Seasonal Reading: a blog/site tour

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There’s a bumper crop of seasonal poems on blogs and sites I follow or have come across via recent e-newsletters and social media, lately.  Whether it’s Christmas, the winter solstice, snow or winter trees that float your boat, there’s bound to be at least one or two poems to interest or inspire you from this selection:

  • At the time of writing, Roy Marshall has published not one but four selections of Winter Poems.  Click here for the latest and you’ll then be able to click back to previous ones
  • Two poems by Jean Atkin on Abegail Morley’s Poetry Shed capture the white season beautifully
  • Robin Houghton’s choice of Poems for a Christmas Concert includes one of my favourites, Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Prayer’
  • Anthony Wilson’s New Nativity Monologue – An Angel also has a link to more Christmas Poems, being a contemporary ‘take’ on the nativity
  • Modern Poetry in Translation is a site well worth visiting at any time of year; there’s a flavour of what they have to offer via their Poetry Advent Calendar
  • The Poetry Foundation‘s site has collections of Winter Poems and Christmas Poems, each containing a mix of classic and contemporary poems
  • London Grip New Poetry‘s latest issue: winter 2017-18 may be seasonal in name only, but it’s a pick ‘n’ mix if you’re tired of all things – er, seasonal
  • Anthony Wilson’s ‘What You Read in 2017‘ is a Top Ten of Lifesaving Poems and posts plus some of AW’s personal favourites
  • If you’re hungry for more, Matthew Stewart’s annual ‘Best UK Poetry Blogs‘ roll of honour is a chocolate box for the browser (I’m not sure my infrequent efforts warrant a place here, but I’m chuffed nevertheless)

If you’ve come across other seasonal pickings worth checking out, do add them in the comments box below.

Happy seasonal reading 🙂

Jayne

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Liz Berry at Rugby library

It’s been three years since the publication of Liz Berry’s Black Country collection.  I remember devouring it in one sitting (that was greedy of me; it’s a rich dish, the better for savouring).  It became my 2014 favourite, and remains high on my list of favourite poetry collections.

An infrequent Twitter visitor, I was pleased to spot a retweet for Saturday’s Warwickshire Poetry Voices event (thank you, @NineArchesPress) and promptly bagged a free e-ticket.  After a short drive across the Leicestershire-Warwickshire border, my sat nav obligingly located nearby parking and I had time to enjoy a coffee beforehand.

The programme began with readings of favourite published poems and own work by members of Rugby poetry group (fresh from a workshop with Liz Berry, the lucky creatures).  I particularly enjoyed hearing Maya Angelou’s empowering Phenomenal Woman and laughed aloud at Sophie Hannah’s If People Disapprove of You, both new to me, both striking a chord.

Liz Berry’s was a short reading in the time allotted, but a joy nevertheless.  She gave her audience full permission to stretch [your] legs and have a good wriggle (proving that you can’t take the Primary teacher out of the poet 🙂 ) before opening with ‘Bobowler’,  (a large moth) a poem commissioned by BBC local radio for National Poetry Day, celebrating the Black Country’s favourite dialect word.  Berry followed with ‘Homing’, her love poem to the Black Country accent with its consonants/ you could lick the coal from.  ‘Birmingham Roller celebrates this dull grey city bird, the tumbling pigeon, in a dialect poem rich with gems such as tranklement and jimmucking.  ‘Stone’ is a love poem for a rarer gem, the husband who gives a milk pan (and, more recently, we’re told, a glue gun) as a Christmas gift.  Before concluding her reading with’Christmas Eve,’ Berry explained that, in writing the poem, she wanted to do for the Black Country what Dylan Thomas achieved in Under Milk Wood.  And doesn’t she just!

Throughout, I barely glanced at my copy of Black Country.  It was clear from the outset that these are love poems to the local language this Dudley-born poet grew up hearing, borne out in Liz Berry’s responses to questions from the audience afterwards.

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Three poetry pamphlets

It’s always a joy to receive a surprise package in the post.

The most recent contained three poetry pamphlets, commissioned by the University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing, and an accompanying letter from Dr Julian North at the School of Arts.

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I was pleased to discover that two of the pamphlets (containing, amongst others, my commissioned poem, ‘Slave Bird’) have recently been re-issued:

Friendship’s Scrapbook: a sequence of five poems by Deborah Tyler-Bennett and my own single poem, written in response to archive material comprising a range of anti-slavery pamphlets and hymns, letters and journals produced by Leicester abolitionists, Elizabeth Heyrick and Susanna Watts.

Women’s Writing in the Midlands, 1750-1850: poems arising from a series of Record Office workshops led by Deborah Tyler-Bennett, in response to the original material that inspired Friendship’s Scrapbook.

