Claire Trévien

100 poems in one day & other oddities

Freelancing (poetry-style)

Well this has been a proper full-on poetry week.


Monday my publisher/producer/director/magician Tom Chivers and I met with Sarah McCartney of niche perfumery brand 4160 Tuesday, who is going to be creating a scent for the show-version of The Shipwrecked House. Sarah was very generous with her time and let Tom & I smell all sorts from her collection, I think my favourite was The Dark Heart of Havana, which I am definitely saving up for. I don’t normally get vivid colours when I smell something for the first time, but this evoked to me the colour of honey. Really, it’s a perfume about the dark side of the night, it’s sugary and dark, and exuberant, what’s not to love really? Me being tangentially involved in perfume thanks to Penning Perfume is quite funny really, mainstream brands tend to remind me of the insides of cars, but working with all sorts of creative and wonderful perfumers has shown me a much more invigorating and intriguing side to that world. So if you are someone who doesn’t think perfume is for you, I do recommend you sample some of Sarah’s wares.

I listened to myself reading some of the poems that will feature in The Shipwrecked House show on the way up in an attempt to learn my lines. It’s slowly working, though poems that have a call and answer (such as Sing Bird) are proving tricky to remember in the right sequence.


On Tuesday, I returned to Oxford to judge and give a short reading at the Martin Starkie Prize, named after the founder of the Oxford University Poetry Society. The last few weeks have been interesting for me, as I judged not one but two poetry prizes for the first time (results of the Iain Rennie competition should be announced soon). I’ve edited before but judging is a very different kettle of fish, you don’t always find yourself rewarding the poems you fall for, you find yourself swayed by a brilliant image here, the promise of future brilliance there, an intriguing concept elsewhere. You find yourself worrying whether the winner is incontestable (whatever that means!), you start doubting your very own ability to judge, you want to reward poems that weren’t afraid to fail a little in their attempt to push boundaries.

It must be very different when you’re part of a panel, more compromises, more debate, other people to blame for your choices. On the flipside it’s also been fascinating to sift through such a variety of voices, some loaded with so much potential. In the end though, I remained pleased with my final choice, Theophilus Kwek’s ‘Ultimate and Penultimate Things’, which subtly grew on me the more I read it. I’m a real sucker for forms going hand in hand with content, and this was an excellent example of it.



Daisy Johnson
Conor McGillan
Sarvat Hasin
Adam Leonard
Nasim Asl


Theophilus Kwek

I was glad to finally put a name to poems, and had a wonderful time both at the readings and at the drinks afterwards… Particularly good to meet the new OUPS president Leo Mercer, whom I’ve been in virtual contact with before, and a previous OUPS president April Pierce.

I made the most of my Oxford visit to also catch up with my Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History co-editor Gareth Prior to discuss the current submissions. Our consensus so far is that we need more pre-early modern history poems, and also more non-European voices (which isn’t to say you should restrain yourself from submitting that 18th century Lithuanian poem if you have one).

I also popped into the end of the Hammer and Tongue final to say hello to Salena Godden and catch the winner (the lovely Tina Sederholm), so all in all quite a busy whistle-stop visit.

The wonderful Salena Godden

The wonderful Salena Godden


Wednesday I travelled to the University of Kent in Canterbury to give a talk with Helen Ivory and Kate Birch (of Ink, Sweat and Tears). It’s the third time Helen and I have been on a panel together, all very different experiences (the Poetry Library and the Ivy Club were the first two). I think this was my personal favourite in terms of audiences, which mostly consisted of their MA students. The students were very entrepreneurial and engaging, and I hope that we’ve given them some hope and ideas of what they can do to promote their endeavours. I think it’s drawn home for me the need for students to have access to more help and advice when it comes to things such as social media and arts council applications, and fewer attitudes of gate-keeping. We were wonderfully looked after by Patricia Debney and David Flusfeder, and I came home loaded with goodies to read…

Oh and they took us out to dinner in a place that has a Shipwreck Tart, I kid you not (cf picture).

photo 2 (1)


After travelling in the morning, I spent the rest of my day preparing for my Poetry School course livechat in the evening. This week I’d asked my students to personify a home and while they did admit that it was a challenge, the results were seriously impressive. It’s a real pleasure working with them – they all have different styles and accept this rather than trying to mould each other’s poems into a factory-setting. I’ve just sent out the last assignment, one more livechat to go in a fortnight – I shall be sad when it is over!


