Category Archives: Uncategorized

Shakespeare’s 457th Birthday!

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Today is St George’s Day and also Shakespeare’s Birthday. Back in Elizabethan times people (apparently) didn’t celebrate birthdays! Can you imagine? Since 1824 the town of Stratford-Upon-Avon Shakespeare’s birthday has marked the occasion. This year of course, it’s virtual.

I’ve marked the day by creating the artwork for this post and my Napowrimo write today was penned in my Shakespeare Birthplace Trust notebook – bought 4 years ago on my last visit.

Monthly Review March 2021

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Pexels.com

March, our month of hope… some lockdown restrictions lifted in the UK, schools to reopen, vaccination roll out continues and spring gifts us sunshine and new flowers. We couldn’t help but fear the budget slightly, many of us have not saved in this crisis many of us face financial hardship, so the thought of rising taxes is a scary one. All of us are grateful to still be here.

I saw my mum for the first time in a month, with PPE and distancing of course, we also celebrated Mother’s Day in the UK this month, I was able to order my mum a very practical present from the internet (all shops shut during Lockdown) so I was grateful to be able to offer more than supermarket flowers in return of the love she gives us and the life she gave me.

I needed a month to finish my work contract and concentrate on some desk time. I created a new platform/website for Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe after we ran into major difficulties with our old server (after several full days of work on it). I also started flexing my notebook muscles as a warm up to next month’s crazy NaPoWriMo.

Week 1:

I spent most of this week rebuilding and launching a new website for Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe. Go and check out the latest news and competitions. https://worcestershirelitfestfringe.wordpress.com/

The University of Glasgow have a fantastic series called Creative Conversations, they are free to join, well attended webinars on Zoom. Interview/Reading followed by Q&A. This month I had the pleasure of listening in to Don Paterson‘s session with Carolyn Jess-Cooke.

Classes continue with Tawnya Renelle in Creative Experimental and I started ‘Hearts & Minds’ with Zelda Chappel. I continued to workshop poems with Rakaya Fetuga‘s Spoken Word group although, sadly this is the final month the CARAF centre can offer. They have done an amazing job throughout all three lockdowns offering free workshops. I continue to heal with Redwing and the team in the states. This month they released their Winter edition which included the poems I shared at the Reimagine Festival event last Autumn.

The Poets in Motion class have sent all parts of the unity poem in for editing, three members of the team have collated them into a poem for an anthology later in the year. I still can’t believe we lost Celena.

The Hive – Worcestershire Libraries have continued to provide the Poetry Bubble with Amanda Bonnick, Polly Stretton and Caz…. It is a lovely event, very laid back and a great number of audience as well as readers. I was really tired by the middle of the week, but glad I made it, as it made me feel much better.

By Thursday I was drained and slept for 4 hours when I got home from work, which meant I missed everything I had noted in the diary, but if 2019 taught me anything, it was to/ how to listen to my body. I had a hospital appointment the day before with the consultant so was not surprised by my fatigue, even that journey to and in the hospital is tough enough. Fortunately I woke in time for Arrival at Elsewhere, a Cheltenham Poetry Festival event. Read the write up here.

I finished the week with a weekend of poetry readings, workshops and groups. Love in Polyvocal Times with Judy Grahn was a great reading. Valuable. Generous.

Judy Grahn is one of the most significant poets and activists of our times, an author whose work makes an extraordinary contribution to queer studies, poetics and feminism. Grahn’s publications include Hanging on Our Bones (Arktoi Books, 2017), Love Belongs to Those Who Do the Feeling (Red Hen Press, 2008), The Judy Grahn Reader (Aunt Lute, 2014), The Queen of Swords (Beacon Press, 1990), The Queen of Wands (Crossing Press, 1982), A Simple Revolution (Aunt Lute, 2012), Blood, Bread and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World (Beacon Press, 1994), Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds (Triangle Classics, 2016), Mundane’s World (Crossing Press, 1988).

