Welcome to Leicester poems on air

Three of my poems about life in Leicester city, written during my writing residency, have been published in Welcome to Leicester, an anthology of 90 poems about what this diverse city means to those live here (Dahlia Publishing), edited by Emma Lee and Ambrose Musiyiwa.

Unfortunately, I was unable to make the launch held at Leicester’s African Caribbean Centre as part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival, so my contributor’s copy was doubly welcome when it arrived by post.


Emma Lee has written about editing the anthology on her blog here.

Emma and Ambrose have been busy promoting the anthology since the launch.  Here’s a link to a conversation about the anthology on Leicester Community Radio with an airing of some of the poems, including Ambrose’s spirited reading of my celebratory LCFC poem, ‘The Art of Winning’ at approx 30 minutes in.


‘The Art of Winning,’ published in ‘Welcome to Leicester, poems about the city’ (Dahlia Publishing 2016)


In this morning’s post

On my hallway doormat this morning:


This poetry collection is the second publication by University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing in connection with the AHRC-funded project, Women’s Writing in the Midlands, 1750-1850.  

Most of the poems in the collection arose out of a series of workshops run by Deborah Tyler-Bennett as part of the project.  Also included are Deborah’s poem ‘A Walk With Susanna Watts…’, and my poem ‘Singing Bird Box,’ two of several poems commissioned in 2015 and previously published in a pamphlet, Friendship’s Scrapbook – poems written in response to Leics, Leicester & Rutland Records Office archive materials on the lives and work of two Leicester women, Susanna Watts and Elizabeth Heyrick.  Both women held passionate views on the abolition of slavery and animal rights, and were actively involved in women’s anti-slavery societies, publishing their own periodical, The Hummingbird.

A PDF version of the poetry collection, including notes on the archive material which inspired each poem, is available to read here.

The journeys poems make

The back story:

2014 was a fruitful year.  My best since I’d started writing poetry in 2008(ish).  And my best to date.  Whilst on sick leave following my first hip replacement, I made myself a spreadsheet to better keep track of poem submissions and consequent rejections/acceptances.  I’m pretty sure it’s not as fool-proof as the Jo Bell method or as eye-catching as Kim Moore’s colour-coded one described here but it’s certainly a vast improvement on previous tabular efforts at keeping tabs on my poems’ venturing forth to speak for themselves.  Between March and November that year, 15 poems were accepted for magazine publication, either in print or online.  8 of these, also published in my pamphlet, Beyond the Tune, made it under the wire to magazines before BTT‘s September publication date.

2015 successes were much thinner on the ground: 1 poem was published in issue 11 of The Lampeter Review;  4 of my pamphlet poems also appeared in the Soundswrite Press anthology; 1 poem was commissioned by University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing: a total of 2 new and 4 previously-published poems accepted.

A bit of a sob story:

2016 saw me in The Slough of Despond, at times.  I wrote less; I had far fewer poems worth submitting.  Life (and joint pain) took over and the only thing that kept me writing (and believing in myself as a poet) was my Bru Leicester Writes residency and commissioned sequence of poems (and Leicester City’s footfall fairy tale, of course).

Some good:

3 of the 6 poems are published in Welcome to Leicester, an anthology of poems about the city (Dahlia Publishing) being launched as I type (sadly I’m unable to make it).  And 1 pamphlet poem has been published in Half Moon: poems about pubs (OWF Press).

What’s the point?

Like all writers, I sometimes get to thinking that I’ll never again write anything worth publishing.   Or anything at all, apart from a few lines of barely-legible scribble (drivel) in a notebook that’s been on-the-go forever.  I congratulate others on their successes while suffering Imposter Syndrome (and maybe I read other writers’ blogs to know I’m not alone in this).  And what of that spreadsheet begun with such purpose a couple of years ago?  Many/most of those rejected poems aren’t currently being re-submitted.  I’ve decided they need further work, or they’ll never be the Real Deal and have been consigned to a sub folder (‘Dubious’) of a sub folder (‘Unfinished’).  Currently, I’ve more time to write but have written very little.  My only fledgling is back in the WIP nest recovering from a first flight to a workshop group.

The suspension of disbelief:

Recently, only 4 poems have remained ‘out there.’  Of these 4 poems, the same 2 have received encouraging comments from 2 different editors:

  • both made it to the final round of selections for the current issue of a magazine I rate highly
  • both were deemed ‘strong’ (with reasons given) from a batch of poems submitted for feedback during a certain widely-respected ‘open window.’

Breaking news:

It’s official!!!  ‘Unreserved Coach B’ is one of 50 winning poems chosen by competition judge Luke Kennard for The Best New British and Irish Poets 2017 (Eyewear Publishing) due for publication next March.

