I’m writing again

And it feels wonderful. I’m part of a group delving into folklore and witchery as part of The Corn Dolly Speaks it’s a course which sparks my imagination and sends me off on merry research missions that spark it even more. I’m reading some amazing poetry, working with amazing people and feel excited by writing for the first time in a while.

I’ve been looking forward to this so much. I’d set my mind that I wanted to refocus on my work this autumn and this first week has proved positive. I have a schedule for going through my notebooks, planned time to explore submissions and I’m saving hard to afford some mentoring for what may be a new pamphlet next year. This feels like new year for me.

And perhaps it is. Working on Dust has taken more from me than perhaps I realised. Not so much the writing, but the fund raising, self promotion (thank you so much to everyone who’s joined my FB and Instagram campaigns) which never sits well has taken quite a lot from this old introverted psyche.

On the other hand working on this project has given me a huge amount. The sense of “I’ve done this” is hard to ignore. Realizing that I can collaborate with others to come up with something that really does what we hoped it would is fantastic. Reading the words of people who’ve got in touch to say that the work has moved them and even helped them with their own experience of grief, or the people who’ve just got in touch to say “well done”has had a huge impact on how I feel about putting my work (and by default my self) out into the world.

I’m reading a lot about Anglo Saxon tradition and understanding of the wheel of the year, how summer finishes so quickly, with winter coming in fast behind. There is something grounding about realising that our response to the seasons has barely changed and reading Eleanor Parker’s stunning book is a real joy. I’ve started reading a section each morning and the things I learn before even my first cup of tea are wonderful.

I usually dread this period just before Christmas – it’s been a grim countdown to the worst anniversaries for several years. I feel different this year. More understanding. More accepting. Peaceful, despite the absolute chaos going on in the outside world. I’m writing again and somehow that makes things feel alright. Bearable. Hopeful, even.

The story of Dust – part three

I can’t believe this project has been running for less than three weeks. The support from everyone is wonderful on so many levels. Targets have been exceeded, messages have bolstered fragile esteem and love has strengthened my resolve to keep going, even in the tough early stages.

I’ve learned to be bold, to ask even when it feels far too cheeky. I’ve learned how many people expereince challenges with their own mental health, how fearful so many of us are that we may reach the tipping point. I’ve leaned how many people have lost someone. I’ve learned that despite all of this there is always hope. There has to be.

Progress is happening in other areas too. I’ve had a beautiful selection of cover ideas from Saffron Russell.

When Saffron sent the proofs, her words “see which ones call to you” let me know my work was in safe hands. It’s a joy to work with someone who really seems to care about my words and want to bring them to life.

Of the six ideas, this is the one that called loudest. To me it speaks of separation, but not total absence. This mirrors my experience of grief, and mirrors the way I still feel that drift towards disbelief, and still feel a connection.

It’s a gentle cover too. This is a harsh subject, but whilst grief is hard and horrible it is born from love. Reading back through these poems, that almost seem as though they were written by someone else, that love is what comes through.

It’s an odd feeling if I’m honest, being happy to have made this book. Because, of course, I’d rather not have had to write these poems. I’d rather he was living a deeply ordinary life around the corner, or a deeply extraordinary life in herding yaks in Outer Mongolia. Or something in between. But none of these things are true, or ever will be and so I have written, and try to make something good from something terrible. I hope.

Thankyou, as ever.

To find out more about Poetry for Calm, and to pre-order Dust as well as exclusive gifts by Saffron Russell head to my Crowdfunder Page

Read poems – save lives. Project update.

I’m almost a week in to my crowdfunding project and things are going well. Funding is coming in slowly and it seems like there will be enough interest in the book for it to go to press.

I’ll be honest, this is hard. It’s so much more than a book of poems I suppose. It’s a stage of grief – I won’t say final because I suspect it never ends. It’s part of my goodbye to my brother and part of my learning to live with the jumble of shame, sadness, anger and guilt that weaves through the very real fact that I don’t have a brother any more.

I have spent the last week wondering if I’m doing the right thing, if I should just do a sponsored run (!) whether that would get more money. It probably would. But this isn’t just about money. .

Until we start talking about suicide, about the impact on those left and the things that lead people to decide the world will be better without them then this will keep happening. The work I’ve written is honest, brutal and suffused with love. These are poems that will start conversations. Framing this work as a fundraiser places this work firmly in the poetry with purpose category. And I suppose this is another way of absolving the never ending “if onlys” that pepper my thoughts each day. It’s difficult to revisit all those feelings, but the support and care I’m getting is so helpful. Thank you.

Over the next few days I’ll be writing more about the charities, and about the look and feel of the book. In the meantime to find out how to support the project financially head over to my crowdfunding page.

