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.

Catching up: poetry and other news #2

Having attended a Poetry Business writing day and their pilot reading day, I knew that a free afternoon poetry workshop with Ann and Peter Sansom, right here in Leicester, was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.  The workshop was a precursor to their guest readings that evening at Word!, Leicester’s monthly poetry and spoken word night at the ‘Y’ theatre.  Through a series of short writing exercises, some using published poems as a stimulus for ideas, I left two hours later with pages of usable scribble and one or two poems in the starting blocks.  I’m pleased that one of these, The Dream, has been accepted for publication in the June issue of The Lake, an online poetry magazine, which I came across via Alison Brackenbury’s Facebook group, Poems from Alison (or it may have been through Coventry’s war poet for our times, Antony Owen, whose work also features on here).

After a fairly fallow 2013, in terms of poem acceptances, I’m pleased that this year is already proving much more fruitful.  Due in part, I think, to that super-improved submission tracker I mentioned here and to a resultant flurry of submissions to various print and online magazines.  I’ve a poem in the March issue of Antiphon, online here.  Other acceptances forthcoming: poems in May and June issues of The Lake, The Interpreter’s House #56 (although the Brighton launch is too far away for me, I’m looking forward to the ‘Northern'(!) launch at Five Leaves bookshop in Nottingham in July), the June issue of London Grip and either the summer or autumn issue of Obsessed with Pipework.  There’s a steady stream of rejection letters and emails, too, but I’m getting much better at prompt re-submissions (or, in some cases, making the decision not to, because they just aren’t good enough).

The aforementioned Antony Owen was instrumental in my poetry exchange visit to Cork in 2012.  Paul Casey, who runs O’Bheal’s weekly poetry events in Cork, was a wonderful host.  It was a pleasure, therefore, to catch up with him at Coventry’s Playwrights Café restaurant and bar the other week, together with Antony and his lovely wife Jo, fellow 2012 exchange poet Janet Smith and others including Tom Wyre (on of three 2013 exchange poets and the current Staffs poet laureate).  Great to meet (properly/face-to-face) Here Comes Everyone editor Adam Steiner, blogger and reviewer John Field, and Joseph Horgan.  Joseph and Antony have co-written a forthcoming Pighog collection, The Year I Loved England, from which they read several poems during the evening.  Paul read from his excellent Salmon Press collection Home, More or Less and a selection of new work. All three were invited guests at Coventry’s Guildhall  the following day for the final engagement of the Irish President’s state visit.  In Michael D Higgins’ speech, he commended, amongst others, the work of the Coventry-Cork poetry exchange.

In other news, I’ve written one or two poems from weekly prompts on Jo Bell’s ’52’ initiative.  There’s a closed Facebook group where 52ers can workshop their poems.  I’m a frequent browser and occasional contributor.  There’s lots of amazing stuff on there.  It’s a thriving and supportive creative community.

To be continued…

 

The Poetry Business Reading Day

What better way to occupy my mind prior to tomorrow’s hip replacement surgery than writing this blog post.  Indeed, that was one of the reasons I took myself off to Sheffield yesterday, for the first PB Reading Day.

The morning train out of Leicester wasn’t very full and I spent the whole hour gazing out at the urban-rural-urban scene-shifting and scribbling away in my notebook (in response Jo Bell’s write-a-poem-a-week initiative, ’52.’)

I counted 26 of us, including Peter and Ann Sansom, as they kicked off this pilot day of poetry close readings, discussion and group exercises, with Carol Ann Duffy’s Prayer.  Although I knew this one, I have to admit to encountering many of the day’s poems for the first time.

Everyone had been asked to bring along copies of a 20th or 21st century poem they really liked.  As well as exploring several of these, the morning session also included a group jigsaw exercise involving a cut-up of an Ezra Pound haiku, and a paired exercise: suggesting a title and an end rhyme (both hidden) for a D H Lawrence poem – Green, as it turned out.  (Food for thought, as I’m currently pondering how well my chosen titles serve the poems I intend including in my forthcoming pamphlet).

After lunch, we split into two smaller groups.  I’d intended joining the group reconvening in the PB offices over at Bank Street Arts, but my hip was bearing up quite satisfactorily on the wonderfully comfortable chairs in the Premier Inn’s conference room.  16 poems in a little over 2 hours was going some, but I think we managed to do them justice, more or less.

