Thursday, 6 December 2018

December 2018: Is Poetry a Winter Sport?

Poets avoiding summer...

It could be said autumn and winter are the poetry seasons. Do I even have to mention Keats and autumn? There's something about the crispness of the air and the clichéd and adjective-ridden fiery, glowing, crimson, burnished, twisted, bewitching, fading leaves that also contributes to this poetic mood. I know this for a fact not only because of several ill-starred Romantic poets, but also from opinions on social media. Therefore it’s obviously a gospel truth.

Which could be one of the reasons I’m blogging again, either that or I’m trying to avoid a stack of marking. December is here and for many poets and readers that means thinking about their favourite books of the year. What year you may ask? I haven't blogged since January. If only some of the politicians of the world had kept a low profile...

This summer in England was one of the hottest I could remember. During the summer months I find my brain doesn’t engage with writing poetry very well. I tend to write critical pieces and reviews, but not so many creative pieces. Also summer is  holiday time so we’re busy travelling and outdoors a lot. There were a few interesting things poetry wise. I had a poem in the In Transit: Poems of Travel anthology published by The Emma Press and edited by Sarah Jackson and Tim Youngs. In July I read a poem of mine at the Magma launch in London and happened to get swept up in the Anti-Trump demonstrations, so it was an eventful day all round.  Here is a link to my Magma poem

My new poetry 'thing' is form, either my own designs or strangely the more conventional approaches to form. I am having a go at the sonnet form today, in particular the Petrarchan variety. I think I need the sense of 'playing' again with form and line. 
This is odd because normally I can't be doing with full rhyme (see what I did there). It might not get anywhere, who cares. It's been interesting having a go. There are some poems building up and, rather like the average cat, they're standing at the open door not sure whether to go out in the world or stay inside.

Also I got a bit overwhelmed by the constant influx of social media into my daily life. Someone once rightly said the effect of too much social media is like being trapped in a cement mixer. I've not been as active for sanity. 

I'll end with a few wintry lines from Fiona Moore's poem 'Overwinter' from her collection The Distal Point published by HappenStance Press.  I love how she manages to darn well capture that odd time of year, now coming up, when dark eats up the day. It could be grim but her tone is optimistic. It's hopeful:

Nothing will happen for a while, nothing - 

and I need such certainty: to become
embedded deep within this season
when dark overplaits the day's pale strand.
Change may come while nothing seems to change.
I know it will take a long time.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

January 2018 - Time Flies/Time Flown

My retro clock...tonight we're gonna party like it's 1981

Maybe I'm writing this post because it's January and I should, but one thing's for certain - I'm not going to yammer on about resolutions. It's January the 17th and we're all beyond that now. However, I did see a post by Josephine Corcoran where she mentioned something about trying to keep up to date with blogging at least once a week. It's a lovely idea, but not sure I can keep up. I can't even keep up with ruddy Twitter - and that's only 140 characters. Even Donnie Trump manages that (sadly). This time last year I put up a vigorous post about sending out regularly and such like...but didn't really send out very much. Because guess what - you can't force it if you know you're not ready. I sent out the grand total of five or six times last year. At one point a few years ago I was sending out six before breakfast or something.

Instead, let me talk about what I'm learning at the moment as opposed to what I'm achieving. I'm teaching Creative Writing at DMU and now for a term at Warwick University. Teaching also means learning. I have been busy making lots of new resources and reading work by poets I'm less familiar with, as well as re-reading old favourites. My word, I ended up falling in love with 'Avenue A' and 'Now That I am in Madrid' and I Can Think' by Frank O'Hara last Sunday. I digress. Part of the job involved sitting in on  one of David Morley's seminars in December to meet the new students. I LOVED it. I felt like I wanted to read and write and read and write and then remembered I was meant to be the teacher. Not a bad thing though. Everyone has their words of wisdom of course, but here's another newsflash - as a poet I don't think you should take yourself seriously, but be overtaken by writing.There is nothing like getting caught up in the jolly artwork stage of writing a poem. I come across lots of learners with enthusiasm and this fires me as well.  This is a good thing as there have been times last year when poetry and I were not the honeymooners we used to be. Now we're holding hands again. Relief.

Wednesday is my free day and it's reading and writing day - hurrah! I work part-time but once you factor the little things like life, family, colds, lack of sleep, Lego, exercise classes (I can do a mean plank I'll have you know) and so on it doesn't leave much time for concentrated writing time. Wednesdays are a good start.

Nine Arches Press and I have a long history of working and publishing together. One enchanted evening eight years ago this very month, I met them for the first time. I am really proud of Jane Commane's achievements with the press and was really happy when Jacqueline Saphra's Nine Arches collection 'All My Mad Mothers was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot prize. When you have seen someone work their ruddy socks off over eight years, publishing, editing, organising readings, giving up hours and hours of their time and one of NAP's poets does really well you can't help but smile. Good for them.

Image result for all my mad mothers jacqueline saphra