NaPoWriMo: 9 days in

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Yes, it’s that merry month of mayhem: National Poetry Writing Month (adopted by more and more poets across the world, it seems).  How quickly the poetry year doth come around!

To be honest, I hadn’t given taking part any serious thought, this year, until Pam Thompson asked if I’d like to be added to Carrie Etter’s NaPoWriMo Facebook group.  I admit I wasn’t too keen, at first.

Previous experience in write-to-a-prompt groups runs something like this: a battery of poems posted hot on the heels of the daily/weekly prompt, followed by a barrage of comments/feedback on posted poems, the (self-imposed) ‘pressure to produce’ something (anything!?! omg…).  On bad days, I’m a virtual wallflower (I was that teenager.  I still hate parties with discos) with an acute attack of Imposter Syndrome.  All this, on a repeat cycle.  The end result: a feeling of ‘Oh, I may as well quit right now…’

The purpose of Carrie’s group is general support, comments on prompts and progress so far.  Poems are not posted (yay!).  Before the month got underway, members were asked to post their one inspirational poem by another poet.  I really liked this idea and enjoyed  discovering poems/poets new to me.

Carrie’s list of 30 prompts appears as a pinned post on the group page.  I’ve printed it off; it’s propped on my desk, along with a month of poetry prompts by Jo Bell, and one or two others.  Just in case I can’t get out of the starting blocks.  And the group’s 137 members seem, like me, to be going about things their own way.  Some are writing to Carrie’s prompts in order, some are choosing ones from the list that spark ideas that day, others (like me) are mixing and matching – or even combining – prompts from different sources, and there are posts about poems that come into being without a prompt.  (I happened upon a blinder of an opening line from clickbait in an email notification the other day).

Some members have different agendas, this month.  For instance, John Foggin isn’t following prompts but is using material from his notebooks to write the poems he feels compelled to write; Rachel Davies is using some of the prompts to add to her sequence of mother-daughter poems as part of her PhD.

Group posts are a real mixture of progress, process, other useful prompts, everyday life as help and hindrance, etc, etc.  These are inspiring in themselves.  And motivational, too.  We’re all doing our own thing.

I’m finding this freeing.  I’m growing a habit of daily writing, even writing first thing in the morning (well, after feeding the cats and making up my breakfast bowl) as opposed to, or some days as well as, my default late evening/night writing.

Not all my efforts have mileage as poems, but there might be lines, phrases, or the odd word to plunder as some point in the future.  That brings me to my next point: what of that accumulation of notebooks I haven’t gone back to for some time now?  They exist as a regular niggle at the back of my mind.  So this month, in addition to The Daily Write in my notebook (no special NaPoWriMo one, just the one that’s currently on the go; no special pen or pencil, just the usual cheapie) I’m typing up and beginning to re-draft the ones I think have possibilities.  To date, there are six poems-in-progress in a new sub folder.  Nine days in, I’m doing okay.

If you’re writing a poem a day, this month, I’d love to hear how you’re going about things via the comments box below.

Happy writing! 🙂

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‘The Best’ weekend

It’s been one of those weeks when everyone (including our elderly cat, poor boy) has wanted an extra piece of me – mostly in a good way, I hasten to add. This weekend has been a full-on music-poetry combo, and sensible folk might have opted for a lazy Sunday, in readiness for another week at the chalkface (at end of an over-long spring term).  But I rarely take the sensible option (as those who know me – er, know) and ‘life is short’ is a maxim I live by (see previous post here). And there was absolutely no way I was going to miss the Eyewear launch of The Best British & Irish Poets 2017 anthology.

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I couldn’t have ordered better weather for a London jolly. With time to kill before the event, I walked from Brixton station to The Windmill in warm sunshine, sporting varifocal sunglasses and minus a cardie.  The early birds amongst us then sat outside until the bar opened (my, it was nightclub-dark in there).

Eyewear’s Todd Swift ably steered us through the afternoon, keeping pretty much to time considering this involved cajoling everyone back inside at the end of each brief break in proceedings.

