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Preview: Susan's Journal of Literary Things

Susan's Journal of Literary Things

Updated: 2018-03-02T16:56:51.560+00:00


Polar Poets Return to Manchester


(image) After a frenetic few weeks of readings and performances in a pub in Bath, a library in Bristol, a gallery in Haverfordwest and on a beach near Cardigan, I will be heading up to Manchester on Saturday for another Polar Poets event alongside Siobhan Logan.

In October last year, we were lucky enough to perform our multi-media poetry show, Arctic-ulate, at Manchester Science Festival. It was a sell-out event and, as a result of that, we have been invited back to the same venue, the John Rylands University Library (see photo) to offer another performance of Arctic-ulate and also to facilitate a writing workshop, between 2 and 4 p.m, on polar themes.

You can read a little more about our visit on the library's events page. There are still a few workshop places available and a couple of seats for the evening performance (from 6 p.m.) too. If you are interested in coming along, please phone 0161 306 0555 or email as soon as possible.

Remembrance for Lost Species


This Saturday, November 12th, I will be reading extinction-themed poetry from Where the Air is Rarefied at Feral Theatre's Funeral for the Great Auk on Poppit Sands, one of Pembrokeshire's loveliest beaches.

The Funeral is one of many similar events that are taking place throughout the U.K and beyond, as part of the Remembrance for Lost Species project.

In addition to poetry about, and a specially-written eulogy for, the Great Auk, the North Atlantic seabird that was persecuted and finally hunted to extinction in the mid-nineteenth century, there will be singing and storytelling. The funeral will be followed by a wake at a nearby café.

If you happen to be in West Wales on Saturday, please do think about coming along to support the event. It's due to get underway at 3.30 p.m.

Where the Air is Rarefied in Pembrokeshire


(image) November is going to be another supremely busy month, about which I'll write more later. For now, though, here's just a quick post about the latest in the series of Where the Air is Rarefied exhibitions featuring my poetry and Pat Gregory's prints.

From 2nd - 28th November, our work will be on show in Haverfordwest Library Gallery in my favourite county, Pembrokeshire.

We're also pleased to be offering an event in the gallery on Tuesday 22nd November, from 6.30 - 8.30pm. The evening will feature a poetry performance (by me!), a presentation by Pat about the process of our collaboration, and a chance to view all the poems and prints. Tea and very lovely cake will be also be provided.

If you can't make the event, the gallery opening times are as follows:

Monday 9.30 am – 5 pm
Tuesday 9.30 am – 7 pm
Wednesday 9.30 am – 5 pm
Thursday 9.30 am – 5 pm
Friday 9.30 am – 7 pm
Saturday 9.30 am – 1 pm

And if you can't make it to Haverfordwest to see the exhibition at any time during November, all of the poems and prints are, of course, available now as a book, published by Cinnamon Press.

National Poetry Day 2011


Here are a few of the events I'm involved in for National Poetry Day this year:

1) Last Friday, I was in London, in front of a packed audience at the BBC Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House to record the Saturday Live Poetry Pop-up, alongside the other regular Saturday Live poets. We were each commissioned to write a new poem especially for the event, and were also invited to share poems from past Saturday Live shows. Hosted by Richard Coles and with music by Cerys Mathews, the show will first be broadcast on Radio 4 Extra on National Poetry Day (this Thursday, 6th October, at 10 a.m.). It will also be shown on the BBC Big Screens in city centres up and down the country on the same day.

(image) 2) On Thursday, I'll be returning to one of my favourite Cardiff venues - Waterloo Gardens Teahouse - to perform alongside poet and singer-songwriter Maria Lindström from Sweden. The event is scheduled to start at 4.30 pm, with the Teahouse's legendary cakes available, as an accompaniment to the poetry and song, throughout the afternoon!

3) Next Sunday, 9th October, from 7 p.m, I'll be at the Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea, taking part in its first International Festival of Words. Storyteller Amanda Rackstraw and poet Ian Griffiths are among the other performers on Sunday, and there's a whole range of other poets, actors and musicians appearing at the Festival in the preceding days too.

