Tag Archives: writing

Strange search terms and last minute readings


It’s half term week this week, and I’ve been lounging around for a lot of it.  On Monday, I spent the day editing the Holland Haul Anthology, which is the anthology that comes from the course I went on with Second Light.  Each course member can contribute a poem to the anthology.  On Tuesday, I started to plan my first poetry workshop that I’m going to run in a school – it’s on the theme of Riddles, and I’m really starting to look forward to it, especially now I’ve got a basic outline in my head of what I’m doing. 

  I’ve now read 83% of John Burnside’s ‘A Lie About My Father’.  At the very beginning of the book, he talks about Halloween being a time that ghosts find their way home – and today, as I was walking the dogs round Millwood in the rain, it was easy to see how he could believe that.  The path was carpeted with leaves, and it was just starting to become dark – the type of dark that it feels like it’s trying to fool you, and arrive without you noticing.  There was nobody in the woods today – maybe they were all getting their halloween costumes on, or sensibly didn’t want to get wet – and there were these crows or rooks going crazy in the trees across the railway line.  They would fly around in a circle and then land in the trees again, and then take off, shouting and swearing at each other.

I love the way Burnside writes, but the last part of the book is taken up with talking about his drug and alcohol taking, and I’m starting to feel my attention wandering, but then he brings it back with something interesting.  For example, at the minute he is talking about how long it takes a person to fall, and how if you find someone who is ‘falling’ at the same time as you, you get on well.  He also talks about this ‘other’ who he feels has walked next to him all his life – and this idea really opens up his poetry to me – his poetry is full of a strange ‘other’. 

Bookings for the Abbot Hall Residential Course are going well – we’ve already got the minimum number of participants, which is a relief as that means the course will definately go ahead – so if you are interested, please get in touch. 

I also got an invitation today to read at a ‘Young Writer’s Festival’ at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield tomorrow night so I’m really looking forward to that.  If you would like more information the link is http://www.nawe.co.uk/DB/events/off-the-shelf-young-writers-festival-day.html

Friday night I’ll be at the Brewery Poets reading at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, introducing Patricia Pogson and Carole Coates – really looking forward to that event.

And then its all day rehearsal Saturday and Sunday at Phantom of the Opera at The Lakes school.  We had a rehearsal last weekend and I really enjoyed it.  My twin sister is playing French Horn and we haven’t played together for ages.  It reminded me that I do love playing. 

And next Tuesday, I’m really looking forward to because it’s Carola Luther’s launch of her new pamphlet ‘Herd’ at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.

And finally, strange search term of the day that brought some poor lost soul to my blog ‘where do you get dismantled bits of rocking horses’.  Hope whoever it was found a bit of horse somewhere.



I was trying to think of a more exciting title than ‘News’ for this post, but couldn’t think of one, so there it stands.  I have lots of news, or new things that have happened in the last couple of weeks, which is great, as I’ve actually not been writing very much.  I’ve been pretty busy with work, but also with various requests for poetry related things, which has never really happened to me before.  The editor of Agenda magazine, (www.agendapoetry.co.uk) Patricia McCarthy, got in touch to ask for a piece about the collaboration that I did with the composer Steve Jackson.  I collaborated with Steve last year to take part in the Rosamund Prize, and he wrote a song cycle for soprano.  There is a link to a performance of this here (http://youtu.be/9yQzsRm1IlE)

My collaboration article kind of turned into a write up of the two opposing, yet complimentary forces in my life (poetry and music).  I also sent the only two poems I’ve ever written that deal directly with being a musician and a teacher, so I think that lot is going to be appearing in a special ‘Poetry and Opera’ issue of Agenda towards the end of the year. 

I also found out this week that I was one of three winners of the Fermoy International Poetry Competition – the prize is a trip to Ireland and a seat on a ‘poetry bus’ that tours round villages in County Cork.  The festival website is here:  www.fermoypoetryfestival.com it sounds like it is going to be great fun, and I can’t wait for August now! 

