Guest Blog from Poet For A Year - Beccy Golding
Jun 06 2022
This is a guest blog from Holly Stoppit Workshops poet-in-residence, Bee Golding charting her year as a poet, funded by the Art's Council's Developing Your Creative (DYCP) fund.
Over to you Bee!
On the day I got the email telling me I’d been successful in my DYCP application I wrote a poem.
The next day it still hadn’t sunk in:
These poems take me right back to how I felt – they’re pretty accurate descriptions. They were also the first of my a-poem-a-day adventure – I made it to a full year of writing a poem every single day, and haven’t stopped yet.
These daily poems all get written on card index cards, photographed and posted on Instagram. Writing a poem a day satisfies my inner critic who insists that I am not a proper poet unless I write something every day. Unsurprisingly my critic and I have had lots of conversations this year – in fact, with support and astute questioning from my brilliant mentor Anita Karla Kelly, we wrote a whole series of poems which examined what and how and why the term Proper Poet certainly didn’t apply to me. Here’s the first one
Now I’ve written a whole year of daily poems, I can use last year’s poems as prompts for myself on the same date – so exactly a year later I wrote this one, which I think demonstrates that I am now a little more comfortable with the idea, and am confident enough to call myself a poet.
As well as a mentor I had twelve sessions with an art therapist with whom, among other things, I enjoyed using collage as a way into poetry. I also had some creative consultancy sessions with Holly, which were great. In one of them we found a new job for my inner critic – he’s very good at spotting cliches, which I appreciate, and he stands at the back, leaning on the door, when I perform, keeping an eye out for me in good bouncer-fashion.
My DYCP application was subtitled A Year’s Immersion in Poetry. I created myself a dream scenario and, with a few tweaks, I got everything I hoped for. I wanted to explore contrasts – written vs performance poetry, formal structures vs free form, live vs recorded, spontaneous vs slowly developed, experiential vs conceptual. As well as my daily poems I was able to pay myself a day a week to be a poet – hence the name of the Instagram account I set up on the day I got the grant - @FridayIsPoetsDay. I managed to preserve Friday as a day of writing, pretty much the whole way through.
I took more than a dozen online and in person courses and workshops over the year, including with rock n roll music and poetry legends Tongue Fu, science and climate change project Hot Poets, movement and film investigators Brenda Waite and Anna Lavy, and volunteering and performing at Bristol’s Lyra Poetry Festival.
Last June I created a Home Writing Retreat – again, setting up my dream scenario, and this time inviting others to join me. I curated my home and garden into different areas – the pub garden, Grandad’s shed, the reclamation yard, the apple grove to name a few. I even made a map and did site tours.
We met in the morning to check in, bagsied our spaces for work, rest or play, and took ourselves off, meeting again for a shared lunch then more writing in the afternoon. Some people came every day – like Holly, who sat 9-5 in the plotting shed working on her book – others dropped in for an afternoon or two. On the last night we did a tour, with people sharing poems they’d written in the sites they’d written them – I got persuaded to stand on the top of my garage roof, where my mate Jenny took the epic shot at the top of this blog.
In the autumn I threw myself into Bristol’s open mic scene – and read at Tonic, Time of the Month, Spitfire and Tangfest. I had a poem and wee interview on BBC Upload and joined Misfits Theatre Company poetry group for two sessions. I had a writing retreat weekend at Monkton Wyld Court & a 4 day retreat with other writers in Cornwall.
I reconnected with my old friend Paula Hufton (known as Pea) – she’d been in a band when I knew her back in our twenties, and was just dipping a toe back into music again after years of career and family. We met regularly and jammed, putting her music to my poems – a delight! I loved this collaboration and am keen to do more.
Another highlight was my Poet For A Year Party – on the 29 April, exactly a year after the first daily poem, I hired the café at Windmill Hill City Farm, invited friends, family, fools and poets and celebrated the end of my DYCP and me! - finally happy to call myself a Proper Poet. Anita did a speech and Holly got beamed in via video from France. Having a year’s worth of poems now, I asked the audience to call out a date and I read the corresponding poem. Then Pea and I performed a piece we’d created – with Pea’s backing track and a slideshow of photos projected behind us, Pea played the cello live while I read my poem. I did a similar piece with my son Billy who is a drummer – with a slide show behind us of his rock n roll gigs, he free-styled a poem-long drum solo while I read a poem I’d written about him. It was such a pleasure to perform with these two wonderful people and both pieces went down really well.
One of the many things I’ve learnt is that a triple-pronged approach to writing works for me:
- a daily routine of writing and posting a poem every day satisfies the critic and lets the muse know where to find me. It also enables me to ‘let go’ & produce work that is ‘good enough’ rather than perfect – this improvisational quickfire style is freeing, has helped me find my authentic voice and ties in with what I’ve learnt about clowning and fooling with Holly and Franki Anderson.
- external prompts & accountability from courses & workshops keep me motivated & give me a different perspective. External input works well for me and my Good Girl enjoys completing tasks.
- a periodic deeper immersion through leaving day to day life to retreat into a writing space, whether at home or away is important too – these 3 levels all contribute to a good writing practice.
Having the input of a mentor I respect, admire and trust was crucial – Anita gently challenged me, built my confidence and was an amazing coach and advocate. It was a joy to have someone to chat poetry with.
Creative consultancies with Holly were key too – she helped me prepare for my very first open mic slot, worked on performance style, helped me voice feelings, find a new job for my inner critic and even worked with me to place my inner-Anita in my pantheon of masks – an inner mentor is a brilliant thing to have!
This year I have learnt to proudly call myself a poet. It has given me masses of confidence and I think really achieved what the Arts Council hoped for through the granting of funds – I have developed my creative practice and am ready to throw myself even more into the poets’ world.
Stone The Crones
In May this year I was awarded an Originators Grant from Bristol City Council to start a brand new spoken word night in Bristol – Stone the Crones will feature the work of older / aging / elder women, with accompanying workshops to create material and build confidence and community. The audience is open to everyone – all ages, genders and communities.
The first Stone the Crones event is on Saturday 11 June, 7-10pm at Windmill Hill City Farm Café in Bedminster, south Bristol. Entry is £5, discounted rate available. Please join me – I’d love to see you there.
There are six dates so far – with hopefully more in future:
Saturday 11 June 2022
Saturday 9 July
Saturday 10 September
Saturday 8 October
Saturday 12 November
Saturday 10 December
@StonetheCrones on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Or beccygolding.co.uk/stone-the-crones/