Coronavirus

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I feel incredibly guilty planning to relaunch the blog at this time as I will be writing in a way that made seem egocentric. I hope you will understand that this is, in part, a distraction technique for myself to cope and manage at this time of self-isolation. As the UK prepares for the peak of COVID-19 and we all attempt to adjust our lives to staying in and social distancing our anxieties increase.

I was working until a week ago and have been self-isolating since then, my exercise has been indoors and I have used our garden for air and sunshine. I am fortunate enough not to know anyone at this stage who has suffered complications, although people I know have probably got the virus (we don’t know because we are not testing). I know that we will go from losing jobs (my income is currently £0, despite the government putting many packages in place), I am hopeful this will change and if it doesn’t I am grateful that the universe supplied me with some full time work in the months of this outbreak in the East. So there is a small safety net. I know that we will go from this manic stress of losing our lives as we knew them, the economic worries and the fallout of another recession to come to losing loved ones.

I know that we are all in fear, things are uncertain (or certain in some cases) and we are no longer in control. We are in control of how we manage this crisis for ourselves though. Right now you should give yourself permission to feel as you do and know that it will change many times a day. It is okay to feel this way.

I am trying to offer people help in any small way I can. Having suffered clinical depression (2013) I have techniques and experience of many Mental Health aids for wellbeing, I trained as a Life Coach and I have had 12 months of ill health which meant that I was pretty much self isolated. I was certainly cut off. I started a daily positivity page on Facebook which offers a daily dip/tip for keeping your Mental Health during this period of isolation.

Please feel free to use, like and share this page.

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

I am witnessing many creative people helping each other and a country of artists who have now moved online, we are all learning how to use Zoom! I am seeing community (that Big Community our government used to speak about) re-emerging, I am seeing selflessness and love.

I hope you are all finding a way through this time.

NaPoWriMo 2020 Day 4

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To read the whole post visit here

Today’s featured participant is 7eyedwonder, where, from Day 3’s rhymes-and-near-rhymes prompt, a mighty ode to bread has risen (like dough…it’s risen…get it?).

Our poetry resource today is a series of very silly twitter accounts. One thing that poetry is often said to do is make us see the familiar in a new way, and expose us to the magic of everyday life. These twitter accounts do something similar @MagicRealismBot @dreamdeliveryer @GardensBritish @A_single_bear?

Our prompt for the day takes its cue from our gently odd resources, and asks you to write a poem based on an image from a dream. We don’t always remember our dreams, but images or ideas from them often stick with us for a very long time. I definitely have some nightmares I haven’t been able to forget, but I’ve also witnessed very lovely things in dreams (like snow falling on a flood-lit field bordered by fir trees, as seen through a plate glass window in a very warm and inviting kitchen). Need an example of a poem rooted in dream-based imagery? Try this one by Michael Collier.

Happy writing!

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Nora’s poem on the participant’s site is wonderful – brilliant – inspiring and of this time.

A Pint A Pound, The Whole World ‘Round – I look forward to reading more on her blog.

I think of all the people who are going to follow a few more twitter accounts today – love the magical story that I landed on at the Magic Realism Bot twitter. A murderer falls in love with a silver maple tree.

The Dream Delivery Service gives me – You crack a battery open & a yellow bird flies out.

British Gardens You are in a British garden. Your teeth are melting. There are bumblebees in the haze. The flood is a festival.

A Bear gave me Sometimes it is difficult to decide what to do because there are so many things to do (swim, nap, climb, sleep, run, rest, etc.), and I often end up doing the same thing anyway: thinking about what I want to do… …while napping. I am a bear.

I carried on going through the twitter accounts.

 

 

I will update this post later- off to work out a poem and take a screen break.

Weekend internet connection during this Isolation period is patchy at best.

NaPoWriMo 2020 Day 3

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Read the full post here.

Featured participant today is Put Out to Pasture, where the place-based prompt for Day 2 breathes life into the memory of a library.

Today’s poetry resource an online rhyming dictionary. This one provides both “pure” rhymes and near rhymes, a way to find “similar sounding” words, and also a thesaurus.

Today’s prompt asks you to make use of our resource for the day. First, make a list of ten words. You can generate this list however you’d like – pull a book  off the shelf and find ten words you like, name ten things you can see from where you’re sitting, etc. Now, for each word, use Rhymezone to identify two to four similar-sounding or rhyming words. For example, if my word is “salt,” my similar words might be “belt,” “silt,” “sailed,” and “sell-out.”

