Instead of a poetry social life

This week, I’m suffering from a bout of cabin fever (life stuff, eh).  Just about everyone in the poetry world is sharing the love at Verve Poetry Festival (or so it seems, as social media serves to fuel my envy).  I’ve also missed two Midlands poetry open mic nights and Saturday’s South Leics stanza meeting.

I’ve not been totally bereft of a poetry social life, though.  Thanks to the kindness of a fellow Soundswriter who gave me a lift, I attended our poetry reading/discussion/workshopping meeting on Tuesday.  And there have been ‘injections’ of poetry to sustain:

A Valentine’s Day gift from my husband (okay, I did drop a very specific hint about this one):

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I was pleased to find this sassy little number includes Jo Bell’s ‘The Shipwright’s Love Song,’ which I think I first experienced as a film poem, a few years ago.  (It might have been this one).

The latest e-newsletter from the Academy of American Poets comprised a themed selection of love poems; among them, Wislawa Szymborska’s ‘Love at First Sight.’  I love the narrative that belies the title of this poem – the premise that Chance has been toying with them/now for years. I’ve copied the last four lines into my notebook, to savour:

Every beginning
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.

I always get a poetry kick out of coming across another unfamiliar/new poem by one of my favourite poets.  Liz Berry’s poem, ‘The Republic of Motherhood’ is the subject of writer and book vlogger Jen Campbell’s latest (Dissect a Poem) video.  Berry’s poem is a journey through the unmapped territory of new motherhood; there’s a pervading sense of detachment and isolation right up to the last line’s turning point of this rite of passage.

Current reading also includes issue 58 of The North (I know, I’m really behind with my reading of poetry mags).  I nearly punched the air on reading Anthony Wilson’s ‘I Come to Your Shit’  Hell, yes! (If nowt else, I hope I’ll be remembered as a supporter).

Whatever you’re reading, I hope it nourishes the parts etc 🙂 x

 

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DIVERSIFLY poetry and art anthology

My contributor copy of DIVERSIFLY, an anthology of poetry and art on Britain’s urban birds (Fair Acre Press), arrived by post on Thursday.

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Wings of the book

From its waxy cover and the thickness and soft sheen of its inner pages to the way in which the poems and artists’ images work together, this book is beautifully produced.

In her introduction, editor Nadia Kingsley outlines how this project grew out of her own close encounters with birds in urban settings.  My featured poem was inspired by an unexpected sighting at a busy road junction.  I’m pleased to find it shares a page with Fiona Moore’s arresting poem about the bird’s song; a pairing of sound and sight, with artwork by painter and printmaker Deborah Vass that reflects the season so well.

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You can read more about the project and the commissioned poets and artists here on the Fair Acre Press site as well as Nadia Kingsley’s DIVERSIFLY blogs and a series of podcasts.

 

In other news, I’ve entered a poem for the Bridport Prize, this week.  With a May closing date and results in September, this one’s tied up for quite a while.  If by any chance it makes this competition’s long longlist, I’ll be mighty pleased for it.

 

Poetry competitions: ins and outs

A couple of posts ago, I was pleased to report that my poem, ‘Towards a Safe Return,’ was short-listed for the Wolverhampton Literature Festival (WoLF) poetry competition.  My copy of the anthology arrived in Monday’s post.

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It comprises the five winning and forty short-listed poems on the theme of ‘Out of Darkness’ (a tribute Wolverhampton’s city motto, Out of darkness…cometh light).  There were almost 700 entries from over 600 entrants.  As shortlists go, it’s a long one, but I’m pleased nevertheless that my poem was among those chosen by competition judge Emma Purshouse.  I’ll insert a mugshot (of my poem) at the end of this post.

Competitions aren’t every poet’s cup of tea; for those that do partake, there’s the question of whether to go for the ‘biggies’ or the less prestigious/smaller/regional competitions, which option might give the best chance of success, and the motives for entering in the first place (CV credentials, publication, validation, etc).  I’m more likely to enter a competition if I have a poem that fits/suits a theme or to one judged by a poet I admire.  Angela Carr and Robin Houghton have written their own ‘takes’ on the subject.

The results of the Cafe Writers’ competition are out, I see, which means that the two poems I entered are now available for submission elsewhere (see how I turned that around)!  So I’ll be casting my eye down Angela Carr’s monthly round-up of competions, submissions and opportunities in search of the ‘best’ place to – er – place said poems.

Close to the deadline, I entered one poem for The Interpreter’s House ‘Open House’ competition.  Why there?  To support a magazine that has gone from strength to strength under the joint editorship of Martin Malone and Charles Lauder Jnr, it’s a magazine I enjoy reading (and one that has twice published poems of mine).

