Swimming, beermats, fairs and waiting rooms.

It’s been quite a busy poetry week for me.

Not in terms of writing, although I have produced a draft or two that I’ll have another look at tomorrow. Several pleasing things have happened.

Firstly, I received a nice surprise when the organisers of the Bradford on Avon Arts Festival got in touch. A few months ago I had entered their Poems on a Beermat competition. This was for poems of up to 12 lines, and the shortlisted poems where to be printed on beermats and distributed in pubs throughout the Bradford on Avon area.  I was pleased that my poem  ‘Night Swimming’ had been chosen by poet and Interpreter’s House editor Martin Malone, who was judging the competition. You can read a little about the prize giving evening see the winning poems on Josephine Corcoran’s blog and read some of the poems via a link Josephine has on there. My poem tells the tale of a swim I took  with some poet friends off the coast of Wales near the town of Cricceth  one magical midnight a couple of summers back. The swim was the idea of the force of nature that is Joan Hewitt, whose work I have featured  here before.

Here is a picture of Cricceth beach at sunset. Our swim took place much later, under moonlight beneath and nearer to the castle’s  silhouette.


It is always good to have poems in places other than on paper or on-line, and I am very much looking forward to receiving my 25 beermats.

Yesterday I attended the Free Verse poetry book fair in London. It was a great pleasure to read my contribution to the new Happenstance ‘choclit’ anthology ‘Blame Montezuma’ alongside Alison Brackenbury, D.A Prince (who was also launching her new collection), Clare Best and others.

I also sat in on a couple of discussions, but the best part of the day was spent wandering around the main hall and chatting to poets and publishers. It was great to meet up with Alan Baker, Jane Commane, Matt Merritt and Ross Bradshaw of Five Leaves Press, amongst many others


Conway Hall

I was pleased to meet Liz Berry, and was able to tell her how much I love her book ‘Black Country’.  I wanted to attend the reading Liz gave later, but was so busy chatting with Greg Freeman of ‘Write out Loud’ that I missed it. I do hope to see Liz read in the near future.

I did manage to attend the launch of Michael Brown’s Eyewear pamphlet ‘Undersong’, and I look forward to spending some time next week having a closer look at his work.  If you have the new issue of The North magazine you will find one of Michael’s poems there.

I returned home to Leicestershire to receive another pleasant surprise. The organiser of Poems in The Waiting Room New Zealand had been in touch to ask if she could use one of my poems.   Poems in the Waiting Room is a charitable arts in health trust who, every year distribute 6000 free poetry cards to medical waiting rooms, rest homes, hospices and prisons throughout the South Island of New Zealand. Each season’s poems are also transcribed into Braille booklets. Of course I replied that I would be delighted and look forward to receiving my postcards. It’s lovely to think my work may be of interest to, and maybe provide a brief diversion for someone who is possibly in difficult circumstances.  Once again I am indebted to Josephine Corcoran for publishing the poem on her excellent And Other Poems, as I imagine that is where it was seen on a computer screen in New Zealand. Poetry travels faster and further in the internet age.  You can read the poem here.    




Some reasons to love on-line poetry sites

I feel lucky to be living in the age of on line poetry sites and blogs that regularly feature poetry.

These sites include fabulous magazines such as Antiphon and the newly established Hinterland, as well as daily or weekly poem sites such as the long established Ink Sweat and Tears (which also features reviews) Abigail Morley’s Poetry Shed and Josephine Corcoran’s andotherpoems – I’m lucky enough to have a poem on the excellent site today which you can read by clicking this link.

All of the above have been thoughtfully designed, well laid out and organised by people who invest their time to conceive, set up, run and maintain them.

I am aware of the huge amount of effort involved in reading and responding to submissions and none of the people who run the sites are motivated by profit but instead by a genuine wish  to share the poetry they enjoy and to support the poets who submit to them.

The medium seems ideally suited to the brevity of poetry and the reader has the chance to scroll through poems or lists of poems and stop when something attracts the eye. Also, biographies and links are often posted with the poems enabling readers to find out more if they wish.

There is the potential to expand the audience for poetry via social media posts, and to perhaps brighten or make more interesting the day of followers or subscribers who might receive pleasant and or stimulating surprises in their otherwise potentially dull inboxes.

Instant feedback is another benefit. Admiration for a poem can often be expressed in comments or ‘likes,’ and links quickly made with other social media. I’m sure innovations and interesting new ways of delivering poetry such as John Challis’ e-mail poetry project IN will flourish in the years to come.

Poets submitting to online sites and journals also enjoy the generally quicker turnaround times between submission and publishing. There is also very often friendly and professional e-mail correspondence with editors. One further benefit of these sites is hat they may be more democratic and perhaps less elitist
than some of the larger print magazines, taking work from both ‘unknown’ and ‘established’ poets.

I enjoy print magazines; long may they thrive and attract subscribers. Some, such as Magma, have a good online presence. But for the reasons I’ve mentioned above, the sharing of poetry via the internet is an exciting and life enhancing aspect of the contemporary poetry scene for readers and writers alike.