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 🙂

 

 

 

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If quicksand doesn’t get you, the tides will

Having reneged on my unofficial intention to blog monthly at the very least, here’s grabbing April by the shirt tail and putting a bit of it (a poetry bit) under the blogoscope.

The post title above is from a poster caption in the reception area of Abbotts Hall hotel, venue for Kim Moore’s poetry residential course, now in its third year.  What a great kickstart to the Easter holidays: five days in a ‘poetry bubble’, swapping land-locked Leicestershire for views of Morecombe Bay across the salt marsh, the company of returning and new course participants, meals laid on and not a pot to wash, workshops, evening readings…


This year, Carola Luther joined Kim Moore as co-tutor for a series of workshops around the central theme: The Stories we Tell Ourselves.  We explored unfamiliar territory in safe hands.  We worked hard.  We shared what we’d written and were surprised and amazed by turns.  I even copied up my pages of scribble and crossings-out, between times.  I wrote and read into the wee small hours.  I had time – well, I had no excuse for procrastinating, anyway.

There was also time during the week for a walk into Grange-over-Sands along the coastal footpath (gorgeous sunshine; not a breath of salt wind; no need for a coat; coffee and cake; the train back in time for my tutorial with Kim) and, because poetry buddy Bernice and I had travelled up a day early, a morning visit to Carnforth station (a Brief Encounter with a mock-up cinema; a wander round the Heritage Centre run by lovely volunteer staff; photos under The Clock).


One of the high points of the week was the surprise arrival of a box of books – thanks to the lovely David Borrott, who drove Kim home to pick up a timely first delivery of her new collection, The Art of Falling (Seren).  We were all hugging our signed copies by bedtime on Tuesday,


having been treated to an evening of readings by both Kim and Carola.  I also bought a copy of Carola’s Arguing with Malarchy (Carcanet) and a mental note to self to add her first collection, Walking the Animals, to my wish list.


And what a lovely surprise to see Jennifer Copley drop by on Wednesday evening and read alongside guest poets Jane Routh and Mike Barlow (further book purchases ensued).

I hope to add a photo or two before publishing this (if I succeed in attaching them directly from my iPhone, thus avoiding a mega upload session).  But first, a few links:

An interview with Kim Moore on The Art of Falling on the Seren Book Blog.  Read it.  Buy the book, if you haven’t already.  Follow Kim’s marvellous blog.

Read a far better version of events over on John Foggin’s blog.

 

The Poetry School

As I’ve said before, I thrive on poetry workshops as a kickstart to new writing (to say nothing of the excellent published poetry I’ve read in the process).  Then how come I’ve only recently begun to avail myself of all that’s on offer from The Poetry School?  There are face-to-face, downloadable and online courses to choose from. And there’s CAMPUS, the Poetry School’s social network , currently boasting 1,744 members engaged in poetry conversations through groups ranging from ‘What are you Reading?’ to ‘Web Curios’; from ‘News, Events and Happenings’ to ‘Competitions, Submissions and Challenges.’

There are no travel or accommodation costs to factor in, and ‘a night in’ doesn’t get much better than the free open workshops I’ve participated in to date.  Bookings are on a first-come-first-served basis, so signing up to CAMPUS and their email updates is a help there.  Assignments are posted to participants who then have 5-7 days to draft their poems before uploading them to the group a few days before the two-hour online workshop, facilitated by a group chat facility.  A transcript of the online chat session is made available a couple of days later so you can ponder over critiquing comments.  Writing in response to an assignment with a near deadline often works well for me: there’s little time for procrastination.

My first such was Kim Moore’s Put a Poet in Your Pocket, last May. It was refreshing (if a challenge in itself) to ‘live with’ my chosen published poem for a few days with ‘strict’ instructions to write down nothing in the way of ideas/notes before drafting my own poem in response.  Seven months later, I’m mightily pleased that the resulting poem has found a good home.

I rarely experiment with set forms, so Mosaics from the Broken Mirror – Writing and Revising the Ghazal was a real departure from the norm.  Jason Schneiderman’s excellent essays and the exemplar poems in the assignment made worthwhile reading.  And, who knows, I might someday produce a pleasing poem from the draft that currently hibernates in my WIP sub folder.

