Blighty

Just a random poem from me today. This was recently published in The Lake.

Blighty

When he returned, they were so glad
to find him whole, unblemished: four limbs,
two eyes, skin tanned but unburnt, unholed.
They’d heard the stories of what might have been,
those bodies minced and sutured back together, 
faces melted, bones and flesh replaced with metal. 
You made it through, they cried, wrapped arms
around the solid, reassuring mass of him, 
awaiting his embraces in return. None came:
those fine, muscled arms hung limply by his side. 
Such words as passed his mouth appeared
to come from very far away. So much of him
had missed the plane and was still over there,
among the bullets and the bombs that took
his friends but spared this now half-empty body.
What’s left of him is lost inside it, midway
between these caring faces and the other self 
for whom there can be no way back.

Pic: Ronnie Macdonald 2017.  Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Intersection

It’s been an exciting year, poetry-wise, with the publication of my second collection, LifeTimes, and lots of poetry gigs. Following Small Seeds last week, I’ll be at Marsden Mechanics this evening, as one of six featured poets at Sarah Dixon’s Quiet Compere event, co-hosted by Rose Condo. Should be great! Thought I’d share one of the poems I’m planning to read.

Intersection

Two lives: 
two lines inscribed on time and space. 
Where yours began, where it was leading
I don’t know. My line was ragged, written 
in a drunken hand, lurching from 
one chance intersection to another. 

Two roads, 
one junction. A node, a synapse 
of society, a joining place 
of journeys, and of two lines: one straight,
serene and unaware; and one propelled 
that night by alcohol and gasoline.

Two seconds:
Two cries of terror, two lives flash  
before four eyes, twin drummers pounding,
a shrill duet of screeches, rushing
to crunching climax: two lines 
connecting at a single point.  

Two facts:
Nature does not permit two things
to occupy the same location. 
Once the tracks have come together
there can be no uncrossing; lines
once unwound cannot be reeled in. 

Two images:
Flashing lights surround a space criss-crossed 
by yellow tape; inside and out
the flow of human life congeals. 
X marks the spot where your line ended
and mine dived headlong into darkness.

Pic: Tony Webster 2018. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic

So You Want to be a Published Poet?

A little while ago, a friend asked me for some thoughts on getting published as a poet, for a talk she was doing. They seemed to go down well, so I thought I’d also post them here. I should say that these are just my perceptions, and I’m not claiming to be the world’s expert on this – I’m conscious I’m only part of the way down the path I describe (I haven’t yet published a full-length collection) and others are much further along than me. But, for what they’re worth, these are my perceptions of the route to becoming a published poet.

Getting published as a poet is very different from getting published as a novelist. Don’t even think about approaching an agent – most agents won’t touch poetry with a barge pole. If you’re just starting out, there isn’t much point in sending your lovingly compiled collection straight to a publisher either. Unless you’re a genius or extremely lucky, they’re unlikely to publish it.

No, getting published as a poet is more like getting a job. What you need is a good CV. The good news is that there is a well-established route to getting one. Start small, by sending your work off to some of the numerous poetry magazines and webzines that are out there. Read them first, to see whether your work is likely to fit in – if you write formal sonnets, best not to send them to a magazine specialising in avant-garde free verse. Also, look out for calls for submissions to themed anthologies, and perhaps join a poetry group that publishes its own collections. Enter competitions, of which there are plenty. Your chances of winning may be fairly small, but again it helps if you research the judges to see what kind of poetry they write themselves. Look for competitions that publish an anthology – then you may get published if you’re shortlisted, even if you don’t win a prize. There are competitions for which the first prize is publication of a collection – perhaps your best chance of short-circuiting the whole process, but the odds are quite long.  

When you have a track record of published poems, and perhaps have been shortlisted in a few competitions, then you can think about approaching one of the many small publishers who produce short collections (but check that they are currently accepting submissions first!). These used to be called pamphlets or chapbooks, but these days are often in book form – albeit only 20-30 pages. Publishers tend to like collections to have a theme (though this can be fairly loose) – so in choosing what to send there is a compromise to be made between picking your best poems and finding common threads between them. Of course, there will be lots of other aspirant poets doing the same thing, so the odds are against you – but keep trying!

As in other areas of writing, avoid vanity publishers who will charge you exorbitant fees to publish your collection. A bona fide publisher will not charge you money – though, since poetry publishing isn’t exactly lucrative, they may encourage you to buy some discounted copies (which you can then sell on yourself) to help cover their costs.  

As for full-length collections, for which there are fewer publishers available, again, you need to have an established CV as a poet to have a worthwhile chance of being accepted – which in this case is likely to include having already published at least one shorter collection.

There is also an alternative route to success as a poet – which may ultimately include publication – by becoming well-known through poetry slams, fringe shows and the like. It goes without saying that you need to be a confident and effective performer to succeed in this arena. It also suits certain types of poetry better than others. 