No travelling, hurray!

Friday was mostly spent catching up on various pieces of admin that had accumulated while I was away. The Arts Council Grant for The Shipwrecked House also finally came through so I took my brother out for lunch and tried to convince him to let me cut his hair (he said no).

Plans are afoot to maybe visit NYC in the autumn, I have never been to the USA before and hate flying, but it would be wonderful to see in the flesh the backdrop of so much pop culture. I’d love to combine the visit with some readings, so if you have any pro-tips, I’d love to hear them…


So far, writing this, in an elaborate procrastination scheme: I’ve been commissioned to write a poem for someone’s 50th (in French and in English). It’s nearly there, but reaching the stage where I need to print everything out, take out the blue pen, and possibly start again.

This really has been an exclusively poetry-based week, which looks set to continue in coming weeks with the start of The Shipwrecked House rehearsals.

2013 in poetry

It’s not my habit to use this blog for anything other than briefly-lived projects that go into hiding, but I’ve been increasingly yearning for a place to put longer pieces (my blog over at is extremely unwieldy for that sort of thing as it refuses any kind of formatting beyond bullet points, no doubt something I should fix this year), so here goes.

I’ve been reading all sorts of end-of-year blogs over the last few days and admire them both for their memory (January 2013 feels like another land to me) and ability to succinctly summarize an unwieldy amount of information. I recommend among many others Tim Cresswell’s, Jayne Stanton’s, Rob Mackenzie‘s, the Poetry School’s, Jenna Clake’s,  … They make me wish I’d kept track as the year progresses.

Obviously, the problem with these kind of summaries is that they make everything feel instagrammed and glorious, while on a personal-level, I’ve had some pretty awful lows and was probably ill more often than in previous years. This is probably due to holding down at first a full-time day job, and then two day jobs (totalling 4 days), while juggling the extra-curricular projects. I’m aiming for a better balance next year. Poetry-wise, I do have to be grateful, I have had a wonderful year, which I’ll try to summarize in a format inspired by Kim Moore, with the addition of favourite things read (hard to remember by month, so there may be errors):

January-February: Penning Perfumes did its first tour to Manchester, Oxford, Bristol and Birmingham, involving both new poets living locally and poets from the original project. I also had some of my poems translated into French and made them into a limited edition pamphlet thanks to Lucie Forejtová at Immaginacija. Submissions for the first issue of Verse Kraken opened.

Favourite Things Read: Poetry London, Bernardine Evaristo’s issue of Poetry Review, and all the poems Christian Ward plagiarised.

March: The Verse Kraken submissions closed, nominations for the Saboteur Awards opened leading me to become far too intimately acquainted with Excel spreadsheets, and The Shipwrecked House was published and launched in London and Paris.

Favourite Things Read: Poems in Which, Superbard’s The Flood

April: Published a free e-book edition of Penning Perfumes vol.2, launched The Shipwrecked House in Oxford and Beaconsfield, voting opened and closed for the second round of Saboteur Awards voting (less work-intensive thanks to Survey Monkey), and I was ‘exhibited’ for the first time thanks to Crystal Bennes, at the Hanmi Gallery in London as part of a collaboration between poets and photographers. After 7 months of persuasion, my workplace agreed to create a blog. Read at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival which was great fun (with thanks to Dan Holloway who has been super supportive the whole year to me and so many other writers and deserves some kind of rat-shaped medal).

Favourite Things Read: Sculpted: Poetry of the North WestLullabies to make your children cry by Lucy Ayrton.

