February, I’m so over you

February’s the low point of the year, for me: a wilderness of sorts between  resolutions/new beginnings and the official start of spring. It’s the colour grey.  It’s moody blue.  And, if social media’s a barometer, I’m not the only one who feels that way.  But it’s over!  Light levels are noticeably better, my garden’s budding and cat junior is swapping the close vicinity of various radiators for outdoor high jinks.

February’s bright side:

Me at Fire & Dust

 

 

 

Fire & Dust and Nine Arches Press open mic: my first feature reading of 2015, alongside Matt Merritt at The Big Comfy Bookshop in Coventry.

 

Matt Merritt at Fire & DustMatt’s reading included several poems from The Elephant Tests (NAP) including one of my favourites from the collection, The Elephant in the Room.

Nine Arches editor Jane Commane read too – a rare treat, as the poetry-packed Leicester Shindig! events seldom allow time for her to showcase her poems.

Penelope Shuttle’s long-awaited headlining at Word! in Leicester on 3rd Feb.  Wow!  I only wish I’d been able to attend her pre-event workshop.  Kathleen Bell’s feature reading finished the first half of the evening with some of her poem sequences.

The List Cause: a Poetry School open online workshop.  I wrote a poem.  (There’s a plait in a paper bag in a box in our loft.  It’s been trying to get into a poem for a while…).  It’s been redrafted and workshopped again, since.  It’s recuperating in a subfolder.  It may become two or more poems.

Carol Ann Duffy’s reading as part of De Montfort University’s Cultural Exchanges festival.  Boy, can she play her audience!  I love how she allows the words breathing space, her measured delivery, her deadpan eyeballing of the audience.  The Laureate included several poems from The World’s Wife, my personal favourite amongst her collections.

Rosie Garland’s second headlining at Word!  When she appeared in 2012, she’d just won the Mslexia Novel Competition.  Since then she’s published two novels: The Palace of Curiosities, and Vixen, now out in paperback.  I loved both.  Good, then, to hear excerpts from each as well as several poems.  A consummate performer.

Towards a better balance in life: half term, and a two-night sleepover by all four grandchildren for starters; pottering in the garden, secateurs in hand; a day trip to London (Grayson Perry’s Who Are You? exhibition at the NPG, Portobello Road Market, browsing the magazine shelves at The Poetry Library).

Softening the blow of the latest rejection email (high hopes), is this afternoon’s news that issue 11 of The Lampeter Review is now available to read/download online, with my contributor’s hard copy to follow.  You can read it on ISSU/download it for free, here.

Good stuff to come:

Our daughter’s arrival on Sunday for a week’s stay.

States of Independence on 14th March: DMU’s annual hosting of this independent publishing fair.  A diary highlight.  A stint at the Soundswrite Press table and reading poems from Beyond the Tune as SWP marks its 10th anniversary.

Soundswrite Press goes to Inzine Fest III @The Pod, Coventry on Saturday 21st.

A feature reading, alongside Bare Fiction magazine editor Robert Harper, at Poetry Bites in Birmingham on Tues 24th.  Details here.

The Easter hols: Writing East Midlands Writers’ Conference in Nottingham; a five-day poetry residential in Cumbia; Adam Horovitz at Word! (and this time I can make the afternoon workshop).

Life’s good!  What are you looking forward to, this month?

 

 

 

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Catching up: poetry and other news #1

I’ve lots of news for you as, once again, I’ve neglected my little blog for too long. So here’s the first in a series of (hopefully shorter than usual) posts:

I’ve recently returned to work after a smooth and uncomplicated recovery following my hip replacement in January.  It’s such a joy to be more or less pain-free, able to walk briskly without limping after six years or so of declining mobility – and even enjoy a spot of gardening.  I’ve begun to accept that, although my head is convinced it’s still a young ‘un, the rest of me isn’t!  And from tomorrow, my 60% working week will comprise three full days, rather than spread across the week.  I’m looking forward to fewer early morning alarms and reduced car mileage/petrol expenditure for starters.