Once you’ve assembled your complete list, work on writing a poem using your new “word bank.” You don’t have to use every word, of course, but try to play as much with sound as possible, repeating  sounds and echoing back to others using your rhyming and similar words.

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I visited the participants site first. I remembered Maxie Jane was featured last year too. Her background is an interesting one and I liked how this poem ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Library’ put me back into memories of my own life from a similar time. I left a message on her blog.

Then I made my list of 10 words – I used items in the room and also a 2nd list from book pages.

I didn’t get as far as writing the poem as I took part in some poetry online and then the sun was shining – flighty – I know! So I got outside for fresh air and sunshine in the garden, marvelled at a butterfly, made some phone calls, enjoyed a coffee and once I made it back inside sent some emails and then organised a few poetry bundles, none for submission, all for cleaning! Few house chores and one bit of Face Time and then it was teatime and I was back online for a Zoom Stanza – so I still have my lists and a poorly neglected Mr. G so I am going to spend time with him and finish my poem and update this post later – and that’s how you get behind in the very first week of NaPoWriMo.

 

Oh, look! A shiny thing!

 

 

NaPoWriMo 2020 Day 2

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You can read the full post here Day Two

Happy Thursday, all. I hope that your first day of Na/GloPoWriMo went swimmingly, and that you are ready for another dip in the refreshing pool of poetry!

Featured participant is Poem Dive, where Day 1’s life-as-metaphor prompt generated a visually arresting reverie rooted in painting and internet research.

Our poetry resource for today is this PDF of a short, rather whimsical chapbook by the Pulitzer Prize-winnning poet James Schuyler, whose poems are known for constantly mixing together spoken language, observations about the weather, high and low diction, and for their attention to the profundities (and absurdities) of everyday life.

Our prompt for the day takes a leaf from Schuyler’s book – write a poem about a specific place —  a particular house or store or school or office. Try to incorporate concrete details, like street names, distances (“three and a half blocks from the post office”), the types of trees or flowers, the color of the shirts on the people you remember there. Little details like this can really help the reader imagine not only the place, but its mood – and can take your poem to weird and wild places.

Happy writing!

 

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A great many poets share their NaPo poems across social media so I spent some time reading other people’s metaphor poems yesterday, depending on how much time I have I sometimes go and check out the participant sites on napowrimo.net I also like reading the poems that are chosen each day. So this is where I started this morning.

I downloaded the PDF version of ‘Damage’ – I thought the combination of activities was an interesting take on the metaphor prompt. I wished the typesetting had been intentional – a happy accident at least. I liked the different narrative voices and the universal knowledge of these activities. Some power lines here. A much more substantial poem than the effort I was able to produce on Day 1.

I also enjoy discovering new voices through the resources and reading work that I may not otherwise discover. I had fun exploring the chapbook and loved that it is about a place local to me that I know well.

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I was interested not only in the writing but the format of the chapbook, how it was made.

I then looked at James Schuyler

As far as the prompt – this is the sort of writing I do often. So I wanted to choose a place I had not written about before. Again, bearing in mind my current projects I knew what I wanted to use to write.

I started my writing with a search for maps, to remind me of the names of streets I have not walked down for 2 years. I searched for a company website and harvested some images shared online from the place. I wrote and edited and wrote again. Three treatments later (I know part of the theory of NaPo is to silence the inner editor and not work on the poems until May or later) but I want my rough poems to be vaguely polished this year because they are forming part of a body of an already project and will be more useful this way. I wrote about a Deli and for the 2nd time in as many days there was a topical reference to the world crisis.

 

 

 

NaPoWriMo 2020 Day 1

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Welcome, everyone, to the official first day of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo 2020! First featured participant, Honey Stew, where the early-bird poem is a paean to sanderlings and the ” many fast little birds who peep by the sea.”

As in past years, we’ll be featuring a different poetry-related resource daily. This year, including online poetry chapbooks, poetry-related Twitter accounts, and more.

Silly tricks are sometimes the best, at least for getting one’s creativity going. It’s an online metaphor generator!

There are any number of poems out there that compare or equate the speaker’s life with a specific object. This poem of Emily Dickinson’s). Today, however, I’d like to challenge you to write a self-portrait poem in which you make a specific action a metaphor for your life – one that typically isn’t done all that often, or only in specific circumstances. For example, bowling, or shopping for socks, or shoveling snow, or teaching a child to tie its shoes.

Happy writing!

