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Currently inspired by…

Writing inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes I suppose. I was recently at a Charleston Festival event (Sheila Hancock in conversation with Joan Bakewell – combined age 182 and a huge inspiration/advertisement for a good old age). But I digress. In the bookshop marquee I was casually browsing and came across a single copy of a book I decided I had to have.

cover of T S Eliot book

Now I’m no huge Eliot fan but I do dip into the Four Quartets every now and then. I’ve never got to grips with The Waste Land, but I’m a sucker for manuscripts that show different versions, crossings out etc. It’s like getting into the poet’s head. And this edition shows every page, with annotations from both Ezra Pound and Valerie Eliot. It’s extraordinary. And I’m now enjoying going back to the poem armed with more insight into its genesis.

Meanwhile our Planet Poetry guests continue to challenge (and delight) me – in the last episode I talked with the effervescent Caleb Parkin and his excellent book This Fruiting Body, and my most recent interview was with Fiona Sampson. I admit I was nervous, interviewing a poet with such a formidable CV (29 books for starters). But Fiona was delightful and fascinating. I’m not sure yet when the interview will ‘air’ but it’ll be worth listening, I guarantee.

A few near-misses lately. I was pleasantly surprised to find I had two poems on the Plough Prize shortlist this year, judged by Roger McGough (one of my early heroes!). Incidentally, the winner was Di Slaney, a former Planet Poetry guest and an editor who deserves to be better known as A POET. Then, the other day I decided to query PN Review again, as it’s been so long since I submitted there, and this time I got a prompt reply that although ‘no’, was very encouraging.

All this is good grist to the mill and keeps me thinking about poetry, even if I’m not yet writing much new, but that will come. In the meantime it’s singing that’s my main concern, having signed up to take Grade 8 at the end of this month – gulp! Now excuse me as I go over the YouTube to watch yet more tutorials about ‘how to get rid of breathy tone’ etc. Nothing like a bit of last minute cramming to turn me from lowly choir member into Dame Felicity Lott, tee hee.

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Robin Houghton 2021
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