Guest Poet: Alyson Hallett
Alyson Hallett is a prize-winning poet and Hawthornden Fellow. Besides publishing six books and pamphlets of poetry, she has also written drama and an audio-diary for BBC Radio 4; an essay on Chalk for BBC Radio 3; drama for Sky Television and a book of short stories. Alyson was the first poet to be in residence in the Charles Causley house and also the first resident poet in a university Geography Department with a Leverhulme Fellowship. Alyson collaborates with artists, musicians and sculptors, and for the past 17 years has curated a poetry as public art project: The Migration Habits of Stones. Before writing full time, Alyson worked as a cleaner; postwoman; housekeeper on the Isle of Iona; mental health worker for MIND and the Richmond Fellowship. Her latest publication is a pamphlet of poems, Toots (Mariscat Press), recommended by Jackie Kay as one of her summer reads in the Sunday Observer.
Guest Poet: Julie-Ann Rowell
Julie-ann Rowell's first pamphlet collection, Convergence, published by Brodie Press won a Poetry Book Society Award. Her first full collection, Letters North, was nominated for the Michael Murphy Poetry Prize for Best First Collection in Britain and Ireland in 2011. Her latest collection, Voices in the Garden, is a sequence about the life of Joan of Arc, published in 2017 by Lapwing Publications, Belfast. She has been teaching poetry and mentoring in Bristol for 10 years and has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. She's won several awards including first prize in the Frogmore Poetry Prize and the New Writer Poetry Competition Short Collection prize, and was a runner-up in the Bridport Prize, and in the Mslexia Poetry Competition (three times).
22nd February 2018, The Swan Hotel, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire BA15 1LN
"What a rich evening - it feels like being in a cauldron with all these ingredients being put in one after the other" - it was a great way to describe Words & Ears - thank you Alyson Sarah Hallett for capturing it like that - and for her moving, funny and frank reading of Toots at Words & Ears last month. The story of Toots - a strong woman, unafraid to be herself (colourful vocabulary and all) even (and especially) within a religious community - was a deeply satisfying pairing with Julie-ann Rowell's Voices in the Garden, another vivid, strong-woman-and-religion sequence, this time about Joan of Arc (lots of satisfyingly earthy language there, too!). And as to that 'cauldron' - the open mic had a powerfully political flavour, not least with Jinny Fisher's two superb redactive poems about rifle usage, Rachael Clyne's poem from the new #MeToo poetry anthology, and Kate Escher's poem about The Department for Work and Pensions. Lots of work about birds, too, in that way that themes emerge unprompted - thanks for those, and all other open mic contributions, with readers including Michelle Diaz, Dru Marland, Martin, John Powell, B Anne Adriaens, Liz Watts, Linda Saunders, Peter O'Grady, Ray Fussell and Paul Brokensha. Huge thanks to all the listeners, too.