June 2009


Both magazines appeared in my letterbox last week, which was exciting because both have a poem of mine in, the first time in each case.

The North #43 has “Planting Dorothy’s Garden”, my first published prose-poem. I wrote many prose-poems years ago, but none recently, so this was a bit of a departure for me. I enjoyed writing it very much, and would like to write more. It came from a task set me by fellow poet Lou Wilford, so I’m very grateful to her for pushing me in this direction.

This issue of The North has some great poems in it (besides mine, I mean). Three poems by one of my favourite poets, Mimi Khalvati. (I’m working on my paper about her work today.) Two by Sally Goldsmith, who’s in the Tuesday Poets, the group I belong to, just won in The Poetry Business pamphlet competition, and creates delicate, wiry, superbly crafted and often emotionally taut pieces. I’m keen to read her pamphlet, Uncertain Birds, when it appears.

The other pamphlet winners also featured here, and are well worth a look. Michael McCarthy is the overall winner. I recently reviewed his previous pamphlet, Cold Hill Pond, for Sheffield’s free art mag Now Then. His style is conversational, narrative. Often the sort of poems you feel would be read to you by the poet’s autumn fireside: not sentimental, at all, but subtly charged with real feeling.

Envoi #153  has “Sabretooth”, a runner-up in their last competition. In contrast to “Planting Dorothy’s Garden”, which required many rewrites, this came out of nowhere, almost in its finished form (though I’ve actually changed it a little now for performance). Quite often I wake with the idea of a poem in my head, and, if I’ve freedom to lie there for ten minutes, a draft will appear. Which might explain why, if you ask me what “Sabretooth” is about, I’ve no idea.

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Just returned from the last Speakeasy open mike before the summer break. It was great fun: some soulful songs and poems from Maria, more amusing ones from John Turner, as usual, amusing and poignant pieces from Sarah and many others. Just about every performer had something keen to offer. Mine seemed well received, too – always a good feeling.

This gave me the chance to put out the first publicity for my Poetry off the Page project. Although it’s by no means fully up and running yet, I want to get people involved, declaring an interest, so this seemed a good opportunity. So the website, in its fuzzy fledgling form, is now live.

Had another poem accepted today: “Mathematics of Chrysanthemums” for new magazine “Aspire”. Won’t appear till October, though.

Just heard that my poem “Skating Close” is being submitted by the magazine Orbis for the Forward Prize (Best Single Poem in memory of Michael Donaghy). This is amazing news, completely unlikely and unexpected. Of course, there’ll be hundreds of other superb poems submitted, too, but just to be nominated (in the words of the Oscar losers) is an honour in itself.

Decanto is a small magazine which generally publishes lyrical poems, sometimes with a slightly mystical, new age feel. Not to everyone’s taste, therefore, and such poems are liable to trade on lyric cliches or “poetic” language, which often mars what might otherwise be a promising piece (and I know, because I’ve written such things: thinking I’m in touch with a lyric truth and finding that I’ll I’ve written about is golden sunshine on shy snowdrops).

However, the better poems sometimes have a personal voice, or describe some moment in a relationship, or touch some natural beauty which represents a true feeling. There can be diamonds amongst the glass. Anyway, editor Lisa Stewart obviously has good taste, because Decanto has just accepted two poems of mine: Fairytale and Shore to Shore.

The magazine “Weyfarers” have just let me know that they’d like to take my poem “Small Holding” for issue 106.