And the other ‘hopeful’? I’m keeping the faith🙂

Post-hip op post: discoveries to date

that anaesthetists deliver on promises
that heavy sedation is a blissful state of unawareness
that I’m a lesser wimp than I thought

that the state of my affected joint was worse than any of us knew
that my pain threshold must be higher than I knew
that my surgeon is a wizard at carpentry

that post-op pain relief is a heady cocktail
that codeine is the very devil
that it is never a good idea to ditch the drugs too soon

that home is a house with a far-from-ideal floor plan
that the downstairs bathroom is never further away than in the wee small hours
that essential item is upstairs and you’re downstairs – and vice versa

that physio exercises serve to remind one’s muscles what slackers they’ve become
that counting to 10 is far quicker than 10 seconds
that it’s far easier to fall asleep mid-afternoon than at bedtime

that short walks are, at first, longer than one remembers
that a human on crutches is just another four-legged creature to a young puppy on a lead
that two legs of the same length are a joy

that increasing frustration with these wretched crutches is an indicator of progress
that, although my body’s ageing faster than my head, we both feel younger than of late
that there is a fine line between increasing mobility and overdoing things

that, when I have all the time in the world in which to write, there is all the time in the world for displacement activity – or inactivity
that watching the first two minutes of the Jeremy Kyle Show means you’re hooked and waiting for those lie detector results…
that there is always tomorrow – even if today’s a Sunday

that, four weeks in, cabin fever hasn’t set in
that the world doesn’t stop turning when I can’t get to a coffee shop/a poetry event
that next week’s diary is blank space and I don’t care

On everything, very little and nothing at all

In a way, this post is not about poetry at all.  And then, in some ways, it is.

Those who know me in the physical world or follow/happen upon my infrequent blog posts at this site or read my all-too-frequent social network status updates may remember that , in January 2014, I had hip replacement surgery.  Now, in a bid for equality, my left hip is demanding the same rights as (erm) the right (and, after a life-time of differing leg length, I’m hopeful that surgical wizardry will bring about equality that respect, too).

So, on 3rd Sept (yes, on a Saturday), we (my wretched joint and I) are (jointly) going under the knife (sorry folks – am giddy with excitement).  It’s an understatement to say – we can’t wait!  We’ve had our hopes raised (an end-of-May op date) only to be dashed (said op deferred – nothing to do with an NHS in crisis and everything to do with a low blood count) but we’re nearly there, now: fourteen days and counting down.  Bring it on!

Increasing pain levels and decreasing mobility pretty much put paid to my original plans for the summer holidays:

Sunday sundowner session with Blanche and Thelma



My annual fiddle ‘fix’ that is five days of music-making, merriment and mayhem with friends at Burwell Bash traditional music summer school (my second enforced ‘gap year’ out of fifteen).








A day trip to London, its endless possibilities – the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition, for instance.











Keeping the garden in check.




Suffice to say it’s been a restful few weeks:
















I will, sadly, be missing out on a few events on my poetry social calendar as late summer moves into autumn:








The Free Verse Poetry Book Fair at Conway Hall in London.





Last year’s swag:







Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival (nine days jammed-packed with events, many of them free, lots of them poetry/writing related)


…and, not least, sharing/discussing/workshopping poetry at my regular groups: Soundswrite women’s poetry group and South Leics stanza.

I’m hoping that cabin fever doesn’t hit me too hard (my husband and I will be effectively housebound for six weeks while I’m unable to drive).  I’m hosting a MacMillan Coffee Morning for a group of ex-colleagues (oh, how I’ll miss my coffee shop caffeine-&-cake) and I’ve already had one or two very kind other offers from friends. I’ll be doing the household shopping online for the first time (I actually like doing the supermarket shopping).

When the general anaesthetic and other prescribed drugs are out of my system I plan on doing more reading – a novel or two (Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, for one), the odd poetry magazine (having renewed my subscription to Magma) and several hitherto unread anthologies are waiting in the wings.

Then there are the MOOCs I mentioned in a previous post.

And my physio exercises will take priority, of course – the key to regaining full range of movement and muscle strength.  And life as I knew it.

See you on the other side🙂


A Writing Residency

In my last two blog posts my aim was to bring readers up to date with my reading activity over the last few months.  I do so much poetry reading that, at times, I wonder whether it becomes a displacement activity for writing.

In my work life, I like the challenge of a deadline.  If I have all the time in the world in which to write I’ll take forever to get down to it.  If, however, I have a remit and a due date I work much better.  That’s why I like the challenge of a writing commission.  As winner of the Bru Leicester Writes poetry prize I was granted a writing residency and commissioned to write a sequence of five poems on the theme of Life in the City.

What’s not to like?  A busy, bustling city base from which to soak up the atmosphere/people-watch, a first-floor bird’s-eye view of city-centre street life, a paid commission, space and dedicated time to write – with coffee and cake to hand (those who know me know…) and a gift card to spend on eats and drinks at the till.


