Archive for March 2018




Wednesday Reflections/Shells

Reflections/poem biography for Shells

shells 2 smaller

“Now he is hunched emptiness,
face buried in their bed.”

Sometimes, when I’m adopting an unfamiliar character’s perspective in a poem, I will use the first person to help me get close to that experience. Likewise, when I am dealing with things that are very personal, I may use the third person to distance me and provide some objectivity. The ‘sometimes’ is very important here, as it would be a mistake to think every ‘she’ in my poems is me, or vice versa.

‘Shells’ is very much inspired though by trying to look at myself from the outside, when suffering with depression. As I had started considering myself from others’ viewpoints, it seemed important to also consider the effects my depression might have on people around me. I can’t begin to understand how hard the worst times must be for my husband, though he is always so strong.

The practice of putting on a bright face while suffering inside my shell is partly a coping mechanism – habits give life a structure when all other structure seems lost. Paradoxically though, there is a freedom too in letting impressions, feelings, life flow around me without trying to capture them.

A shell is fixed by its own rigid shape if not its contents. Water’s fluidity is dictated mainly by the forces applied to it and the shape of the space left open to it. When I’m with people I trust, there is safety and relief in letting negative emotions flow. Also, a sense that there is still something of me there, albeit very hard to hold still in one fixed state.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

Is this more a narrative sequence, a sequence based on contrasts like brittle fixedness and soft fluidity, a conceit…? If you feel it has various different elements, which is strongest overall? Do the different parts of the sequence perform distinctly different functions? How do these parts work within the whole?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Take an existing poem or short story you’ve written. Keep one word from each line/sentence/paragraph. Let these words work as the shell for a new poem/story. Now fill in the rest. (If you can, give yourself permission to just follow the flow of thoughts and inspiration as they arise. If you’d like extra structure, try a theme such as the sea/beach/holidays/water.)

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.

March 28, 2018

Getting into writing – an interview with Sarah James

Zeroflash

Sarah James

Sarah James/S.A. Leavesley is an award-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Overton Poetry Prize winner 2015, she is author of four poetry collections, three poetry pamphlets, a touring poetry-play and two novellas.

Her poetry has won or been shortlisted for many prizes, with individual poems published by the Financial Times, the GuardianThe Forward Book of Poetry 2016, on Worcestershire buses and in the Blackpool Illuminations.

Sarah’s other work includes editing, mentoring, facilitating workshops, commissions, residencies and festival readings. Her poetry has featured on the BBC, in poetryfilms and on radio. She is also a published essay/CNF writer, and longlisted for the memoir prize in the New Welsh Writing Awards 2017.

Her website is at www.sarah-james.co.uk and she runs V. Press, a poetry and flash imprint shortlisted in The Michael Marks Publishers’ Award 2017.

What got you interested in writing?

I can’t honestly remember. As…

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Add comment March 26, 2018

Getting into writing – an interview with Jude Higgins

Zeroflash

jude higgins

Jude Higgins is a writer, writing tutor and organises flash fiction events. She is published in the New Flash Fiction Review, Flash Frontier, The Nottingham Review, National Flash Fiction Day Anthologies and the Fish Prize Anthology among other places. She has won, been placed or short listed in many different flash fiction contests. Her debut flash fiction pamphlet, The Chemist’s House, was published by V. Press in June 2017. She organises Bath Flash Fiction Award and directs the Flash Fiction Festival UK @judehwriterjudehiggins.com

What are the happiest memories in your writing career?

Last year hit the jackpot for writing happiness. My pamphlet of flash fictions, The Chemist’s House, thirteen fictions based on growing up in mid -Wales in the middle of the last century, was published by V. Press. I organised the inaugural Flash Fiction Festival in Bath with the help of Ad Hoc Fiction, Meg Pokrass…

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Add comment March 26, 2018

Wednesday Reflections/His Wife

Reflections/poem biography for His Wife
Hall of Clocks
“The psychologist stares; tick.
As if eyes are glass openings,
and he’s trying to lift the catch;

click…”

In contrast to the preceding poem, ‘His Wife’ is full of serious intentional attention and gaze.

The plotline is imagining what it must be like to be married to an over-worked psychologist. The conceit this is explored through is the mind resembling a clock in its inner workings and the care taken in observing and tinkering/fine-tuning these.

Conceits aren’t to every readers’ taste, and don’t seem especially popular at the moment. But this one also gave me plenty of scope for word play – such as the line about the brain’s pendulum ending in an exclamation mark before this pendulum is described as like an exclamation, its movement then stopped in a line ending with a full stop. The poem is also full of –ick, -ock sounds. But these don’t sound as regularly as you’d expect from a clock’s normally functioning tick-tock.

