Here we go. I’m leaping in to this post with a big splash! I haven’t blogged for ages and, as I am trying to convert this blog into a web-site to establish myself as a freelance writer/ tutor, I really should resume. My working pattern is about to change. These are months of transition. I am building up my work as a writer and creative writing tutor and am looking forward to the publication of my second collection, Strange Fashion, from the wonderful Pindrop Press at the end of this year. I already have a few readings lined up and will arrange more than one ‘launch’ I’m sure. My first collection, The Japan Quiz, is out-of-print. Sadly, the publisher, David Tipton of Redbeck Press, passed away a few years ago and the press didn’t have an online presence which does seem strange now but was and is still highly regarded. I have wondered about having the book reprinted or to revise some of it for a pamphlet but I am unsure about the protocols of these things. Does anyone have advice/experience to share?
This year so far?
The high spot was, undoubtedly, passing my PhD viva, with minor corrections, in January. This is the first summer for three years that I haven’t been working flat out on my PhD. It took me seven years part-time in all. Now I just have to do something with the collection which is part of it and write some papers from the critical/reflective part! To friends mid-journey-it’s tough; the road is rocky-very- but it’s meant to be. You’ll get there.
It was a year of ups and downs-of course but the downs can stay in the background as this is a blog mainly about writing/reading with diversions into art and city breaks . Writing ‘downs’ always include rejections -we all have those- but the ‘ups’ are the acceptances – and the opportunity to review for several publications, paper and online. I have poems and reviews coming up in various places over the next few months. Reviewing is challenging- all the books I review must interest me in some way. I am out to investigate the aims of the writer not to pick holes. I am in the middle of one at the moment so you can see that this is a displacement activity. Reviewing does teach me more about writing. It makes me spend time with a collection and so, opens it up in ways I might not have expected. The practice certainly feeds back positively into my own work.
Another big highlight-lovely and unexpected- came in March when I heard that I had won third prize in the Poets and Players competition with my poem ‘My Life as a Bat’. The award ceremony was at the impressive Whitworth Gallery in Manchester.
I was also pleased to meet Ian McEwen again (Ian won second prize) and also Sharon Black, my soon-to-be publisher, who won first prize. We were made very welcome by the Poets and Players team. You can read all the poems here. Here is a direct link to my reading. It was extra special because the judge was Michael Symmons Roberts was the judge. He read from his stunning new collection Mancunia-a recent acquisition and highly recommended.
‘My Life as a Bat’ originated from a prompt to write an abecedarian in online group (Twelve Days of Form) led by Seraphima Kennedy over the Christmas period. It was workshopped during one of Writing Days run by The Poetry Business. These workshops and other residentials (Almasérra Vella, Arvon Lumb Bank) have been, and will continue to be, mainstays of my practice over the year. I have also benefitted from online courses from the Poetry School and look forward to beginning one on the lyric essay led by Nuar Alsadir in September. Her collection Fourth Person Singular is a lyric essay. It was also good to be part of Carrie Etter’s NaPoWriMo online group in April. I put the drafts on a private blog. There is a lot to revisit. I am bad at revisiting. Any one else the same?
What else? Other poetry highlights that leap out: being selected as Featured Poet in The Interpreter’s House ; listening to stand-out guest poets such as Rosie Garland and Kayo Chingonyi at Word! at The Y in Leicester – Kayo was supported by our own Bradgate Writers ( link to their anthology ) directed by Nick Field, our guest in July; buying far too many books, with great pleasure.
I look forward to the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in November and presenting a poetry workshop ( Poetry and Recycling) at the NAWE conference in York during the same month. I enjoyed the workshop I delivered last year very much on ‘The Sonnet-Serious Playing’. The group produced some impressive sonnets using collage and other experimental methods and I intend to write this up as an article for submission to the NAWE journal. I hope to develop and offer versions of these workshops as part of my freelance work in the future.
Of course I there were festivals I would have loved to attend (e.g. StAnza, Ledbury)- maybe in the future.There have also been city breaks, all with art involved: London, Berlin, Venice, with Pisa to come in September.
Closer to home-Leicester Caribbean Carnival (undaunted in the rain; numerous walks to the nearby Botanical Gardens; at a desk, writing this as displacement from writing a review and facing up to unfinished drafts of poems. I am involved in a reading for the wonderful Journeys in Translation project on September 30th as part of the Everybody’s Reading festival. I hope to contribute something of my own to the festival next year. The project is mentioned in this interview with Ambrose Musiyiwa.
I’m lucky and grateful to be able to do these things. Writing about them has been therapeutic and I’ve reacquainted myself with features of WordPress that I haven’t used for a while.
As I said at the start, there have been downs but dwelling on the positives is the best wa forward. I’ve been inspired by other blogs such as those by Emma Lee, Andrew Wilson, Roy Marshall, Maria Taylor, Robin Houghton, Jayne Stanton, John Foggin, Rachel Davies, Josephine Corcoran, Kim Moore, and many others. Hats off to the prolific bloggers among them. How do you do it? I have been tardy in adding to this site, and in doing regular blogging.
I’ll end with a poem fairly randomly chosen from my shelves – ‘Seaside Resorts’ from by Jane Yeh. I like the deadpan sass of it; the surprising imagery; the sounds; the way she steers us via the places. How good is ‘ We are skirting England along its fringes, widdershins / Like witches. a necklace circling a strange neck. / We outline the shape of it.’
So, until next time. I hope the gap won’t be so long.