WHO AM I?
My name is Caleb and I’m a poet, performer, facilitator, educator and filmmaker, based in Bristol, South-West England. (I’m also, in Anglo-Saxon kennings form, a: film-watcher, poem-reader, word-herder, radio-listener, dog-lover, bike-rider, former-boater, plate-spinner, flag-waver, leaflet-giver, patterned-shirt-wearer, sometimes-dancer, errant-giggler and frequent-chatterer.)
From October 2020 – 2022, I was the third Bristol City Poet.
I won second prize in the National Poetry Competition 2016, the Winchester Poetry Prize 2017 and various other shortlists – and have poem published variously in: The Rialto, The Poetry Review, Under the Radar, Poetry Wales, Butcher’s Dog, Coast to Coast to Coast, Strix, Magma, Envoi, Lighthouse, Finished Creatures, Tentacular, Molly Bloom and The Guardian.
My educational work is extensive, tutoring and creating resources for Poetry Society, Poetry School, Cheltenham Festivals, Arvon Foundation and First Story.
I hold an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. From 2023, I'll be a PhD candidate at the University of Exeter, as part of RENEW.
My debut pamphlet, 'Wasted Rainbow', was published in February 2021. My debut collection, This Fruiting Body, was published with Nine Arches Press in October 2021.
In 2022, I published 'All the Cancelled Parties', my collected work as Bristol City Poet, and 'The Coin' with Broken Sleep Books.
My career has encompassed media production, education, the arts, and their therapeutic/wellbeing applications. But poetry is my mobile home.
I facilitate creative writing groups and workshops (therapeutic or general), in diverse settings with young people, sheltered accommodation residents, teachers, festival-goers, academic researchers, artists, fellow poets, and...
Until early 2017, I was Membership Secretary for Lapidus: The Writing for Wellbeing Organisation and Conference Manager for the Lapidus Day in May 2016.
I work as a freelance poet, tutor and facilitator, on various projects from participatory cycling events or as one of the lead artists on the Bristol Approach to Citizen Sensing.
I’ve been privileged enough to work in in alternative educational settings (for Kirklees Council and Kids Company) with young people with Social Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties - which led on to my work in the therapeutic application of the arts and creativity.
I’ve worked as a Production Co-ordinator for Radio 4 Features Bristol, where I worked with a rich range of writers and performers on programmes like With Great Pleasure and A Good Read, as well as producing a programme, Feed Me To The Wind (about which I wrote pieces for BBC News Online and the Guardian).
I’ve been involved in the development and production of BBC TV Arts and Social/Cultural History Docs on programmes like TimeShift, History of Now and When Romeo Met Juliet.
I’ve worked as a writer for a science publication International Innovation, for whom I was the reporter at the BioVision World Life Sciences Forum – you can read the piece I wrote about it here.
The Scribbled Self is a creative writing for wellbeing resource curated by young people for young people and edited by Caleb Parkin. It launched at The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival 2022 and was part of the legacy of Beyond Words, a Cheltenham Festivals’ outreach project that ran from 2016-2021.
"Caleb Parkin was Bristol’s third City Poet, appointed towards the end of 2020 when Bristol was in a state of flux with endlessly changing Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
At the end of Caleb’s term we published an anthology of his commissions, which is available to download as a PDF."
From 2023, I'll be a poetry practice-as-research PhD candidate at the University of Exeter, as part of the RENEW Biodiversity initiative.
Watch this space for more information, as this project develops!
with Cheltenham Literature Festival
From 2019 - 2021 I've been working with Cheltenham Literature Festival, on the writing for wellbeing project ‘Beyond Words’.
With a group of young people from the Gloucester Hospital Education Service, we’re writing in inspiring locations - and on Zoom - creative three anthologies together.
Writer-in-Residence and Lead Writer
During its time working in the South-West, I was fortunate enough to work with First Story. I delivered residencies in four schools, was Lead Writer in 2018-19, and worked in various other schools on teacher CPDs and student workshops.
