April 2021 Review of the Month

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Finally, a few weeks off, I plan my first walks this year in nature and some Easter eggs as well as settled down to the extremely long TO DO list and some writing, having missed deadlines for months! When the sun joins us, I shall enjoy the garden and I am looking forward to mornings which start after 6AM! It is also the beginning of the Spring/Summer Festival season and I have an international Book Launch reading, the second one in as many months. Also planning a workshop booked for next month. So lots of busy but also some much needed rest, recuperation and reconnection.

WEEK 1:

NaPoWriMo 2021 kicked off with some great resources. Every year AWF is a participating site and I try to post daily whilst following the month of prompts. I love NaPo and also get some decent poetry from it every year.

I tapered off on events at the end March, mainly due to workload, exhaustion and needing time offline. I proposed to do fewer this month so I could get some work done. The diary still looks very full!

The weekend was full of words. I listened to a panel craft talk from Chicago University ‘Literary Arts Lab’ on long form writing. It was interesting and inspiring with great insight and generous Q&A chaired by Rachel DeWoskin award-winning author of five novels: Someday We Will Fly (Penguin Random House, 2019); Banshee (Dottir Press, 2019); Blind (Penguin Random House, 2015); Big Girl Small (FSG, 2011); Repeat After Me (The Overlook Press, 2009); and the memoir Foreign Babes in Beijing (WW Norton, 2005) and Creative Writer Lecturer.

Ilya Kaminsky, Cathy Park Hong, Julie Iromuanya, Lina M. Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Rachel DeWoskin & Stephanie Soileau

Ilya Kaminsky is the author of the  widely acclaimed Deaf Republic (Graywolf, 2019), a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry, Poems from Deaf Republic were awarded Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize and the Pushcart Prize.

Cathy Park Hong is an award-winning poet and essayist …she offers a fresh and honest perspective on race and Asian American identity, discusses how poetry and writing can be a means for understanding ourselves and our world, and comments on the ways politics and culture are influenced by art—and vice versa.

Julie Iromuanya is the author of Mr. and Mrs. Doctor (Coffee House Press), a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, the Etisalat Prize for Literature (now 9 Mobile Prize for Literature), and the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize for Debut Fiction. 

Lina M. Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas is the author of Drown Sever Sing… Don’t Come Back is published by Mad River Books, an imprint of The Ohio State University Press (January 2017). Ferreira is a recipient of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award.

Rachel DeWoskin received a National Jewish Book Award, a Sydney Taylor Book Award, an American Library Association’s Alex Award, and an Academy of American Poets Award, among others. Two of her books, Foreign Babes in Beijing and Banshee, are being developed for TV. Two Menus, published by the University of Chicago Press’ Phoenix Poetry Series in 2020.

Stephanie Soileau‘s collection of short stories LAST ONE OUT SHUT OFF THE LIGHTS is forthcoming from Little, Brown & Co. in Summer 2020. Her work has also appeared in Glimmer Train, Oxford American, Ecotone, Tin House, New Stories from the South, and other journals and anthologies… has taught creative writing at the Art Institute of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of Southern Maine and the University of Chicago.

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It was the one year anniversary for Food for Thought and we had a special session where we all read a poem written in sessions this year. This group was founded on the principles of poetry for healing and has been an exceptionally important group for me to be part of. I have been attending these sessions since 2020.

We were treated to the delights of Patrice’s playing her harp, readings and even squeezed in a one minute write. An exceptional evening which brought peace, tears and smiles. The emotional connection despite the screens and 1000s of miles between us, amazes me. We are bonded.

Huge gratitude to Judith Redwing Keyssar, Gayle Kojimoto and everybody in this group. What a year we have held each other in.

 Using poetry writing as self-care and explore our feelings, fears, and hopes…

Part of me feels I should have stayed in the glow of this event but I was intrigued to attend the Close Reading in a Virtual Space with Mónica de la Torre. This deep dive into Cesar Vallejo’s “XXXVI” came from NaPoWriMo Day 1 resources. It was an interesting discussion.

I spent most of the Easter Weekend offline reading, writing and researching poems. Rakaya Fetuga’s CARAF Centre Writing sessions have finished but the group enjoyed them so much they have carried on, each taking turns to lead. It was lovely to see them all again on Saturday. I will try to attend as often as I can. On Sunday I attended an event advertised by NaPoWriMo P&P Live Sandra Beasley & Teri Ellen Cross Davis sharing their new poetry collections.

Sandra Beasley is the author of four poetry collections, including I Was the Jukebox, winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Theories of Falling, winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize. Honors for her work include a 2015 NEA Literature Fellowship, the Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize, the John Montague International Poetry Fellowship, and four DCCAH Artist Fellowships. She is also the author of the memoir Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Find her collection here.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/sandra-beasley

Teri Ellen Cross Davis is the author of Haint, winner of the 2017 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry. She is a Cave Canem fellow and a member of the Black Ladies Brunch Collective. She has received fellowships to attend the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Hedgebrook, Squaw Valley Community of Writers Workshop and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her work can be read online and in many journals, including Academy of American Poets, Harvard Review, and Tin House. She is the Poetry Coordinator for the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. and her new collection, a more perfect Union, publishes this February.

