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Autumn Delights

On a personal level, it has been an unusually good summer here – mostly beautiful weather, time with family and friends, and some wonderful poetry moments that have refired both my hope and an increasing sense of gratitude for every joy after the long pandemic months. Emerging from this is, of course, a slow process, one that’s still difficult for many vulnerable people, along with other world issues – the Russia-Ukraine war, the problems of wage-price spiral, increasing energy prices, potential gas and electricity shortages…

Hope is strong though, and, for me, poetry plays a small but important role in keeping that alive and reminding me of all the good things worth fighting for.

So, what’s delighting me as a writer this autumn? Lots of great things. Read on for the full details, including Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic highly commended in this year’s Forward Prizes, poetry and art published in Mslexia, and winning the Wigtown Poetry Prize Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize 2022.

Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic

I’m really thrilled to be able to share that I was highly commended in this year’s Forward Prizes! Big thanks to Forward, the judges, and my Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic publishers Verve Poetry Press. The Forward anthology is available from Faber here. A big shout-out of thanks too to London Grip, who first published my anthology poem ‘Marcasite’.

The collection is also longlisted (top 25) in the Poetry Book Awards, so lots more thanks and gratitude to the judge and all involved in the making this prize and my collection happen too!

And I’m very pleased and thankful too for the wonderful response it’s getting from readers and reviewers.

I’m vey grateful to Mark Connors and Write Out Loud and to Stephen Claughton and London Grip for two wonderful, thoughtful and detailed reviews of Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic (Verve Poetry Press, 2022):

“I’m a sucker for a rock reference in poetry and Sarah James’s playful borrowing of the title of a classic rock album for the title of her collection is a masterstroke. Not only is it playful for the fact it perfectly encapsulates the essence of this fine poetry collection, from her lifelong struggle with type one diabetes, to the occasionally erotic poems that come at you off the page, to the magic of the seasons, beautifully represented throughout the book; […]
“This powerful and beguiling collection is so well crafted and full of love, pain and everything promised by its playful title. Sarah James has that quality of any poet worth their stanzas: the ability to surprise. And this brilliant collection is full of surprises, whether she’s sharing her most debilitating pain or sharing her emphatic lust for life.”
Mark ConnorsWrite Out Loud, full review here.

“[…] Although focused on a particular theme, Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic is a varied collection, both in its subject matter and technique. These are honest, heartfelt poems that bring together the experimental and more mainstream strands of Sarah James’s writing […]”
Stephen ClaughtonLondon Grip, full review here.

Thanks also for:
“[…]Here words in this poetry collection are open, personal and vulnerable. I sensed all three of these descriptions throughout the book […]This collection is highly recommended by me.[…]”
Stephen Paul WrenLuke12Poetry, full review here.

More about Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic (Verve Poetry Press, 2022) can be found here.

Ten Lines or More Than Just Love Notes

I’m very pleased to have two poems from Ten Lines or More Than Just Love Notes featured on Creative Writing at Leicester here.

The closing poem, ‘Run, little rabbit, run’, and an article about the inspiration and writing process behind it can be found on Ben Banyard’s Finest here.

More about Ten Lines or More Than Just Love Notes and a book bundle for this title with my full collection Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic (Verve Poetry Press, 2022), for just £12 with UK delivery here.

OTHER POETRY NEWS

I’m delighted that my poem Overgrown has won joint first prize, and a second poem For Winter been commended in the Victorina Press 2022 Vo(i)ces Poetry Contest.

Meanwhile, my short eco-inspired pamphlet RAIN FALLING has won the Wigtown Poetry Prize Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize 2022 – hopefully, more on that and how to get a copy soon!

I’m excited too to have a piece of art (a mixed media acrylic and photo combination) and poem On nearing fifty published in Mslexia, no 95.

I was very pleased to have a poem on the shortlist of 10 for the Spelt poetry competition 2022 and my poem How the woods dream longlisted for Black Bough Poetry’s Dai Fry Award for Mystical Poetry.

I’ve also just heard that I have a poem shortlisted in the Leeds Peace Poetry Competition 2022.

FLASH FICTION NEWS

I’m delighted to have my dribble (50-word micro) From the ‘News of the World’ Astro-Desk published in The Dribble Drabble Review, Fall 2022, Issue VI.

A RECOMMENDATION

I was really delighted to be asked if I’d read Martin Johns’s latest poetry pamphlet with Palewell Press, Tipping Winter into Spring, and write an endorsement. Although I first read it over the summer, now is the perfect season for its publication, and a great time to cosy up indoors and enjoy it again!

