round? Well yes it does I suppose. Food, heat, light,time to write. All the essentials. I send out a lot of invoices for writing work, and it still gives me a bit of a thrill (people pay me to write ). Today I sent out a slightly different one – to my local bookseller, The Ironbridge Bookshop. They stocked my poetry zine last year and have just sold the last one. Now I’m not going to be retiring to the Bahamas (after commission and the graphic designer’s fee I could just about get a day out in Brum) but this does feel special. There’s something about the fact that someone has walked into a shop, seen my work and liked it enough exchange some of their hard earned cash in order to take it home. It feels like validation I suppose – as though there is a market for my words, and that it genuinely connects with people.
I’ve spent my earnings on two more courses. One is with Spelt magazine all about how to submit to magazines, which I’m obviously doing but I feel I could perhaps do better, with a bit of practical help. The other is a workshop which sounds right up my street both in terms of method and subject. I’m not great in a classroom situation (thank you repressive girls’ school) and struggle to contribute but this workshop seems like it might be just the right balance of contribution and contemplation. My experience on my York CLL course has really shown me how much I learn from a workshop style, and how it builds on everything I’ve read about poetry in the last couple of years.
Things feel good at the moment. I mean obviously everything is terrible, but this tiny poetry aspect of my life feels like a refuge, rather than yet another point of worry. And refuge is, after all, one of the reasons I write.
You can buy Yes to Tigers from Ironbridge Bookshop, or direct from me – just email email@example.com x
I mean – how is that possible? This month has meandered away under a cover of cloud.
The end of summer usually makes me sad – warm weather means less pain for one thing. I miss eating outside, watching the swifts and martins overhead and the general floatiness that comes from spending every day in long skirts and flip-flops. Autumn is beautiful, of course, and winter is pleasingly austere but summer ? Summer is for smiling and pretending I live somewhere altogether less stoical.
I feel different this year. Perhaps it’s because much of summer has been taken up with house renovation, perhaps it’s the insistent gloom of the skies over Coalbrookdale. Perhaps it was that glorious week on the Welsh coast. I don’t feel as bereft and wary of winter as usual.
It could also be because I feel I’ve regained some equilibrium. I’m writing more mindfully, rather than scribbling from a turbulent mind, which inevitably means work that is more poem than outpouring – ultimately, work that is better.
I’ve also been more proactive with submissions – looking at my Trello page and seeing I’ve only three pieces in circulation was a bit of a shock . I spent some time reviewing, redrafting and refining some of the poems I’ve made this year as well as seeking homes for them. Always nerve racking. Always exciting. Always full of “why can’t I just be happy with gardening instead of putting myself through this”.
Good news too – I’ve had a piece of flash accepted for publication by Sledgehammer Lit. who are fast feeling like my poetry-spirit home. I love what they publish and I love that they seem to like my stuff. This piece is one that I love and that I’ve found hard to home – so I’m thrilled it’s going to be part a journal I admire. A couple of poems were declined – but that’s how it goes.
New projects are brewing too – a couple of gentle collaborations with friends whose art I adore may be coming to fruition in the not too distant future.
I seem to have a new direction in terms of how I want to write. My aim is to set aside a week – autumn I hope – and do my own mini writing retreat. I’ll have to stay at home obviously, but I’m going to try to minimise other work and manage domestic duties so I can focus on reading,writing and exploring new directions. Or I might go and make furniture in the Scottish Highlands like Cate le Bon.
So summer is closing, with a whimper or a bang remains to be seen, but I feel positive about my work, and positive about where I’m going – slowly, as ever, but I’m moving. And that’s what counts.
If you’d like to comission a poem, for yourself or as a gift then you can ! I love to create bespoke poetry – it’s a privilege to be asked to express people’s love and care for each other. If you’d like to find out more just click on Poems from the Hare at the top of the page, or send me a message firstname.lastname@example.org
For the first time in months I’ve woken with a poem in my head. It’s not terribly good,but it’s there, and now it’s tapped out into my noteapp waiting to be read.
This year has been strange. Much of it has been taken with trying to save an old garden opposite our houses – it’s a bit wild, and has been consciously neglected by the current owners to facilitate their somewhat ironic plans to build an eco house. The upside of this neglect created a home for such an array of birds and wildlife – it’s sad that it will be torn up under the cloak of sustainability.
Trying to save this garden has taken lots of time, lots of writing, lots of emotion and lots of the energy I usually use to write creatively. The decision has been made and the developers got their way. I am happy we tried our best to save it, happy we were on the side of good, and above all happy that my happiness does not depend on something that causes so much distress to the land and our village community.
So there’s been that. There’s also been the curious challenges associated with everything reopening. I’m thrilled to be able to see people, thrilled to go out but also really don’t want to get back on the merry-go-round of exhaustion and recovery. I seem to have forgotten how to modify and manage myself – interaction is so terrifying/exciting it sets all my alert sensors off and inevitably I end up completely floored. I need to go back to monitoring my baseline and careful planning….
