The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

Stand up and be counted

Good for the skin, you know…

As the great grumpy walker Wainwright said, ‘There is no such thing as inclement weather; only inappropriate clothing.’ He was quite right, as we found during a boating trip last weekend.

But then I had a couple of sunny days in London for the National Poetry Day steering group, stopping with my friend

Julia reads the book of the show

Ruth and her lovely lurcher Skippy. I also caught the final performance of You Are Here. It was brilliant – perfectly formed, with excellent poets Daljit Nagra, Colette Bryce and Jo Shapcott taking the stage. Three cheers to them, to producer Julia Bird and director Phoebe Stout.

I squeezed in a lovely meeting with Sarah Ellis of Apples & Snakes – always energising and a source of great creative ideas – and later headed to Birmingham, to meet with co-conspirator David Calcutt about our new project Bugged. He has sensibly restrained me from saying more until we’ve done some tinkering with websites and PR. We go public on June 1st, so you must hold your breath for a few weeks. Honest, it will be worth waiting for… unlike my short play Aching for Dick which has finally been submitted in more or less its final form. And which, of course, is not really called Aching for Dick.

Byron Vincent – ‘I’m bipolar, so I can eat both penguins and polar bears’ – has a new book out called Barking Doggerel. It will soon become a cult object, because Byron is one of the funniest and best performance poets in the UK. He’s writing a new show, he’s going to the Edinburgh Festival… so buy now, or look uncool. Have a look too at Erotic Poetry for Vegans and Vegetarians from Julie Mullen. She pressed a copy into my hands a couple of weeks ago – I washed them afterwards as it’s printed on elephant dung paper. Its engaging poems do what they say on the tin.

When you read this, I’ll be in Northumberland revisiting my old haunts (I lived in Newcastle for 12 distant years) so I have published this by witchcraaaaaft. Tune in next week for an update. In the meantime, this week’s writing exercise is…. Get away from nostalgia, which so often dogs our poetry. Instead, write about the future – in particular, your future. What will you be doing in ten years? What will your funeral be like? What will your children or grandchildren be like, if they don’t exist yet? What will old age be like, or winning the lottery?

Come to that – what will the country be like by this time next week? Go forth, dear reader, and make your little cross on the ballot paper…. this is what I’m doing with mine, and a fat lot of good it will do me in Cheshire!

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3 comments on “Stand up and be counted

  1. angelatopping
    May 2, 2010

    I AM standing up (I’m only little)

  2. angelatopping
    May 2, 2010

    New You

    Hello gorgeous.
    Your new figure is fabulous.
    You must really work out!
    You look ten years younger.
    And all that fresh air you get
    has made your skin glow.

    Your new book is marvellous
    and it’s sold so well.
    Would you like to do a reading for us?
    How about an Arvon course –
    you and Carol Ann Duffy
    would make a fantastic team.

    I set this as a new year task for my writers group last year and this is the fantasy I came up with for myself. Am still waiting for it to come true… ever the optimist.

  3. Paul Beech
    May 4, 2010

    Here’s another I didn’t prepare earlier…

    THE SCREECH OF IRON BIRDS

    They were from the third world somewhere,
    two rusty iron birds
    striding the lawn.

    They screech the parting of gates
    unoiled;
    beyond, my early retirement.

    They screech the dentist’s drill,
    back tooth cracked
    thanks to a blasted bon-bon.

    Screech the tortured springs
    of our caravan bed
    on blocks for doggy-style.

    And screech my bier wheels,
    they might some day,
    those rusty iron birds on the lawn.

    Paul Beech

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