Fathers and the poems they inspire

Today, my social media newsfeeds are a joy to behold: Father’s Day messages of love and gratitude, photographs of fathers (the late and the living) and the memories they evoke.  Our son, father of our five grandchildren, is enjoying a day of indulgence: handmade cards incorporating chocolate bars and a family day out at a car show.  My husband returns this afternoon from a weekend away with friends.

Some poet bloggers have posted poems, photographs and memories of their fathers that, in turn, evoked memories of my own father (I don’t refer to him as my ‘late’ father; he remains present in memories and in the poems he has inspired).  Angela Topping’s post includes a poem, ‘Dad’s Tea,’ which reminded me so much of my paternal grandmother’s very strong brew which inspired my poem, ‘Ritual’ (coincidentally, you can read it here, on Angela Topping’s Hygge poem series).

John Foggin pays tribute to a multi-talented, hardworking father with three poems. His post struck a chord:

My father won the Art Prize in his final year at Secondary Modern school, aged 14.  He wanted to go to art college but obeyed his father’s instruction to get a proper job: a nine-year apprenticeship as a coach painter, three years in the RAF regiment as a signaller, and an ever after of hard graft with overtime, latterly spraying cars for a local car dealership. Early retirement with a heart condition afforded him time to indulge a long-denied passion for painting and sketching, and a dawning realisation of repressed left-handedness (his legacy to me, perhaps).  He died too young, aged 63.  Only this morning (thanks to the internet’s wonder web) I discovered this photograph of my father, aged 14, with his prize-winning stallion painting:

dad's painting

Photo credit: The Garton Archive, Christ’s Hospital school, Lincoln

You can read three poems inspired by my father on Sharon Larkin’s Good Dadhood poem series.  Incidentally, all four of the above-mentioned poems by yours truly are also published in my 2014 pamphlet, Beyond the Tune (Soundswrite Press, 2014).

In other news:

I’ve had a poem acceptance for the Humanagerie anthology, to be published by Eibonvale Press in October.  I was particularly pleased to read poetry editor Sarah Doyle’s email comments in response to my submitted poem; an acceptance with a personal touch.

The accepted poem, Rough Music, was written out of Jen Campbell’s online workshop, Poetry and Fairy Tale, which I blogged about here.  I’m currently doing another of Jen’s excellent workshops, The Response Poem, which I’ll blog about in due course.  When I click Publish on this post, I’ll be settling down to work on Jen’s assigned tasks.

 

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On displacement

One of the prospects I most looked forward to, on retiring from teaching, was having more time for writing.  During my years of envy, I lost count of the number of times retirees would gleefully tell me they had less free time than ever and how did they ever manage to fit in a work life.  I was warned.

I’ve always liked a deadline (well, maybe not all those May half terms spent report-writing…). For this reason, I enjoy writing commissions.  If I have all the time in the world in which to write, it takes me that long to get around to doing any.  Over the years I wished away my life in half term blocks, I did most of my writing in what Anthony Wilson calls the cracks.  My cracks tended to be late at night/in the early hours.  Almost a year into retirement, its scary how a day whizzes by, and how days morph into weeks.  If time had a shirt tail, there’s not a chance I’d manage to hold onto it for long!

Life’s full of Doing and Not Doing (the latter, when I’m having a break from doing too much).  Then there are the Goings. Over the past eleven months, many Goings have been health-related: the Necessaries.  Thankfully, the Goings will very soon be much more pleasure-focused.  I’m really looking forward to more of the Pleasures (including a couple of up-coming poetry plans I mentioned in last week’s post).

As an ill-disciplined writer, I have made efforts to grow good habits. In April, NaPoWriMo saw me writing something daily.  I’ve also kept to my promise of writing weekly posts for my teeny, tiny blogsite. And I’m enjoying doing so, even if my poetry head sometimes tells me it’s displacement when there are notebook scribblings waiting to be crafted into poems.

Displacement activities: my Top 5 current favourites (in no particular order):

  • Watching Youtube channels (on books, poetry, the minimalist lifestyle, sustainable fashion)
  • Reading (Yes, it’s vital for a writer to read, but there comes a point…)
  • Getting lost in a social media labyrinth of amusing video clips/cute cats/interesting articles that might spark a po/other folks’ Goings and Doings/Must Buys (books)…
  • drinking coffee; drinking tea; browsing supermarket shelves for a new favourite/limited edition beverage; discovering a newly-opened coffee/tea shop
  • Gardening: anything from hard labour to pottering (a patio weed hand tool is my latest toy)

What are yours?

In other news:

I’ve had a poem acceptance, on the theme of Staying, for issue 16 of The Lampeter Review.

