One poetry book too many?

Can one ever have too many poetry books? you might ask.

My poetry bookshelf currently houses:

  • around 230 single-author collections, New & Selecteds and pamphlets (I gave up counting)
  • over 50 anthologies
  • a down-sized selection of magazines (a short publishing history)
  • numerous On Writing books

The above are survivors of my best efforts at down-sizing my preciouses prior to last October’s house-into-bungalow move.  I’ve read almost all of them from cover to cover at least once.  On odd occasions I ask myself how many of these I’ll realistically re-read dip into in future.  Repeated attempts to curb my poetry book-purchasing are short-lived.

And that TBR pile? It’s not doing too badly:

  • two full collections
  • two anthologies
  • five magazines (am still waaay behind on poetry mag-reading)
  • one On Writing book

Last Saturday, I went to a reading and discussion of poems from Helen Dunmore’s Costa Book Award-winning ‘Inside the Wave’ hosted by members of the Nottingham Poetry Stanza as part of States of Independence (an annual Independent Press Day held at DMU, Leicester).  Having admonished myself for not having purchased and read the collection in advance, I picked up a copy at the Five Leaves Press stand just beforehand.  Six of the poems were read and discussed.  Dunmore’s collection never made it onto my TBR pile.  It demanded cover-to-cover reading; I re-read some poems, annotated themes and recurring images, and reflected on the pragmatism (and the poignancy) in this, Dunmore’s final collection.  I’ve copied some lines into my notebook; from ‘My Life’s Stem was Cut’:

But why not keep flowering
As long as I can
From my cut stem?

and, from ‘Hold Out Your Arms,’ the final poem added to the second impression of the book, in which the poet greets Death like a mother:

As you brush back my hair
– Which could do with a comb
But never mind –
‘We’re nearly there.’

Yesterday, on looking through my TBRs for a Next Read, what did I discover?

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My first purchase has been probably been sitting pretty since I purchased it on publication (and my memory is poorer than I thought).

So, is anyone interested in a poetry giveaway (or a book swap)?  (UK postage, preferably). Let me know in the comments box below (or via social media, if that’s easier for non-Wordpress users).  If I’m inundated with takers, I’ll put names in a hat 🙂

 

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A published poem

I’m having a very quiet year – in terms of poem acceptances, that is.  I’m doubly pleased, therefore, to have a poem (The Night Driver’s Wife) published in the latest issue of The Interpreter’s House magazine.  My contributor’s copy of issue 66 arrived in Monday’s post.  What a beauty!

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I’ve not had time to do more than glance down the list of contributors on the back cover.  There are poets I’m looking forward to reading for the first time as well as re-acquaintances and firm favourites.  Poetry magazines and small presses are labours of love; some I’ve admired have disappeared over the past few years, so it’s really encouraging to see TIH go from strength to strength under Martin Malone’s editorship, ably assisted by Charles Lauder Jnr.  If you’d like to subscribe or purchase a single copy, it’s as easy as clicking here (although I notice issue 66 isn’t available at the time of writing this).

Will there be a launch?  And will it be do-able in terms of travelling distance and other commitments?  I hope so 🙂

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).

Soundswrite at Leicester Writers' Showcase

 

  • 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?

🙂

 

 

NaPoWriMo: 9 days in

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Yes, it’s that merry month of mayhem: National Poetry Writing Month (adopted by more and more poets across the world, it seems).  How quickly the poetry year doth come around!

To be honest, I hadn’t given taking part any serious thought, this year, until Pam Thompson asked if I’d like to be added to Carrie Etter’s NaPoWriMo Facebook group.  I admit I wasn’t too keen, at first.

Previous experience in write-to-a-prompt groups runs something like this: a battery of poems posted hot on the heels of the daily/weekly prompt, followed by a barrage of comments/feedback on posted poems, the (self-imposed) ‘pressure to produce’ something (anything!?! omg…).  On bad days, I’m a virtual wallflower (I was that teenager.  I still hate parties with discos) with an acute attack of Imposter Syndrome.  All this, on a repeat cycle.  The end result: a feeling of ‘Oh, I may as well quit right now…’

The purpose of Carrie’s group is general support, comments on prompts and progress so far.  Poems are not posted (yay!).  Before the month got underway, members were asked to post their one inspirational poem by another poet.  I really liked this idea and enjoyed  discovering poems/poets new to me.

Carrie’s list of 30 prompts appears as a pinned post on the group page.  I’ve printed it off; it’s propped on my desk, along with a month of poetry prompts by Jo Bell, and one or two others.  Just in case I can’t get out of the starting blocks.  And the group’s 137 members seem, like me, to be going about things their own way.  Some are writing to Carrie’s prompts in order, some are choosing ones from the list that spark ideas that day, others (like me) are mixing and matching – or even combining – prompts from different sources, and there are posts about poems that come into being without a prompt.  (I happened upon a blinder of an opening line from clickbait in an email notification the other day).

Some members have different agendas, this month.  For instance, John Foggin isn’t following prompts but is using material from his notebooks to write the poems he feels compelled to write; Rachel Davies is using some of the prompts to add to her sequence of mother-daughter poems as part of her PhD.

