A brief update

September’s here already and I’ve still not managed to shake myself out of the lethargy that set in with the July heatwave.  For once, I’ve been reading more prose than poetry.  Indeed, my poetry life has been almost non-existent over the past month or so.  However, prompted by a couple of editors’ emails received this week, here’s a brief update on acceptances and submissions mentioned in previous posts:

Having received a PDF proof of the forthcoming Humanagerie anthology from  Eibonvale Press, I’m mightily pleased that my poem, ‘Rough Music’, features alongside work by Jane Burn, Jonathan Edwards, Hannah Linden, Paul Stephenson and others I’m looking forward to reading.

My poem, ‘Staying Put’, appears in issue 16 of The Lampeter Review, now available to read online.  Click here to read.

I had a rejection from Mslexia for their Cooking submission.  However, hopes remain for a poem I entered for the Bridport Poetry Prize…

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On displacement

One of the prospects I most looked forward to, on retiring from teaching, was having more time for writing.  During my years of envy, I lost count of the number of times retirees would gleefully tell me they had less free time than ever and how did they ever manage to fit in a work life.  I was warned.

I’ve always liked a deadline (well, maybe not all those May half terms spent report-writing…). For this reason, I enjoy writing commissions.  If I have all the time in the world in which to write, it takes me that long to get around to doing any.  Over the years I wished away my life in half term blocks, I did most of my writing in what Anthony Wilson calls the cracks.  My cracks tended to be late at night/in the early hours.  Almost a year into retirement, its scary how a day whizzes by, and how days morph into weeks.  If time had a shirt tail, there’s not a chance I’d manage to hold onto it for long!

Life’s full of Doing and Not Doing (the latter, when I’m having a break from doing too much).  Then there are the Goings. Over the past eleven months, many Goings have been health-related: the Necessaries.  Thankfully, the Goings will very soon be much more pleasure-focused.  I’m really looking forward to more of the Pleasures (including a couple of up-coming poetry plans I mentioned in last week’s post).

As an ill-disciplined writer, I have made efforts to grow good habits. In April, NaPoWriMo saw me writing something daily.  I’ve also kept to my promise of writing weekly posts for my teeny, tiny blogsite. And I’m enjoying doing so, even if my poetry head sometimes tells me it’s displacement when there are notebook scribblings waiting to be crafted into poems.

Displacement activities: my Top 5 current favourites (in no particular order):

  • Watching Youtube channels (on books, poetry, the minimalist lifestyle, sustainable fashion)
  • Reading (Yes, it’s vital for a writer to read, but there comes a point…)
  • Getting lost in a social media labyrinth of amusing video clips/cute cats/interesting articles that might spark a po/other folks’ Goings and Doings/Must Buys (books)…
  • drinking coffee; drinking tea; browsing supermarket shelves for a new favourite/limited edition beverage; discovering a newly-opened coffee/tea shop
  • Gardening: anything from hard labour to pottering (a patio weed hand tool is my latest toy)

What are yours?

In other news:

I’ve had a poem acceptance, on the theme of Staying, for issue 16 of The Lampeter Review.

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NaPoWriMo: day 22

This far into National Poetry Writing Month, I confess that I’m flagging.

I didn’t set out to write a poem a day anyway, but rather to write ‘something’ daily in response to a NaPoWriMo prompt. Some of these may end up as poem drafts, the bulk resigned to bones for future picking over.  Most days I’ve chosen a prompt from Carrie Etter’s list to her Facebook group (whichever as the fancy takes me rather than in running order) and the occasional one from The Poetry School’s daily prompts.

Increasingly, my efforts are late night notebook ramblings, inadequately illuminated by the bedside table lamp.  I tend towards the write what surprises you school of thought but I doubt much of this month’s new writing will elicite a response of ‘Did I write that?!’ when I revisit those pages, months on.  But, hey, writing’s like running: starting never gets any easier.  And so I’ll continue to muddle along in my own haphazard fashion.

