Archive for November 2017




Wednesday Reflections/Wired Flesh

Reflections/poem biography for Wired Flesh

wired flesh smaller

“I pick up my machine, black weight
of electronics, and slot myself in.
Electricity ticks unheard, sparks ignite.”

I am wary of nostalgia – though that may not be obvious from this poem about a modern family life.

When my children were toddlers, I limited the television that they watched. As they developed their own minds and opinions, this stance became harder to maintain. That their father also works in I.T. is not the only reason that they now lead fairly high-tech lives, though it does help to have home I.T. support for the many questions which are over my head.

Like it or lump it, we live in a high-tech world. The chances are that whatever career or lifestyle my children’s generation go for when they’re older, it will require them to be au fait and comfortable with technology. And the easiest way to learn anything is through play.

Nearly 15, my elder son has known more about computers than me for years now. My twelve year old isn’t far behind. And, to be fair, though I’m not up on gaming and gadgets, I do spend a fair amount of my own time on my laptop word processor or researching from the internet.

This poem then was inspired by one of those moments when my boys were younger. I suddenly looked up and saw our life from the outside. Instead of talking or playing with toys together as we had a few years earler, we were all hooked up to computers. The boys were still interacting, but through their machines.

Because of this, as a family, we do make an effort to spend some time face-to-face in conversation, old-fashioned board games, at the dinner table. But, yes, we have also been known to call them down using skype rather than shouting up the stairs!

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

There are three people in this poem constructed in three-line stanzas. Is this significant or just coincidence? Consider the different effects that may be created using things in threes (crescendo, uneven completeness…) or twos (balance, stark contrast, sense of indecision…).

Inspiration/Writing Prompts

1) What can’t robots and machines do? Is there a poem or story that can be generated from this?
2) What is the strongest connection in your life? How do you maintain your connections? How and where do you most connect with people? What would happen if you suddenly lost this connection/these connections? Use the answers to these questions as the outline for a poem or story.

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.

November 29, 2017

Wednesday Reflections/ Wired Flesh

Reflections/poem biography for Wired Flesh

wired flesh smaller

“I pick up my machine, black weight
of electronics, and slot myself in.
Electricity ticks unheard, sparks ignite.”

I am wary of nostalgia – though that may not be obvious from this poem about a modern family life.

When my children were toddlers, I limited the television that they watched. As they developed their own minds and opinions, this stance became harder to maintain. That their father also works in I.T. is not the only reason that they now lead fairly high-tech lives, though it does help to have home I.T. support for the many questions which are over my head.

Like it or lump it, we live in a high-tech world. The chances are that whatever career or lifestyle my children’s generation go for when they’re older, it will require them to be au fait and comfortable with technology. And the easiest way to learn anything is through play.

Nearly 15, my elder son has known more about computers than me for years now. My twelve year old isn’t far behind. And, to be fair, though I’m not up on gaming and gadgets, I do spend a fair amount of my own time on my laptop word processor or researching from the internet.

This poem then was inspired by one of those moments when my boys were younger. I suddenly looked up and saw our life from the outside. Instead of talking or playing with toys together as we had a few years earler, we were all hooked up to computers. The boys were still interacting, but through their machines.

Because of this, as a family, we do make an effort to spend some time face-to-face in conversation, old-fashioned board games, at the dinner table. But, yes, we have also been known to call them down using skype rather than shouting up the stairs!

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

There are three people in this poem constructed in three-line stanzas. Is this significant or just coincidence? Consider the different effects that may be created using things in threes (crescendo, uneven completeness…) or twos (balance, stark contrast, sense of indecision…).

Inspiration/Writing Prompts

1) What can’t robots and machines do? Is there a poem or story that can be generated from this?
2) What is the strongest connection in your life? How do you maintain your connections? How and where do you most connect with people? What would happen if you suddenly lost this connection/these connections? Use the answers to these questions as the outline for a poem or story.

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.

November 29, 2017

Legs Eleven by Sarah Leavesley

The things we do for friends…a quick tale of climbing, quirky characteristics &…legs!!!