In 2019, I produced an LGBTQ+ writing resource, shared with all participating schools, and in 2020 created LGBT+ History Month classroom resources on the themes of Belonging, Becoming and Relationship.
with Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
From January to March 2019, I was lucky to work with Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and Compass Point School on a Max Literacy Award project.
It was great fun working with the year two and five classes in the school. Writing creatively about art and objects is such a brilliant, nourishing thing to do – I hope they’ll feel confident and excited to go into more museums and galleries, equipped with pen(cil) and paper, to explore with their senses and imaginations.
I've run various sessions for Bristol Museum Service.
In 2017, through WEA our group was inspired by the objects and themes arising from M Shed's exhibits.
Later that year, I also hosted sessions around their Skeletons exhibition - inviting young people to respond to bones, memorials & imagined biographies.
I ran a series of four intergenerational sessions with Wyldwood Arts at Monica Wills House, themed around the elements: Earth; Water; Fire; Air.
They made a delightful film about it, too, which I think really captures some of energy, kindness and openness which characterised the group.
A couple of films I’ve made for Bristol Ageing Better projects. The first for the Growing Bolder group, which helps people over 55 reconnect with life, hope and creativity.
Funded by Bristol Ageing Better, members of the group gave a performance of their own writing (and I went along to film and give a warm-up).
Evidence that you can do wonderfully creative things using household objects and a dining table (!) one afternoon, to tell a DIY story of social isolation and the role of creativity in addressing it.
With the brilliant Barbara Bloomfield, here’s our tabletop epic, Be Brave Bimble.
Be Brave Bimble
The Bristol Approach to Citizen Sensing
"Sing me the song of your laundry
The cycles of this cylinder
Its bright voltaic hum."
As one of the Lead Artists, alongside Paul Hurley, we worked with Knowle West Media Centre on this project: co-facilitating two large community engagement workshops, exploring the ways in which groups of citizens can understand, develop, deploy & utilise sensors and their data in order to address damp in rented and social housing.
In September 2016, we performed our artistic response to the project, #SmartCityDampDataCitizenSpectaculecture in the at-Bristol ‘Data Dome’ or planetarium. The final ‘spectaculecture’ performance involved 360-degree videopoetry I created using a GoPro.
Chainmail (for Nicky Morgan)
“The submariner presented his mate…
risks language of nuclear expectation…”
A Lo! and behold microcommission for The Poetry School, Chainmail (for Nicky Morgan) was a STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Maths) collaborative email project, aiming to challenge and bridge perceived gaps between disciplines, and generate work in the fertile spaces in between.
How Was Your Day?
“OTHER PLUSH PHYLOGENETIC
Scientific researchers from across disciplines at the University of Bristol were invited to attend a morning’s workshop to get creative and generate interesting work to engage the public at Bristol Bright Night. With our Found Poetry Science-Diction Bunting, collaborative sensory poems of the workplace, and writing to or ‘as’ research tools, it was certainly an unusual approach to talking about scientific research. (And when asked if the workshop was well designed and facilitated, 10 out of 10 participants surveyed responded ‘Definitely’ in their feedback.)
Buzz Words and the Bee Ceilidh
“Have you moved gardens lately?
I am all over the place: I have cousins in every field and paddy, up and down the country.”
I invited schools and festivals (Einstein’s Garden at Green Man and with The Sculpture Village, Towersey Festival) to explore and celebrate the awesomeness of our pollinator pals, through anarchic writing games – leading to a collective Ode to the Bee.
Once we’d become a collective bee-bard, we bopped like bees too. The BEE CEILIDH got families wiggling, giggling and do-si-di-ing, just like they do in a hive. Sort of.
“Buy the £440,000 art cakes
inside the new blue red carpet,
as accidental tech-scents hit
the flawless box triumphs.”
As part of The Fabulous Recycling and Discourse on the Environment Exhibition (alongside an exhibition by artists Donna Bramall and Rachel Hinds) in Leeds, we created found (and concrete) poems using old newspapers and packaging.