Post-performance, I'm much looking forward to spending the night in the Birthplace. 5 Cwmdonkin Drive has been restored to its 1914 condition - Dylan's parents bought it as a new house just a few months before his birth - and it now offers bed and breakfast accommodation all year round. I wonder which room I'll be allocated...

The Busy-ness of Last Week


(image) Just starting to get my breath back after last week's workshopping, exhibition-hanging, performing, train travelling, festival visiting... Here are a few of the highlights:

1) On Tuesday, I offered an eco-poetry performance at Swansea's Environment Centre, organised by Keith Ross of Swansea Green Party. The audience was attentive and enthusiastic and I especially enjoyed the lively, post-performance discussion. I also appreciated the thunderous, beautifully-timed rain-on-the-roof sound effects just as I was performing Never Forgets, my protest-poem about the illegal trade in elephant ivory, which contains the line 'that drumming you hear isn't rain'!

2) Thanks to the day spent hanging work in the gallery of Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon, the latest Where the Air is Rarefied exhibition, featuring Pat Gregory's prints and my poems, is now on and can be viewed until October 4th. Many of the original prints that feature in our recently-published joint collection are on sale, as are a range of digital prints.

3) On Saturday, I travelled up to Yorkshire, to Saltaire, for Arctic-ulate, my latest Polar Poets gig with Siobhan Logan. This was a joint British Science Festival/Saltaire Festival event. In the photo above, we'd just gained access to our Shipley College venue, had set up all the technical equipment and were starting to think about doing a run-through of our show - since we live so far apart, rehearsal time, in the pre-show hours, is precious indeed.

I wish there'd been the time/opportunity to check out more events from both Festivals but I did at least have a couple of hours on Sunday in which to wander along the canal and explore some of the UNESCO World Heritage site before the long train journey back to Cardiff.

Uncivilisation 2011


(image) Over a week has passed since I got back from Uncivilisation 2011 - this year's Dark Mountain Festival at the Sustainability Centre in Hampshire - and I'm still reflecting on all the discussions, conversations, talks, readings, workshops and performances that took place over the course of the weekend.

I was directly involved in two sessions again this year - the first, my 'animate earth' poetry workshop, inspired by some of the ideas in David Abram's The Spell of the Sensuous, took place in the woods in the only rain of the weekend. (It seems to be an unwritten law that all my outdoor writing workshops must take place in the rain!) Later, I took part in a poetry reading and panel discussion on Wild Writing with Paul Kingsnorth, Adrienne Odasso and Em Strang, in the lovely woodland space (pictured).

The weekend offered so many highlights (listening to Jay Griffiths, alongside Benny Wenda of the Free West Papua campaign; meeting, at long last, Sharon Blackie of Two Ravens Press; Mario Petrucci speaking on poetry as a source of sustenance in the Sustainable Age; the after-dark woodland participatory theatre piece, Liminal...) and I wish I had more time now to elaborate on them all. You can, though, get more of a flavour of the festival's ethos and atmosphere, as well as an insight into many of the other sessions and performances I haven't mentioned, in this review in The Independent.

And in a future blog post, I'll offer some thoughts on Dark Mountain 2, the project's second volume of uncivilised writing, in which an extract from one of my art-poetry collaborations with printmaker Pat Gregory, appears.

Bathhouse Bard


(image) It was, without a doubt, one of the most interesting venues in which I've been lucky enough to perform. As the photo on the left suggests, I was submerged for the evening in the ruins of the Roman Baths in Caerleon - though what looks like water is actually just a very effective watery projection!

I mostly shared poems from my new collection, Where the Air is Rarefied - and realise I will never again have such a perfect location in which to perform the opening poem, Nerrivik, about the Inuit goddess of the sea!

This Bathhouse Bard event was part of the annual Caerleon Festival, to which I was making a return visit, having first appeared there back in 2007. This time, I was joined by creative writing students from the University of Wales, Newport, plus several local writers, all of whom read a selection of their poetry in the first half of the evening.

Many thanks to Maggie Corke for organising the event (and for her superb post-performance supper!) Thanks, too, to Brian Dawson for the photograph.

