NaPoWriMo day 29: almost there

Tomorrow marks the end of National/Global Poetry Writing Month.  Last week’s blog post turned out to be a note to the self on hanging on in there.  In the process of typing it, I surprised myself in terms of the amount of new writing and new learning this month has generated.  It remains to be seen how many poems I end up with but I’m not too concerned on that score.  My original intention was to writing something new, daily.  I’ve stuck to that.  And I have much to go back to, either as working drafts or gleanings.  I doubt I’d have written any of it without the mutual support of poets, and poem prompts from Carrie Etter, NaPoWriMo.net and The Poetry School.

This week’s ‘pages’ include:

  • writing about a rainy day, without mentioning the R word
  • an elegy for sunshine (not entirely unconnected with the latter)
  • a further re-drafting of my praise poem for my village’s nineteenth century brickmakers (I think I prefer the previous draft…)
  • an ekphrastic poem from a British Library online image, ‘A Breaking Wave’
  • A re-working of a poem about the scar on the Heart Line of my right palm (I’ve been trying to write about this for a long time; I still haven’t found a ‘way in’ that I’m happy with, though)
  • a visceral poem using all five senses
  • hypnogogic writing; a mantra to induce sleep
  • prose poem as ‘postcard’
  • a riff on a phrase: Ask me a question

This week’s gems and nuggets:

  • Daily posts on NaPoWriMo.net include essays on craft.  I found this one, by Hyejung Kook on creating poetry from absence, really inspiring
  • a ‘when…when…then’ poem, ‘When You Have Forgotten Sunday: the love story,’ by Gwendolyn Brooks
  • I’ve learnt that foetal cells pass to the mother where they can linger for years. These micro-chimeric stem cells have been known to migrate to places of injury in the mother’s body (source: Hyejung Kook’s essay linked above)
  • Anglo Saxon kennings (see here, for instance)
  • this Chinese proverb, scribbled in a notebook I keep in my handbag:

Keep a green tree in your heart
and perhaps a singing bird will come.

The company of poets:

  • Carrie’s Day 27 enquiry to her NaPoWriMo Facebook group as to how we were all getting on elicited many responses which are testament to the benefits of belonging to a writing community. Huge thanks to Carrie and everyone in the group.
  • I spent Thursday evening with seven other members of Soundswrite women’s poetry group.  We read and discussed seven poems by other poets and workshopped five of our own poem drafts.  Four of us met afterwards to discuss the submission guidelines for an exciting new publication from Soundswrite Press.  I’ll keep you posted on this!
  • Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of the Leicester & South Leicestershire Poetry Stanza.  To mark the occasion, eleven of us shared a convivial afternoon of poetry, food and conversation.

Food for the soul:

  • a walk in the Leicestershire Outwoods followed by lunch out with my friend Maria: bluebells and Spring greenery, stimulating company and conversation:

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NaPoWriMo: day 22

This far into National Poetry Writing Month, I confess that I’m flagging.

I didn’t set out to write a poem a day anyway, but rather to write ‘something’ daily in response to a NaPoWriMo prompt. Some of these may end up as poem drafts, the bulk resigned to bones for future picking over.  Most days I’ve chosen a prompt from Carrie Etter’s list to her Facebook group (whichever as the fancy takes me rather than in running order) and the occasional one from The Poetry School’s daily prompts.

Increasingly, my efforts are late night notebook ramblings, inadequately illuminated by the bedside table lamp.  I tend towards the write what surprises you school of thought but I doubt much of this month’s new writing will elicite a response of ‘Did I write that?!’ when I revisit those pages, months on.  But, hey, writing’s like running: starting never gets any easier.  And so I’ll continue to muddle along in my own haphazard fashion.

Some drafts with ‘legs’:

  • a series of cinquains on the common house sparrow
  • a wobbly first draft on all the pairs of Doc Marten boots I’ve never owned but lusted after
  • a praise poem for the brickfield workers from my village who made some of the decorative bricks for the Barlow Shed at St Pancras station (who knew?!)
  • an unsatisfactory poem re-worked as a prose poem
  • settling on a ‘form’ for a promise I’ve made to myself
  • a few haiku on Spring/bird activity/the weather
  • an elegy from photographs
  • settling on a ‘form’ to write about the most emotive and time-consuming item on our Annual Parish Council meeting agenda
  • a riff on a question from ‘Atlas,’ a Terisa Siagatonu poem
  • a childhood memory from the point of view of one of my younger sisters

 

New discoveries and revisited learning so far:

So all is not lost.