I’m also in an oddly buoyant patch of copy and content writing work – this means my brain can barely find the creativity to read, never mind write. Where 5.30am starts were once for poetry and journalling,they’re now for product descriptions and web content. Work is wonderful, and the money is essential but I’m very much out of bakance. I’ve missed the calm of the last year, an realise how much I crave either absolute routine or absolute spontaneity. At the moment I’m in a limbo mix of the two that I’m not enjoying.
The words do come back
There’s a hazel tree in the woods at the back of the house that I sit under and it’s become a place to just be, and to let my mind wander and recover a little. The words are slowly coming back, the thrill at reading good poetry is returning and I’m starting to feel like myself again, to feel like my mind is my home.
Publications in June
Precious few subs have meant precious few pieces published (odd that) I do have two new pieces out this month. I am – the story of a tiger girl is part of Streetcake magazine and another due to be published in the amazing Sledgehammer Lit. Issue two of Spelt is due to land soon too – it’s going to be incredible and I’m still a bit giddy to be a regular columnist for them.
I’m setting aside a day for writing. I have a commissioned piece to finish, and perhaps a new piece to start. I’ve discovered some exciting new places to submit to too, thanks to a Twitter thread from Elizabeth M. Castillo. I don’t think I’ve given myself a day like this in months. It’s quite wonderful.
This year has been one of my best. Ok, so that’s not entirely true – what I mean is, this year has been one of my best as a writer. I’ve been longlisted and shortlisted in several competitions, had various pieces published including one in actual print, which always feels super special, plus I’ve published an illustrated poetry zine. Compared to the gloom and despondency I felt about my work at the start of the year, I finish the year feeling positive – about writing at least- and I put it all down to poetry prompts.
Why do poetry prompts help ?
For me it works in two ways. Firstly, it’s the element of playfulness. A prompt kick starts my mind, starts the language and rhythm circling. It may not be a subject I like or would consider, but once I give the words time, often something good emerges. Often something terrible emerges too and that’s also cool. It’s all writing and it doesn’t all need to be seen.
I’ve learnt that I either write something super quick, like my shortlisted 100word poem/story for Lightbox Originals winter competition, or I need to spend several weeks thinking, tweaking, revising. I guess this is true for most writers. I think the greatest thing that working with poetry prompts has given me is a sense of fun and possibility. I love writing again in a way that seemed impossible at the beginning of the year.
Where do all these poetry prompts come from?
Ah now this is my secret weapon. If you follow my blog, you’ll know I’ve taken several “prompt a day” courses, created and run by Wendy Pratt. It’s a simple idea with immense results. I benefit from the discipline of daily prompts. I also benefit form being part of a very kind online writing group that’s associated with each course. I’m not a great group person, but I’ve felt welcome, safe, and confident enough to share my work and seek feedback.
The other aspect of this is that I’m reading countless poems each day, understanding what works, understanding how a quirk of word or comma can completely change the feel of a poem. I’m also learning what a huge range of responses a small group of people will have to a prompt. There’s no sense of “getting it wrong”. A lot of this has to be down to the attitude held by Wendy herself – even the simple fact that she allows some of us to pay a little less for the courses (and gives excellent way of self-assessment) shows an understanding that this sort of thing really is a luxury and helped me feel there was a place for me here. It’s a good feeling.
As the year draws to a close, I feel aware of myself as a writer. My work has grown tremendously over the last twelve months; I see a stark difference between what I’m writing now and the work in Yes to Tigers for example. I seem to have a bit more confidence, and I’m definitely having a lot more fun.
I’ve given my site a bit of refresh – I’ve a dedicated page for my published work, as well as an updated “Why this all began” page. News on my pamphlet submission will be coming in the next few months (and I am hating waiting – this is one of the biggest things I’ve done so far) plus I’ve the usual round of competition and journal entries.
By far the best news is that my recent ill spell seems to have passed and I’m relishing having two or three days a week where I feel able to write and work and feel very slightly free.
Wash your hands, stay safe, eat a mince pie, and read your favourite books. Maybe try a poetry prompt too.
To a commission a poem, piece of short fiction or buy a copy of Yes to Tigers email email@example.com
If you happened to see my super-awkward “unboxing” (it’s a thing you have to do these days) video last week you’ll know my zine Yes to Tigers is available now available to buy. I’m thrilled to have reached this point with my writing, and thrilled to have something to share with everyone who’s supported me over the last few years. Thank you!
What is Yes to Tigers?
Yes to Tigers is a 24 page illustrated poetry zine. It’s my first foray into indie publishing and crowdfunding and is the fruit of my time spent as poet in residence for a group of artists in the Severn Gorge. The poems are inspired by both the artwork, and the people themselves. The zine includes photographs taken during my visits, it’s a cool thing, and I think you’ll enjoy reading it.
Why Yes to Tigers?
When I started getting in touch with the artists and makers to arrange studio visits, I followed various social media pages, to get a feel for their work. I was nervous about stepping into this world- that old feeling of being inadequate – and rarely interacted beyond a like. As I got to know people I realised this was daft, and grew a bit bolder.
