Sarah James micro-reviews Beyond the Tune

In her most recent micro-review post, Sarah James says:

The vivid sensual details of the first half of the pamphlet bring a whole era to life, with subtly startling yet apt memorable lines, such as “tannin, bitter through the Tate & Lyle scree”.

Of the collection’s darker side:

Not all stories from the era are sweet though, a darker side revealed in the hauntingly beautiful poems of the second half that gradually bring us back through poems that could be then or now to the present day and then the present day looking back, linking us again to the pamphlet’s opening.

On her journey as a reader:

Each re-reading brings new connections with these evocative and atmospheric poems.

and:

From “my spine | a river of running quavers that stick | to the soles of my sensible shoes” (Sin É) back to “ re-set your body clock to seal a time line” (Grace Notes), and then immersed again in a constant invitation to “Slip beyond the tune.” (Grace Notes)

 

Sarah James has been widely published in poetry magazines and anthologies.  She has published four full-length poetry collections, most recently The Magnetic Diaries (Knives, Forks & Spoons Press) and plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press).  She co-edits poetry small press V.Press.

Advertisements

January musings

After the slowing down, home and family focus and general introspection that constituted my Christmas break, I did wonder if I’d ever get back up to speed for the start of the school spring term.  But I did.  And January is more than halfway through already.  Scary.

In my final blog post for 2014 I stated that I no longer make new year resolutions.  That’s not strictly true; they exist as aspirations rather than targets; they’re in my head (I feel for them, poor blighters) and they are probably what drive me, although my compulsive/all-or-nothing nature means that I fail miserably at maintaining any kind of balance in my work-free life (cue nods and much rolling of eyes from those who know me).

2015-01-18 12.44.10

Josephine Corcoran’s early December blog post, Setting Yourself Goals, reminded me of a bucket list I made just after my 50th birthday:

2015-01-18 12.43.57

I went as far as to purchase a Paperchase scrap book in which to map my achievements.  I printed off some motivational web images, too:

2015-01-18 12.44.37 2015-01-18 12.44.25

Although I stuffed a few photographs and photocopies between its covers for a while, I then forgot about it – the scrap book, that is.  The list lives on, though, and I have made progress towards, and, in one or two cases, achieved goals:

1) ‘Achieve job satisfaction’: I returned to teaching in 2008-2009 and became an accredited Reading Recover teacher and taught in 3 Leicester city schools.  I now have a wider role (Reading Champion/reading interventions) and work three full days instead of five mornings.  2) ‘Become a published poet’: I had my first poems published in spring 2009.  And there have been more.  And my debut pamphlet last year.  3) ‘Win a poetry competition’: well, I was seriously chuffed to receive a Highly Commended in the Gregory O’Donoghue competition and a poem long-listed in the Desmond O’Grady competition, both in 2013.  4) ‘Create an easy-maintainance garden’: I must give credit, here, to the many hours of paid-for-by-the-hour labour involving weed-suppressing membrane, several tonnes of gravel and a serious plant cull. There’s more on the list, but I won’t bore you with the ups and downs of my yoyo dieting lifestyle(!)  Interesting, too, that music doesn’t feature.  And my dormant family history research?  That may just have to wait until I retire…

My pamphlet pre-launch

Monday night at The Western pub saw a Leicester Shindig!-with-a-difference.

In a change from the customary format, Jane Commane hosted an open-mic-only first half (with the usual bar-set-high readings, I must add).  A Soundswrite Press showcase, hosted by Maria Taylor and compered by Karin Koller, comprised the second half of the evening.

Karin opened with a few words about Soundswrite women’s poetry group.  You can find out more here, but I’d like to add that I’m immensely grateful for the insightful feedback, support, friendship, open discussion and love of good poetry that characterises our twice-monthly meetings.

It was good to see so many fellow Soundswriters in attendance and to hear them read a diverse selection of poems, many of which I remember first encountering as early drafts.

Caroline Cook co-featured with a reading of poems from her pamphlet, Primer, launched last March.  For me, it was a nudge to re-visit my favourites in this primer-painted slim volume.