“Past and present intermingle in this 4-part selection of poems Tipping Winter into Spring, where memory is a place of self-recognition, enchantment and personal masterpieces glinting from firelit tins. This quiet accumulation of lived-through moments is also a reminder that even the strangest times flicker brightly with shared experience, while starting anew is rich with “visceral beauty”. Light always remains, and Martin Johns’s lines are pulsed by the “wonder of where beauty and efficiency meet”, the “heartbeat / of people” and nature’s sky-written messages as scattered swallows become the morning’s dark stars.”

On Tipping Winter into Spring by Martin Johns (Palewell Press, 2022)

Add comment October 8, 2022

Super excited to share…

I’m really excited to finally be able to properly share the news that I won the 2020 Overton Poetry Prize and now have copies of this pamphlet/chapbook, Ten Lines or More Than Just Love Notes! More about the book is below, and I’ll be posting some sample poems on social media too. I’m extremely grateful to the judges/endorsers and pamphlet designer Emily Suzanne Leighton. I also want to say an especially big thank you to Sophie Hyde at Loughborough University for going above and beyond in getting the final printed publication sorted!


Ten Lines or More Than Just Love Notes (Loughborough University, 2022)
ISBN: 978-1-5272961-4-5
30 pages

WINNER OF THE OVERTON POETRY PRIZE 2020
 
 
 
 
 
 “These are poems in constant motion. Through experiments in form and striking imagery, the poet captures enough for us to experience them. But she also invites us to follow them, beyond their ten lines, to wherever they lead – a Chinese lantern ‘floating stronger, higher, freer’; a climber reaching for the next hold; a rabbit darting across and off the page…”
Nellie Cole

“The formal restriction of ten-line poems, prose poems or stanzas is a fruitful one here. Sarah James is also adept at knowing when to experiment: concrete poetry, lists and visual puns follow conventional stanzas. The range of subject matter and imagery flourishes in the imagination that James brings to the work. There is a sense of narrative here; of love, of motherhood, of aging; but it’s precise, telling details that speak to me: friction marks on the palm of the hand, the musical notes on a frozen windscreen. Each poem speaks of the wonder of the mundane in the face of the infinite.”
Kerry Featherstone

Author’s Note

I’m not sure whether the continuing changes in my writing approach since my first collection Into the Yell (Circaidy Gregory Press, 2010) come from age, wider reading, recognising the busyness and noise of everyday life, social media brevity or part of becoming a more experienced poet. A decade is both a long and a short time. I’d be surprised, and probably disappointed, if my writing hadn’t evolved. For me, the carving away or distilling aspect of poetry has taken on more and more significance. I have been pulled towards shorter, sparer poetry – not exclusively, but, still, importantly.

As a poet, I’ve also felt the drive to make each new collection/chapbook not just new in terms of the contents, but in terms of my development and/or the scope of what it sets out to achieve, even if ultimately it doesn’t end up managing that. (Yes, I have more unfinished and unpublished manuscripts than ones that have actually made it into print!)

I’ve admired Michael Symmons Roberts’s work ever since his Whitebread-Prize-winning collection Corpus (2004), followed by The Half-Healed (2008). One of the many aspects of his 2013 Forward Poetry Prize and Costa Poetry Award winning collection Drysalter that I especially admired was the constraint of working each poem to a 15-line form.

With all this in the background and 2020 marking the tenth anniversary of my first published poetry collection, ten lines became my personal formal constraint for putting together my Overton Poetry Prize pamphlet submission at the end of 2019. I wanted to explore what range, variety and intensity was possible within such a condensed free-verse form.

The resulting poems are ones of love and loss – yes, some of a romantic kind, but also parent-child/child-parent love, and my love for, and the losses caused to, the natural world as we face climate change and vast numbers of species at risk of extinction.

Copies

If anyone would like a review copy of Ten Lines or More Than Just Love Notes, please do email me on lifeislikeacherrytreeATyahooDOTcom.

More about the pamphlet, and a paypal link to get a copy of this chapbook included with a copy of my recent prize-winning full collection, Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic (Verve Poetry Press, 2022), can be found here.

Review News

Finding reviews of new titles is always a great joy. But it’s also really wonderful when earlier titles are still resonating with readers years later. I was delighted, and very grateful, this summer to come across a recent review of my 2018 Against The Grain Poetry Press chapbook, How to Grow Matches.