The Fiction Pool

Kate can’t remember when she stopped doing skirts and dresses. Eleven? Thirteen? She’s not sure she ever wore them outside of school. Still, here she is, supposedly advising her best friend, Chloe, on the perfect outfit for her new boyfriend’s posh work ball.

“Slinky!” Kate offers, as Chloe emerges in a blue silk dress. It’s the same shade as the touched-up photos in her mum’s brochures for summer coach tours to the Lakes. Personally, Kate would rather head there in winter, with a backpack – fewer people, snow and ice to hike through, granite to climb without being harried by tourists.

“Nah, it makes me look too hippy.” Chloe shakes her head, and Kate curbs a sigh. Whatever her friend means by hippy (Chloe is thinner than a silver birch!), it isn’t a laid-back comment on flower garlands and smoking peace.

Chloe disappears behind the changing-room curtains, thrusting the blue…

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Add comment November 23, 2017

Wednesday Reflections/All the Flowers

Reflections/poem biography for All the Flowers

In the pink

“As we lick the last meringue sweetness
from our spoons, metal shines

brighter than white bones picked clean.”

The main setting for ‘All the Flowers’ is my parents’ tithe barn in the Forest of Dean countryside near Monmouth. With the help of builders and craftsmen, my father converted the disused family barn into a beautiful home. It took years of work, as did the sculpted gardens. Keeping these in this gorgeous state is not a job I envy, though I’m more than happy to enjoy walking in them and admiring the views! The sequence was sparked by admiring all their flowers and then thinking of the potential symbolic significance of flowers at various stages in my life.

My Nanna died when I was a young teenager. Neither she nor my maternal Grandad were alive to see me marry. Taking my bridal bouquet to lay on her tombstone felt very important. The sudden declaration by my father – one day, out of nowhere, during Sunday lunch – that he simply wanted to be buried on the farmland, partly explains why that I’ve only been back once to my Nanna’s grave. Death is a part of life, particularly in a farming family. It is inevitable and other life does go on.

In the back of my mind too, the lyrics to Pete Seeger’s post-war (1955) song that asks, “Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?” Fearing death and loss too much can paralyse. But feeling that fear just enough also helps to remind me of how precious life and time are.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

How does the title ‘All the Flowers’ pull the various temporally disparate parts of this sequence together?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Choose a song that evokes a strong emotional response for you. Why does it have this effect, and where does it take your thoughts? Use this as the basis for a new poem or story.

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.

November 22, 2017

Wednesday Reflections/All the Flowers

Reflections/poem biography for All the Flowers

In the pink

“As we lick the last meringue sweetness
from our spoons, metal shines

brighter than white bones picked clean.”

The main setting for ‘All the Flowers’ is my parents’ tithe barn in the Forest of Dean countryside near Monmouth. With the help of builders and craftsmen, my father converted the disused family barn into a beautiful home. It took years of work, as did the sculpted gardens. Keeping these in this gorgeous state is not a job I envy, though I’m more than happy to enjoy walking in them and admiring the views! The sequence was sparked by admiring all their flowers and then thinking of the potential symbolic significance of flowers at various stages in my life.

My Nanna died when I was a young teenager. Neither she nor my maternal Grandad were alive to see me marry. Taking my bridal bouquet to lay on her tombstone felt very important. The sudden declaration by my father – one day, out of nowhere, during Sunday lunch – that he simply wanted to be buried on the farmland, partly explains why that I’ve only been back once to my Nanna’s grave. Death is a part of life, particularly in a farming family. It is inevitable and other life does go on.

In the back of my mind too, the lyrics to Pete Seeger’s post-war (1955) song that asks, “Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?” Fearing death and loss too much can paralyse. But feeling that fear just enough also helps to remind me of how precious life and time are.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

How does the title ‘All the Flowers’ pull the various temporally disparate parts of this sequence together?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Choose a song that evokes a strong emotional response for you. Why does it have this effect, and where does it take your thoughts? Use this as the basis for a new poem or story.

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.

