Happy 10th birthday, Nine Arches Press!

I had such a lovely day, yesterday.  In the normal run of events I’m not a huge fan of birthday parties but this particular birthday bash was one I couldn’t resist.

The venue: The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
The vibe: relaxed, fun, informal
The flow: smooth, seamless
The pace: plenty of time for refreshments and mingling in poetry company

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It was good to catch up with poetry folk I haven’t seen for some time and interesting to meet and talk to others for the first time.  How lovely it was to meet face-to-face those I’ve only ‘met’ in the virtual world, not least among them Josephine Corcoran who also signed my copy of her collection, hot off the Nine Arches Press.

Of the two concurrent opening workshops, I opted for The Big Read-in with Jacqueline Saphra and Roz Goddard.  (as you may know, I’m a huge fan).  In conversation with Roz, Jacqueline provided some insights into, and read, several poems from All My Mad Mothers, an ‘unreliable memoir’ (her words).  We were then invited to discuss the collection in groups (with a few suggested questions provided by Roz) before a Q & A conversation between readers and the poet.  It was good, too, to hear comments (and praise) from one or two reading group attendees who said they wouldn’t normally choose to read poetry.  Roz wrapped things up by inviting the circle to share their favourite lines from the collection.  Poetry needs readers and I thought this read-in was such a refreshing approach.

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Josephine Corcoran launched her collection, What Are You After, to a packed room, with special guest readings by Rishi Dastidar, Jackie Wills and Susannah Evans.  I found Susannah’s apocalyptic poems really engaging (and funny, too; I love poems that make me laugh aloud) and I’ll be watching out for her forthcoming Nine Arches collection.  Rishi and Susannah also paid tribute to Josephine’s online treasure trove that is And Other Poems by reading one of their poems published on the site.

I had my copy of What Are You After to hand for Josephine’s launch reading but found myself so drawn by the voice of the poet and the poems themselves that her book stayed on my lap (instead, it was my travel companion for the return train journey). Her poems have their feet planted firmly in everyday language; they are frank, funny, human, poignant.  Afterwards, we were able to watch ‘Poem in which we hear the word ‘drone” as a film poem by Chaucer Cameron and Helen Dewbery of Elephant’s Footprint along with other poems from recent Nine Arches collections.

The party continued with buffet food, drinks, birthday cake and candles (yes, we did sing ‘Happy Birthday’)

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before we re-assembled in the Jazz Club

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for a party mixtape of favourite Nine Arches poems read by the various poets from ‘the family’ (Rishi’s words).  It was a chance to hear poems I’ve enjoyed reading from my growing collection of Nine Arches Press collections.

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Jane Commane thanked all those who have contributed to the growing success of NAP over the past ten years.  Rishi, as co-compere for this part of the proceedings, paid tribute to Jane’s vision, innovation and hard work.  In my opinion, she rightly deserves the standing ovation that followed.

 

 

 

 

 

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2017 year-to-view

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On a personal level, 2017 will live long in my memory as the year in which:

  • I retired from Primary School teaching
  • We down-sized
  • My husband’s sudden illness and ongoing recovery put everything else into perspective

Consequently, my poetry year has comprised short periods of intense activity and extended periods when writing (and reading, too, at times) could not have been further from my mind.  And, at one point, I felt less like reading and writing poetry than I have ever felt.

Writing:

  • April was a good month: Carrie Etter’s NaPoWriMo Facebook group, the prompts and spirit of mutual encouragement saw me writing daily – at best an early poem draft, at worst a few lines in my notebook.  There’s a legacy in lines for future fodder, poems-in-progress and poems already submitted.
  • Published: a poem in Eyewear’s ‘Best British & Irish Poets’ 2017 anthology and a poem in issue 66 of The Interpreter’s House magazine.
  • Accepted: a poem for the DIVERSIFLY anthology (Fair Acre Press) to be published next month; two poems for issue 21 of Under the Radar magazine to be published next spring.
  • Rejections: numerous, which is a good thing in that, for a while, there was hope for those poems, and I then had the choice of whether to re-draft or re-submit them.
  • Submissions still ‘out there’: 5 poems entered for 3 competitions.
  • Ready for submission: 9 poems, being 7 re-submissions and 2 first submissions.

