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.

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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…

My Poetry Summer on Fast Forward

It’s been over 3 months since my last post.  I’d begun to fear I might never blog again, so here’s a rundown on what I’ve been up to, poetry-wise, this summer, since my day at Sheffield poetry festival.  And I’ll try very hard not to make this post over-long.

Festivals:  I read some of my poems in short guest mic spots at Leamington peace festival, Simon Says… festival in Leicester and Strawberry Fields festival in Heather, Leics.

Leamington peace festival
photo credit: Barry Patterson

Strawberry Fields spoken word stage

Poetry Workshops: Staffs poet laureate Mal Dewhirst’s at Tamworth library and John Siddique’s as part of Oakham literary festival.

Poetry Open Mic nights: Lichfield’s Poetry Alight, compered by Gary Longden (a mecca for midlands poets, always a delight); Gary Carr’s Spoken Worlds in Burton-on-Trent (relaxed atmosphere, intimate setting, the hubby’s favourite poetry night out); Word! at the ‘Y’, Leicester (eclectic mix of open mics, recent guest poets Tiffany Atkinson and Cherry Smyth both fab).

Poetry Day out: The Fizz, as part of Stafford festival (a pleasure to read with fellow poets, catch up with (same) friends, meet others and hear readings by Young Laureate candidates).

Poetry party: home from Stafford via Derby for an evening hosted by the lovely Seema and Richard Heley at their art studio/home in Derby (friends, food, poetry, music, improvisation to a backdrop of beautiful artworks).

Towards freelance: I’ve undertaken opportunities to shadow/volunteer at local arts for health workshops/groups.  In the process I’ve learned some ukulele chords, sung songs, laughed and drunk tea with a group of lovely ladies; created and screen-printed images inspired by lines of writing; ‘explored’ medieval Leicester; written a collaborative piece; done lots of typing up.  I also ran my very first poetry workshop, at the invitation of a local group – feedback suggests members enjoyed themselves as much as I did.  And I’ve been invited to return in the new year.

Coming up: I’m really looking forward to co-running a rebellious writing workshop, Make Love Not War, on Friday 4th October, with Leicester’s very own Tim ‘Bombdog’ Sayers, as part of the city’s Everybody’s Reading Week.  Along with four other Leicester poets, I’m exhibiting two poems as part of Drawing on Words, an exhibition by the Leicester Society of Artists.  Click here for audio clips and PDFs of all the poems.  This runs at New Walk Museum & Art Gallery from 14th Dec 2013 to 11th Jan 2014.  And – video footage of me reading my Sin É poem is also in the pipeline, as part of a film featuring poems by a local group.

Saving the best:

I’m delighted to announce that my debut pamphlet will be published by Soundswrite Press in autumn 2014.  The journey so far has been an educational and, at times, a sobering one; exciting and nerve-wracking by turns.  I’m all too aware that I have to ‘get it right’ – the best poems in the best order.  There’s absolutely no place for lesser poems to hide…