November 22, 2017

Neil Young, The Poets’ Republic and the ‘everyday world seen through new lens’

Lovely review of Abegail Morley’s new pamphlet with some enticing quotes…

The Poetry Shed

Brexitweetageddon.jpgAhead of my launch next week I thought I’d share this review (on my latest creation) by Neil Young, co-founder of The Poets’ Republic. The Poets’ Republic’s guiding principle is to strive to publish poetry that is hard to ignore; Issue 1 was released in May 2015 and since then they’ve published some gritty, relevant writing.

So here’s the review. I’m really hoping you can join me and my fellow readers (Jill Munro and Sarah Barnsley) at the launch.

Everyday world seen through new lens

In the Curator’s Hands by Abegail Morley (Indigo Dreams Publishing, £6. http://www.indigodreams.co.uk) ISBN: 978-1-910834-49-7

You know you’re in strange territory from the opening lines of the first poem, The Depository, in Abegail’s Morley’s new slim volume: “At its darkest point, nothing shifts. In this breathless/place we’re foxed-paper, dip-penned letters”.

Reality is inverted, everyday objects speak back to us, and the dismissably familiar is imbued with intrigue. It’s…

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Add comment November 20, 2017

Wednesday Reflections/Normadic

Reflections/poem biography for Nomadic

P1040850-002
“Dad’s breath shrinks and expands
the room behind me.”

It feels almost tautology to say that my dad has had a great influence on my life. We haven’t always seen eye to eye – what family doesn’t have its discordances? – but his opinion has always been important to me.

At the time of writing this poem (and still now), my parents live on the Gloucestershire-Wales border. This house wasn’t where I was brought up, but is a converted barn on family farmland. It carries the weight of generations. Every visit to see my parents is not just in some way like returning to my childhood, but like returning to my father’s childhood and the family history before that.

When I am there, various childhood ‘me’s seem to rub awkwardly against the adult ‘me’. Working out how I fit into my family, and the wider world, is a constant state of wondering. And also, wandering, though I’m not sure if the process of firming up identity is helped or made harder by having lived in three different places when I was a child, then two university towns and abroad as a student, and Burton, Lichfield, Bromsgrove and Droitwich after that.

Although brought up in the countryside near Monmouth, my dad went to college in London. Meanwhile, my mum is a Londoner who went to University of Wales, Cardiff. Maybe moving around is in the genes, maybe it’s just part of being human. I guess in some sense, we are all nomads when it comes to life, resting here and there as we’re passing through.

When I feel down, depressed or unsure of myself – in terms of poetry or life more generally – returning to words on paper, the art of creation and the crafting of that creation often helps. But sometimes there are no words, particularly in a numbing period of depression. Then, I have to listen to the silence instead and remind myself that there is always some sound. Also, that the words do come back eventually. Patience and waiting are games I’ve had to live with.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Points

1) Does this poem actually answer the narrator’s need to work out their “sense of my place in this”? If so, how? If not, why not?

2) Although there isn’t a single question in this poem, arguably it revolves around a sense of questioning, or unvoiced questions. What different effects might be created by the different techniques of direct questions, rhetorical questions, questionless answers (statements which imply an unvoiced question that they are responding to) and withheld background details (that evoke questions in the reader’s mind which may or may not be in the narrator’s mind)?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Take a place you know well and that is important to you, or important to someone who is important to you. What signs (visible or in memory) of your/their presence does the place have? How different would the place feel without these? Will any of this be obvious to future generations? Use this as the starting point for a poem or story.

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.

November 15, 2017

Wednesday Reflections/Nomadic

Reflections/poem biography for Nomadic

P1040850-002
“Dad’s breath shrinks and expands
the room behind me.”

It feels almost tautology to say that my dad has had a great influence on my life. We haven’t always seen eye to eye – what family doesn’t have its discordances? – but his opinion has always been important to me.

At the time of writing this poem (and still now), my parents live on the Gloucestershire-Wales border. This house wasn’t where I was brought up, but is a converted barn on family farmland. It carries the weight of generations. Every visit to see my parents is not just in some way like returning to my childhood, but like returning to my father’s childhood and the family history before that.