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Poetry plans

Life as I’d like it to be is on the horizon, at last.  By way of a celebration, I’ve booked some poetry jollydays:

Ten Years of Nine Arches Press: a Celebration
At just over £20 for my all-day ticket and return rail travel to Birmingham, it’s a snip (and I shan’t feel quite so guilty if I splurge on books, will I?).  I’m particularly looking forward to Josephine Corcoran‘s launch reading from What Are You After? and to meeting her in the real world, at last.  I’m hoping my pre-ordered copy will arrive in the post before 23rd June, so I can get it signed.

Ledbury Poetry Festival has been on my Wish List since I began growing it, last year. I’ve plumped for an overnight stay on 5th July, thus splitting the ‘leisurely’ return journey along the A46 and enjoying a night’s B & B in a lovely country cottage I’m delighted to have discovered on Airbnb.  Here’s my chosen itinerary:

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Closer to home, I’m pleased to be part of the editorial team for an exciting new publication from Soundswrite Press:

SWP_Take Three flyer

If you’re making poetry travel plans, I’d love to hear about them in the comments box below.

After GDPR: some thoughts on my inbox

My inbox seems to clear of a rash of GDPR-related emails, at last.  A disconcerting number of them were from sites I don’t remember subscribing to.  I updated my preferences for receiving updates and newsletters (mainly of the poetry kind) but consistently failed to find ‘unsubscribe’ links for those companies who expected me to wade through the legalese of their Updated Privacy Policies (I tried; I gave up).

I’d already begun reducing my email subscriptions, anyway.  Online reading seems to occupy an ever increasing amount of my time.  Instead, I could be bramble-wrangling in the garden, cracking the spine of ‘shelved’ recipe books, relieving the loft of a burden of boxes.  Or mining the TBR pile for treasure.  Or writing.

What my (poetry) subscription emails do provide:

  • a window on what’s new and happening in the poetry world
  • updates on events I’d like to attend
  • publication news
  • new posts on my favourite blogs
  • reviews of poetry pamphlets I’ve read/can’t wait to read
  • discovering the interesting and surprising via linked content
  • discovering ‘new’ poets whose work I enjoy
  • information on MOOCs, workshops, etc

However, I’m mindful that my inbox currently holds 770 emails.  Almost all of these are poetry/writing-related subscription emails.   They’re fantastic resources for an ongoing poetry education (Brain Pickings, POETRY magazine, Poets.org, Poets & Writers) so why do these ‘Round-to-its’ continue to stack up?  I think most of the backlog is a legacy from my working life when I used to daydream about WHEN, of sitting in my favourite armchair, reading my way through the lot.  I thought I’d have oh, so much more time for all my Neglecteds when I retired.  How misguided I was!

One day, I’ll give myself permission to delete the lot and make a fresh start.  Maybe.  Right now, I’m heading for my lounger with a book.  The garden’s looking starry-eyed, despite last night’s storm.

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Collecting poems

I’m STILL behind with my reading of poetry magazines. And then there’s the question of what to do with them when I have read them…

I have a growing collection of paper copies of poems. I store them in box files.

Last year’s house-to-bungalow move necessitated a massive cull of STUFF that I hadn’t so much as glanced at in years. Operation Study took me three days of hard graft, during which time I faithfully reappraised just about every single sheet of paper in the filing cabinet and heaven knows how many ring binders, lever arch and box files. The poetry ones fared much better than a teaching career’s-worth of policies and planning but I decided to keep only those poems I love, or like enough to go back to (at some point…).

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Josephine Corcoran’s long-listed poem (Live Canon, 2017)

Since The Move, I’ve become firmer with myself about what I keep and what I give away. I no longer keep poetry magazines (I do keep contributor copies, though). Instead I pull out and box-file those poems that jump off the page and ‘grab’ me: the timely or current; those I wish I’d written; those that elicit a That’s it! or a fist pump; interesting forms, etc. In turn, I take some of these for discussion at Soundswrite and stanza meetings.

Recent ‘finds’ and why they’re ‘keepers’:

  • ‘Deer at Dusk’ by Cheryl Pearson (Under the Radar, issue 19): finding the extraordinary in the moment; lines I wish I’d written
  • ‘Quite a Fieldfare’ by James Richards (from The North, issue?): a That’s it! poem as I, too, had recently spotted (and had to google to identify) this uncommon garden visitor
  • ‘Present’ by Sue Dymoke (The North): timely
  • ‘Poets Give You Strange Answers’ by Jennifer Copley (The North): one of my favourite poets, I like pretty much every poem of hers

Poetry group ‘takeaways’:

  • ‘How to Parallel Park’ by James Davey (title poem of his V. Press pamphlet): masterly control of language; comic timing
  • ‘Throur’ by Brian McCabe (from Zero: Polygon, 2009): it transcends my maths phobia to mock education curriculum idiocy (don’t get me started…)
  • ‘For Those Who Walk Pavements’ by Pam Thompson (from Strange Fashion: Pindrop Press, 2018): I copied this one to share at Soundswrite; current, with local markers; no mere people-watching exercise, it’s thought-provoking

