The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

Carrots and chandeliers

The joys of self-employment!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a postal delivery in which a large cheque is received, is followed immediately by a postal delivery in which a large cheque is requested. So long as they come in that order I can live with it.

Lashings of lashes

A good productive week this, full of meetings with people I like. In That London (with tiny hostess Iggy) I met with Mr National Poetry Day, William Sieghart. I’m all fired up and ready to go for this year’s NPD. Sarah Ellis of Apples and Snakes met me at my London home-from-home, the Wellcome Institute, to debrief about My Place or Yours, and in a flurry of emails I had two new titles confirmed – I am now Director of National Poetry Day and Poet in Residence for Glastonbury Festival’s website, in the festival’s fortieth year. Whoopee!

That'll be the light fantastic, then

Even the Wellcome pales by comparison with the Savile Club, where the Poetry Society held its awards ceremony for the National Poetry Competition (won by Helen Dunmore) and the first Ted Hughes Award ‘for new work in poetry’. The prizes were well deserved – and if I was disappointed that the ‘Teddies’ were won by Alice Oswald’s Weeds and Wild Flowers, this is no reflection on that wonderful book. I had really hoped that this new award would highlight new performances or other formats, such as Alice’s own breathtaking performance of her ‘A Sleepwalk on the Severn‘. Live poetry now goes far beyond the work we understand by ‘performance poetry’ and new media, too, offer innovative creative formats. So I sincerely congratulate the winner, but hope this award looks at a wider field next year. Any thoughts? The Comments box awaits.

Jolly funny, that Maconie chap

Lots of events coming up: most exciting is the Birmingham Spring Thing, an offshoot of the Birmingham Book Festival. On May 29th you can sail from one event to the next, hear writers like Carol Ann Duffy and Stuart Maconie (and Jenn Ashworth and me) for £29, and still be home for tea. Not bad. I’m also looking forward to reading gardening poems with tips from Sam Youd, head gardener at Tatton Park, on 24th April at Walkden Gateway, Salford – and to a performance of Too Much Information at Hexham Book Festival on 30th April.

The shortlist for the Author Blog Awards is out, and I am not on it – woe is me, but joy to splendid novelist Jenn Ashworth. Do please take the time to vote for her brilliant blog here .

Finally…. this week’s writing exercise. Since it was April Fool’s Day this week, tell me in your poem about an example of foolishness. Indulge yourself in memories of a former teacher, lover, someone you met on the train…. or disguise your own foolishness as someone else’s. Leaving the bathroom with your skirt tucked into your knickers, walking on ice and falling in… falling in love… anything that comes to mind!


6 comments on “Carrots and chandeliers

  1. Lisa Rossetti
    April 4, 2010

    Hey, Jo! Director of National Poetry Day and Poet in Residence for Glastonbury Festival!!!!

    Big congrats!

  2. Adam Horovitz
    April 5, 2010

    It’s intriguing that, since I created the role of poet in residence for the Glastonbury Festival website, it has been held only by poets with red or reddish hair. Elvis McG, AF Harrold, me and thee. Do they need to find more redhead poets for upcoming years or can we move on now to other colours?

    • Jo Bell
      April 5, 2010

      Funny you should say that Adam – I’ve just gone brunette this morning! Thanks so much for creating the role and I’m looking forward to making it really come alive for the festival this year – lots of Facebooking, Twittering and comments here. Anyone – got bright ideas for how to use the role and get people involved?

  3. Heather Wastie
    April 8, 2010

    Hi Jo

    I was thinking of your blog whilst doing some gardening at the weekend. This is what grew:


    She foolishly dug up
    her beautiful violas,
    mistaking them for weeds
    before they had chance to flower.

    The forget-me-nots soon gained ground
    and though she will ruthlessly remove them
    when they have turned grey and ugly,
    she knows they will spring up again next year,

    as will her beautiful violas,
    which she loves more than anything
    because their fresh clowning faces
    arrived so unexpectedly.

    © Heather Wastie
    April 2010

    • Jo Bell
      April 8, 2010

      Heather – that’s brilliant, so glad to have provided the spark for such a great poem! This is the best response I’ve had yet, so made my day. All best Jo

      Director, National Poetry Day – October 7th, 2010. Our theme is HOME. Writer in Residence, Royal Derby Hospital. Visit my site Bell Jar or read my blog. Writer on Four for the Port – new plays for Chester Literature Festival.

  4. Liz Loxley
    April 9, 2010

    OK then – here’s a very early first draft of a poem about how I used to think Al Jolson was black!

    Black and White

    I grew up in black and white;
    glued to the flicker of a TV set
    before colour was invented.

    Saturday night was the Black
    and White Minstrels, blacked-up
    faces and white cotton gloves;

    I somehow knew they were white.
    But so many times I had seen
    men as Al Jolson, on one knee,

    wailing for their Mammy.
    I believed that Al himself was black;
    foolish or an easy mistake to make?

    And thinking back, I recall that,
    in the Brownies, we packed our faces
    with cocoa paste and sang:

    The sun shines east,
    the sun shines west,
    I know where the sun shines best.

    My own sun has risen and it has set
    18,000 times now, so I have no doubt:
    there is a black man in The White House.

    Liz Loxley

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