A Wilder Vein e-book


(image) Just a quick post to mention that A Wilder Vein, the non-fiction anthology focusing on the relationship between people and the wild places of Britain and Ireland, in which a prose piece of mine appears, is now available as an e-book at the Two Ravens Press website.

Edited by Linda Cracknell and with a foreword by Robert Macfarlane, the anthology received some very enthusiastic reviews when it was first published in 2009:

A Wilder Vein (edited by Linda Cracknell; Two Ravens Press. £10.99) is an anthology linking writers with the natural world. Its theme is the wilder places of Britain, and its object an exploration of "new ways of seeing". One way, articulated by Gerry Loose, is to follow what the writer sees almost in real time, taking in tiny details: the way young holly sprays from an oak or how scabs of lichen decorate the rocks. A landscape, suggests Robert Macfarlane in his foreword, is defined not only by what it is but by the way we see it: "certain thoughts might be possible only in certain places". If we lose those places, we are losing kinds of imagination too. - The Independent - a recommended book for Christmas 2009.

Here is a book in which 18 writers – poets, novelists, anthropologists and natural historians – visit the uninhabited regions of our crowded little archipelago and meditate on what these places mean; and while individually the results are often sparklingly written and utterly transporting, taken together they also reinforce a point Macfarlane makes in his introduction: that "certain thoughts might be possible only in certain places, such that when we lose those places, we are losing kinds of imagination as well" - The Scotsman

Neil Gunn Writing Competition


(image) I'm thrilled to have heard that I've been awarded joint first prize in the adult poetry section of the 2010/11 Neil Gunn Writing Competition. It's a biennial competition, organised by The Highland Council and the Neil Gunn Trust and this time, the theme was 'A Wrong Turning', inspired by a quote from Gunn's Highland River - 'Our river took a wrong turning somewhere! But we haven't forgotten the source.'

The award ceremony was in Inverness last Tuesday and, sadly, I wasn't able to get there, but a lovely certificate and a very delicious prizewinning cheque arrived through the post this morning. I've entered so few poetry competitions this year - just two, I think - so I feel especially lucky to have had such good news about this one.

Launch Reflections


(image) I'm still coming back down to earth after the launch of Where the Air is Rarefied, my new collection of poetry, with prints by Pat Gregory, last Wednesday evening. It really couldn't have gone better.

In spite of my usual pre-event frets that there would only be a handful of people in the audience, the Norwegian Church Arts Centre was packed to its newly-refurbished rafters. Well over a hundred people came along (in fact, we ran out of chairs!), and I much enjoyed chatting to friends old and new once Pat and I had finished doing our performance/presentation.

As I said at the time, so many thanks are due - to Jan Fortune of Cinnamon Press (pictured below) for publishing the collection (image) (in these financially challenging times, it's a huge undertaking to publish any book, let alone one containing full colour prints), to Philip Gross for his pre-publication endorsement and for being an enthusiastic audience member on the night, to Tony at the Norwegian Church for helping the event to run smoothly, and to Ruth Bradshaw for some lovely atmospheric soprano saxophone music before and after the poetry part of the evening.

Finally, for those of you who weren't able to make the launch and who may be interested in buying a copy of the book, I now have a Paypal button on the Where the Air is Rarefied page on my website.

Two Days Since and Two Days to Go...


Two days ago, I was in London for my resident poet slot on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live, now presented by Richard Coles. The studio guest was actor/director Richard Wilson, still probably best known for his television role as Victor Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave.

As usual, I had to write two new poems for the show - for my first, short, top-of-the-show piece, I focused on climate change, in recognition/celebration of World Environment Day. My second, longer poem was written in response to a story about two men in the late 1960s, who bought a lion cub from Harrods and lived with him in their Chelsea flat for some years, until his eventual rehoming in Kenya. You can listen to the full show, and find out further details about the content, here.

Meanwhile, in just two days, on Wednesday 8th June at 7.30 pm, my new poetry collection, Where the Air is Rarefied, a collaboration with visual artist Pat Gregory, will be launched. All are welcome to come along to Cardiff's Norwegian Church Arts Centre for an evening of poetry, prints, drinks, cake and chat!

