Archive for May 2018




Burn Whilst Reading – How to Grow Matches by S.A. Leavesley

Against the Grain Poetry Press

Amy Deakin’s review at The Feminist Library of How to Grow Matches by S.A. Leavesley begins as follows

How to Grow Matches is a fiery retort to the silencing of women’s voices and bodies over the centuries. Despite the collection’s undercurrent of passionate rage against this injustice, Leavesley wields her power with the tightly controlled precision of a surgeon. Each poem seems to spark and crackle with energy and not a line is out of place. I am reminded of Carol Ann Duffy’s 1999 collection The World’s Wife, as Leavesley tells and retells stories of old paintings, unknown female perspectives on political events and characters forgotten by history, continually harkening back to the fairy tales and mythology. Yet despite these old themes, this collection has a modern relevance. At a time of #MeToo and sexual harassment culture, the silencing of female voices feels all too ordinary.”

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Add comment May 31, 2018

And the Worcestershire Poet Laureate shortlist is…

Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe

Every year our chosen judges work tirelessly towards choosing a new Poet Laureate for the county of Worcestershire and this year is certainly no exception. Seasoned judges Steve Wilson and Polly Stretton are joined by Nina Lewis, the current Worcestershire Poet Laureate, and Rachel Evans, the current Young Poet Laureate for Worcestershire, to make their decision on who is next in line to represent the literary community of Worcestershire and after much deliberation they have narrowed their options down to a final three…

<insert drum roll here>

Our three finalists for this year’s competition are:

Peter Sutton

Sarah Leavesley

Betti Moretti

A huge congratulations to our three finalists, and commiserations and deep gratitude to everyone else who entered. We were delighted to see the wonderful entries that stacked up this year and we hope that those who entered alongside the three finalists will consider entering again in the future.

Peter…

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Add comment May 31, 2018

Wednesday Reflections/Raindrop on a Red Leaf

Reflections/poem biography for Raindrop on a Red Leaf

P1050378 raindrop on red leaf smaller“His hand cupping a spider, wrist trembling;
a thin branch in the wind,”

The main story behind my plenty-fish poem ‘Raindrop on a Red Leaf’ starts with a photo of such a raindrop on a leaf. I took this picture on a walk across a local park in September 2011.

But this 10-line poem has an unwritten epilogue that starts much further back in time. This pre-poem story has two angles. The first is the literary influence of Jacques Prévert, whose work first got me hooked on poetry. (This influence also features more explicitly in my plenty-fish poem ‘The je ne sais quoi of it’.) That Prévert was a screenwriter as well as a poet can be seen in his poems’ imagery.

The second influence is part-literary – the “What is this life if, full of care, |We have no time to stand and stare?” of William Henry Davies’ ‘Leisure’, and William Blake’s “To see a World in a Grain of Sand…” (‘Auguries of Innocence’). But it is also part-mindfulness and the notion of living in the moment as a way of dealing with, or reacting against, the otherwise generally fast pace of modern society. Writing the poem, I set out to capture snapshots of some of those moments in life that cause an inner gasp and leave a lasting mark in the memory.

The resulting poem was one of three chosen, along with corresponding spectrogram (sound wave-forms) art that I created from their lines, to be displayed on Worcestershire buses as a Worcestershire Arts Partnership/CBS Outdoors/First Capital Connect commission in June-Aug 2013.

The poem, based on emotionally moving moments, and physically moving when on the buses, also has another element of movement. It is one of a few poems in plenty-fish where lines move, or shape-shift, according to their medium.

‘Raindrop on a Red Leaf’ concludes with a couplet circling back to the title image metaphorically. On the page, in the collection, the final line is: “on the wet leaves of two tongues.” But, read aloud without the words on the page visible, “tongues” is easily misheard as “tongs” or “tonnes”. Fortunately, the poem is free verse and not welded to a fixed metre. So, in readings, I often add an extra two-syllable word right at the end, to help clarify on the sound front and also make explicit what lies between the lines of the page version: “on the wet leaves of two tongues, kissing.”


Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Points

1) How closely does the central image in each couplet link to the other couplet’s images/moments? Does the poem leave enough space for the reader to make their own connections?

2) What relationship does the title ‘Raindrop on a Red Leaf’ have with the poem’s contents? Is a connection between the two clear when you first start reading? If not, when does some linking/interpretation become possible? And does it take on new meaning(s) by the end of the poem?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Imagine a photo album of five important snapshots from your/a fictional character’s life. Can you use these to create a narrative, or a bigger snapshot of your/their personality? Try to use either the final image or the title alone to hint at the most important snapshot or a way of reading all these snapshots.