So March 11th saw me meeting up with founder of Leicester Writes and editor of Dahlia Publishing, Farhana Shaikh, at Leicester’s Bru Coffee & Gelato (my place of residency) to discuss the finer details.  Back then, the June deadline seemed a long way off.  I wasn’t necessarily confined to the ideas I’d originally outlined in my proposal, and such a broad theme could be interpreted in many ways.  Just one ‘ask’: with Leicester City Football Club’s track record for the season to date, would I also consider writing a ‘bonus poem’ capturing the spirit of the underdog team and the city’s rising fan fever.  Moi?  With not a sporting gene in my body? [insert, here, any emoticons you know for ‘ brain freeze’]  Okay, I said, I’ll give it a go (eek!)

Bru poet residency1

Although I did a fair amount of online research for my poem sequence, inspiration came mainly from my walks between the rail station on London Road (or, more often, Dover St car park) to the Clock Tower (beating heart of our city) via Granby Street and Gallowtree Gate (with Bru Coffee conveniently situated half-way between these two points).


King Richard III

King Richard III, Cathedral Gdns


I could have written a poem about any or all of Leicester’s famous names and nameless faces immortalised and memorialised in statuary.  This one, for instance.




photo credit: crosbyheritage.co.uk

photo credit: crosbyheritage.co.uk



In the end, I chose (or rather the destination chosen by my poem was ) Thomas Cook, whose statue greets rail passengers outside the station on London Road.





Maria, a The Big Issue vendor no longer occupying her usual Granby Street spot opposite Bru, became the subject of a poem following a conversation I had with a regular customer and one of the baristas on enquiring after her whereabouts.




Leicester’s Clock Tower is a babel of voices clamouring to be heard.


And my LCFC poem?  I confess to becoming a Foxes fan at least for the remainder of the season as our team’s path to Premier League King Power & Glory unfolded and I trawled the Twitter feeds around each nail-biting match.  As the saying goes, you couldn’t make it up!

photo credit: leicestermurcury.co.uk

LCFC open top city bus tour                                                           photo credit: leicestermurcury.co.uk

My six poems were duly submitted (ahead of the deadline – yay!), typeset, printed and made available on customers’ tables at Bru for my reading on June 28th as part of the Leicester Writes Festival of New Writing:


Three of my residency poems –  The Art of Winning, The Big Issue and Time Traveller – will be published in Welcome to Leicester, an anthology of poems (Dahlia Publishing) to be launched on Friday 7th October as part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival.  It’s free but bookable in advance (click here for details and scroll to page 23 of festival programme).




Catching up on reading #2

In addition to printed material I’ve been reading, lately, the onset of the summer holidays (still wired for work but with no pressing reasons to be) seemed like the ideal time to continue my poetry education via MOOCs I started way back in January and abandoned part-way through as work life, etc took precedence.  So here’s what I’ve been up to, online:

Robert Burns: Poems, Songs and Legacy (Glasgow University via FutureLearn):

‘Pop Art Rabbie’ by Sheilagh Tennant

Format: a three-week course comprising videos, articles, texts/lyrics, memory quizzes(!) and forum discussions

My verdict: a comprehensive introduction to life and works of Scotland’s bard.  Does what it says on the tin but this one failed to engage me in the way that other MOOCs have done (videos were mini lectures rather than debate between academics or tutor-student workshops/tutorials and I felt ‘talked at’).

Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing (The University of Warwick via FutureLearn):



Format: a six-week course comprising video discussions, poem/novel/play texts, articles, surveys (for research purposes) and forum discussions.

My verdict:interesting discussions on the physiology and treatment of stress, heartbreak, bereavement, PTSD and trauma, depression and bipolar, ageing and dementia, and the benefits of reading/sharing literature for therapy and wellbeing.  What niggled me: Stephen Fry’s dismissive remark regarding ‘free form’ poetry during a week 1 video discussion (in fact, the wealth of contemporary poetry was largely ignored throughout the course).

Whitman’s Civil War: Writing and Imaging Loss, Death & Disaster (The University of Iowa via novoed.com):



I’m a late starter to this MOOC (week 3 of which starts tomorrow), but the beauty of this beast (as far as I’m aware) is it’s available year-round and one can begin at any time (provided you don’t wish to join in the discussions on the online forum – which I don’t).  I’m currently engaged in week 1: Circumstance & Documentary.  Each week there’s an introductory video (engaging discussion between academics; approx 40 mins) followed by a series of reading texts including study notes and afterwords, then a question for discussion via the forum.

I’ll let you know how this one goes but, in my experience of MOOCs to date, UK universities have much to learn from those in the USA.

Still on my MOOC To Do list is Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales (Hans Christian Anderson Centre via FutureLearn).

I’m also looking forward to a return visit to ModPo in September (I intend doing ModPoPlus, this time around).

Which MOOCs are you currently engaged in, have enjoyed to date or are looking forward to this coming autumn?  I’d love to hear your views and choices via the comments box below.