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Being on the happy side of a fine line, and other August musings

August. Already. Do you remember how summer holidays seemed in childhood – a long holiday starting late July (for those of us in state schools) and extending only really to the end of August? But it seemed like ages, and that summer didn’t really begin until the school term was done with. But now, the beginning of August has me thinking ‘oh no please can the summer please slow down?’ because September is just around the corner. I suppose it’s one of the joys of accumulating many years of life, and appreciating every day all the more. So here we are: the garden starting to look blousy, the evenings getting shorter but actually warmer than in June, Autumn events looking a lot nearer.

The last couple of weeks have produced a healthy mix of good and bad news. On the same day as learning that Live Canon are going to publish my pamphlet (yay), I had a rejection from The Rialto (boo). The day after congratulating myself that my new low-carb eating regime (I refuse to call it a diet!) is doing a good job of staving off the steroid-induced fat gain everyone has promised me, a friend I haven’t seen in ages tells me I’m definitely suffering from ‘moon face’ (BOO). And just as some of the tomato plants I’ve been growing have begun to produce lovely sweet yellow fruit, another variety is suffering from ‘bottom end rot’. Hmmm.

Tomatoes Gold Nugget
Some you win …
Tomato bottom end rot
… some you lose

Actually the Rialto rejection was one of the nicest I’ve ever received, in that editor Michael Mackmin gave me thoughtful and helpful feedback on what wasn’t working for him. He has to be at least as overworked as all other poetry magazine editors, so this kind of thing is unexpected and appreciated. And of course I’d just heard about the Live Canon pamphlet competition, so who wouldn’t be feeling resilient after that? My fellow Live Canon selectees/finalists/winners (delete as appropriate) are serious poets: Tania Hershman, Katie Griffiths and Miranda Peake, and I’m having to work hard to stem the imposter syndrome feelings. The longlist contained many fine poets. The way I look at it is this: there is inevitably a very fine line, a hair’s breadth maybe, between longisted and finalist. This time the poems made the cut. Many times they do not. The whole thing is competitive and it’s nuts, but I choose to play the game.  SO … I am very grateful to Live Canon, and the pamphlet may be arriving as early as November. The working title is Was it the Diet Coke, and other questions.

Meanwhile, I’m currently enjoying the Live Canon Summer Treasure Hunt, getting to know new poets and poems. It’s a pleasant way to spend half an hour each day, and it’s expanding my reading. Just another example of the innovative and engaging activities Live Canon come up with (oh yeah I would say that wouldn’t I?)

And talking about expanding reading, here’s an interesting challenge from Electric Lit: 31 poets recommend 31 books to ready every day in August. A book a day? Even the Reading List challenge I set myself wasn’t that demanding. But it’s a good list for reference.

I’ve also had the privilege of singing in a little choir of five at no less than two weddings in the last month. I love being able to contribute to a couple’s wedding day and it never fails to move me, to experience the joy and love that fills the church, to feel again how lucky I am to love and be loved. OH STOP, I really must be getting older. I’d better stop now before I make you nauseous…

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  1. Peter Raynard Peter Raynard

    Great news about the pamphlet Robin. Congratulations. Peter x

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thank you, Peter 🙂

  2. Congratulations and wonderful news and views

    • Pamphlet congratulations, Robin. I love your working title!
      Your blog post made me smile. It also serves as a prod to get some of my poems ‘out there.’
      Enjoy the rest of the summer x

      • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

        Thank you Jayne, you too! x

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thanks Ann!

  3. I was so pleased to see your name on that list, Robin – and what a great list. Well done! Sorry about The Rialto (I’ve just been thinking I’d like to be published by them again (only been in there once) and I’ve been enjoying their most recent issue a lot. You’re so right about the fine line between acceptance/rejection and it sounds like you were close again this time with such a personal response from the editor. Yes, Live Canon do fantastic work (I’ve done their Treasure Hunt before but not this year) and it’s so exciting that you have new work coming out with them. Congrats, again, enjoy your success and best wishes with everything. – Josephine x

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thank you Josephine for your kind comments and encouragement 🙂 Rx

  4. Congratulations on the pamphlet. How exciting. I’m also doing the Live Canon Treasure Hunt and I’m enjoying it a great deal.

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thank you Heather – yes, the Treasure Hunt is fun!

  5. Katie Griffiths Katie Griffiths

    Robin – as I sit here with my ?th cup of tea, avoiding editing poems, and wondering where the energy and inspiration are, I too am totally assailed by imposter syndrome! So, we are lucky and blessed with our Live Canon pamphlets – occasionally the imposter comes good. X
    Katie G

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Hi Katie and it’s nice to ‘meet’ you and thanks for commenting 🙂 I’ll look forward to reading your pamphlet!

  6. Congratulations, a lot of lovely things to celebrate!

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thanks so much, Marina 🙂

  7. Lots in here of interest, particularly after reading your excellent piece in ‘The Author’ recently. As for the prescribed steroids, I empathise so much. As for your diet, well, I marvel at your discipline and dedication in the face of the med. regime. Thank you for mentioning the Live Canon Treasure Hunt: I’m just off to investigate… Oh, and the yellow tomatoes look delicious: I guess we can’t win them all!

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Hi Caroline, (and thank you for your kind comment re The Author piece) – I wouldn’t say I was entirely disciplined all the time, but I confess vanity is a big motivator (just don’t want to get fat!!) Hope you enjoy the Treasure hunt! Rx

  8. elly elly

    Enjoyed your post, Robin!

    Best Wishes,

    E x

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Many thanks Elly! x

  9. Grainne Tobin Grainne Tobin

    A lot going on in several directions. Congratulations on the pamphlet news! I had moon face while pre-eclamptic, as did everyone else in the maternity ward who had pre-eclampsia. It is an odd experience. Will yours have a chance to wear off or are the steroids here to stay? XX

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thank you Grainne! Sorry to hear you’ve had the Moon Face. I don’t really think I’ve got it, at least not badly. I’m monitoring my blood glucose (yes I’m that much of a control freak, I bought the kit!) and each time I’ve tested it’s been ‘normal’. And it’s early days yet (only 6 weeks in). It’s not inevitable and I will fight it as best I can! I gather the side effects do go away once you’re weaned off the meds…

  10. Christina Buckton Christina Buckton

    Can you put me on the list to receive your update of uk mags sub windows – brilliant resource thanks

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Hi Christina – so sorry for the delay, I’ve now sent you it and added you to the list!

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Robin Houghton 2021