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.

May 30, 2018

Let me tell you a tale, or two…with a twist of poetry, reviews & more

CHARITY LIVE LIT & LAUNCHES

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Forget the royal wedding or football on May 19, I was pleased to celebrate live lit and raise funds for St Paul’s Hostel, while launching my latest novella Always Another Twist and poetry pamphlet How to Grow Matches.

The night started with Sylv Coultier reading a Spanish translation of the pamphlet opening poem Matryoshka Portrait. This was followed by an intermingling of poems and a novella extract from me, as well as poems from fabulous guest poets Holly Magill and Jenny Hope, and Liz Kershaw reading from her newly launched novella The Music Maker.

Charley Barnes MCed the evening, while Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis judged the prize open mic section, with a most majestic poem prize awarded by Paul at Park’s Cafe. I have to admit that I didn’t tell Nina I thought she might have the hardest job of the night…and she did! The open mic was amazing with stunning sets from everyone, including some the talented creative group at St Paul’s Hostel. It was an amazing, amazing night – and a big thank you to everyone who came along and made it so!!!

(from left to right) Charley Barnes, Nina Lewis, Jenny Hope, Liz Kershaw, Holly Magill.

(from left to right) Charley Barnes, Nina Lewis, Jenny Hope, Liz Kershaw, Holly Magill.

REVIEWING

Over the past few weeks I’m delighted to have reviewed:

losing interest in the sound of petrichor by Kate Garrett over on Riggwelter;

Yuki Means Happiness by Alison Jean Lester over on Goodreads;

The Music Maker by Liz Kershaw over on Amazon.

ALWAYS ANOTHER TWIST – audio & reviews

Extract 2: ‘He called, Julie smiles, the gorgeous guy from the library called her…’

Extract 3: ‘“It can’t be!” Julie closes her eyes, then looks again at the pregnancy strip. A blue line. She shakes the white plastic, the line is still there…’

 
Review:

ALWAYS ANOTHER TWIST-Final“…Initially chapters follow the nursery rhyme “Ten Green Bottles” with each chapter presenting a new break, a new problem for Julie to solve. Some are simple: you lose a job, find another. Others more complex…The bottles start increasing when Julie discovers her pregnancy, implying what is broken can be rebuilt, but a rebuilt bottle carries its fault line…

“At the heart of the story is how we allow the views of others to distort the view we have of ourselves. This can be positive when we question decisions and check we’re on the right path. However, it can be negative when we prioritise how our decisions affect others and change them based on unchecked information which may be false.

“Julie is easy to sympathise with: the independent sister prepared to take responsibility and do the right thing, even at personal cost…”

Emma Lee, full review here.

HIPPOCRATES PRIZE

I was delighted to hear that my poem ‘At breaking point’ has won Second Prize in the 2018 FPM Hippocrates Open awards for Poetry and Medicine (generously supported by the UK medical society the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine).

My poem ‘Postpartum’ was also commended in the competition and both poems published in the The 2018 Hippocrates Prize Anthology. The anthology can be purchased here, more on the anthology poets and poems here, and the prize announcement here.

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V PRESS SABOTEUR NEWS

Lots of fabulous news from the Saboteur Awards this year – check out my V. Press blogpost with all the great V. Press related news here.

OTHER PUBLICATIONS

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I’m delighted to have:

The Life of a Fish published in The Dark Horse issue 39 in May 2018;
 
And the words disappear and Skimming Petals published in A Tale of Two Cities Special Edition Contour WPL Magazine Issue 3. (The poems are part of a twin city project linking poets in Worcestershire, UK, with poets from Worcester, massacusetts, USA. I was delighted to work with Susan Roney-O’Brien, with my poem ‘And the words disappear’ inspiring her ‘We loose our thoughts into the space between us, then wait’, and her ‘Landscape’ inspiring my ‘Skimming Petals’;
 
From The Heart’s Diary (poetry sequence) accepted for publication on Bonnie’s Crew on June 16;
 
The Grape-Face (flash) accepted for publication on Spelk on July 13;
 
From Wild Sargasso Seas accepted for Guillemot Press‘s #eel suitcase anthology. (I’m particularly pleased about this because the poem feels the closest I’ve ever come to being able to incorporate experimental elements with a more mainstream style poem in a way that hopefully allows each to also work independently, so that those readers who only enjoy one of these approaches can enjoy the poem without the other more experimental/mainstream elements distracting or interfering with that enjoyment.)