Some drafts with ‘legs’:

  • a series of cinquains on the common house sparrow
  • a wobbly first draft on all the pairs of Doc Marten boots I’ve never owned but lusted after
  • a praise poem for the brickfield workers from my village who made some of the decorative bricks for the Barlow Shed at St Pancras station (who knew?!)
  • an unsatisfactory poem re-worked as a prose poem
  • settling on a ‘form’ for a promise I’ve made to myself
  • a few haiku on Spring/bird activity/the weather
  • an elegy from photographs
  • settling on a ‘form’ to write about the most emotive and time-consuming item on our Annual Parish Council meeting agenda
  • a riff on a question from ‘Atlas,’ a Terisa Siagatonu poem
  • a childhood memory from the point of view of one of my younger sisters

 

New discoveries and revisited learning so far:

So all is not lost.

 

Quotes added to my notebook, to reflect on:

To live is the rarest thing in the world.
Most people exist, that is all.

and

We are all in the gutter
but some of us are looking at the stars.

Oscar Wilde

Love makes a mess of dying,
rarifies what you’ve got left and
draws close those for whom you’ve
been essential architecture, each seeking
a totem.

and

…I’m afraid, not of dying,
but of leaving a mess for love.

lines from a Gary Gilbert poem

And one for the wall on a subject close to my heart:

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In other news:

  • 3 poems submitted to The Lampeter Review on the theme of ‘Staying’
  • 1 poem submitted to the Eibonvale Press Humanagerie anthology (submission window open until 31st May: see here for guidelines)
  • I’m considering applying for Halsway Manor’s poet residency (poetry and folk music: my kind of heaven) *self-talking*

 

 

Growing as a writer

If you’re celebrating all things egg-related this weekend, Happy Easter!  To fellow poetry hedonists, Happy NaPoWriMo (more on this, next week)!

Last Sunday, I granted myself a day off from writing and blog-posting.  We had visitors we haven’t seen for years.  We spent the day catching up.  It was food for the soul.

I’ve not done too shabbily in growing my habit of blog-posting weekly (on Sundays) since last New Year’s Eve.  In terms of growing this teeny tiny blogsite, viewing numbers are increasing but, in the grand scheme of the blogosphere, it’s infinitesimal.  The Insights tool on WordPress informs me that my biggest referrer is Facebook (set to Friends only) so I’ve a lot to learn.  I need a reference guide such as Robin Houghton’s Blogging for Writers, obvs.  However, I don’t want to become a slave to the cause; I’ve already acquired more displacement activities than I care to mention (but they’d make for an interesting blog post, maybe…).

In terms of growing my poetry-writing skills, I mentioned here that I’ve recently invested in two poetry workshops:

Jen Campbell’s online workshop, Poetry and Fairy Tale, was very reasonably priced at £30.  The workshop materials were informative and included several sources of inspiration in terms of poems and links.  There were given two tasks: dissect and comment on one of three given poems (I chose Jaimes Alsop’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’); write a poem based on either a specific fairy tale or using markers from several; one week to complete the tasks.  Jen’s workshop achieved more than I’d hoped for: I wrote two poems utilising Jen’s material and some unsatisfactory drafts from That Unfinished Folder; I was happy enough with one fledgling to submit it for workshop feedback; the other has legs but is still too wobbly on its feet.  Participants received all responses to tasks one and two by email a few days prior to the two-hour (text-only) Skype chat.  Sadly, only three participants were available; nevertheless, the ensuing discussion and comments proved worthwhile.  Jen’s extensive knowledge of fairy tales across many cultures, her insights, rigorous comments and suggested edits on our poems (which she attached for reference) were invaluable.  Details of all Jen Campbell’s writing workshops are available on her website, here (she also does one-to-one workshops by arrangement).

George Szirtes’ face-to-face masterclass, Liberation by Constraint, was facilitated by Writing East Midlands.  At £70, I eventually booked a place after a not insignificant amount of self-talk on the subject of investing in my own writing.  I rarely (if ever) write to form.  If anything, I incline towards Mimi Khalvati’s view (A day to write the poem; a week to find the form, I think) that form emerges in the crafting.  However, I’m interesting in exploring form as a way of overcoming the (self-imposed) barriers to new writing.  With thirteen pages of notes (emailed in advance) as a guide to the structure of the day, Szirtes steered over twenty course participants through his ten-point perspective on structuring poems, arguments for constrained form, breaking rules, and an exploration (with examples) of several set forms: the haiku, cinquain, clerihew, sonnet, sestina and canzone.  A big Ask in just over five hours; nevertheless there was time allocated for several writing tasks and some read-arounds between the teacher talk (which I could have listened to more of, especially Szirtes’ ad lib recitation of lines of poetry as far back as the Ancients).  Will I adopt any of this into my daily writing practice?  Do any of my responses to the writing task have legs?  Do those three-liners I’ve taken to writing in my notebook count?  Maybe.  I do think this masterclass was value for money, though.