 

Quotes added to my notebook, to reflect on:

To live is the rarest thing in the world.
Most people exist, that is all.

and

We are all in the gutter
but some of us are looking at the stars.

Oscar Wilde

Love makes a mess of dying,
rarifies what you’ve got left and
draws close those for whom you’ve
been essential architecture, each seeking
a totem.

and

…I’m afraid, not of dying,
but of leaving a mess for love.

lines from a Gary Gilbert poem

And one for the wall on a subject close to my heart:

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In other news:

  • 3 poems submitted to The Lampeter Review on the theme of ‘Staying’
  • 1 poem submitted to the Eibonvale Press Humanagerie anthology (submission window open until 31st May: see here for guidelines)
  • I’m considering applying for Halsway Manor’s poet residency (poetry and folk music: my kind of heaven) *self-talking*

 

 

Sin É: Poet Interview with Jayne Stanton

Sin É by Jayne Stanton We steam on barstools read between slogans on a plastered ceiling tune to the cuts and grace notes in banter binge on ambience, high on E minor. Coburg Street, past midnight, soaks in sodium light. Rain beats time on bodhran umbrellas, my spine a river of running quavers that stick […]

via Sin É / An interview with poet Jayne Stanton — Bekah Steimel

#NaPoWriMo day 8

How soon the year comes around!  We’re already eight days into National Poetry Writing Month (adopted from the USA, so it’s global, really).

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I’ve joined Carrie Etter’s NaPoWriMo Facebook group for the second year running. Last April proved fruitful in terms of new writing and workable poem drafts.  This year, I’m managing to write SOMETHING; although my current notebook’s filling up nicely, I don’t think its contents amount to much more than material for gleaning at the moment (there’s too much annoying life stuff encroaching on my time and sanity).  I like Carrie’s group: mutual encouragement (and commiseration) but no posting of poems (which, from past experience, makes me want to chuck notebook and pen in the nearest wastepaper bin).  And we get all 30 poem prompts in advance, so there are plenty of alternatives if one fails to inspire.  They often spark something surprising that I wouldn’t otherwise have written – which, for me, is the main benefit of taking part – that, and the fact that this ill-disciplined writer actually puts in the time on a daily basis.

I’ve also been busy writing my responses to questions for a Poet Interview series on Bekah Steimel’s blog.  Bekah made contact via the 2018 Poet Bloggers’ Revival Tour and asked if I’d take part.  I’ve enjoyed following the series so far, reading other poets’ featured poems and their responses to questions on themes, the writing process, resources, writing highs and lows, etc.  I’ve particularly enjoyed ‘the one piece of advice you want to share.’  I’ve almost finished writing mine so, if you’re reading this, Bekah, mine will be with you any day now.

This week’s poetry high point was Wednesday evening’s Boating Bards and Buffet, at Every House coffee shop in Burton on Trent.  This one-off event was organised by Gary Carr, who MCs the monthly Spoken Worlds open mic nights I so enjoy.  The format: two featured ‘boating bards,’ Mark Goodwin and Emma Purshouse, and ten open mic ‘support’ poets reading poems on themes of Place, Transport and Navigation; a delicious buffet during the interval.  Unfortunately, Mark had to cancel at short notice due to illness, consequently Paul Francis and I each did fifteen minutes instead of our originally allotted six.  So, for the second time in as many weeks, I was afforded the opportunity to read a selection of poems from my pamphlet, Beyond the Tune, as well as more recent poems.  I ended my spot with ‘Towards a Safe Return,’  shortlisted for the Wolverhampton Literature Festival poetry competition, which was judged the featured poet herself.  Emma Purshouse finished the evening on a high, performing poems from The Nailmakers’ Daughters: poems from the Black Country (Offa’s Press) and other poems about life on the canals.  I really enjoyed her ‘Things I Learned from my Maternal Grandfather’ (and its tongue-in-cheek ‘partner’ poem, ‘…from my Maternal Grandmother’) and ‘Flamingos in Dudley Zoo.’   I was pleased that she also read her ‘Specular on the Wolverhampton 21,’ commissioned for the DIVERSIFLY anthology, which I blogged about here.

