What I’m working on, and other poems

Over the last few blog posts I haven’t made much mention of my writing, or what my living, breathing poems are getting up out there in the real world.

What I’m working on:

Last month, I completed another of Jen Campbell’s excellent online workshops: Response Poems. I like Jen’s workshop format:

  • the workshop material is emailed
  • a week to complete two tasks: comment on a published resonse poem in relation to the original poem; write a response to own choice of poem
  • a two-hour (text-only) Skype workshop session for group discussion and feedback on both tasks
  • Jen’s detailed feedback on participants’ poems, attached as Word documents

I wrote a deeply personal response to Emily Dickinson’s ‘Hope’ is the Thing with Feathers.  The first stanza of this poem has been my personal mantra over the past few months, so it was a natural choice.  It was really useful to receive some ‘distance’ critical feedback on an early, still-raw draft.

This is not the first, nor will it be the last poem mining the same seam.  My current poems-in-progress are borne out of my notebook writing over the past six months or so. They are poems of anger, fear and pain, as well as of hope and healing.  I am grateful, too, for ‘distance’ feedback on three of these poems, from Helena Nelson during her (still-open) HappenStance Press July ‘window’.

Published poems:

I have two poems in the brand new issue 21 of Under the Radar magazine, from Nine Arches Press, which arrived in Wednesday’s post:

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Forthcoming:

All a Cat Can Be, a poetry anthology in aid of New Start Cat Rescue, is forthcoming from Eithon Bridge Publications.  It includes my poem, My Cat is Sad; a line from the poem is also a caption for one of the gorgeous feature photographs.  As a cat lover (and Chief of Staff to cats Senior and Junior) , I’m doubly pleased to found a new home for an old (previously-published) poem, here.  Sadly, I can’t make the launch (distance, diary clash) but I’m looking forward to receiving my contributor copy.

In other good news:

DIVERSIFLY anthology (Fair Acre Press) has been short-listed for this year’s Rubery Book Award.

A long shot:

I’ll be scanning the Bridport Poetry Prize longlist when it’s published online, this coming Tuesday.  I’m one of thousands (no doubt) who are dearly hoping to see their name/poem amongst them…

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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:

dad's painting

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.

 

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

 

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…