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You win some, you lose some…

As a fresh writing impetus I’ve joined Bill Greenwell‘s online poetry workshop this term, a group I’ve been thinking about for a while. Abegail Morley always spoke well of the mentoring she had from Bill, and I have a lot of time for Sharon Black, under whose auspices the workshops are run. Wish me luck!

Meanwhile, Peter Kenny and I have been busy recording interviews for the new season of Planet Poetry. Watch out for the Season 3 opener later this week (hopefully!)

A lot seems to have happened in the last couple of weeks. Despite my previous blog post when I talked about going back to York to finish my MA in Poetry & Poetics, I decided to pull out. Let’s just say I couldn’t cope with the chaotic organisation there. I don’t think York is particularly geared up to dealing with part time students who commute long distances and have (what??) commitments in their lives other than university.

I’m very sad not to be immersed in the close-reading of poetry, and finishing the MA. But the stress of spending hours on Trainline looking for fares, losing money on non-refundable tickets that turn out to be useless because the timetable has changed again… on top of the considerable academic load… something had to give. Some people have suggested I move my ‘credits’ to another Uni, but I could only find two Universities in the UK (York and Belfast) offering this course. Now, if I wanted to do a creative writing MA, that would be a lot easier!

Soooo… actually I feel a weight has been lifted. More time to write (or think about writing!), more time to devote to Planet Poetry and my work on the submissions windows spreadsheet, plus I’m looking forward to all the music-related admin for concerts on the run up to Christmas, planning for Spring workshops, and enjoying my birthday in The Hague researching a future choral trip. I’m also still tied up with my sister’s estate as her co-executor (now is not the time to be trying to sell a flat).

On the good news front, a week or so ago I happened to check my email at lunchtime on a Saturday, to see that Visual Verse were running a competition – but it was only open for 24 hours. Visual Verse is an online magazine for ekphrastic writing – they post a new image every month and people respond to it. This was a bit different, in that there was only a day to write something and submit. I rather liked the image, so I had a go, and was one of the winners. It’s ages since I won anything so this was a really nice boost for me on National Poetry Day. It was also extraordinary to read the other winning poems and see how different our takes on the image were!

Speaking of NPD, the evening before I was at the Eastbourne Poetry Cafe awards night for their ‘Eastbourne and the Environment’ competition, handing out comments and certificates to the winners. The poems received in the Under 18s category were particularly encouraging, and lovely to see the two young winners take to the stage to read their work. I chatted to one set of parents, who were grateful for events like these to be happening. I know competitions can be seen as problematic, but they do at least give young poets (and potential young poets) a focus and (for the winners at least, but I hope for everyone) encouragement to keep reading and writing poetry.

Published inBlogChildren & poetryCompetitionsCoursesWritingYork MA


  1. All sounds very wise and a winner into the bargain

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thank you, Ann. I hope you are well? x

  2. Fantastic wacky poem, Robin. I’ve signed up to Visual Verse, as visual prompts are fun, even though the tight turn-around is scary, and probably beyond my abilities.

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thank you Claire! Actually the tight turnaround was a one-off I think. Usually you have (I think) the whole month, or at least a few weeks in which to submit. It certainly attracts some interesting responses! Rx

  3. Diana Brighouse Diana Brighouse

    Sorry to hear about York. I can imagine the logistics must be pretty nightmarish.
    Have you considered the Poetry School? I have done many of their online courses and keep asking them to offer their MA online (as I’m clinically vulnerable & unable to use public transport). Their real life MA in Poetry has a good reputation and is based in East London (I think). Just a thought.

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Hello Diana and thank you. Actually I think the Poetry School is focused on creative writing which isn’t really what I’m after. I was wanting to know about the poetry that came before modernism, a literature/critical reading course that purely taught poetry. When I looked into it in 2020 I found only York and Belfast offered such a thing. But at least I did one year, so I’ve been introduced to the work of many, many poets I’d never read before, tons of suggestions regarding critical approaches and a much-expanded knowledge of the poetry canon. So I think now it’s down to me to do the reading! All the best, Robin x

  4. Such a shame about York, but I can see why you pulled out. Congratulations on your piece in Visual Verse. I also entered. Not one of the winners, but might get still my piece published if I’m lucky! I’ve had poems and flash published there before.

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Hi Heather, and thank you. I think VV were going to put up the shortlist? Although it doesn’t seem to be up yet. A bit of fluke for my poem I think. Goes to show you just never know what people are going to like or dislike, ho hum… I hope all is well with you Rx

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Robin Houghton 2021