Even if you’re more of a ‘page poet’ than a performance poet, it’s still good to take any opportunities that come along to perform your work in public, and to do some practice so you can deliver it as effectively as possible. And when you finally get that collection published, you’ll want to have at least one launch event – where better to sell those copies the publisher twisted your arm to buy?  

Books pic: Hoary 2018. Licensed under  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International 

Lucerna

Today I’m delighted to host a poem by Patricia M. Osborne, from her new collection, Spirit Mother, published by Hedgehog Press.

Lucerna

Feathered creatures nudge
and prod to be first in the queue
as God opens his paintbox.

He brushes the birds, 
one by one, 
in vibrant colours.

Transformed, they take flight,
boasting violet blues,
golden yellows
and burnished reds.

Hanging back, a small bird,
too shy to move forward,
stands alone in front of God

who shakes his head as he points
to the empty paint pots.

Lucerna lowers her beak
but God tilts the bird’s chin –

Fear not, little one,
I gift you a perfect voice.

Orange haze descends the sky
as moonlight climbs.  

God prompts the small creature to sing.

The nightingale opens her bill–
whistles a magical crescendo. 

About Patricia M Osborne

Patricia M Osborne is married with grown-up children and grandchildren. In 2019 she graduated with an MA in Creative Writing. She is a published novelist, poet and short fiction writer with five poetry pamphlets published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press, and numerous poems and short stories appearing in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Taxus Baccata, was nominated for the Michael Marks Pamphlet Award.

Patricia has a successful blog at Whitewingsbooks.com featuring other writers. When Patricia isn’t working on her own writing, she enjoys sharing her knowledge, acting as a mentor to fellow writers.

Signed copies of her latest publication, Spirit Mother: Experience the Myth, can be purchased from her website shop at a reduced price.

https://whitewingsbooks.com/shop/ (scroll down)

Nightingale pic: Bernard Dupont 2016. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic 

The Swan

July was a good month for me, with 11 poems published in two online magazines and these two fine anthologies:

Thought I’d take the opportunity to share one of my poems from Extreme Sonnets II, published by Rhizome Press.

The Swan

I saw a swan today and thought of you.
Do you remember that midsummer day
half of our lives ago. Nothing to do

but hire a rowboat, we resolved to play
explorers, cruised upstream past willow trees
propelled by drink and laughter all the way. 

Then, half way through a joke I saw you freeze
and almost drop your wine glass in mid-sip. 
An angry swan came pecking at our knees

defending cygnets like a battleship.
That memory had faded into black
until this morning. On a river trip

another swan sailed hissing to attack
and our lost summer came cascading back. 

In other news, I’m looking forward to three poetry gigs over the next few weeks:

On 18 August, I’m at Howl, 7 Castlegate, York , 8pm

On 8 September, at Small Seeds in Huddersfield, 7pm

and on 16 September at The Quiet Compere, hosted by Sarah Dixon and Rose Condo, at Marsden Mechanics, 730pm.

Singapore

Today I am pleased to host another poem from the Poetry ID anthology, A Sackful of Clouds. This one is by Dennis Tomlinson, and was first published in Acumen 101 (September 2021).

Singapore

Tower after tower in humid morning.
Traffic thunders amidst chattering drills.

The Raffles Hotel you knew of old
rebuilt, grown big beyond disappointment.

Stark cranes of Hyundai stand erect,
as if aiming at heaven’s heart.


Copies of A Sackful of Clouds are available from David Smith (djsapt@gmail.com) at £6 plus £1.50 P&P.

Reunions

The last few days have been great for reconnecting with people. On Saturday I went to the Kirklees Author Forum Exchange for the first time in two years, meeting old writing friends and making some new ones. On Wednesday it was great to be at the return of Marsden Write Out Loud, a poetry open mic which has been in abeyance since the start of Covid. (Poetry-inclined readers in the West Yorkshire area might like to be aware that henceforth it will be meeting on the second Wednesday of every month, at 7.30-9.30 pm in Marsden Library.)

And on Tuesday, I got to see my friends from Poetry ID face to face for the first time in ages at the launch of our anthology A Sackful of Clouds, in memory of the late John Gohorry. Having posted one of my own poems from the collection recently, I thought I would share one today from another contributor. This is from J. Johnson Smith, and references Edward Thomas’s famous poem ‘Adlestrop’.

Intermission

Another station, another stop
Silence in the carriage
Broken by a cough.
Looking out the window, no trees
Just a wall and railway stuff.
No passenger getting on or off.
No rolling Gloucester hills with elm or oak
No valleys with a milking herd
Just a lonely blackbird pylon-top
With its warning call.
I don't know where it was
You'd never know we stopped at all. 

Copies of A Sackful of Clouds are available from David Smith (djsapt@gmail.com) at £6 plus £1.50 P&P.

