Another great Poetry with Friends session at The Mission last night. No theme but we talked rock and roll, teenage years, Laurel and Hardy, childhoods, crows, Hank Marvin, education, French Hugenots, life stories shared at bus stops on Tyneside and the concept that we’re all “from somewhere else.”

Three friends shared their own work with the group and there were three poems by Martin Newell, two by Roger McGough plus poems by Ivor Cutler, T.S Eliot, Mary Oliver, Colette Bryce, Chris Harland, Pam Ayres, Ted Hughes, Lavinia Greenlaw, Patti Smith and Wilfred Owen.


Miners by Wilfred Owen got to me:

There was a whispering in my hearth, A sigh of the coal, Grown wistful of a former earth It might recall.

I listened for a tale of leaves And smothered ferns, Frond-forests, and the low sly lives Before the fauns.

My fire might show steam-phantoms simmer From Time’s old cauldron, Before the birds made nests in summer, Or men had children.

But the coals were murmuring of their mine, And moans down there Of boys that slept wry sleep, and men Writhing for air.

And I saw white bones in the cinder-shard, Bones without number. Many the muscled bodies charred, And few remember.

I thought of all that worked dark pits Of war, and died Digging the rock where Death reputes Peace lies indeed.

Comforted years will sit soft-chaired, In rooms of amber; The years will stretch their hands, well-cheered By our life’s ember;

The centuries will burn rich loads With which we groaned, Whose warmth shall lull their dreaming lids, While songs are crooned; But they will not dream of us poor lads,

Left in the ground.

John said he missed having a theme and the majority agreed so the theme for our next sesh on Tuesday March 19th is Numbers, suggested by the legendary Ken Creen.

I’ve been involved with Happy Planet Creative Arts CIC for eight months and thoroughly enjoy our Poetry with Friends sessions in North Shields and Whitley Bay.

On Thursday I accompanied Happy Planet’s Gail Curry to the Ixion Business Awards in North Tyneside. Happy Planet had been shortlisted for  the ‘Community Impact Award’ and I held my breath when the Duke of Northumberland read out the Runner-Up prize-winner….Happy Planet Creative Arts CIC! Ta Dah!!

award pic

I clapped long and hard as  Gail went up for the award. What a thumbs up for a CIC less than a year old!! Gail has written on her blog:

A big THANK YOU to all of our ‘friends’ @ Happy Planet, as well as the organisations and individuals who understand and facilitate our participation in community life. I am constantly inspired to do more and grow our little creative planet because of you all. This is ‘our’ award and you can all be proud of the part you have played in the journey we have undertaken so far in our first 11 months.

I look forward to talking about the award ceremony at our next Poetry with Friends in Whitley Bay Library session this coming Thursday 19th at 11 am.

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Last night’s Poetry with Friends was exceptional. Every aspect of the session worked. The group has well and truly bonded, aided by existing friendships outside of the fortnightly sessions. I’m delighted to see new friendships popping up like snowdrops as a result of Poetry with Friends.

This was our first session of 2015. The theme was Beginnings but we decided we won’t need to set themes for future evenings as the dialogue flows on its own.

Chat, laughs, poems, claps. Echoes of ideas and sentiments. Values aired and shared. Four attendees read out their own work. Natural links: Ruth Padel (Charles Darwin’s great-great grandchild) to Carol Ann Duffy’s poem about Mrs Darwin. Holocaust Memorial Day to Sylvia Plath, ee cummings’ in just spring to Sappho’s My Love it is spring. David mentioned the word “hipster” and Ken quoted Ginsberg’s Howl at length. This was verbal jamming..a world away from stitled conversation and “how are they wife and kids?”

Allen Ginsberg - 1979

Poetry matters. Friends matter. Our Poetry with Friends sessions mean something to us all. We ended the evening discussing bullies from playground horrors, workplace rotters via familial monsters to world stage dictators. As Tracey Thorn sings in Little Hitler: “Little Hitlers, Little Hitlers grow into Big Hitlers. Look what they do”. The song also half quotes Sylvia Plath and that takes me back to the natural links of last night’s session.


