Creativity in Lockdown: In Conversation with Sarah James

The Poetry Shed

Looking back to the first lockdown how did it affect you and your writing?

If I’m honest, I don’t really remember a lot of the first lockdown in great detail now. Because of my type one diabetes, I’ve stayed at home for most of the past year even when we weren’t in lockdown, and time has merged into one long splurge.

April started with lost work. I feel like I lost motivation too and have been living life and writing at half-speed ever since. This is partly because of the extra energy taken by worrying about the state of the world (pandemic and the U.S., where I have family) but also because writing hasn’t seemed as important in light of everything else going on.

But I know this is as much about how I feel as the actual reality. I’ve still managed to write, if somewhat sporadically. And I’ve still…

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Add comment March 1, 2021 sarahjameswrites

News, reviews, recommendations

FLASH

Post-Everything, Day 186 (flash) published on Flash Frontier in Dec 2020.

I’ve also had a flash On the Filthy Side on Ellipsis, on 17 Feb 2021.

POETRY

The Secret of Invisibility and The Sleep-Snatcher in SurVision Issue #8 in Jan 2021.

My vispo-influenced poem See in Streetcake, issue 71,part 2 in Feb 2021.

I’ve also had another vispo-influenced poem An amber star taken for Ethel 8, due out in summer 2021.

PHOTOGRAPHY

I’m delighted to have three photos from a series ‘Winter Wonder’ included (page 30) in Littoral Magazine Candlemas issue in Feb 2021.

Another photo, ‘distant light’, is in the blizzard themed issue ix of Nightingale & Sparrow, Feb 2021. The online version can be found here, with my photo in the Creative Non-fiction section between Dagger and Weathering the storm. The print edition is available on Amazon here.

POETRY FILM

I was really delighted last year to add a few lines to the collaborative Redditch Borough Poem, which has now been turned into a short poetry film here.

REVIEWS

I’m absolutely delighted to have reviewed two fabulous recent 4word titles: Pretty in Pink by Ruth Aylett and Every Day I Promise Myself by Rachel Davies.

From my review of Pretty in Pink:

‘[…]Reading and re-reading Pretty in Pink, I found myself underlining so many striking images and phrases. It is impossible to neatly sum up any pamphlet in a review – the poems need to be read directly. But the closest glimpse of the whole of this pamphlet in one snippet is perhaps offered by ‘Anti-Trump demonstration’:

“[…] their electrical shock hits how it is,
burns off dirt and assumptions,
reveals the shine of how it can be.”’

From my review of Every Day I Promise Myself:

‘If I had to pick just one quote that comes closest to encapsulating the essence of the whole pamphlet, it might be the following from the second poem, ‘How To Wind A Fat Gold Watch’:

“Open yourself like a rose that the ladybird will crawl into
then fold your petals around it like a womb.

Empty the lap of your life to make a beanbag soft seat
for a story. Share with her your own story,
the stories of your grandmothers.”

This is definitely a pamphlet that calls to be read, re-read, savoured and shared!’

The full reviews can be found here.

INTERVIEW

I was delighted to be interviewed by the fabulous Abegail Morley for her Creativity in Lockdown series on The Poetry Shed. It includes some of the ways I’ve got through lockdown, tips for trying to stay motivated and alternative sources of inspiration.

Endorsement for Maggie Mackay A West Coast Psalter (Kelsay Books, 2021)

Last year I was delighted to be asked to read and write an endorsement for Maggie Mackay’s manuscript A West Coast Psalter, which has just been published by Kelsay Books. My endorsement is below and you can buy the collection here.

A West Coast Psalter is vivid with piercing, moving details and vibrant characters. Just as the opening image’s sheets balloon ‘like tides, like sails’, these poems transport the reader across the world and through history, inviting us into childhood memories, wonder-filled glimpses of nature and the knack of many trades and crafts. The lines are alive with breath-taking imagery, atmospheric tones and beautiful, joyous and energetic yet controlled sounds and emotions. Like the suitcase in ‘Sisters’ Song’, Maggie Mackay’s poetry ‘brims with stories | and cotton, needles and threads’ that invite us to ‘keek around the door into dawn’s blether’ and other varied landscapes and lives. ‘Waves on waves linger beyond |the curved earth’, and beyond the narrative arcs and striking gathering of poems in this rich selection. Mackay’s A West Coast Psalter is a fabulous debut collection and a distinctive, unforgettable read.”