Found poetry is a great way of working with form and enjoying words for their sound, as objects, and in their arbitrary (but often intriguing and beautiful) collisions with other words. That’s the fun of found poetry of this kind: it’s all about collecting, curating and creating something new with them.
The Vermin Cycle
“There’s a vast globe to cover in our poo,
and when we’re gone, who’ll see that through?”
As part of Bristol BioBlitz at Tyntesfield near Bristol and at Green Man Festival Einstein’s Garden 2011, I presented my series of Vermin poems (some of which have been published in online journals such as Mgversion2 Datura) – seven first-person pieces that give voice to our least favourite and most ubiquitous species, through the archaic lens of the Seven Deadly Sins. And with epic costume, including fishing-rod cockroach-antennae...
Cyclogeographic & Ride The Lights
“Like a fish with a bicycle, you’ll have no legs…”
A series of (so far) three participatory cycling arts projects:
First, for the SusTrans MicroFest, Caerphilly.
Then for the Juliana’s Bike cycling arts festival in Leeds.
And most recently as Ride the Lights, with The Hepworth, Wakefield.
Publication and Prizes
My continuing adventures as Bristol City Poet, 2020 – 22, which you can read here.
Poems and films online…
‘Ecco the Dolpin’ on Ink, Sweat and Tears
‘Birth Poem’ and ‘Ode on a Black Plastic Compost Bin’ on Atrium Poetry
‘Please Do Not Touch the Walrus or Sit on the Iceberg‘ on And Other Poems
‘For I Will Consider Gnorma, the ASDA Pride Gnome’ on Ben Banyard’s blog
‘garden’ – a poetry-film made in collaboration with Marius Grose
Because I needed to say something – We Push Buttons on Poetry24 – Where news is the muse
My videopoem Bony Orbit on Atticus Review
A video poem created in a collaborative workshop, which you can watch here
(Not quite published – but in the long list for the Rialto nature poetry competition with my dating advert for a Colossal Squid…)
(from way back in University days) Helicon, here
response – with many other people’s – to the burning down of Weston Pier, here.
a reblog from a fellow enthusiast of scientific ideas (and lover of wild birds), here.
another reblog of a found poem I created for NaPoWriMo, here
Death Café Bristol blog – a review of the event, here
BBC News Online: ‘What Happens To Uncollected Ashes?’ Radio 4 feature tie in. March 2012.
My writing has been in print/performance/competitions…
'Shrinking Violets' was featured for National Poetry Day 2021 on The Guardian.
My poems have featured in print and online journals such as: The Rialto, Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, Magma, Under the Radar, Butcher’s Dog, Coast to Coast to Coast, Strix, fourteen poems, And Other Poems, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Finished Creatures, Lighthouse, Envoi, Molly Bloom and Tentacular.
First place in the Winchester Poetry Prize 2017, judged by Sarah Howe, for my poem Somewhere To Keep The Rain – after Wen Ying-Tsai, Umbrella (1971)
Second Prize in The National Poetry Competition 2016, for my poem The Desktop Metaphor
My pamphlet Gentle Voices of Machines was shortlisted in The Rialto Open Pamphlet Competition 2016, by judge Hannah Lowe
Ware Poets Open Competition 2016: my poem 'The Thereminist Hails a Bus' was commended by Philip Gross and appeared in anthology
Videopoetry and performance in #SmartCityDampDataCitizenSpectaculecture at the at-Bristol Planetarium
My short story Spand Grectacular was published in the Rattle Tales 3 anthology
LS13: A New Generation of Leeds Writers – one of ’20 under 40’ to be featured in this anthology of new writing
The Trailer Tent – regular film-trailer review feature. The Leeds Debacle, 2013
Associate Editor and Writer at Research Media Ltd, reporter at BioVision World Life Sciences Forum. Lyon, 2011
Monologue ‘Units of Memory’ performed in Show of Strength Theatre Company’s ‘Trade It?’ project. Bristol, 2009.
Guardian Family Section link-in with Radio 4 feature, ‘What to do with a loved one’s ashes?’ here.