“Striking and direct, How To Grow Matches is a powerful addition to S.A. Leavesley’s impressive collection of poetic works and novellas. Her poetry commands attention through carefully crafted rhythm and assonance, and evocative imagery. […]Ultimately, Leavesley’s poetic talent is not one to be missed. An essential exploration of gender politics, this pamphlet is a spectacular, evocative read that inspires us towards a better world.” Orla DaveyDURA (Dundee University Review of the Arts), full review here

How to Grow Matches is available from Against the Grain Poetry Press here.

OTHER POETRY NEWS

I’m very pleased to have a poem in episode one of Spoken Label’s Top of the Label podcast, which can be enjoyed on a range of platforms, including Anchor – Part 1, & Part 2, and Youtube – Part 1, & Part 2.

I’m also happy to have three prose poems, at the end of the year that shouldn’t have happenedYour Survival Bunker and International Swimming Pool Rules, published in POL Poetry Out Loud, Issue: 04, in July 2022.

Add comment August 12, 2022

Celebrations into summer!

BLOOD SUGAR, SEX, MAGIC

The collection is now officially launched! Thanks to everyone who came along to the Verve zoom reading with Kayleigh Campbell, Kathy Pimlott and Georgina Wilding also reading from their amazing new Verve collections. It was a cracking night, great fun and so lovely to share it with friends.

I’m also really pleased to be starting to get out and about with the collection. It was great to be part of the Live Canon lunchtime reading series online and I was headline poet at the fabulous Caffe Grande Slam in Dudley at the end of June – a cracking night, with fabulous hosts, and wonderful poems from the slammers. The evening was special not just in being my first in-person reading from Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic but my first in-person reading since covid! I’d forgotten how much of a buzz live performances are.

I’m also feeling extremely grateful for the generous reception the collection has had generally, from readers who’ve emailed me personally, those who’ve recommended it and reviewers.

Two of the more experimental poems in the collection, Diagnosis and How to be your own worst friend, feature in episode six of Poetry Worth Hearing. The poem texts can be found here and the podcast on various sites including anchor.fm here.

I’m delighted to have a one poem review in the June issue of The Lake here.

The collection has a wonderful detailed review on Everybody’s Reviewing too.

“James is an extraordinary poet. She is often wildly inventive but also respectful of traditional forms, imbuing each of her poems with a confessional tone that is reminiscent of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Carol Ann Duffy. Like the very best of the female poets, she examines what it is to be a modern woman and alive to the potential of life, employing unique methods to share her experiences […]”
Paul Taylor-McCartneyEverybody’s Reviewing, full review here

I was also pleased to see Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic recommended by Teika Marija Smits.

“Sarah’s a fantastic poet, and this collection, which explores what it’s like to live with type 1 diabetes, is as well-crafted, eye-opening and inspiring as I’d expected it to be. But it’s also funny and tender and beautiful. Highly recommended.” Teika Marija Smits

The recommendation can be found here and you can sign up for her newsletter, which is always full of interesting creativity, by filling in the form on her website here.

I’m also really pleased to share another lovely review on Amazon. The wonderful generous response the collection has received over the past month has left me feeling so grateful!

“A beautiful collection of humane, tender and open-hearted poems that illuminate how it is to live in the 21st Century.[…] A gorgeous, poignant collection that left me inspired.”
Sarah Westcott, full review here.

I’m also delighted to have the collection feature on Reading in Bed Episode 54, where Andy N and Amanda Nicholson discuss the personal and hard-hitting nature of some of the pieces, plus a recoding of one of the poems.

“It’s really, really touching. […] With it being such a deep, and quite frankly emotional book, it’s not one that you can rush. […] It’s a really good book; I recommend it straight away.” Andy NReading in Bed Episode 54, full podcast review below (starting at around 35 mins in) and also available on AppleBandcamp and Spotify.
 
https://www.youtube.com/embed/lnCHMfC6mJY

A podcast interview with Andy N at Spoken Label, plus some sample poems from the collection, can also be enjoyed on various platforms, including YouTubeApple Podcasts and Spotify. (If anyone would like a link for the podcast on a different platform, please email Sarah on lifeislikeacherrytreeATyahooDOTcom for a full list of where the podcast be found.)

Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic is available from Verve here.

