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

Advertisement

I have a bunch of poems to publish

I feel a bt proud of myself. Those of  you who spotted last week’s blog will know I felt pretty hopeless about the whole poetry business and the malarky of “getting somewhere”. Yet writing poetry is what is love and writing poetry is how I function at my best. I have given myself time this week to actually look at the work I’ve written over the last couple of years. I’ve collected work that fits three interlocking themes. I can see where my strongest work lies and I can see the points where my voice is most powerful.

What will I do to get these poems published?

I have a framework. I know I need to work on my titles (thankyou Wendy Pratt!) I know I need to polish and refine my punctuation, and I know the areas that I want to explore more to build a more substantial body of work. Above all, I know that I can do this. I know that I want to do this and goodness I hope that I can carry on and reach the next goal.

Over the next month or so, in between everything else of course, I will refine and polish as well as researching and approaching potential publishers. I also want to do some recorded readings to hone my style, so watch this space for the odd video clip.

I still have my first pamphlet in circulation too, and I realise I was waiting to hear about that before I began work on anything else. The old need for validation I suppose. I’ve realised I don’t have to do this. I also recently learned that pamphlets and collections do not have to be made up of all new work. The poems I’ve had published in journals and anthologies can be included. What a revelation.

Thanks for sticking with me xx

In praise of understanding

I’ve had so many kind responses to my last post – it’s very much appreciated and heartening to know how many people want me to keep writing. The critical voice is strong (does that sound a bit Star Wars?) and the downside of increased socialising means she has so many more things to pick to belittle me about. Tools and tricks are there to be used though and I’m going back to basics in terms of managing my mental health. One of these days I’ll learn to take care before it reaches this point. 

Writing is a big part of this of course. Other than gardening and cooking it’s the only thing I know – the only thing I feel right doing. I wish I felt more certain about my skills, but I guess, unlike gardening and cooking, writing is incredibly subjective. I know if I’ve cared for a plant well, because it blooms, sets seed and continues its life. I know if I’ve cooked a meal well because it pleases my taste buds – and hopefully those of others. I deal with failures in gardening by learning how to do it right next time, I deal with failure in cooking by learning how to do it right next time. I don’t feel torn up, distraught or as though I never want to cook or garden again. Why so? 

The simple fact is that it’s really hard to know if my failures are because I’ve made a colossal mistake, or just because I’ve not tickled the metaphorical tastebuds of the editors or competition judges. There’s no-one saying – “oh it’s so close but a bit under seasoned” or “what the blazes made you put chilli oil in the rice pudding?”. It’s a simple thanks but no thanks and on you go. This, of course, is no fault of the many long-suffering lit mag editors. Many decline work in the kindest, fullest way possible. A few give what reads as a very formulaic response, but hey, these are busy, unpaid people wading through a colossal amount of work to find the perfect fit for their magazine. 

I’ve realised I need to wean myself off the dopamine rush of having work accepted. I love the thrill of opening that email, expecting rejection and reading that my work will be published. I love shouting about it all over the socials and getting the flurry of interest and interaction. It feels nice. It feels like I’m worth something. And it’s as addictive as all the other addictive things. 

I planned today as a poetry day. This is a luxury I rarely afford, and something I usually crave, like a warm bath, or a hot buttered toast. A poetry day usually makes me feel better. Today – oh how I wanted to roll over and ignore the alarm, How I wanted there to be some ad hoc freelance work that was just too good to miss. I felt scared. I felt as though I was setting myself up for more failure and more sadness. Today I sat and looked at my work and wondered why the heck I actually do this? Is it to make people like me? Is it to give myself status? Is it to justify my place in the world? Yes. Of course it is. But writing can’t only be about these things. It can’t only be about making myself feel better about not being who I feel I should be. For me, writing has to be about making a difference. It has to be about forging a connection and showing a way for people to feel less alone. It has to have a purpose beyond my personal vanity. 

So this feels like a point of maturity. I intend to step away from the submissions treadmill for a while and work with the work I have produced over the last few years. I’ve spent time today looking at the themes in my work (sadly there isn’t a strong theme of fluffy bunnies) and intend to spend a little more time with the poems, redrafting and wrestling them into a series of pamphlets, before approaching some of the people who showed interest in being a mentor to me and my work.  Above all, I’ll spend more time reading and listening to poetry, more time absorbing and enjoying, and less time listening to that critical voice. Honest. 

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

Rejections are part of all this…

repeat after me. Rejections are part of all this…

However they’re dressed, not placing,we are not moving forward with work, your work is not right for us at this time, having work rejected hurts. Really.

The objective side looks at the number of entries, the people who had work accepted and rationalises. The tenacious side finds other places that are seeking submissions and submits. The side that distilled, dispersed, revised, redrafted and finally pressed send…that side wants to have a little cry. And stop putting itself through this.

Still, that does no good – what I want to learn is how to know what editors want – how do I understand? I really thought I’d chosen a good place for my pamphlet sub – but it wasn’t the case. There’s no feedback of course, so I don’t really know whether the work is terrible, or just not right – and if not, why not? And whilst I understand that time and resources are stretched I’d just really like to know – the whole process feels like grasping for smoke.

A lower ebb than usual. A longing for both time and health. Either would be good. Gloomy, to be honest. Send kittens.

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

EMDR published today on Fevers of the Mind

Speed post to let you know I’ve a new poem about EMDR therapy, published today on Fevers of the Mind.

Three great things that have happened this week

Having an illness like M.E. creates many unexpected twists* and forces change. Losing social life, the security of regular work, the simple convenience of popping to the supermarket to get a few bits for tea creates a sense of disorientation and a whisper of fear.

These are things I’ve spent the last seven years adjusting to and things that are now “normal”, and perhaps not unexpected.