Tonight, I’ve another ‘night in’ planned, as participants of The List Cause open workshop will be entering the group chat room at 7PM for a two-hour workshopping session of each other’s list poems with tutor Beverley Nadin.  Bring it on, I say!

Oh, and that’s not all – I’ve signed up for Harry Giles’ open workshop: Beyond English – Poems in Constructed Languages.  So this weekend I’ll be googling Nadsat, Riddleyspeak, Klingon, Zaum and Lapine…

The month of firsts: January doings

What happened to January?  One minute I’m wondering how I’ll ever get back up to speed for the start of the spring term at school – next thing I know, I’m receiving e-newsletters full of the joys of February poetry events!

I haven’t set myself a daily writing goal but this month I have managed to redraft some poems-in-progress, resurrect one or two others and generate some new writing ranging from a few lines in my notebook to a fledgling poem in response to an online workshop assignment.

My first poetry foray of the year was for a brief chat with DJ Tony Wadsworth on Radio Leicester’s Saturday morning programme.  By all accounts, I didn’t come across as a blithering idiot, I managed to turn questions around to mentioning some of what I’d planned in my head/on post-it notes.  And I read the opening poem from my pamphlet.

My first featured reading of the year was as supporting ‘act’ for talented performance poet (and Leicester’s own) Jess Green, at Word! on 6th January.  I cut my teeth at the open mic there, five years ago or thereabouts, so it was a real pleasure to take the floor for a 10-minute spot in front of an audience of friends and many familiar faces.  It’s no coincidence that this monthly spoken word event (the longest-running in the Midlands) gets an honourable mention from several Leicestershire poets on Robin Houghton’s first Regional Poetry Focus blog post.  I relaxed and enjoyed the open mic slots in the second half, followed by Jess’s accomplished performance of Burning Books, Restart and Dear Mr Gove.  I sold a few copies of my pamphlet, too (not bad, considering most of those assembled already have a copy).

I attended the first Poetry Business’ January writing day, too.  I’ve a feeling that my trips to Sheffield will be more of a regular thing, this year.  I thrive on workshops anyway, but I feel privileged to spend a day in the company of the talented wordsmiths that comprise the PB regulars.  And it’s good to meet, face-to-face, poets whose blogs/poetry/social media quips and commentary I enjoy.  John Foggin (The Great Fogginzo) and Carole Bromley, for instance.

My first 2015 poem acceptance (yay!) came via email from The Lampeter Review.  It’s one I wrote as a result of participating in my first Poetry Society open online workshop: Kim Moore’s Put a Poet in your Pocket.  It will be published in issue 11 (not sure when), on the theme of Magical Realism.

Not a first, this, I’ve booked a place and my return rail ticket for a five-day poetry residential in Cumbria.  It’ll be my third (it’s the third one, too).  Co-run by Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley, this year’s theme is ‘The Stories we Tell Ourselves.’  I have to tell you it’s now fully booked, though.  I can’t wait for the Easter holidays!

Before I sign off, here’s what I’ll be poetry-doing first next month: a featured reading alongside Matt Merritt at The Big Comfy Bookshop in Coventry on Wed 4th Feb (only five days to go!).  It’s a joint Fire & Dust and Nine Arches Press event.  Open mic slots are available, too.  I’d love you to come and join us if you’re local, willing and able.  Or if you fancy a change from your usual haunts. Details here.

Catching up #3: Encounters and Collisions

My return to work after ten weeks of post-op sick leave was a shock to the system, phased though it was.  Thank goodness for a residential poetry course in Cumbria at the beginning of the Easter break – a kind of delayed convalescence holiday.  After attending Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley’s co-run three-day residential in February last year (see here) I wasn’t about to miss out on a return trip to Abbott Hall Hotel near Grange-over-Sands for five days, with nothing but a change of scenery , blue skies and sunshine to distract me from wall-to-wall poetry in good company.

