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

 

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Closer to home

Sunny days are such a boost to the system, aren’t they?  This weekend, it’s hard to believe that ‘The Beast from the East’ is waiting to do its damnedest.  Yesterday, I dragged a hardwood chair from the patio to a sunny patch at the far end of our north-facing back garden (not far, actually, as our ‘new’ garden is very small).  Cat senior joined me in catching some rays. I didn’t stay put for very long, just long enough to feel more alive under an optimistic light level, the sharp air pinching some colour into my cheeks.  Indoors, a vase of supermarket daffodils lights up the kitchen.

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As a gesture towards spring-cleaning my teeny tiny blogsite, I’ve changed the header image.  The previous image is several years old; I like this one as it’s spontaneous rather than posed.  Photo credit goes to Ambrose Musiyiwa, a familiar face at many cultural and other events in Leicester.  Thanks, Ambrose!

I’ve made a start on gathering together poems (my own and others’), internet ‘finds’ and reference books with a view to a new writing project related to the old wives’ tales, superstitions and slanted childhood memories that I grew up hearing from my grandmothers and mother.  It’s a tentative start but a start nevertheless.  And I’ve been doing a little more writing in, and gleaning from, my notebook, too.

It’s been a while since I last participated in a writing workshop.  In a bid to sweep away a winter’s-worth of cobwebs, I’ve signed up for Jen Campbell’s online workshop, Poetry and Fairy Tale.  I’m hoping that it will help me throw new light on a problematic poem that’s been stewing for too long – or spark something completely unexpected.  I’ve also splashed out (I blame recent social media enthusing about poetry festival goings and doings) and booked myself a place on George Szirtes’ masterclass, Liberated by Constraint, facilitated by Writing East Midlands.  I hope this one will jerk me right out of my comfort zone.

I’ve not done a great deal of reading, this week (yes, I’m still reading that back issue of The North, as well as a novel that isn’t engaging me as I hoped it would).  I did read last Sunday’s Brainpickings and especially enjoyed, in The Temple of Knowledge, about Ronald Clark, who grew up in a New York public branch library in an age when library caretakers and their families lived among the books.  As the only bookworm in a literate but not a book-loving family, I can’t think of anything I’d have liked better!  His story sparked personal memories of spending hours of a Saturday, lounging on a beanbag in the children’s section of our local library, lost in a book; sitting at a table in the enforced silence of the reference library, copying passages from a book, for the love of it.  I came across this quote, by Jorge Luis Borges, at the bottom of this morning’s Wordery email: “I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library.”

I hope you’re enjoying the sunshine at least as much as your writing and reading 🙂 x