Category Archives: motivation

NaPoWriMo – The BIG Catch Up – Day 21

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As I have said – I managed to keep up to date with writing poetry for the NaPoWriMo challenge, but the blog posts have lacked due to generally being extremely busy over the past week.

I am back at work now and my schedule is all about attempting balance. I have events booked for the next 5 days though, so I am trying to catch up with blogposts this evening.

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I can tell you where I went… researchland – and I got stuck there for almost an entire day.

The reason… I started with Carrie Etter’s prompt today and not napowrimo.net. Carrie’s 21st prompt required finding a photo/image online of the place you live, fifty years ago. At first I thought that was ages ago, then I keyed into how old I am and that these images wouldn’t be that historical.

I started my mammoth search and from the hunger of image came video exploration and a whole new obsession about our town twinning and the expeditions of local swimming clubs, then to the German town we are twinned with – as it was then and is now – then back to a Local Historian Society, more images… some quick scribbles, fleeting muse and then the seed of a huge, enormous post-Napo idea.

A visit to the reference section of the library, more notes… scaffold poems… more ideas. Once home some forgotten memories of my own and a local search in pursuit of an image of a building, long since demolished.

Another seedling idea.

This took me to a site where people film in derelict places and another local story. Needless to say it was late when I started my poem, I chose an earlier image I had collected before all my ideas started to explode like firecrackers.

The idea of Carrie’s prompt was to write as if you were there now. The photograph was a family picnic, in the background a special building central to our town (which is a lot older than I imagined)… the town not the significant building.

I picked my narrative from the youngest child (I am a middle child). It was nice to wear the baby shoes!

As with Day 20, I wrote straight onto the laptop and messed with the form of the poem with ease.

Dad’s car, our windbreaker,

I licked my fingers

as an hors d’oeuvre to chicken legs


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Our featured participant for the day is rhymeswithbug, where the sports poem for Day 20 imagines poetry as a game of golf!

Today’s interview is with Eileen Myles, a longtime New Yorker and erstwhile presidential candidate, whose poems exhibit a direct, punk sensibility. You can read more about Myles in this brief New York Times profile, and you can find a number of her poems here.

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that incorporates overheard speech. It could be something you’ve heard on the radio, or a phrase you remember from your childhood, even something you overheard a co-worker say in the break room! Use the overheard speech as a springboard from which to launch your poem. Your poem could comment directly on the overheard phrase or simply use it as illustration or tone-setting material.

I have a carry about notebook filled with overheard speech, but decided to listen out for something fresh. This meant that my poem was written after the 21st day (but as I am following 2 prompts and producing more than 60 poems, I can forgive myself). It was worth the wait. Overheard siblings.

I wrote two Haikus.

… meanness, fault shifted.


Jo Bell http://www.jobell.org.uk/ encouraged us to read And by Alison Brackenbury. I have met Alison several times, but this poem was a new read for me.


58d3e6b0bba6c-bpfullThe Poetry School offered writing in the style of someone else.

Day 21: In the Style of…

Morning poets! Today I’d like you to write in the style of another poet. Study their subject matter, the way they phrase things, the way they break lines, their vocabulary, their world view. Try not to do this from memory, but to actually read your chosen poet.

Do not say whose style you are writing in because I would like you to try to guess each other’s. Because they have such distinctive and easy to guess styles the following poets are banned: Emily Dickinson, ee cummings, Sharon Olds. Contemporary poets preferred please!

As an example, I have quickly written the following in the style of a contemporary American poet. Can you guess who?

Ringers

Leaving our beds

in the thick dark

and walking

to the light switch

on the wall

we have to just step

out and trust

there’ll be a floor

beneath us

as bell ringers

pull their ropes hard

before they’ve heard

the note before

the note before.


Feel free to solve this in the comments below.

Happy writing NaPo-ers!

NaPoWriMo Day 14 – Two Weeks In & Nearly Halfway There…

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I cannot believe we have nearly reached the halfway point. This is usually where we experience the dip. I am now struggling with the fact that my NaPo poems are meaningless and not well written, with the challenge of some of the forms in the limited time I have set aside for the creation of the poems, also that nagging feeling of catch up.

So I start this morning with taking my own advice.