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/poetry-for-calm—help-prevent-suicide

Publicity is king in this hideous world of algorithms, so even if you can’t donate, please interact with and comment on any posts you happen to see xx

A new term

On Monday I started a new course with York Centre for Life Long Learning. It’s called Crafting and Redrafting, and is created and facilitated by Wendy Pratt. I’m hoping the course will help me hone my editing skills – I’m at a point where I have dozens of drafts, some which are good to go, and many that need more work. I’ve also got a few that keep getting turned down, despite the fact that I think they’re ok – a sure fire indicator that a few tweaks are needed. The image of the beleaguered poet agonising over each comma is indeed accurate.

I’m excited about this course. It’s meeting my need for a bit of stretch when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the poetry business. I spend a lot of time on developing my creative practice but have been quite reserved about the mechanics of promotion. The fancy answer would be that I didn’t want to sully my art. The truth is twofold – I was a bit scared, and I didn’t have a strong body of work that I really believed in. I’m hoping the work I do over the next eleven weeks will help me understand how to fine tune my work – how to step back and look at it with an editor’s eye.

This week’s selection of poetry

There are good habits coming already from the course (and it’s only week one!) I’ve always known  don’t read enough poetry and one of the key directives from my first week was to read much more. Now, this lack of reading isn’t because I don’t want to or have any ridiculous notion that it will cloud my own voice.  Good reading is essential to good writing – it’s how we learn what works, how we learn what gives us goosebumps and what leaves us cold. If I know all that, why not just do it?

Lack of time, of course – plus reduced energy and M.E. brain swish in to take a chunk of each day. By the time I’ve completed whatever copywriting work I have (and I’m so glad to have it), and taken care of the general business of living, reading is almost impossible – my brain just won’t take anything in, and the physical act of making sense of the page is beyond me.

Clearly this has to change. My strategy is to adapt the way I spend my journal time. I’ve always written a journal of sorts and I try to do it early each morning. Now in that half hour I set aside, I’m reading three poems. I’m making really brief notes on them too, but that’s not the goal – the goal is simply to read. I’m choosing from different sources, choosing different styles, falling in love with some, not really liking others and being simply baffled by a few.

We’ve also been tasked to find our perfect writer’s notebook. Envelopes and shopping lists seem to be my tool of choice .

The desired outcome is undefined, and to this extent my liking or disliking doesn’t matter – what I’m hoping is that I will become even more immersed in language, even more immersed in how it plays and moves me. And I’m hoping this understanding will make me a better writer. Regardless of all this, I’m enjoying my reading, enjoying writing, and feeling a bit more like a proper writer than I did a few weeks ago.

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

Dust if you must

It’s around this time of year that this poem re-emerges, posted as a protest against the burden of cleaning and a celebration of all the marvellous things that are better than cleaning.

It irritates the bejeezers out of me.

Here’s why. The whole premise of the poem is that it’s somehow better not to waste time cleaning – and that those who do are missing out on the wonder and magic of life. The clamours of agreement that greet it whenver it’s posted on Facestagram make me feel ashamed. Because, I confess, I clean. Before I do anything. I clean. I sweep. I polish. I make everything neat.

This leads me to wonder why. It’s not that I’m not enthralled by the fabulousness of gardening or baking or standing at my door entranced by birdsong. I just can’t settle if things are dirty. My overriding feeling that is that it’s about upbringing – my family is council house stock, grandparents who were foundry/factory/mineworkers. Mother who had to leave school to work, father who furiously wouldn’t and scraped garden work to get through teacher training and “make something of himself”. Money was absent – but there were still ways to differentiate from those who were “really poor” . The main way this was done was through standards. These standards were unwritten but universally accepted – keep your front step clean, your nets white, no milk bottles on the table – a whole host of things that were understood as meaning you were looking after yourself, you worked hard, you met the vagaries of the protestant work ethic. You were a valid member of society.

These standards passed through the generations. I still shudder at a milk bottle on the table. I still hear my mother saying that her mother told her to always keep the taps shone in case of unexpected visitors (and I always do). I am doing everything right, yet if someone drops in and tells me my house is immaculate I feel ashamed, as if I am somehow letting the side down.

And that, I think is the crux. Cleaning (or not cleaning) has become another means of creating division. Every few years the concept of the domestic goddess and the perfect fifties housewife(itself a means of driving women back to the kitchen after the social changes of WWII) is resurrected, and domesticity is championed as a way of being superior. Those who know this is bunkum go the other way and suddenly cleaning feels like a betrayal of feminism, a step backwards, something to be ashamed of and we end up with that snipey line about dull women and neat kitchens.