Distracting myself (from nerves/excitement!) ahead of my Verve launch, I spent some time playing with visual combos for one of my poems from Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic, ‘Balancing on the Swinging Hammock’. Balance(ing) is a word with extra significance for me as a diabetic trying to maintain balanced blood sugars. Full disclosure, neither of the poem layouts in these pix is the same as in the collection, where it does reach a place of (temporary) equilibrium/stillness. (If anyone has problems reading the poem in the photos and would like a text version of it, email me on lifeislikeacherrytreeATyahooDOTcom, and I can send a text only version.)

OTHER POETRY NEWS

My poem Half-Renovated won third place in the These 3 Streams Poetry Competition 2022. Another poem was also commended by the judges.

The I.T. Guy published on Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis on 26 May 2022.

Toothache Talisman published in the July issue of The Lake.

My poem Tectonic Time published in the July issue of streetcake.

I’ve also just had an acceptance that I’m really excited about, though I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about it yet – so, definitely, a watch-this-space/blog moment!!!

FICTION NEWS

I’m delighted to have a flash, Strawberry Fields Forever, published on Black Nore Review.

READINGS/EVENTS

Friday, 16 September 2022, 7–9.30pm, Burton – Guest poet at Distraction

I will be guest poet at Distraction spoken word open mic night at Greenhouse Café, 1D Rolleston Road, Burton-on-Trent, DE13 0JT. Entry is £3.

Add comment July 24, 2022

Sarah James/Leavesley – “Strawberry Fields Forever”

Black Nore Review

Strawberry Fields Forever

It’s the hottest summer so far on Kim’s record. Mom tries to coax Claire’s sister, but Kim refuses to come and pick your own when she can be hanging out with her new boyfriend, Adam. Claire doesn’t know if Mom’s asked Dad, but it ends up just Mom and her.

Claire’s never been picking before. The field stretches away into the distance with row after row of green plants, loose straw and glinting red. Mom tells her not to eat any until they’ve got them home and washed. But Claire can’t stop popping whole strawberries in her mouth and squeezing their sweetness free with her tongue and teeth. Juice runs down her face and stains her fingers.

Mom looks at her, then smiles.

Back home, Mom washes the rest, cuts them in half and offers some to Claire’s dad and sister.

“Later,” Dad says, disappearing into the…

View original post 83 more words

Add comment June 13, 2022

Launching Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic & other offers/news

VERVE LAUNCH of BLOOD SUGAR, SEX, MAGIC – Wednesday, 1 June 2022, 7.30pm-8.45pm on Zoom

Free event – but registration through Eventbrite here required *

VERVE Poetry Press presents a Zoom event featuring Kayleigh Campbell, Sarah James, Kathy Pimlott & Georgina Wilding reading from their brand new VERVE collections.

The event will be hosted by VERVE publisher Stuart Bartholomew, will have live captioning and transcript by Web Captioner and all poems will be screen shared.

A link will be emailed to ticket holders an hour before the event begins.

To read along with the event, people can order a copy of Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic here or purchase all four titles in a special offer pack here.

* NB Registration for tickets closes at 5.30pm Wed 1st June.

OTHER BLOOD SUGAR, SEX, MAGIC NEWS

I’m delighted to share that ‘A Petal for Everything’ from Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic featured as the ‘Poem to Inspire’ in the May Mum Poet Club newsletter.

An author/collection feature for Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic, including three sample poems from the collection, has also been published at Creative Writing at Leicester here.

I’m very pleased too to share a snippet from another review:
‘“Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic” is a contemplative journey from childhood to adulthood of life with type 1 diabetes. Sarah James has a compassionate ear, she never turns to self-pity even when being mocked or describing the sense of unfairness at being disabled: having plans go awry or letting people down because of her diabetes. It’s a journey through acceptance and learning to live with its consequences through powerful, thought-provoking poems.’
Emma Lee, full review here.

I was also delighted to be invited onto (allFM)96.9‘s The Sunday Tea Show with Nat & Ruth to chat with Ruth O’Reilly about Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic diabetes, my writing life/inspiration and to share a few poems on Sunday, 8 May.

POETRY

I’m delighted to have two poems (Bark and Woodland Walk) and a photo-poem (Holly) inspired by a Worcestershire Poetry Society Stanza walk and workshop led by Andrew Hoaen published in a lovely pamphlet, Silva.

I’m also very pleased to have a humorous poem, The I.T. Guy, accepted for Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis.

FLASH

My light-hearted micro/dribble, Harry’s Latest Short Let, published on 50-Word Stories in May 2022.

I’m also very excited to have my drabble, In the Woodshed, published in The Dribble Drabble Review I-IV anthology, available here. And I have a dribble, From the ‘News of the World’ astro-desk, accepted for The Dribble Rabble Review Fall 2022 issue too!

