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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 poem nominated for the Forward Prize this year, the one that came second in the Stanza comp. Thank you to Paul McGrane of the Poetry Society for putting it forward (sic).

The launch event for Eyewear’s ‘Best British & Irish Poets 2017’ is next month and so if I can get myself to London on a Sunday I’ll have an opportunity to read, which will be fun, and I’m very interested to meet some of the other contributors.

The lovely Kay Syrad has taken one of my poems for Envoi, a magazine I’ve just subscribed to again as it’s come round on my magazine subs rolling schedule. Really enjoying the current issue especially work by Abegail Morley and Neil Elder. The poem in question is another oldie that finally came good – the first draft was written in December 2012 and this was the 15th draft. The moral of the story: if you think the premise of a poem is good, keep working on it and hopefully the execution will get there in the end!

New Writing South have always been very supportive of my work and it’s thanks to them that I’ve been able to have some mentoring from a lovely experienced poet, to help me with a pamphlet. The editing, culling, reassessing and reordering of the poems was an inspirational process for me and the result feels strong. Whether or not I can persuade a publisher of that remains to be seen. Anyway, I’m now seeing certain poems in a very different light, I’ve murdered a few darlings, if you like, and brought a few more back from the dead.

Wonderful night at Pighog in Brighton last week, at a new venue that’s really promising. The theme was ‘erotic poetry’ but the red lighting saved anyone’s blushes – although it made it hard to see who was in the room, an essential part of the night! The readers were Catherine Smith and John McCullough, both of whom are always such good value. Funny, moving and absorbing readings. John’s The Frost Fairs (Salt) is one of my all-time favourite collections, and his newest book Spacecraft (Penned in the Margins) is another real gem.

And here’s a funny thing: when I was first on a roll with getting poems in magazines, about four or five years ago, I think I mistook my lack of humility for confidence, whereas now I feel it’s the opposite – being humbled (in the sense of a) not quite achieving what I expected/demanded of myself, b) the more fine poetry I read the more I see realistically where I stand) has somehow helped me become more accepting of my own limitations, and thereby more confident about what I can do.

Less good things (but not really ugly)

Oh woe is me for yet more rejections – or as I like to file them, ‘Declined’ submissions – three poems sent back from The High Window, and not for the first time – so perhaps my work is a poor fit there. Actually no other rejections to report during February, although since the winners in the National have all been notified, clearly I didn’t do anything there.  Boo! Quite a few things are still out though, so who knows 🙂

That competition discussion

I was fascinated by the comments after my last blog post, it made me appreciate the range of viewpoints there are on the subject – much food for thought. Thanks so much for the lively discussion; I’m very lucky to have such interesting and engaged people reading this blog.

Published inAngstBlogPamphletsRejectionsRoundupsSubmissions


  1. Antony Mair Antony Mair

    Many congrats on the Forward Prize nomination – brilliant. And the other successes. As for the rejections. they’re insignificant by comparison!

  2. Louise ordish Louise ordish

    Robin I think I’m on a similar journey regarding understanding the limitations of my poetry or how my work fits in amongst all the amazing work and less amazing work that is out there. I think your writing about the world of poetry and what it’s like to be in It, in some measure, is insightful and honest. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It’s fab you’ve had a poem entered in the forward prize. Well done. I am trying to keep getting work out despite the stream of rejections!

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Hi Louise, thank you for the encouragement. I think we need to think of them as a ‘drip drip’ of rejections rather than a stream!

  3. Penny Penny

    OOH congrats on the forward prize nomination!! Wahoo!
    Hazel = mega cute too!!

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Ha ha! Thanks Penny – yes, can’t go wrong with a pic of a baby 🙂

  4. Elly Nobbs Elly Nobbs

    Enjoyed all of the post. Congratulations on the Forward nomination.

  5. Hello Robin – am always so impressed, and humbled by, your poetic activity. 15th draft of a poem written in 2012? Did you go back to it after a long absence and gain new flashes of inspiration? Or had you been steadily working on it? I never know what to do, and maybe there is no answer…. Congratulations on the Forward Prize nomination.

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Oh goodness, pleased don’t be humbled Steph, each tiny nugget of success is but a nipple on the substantial F-cup breast of failure – ha ha! Oops, not sure where that came from, must have boobs on the brain.
      I do tend to put poems away and forget about them, and every now and then I’ll dig one up to see if I can revive it. Out of interest I’ve just looked at the draft dates of this one and they are:
      drafts 1-5, Dec 2012
      drafts 6-7, Feb 2013
      draft 8, Dec 2013
      draft 9, May 2014
      draft 10, Nov 2014
      drafts 11-13, Dec 2015
      draft 14, May 2016
      draft 15, Jan 2017
      I think the gaps correspond to periods after submissions, waiting for replies. I know I’d submitted this one to at least half a dozen places.
      – probably more info than you needed, sorry! Thanks v much for your comment 🙂

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Robin Houghton 2024