A Few Words on Form, Campervan Life and an Artistic Wishlist

June 6, 2021 sarahjameswrites

The past 15 months have felt more like a decade here. I’ve found writing increasingly hard the longer we’ve been dealing with covid. In part, this is due to a depression-like lack of energy and motivation, along with a sense of what’s the point/what difference will it make in the face of so much loss going on around me.

Many writers I know have felt similarly, especially, perhaps, those who’ve been writing for a while. One of the problems here is that, after so many years of writing, there isn’t much which I haven’t yet written about. This makes finding new and fresh inspiration (rather than simple retreading the same old writing ground) particularly difficult in lockdown conditions, where it’s hard to visit new places or enjoy new experiences. (Though, of course, prompts, workshops, reading widely and researching new topics are ways of compensating for this.)

The other side to this limitation on new experiences though is that I’ve found myself playing with form and formal constraints more while re-exploring familiar themes and subject matter. In the past, I’ve always felt that form and metre tend to force me to compromise too much when it comes to imagery, metaphors etc. (There are poets who seamlessly manage to use form, metre and rhyme without such sacrifices of other elements – at least as far as the reader is concerned – but I’ve never been one of them.) However, this time, reworking topics and interests I’ve covered before, I found that rather than overly restricting me, these external structural requirements have helped me to develop new descriptions and unusual word choices that I might not otherwise have considered. Where this practice will take me next, I’m not sure. But I’ve certainly enjoyed the creative process and hope that it will come in useful in some way once I start writing more again.

Here, the next step on the inspiration front is getting out and about again. Now fully/double vaccinated against covid and with lockdown restrictions being eased, the three most immediate highlights for me have been: hugs with my parents, playing squash again and finally meeting my younger son’s lovely girlfriend.

I’m very aware though that not everyone has had the chance to be vaccinated yet and that covid is still there, no matter how much I wish it wasn’t! However, I’m tentatively looking forward to catching up properly with friends, visiting art galleries again and exploring more in the campervan – a covid-speeded dream/escape from mundanity/practical approach to getting out on more walks and visiting my sons at university. (An unanticipated bonus is that it’s also provided a socialising/drinking venue for my elder son and his friends.)

During the lockdowns, I’ve had plenty of time to think and assess many things, including my personal life priorities, and also coming up with the following artistic wishlist (in no particular order):

1) See and get a decent photograph of a kingfisher
2) Go back to the Poetry Pharmacy in Bishop’s Castle
3) More Timber FestivalHow the Light Gets In and my longstanding favourite Ledbury Poetry Festival
4) Experience and photograph the Northern Lights
5) Visit my sister and her family again in California
6) Experience and photograph Yosemite’s Firefall (a waterfall that looks like fire at sunset)
7) Get my novella-in-flash (see below) published

Some items on this are, of course, more feasible than others, and I’m sure there will many more additions! How have your perspectives/priorities changed? And what’s on your dream list as we emerge, hopefully, from this pandemic?

POETRY NEWS

I’m absolutely delighted to hear that ‘Monday, 12th August: Secrets’ from my collection The Magnetic Diaries (The Knives Forks And Spoons Press, 2015), which was highly commended in the Forward Prizes, has been selected for the Poems of the Decade An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry to be published in September 2021.

I’ve had a slow unmotivating start to 2021, so I’m very chuffed to have my poem Along the Edge was one of twenty long/shortlisted for the Ginkgo Prize 2020 ‘The Best Poem of Landscape’. The landscape poem prize is run with Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and was judged by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, Times Arts Commissioning Editor Jade Cuttle and poet and North Pennines AONB Communications Lead and poet Sarah Hudspeth. The 20 longlisted poems are to be in AONB 2020 anthology published later this year.

Meanwhile, my poem Our Last Summer has been shortlisted for this year’s The Bournemouth Writing Prize Poetry Competition.

Watching Over has been published as part of the TELEPHONE international arts game. (If you scroll down after reading the poem to the map at the bottom of the page, there’s a link (to the left) to the beautiful piece of art that inspired my poem. And the two links to the right are for a stunning piece of music and another stunning piece of art that were inspired by my poem.

And I was very pleased to hear that three of my haiku will be spray painted on the streets of Worcester in July as part of Same But Different, the City Speaks project.

FICTION NEWS

My eco-inspired novella-in-flash manuscript was one of 16 longlisted for the Reflex Press 2021 Novella Award. It’s longish for a NIF, bordering on a short novel-in-flash, so I’ve been busy revisiting the manuscript and thinking about what and where to go next with it.

Seven Things You Must Never Tell My Boyfriend (flash) shortlisted in the Tortive Theatre #FLASHFICTION101 April 2021 competition.

My flash After has been published in Beguiled by a Wild Thing Reflex Fiction Volume Four.

I’m also delighted to have my short story ‘Ten Green Bottles’ accepted for the fifth issue of Postbox: Scotland’s International Short Story Magazine.

ART NEWS

I’m absolutely delighted to have three acrylic based eco-inspired art pieces (Blizzard, Loneliness and In the woods) chosen for Issue 05 of The Lumiere Review, due out in June.

EVENTS

Winchester Poetry Festival Hampshire Poet Invites: Words for the Wild Event
Saturday, 10 July 2021 at 5pm on Zoom

Words for the Wild is an online poetry magazine, passionate in its focus on the natural world, and run by writers, Amanda Oosthuizen and Louise Taylor. Readers for this event are set to include: Robyn Bolam, Alison Brackenbury, Sarah Doyle, Kate Firth, Raine Geoghegan, Chrissie Gittins, Suzanne Iuppa, Sarah James/Leavesley, Lisa Kelly, Jane Lovell, Patrick Osada, Elisabeth Sennitt Clough

More information and booking here

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