States of Independence gets better each year.  This independent small press publishing day brings together writers, readers, tutors, facilitators, students, publishers and more.  I did an early stint on the Soundswrite Press stand, conveniently situated opposite the main entrance to DMU’s Clephan Building.  Having snapped up an eagerly-awaited copy of Caroline Cook’s pamphlet, Primer, I spent the rest of the hour chatting to lots of people, some of whom I hadn’t seen for quite some time, and meeting new faces.  I decided to allow myself plenty of time to explore the stands, browse the books and enjoy lunch and a coffee around the corner.  These I fitted around the three readings/showcases I’d chosen to attend.  The last of these was the Soundswrite Press showcase: readings by several poets who featured in the last anthology, followed by Caroline’s pamphlet launch.  Lots of us had our primer-pink copies to hand during her reading.  Of my purchases, this was my chosen bedtime reading that night – I found, once in, I couldn’t put it down. You can buy a copy here.  In a bid to reduce my To Read pile, I had a mental shopping list this year.  Here’s the booty:

IMG_5151

Caroline’s launch also means that my forthcoming pamphlet publication date (TBA, but certainly this autumn) edges closer still.  I’m relieved that, having finalised the poems and their order with my editor, the wonderful, ever-supportive (feet-firmly-on-the-ground) DA Prince (whose latest collection is forthcoming from HappenStance Press), the editing stage is now well underway.  This stage in the process feels easier to live with as the end product seems more attainable, more real.  The pamphlet has a kind of narrative thread, in two halves, with a dark centre comprising four poems which I have plans to develop into a larger body of work.  It still has no title.

 

 

Soundswrite Press pamphlet launch

States of Independence annual independent press day is one of the highlights of my social calendar.  Held in the Clephan building at Leicester’s DMU, it’s a coming together of publishers, writers, readers, students and educators from across the midlands, a celebration of breadth and diversity.  It’s an opportunity to meet new faces and catch up with friends.  Workshops, readings, panels, seminars and showcases run over four sessions throughout the day; it’s often a matter of which to miss out on.  And the book fair is a bibliophile’s dream!

This year, I’m doubly excited, as Caroline Cook will be launching her Soundswrite Press pamphlet, Primer:

Primer image for website small

Caroline runs Poetry Stanza Leicester and is a fellow member of Soundswrite women’s poetry group (which meets twice monthly to share and discuss poetry by others and to workshop each other’s works in progress).  So I’m half-hoping there will be poems I’ve admired and enjoyed in workshop sessions and at local open mic events.  I’m also prepared to be surprised, challenged and entertained by turns, if I know anything of Caroline’s writing.

I’m itching to get my hands on a copy – it’s strictly under wraps until the day, so all I have to go on is the cover/title/chosen colour (of paint primer).  So I’m wondering if there’s a clue to its theme, here:

primer

noun

1.     a substance used as a preparatory coat on wood, metal, or canvas, especially to prevent the absorption of subsequent layers of paint or the development of rust

2.     a cap or cylinder containing a compound which responds to friction or an electrical impulse and ignites the charge in a cartridge or explosive

 

My anticipation is mixed with a certain amount of trepidation, too: with my Soundswrite Press pamphlet forthcoming, Primer will, I’m sure, be a hard act to follow!

States of Independence is on Saturday 15th March: 10.30 – 4.30 at the Clephan Building on Bonner’s Lane/Oxford Street, Leicester.  If you’re coming along, I look forward to saying hi at the Soundswrite Press stall and at Caroline’s 3.00 PM launch (please check programme on the day for room allocation).  The 40-minute showcase will also feature readings from the Soundswrite anthology.

Recent Reads #1

How I envy Gary Longden hearing Phil Brown reading from his newly-published first collection, ‘Il Avilit’ (Nine Arches), at Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

Having read an extract here, I purchased Brown’s Debut collection at States of Independence last month.  I read it over two coffee stops, finding it a real page-turner.  Two poems, in particular, made me smile: ‘Poetry Library’: ‘…the nepotistic quarterlies lining the walls/a paper network of favours/I will never be able to anything offer.’ and ‘On the way to Torriano’ – I love the audacious idea that performance giant Hegley might learn a thing or two from an eight year old boy, missing his gig into the bargain!

I very much hope that Brown will read at Leicester Shindig! in the near future.

Now re-reading…