In submission news, I’ve sent off a poem for Mslexia’s Themed Writing call-out for issue 79: cooking.  And I think I’m going to submit my poem from Jen Campbell’s workshop here (I’m letting it settle till nearer the deadline date, though).  I also like The Lampeter Review‘s theme of Staying but don’t think I’ve anything suitable (or good enough) at the moment.

Here’s what I’ve been/am reading this week; all are rich nourishment for the writer:

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New on my (rapidly diminishing) TBR pile is Marion McReady’s Melita Hume Poetry Prize-winning collection, Tree Language (Eyewear).  Josephine Corcoran very kindly offered a book swap in response (the only response, would you credit it??!!) to my offer of a (duplicate) copy of Helen Dunmore’s Inside the Wave (Bloodaxe).  Good things come in book-shaped packages:

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 Thanks, Josephine! 🙂 x

 

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?

 

 

 

The month of firsts: January doings

What happened to January?  One minute I’m wondering how I’ll ever get back up to speed for the start of the spring term at school – next thing I know, I’m receiving e-newsletters full of the joys of February poetry events!

I haven’t set myself a daily writing goal but this month I have managed to redraft some poems-in-progress, resurrect one or two others and generate some new writing ranging from a few lines in my notebook to a fledgling poem in response to an online workshop assignment.

My first poetry foray of the year was for a brief chat with DJ Tony Wadsworth on Radio Leicester’s Saturday morning programme.  By all accounts, I didn’t come across as a blithering idiot, I managed to turn questions around to mentioning some of what I’d planned in my head/on post-it notes.  And I read the opening poem from my pamphlet.

My first featured reading of the year was as supporting ‘act’ for talented performance poet (and Leicester’s own) Jess Green, at Word! on 6th January.  I cut my teeth at the open mic there, five years ago or thereabouts, so it was a real pleasure to take the floor for a 10-minute spot in front of an audience of friends and many familiar faces.  It’s no coincidence that this monthly spoken word event (the longest-running in the Midlands) gets an honourable mention from several Leicestershire poets on Robin Houghton’s first Regional Poetry Focus blog post.  I relaxed and enjoyed the open mic slots in the second half, followed by Jess’s accomplished performance of Burning Books, Restart and Dear Mr Gove.  I sold a few copies of my pamphlet, too (not bad, considering most of those assembled already have a copy).

I attended the first Poetry Business’ January writing day, too.  I’ve a feeling that my trips to Sheffield will be more of a regular thing, this year.  I thrive on workshops anyway, but I feel privileged to spend a day in the company of the talented wordsmiths that comprise the PB regulars.  And it’s good to meet, face-to-face, poets whose blogs/poetry/social media quips and commentary I enjoy.  John Foggin (The Great Fogginzo) and Carole Bromley, for instance.

My first 2015 poem acceptance (yay!) came via email from The Lampeter Review.  It’s one I wrote as a result of participating in my first Poetry Society open online workshop: Kim Moore’s Put a Poet in your Pocket.  It will be published in issue 11 (not sure when), on the theme of Magical Realism.

Not a first, this, I’ve booked a place and my return rail ticket for a five-day poetry residential in Cumbria.  It’ll be my third (it’s the third one, too).  Co-run by Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley, this year’s theme is ‘The Stories we Tell Ourselves.’  I have to tell you it’s now fully booked, though.  I can’t wait for the Easter holidays!

Before I sign off, here’s what I’ll be poetry-doing first next month: a featured reading alongside Matt Merritt at The Big Comfy Bookshop in Coventry on Wed 4th Feb (only five days to go!).  It’s a joint Fire & Dust and Nine Arches Press event.  Open mic slots are available, too.  I’d love you to come and join us if you’re local, willing and able.  Or if you fancy a change from your usual haunts. Details here.