian Clarke, Owen Sheers, Ed Vere, Catherine Barr, James Campbell, Anna Jones and Hay Community Choir, among others.

“Hay Festival Winter Weekend is now in its 18th year, blending literary conversation, immersive performances and interactive workshops, with the best of the town’s seasonal shopping and a chance to explore the famed natural surroundings in all their autumnal splendour,” says Peter Florence, Director of Hay Festival.

A new venue will double the festival’s seated capacity, while events begin a day earlier than in previous years, with programmed talks and performances from Thursday 23 November.

“Come and join us in Hay for fireside storytelling and feasting,” Peter says. “The town is decked in Christmas lights and glistening with winter cheer for a celebration of scrumptious food, glorious vintage clothing and high times. Bring a story, bring a new idea, bring a friend. Everyone is welcome.”

Tickets are on sale now. Book online at hayfestival.org or call 01497 822 629.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at Judy(at)socket creative(dot)com.

A fairytale-themed arts trail

Totterdown Front Room Art Trail 2017Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail erupts on 18th and 19th 2017 November with a Fairytales, Myths and Legends theme – perfect for stirring imaginations.

“This doesn’t mean to say the art needs to reflect the theme, but expect to see some folklore related ‘goings-on,'” says Trail organiser Gail Orr. “This year we hope to attract 200 local artists across 90 different venues, with thousands of visitors coming from across the city and beyond. It’s a fantastic opportunity for local artists to display their work to the public, and it’s also a great opportunity for the public to visit, view, discuss and buy original works of arts and crafts directly from the artist.”

Never been to an art trail? This is a great one to dip your toe (or jump head first) into. The first to appear in Bristol 17 years ago, it offers a chance for artists to showcase their work within their own homes, and for us public to a) enjoy said art, and b) get away with being nosy about other people’s décor to our heart’s content.

There’s also potential for lots of inspiration gleaning, not to mention a golden opportunity to start the Christmas shopping with some one-off originals.

Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail is on from 18-19th November 2017. Find full details at frontroom.org.uk.

Totterdown Front Room Arts Trail_cr Judy Darley

Writing prompt – positivity

#Happytoes

A couple of years a friend and I wrote up a mass of cheery statements and attached them to my nephew’s discarded baby socks, then scattered them through the neighbourhood. It became part of the Totterdown’s Front Room Arts Trail 2015.

Our only goal was to spread a few smiles.

Why not attempt something similar with your writing?  Word or poetry bomb a public place to make someone stop in their tracks and think for a moment.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I might publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Shades of thought

Feature of Landscape1 by Clare Thatcher

Feature of Landscape1 by Clare Thatcher

The concept of painted landscape representing human emotions is intensely appealing to me. Stormy skies, wind-lashed fields and scenes verging on abstraction can all evoke a state of mind.

It’s a school of thought artist Clare Thatcher is fully enrolled in with her dark, contemplative layers of oil paint applied to linen or plywood.

Formation by Clare Thatcher

Formation by Clare Thatcher

“I’m a Contemporary British artist based in Bristol with a passion for painting,” Clare says. “I attended University of West of England from 2011 till 2014 graduating with a First Class BA Honours Degree in Drawing & Applied Arts, and then gained a MA Fine Art at Bath Spa University. Since graduating I’ve exhibited in London, Belgium, Nottingham, Bristol & Bath.”

It’s the psychological impression of a setting that she aims to capture in her paintings. “My work is deeply connected with a sense of place, taking influence from the idea of liminal space in landscape,” she says. “The locations I choose and the focus of my attention is highly selective, personal and resonant of individual landscape features and associated thoughts, emotions and reflections. The emphasis is upon the sense of contemplation within place.” Continue reading

Writing prompt – Story Week

Cheetham Library, ManchesterThe UK’s National Short Story Week takes place from 13th-19th November 2017, with events including workshops, readings, exhibitions and more.

The aim of the week is to make the British public more aware of the pleasure of reading and writing short stories. There are numerous short story writing workshops, short story readings, ‘meet the author’ events and short story competitions to get involved with, all in the guise of “celebrating the short story and the short story writer.”

Why not use this as a prompt to write a short story inspired by the setting of your local library, or a favourite cafe, and then find out if then find out if you can exhibit the completed work of fiction there to inspire others?

Find out what’s happening for National Short Story Week in your area.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com to let me know. With your permission, I might publish it on SkyLightRain.com.