Eruptions of Inanna: Justice, Gender and Erotic Power (Nightboat, 2021) is forthcoming this year.

“All the poets I know look upon Judy Grahn with admiration and awe, convinced that she’s leagues ahead of us, superhuman in her power and insight. But the poet of these chants of grief and frustration–and hope–is human for sure, torn by the same powerlessness and disgust at prevalent social conditions as the rest of us–it’s only that she has lightning at her command–a magic of writing that illuminates, shreds darkness like confetti, and lets us see past the end of each page, past all our histories, a magic that lets us glimpse a previously unimagined future.” – Kevin Killian

http://judygrahn.org/

I went to the poetry event for Fairtrade Connections – Community Arts Festival for Fairtrade Fortnight 2021 Clare Shaw read from her volume Flood about the devastating floods in Hebden Bridge in 2016 and Zoe Brigley Thompson and Kristian Evans read from their upcoming anthology 100 Poems to Save the Earth. It was a pleasure to watch and listen.

I finished building the website for WLF and started putting some work in on my own manuscript. I did a Haiku workshop with Anna Yin, enjoyed readings from Jill Abram, Fahad Al-Amoudi & Malika Booker at Live from The Butchery, incredible as always.

I finished the night off with readings from the Poetry Book Society 2020 Competition winners. The winners of the 2020 International Book & Pamphlet Competition as chosen by Imtiaz Dharker and Ian McMillan were:

Rosalind Easton

for her collection, Black Mascara (Waterproof)

Jill Penny

for her collection, In Your Absence

Wendy Pratt

for her collection, When I Think of My Body as a Horse

Sarah Wimbush

for her collection, The Last Dinosaur in Doncaster

It was an incredible launch, plenty of emotive poems and a great Q&A. It is a shame for the winners that it had to be virtual, but with 140 people in attendance from all over the world, their words had a far reach this evening and will linger in both heads and hearts for some time to come, I am sure.

Week 2

I managed to catch most of Kirstin Innes Creative Conversations, from the University of Glasgow. A good start to International Women’s Day. After an eye test I celebrated my eyesight not worsening (for the second year running), by watching 4 fantastic Cardiff poets, two whom I know and two who were new to me, love my ear discovering new-to-me poets. I managed to catch Jinny Fisher and Katrina Naomi at Cafe Writers, before calling it a night.

Sadly, we lost another writer and great teacher last month, Celena Diana Bumpus. I started her Poets in Motion course back in Spring 2020 -Lockdown 1. I was due to be a guest in her new writing series rolled out 2021 alongside the plethora of classes this superwoman fuelled writer offered! She was always busy helping others. A memorial has been organised for April where we will gather to celebrate the blessing of knowing her. The poets on my course have all managed to reunite and are sharing messages and updates. Especially those who are based in the Riverside area, USA. This week there was news of an article published Sunday 7th. The headline of which was taken from one of her social media feeds as a message to us all; ‘Live long enough to become a metaphor.’

I received a couple of invites to guest read, one of which is an international reading. Last year I did a lot with the Walt Whitman Birthplace. In the summer I submitted several of coronavirus poems for an anthology, Corona, which was being produced in collaboration with Walt Whitman Birthplace Association, edited by Gayl Teller (Nassau County Poet Laureate 2009-11 & Walt Whitman Birthplace 2016 Poet of the Year.) I was delighted when I heard that they were publishing a couple of my poems and in April I shall share one at the launch.

I did three wonderful workshops this week, the first was postponed from February – Lines in the Sand workshop, which was great fun. A poetry workshop with James Davies as part of the New Words Festival and a workshop with Rebecca Morgan Frank which was fantastic.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Robert Seatter’s reading at Poets Cafe on Friday night and managed to wake up early enough to make it back to Perth Poetry Club (all practise for early morning Recoil 12 anthology launch on the 27th).

And I was able to see mum (socially distanced) for Mother’s Day too.