My favourites of the day?  The aforementioned Prayer (not least for its ‘gift’ of ‘the minims sung by a tree’), Plath’s Morning Song (for its imagery and surprising choice of words), Helen Dunmore’s City Lilacs (for finding beauty in ‘cracked-haunted alleys,’ wheelie bins and motorway roundabouts), Dannie Abse’s Not Adlestrop (made me smile), David Constantine’s ‘Figures on the silver’ (I can picture the dog with ‘Ben Gunn’s demented eyes,’ the ‘balding mangy ball’) – and my contribution, Manhunt by Simon Armitage (one of those poems I like more with each re-reading: quiet poem, from the female viewpoint, speaks volumes).

It was lovely to catch up with Rachel Davies and David Borrott who I met on a poetry residential in Cumbria last February, and to share news and writerly chat with Maria Taylor over lunch and the return rail journey.

A worthwhile and thoroughly enjoyable day.  More favourites added to my Poems By Others folder.  Further poetry purchases – at attendees’ discount-on-the-day of 40%:

Poetry booty:  latest issue of The North, Maitreyanbandhu's      'The Bond (Smith Doorstop) Peter Sansom's 'The Night is Young' (The Rialto)

Poetry booty:
latest issue of The North, Maitreyabandhu’s ‘The Bond’ (Smith Doorstop)
Peter Sansom’s ‘The Night is Young’ (The Rialto)

Mission accomplished, see you on the other side!

Jayne

Looking back, looking forward

Almost four months after my last blog post, the WordPress stats helper monkeys (and the excellent posts I’ve enjoyed reading on my favourite poetry sites, lately) have shamed me into rousing my little blog from hibernation.  Suffice it to say I won’t be making public my 2013 ‘year in blogging’ stats!  I could offer all sorts of reasons for my lack of (blog) activity – the day job, my ageing hip, an addiction to social networking and coffee shops (I know, I know)… Let’s face it, stuff happens, life gets in the way, etc, etc.

Looking Back:

I do read a lot of poetry – an increasing amount online, some e-reads (on my iphone – I’ll probably get around to buying a Kindle in about 10 years time when I’ll no doubt be able to pick one up for a fiver along with the rest of the supermarket shopping)but I’m a tactile creature and there’s nowt quite like the sensory experience of a paper book. I’m loving everyone’s ‘shelfie’ pics posted online.  My shelves are far too rammed to be deemed at all photogenic, but here’s a selection of my 2013 book reading:

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and my favourite magazines/journals:

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Successes: In October, my poem, You Do Not Have To Say, was published in the Wild issue of Popshot magazine (above).  Here’s a photo of it, alongside Jessica Durden’s illustration, inspired by the poem:

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You can view all the Popshot illustrations on Pinterest, here.

Outlook was accepted by Hinterland, a new journal co-edited by talented poets Ian Parks and Rebecca Bird.  Lovely to see mine sharing cyber space with work by poets I really admire. You can read all the poems inspired by the spur colour, red, here.  And a first print issue is planned, too, I believe.

Tasseography was longlisted for the Desmond O’Grady competition.  Sadly, it didn’t make the shortlist, but it was rather exciting to read my poem to a live audience at The White House, Limerick via Skype link. In a way, this was a return visit, having guested there alongside fellow O’Bheal poet Janet Smith in August 2012.  Encouraged by this result, I’ve submitted it to another competition across the water.  We’ll see.  In fact I’ve got rather a lot of poems ‘out there’ at the moment – a flurry of submissions to magazines and anthologies.  Again, we’ll see.

My debut pamphlet – the story so far: Following many sessions spent at the dining room table sifting, sorting, rejecting, substituting and re-arranging paper copies of my (hopefully, best) poems, I’ve sent my proposed selection, a contents list in (proposed) order and a (working) title to my editor.  A big step, not taken lightly.  And her initial response is encouraging, positive – I’m thrilled that I seem to be on the right track, anyway.  I may be asking a few willing volunteers (with no existing knowledge of my poems) to play a little Word Association game, soon…

Workshops: I co-ran a rebellious writing workshop, Make Love Not War, with Leicester’s very own Tim ‘Bombdog’ Sayers as part of the city’s Everybody’s Reading festival in October.  The workshop was attended by both experienced and beginner writers who produced some amazing poems inspired by images, artefacts and writing about conflict.  I’m hopeful of applying for funding to run my own workshop next (ok, this) year.  I’m currently thinking of a suitable premise/my own slant…

I’ve also attended poetry workshops.  Highlights include my first Poetry Business writing day (a little scary, totally worthwhile) and a women’s poetry workshop entitled ‘Put your Hand in a Poet’s Pocket’ run by Kim Moore, (am biased) also as part of Everybody’s Reading.  I came away with several starters for poems, some of which are current WIPs.