 

As promised, here’s my WoLF competition poem:

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On much ado and doing nothing much

I do my best to keep abreast of current affairs in the small world of poetry.  This week I’ve spent not a little time reading Rebecca Watts’ PN Review article and  various responses to it, from Hollie McNish’s prompt and proactive one (if Watts attempted to hang her victim using the poet-in-question’s previous remarks on the quality of her own work, the latter acquitted herself well and with dignity) through Helen Mort’s (concise; bang on) to @Mslexia’s Twitter poll (overly simplistic, inciting further polarity).

(Personal opinions in brackets).

I’ve recently read a couple of collections that weren’t to my taste. And that’s fine with me.  I embrace the breadth of style, form, subject and media of contemporary poetry whilst acknowledging that the world would be a boring place if we all shared the same tastes and views.  But then I’m not a reviewer.  Nor am I the Reviews Editor of an ‘august’ poetry journal.

Here’s a selection of collections/pamphlets I’ve enjoyed lately (in reading order only):

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I purchased four of them following live readings by the respective poets; of these, I’ve enjoyed previous publications by one poet and look forward to reading further work by the other three – and although one received a rather scathing review by a popular online reviewer, I loved its lyrical poems; the other two I ordered online as soon as they were published, as I do any publication by my favourite poets.

I didn’t set out to write any more than a brief comment on this week’s furore.  I am, however, intent on growing my blog, beginning with blogging weekly (on Sundays).  I’m pleased, therefore, that my teeny tiny blog has attracted a few new readers and followers via the 2018 Revival Tour list of weekly bloggers, so thank you for dropping by, if you’re one of them!

Some weeks, a blog post is the only writing I manage.  I am more than a little perturbed at how days turn into weeks of doing ‘nothing much’ now that a day job no longer lays claim to my time.  Instead, any number of new and customary displacement activities present themselves (the subject of another post, maybe).  And another curveball (life, eh).

Whether the writing’s happening or not, I remain on the lookout for suitable homes for those ‘finished’ poems not currently submitted anywhere.  I’ve recently sent off two poems to a themed magazine that published one of mine a few years ago, and entered one poem for an ‘auspicious’ poetry prize (this poem has no ‘previous’; it fitted the theme).  I find that I like the level playing field of poetry competitions more and more. Robin Houghton’s latest post poses some valid considerations, whether you’re a frequent or reticent entrant to poetry competitions.

Whatever you’re writing and/or reading this week, enjoy x

 

 

 

The T S Eliot Prize Readings and other news

Last Sunday saw me high-stepping it to London for the T S Eliot prize readings.  A week has passed; there’s been much social media discussion of the short-listed poets, their readings, their respective collections, and, not least, last Monday’s announcement of the winner.  Robin Houghton slightly pipped me at the post with her own account (see here).  And, sticking to my newly-acquired habit of weekly blogging, what follows is my own retrospective, albeit a tad ‘late’.

As a first-timer, my expectations were based on poet friends’ experiences as regular attendees.  I wasn’t disappointed.

I’d booked for Malika Booker’s preview event as, having read only two of the short-listed collections, I decided an overview of all ten would be useful and enhance my enjoyment of the evening to come.  I arrived slightly breathless after a very brisk walk along the South Bank from Tower Bridge tube station (this provincial having stopped for lunch along the way and under-estimating the remaining walking distance/time).   I found the ongoing reprographics issue (too few copies of  poems for discussion, handed round singly before each of ten readings) rather irksome (proof that you can’t take the teacher out of the poet!).  That said, I did appreciate Booker’s overviews, insights into recurring themes in each collection and more.  She had much to unpack/unpick in the two hours allotted, and she did it well.

Afterwards, I headed for Foyles to purchase a copy of James Sheard’s The Abandoned Settlements (I’ve reduced my poetry TBR by half, lately, so I felt entitled…) as I’d particularly enjoyed his readings amongst the T S Eliot shortlist recordings.

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Then there was tea and cake (those that know me know…), and much poetry talk as I was joined by fellow Soundswriters and others before it was time to find our seats.

With the Royal Festival Hall lighting, temperature control and seats just right, nothing detracted from the proceedings, from Bill Herbert’s opening with Eliot’s ‘Difficulties of a Statesman’ through Ian McMillan’s informed yet informal introductions steering the auspicious programme of ten poets, ten readings.  For once, I wasn’t longing for the interval – and it took me by surprise when it came.

My Top Five high points (in running order):

James Sheard was an engaging reader; his measured pace allowed his lyrical poems breathing space.  I looked forward even more to cracking open my latest poetry purchase on the return train journey.

Tara Bergin oozed confidence and composure.  ‘Making Robert Learn Like Susan’, a deliciously tongue-in-cheek poke at pedagogy, made me smile.