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Todd Swift at the mic

Luke Kennard spoke about judging the 900 or so entries and read some of his recent work, including a ‘Brexit morning’ poem and finishing with one from ‘Cain.’  It was good to talk to Robin Houghton, say hi to Jill Abram and exchange a few words with other contributors in between readings.  And Luke Kennard talked poetry and life stuff with me as I rested on a bar stool after a long stint of standing.  And he said nice things about my poem.

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Luke Kennard

I chose to listen/watch rather than follow poems on the page during readings.  I particularly enjoyed Alan Buckley’s ‘Miracle’ for its arresting images and its delivery, Niall Bourke’s ‘Marbletown’ for its satirical humour, and Jessica Mookherjee’s ‘Vernal Equinox’.  There’s a real range of subjects and styles in the anthology to enjoy reading at my leisure.

The anthology is available from Eyewear Publishing for £10.99.  To purchase (and browse the other publications, while you’re there), click here.

Before catching my train back to Leicester, I met my youngest sister for a catch-up over a bite to eat – serendipitous that we both happened to be in London for the day. We hadn’t seen each other in over three years! When did life become so busy…?

Having typed most of this on the train journey home, I’m finishing and posting this on Monday morning. After a much-needed early night!

It’s Official

I will be retiring from my teaching post at the end of the summer term

  • because I’m increasingly bone- and brain-tired, these days, and both are taking longer to recover from my oh-so-fortunate-to-be-only Monday-Wednesday work days
  • because I’d like to truly enjoy my newly-restored hip health
  • because life is short – and sometimes far shorter than expected (family, friends)
  • because time is precious and I’d like more choice over how I spend it and with whom
  • because age is just a number but we are getting older (and so are our grandchildren – who were babies only last year, it seems)
  • because this all-or-nothing personality would like to make a serious attempt at achieving a workable balance between passions and interests (those who know me well are laughing already!)
  • because variety might bring new and exciting fruits to the writing table
  • because I’d like my creative ‘mojo’ back
  • because I’d like to learn to give myself permission (on the odd day) to do very little – or nothing at all
  • because I have a choice
  • because I’m oh-so-fortunate to have a choice
  • because [this one varies]

My decision to retire early and manage the gap (I’m trying to remain optimistic it won’t lengthen) between now and State Pensionable age is the result of much soul-searching (I had thinking time whilst on sick leave last autumn), interrogation of our income and expenditure (facing a few home truths) as well as considering how and where we want to live in the very near future.

It’s exciting and scary by turns.

In the meantime, I’m growing a Wish List – that is exciting!

Hygge poems

The Danish word hygge is all about the enjoyment and sharing of life’s simple pleasures.  Poet and educator Angela Topping has been busy spreading a little warmth and light during the dark days of winter, sharing poems on this theme via her blog.

My poem, ‘Ritual,’ originally published in my pamphlet Beyond the Tune, is one of today’s two featured poems, just gone live.  You can blog-hop by clicking here.  Or, if you fancy a leisurely browse through all the poems from Hygge #1 onwards, why not curl up somewhere toasty with your favourite hot drink and click here.

Happy hygge reading!

 

Best New British & Irish Poets 2017

I’m delighted to be amongst the 50 poets whose poems feature in this little beauty, forthcoming from Eyewear Publishing:

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cover image: eyewearpublishing.com

Being selected by judge Luke Kennard was a 2016 high point. I can hardly wait to see my poem in print and to read those by fellow contributors.

There’s to be a London launch event, which I’m really looking forward.  I’ll post further details here in due course.

You can pre-order a copy ahead of its March publication via this link.

2016 retrospective

I love reading my favourite bloggers’ year-end blog posts – all very different, all inspiring and thought-provoking:

Hilaire’s analysis of her reading year got me thinking: when did I last borrow a book from the public library instead of buying one?  Is a growing TBR pile evidence of my own consumerism?  How many books by BAME writers have I read this year?

Kim Moore’s colour-coded year-to-view serves not as a reminder of the energy levels of my younger years but as an exemplar of a life being lived to the full.  Attending  funerals of friends and ex colleagues barely older than me were this year’s stark reminders that life is short – and sometimes far shorter than we think.  Am I being too lenient with myself as regards putting things (ie writing) on the back burner this year?