When I am there, various childhood ‘me’s seem to rub awkwardly against the adult ‘me’. Working out how I fit into my family, and the wider world, is a constant state of wondering. And also, wandering, though I’m not sure if the process of firming up identity is helped or made harder by having lived in three different places when I was a child, then two university towns and abroad as a student, and Burton, Lichfield, Bromsgrove and Droitwich after that.

Although brought up in the countryside near Monmouth, my dad went to college in London. Meanwhile, my mum is a Londoner who went to University of Wales, Cardiff. Maybe moving around is in the genes, maybe it’s just part of being human. I guess in some sense, we are all nomads when it comes to life, resting here and there as we’re passing through.

When I feel down, depressed or unsure of myself – in terms of poetry or life more generally – returning to words on paper, the art of creation and the crafting of that creation often helps. But sometimes there are no words, particularly in a numbing period of depression. Then, I have to listen to the silence instead and remind myself that there is always some sound. Also, that the words do come back eventually. Patience and waiting are games I’ve had to live with.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Points

1) Does this poem actually answer the narrator’s need to work out their “sense of my place in this”? If so, how? If not, why not?

2) Although there isn’t a single question in this poem, arguably it revolves around a sense of questioning, or unvoiced questions. What different effects might be created by the different techniques of direct questions, rhetorical questions, questionless answers (statements which imply an unvoiced question that they are responding to) and withheld background details (that evoke questions in the reader’s mind which may or may not be in the narrator’s mind)?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Take a place you know well and that is important to you, or important to someone who is important to you. What signs (visible or in memory) of your/their presence does the place have? How different would the place feel without these? Will any of this be obvious to future generations? Use this as the starting point for a poem or story.

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.

November 15, 2017

Awards, editing, publications

I’m very very delighted to share news that V. Press has been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award.

It’s a real honour to see V. Press shortlisted and I’m very very proud of all the authors and books that we’ve published. More about the award can be found here and my V. Press blogpost on the news (with pamphlet offers) here.

The shortlisting ties in serendipitously with another exciting editing project that I’ve been involved with recently. Last month I agreed to take part in #edittheeditor with dna magazine.

The magazine publishes creative non-fiction on a theme specific to each issue. (I had a piece in issue 2 on the theme of identity.) For #edittheditor, editor-in-chief Katie Marsden asked me and another dna magazine contributor, Rob Walton, to consider an anonymous piece written by one of the journal editors on the theme for the forthcoming issue – locations. Our task was to decide whether we would accept it for the magazine, or reject it, with readers also voting whether to accept or reject. The piece can be found on the dna magazine blog, with #edittheeditor thoughts and decisions coming soon.

In the case of dna magazine, acceptance or rejection isn’t just about the quality of the writing, or even how it fits alongside other pieces, it’s also about the best pieces that respond to a particular theme.

For #edittheeditor, we were only considering one piece in isolation, which made the workload and task much easier. I loved the unusual slant of the family car as a location in ‘A Pickled Dinosaur’ – one that moves, and even changes make over the years in this piece, but still remains the generic family car. It’s the place where much of the action takes place and the place that these particular memories are linked to. But would you take a narrower stance on the theme? Head over to the site and comment/cast your vote now!

Taking part in the #edittheditor has been interesting. I used to be co-poetry editor, with Jenny Hope, of the Worcestershire Literary Festival magazine, and the project also made me think briefly again about some of the similarities and differences in editing a journal and solo pamphlets or collections.

With both types of publication, all the selected pieces have to work together – it’s not just about the quality of each piece individually. So, selection isn’t simply the best pieces, it’s the best pieces that work together to create the best overall magazine, pamphlet or book.

Themes can be great for both journals and solo collections in creating a common thread and flow. At the same time, they also mean each piece has to be different and striking enough compared to others on a similar theme to warrant a place in the journal or book. (This can easily become restrictive rather than a unifying element if trying to theme a solo pamphlet too tightly.)

It’s maybe also worth me mentioning an extra selection factor that comes into play for me at V. Press. This is the fact that the work we take on not only needs to gel as a whole pamphlet or book but also needs to gel with other V. Press titles. When I say gel, it has to fit with the range already published, but without encroaching too closely on styles or contents already published by V. Press, particularly recently. In some cases, it may also have to work to help set out the breadth of V. Press’s titles. This is particularly true for the first few titles in any genre new to V. Press, where we may want to establish the full range of subject matter and styles that we’re open to. Quality of work is important. But timing and the press’s range as a whole do also come into my decisions about which manuscripts we take on at any particular point in time.