PHOTOGRAPHY

I’m delighted to have my colour photo ‘the first ladybird’ used as the cover image for Southlight 31 and three black and white images, ‘Time Warp’, ‘The ghosts we carry with us’ and ‘Traces of Light’, featured inside.

My acrylic and photography mixed media piece ‘Always in Flight’ is also now online at Bealtaine magazine, issue 2, here.

Add comment May 22, 2022

Into the Blue – poetry and photography as a means of engaging in living

Over the years, I’ve written for a number of magazines about the combining of photography and poetry, as well as how writing fits in with my other interests like walking and cycling. I’ve been thinking about this again though, following discussions in a monthly poetryfilm group led by Helen Dewbery. Amongst these, the flaws that can sometimes be more appealing than perfection, unusual perspectives, images that stand out and a reminder from Helen about how what we know already about poetry can give us confidence in our approach to poetryfilm.

The same is true for me too with photography. One thing that I’ve been trying out in my usually weekly posts on Instagram is not just posting a series of recent shots, but treating them as a sequence, much as I might do in poetry. My 18 April 2022 series of recent photos are, in reality, only linked by being taken along the canal on different walks over a similar time period. But I wanted to play with the possibilities of creating hints of a narrative (and juxtapositions) in the suspension, glistening with anticipation, paused flight, waiting intently, the zapping of an external force, a pull from submersion, shaking off water, then return to stillness ordering of these images featuring different subjects. It’s a very subtle thread, as there is no actual narrative link between them. But sometimes, those are the forces that may move attention onwards, or, at least, hopefully, produce more than simply a slideshow of favourite shots. In my first post for May 2022, I’ll also use Instagram’s ‘carousel’ (series) of photos feature to link images with a more overt common element – the colour blue.

How much these do, or don’t, work for viewers, of course, isn’t up to me to decide. But the way in which individual images can build up to something more, accumulate to create a bigger picture or move a narrative/idea on, is a technique that can be applied to both individual poems or sequences. This might literally be in the images used in the poem but also in other less visual techniques such as patterning similar sounds. In a poem, just as with a photo, I might change the angle or viewpoint to turn the same moment or narrative into an entirely different story, take my blade of grass in the rain images below.

Another important part of both photography and poetry for me though is the way they help me to engage more fully with life, and notice things that I might otherwise miss.

For a book cover, a commission or poetryfilm, I may well plan a shot and use a tripod etc to try to ensure that I can capture it as perfectly as possible. (In a June 2021 blogpost, I admitted that I dream of seeing, and photographing, a kingfisher, and, to do this, I accept that I may actually have to book to go to the right place and wait for that specific moment to come along.) Mostly though, this is not what excites me as a photographer.

A bird of prey at a falconry centre is, for example, to be expected. (Plus, there are many way more technically adept photographers out there more likely to be able to give such a shot that extra something.) What interests me more are the photos that I don’t anticipate, the things that are part not of me photographing but of me living. Many of my pictures are taken without a tripod, using a camera that I can easily carry with me while I’m out, walking, cycling or simply exploring. Such as this image of what I believe is a young buzzard, taken not in a specialised bird or wildlife centre but on the tow path at the back of a neighbour’s house.

Of course, I could just walk, cycle and explore without even carrying a camera. But the camera encourages me to pay more attention to the world around me. Viewing things through a lens or poem also helps me zoom/macro in on smaller details, to record a moment in a way that captures something that was there at the time but often without me realising it then.

In the buzzard photo above, I’d registered that the bird had something in its beak and imagined it to be a sprig. Only later, looking at the camera image on a larger screen, did I clock the feathers of a smaller bird/its dinner strewn across the leaves. With the grass and blue flowers (forget-me-knots?) images, I’d been focusing on the beauty of the blade of grass’s curve and the glistening rain. It was only later, viewed on a larger screen, that I glimpsed the insect, giving me a far more interesting twist to an otherwise beautiful but somewhat clichéd moment/shot.

Most of my poems, even those where I think I’ve planned their structure in advance, often end up taking a direction I’d not foreseen. The flow of words, combined with the whittling away at them and crafting into a poem, will often highlight a detail or emotion that was always there but hidden by my subconscious until the poem revealed this. It doesn’t always happen, of course, but such a slant or turn, being unexpected to me as I’m writing, may also potentially be more interesting to a reader.

