I always find the gap between Christmas and New Year a strange one – in previous years, I don’t feel as if I noticed it. Or maybe I wished it away. This year I find I have learnt to appreciate it. It feels like I’ve stepped off a speeding train and have some time to just look around at the scenery. I guess one reason is because I’m not spending it down in Leicester, visiting family and then the long journey back up to Cumbria.
Time feels different between 25th December and the 31st – it seems to stretch to twice its actual length, so I thought I’d post some things that I’m looking forward to in 2021, and a few virtual events that I’m running or involved in that I’d love to see you at.
Poetry and Everyday Sexism January 13th
This will be the third and final of these events which draw directly from my PhD thesis. I’m running this event as part of the Manchester Game Studies Network. For those of you who haven’t attended one of these, this is an audience-directed event which explores everyday sexism and female desire using poetry and prose. I’ve created a series of polls so that the audience choose what they would like to hear next. Although I’ve ran this event twice, there are still parts of the thesis that I haven’t read at any of the previous events. I could probably write another thesis on the experience of running these events – part of what I’ve realised is that there is at least one section that I will never get to read, because it relies on a large part of the audience admitting that they are judgemental – which lets face it, none of us want to be be and most of us will not admit to! If you have been before, I hope to see you again for this final event, which I am hoping will spin off in a completely different direction to the other two. I should put a content warning as well that there will be discussion during this event of gender-based violence and sexual assault. But I also want to say that my research is about what we choose to look at (or not) in poetry. It’s about the body. It’s about the experience of being a poet, and a female poet in particular. It’s about the experience of performing poetry and audience reactions to that performance. It’s about my own journey towards feminism and how I learnt and am still learning what bell hooks called ‘critical consciousness’ which is ‘critical understanding of the concrete material that lays the groundwork for that personal experience…and what must be done to transform it’.
Tickets are £5 or £2 if you are a student, or if you can’t afford either, please get in touch and I’ll send you a freebie. Tickets available here from Eventbrite: Poetry and Everyday Sexism hosted by the Manchester Game Studies Network Tickets, Wed 13 Jan 2021 at 19:30 | Eventbrite
All The Men I Never Married
It’s been five years since the publication of The Art of Falling so I’m really happy that my second collection of poetry All The Men I Never Married will be published by Seren in October 2021. It feels like I’ve been working on this book forever, and I’ve found it very hard to let go of. I’m still working on it now but I think I’ve finally got the order of the poems sorted at least. A few weeks ago I started exchanging cover ideas with my editor at Seren, Amy Wack and it was only then that this next book started to feel real, as if it could actually happen. I am really hoping that by October, it will be possible to do some live readings and maybe even have an in-person book launch, but who knows!
Developing Your Creative Practice: Arts Council Grant
After handing my PhD in the day before lockdown happened and then doing my viva on Zoom, I’ve basically somehow managed to make a living as a freelance writers. I’ve applied for one academic post for a Creative Writing Lecturer and got a job interview, and am pleased to say that I don’t think I embarrassed myself too much, but didn’t get the job. Since then I’ve been keeping my eye out for Creative Writing posts but they are few and far between, especially as my specialism is in poetry. Most posts seem to want prose or at least someone who can do both.
However, since writing my thesis I’ve become more and more interested in writing prose. I really enjoyed the writing part of it. I tried a few short stories this year and sent them out a few times but didn’t get anywhere. Also they felt as if they didn’t really have any life in them – I can’t explain it, but something about the form didn’t feel right.
I then started thinking about my thesis and how I could use what I’d already written and turn that into something and decided to try writing lyric essays. I sent one in for the Southword Essay Competition and to my amazement was one of the winners (alongside the fabulous Helen Mort). The essay isn’t available online, but you can buy a copy of Southword 39 here. After the disappointment of realising that I wasn’t cut out to be a short story writer or a novelist (or at least not yet) it doesn’t quite feel real to win £500 for the first essay I’ve sent out. My essay is called ‘Yes, I Am Judging You’ and is drawn from some of my PhD research.
I decided to put together an Arts Council grant application to the ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’ fund. You can apply for up to £10,000 to develop your own writing, and I decided to apply for time to develop my essay writing, and to start to write a book of lyric essays. I still can’t quite believe that I’m writing this but I was successful. My project starts at the end of July 2021. From then, I’ll have one day a week for eight months to work on writing (and reading) lyric essays.
I am really excited about having this time to write, and I’m hoping as a side-effect that as I start to publish more essays, this will open up the academic jobs that I can apply for.
Kendal Poetry Festival 2021
Many of you will already know about Kendal Poetry Festival, but just in case you don’t, please check out our website. I am the co-director along with Clare Shaw and we have been working so hard to move the whole festival online.
The original festival was due to take place in June 2020 and obviously in March we had to cancel. It turns out cancelling a festival is just as much work as organising one.
However, the festival has now moved online, and will be running from February 19th-28th. The whole programme is online here, and we have a fantastic, and much expanded lineup. The whole festival will take place on Zoom. All readings are £5 but you could also buy a Festival Pass for £60 which means you can access everything (apart from workshops). We also have two open mic events running throughout the festival, and free ‘Writing Hours‘ every morning with either myself or Clare, and longer writing workshops with some of our festival poets.
I’m going to sign off now, and I hope to be back here blogging a little bit more regularly in 2021. I’ll also be back with a new shiny website, so watch this space! And finally, I hope you all had a good Christmas and all the best for the New Year. I hope to see you all in 2021.