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I spent sometime reading the participant’s poem – some lovely lines. I then looked at the Sanderlings, a prettier bird than the Royal Spoonbill.

As I knew it would be, the online generator is addictive. I copied a few into my NaPo word doc. I used part of one phrase to almost form the first line of a Haiku (you will become a fan of short form trying to write this many poems in a month). I wrote the rest of the haiku – it is the 2nd time I have written about coronavirus. An unexpected extra poem!

I am an Emily Dickinson fan, so I looked forward to discovering which poem was today’s example.

I read it and also listened to the Power and Art podcast– discussion of Susan Howe’s version hosted by Al Filreis and featuring poets Marcella Durand, Jessica Lowenthal, and Jennifer Scappettone.

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I am still thinking about the self portrait prompt. I will be back later to post about the process.

I sort of managed it. Not quite a self portrait – more a fragment from our current time. I used the metaphor of shovelling snow. It started with the end line and I worked backwards for 2 stanzas, then started looking up shovelling snow and some scary statistics that I had never considered before!

I edited the middle section into couplets and started and finished with a 3 line stanza. It is a metaphor for a moment, the one we are all sharing right now.

I have a digital Stanza meeting on Friday and now I think I have a poem.

NaPoWriMo 2020 It’s Coming!

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It is nearly time for NaPoWriMo, an annual flurry of poetry writing. Find out more here.

They have a few starter activities just for fun. The silly test mentioned in this post gives you a chance to choose Bot or Not. I had a 70% success rate. A great party game for the self isolating at this time.

If, like me you enjoy this writing month you will just be pleased to see the site back up and running and the new banners and buttons for 2020.

The Two Days to Go post invites us to go and look at Patrick Stewart’s twitter account where he is reading Shakespeare’s sonnets, I have happily already discovered this already (and retweeted) but it serves to remind me that one of the things I LOVE about NaPo is discovering resources and new to me poets and poems. Also the participants sites can be a great find too.

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Here on AWF I am always a participating site but never (or rarely ever) post a NaPo poem as this affects the copyright and means I may not be able to publish them. You will write a lot of rubbish over the next few weeks – give yourself that permission, nothing is wasted. It’s all worth it for those few poems that do work, that do go on to grow up and get published, for the ones you include in your next collection, for the ones that speak to your heart.

The day before NaPo starts there is always an Early Bird post to get you warmed up and started. So this is not a drill – take a deep breath and get ready to dive in with us!


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Hello, all! Tomorrow is April 1, and the first day of NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo 2020! But since April 1 arrives a bit earlier in some parts of the globe than the east coast of the United States, we have an early-bird resource and prompt for you.

Today’s resource is The Slowdown, a daily poetry podcast hosted by former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. Podcasts are a nice way to add some poetry to your life. They also give you a chance to hear the rhythm of poetry out loud. Sometimes it can be very surprising, if you’ve been reading a poet on the page for many years, to hear their voice out loud, and realize it’s much different than the voice you’ve been giving that same poet in your head.

And now, in the spirit of an early-bird prompt, I’d like to invite you to write a poem about your favorite bird. As this collection of snippets from longer poems suggests, birds have been inspiring poets for a very long time indeed!

If you don’t have a favorite bird, or are having trouble picking one, perhaps I might interest you in myfavorite bird, the American Woodcock? These softball-sized guys are exactly the color of the leaves on the floor of a Maine forest, and they turn up each spring to make buzzy peent noises, fly up over meadows in elaborate courtship displays, and to do little rocking dances that YouTube jokesters delight in setting to music.

 

They are also quite odd looking, as every part of their body appears to be totally out of proportion with the rest. For a poetic bonus, they also have many regional nicknames. In Maine, they’re often called “timberdoodles,” but other regionalisms for them include “night partridge,” “mudbat,” “prairie turtle,” Labrador twister,” “bogsucker,” “wafflebird,” “billdad,” and “hokumpoke.”

Tomorrow we’ll be back with another resource, prompt, and our first featured participant.

In the meantime, happy writing!


I started to listen to the Slowdown Podcast and appreciated the slowness of it juxtaposing the violent onslaught of next door’s far-too-loud-radio, I know of Tracy K. Smith, I discovered her before she was a US Laureate and I know some of her work, I know she plays with pace and rhythm and sometimes line breaks used to enable this breath. Looking at the Poetry Foundation page I decided to treat myself to some of her work too and revisited Declaration from Wade in the Water.  Copyright © 2018

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During the podcast, Tracy recites Interesting Times by Mark Jarman. Bedlam right now during the Coronavirus, for sure. The words resonate with double meaning right now. An echo of the//for the global crisis.

