Closer to home

Sunny days are such a boost to the system, aren’t they?  This weekend, it’s hard to believe that ‘The Beast from the East’ is waiting to do its damnedest.  Yesterday, I dragged a hardwood chair from the patio to a sunny patch at the far end of our north-facing back garden (not far, actually, as our ‘new’ garden is very small).  Cat senior joined me in catching some rays. I didn’t stay put for very long, just long enough to feel more alive under an optimistic light level, the sharp air pinching some colour into my cheeks.  Indoors, a vase of supermarket daffodils lights up the kitchen.

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As a gesture towards spring-cleaning my teeny tiny blogsite, I’ve changed the header image.  The previous image is several years old; I like this one as it’s spontaneous rather than posed.  Photo credit goes to Ambrose Musiyiwa, a familiar face at many cultural and other events in Leicester.  Thanks, Ambrose!

I’ve made a start on gathering together poems (my own and others’), internet ‘finds’ and reference books with a view to a new writing project related to the old wives’ tales, superstitions and slanted childhood memories that I grew up hearing from my grandmothers and mother.  It’s a tentative start but a start nevertheless.  And I’ve been doing a little more writing in, and gleaning from, my notebook, too.

It’s been a while since I last participated in a writing workshop.  In a bid to sweep away a winter’s-worth of cobwebs, I’ve signed up for Jen Campbell’s online workshop, Poetry and Fairy Tale.  I’m hoping that it will help me throw new light on a problematic poem that’s been stewing for too long – or spark something completely unexpected.  I’ve also splashed out (I blame recent social media enthusing about poetry festival goings and doings) and booked myself a place on George Szirtes’ masterclass, Liberated by Constraint, facilitated by Writing East Midlands.  I hope this one will jerk me right out of my comfort zone.

I’ve not done a great deal of reading, this week (yes, I’m still reading that back issue of The North, as well as a novel that isn’t engaging me as I hoped it would).  I did read last Sunday’s Brainpickings and especially enjoyed, in The Temple of Knowledge, about Ronald Clark, who grew up in a New York public branch library in an age when library caretakers and their families lived among the books.  As the only bookworm in a literate but not a book-loving family, I can’t think of anything I’d have liked better!  His story sparked personal memories of spending hours of a Saturday, lounging on a beanbag in the children’s section of our local library, lost in a book; sitting at a table in the enforced silence of the reference library, copying passages from a book, for the love of it.  I came across this quote, by Jorge Luis Borges, at the bottom of this morning’s Wordery email: “I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library.”

I hope you’re enjoying the sunshine at least as much as your writing and reading 🙂 x

 

 

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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

 

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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