Week 3

This was a week filled with tutorials to put the finishing touches to the competition pages for the Worcestershire LitFest website, readings and writing. I am still busy working on a couple of projects and look forward to April/May when I can commit more time to these.

I missed some events noted in the diary due to sleep. My body is currently suffering a lot and I am hoping next week will bring a slower pace (a couple of weeks off for Easter will help and heal). I haven’t been on a walk this year at all! I have walked but only to get somewhere. Appointments at the Drs, opticians, pharmacy collections or across car parks and forecourts – all great lockdown (not locked down/working) highlights. I cannot wait to get back to nature and see how busy it has been for the past 3.5 months!

Over the next fortnight I managed to miss Kim Addonizio three times, thank goodness I caught her at Cheltenham Poetry Festival. Highlights include Goldsmiths with Michael Rosen (who suffered badly from Covid) and has written a book called ‘Many Different Kinds of Love’. I went to the Resilience as a Poet Panel, postponed from February. It was a valuable hour. I finally made it back to Sheffield Libraries and a creative writing workshop on Home. And watched the PBS book launch for Michael Schmidt and saw Joy Harjo as part of the Emory Libraries programme.

Week 4

It was our final week with Zelda Chappel and her wonderful, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED classes/workshops. I thoroughly enjoyed this group and now need to put the work in to mould the scaffolded poems from March.

Mass Poetry has been a joy, the main festival happens in May (13th-16th) but this month they ran a series of 3 workshops around water. This week I attended What the Waters Have Made Us with Eleni Sikelianos and Lucía Hinojosa. It was fantastic, fun and worth staying up late for.

Tamworth Literature Festival and Manchester Literature Festival started this week. Tamworth runs for a few days and Manchester for a couple of weeks. I really enjoyed Mancs. Lit Fest in 2020 and have booked onto a couple of my favourite poets. This week was Roger Robinson, a generous and insightful event. This man is incredible. If you have not discovered him, please do.

Manchester Literature Festival 2021

I performed at the Open Mic Night at the Tamworth Poetry Festival.

The weekend saw the launch of Recoil 12 Anthology. Coral Carter (Mulla Mulla Press) has been producing these anthologies featuring a selection of head liners from Perth Poetry Club for 12 years. The 10th anniversary edition was a huge collection but generally the year denotes the number of poets. It was an honour to be selected for this 12th edition anthology and I am in LOVE with the cover.

The back of The Moon is decorated throughout the year and at one point featured this Zebra print – I remember it. Another joy was the poem came from my 2018 Perth writing (which after bad health/other projects) I am only just getting around to writing. I haven’t submitted many poems from it yet, but all sent have found homes. Which bodes well for this body of work.

It was an early start 5:50 A.M but worth every minute to be part of this celebratory event.

Saturday night saw the last of the CARAF centre Spoken Word Workshops with Rakaya Fetuga too. The group is a mix of experienced and new writers and it has been a real joy. We have decided to continue meeting and workshopping together even though the project – which ran for a year, throughout all 3 UK Lockdowns has come to an end.

The month was finished off with a Book Launch, Worcester 42 and some readings. Chaucer Cameron & Cheryl Moskowitz launched their new pamphlets on Sunday afternoon. A wonderful event attended by over 125 people. It was lovely to see many poets I know.

Against the Grain Press present In an Ideal World I’d Not Be Murdered by Chaucer Cameron and Maternal Impression by Cheryl Moskowitz

In addition to readings from Chaucer and Cheryl we have guest readers Lucy English and Isabelle Baafi. Read my write up of this remarkable event here.

Mental Health Awareness & Wellbeing Event

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Come and join us.

Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe

Traditionally SpeakEasy and WLF are involved in the annual Mental Health Day Events in Worcester. This year due to COVID plans are a little different.

Find the events page and details here

https://www.facebook.com/events/391992448473606

Sign up via the speakeasy email (see poster). We hope you will join us.

