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31 Oct 2011

Mark Grist- Poet in residence Blog 11- November 2011

It's been over a year now since I quit my teaching job to become a professional poet and since then I've been roaming around the country like some sort of poetry nomad. A lot of people ask me what it's like being a professional poet. I can't speak for anyone else, but this is a rundown of my past month. Enjoy!

For a start, I should say that it's been pretty crazy. So crazy that I've hardly written anything this month. This may come as a surprise, but I find that I probably write less since working as a writer full time - or that I certainly write more thoroughly and so I don't produce as many pieces!

My first project this month has involved touring churches throughout the East of England as part of the 'Shine' project. My role has involved getting local primary school students to write about their nearby church ¨ in every instance the church is a listed building and absolutely stunning to look at. We've had loads of fun during our sessions and the pupils have created some great work so far.

I've also been working on a great project with Eastern Angles Theatre Company, titled 'Crossed Keys'. This has involved getting the students from various secondary schools in the area to watch a play with groups of nearby elders, and then to listen to the elders talk about their own teenage years. The students I work with then create their own plays based upon the stories told by the elders ¨ each play being totally different. The project is really interesting ¨ and there have been some fantastic outcomes so far ¨ particularly in challenging preconceptions towards teenagers/the elderly. You can read more about it here.

As for the weirdest experience of the month, for two days I was off filming a TV show for ITV about Abergavenny. It involved me and three other guests pottering about, trying to cook local food. During my dish I tried to rhyme as many things as I could with 'Abergavenny'. I don't think that the resulting poem was too hideous, although I could well be wrong. The show should be out in the spring and is part of a series called 'The Great British Taste Tour'.

Aside from that, I helped to open a library in Peele. Everyone was absolutely lovely and we had a lot of fun with words. The report can be found here.

Oh, and I was asked to write a tour for The Poetry Archeive, which was pretty cool. The tour can be found here.

So, there you go. That's what I've been up to. Right now, Mixy and I are on our way to Wooda Farm to chat with people over there. Our double act, 'Dead Poets' has been shortlisted for 'The Wooda Arts Award' - down from 171 applications to a final four - and if we win the award then we get a cottage and writing studio out in Cornwall for six weeks to develop a new show. It'd be great to get, but to be honest we're just really chuffed that we made it this far in the process!

And finally (phew!) In two days I'm about to chip off to New York. I'll be reading at this, should anyone want to come and see me. I'll also be competing at this for the second leg of 'The Geek Shall Inherit the Earth'.

Then it's back to England and rap battling in one of the UK's largest rap battle events of the year. I'll be battling a 17-year-old battler called Blizzard in Brixton and then heading off afterwards for another East of England tour. And then sleep, somewhere, hopefully.


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