The rail journey went without a hitch and four and a half hours flew by in the company of Bernice Reynolds, friend and fellow member of Soundswrite women’s poetry group.  We travelled up on the Sunday afternoon, giving us chance to settle in and have Monday morning free before the start of the course.  I put my spanking new ceramic hip joint to the test on a brisk walk along the coastal path into Grange.  Enjoying a coffee at my pavement table, full sun burning my denim-clad legs, I could have been on the Riviera instead of the north-west coast of England.

The course, entitled Encounters and Collisions, comprised a series of workshops using artefacts, poems, maps, pictures, photographs and prompts to spark ideas and set them on their way as early draft poems.  Kim and Jennifer worked us hard and we rose to the challenge, I think.  We wrote of landscape, animals and birds, the past, the body, ghosts, the dead.  We surprised ourselves and each other.

Wednesday afternoon was either free time or an opportunity for a tutorial with Kim or Jenny.  I came away with Jenny’s insightful feedback on several of my pamphlet poems.

Over four evenings, following a leisurely dinner, we shared our favourite poems by others, read our own work, enjoyed readings by our tutors and two mystery guest poets: Andrew Forster and Carole Coates.  The two were a good contrast in terms of subject matter and writing style, and made for an interesting evening with the chance to ask questions about their work.  I really enjoyed hearing Jennifer read poems from her new collection, Sisters (Smokestack Books) which I devoured in a cover-to-cover read after snapping it up from the Impress Books stand at States of Independence in March. As well as one or two poems from her pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves (Smith Doorstop), Kim read a series of new poems which will form part of her forthcoming collection with Seren.  Like Jennifer’s work, they are darker poems with a story to tell.  I really admire poets who are not afraid to explore difficult subject matter.

It was lovely to make new friends and to catch up with those I met last year: Rachel Davies, Lydia Harris, David Borrott and Hilary Hares.  It was great to have the company of another Leics poet friend, Janet Lancaster, too.  We all spent Friday morning critiquing each other’s poems.  Thanks to everyone’s insightful feedback, I’ve now edited a problematic pamphlet poem.  Here we all are on our last afternoon:

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Our journey back to Leicester went very smoothly, thanks to fellow poets Hilary Hares and Emily Blewitt who shared the first leg of the journey, and to the wonderful Network Rail staff who met Bernice and I off our train at Birmingham and Leicester stations to help us our luggage, etc.  People are so lovely.

Recharged batteries, a notebook full of would-be poems set to fledge from my scribble, new friends and happy memories.  A huge thank you to Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley and to my fellow participants.  What a week!

Of course, I’ve been so tardy with this post that others blogged its praises a couple of weeks ago.  You can read Emily Blewitt’s here, Gill Garrett’s here and Kim Moore’s Sunday Poem blog post featuring Hilary Hares’ wonderful course-inspired poem, Kents Bank. Kim’s site also has details here of her next poetry residential in St Ives, Cornwall this October.  Meanwhile, places on next year’s course in Cumbria are going fast…

Looking back, looking forward

Almost four months after my last blog post, the WordPress stats helper monkeys (and the excellent posts I’ve enjoyed reading on my favourite poetry sites, lately) have shamed me into rousing my little blog from hibernation.  Suffice it to say I won’t be making public my 2013 ‘year in blogging’ stats!  I could offer all sorts of reasons for my lack of (blog) activity – the day job, my ageing hip, an addiction to social networking and coffee shops (I know, I know)… Let’s face it, stuff happens, life gets in the way, etc, etc.

Looking Back:

I do read a lot of poetry – an increasing amount online, some e-reads (on my iphone – I’ll probably get around to buying a Kindle in about 10 years time when I’ll no doubt be able to pick one up for a fiver along with the rest of the supermarket shopping)but I’m a tactile creature and there’s nowt quite like the sensory experience of a paper book. I’m loving everyone’s ‘shelfie’ pics posted online.  My shelves are far too rammed to be deemed at all photogenic, but here’s a selection of my 2013 book reading:

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and my favourite magazines/journals:

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Successes: In October, my poem, You Do Not Have To Say, was published in the Wild issue of Popshot magazine (above).  Here’s a photo of it, alongside Jessica Durden’s illustration, inspired by the poem:

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You can view all the Popshot illustrations on Pinterest, here.