If you’re likewise engaged in the madness and mayhem of NaPoWriMo, I hope the writing’s happening for you!

 

Growing as a writer

If you’re celebrating all things egg-related this weekend, Happy Easter!  To fellow poetry hedonists, Happy NaPoWriMo (more on this, next week)!

Last Sunday, I granted myself a day off from writing and blog-posting.  We had visitors we haven’t seen for years.  We spent the day catching up.  It was food for the soul.

I’ve not done too shabbily in growing my habit of blog-posting weekly (on Sundays) since last New Year’s Eve.  In terms of growing this teeny tiny blogsite, viewing numbers are increasing but, in the grand scheme of the blogosphere, it’s infinitesimal.  The Insights tool on WordPress informs me that my biggest referrer is Facebook (set to Friends only) so I’ve a lot to learn.  I need a reference guide such as Robin Houghton’s Blogging for Writers, obvs.  However, I don’t want to become a slave to the cause; I’ve already acquired more displacement activities than I care to mention (but they’d make for an interesting blog post, maybe…).

In terms of growing my poetry-writing skills, I mentioned here that I’ve recently invested in two poetry workshops:

Jen Campbell’s online workshop, Poetry and Fairy Tale, was very reasonably priced at £30.  The workshop materials were informative and included several sources of inspiration in terms of poems and links.  There were given two tasks: dissect and comment on one of three given poems (I chose Jaimes Alsop’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’); write a poem based on either a specific fairy tale or using markers from several; one week to complete the tasks.  Jen’s workshop achieved more than I’d hoped for: I wrote two poems utilising Jen’s material and some unsatisfactory drafts from That Unfinished Folder; I was happy enough with one fledgling to submit it for workshop feedback; the other has legs but is still too wobbly on its feet.  Participants received all responses to tasks one and two by email a few days prior to the two-hour (text-only) Skype chat.  Sadly, only three participants were available; nevertheless, the ensuing discussion and comments proved worthwhile.  Jen’s extensive knowledge of fairy tales across many cultures, her insights, rigorous comments and suggested edits on our poems (which she attached for reference) were invaluable.  Details of all Jen Campbell’s writing workshops are available on her website, here (she also does one-to-one workshops by arrangement).

George Szirtes’ face-to-face masterclass, Liberation by Constraint, was facilitated by Writing East Midlands.  At £70, I eventually booked a place after a not insignificant amount of self-talk on the subject of investing in my own writing.  I rarely (if ever) write to form.  If anything, I incline towards Mimi Khalvati’s view (A day to write the poem; a week to find the form, I think) that form emerges in the crafting.  However, I’m interesting in exploring form as a way of overcoming the (self-imposed) barriers to new writing.  With thirteen pages of notes (emailed in advance) as a guide to the structure of the day, Szirtes steered over twenty course participants through his ten-point perspective on structuring poems, arguments for constrained form, breaking rules, and an exploration (with examples) of several set forms: the haiku, cinquain, clerihew, sonnet, sestina and canzone.  A big Ask in just over five hours; nevertheless there was time allocated for several writing tasks and some read-arounds between the teacher talk (which I could have listened to more of, especially Szirtes’ ad lib recitation of lines of poetry as far back as the Ancients).  Will I adopt any of this into my daily writing practice?  Do any of my responses to the writing task have legs?  Do those three-liners I’ve taken to writing in my notebook count?  Maybe.  I do think this masterclass was value for money, though.

In submission news, I’ve sent off a poem for Mslexia’s Themed Writing call-out for issue 79: cooking.  And I think I’m going to submit my poem from Jen Campbell’s workshop here (I’m letting it settle till nearer the deadline date, though).  I also like The Lampeter Review‘s theme of Staying but don’t think I’ve anything suitable (or good enough) at the moment.

Here’s what I’ve been/am reading this week; all are rich nourishment for the writer:

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New on my (rapidly diminishing) TBR pile is Marion McReady’s Melita Hume Poetry Prize-winning collection, Tree Language (Eyewear).  Josephine Corcoran very kindly offered a book swap in response (the only response, would you credit it??!!) to my offer of a (duplicate) copy of Helen Dunmore’s Inside the Wave (Bloodaxe).  Good things come in book-shaped packages:

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 Thanks, Josephine! 🙂 x

 

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?

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.