Josephine Corcoran’s penultimate blog post about the creative buzz of Trowbridge Arts led me to reflect on all that’s happening in my neck of the woods and how much I’m looking forward to being part of it all again after being a back bencher these past few pre-op and post-op months.

Robin Houghton’s end of year post is rich in reasons to be thankful as well as in resolutions, and not all of them writing/poetry-based.  I share a wish to spend more time in the garden, now that hip health has been restored.  And what’s become of my daily walks since I returned to work, I ask myself!  And surely it’s the everyday stuff and being physically ‘out there’ that is the richest writing fuel of all?

Robin’s post on giving up Facebook (temporarily) makes interesting reading, too.  It’s a growing concern among increasing numbers of us on social media.  I want to limit time spent scrolling through my newsfeed, liking, commenting, sharing and posting.    I don’t want any part of political argy-bargy and the vitriol that manifests itself in ‘Not Dead Yet’ lists and the like.  I’m not going to quit Facebook, though (not even temporarily), for reasons which include remaining in touch with my lovely Burwell music family and keeping up-to-date and informed on poetry happenings and successes of others, competitions and magazine deadlines I don’t get to hear about via e-newsletters and Twitter.  And some days a cute kitten video is just the ticket!   Ooh! – and thanks to this morning’s Facebook response from a friend I see face-to-face from time to time, I’m reminded of a promise I made: to take her to see a local bluebell wood this coming spring.  Yes, getting out and about is always more joyful when you’re sharing it with someone.

I’m not too downhearted by a lack of poem output/successes or falling blog stats.  Instead, I’m growing A WISH LIST – more of that in future blog posts.  The list does include plans to grow my blog readership, starting with more regular blogging – possibly a weekly post on a regular day – maybe.  And I’d like to work in a more disciplined/dedicated way on a sequence or short collection of poems around a theme – concentrating on one theme in particular rather than my default butterfly approach.

Having being less physically active than normal this year (if that’s possible!), one thing I’ve done LOTS of is reading.  Here’s a sample:

Novels with poetry in their prose: The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson’s 21st century ‘cover version’ of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale; Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane; Max Porter’s debut Grief is the Thing With Feathers.

A novel that drew me out of my genre comfort zone a second time: Rod Duncan’s Unseemly Science (steampunk with a twist, a hint of the local).

Reading poetry:

A collection that made me feel uncomfortable enough to redefine (once more) what makes a poem a poem, and the power of quiet poems amongst the more shouty ones: Michael Rosen’s Don’t Mention the Children.

Craft envy: Helen Mort’s Big Lil sequence in issue 56 of The North.

Little gems: Kate Dempsey’s Highly Commended poem ‘While it Lasted’ (*fist pumps*) in the 2017 Forward Prize collection; Mary O’Malley’s ‘Uillean’ from her latest collection, Playing the Octopus (engaged me as poet and musician)

Some of the poetry events that fed my hungry heart: Literary Leicester readings by Sarah Howe and Tom Pickard (what a pairing! – such a contrast in many ways); reading at one of the launch events for the Welcome To Leicester anthology; Shindig! – my abiding favourite amongst regular poetry nights.

The odd success: my first writing residency as winner of the Bru Leicesterwrites prize; three residency poems published in the Welcome to Leicester anthology (Dahlia Publishing); one poem (from my pamphlet, Beyond the Tune) published in OWF’s Half Moon: poems about pubs anthology.

A high point (yesss!!!!): being selected by judge Luke Kennard for Eyewear’s Best New British & Irish Poets 2017.  If there’s a (London?) launch, try keeping me away!

Remaining hopeful: 8 poems currently ‘out there’ with magazines/in competitions, 7 of which are maximising their chances as simultaneous submissions (legit ones).

Critiquing thanks go to fellow Soundswriters and members of South Leics poetry stanza. And, not least, to Helena Nelson for her excellent feedback on my first Open Window submission – in particular her remarks on one particular poem that kept on bouncing back: I sent it out again.  It’s my winning Eyewear poem!

Thanks go to you as my blog readers, for reading, comments and likes.

Whatever 2017 holds, I wish you happiness and good health, time to spend with loved ones and those who love you for who you are, and time to indulge in whatever it is that makes you feel truly whole.

Jayne 🙂