More Responses to Dualities

I always think it’s a shame when comments written by members of the audience during a poetry reading on Zoom subsequently ‘disappear’.  Here are some of the positive comments I quickly captured from my Zoom reading for Poetry Teignmouth at the Mill on 23 February 2021. I’ve anonymised the feedback here; thank you, if you recognise a comment as yours! 

There was a lovely audience on-line, with a wonderful co-headlining poet, Frances Corkey Thompson, and an excellent open mic. A big thank you to Veronica Aaronson for making it all happen – expertly organizing and sensitively hosting these welcome opportunities for poets to present their work to audiences during the continuing lockdown.

Perhaps predictably, it was the first and last of my poems in the reading – and in my Dualities collection – Two Old Sticks and Firewords, that seemed to go down best at the event. A couple of people confirmed their admiration of the phrase ‘retractable as love’ (from Two Sticks), one person adding the comment “brilliant”. Another member of the audience wrote that they had “Loved (the poem) when (they) read it in the book” and that it was “Lovely to hear (it) read”. A poet I very much admire wrote that it was a “Great poem, about sticks, and inheritance” and concluded that it was a “Really lovely reading” which she subsequently described as “characterful”. Two other poets, responding to Firewords,  spoke of “Strong and effective fire imagery” and observed that ‘A child’s innocence’ (was a) “lovely phrase to end on.” 

My more whimsical poem Variable Geometry also seemed to go down well, with one poet responding that it was “Good to hear engineering terms in poems. Well worked in, here.”  Another wrote “Love Variable Geometry!” 

In the context of another poem, a member of the audience considered it a “Great poem on relationship.” A fellow Hedgehog Press poet wrote “Love these poems Sharon, good to discover you” … and suggested a book-swap (now underway!) A poet I enormously respect wrote “Such flawless writing … and I love the theme of Dualities”.  Another poet I admire immensely wrote “Lovely to see you, Sharon, and hear your poems. You create such great pictures for the reader … of characters and places”.  Another wrote “Really enjoyed these poems Sharon and looking forward to reading the book” … and later wrote ”Great poems, Sharon”.  A poet-friend wrote “So wonderful, Sharon” … and a final comment was “Lovely poems Sharon, thanks”.

I was very encouraged by the comments received and thank the writers for their kind attention and welcome feedback. Just a few days later, I was thrilled to receive a message from a former colleague who, having recently read Dualities, wrote: ‘Thoroughly enjoyed it. Some gorgeous imagery, delightful turns of phrase and the occasional construct I simply didn’t understand – which adds to the enjoyment. Great stuff. Thanks for sharing your talent!’ I was delighted that the imagery, turns of phrase … and the puzzles too … pleased the reader!

The Poetry Teignmouth evening was an altogether happy occasion, with an excellent reading by Frances Corkey Thompson and a first rate group of open mic poets. 

Copies of Dualities, which is published by Hedgehog Poetry Press, can be purchased here: https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/product-category/for-sale/hoglets/sharon-larkin/
or from my own bookshop on this website https://sharonlarkinjones.com/shop
or can be ordered from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dualities-Sharon-Larkin/dp/1913499278
or from Barnes and Nobel for readers in the USA: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dualities-sharon-larkin/1137592500

Here also seems a good place to confirm that I am available for further readings on Zoom … and, let’s hope, from 21 June … in person. Please do drop me a message or email sharonlarkinjones@gmail.com to arrange something!

Poetry Thanks and Praise, 2020

This blog article aims to record my appreciation of the many wonderful ‘people in poetry’ I have met and worked with over the past year. I would like to thank each and every one of them for their extraordinary efforts in a year when we have all had to overcome immense challenges simply to handle everyday life. To achieve anything additional to getting through each day has required greater determination, patience and flexibility …  and more creativity and ingenuity in finding new ways of doing things.  So thank you to everyone in the world of poetry who has helped anyone to find ‘an outlet for their output’ during a year that seemed determined to lock everyone in and close everything down. Thanks for your resilience and energy … in spite of everything.

Publications and Launch Events

Firstly, huge thanks to the hard-working and astonishingly innovative publisher, Mark Davidson of Hedgehog Poetry Press https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk for all he does to publish pamphlets and collections, to inspire and encourage new writing through competitions and challenges and via the unique ‘Cult’ and a new Weekly Book Club, tirelessly promoting poets’ work by social networking and newsletters. Without Mark’s determination, quick thinking and kindness, my collection Dualities would not have gone to print in the autumn, in a thin sliver of time between lockdowns. Thank you, Mark … and thank you TJ Books, Padstow. I was thrilled to take delivery of my ‘box of books’ and it was lovely to see the Cornish language featuring on the package: Gwrys yn Kernow – Made in Cornwall. https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/product/sharon-larkin-print-edition/ 

