It’s Official

I will be retiring from my teaching post at the end of the summer term

  • because I’m increasingly bone- and brain-tired, these days, and both are taking longer to recover from my oh-so-fortunate-to-be-only Monday-Wednesday work days
  • because I’d like to truly enjoy my newly-restored hip health
  • because life is short – and sometimes far shorter than expected (family, friends)
  • because time is precious and I’d like more choice over how I spend it and with whom
  • because age is just a number but we are getting older (and so are our grandchildren – who were babies only last year, it seems)
  • because this all-or-nothing personality would like to make a serious attempt at achieving a workable balance between passions and interests (those who know me well are laughing already!)
  • because variety might bring new and exciting fruits to the writing table
  • because I’d like my creative ‘mojo’ back
  • because I’d like to learn to give myself permission (on the odd day) to do very little – or nothing at all
  • because I have a choice
  • because I’m oh-so-fortunate to have a choice
  • because [this one varies]

My decision to retire early and manage the gap (I’m trying to remain optimistic it won’t lengthen) between now and State Pensionable age is the result of much soul-searching (I had thinking time whilst on sick leave last autumn), interrogation of our income and expenditure (facing a few home truths) as well as considering how and where we want to live in the very near future.

It’s exciting and scary by turns.

In the meantime, I’m growing a Wish List – that is exciting!

Hygge poems

The Danish word hygge is all about the enjoyment and sharing of life’s simple pleasures.  Poet and educator Angela Topping has been busy spreading a little warmth and light during the dark days of winter, sharing poems on this theme via her blog.

My poem, ‘Ritual,’ originally published in my pamphlet Beyond the Tune, is one of today’s two featured poems, just gone live.  You can blog-hop by clicking here.  Or, if you fancy a leisurely browse through all the poems from Hygge #1 onwards, why not curl up somewhere toasty with your favourite hot drink and click here.

Happy hygge reading!

 

Best New British & Irish Poets 2017

I’m delighted to be amongst the 50 poets whose poems feature in this little beauty, forthcoming from Eyewear Publishing:

eyewear-2017

cover image: eyewearpublishing.com

Being selected by judge Luke Kennard was a 2016 high point. I can hardly wait to see my poem in print and to read those by fellow contributors.

There’s to be a London launch event, which I’m really looking forward.  I’ll post further details here in due course.

You can pre-order a copy ahead of its March publication via this link.

2016 retrospective

I love reading my favourite bloggers’ year-end blog posts – all very different, all inspiring and thought-provoking:

Hilaire’s analysis of her reading year got me thinking: when did I last borrow a book from the public library instead of buying one?  Is a growing TBR pile evidence of my own consumerism?  How many books by BAME writers have I read this year?

Kim Moore’s colour-coded year-to-view serves not as a reminder of the energy levels of my younger years but as an exemplar of a life being lived to the full.  Attending  funerals of friends and ex colleagues barely older than me were this year’s stark reminders that life is short – and sometimes far shorter than we think.  Am I being too lenient with myself as regards putting things (ie writing) on the back burner this year?

Josephine Corcoran’s penultimate blog post about the creative buzz of Trowbridge Arts led me to reflect on all that’s happening in my neck of the woods and how much I’m looking forward to being part of it all again after being a back bencher these past few pre-op and post-op months.

Robin Houghton’s end of year post is rich in reasons to be thankful as well as in resolutions, and not all of them writing/poetry-based.  I share a wish to spend more time in the garden, now that hip health has been restored.  And what’s become of my daily walks since I returned to work, I ask myself!  And surely it’s the everyday stuff and being physically ‘out there’ that is the richest writing fuel of all?

Robin’s post on giving up Facebook (temporarily) makes interesting reading, too.  It’s a growing concern among increasing numbers of us on social media.  I want to limit time spent scrolling through my newsfeed, liking, commenting, sharing and posting.    I don’t want any part of political argy-bargy and the vitriol that manifests itself in ‘Not Dead Yet’ lists and the like.  I’m not going to quit Facebook, though (not even temporarily), for reasons which include remaining in touch with my lovely Burwell music family and keeping up-to-date and informed on poetry happenings and successes of others, competitions and magazine deadlines I don’t get to hear about via e-newsletters and Twitter.  And some days a cute kitten video is just the ticket!   Ooh! – and thanks to this morning’s Facebook response from a friend I see face-to-face from time to time, I’m reminded of a promise I made: to take her to see a local bluebell wood this coming spring.  Yes, getting out and about is always more joyful when you’re sharing it with someone.

I’m not too downhearted by a lack of poem output/successes or falling blog stats.  Instead, I’m growing A WISH LIST – more of that in future blog posts.  The list does include plans to grow my blog readership, starting with more regular blogging – possibly a weekly post on a regular day – maybe.  And I’d like to work in a more disciplined/dedicated way on a sequence or short collection of poems around a theme – concentrating on one theme in particular rather than my default butterfly approach.

Having being less physically active than normal this year (if that’s possible!), one thing I’ve done LOTS of is reading.  Here’s a sample:

Novels with poetry in their prose: The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson’s 21st century ‘cover version’ of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale; Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane; Max Porter’s debut Grief is the Thing With Feathers.

A novel that drew me out of my genre comfort zone a second time: Rod Duncan’s Unseemly Science (steampunk with a twist, a hint of the local).

Reading poetry:

A collection that made me feel uncomfortable enough to redefine (once more) what makes a poem a poem, and the power of quiet poems amongst the more shouty ones: Michael Rosen’s Don’t Mention the Children.

Craft envy: Helen Mort’s Big Lil sequence in issue 56 of The North.