While I’m on the subject of submissions, this week I was interviewed, as V. Press managing director and editor, for Six Questions For…. My short interview with Jim Harrington about the press and editing can be enjoyed here.)

MY NEWS:

PRIZES

Second and third prize, with my poems ‘The Angel of the North-West’ and ‘The Lamppost’, in the Wordpool Festival poetry competition 2017 on the theme of Illuminations.

Highly commended in the Birmingham Mail, Birmingham Literature Festival and Virgin Trains flash fiction competition, with my flash ‘Taking the 14.03 to Edinburgh’.

PUBLICATIONS

‘Chicken for Dinner’ (poem) in the Algebra of Owls Selected Anthology Number 5 in November 2017.

‘Dear Clent’ (poem) published on Atrium Poetry 3 November, 2017.

‘Correcting a Stutter’ (poem) published in Eye Flash Poetry Journal in October.

‘How to be a Chinese Lantern’ (poem) published in Popshot Magazine, issue 18, the light issue, in October.

‘Out of the Box’ (flash fiction) published in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, journal of the International Flash Fiction Association (IFFA), Vol 9, No. 2, Oct 2016.

I’m also very pleased to have a poem, ‘A Catching Smile’, in the Nottingham Peacebuilders anthology SMALL ACTS OF KINDNESS, which is launched later this month. LINK (Details of this in the flier below.)

Recent acceptances include a flash ‘No False Pretences’ for Fictive Dream and another ‘Extracting the Best Bits’ for Ellipsis Zine.

EVENTS

I also really enjoyed reading with Ruth Stacey and Katy Wareham Morris in our An Unconventional History of Maidenhood, Mothering and Mistresses at Birmingham Waterstones in October.

The launch of Against The Grain Press, who are publishing my pamphlet How to Grow Matches in the spring, was also a fabulous evening. I met my editors Abegail Morley, Karen Dennison and Jessica Mookherjee in person for the first time, which was lovely. It was also wonderful to hear my 2018 stablemates read and get my copy of Anna Kisby’s fabulous All The Naked Daughters.

Small Acts launch

November 14, 2017

Wednesday Reflections/Wanting

Reflections/poem biography for Wanting

hand - sea thrift smaller
“It’s his hands, always his hands.

How fingertips skip from the keyboard
to play arpeggios along my arm.”

And the man in this poem is           . [Insert fantasy name and physique of your choice. Okay, so I’m only kidding with the fantasy names, though reality tv, soft porn and tabloid spilling the beans do seem to have become a solid part of popular culture.]

Originally, this poem was part of a pamphlet-length collection of poems ‘When Sunlight (Swims In)’ exploring a modern relationship, marriage and parenthood. A selection of poems from this were longlisted in the Venture Award 2012/2013, but many didn’t survive the distance to make it into a full collection.

‘Wanting’ is one of the few that did. By focussing on hands, I’m hoping this poem of attraction and lust may have escaped any danger of a female gaze objectifying men. I may lose some of that high ground though, when I admit that this isn’t about any one man, more a mixture of snapshots. All these men’s suggestive hand movements are brought together in one poetry ‘he’.

Form-wise, music played quite a big part in my original pamphlet. In this poem, I wanted the opening piano-related observation to unfold as notes do in a musical scale. The stanza length, therefore, is a kind of poetry octave crescendo, from one line to two lines to three lines…all the way up to an eight-line stanza and then back to a single line again.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

How does this poem use structure to set up, reinforce and break expectations? (The crescendoing piano-scale stanza lengths, ‘how’ at the start of 7 of the 8 stanzas, the sudden change in focus for the final single-line stanza…)

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Write a poem or story focussing on part of the body. Explore how suddenly changing focus at the end might turn the poem/story on its head, or encourage people to re-read the whole piece in an entirely different light.

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.

November 8, 2017

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