  • Forgive
  • Move On
  • Write

This challenge never presents 30 excellent poems by the end of April. I do not think that is the point, it is meant to fuel your writing. Maybe in August I will write a poem that would never be penned with NaPo 2017.

The frustration is in wanting to write well, (I don’t think any of us ever want to write badly, unless we’re entering an Anti-slam or something)!

I am packing my frustration away today and catching up on the writing from Day 13. In an attempt to write in meaning, my companion today is my carry around notebook, which I opened randomly and chose a line from as an initial thought.

I managed several attempts at a Ghazal, all of which need more work.

… like routes on a torn Tube map,

My poem on Carrie’s prompt ended in some research, which may result in an additional poem at some point. I think it may be the shortest prose poem in existence!

… the unforgiving silence of sin.


And now – forward, onto Day 14.

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http://www.napowrimo.net/

Our featured participant today is Clairvetica, where the ghazal for Day 13 is a mixed-emotions ode to London.

Today’s interview is with Troy Jollimore. A poet whose work often has a philosophical bent, he won the National Book Critics Circle award for his first book, Tom Thomson in Purgatory. You can find three of Jollimore’s poems here and four more here.

Last but not least, our prompt! Because it’s Friday, let’s keep it light and silly today, with a clerihew. This is a four line poem biographical poem that satirizes a famous person. Here’s one I just made up:

Emily Dickinson
wasn’t a fickle one.
Having settled in Amherst,
she wouldn’t be dispersed.

Is it going to win a Pulitzer prize? Nope – but it was fun to write!

I wrote a clerihew about our Prime Minister – I think it will stay in my notebook!


Carrie Etter’s prompt was to write a list poem, as an actual list. I have written it but my example doesn’t really feel like a poem. Maybe that is the nature of the form. I may go for this again, once I have some solid anchors to hook a list on.napo2017button1


Jo Bell http://www.jobell.org.uk/  English Breakfast by Paul Summers, the title mainly reminded me that it is lunchtime and I haven’t eaten mine yet.

An interesting discussion about judgement and prejudice.


The Poetry School

Day 14: What if…?58d3e6b0bba6c-bpfull
How many stories, films and poems can be summarised with that question? Look at Jose Saramago’s novel Blindness, which asks the question: What if blindness was contagious?
Today’s task is to ask yourself a ‘what if’ question — and to answer it. It might help to start off your poem with ‘What if…’ though you may decide to delete that part later on. It can be a personal ‘what if’ addressing what might have happened, or a hypothetical, scientific ‘what if’, but whatever you choose, the key to this task is to commit. You must follow the logic through wherever it goes, even – no, especially – if it goes somewhere unexpected.
For inspiration, have a look at Mark Waldron’s ‘Lion’, the second poem featured here: https://daysofroses.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/three-poems-from-mark-waldrons-the-itchy-sea/

NaPoWriMo Day 8 – a non-writing day

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This title is misleading and of course, not true. I have written today – I have just used yesterday’s prompts and plan to use today’s prompts later when today will in fact be tomorrow, time machine anyone?

After being out all day, with weather at 20+degrees and sunny, an evening of socialising and a mini-napo catch up from no social media/digital outlet Friday night… writing 2 poems yesterday, was enough. So I have found myself a day behind. This always happens – don’t panic if it has happened to you.

FALLING BEHIND IN NAPOWRIMO – My Survival Technique

  • Accept it  
  • Move on

That’s it folks, simple! Remember it is meant to be an adventure/ fun/ pleasurable… when the fun stops, stop (as the gambling adverts suggest). Seriously, writing under pressure is something many of us do from time to time, this long-haul process of daily writing time is a tough enough challenge without making yourself all grizzly at the same time and it won’t open the writing up to you, only make you bitter.

I did manage a surf and found all the relevant prompts for Day 8 today too, reading them let’s the subconscious do some pot stirring on that old back burner whilst I get on living.


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^ See, FUN!

http://www.napowrimo.net/day-eight-4/

The featured participant for the beginning of Week 2 is Summer Blues, the interviewee for the day is Dorothea Lasky. Her poems can be found here.

