All posts filed under: Writing

blue sky & gull on the seafront

What’s inspired me recently, and a writing/submissions update

I’m not spending a great deal of time at the computer at the moment – can only blame the marvellous good weather! I’m in admiration of those taking part in NaPoWriMo this month, such as Jayne Stanton. I do sometimes do the ‘start a poem a day’ thing, although I tend to do it alone and during months when there’s nothing going on to distract me! Having said that, I’ve been writing and submitting. Some new work is emerging that feels fresh, and I’m enjoying the process. I think I’d been hitting my head against so many old poems for too long, and making a conscious decision to set them aside feels liberating. So, I’ve got six poems forthcoming in the summer across four publications, plus there are currently 14 more out to magazines and a couple of comps, and 4 pamphlet submissions. If nothing comes of the latter then I think I have enough new material & project ideas coming through to abandon this particular ‘pamphlet.’ I’m using quote marks because it’s possibly not one pamphlet, but the seeds of several. Or just the start of …

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’ …

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 …

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 …

Marion Tracy spills the beans

On becoming a poet in Australia, putting images in the wrong order, and John Ashbery’s baskets: in conversation with Marion Tracy. When I asked poet friend Marion Tracy if she’d like to guest on my blog, we both had several ideas of what form it might take. We met, and chatted through it – I’ve known Marion for a while and always admired her forthrightness and ability to ‘cut to the chase’ in workshops and with poetry generally, as well as her skill as a poet. I knew whatever she wanted to share would be intriguing and different. So, we had a conversation, and here’s what came out of it. It’s a pleasure to have Marion here on the blog and I hope you enjoy this as much as I did! RH: It’s the obvious question I know, but could you tell us a bit about how you got started writing poetry? MT: I wrote a few poems for my school magazine and also wrote poems in my teens and early twenties. I then tried to tackle writing …

poems for pamphlet

Individual poems v collections – still on the learning curve

Putting together a collection of poems is proving to be harder than I ever expected. For a while now I’ve had a number of poems on a theme, which originally I dared to call ‘a pamphlet.’ I tried it on a few pamphlet comps: a couple of long-listings came of it, but basically nothing much. So I looked very hard at the poems. Some were definitely stronger than others. Some I ditched entirely, some I took to workshops, some I worked on, and continue to do so. I sent them out as individual poems to a few places and it took a while but eventually a few of them have now been taken by magazines. But no-one has taken more than one, even though I’m now sending several as a ‘sequence’, or at least calling them ‘part of a sequence.’ I still believe very strongly in the sequence (or pamphlet, if that’s how it ends up) and perhaps I have more poems to write which may find their way in. But only a few of them ‘stand alone’ out …

andrew mcmillan photographed by Innes Morrison

Notes from a workshop with Andrew McMillan

As promised in my last post, here are my notes from the workshop I did on Saturday at the South Downs Poetry Festival, with Andrew McMillan. I’m including links at the end to other workshop notes, in case you find these posts useful. I was really impressed with Andrew’s workshop. It’s tricky to teach a one-off session like this when you’ve no way of knowing who is coming to the session nor what they hope to get from it. As well as asking us to each say (briefly) what we hoped to take away, he also offered participants the chance to feed back after every exercise, and the chance to read aloud the example poems. Andrew had planned the session well and we motored through a lot of great material, but his calm and relaxed style meant it never felt hurried or forced. That’s exactly what I want as a participant – to feel challenged by the material, confident in the teacher and unaware of time passing. So here’s a summary, in which I hope I’ve captured the essential …

lift off

Thank you, Dr Upadhayay

I was one of those lucky people who enjoyed school, and whose English teachers (and I will name them, by way of a belated thank you – Dr Upadhayay and Mr Jennings) believed I had some writing ability and encouraged it. But I couldn’t see what they saw and thought it was utterly ridiculous to have any kind of creative writing ambition. Looking back on this in my forties I was ashamed of how I’d refused their encouragement, and (perhaps by way of atonement) decided I would try to find out if I did have any talent for poetry. So I set myself a deadline – get a poem published in a ‘serious’ poetry journal before my fiftieth birthday, or … or what? Stop writing? Stop submitting? Keep writing ‘for pleasure’ and always wonder if any of it was any good? Get to my old age and feel bitter for not having really tested myself? I don’t know – but I made the deadline (just!) so I never had to find out. If it had …

view of south cliff beach Eastbourne

Readings, launches & seeds of a new project or two

We’ve been in Eastbourne a month. It probably sounds daft but I’ve been struck at how mild it seems to be here compared to Lewes or Brighton. The latter in particular. And yet they’re only a few miles away. Maybe we don’t get those biting Brighton winds here? But today I’ve spent all day at the computer.  I have a pretty good 180 degree view of the weather from where I’m sitting and let me tell you there was no reason to go out today. If you read my post last week you’ll know I was out and about last week though – lots of lovely readings, poetry gatherings and a very low-key talk to the ladies of the SWWJ about blogging, twitter and the like. It’s always a pleasure to read alongside wonderful poets and last week was no exception – on Friday it was an intimate affair at the Albion Beatnik in Oxford, where Martin Malone was celebrating the launch of his new collection Cur (more on that in a post very soon). My fellow readers in …

View from the terrace

Post-holiday news, blues and beginnings

Back from holiday less than a week and plenty has happened. While I was away I received three rejections (boo!) and one ‘long listing’ (hurray!), so now I’m faced with a big hole in my sending out schedule. I haven’t written anything new for a while and am about to go into another busy period with moving house, developments with Telltale Press and a Lewes Singers concert in 6 weeks’ time to organise and promote. So who knows when I’ll get down to any quality poetry-writing time. If you’ve been following the house move saga, just to say that contracts were finally exchanged on house (double hurrah!), so by the end of September we will be homeless unless we can find a flat to rent before then. We’re already seen several places in the last few days but it’s clear that in the rentals market the good stuff goes within 24 hours, a week at the latest. Plus there are dirty tricks galore. So we are sharpening our elbows. I did no writing at all …