The newly-published Writing Lives Together is an anthology of poetry and prose written as part of The Centre for New Writing’s ‘Writing and Research Series’ in a series of workshops responding to nineteenth century archive material including journals, confessions, lyric poetry and autobiography by Dorothy and William Wordsworth, Coleridge, Dickens and others.

All three pamphlets were launched at Leicester Shindig on Monday 27th November. Contributors to the anthology (Richard Byrt, Jo Dixon, Aysar Ghassan, Anna Larner and Jonathan Taylor) read their poems, and I  read my ‘Slave Bird’ poem.   I particularly enjoyed the humour of Richard Byrt’s ‘To Asda,’ a sonnet after Coleridge’s ‘To Asra’ and Keats’ ‘Ode to a Nightingale,’ and, by contrast, Anna Larner’s ‘On Reflection’ a sonnet after the same Coleridge poem.

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All three pamphlets are available for free by emailing newwriting@le.ac.uk or click here for further details.

Doings, plans and a missed opportunity

Doings: 

Literary Leicester

Last week, I attended two back-to-back Literary Leicester festival events:

  • A ‘Poetry Recital’ by Douglas Dunn and Rory Waterman, each reading from their respective new collections, The Noise of a Fly (Faber & Faber) and Sarajevo Roses (Carcanet).  Dunn had travelled from his home in Scotland to read from his first collection to be published in seventeen years; his audience were not disappointed.  I confess to having read none of Dunn’s poetry previously, and have add this eminent poet to a growing list of those whose work I should seek out.  Waterman’s reading, equally engaging, convinced me that I will enjoy his new collection at least as much as I did Tonight the Summer’s Over (his first, also from Carcanet).
  • Sir Jonathan Bate on Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life.  A fascinating talk on the four years of research, the ups and downs and paths taken in writing this biography.  Another hour well-spent, to say the least.

Plans:

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Four months into retirement (so-called, anything but) is far enough in to underline the fact that time does indeed fly.  Thus I’m ever mindful of that wish list I started making last year, once I knew that leaving the chalkface a year early was financially do-able.  As part of my ongoing poetry education, I’ve already completed one MOOC since July and have embarked upon another (juuust).  I plan to blog about these at some point (yes, ever the list-maker, I’ve started another one: Things to Blog About).

With an eye to the poetry New Year (and fulfilling one wish from The List), I’ve booked my ticket for the TS Eliot prize shortlist readings at the Southbank Centre on Sunday 14th January.  I’ve heard much about this annual event from other poets and bloggers over the past few years and I’m so looking forward to spicing up the inevitable post-Christmasness with a slice of the poetry high life.  Although we’ll have to wait until the following day for the result, I’ll be rooting for Jacqueline Saphra.  Who’s your hot favourite?

A missed opportunity:

ModPo in London: as a previous (and present) course participant, I had this early-September happening on my poetry radar, but the date neared, came and went whilst our house-move-in-waiting put most things on hold.  If any readers of this post attended either or both of the organised events, I’d love to hear all about it via the comment box below.

 

A submission bears fruit

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Hot on the heels of a published poem in issue 66 of The Interpreter’s House comes an acceptance for the DIVERSIFLY anthology: Everyday Encounters with the Birds of Britain’s Towns and Cities – in Poetry & Art.  Edited by Nadia Kingsley, it will be published in January 2018 by Fair Acre Press.  Mine’s a wee poem (like its subject) but I’m thrilled nevertheless.

Submissions still viable:

  • 5 unpublished poems to a poetry magazine, via Submittable, in early June are now ‘In-Progress.’ – since 24th October, in fact – I took to checking daily.  (Online submission portals are great, but the trackable status of active submissions serve to highlight the waiting time between ‘Received’ and ‘In-Progress’ (and from thence to ‘Declined’ or ‘Accepted’).
  • 4 previously-published poems (3 plus 1) for 2 themed anthologies, to be published by the same small press.  (The proposed response dates for these have stretched, over time, from September to November).
  • 2 previously-published poems submitted (last year?  the year before?  I forget) to Poetry in the Waiting Room.  I’d be seriously chuffed if either one of ’em gets to grace an NHS waiting room at some point in the future.  ‘Nothing ventured…’, right?
  • 1 poem entered for a themed poetry competition.  I saw (a Facebook link to the announcement on Write Out Loud), I read (the theme, the rules) I entered (I had a poem ready for submission that I reckon fits the theme well).  I like the level playing field of competitions.  And ‘you have to be in it…’, right?
  • I still have high hopes for one particular poem recently returned from my TIH #66 submission. I’ll send it out again without any re-drafting (not sure where, yet). 