Today’s prompt was to write a poem… that relies on repetition. It can be repetition of a phrase, or just a word. Need a couple of examples? Try “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe, or Joy Harjo’s “She Had Some Horses”


Carrie Etter is judging the Bradford on Avon Festival Poetry Competition this year, the theme is Flight of Fancy and there is a line limit, so today she suggested we write to that remit.

… she lost her world, entirely,

… she let go of the ground of vows…


Jo Bell posted Inland by Edna St. Vincent Millay and a discussion about rhyme and language.


More repetition over at The Poetry School.

Day 8: Anaphora or Refrain

We want poems that use repetition. We want poems that use the same words, or wording, repeatedly. We want such repetition to drive home a point. What do we want that point to be? Up to you.

Gwendolyn Brooks’ iconic poem We Real Cool is just 24 words long, but is still a masterclass in repetition. Read it here:
https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/we-real-cool

You should also take a look at Tony Hoagland’s I Have News For You. https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/i-have-news-you


I will leave you with some advice/ insight/ knowledge (call it what you will), that I posted this evening to a Napo poet:

Nobody can write 30 stunning poems in 30 days unless all they are doing is writing. We are lucky if we produce one stunner in a year. Try not to judge. The process of writing is the key. End results come later, much later… In my previous annual Napo experience you may be rewarded with 4 decent poems but you will have embarked on a committed time writing & will be processing for months to come!

You are in WEEK 2 – Hurrah! Just KEEP GOING!

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Welcome 2017

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Welcome 2017

I think it is a little late to be wishing you all Happy New Year – so welcome to 2017, I hope it has started well for you.

I took my annual break over Christmas and although I still need to tie up some monthly reviews and pages there really was little action as everything calms down a bit in December. Poets, like bears, enjoy hibernation.

This year I am spending the majority of my time writing and promoting ‘Fragile Houses’. Three new exciting opportunities have landed on my lap and in addition to these some new Literature Festivals have sprung up that I am busy organising events for. I do not plan to do 107 gigs this year, but there are still several events a month to keep me in the performance circuit/loop.

I am very excited about 2017 and have harnessed the sense of ‘new dawn’ we all experience on the 1st January and I intend to keep it. Which is ironic as I have had some wobbles already this month. So running on the pure scent of the beginning of the year… let’s get stuck in!

Be brave

be bold

and keep writing!

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INKSPILL – Hugging the Monster

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We all have one – that loud obnoxious inner critic that gets in our way, stops us believing. We are about to hug that monster, so flex your arms ready!

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We are going to write a letter to our inner critic.

Dear Monster… I am sure you all have a name for this beast.

Do NOT stop, tell them exactly what you think of them messing with your confidence and if you brave enough give them some advance warning of what terrible fate they will suffer next time they enter your head.

 

You may think this is a really silly exercise, but believe me – next time the inner critic pops up you will be ready to whack that nuisance away. You may not even hear them. We live in hope.

 

Anyway – have fun with this little exercise and be sure to sign off as your writer self.

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INKSPILL – Introducing ‘Writing Loss’

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We met with Roy McFarlane over the summer (whilst he was Poet in Residence at Shakespeare’s Birthplace). In discussing the theme for our writing workshops we chose loss. Loss plays a part in his debut collection ‘Beginning With Your Last Breath’. If you know the story behind the book, the motivation for his work, it started with loss.

Handing over to Roy…

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© 2011 Smokestack Books


Inkspill Online Writing Retreat

Writing Loss

We’ll be exploring the theme of loss in myriad ways. When writing love, love seems to pour from the heart on to the paper, spilling over the pages on to notepads, back of envelopes and any available space that you can find but in that moment of loss, or that long road to the inevitability of loss, we often struggle, we often refuse to write.

Mona Arshi said in an interview with the Forward Arts Foundation, ‘writing the poems around death of my brother, observing the anguish of a family trying to come to terms and survive was a difficult task, but one I felt I had to negotiate especially if you believe that one of the functions of poetry is to make the unbearable, bearable.’

So for this weekend, we are simply going to write with an abundance, write without the need to worry too much about form but I do want you to be inspired by the prompts and exercises I’m going to share with you, some of which have been the spark behind my writing but more profoundly, just the joy of reading from a cannon of wonderful writers.