May: The Saboteur Awards took place  to a sold-out audience and I was thus able to regain some control over my life. I did one of my favourite readings at Outspoken, featuring Anna Hobson, Ceri Lloyd, Amy McCauley and Katherine Stansfield: the audience was really warm and responsive and the mirror format really made me appreciate each poet’s reading fully.

Favourite Things Read: Lune by Sarah Hymas, this awesome poem by Emily Hasler.

June: Tori Truslow and I launched Verse Kraken after staying up all-night making the hard-copy editions and we also led our first writing retreat with the wonderful Lucy Ayrton. An interesting challenge for me was being part of a panel at the Southbank on the digital alternative thanks to Chrissy Williams at the Poetry Library with Helen Ivory and Caleb Klaces.

Favourite Things Read: Hannah Lowe’s Chick, Luke Kennard’s Holophin.

July: Well, the big news for me was finding out that a) I had a highly commended poem in the Forward Prizes and that b) I was longlisted in the Guardian First Book Awards.

Favourite Thing Read: Luke Wright’s Mondeo Man.

August:  I was ill for the entire month but did manage to organize an Oxford reading with James Brookes, Amy Key, Charlotte Newman, Tori Truslow and James Webster which was a lot of fun.

Favourite Things Read: Melissa Lee-Houghton’s long-awaited second collection Beautiful Girls, Clare Pollard’s Ovid’s Heroines.

September: Loved helping Kiran Millwood Hargrave launch her latest collection Splitfish in Oxford, and a podcast on my poem ‘Whales’ came out. Otherwise I mostly tried to concentrate on moving flats, getting a year older, and starting a second job.

Favourite Things Read: Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s Splitfish, Helen Mort’s Division Street.

October: This was a busy month for readings, starting with the finale of the Swindon Festival of Poetry with the lovely Kim Moore, and meeting Sam Loveless, Michael Scott and Hilda Sheehan. Then I got to be on a panel on the future of poetry publishing at the swanky Club at the Ivy with Helen Ivory again and chaired by Sir Andrew Motion. Next, Gareth Prior kindly included me in one of the best organized readings I’ve ever attended at the Jericho Tavern, where I was especially glad to hear Patrick McGuinness, Jenny Lewis and Ben Parker read. Last but not least, I read at a Nine Arches Press event in Leicester alongside Mario Petrucci, Matt Merritt and Alistair Noon – very grateful to Jane Commane, who is another relentless and passionate champion of poetry.  I was also glad to make it to the launch of the Interpreter’s House where I finally put a face to names such as Josephine Corcoran and Paul Hawkins. Finally, Sabotage Reviews had a long-overdue make over…. Thankfully, I started working 4 days a week rather than 5 which should have made things more manageable were it not for the mountain of marking….

Favourite Things Read: Matt Merritt’s The Elephant TestsTim Cresswell’s Soil, Kim Moore’s If We Could Speak like Wolves.

November: was a busy month on all fronts with one week in particular which often involved catching a train/bus in the morning from one place, changing into increasingly ridiculous outfits before catching another train/bus, doing an event and then running for the last train home. And repeat. Highlights included: writing 100 poems in a day, reading at the Magma launch, going to the Writer’s Return event in York and catching up with JT Welsch and Inua Ellams there, performing at Wordsmiths&co at the Warwick Arts Centre, reading at the Interrobang Festival, and leading a second Verse Kraken retreat with Tori Truslow. Being the Poetry School’s first digital-poet-in-residence was also a stand-out moment for me and reminded me that I love blogging.

Favourite Things ReadInterpreter’s House #54, Tim Wells’ Rising #60, Amy Key’s Luxe.

December: This was a month which I hoped would be a little quieter after the intense last two, but it began with the Penning Perfumes Christmas Special for which Lucie Forejtová and I handmade forty-odd cards – great to hear John Clegg, Kayo Chingonyi, Amy Key, and Charlotte Newman read again and in such a unique setting. The Betsey Trotwood Christmas All-Dayer was also excellent fun, Renée O’Drobinak, Chrissy Williams, John Canfield, Alice Walker and John McCullough, stole the show, and our table won cheese in the quiz. Submissions for issue 2 of Verse Kraken closed. And just to round things off nicely, Robert Peake included me in his 5 British Poets to Watch in 2014 list over on the Huffington Post blog.