Outlook was accepted by Hinterland, a new journal co-edited by talented poets Ian Parks and Rebecca Bird.  Lovely to see mine sharing cyber space with work by poets I really admire. You can read all the poems inspired by the spur colour, red, here.  And a first print issue is planned, too, I believe.

Tasseography was longlisted for the Desmond O’Grady competition.  Sadly, it didn’t make the shortlist, but it was rather exciting to read my poem to a live audience at The White House, Limerick via Skype link. In a way, this was a return visit, having guested there alongside fellow O’Bheal poet Janet Smith in August 2012.  Encouraged by this result, I’ve submitted it to another competition across the water.  We’ll see.  In fact I’ve got rather a lot of poems ‘out there’ at the moment – a flurry of submissions to magazines and anthologies.  Again, we’ll see.

My debut pamphlet – the story so far: Following many sessions spent at the dining room table sifting, sorting, rejecting, substituting and re-arranging paper copies of my (hopefully, best) poems, I’ve sent my proposed selection, a contents list in (proposed) order and a (working) title to my editor.  A big step, not taken lightly.  And her initial response is encouraging, positive – I’m thrilled that I seem to be on the right track, anyway.  I may be asking a few willing volunteers (with no existing knowledge of my poems) to play a little Word Association game, soon…

Workshops: I co-ran a rebellious writing workshop, Make Love Not War, with Leicester’s very own Tim ‘Bombdog’ Sayers as part of the city’s Everybody’s Reading festival in October.  The workshop was attended by both experienced and beginner writers who produced some amazing poems inspired by images, artefacts and writing about conflict.  I’m hopeful of applying for funding to run my own workshop next (ok, this) year.  I’m currently thinking of a suitable premise/my own slant…

I’ve also attended poetry workshops.  Highlights include my first Poetry Business writing day (a little scary, totally worthwhile) and a women’s poetry workshop entitled ‘Put your Hand in a Poet’s Pocket’ run by Kim Moore, (am biased) also as part of Everybody’s Reading.  I came away with several starters for poems, some of which are current WIPs.

Events: a  Poetry Tea, a first, hosted by Nine Arches press with readings by Mario Petrucci, Matt Merritt, Clare Trevien and Alistair Noon.  One of the cherries on my October half term, I hope Jane Commane has plans for more of these!

Kate Tempest at The Cube, Corby.  A Lyric Lounge event and an opportunity I couldn’t resist.  I even took my son (to show him what a night out on the town really should be, IMHO).  Not a poetry lover, he probably came along to humour his ageing mother – but thoroughly enjoyed both the open mic and Tempest’s stunning performance.  So self-effacing, such rapport with the audience!  And wonderful to see the audience really did represent all age-groups, including lots of local secondary school pupils who’d been lucky enough to participate in her workshop.

Jo Shapcott’s reading at Leicester University as part of the Literary Leicester festival.  If numbers are anything to go by, their publicity machine seems to be more efficient than in previous years.  Having heard her read at Lichfield cathedral last year, I was prepared for another hour of being drawn into this quiet poet’s created world.  And I wasn’t disappointed!  I can never understand why free events such as these don’t seem to have the punters queuing down the street…

Exhibition: I was delighted to have the opportunity to exhibit two of my poems alongside four other Leicester poets as part of Drawing on Words, an exhibition by Leicester Society of Artists.  We all read our work as part of the launch night at New Walk Museum & Art Gallery on December 12th.  Although I did get to view our poems and the art work it inspired in LSA members, I enjoyed going back for a more detailed look during the run-up to Christmas .  I’m always fascinated by collaborations between artists, both as exhibitor and visitor.  The exhibition runs until 11th January if you’re interested and fairly local.  If not, you can hear recordings of all the poems and view photos of the launch/some exhibits, here.