What I didn’t expect was that having an illness like M.E. would create opportunities. I certainly didn’t expect those opportunities to be quite so close to being what I’ve always dreamt of.

Columnist for Spelt Magazine

Opportunity number one is being part of Spelt Magazine.This morning I had my first meeting with editor Wendy Pratt and I’m just fizzing with excitement.

Spelt sets out to do something different – it seeks to capture  the brilliance of the natural world, but also the reality of living in a rural environment. From our chat this morning it’s clear this is going to be a magazine that amplifies the voice of those who don’t feel part of the edgy urban scene, but certainly don’t identify with the cosy lifestyle version of the countryside presented by other magazines. It’s something that excites me, something that I think is valuable, and somewhere that I think I fit – which is a wonderful thing to be able to say.

I’m not going to say too much about the column, other than I’m hoping to create something uplifting that brings a smile on gloomy days and gives a window into tiny joys.  

I’m so excited about this new role – I’m even using my beloved Ciak notebook. Makes a change from recycling envelopes.

Bursary from Raven Studios

My second opportunity comes in the form of a bursary courtesy of Raven Studios in Shrewsbury. Raven Studios is an incredible organisation that offers creative space and support to all manner of artists. My bursary is essentially buying me time to write – as you know M.E. means my physical and mental resources are limited and often writing to pay the bills takes precedent over creative work. My goal is to give around the 5 hours a week to developing poetry for a pamphlet that explores mental and physical health – it’s still in an embryonic stage, but I’m excited to have a new project to work on, and to have support from such a vibrant group of artists.

Learning how to be a better poet

You may remember I had to curtail my formal study with OCA – for many reasons it just wasn’t working, plus the fees proved to be overwhelming. What I have discovered is the wealth of courses available to help me develop as a writer. These range from simple prompt-a-day courses (I say simple – they’ve been the single best thing I’ve done), to more involved courses like those run by the York Centre for Life Long Learning or Poetry School. Thanks to a gift from Santa, I’ve been able to enrol on three courses this year, one looking at women writers, exploring body and illness and one looking at how to put together a themed collection. The last two are particularly exciting given my new project with Raven Studios.

So, here ends the post. It’s a grim month after a grim year, and the day to day is hard. I miss all the things! Despite the many lacks, I’m so excited about what the next few months will bring. More than anything I realise how much I’ve learnt since my diagnosis in 2013.

As ever, thanks for reading

Kathryn

xx

*my less than accurate tying created the phrase “M.E. creates many unexpected twits.” I’m not entirely sure that was a typo.

Treacle

This week has been a gloomy one. I’ve felt overwhelmed by the endless slew of injustice that is bestowed from those who are employed to care about us all, and especially the most vulnerable. I am privileged to be able to write this on my own laptop, at my own desk, with warm(ish) feet and a full stomach. But I feel powerless. Sapped of energy. It feels like a time when poetry and creativity is needed more than ever, to remind that there is beauty and good in this country. It also feels like a time when poetry and creativity is utterly banal and irrelevant. My mooching around my emotions, noticing the play of light on a rose, or the slow movement of spiders huddling away from the cold, is at odds with the sheer dreadfulness of day to day life that others are experiencing. It feels insulting to feel disappointment or frustration at my own concerns.

©kam

A development opportunity I’d set my sights on for next year is out of my reach financially, so I’m back to the drawing board about my next steps. I’m pleased with how I’ve responded though – I didn’t take it as a sign that I’m not good enough, or feel that I may as well give up. I’ve worked hard to reach the point where I am and I’m not stopping now. Development is not just about becoming a better writer, it’s about valuing myself, my work and believing in it. Being from good working class stock, a career in the arts still has an air of being fancy, of being somehow indulgent. This is borne from a deep desire for security – an avoidance of the challenges faced by those who’ve gone before. I can’t quite shake it. I still hear myself frame my writing as a hobby, and follow up any conversation about poetry with a assurance that  do  some “real” work as well. Sometimes this “real” work values each of my words at a penny, but somehow even this meagre pay is more credible.

Chilli lights make dark days better

I have a couple of things up my sleeve, I’ve applied for a bursary from Raven Studios a local group of creatives, sent my pamphlet submission and have a new prompt a day course starting in November, which should help reinvigorate a regular writing practice. I’ve also set up Poems from the Hare my brand new shop, where you can commission a bespoke poem (just in time for Christmas!) and buy a copy of my brand new zine, which will be landing in the next couple of weeks.

What about the treacle?

It’s how the week has felt. The grey days with whispers of gold from the trees, the weight of the sky. The mizzle or drizzle or full on rain. My endless doom scrolling in the small hours. My absolute inability to read, which inevitably affects my writing and the nag,nag,nag of pain that increases with each damp day. Wading through treacle. It won’t last, there is a way out and I am never not grateful for the fact that I am lucky enough to have these things as my worries.

Thanks, as ever for reading, hopefully next post will be all about me sending my zine into the world, and if anyone can recommend a book that is uplifting and rollickng good story I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask

Kathryn xx

A few English haiku about faking bravery on the back of a vespa in Saigon

Exactly what the title says. Hope you enjoy them. If you get to the end there’s a short poem about a journey on an ox cart too.

Haiku after faking bravery on the back of a Vespa in Saigon

My helmet alerts
I am tourist, in letters
and mew fear of death.

A thousand thousand
drawn to this neon white noise
cloud promise of life.

I almost hear air.
Knuckles tighten, grip safety bar
metal slick with fear.

Street lights beckon you
hey, why not cross? Scooter horn
says hi. Heels are silent.

From an ox-cart in Cambodia

Wood on wood on earth
rings bells of then.
Hear “hello”
we forget
to respond
in Khmer.