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NaPoWriMo 2020 Day 27

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Read full post here.

Featured participant is Ordinary Average Thoughts, where Day 26’s “almanac” poem get entwined in the zeitgeist.

Our poetry resource for the day is a digital presentation of a rather strange book. Since the late 1930s, Harvard University has hosted The Morris Gray Lecture Series, featuring mainly poets, and simultaneously has collected the signatures of all the lecturers in a large ledger. You can explore a PDF of the ledger here. Who’d have thought that W.H. Auden’s signature would be so tight and small? Theodore Roethke signed on the wrong side of the page, and some unidentified persons seem to have snuck their signatures into the book over the years. A lyrical mystery!

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem in the form of a review. But not a review of a book or a movie of a restaurant. Instead, I challenge you to write a poetic review of something that isn’t normally reviewed. For example, your mother-in-law, the moon, or the year 2020.

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It was interesting to read the result of someone who had managed to include all the almanac responses in one poem, this was a task I very much felt was beyond me yesterday, so I chose just 3 to write about. I may go back and see if I can form one this morning though.

I enjoyed the poetry resource, a few years ago around the time Angela France was writing her collection ‘The Hill’ I did some workshops with her where we used historical documents, it was interesting and enabled me to write poems which would never have existed otherwise.

I am going to go and think about today’s prompt and will come back to update the post on the process/my progress later. We have the last morning of sunshine for a while and have computer bookings from midday so want to get some fresh garden air.

 

 

 

Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe Postponed

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Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe postponed due to Coronavirus. Competition deadlines extended to the 30th June. Get writing!

Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe

WLF ALL COMPS

It is with deep regret that due to safety concerns regarding Coronavirus, we have no choice but to postpone this year’s Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe. We will keep you updated.

The good news is all our competitions have deadline extensions until the 30th June, so plenty of time to enter.

Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2020/21
Could you be the 10th Poet Laureate? Get your applications in.
https://worcesterlitfest.co.uk/worcestershire-poet-laureat…/

Flash Fiction Competition 2020
https://worcesterlitfest.co.uk/flash-fiction-competition-…/…

Young Writer Competition 2020
Submit 300 words on the theme of ‘Words & Pictures’. This is a really great option for all you Home Schooling.
https://worcesterlitfest.co.uk/litfest-young-writer-compet…/

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NaPoWriMo 2020 Day 12

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Read the full post here

Featured participant is Katie Staten, who provides us with a humorous twist on Day Eleven’s floriography pompt.

Our poetry resource for the day is Ours Poetica

Prompt I’d like to challenge you to write a triolet. These eight-line poems involve repeating lines and a tight rhyme scheme. The repetitions and rhymes can lend themselves to humorous poems, as well as to poems expressing dramatic or sorrowful moods. And sometimes the repetitions can be used in deceptive ways, by splitting the words in a given line into different sentences, and making subtle changes, as in this powerful triolet by Sandra McPherson.

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I enjoyed our Day 11 prompt so much that I am still working through that one, although I do have 1 complete poem and then lots of scribbled notes and pockets of research. Future threads.
And despite being incredibly late posting today – I woke early (before 6 AM) and had completed my NaPo poem (in the garden) before breakfast!
I am a reader of Katie’s blog so had seen the poem before it was selected for the participant’s site. I was drawn by the title ‘Of flowers and spies’. The second stanza was particularly striking despite her not being in a serious writing mood when she wrote it.
Sometimes I get very excited by the chosen resources – today was one of those times. I have also been looking for videos of poetry and related sessions to keep me inspired and happy during self-isolation. I will be checking back for updates. I listened to Sarah Kay reading Forest Fires.
The You Tube channel probably has all episodes if you click around but the original work seemed to be bountiful over on the Poetry Foundation site.
I read all the example poems and there are lots of them.
I had written the form before but this was a very clear explanation of it so do have a read if you are new to writing a triolet. I was out in the garden before 7 AM and sat down to write my NaPo poem. I wrote a couple of triolets, for me they don’t feel 100% settled into their form, I think the trick is choosing suitable rhyming words for the AB pattern.
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Today was the first day in a fortnight where I haven’t been attending readings and workshops in the wonderful Stay at Home Lit Festival and it felt strange not to connect to that network after relying heavily on it for a few weeks.
It was also a strange Easter, I think the only time I haven’t seen my family for Easter was when I lived too far away/ was away on holiday – it is hard having some of them within geographical reach and not being able to see them.
I did as most of us on lock-down have and used Social Media, Face time and the good old fashioned phone! I also got to spend the day with Mr G. and we just dealt with the lack of Easter.

Happy Easter! 

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Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

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

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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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The Missing Bits & the Bits I Missed

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exit Last summer I was incredibly lucky to fly to Western Australia as one of the International Guest Poets at Perth Poetry Festival and I will be blogging about some of the adventure over the coming months. I didn’t have much time once I was back on UK soil as I had bookings and the tail-end of a summer to spend with Mr. G, as well as going back to work. Just as I was making videos and writing a review, I ended up in hospital with an unexpected operation. So nearly 12 months later… better late than never. Many people believe the myth that the problems I have suffered were as a result of this travel and the phenomenally long trip I had on my return to save some pennies! It was not the cause of my problems. My time in Perth was a joy and I can’t wait to share it with you!

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September was fairly packed – you can read the review here

My last performance was National Poetry Day, my health was already crooked, but I had been booked and didn’t want to miss NPD. Cut from the same cloth as my dad, do not miss a gig.

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It was a wonderful evening spent with fellow Poets Laureate Tim Cranmore, Heather Wastie, Suz Winspear and Betti Moretti and I had a lot of fun.

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I also particularly enjoyed going out for a meal beforehand and how much the audience enjoyed the show. Tim was a trouper for organising the event and it was pleasure to attend, despite being tanked up on antibiotics and painkillers!

 

Then came a whole series of things I had to miss. I missed so months of events, book launches, stanza meetings and editing groups. I had to pull all my Autumn/Winter bookings and by the time 2019 happened I had come off social media as I couldn’t deal with everything I was missing. I had a booking I made in June 2018 and a m/s accepted in July 2018 to edit and I couldn’t even manage to start working on these until March! I basically ceased to exist for a 1/4 of a year! 

October

I missed Swindon Poetry Festival as I was in hospital the day I was due to travel down, I had to pull out of a Guest Reading and Workshop for Brum Stanza, I missed the WLF Mental Health Event and a Reading for one in Malvern, I missed the DAN exhibition at Hanbury Hall which I was organising poets ekphrastic writing opportunities and performances for. I had to write my poems this year from photos sent to me by organisers and friends, this was the only writing I did and I didn’t manage that until December.

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My poem Wild Lilies and the Beauty of Abandoned Milk Bottles placed 1st in The Ring 21 Miles Poetry Competition and there was a digital exhibition 15th-28th Oct. at The Hive and a reading. I had only been out of hospital a week and was only really awake to take the daily dose of 27 tablets!

You can find the winning entry here

I won a tent and Mr.G and I can’t wait to use it! I cannot lie on the floor (or get back up) at the moment – so this will have to wait.

I missed being a Guest Reader for Neil Richards’ Book Launch.

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Wings made from the muscle of a river

November

The only event I managed thanks to the kindness of a lift and gentle persuasion from friends was Roy McFarlane’s Book Launch in Birmingham. I had to take 4 tablets during the course of it (and it wasn’t a long night) and the worst thing for me was I couldn’t hug anyone. Unbeknown to me at the time, it was a sort of swansong as that was pretty much the last thing I managed. Fortunately it was before I slipped discs in my back so I could still walk and sit! I held myself the whole time – but also didn’t want to miss it.

It was an incredible night which lifted my spirits. The room was full of creativity and love.

