Wintering and waking -gentle steps into poetry for 2022

The first blog of 2022. A slow start for me –I’ve noticed I tend to hibernate from around the beginning of December. Logical me says it’s because my M.E. addled brain can only cope with so much and the machinations of Christmas preparation and production are quite enough. I do continue to journal, and I do write the odd scrap, but very little else. Less logical me imagines that I’m secretly part tortoise and really should be tucked away in a hay-filled cardboard box like Freda from Blue Peter.

The first couple of years this “wintering” happened, I felt an odd combination of worry and guilt – almost as though poetry was a needy puppy that requires constant attention to function well. I think poetry is more cat like in nature. It simply exists and will manage well alone – but will blossom into something quite wonderful when proper care and nurture is given. I have learned to wait for it to unfurl and whisper words in the early hours, draw me back to work. It’s a delicious feeling and something that signals the start of my writing year.

My trusty planner and two grand new notebooks for this year

With that in mind, I always try to have a couple of courses booked for the opening months of the year as way in to writing again and to give me the structure I need. My first one began this week my bursary place on Recharge Your Writing from the wonderful Nine Arches Press. I love Nine Arches approach to poetry. They were the first indie publisher I encountered and their fresh, no-nonsense approach was a revelation. They offer a catalogue of publications that swoop through so many subjects and styles, underpinned by an authenticity and quiet fury. I’ve also enjoyed using two of their books “How to be a Poet” and “The Craft” guides for self-study, so I was really looking forward to this course.

I wasn’t disappointed. Led by the inimitable Caleb Parkin, our group of sixteen poets spent two hours exploring all the ways to play with language and poetry. I discovered a host of online resources including word generators, title-o-matic and a fab site that takes you anywhere in the world at random. We wrote together and individually, plus we made use of breakout groups which meant I was actually able to speak – talking to one person is a lot less scary than talking to 16. I’ve come away with a sense of play, a sense of joy about writing, a whole heap of inspiration and a new poem that I think may develop into something good.

What I’m reading

Every year  I want to read more. It’s something that I need to do to improve my skills, and also to calm and balance my mind. Brain fog makes it hard. Scrolling makes it harder – especially with all these cheese and wine parties to unravel. From next week I intend to create a reading half hour at the start of each day. It’s something I did on and off last year, often with a little journal and reflection on what I read. I wrote more, and better and I noticed a sense of grounding. I thrive on routines, small things that I do each day that make me feel I have a framework and structure – safety points in the chaos of my brain I think.

I’ve started the year with non-fiction. Scoff is a fabulous book that deals with two of my favourite things – food and social history. I’m tumbling ideas for a new set of poetry that I think will consider food and its role in mental wellbeing, so this book is a solid background.

I also took advantage of Nine Arches sale and bought two new books – Be Feared by poet and artist Jane Burn, and What Girls Do in the Dark by Rosie Garland. I’ve had my eye on both of these for a while, and I’m excited to dive in.

My hopes for 2022

My biggest goal for this year is to get my pamphlet published.  I feel like I can’t move on until this one is out. I’ve spent time crafting and redrafting and have absolute confidence in the poetry – the challenge is finding a publisher who feels the same. I only realised at the end of last year that most publishers are happy for simultaneous submission of longer work, which, when I consider the average turnaround time is several months makes absolute sense. Fingers crossed I’ll have news soon.

As well as brewing a new set of poems, I’ve also been given the opportunity to run my first workshops. Of course, my immediate thought was “I can’t do that” but then I realise I spent ten years designing and delivering training for people on subjects far less beguiling than poetry, and for classes where a good percentage had no interest in being there. I’m very excited and hope to have more news about this soon.

So that’s it. The first blog of 2022.More positive, despite everything, and with a strong sense of looking forward, becoming better and relishing the fact that I have this wonderful thing to enjoy as part of my life.

Thank you, as ever, for reading,

Kathryn xx

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