Find her collection here.

https://poets.org/poet/teri-ellen-cross-davis

It was an enjoyable hour listening to two American poets not known to me.

If you missed it you can watch it here.

I spent Monday catching up with writing, being mentored, Beta reading and our final class with Tawnya Renelle where I tried out something completely different to anything I have ever done before! And Cafe Muse with Margaree Little and Joseph Ross.

https://www.margareelittle.com/

https://josephrossnet.wordpress.com/

I had a great night at the Poetry Bubble work on the theme of Freedom after Lockdown (which is still only imagined), saw Holly Wren Spaulding in conversation with Sejal Shah. WLF had SpeakEasy which was a great International night of poetry, I enjoyed Caleb Femi at Manchester Literature Festival.

WEEK 2:

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I was comfortably into my Easter break by the 2nd week of April, madly falling behind with NaPoWriMo prompts, attempting to get some new writing done and trying not to eat chocolate. I took some nature walks and read.

I had the joy of getting back to events with Sheffield Library and enjoyed another night at Poets Cafe Reading. I took part in a great NYC Public Library workshop with Ravi Shankar, one I thoroughly enjoyed. Cheltenham Poetry Festival Launched the Frosted Fire Firsts Prize Winner collections – David Luckens and Lee Potts. It was a wonderful evening. It clashed with ATG Arrival at Elsewhere NYC Launch – which I managed to catch a few readers at. Live from the Butchery was brilliant.

It was also Sierra Poetry Festival, I managed to attend a few events over the weekend.

Despite trying to cut back – I had a full week. NaPo is partly to blame with Live events included as readings this year. Don’t get me wrong I love NaPoWriMo.net and the resources I yield annually are worthy and often incredible, the poetry community embraced the online world at the start of the first Lockdown and it has brought many people joy and solace throughout this exceptionally hard time. It is only right to include online events – it’s just my diary was full already!

In writing this blog post I realised I just missed the John Godfrey NaPo Reading!

I enjoyed Cafe Writers and The Gathering – which Apples and Snakes organised on the back of the successful World Poetry Day events, Workshops with Jack Giaour & Arya Samuelson, Caleb Parkin at the Lyra Festival, the launch of the Poetry Review Spring Issue with and my introduction to the amazing power of Hanif Abdurraqib, a tour of the Emily Dickinson Collection at the Houghton Library and my 2nd workshop with Jericho Brown (which was the same as a the one he presented in last year).

WEEK 3

I finally caught up with NaPo, enjoyed the Lyra Poetry Festival and Seren Cardiff Poetry Festival (now in the 2nd year), I performed at the Walt Whitman Birthplace as part of a spectacular Book Launch. Over 35 poets who appear in the Corona An Anthology of Poems (Edited by Gayl Teller) read, it was well hosted by events director Caitlyn Shea and presented by Gayl Teller. There are some incredibly powerful poems included, as you can imagine and it was an emotional evening.

I look forward to receiving my copy.

I was one of the Guest Readers at Jenna Plewes’ wonderful launch of A Woven Rope. I also enjoyed the end of and then rewatched the whole Bloodaxe Launch with Dom Bury, Jenna Clake & Tishani Doshi. I went to a session about confessional poetry and enjoyed some sessions at the Creative Writing Spring Symposium with the University of Glasgow.

Week 4

I have been busy with a project and Napo which leaves a scant blogging schedule, I will do some Flashbacks for some of the experiences April has offered.

I had a workshop at the Lyra Festival with Malika Booker which came as a great gift/surprise from a friend. It was a wonderful workshop, I met Malika at Ledbury Poetry Festival some about 6 years ago. I have read her work, watch her read and tuned in to some seminar/ Q&As provided by Arts groups in 2020 but had not had the ABSOLUTE PLEASURE of writing under her guidance. Amazing experience! I caught a Denise Duhamel reading — having discovered her work during NaPoWriMo and missed her last 2 readings.


I finished the weekend with the lovely experience of Paul Francis’ book launch for Rescue From The Dark with Fair Acre Press. I will definitely write more as I owe a blog about another of the recent books from Fair Acre. It was a marvellous celebration.

I have attended readings and workshops at The Stay at Home Literary Festival – which is in the 2nd year and last year saved mine (and 1000s of others) 2020 lockdown. I also had the pleasure of Sue Burge’s Book Launch for Confetti Dancers (Live Canon), a Joy Harjo reading – I will never get enough of her work, a Natalie Diaz reading, a reading with Rita Dove and one with Claudia Rankine. A wonderful interview with Elizabeth Gilbert and most recently a wonderful reunion with Andrew Fusek Peters at a Yew Tree Press Showcase. We were treated to his incredible photography in his new book Flight, Imogen Harvey-Lewis treated us to her new books ink illustrated Lockdown experience, the clever use of words in her art really hit the points home, Diana Humphrey read from Remnants her brave new pamphlet touching on her experience of losing her daughter. These words will be helpful to many. And JLM Morton & Susie Hetherington marvellous pamphlet exploring nature which is an incredible product.

A lovely way to complete the month.

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