'Landlines' poetry competition


(image) I'm in the midst of a majorly busy few weeks of preparation for both my next Arctic trip and the launch of my new poetry collection, while also battling to keep on top of all the mentoring, tutoring, editing and workshopping that I'm currently involved in. I seem to be even more inundated with emails than usual - but one that's recently brought me real pleasure, rather than just the demand for an immediate response, came from the deputy editor of the National Trust Magazine.

I was very chuffed to learn that a new poem, Flock, that I'd entered for the National Trust's 'Landlines' poetry competition, on the theme of the outdoors, has been shortlisted/highly commended - one of 12 out of some 1700 entries, I think. I haven't entered many poetry competitions at all lately (only one other this year, I think), so the news was especially unexpected. Flock is quite linguistically playful, too, and I wasn't at all convinced it was competition material.

The full results of the competition, including the winning poems (as chosen by adjudicators Jo Bell and Ian McMillan) can be seen here.

Launch of 'Where the Air is Rarefied'


(image) All are warmly invited to the launch of my new collection of poetry, Where the Air is Rarefied, with prints by Pat Gregory, on Wednesday June 8th, at 7.30 pm, at the Norwegian Church Arts Centre, Cardiff Bay.

Published by Cinnamon Press, the collection is the culmination of a long-term collaboration with Pat. And given that it's an exploration, through poetry and prints, of environmental and mythological themes relating to 'the North', we're both thrilled that the launch will be happening at the newly-refurbished Norwegian Church.

I'll be offering a performance of a selection of the poems and Pat will chat about the process of our collaboration too. Thereafter, we hope people will linger long to help us celebrate - the café-bar will be open for drinks, snacks, cakes etc. all evening.

Hope to see you there!

Pre-publication endorsement of Where the Air is Rarefied by Philip Gross:

The subject-matter of this collaboration builds on the concerns and subjects of Susan Richardson's previous volume,
Creatures of the Intertidal Zone, but the interplay with visual art has stimulated a new freedom and experiment with language...pushing her work well beyond her previous comfort zones and...marking her emergence into a new breadth and vividness of voice, a new stage in her life as a poet.

Back to the Arctic!


I am thrilled, hugely grateful - and not a little disbelieving - to have heard that I've been awarded some very wonderful funding that will enable me to return to the Arctic in July.

Thanks to a grant from the Gino Watkins Memorial Fund, I'll be journeying to the Svalbard archipelago (situated approximately midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole), to undertake research relating to a brand-new writing and performance project (working title Willing the Dragonfly).

The Gino Watkins Memorial Fund is under the joint trusteeship of the University of Cambridge and the Royal Geographical Society and was set up in 1933, in memory of (appropriately enough!) Gino Watkins - to my mind, one of the most dynamic and interesting Arctic explorers.

I am currently deep into planning both my journey and the research I'm hoping to undertake while I'm in Svalbard. Since the beginning of the year, I've also read umpteen texts on wilderness theory, as this theme is, hopefully, going to play a major role in the writing I ultimately produce.

Aside from pre-trip reading, there is, of course, so much else to organise in a relatively short space of time, and I admit to having fleetingly felt a tad daunted by it all. Mostly, though, huge excitement is to the fore, and - in these times when funding is so hard to come by - I also feel extraordinarily lucky.

Dark Mountain, volume 2


Hoping, one day soon, to catch up on all that needs to be blogged about - details about the forthcoming launch of my new poetry collection, Where the Air is Rarefied, as well as news about some very wonderful funding that I've been lucky enough to be awarded...

For now, though, a plea from Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine, who, as co-editors and initiators of the Dark Mountain Project, are seeking to raise money to cover the costs of publishing Dark Mountain 2, the second volume of 'uncivilised' writing 'for an age of global disruption'.

You can get a sneak preview of the volume's contents here. I'm thrilled to have some poetry included, especially as it will be appearing alongside work by, and/or conversations with, some of my current favourite writers and thinkers, such as Jay Griffiths and David Abram.