Add comment February 20, 2021 sarahjameswrites

Festive greetings & big news to end the year!

Wishing All a Safe & Merry Christmas & a Happy, Healthy & Hope-filled New Year

This poem is in the Christmas anthology from The Poet, 2020.
The photo was taken at my parents’ place near Monmouth in 2019. I’m very much going to miss celebrating with them this year because of covid-19 but looking forward to hopefully being able to see them and all my friends and family properly in 2021.

BIG NEWS

My big news to end 2020 with is that I’m absolutely delighted to have won the Chaffinch Press CP Aware Award Prize for Poetry 2021. The prize is awarded to a poet whose submitted collection is socially engaged and highlights cultural and/or political injustice towards individuals, gender groups, ethnic minorities, communities or institutions. Both the manuscript ‘Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic’ and this win mean a lot to me, as the poems tackle aspects of life with a hidden disability, as well as elements of sexism, ageism, and generally trying to find a meaningful sense of self and living life with purpose.

Slightly aslant to this but still related, I also have an article ‘It’s Not Personal But… or Getting All Confessional, Subjectivity and the Rejected (Reworked) Manuscript‘ up on The Blue Nib – about writer rejection, how I’ve bounced back from that and some of the ways I’ve overcome the fear of feeling exposed when writing about personal experience.

Meanwhile, my big thanks to Diabetes UK and Balance magazine‘s editorial team for featuring a piece about my type one diabetes-inspired Arts Council England funded multimedia hypertext poetry narrative > Room as the Star Letter in their Winter 2020 issue.

OTHER COMPETITIONS

Splattered (photo) is winner of the Poetry and Covid Photography Competition for October 2020;

Kelly’s Key (flash) shortlisted in the Tortive Theatre #FlashFiction101 October prompt-themed competition in Nov 2020.

The Invisible Bruise (short story) longlisted in Cranked Anvil Short Story Competition in Nov 2020.

PUBLICATIONS

Sickle Moon Dreams (poem) was selected as one of the 2020 Bards in da Bog poems displayed in local conveniences throughout Shetland, posted on the library web page, shared through the library’s social media and featured on BBC Radio Shetland’s Good Evening Shetland during Book Week Scotland (16 -22 November 2020).

Today’s new #BardsInTheBog poem, also perhaps appearing in conveniences near you, is Sickle Moon Dreams by Sarah James. Tune in to BBC Radio Shetland at 5.30 pm to hear it being read on air. Congratulations Sarah, on becoming a Bard in the da Bog! https://t.co/eBgYFIlT9S pic.twitter.com/ycGvqkLCYg— Shetland Library (@ShetlandLibrary) November 17, 2020

Sea Glass (poem) on One Hand Clapping in November 2020.

The Hedgerow’s Song and The year everything stops except the seasons (poems) published on Poetry and Covid in October 2020.

Perturbing Paws for Thought (poem) published in Purrfect Cats (Dream Well Writing Ltd) in October 2020.

Another Shell (poem) features in Episode 2 of Salon B podcast at Berghan Books, which can be listened to here. (My poem is the final item on the podcast.)

Because One Thing Leads to Another an article on writing life, including creative flow, space leading to inspiration and fear as a challenge to be embraced, published in The Blue Nib (online and print versions) Issue 44 in December 2020.

It’s no secret that the environment and climate change have come to pre-occupy me (and my creative work) lately – as they should all of us. I also have to confess to coming to love nature a lot later on in my life than many people, having spent my twenties and early thirties pre-occupied with work, then children. My enjoyment and interest is perhaps the stronger though for having come to it through walking and cycling in the countryside and more rural areas as my most effective way of dealing with depression and as an escape from personal pain. Anyway, that background revealed, I’m delighted to have two pictures included in the Wood People Connective’s new online tree gallery here.

POETRYFILM

Writing Life a poetryfilm about a writer trying to capture the essence of life, and its beauty, in just one poem was selected for the Big Picture Festival 2020. The film is based on a poem first published on Irisi magazine.
  https://www.youtube.com/embed/n2VDCbaZncE

VIDEO POETRY

I’m absolutely delighted that my videopoem Winter has been chosen as the Artists For A Better World International “Poetry of the Month” selection here. Although I’ve been working in poetry and film for about a decade now, this is my first video poetry success and was directly inspired by taking part in the Zebra Poetry Film Festival inspiring and informative Masterclass with Tom Konvyes last month.

