About jaynestanton

Poet, teacher, writer, reader, word art explorer, cat lover, folk fiddler, daydreamer...

One poetry book too many?

Can one ever have too many poetry books? you might ask.

My poetry bookshelf currently houses:

  • around 230 single-author collections, New & Selecteds and pamphlets (I gave up counting)
  • over 50 anthologies
  • a down-sized selection of magazines (a short publishing history)
  • numerous On Writing books

The above are survivors of my best efforts at down-sizing my preciouses prior to last October’s house-into-bungalow move.  I’ve read almost all of them from cover to cover at least once.  On odd occasions I ask myself how many of these I’ll realistically re-read dip into in future.  Repeated attempts to curb my poetry book-purchasing are short-lived.

And that TBR pile? It’s not doing too badly:

  • two full collections
  • two anthologies
  • five magazines (am still waaay behind on poetry mag-reading)
  • one On Writing book

Last Saturday, I went to a reading and discussion of poems from Helen Dunmore’s Costa Book Award-winning ‘Inside the Wave’ hosted by members of the Nottingham Poetry Stanza as part of States of Independence (an annual Independent Press Day held at DMU, Leicester).  Having admonished myself for not having purchased and read the collection in advance, I picked up a copy at the Five Leaves Press stand just beforehand.  Six of the poems were read and discussed.  Dunmore’s collection never made it onto my TBR pile.  It demanded cover-to-cover reading; I re-read some poems, annotated themes and recurring images, and reflected on the pragmatism (and the poignancy) in this, Dunmore’s final collection.  I’ve copied some lines into my notebook; from ‘My Life’s Stem was Cut’:

But why not keep flowering
As long as I can
From my cut stem?

and, from ‘Hold Out Your Arms,’ the final poem added to the second impression of the book, in which the poet greets Death like a mother:

As you brush back my hair
– Which could do with a comb
But never mind –
‘We’re nearly there.’

Yesterday, on looking through my TBRs for a Next Read, what did I discover?


My first purchase has been probably been sitting pretty since I purchased it on publication (and my memory is poorer than I thought).

So, is anyone interested in a poetry giveaway (or a book swap)?  (UK postage, preferably). Let me know in the comments box below (or via social media, if that’s easier for non-Wordpress users).  If I’m inundated with takers, I’ll put names in a hat 🙂



A busy week

I’ve embraced this week’s return to weather conditions approaching Spring.  Monday, spent gardening in the sunshine of our ‘inherited’ back garden, was a real tonic.  I’m still purchasing forced daffodils at the supermarket till but the forsythia outside the kitchen window that spent last week having second thoughts is just about to burst forth.

Poetry reading and writing has been at the forefront this week.  Jen Campbell’s online workshop, Poetry and Fairy Tale, dropped into my email inbox last Sunday so I’ve been reading the material sent for information and inspiration and working on the two assignments: responding to a published poem using fairy tale markers, mulling over drafts of one or two ‘stuck’ poems and writing in new directions.  I’ve got two new poems on simmer and will submit one for workshop feedback ahead of today’s midnight deadline.

On Tuesday morning, there were twenty  of us at the Leicester Writes writers’ meet-up, the first since December so there was much writerly catching up over coffee and a round-up of works-in-progress, successes and diary dates.  It’s such a solitary thing we do that I feel it’s healthy to be part of the wider community of local writers.  And it’s interesting to meet writers in other genres, too.

On Thursday, Mr S and I enjoyed an afternoon at University of Leicester to view a poetry exhibition as part of a programme of events to mark International Women’s Week. I mentioned last week that my poem, ‘Ritual,’ was chosen as one of ten poems displayed on buildings around the campus.  We found mine inside the Astley Clarke building.  I have a shrewd suspicion that mine had to be re-printed due to a misspelling of ‘Jayne’ (that ‘extra’ letter has been the bain of my life!) but hey ho.


I particularly liked Shruti Chauhan’s ‘Mehndi Night’ and Maria Taylor’s ‘What It Was Like.’  Another twenty-nine poems were available to view in the Digital Reading Room of the David Wilson library, my poem, ‘My Grandmother’s Kitchen,’ among them.


I was pleased to note that, in total, eight poems were written by six fellow Soundswriters (my local women’s poetry group) and that the poets were not exclusively female.

There was a good vibe on campus; Mr S and I were snapped on Polaroid at the event stand (Polaroid? a throwback to my higher ed days), toting #PressForProgress pledges:



I’ve just had some more good news: I’ve had a poem accepted for the Truth issue of Popshot magazine, out in May.  This will be my second published poem in this pairing of writers and illustrators: ‘You Do Not Have To Say’ was published in their Wild issue (Oct 2013).  I’m looking forward to seeing the illustrator’s response to my poem.






Poems with other lives

What a weather week it’s been!  To think that I’d been soaking up the sunlight from my garden chair only the week before.  Despite the frustrations due to road conditions out of our village (missing Kei Miller’s Cultural Xchanges reading at De Montfort University on Wednesday, for one) I did get to try out my hitherto-unused snow tracks for the first time.  And one or two surprise visitors came to the garden in search of food: a couple of fieldfares made short work of  some wizened apples thrown on the ‘lawn’; a small hawk (a kestrel, maybe?) circling overhead as other birds attempted to warn it off.


fieldfare: photo credit goes to RSPB.org.uk (my camera snap is far too shabby!)

Which reminds me (for this is a poetry blog, after all), I’ve been enjoying the DIVERSIFLY podcasts I mentioned here; yesterday I listened to Nadia Kingsley’s conversation with Gillian Clarke, the last in the series.  You’ll find them all on SoundCloud, here.

The Insights tool on my blog informs me that Hygge Poems has received more hits than just about any of my blog posts to date. My poem, ‘Ritual’, inspired by my paternal grandmother’s very strong tea, is one of a series of poems exploring the ‘simple pleasures’ published on Angela Topping’s website (linked via the above).

I’m doubly pleased that ‘Ritual’ has been chosen as one of ten poems to be displayed on buildings at University of Leicester during International Women’s Week..  After a recent call-out, these poems were chosen as best reflecting the diversity, spirit and theme of International Women’s Day 2018: #PressForProgress.  I’m looking forward to discovering its whereabouts on campus when I go along on Thursday.  Hopefully I’ll get to snap it on my phone and share it on social media (you’ll find me on Twitter @stantonjayne) as well as in next Sunday’s blog post.  Another poem, ‘My Grandmother’s Kitchen,’ is one of twenty-nine other poems also on display in the university’s new Digital Reading Room.  I’m looking forward to reading the range of poems chosen as fitting the theme.   Both of the above poems also feature in my pamphlet, Beyond the Tune (2014), still available from Soundswrite Press or (signed, if you like) via the PayPal button on this blog.

In other poetry news, I’m reading at Kenilworth library on the 27th of this month. Andrew Button, who will be reading poems from his recently-launched collection from Erbacce Press, very kindly invited me to read alongside him.  It’s been ages since, so I’m really looking forward to it (I’ll share details nearer the time).

I’ve also been invited to take part in a Poet Interview series over on Bekah Steimel’s blog; Bekah connected with me via the Poetry Blog Revival tour.  My interview will be published in April, which gives me plenty of time to mull over the questions I’ll be addressing (I’m a slow boiler, these days).

Last Sunday I submitted two poems for an anthology in aid of New Start Cat Rescue.   Poems will be selected by Sharon Larkin, who published three of my pamphlet poems, about my father, on Good Dadhood. Both cat poems are previously published; I love it when poems get to lead other lives.


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.


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




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):


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.


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.


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.


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: