Poetry in the Woods


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My workshop with Friends of Brincliffe Edge Wood is coming up on May 14th and I thought  I’d write a little bit about why I’m so interested in these woods, and why I’m looking forward to writing there in a few week’s time.

Brincliffe Edge Wood is a short (steep) distance from where I live and is my preferred choice for a short walk to break up the day at weekends or when I’m working at home. There’s a great view from the top, especially useful on fireworks night as you can see lots of firework displays from afar, between the trees.

For such a small patch of land it has quite a mixed history of use – it has been a quarry, used to graze livestock, has been allotments (part of it is still allotments) and another part has been the garden of a large house. Remnants of all these things are scattered all over the wood – old ornamental laurels from the garden and two privet hedges that have been left for years and grown themselves almost into an arch are some favourites of mine.

There is a lot of wildlife here too. My favourites have to be the tawny owls which you can hear calling on Spring nights. Although you hear them often it’s quite rare to see one, especially in summer when the trees are leafy. One night my partner Will and I went for a walk as it was getting dusk and happened to see one facing away from us on a low branch…and then it heard us and swivelled its head, looking at us like an angry librarian.  I expect they’ll all be snoozing during the workshop but we’ll know they are there.

Meeting with FOBEW has been brilliant – they are a dedicated team who get together on regular Wednesday sessions to keep improving the wood. They’ve done a great job so far but they say there’s always more to do. They’ve also let me borrow their history file which is full of fascinating old maps of the area. From looking at these maps I’ve learned that the   name Brincliffe has lost a ‘k’ – Brink cliff edge is a very suitable name for such a steep drop in the land! And that the duckpond outside the flats where I live has been there for a lot longer than there have been houses here, and so must be filled by a natural water-course. And that the hospital on Union Road used to be a workhouse.

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This map is one from the file – it includes the name of all the fields nearby. Relics of these names still show up around the place, particularly the Broadfield, my favourite local pie-eating establishment.

If all this has interested you, I’d love to see you at my workshop on Saturday May 14th.  We’ll explore all these ideas and more with time to write and explore the woods. The workshop runs from 10am-1pm and costs £10. Please email me at evans.suzie@gmail.com to book your place!

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Coming soon…The Aldeburgh Eight Shuffle!

I will be reading with the other members of the 2015 Aldeburgh Eight at this event at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden, London on 27th February, starting at 7.30pm.

Come and hear the eight poets chosen by The Poetry Trust for its week long residential seminar last November, part of the 2015 Aldeburgh Festival.

Poet and seminar co-leader Jackie Wills introduces:

John Challis (Tyne and Wear)
Josephine Corcoran (Wiltshire)
Suzannah Evans (Sheffield)
Sean Hewitt (Cheshire)
Anita Pati (London)
Kathy Pimlott (London)
Andrew Rudd (Cheshire)
Miranda Yates (New Mills)

£6 / £4. Doors open 7.00pm for 7.30pm start. Bar available.

This event feels particularly important to me given the recent discontinuation of the Poetry Trust, who ran the Aldeburgh Eight seminar among the many wonderful things they did for poetry and especially for new poets. Hopefully this will be a night to celebrate all those things and keep that generous spirit alive!

Creative Writing at Weston Park Museum

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These birdy photos are from the first in a series of five workshops at Weston Park Museum. We had a great time writing about the ‘Over South Yorkshire Skies’ exhibition, which catalogues all the birds to be seen and heard in South Yorkshire.

I’ll be running another four workshops over the coming months, inspired by the museum’s collections. Each session will take inspiration from a different exhibition. The details are below:

Session 2 Sheffield Life and Times Saturday 21 November 2015 10.30am- 1.30pm

This creative writing workshop will take inspiration from the collection Sheffield Life and Times.  The exhibition explores the many things that make Sheffield what it is today; its industrial past and political history, its people and  its green space. We will learn about Sheffield through the histories of those who have lived here and tell our own stories about the city.

Session 3  Secret Egypt Saturday 12th December 10.30am – 1.30pm

Our writing will use the themes of archaeology and excavation to investigate our own stories as well as those of the ancient past.

Session 4 Natural History Saturday 16th January 10.30am – 1.30pm

Inspired by the What on Earth collection we will use the natural world as inspiration for our writing. Participants will explore their own ideas about animals, their habitats and their relationship with humans throughout our history.

Session 5 Treasures Saturday 20th February 2015 10.30am-1.30pm

To celebrate 2016 as the museum’s ‘year of making’ we will be taking our inspiration from the Treasures exhibition which celebrates craftsmanship all around the world. As well as exploring the collection we will look at the ways in which making an object compares making meaning and the objects that are meaningful to us in our own lives.

Sessions cost £15

Please book in advance on 0114 278 2655 or learning@museums-sheffield.org.uk

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Surviving the Future – Poetry for Pre-Apocalyptic Times

I’m delighted to be running another online course with The Poetry School this Autumn term. Here’s a short description of the course from their site:

‘We are all engaged in looting the past. (Only the greatest geniuses manage to steal from the future)’ – Donald Barthelme. Where do you see yourself in 500 years’ time? Living in a city underwater? Being discovered as a mysterious fossil by the aliens who’ve inherited the earth? As poets should we approach the future of humanity with optimism or fear, or a bit of both? This course will explore and inspire poetry about the future, whether that be space travel, climate change, dystopian societies or apocalyptic visions. We will investigate the way the future might look and sound, and what our society will leave behind it for archaeologists and museums. Participants will respond to poetry by poets including David Tait, Christy Ducker, Carola Luther, Roísín Tierney and Matthea Harvey.

I’ve been thinking about the apocalypse and the idea of an uncertain / dangerous future for some time now in my own writing. It’s been suggested that this is a way of looking at our own mortality, but I also like to think of it as a way of preparing or trying to avoid that which is avoidable, particularly in terms of social collapse and climate change. I wrote a longer blog post about it which you can read here. Follow the link above if you’re interested in booking a place on the course.

DAY EIGHTY-TWO – Suzannah Evans

Here’s a new poem by me on New Boots and Pantisocracies – a brilliant project that plans to post 100 political poems for the first 100 days of the Tory government. There are some wonderful poems on the site so do read a few while you’re there!

new boots and pantisocracies

The New Curriculum

With half an hour left of Double Jargon
Simon stood up from his chair.
He’d already earned detention that day
by saying that the air conditioning
sounded like the noise that you hear
when you put your ear to a shell
and now here he was, leaning
against the window, hands and breath
greasing the polished glass.

The rest of the class were silent
as they worked towards outcomes
or looked forward to their class trip
to the trading floor
and when the teacher asked Simon
what he was looking at
he sat back down without saying a word
but it was too late
all the others had followed his gaze
out towards the perimeter fence
where the swifts were
throwing their bodies through the joyous air
their wings the shape of boomerangs.

Suzannah Evans lives in Sheffield and her pamphlet Confusion Species was a winner in the…

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