There are many other similarities between the two art forms that I’m not touching on in this post, like using multiple layers– something I love playing with in both poetry and photography post-production. But these aspects, in photography at least, are more about imaginative impulses, slanting reality and creating new worlds. (The same is true of my fiction writing, and some of my poems.) The joy in such work is, for me, perhaps, more one of escaping real life for a short while so that I can then engage in living more fully when I return afterwards.

In all these cases though, this is the beauty, for me, of both photography and writing poetry (and, likewise, poetryfilm). It’s also the beauty of the poems and images that strike me most as a reader and viewer, the ones that evoke something unexpected – that gasp of awe which engages me more deeply in what it is to be alive!

On which point, I’ll also throw in a final photo here – not because there’s anything particularly special or unusual about it compared to the millions of far more striking bluebell shots out there, but simply because looking at it lightens my mood, fills me with hope and the energy of living.

COLLECTION NEWS

I’m now counting down the days until Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic is officially published on 12 May.

It has already had a wonderful review, thanks to Mab Jones and Buzz Mag, from which I’m chuffed to share the following snippet:

“[…] This is a book which therefore encompasses all of our human experience, and doesn’t shy away from the more difficult times or the calmer, quieter moments that can often escape our attention or be taken for granted. Tender, sensitive, and insightful, it’s also beautifully written, of course.”
Mab JonesBuzz Mag, full review here.

As well as being available directly from Verve Poetry Press here, it’s also now available from the Poetry Book Society here, and at the Poetry Pharmacy in Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire SY9 5BQ.

A photo and poem combination of another poem from the collection, ‘About Distance’ can be found below, along with an animated gif featuring some of the wonderful endorsements I received.

Big thanks to all these endorsers and reviewers for the time and care in responding to Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic.

OTHER POETRY NEWS

I’m delighted to share that my poem Not the neighbour’s place has won first prize in the Poetry Bites 2022 poetry competition! This was a very uplifting piece of cheering spring news.

In the Dream-Catcher Hung by a 40th-Storey Window at Fallsview, Niagara published in Kissing Dynamite‘s anthology PUNK in April 2022.

PHOTOGRAPHY

‘Ripples deflect reality’ and ‘secret city’ published in Free Verse Revolution Issue V: Cassandra in March 2022. The print version can be ordered here, where there is also a link for the downloadable pdf. (My photos are on page 24 and 25.)

‘Always in Flight’, an acrylic and photography mixed media piece, published in issue 2 of Bealtaine magazine in April 2022.

Add comment May 2, 2022

Finding the words…or not!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about words, their weight, their meaning, their use… As a writer, this isn’t something that’s new to me; it comes with the territory. But more and more, recently, I’ve also pre-occupied with a sense of words’ lack of weight, meaning, use…

It’s become hard to believe that I can find anything to say that hasn’t already been said before, that isn’t just noise in an ever over-noisy social media dominated world when what is really need is actual change.

Perhaps this is partly to do with age. The older I get the more I’ve heard the same words used in different ways, in tired ways, in lying ways. The more poems I’ve read too that already say the things I might want to say far better than I ever could…

I’m also from a generation that lived and existed, and actually managed to do so quite well, without social media, and all the sometimes-hard-to-sift-through words that come with these non-stop newsfeeds.

But, along with that, it’s a reflection of what’s going on in the world around me. Knowing history repeats itself is one thing. I’ve now reached the point where I’ve emotionally lived through world tragedies/wars/conflicts/problems that just keep being repeating in a slightly different forms, however pointless and inconceivable it seems that the world hasn’t learned from the past.

When I was younger, I had energy, hope and belief that things really could be different. And that even with a disability demanding my time and energy, I could still have enough left over to be part of effective changes. I didn’t realise quite how small I was, or how change-resistant/ignorant the world can be.

The past two years especially, with Covid and now the war in the Ukraine, has really brought this home, and increased my sense of futility. At the same time though, doing nothing also feels unacceptable.

So what can I do? The closest I’ve currently come to a conclusion is this poem from my new Verve collection Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic, written in reaction to news and conflict well before the current problems, but nonetheless similar, in essence.

This World Wide Web

When I close my eyes, blood falls
somewhere else, red as that missing girl’s
lost scarf, red as the poppies
dancing in my garden.

When I close my eyes, dust rises
from stampeding tyres in desert sand,
just before a mist of sudden gunfire,
or feet stumbling on a hidden landmine.

I flick from newsfeed to paper,
turn the pages, then let them fall
like closing eyelids,
or giant moths of black and whiteness.