Group posts are a real mixture of progress, process, other useful prompts, everyday life as help and hindrance, etc, etc.  These are inspiring in themselves.  And motivational, too.  We’re all doing our own thing.

I’m finding this freeing.  I’m growing a habit of daily writing, even writing first thing in the morning (well, after feeding the cats and making up my breakfast bowl) as opposed to, or some days as well as, my default late evening/night writing.

Not all my efforts have mileage as poems, but there might be lines, phrases, or the odd word to plunder as some point in the future.  That brings me to my next point: what of that accumulation of notebooks I haven’t gone back to for some time now?  They exist as a regular niggle at the back of my mind.  So this month, in addition to The Daily Write in my notebook (no special NaPoWriMo one, just the one that’s currently on the go; no special pen or pencil, just the usual cheapie) I’m typing up and beginning to re-draft the ones I think have possibilities.  To date, there are six poems-in-progress in a new sub folder.  Nine days in, I’m doing okay.

If you’re writing a poem a day, this month, I’d love to hear how you’re going about things via the comments box below.

Happy writing! 🙂

The journeys poems make

The back story:

2014 was a fruitful year.  My best since I’d started writing poetry in 2008(ish).  And my best to date.  Whilst on sick leave following my first hip replacement, I made myself a spreadsheet to better keep track of poem submissions and consequent rejections/acceptances.  I’m pretty sure it’s not as fool-proof as the Jo Bell method or as eye-catching as Kim Moore’s colour-coded one described here but it’s certainly a vast improvement on previous tabular efforts at keeping tabs on my poems’ venturing forth to speak for themselves.  Between March and November that year, 15 poems were accepted for magazine publication, either in print or online.  8 of these, also published in my pamphlet, Beyond the Tune, made it under the wire to magazines before BTT‘s September publication date.

2015 successes were much thinner on the ground: 1 poem was published in issue 11 of The Lampeter Review;  4 of my pamphlet poems also appeared in the Soundswrite Press anthology; 1 poem was commissioned by University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing: a total of 2 new and 4 previously-published poems accepted.

A bit of a sob story:

2016 saw me in The Slough of Despond, at times.  I wrote less; I had far fewer poems worth submitting.  Life (and joint pain) took over and the only thing that kept me writing (and believing in myself as a poet) was my Bru Leicester Writes residency and commissioned sequence of poems (and Leicester City’s footfall fairy tale, of course).

Some good:

3 of the 6 poems are published in Welcome to Leicester, an anthology of poems about the city (Dahlia Publishing) being launched as I type (sadly I’m unable to make it).  And 1 pamphlet poem has been published in Half Moon: poems about pubs (OWF Press).

What’s the point?

Like all writers, I sometimes get to thinking that I’ll never again write anything worth publishing.   Or anything at all, apart from a few lines of barely-legible scribble (drivel) in a notebook that’s been on-the-go forever.  I congratulate others on their successes while suffering Imposter Syndrome (and maybe I read other writers’ blogs to know I’m not alone in this).  And what of that spreadsheet begun with such purpose a couple of years ago?  Many/most of those rejected poems aren’t currently being re-submitted.  I’ve decided they need further work, or they’ll never be the Real Deal and have been consigned to a sub folder (‘Dubious’) of a sub folder (‘Unfinished’).  Currently, I’ve more time to write but have written very little.  My only fledgling is back in the WIP nest recovering from a first flight to a workshop group.

The suspension of disbelief:

Recently, only 4 poems have remained ‘out there.’  Of these 4 poems, the same 2 have received encouraging comments from 2 different editors:

  • both made it to the final round of selections for the current issue of a magazine I rate highly
  • both were deemed ‘strong’ (with reasons given) from a batch of poems submitted for feedback during a certain widely-respected ‘open window.’

Breaking news:

It’s official!!!  ‘Unreserved Coach B’ is one of 50 winning poems chosen by competition judge Luke Kennard for The Best New British and Irish Poets 2017 (Eyewear Publishing) due for publication next March.

And the other ‘hopeful’? I’m keeping the faith 🙂

A Writing Residency

In my last two blog posts my aim was to bring readers up to date with my reading activity over the last few months.  I do so much poetry reading that, at times, I wonder whether it becomes a displacement activity for writing.

In my work life, I like the challenge of a deadline.  If I have all the time in the world in which to write I’ll take forever to get down to it.  If, however, I have a remit and a due date I work much better.  That’s why I like the challenge of a writing commission.  As winner of the Bru Leicester Writes poetry prize I was granted a writing residency and commissioned to write a sequence of five poems on the theme of Life in the City.

What’s not to like?  A busy, bustling city base from which to soak up the atmosphere/people-watch, a first-floor bird’s-eye view of city-centre street life, a paid commission, space and dedicated time to write – with coffee and cake to hand (those who know me know…) and a gift card to spend on eats and drinks at the till.

