November 28, 2007

Nottingham Poetry Event Dec 5- further news

Gareth will be appearing at "An evening of entertaining poetry", hosted by the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) in Nottingham on Wednesday 5 December.

You can read full details and download the flyer for the event here.

If that's not attraction enough, you can also get some one-night-only offers on the poet's forthcoming OUP resources on a Henrietta Branford KS3 novel from the bookstall!

A Snowball in Hull

Some draws speak louder than wins.
This is where the fight-back begins.
Away, on a four, down to ten;
And denied a stone last minute pen.
Gary, honest as he is strong,
Will never stay down for long.

November 21, 2007

Clueless In Ipswich (after Milton, Eyeless In Gaza)

A Tie Of Two Halves

It was a game of two halves.
We lost the first half 2-0
And the second half 4-0.
It was a game of two teams.
One was brilliant, fast, took
Every chance, the other was
Off form, injured, unlucky, awful.
Standing crushed and alone
After, at an Ipswich bus stop
Listening to the blue buzz,
I answered my mobile phone
Very loudly, ‘yeah we lost
Six nil, but it’s a tie of two
Halves: they’ve had it now.
We’ll MASSACRE them at home.’

November 17, 2007

See Me Live! NATE Poetry Event, December 5

Gareth will be appearing at "An evening of entertaining poetry", hosted by the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) in Nottingham on Wednesday 5 December.

You can read full details and download the flyer for the event here.

November 12, 2007

Unofficial November Poem of the Month

There's a proper Poetry poem on the official website - called "November". For those of a football disposition, here's an unofficial one. I was at Ipswich on Saturday watching my team get swept away by a brilliant attacking force for whom nothing went wrong all day. It would have been enjoyable if it wasn't for the suicidal gloom squeezing me by the throat. I blame Fontaine and his silly bet with the manager (as referenced in this snippet published in the Bristol Evening Post)

A Great Match (Wolves 1 City 1)

A match of two
Fast and furious halves:
Fontaine's goal
McIndoe's pass;
A cheeky grin
On two photographs:
Gareth Calway's face;
Gary Johnson's .... ?

(Answers on the other side of a postage stamp)

But was that fuss-making point at Wolves worth losing the next six for?

The Bottom Line
Everybody’s talking about anatomy,
obscene gestures committee,
will he,
won’t he,
Show us all his ass?

All Gary’s saying
Is watch us, we’re class.

(Or we were until everyone took their eye off the ball and started looking at Burton’s window)

November 09, 2007

Be A Writer For A Day at Dereham Sixth Form College

All my schooldays I wanted a writer to come in to school and teach me how to write. And all my teaching career I wanted to spend a whole day with bright sixth formers working on their creative writing.

Both dreams came true, one by proxy and one in actuality, on October 18 at Dereham Sixth Form College. One whole day, without any examination or curriculum constraints, and with receptive and extremely switched on students - what a great way to earn a living!

Over the years, I've got used to (a) explaining everything three times and (b) students still not really getting it. At Dereham, they got it even before I'd finished explaining it the first time. What luxury. I was then able to push on to the next level - and then the next.

My all day class was large but made up of upper sixth English literature and language students plus some specialist creative writing enthusiasts - in other words, the movers of shakers of tomorrow's language and literary world - and it was a treat to rediscover with them the riches of words on the page and on the breath. The overarching theme was schooldays and I started with haiku as the best way of distilling the emotions of first day at school in one snapshot moment, one breath of memory/ reliving. For the rest of the day, students brought their haiku up to the display at the front on post-it notes until we had a pageant of passion and pain and also, in more cases than I expected, pleasure as well as poignancy. One haiku evoked the feelings of the mother as her child departed for the school/ world beyond her with such a harrowing sense of loss but also of acceptance that I'm sure we were already reading a considerable poet of the future. And/or, which might be more important, a profound scholar of human experience.

Other forms tackled during the day included persona/masks, stichomythia (in playcript), the loaded opening sentence /paragraph/ page of a novel and the ever faithful - but ever fascinating - metaphor extensions of the furniture game. I am looking forward very much to the portfolio of 'pieces' that students are going to send me for anthologising and adjudicating before Christmas. If what I saw on the day is anything to go by, the collections are going to be that rare combination of energy and intelligence, angst and celebration that a really good and really enthused and well taught (I mean by their usual teachers!) sixth form can produce. The luxury of having a whole day to focus on this very favourable and enlightened set up for writing and to take it a bit further than is usually possible in a school or college timetabled day was one I relished and I very much hope the students felt the same. Thank you, Dereham

November 05, 2007

Abersychan School Prize Evening, Oct 25

This Prize Evening meant an awful lot to me. Abersychan is my old school, a very good one back in the coalfield day, and even though it now has a spanking new frontage facing in a completely different direction (north-facing, up valley towards Blaenafon, if my school geography hasn't let me down) and a fully comprehensive intake (it was a Grammar-Techncial school when I went and briefly taught there.) It is still the root of a lot of what I have done since.

