All posts filed under: Blog

mary evans picture library - poems & pictures blog

‘Poems & Pictures’ blog at the Mary Evans Picture Library

We’re into our fourth week of dust, clutter and washing up in the bath. The joys of home improvements! We still don’t have a fully working kitchen, one cabinet is ten mils too big for the space, one lot of contractors isn’t returning our calls and may have gone out of business (or ‘done a Brexit’ in the new shorthand) and rellies are coming to stay on Thursday but DON’T PANIC. Our builder is doing a marvellous job and it’s all going to be lovely. All this is just my way of saying sorry for not blogging lately. I’ve also got a bit of work on, which I slip in between coats of paint and electricians turning off the power. So what to report? I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been reviving some old poems, all part of a general poetry cleaning up/recycling drive. One such is ‘London Bridge to Waterloo East’, a poem that did the rounds a few years ago to no avail. Last year I was contacted by Gill at the Mary Evans Picture Library, inviting …

hazel at the beach

News round-up: the good, the bad & the ugly

Facebook blackout – the verdict It’s now been two months since I stopped checking in with Facebook and I’m enjoying the freedom it’s given me. I’ve been writing, little by little, not an avalanche of new stuff, but a lot of reworking of old material. I’ve also found new possible projects popping into my head, which may or may not happen but I won’t beat myself up if they don’t. Being Facebook-free did mean I missed the news of two great-nieces being born on the same day, but good old email did bring me a missive after a couple of days. My siblings’ children are procreating so fast I’m finding it hard to keep track of all the new rellies! Above is a photo of my granddaughter Hazel, enjoying herself on the beach a couple of weeks ago 🙂 Nothing to do with poetry but a nice photo I think! She didn’t write her name herself, but rest assured I shall be coaching her in all things poetry asap. Good things, and a bit of navel-gazing I’ve had another …

Reasons to enter (or not) poetry competitions

Do you send poems off to competitions? If not, why not? OK we all know it’s ‘a lottery’. Nevertheless most of us would admit it’s exciting to actually win something. Or is it? I often debate this with poet friends and in particular the reasons not to enter comps. Let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments! Reasons to submit to competitions 1) A competition win gives you instant visibility and credibility as a poet 2) Winning a competition is a terrific confidence-boost 3) There’s good money to be won 4) Pamphlet (or book) competitions are the only way to get published 5) It’s supporting a poetry publication or organisation that I like Reasons NOT to submit to competitions 1) It’s expensive / I can’t afford it Actually these are two separate arguments. For some, it’s the principle of paying to enter a competition that grates. The fact that it takes hours and hours of work to even put a competition together, let alone promote/ judge and deal with all the related admin, is by-the-by.  In competition publicity the emphasis …

Quote by Charles-Bukowski-—-8

On staying motivated

It’s one of those tricky periods right now. The poetry honeymoon is well and truly over. I’m existing on a handful of acceptances (for which I am humbly grateful). I’m surrounded by talented, prolific poets who all seem to be successful and getting noticed while I seem to be not writing anything that people want to read. I need the Spring the get going, dammit – I know a bit of sunshine would help. I also know this feeling will pass. One saving grace right now is that I’m not a US citizen. Which must sound monumentally trite, so I must explain that in 1999 I was living in the US and was (I thought) not coming home, ever, to the UK. Just as my lawyers gave me the good news that my Green Card application had progressed to the next stage, and just as I was several thousand dollars the poorer, my job was reorganised. So I was back in the UK quicker than the time it took me to unlearn how to say ‘water’ …

Sky above Clouds by Georgia O'Keeffe

Both sides now

A smooth drive to London yesterday for Anne-Marie Fyfe’s newest workshop, on the theme of clouds.  As in ‘I wandered lonely as…’, or ‘from both sides now..’ And yes, Joni Mitchell did make an appearance, as did Debussy, Django Reinhardt, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson, John Lennon, The Wizard of Oz and a range of Surrealist art, amongst others. I’ve said this before, but I really do think these workshops are the best I’ve experienced. With so much stimulation – verbal, visual, musical – the sheer pace of it (although it never feels hurried), and the continuous nature of the exercises, you have no time to lose focus. It doesn’t matter if something doesn’t ‘click’ because there’s another question or exercise coming right up. Nothing seems to distract, not even the relentless traffic and sirens of the Old Brompton Road. You are immersed, coming up for air after two hours and wondering where the time went. Anne-Marie plans these workshops well in advance. Not only are there plenty of materials and handouts but it’s obvious that a …

