WPL, Charley Barnes – Blog post #2

Oh, that I might be on time…

It seems redundant to say happy new year at this point, for a handful of reasons. The first and most obvious being that we’re two weeks into February and I’ve sort of missed my opportunity. The second being that the Worcestershire poetry community has recently suffered a terrible blow and wishing happiness on others – while being an excellent and worthwhile thing to do – feels a little tricky at a time like this.

Last week (from the time of writing), Kieran Davis passed away. He was a much-loved member of the Worcestershire writing community, a great support to everyone who occupied that same space, and he was also a very dear friend. It feels impossible to write a poetry update without including these details. I miss him terribly and I know others feel the same.

It was Worcester SpeakEasy last night (February 13) and although we had an excellent featured performer in the form of Derek Dohren, we also had some wonderful tributes paid to Kieran as well. I don’t feel like there will ever be enough words to do the man justice but I do feel that we’re all likely to try to find the right words anyway. SpeakEasy is one of several tributes happening to Kieran around the city, with the next scheduled tribute to be 42 Worcester, welcoming stories in Kieran’s honour and memory, which will take place at Drummonds on February 25. Dear Listener is due to hold an In Memory Of evening for Kieran later in the year.

My love – our love – goes out to Kieran’s family at this time. They are so much in our thoughts.

In times of darkness, although it often feels difficult to, I know that it’s important to seek out sources of light. Despite this blow, the Worcestershire poetry community has seen some wonderful achievements and events in the last four months or so since I last posted.

Dear Listener, my own open mic event, celebrated its second birthday with a bang. Ruth Stacey, lecturer at Worcester University and all-round excellent poet, published her new collection I, Ursula. Worcestershire LitFest and Fringe has officially opened their three annual competitions: The Young Writers’ Competition; The Flash Fiction Competition; The Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition (a favourite competition of mine, as I’m sure you’ll have guessed).

I’m also involved with some exciting plans for upcoming competitions that are available not only to those within the county but poets far and wide too. I’ll be teaming up with Ade Couper, a representative from Amnesty International (Worcester branch) for a poetry competition as well as liaising with Worcestershire LitFest’s own Martin Driscoll to convene and judge a Time to Change poem around the theme of ‘Hard times happen’. When more information about these competitions is available it will be posted right here so stay tuned.

Alongside these plans still happening in the background, I’ve also been asked along to one or two events around the county in the last couple of months too. The most recent of these being an invitation to co-judge the Annual Poetry Declamation that took place at RGS, The Grange on February 7.

This event involves every single student in the school – little ones and older ones alike – choosing a poem to learn by heart. There are rounds of recitals in their classrooms to determine a kind of shortlist for each year group and they then perform their work in front of their peers, teachers and parents – ­and two judges – to see who wins from each year group, alongside there being a winner for each Key Stage.

I’ve said this so many times over the last week but I’ll lay it in writing here: I was bowled over by the talent, confidence and charisma of these young students. They delivered their work with a confidence that most adult performers would envy and, when mistakes were made, they would breathe, reboot and start again (which takes an incredible amount of courage, I can tell you). The experience was a truly wholesome one and I think it speaks volumes for the school as a whole that they are facilitating something so fun, but also something so art-centred (this poetry event came at the end of an entire week of performance art celebrations for the school). I was honoured to be a co-judge for the morning and I look forward to hearing what’s happening next at this special institution.

For now, I think that’s everything. There are lots of exciting things happening in the coming weeks, including the above-mentioned competitions, so there will certainly be another update soon. Until then, take very good care!

Warm wishes,

Charley