Paul and Dougald are requesting people to pre-order copies of the book to cover its printing and design costs. If you like what you see in the preview of the list of contents, and/or you feel committed to the Dark Mountain Project's principles, please do consider pre-ordering - and help to spread the word.

Geopoetics Weekend


As usual, I'm battling with a big blogging backlog - March was such a busy month. It's already one week on from my journey north to the Lake District - to Coniston, to be precise, where the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics, of which I've been a member for several years, was hosting its Going Outward Geopoetics Weekend.

The venue was Brantwood, the former home of John Ruskin, overlooking Coniston Water, with views across to the Old Man. Saturday's schedule was busy and stimulating, with a discussion on the affinities between geopoetics and Ruskin, a guided walk with Brantwood's head gardener and a session focusing on visual approaches to geopoetics. Filmmaker Alastair Cook was one of the contributors to this session and we were invited to view and discuss several short films from his ongoing Filmpoem project. In the evening, we all took part in a Circle of Geopoetics, sharing poems, prose and songs.

As well as thoroughly enjoying all the conference sessions, not to mention the Sunday morning hike up onto Crag Head, the highest point on the Brantwood Estate, it was wonderful to meet Facebook friends, such as the Director of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics, Norman Bissell, and to find that they're every bit as lovely in person as they'd appeared online. Great to meet new friends too, including poet Elizabeth Rimmer, who maintains a very appealing blog here.

Before leaving Brantwood, we discussed possible future geopoetical happenings and ways of taking the network forward. Lots of plans are afoot and I'm really looking forward to continue being involved.

Two More Exhibitions


In addition to the work that's currently on display in Oriel Cric Gallery in Crickhowell as part of the Words and Images exhibition, visual artist Pat Gregory and I currently have some of our collaborative poems and prints in two other exhibitions in South Wales.

One piece is featured in Many Hands, an Open Exhibition organised by the Women's Arts Association at The Gate in Cardiff, that runs until April 30th.

Three others can be seen in the current Women in Art exhibition at the Old Hall in Cowbridge - this exhibition continues until March 24th.

And if you're not able to get to the exhibitions in person, all of the work will feature in Where the Air is Rarefied, the collection of poems and prints by Pat and myself, that is to be published by Cinnamon Press in June this year!

Haiku and Haibun


I'm delighted that two of my haiku appear in the latest issue of Notes from the Gean, the Journal of Japanese Short Forms, published by Gean Tree Press.

I also realise that I neglected to mention another recent publication - two of my haibun feature in the latest issue of Contemporary Haibun Online, reprinted from the British Haiku Society Haibun Anthology 2009 (edited by Jo Pascoo and Lynne Rees). Both of these form part of what I hope will eventually become a collection of haibun about the various European Book Towns I've visited.

Ecopoetry Weekend


What a great weekend!

Two ecopoetry gigs - the second of which was on Saturday at the Angel Hotel here in Cardiff, where the Green Party was holding its Spring Conference.

I'd been booked to offer a performance as part of the entertainment programme and was delighted to have such a focused, enthusiastic audience, many members of which were happy to continue discussing ecopoetry - and poetry in general, in fact - once my performance was over.

On Friday, meanwhile, I was at Pontardawe Arts Centre for an evening of poetry on the theme of climate change (see my post below for further info on this event). It was superbly organised by Emily Hinshelwood, the Arts and Climate Change Officer of Awel Aman Tawe and a fine eco-poet herself. Emily estimated that over 120 people came along, with many seeking seats in the upstairs gallery space because the main auditorium was so full. I enjoyed chatting with quite a few audience members afterwards, including some of the climate change poetry competition winners and a representative from the Low Carbon Research Institute.


My friend, Rhys Jones, was the event's official photographer, and, as usual, I must thank him for letting me use one of his photos here.

Two Ecopoetry Gigs


(image) This weekend, I'm looking forward to performing at two different events, both with an environmental focus.

Tomorrow (Friday 25th February) an evening of poetry focusing on climate change is taking place at Pontardawe Arts Centre, featuring the National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke; internationally-acclaimed Welsh language poet, Menna Elfyn; winner of the John Tripp Award, Dafydd Wyn; and me. The winners of the Awel Aman Tawe climate change poetry competition, as judged by Gillian and Menna, will also be reading and the competition anthology will be launched.

