When I started writing my second collection, I thought I was writing a pamphlet of poems about Shropshire folklore, and the way that water weaves through so much of it. That assumption made sense at the time, as the idea stemmed from my poem ‘Trickle Down’, but as I kept writing, different pieces of history and myth started to work their way into the manuscript. I realised I was working on something bigger than a pamphlet, and Shropshire was only part of the puzzle. The pamphlet that I’d been calling ‘Water, Witches, and Women’ started to become ‘Stone Tongued’.
The collection isn’t finished, but since it’s International Women’s History Month, I wanted to to talk about some of the Shropshire women (and women linked with Shropshire) that have inspired poems. The collection pulls from history and myth, so in places the line between those two gets a little blurred. There are stories I couldn’t have included if I was writing a traditional history, because I cannot reference the source material. Writing poems about these poem allows me to focus on finding their voices, rather than double checking my footnotes.
In this post I’m going to be going voice to five women (ten if you count carefully). Kathryn Garner who was tried for witchcraft, Placida who was a Roman woman living in Britain, Mary Jones who was a resident in the Oswestry House of Industry, Hafren an ancient British princess, and Ginny Greenteeth the water hag. I will hand you over to them:
Babies and poetry don’t mix. I don’t remember who said that to me, but I remember it being said, and it stuck. The dread it inspired when I started to consider how being a mum and a poet would work still lurks in the back of my brain, and I probably spend more time than I should be worried over the subject. This post isn’t a how-to on balancing motherhood and writing, but it is my personal experience of how I’ve managed those two elements of myself so far. ‘One size fits all’ is almost always a lie, and it’s important that we share our experiences openly and honestly so that others can find the path that works best for them. Parenthood is riddled with judgements, the sense that we’re not doing enough, and that someone is always doing it better. In reality, most of us are doing our best and that is enough. We don’t need to be perfect, we just need to be ourselves. Finding how we do that is sometimes the hardest part.
These are just the events that I know of – so if you have any that would fit on this list please do leave the details in the comments and I will update.
Monthly Open Mics:
Natter Bolton – run by Romina Ramos and Stuart Beveridge in Bolton.
Shrewsbury Poetry – runs the first Thursday of each month, alternating between in-person and zoom. Details can be found on Facebook for each in-person event. The next zoom is Thursday 02/03/2023 and the person to contact about details is Jean Atkins.
Poems & Pints – Macclesfield – runs the first Wednesday of each month at The Button Warehouse in Macclesfield – events are listed on Facebook
Nantwich & Crewe Writers – meets once a month at Hopes & Beams in Crewe.
Poetry Whitchurch – runs the third Monday of each month, alternating between in-person and zoom. The March meeting will be a zoom meeting and log in details can be obtained by containing the charity through the Facebook page.
Northern Poets Society – Follow the Northern Poets Society on twitter or Instagram (@northerpoetssociety) for the exact dates on this monthly open mic. It runs virtually through zoom once a month, with in-person events throughout the year at various places such as the Manchester Art Gallery, and Clitheroe Castle.
Cirque-du-Artswarm – this is a bi-monthly event and not limited to poetry. The next night is Saturday 20th May in the Wistaston Memorial Hall in Crewe. Run by Mark Sheeky.
Word Stafford – Next open mic is Monday 3rd April due to the poetry slam taking place in March.
Wordcraft – currently on hiatus – but events are hybrid!
Stone Scratch Night – Second Thursday of each month at the Wren in Stone.
Malpass Poetry – Second Friday of each month at Magpie bookshop in Malpass, Shropshire.
There is so much sky in this county, it stretches from one horizon to the other, and a string of clouds scattered like vertebra arch, their edges pink, and hazy, the sun sitting low beneath this smudged spine and in response my own joints loosen, unlock, lungs fill and grow until they are as big as this county, as big as the sky finally full, finally home.
The Shrewsbury Poetry night will always be one of my favourite poetry events. It’s where I first got on stage to do an open mic slot, and it runs every month. After moving to Cheshire, I couldn’t attend as often as I liked, and sporadic attendance turned into complete absence. The lockdown helped here as it was one of the events that moved online. What had previously involved an hour and a half drive either way, suddenly dropped to the time it took to open my laptop and click on a zoom link. I got to see old friends, and read in a familiar setting, even if we weren’t technically in the same room. I was able to wear anything I wanted to, including pyjamas and a blanket. You can wear pretty much whatever you want to a poetry event. The limitations come less from a dress code and more from the venue. Cafes and pubs don’t pose much of an issue no matter the season, while events in community halls can be a little chilly if the heating isn’t on and it’s the middle of winter. If you find yourself in an old church, or a market hall, the heating might not cut it even if it’s switched on.
Since restrictions were lifted, Shrewsbury Poetry has gone hybrid. One month in person, one month online, alternating as the months go. This February was the second in-person event since Covid struck the UK, and I was finally home. Back in a room watching poets with the people who had given me the courage to pursue poetry beyond scribbling in journals, and posting a few bits online. I was thrilled.
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