All posts filed under: Poems

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 …

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 …

Tears in the Fence

Tears in the Fence: a no-tears rejection

A few months ago I sent some poems to David Caddy at Tears in the Fence. Although he didn’t take any of them for the magazine, his reply was prompt and very civilised, so much so that it didn’t feel like a standard rejection. Polite, interested, business-like, a suggestion that I send again, not a hint of condescension. Yes, he invited me to buy a copy of the magazine (or subscribe), but not in such a way that I was felt under pressure, or even scolded in some way. I had read a copy of the magazine, know some people who’ve been published there, and have a reasonable idea of its style. I don’t think my work I was a hundred miles away. What happened was that I did indeed subscribe, and the Spring issue was soon through my letterbox. It’s small but dense, and one of those mags that pulls you in for a big read rather than inviting a flick-through. Perhaps one of the nicest surprises is that there are many names I’m not familiar with. One that stood out …

Ronnie-O Oh Oh!

If you’ve been at a reading I’ve given you may have heard the snooker poem… it’s a bit of fun, my homage to snooker genius Ronnie O’Sullivan. I’m not sure what it adds to the ‘after Christopher Smart’ oevre, but I hope there’s entertainment value to it. It helps to know a wee bit about Ronnie, and about snooker (147 is the maximum you can score, by potting all 15 red balls, the black 15 times, and then all the colours in order.) At the weekend I was watching Ronnie playing in the Masters and was overcome by the need to get the poem down on video. I’d had a glass of wine at the time and couldn’t recite the whole thing in one take, and the lighting and editing are a bit rough but HEY – it gets better as it goes along, so hang in there… maybe I’ll re-do it more slickly one of these days!

Two roads diverged

The Road Not Taken & FOMO

Just the other day Don Share posted on Twitter a link to a recording of Robert Frost reading ‘The Road Not Taken’. How wonderful to hear it in the poet’s voice. Here it is on YouTube: Matthew Hollis, in his 2011 biography of Edward Thomas, Now All Roads Lead to France, tells of Thomas’s distress at this poem, taking it so personally, in fact, that it was the final push that sent him off to war (and his death). This, despite Frost trying to reassure him the poem wasn’t meant as an admonishment for Thomas’s (self-perceived) cowardice or indecision, but rather a very mixed message indeed, full of ironies and what the poet called ‘the fun of the thing’. Then this morning I open up the latest email from Maria Popova’s excellent Brain Pickings, to read another beautiful essay, this week on the topic of all our roads not taken – In Praise of Missing Out: Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips on the Paradoxical Value of Our Unlived Lives. In this early internet age of ‘fear of missing out’ – …

Poetry submissions – stats for last 6 months, stocktake

Just a quick update on my poetry submissions, in case you’re interested – I know people often like a comparison, and while those “I’m delighted to announce…” successes are all very nice to hear about, sometimes it’s good be reassured that you’re not the only one who’s not currently delighted about anything.  So, I’ve just done a 6 month audit and here’s what my submissions tracker tells me: Magazines, waiting on: 4 poems currently out for 193 days 4 poems out for 168 days 5 poems out for 113 days 3 out for 8 days There seems to be a long gap (no poems sent out between November and February) but that’s not entirely true, as some things were sent and returned in that time. Thanks so much to Antiphon and Ambit (among others) for your prompt responses! Since last August I’ve had 24 poems declined by 6 magazines and 2 accepted. Competitions: I’ve entered 11 poems in six competitions, the results of which are one 1st placed poem, one shortlisted and two sunk without trace, with the 3 remaining comps …

Isabel Palmer’s ‘Ground Signs’

One of the interesting things about the Poetry Book Fair in September was seeing poetry pamphlets and books from different publishers side by side, and the great variety in jacket designs, colours and fonts. Flarestack was one of the tables that really caught my attention, with its beautifully simple pamphlet covers. Just look at the clean, clear typeface (you can’t really see from this image but the title is in silver): This was one of the pamphlets that caught my attention – was it the turquoise that did it? (it’s one of my favourite colours) – who knows. But I’m glad I bought it. At first, from reading the cover blurb, I wasn’t sure. “Haunted by her son’s experience in Afghanistan…” created a sort of unfair knee-jerk reaction in me. There has been such a rash of war poems this year, some sublime but others less appealing. I don’t know what I feared exactly but as I read Isabel’s pamphlet I became increasingly engrossed. The poems are unsentimental yet full of compassion. There’s humour as well as pathos, …

A poem by Josh Ekroy

It’s funny how certain names pop up regularly in the poetry magazines, one such being Josh Ekroy. I’ve had him on my radar for a while, partly because his poems always seem to have a self-assurance about them, a unique stamp, I can’t really explain but I was always intrigued because I couldn’t find out anything about Josh on the web, nor did he appear to have a collection. Then there’s the name. Some names are just memorable. So imagine my delight to come across his first collection, Ways to Build a Roadblock (Nine Arches Press), in the London Review Bookshop, just by chance back in June. Many of the poems explore the brutal reality of the ‘war on terrror’ and can be grim reading, taking us for example to a dank, abandoned cellar where who knows what torture or incarceration took place (‘Cellar’) to a chillingly matter-of-fact account of waterboarding (‘Medical Advances’). But alongside the hard-hitting difficult truths, there’s tenderness here, and satire too. It’s very accomplished.  Ekroy brings an enjoyable sense of surrealism and subterfuge to his …

Bring up the poems (are they dead or sleeping?)

As part of my autumn poetry reactivation plan (sounds good, eh?) I’ve signed up for an online course from the Poetry’s School with Karen McCarthy Woolf. It’s a feedback course for the ‘general improvement of left-for-dead poems in need of resuscitation’. This premise really appealed to me – having quite a few poems languishing at the moment, some of which I feel at the end of my editorial tether (with). (Apologies for the clumsy construction, but since I’m off duty while writing this I feel able to mush over any dodgy grammar or whatever. It’s the equivalent of pulling on a onesie and eating a takeaway while watching TV. I’m at home. Off duty.) Soooo … time to dust off some old pomes. While we’re on the subject, I should mention that I was pleased to find out that South have taken two poems of mine for their autumn issue, just when I’d thought they wouldn’t find a home. I did think I wasn’t going to submit to South again, but when it came to it I …