I’m not the Earth’s axis;
my flightless eyes don’t close
as a butterfly-wing ripple, unleashing
a chain of storm chaos…

but this is my webbed world; eyes open
or closed, a million things happen
across our spinning globe –
no ocean wide enough

to stop lives spilling.
Only me in the middle of
my life, pulsing winged hope
to those within my reach.

Putting this into words is one thing, turning them in to sustained actions that will improve things is another. But I have to hope and try.

Add comment March 12, 2022

March celebrations!

March has always been a busy one for me, but busy in a good way, with International Women’s Day on 8 March, then Mothers’ Day (on 27 March in the UK this year). Women’s experience, empowerment and motherhood have been features of lots of my work. But this year, rather than sharing one of my own poems, I want to mark it with joy at a writer-friend’s International Women’s Day publication of her collection, House Work. Even a short blogpost can benefit from the suspense of a cliffhanger though, so find out more about the book and why I’d recommend, you’ll have read on to the end… (For a quick read, it’s the recommendation after my very brief poetry, fiction and photography news.)

POETRY

My poem Living Ink – all tattoos have a story behind them! – published on Fragmented Voices in March 2022.

I was delighted to have a poem shortlisted in the Country Life poetry competition 2021.

An amber star published in Ethel Zine, issue 8 in summer 2021.

FICTION

Two flash longlisted in the Cranked Anvil November 2021 flash fiction contest.

PHOTOGRAPHY

‘ripples deflect reality’ and ‘secret city’ have been accepted for publication in Free Verse Revolution Issue V: Cassandra in March 2022.

My photo ‘the first ladybird’ has been accepted for the cover of Southlight 31

A RECOMMENDATION

I was unbelievably pleased to get an advance copy of Khadija Rouf’s debut poetry collection, House Work (Fair Acre Press), and provide a short endorsement for the back cover. This can be found below, and more about this strong and tender collection, including ordering, here.

“Don’t be misled by the title, to read House Work is to discover surprises on every page, sifted from mundane chores and home’s hidden corners. These poems range across the tender and erotic, painfully beautiful and moving, and charged with womanhood, all carefully choreographed together. From Amazonian hoovering or a fridge singing in Reykjavik to ‘Us, making the sounds of trees, trapping / animal calls beneath our fingernails’, Khadija Rouf offers us exquisite imagery and memorable lines throughout. A stunning collection.”
Sarah James

Endorsement for Khadija Rouf, House Work (Fair Acre Press), 2022)

Add comment March 8, 2022

BLOOD SUGAR, SEX, MAGIC

I’m absolutely delighted to start 2022 with news that my CP Aware Award Prize for Poetry 2021-winning collection Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic is now available to pre-order on the Verve Poetry Press website here.

I’ll post more details about the collection below but it partly deals with my experience of living with type one diabetes for forty years, so I’m particularly delighted to share the news today, 100 years after insulin was first used to treat a human with diabetes. Prior to this treatment on 11 January 1922, it was exceptional for people with type 1 diabetes to live more than a year or two – so this development was life-savingly significant! (More on the discovery of insulin and the history of its use to treat type 1 diabetes can be read on the Diabetes UK website here.)

Before I move onto general information about the collection, just to say that this collection more than any other has had a complicated birth/delivery – almost as if mirroring life with diabetes! It’s seven years since my previous full collection, plenty-fish, and I have a myriad of people to thank for this new book existing at all – as can be seen from the acknowledgements in the book. But I’d especially like to thank Stuart Bartholomew at Verve Poetry Press for taking it on at a point when I was starting to worry it might not be out in time to mark the diabetic centenaries. I also have a big debt of gratitude to thank Jonathan Davidson at Writing West Midlands for his confidence-building advice on more than one occasion when I was panicking about the book’s future.

Further thanks in particular go to the CP Aware Award for making it their Prize for Poetry 2021 winner, to Wigtown Book Festival for shortlisting a series of poems within the collection for the Wigtown Poetry Competition 2019 Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize, and to my wonderful endorsers David Morley, Carrie Etter and Luke Kennard for their generous words (below) about the collection.