ACCEPTANCES

I’m delighted to have two poems accepted for Highland Park Poetry’s Daily Poems. Viral Infections features in November and Stacking Up in December on Facebook. The poems are then be included on “Daily Poem” Gallery throughout the following month with all the other poems from the month.

Post-Everything, Day 186 (flash) for the ‘doors’ theme issue of Flash Frontier.

What We See (flash) for Fragmented Voices in March 2021.

Add comment December 23, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Some disappointment/anger but lots to feel thankful about

Things here have been busy the past few weeks. Until last week, I would have said mostly in a good way, work-wise at least, and despite Covid-19. (For happy news only, please skip the next two paragraphs.)

However, there’s been a significant number of cases of Covid now at my sons’ high school, where each of their ‘bubbles’ are 300+ pupils – in contrast to the voluntary self-isolation that I and my family had chosen to maintain after lockdown. Although age is on my side, my type one diabetes makes me vulnerable, so I feel especially frustrated with the lack of safeguarding – putting staff, pupils and their families at risk through the schools. Meanwhile, both of my sons are in big exam years – with all the current gaps/disruption in teaching and uncertainty about exams/assessments/university hanging over them…

It’s definitely true that a crisis can bring out both the best in people but also highlight the worst aspects of society. Already underfunded and underpaid even before the extra pressure and workload from Covid-19, school staff, like those in the NHS, continue to cope and deal with things on the frontline, working long hours, with nowhere near enough support, equipment, facilities…

If you’ve come to my blog though, it’s unlikely you’ve come to hear about this, so I am going to set this aside as much as I can for the rest of this post – just know that I’m in total solidarity with anyone feeling a similar way right now!

On a personal level, I’m extremely grateful that my family and friends are still safe and well at the moment. In both my personal life and work-wise, I’m trying to focus even more than usual on the positive, as a distraction to the bad, because there doesn’t feel much else I can do right now and also because these are the things that life is really about.

My big gratitude and thanks therefore to all the people involved in making the following projects, competitions and publications possible – and to all out there fighting for the arts and literature right now, as well as all those still facing Covid-19 on the front-line.

COMPETITIONS

I’m delighted that my poetry manuscript Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic is one of five shortlisted for the Chaffinch Press CP Aware Award Prize for Poetry 2021. The prize is awarded to a poet whose submitted collection is socially engaged and highlights cultural and/or political injustice towards individuals, gender groups, ethnic minorities, communities or institutions. Both the manuscript and this shortlisting mean a lot to me, as the poems tackle aspects of life with a hidden disability, as well as elements of sexism, ageism, and generally trying to find a meaningful sense of self and living life with purpose. So, please keep your fingers crossed for me for the next stage.

My environmentally themed, politically-edged, experimental/vispo-influenced pamphlet Rain Falling Fast As Light was longlisted for the Paper Swans Press Pamphlet Prize 2020.

Too Fast (poem) was shortlisted for the Parkinson’s Art International Poetry Competition 2020.

The Last Night Shift (flash) was shortlisted in the Tortive Theatre #FlashFiction101 September prompt-themed competition.

Ó Bhéal International Poetry-Film Competition Shortlisting

I’m absolutely delighted that Andrew Curtis’s poetryfilm version of one of my poems, A Plague On All Our Houses, is one of 38 poetry-films (from 14 countries) shortlisted for the 2020 Ó Bhéal International Poetry-Film Competition. The shortlist was chosen from 288 entries received from 49 countries. The shortlisted films will be streamed online on Sunday, 29 November 2020, over two screenings at Ó Bhéal’s 8th Winter Warmer Poetry festival, via Vimeo Livestream. Access to the entire festival will be free to the public and A Plague On All Our Houses is scheduled for the 2pm screening.

MORE POETRYFILM

I’m delighted to have my first festival screening as a poetry filmmaker! The news that one of my poetryfilms is to be included in the 2020 International Film Festival of Thuringia this October is especially amazing as I had originally been due to talk about and share one of my other poetryfilms this autumn at the Swindon Big Poetry Weekend festival, unfortunately postponed because of Covid-19.