I also responded to a submission call that Mslexia magazine put out on Twitter for 200 words about continuing to write whilst dealing with rejection and responsibilities.  I must admit, I concentrated on the rejection side of things  – and it was hard just fitting that into 200 words -but I got an email to say that has been taken for the magazine. 

My husband has also just got a new job – part time, 19 hours a week as a young person’s alcohol advisor, I think that is the title.  Anyway, it fits perfectly around the therapy work that he is doing, and this will make a massive difference to our finances.  I’m already planning when I can put my feet up and be a lady of leisure.  Ok, maybe that’s jumping the gun a bit……

Rather excitingly, the Michael Marks awards shortlist have been announced.  I’m very happy to see my publisher, Smith/Doorstop on the shortlist for the publisher awards, and also happy to see two Smith/Doorstop pamphlets on the shortlist as well from last year, Paul Bentley and Maitreyabandhu.  It’s disappointing to see one of the other winners from last year, David Tait didn’t make the shortlist – I think he should have been up there, but that is the beauty of poetry I suppose.  Everything is subjective.  Anyway, there will be a poem up here from David next Sunday – he is a fantastic writer, and actually young as well (as opposed to myself, who gets referred to as a young writer, but am actually decrepit compared to Dave!)  The Michael Marks award shortlist can be found here (http://www.wordsworth.org.uk/poetry/index.asp?pageid=642

To counteract all this, I would like to bemoan the fact that I have lost my filofax.  I have no idea where, in that I literally have no idea where.  I lost it sometime between Sunday evening on the train from Lancaster, and Monday night in Barrow.  I’m absolutely gutted, as stupidly I didn’t write down any of my commitments on a calendar – so now I’m having to try and chase them all up.  I know that I was planning to go to Spotlight in Lancaster this Friday (www.spotlightlancaster.co.uk) , but other than that – I haven’t a clue.  I could have something amazing and exciting planned for this weekend, and I would be none the wiser. 

So if anyone sees a brown, 80’s style filofax, please send it back home!


End of the Holidays and other stuff…


I’ve had a great week so far – feel slightly sad that the holiday is about to come to an end, but looking back just over this week, lots of lovely things have happened.   Tuesday was my last session in the prison and the group of prisoners that Tony Walsh and I have been working with did a performance to about forty other prisoners.  Because of the size of the library, the prisoners and I sat facing the audience at the front.  Tony Walsh was coming in and out from the stacks of books to introduce each person before they read, so he may have had a slightly different view to me, but I thought the audience looked quite scary.  I think this has something to do with the fact that at most poetry readings I’ve been to, the audience is dominated by women.  Obviously, it being a male prison, they were mainly men, although there were a few female guards or education staff there.  I don’t know if this is true of performance poetry nights, I’ll have to ask Tony if there are more men than women or vice versa.  Anyway, even though the audience looked quite scary, they didn’t make a sound while the prisoners were reading.  They listened to every word they said, clapped in the right places and seemed to generally enjoy themselves.  I hope when our group get out of prison, they start to engage with the poetry community. They have a lot to offer, not just their talent and life experience, but the respect and support they showed for each other during the ten sessions.  They would be an asset to any poetry group.

Then on Wednesday, my good friend Manon came to visit with her two daughters.  It was a flying visit, they were off again on Thursday.  I met Manon at the first ever writing residential course that I went to at Ty Newydd, which I think must have been four or five years ago.   The tutors were Nigel Jenkins and Sarah Kennedy, and I can safely say that course completely changed my life.  Nigel gave me the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given, which was to write every day, and read every day.  He told me to think of it as being the same as practicing a musical instrument, which I could relate to.  As much as I can, I’ve followed his advice to the letter.  By a spooky coincidence, exactly a year after he first said that to me was when I had my first poem accepted for publication. 

And Sarah was brilliant as well – warm, funny, encouraging, supportive.  Sarah is an American poet, and I would recommend anybody to look her poetry up. 

And of course, I met one of my closest friends on this course as well, Manon.  After the course had finished we started a tradition of meeting up in random places (Hull, Bristol, Manchester) and going for a night out.  Sometimes this would coincide with a literature festival, but mostly it would just be an excuse for a night out.

