Lazy blogger that I am, I’d fully intended writing my take on the year long before this point in the hollydays(!) I could blame recovering from the day job, the stuff of everyday life, the extra stuffing that is Christmas – but this part-time-in-term-time-only teacher/empty-nester excels at procrastination. Suffice it to say that I’m sufficiently shamed by those who’ve beaten me to it.
One word sums up my blogging year, really:
or, more precisely, the process of putting together, editing and launching my debut pamphlet. I’ve learnt a lot: at least as much about myself as my writing, I reckon. And I’m now discovering the critical readers’ take on it. And I’ve had some really lovely personal feedback and messages via social media and email. Thank you all. We’ve been out and about together, too, my pamphlet and I. In addition to turns at the open mic across the midlands, I’ve done some guest readings, with a couple or more in the pipeline in the New Year (watch this space).
It’s been a productive year, submissions-wise, with thirteen poems accepted for various print and online magazines and one commissioned poem for a digital project. I’ve managed to write some new poems and am grateful for ongoing support and workshop feedback from my regular poetry groups, Soundswrite and South Leics Poetry Stanza. I have written one or two poems which are spin-offs from pamphlet poems. I’m hoping they might develop into a sequence/towards a full collection, at some point. I’ve enjoyed following Jo Bell’s ’52’ prompts and the resultant writing on the Facebook group, but my own contribution has been sporadic: only nine poems over the year. However, I’ve discovered lots of really good poetry along the way, so all is not lost. And that’s nine poems I’d not have written otherwise.
Lately, I’ve spent many hours trawling through the pile of notebooks I’ve filled over the past seven years or so. I decided to copy out all my unused and possibly usable material into one book. (If you could see the barely legible pages of scribble and crossings out, you’d understand why). I’m surprised by how much there is. And ashamed that so many poem starters have never got beyond first drafts. There’s so much to go on, when I’m for ever berating myself for not generating enough new writing.
I enjoy the kickstart into writing that workshops provide. I’ve attended a few of the monthly writing days run by The Poetry Business: a series of quick fire writing exercises in the morning, an afternoon of critiquing each other’s poems in two smaller groups. I also attended an excellent five-day residential course in Cumbria, Encounters and Collisions, run by Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley. Now an annual event, this course is proving so popular that next places for next April are filling up fast (see here for details).
When I’ve been too tired to do anything else (slightly worrying how often this is, these days), I’ve been reading, reading, reading – online and in print. What a wonderful resource the world wide web really is (although I’m mindful just how much of my week is spent on social media). I’ve discovered so much poetry and related articles via other blogs I follow and links on Twitter and Facebook. And the more I read, the more I realise I’ve yet to read. I also love being able to keep abreast of other poets’ doings and achievements. I’m hoping that, one day, I’ll get to meet some of them face to face so, for the record, I’m planning to help run a small press stall at Free Verse next year. And I’ll maybe attend the ’52’ meet-up in Stratford – if ‘lurkers’ are invited, that is.
I’m still buying print faster than I can read it (I’m a pretty slow reader as I sub-vocalise everything – or, when I find a poem I love, read it aloud). Then there’s the magazine subscriptions. The latter arrive like buses, things of beauty though they are. In fact, I’ve decided not to renew any until I’ve reduced my To Read pile drastically. Suffice it to say that my bedroom has grown another bookcase (thank goodness for charity furniture shops).
My most compelling poetry read this year has to be Liz Berry’s Black Country. I purchased it months ago and I’m glad I left off reading it until my head was firmly in holiday mode (ie. not finding myself thinking about work or ‘stuff’, mid-page, and realising I hadn’t been reading at all, just tracking print). Not only did I find it hard to put down but I loved every single poem in the collection. Josephine Corcoran’s The Misplaced House was full of surprises as well as favourites like the opening poem, Stephen Lawrence isn’t on the National Curriculum, and the closing poem, I Remember The Fear of Forgetting, which I’d very much enjoyed reading in The Rialto earlier this year. This pamphlet is one I’ll enjoy returning to. My current read is Karen McCarthy Woolf’s An Aviary of Small Birds; as raw and honest as Rebecca Goss’s Her Birth, I know this is one that will stay with me long after reading.
In addition to my favourite regular open mic events (Word! and Shindig in Leicester, Spoken Worlds in Burton-on-Trent, Poetry Alight in Lichfield), I’ve discovered one or two others: Run Your Tongue in Kettering and Twisted Words in Rugby. I’ve enjoyed the vibe of a younger demographic at both, and hope to go again.
I’ve attended launches and readings by other poets. Carrie Etter and Moniza Alvi both read as part of Literary Leicester at University of Leicester. Having already read and loved Imagined Sons and At the Time of Partition, I was delighted that both poets read extensively and oh so beautifully from their respective collections. My only regret: forgetting to take along their books for signing. Helen Ivory guested at Word! recently, too. She totally wowed her audience. And this time I did remember to take along Waiting for Bluebeard (my absolute favourite read of 2013) for her to sign.
Writing and reading are largely solitary pursuits but I think it is vital to be outward-looking, to actively participate in writing communities (face-to-face and online), to support and celebrate the work of other writers: by sharing and re-blogging their posts and links on social media, attending launches, workshops and readings, and by purchasing their books. I hope to redouble my efforts next year and outweigh my shameless self-promotion in 2014.
I’m not in the habit of making New Year resolutions these days. With the exception of giving up cigarettes, then alcohol, all those years ago, my success rate is poor. Whatever your hopes and aspirations for 2015, I hope your writing, and all that comes from it, brings you fulfilment.