LeedsLieder+; speed dating and classical song

Musical score
Saturday morning found me in a large room at Leeds College of Music, with eight other poets and nine young composers, all showing each other what we could do. The aim was to get student composers from the major music conservatoires in the UK to work with poets ‘in a creative venture to encourage the composition of a new art song’. The students looked very young while the poets, with a few notable exceptions, were a more seasoned bunch. We listened to each other’s poetry and music in quiet amazement at the quality of the words and the formidable talent of the composers. And all the while I was listening, I was having a slight worry about how we might be paired up, which of the composers’ music I really liked, and which of them as individuals I felt I could work with.

It was all resolved at lunch-time where over a buffet it was clear that we were to be part of speed-dating exercise where we were meant to be talking to each other and making some pretty quick decisions about whom we would like to work with. The organisers pushed us writers out of safely chatting to other poets, and like parents with shy children, encouraged us into conversation with the composers.

Munching on finger food, I found myself chatting to the amiable Alastair Putt [www.alastairputt.com] and very quickly we realised we were on the same wavelength; he comes from a tradition of church and sacred music and a lot of my poetry at the moment deals with knotty issues of faith and belief. So together we are going to produce a classical song [for voice and one other instrument] which will be part of a Composers and Poets Forum on 3rd October at the College of Music in Leeds, and performed at a 6pm concert on the same day, along with all the other songs produced from these exciting collaborations.

This venture is all part of the LeedsLieder+ exciting weekend of classes and recitals. I can’t help thinking of the lieder of Schubert which I love; it remains to be seen what kind of Goethe or Schiller I make….

You can book for the day’s Forum [10am to 4pm] and for the concert from 22nd June on 0113 222 3434 or on www.lcm.ac.uk. Check out the rest of the LeedsLieder+ programme; it’s full of great artists and fabulous music.

Inspiration and going with it

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Writing sonnets seems like a strange thing to do in the first decade of the 21st Century, when Shakespeare’s sonnets were published all of four hundred years ago. But somehow, at this stage in my writing life, it’s what I want to be doing.

Inspired by writers like Don Paterson, Edna St Vincent Millay and the old boy himself, my teenage novel has been put aside for the moment, and I’m enjoying the sensation of writing two or three sonnets a week, the ideas for which keep coming and coming. I’ve decided to allow it to happen; such huge bouts of creativity come very rarely in a writer’s life, so I’m just going enjoy it. So what do we have? About forty sonnets written in four months, on topics ranging from religion, to sexual politics, to stories I’ve held close to me for many years, and surprisingly quite a few nature poems.

After years of writing free verse I’m working in a very strict form and finding the discipline is creating its own energy and creativity. I’m finding just how exciting and rejuvenating being newly inspired can be; it’s not exactly making me feel like a teenager but I do feel I am kicking up my heels in the air again…

PS: Check out my poem ‘twelve lines and a couplet’ on my Facebook page; it’s an attempt to describe the new discipline.

My name is Bob, apparently

Bald James nash
Hilarious and great time yesterday with Year 8 pupils at one of my favourite schools in Calderdale, Holy Trinity High School. It all started when a girl from my workshop group came into the classroom at the beginning of the day and asked me in all seriousness if my name was Bob. Apparently I look as if I’m called Bob. Often bald people are called Bob. Apparently. The logic was hard for me to see.

The joke re-surfaced very now and again throughout a day of really hard work and creativity when each of the youngsters produced two poems of high quality and read them in performance at the end of the session. Their dedication to the editing and re-drafting stages of writing led to some fine poetry, as did their understanding that planning and thinking have an important place alongside inspiration..

I caught my train back to Leeds a tired, but very happy, Bob.