I can’t believe this will be my last post of the year. It feels like I haven’t had a chance to really look back at the year until now, and take stock of everything that happened.
Some of this post may sound a little down in the mouth, and I don’t mean it to. I often feel a bit fed up on New Years Eve. It’s not my favourite night of the year for lots of reasons. It always feels like I should be doing something exciting, when what I’d like to do is curl up in my pyjamas with a book.
2015 was the year my first full-length collection came out with Seren. Having a collection published did not feel as I expected it to feel at all. I thought it would be one long exhilarating ride and some of it definitely was – but it also brought out my insecurities as well, as a writer. From the vantage point of the end of the year, I can see that I let myself worry too much about prize lists and whether I was on them or not. I let it eat away at me a little, which I always swore I wouldn’t. That is probably my biggest regret of the year actually, that I let it bother me at times throughout the year. Thankfully, I don’t think I have moaned on about it publicly, but a few of my close friends have listened to me and also talked some sense into me which I am grateful for.
Having a collection out was also really exposing. There is a reason it is called a body of work. I think the fact that the central sequence in the book deals with a painful subject was also a contributing factor to this feeling of exposure or vulnerability.
So they were the down sides – the positive aspects are numerous though and I wouldn’t want people to think that I’m complaining about publishing a book and saying how terrible it’s been, because I’m not. But I do want to be honest – I don’t want to say it’s all been wonderful and easy – it’s made me question my writing, my creative practice and I think this is a good thing. I’ve carried on writing even when I felt rubbish – and this was a massive and important lesson for me to learn. I was shortlisted for a prize this year, and it was very glamorous and exciting but it isn’t writing. Prizegiving ceremonies and even prizes have nothing to do with the very private act of writing, which is what I love. Last year I described writing a poem
I think of that feeling I get, which feels like rushing, like I can’t write fast enough for the words. It’s a slightly nauseous feeling, like controlled panic, and it is this which tells me I’m chasing the heels of a poem, rather than just writing my thoughts down.
That still happens to me and I’m so glad. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is one of the most joyous things I do.
On a more practical level, I’ve had an editor that has been amazing to work with and really believed in my work. It went into a second print run seven months after being first published, which shows that people are buying it and reading it. I’ve personally sold about 260 copies now. It’s been reviewed in lots of different magazines – Poetry Review, The TLS, Magma, Under the Radar (not out yet), Poetry Wales, New Welsh Review, Poetry Salzburg and on quite a few blogs as well. I feel incredibly lucky that it has been reviewed in so many places. I know there are lots of collections which aren’t reviewed. I know, after working as the Reviews Editor for The Compass, how many books get reviewed compared to the amount published. I would like to say, if any of the reviewers happen to be reading this, that I really appreciate the time and effort that it takes to review a book, and I’m really grateful that they took the time to do this.
Having the collection out has also been a massive factor in my traveling about the place. If I had to sum up 2015 for me, it would be the year I spent gallivanting around the place. I went to St Andrews in early March and read at StAnza and then travelled to Croatia two weeks later to read at a festival there. I went to Holland twice this year and Ireland three times, all because of poetry.
In 2015 I took the step of reducing my teaching hours down to two days a week, which enabled the gallivanting no end. I don’t know how I ever fitted in a full time teaching job now! Since September and my reduction in my teaching hours, it has been the first time that my poetry freelance income has equalled my teaching income.
So apart from being a year of travel, this has been a year marked out by friendships. I’ve got some amazing, amazing friends – friends that I run with, friends that I play trumpet with, friends that I teach with, friends that I go to poetry readings with, friends that come to my workshops. This has been one of my highlights of the year without question.
In 2016 I’m hoping I’ll be doing more of the same – writing poetry, running, playing trumpet. I don’t really know what I want to do in 2016, except I want it to be more of the same, but with bells on.
Thanks to all of the lovely readers of this blog, and to the friends that I’ve spent time with this year, who have made it an amazing year.
Next year on the blog, I’m going to be carrying on with the Sunday Poem and the plan is to write one post a month about a poetry collection that I’ve read and enjoyed. I don’t know where I’m going to find time to fit this in, but that is the plan!
Happy New Year and see you in January!