Jacqueline Saphra’s feisty but polished delivery and considered choice of poems from a collection I loved on first reading (am biased, having enjoyed everything she’s published to date). And Ian McMillan’s praise for the small poetry press did not go unnoticed. What an accolade, for Saphra, her editor Jane Commane, and Nine Arches Press, when the poetry-publishing big guns so frequently hog the limelight when it comes to the ‘top’ awards.  (Jacqueline adds her own praise, here).

Ocean Vuong’s wisdom and humility belie his age.  For the duration of his allotted eight minutes the audience held their coughs (mostly); the hush before applause for ‘Aubade With Burning City‘ was almost tangible.  He is a worthy winner.  I wasn’t at all surprised by Monday’s announcement, despite the stiff competition.  (And, yes, Night Sky with Exit Wounds should be popping through my letterbox any day now).

Caroline Bird was in her comfort zone, I thought, moving swiftly on from an early hiccup in an otherwise consummate performance, finishing with  ‘A Toddler Creates Thunder by Dancing on a Manhole’ to an enthusiastic response from her punters.

You can listen to recordings of all ten T S Eliot Prize 2017 readings here.

 

In other news, my poem, ‘Towards a Safe Return,’ was shortlisted in the WoLF (Wolverhampton Literature Festival) poetry competition.  I’m pleased, especially as this means said poem now has ‘published’ status, being included in the competition anthology of winning and short-listed poems.  I’m looking forward to receiving and reading my contributors’ copy (Another poetry parcel?  Yes, please!).  You can read Rachel Plummer’s winning poem and the full results here.

Surprises by post this week

What’s the only kind of postal delivery better than a poetry package?  A surprise poetry package, of course!  And this week I’ve been thrilled to receive not one but two of these.

The first to arrive:

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I haven’t been a subscriber to The North for a few years, so I’m hoping that recent issues have been gifted (and, if so, I’d like to say a big thank you to whoever’s been so kind as to do so) as opposed to sent in error…

Then this little beauty arrived from Nine Arches Press:

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I’ve coveted this collaborative guide to twenty-first century poetting by Jo Bell and Jane Commane, but I hadn’t gotten around to ordering it (I know I hadn’t – I checked back through my online book purchases); it was dispatched from NAP to my old address and arrived by mail redirection a couple of days ago.  So, again, I owe a huge thank you to a very generous someone…

 

This blog post comes to you a day earlier than planned as I’m off to the great metropolis tomorrow for the T S Eliot Prize Readings event at Royal Festival Hall, ahead of Monday’s announcement of this year’s winner.  I’ve also booked for Malika Booker’s preview event in the afternoon.  This will be my first time attending what must be one of the highlights in the poetry annual calendar. It’s also one to tick off the top of my Retirement wish list.  I’m quite excited!  And I know there’ll be lots of familiar faces in the audience, too.

A poet friend emailed me the link to a YouTube playlist of this year’s shortlisters, so I’m currently working my way through all forty video clips of the ten poets talking about their work and reading poems from their respective award-nominated collections.

New Year, New Reading, News

The Christmas decorations have been re-packed into their boxes; all that remains of the festive goodies is the remains of a tub of Celebrations; life is returning to (what passes for) normal.

In the post-Christmas decompression chamber that is January, I look forward to those ‘happy pills’ that pop into my inbox in the form of poetry e-newsletters and notifications with links to new reading.  This week’s include:

  • The POETRY magazine newsletter’s selection of poetry, prose and audio from the January issue.  I was enjoyed ‘The Hermits,’ a poem by Karen Solie.  Since first ‘discovering’ her work a few years ago, this Canadian poet has become a firm favourite of mine.
  • The Academy of American Poets (Poets.org) newsletter: a selection of poems for the New Year, by Kim Addonizio, Naomi Shihab Nye and others.
  • The SlowPo version of my favourite MOOC (ModPo) beginning the year with a series of mini courses, discussing individual poems by Bernadette Mayer and John Ashbery, with others to follow.
  • This morning’s weekly Brain Pickings, by the indefatigable Maria Popova, which I vow I’ll explore, rather than allowing it to sit in my inbox, opened but largely unread.
  • Josephine Corcoran’s latest blog post includes a heads-up to a growing list of poet bloggers who aim to blog weekly during 2018.  I look forward to discovering new favourites.

This morning, I received some good news about one of the poems I entered for a competition.  I can’t say any more about it, just yet.  Suffice to say, I’m chuffed!

I’ve been busy diminishing my poetry TBR pile, too.  After a couple of rather unsatisfying reads (we’re individuals, with our own particular tastes, right?), Peter Sansom’s The Last Place on Earth (Carcanet, 2006) restored my faith.  My current read, the  Forward Book of Poetry, 2018, is a gripping one.  I’ve already page-marked a few favourites, including Richard Georges’ ‘Oceans’ and Ocean Vuong’s ‘Notebook Fragments.’  Next up is Pascale Petit’s Mama Amazonica – I can’t wait!

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Happy New Year, and happy poetry reading! 🙂