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Two steps forward one step back (or vice versa)

Last week I was deep in Telltale Press business which is probably why I didn’t post an update here. I’ve also been distracted by the process of ‘moving house’ which I put in inverted commas because I’m not entirely sure whether it’s actually happening, or just something I imagine is happening. Rather like those vivid memories we all have of things we think happened to us in the past, when in fact they didn’t. Anyway, it’s not exactly going smoothly and it’s taking far longer than expected, and I’m feeling a bit in limbo.

Poetry at the Crooked Well

So I’ve been grateful for the poetry readings this month, the last of which is tonight in south London, only a few miles from where I grew up (but left when I was twenty). I haven’t yet decided whether to read any of my set-in-London poems, none of which are that cheery and more to the point I wonder if they may not be that good – why do I only think this when I’m considering reading them to a London audience? Hmmm. The invitation to read at this event came from Richard Skinner, the generous and multi-talented host of the Vanguard Readings that I go to when I can. Definitely worth the trip up to Camberwell.

Last Thursday we had a super time at the Poetry Cafe – Tamar Yoseloff & Sue Rose joined Telltales Peter Kenny, Sarah Barnsley and me for what felt like a night of strong performances. The Poetry Cafe is in Covent Garden, but it doesn’t feel like real London in the way that Camberwell or Highgate does. (I still didn’t read any London poems, though!)

Not quite sure where this blog post is going – sorry! But a quick update on things: no acceptances to report, alas, but I have been doing a little writing. Not a lot, but some. I’ve had polite rejections from Poetry Review and Antiphon. Those poems that had been tied up for months I’ve stopped waiting on, and have started reviewing and re-sending out. This seemed like a positive, proactive step.

Currently reading: the June issue of Poetry Magazine which arrived last week, with the lovely line by John Wieners on the back – “Yesterday over the cliff, today on top of it.” Also recently arrived is the Rattle Summer issue, and The Interpreter’s House 59, which is very good indeed, with strong work by some different names. Am I the only one who reads only the poems, not the stories? Unless it’s by an author I know. If I ever started a magazine it would be poetry and commentary only, no prose. That’s one of the things I love about Rattle – “poetry, translations, reviews, essays and interviews.” Although I’d like to include art as well, but I know that pushes up production costs. Oh and the other fun read I had recently was Young Bysshe by Claire Tomalin – a bite-sized romp through the early life of Shelley. I can hardly believe what he packed into his first 21 years. Astonishing.

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  1. Robin, good luck with the house-move.

    Re your reservations about the London poetry, I suspect it’s to do with a heightened sensitivity to the audience and their POV as well as insights. I’ve steered away from reading things that are close to ‘home’ for those kinds of reasons but have found that when I have taken the plunge and read the stuff, it has been very well-received as it resonates with the listeners while jangling my nerves!

    Let us know how it goes!

  2. Thanks Jean – that’s a very good point about the heightened sensitivity – and I agree that in the end it’s worth focusing on what resonates with the audience. I steered away from the London poems, but I was pleased I read my one ‘menopause’ poem (having assessed the average age of the ‘select’ audience!) because I made a pamphlet sale off the back of it. There’s always an urge to try out the edgy stuff but sometimes the oldies are the goodies!

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Robin Houghton 2021