The evening being a kind of pre-launch event, too, I co-featured with a reading from my debut pamphlet, Beyond the Tune (Soundswrite Press).  As most of those gathered had workshopped many of its poems as early drafts and/or heard them at the open mic, I changed my mind several times when I was planning which ones to read on the night.  In the end, I decided on a sort of journey through the pamphlet, reading eight of the twenty-seven poems by way of a thank you and as an invitation to the reader.  And I also read a new poem (recently workshopped at Soundswrite) because there is a writing life after sending out a body of your own work into the world (although there were times when I did wonder).

Photo: Jane Commane

Photo: Jane Commane

It was an evening filled with warmth and friendship as much as poetry.  And wonderful to sign copies of my pamphlet, too!  My thanks to those who came and to those who were there in spirit.  It means a lot.

I’m now looking forward to the launch proper on Saturday October 4th (post to follow).  I’m thrilled that it’s to be a joint launch with D A Prince for her second full collection, Common Ground (HappenStance Press), not least because she has been my main editor (and oh so much more) over the past year or so.  It’s a free event, open to all, as part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival, too.  I’d love to say hi to you there if you’re able to make it.

After yesterday’s ICT woes and various pleas for help via email and messaging (many thanks – you know who you are!), to say nowt of the step-by-step (read idiot-proof) guide on WordPress Help, I’ve managed to get a Buy Now button functioning on this blog.  So a signed copy of my little pamphlet (plus a bonus poem-on-a-postcard) is available to (ahem) buy now by clicking here, or you can buy direct from Soundswrite Press here.

If you’re operating a no-buy year/policy, you can read a copy at any of the following:

Saison Poetry Library, level 5, Royal Festival Hall, London

Boston Spa Reading Room, British Library, London

There are also the usual legal deposit copies in the Bodleian library in Oxford, Cambridge University, National Library of Scotland, Trinity College Dublin and National Library of Wales.  (Imagine!)  Or you could request a copy at your local library.

Pamphlet diary date #2: Everybody’s Reading festival

Leicester is cranking up the gears for a week of (largely) free events with the aim (as it says on the tin) of getting everybody reading.  There’s so much to choose from, catering for all ages and appetites from the avid to the most reluctant of readers. 

ER festival 2014

So, if you’re local, or within easy travelling distance of Leicester between 27th September and 5th October, why not click here to view or download the programme.

And there’s an event on page 30 that I’m rather excited about: the launch of my pamphlet, Beyond the Tune (Soundswrite Press).  It’s a joint launch with Davina (D A) Prince, whose new collection, Common Ground, is hot off the HappenStance press.  I’m delighted and flattered, and really looking forward to meeting Helena Nelson, too, if she’s able to make it on the day.  And I’m assured there will be cake and liquid refreshment (I’m hoping for Earl Grey tea) and cake.  It’ll make my poetry day to see you there, or at Shindig on September 15th, or both!

There’s a launch flyer in the offing, to feature in my next blog post and further updates on Facebook and Twitter.

As both diary dates are fast approaching, my To Do list Top 10 includes planning which poems to read and what to say.  Any launch tips, via the comments box below, will be gratefully received.

My pamphlet proof

In my previous post, I was excited at the prospect of getting my hands on a proof copy of my pamphlet: something tangible, after all those months of hard work, highs and lows.  So I was surprised that the elation I’d expected to feel – well, it just wasn’t there!  Instead, I felt rather flat, if I felt anything at all.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m really pleased with the overall look, the print quality and everything, to say nothing of how opposite poems can now physically ‘talk’ to each other.  And I needed the affirmation of the tactile (I’m trying really hard, here, to avoid using phrases like ‘skin-on-skin contact’…).

Thanks to Davina Prince and one or two other collection-published poets who’ve been through all this before, I’m reassured that, in a way, this is a kind of ending, if only until the pamphlet launch and afterwards.  So it’s natural to feel deflated, even a little sad.  And I’ve managed to distance myself a little, which is a good thing, as very soon my little pamphlet will have to stand up for itself as readers make of it what they will.

Last time, I promised to reveal the title, didn’t I?  So here’s an image of the front cover:

BTT front cover

Launch details and a couple of diary dates to follow.