Choking on these lines;

Everything’s happening on the cusp of tragedy,

We’ve been at this historical site before, but not in any history we remember.

To know the stars will one day fly apart so far they can’t be seen
Is almost a relief. For the future flies in one direction—toward us.

 

Mark Jarman – “Interesting Times” from Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2011

I then settled down to read the poetry snippets https://poets.org/text/thirteen-ways-looking-poems-about-birds before considering my own writing for today.

This is where the madness began (NaPo madness is normal – it starts with the research/ search engines then pages later leads you someplace else and (hopefully) back again)!

I read the snippets and then watched the videos of Maureen’s chosen bird and it hit me, WA – and the magnificent birds of Perth – as it fits my current project. That’s another NaPo GOLD-DUST tip: if you can bend the prompts to fit creative projects you are trying to fulfil – this isn’t always possible but when it is – it is GOLDEN – as often we are forced to write beyond ourselves.

I then watched a series of videos before I decided on the one. It has been made from photographs rather than footage but the pictures have magically captured the music of the birds. I am yet to pen a poem as I am getting a set ready for this evening. But I will… (the NaPo promise to yourself).

I watched the video and made a list of over 10 Australian birds, then chose one by looking for images of the species. I then searched for facts and went back to my research document to highlighted key fact on appearance and movement. I harvested a few images to study & wrote a short 5 line poem about the Royal Spoonbill.

Enjoy!

 

Flashback – An Exhibition in London

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Last year’s missing bits in Flashback posts.

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By the summer I had secured a project I could work on (even in the state I was in) and I started to think about new writing. It had been a while, my Stanza meeting efforts were old poems saved in files on the laptop. I wanted to write again, the urge came a long while before the possibility – and like any writer I know one of the best ways to guarantee work is to find a deadline and write to it.

So I started looking for opportunities and found a call out for the Asking For It project curated by Chloë Clarke and Gabby Ellison. 

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We are the ‘Asking for it’ exhibition. Our aim is to create a place for people to share and feel and come together over adversity. Through expression of art – in a variety of mediums such as film, photography, poetry, art and sound – the exhibition will take the viewer on a journey from the beginning to recovery and survival.

The exhibition not only looks at the experiences of the survivor but the societal judgements and miseducation around the topic of sexual abuse/violence. We believe that art is a powerful tool to express and empower artists and viewers, while educating those who have not experienced this.

I made a poetry film and submitted some poems. My poetry was accepted.

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Unfortunately I was not able to read at the gallery opening as my physical health made it impossible to travel to London.

Private Gallery Exhibition Opening and Performances 23rd October.

 

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It was a brave and successful exhibition. Here are some more photos from the opening night.

A good project to be part of.

Fragility// Being Human

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Last year was tough, as you know (because I keep harping on about it), even when I thought my post op wounds had healed (March) every other month that followed there were complications with them and I ended up seeing two consultants, having further scans and tests. This eventually healed and  I was signed off towards the end of Autumn. It has been fine since, I started back to work and within 4 weeks there was another abscess (3rd one) and I asked for my bloods to be checked. They discovered an underlying health condition.

My healed skin is something I already take for granted – the sealed, just body again now, but sometimes I check the scar and marvel. Or sometimes check it and almost cry, fortunately (for me) it isn’t visible to the world, which makes dealing with it an easier process. No part of my 40+ weekly tablet regime has to do with this area of my body which is now sorted. Done. Complete.

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Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

My foot is still numb but I take medication to help with the sensations/ neuropathy and have gained both more use, flexibility and feeling each month. The consultant expressed it could be the summer before we can judge how significant the healing is and what feeling or lack of it will remain. I can walk without a stick, I just have to remain mindful of every movement (when I didn’t a few weeks back, I caused tissue damage to the numb foot) and had to use my stick again.

As anyone with long term injuries/ chronic health conditions will tell you, they are draining. They change the person you are and you are forced to adapt. I relied heavily on the support of others and on the whole everyone was amazing. There will always be those who can’t quite understand what all the fuss is about and it has been the hardest lesson for me coming out of it to let this go. There is an immense amount of energy required to get your life back on track and if some people have decided to publicly spurn you, you just need to back away and let them get on with it. It took a while for me to realise this, my natural instincts were to bridge build, I tried. It made me feel worse that relationships had been irreparably unsettled. We have all had someone walk out of our lives without fully understanding why, the impact and fallout is a challenge but takes less emotive energy than trying to find out what is going on. These losses are extremely saddening.