I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated last night in The Mission. Join us next time on February 10th. No theme. No rules (apart from pre-booking with Gail gail@happyplanetcreativearts.org.uk ) and definitely no bullies.

The theme for today’s Poetry with Friends was “As You Like it” although the rest of the group told me the theme was “Bring your favourite poem.”

I’d shoved a copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets in my bag but wound up sharing Miroslav Holub, Wendy Cope and Maura Dooley.

maura dooley

The  rest of the gang shared poems including  Shelley’s Ozymandias, Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, Mrs Schofield’s GCSE by Carol Ann Duffy and Cradle Cap by Fiona Benson.

Newcomer Tess shared her own work…what a delight!

The conversation covered politics, feminism, poetry and education. As a result the subject of our next Poetry with Friends on the 5th of February is “Education, Education, Education.”

(Hey! Teacher! Leave Those Kids Alone!)



Poetry with Friends, the poetry appreciation group that isn’t a class but a gathering of like-minded souls returns this Thursday 22nd to Whitley Bay Library.

as you like it two

Come and join us. The theme is As You Like It.

Poetry with Friends at The Mission in North Shields recommences next Tuesday 27th and the theme is New Beginnings.

For more information on Poetry with Friends or to book a place please email gail@happyplanetcreativearts.org.uk

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The Stanza 001

Still buzzing from last night at The Chillingham in Heaton. Poets Harry Gallagher

20150116_7073 and Mandy Maxwell

20150116_7081have started a new spoken word evening every month at The Chilly. It’ s called The Stanza and I was one of three poets invited to perform.


I shared the stage with poets David O’Hanlon

20150116_7107 and Catherine Ayres.20150116_7218

I know David but it was the first time Catherine and I had met. Great poets. Authentic, enjoyable performances.

There were also open mic slots and I enjoyed seeing “big names” on the scene like

20150116_7201Jenni “Jibba Jabba” Pascoe,

20150116_7094Kirsten “Apples and Snakes” Luckins

20150116_7195and Jane Burn rub shoulders with newcomers including my cousin Ross Punton.


The audience was brilliant: receptive, interested and engaged. I got a “whoop” after performing my haiku. That was a first….

There were free poetry books courtesy of Borderline Books, the organisation that gives books to the bookless and music from Renata and Trev.

All in all a great night. Next one is Thursday February 19th. Entry: only £2.


Thank you PJ Harvey for my New Year gift! I read in today’s Guardian she’s going to record her next album in public as part of an art installation. Excuse me as I quote extensively from the newspaper:

Polly Jean will spend four weeks creating her ninth album with her band and production team behind one-way-mirrored glass at Somerset House in London.

The Recording in Progress project will be staged in a box in a recently opened wing of the venue and has been described as “a mutating, multidimensional sound sculpture”.


Harvey’s last release, 2011’s Let England Shake, a collection of songs inspired by conflicts around the world, was her second Mercury winner, taking the prize for the best album of the year a decade after Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea was honoured.

Harvey said: “I want Recording in Progress to operate as if we’re an exhibition in a gallery. I hope visitors will be able to experience the flow and energy of the recording process.”

She will work with producers Flood and long-time collaborator John Parish to make the album in what used to be the Inland Revenue’s staff gymnasium and rifle range.

Visitors, who will pay up to £15 for 45-minute slots, will be able to watch the various stages of the process as the band work on ideas for tracks, record new parts or simply discuss how to make progress.

The project is being presented by Somerset House and the art-commissioning organisation Artangel.

The co-directors of Artangel, James Lingwood and Michael Morris, said in a statement: “The working process of a project has always been as important to us as its public presentation and here both can be fully explored and revealed at the same time.”

Recording in Progress will take place from 16 January to 14 February


No I’m not. I’m quoting from fellow North East poet, Scott Tyrrell who was read and enjoyed at our last Poetry with Friends of 2014 on Tuesday night.