There are no fast rules, the only rule is to write, write it your way the best way that you can. I only ask that you write the truth, bare as much of you as you can on the page – being true to yourself. There’s going to be tears, but I hope and pray that there’ll be smiles and laughter.

I’m interested in how far you can spread your net of writing, I’m naturally thinking of our loved ones; our parents, lovers, siblings, children, pets but how far can we go with this, a work colleague, the boss, coach, a teammate, the team, someone moving away that you’ll never see again, so be imaginative and throw the net out and let’s see what we catch.

INKSPILL Successful Writing Habits

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Welcome back. To kick start this afternoon take a few minutes to watch this video.

 

 

  1. Write everyday
  2. Write first thing in the morning
  3. Turn off your inner critic
  4. Let other people read your work
  5. Rituals

 


We are certain many of you can tick off this simple checklist. We would love to hear about No.5 # so tell us about your own rituals.

 

The Olympic Year – The Story so Far

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2016 my first Olympic year milestone. I know generally people have a ‘5 year plan’, but I decided in 2013, when I gave up a full-time career (at a current loss of about £60K – what is money…) and embarked on my creative life instead that I would use the Olympic model. I was inspired by London 2012 and listened to many successful athletes talking about life before the Gold medal. For many this was their 4th (and last) games and winning has an almost entirely invisible to the public trail behind it.

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Part of the ethos of the blog is honesty, to share the rejection as well as success, expose the hidden underbelly creatives face daily. The theory behind the Olympics was my imagining but I have learnt in the past 3 years of networking that many of the poets and artists I admire are about 16+ years in. It is entirely possible. I believed it and now I know it is true.

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2013 – Learning

In the first year I built a steady foundation. I used to write, was published in anthologies as a young writer and performed into my early 20s. I trained in Creative Writing on a modular writing course facilitated by (famous) professionals, in Leicester and lived a creative life (until I couldn’t afford to eat).

It has been over a decade since I last wrote and the writing world had changed, I was out of practise and out of touch. Workshops and writing classes were an important initial investment. It took me 10 months before I wound my way back to poetry, which although one of the smaller writing markets, has always been my natural home. I can write, but I am a poet.

I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, Spring and Summer and the official NaNoWriMo in November. I spent the words on a Non-Fiction manuscript I have been writing (mainly in my head) on and off for the past 13 years. It was the last thing I worked on in 2002, the year my writing stopped. I blew the dust off and picked it up again this year in Nano. I also worked on some short stories.

My main focus was to establish this blog and I spent hours typing away thinking ‘what if I actually used this time to write?’ I have no regrets though, this is an award winning, well established blog with lots of traffic and steadily increasing statistics.

My first public performance was in Leamington at Julie Boden’s Spoken Word night, where I met Dave Reeves. Within 2 weeks of finding myself back in the heart of poetry I met the local poetry scene and volunteered to work for Writing West Midlands. I performed at Birmingham Book to the Future Festival, in Stratford-Upon-Avon at an Emma Press Book Launch and Worcester.

I submitted some prose work and had a poem published.

I established INKSPILL – an annual virtual writing retreat. It was important to keep it FREE, catering for all those people who want and need it, but cannot afford it. In future years this may change, but now in its 4th year it is still FREE and accessible to anyone, although I do encourage a FOLLOW to the blog as a thank you. The initial idea came from an email I received about Iyanla_Vanzant’s Wonder Woman Weekend, which I couldn’t attend as I couldn’t afford to get to America.

I went to the Birmingham Literature Festival and Book to the Future Festival.

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2014Performing

After returning to performing poetry at the tail-end of 2013, 2014 became my touring year. Whatever I earn from writing will just about cover my 2014 fuel bill!

I became an Assistant Writer for Writing West Midlands and performed in over 107 places, I started taking bookings as a Headline performer. I also worked on commissioned projects, some for established festivals. I realised that as an artist, I enjoy doing unusual things with my writing and sought opportunities to do more than perform and write words.