The Healing Next Time Cover

Cover artwork   ©   Barbara Walker

The book itself is a project Roy told me about early on in the process and is a powerful body of work.

The Healing Next Time

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I missed Remembrance events, a reading before the silence in a local town’s ceremony, organised by the Rotary and an evening in Worcester, Beacon Lighting. This is the first year I have been asked to participate in such events and it would have been an honour.

I missed the Verve Festival Pre-Launch Party and attempted and failed to edit my manuscript.

I missed deadlines on exhibition poetry and publishing the 4th issue of Contour (still outstanding), I missed performing at the newly opened Sandon Hall for Ben Parker’s event and sadly I missed out on a trip to Voiron for the Festival. voiron 2018 I had flights booked and everything! I couldn’t get a refund, but if I am well enough I can use the cost to cover a ticket somewhere European this summer.

I was also unable to take a booking for a special Poetry Night Roy McFarlane organised, a Q&A chat show style poetry panel.

December

By this time I had stopped taking any new bookings and resigned myself to life on the sofa, for a long while I had to live downstairs because I couldn’t make it upstairs! I still had to pull bookings for Guest Poet at Jennie Farley’s Book Launch for Hex.

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I had to cancel Meet the Authors, an event organised by Sue Johnson for Evesham Festival of Words. I had not been able to write for all this time and the panic set in about whether I would ever again.

I organised one event for the Hanbury Hall Poets to read at Park’s Cafe for the DAN artists. It was a great night and once again the only thing I did in December.

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2019 Jan – May

In the new year I decided to go to our local stanza meetings, they are held in homely comfort and do not last as long as event nights. Also I wasn’t writing or able to feel creative so it was necessary support for my soul. I had old poems to take and it was also a good challenge for an idled brain. I joined Worcester Film Poetry Collective, who meet monthly (in the comfort of home) with Elephant’s Footprint – this group led by Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron has been a godsend. I have had lots of free time but have not been able to do much. Creating poetry films and animations takes an incredible amount of time, but currently 4+ hours is not difficult for me to find and it has been a fabulously rewarding way to spend an entire half day at a time.

By March I was able to think straight, off meds and able to tackle work on the now delayed manuscript. I was delighted to be a Guest Reader at Kathy Gee’s Book Launch for checkout (V. Press) and although I needed a special chair it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and lovely to reconnect with everyone.

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So much so that Kathy encouraged me to try Dear Listener the following week – which was when I realised I wasn’t ready. I tried again at the end of the Month with Poetry Bites, but couldn’t manage the 2nd half of the evening. However, listening to poetry enabled me to start writing again.

April was NaPoWriMo and this enabled me to crack that barrier and write freely. I have included some of my NaPo poems in recent sets and ended up with a few good ones.

By April/ May I started working on my festival show for Evesham Festival of Words and this month I have made the decision to try to get to some events every now and then.

June

I have managed Licensed to Rhyme, which was my first reading since Kathy’s Launch and that itself was my first reading for 6 months! It was a superb night. Great to see/hear everyone again and try out some edited NaPo poetry.

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The following night (last night), I read at the Worcestershire Litfest at an event organised by Suz Winspear ‘A Night at the Gallery’… more on that soon!

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Jilly Oxlade-Arnott © 2019

I had planned on going back this evening for the Anti-Poet, but my body isn’t ready, so I have to be sensible and give it a miss. But I am no longer absent from the scene and shall continue to strive for strength, mobility and pain management.

It leaves me with a very happy feeling to be back amongst poets, nestled in words.

Returning to the Land of the Living

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Alternative Title: Essay on Health!

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Like many adults the values instilled in us as youngsters steer the way we manage life. I was brought up to believe in working hard and only as an adult has my mum passed on the wisdom that all areas of life need or deserve 100%. Work, work has never been one of them and I am proud of my work ethic. Guilt is something I have not managed to shirk off from my informative years, so for me if you are off sick from work, that is that – you stay in bed and get better. However, when your post op body is weakened and you slip two discs in your back, staying in bed is not the thing to do and no one can expect you to put your entire life on hold whilst you recover!