Scott headlined at last month’s Free as a Bard evening at Whitley’s Jam Jar Cinema. He brought the house down that night and one of our regular Poetry with Friends attendees, Alan, bought Scott’s book, Grown Up. Alan did a great job of reading Scott’s poems out to the gang. Alan delivered the line “I am Fortune’s Pervert” with Scott’s impeccable timing. Scott will give a masterclass in poetic comic timing next month at Apples and Snake Scratch afternoon, Finding Funny. http://www.applesandsnakes.org/page/108/SCRATCH+CLUB+TYNE+FINDING+FUNNY/1296

This Poetry with Friends session was all about sharing our own work and throwing in the odd festive poem too including BC:AD by U A Fanthorpe and Family Christmas by Martin Figura. It’s the ultimate Crimbo poem! Seek it out!!

I shared three of my North Sea-inspired  haiku :

On the grey North Sea

white specks are boats dreaming of


At the water’s edge

Sanderlings play Catch Us If

You Can with the waves.

Time spent by the sea:

all our questions answered and

all our problems solved.

Poetry with Friends will return to Whitley Bay Library on  Thursday January 22nd and at The Mission on Tuesday 27th. The theme on the 27th is Beginnings.

Thank you to all attendees plus Happy Planet’s Gail Curry for a series of wonderful, enlightening and life-affirming sessions. Poetry makes life smell, sound, feel and taste better.

Happy Planet


Previously… the intriguing theme for this morning’s Poetry with Friends session at Whitley Bay Library.

We talked about cricket, caring for relatives, travel, politics and stars above Moroccan fields.

We shared and enjoyed the following:

In My Life by Lennon and McCartney

Haiku by Jemmy Farmer

Cricket (a parody of R.W. Emmerson) by Andrew Lang

The Traditionalist by Wendy Cope

wendy cope two

The Radical by Wendy Cope

Into the Hour by Elizabeth Jennings

You’re Not Allowed by Wendy Cope

Relic by Ted Hughes

Stars by Wendy Cope

Be Off! by Stevie Smith

Snow by Louis MacNeice

Special Needs by Wendy Cope

Surfer by Robert Minhinnick

Our final Poetry with Friends session of the year at Whitley Bay library will take place on Thursday 11th December. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own or favourite poems by others.

If you want to attend please pre-book via http://www.happyplanetcreativearts.org.uk/


Illness, Health and Disease were the themes for tonight’s Poetry with Friends at The Mission.

Conversation flowed between poems and around David’s conversation pieces: Sid Chaplin’s writing and a daguerreotype. Funny that as today would have been inventor, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre’s 227th birthday. Mon dieu!


We enjoyed the following poems:

  • A Healthy Body is a Healthy Mind by Dr Rajendra Tela
  • A Forgotten Life by Linda Harrison
  • The Wild Swans at Coole by W.B. Yeats
  • Untitled by Alan Maddison
  • Sixty-one by Wendy Cope
  • Five Minutes by Norman Nicholson
  • Fever Ship by John Masefield
  • Fever Chills by John Masefield
  • Geordie’s Doctor by Geordie Broon
  • Hayfever by Elaine Feinstein

e feinstein

  • Train Ride by Ruth Stone
  • Sneezles by A.A. Milne
  • The Scream by John G. Lowe
  • Two Haiku by Mike Wilkin (R.I.P)
  • A Coat by W.B. Yeats
  • Sick by Shel Silverstein
  • My Funeral by Wendy Cope
  • On Going Deaf by Anne Stevenson
  • Casualty by Diana Witherby
  • Notting Hill Polka by W. Bridges-Adam
  • Chelsea Boots by The Legendary Ken Creen
  • ‘To be great, be whole’ by Fernando Pessoa

Our next Poetry with Friends takes place on Tuesday 2nd December and the theme is Music and Lyrics. Our final session of the year takes place on December 16th. The joint themes are “Festive” and “Bring Yer Own work.” For more information visit http://www.happyplanetcreativearts.org.uk/

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