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Musings on Mantel, comps deadlines and a lovely Rock Rose

And so it goes on

Life has settled into a gentle daily routine, namely breakfast (in the garden most days until this cold snap), desk work, chores or gardening usually in the morning, salad and cheese/crackers or mackerel pate for lunch, then reading, more gardening, a walk or a run, a bit of yoga, a game of Scrabble at 6-ish, an episode of Spooks,Van Der Valk or whatever in the evening. Having regular punctuation points (and giving thanks daily to all the relevant gods for our fortunate situation) seems to help keep frustration at bay. And if all else fails, cups of tea. It reminds me of the various office jobs I’ve had in the past – it didn’t matter how frequently it happened, every time someone said ‘cup of tea anyone?’ the answer was always ‘LOVE ONE’.

The garden is starting to bloom. This is a marvellous thing.

Cistus in flower

I finished Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light. I’m still thinking about it. Did I enjoy it more than the first two books? No, but then how reasonable is it to say that Wolf Hall was the best? It was the first, so it had the most impact. When it comes to Mirror, we know it’s the third part of the story of Thomas Cromwell, and it’s hardly a spoiler to say it ends with his death.  But how on earth do you write about real people like this, real people, not fictional characters, many of whose lives have been recorded and dissected over the centuries, and weave them into a story that’s original, alive, relevant, thrilling even. As a reader, you know what’s coming but still can’t wait to turn the page. It’s extraordinary.

I’m not a great reader of fiction. Mantel’s trilogy has made me curious about some of the other people who appear as characters her the books and what became of them, such as Rafe Sadler, who went on to serve four monarchs, and William Herbert who has a bit-part in Mirror: he rose to become the first Earl of Pembroke and was given huge swathes of Wiltshire to build a house and start a dynasty. His daughter-in-law Mary was apparently a brilliant woman and her brother was Philip Sidney – a poet whose name I knew but am now getting to know his work…

Philip Sidney The Major Works

Poetry reading, poet readings

Poet friend Judith very kindly sent me a copy of Mary Jean Chan’s Flèche (Faber)which I’m looking forward to reading, and I also have a copy of Jackie Kay’s Darling (New & Selected)(Bloodaxe), a collection I’ve been itching to read for some time. And I’m hoping to get hold of Charlotte Gann’s new collection, The Girl Who Cried (Happenstance), for which there’s going to be an online launch on May 21st.

Fleche by Mary Jean Chan

Couple of comps to mention

Yes I know, I’ve sworn off entering single-poem comps for this year, but perhaps I can do my bit for mags and organisers by promoting them.

The Frogmore Poetry Competition, judged by Maria Jastrzębska is closing soon, on 31st May – enter here.

The Bridport Prize closes 31st May – poetry judge is Mimi Khalvati.

Live Canon Collection Competition, deadline May 25th – lots of winning chances here, do take a look.

Not poetry, but…writer friend Danielle Sensier has asked me to mention the Chalk Circle Short Story Competition which is now open until 31st August, judged by Vanessa Gebbie

Magazines update

If you’re on my mailing list you should have received an email last week about magazines whose windows are closing soon.

If you didn’t get this and/or would like to be on the list, please join via the webform on my ‘about’ page:

NB I’d be grateful if you would join via the form, as if you ask me to add you I may not see your request or be able to act on it right away – thanks!

I’ll be compiling the next update to my Poetry Magazines Submissions Windows spreadsheet at the end of this month.

That’s it for now – take care.

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Robin Houghton 2021