Money makes the world go….

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 kathrynannawrites@gmail.com x

How is it the end of August?!

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”.

Camping at Caerfai seems like years ago

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 kathrynannawrites@gmail.com

Yes to tigers!

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.

Fairground Baby – by Caris Jackson

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 kathrynannawrites@gmail.com. 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

Do you remember…

a post I wrote last year, talking about the restrictions I experience as a result of M.E.? Well I’m cured! Ha. Not really, it’s all still the same, tricky getting about, needing two, three times as long to do simple stuff like prepare a meal. All here, doing it’s stuff.

Despite this, I have some news that baffles and delights me. I’m publishing a collection of poetry. It’s based on my time as poet in residence for Secret Severn and is an achievement in many ways. Not only have I got twelve poems that I think people will enjoy, I’ve put aside my disappointment at having my funding withdrawn and pushed ahead.

Why keep going?

I believe in this project. The overriding feeling is joy and respect, a desire to celebrate the relationship between art and words. I gain so much sense of place from enjoying the work created by these talented artists and makers, it didn’t seem right to waste the time and effort we spent putting in the groundwork with visits and follow-ups.

Why crowdfund?

The usual path of approaching indie presses didn’t seem right for this project. Firstly, it’s a fairly local scene and subject – that doesn’t mean it’s all just poems about the iron bridge* but it does mean it’s something that may not have the mass appeal the average indie press needs to guarantee sales. Secondly comes the issue of time – it’s been a year since my first visits and meetings – this feels like the right time to publish.

Crowdfunding is nerve wracking. The whole thing of asking for money feels weird, and a bit rude. This is why I created a reward system – essentially people are buying a copy of the poetry zine. I’ve put together some reward bundles too, so it doesn’t feel quite so much like asking for handouts. It’s worth exploring why this whole thing feels so awkward though – perhaps a subject for another post.

How’s it going?

Really well. I’ve been amazed by the level of goodwill and positivity from people – it’s good to know there’s an interest and that there is a market for when I come to sell. It’ll be in Ironbridge Bookshop, and I’m hoping to place it in local cafes, bookshops further afield as well as selling direct. It’s more than the funding – it’s about having people believe in what I’m doing.

When will it be published?

Assuming I meet our funding target, it should be published in October – just in time for Christmas!

*there are no poems about the iron bridge – sorry bridge fans xx

You can buy a copy of Yes to Tigers by emailing kathrynannawrites@gmail.com and popping in to Ironbridge Bookshop just as soon as pandemic restrictions have waned.

Thanks as ever for reading, and for your ongoing support

Kathryn

xx

Telling stories

Ah I’m sad this course has finished. It’s been a challenge in some ways but I’m glad I stuck with it. I feel like I’m writing with honesty and clarity, as opposed to trying to shoehorn myself into a style that doesn’t fit.

It’s an odd thing this poetry business. Social media means I have the privilege of access to the thoughts and musings of writers whom I admire, and for the most part this is a grounding experience – everybody’s human and hearing other people’s uncertainties and frustrations holds an odd sort of comfort. Constant access to people’s thoughts can also be a sapper of confidence. Human nature is to shout of our success and skulk about our failings, and some days my twitter feed seems jam-packed with people who’ve gathered another prize or successful submission. It’s a rare (and lovely) person who is brave enough to say they missed out and feel that weird sort of happy sad -happy to have tried, sad to have failed.

Having said that, I’m finding the rejections less wounding – I actually start looking for other poem homes the minute I’ve sent mine out, in preparation for the “Thank you for your work but it’s just not right for us” email. . I don’t know why feel less worried by them – maybe I’m growing more critical of my work, more objective? Maybe a tiny success was all the validation I needed.

Mostly though, my experience on these courses has meant I’m genuinely enjoying writing. Not all bits – the time spent agonising about a particular word or whether I need a comma can be infuriating, but the little moment when I sit back and think “I think I’ve got something here” are magic. This invariably fades when I come back to stuff a week later, but hey, I have to grab these little victories.

What’s next and what happened with Secret Severn Artists?

I’m taking a break from my courses next month – my regular copywriting work has been put on hold (thank you Brexit, thank you Covid) so I’m focusing my time and money on building up my client base whilst scurrying around for online agency work.  A break also gives me a chance to really review the work I’ve done over these courses – it may even be time to begin putting together a pamphlet/chapbook which I have no idea how to do but I’m sure I can find out.