Favourite Thing Read: Michael Symmons Roberts’ Drysalter, Emily Berry’s Dear Boy, Rachel Piercey’s The Flower and the Plough.

My new year’s resolutions in light of this are to read and write more and organize less, but we’ll see how that goes…

What are yours?

The Aftermath

The 100 poems challenge has been and gone, thank you so much to everyone who showed their support, threw titles, images, songs at me in the hope some would stick. I was overwhelmed by your loveliness and found out all sorts of things, from the name for button-phobia, to a detail in a Titian painting I had never paid attention to.

Thank you especially to the 46 of you who have donated to Refuge via my JustGiving page, I cannot believe that it raised £615! If you enjoyed the poems at all, or the sheer absurdity of the task, then please consider making a donation, the page will apparently stay up for another three months so there’s still time!

Update: I have now made the poems private, but the JustGiving page lives on. I have written a blogpost for the Poetry School about the experience. Thanks again for the support xx

Tomorrow, it begins.

Only a few hours to go…. I have bookmarked some websites which I expect will be key to managing this, I’ve got a spreadsheet with most of the titles that have been suggested to me on it (still a couple to add), and endless (almost) supplies of tea and cuppa soup are now in my bedroom along with a kettle. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be…!

A quick plug to my friend Agnes Davis who has done the same thing yesterday and raised an incredible amount for the Phillipines. Do read them here.

9 days to go

I am starting to get concerned about my recklessness in agreeing to do this, but it’s too late to back out now! I did some calculations and worked out that if I work without eating or breaks I need to produce a poem every 5 minutes.  I think the hardest thing will be to allow sub-par poems to exist on the internet, it’s a bit like flashing your knickers in public. Hopefully some of those fast-produced 100 poems can be re-worked into good poems eventually, that’s what I’m trying to tell myself…

I am also keeping in mind Jacqueline Saphra’s inspirational blog on her Canary Wharf residency: ‘I began to feel increasingly gung-ho about putting things up even when they weren’t quite finished, and I hadn’t laboured on them for weeks or months or years or even hours. It started to feel strangely therapeutic, all that letting go. Perhaps a bit like an artist who makes a quick sketch feels good, and just moves on to the next one.’


Anyway, keep the suggestions, prompts, titles etc coming. I am adding them to a spreadsheet to keep track of things on 22nd. I’m also keeping track of who suggested what so a dedication should come with each one. As you can see I have 9 so far, I need something closer to 100 to keep me going, so please send as many as you please!

The Challenge

On 22nd November I will be attempting to write 100 poems in one day. That’s more than I usually write in a year so I can’t help but think that I’m setting myself up for failure! I will be using this pop-up blog of mine for the challenge.

This is all Tim Clare’s fault, he’s been doing it for four years so he should know better really.

I would like there to be some higher goal to this, so alongside this challenge I will also be raising money for a charity close to my heart, Refuge.

If you’d like to help me with this challenge here’s what you can do:

  • Suggest poem titles. As many or as few as you want!
  • Order me some poems: i.e a villanelle on a polar bear called Strepsils, a triolet on Tesco value tinned tomatoes or anything else that you’d like. It can be a form, a topic, a technique, anything…
  • Help me reach my very modest JustGiving goal of £100. That’s £1 per poem. If we surpass that goal I will be over the moon of course.
  • Tweet me words of encouragement.

That’s it really! Please make use of the comment box or twitter for your suggestions – it’ll be easier for me to keep track in two weeks’ time…

Oh and for extra fun, I’m also hosting a Q&A with one of my favourite poets of all times that same day at 1pm. So to take that into account, I will start writing poems from 8am and finish at midnight (hopefully).



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