I’m just considering whether to enter the Torriano competition this year, and surprised to discover I’ve one, or possibly two, poems listedin the “Nearly Made it – deserved to” category (i.e. the top 30 of 800), last year. “Gennel” definitely made it, and “Fin” might have – I can’t tell if the mistake is in my name, or in the placing of the titles. Hopefully the latter – though I quite like the double-barrelled “Noel Williams-Fin”.

Oh, and I recently received my copy of Orbis #169. I wasn’t involved in editing issue #168 so that Out of Breath could be reviewed, and Carole kindly published two poems of mine, which helped support the review. Issue #168 confirms that I won the Readers’ Vote, which is very gratifying, if a little embarassing, with a poem called ‘Night Scented Stock’, from a sequence I wrote in 2013, but have not yet tried to secure publication for. Maybe I should.

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‘Chimney-Bird’, the poem which won the Southport competition, is now on their website, at: http://www.swconline.co.uk/n1/?cat=12

I’ve also been lucky enough to have a couple of poems accepted by The Journal, namely ‘Behind Kibuye Church’ and ‘Letter to the Dead’. These are both interesting poems to me, in that they came out of the Women and Warfare work I was doing in 2010, so it’s good that those poems are still finding homes.

Most of the 70 or so poems I wrote then  these days I find rather slight, but a handful do seem worthwhile, and ‘Behind Kibuye Church’ is one of these. Tackling a subject such as genocide which, of course, I cannot know the reality of in any meaningful way, is a tough thing to get an “honest” poem out of. ‘Letter to the Dead’ is one of seven such letters, but probably the most interesting of them, as I hit on the intriguing idea of using redaction in a poem, to signify censorship, and use the device to indicate the way that a distant soldier is eroded by distance, time and the nature of his situation. (I’ve used redaction again recently, in another poem, but for a different purpose).

A pleasant surprise fell on our doormat today, unexpectedly. “The Book of Euclid” (Cinnamon Press) arrived with five of my poems in it. These poems helped me win the Cinnamon poetry prize, which will be my first collection. I sent the draft manuscript to Cinnamon last week, with the working title “Out of Breath” and, all being well, it will appear in 2014.

Meanwhile, the news on Antiphon is that our next issue will be a special one designed to support Sheffield’s 2013 Poetry Festival. It will appear in the middle of May, and contain poems from the poets reading at the festival. We’re very excited by this, as it should mean our biggest and best issue yet, and the festival looks likely to be a good event too (June 1 to 8th in Sheffield, UK).

It’s that time of year again: Sheffield’s Literary Festival, Off the Shelf. 

It’s a busy time for me. Yesterday I read at John Clare’s cottage in Helpston (it turns out I won second prize). The poems are here: http://www.clarecottage.org/poetryprize.htm

Tomorrow (Monday) I’m in an Off the Shelf debate on the Future of the Book. (Sheffield’s Quaker Meeting House, St James St, Mon, 10th Oct, 7.30. Freed admission.)

Weds: we’re running the usual (free, open invitation) poetry workshop at Bank St Arts Centre (12.00 to 3.00, Bank St, Sheffield). If you want to take part, bring copies of a poem to workshop, and we’ll have a discussion of Sean O-Brien’s November, too.
(Also that evening Rachel Genn launches her novel The Cure at Blackwells – should be a pleasant event).

Thursday I’ll be reading on the Speakers Steps at the House of Commons, again for the John Clare competition  – a strange prize, but an exciting one. Around 11.30, I believe, if you’re in the vicinity.

Monday 17th: I’ve a ten minute reading as part of the launch of new mag Uroborus, at Sheffield’s West Street Live (7.30). Another free event.

Weds 19th: Launch of Matter magazine no #11. I was part of the editorial team, but won’t be reading, merely listening to all the fine contributors (including Fay Musselwhite, Angelina Ayers, Rosemary Badcoe – lots of great writers)

Also sometime “real soon now” as they say in the software industry, I hope to have the website of Sheffield’s Public Poetry available for OTS to launch. This is proving harder than I thought to get together, but I think I’ll make it.

If you want to choose other OTS events, you can find a programme at: http://www.offtheshelf.org.uk/programme.php

And whilst all this is going on, Rosemary and I are putting the first fabulous issue of Antiphon together. I think it’s going to be particularly good and will, naturally enough, post a notice when it’s there for your delight and delectation. (Apologies to all poets who’ve not yet had a decision from us: we both need to agree to a poem before including it, and that’s caused a fair series of debates).

The Forward Prize is one of the most coveted of UK poetry prizes. So, along with most poets in the UK, it’s one of my ambitions. Unlikely, of course, but we all need aspirations.

Today Carole Baldock, who edits Orbis, told me she’s putting forward my poem “Presumably Butterflies” for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem in memory of Michael Donaghy, and Wasafiri has already selected my poem “The Anthropology of Loss” for the same honour. Realistically, there’s little chance of being shortlisted: last year the six shortlisted poems came from the Bridport, the National, Staple, the TLS (x2) and Magma although, to be fair, most were by poets who are not that well known. But simply getting into the Forward anthology would be quite an achievement – and now I’ve two chances of doing that!

I had a pleasant time at the Newark Prize reading yesterday. C.J. Allen, who has many competition successes, also read, and I was pleased to find that a friend of mine also had been recognised in the competition: Lou Wilford, with two poems in the runners up.

On the way home I suddenly realised I’m already involved in as many poetry events this year as I was in the whole of last year. This is partly because of my recent luck in competitions: following Newark, I’ve the event at the Moorland Discovery Centre, Longshaw Estate on March 12th, and the Awel Aman Tawe award at Pontardawe in late Feb – although that’s perhaps a bit far away.

Then the Sheffield Poetry Festival and its fringe in late March and early April (the festival proper starts on April 1st) has me down potentially for a poetry walk and a garden party (for Art in the Park), a rather exciting event from the Tuesday Poets called “Out of Place”, a reading as part of the celebration of ten years of Matter, and then our annual MA students’ reading, too, although that’s not really part of the festival, I guess.

Then there’s also the open mike Speakeasy next week, which I haven’t been to for ages; and I’ve been asked to read at “Unquiet Desperation”, a local poetry get together.  Finally, I’m working on an installation of children’s autumn haiku for the Winter Gardens, due to be installed in the first week of Feb, and then repeated with a variation as “Four Seasons” again the in the Winter Gardens in April.

A busy time. Really nice that my work is being enjoyed, though.

I won!

This was a real surprise, as I was pretty sure I knew who the winner would be when I saw the shortlist. But it turns out I was wrong.

In an interesting, though perhaps a little self-indulgent literary salon (a first for me) discussing new writing at Somerset House (a first, too) meeting Romesh Gunesekera (also a first, of course) the announcement and presentation was made. This is my best prize so far, because this is an international magazine of some repute, and it was judged by Moniza Alvi, who’s a pretty sharp poet. I’m really pleased, so thanks to Wasafiri.

I think the only downside was that I more or less confirmed some of the characteristic failings of contemporary poetry lit culture which were being discussed in the salon prior to the award, by being a white, middle-aged, British male winner of a prize in a magazine which is trying hard to promote writers of colour, an international agenda, and young writers wherever possible. I think my poem, “Anthropology of Loss”, fits the agenda, even if I don’t, but I did feel a little ambivalent taking the prize: overjoyed at the success, but slightly concerned that there might be others better suited for such a wonderful award.

The poem, along with the winners of the Fiction and Life Writing prizes will be published in the March issue of Wasafiri. You can find the list of winners and the shortlisted works at: http://www.wasafiri.org/pages/news_01/news_item.asp?News_01ID=205