The 2020 International Film Festival of Thuringia is an online festival from 22-24 October 2020 and my film Women Not To Be has been selected to be part of the Women in Resistance program. Women in Resistance demonstrates the central role of women’s narratives and feminism in today’s poetry film and video poetry. Besides the online screenings, there will also be a program of live streams during the festival. Women in Resistance will stream on November 2, at 6 pm (CET) and all of the movies will be available for three weeks, from October 22 to November 12, on the festival website www.poetryfilmtage.de within a password-protected area to make sure that all festival guests have sufficient time to watch individual programs and films. The ticket for entering the site costs 10 Euro and can be purchased from September 15 to November 12.

MOSAIC MODERN WORCESTERSHIRE COMMISSION

My Mosaic Modern Worcestershire for Worcester Art Gallery’s From the Art Gallery with Love x project is now live on the Museums Worcestershire website. This includes A Modern Mosaic of Worcestershire (using photographs for the tiles), a hypertext poem and a poetryfilm. All three parts of the project are inspired by Worcester City Art Gallery’s painting A Prospect of Worcester from the East (c. 1750 and attributed to John Harris the Younger). The work was produced for Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum (part of Museums Worcestershire) as the commissioner for the “From The Art Gallery With Love x” project, kindly funded by Arts Council England.

READING AT CHELTENHAM LITERATURE FESTIVAL

I was delighted to be the judge for Gloucestershire Writers’ Network poetry competition 2020 with a theme of ‘My World’ and had a delightful start to August immersing myself in the entries. The results can be found on the GWN website here.

The prize winners’ event was at Cheltenham Literature Festival at the start of the month. Although I wasn’t able to be there in person, I was delighted to hear the winning poems through the festival’s online Screen on the Green, and to do a reading of some my own poems.

My big congratulations to the winning poets and fiction writers, and to everyone who entered in a year where Covid-19 has had a massive effect on us all. I’m very much looking forward now to the winners’ anthology. (And very delighted too to have been asked to contribute a couple of poems, The Rain’s Tale and At Night myself.) The My World — Gloucestershire Writers’ Network Competition Anthology 2020 is available from Black Pear Press here.

PUBLICATIONS

Making > Room an article and photo about my hypertext poetry project > Room published in The Poetry Society’s Poetry News Autumn 2020.

My review of Pascale Petit’s Tiger Girl (Bloodaxe, 2020) published on The High Winndow.

Twist (poem) published in 14 magazine Series 2, Issue 1 in October 2020.

That first hunt (poem) published in The High Wolds Poetry Collection 2020 in October 2020.

The Darkest Well (poem) published in Deep Time: Volume 2 (Black Bough Poetry) in October 2020.

EXTRA INSPIRATION & THANKS

I’ve found it harder than usual to feel motivated to write the past six months, unless I have a work deadline or commission to focus me. However, Ledbury Poetry Festival’s free Segments (monthly/4weekly) zoom workshops run by Sara-Jane Arbury have been amazingly inspirational – finally getting me back into a zone this autumn where I’m not only writing but really enjoying that writing. I’m extraordinarily thankful to have found these and signed up for them. What’s more the prompts for past sessions are also available online – though, if you can, I’d still recommend signing up for the live Zoom sessions to really get the most out of them! You can find more about them here.

AND OTHER BAD NEWS…

So I’m lucky to have some rays of writing light to take my mind off Covid-19. Most writers and artists that I know have lost work because of the pandemic, though this, of course, pales besides those who have been ill or lost loved ones to the virus. I am fortunate to have kept safe, so far.

This time last year, I was excited after hearing that I’d got a month’s paid residency at The International Writers’ and Translators’s House in Ventspils, Latvia. I would have been travelling out there for four weeks of pure research, writing, literary immersion this December. I wasn’t surprised, given the global situation, to hear that this won’t now be happening. To be honest, even if it had been possible on the Latvian end, I don’t think that I would have felt safe going out right now, given the pandemic and my type one diabetes. But the fact that this wasn’t unexpected doesn’t make it any the less disappointing. Hopefully, the residency is postponed rather than cancelled, but until exactly when is, obviously, very much up in the air. And, of course, many other writers will have been similarly affected over the past six months and winter months to come.

And here’s hoping that’s the worst of the bad news over the coming months.

Love and strength to all, and creativity and inspiration vibes to my writing and artist friends.

Add comment October 25, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Film festival, the BBC, Lines of Love, review & competition joy!

