Looking through a skylight

Yesterday evening saw an exciting event – the official launch of my exhibition with Maggie Cameron. What grew from a fun exercise for us both has become something that is bring genuine joy to people, and that is a wonderful thing.

Our Inktober poetry and art collaboration began by accident. I noticed Maggie had set herself a challenge to respond to the Inktober prompts by creating images of birds. I had my own October challenge of getting up early each morning to write, and I love to write about birds. And so a perfect match was born. I’d signed up to a Dawn Chorus writing group too, so the timing early couldn’t have been better.

The poems are different to my other work – more fact inspired I suppose. There’s a lot of fun in some of them and a fair bit of anger and frustration at the world in others. The poems in the exhibition are redrafted versions of the ones on my Inktober page, and it’s interesting to see the changes.

Things I loved about last night

Seeing my work on display – I love the marriage of poetry and art. It’s something I’ve seen a lot in various cities and it’s brilliant to have it here in Ironbridge.

Hearing the good things people say. An artist I’ve admired for years bought three cards because she thought the words and pictures were so perfect together. That’s something to treasure. So many people asked if Maggie and I will produce a book, and so many loved the idea and the content.

Seeing people spend time reading my words – it’s something that still surprises me. Self belief is not my natural state and watching people seem to enjoy my work is an alien thing.

Things I wish were different

I wish I had read. This would have been a perfect opportunity – but so close to Dad dying I just didn’t trust myself not to crack. A love of birds is something we shared from when I was tiny, and so many of the poems are intertwined with him. There’s one about a Mandarin Duck which inspired a poem sparked by one of the last conversations we had – Dad wasn’t much of a talker so this kind of memory is a precious thing. One day I’ll read it aloud.

I wish I felt less ill. Emotional exhaustion has numbed me a little, and sparked a lot of M.E. symptoms. I wasn’t as engaged as I could have been, which makes me sad. Lee, Maggie and Molly have literally take the reigns and made this happen, and as you know, sitting back and letting others do the work is not a comfortable place for me.

Will there be a book?

So many people asked this last night – it’s definitely something we will explore. The costs to publish an art type book will be a good deal more than a simple pamphlet, so it may be time to get the crowdfunding hats on again!

Thanks for reading, if you’re local to Ironbridge do pop over to 86’d to enjoy some delicious coffee and cakes, as well as looking at our work.

If you’re not local and you’d like to buy some of our poetry and art in postcard form, just send me an email kathrynannawrites@gmail.com

Autumn sees a return to writing

I had an interesting conversation with a friend this week, asking if writing about trauma is cathartic. My answer was not really. Now this is surprising, because of course it is – the very act of writing means I remove worries, thoughts, feelings from my head and place them on a page. That is a good thing. It can allow perspective, allow for reflection. Journalling is a healthy habit. Why is poetry any different? For me it’s because a poem is almost a living entity. It grows and changes with those who read it, it grows and changes each time I read it. The emotions that gave birth to the writing have not gone – they’ve become real on the page. Producing something wrought from some of the darkest feelings and experiences then reading, re-reading, editing, means revisiting those feelings and experiences time and time again.  And that’s before I even embark on the terror of sending my work out to be judged for quality and possible publication.

Yet still I do it. Still countless people do it. We write and read, agonise over semi-colons and commas, place ourselves into the arena to be pulled apart or raised up high. Why? What drives me? I honestly can’t think of a sensible answer. All I know is that when I write there is some magic that happens somewhere that makes me feel as though I am the very best version of myself. I’d like to say I don’t mind whether work is published or not but that would be a straight lie – external validation is a joy. Would I write if I knew my work would never be published again. Absolutely. Would I write if no one else would read it. I think so – but some of that joy of connection would be lost.

Two new poetry courses

These musings have emerged because I’ve had a stellar writing week. Not one, but two courses on the go and I’ve adored them both. Dawn Chorus writing hour has been a revelation – that liminal space between waking and sleeping allows my brain to flow in such different directions and the simple act of setting aside time to write with others creates a gentle community. Getting up early to write is a habit I dip in and out of, but the difference to both my writing and general well being is such that I’m determined to keep that 5.30 am start and determined to protect an hour for reading and writing.

My second course, The Corn Dolly Speaks has been a journey through myth and legend, not tales of knights and dragons, but the tangible, domestic legends that are so much part of life they pass with scant comment. The poems we’ve read have been beautiful and challenging, and the prompts have set me on research adventures. The work I’ve written has grown from some innate understanding and sense of connection I cannot really name. It’s an affirming way to explore the correlation between past and present, and to explore how these old rituals inform my behaviour and perspective. What makes these courses work so well for me is that we share our work with each other online. I’m not terribly confident speaking as part of a group, so this gentle interaction means I can give and receive feedback in a non-threatening way, and at my own pace. It also means I read some incredible poetry from my talented course mates. I’ve tried a couple of different courses this year, but the work I produce from these courses created and facilitated by Wendy Pratt is far and away the work I feel most pleased with.

It seems that the act of finishing Dust has set me free to write again. In order to create something worthy of publication, and worthy of people’s hard-earned money I had to distance myself from my emotions and look at the work with a professional, critical eye. In the wonder that is hindsight it seems entirely logical, but in the midst of the process I’ve felt quite bewildered at my inability to really engage with writing. I’m very glad to be back.

More ways to buy Dust

Now the initial flurry of family and friends have bought Dust, I’ve placed it on Etsy for general sale. Buying direct from me is still the best option, simply because it means more money for the two charities, but I understand that using something like Etsy is a lot easier. You can also buy your copy from the excellent Poetry Pharmacy or Ironbridge Bookshop.

Your mini reviews have made a huge difference

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time and effort to talk about their response to Dust on Facebook and Instagram. This kind of marketing is worth a thousand posts from me (I guess hearing about something like this from a friend has more impact) and has been the most effective in terms of sales. It also increases my visibility, so when I do post, more folk will see it. Your support is really, really appreciated and the steady rate of sales means we’ve raised over £600 so far.

So that’s my week. Next week’s adventures in poetry will involve is more research into submissions opportunities, plus some time studying The Poetry Writers’ Handbook, which looks like it will answer a lot of my questions about the business side of publication – I have a couple of new pamphlets brewing so the timing is perfect.

Thank you for reading

Kathryn xx