Events: a  Poetry Tea, a first, hosted by Nine Arches press with readings by Mario Petrucci, Matt Merritt, Clare Trevien and Alistair Noon.  One of the cherries on my October half term, I hope Jane Commane has plans for more of these!

Kate Tempest at The Cube, Corby.  A Lyric Lounge event and an opportunity I couldn’t resist.  I even took my son (to show him what a night out on the town really should be, IMHO).  Not a poetry lover, he probably came along to humour his ageing mother – but thoroughly enjoyed both the open mic and Tempest’s stunning performance.  So self-effacing, such rapport with the audience!  And wonderful to see the audience really did represent all age-groups, including lots of local secondary school pupils who’d been lucky enough to participate in her workshop.

Jo Shapcott’s reading at Leicester University as part of the Literary Leicester festival.  If numbers are anything to go by, their publicity machine seems to be more efficient than in previous years.  Having heard her read at Lichfield cathedral last year, I was prepared for another hour of being drawn into this quiet poet’s created world.  And I wasn’t disappointed!  I can never understand why free events such as these don’t seem to have the punters queuing down the street…

Exhibition: I was delighted to have the opportunity to exhibit two of my poems alongside four other Leicester poets as part of Drawing on Words, an exhibition by Leicester Society of Artists.  We all read our work as part of the launch night at New Walk Museum & Art Gallery on December 12th.  Although I did get to view our poems and the art work it inspired in LSA members, I enjoyed going back for a more detailed look during the run-up to Christmas .  I’m always fascinated by collaborations between artists, both as exhibitor and visitor.  The exhibition runs until 11th January if you’re interested and fairly local.  If not, you can hear recordings of all the poems and view photos of the launch/some exhibits, here.

Looking forward:

Tomorrow kickstarts my poetry year with a second poetry workshop I’m running for the same group that kindly invited this novice facilitator in September.  Following on from Telling Lies, my chosen theme for the first one, tomorrow’s theme (after much deliberation into New Year’s Eve) is Tell the Truth, but Tell it Slant (thank you, Ms Dickinson).  A mixture of several poems to discuss and inspire, and a couple of writing exercises.

I’m contemplating a ‘last poetry fling’ by booking a place on The Poetry Business Reading Day on 11th Jan.  ‘Twill be an excellent day, I’ve no doubt, an opportunity to catch up with friends in poetry I met last year and, hopefully, will preoccupy my mind with matters other than my hip replacement surgery the following Monday (currently, my main worry is missing breakfast and that first cuppa of the day, being last on the operating list (oh, please, not), feeling sick with hunger and panicky with thirst…).

I’m hopeful that, after the initial post-op pain, I’ll have a new lease of life.  In the meantime I shall console myself (for the lack of a poetry social life and my daily caffeine fix – not the same at home or even in a takeout cup) with daytime TV, a backlog of films on my Sky planner, spoiling our six-month-old kitten even more and working my way through that To Read Jenga tower.  Below is just a selection:

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And, if I’m feeling up to it, writing poems.

Easter treat to self: a five-day residential poetry course in Cumbria, entitled Encounters and Collisions, run by Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley.  I enjoyed last Feb’s three-day course a lot.  I came away with several fledgling poems, lots of ideas, a raft of poems by others and having met a thoroughly great bunch of fellow poets, several of whom I hope to catch up with this time around.  And Janet Lancaster from South Leics poetry stanza is going, too.  Lovely 🙂

If you’re in need of a poetry wake-up this New Year, why not subscribe to Jo Bell’s new write-a-poem-a-week initiative, 52? Check it out, here

And here’s wishing you all that’s wonderful in the way of poetry happenings and personal writing successes in 2014.

Enjoy it all!

Jayne