 

 

My latest pamphlet news

It’s been a really busy time on the pamphlet front: I’ve enjoyed the editing process and I’ve learned so much from working with Davina Prince to ensure that my poems are as good as they possibly can be.  We’ve both worked closely with Karin Koller through several typeset drafts in recent weeks; the final draft is probably winging its way through the ether to my inbox as I type.

Choosing a title has been one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make and I went right up to the wire on this.  It’s not the working title I’ve become accustomed to using, and reading on successive drafts.  Neither is there a title poem in my collection.  It is a pamphlet title which, I hope, offers a challenge to the reader.

I was awake and feeling excited before the alarm went off, this morning: having chosen the Pantone colours for the cover and endpapers, I was thrilled to see that they looked just as I’d envisaged them, fresh from the printer on the card and paper we’re using. In around ten days time, I hope to be holding a proof copy – I can hardly wait!

I’m keeping this post as short as possible, with the promise of more details very soon (including the answer to the questions you’ve all been asking: What’s the title?  When’s the launch?).  In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you via the comments box below.

Reasons to be Cheerful: part one

For starters, it’s not officially summer yet and the weather thinks it is!  The increasing light levels and lengthening days are energising, I find.  And our garden looks at its best in May.  I think I’m falling back in love with it now that I can manage a spot of gardening without reprisals from the hip department!

My 60% working week seems less tiring and more productive as three full days.  A day off today: making cups of tea for two men with younger bones who have laid weed control membrane and carted three tonnes of gravel to complete the transformation of my plantaholic’s paradise-turned-nightmare into something approaching low-maintenance.  And next week is half term!

It goes without saying that recent poetry events have been food for the soul, too:

A day workshop at Calke Abbey, run by Mark Goodwin, is already bearing fruit as poems begin to emerge out of notes and photographs taken.  This National Trust ‘unstately home’ is rich fodder – every room is preserved in a ‘frozen’ state of decay and clutter – apart from the opulent and immaculate state silk bed (a touch of Snow-White-in-glass coffin, I thought…).

A reading by Simon Armitage at Leicester Grammar School: I came across this barely-advertised event quite by chance.  What a treat of a Monday teatime!  The atmosphere was intimate.  By turns, Armitage wowed and amused his diminutive audience.  Immensely talented, down-to-earth AND funny gets my vote every time.  A brief Q & A session followed the reading; a window on his writing process.

Regular open mic nights across the Midlands, in close succession, featured poets including Maria Taylor (at Leicester’s Pinggg…K! poetry), Jean Atkin (at Lichfield’s Poetry Alight) and, at last night’s Leicester Shindig, four guest poets: Josh Ekroy, Rennie Parker, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan.

Recent reads include Sarah Water’s The Night Watch (which, sadly, I didn’t find as compelling as Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet), Carrie Etter’s Imagined Sons (loved the format of Catechisms at intervals between imagined encounters with a son given up for adoption at birth), Carole Bromley’s SmithDoorstop pamphlets Skylight and Unscheduled Halt (my personal favourite, lots to savour), and I’ve just started on Moniza Alvi’s At the Time of Partition (which I’ve wanted to read because I remember enjoying a section of this book-length poem in Magma, a couple of years ago).

Another acceptance: two poems in the summer issue of Under the Radar.  Which is great, as time is running out for my pamphlet poems that are, to date, unpublished in magazines.  My pamphlet manuscript, edits complete (for now), has been emailed for draft typesetting in early June.  And (at last) it has a working title: Between the Notes.

Looking forward:

I’m contemplating attending the Saboteur Awards in Oxford on 31st May.  There’s an afternoon Book Fair, too (further temptation).  I had a great time at last year’s event in Shoreditch – such a lively and upbeat evening.  And it would be lovely to meet up again with Agnes Marton, who I haven’t seen since then.  And maybe meet a few virtual friends face-to-face.  Anyone?

Next week, I’m running a morning poetry workshop for a local recovery community.  This will be my third visit.  They’re a lovely group and I really enjoy sharing  poems and facilitating writing exercises with them.

And the ceilidh band has a gig this weekend, even (flexes fiddle fingers…).