Online poems I’ve printed out (some, thanks to Carrie Etter’s NaPoWriMo prompts, and and comments from her Facebook group members):

  • ‘when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story’ by Gwendolyn Brooks ( Poetry Foundation site): its ‘when…when…then’ form; its hyphenated-phrase-as-nouns (more-than-compound nouns?)
  • ‘The End and the Beginning’ by Wislawa Szymborska (Poetry Foundation site): the cleaning up, tidying away and forgetting of war will always be current
  • ‘The Unspoken’ by Edwin Morgan: another ‘when…when…then’ love poem, it juxtaposes world events with the extraordinary power of touch
  • The first four lines of Emily Dickinson’s ‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’: this one’s on the pinboard above my PC; it’s a mantra

If you have cut-out-and-keep poems, I’d love to hear about them.

Lemn Sissay’s ‘Landmark Poems’

This week’s poetry highlight:

Lemn Sissay’s lecture, ‘Landmark Poems’  (University of Leicester School of Arts’ 7th annual Creative Writing lecture) last Wednesday evening.

Sissay tempers off-the-cuff hilarity with pauses for thought, rapid fire delivery with white space.  His self-deprecating manner belies an impressive biography.

Here’s a selection of quotes from my notebook:

On poems as landmarks:

A poem on a wall
is a
performance poem.

*

A landmark [poem]is a landmark only when the community decides it is one.

*

Poetry should be flying off the page onto the walls of our cities.

*

Beware the local history poem.

Advice for writers:

Poetry is a revolutionary act of connection, whether for wedding or for war.

*

What is real? The imagination, or the manifestation of it?

*

Create a whole world that was not there before.

*

See your career as a writer, as an orbit rather than a ladder.

*

Creativity is not the monopoly of artists. Writers are part of the wider community of creatives, not apart from it.

Unfortunately, Lemn Sissay’s Radio 4 documentary, Landmark Poetics, is no longer available on iPlayer.  However, a podcast of his UoL lecture will shortly be available on via the Centre for New Writing page of their website.

And it wouldn’t be a poetry jolly without a little book shopping, would it?

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In other news:

The Interpreter’s House competition results have recently been announced, which means that I now have 8 instead of 7 poems for submission…somewhere (positive spin)!

In a Twitter moment, I had a sneak preview of the cover of All a Cat Can Be, a poetry anthology in support of New Start Cat Rescue.  As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, I’ve a poem in there, so I’m looking forward to receiving my contributor’s copy.

 

 

After NaPoWriMo

April’s gone, and the rigour of National/Global Poetry Writing Month is over for another year.  So how did it benefit me as a writer?

  • The discipline of producing new writing, daily.
  • Motivation to get started and keep going, from a writing community.
  • No shortage of writing prompts to overcome self-imposed barriers/blocks to writing.
  • New and unexpected learning/discoveries from prompt-related web links.
  • Exploring form.
  • Approaching old poem drafts from new perspectives; fresh starts.
  • Unexpected/surprising outcomes.
  • An abundance of material to work on or cherry-pick from.

This week, Carrie Etter invited members of her NaPoWriMo Facebook group to share their ‘best’ poem of the month.  Having nothing I can yet call ‘a poem’ I’m desisting.  I am enjoying reading everyone else’s, though.

Recently, I’ve been dealing with a plethora of subscriber emails ahead of this month’s new data protection laws; necessary, I know, but my inbox is complaining.  I’ve unsubscribed from several, lately, anyway, by way of an inbox trim-and-tidy-up.  I do look forward to reading my chosen e-newsletters and updates of the poetry kind.

Poetry pickings:

Investments:

  • I’ve signed up to Jen Campbell’s summer poetry workshop, The response Poem, as I found her Poetry and Fairy Tale one so useful.  Details here, if you’re interested. (Only 2 places left on group one; assignment sent on Friday 15th June).
  • With a view to growing this teeny tiny blog, I’ve ordered two books on blogging by Robin Houghton, a writer, blogger and poet who knows how: The Golden Rules of Blogging (& When to Break Them) and Blogging for Writers.  I’m hoping they’ll shed light on what might work better for me and my potential readers.

A published poem:

I’m delighted to have a poem in Popshot‘s shiny new ‘Truth’ issue, out to contributors this week. I really like the magazine’s fresh approach to showcasing poetry, flash fiction and short stories on a theme.

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An acceptance:

This morning, I had an email acceptance (from Sharon Larkin, who published three of my pamphlet poems on her Good Dadhood project site): a poem for the New Start Cat Rescue anthology.  As a poet and a cat lover, I’m doubly pleased.  A quote from my poem will also appear as a caption for a featured photograph taken by New Start volunteer, Rachel Slatter.