And yesterday, Friday I went to meet Ann Sansom, who is my editor for the pamphlet.  She was really brilliant to work with,  and had asked me to send her some new poems to look at as well.  I think I’m going to replace a few of the poems in the pamphlet with a few new poems on her advice – and save the ones I take out for the first collection, whenever that happens. 

It was interesting to discuss the poems with Ann in that much depth – a poem that I had bought to the last writing day which I thought was what I call a ‘something and nothing’ poem Ann thought should definately go in, because ‘it couldn’t have been written by anybody else’.  The poem is about teaching the trumpet.  I haven’t met any trumpet playing poets yet, but now I’ve written this, and agreed the poem should go in, I’m sure one will pop up!

And tonight is Poem and A Pint with Carole Coates, one of my favourite poets.  When I hear her tonight, I might ask if I can put one of her poems up on here from her collection.  She is a fantastic writer, and probably not as well known as she should be.



The end of the first week of the holidays – well almost.  I’ve had a great week, deliberately not planning anything, but it seems to have flown by all the same.  I’ve had the dogs to walk of course – most days I’ve managed to get out twice a day, and the weather has helped this too!  I started to clean out all my paperwork from our spare bedroom.  I’ve filled a huge box with old lesson plans and schemes of work that I haven’t used for years – I file them away, thinking that will save me replanning stuff, but then I can never find what I want anyway.  So out it has all gone.  Me and Chris are planning to have a room each, to stay true to the spirit of my new tattoo!  I’m getting the large room, as I teach in there sometimes and Chris is going to have the small room.  Then he can keep the small one ridiculously tidy, and I can let my creative energy spread over the large one, which is my way of saying I can leave my stuff where I like!  I still have two large boxes to sort out though – so we have a way to go yet….

In poetry related news, I’ve had a really exciting week, although I am very aware of something a friend, and excellent poet Holly Hopkins told me about on a recent writing retreat about ‘poetry related stuff’ that is all very good and exciting, like readings, competitions, prizes, publications etc that you can get caught up with.  However, this poetry related stuff is not ‘poetry’.  It’s not the same as that buzz that you get when you sit down to write and it is working and you know you are on to something, and it is important not to be seduced by it!  Maitreyabandhu did a brilliant article in Poetry Review about this and another, equally as brilliant in Magma recently.  I think he used a different definition, but I think he was talking about essentially the same thing. 

This week, I’ve really not written anything.  I’m giving myself a break now I’ve got the pamphlet coming out, but I’ve also been doing lots of ‘poetry related stuff’.  Which needed doing, but I am aware that it is not writing!

Saying that, I’ve had a poem accepted at an online magazine based in mexico, The Ofi Press.  The website address is www.theofipress.webs.com

I’ve been asked to write a review for the Cadaverine: www.thecadaverine.com

Poetry Review and Stand arrived with a poem in of mine

and this week a few readings came in: the 25th May with Ian Parks at Heart Cafe in Headingley and the same venue on the 25th July with Cora Greenhill and James Caruth with three more readers to be announced. 

I also found out one of my poems ‘Hartley Street Spiritualist Church’ got a runner up prize in the Kent and Sussex Poetry Competition, which was very nice.  The Kent and Sussex was the first competition I got placed in when I first started writing – I got a runner up prize then as well – don’t know what that says about my writing!

And I’ve been reading all the National Poetry Writing Month entries and secretly wishing I’d joined in – but now, due to my obsessive personality I will have to wait till next year, so I can do it properly – can’t join in half way through!

Also found out this week who is going to be my mentor as part of the amazing package that Ledbury Poetry Festival have put together as part of my Young Poet-in-Residence experience.  I don’t know if I’m allowed to say anything yet, so I won’t blab, but I am pretty happy about it – it will be a brilliant experience…

And the MOST exciting thing is that I have my editorial meeting with Ann Sansom from Smith Doorstop next Friday to work on my pamphlet.  Now that is happening, it actually feels real, and I’m really looking forward to it.  Any suggestions for cover colours are welcome.