The abridged version (it’s still quite long)!

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Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

I was still on medication in the Spring which dictated what and how much I could do, (I have sciatica and my left leg/foot has been numb since November), I have been in Physio since November and my weeks have been filled with medical appointments, novels, trash TV, pyjamas & general convalescence. I have experienced the depression of long term sickness and the frustration of not being able to do much. I have advanced from not being able to bear any weight on my left leg to walking with a stick and nowadays, often without. I have a lot more mobility in my left foot thanks to Chair Pilates and a mum who encouraged me to do it. The Specialists I have seen all expect 9-12 months recovery time. I have been off work since the operation (which healed in March). I went to get the results of my MRI scan in May, which is when we discovered it was 2 slipped discs prolapsed on top of each other and the Advanced Physio talked to me about going back to work in the Autumn, but encouraged me to start back with Poeting (my term not his) as soon as possible. Mental Wellbeing and good for the soul.

It is with slightly less guilt that I have started to take his advice. I have a lot more spare time now I am down to 2 appointments a week and my brain works again now I am off medication. I am even having to renew my library books nowadays, I was devouring a novel every few days.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In March I returned to my desk to work through the edits for my next pamphlet (sent when I was in hospital in October). By the beginning of June that was all ready for the next exciting stage of endorsement/cover design. I have managed to forget about the fact that it was scheduled for release earlier this year and accept the delay caused by ill health. I am truly grateful for the understanding and compassion of my publisher, V. Press. It will happen later this year and I will enjoy it more as I will be able to manage better physically!

Back in March, I found I could write again and attempted some poetry events (which I discovered I wasn’t quite ready for). I had to pull out of Festival bookings, performances, Guest Readings at Book Launches, talks and a trip to a Literature Festival in France this Winter and it has been really hard disconnecting from the poetry scene.

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In March I managed to read at Kathy Gee’s Book Launch for ‘checkout’ published by V. Press. I was super nervous as I hadn’t read in public since National Poetry Day (September)! It was a superb night.

I did a workshop, then I got an almighty case of hives and had a weekend where an ambulance was called and I ended up in A&E with breathing difficulties – although the ECG had shown there was no problem with my heart. I’d had a double mammogram a few days earlier and although it felt as if my sternum was inflamed it was more likely pulled chest muscles.

dear listener

A week later, I attempted my first event, Dear Listener, featuring the current Birmingham Poet Laureate Richard O’Brien. I went as audience and was not performing, it was hard (physically) and by the 2nd half I was stretched out at the back on a sofa. I tried again at the end of the month at Poetry Bites, this time I did an Open Mic slot, which I managed by leaning up against the radiator (which was on and very hot)! By the interval I was stretched out in the adjoining room on the sofa, where I listened to most of the 2nd half before hobbling back in to watch. After this I decided to call it quits and wait for my body to catch up with my mind.

me pb

Since January 2019 I have attended Stanza meetings, Worcester Film Poetry Collective meetings and a few workshops thanks to friends who were kind enough to give me lifts, (the equivalent of about 12/163 days) although even these can be physically uncomfortable they’re based in people’s homes which tend to have more accommodating furniture than venues.

Fast forward to June with another wave of Festivals, a medical specialist giving me permission to get back into it and the ability to write again, I was keen to get back on the circuit. Plus I’d already committed to several Festival Events (one pre-op). And so far, I am managing… which is a huge relief!

fashion woman notebook pen

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

So welcome back to the blogging, I am reactivated. It is currently Worcestershire LitFest and I am working on a project show for Evesham Festival of Words at the end of June. I may have to miss Stratford Poetry Festival next week and Ledbury at the start of July. But I am doing what I can. One day I will be ready to take bookings again and in the meantime I give myself permission to enjoy a soft re-entry into the world I love and miss so much!