Little gems: Kate Dempsey’s Highly Commended poem ‘While it Lasted’ (*fist pumps*) in the 2017 Forward Prize collection; Mary O’Malley’s ‘Uillean’ from her latest collection, Playing the Octopus (engaged me as poet and musician)

Some of the poetry events that fed my hungry heart: Literary Leicester readings by Sarah Howe and Tom Pickard (what a pairing! – such a contrast in many ways); reading at one of the launch events for the Welcome To Leicester anthology; Shindig! – my abiding favourite amongst regular poetry nights.

The odd success: my first writing residency as winner of the Bru Leicesterwrites prize; three residency poems published in the Welcome to Leicester anthology (Dahlia Publishing); one poem (from my pamphlet, Beyond the Tune) published in OWF’s Half Moon: poems about pubs anthology.

A high point (yesss!!!!): being selected by judge Luke Kennard for Eyewear’s Best New British & Irish Poets 2017.  If there’s a (London?) launch, try keeping me away!

Remaining hopeful: 8 poems currently ‘out there’ with magazines/in competitions, 7 of which are maximising their chances as simultaneous submissions (legit ones).

Critiquing thanks go to fellow Soundswriters and members of South Leics poetry stanza. And, not least, to Helena Nelson for her excellent feedback on my first Open Window submission – in particular her remarks on one particular poem that kept on bouncing back: I sent it out again.  It’s my winning Eyewear poem!

Thanks go to you as my blog readers, for reading, comments and likes.

Whatever 2017 holds, I wish you happiness and good health, time to spend with loved ones and those who love you for who you are, and time to indulge in whatever it is that makes you feel truly whole.

Jayne 🙂

 

 

 

Towards a Christmas break

My To Do list (no, not the seasonal one) and I have left the building!

Yesterday was such a long working day: school, reading tuition and a ceilidh gig).  I returned to work five weeks ago and, although I’ve missed much of the long autumn teaching term, I’m feeling bone and brain-tired.  It is a joy to be more-or-less pain-free and able to walk at my usual pace once more but I’m mighty glad to put my feet up at the end of a school day.

Public consumerism and a right royal flush of Christmas-ready social media updates and photos since early November (!!!!???!!) seem to have had an adverse effect on my festive spirit this year.  Thankfully, some things never fail to work their magic – the Key Stage 1 production (Lights, Camel, Action!) and the silver band playing carols around the streets of our village are my personal chart-toppers.

It was a lovely surprise to come home from work on Tuesday to this:

image

My daughter, playing elf, had located tree and decorations in the boxland of our garage and worked her own magic upon the living room.  (The prospect of wrangling an unruly string of lights onto a lightweight tree intent on toppling means that I habitually delay said task: as close-to-date as I can get away with).

As for the rest outstanding – the food shopping, present wrapping, etc – it’ll all get done in the end, won’t it?

Meanwhile in blogland, 2016 is already being wrapped up and posted (geddit?!).  My blog gets a mention on Matthew Stewart’s Best UK Poetry Blogs of 2016.  How lovely is that?! I’m keeping the tab open on my laptop and am looking forward to some poetry blog hopping over the Christmas holidays.

 

Happy Anniversary or Product versus Process

It’s gone 11 AM.
I’m still in my PJs after a late breakfast.
Web browsing from email notifications, I’m distracted –
by the arrival of the post (it keeps later mornings than I do, these days…):
a jiffy envelope containing a poetry pamphlet;
there’s a poem on its front cover…

And so my (relatively) work-free days speed by!

This morning, WordPress.com wishes me a  Happy Anniversary.  Apparently, it’s exactly 6 years since I registered and moved here from another popular free site.  I’m not sure it’s cause for celebration – after all, my infrequent blog posts mean it’s been a rather on-off relationship.  147 posts over 6 years (you can do the maths – it’s not my forte).

Lately I’ve been thinking – this:
– about a lack of poem output – finished poems, that is (except they hardly ever are – even the published ones – right?).
– except I have been writing (yes?):

  • interesting words gleaned/heard
  • quotes from other writers/from poems, novels, short stories and articles I’ve read
  • anything from a few lines to a few pages of free writing
  • responses to writing prompts
  • writing for the sake of writing something (anything) new
  • writing out of fear – that I’ll never again write anything worth reading…

– and I’m continually re-drafting poems in that sub folder ‘Work in Progress’
– and when I’m not writing, I’m reading (which is most of the time)
– and I’m reading so that I can write (right?)

And my latest realisations are:
– that I’ve allowed myself to become preoccupied with Product rather than Process
– that I probably ‘produce’ more new writing now than I ever have
– that writing, like any art, requires many hours of practice – and practice is Process
– that the art of writing is probably 99% Process and 1% Product

Anthony Wilson articulated exactly this in his latest #NaBloPoMo post:

A new feeling…not about [books and fame] but about the very opposite of those things, the actual process of writing.

and how this has changed his feelings about his writing:

Now I had let go of my grand designs I began to see my writing differently…a thing of joy…to be relished and played with…that sense of amazing possibility, that sense of ‘Why not…?’ and ‘What if…?’

And what of all my new writing that exists across several notebooks?  Each time I look back at what I’ve written (much of it done in that magical time between semi-wakefulness and sleep – I’m not a morning person) I’m surprised into ‘Did I really write this?’ and  ‘Where did it come from?’

Anthony also writes about discovering some scraps of his writing after a tidy up:

I had no memory of writing the words I was reading.  They felt foreign, as though another writer with my handwriting had entered the house at night and forged my hand.  I read the words but did not understand them.  Something in me began to stir…

I read this and said ‘Yes! That’s it!’  The distance put between Writer and Writing becomes the catalyst; across the gap, a spark.