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NEW EVENTS

advert-collab-finalgrad2Thursday, June 28, University of Wolverhampton Artsfest – An Unconventional History of Maidenhood, Mothering and Mistresses

When: 28 June 2018 – 28 June 2018, 7.30pm

At: Tilstone, Arena Theatre, Wulfruna Street, Wolverhampton,West Midlands, WV1 1SE

Writers Katy Wareham Morris, Ruth Stacey and Sarah James draw on history, literature and art for their poems and narratives about women’s roles and experience in society – now and in the past.

Tickets: FREE – reserve your place at www.wlv.ac.uk/artsfest

Booking link: https://www.wlv.ac.uk/about-us/our-schools-and-institutes/faculty-of-arts/artsfest/registration-form/

Monday, August 20 – Tales Between the Ales night at The Two Towers Brewery, Birmingham

AT: The Two Towers Brewery, 29 Shadwell Street Birmingham B4 6HB

TIME: 7 -9.30pm.

I will be reading at this night of themed poetry (and fiction) celebrating all things to do with the summer: myths, legends, folklore, mischief, magic, and/or personal remembrances etc, with a twist on the subject of summer. Other readers include Colin Ward, Stephen Maguire and Ray Bradnock.

Eventbrite link https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/tales-between-the-ales-tickets-46115874823
Facebook link https://www.facebook.com/events/173541293344629??ti=ia

Friday, 12 October 2018 – Evesham Festival of Words Meet the Authors event with Sarah James, Alex Lee Davis and Richard Vaughan Davies

AT: Evesham Library

TIME: 11am-12.30pm

The Evesham Festival of Words event includes talk, readings and Q&A is open to the general public.

May 29, 2018

Here is my interview with Sarah Leavesley

authorsinterviews

Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.

 

Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?

I write as Sarah Leavesley, S.A. Leavesley and Sarah James. Although I’ve now celebrated my 21st21 times, I don’t feel much different to when I first celebrated it, though my body sometimes disagrees with me!

Fiona: Where are you from?

I live in Worcestershire, U.K. at the moment. But I was born in southern England.I’ve lived in Oxford, Cardiff and France and seriously considered moving to Canada when I was younger. My mum is from London originally and my dad from the Wales/Gloucestershire border near Monmouth, while my only sister now lives in the U.S. In terms of home being where the heart is, there are parts of me all over the world! Belonging/not belonging is a theme…

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Add comment May 24, 2018

Reflections/The Philosopher’s Magnum Opus

Reflections/poem biography for The Philosopher’s Magnum Opus
Magnum opus smaller
“Strangely, no real effort is required,
only time, and the sea’s tidal wisdom.”

Alchemy is a mysterious, ancient philosophical and protoscientific tradition to draw upon. It was also the prompt for this poem, written specifically for the art and poetry anthology Drifting Down the Lane.

In alchemy, the magnum opus is a term for the transformational process of changing raw materials into the philosopher’s stone or the efforts to discover this stone. The philosopher’s stone itself is a legendary alchemical substance capable of turning base metals into gold.

Translated as ‘the great work’, magnum opus has also been applied metaphorically to artists’ greatest achievements. The philosopher’s stone too has many other metaphorical meanings and values, including symbolising perfection and enlightenment.

But perhaps true pearls of wisdom don’t require so much effort. Maybe awareness of our effects on others and using words with care is the real philosopher’s stone.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

How well do the conversational snippets fit into this poem? Do you think this is helped or made harder by the poem’s rhythm and couplet structure?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Where might you/a fictional character find a modern-day philosopher’s stone? What would you/they use it to transform and why? What unexpected effects might this have?

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.

May 23, 2018

Reflections/poem biography for not(e) a poetics of glass/water

Reflections/poem biography for Looking Back In Fragments

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“The echo of his whispers       fills your mind with snow;
a blizzard of thoughts                        swirled
to red-edged numbness.”

Now one of the most experimental pieces in the collection, this was once just a straightforward, mainstream, free-verse poem combining landscape and lost love, based in part on the photos on the photos below. As such, there were many lines and images that I was attached to, but nothing to lift it above this.

Breaking the poem into different fragments made it far more interesting for me. By combining it with the footnote poem, ‘not(e) a poetics of glass/water’, both pieces took on more layers, and became a fragmented narrative with plenty of space, I hope, for the reader’s imagination to wonder and play.

Reflections/poem biography for not(e) a poetics of glass/water

looking back

“6. As water trickles through rock.”

