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A Little Bit of Community Work – Funded by The Poetry Foundation!

Did you know that as well as producing anthologies-so-good-you’d-like-to-lick-them, Mud Press also gets her sticky fingers into community action? Well listen up, y’all, because this stuff really matters.

So what happened?

In April 2015, an exchange was devised between Deborah Stevenson (the founder of UK based Mouthy Poets), working with Bilbrough College Nottingham, and a teacher (Melissa Hughes) from TEAM Englewood School in Chicago. Deborah and Melissa both arrived at each other’s schools with the same poetry prompts and writing activities, ready to inspire two sets of students through intimate coaching and writing sessions. The students were asked to write about their neighbourhood and everyday lives, and though they were given the same stimuli, they were encouraged to drift creatively, and be themselves. The outcome was a vivid melange of poems exploring life in the US and UK, via an individualistic spectrum of voices.

And this is where Mud stepped in! In early summer 2015, Deborah and Anne Holloway (the founder of Big White Shed) approached Mud to compile an anthology of the work produced – AND it would be funded by The Poetry Foundation! Big, big, deal! And so the anthology ‘Middle Ground’ was born.

Mud seized the opportunity to be in the mix, and spent the summer working with Big White Shed to edit the wealth of poems created during the project into an anthology. And what a collection it turned out to be! The most exciting bit was to see how students from different cultures responded to the same prompts; so bold expressions of spoken word-esque works sat next to calculated stanzas in an array of forms, and blunt, gritty pieces were followed by comic ditties. The anthology had become a true ‘community’ of voices in itself.

After the cover was designed by regular contributor to Mud’s graphic design, Angelica Parra (first showcasing her talents on the cover of Hunger), and once the final proof-read was done, the anthology was complete – a visceral, living thing. The collection was delivered to the students who took part, and they got to see (and keep) a real, physical copy of their work, which of course they loved, and it definitely gave them major bragging rights across the schools! They were officially published poets after all.

Mud knows deep in her being that this sort of community work is important. So many of us feel like we don’t have anything interesting to say, or that we don’t lead diverse enough lives to write about, or simply that no one else cares. Projects like this prove that we all count, our private worlds are fascinating, and everyone, literally everyone, has a distinctive voice, which deserves to be captured. Maybe the young people in this project will even continue their storytelling with their new-found confidence!

And so, within the first 6 months of Mud Press being born, she was already helping to change the lives of young people LITERALLY around the world. That’s definitely something worth shouting about, right?

And do you know, Mud’s hoping to do lots more of these community collaborations! So keep your ears to the ground, and of course, if you want to be involved, get in touch!


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