Reading:

3 stand-out poetry collections/pamphlets:

  • Some Couples by Jennifer Copley (HappenStance)
  • All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra (Nine Arches Press)
  • This is Not a Rescue by Emily Blewitt (Seren)

3 poems for our times that I keep going back to:

Online reading: far too much to include, but notably:

  • blogs by other writers/poets (you know who you are, and thank you all for enriching my reading with new-to-me poets, poetry and blog sites).
  • Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: rich seams to mine (and a reminder to self that I’m waaay behind on these weekly posts).
  • Jen Campbell’s Youtube channel: she’s responsible for numerous purchases of prose and poetry this year, including her own books.

Events:

Some helped to keep me sane when ‘stuff’ was way too stressful; others were highlights.  Since I’ve opted to limit myself to three worthy of mention:

My sincere thanks go to:

  • Soundswrite poetry group and South Leics poetry stanza: for lively poetry discussion and insightful feedback on poem drafts.
  • Farhana Shaikh and fellow writers across the genres at monthly Writers’ Meet-ups in Leicester.
  • Matthew Vaughan and Leicester Central Library: for monthly Write On events showcasing the work of Leicester writers.
  • And, not least, to all of you who have taken the time to read, ‘like’, comment on and share my blog posts this year.

 

Wishing you all a happy New Year! 🙂

Retirement?#999£££%****!!!!

How’s retired life, then?

It’s the question on most folks’ lips by way of a greeting, these days.

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Since I retired from Primary School teaching at the end of the summer term, life has been a rollercoaster ride.  In addition to the highs and lows, steps forward and backward, complications, frustrations and delays of selling and buying property (and sorting, getting rid and packing, packing, packing), my husband’s sudden illness at the end of July was a curveball.

To fast-forward 3 months (and counterbalance a self-indulgent tale of woe) :

  • my husband has defied medical and surgical statistics and has made a remarkable recovery
  • a few days after his hospital discharge, we celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary with afternoon tea at our favourite local cafe
  • we are ever more thankful for the NHS (the expertise and swift action of paramedic, surgeon and radiographer, the nurse who stayed past the end of her shift, meals served and water jugs re-filled with a smile and a first name greeting, to name but a few)
  • my early retirement was timely
  • just when we were ready to throw in the towel, the miracle happened: in the space of two days, we exchanged contracts, completed and moved home
  • an end to a stressful period (and the chaos and hard graft of moving day itself) meant that leaving our family home of 21 years wasn’t the wrench I thought it would be
  • most of the boxes are now unpacked and our bungalow (in a quiet cul-de-sac with friendly neighbours, at the other end of the village we found we didn’t want to leave) already feels like home

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  • after 11 days without, we now have broadband and a functioning land line once more, my husband has a work station in a corner of the lounge and I have a study corner in the bedroom

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I’ve not felt much like reading poetry, lately – and even less like writing any – but poetry happenings have offered occasional respite.  And this is supposed to be a poetry blog, so here’s a chronology of my poetry goings and doings:

  • Sat 8th July: Soundscape cafe at Leicester cathedral – poetry readings and music performances throughout the day on the theme of ‘the tapestry of life.’  i read two city poems from my Bru writing residency.
  • Writers’ Meet-Ups, Tuesday mornings monthly at Bru coffee in Leicester: an opportunity to share writing updates, spread the news of upcoming events and to network with local writers across the genres.
  • Twice-monthly Soundswrite meetings: discussing published poems by others and workshopping poems-in-progress.
  • Wed 20th Sept: Leicester Writers’ Showcase at the central library: as part of this series of monthly events, members of Soundswrite poetry group read poems from their latest anthology together with featured readings by Marilyn Ricci and Maxine Linnell from their newly-launched Soundswrite Press collections Night Rider and This Dust (respectively).

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  • Mon 25th Sept: Leicester Shindig (bi-monthly) – open mic plus featured readings by Romalyn Ante from her V. Press pamphlet, Rice and Rain; Matthew Stewart and Rebecca Bird from their Eyewear collections The Knives of Villalejo and Shrinking Ultraviolet (respectively).
  • Sat 30th Sept: a cancelled ceilidh gig that evening meant I could indulge myself with a day in London for the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair – book browsing and buying, poetry readings through the day and into the evening.  I even managed an hour or so in the British Museum beforehand.

 

  • Wed 4th Oct (the evening before Moving Day!): Soundswrite hosted an informal read-around on the theme of Poems for our Times as part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival.
  • Sat 7th Oct: networking with readers and fellow writers from the Soundswrite table at Leicester central library’s Local Writers’ Fair (another Everybody’s Reading event).

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I’ve lots more to blog about and that gives me plenty of material for future posts.  After all, I’ll have more time at my disposal now, won’t I?

🙂