The Prisoner

I’m very much looking forward to the launch event tomorrow (12 July, 7pm, David’s Bookshop, Letchworth, Herts) for A Sackful of Clouds, the latest anthology by Poetry ID, in memory of John Gohorry, a fine and much-missed poet who sadly died last year (you can read one of John’s poems here). I thought I’d share one of my poems from the anthology:

The Prisoner

The unspoken warning, the insincere smile
then the slam of the door and the click of the lock.
Footsteps fade away. All is still, for a while,
the silence betrayed by the tick of the clock
and the hiss of the breath I now dare to release.
They are precious, these moments, this lull in my fears –
I can almost sustain an illusion of peace.
While still drunk on relief I am full of ideas:
I will transmit a message, I will invent some way
to escape from this place. This is all fantasy;
hope is quickly snuffed out in the wasteland of day.
I reflect on the life that was stolen from me,
peering out at the world through a small window pane
at the Outside, so close, but an alien land
beyond reach, and the sun is now sinking again.
I fear the clock, with its tyrannous hand
bringing closer the time that I cannot endure.
My body is shaking, my pulse a drumbeat
pounds away in my head as I’m listening for
the faint sound of his car parking up in the street 
Then my body’s in spasm, the throbbing of blood, 
the sweat on my forehead … once more, he returns,
I recoil at the creak of the gate and the thud
of his feet on the stairs. In the door, a key turns …

Finally, in other news, I’m pleased to see my poem Blighty in this month’s issue of The Lake

Whatever Speed I Dared

Today I am delighted to host a poem from award-winning writer Amanda Huggins, from her forthcoming collection Talk to Me About When We Were Perfect.

Whatever Speed I Dared

The empty motorway carves its way west,
cuts through moor and hill,
no tail lights in front, no headlights behind,
everything uncommonly still.
Right now, I could drive
in whichever lane I wanted
at whatever speed I dared,
criss-cross the curving lines of cats’ eyes,
wind down the window,
blast out ‘Born to Run’,
howl into the night
like an American werewolf.

Caught in my full beam,
a skittish hare makes a dash
for the other side.
He pauses for a moment,
all gold-spun fur and liquid eyes,
ears raised, one front paw held high.
I lift my own foot off the pedal,
grip the wheel, ready to swerve.
But he moves off again
without a backward glance,
leaping the barrier,
melting into darkness.

I shiver and turn the music down,
moving over to the inside lane,
slowing to sixty until headlights
appear in my rear view mirror again.

Amanda Huggins is the author of the novellas All Our Squandered Beauty and Crossing the Lines – both of which won a Saboteur Award for Best Novella – as well as five collections of short stories and poetry. Her debut poetry chapbook, The Collective Nouns for Birds, won a Saboteur Award in 2020, and her first full length collection will be published next March. Her short fiction and travel writing has also appeared in publications as diverse as Mslexia, Popshot, Tokyo Weekender, The Telegraph, Traveller, Wanderlust and the Guardian. Three of her short stories have also been broadcast on BBC radio.

‘Whatever Speed I Dared’ was first published on www.northerngravy.com and will appear in the author’s collection Talk to Me About When We Were Perfect, out March 2023 from Victorina Press)

She has won numerous awards, including the Colm Toibin International Short Story Award 2020, the H E Bates Short Story Prize 2021 and the British Guild of Travel Writers New Travel Writer of the Year Award 2014. She was also a runner-up in the Costa Short Story Award 2018 and the Fish Short Story Prize 2021, and has been placed/shortlisted in the Bridport Prize, Bath Flash Award, The Alpine Fellowship Award and many others. Amanda lives in Yorkshire and works as an editor, creative writing tutor and publishing assistant.

Motorway pic: Simon Brace 2014. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported 

Launch of John Gohorry: Bold Heart, Poems from Ten Books and Essays by Divers Hands.

Thought I’d share this post about the late John Gohorry – a fine poet and much missed fellow member of Poetry-ID.

poetryparc

ISBN 978 191252478 5. Shoestring Press. £10.00 paperback

Line-up of some friends who contributed essays and read at David’s

It’s always gratifying to see a good-sized crowd at a bookshop event, and even more so when the event is an evening launch of a poetry anthology cum prose tribute to a local poet. John Gohorry (born Donald Smith) was a poet-in-residence at the estimable David’s Bookshop, where this launch was held. John was also for many years a member of Poetry ID, an inspirer and motivator of fellow poets, and the instigator of what is now a long-running poetry anthology showcasing the group’s work. I didn’t know John, as I am a very recent arrival in the Poetry ID fold, but it is clear from the sparkling and eloquent tributes paid to him by five writers and academics on the night, Stuart Henson, Glyn Purseglove, John Greening, Merry Williams, John…

View original post 88 more words