Browsing Instagram one evening I spotted one of the artists, Caris Jackson, canvassing opinion on the finish for one of her pieces, Fairground Baby (which is fab) should there be tigers ? The only sensible answer is Yes to tigers! Tigers were included, the final piece looks amazing and I was astounded my boldness. That boldness kept me going when things got a little tricky with the project, kept me working on the poems when I had no idea how/I’d publish and gave me courage to send the finished work out to people to see what they thought.
Why indie publishing?
Essentially it’s about time. When drawing up plans for my role as poet in residence my aim was to have the zine published in a year, and I wanted to stick to this. Art is a fluid thing, and this represents where the artists are at a certain point. The process of submitting manuscripts to publishers is long and didn’t feel right for this project. You can find out more about the thought process behind indie publishing and crowdfunding on my blog post Why this all began
How can I buy a copy of this wonderful zine?
You can buy direct from me! Just get in touch via my contact form or email firstname.lastname@example.org. This is also the best way to get in touch if you’re interested my bespoke poetry packages.
As ever, I’m terribly coy about this,and nerves make me a bit dismissive of it as a piece of work. It does look good though (thanks to Amanda Hillier Printing) and I hope you’ll enjoy reading the work. I’m spending the last part of the year organising more magazine submissions, and drawing together another collection of work to submit to publishing houses.
Thanks as ever, stay safe, wash your hands, read more books xx
Oh the gloom has lifted (just in time for Lockdown #2 hoorah) as it generally does these days. I have enjoyed some sunny days, I’ve a good clutch of copywriting work which has made things a little less worrisome and I’ve had my first order for Poems from the Hare.
Poems from the Hare ? What’s that?
Put simply, I’m selling poems. Put less simply I’m creating bespoke work for people, based on what they tell me they want me to write about. After I’ve created the poem, I write them out, add some beautiful decoration and post them off, with the goal of bringing joy and love and happiness.I guess you might call it a business – although it’s easy to shy away from that term, and I know I‘ve felt uneasy about the whole idea of offering this service, as though I’m somehow devaluing the art. Then I realised that every other artist and maker I know sells their work, and I’m always eager to support them – so why do I feel different about this?
I think it’s something to do with the way poetry is regarded. It’s either seen as a puzzle, something for the hyper intelligent, the well-to-do, or it’s somehow awful – think forced rhymes and saccharine greetings cards (although these do have their place especially for my Aunty). Poetry isn’t seen in the same way as painting or pottery, as something to just buy and enjoy because you like it. The myths and fuss mean there’s this mystery and worry about “understanding it” and finding the hidden meaning. I’ve had countless friends tell me they like a short story, but don’t “do” poetry. It’s almost not enough to just enjoy the way the words feel in your mouth as you say them, or the fact that it made you cry or smile or think of someone you love. It feels as saleable poetry is either so obscure that the highbrow fawn over it, or so marketable that it’s consumed like a handful of foam shrimps, leaving a slightly synthetic taste and a feeling of utter despair. */**
In short, I needed to get over myself. I love writing poetry, I love people reading it and I love,love, love it when the words I write move, delight and last in their minds.
To expand a little – I enjoy their place in mythology, I enjoy their place as a symbol for the persecuted, the unfairly hunted, the marginalised. I also love their gawkiness, their not-quite-beautiful look. Hares are not blessed with the cuteness of rabbits (which I also adore), they demand attention, then belt away across a field without a second glance. I’m also kind of affectionate towards them because my poem My death will greive foxesis one of the first peces I felt really proud of. It makes me happy still.
The first commission
My first commission came a couple of days ago, and after my initial and utter delight, I experienced the usual rush of “oh my goodness I can’t do this” and that feeling that I’m going to be found out as not a real poet ( I read a comment once “there are poets and Poets “ It’s haunted me a little ever since – what if I’m not the one in italics. Do want to be? How would I know? Will you know? ) and then I remembered that I really, really want to do this.
It’s a scary thing. A gift of words. I started by emulating the work I’ve seen on Etsy – very appealing, clear, classic rhyme. Straightforward solid poems. It felt like wearing a pair of beige court shoes. So I thought again, and decided to write in the way would normally write, to write with something to say, rather than something to sell. I sent a tentative draft, full of caveats and apologies and you know what ? I’d got it right! My hunch about what might be needed paid off. I’ve another draft or two ( they have to sit a little) but I like what I’ve written and feel confident that it will do the things I talked about above. It’s made me happy.
So I have added another string to my bow as it were. I will still need to spend days writing about bifold doors and oven cleaning, but if i can slot in a few beautiful bespoke poems along the way I’ll be delighted.
** this isn’t true – there are many wonderful small presses and journals designed to explode this myth. You’ll find them in your local indie bookshop or online. Nine Arches Press is a a good place to start, as well as Mslexia, Riggwelter Press and Paper Swans