Looking forward:

Tomorrow kickstarts my poetry year with a second poetry workshop I’m running for the same group that kindly invited this novice facilitator in September.  Following on from Telling Lies, my chosen theme for the first one, tomorrow’s theme (after much deliberation into New Year’s Eve) is Tell the Truth, but Tell it Slant (thank you, Ms Dickinson).  A mixture of several poems to discuss and inspire, and a couple of writing exercises.

I’m contemplating a ‘last poetry fling’ by booking a place on The Poetry Business Reading Day on 11th Jan.  ‘Twill be an excellent day, I’ve no doubt, an opportunity to catch up with friends in poetry I met last year and, hopefully, will preoccupy my mind with matters other than my hip replacement surgery the following Monday (currently, my main worry is missing breakfast and that first cuppa of the day, being last on the operating list (oh, please, not), feeling sick with hunger and panicky with thirst…).

I’m hopeful that, after the initial post-op pain, I’ll have a new lease of life.  In the meantime I shall console myself (for the lack of a poetry social life and my daily caffeine fix – not the same at home or even in a takeout cup) with daytime TV, a backlog of films on my Sky planner, spoiling our six-month-old kitten even more and working my way through that To Read Jenga tower.  Below is just a selection:

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And, if I’m feeling up to it, writing poems.

Easter treat to self: a five-day residential poetry course in Cumbria, entitled Encounters and Collisions, run by Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley.  I enjoyed last Feb’s three-day course a lot.  I came away with several fledgling poems, lots of ideas, a raft of poems by others and having met a thoroughly great bunch of fellow poets, several of whom I hope to catch up with this time around.  And Janet Lancaster from South Leics poetry stanza is going, too.  Lovely 🙂

If you’re in need of a poetry wake-up this New Year, why not subscribe to Jo Bell’s new write-a-poem-a-week initiative, 52? Check it out, here

And here’s wishing you all that’s wonderful in the way of poetry happenings and personal writing successes in 2014.

Enjoy it all!

Jayne

Sea poems

In a week’s time, I’ll be escaping to the north-west coast for a much-needed break in the shape of a two-day residential poetry course on a sea theme, run by Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley.  And there’s scenery, writing and reading time to look forward to, on the train journey, too.  I can hardly wait!

Sea poems have been seeking me out for a while now, beginning with a piece of free writing that came out of nowhere on a flight to Barcelona last October.  Perhaps it had something to do with being away from land-locked Leicestershire, or the prospect of a week’s cruise, or flying over the sea – I’ll never know.  Anyway, I’m looking forward to developing these works in progress and to writing new poems sparked by the series of intriguing workshops that Kim and Jennifer have planned for us.

On the reading front, I’ve been revisiting old favourites and reading other sea poems for the first time.

This W H Auden poem I’ve loved since my A Level days:

Seascape 

Look, stranger, on this island now
The leaping light for your delight discovers,
Stand stable here
And silent be,
That through the channels of the ear
May wander like a river
The swaying sound of the sea.

Here at a small field’s ending pause
Where the chalk wall falls to the foam and its tall ledges
Oppose the pluck
And knock of the tide,
And the shingle scrambles after the suck-
-ing surf, and a gull lodges
A moment on its sheer side.

Far off like floating seeds the ships
Diverge on urgent voluntary errands,
And this full view
Indeed may enter
And move in memory as now these clouds do,
That pass the harbour mirror
And all the summer through the water saunter.

Listen to Auden’s reading here (such mastery of sounds).

Richie McAffery’s Flotsam is a wonderful piece of poetry-show-not-tell I loved at first reading on The Poetry Kit’s feature poet series Caught in the Net.

Then I happened upon a beautiful collaboration of art and poetry, Estuary, which I discovered on Michelle McGrane’s Peony Moon.  (Click here for a link to her blog post, or here to preview pages from the book).

John C Nash’s hauntingly beautiful Last Post: Holkham Beach, with accompanying photograph by Samantha Webster, appears on Helen Ivory’s poetry and prose webzine, Ink, Sweat & Tears. (Read it here).

And I could go on, but this blog post may already be over-long.  If you have any suggestions for my further reading, do write titles, links, etc in the comments box below.

Looking forward to hearing from you.