Meanwhile, on the narration front, as the psychologist is examining his wife’s mind, the narrator (like the wife, perhaps) is also examining the psychologist’s inner workings.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

Do you notice the –ock, -op, -ick, -its sounds as you read the poem? Do they work effectively to illustrate and enhance the contents?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

You/a fictional character are running out of time to do something important. What is it? Why does it matter? What will happen if it doesn’t get done in time? Use this as a poem/story outline. Alternatively, try imagining your/ a fictional character’s bucket list. What is on there and why? What does the list reveal about personality/lifestyle? Does it suggest a narrative plot? 

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.

March 21, 2018

Wednesday Reflections/In the Ointment

Reflections/poem biography for In the Ointment

In the ointment
“…Always a fly,
the smallest of things,
this full stop with wings”

This poem was directly inspired by a Verse Kraken prompt and call-out for pieces related to The Tantalizing Fly, featuring Max Fleischer’ silent cartoon character Koko the Clown.

My thoughts flew from one film/literary fly to another with as much wordplay as possible in between. This is not a poem that wants or needs to be taken too seriously, more one to be enjoyed for the momentary buzz and dance of language.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

What kind of poem is this? Comic linguistic word play? Whimsy? Or are there more serious observations about language and life underlying it?

Writing/Inspiration Prompts

1) Take a punctuation mark. Think of real things that resemble it in some way. Can these be combined to construct a narrative, create a humorous poem or make a point?
2) Take an existing poem or story that you’ve written which isn’t quite working. Choose one type of punctuation mark in it. Try re-writing the entire poem/story using only that one type of punctuation mark. Alternatively, re-draft the whole piece without using that type of punctuation mark in it at all.

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.

March 14, 2018

Matchsticks, Mums…& More!

Happy Mother’s Day to all mums and children – of whatever age!

March, Mother’s Day and my writing life – given the feminist slants to my new poetry pamphlet How to Grow Matches published by Against The Grain Press later this month, it feels a good day to talk about some of the inspiration and background to the collection.

How to Grow Matches front coverThe title poem ‘How to Grow Matches’ was first published by Magma for their revolution-themed issue in June 2016. As with the rest of the poems, it’s about the expectations society can place on women. But the pamphlet also touches on potential female role models and ideals, women in myth/storytelling, and aspects of women’s lives, influence and prejudice faced as mothers, daughters and mistresses. This is not to mention all the advice women can get given…

That’s a very rough and generalised summing up of the pamphlet. What I really want to do here now is pay tribute to my mum – a wonderful woman who’s always inspired me (as has my dad too!). She is one of the main driving forces behind the pamphlet, along with my grandmothers and all the generations of women before me who have had so much to fight against in terms of women’s rights and the kind of lives open to them. Alongside this too, my concerns for future generations. The writing was also focussed by an awareness of my individual responsibility within this for shaping the world and society.

How to Grow Matches back cover

LaunchPlusGuest_Page_1

LaunchPlusGuest_Page_2

How to Grow Matches London launch 2

One thing I’ve already been very touched by is the generous response of those who’ve read the pamphlet, including the wonderful cover endorsements from Luke Kennard and Gill McEvoy.

How to Grow Matches is available to pre-order now from the Against The Grain Press shop here! I’m also absolutely delighted to have the full line-up for the London launch – below. It’s great to be able to read with such fabulous female writers!!! Against The Grain Press have also set up an events page on Facebook here.

 
 
 
 

OTHER POETRY NEWS

On the subject of peace…this is from the Nottingham Peacebuilders anthology Small Acts of Kindness. It’s lovely to think of the postcardsand poems circulating like smiles at Nottingham Castle for this 2018 event.

Reminiscing on #lightnight2018 One installation at @nottinghamcastle asked participants to hang messages for peace. They were also giving out these postcards of poetry! Here’s one from @s.a.leavesley 💡 . . #nottinghamcastle #lightnight #poetry #literature

A post shared by Nottingham City Of Literature (@nottmcityoflit) on

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Nature and environmental concern are also of growing importance in my writing and I’m delighted to have ‘A Planet Where’ published on the beautiful and important Words for the Wild (February 2018).

Also, ‘Our Street’ published in London Grip, spring 2018.

And ‘The Nowhere Shed’ published in The High Window – a place of loneliness, yes, but also nature, recuperation and the rain’s mantra.

I’m very pleased to have an article and poem set for publication in the April issue (issue 12, April 5) of Breathe. ‘Tea, Poetry and Peace’ covers mindfulness, inspiration and the potential healing powers of poetry, along with a short poem from me written specially for Breathe. I love this magazine, so it’s a real pleasure to have a piece in this issue. Magazine subscriptions are available on the website, but individual copies can also be found in various shops. Locally to me in Droitwich, I think this includes WHSmith, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, and other petrol stations and newsagent outlets.