Finally (this seems like a long post) I’ve completed my work for Secret Severn – you may remember the project had to be curtailed due carefully managed purse strings – nonetheless I wanted to complete the poems for the artists I’d been able to visit. It’s a mixed collection, some that definitely falls into the ekphrastic category, some that is a pure flight of fancy and a found poem that I absolutely adore. I plucked up the courage to send them to the artists, and I was thrilled with their response. It was a real privilege to work with such talented people.  It’s a shame the funding was cut for the remaining visits so there aren’t as many different artists as I’d have liked but I’m looking at what to do with the work – I still have an eye on getting a lovely handmade book together that includes some of the images and inspirations alongside the words.

A busy month ahead – I’m still in my own lockdown but I know the pulls on my time will begin to show soon. I intend to make the most of this next month, and hopefully embark on another of Wendy Pratt’s wonderful courses in late summer.

Thank you for reading, please like comment and share, and if you’d like to read more about the Secret Severn Artists (and maybe buy some of their amazing work) you’ll find them here.

Pots and porcelain paper clay – Mike and Suki White

My last visit before the trail was to Mike and Suki White. They’re multi-talented, working with print, clay, and porcelain as well as being part of Wrekin Writers group. Their studio is tucked behind the Belfrey Theatre in Wellington, and it’s shared with several other ceramicists on the art trail.

On the day I visited, Mike was throwing pots, and Suki was working with porcelain paper clay. Mike explained the type of clay he was using, and about “grog”, ground up fired clay that’s used to give extra strength to pots.

As all good artists do, he made throwing the pots look effortless. Having taken up the invitation to have a go, I can confirm it’s not effortless. My attempts were hilarious, but I can see there’s something addictive about the feeling of creating something that manages to be useful and beautiful from a simple piece of clay.

There’s no fancy equipment, the finished shape and look of each piece depends entirely on the skill of the potter, and I think there’s something pleasing about this. Rather than something uniform and a little soulless, each piece that comes off the wheel has the imprint of the maker and is inherently unique.

One of Mike’s finished pieces

Suki’s work porcelain paper clay enchanted me. Porcelain is white, delicate and fragile – Suki takes all of these qualities and creates pieces that have movement, and a sense of rebellion. They’re alive with texture, and the oxides she uses mean they have depth and tone. She prefers to leave her pieces unglazed, and the matt finish increases the sense of fragility.

I loved this piece
One of Suki’s finished pieces

We chatted about the Japanese practice of Kintsugi, the art of seeing beauty in imperfection. Suki showed me some pieces she’s applied this to, where cracks from the kiln have been repaired with gold, creating a piece with a unique beauty.

Suki’s Kintsugi

I’ve a good collection of material from this visit. I made good notes about the sounds and physical sensations of throwing a pot, as well as spending time looking at the contrasting beauty of the porcelain paper clay.

Over the next week I’ll be going to several workshops as well as spending time in the galleries. This is the next phase of my inspiration gathering and research, where I’m going to capture the responses of viewers to the art they’re seeing. I’m looking forward to this phase, and to seeing the exhibition as a whole.

You can see Suki and Mike’s work at Footprint gallery as part of the Secret Severn art trail, and find out more about their work on their Facebook pages https://p.facebook.com/sukitelford/ and https://www.facebook.com/MikeWhitePots

For details about the Footprint gallery, and the rest of the trail which includes workshops and open studios visit https://secretsevern.co.uk/

Thank you for your kind support and encouragement during this project. It’s great to get such positive feedback. I’m looking forward to the next week, but I’m especially looking forward to being able to hide away with my notes and write.

Please share, comment on the Facebook post, and give me all the likes you can. Thank you x

Kathryn xEDIT

Shropshire hills, and swans in Prague – a visit with Maggie Humphry

I’ve admired Maggie’s paintings for several years, so I was really excited about the chance to spend some tine with her. Maggie’s studio is unassuming and bursting with beautiful work. She showed me her huge range of styles, moving from vivid, almost abstract pieces to delicately detailed country scenes and charming festive illustrations.

Two of my favourite pieces are in this downstairs gallery; a piece based on her experience of a choral rendition of A.E. Housman’s Blue Remembered Hills, and Shadows of Moon a swirling image of the hills. Both of these pictures make me feel as though I’m travelling through the landscape, and give a sense of there being a world waiting to be discovered beyond the frame.

