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.