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A dry month in Purgatory and book launch imminent

Day Four of No-booze-vember and I’m thinking of making an advent calendar to count down the days to when I’m allowed a glass of wine.  Last year it all made sense – nothing much happening in November, Christmas to look forward to…I certainly wouldn’t want to do this in January, the most dreary of months and impossible to get through without AT LEAST the odd hot toddy.

But this year November is alight with events: my first concert with a new choir, a friend’s birthday ceilidh, two book launches (one of which is my own – hell’s teeth can a girl not have a drink at her own launch?), a meal out with an American work-friend I haven’t seen in 7 or 8 years, a night at the Troubadour AND a reading in London with a host of starry poet-names. What was I thinking?

I’m trying to see it as a creative experiment-slash-meditative opportunity. It’s a happy coincidence that I’ve finished Dante’s Inferno and have moved on to Purgatorio, which is surprisingly, well, surprising. According to Dante (and I’ve only got as far as the introduction, so not yet immersed in the poetry) Purgatory is where most of us go when we die, to think about how we’ve lived our lives and how we might do better. The idea is that if we take responsibility for and (importantly) are penitent about this, then there’s a chance we’ll get to heaven. It does involve a bit of pain and much patience but compared to Hell (or living through this Brexit debacle) it’s not all that bad really. There’s no guarantee if or when you get to move on – some poor sods have been there for a thousand years – but the hope is always that when you get out it’ll be an upward not a downward move. So not drinking this month feels like a small kind of penance. Not that I imagine it’s anywhere near enough for all the bad behaviour I could be charged with when the time comes.

Meanwhile things are gearing up for the Live Canon pamphlet launch which is scheduled for Monday 25th November, at the Boulevard Theatre Bar in Soho – fancy! It used to be the Raymond Revue Bar apparently, so I just hope my poems are seedy enough to do justice to the place’s heritage. Still not sure what the title of the pamph will be, but a lot can happen in three weeks (I hope!) I’m looking forward to meeting & reading alongside fellow launchees Miranda Peake, Tania Hershman and Katie Griffiths, and toasting all of us with a glass of sparkling water…

A few bits and bobs on the submissions front – one poem on the Bridport shortlist (which is a lot longer than it sounds), two poems accepted for Stand magazine, although they may only want one of them as the other is in the forthcoming pamphlet, and one for The Moth, very exciting for me as I feel they are seriously good magazines and it’ll be a first appearance for me in both. And actually the poem that The Moth have taken is one that I’ve been trying with for ages – I started it six years ago, and it was in my ‘Business Class’ pamphlet (the one that nobody wanted as a collection). It’s had 12 iterations over the years and I’ve tried it on any number of journals. Then earlier this year I asked Catherine Smith for advice on a pamphlet submission and I was wailing about this one. She spotted the potential issues right away and suggested a bit of re-ordering, and as a result it’s now good enough for The Moth. This isn’t the first time Catherine has helped me on poems that aren’t quite ‘there’.  She’s the real deal, for sure.

On the other hand I wish I could say I had a bunch of poems out at the moment but I haven’t started anything new in weeks. Several poems in for competitions (actually pretty much the same poems in different comps) and of course you never know. Can you imagine winning the National and then having to withdraw the poem because it was commended in the Waltham Forest comp? TEE HEE. Not that I’m dissing the WT AT ALL (results not out yet!) but I know that Paul McGrane (being involved in both comps) would blow the whistle on such a thing, and *AHEM* quite rightly!

Getting back to reality, I’m fortunate to be going to Cumbria in December for Kim Moore’s Poetry Carousel, so four days on a poetry roundabout and I should have a few proto-poems in the pipeline (not if I don’t kick THAT sort of alliteration in the teeth though). The other Carousel tutors are Malika Booker, David Tait and (gulp) Clare Shaw (the subject of this mildly inappropriate post last year) … it’s gonna be hot stuff.

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  1. Grainne Tobin Grainne Tobin

    Sounds as if you’re on a roll! Have a great time with that sparkling water.

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Robin Houghton 2024