Folkdays: Hedgehog Lore

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For the past few evenings, my parents’ patio has been visited by a hedgehog, who appears quite brazenly from out of the undergrowth to feed at the birds’ ground table!

Enticed back night after night with the promise of scraps of corned beef, he has grown increasingly comfortable with us watching him. A patch of white spines on his back has made him quite recognisable, and we’ve named him Beefy, on account of his favourite snack (not to mention his hefty size)!

These nightly visits got me thinking of what folklore there might be surrounding this little creature. Read below to learn more about them.

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Throwback: Shakespiration

To those that have read the previous ‘throwback’ posts, and followed me on my journey of recounting my poetry journey – thank you! This will be the final post under this thread, and will bring everything up to the modern day, and where I’m at now. In this final chapter, I’ll be focusing on my life in Stratford-upon-Avon: from reading my poetry on the RSC stage, to studying and working in the hometown of the Bard.

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Folkdays: Folktale Openings

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Come and have a seat. The campfire has been lit, dusk is drawing on, and the golden flames appear ever more vivid as the sky darkens. Somewhere, a blackbird trills his evening song.

Look into the depths of the fire. Perhaps you see blue there too, maybe green? As vivid as a mermaid’s scales. Keep looking, and I’ll begin the story.

‘Once upon a time…’

‘No!’

‘No?’

‘I’ll never tire of hearing your stories, but please, begin them with words other than ‘once upon a time’.’

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Throwback: Page to Stage, and Screen

Through these ‘throwback’ posts, I have sought to tell the story of poetry journey, recounting instances beginning with my first ever foray into the form, all the way up to the present day. However, as these posts move into 2018 and 2019, they begin to cover moments that are expressed more thoroughly elsewhere on this site. The full story of Bella can be read on the dedicated page; today’s post will only be short, giving moments of personal insight into my post-publication adventures!

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Folkdays: Bluebells

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I am blessed to have grown up in an area where bluebell woods abound. At this time of year, the Clent and Walton Hills, Uffmoor and Hagley Woods, and Wychbury Hillfort are carpeted with swathes of this beautiful flower. Though I cannot walk through these indigo seas this year, I found a much-desired stand-in this spring at the Key Hill Cemetery, close to where I live in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

Sitting amongst these stunning blooms, even if only for a little while, I really felt at peace. I decided to write about bluebells for this week’s Folkdays post, and share some facts, folklore, and photos of this, the country’s favourite flower.

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Throwback: Passing the Spark

As I mentioned in an earlier throwback post, to tie in with my Black Country poems going on exhibition at Dudley Museum, I spoke at a panel discussion about my writing process, the poems, and what interested me as a writer. I was met with such a positive response, that I felt a spark was lit within me for discussing and sharing my passion with others. This set me on a new path within my poetry career: one of teaching writing classes, running workshops, and mentoring poets.

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Folkdays: Rag Trees

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The walks, especially the less-trodden tracks, around the Clent, Walton, and Wychbury Hills are where I get most of my inspiration, and where I feel my creativity recharging. One of the most special spots on these walks is the dell behind St Kenelm’s church. The spring is said to be where the Anglo-Saxon boy-king Kenelm was martyred, and the trees and undergrowth which still grow there feel powerful in an ancient way.

It is no surprise then, that the people drawn to this spot feel compelled to follow an ancient Celtic ritual, and deck the surrounding branches with rags and ribbons.

The folk tradition of the ‘clootie well’ is a fascinating one: read more about it below.

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Throwback: Festival Season

Equipped with only a small printed booklet of my Black Country poems, I performed for the first time at Waterstones in Birmingham. This was at the launch of Cain, the fifth poetry collection by Luke Kennard, who at the time was my lecturer at the University of Birmingham. To be invited to read at his event was an honour; to perform in front of some of my classmates was a terror; to read at Waterstones set me up for the next big opportunity of my poetry journey.

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Throwback: Poet of June

I am a firm believer that opportunity begets opportunity: if you seize the things that come your way, more exciting ventures will follow. Early in my poetry journey, I applied to a project that was passed along by the university, organised by the Birmingham-based arts charity Leaveners. They were curating a ‘Poets’ Corner’: a showcase of poets, all sharing small portfolios of their work. I was elected to be their Poet of June, 2015.

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Folkdays: Reviewing Shakespeare and The Folktale

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When I stumbled across a copy of Charlotte Artese’s book while Christmas shopping in Bath, I was compelled to buy it as a gift to myself. In the title alone, my two favourite topics for research were brought together: Shakespeare and the Folktale.

I had, somewhat on the margins on my mind over the winter break, wondered what I should choose for my MA dissertation topic. I knew I wanted to build upon my undergraduate dissertation in some way; however, I was registered on the wrong course to write my dissertation as poetry. What Artese’s book showed me was that I could combine a study of Shakespeare with the themes I like to explore in my poetry: namely folklore.

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