I sent a pamphlet out and got rejected. Unlike 2013, where my focus was learning, this year was performing. I was writing lots and submitted a lot more work, with a clearer recording system. I had many individual poems placed and published and enjoyed celebrating the successful year in an event called ‘One Year a Poet’. 6 poems appeared in 3 anthologies, 2 poems were published in magazines, 4 poems published online. I had a poem on the Poetry Fence at Acton Scott Farm, another on the Wenlock Poetry Trail, Wenlock Poetry Festival 2014, 21 Haikus were used in an installation at the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), another was displayed in a local library by an Arts Network. That’s 36 poems out there in the real world. In August I decided, incredibly last minute to submit my pamphlet to V. Press. My hesitation was having to deal with rejection again.

Performance highlights include; performing in Worcester LitFest alongside Adrian Mealing for the first part of Jonny FluffyPunk’s show. My moustache poem had been written with him in mind, so it was great to perform it in front of him.

The moustache poem was part of a set with other work being collaborative between myself and Tim Scarborough. This duo experience was sadly short lived, as he fell in love and focussed on his drumming business. But if we have time in the future, it is not a closed door.

I opened the Arts All Over the Place Festival, in support of Mental Health. A cause close to my heart as it was through suffering depression that I made my life changes and found myself picking up my pen again.

I performed at Worcester Music Festival.

I did some 1 to 1 Mentoring for Writing West Midlands and promoted Daniel Sluman’s second collection ‘the terrible’ (Nine Arches Press). I reviewed this poetry book, loving hand made and  a joy to read,  Sarah Hymas In Good Weather 1 for Sarah Hymas.

INKSPILL included Guest Writers; William Gallagher, Charlie Jordan & Heather Wastie.

I went to Wenlock Poetry Festival, Worcester LitFest, Birmingham Literature Festival, Stratford Literature Festival, Arts All Over the Place, Book to the Future, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Worcester Music Festival.

Who could forget this was the year of 52. A poetry year created by Jo Bell, with weekly prompts and over 500 people taking part. An incredible project to be part of. I am so glad that Jo Bell invited me to take part. I also told several local poets about it and they have since had great success from work produced during this time, as well as forming friendships with many poets across the UK and beyond.

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©Murdock Ramone Media

2015 – Submitting & Performing

My poetry pamphlet was accepted by V. Press, which has to be my biggest achievement so far. 14 months after embarking back on my poetry path, I had the opportunity to publish my first book.

V. Press have worked hard in creating a strong debut pamphlet and I had my first experience of professional editing, lots of changes were made to the content before the editing process could begin. I dreamed that my pamphlet would be published in 2015 alongside, Jacqui Rowe, David O’Hanlon and Claire Walker. This was not to be and although I found this difficult and even harder to see each book since, I know that my own pamphlet needed time to germinate.

11 poems were published online, 4 poems were published in anthologies and 3 poems were published in poetry magazines. I mainly worked on my manuscript poetry. I had one short prose piece published too. 18 pieces of work flying around in the real world and a pamphlet in the pipeline.

I continued to get bookings as a Headline/Guest Poet, including Cheltenham and Shrewsbury, performed in London for the first time at HARK Magazine launch, performed at Charity Fundraisers, entered Worcestershire Poet Laureate and was a runner up, became a Lead Writer for Writing West Midlands, took part in Caldmore Community Garden Poetry workshops with David Calcutt (Poet in Residence), was booked as one of ten poets for the Quiet Compere Tour, Midlands leg (Sarah Dixon),  went back to London to perform at The Poetry Café for the Paper Swans Press launch of Schooldays anthology, commissioned for National Poetry Day Light and Shade event and took part in my first Poetry Brothel event, organised by Caged Arts for Halloween and performed at Waterstones.

INKSPILL had guest writers; Daniel Sluman, David Calcutt and Alison May.

I went to Wenlock Poetry Festival, Worcester LitFest, Birmingham Literature Festival, Stratford Literature Festival, Walsall Festival, Arts All Over the Place, Poetry Festival Swindon, Book to the Future, Ledbury Poetry Festival.

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2016 – The 1st Games – Writing & Editing

This year’s story cannot be written yet, but I am still Headlining and have finally finished the pamphlet. It is to be published by V. Press, date yet to be announced.

I am delighted to mark the Olympic year with something so massive!

I am currently organising INKSPILL, guest writers will be announced in the Autumn and I am incredibly excited.