The evening gets underway at 7.30pm. Tickets are free but do phone 01792 863722 to reserve a seat. Emily Hinshelwood, the Arts and Climate Change Officer of Awel Aman Tawe, has indicated that lots of tickets have already been booked in advance, so it looks like the venue will be buzzing.

Then on Saturday (26th February), I'm performing, as part of the entertainment programme, at the Green Party's Spring Conference at the Angel Hotel in Cardiff. More about this gig later...

Private View at Oriel Cric


(image) (image) Here's a photo from Friday evening's event at Oriel Cric in Crickhowell, where visual artist Pat Gregory and I are currently exhibiting some of the poems and prints created during our Where the Air is Rarefied collaboration.

It was a really enjoyable evening - the gorgeous gallery space was packed, and Pat and I were pleased to offer a talk about our collaboration. I also performed a selection of the poems.

Many thanks to Suzette Pratten of Oriel Cric for organising the event.

The Words and Images exhibition, which includes work that incorporates text in some form by a whole range of artists, continues until the end of March.

Words and Images at Oriel Cric


(image) My second launch event of this very busy week is happening tomorrow evening, 11th February, from 6.30pm, at Oriel Cric Gallery in Crickhowell.

Six of the collaborative poem-and-print pieces that visual artist Pat Gregory and I have produced over the past few years are featuring in Oriel Cric's current Words and Images exhibition. Tomorrow evening is the private view and I'll be performing some of the poems and offering a talk, along with Pat, about the process of our collaboration. Do come along if you happen to be in the area.

And watch this space for details of our other forthcoming exhibitions - as well as the publication of our book of poems and prints, Where the Air is Rarefied. It'll be published by Cinnamon Press in June and launch plans are well underway...

Fanfare Photos


Here are a couple of pics from Monday evening's launch of Fanfare (Splash Point Records), the new CD of my namesake, jazz vocalist and trumpeter Sue Richardson, for which I'd written some of the lyrics.

It was such a memorable evening - great venue (Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho) and a fantastic celebratory atmosphere. Sue's Quintet, plus special saxophonist guests, Alan Barnes and Robert Fowler, who plays with the Humphrey Lyttelton Band, gave a storming performance, of which the above photo gives only a flavour.

In the photo below, Sue is surrounded by her three lyricists from the CD - Annette Keen, Matt Henkes and me!

Fanfare's already received a very positive review in The Observer, while acclaimed jazz musician Liane Carroll has this to say:

A beautiful sophisticated collection of great original songs (all of which would be at home in any 'standards' book) effortlessly played and sung with an assured passion and wonderful sound.

Sue's got a gig in Wales next month so I'm looking forward to meeting up with her again then. And hopefully there'll be time afterwards to chat about some of the other collaborative projects we've got simmering away too.



(image) I'm leaving for London soon - for tonight is the launch of Fanfare, the new CD of my namesake, the jazz vocalist and trumpet player Sue Richardson. I've been collaborating with Sue for a couple of years now and several of our jointly-written songs (her music, my lyrics) are included on her new CD.

The gig kicks off at 8.30 pm, at Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho - I'm hugely looking forward to hearing her Quintet perform the new material. The CD received a lovely review in The Observer yesterday too, so I'm sure the evening's going to be a big celebration!



To celebrate the centenary of the creation of International Women's Day, a Wales-originated event called Flare! will be taking place on Saturday March 5th, between midday and 12.30 pm.

Co-organised by writer and creative practitioner Leona Jones and women's workshop leader Jules Heavens, it has aimed to develop a network of women throughout the UK and beyond who will host an event/an activity of their choice - be it singing, dancing, storytelling, performing, painting or even just sitting in silence - to celebrate the achievements of women worldwide.

I'll be taking part in Leona's 'reading aloud' event, using works by women writers, in the entrance hall of the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. If you're interested checking out the range of other activities that'll be happening, do visit the map on the Flare! website.