POETRYFILM

I’m delighted to have my first festival screening as a poetry filmmaker! The news that one of my poetryfilms is to be included in the 2020 International Film Festival of Thuringia this October is especially amazing as I had originally been due to talk about and share one of my other poetryfilms this autumn at the Swindon Big Poetry Weekend festival, unfortunately postponed because of Covid-19.

The 2020 International Film Festival of Thuringia will be taking the form of online festival from 22-24 October 2020 and my film Women Not To Be has been selected to be part of the Women in Resistance program. Women in Resistance demonstrates the central role of women’s narratives and feminism in today’s poetry film and video poetry. Besides the online screenings, there will also be a program of live streams during the festival. Women in Resistance will stream on October 23, at 6 pm (CET) and all of the movies will be available for three weeks, from October 22 to November 12, on the festival website www.poetryfilmtage.de within a password-protected area to make sure that all festival guests have sufficient time to watch individual programs and films. The ticket for entering the site costs 10 Euro and can be purchased from September 15 to November 12.

> ROOM

I’m really delighted to share the news that my multimedia hypertext narrative > Room has been reviewed on Sabotage Reviews.

“[…]This plays into one of the most fruitful ambiguities of > Room, the ambiguity of the internal and external. It’s a testament to James’ writing that this slippage between the body of the poem, the body of the speaker and their mental state itself, seems an organic part of the claustrophobic structure of the poem.

Reading > Room, I felt like the goal of the navigational aspect of the reading was escape, and the end engages with that drive through QR codes in a way I thought was fantastic. Discussing it here might feel like a spoiler so I won’t.

Enter > Room here http://www.sarah-james.co.uk/?page_id=12304

Harry Buckoke, Sabotage Reviews, full review here

BBC RADIO

I was chuffed to be invited back onto the Kate Justice evening show on BBC Hereford and Worcester on Tuesday, 8 Sept to share two of my poems and to chat about poetry, creativity in these ongoing Covid-19 times and my new commission for Worcester Art Gallery. The show is available to listen to online on the BBC for 29 days after the original broadcast here and I’m on first at around 3hrs 21 mins in, then again at around 3hrs 45 mins in.

 LINES OF LOVE

The last six months have been tough, and it feels like the winter ahead is going to be tougher than usual, given the ongoing Covid-19 situation. So I decided to cheer myself up, and hopefully others too, by putting together a little something that is light-hearted and warmth-filled.

Lines of Love is a short online (hypertext) magazine style questionnaire that ends with a love poem recommendation. The project was inspired by a similar questionnaire that I put together a few years ago for my role as a library poet in residence – focussing too on love of books and libraries. I was also asked to play a fun ‘love laureate’ role at a local couple’s wedding using a similar questionnaire with recommended love poem, and also using some of the responses to create a crowd-sourced poem for the happy couple.

The free online version only takes a few minutes and can be found here: Lines of Love. Take a look, feel some love, get a love poem and if you enjoy the experience, please do share with friends too.

A WELCOME FLASH OF GOOD NEWS

Another Storm (flash) shortlisted (and published) in the Tortive Theatre Flash Fiction 101 August competition in Sept 2020;

After (flash) longlisted (and published) in the Reflex Fiction Summer 2020 Reflex flash fiction competition in Sept 2020.

WRITING A THING ABOUT ANOTHER THING I HATE WRITING…

Coming to Terms with Trying to Make Your Name or The Anguish of Author Biographies published on The Blue Nib in Sept 2020.

REVIEWING

Autumn and Covid-19 have me approaching full-on hibernation mode now. The great thing about this mood though is that it’s perfect for curling up indoors with a good book.

I’m delighted to have a review of the Maria Taylor’s Dressing for the Afterlife (Nine Arches Press) up on Everybody’s Reviewing here.

Add comment September 27, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Competitions & Commissions

It has been a while since I last blogged…but it means I have lots of exciting news and projects to share.

Firstly, I’m delighted that my poem Waiting/Outlook has won first prize in the 2020 Waltraud Field International Poetry Competition!!!

From the Art Gallery with Love x Commission

My other big news is a successful proposal for From the Art Gallery with Love x project. My commission for Worcester City Art Gallery includes creating A Modern Mosaic of Worcestershire using photographs for the tiles, a hypertext poem and a poetryfilm. All three parts of the project are inspired by the gallery’s painting A Prospect of Worcester from the East (c. 1750 and attributed to John Harris the Younger). The project is very exciting, and I’m really excited to share the results with people. More about my commission can be found here.