Festivals have taken a backseat this year, so have performances as I tied myself to the desk to finish writing and editing.

Submissions started well – since April I have not submitted anything as I have been attached to the manuscript and at times attempting to detach myself enough to see what is for the best. I am neglecting the end of July’s submission window as I want to focus on the current project. ‘Operation pamphlet’. Contracts have been signed and it is beginning to become real.

4 poems published online, 5 published in poetry magazines, 3 poems published in 2 e-books, 1 poem in a chapbook and 5 poems in 2 anthologies and the pamphlet soon. 20 – 40 poems flying around in the world. A grand total of 95 poems. I know I can smash 100 before the end of this 4 year marker. I don’t hold a number as a target. I just write and keep my eye out and when something takes my fancy I aim and fire. I have a long list of rejections as well. Learning what publications, journals and editors want and like is an ongoing process and involves reading and subscribing and supporting the poetry market. It is fun and I look forward to more training and success.

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Saffron Toms © 2014

OLYMPIC YEAR

Pamphlet to be published by V. Press

Lead Writer Writing West Midlands

Facilitator/ Creator of INKSPILL (4th Year)

Poet – 95 poems published

BL me Universe poem

Rangzeb ©2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparation NaPoWriMo

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It is that time of year again, Spring has sprung and poets all over the world are limbering up to take part in NaPoWriMo. Founded in 2011, I have been a participant since 2014 (when I discovered it) having battled Camp NaNoWriMo and the full event in the Autumn in 2013. From time to time I have discovered other such boot camps but to be honest I have rarely done anything with the writing afterwards. A waste of over 100,000. So now is my strategy planning time.

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I love taking part just for the fun and comradery of the event and the scheduled commitment to writing – which after last week, I know I can do alone. I had submission deadlines as well as day job work and performances, so I basically drew up an old school timetable (not done since exam revision time) and was as hard-core. Relentless. I managed all submissions as a result and even had a poem published. This year I need a Post-NaPoWriMo Plan.

As with other years I have signed the blog up as a participating site and will be writing about the event throughout the month. I will also post extracts from the poems I write. Many people will be taking part posting full poems and another aspect of the event is reading work by other poets. I am going to carve NaPo reading time into my April writing time to do just that.

Find out more and sign up your site here http://www.napowrimo.net/

napofeature3This poem featured in the Top 10 listing for ‘Best poems about Spring’ compiled by The Guardian in 2014.

In Perpetual Spring by Amy Gerstler

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Gerstler won the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for Bitter Angel (1990). Her early work includes White Marriage/Recovery (1984), and her more recent works include Nerve Storm (1993), Medicine (2000), Ghost Girl (2004), and Dearest Creature (2009), which the New York Times named a Notable Book of the Year. A graduate of Pitzer College and Bennington College, Gerstler has taught at the Art Center College of Design, the University of Southern California, and the Bennington Writing Seminars program. She lives in California with her husband, the artist and author Benjamin Weissman.

Poems on Nuclear Impact, David Bowie and Al Capone

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As with January, I have focussed on editing and new writing this month. Sometimes there are submissions and performances that you already have the perfect poem for and other times you have no choice but to create something new. This is when you end up with a wide frame of subjects hitting your desk at the same time.

As a teen I was a member of YOUTH CND and have always been a fighter of all things nuclear. A subject close to my heart didn’t need lots of research to produce material but I decided that I did need to research. I was a teen a long time ago and people have had to live with nuclear fall out for decades since disasters.

On a completely different planet (so it felt), I immersed myself with the words of David Bowie, lyrics, interviews, articles and notes. I loved every minute of this work. I was saddened when I heard that he had died and to be able to write poetry in tribute to such a great man felt a solid thing to do, from one lover of words to another.

By the end of month I was researching the Valentine Day Massacre and creating poetry based on the people involved as well as the story. This labour of love was sickening at times but now I have notes to create a longer sequence of poems and just wonder if there are any publishers out there brave enough to touch such subjects.

In between the central research I have completed, edited and written non-themed free poetry. Some of the poems have released mourning and others are just to be. I am delighted for the 2nd month I have managed to create lots of new poems, I haven’t counted them all but it is around 17 new poems. This follows a winter of frozen mind block and is a great start to the year.

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