V. PRESS NEWS

There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes at V. Press recently, so lots to come over the next few weeks. Meantime, I’ve just set our submission window dates for this year. Advance notice and more about these can be found here.

EVENTS NEWS

Saturday, 31 March – Poetry Cafe, London – Launch of How to Grow Matches (Against The Grain Press)

Sarah will be reading from How to Grow Matches – a pamphlet inspired by strong women, the search for and conflicting female role models and the pressures women face in modern society. With guest readers: Linda Black, Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire.

6.30pm for a 7pm start at Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX.

Saturday, 19 May – Park’s Cafe, Droitwich – How to Grow Matches – A Live Lit Celebration

A launch that’s more like a celebration – for How to Grow Matches (poetry) LINK IN, hopefully Always Another Twist (novella) and spoken word, strong women and fabulous writers generally. More details on this to be revealed in April – featuring guest poets, an open mic with prizes and more!

Time & venue: 7-9.30pm, Park’s Cafe, 4 Victoria Square, Droitwich WR9 8DS

Saturday, 28 April – Mantle Lane Press Spring Showcase at Birmingham Literature Festival Spring 2018

Based in Coalville, Mantle Lane Press is the publishing arm of Mantle Arts, specialising in fiction and factual historical books, usually with a Midlands connection. As part of this Spring Showcase event, editor Matthew Pegg will introduce us to Mantle Lane’s new and upcoming publications including The Music Maker by Liz Kershaw and Always Another Twist by Sarah Leavesley. We will hear extracts from seven Mantle Lane writers – Sue Barsby, Jennifer McLean, Liz Kershaw, Mary Williams, Nick Fogg, Sarah Leavesley and Tim Franks.

Venue: The DOOR, Birmingham REP
Tickets: £6 / £4.80 (concs)
Information and tickets here

Sunday, 22 July 2018 – V. Press showcase at this year’s Flash Fiction Festival at Trinity College, Bristol

For more information and to book tickets for the weekend-long festival, please visit the website here.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018 – guest poet at Poetry Cafe Refreshed, Cheltenham

The evening at Smokey Joe’s, 16 Bennington St, Cheltenham, GL50 4ED runs 7pm – 9pm, and also includes open mic slots.

LOVE TO TALK/READ/WRITE

Whether it’s reading or writing, I love words. I also chatting poetry, sharing my work and talking to other readers and writers. So do drop me an email (lifeislikeacherrytreeAT yeahooDOT com), if you’d like me to come along and talk literature, discuss writing or share my work. And likewise written interviews, blogposts on aspects of reading,writing and publishing. Or podcasts, or film, or anything I’ve not even thought of!

March 11, 2018

Wednesday Reflections / Re. Composition

Reflections/poem biography for Re. Composition
P1160355boost and crop ant smaller“Light shifts. I see a French knot,
legs unpicking silk stitches,”

This poem about the perfectness of a small ant was directly inspired by a Magma submissions call for poems about beauty. It is about an ant, but also the nature of beauty itself and what the arts consider beauty.

Based on a real instant in my life, I no longer have the photo that inspired it. (The picture wasn’t a prize-winner but both the poppy and ant were striking.) As it’s not a moment that I’ve ever re-created in any of my later photos, it exists now only in this poem.

However, the pictures here maybe capture an essence of what it is to focus in almost microscopic detail on small creatures easily overlooked or dismissed.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

How do you think/feel/react to the jagged mix of long and short lines? Why?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Remember/Imagine either an attempt at something that fails or when a big plan goes wrong. What happens? How do you/ your fictional character(s) deal with it? What unexpected good things might result from this?

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.

March 7, 2018

Wednesday Reflections / Re. Composition

Reflections/poem biography for Re. Composition
P1160355boost and crop ant smaller“Light shifts. I see a French knot,
legs unpicking silk stitches,”

This poem about the perfectness of a small ant was directly inspired by a Magma submissions call for poems about beauty. It is about an ant, but also the nature of beauty itself and what the arts consider beauty.

Based on a real instant in my life, I no longer have the photo that inspired it. (The picture wasn’t a prize-winner but both the poppy and ant were striking.) As it’s not a moment that I’ve ever re-created in any of my later photos, it exists now only in this poem.

However, the pictures here maybe capture an essence of what it is to focus in almost microscopic detail on small creatures easily overlooked or dismissed.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

How do you think/feel/react to the jagged mix of long and short lines? Why?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Remember/Imagine either an attempt at something that fails or when a big plan goes wrong. What happens? How do you/ your fictional character(s) deal with it? What unexpected good things might result from this?

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.

March 7, 2018

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