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Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

I guess on the back of this current world crisis people are about to experience what it is like to put our changed lives back together again afterwards and I hope this brings with it the compassion and support we are finding in our own communities right now.

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My life started back at almost ground nothing after the operation, heavily medicated and pretty much completely useless, I lived downstairs for months, pain was constant (despite Morphine), movement was limited and I couldn’t manage simple tasks like sitting up, let alone hoovering/washing up/ cooking etc.

During this time I injured my back, my body/muscles all being weakened by 6 weeks of ill health. Imagining I was capable of doing more than I could, I had made it upstairs for a shower. I found it so frustrating when I couldn’t manage something. Dressing took the best part of 40 mins and a 1 hour lie down after. Washing hair meant that was the only thing I’d achieve that day.

Mentally I was adjusting to having an idled/medicated/impaired mind that could (fortunately) focus on escapism/ like reading but was not able to work on editing my manuscript which appeared in my inbox whilst I was in hospital.

My whole relationship at home with Mr G (who had to 100% support me to do anything/everything) changed. The dynamics shifted to carer and me to useless. I had limited joint movements and needed help all the time. The list of things I couldn’t do was long. The slightest touch hurt like a huge weight and I became insular both physically & mentally.

My mum drove me to every appointment and there were many tests and consultations in hospital and at various centres around the county, I needed to see nurses three or four times a week. I am hugely grateful that she was able to do this for me, again – without her I would not have managed to cope. She was also the voice of reason and my emotional support throughout the whole ordeal. Thank goodness for unconditional love!

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Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

It has been a long, slow struggle to get back on my feet and without the help and love of family and friends and the support of our National Health Service (particularly the wonderful team at Worcestershire Breast Unit) I wouldn’t be where I am, I feel hugely grateful every day.

Our futures are now uncertain and there will be a plethora of difficulties to face, but you will not be alone. It is important, now more than ever to reach out and show some gratitude and love.

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RELATED LINKS:

Coronavirus Self Isolation Advice NHS

https://www.worcsbreastunithaven.com/

https://themighty.com/2017/11/supporting-friends-with-chronic-illnesses/

 

2020 //Blog Under Construction

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Those of you who follow AWF will know that I lost 12 months of work and writing to ill health. I planned to post more at the end of 2019 but desperately had to get paid work to make up for the year I wasn’t able to work. I managed to juggle a few opportunities and a commission or two. Somehow I managed to work on editing the second pamphlet (the aptly titled) ‘Patience’ with Sarah Leavesley at V. Press and that was published in the Autumn and launched before the end of the year.

 

Before the end of the year I was hit with another wave of rotten and have been dealing with readjusting my life and health accordingly. We had lots of things happening to loved ones too. Despite this final twist, by the beginning of 2020 I was feeling much stronger and able to use my body again in the normal way we all take for granted. I had started to return to Poetry events and although writing wasn’t coming easily I managed some workshops and some ideas started to nest.

Then we were hit with dealing with losing loved ones and the untimely tragedy of losing a friend.

By February we discovered the world was under attack and COVID’19 took over.

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I have spent the last 4 weeks in various states that I won’t go into here, right now but needless to say writing was the furthest thing from my mind. However, if one thing this week has taught me it is that creatives will create and support, comfort and help each other. There is lots to say and lots to do – including distraction and projects. So as part of my self isolation I am FINALLY going to reboot the blog.

 

Areas are under construction.

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Stay safe x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submitting to journals: the Jo Bell method

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Submitting to journals: the Jo Bell method

The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

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[This article is now taught in universities, and I’ve had many many messages to tell me that people have increased their publication record, sometimes by 200% in a year. It’s included (with much other useful advice) in our new book from Nine Arches Press, How to Be a Poet]

I’ve spent some time lately with poetry journal editors – and also with the poor beggars who, like me, send off work to them. It’s struck me anew that many people, especially those at the beginning of their writing career, don’t have much idea of how submission works and what time span is realistic for an editor to consider a poem. Also, they’re wondering how to keep tabs on the seventeen different pieces that they’ve sent out, in order to avoid the no-no of simultaneous submission.

What follows is the Jo Bell Method; the method of an immensely, award-winningly disorganised poet who nonetheless…

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