A bit of a round-up for this blog piece.
You may have read an earlier article on here where I wrote about putting my first manuscript together. Well, the great news is that I finished doing that by the end of January and sent it out to a few poet friends to give me their opinions. Following some very helpful and positive feedback I submitted the finished book to Indigo Dreams on 27th February. Barely a week later, Ronnie got in touch to confirm that he and Dawn loved it and will be publishing it in 2018!
I will provide updates on here and my Facebook page, but it’s called We Are All Lucky and it comprises 58 poems which were written between 2013-2016.
In time-honoured fashion I printed out all of the poems and tried to lay them all out on the living room floor, but ran out of space and had to tackle it in sections! Trying to decide on the final selection, and then choose the sequence, was a lot more difficult than when I was working on my pamphlet purely because the scope is so much larger. I haven’t opted to go with sections or chapter breaks, which I know some people favour; instead I aimed for a kind of narrative arc, looking for poems which seemed to speak to one another to maintain a thread throughout the book. This meant that some poems just didn’t fit, even though I really like them.
I haven’t included any of the work which appeared in Communing, although the book touches on some of those themes. I agonised over including three or four of the poems from my pamphlet which people often say they liked best but in the end it felt right to leave that set behind as a group.
To date, about half of the poems which made the final cut have appeared in various magazines and website and I’ve decided that because there’s a reasonable length of time before the book comes out I will continue to send a few of the unpublished ones out for consideration. One of them was accepted by my favourite journal, The Interpreter’s House, last month and will appear in the next issue which is due out in July/August.
It goes without saying that I’m really looking forward to the book coming out, especially with it being my first full collection. I’m very happy with it and I hope people will like it and respond favourably to it.
Having worked on We Are All Lucky on and off for the first couple of months of the year I realised I hadn’t written anything since before Christmas. As luck would have it, the ideal boost for the creative juices was just around the corner in the shape of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). I’d never tried it before but Simon Williams runs a 400-strong Poem A Day group on Facebook so I thought I’d give it a go.
The self-imposed requirement to write a poem a day throughout April, that idea that it was something I had to achieve every day, resulted in 40 new drafts and really drove me on to explore all kinds of subjects and forms I’ve never approached in the past. There were daily prompts (written by Simon and a few of the group members, myself included) which really helped to keep up the momentum. In the same way as the original 52 group helped to improve the work, being able to post and receive friendly and constructive feedback pretty much instantly means that I have quite a lot of work that I can revisit later in the year.
As well as responding to some of the prompts, I tried to use NaPoWriMo as a kind of journal, reflecting on news stories, events at home (we stayed in a touring caravan over Easter which yielded lots of material!) and anything else which occurred to me. I’d usually just note these thoughts down in a document I keep on Google Drive with the vague intention of fleshing them out at a later date but during April I wrote about them immediately. Whether I’m able to use much of that work further down the line is anyone’s guess – it needs to mulch away in a folder online for a few months before I revisit it. In any event, it was a very enjoyable period. The group reconvenes in September to do it all over again so I think I’ll give it a try then, too.
In terms of publication, I’ve already been very fortunate so far this year:
- Claire Walker and Holly Magill, the editors of new online journal Atrium, accepted two of my poems – one of which appeared last month, with the other due in June.
- On my fifth (!) attempt I managed to get a couple of poems into The Lake, which is a really nice online journal.
- Kate Garrett took one for her excellent Picaroon
- I had two poems in South Bank Poetry, whose editor Katherine Lockton arranged to meet me during one of my monthly work trips to London to hand me my contributor copy in person!
- It was really nice to get my copy of the latest Obsessed with Pipework, which was a special issue where all of the poems were inspired by Jane Burn’s photo of a lonely spoon she spotted on the railway track near her house; it’s an incredible collection of work from some great poets, all prompted by one humble old spoon!
- And last but no means least I was thrilled to see two of my poems in the marvellous Black Light Engine Room alongside some brilliant work.
I don’t have a huge number of live readings booked in the diary at the moment. I had a guest slot at the excellent Berkeley Square Poetry Revue towards the end of April where I read alongside fellow Bristol poet Dominic Fisher and William Wootten in the swanky environs of the Berkeley Square Hotel’s cocktail bar.
I was thrilled to be asked to read at Gram Joel Davies’ book launch at The Arts House in Bristol on 24th May. I met Gram through 52 and I’m excited to read his debut collection, Bolt Down This Earth, which came out through the fab V. Press in March. Also reading is chum Tom Sastry (another 52 alumnus) who is a great performer. Come along – it’s only £2 on the door and it’s a perfect, cosy space in which to listen to poetry. Here’s a link to the Facebook events page.
If you’d like to get me along to read at your poetry event then do please let me know.
Finally, I was so pleased recently to see that my site, Clear Poetry, has clocked up its 1,000th ‘Like’ on Facebook. It’s a real labour of love and more than once I’ve questioned why I put so much effort into it, so news like that (and the odd donation to my tips jar) really helps to remind me why I do it.
It’s also really good to see that poets are sufficiently proud of being on the site that they mention it in their bio, and even better when I see poems I’ve used appearing in their own collections.
These days Clear Poetry is receiving more submissions than ever so the competition to get in is fiercer than ever. I would say that I probably accept only 5-10% of the work that comes in, and that rate seems to be falling recently. My only advice to would-be contributors is to only send your strongest work – believe me, it shows. Also, make sure you read previous posts so that you get a good feel for the sort of work I tend to favour. Oh, and follow the guidelines carefully – I delete anything which flouts the rules!
Anyway, that’s all from me. As Jerry Springer would say, ‘Until next time, look after yourselves, and each other’.