OTHER POETRY & FLASH COMPETITION & PUBLICATION NEWS

I’m absolutely delighted to have my poem The Cat Cafe longlisted in the Write Out Loud Covid-19 competition to raise funds for NHS Charities. It will now be published in an anthology of 100 poems selected from the more than 2,000 entries. This Write Out Loud Beyond the Storm competition anthology can be ordered here. (After covering unit costs and administration costs, Write Out Loud will give also be giving all surplus from anthology sales to the charity.)

Below, you can hear me reading the poem for the Poetry Archive.


Not our neighbours’ place (poem) longlisted in Penfro Poetry Competition 2020 in Aug 2020;

More than ‘Structurally Unsafe’ (poem) published in Words for the Wild New Build issue in Aug 2020;

Marcasite (poem) published in London Grip in Sept 2020;

Orbiting Redditch and While Visiting (poems) in New Towns anthology (Wild Pressed Books) in Sept 2020;

Knot Me, Hedgehog Pinball, Anything but E.C.T, Mâché and “One Wild And Precious Life” (poems) published in The Mountains You Cannot See an anthology of poetry about metal health (Slice of the Moon Books) in Aug 2020;

Clotted Moons (flash) published on Fictive Dream on 12 July 2020;

The Dream Machine (flash) on Every Day Fiction on 17 Aug 2020;

Wrecked (flash) shortlisted in the Tortive Theatre Flash Fiction 101 July competition in Aug 2020;

OTHER NEWS

I was delighted to be the judge for Gloucestershire Writers’ Network poetry competition 2020 with a theme of ‘My World’ and had a delightful start to August immersing myself in the entries. The results have now been announced and can be found on the GWN website here.

My big congratulations to the winning poets and fiction writers, and to everyone who entered in a year where Covid-19 has had a massive effect on us all. I’m very much looking forward now to the winners’ anthology. (And very delighted too to have been asked to contribute a couple of poems myself.) I’m also very much looking forward to hearing the winners and reading some of my own poems for this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival event on Sunday, October 4 at 5pm. Details of this and tickets here.

I have been slower than usual in keeping up with blog news. (2020 has been that kind of year!) But some weeks back, I was delighted to hear that one of my In the Booklight interviews had been referenced in The Telegraph as part of a piece about Geraldine Clarkson’s wonderful new collection Monica’s Overcoat of Flesh (Nine Arches Press). The Telegraph article is here, and my interview with Geraldine about an earlier poetry pamphlet here.

I was delighted too to see my poetryfilm ‘And his open mouth is an olive grove’ included in Helen Dewbery’s wonderful article about poetryfilm for The Blue Nib. You can find the article (with link to ‘And his open mouth is an olive grove’) here.

The Sunday Tribune online has also run a fantastic article about my Arts Council England funded multimedia hypertext poetry narrative > Room, that you can read here. A podcast interview with me about > Room, poetry and living with diabetes has also just been released by Spoken Label here.

I’m delighted to have a poem The Two-Metre Mantra accepted for a fundraising pandemic anthology project set up by Z.D. Dicks. More details about this and The Crowdfunder page for it can be found here. I’m very pleased too to have been invited to read at the launch of Z.D. Dicks’ latest poetry collection Vexed on Monday, 14 September 2020. More about the collection and launch can be found here.

Add comment September 6, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Clotted Moons

Fictive Dream

by Sarah Leavesley

The young woman in front of you is a conundrum. Normally, you can tell a person’s fate well before you read their tea leaves: you sift the dregs already knowing what you’ll find there. But clipped-moon clots of soured milk spinning on an untouched cup isn’t usual, and it isn’t good.

‘The girl who pours the right tea will see stars.’ You try to sound mysterious, as you turn your attention from the cup to me, a teenager you don’t recognise.

‘Of course.’ I sip obediently, seemingly oblivious to the unappetising flotsam swirling in my brew.

You observe me. I’m waif-like, narrow-faced with wavy ginger hair, windblown fringe, cropped pale green T-shirt and tight black jeans. I look fifteen, maybe sixteen. You can identify with the ginger ninja gene; in many ways, I remind you of yourself at a similar age, slightly hesitant, but mostly defiant, trying…

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Add comment July 12, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Poetryfilms, the BBC & other webs of lockdown light

A Plague On All Our Houses is a lockdown poetryfilm collaboration with filmmaker Andrew Curtis. It’s based on a short poetry sequence – a lockdown Romeo and Juliet – written especially for Andrew to use for the film. I also have a slightly longer page-poem version of the whole sequence featuring emails between the two characters who live in different cities, so have to isolate separately during the pandemic.