Form-wise, this was influenced by reading the footnote poems in Kristina Marie Darling’s Petrarchan. Originally, my main page was blank above the footnote lines, until I realised that I could add more depth and layers by attaching it to a relevant different poem.

Word play, myth and slights of thought loosely based around water and glass came together to create the somewhat disjointed contents. The resultant piece is close to being an ars poetica or treatise of a poet’s practice and intentions. The observations and ideas contained in the footnotes are meant to have some relevance of their own, to reflect and refract the linked poem and to shed some slanted light on other poems in the collection.

The thoughts are not just about art or living life as an artist though, they are also about human nature more generally. We all have habits, for example. When these work well, they can be a thing of ease, efficiency and speed. But sometimes they can be a short-cut to cliché, damaging thoughts/behaviour and a rut that’s hard to escape.

Some things in life are clear and easy to understand logically, others less so. But where there is no clear semantic or scientific meaning, there may still be understanding through the senses and emotions. Or vice versa, when things have a logical clarity that is at odds with emotional or instinctive responses.

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Electric Questions - lit version smaller
Discussion Point

What are your underlying beliefs as reader and/or writer about what a good poem should be or do?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Choose a theme that appeals to you. Try writing a poem/story for this theme that deliberately omits great chunks of narrative/detail that you would normally include. Consider using a numbered list or bullet points to do this. (Rather than starting from scratch, another way to approach this might be to apply the technique to a draft version of an unfinished poem/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.

May 16, 2018

“Always Another Twist” Sarah Leavesley (Mantle Lane Press) – book review

“…At the heart of the story is how we allow the views of others to distort the view we have of ourselves. This can be positive when we question decisions and check we’re on the right path. However, it can be negative when we prioritise how our decisions affect others and change them based on unchecked information which may be false.

Julie is easy to sympathise with: the independent sister prepared to take responsibility and do the right thing, even at personal cost…”

Emma Lee (full review on the link below)

via “Always Another Twist” Sarah Leavesley (Mantle Lane Press) – book review

Add comment May 9, 2018

Wednesday Reflections/Bewitching

Reflections/poem biography for Bewitching

“The porch collects birch twigs, cats
and a spellbinding past…”
Night lines 2smaller“the giant stride of our electric men,
their wired arms flying heat and light
into these cold, dark landscapes.”

Another not strictly autobiographical poem, ‘Bewitching’ was inspired by staying with family in the grounds of Muncaster Castle at Halloween. The crucifix lodge is real but the specific details of cats and mushrooms added to strengthen the poem’s overall thrust.

For me, this is a poem not about magic but perspective. There is the way that unfamiliar countryside traditions might seem strange to outsiders, to the point of herbal cures being labelled magic or sorcery. By contrast, isn’t electricity, which we all take now as an everyday fact, just as magical in its own way? And what about all the phenomena that science and logic still can’t explain?

More about electricity as inspiration and imagery can be found in my Wellcome Collection commisioned feature Creative Energy: how electromagnetic therapy inspired me.

flashes2Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

How necessary is the footnote in this poem? What are the potential benefits and disadvantages of footnotes in general? When would or wouldn’t you use them?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

1) What does your/a fictional character’s porch collect? Are there any secrets hidden in the dark corners, beneath the roof tiles or behind cobwebs?

2) Choose a modern invention that has become so much of your/a fictional character’s everyday that you/they take it for granted. What happens if this lost? And if it had never been invented at all? How would life change? How do you/they adapt? What might be invented instead?

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.

May 9, 2018

Wednesday Reflections/The Hummingbird Case

Reflections/poem biography for The Hummingbird Case

hummingbirdsmaller“This case shimmers with lives
spun from sun, textured
with oceans, forests, skies…”

This poem was inspired by an exhibit at the Natural History Museum in London. I was torn between awe at how beautiful these birds are and horror at them being killed and stuffed simply for decoration.
Mostly, we live in a different world now, though it would be a mistake to think that animals aren’t still slaughtered in some areas of world simply for greed and people’s need to own something beautiful.

To do nothing seems wrong, yet it isn’t always easy to know how to change things. Words are my best tool, though these are nothing without people on the ground actively working to make a difference.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

This poem was published in a Magma issue considering ‘beauty’. What other abstract qualities does this poem illustrate or make you think about? How and why?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Visit a museum – for real or online. Pick an exhibit. Describe it and why you chose it using as many senses as possible. Imagine how it ended up there, the stories it might tell and what wisdoms it might reveal?

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.

May 2, 2018

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