Image: Kazuki Akayashi on Unsplash

This is the danger point and it’s exacerbated by social media. It’s easy to become so tied up in how things appear, we forget to simply do what we like. Clean, don’t clean, do a bit of a rush job coz it’s driving you crackers but you don’t have time. Shiny taps don’t reflect (ho ho) who you are. They don’t show anything, other than fingerprints or your own looming face.

The real problem is giving a fig about how we’re perceived, and the perpetual scrutiny of the social media lens. Dust if you must is a smashing poem, and the message is heartfelt. But go easy on those who need a clean house to think straight – or indeed sideways.

The final gift of 2020

My news feed is full of folk feeling joy at “seeing off” 2020. I get it. The year has oscillated between terrible and banal, frustration and despair. People have lost loved ones in a way none of us would choose. Teachers, healthcare workers,retail staff, hospitality teams are all working to keep things running so we can keep feeling “normal”. The year has been hard, and the things that keep us going have, well, gone.

Christmas covid-style. Fire pit and family.

For me – it’s not been so very different. Being trapped at home is my “normal” and in many ways not feeling the pressure to socialize (one of my biggest energy sappers) has created a sense of calm. I miss people terribly, but I realize that the round of events I rope myself into does need to be managed more closely when we emerge from the constraints imposed by the pandemic.

We’ve had fun stuff too. Lockdown birthdays with Llama bunting, livestreamed gigs, a visit from friends complete with exciting trip to get a sausage roll from our local café. It’s been a year of thinking small, and learning what I really love.

This considered calm has meant more writing. I’ve developed so much this year. I think I’ve had more publications, including my pieces in Popshot and Paper Swans Press, I’ve launched my own bespoke poetry business and dipped my toes back into flash fiction.  More than this, I feel like something has shifted – I feel like I understand that I’ll never understand,that I’ll never feel like the world’s best writer, that my work may never be declaimed from the rooftops. And it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I write, what matters is that I think. I end the year feeling that small quiet strength that carries me through so many changes and challenges.



The final gift of 2020 came a few days before Christmas, when we learned our neighbours are planning to build a large house directly opposite our bedroom window. This means we may be facing a house move. This in turn means leaving a community we’ve been part of for twenty years, and losing the support, safety and calm I enjoy and rely on for my mental and physical health. It’s a blow, and has caused some distress during an already fretful Christmas,but I’m trying to keep my positive hat on and see this as an opportunity rather than a loss.

I’ve been lucky to have this view for 20 years. It seems my luck has changed.


Sending hopeful wishes and thanks for your support over what has been a most unusual twelve months. Here’s to more love, kindness and empathy.

Kathryn xx

New adventures in poetry

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

Remnants of sunshine and food for the finches

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. 

Why Poems from the Hare

I love hares. 

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 foxes is 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. 

If you’re (or anyone you know) is interested in commissioning one of my Poems from the Hare just email kathrynannawrites@gmail.com and I’ll get back in touch within a day or so. 

Thanks, as ever, for reading. Stay safe 

Kathryn xx

*I may be overegging this a tad

** 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

Week three

Don’t fret, I’ll think of more interesting titles soon. The third week of the new year has still been mostly styled by pyjamas, and funky new cat slippers, but I have been able to do a few useful things.

I’ve applied for a grant to Arvon, which would mean I could go and spend a week focused on nothing but writing – no meals to try to cook, no house to try to clean. That sort of thing takes most of my energy, even when I’m less ill, so it’d be a great opportunity. I’ve never had any face to face teaching as a writer, and I’m keen to give it a try. Anther bonus is that therapy I had last year has helped with my social anxiety, so I feel confident that I’d be able to get the best from the week. Fingers crossed for the grant!

My second application is to Room 204, a writers mentoring programme run by Writing West Midlands. I applied last year, with no success, but I’m a glutton for punishment so I’m trying again. My application this time is more focused. I need help with the “business” side of things – what to charge if I take on a project, what to look out for when working with organisations, that sort of thing. My hope is to run writing workshops – especially in the community. Unlike so many other outlets for creativity, writing is essentially free (at least at the outset) which makes it more accessible, but there’s still a lot of fear around it as a means of expression. I’d love to match my experience tutoring and working with young people, with my skills as a writer. There’s so many “it depends” aspects – but I’m always one to dream. Especially when I’ve been bed bound for the best part of two weeks.

Finally, I’ve been really touched by the love that’s been sent my way, whether it’s kind messages, silly jokes or something more physical like my lovely handmade sun catcher. These weeks aren’t easy, but the kindness I receive helps me feel that I matter.

Love always,

Kathryn xx

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