Fathers and the poems they inspire

Today, my social media newsfeeds are a joy to behold: Father’s Day messages of love and gratitude, photographs of fathers (the late and the living) and the memories they evoke.  Our son, father of our five grandchildren, is enjoying a day of indulgence: handmade cards incorporating chocolate bars and a family day out at a car show.  My husband returns this afternoon from a weekend away with friends.

Some poet bloggers have posted poems, photographs and memories of their fathers that, in turn, evoked memories of my own father (I don’t refer to him as my ‘late’ father; he remains present in memories and in the poems he has inspired).  Angela Topping’s post includes a poem, ‘Dad’s Tea,’ which reminded me so much of my paternal grandmother’s very strong brew which inspired my poem, ‘Ritual’ (coincidentally, you can read it here, on Angela Topping’s Hygge poem series).

John Foggin pays tribute to a multi-talented, hardworking father with three poems. His post struck a chord:

My father won the Art Prize in his final year at Secondary Modern school, aged 14.  He wanted to go to art college but obeyed his father’s instruction to get a proper job: a nine-year apprenticeship as a coach painter, three years in the RAF regiment as a signaller, and an ever after of hard graft with overtime, latterly spraying cars for a local car dealership. Early retirement with a heart condition afforded him time to indulge a long-denied passion for painting and sketching, and a dawning realisation of repressed left-handedness (his legacy to me, perhaps).  He died too young, aged 63.  Only this morning (thanks to the internet’s wonder web) I discovered this photograph of my father, aged 14, with his prize-winning stallion painting:

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Photo credit: The Garton Archive, Christ’s Hospital school, Lincoln

You can read three poems inspired by my father on Sharon Larkin’s Good Dadhood poem series.  Incidentally, all four of the above-mentioned poems by yours truly are also published in my 2014 pamphlet, Beyond the Tune (Soundswrite Press, 2014).

In other news:

I’ve had a poem acceptance for the Humanagerie anthology, to be published by Eibonvale Press in October.  I was particularly pleased to read poetry editor Sarah Doyle’s email comments in response to my submitted poem; an acceptance with a personal touch.

The accepted poem, Rough Music, was written out of Jen Campbell’s online workshop, Poetry and Fairy Tale, which I blogged about here.  I’m currently doing another of Jen’s excellent workshops, The Response Poem, which I’ll blog about in due course.  When I click Publish on this post, I’ll be settling down to work on Jen’s assigned tasks.

 

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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.

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

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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