Although created as a poetryfilm, I’m absolutely delighted that the audio narrative A Plague On All Our Houses was also broadcast on BBC Radio Gloucestershire Evening Show with Jon Smith on Thursday, July 9. This is available to listen again online for around three weeks here. The first part is at 3hrs 10 mins in and the second part just before 3hrs 22 mins.

Covid-19 and lockdown haven’t been easy. I’ve been very lucky personally that none of my loved ones have caught the virus. It almost seems frivolous to write or worry about anything else at the moment. But work, life and writing are still there – if cast in an entirely different light and perspective by everything that is going on in the world right now. A small sliver of my personal experience of the past few months, including time, nature and the nature of time can be found in my article The Writing Mind’s Underlands and the Perspective of Time on The Blue Nib. This also takes in lockdown lethargy (writer’s block), my collaborative poetryfil lockdown love story, acute and chronic projects, and reading Robert Macfarlane’s amazing Underland and Alison Brackenbury’s beautiful Skies.

On the BBC

I was really delighted to be invited onto BBC Hereford & Worcester’s The Evening Show with Kate Justice for a short interview and to share two of my poem. I had a really lovely time chatting with Kate, and it was great to perform People Scare Me Because… and Doing the School Run with Freud for her and The Evening Show listeners. You can listen to this here. I’m on about 3 hrs 24 mins through, and then again around 3 hours 42 mins. (The replay should be available for about 3 weeks after this blogpost.)

Other poetry news

Not quite vintage (poem) wins fourth prize in the Evesham Festival of Words Poetry Competition 2020 with its theme of Thinking outside of the box in June 2020.

Singing Everyone a Home (poem) published in DOORS anthology in aid of Bromsgrove and Redditch Welcome Refugees in June 2020 and is available on the BRWR website here;

I’m delighted to have some haiku featured in an Ingestre Orangery inspired poetryfilm ‘missive voices.’ by Mal Dewhirst.

My review of Hush by Majella Kelly (Ignition Press) for The High Window can be found here.

I’m also pleased to have a poem, Twist, accepted for 14, a poem, In the Dream-Catcher Hung by a 40th-Storey Window at Fallsview, Niagara for Kissing Dynamite‘s anthology PUNK (due out later this summer), and another poem, Perturbing Paws for Thought, accepted for Purr Fect Poems anthology (Dream Well) in support of Stafford & District Cats Protection.

Fiction news

I’m chuffed to have a flash, After, longlisted in the Reflex Fiction Summer 2020 Flash Fiction Competition. It will be published online some time over the summer and also in the Reflex Fiction anthology next summer.

I’m very happy too to have a flash, Shipwrecked, longlisted in the Lightbox Originals photo-inspired 100-word story competition.

Add comment July 12, 2020 sarahjameswrites

Reviews: Malone, Lauder, Kelly, McCullough

The High Window

*****

Martin Malone’s The Unreturning reviewed by Nick Allen

The Unreturning by Martin Malone. £10. Shoestring Press. ISBN-13: 978-1912524204

When the first part of your collection is called ‘Ghosts of the Vortex’ and the opening poem is called ‘Séance’, in which the writer says that he will ‘sit and reconstruct’ and ‘catch their words’, you have a good idea where this is going and Martin Malone doesn’t disappoint. The Unreturning is an accomplished act of reinserting a chorus of overlooked and forgotten voices into the song of the history of the First World War.

The opening poems have at their heart a sense of waiting but also of being unsure for what it is they are waiting. ‘Mrs. Mounter circa. 1914’ tells of the widow who has been letting the spare room to a variety of “types”, her life reflects England’s in its ‘certainty’, she sits ‘impassive as the teapot’…

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Add comment June 29, 2020 sarahjameswrites

This is a poetry film version of my poem Singing Everyone a Home (poem) published in DOORS anthology in aid of Bromsgrove and Redditch Welcome Refugees in June 2020, available on the BRWR website here.

A longer launch video featuring several poems from the pamphlet can be enjoyed here.

Add comment June 20, 2020 sarahjameswrites

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