Poetry and Performance in a Group

I currently belong to one of the Poetry Society's Stanza groups and find it good fun as well as very supportive.  We get together in each other's houses and read poetry round a wood-burning stove and eat a lot of cake! Being in a group also means that you can do things that are more difficult on your own, like becoming a publisher.  We've just produced an anthology, called  'Crossing the Wild', and are about to launch it in performance.

I'm struck by the difference that technology has made to publication.   Years ago, when I was living in Bristol, I was involved in a similar project.  I was part of a poetry performance group called Invisible Lipstick, with poets Liz Loxley, Pat Van Twest and (initially) Moira Andrew.  Sadly Pat died of cancer, but Liz and Moira are still around on Facebook.
Pat Van Twest, Kathleen Jones, Liz Loxley
Our first publication - in the grainy image below - was typed on my old manual typewriter, cut and pasted and then photocopied in the local print shop.  The cover was drawn by my daughter in a school art class and printed onto glossy paper to be stapled together and folded into a pamphlet.

It was a lot of work and we couldn't afford colour - Pat and I were single parents on tight budgets, buying bread and milk on tick by the end of the week, paying it off when we cashed our Family Allowance (now Child Benefit) on a Monday.  As a group we did lots of gigs in strange places. This was us being embarrassing in Broadmead shopping centre, attempting to interest consumers in poetry, attended by a fire-eater and a unicyclist.  Fay Weldon's (now ex) husband is trumpeting jazz somewhere in the background.

This time, the Stanza Anthology, Crossing the Wild, has been type set on a computer using technology available to everyone, the cover converted from photograph to book cover with text by Neil in Photoshop, and the whole turned into a PDF file and loaded up to Amazon Create Space.  It didn't cost us anything.  With Print On Demand technology, the printing costs are taken from each copy printed.  We're also using Lightning Source to wholesale the book internationally and get it into bookshops.  It's in full colour at no extra cost and all the profits are going to charity.  This time to support the Air Ambulance, which is so essential in terrain like the Lake District and also to a charity for head injuries 'Headway'.

Now we're planning some readings and little parties to launch the collection - but perhaps a bit more mainstream than the Invisible Lipstick collective!  Our first outing is at the Words by the Water Festival in Keswick, Tuesday 7th March at 5pm, where we're the supporting cast for one of our members, Jacci Bulman, who has a new collection 'A Whole Day Through From Waking', out from Cinnamon Press.  There are rumours that Kim Moore might be reading too.

How many of you out there are members of a poetry workshop group or Stanza?  It's so much more fun than doing it on your own!


  1. I've joined the Liverpool Dead Good Poets Society Kathy. We meet once and sometimes twice a month at Blackburne House in the city centre to read our own poems or just listen in a supportive environment - assisted by a well stocked bar.

    1. Sounds brilliant, Charlie! We only have tea - a bar would be lovely.

  2. A good Stanza group is worth its weight in cakes! The collection looks wonderful. A big step forward from stapelled booklets with hand drawn covers!


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