So when I walked over the mountain in the gathering dusk from Pontnewynydd, following my old truancy trail, and entered via the old smoker's lane (now Incline Road) I found myself looking at the landscape of  my novel River Deep Mountain High. I was also almost as nervous sat with the front row big wigs facing the even bigger wigs on the stage (lots of these) as I used to be when giving the prefect's reading in Prayers or about to make my speech as Anarchist candidate in the school elections.

 I was asked to 'say a few words about poetry'. 'But I was told there was no need to say anything'. 'Oh no, I think you must.' 'I'll just say who the prize is in honour of, then' 'Oh, no, I'll do that. You say about the poetry.'

So here I was, as tense as a schoolboy, wondering what I could say off the cuff that summed up what this lifelong activity of mine means to me and what it might mean to them. And there were an awful lot of them, pupils, parents, teachers, dignitaries, including Roy Noble OBE.  Alan Brown, my A level English teacher at Abersychan and my first head of Department was one of those rare teachers who said everything that needed to be said in a few well chosen words, a good advert for the verbal economy of poetry and a good guide to public speaking for me. Mentioning Mr Brown's brevity and verbal pertinence as I took the microphone, I said 'poetry won't make you rich financially but it will make you rich inwardly and in terms of your experience, so I commend it to you'. Then, relying on the smooth organisation of the lady handing me the right shield at the right time, I presented the prize and shook a few Year 8 and 9 hands. Then I started really enjoy the evening.

November 04, 2007

Away At West Brom - Languages of Football Workshop

I don't get out much these days. But when I do, it's very exciting. My languages of football workshop in West Bromwich. West Bromwich - a big busy friendly deadpan town in between the more glamorous cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton, but usually with a better football team - was completely new territory for me as is the Midlands generally. I got the usual mixed messages in advance: a school with phenomenal results from ordinary kids, serious community education, but 'quite disaffected' boys in the lower sets, inspectors watching and needing to be impressed, the kids will love it - we think - etc. I got some of these boys (and girls) chanting and it was the loudest I've ever heard. One powerfully built lad who I installed as chorus leader I would like to have at my side on any football terrace or indeed at any of my future workshops but I'm not sure I could deal with his stentorian delivery in an ordinary English lesson four times a week! And after a few false starts there was a real John Lennon live in the hotel room moment when the Give Peace A Chance (adapted to the football terrace Give Us A Goal) percussion and voice audio veritee actually shambled into sync and we felt the power of that joyous collective noise and indeed the brilliance and honesty of Lennon's original project. (Queen did a spin off, We Will Rock You, but in the studio and with a more conventional guitar break to lift it to a climax - Lennon's version was a genuine community 'happening' with a much more original and subtle dynamic - the improvised rhyming lyric is rap at its high energy and agit prop politicking best - and it really can work in a school hall with a few percussion items loaned by the music department.) Other Year Elevens were writing about moments in life they are still happy/angry/ frustrated about (football and otherwise), commentating on their own activities as they did them - one featured a girl's breathtaking gymnastic sequence and another a simulated football match when simply walking across the room would have done for the activity but nowhere near as well! Others were given 40 seconds simulated air time for a Five Live report on a game (action-packed last 10 minutes of Mansfield v Bristol City big screened without commentary) as per real time BBC journalists. I was impressed as always by the energy, commitment and prevailing youth of the English department and also the particular support of one of the only two males teaching the subject there. Being male, of course, he also had to set me anoraky questions all day about obscure links between his team , Sunderland, and my own, assuming I think that I had leisure to think about this and run the five hours of workshops in my 'spare' time! My own face (in a BBC Points West feature related to my work as Bristol City Poet In Residence) on a giant screen behind me as he introduced me to ranks of multiracial teenage faces from an entirely different community was a moment I'll remember with some amusement forever. I felt like a comedy dictator standing in front of potentially the least impressed audience in the world - teenagers. But Monty Python's 'Novel Writing From Dorchester' satire on the languages of commentary and expert summarising was funnier - and almost as funny as the recording I'd made of Alan Green of Five Live doing it for real in his screaming commentary on Beckham's World Cup qualifying equaliser against Greece. I left the school (in my Bristol City hat) on a real high, meeting a group of Asian lads, whom I'd worked with in the morning, outside Dudley Road tram station. Like most teenage groups, they seemed to fill the pavement with explosive energy as I passed, mobile phones and other techno-stuff whirring away, elbows and feet in everybody's way including their own. But this 'gang' offered handshakes, high fives and generous wins for Bristol against Wolves ('we 'ate the Wolves') the next day. (One, more thoughtfully, predicted a 1-1 draw - these things matter) But for me, whatever happened at Molineux the next day (I was there and it was indeed an exciting 1-1 draw), this for me was a big victory - away at West Brom and very much at home.