Sovereign Harbour Eastbourne - January

TGI February

January is really my least favourite month – I think it’s the short days and dark evenings that are so depressing.  It doesn’t help that the it’s the month of both my father’s death and my late mother’s birthday, so they are always both on my mind. However! Let’s not get gloomy. I did go to a couple of good poetry events and even sent a few poems out. I did a lot of reading. My ‘start a poem a day’ pledge didn’t quite run its course, but I did spend a good amount of time writing and in particular rewriting old poems.  I did manage to start eleven new poems. I also revived one that I’ve been fiddling with for four years, and which is shortly going to appear on the Mary Evans Picture Library ‘Poems and Pictures’ blog. Which is a fantastic resource, by the way – more on that in a future post. Meanwhile the ever-supportive Charles Johnson has taken some poems for Obsessed with Pipework, which I’m really pleased about. They are three of the ‘workplace’ themed …

Spam poetry at the Printworks, Hastings

Slam Dunk at the Printworks in Hastings

Last night I took the train (yes! there and back! and only slight delays!) to Hastings to Slam Dunk, a regular poetry night at the Printworks, where Hastings Stanza rep Antony Mair was doing a set. Although it’s not far away, Hastings is still a bit of an unknown quantity for me, but it has an unmistakeably youthful and creative vibe that’s irresistible. There’s an edge to it too – and my first challenge was to find the way in, which turned out to be down a dark alley and without any external signs…a cross between a speakeasy and some sort of squatters’ den – ha! (The experience reminded me of a ‘foreigners only’ bar in Rome about 30 years ago where you had to know the correct (unmarked) door to knock on, and someone slid open the hatch to check you were a) not Italian and b) not male. Men were allowed but only in the company of a woman, and in the proportion one-man-one-woman. I don’t think Rome was ready for any other relationship …

TS Eliot prize readings programme

TS Eliot Prize – workshop & readings

Katy Evans-Bush‘s TS Eliot shortlist workshop is fast becoming an institution. Now in its sixth year, it’s a fine precursor to the Prize readings which take place the following day, and the prize giving itself the day after that. The format is straightforward – Katy reads the ten shortlisted books, chooses from them a number of poems to discuss, and invites poets along to the Poetry School in Lambeth for a day to mull them over. I’ve been to one of these workshops once before and had a wonderful time. This time I had to confess I hadn’t read any of the collections, but in a way that’s part of the excitement – to be introduced to them by someone like Katy. Not only does she offer her thoughts and insights into the works, and invite us all into the discussion, but she also brings to the table her formidable background as a writer, reader and and literary critic. Plus the odd bit of insider gossip, of course. The TS Eliot Prize is probably the highest profile UK poetry prize and that’s …

Poem a day writing exercise

This month I’m setting myself the ‘start a poem a day’ challenge. (Not ‘write’ a poem a day, as that presumes each one will be a finished first draft at least. I’ve found that starting a poem a day is a better exercise for me, as I feel freer and less pressured to get to a last line.) Looking back on my computer I see I’ve done this four times before, the first time in 2012. A quick glance at the poems I wrote then tells me none of them came to fruition. But June 2013 was a good month, with six of the poems subsequently published (albeit over the following three years, so plenty of reworkings there!) And in January 2014 it looks like I ran out of steam after 5 days – but two of the five poems started then have since been published. So far this month I’ve started nine poems, so I’m only two behind my ‘one a day’ goal. And I’ve bent the rules a bit, to include the working …

getting off facebook

Giving up Facebook for at least a month

Today is my last day on Facebook for a while. I was inspired by Dan Blank’s recent blog post about the importance of ‘investing in white space’ in our lives: time for reflection, time to breathe. If you’ve ever craved more time for writing, reading and creating, it’s really worth a read. I came relatively late to Facebook and have never taken to it in the way I did Twitter. And yet I find it takes me away from Twitter, because it sucks up more time. And when I open Twitter, I have a much more rounded, balanced, exciting and inspiring view of the world. There’s just something about Facebook that seems closed and self-regarding. But then I ask myself, why am I using it? Here’s my pros and cons list: Positives I like seeing some of the photos people post – beautiful landscapes, quirky family snaps, cute animals – but not all I like watching some videos, but not those that make me feel I’ve just wasted two minutes of my life. Trouble is, you …