I’m having second thoughts about a few poems that have been around the houses (including TIH).  I’ll re-draft them before re-submission.  Or they may end up consigned to Unfinished or Dubious – sub folders where the unviable languish.  But there are some NaPoWriMo poems that have lain dormant for months and are ripe for nurturing.  

 

A published poem

I’m having a very quiet year – in terms of poem acceptances, that is.  I’m doubly pleased, therefore, to have a poem (The Night Driver’s Wife) published in the latest issue of The Interpreter’s House magazine.  My contributor’s copy of issue 66 arrived in Monday’s post.  What a beauty!

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I’ve not had time to do more than glance down the list of contributors on the back cover.  There are poets I’m looking forward to reading for the first time as well as re-acquaintances and firm favourites.  Poetry magazines and small presses are labours of love; some I’ve admired have disappeared over the past few years, so it’s really encouraging to see TIH go from strength to strength under Martin Malone’s editorship, ably assisted by Charles Lauder Jnr.  If you’d like to subscribe or purchase a single copy, it’s as easy as clicking here (although I notice issue 66 isn’t available at the time of writing this).

Will there be a launch?  And will it be do-able in terms of travelling distance and other commitments?  I hope so 🙂

Retirement?#999£££%****!!!!

How’s retired life, then?

It’s the question on most folks’ lips by way of a greeting, these days.

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Since I retired from Primary School teaching at the end of the summer term, life has been a rollercoaster ride.  In addition to the highs and lows, steps forward and backward, complications, frustrations and delays of selling and buying property (and sorting, getting rid and packing, packing, packing), my husband’s sudden illness at the end of July was a curveball.

To fast-forward 3 months (and counterbalance a self-indulgent tale of woe) :

  • my husband has defied medical and surgical statistics and has made a remarkable recovery
  • a few days after his hospital discharge, we celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary with afternoon tea at our favourite local cafe
  • we are ever more thankful for the NHS (the expertise and swift action of paramedic, surgeon and radiographer, the nurse who stayed past the end of her shift, meals served and water jugs re-filled with a smile and a first name greeting, to name but a few)
  • my early retirement was timely
  • just when we were ready to throw in the towel, the miracle happened: in the space of two days, we exchanged contracts, completed and moved home
  • an end to a stressful period (and the chaos and hard graft of moving day itself) meant that leaving our family home of 21 years wasn’t the wrench I thought it would be
  • most of the boxes are now unpacked and our bungalow (in a quiet cul-de-sac with friendly neighbours, at the other end of the village we found we didn’t want to leave) already feels like home

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  • after 11 days without, we now have broadband and a functioning land line once more, my husband has a work station in a corner of the lounge and I have a study corner in the bedroom

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I’ve not felt much like reading poetry, lately – and even less like writing any – but poetry happenings have offered occasional respite.  And this is supposed to be a poetry blog, so here’s a chronology of my poetry goings and doings:

  • Sat 8th July: Soundscape cafe at Leicester cathedral – poetry readings and music performances throughout the day on the theme of ‘the tapestry of life.’  i read two city poems from my Bru writing residency.
  • Writers’ Meet-Ups, Tuesday mornings monthly at Bru coffee in Leicester: an opportunity to share writing updates, spread the news of upcoming events and to network with local writers across the genres.
  • Twice-monthly Soundswrite meetings: discussing published poems by others and workshopping poems-in-progress.
  • Wed 20th Sept: Leicester Writers’ Showcase at the central library: as part of this series of monthly events, members of Soundswrite poetry group read poems from their latest anthology together with featured readings by Marilyn Ricci and Maxine Linnell from their newly-launched Soundswrite Press collections Night Rider and This Dust (respectively).

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  • Mon 25th Sept: Leicester Shindig (bi-monthly) – open mic plus featured readings by Romalyn Ante from her V. Press pamphlet, Rice and Rain; Matthew Stewart and Rebecca Bird from their Eyewear collections The Knives of Villalejo and Shrinking Ultraviolet (respectively).
  • Sat 30th Sept: a cancelled ceilidh gig that evening meant I could indulge myself with a day in London for the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair – book browsing and buying, poetry readings through the day and into the evening.  I even managed an hour or so in the British Museum beforehand.

 

  • Wed 4th Oct (the evening before Moving Day!): Soundswrite hosted an informal read-around on the theme of Poems for our Times as part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival.
  • Sat 7th Oct: networking with readers and fellow writers from the Soundswrite table at Leicester central library’s Local Writers’ Fair (another Everybody’s Reading event).

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I’ve lots more to blog about and that gives me plenty of material for future posts.  After all, I’ll have more time at my disposal now, won’t I?

🙂