Shadows of the Moon

Maggie explained that her career began as a ceramicist and she has produced many ceramic murals all over the country, including the fabulous blue dragon that welcomes visitors to the Dragon Theatre in Barmouth. Working with clay takes it’s toll however, and Maggie now works with oils, as well as creating detailed line drawings and illustrations.

One of Maggie’s many ceramic murals

I also spent a little time in Maggie’s beautiful garden, which is a paradise for bees and nature as well as humans. She explained that she loves to be here in the early hours – that secret time of day before people are up and about.

Next, it’s up the stairs to Maggie’s work room, past a mural of geraniums that covers a patch of less than perfect plaster. There’s a sense of energetic chaos in the room, enhanced by a soundtrack of Mahler, which Maggie described as mirroring her work with its combination of movement and precision. Maggie showed me some of her most recent pieces, based on a friend’s memory of seeing swans in Prague. I really fell for these, and Maggie was kind enough to let me spend some time just sitting with the paintings.

Newly completed Swans in Prague.

There’s a mystical, magical quality to Maggie’s work and it’s this that I find captivating. As we talked about various pieces, she explained how they evolve and develop, and create their own dialogue. This chimed with me as a writer – creating a poem or story is very much about allowing the words to emerge, and allowing the poem to breathe itself into life. There is an idea and an inspiration, but there also has to be a sense of trusting the work itself.

You’ll be able to see Maggie’s work as part of Secret Severn Art Trail in the Footprint gallery at Fusion, where she will also be Artist in Residence, no doubt wearing a marvellous hat. To find out more about her work, visit http://www.maggie-humphry.co.uk/

Kathryn Anna Marshall is poet in residence for Secret Severn art trail. Find out more at https://kathrynannasite.wordpress.com/secret-severn-art-trail-poet-in-residence/ or on https://www.facebook.com/KathrynAnnaWrites/

Visit https://secretsevern.co.uk/ for a map of the trail, as well as details of open studios and workshops.

Hedgehogs of the sea

Do you know how sea urchins got their name? No? Well here goes. Hedgehogs used to be called urchins, sea urchins are spiny (like hedgehogs) and live in the sea (unlike hedgehogs), so the logical name is, of course sea urchins. Why am I telling you this? Because it’s a cheery fact, and it was part of my research for my fifth Secret Severn visit, to Emma Brownlow, a ceramicist based in St Georges.

Emma explained her skill as a ceramicist is about actualizing the image she has of the end sculpture. Part of the joy for her is puzzling out how to make this visualisation into reality, and her work shows an incredible range. She showed me her Shrewsbury pot, a homage to her home town, resplendent with images of the duck race, timbered buildings and the much maligned market clock tower. It’s a three dimensional collection of memories that brings the town to life.

Emma showed me the first piece from her newest project, a series of elemental pots exploring the power and complexity of the earth.

Emma’s makers mark is on every piece she produces
A finished sea urchin

I’ve been a bit in love with Emma’s sea urchin sculptures since I first saw she them, and I loved having chance to see one being made. They start life as a lump of clay, which is shaped into an urchin-like sphere. They’re then marked out with what I grandly called dowel (Emma later told me it was a kebab stick – ceramicists are experts at finding just the right tool for the job). Spaces for spines are marked out, and texture is added with slip. The whole process is deceptively quick.

After their first firing, the urchins are ready to be glazed. Emma uses a combination of colours and takes care to show a hint of the natural bisque, so there’s an echo of shell shining through.

We talked about the ancient nature of pottery, and I was taken by the inherently environmentally responsible nature of the process. Emma showed me how any old clay is reused. It’s smashed up, rehydrated in an old pillow case, and then wedged, an exhausting type of kneading, so it can be used again.

Wedging the clay

This was another different visit for me, and it was great to see each aspect of the process, and see the preparation too. The thing that shone out was the amount of love that goes into Emma’s work. She spoke of wanting to honour the sea urchin, and this really comes through, and sits well with the sense of this being an ancient craft.

I came away with a strong sense of what I want my finished poem to look like – it’s going to take a little while to emerge I think, but it’s been yet another level of inspiration for my work.

As ever, please, please help me get the most from social media. Please like the posts on my pages, add a comment, and share them. It helps more people see what I’m doing, and helps boost support for my work. Thank you all so much!

You can find out more about Emma’s work here  https://www.facebook.com/Emma-Brownlow-Ceramics-714814132207188/ and see her beautiful sculptures at the Footprint Gallery in Jackfield as part of the Secret Severn Art Trail which runs from 20th to 29th September.