BLOOD SUGAR, SEX, MAGIC

ISBN: 978 1 913917 11 1

Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic (Verve Poetry Press, 2022)
Forthcoming in May 2022
Price: £10.99

Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic is award-winning poet Sarah James’s exploration of 40 years living with type one diabetes, a life-threatening autoimmune condition that is now treatable, but remains incurable. The collection tracks her personal journey from diagnosis, age six, to adulthood, including the high and the low points, as well as the further long-term health risks lurking in the background. These are poems of pain, but also of love and beauty, taking in motherhood, aging and establishing self-identity in a constantly updating world. The route to some kind of acceptance and belonging may be troubled by ‘trying to escape’ but it also ‘holds | more light than your eye | will ever know’.

“Sarah James’s fine poems are wonderfully abundant in experiment, energy, and expression. She has a remarkable sense for how the self-discipline of illness—like art—can release and shape the language of wonder, wisdom, and love.” David Morley

“Sarah James’ Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic compellingly conveys the journey of a life pervaded by type one diabetes and the myriad struggles of that hidden disability. It’s a world of sunlit fields and night sweats, ‘doorstep birdsong’ and pricked fingertips, at once arduous and munificent. Always engaging and often moving, James’ poems deftly immerse as well as inform, urging a deep appreciation of life’s plenty, ‘breath[ing] in the sky’.”
Carrie Etter

“These poems speak with such urgency and humanity that we take the deeply researched science (and magic) in our stride, then get pulled up short by its failure to ‘make sense of unfairness’. It’s an exhilarating, poignant collection combining raw honesty with impressive craft. The way ‘the world shrinks’ in personal hardship and the sheer and constant work it takes to open it up again. I feel more awake and alive for reading it.”
Luke Kennard

PRE-ORDER FROM VERVE POETRY PRESS HERE NOW

WINNER OF THE CP AWARE AWARD PRIZE FOR POETRY 2021

OTHER POETRY NEWS

Monday 12th August: Secrets published in Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry 2011-2020 (Faber) in Sept 2021.

Sixteenth-century MagicAt Broadway TowerAt the Village Show and New Boss published in DREICH Season Three/No. 12 in October 2021.

Preparing the kids’ packed lunches in The High Wolds Poetry Collection 2021 in October 2021.

Samuel Johnson’s Willow: More Than a Family Tree featured in the Staffordshire History Festival 2021, online here.

My Gerard Rochford Prize 2021 highly commended poem Waiting Stag is online at Mist and Mountain here.

I was very pleased to have a haiku featured in the Paper Swans Press’s advent calendar on 13 December 2021 and my poem Walnut Home in the Ink Sweat & Tears 12 Days of Christmas feature.

I’m delighted to have my poem Living Ink accepted for publication on Fragmented Voices at the start of March 2022.

POETRYFILM

My poetry film Women Not To Be that featured in the Women in Resistance program at the 2020 International Poetryfilm Festival of Thuringia was also to be showcased in the 2021 Visuals arts and poetry film festival in Vienna, with a Women in Resistance screening on 13 November, 2021 at the Stadtkino im Künstlerhaus Cinema in Vienna. (A text version of this poem is also included in my new collection Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic.)

FICTION

My novel(la)-in-flash Origami Sunshine was longlisted in the Louise Walters Books’ 2021 Page 100 Competition in Nov 2021.


The Author’s Life (flash) shortlisted in the Tortive Theatre #FlashFiction101 September 2021 prompt-themed competition in Oct 2021.

PHOTOGRAPHY

I’m delighted to have three photos – ‘a space as wide as the sky’, ‘before whole worlds disappear’ and ‘city frowns’ – in Briefly Zine, Issue 7: Climate Emergency, with ‘city frowns’ featuring as the issue cover.

I’m very pleased too to have an acrylic and photography mixed media piece Always in Flight accepted for issue 2 of Bealtaine magazine.

A RECOMMENDATION

I was absolutely delighted to get an advance copy of Raine Geoghegan’s new poetry pamphlet, The Stone Sleep (Hedgehog Poetry Press) and provide a short endorsement for the back cover. This can be found below, and more about the pamphlet, including ordering, here. It is a beautiful pamphlet to start 2022!

“Sometimes shamanic, always moving, these are stirring slivers of living and loss. From ‘As the light unwraps itself,/ you go deeper into the stone sleep’ to reaching atchin tan (stopping place/ home), this pamphlet evokes and awakens a new sense of being and belonging.” Sarah James

Endorsement for Raine Gegogehagn’s The Stone Sleep (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2022)

Add comment January 11, 2022

Seasonal Greetings!

I’d like to wish all my friends, family and supporters a very joyous festive season, filled with light, love and laughter! Looking forward to catching up with you all in 2022!

Add comment December 20, 2021

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