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So March 11th saw me meeting up with founder of Leicester Writes and editor of Dahlia Publishing, Farhana Shaikh, at Leicester’s Bru Coffee & Gelato (my place of residency) to discuss the finer details.  Back then, the June deadline seemed a long way off.  I wasn’t necessarily confined to the ideas I’d originally outlined in my proposal, and such a broad theme could be interpreted in many ways.  Just one ‘ask’: with Leicester City Football Club’s track record for the season to date, would I also consider writing a ‘bonus poem’ capturing the spirit of the underdog team and the city’s rising fan fever.  Moi?  With not a sporting gene in my body? [insert, here, any emoticons you know for ‘ brain freeze’]  Okay, I said, I’ll give it a go (eek!)

Bru poet residency1

Although I did a fair amount of online research for my poem sequence, inspiration came mainly from my walks between the rail station on London Road (or, more often, Dover St car park) to the Clock Tower (beating heart of our city) via Granby Street and Gallowtree Gate (with Bru Coffee conveniently situated half-way between these two points).

 

King Richard III

King Richard III, Cathedral Gdns

 

I could have written a poem about any or all of Leicester’s famous names and nameless faces immortalised and memorialised in statuary.  This one, for instance.

 

 

 

photo credit: crosbyheritage.co.uk

photo credit: crosbyheritage.co.uk

 

 

In the end, I chose (or rather the destination chosen by my poem was ) Thomas Cook, whose statue greets rail passengers outside the station on London Road.

 

 

 

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Maria, a The Big Issue vendor no longer occupying her usual Granby Street spot opposite Bru, became the subject of a poem following a conversation I had with a regular customer and one of the baristas on enquiring after her whereabouts.

 

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Leicester’s Clock Tower is a babel of voices clamouring to be heard.

 

And my LCFC poem?  I confess to becoming a Foxes fan at least for the remainder of the season as our team’s path to Premier League King Power & Glory unfolded and I trawled the Twitter feeds around each nail-biting match.  As the saying goes, you couldn’t make it up!

photo credit: leicestermurcury.co.uk

LCFC open top city bus tour                                                           photo credit: leicestermurcury.co.uk

My six poems were duly submitted (ahead of the deadline – yay!), typeset, printed and made available on customers’ tables at Bru for my reading on June 28th as part of the Leicester Writes Festival of New Writing:

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Three of my residency poems –  The Art of Winning, The Big Issue and Time Traveller – will be published in Welcome to Leicester, an anthology of poems (Dahlia Publishing) to be launched on Friday 7th October as part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival.  It’s free but bookable in advance (click here for details and scroll to page 23 of festival programme).

 

 

 

Catching up on reading #2

In addition to printed material I’ve been reading, lately, the onset of the summer holidays (still wired for work but with no pressing reasons to be) seemed like the ideal time to continue my poetry education via MOOCs I started way back in January and abandoned part-way through as work life, etc took precedence.  So here’s what I’ve been up to, online:

Robert Burns: Poems, Songs and Legacy (Glasgow University via FutureLearn):

‘Pop Art Rabbie’ by Sheilagh Tennant

Format: a three-week course comprising videos, articles, texts/lyrics, memory quizzes(!) and forum discussions

My verdict: a comprehensive introduction to life and works of Scotland’s bard.  Does what it says on the tin but this one failed to engage me in the way that other MOOCs have done (videos were mini lectures rather than debate between academics or tutor-student workshops/tutorials and I felt ‘talked at’).

Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing (The University of Warwick via FutureLearn):

futurelearn.com

futurelearn.com

Format: a six-week course comprising video discussions, poem/novel/play texts, articles, surveys (for research purposes) and forum discussions.

My verdict:interesting discussions on the physiology and treatment of stress, heartbreak, bereavement, PTSD and trauma, depression and bipolar, ageing and dementia, and the benefits of reading/sharing literature for therapy and wellbeing.  What niggled me: Stephen Fry’s dismissive remark regarding ‘free form’ poetry during a week 1 video discussion (in fact, the wealth of contemporary poetry was largely ignored throughout the course).

Whitman’s Civil War: Writing and Imaging Loss, Death & Disaster (The University of Iowa via novoed.com):

iwp.uiowa.edu

iwp.uiowa.edu

I’m a late starter to this MOOC (week 3 of which starts tomorrow), but the beauty of this beast (as far as I’m aware) is it’s available year-round and one can begin at any time (provided you don’t wish to join in the discussions on the online forum – which I don’t).  I’m currently engaged in week 1: Circumstance & Documentary.  Each week there’s an introductory video (engaging discussion between academics; approx 40 mins) followed by a series of reading texts including study notes and afterwords, then a question for discussion via the forum.

I’ll let you know how this one goes but, in my experience of MOOCs to date, UK universities have much to learn from those in the USA.

Still on my MOOC To Do list is Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales (Hans Christian Anderson Centre via FutureLearn).

I’m also looking forward to a return visit to ModPo in September (I intend doing ModPoPlus, this time around).

Which MOOCs are you currently engaged in, have enjoyed to date or are looking forward to this coming autumn?  I’d love to hear your views and choices via the comments box below.