Thank you to Oz Hardwick, Angela France and Pat Edwards for reading the manuscript of Dualities and providing such insightful and quotable words of endorsement.  Thank you too, Michael Newman, David Ashbee and Catherine Baker for timely reviews after the book came out. (I’d naturally welcome more reviews if you, dear reader, are so inclined!) https://sharonlarkinjones.com/2020/10/14/dualities-reception/ https://sharonlarkinjones.com/2020/11/

Thanks to Stroudprint in Gloucestershire for doing a great job printing the anthology of poems and photographs, Poetry from Gloucestershire, which I collated and co-edited with Roger Turner and published under my Eithon Bridge Publications label in January. http://EithonBridge.com/anthologies Thanks to the other eleven contributing poets from Cheltenham Poetry Society: Roger Turner, Michael Newman, David Ashbee, Stuart Nunn, Robin Gilbert, Gill Wyatt, Sheila Spence, Belinda Rimmer, Catherine Baker, Annie Ellis, Alice Ross. A big thank you to Alison Brackenbury and Angela France for words of endorsement for the book, and to Tom Hadfield of The Local Answer for a two page spread promoting the anthology. https://tinyurl.com/ycb8mu98

Thanks to Helen Hewett of Suffolk Anthology Bookshop in Cheltenham https://theanthology.co.uk/ and Ian Nicholson at Alison’s Bookshop in Tewkesbury https://www.alisonsbookshop.co.uk/ for taking copies for sale in their bookshops. A launch event at Suffolk Anthology and an illustrated reading from the book at Wotton Under Edge Arts Festival in the spring had, alas, to be cancelled because of the pandemic but we are hopeful of opportunities to do (illustrated) readings from the book in 2021.

Thank you to Leo Boix and Nathalie Teitler, editors of Magma 76 (the Resistencia issue) https://magmapoetry.com/archive/magma-76/ for publishing my poem La Trinchera https://magmapoetry.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Magma-76-Contents.pdf and for the invitation to read at the launch via Zoom. It was exciting to be involved in this international event … a highlight of my year.

Thank you to Brett Evans and Phil Robertson of Prole Magazine for publishing a cheeky poem Another Proposal (one of my ‘Middlemarchian sonnets’) in Prole Issue 30. https://www.prolebooks.co.uk  Prole is a rare treasure of a magazine, not least in no-nonsense content … and actually paying royalties for contributions.  

Thank you to Andy Jackson and Bill Herbert for so swiftly providing a home for pandemic poems: Postcards from Malthusia, at New Boots and Pantisocracies … and for publishing my poem Noli me Tangere on the site on 9 April https://newbootsandpantisocracies.wordpress.com/2020/04/09/postcards-from-malthusia-day-thirteen-sharon-larkin/

Thanks to Ziggy Dicks of Gloucester Poetry Festival for giving my poem Noli Me Tangere another airing in the GPF’s Pandemic Poetry anthology. I also had a stanza in a collaborative poem in the same anthology (more information later in this blog). Thanks to Ziggy too for the 10 November Zoom launch of Pandemic Poetry, when I had the pleasure of reading my poem with 25 other contributing poets. Copies of the book, in hardback and softcopy, are available here: http://www.gloucesterpoetryfestival.uk … profits going to charity.

Thank you to Claire Walker and Holly Magill for taking another of my pandemic poems, Herd Mentality, for Atrium on 10 April https://atriumpoetry.com/2020/04/10/herd-mentality-sharon-larkin/

Thank you to Helen Ivory for taking my pandemic poem Waiting for Ink Sweat & Tears on 27 April http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/pages/?p=21737

Thank you to Tracy Gaughan for taking three of my poems Green Turtle, Conspiring for Beginners and The New Circadians, for Abhaile, at The Blue Nib on 24 July https://thebluenib.com/three-poems-by-sharon-larkin/

Thank you to Paul Brookes for including my poem At the Apple Orchard Clinic for Eating Disorders in the International Mental Health Day feature at The Wombwell Rainbow. Paul does so much to promote poetry and poets; it’s good to have the opportunity to reciprocate here … in modest measure. https://tinyurl.com/yyfxlacd

Thank you to Visual Verse for taking the following poems during 2020:
Synoptic Accounts https://visualverse.org/submissions/synoptic-accounts/,
Gearing Up https://visualverse.org/submissions/gearing-up/ and
Reports to Mission Control https://visualverse.org/submissions/reports-to-mission-control/

Thank you to Edwin Stockdale and Amina Alyal for including my sonnet The New Middlemarchian in An Insubstantial Universe published by Yaffle Press in collaboration with Leeds Trent University (an anthology in celebration of George Eliot’s bicentenary).  Thanks too for a very enjoyable launch event via Zoom – a wonderful tribute to a wonderful novelist. https://tinyurl.com/y9dl5l2t

Thank you to editors Rebecca Bilkau and Gill Lambert for including another sonnet, entitled Lessons Learned in the anthology Bloody Amazing and to Jane Burn for the amazing illustration for the book’s cover … also for all the extra work Gill did to dispatch copies to contributors. A wonderful collaborative effort by Dragon Yaffle publishing.  Thanks to Gill too for two launch events over a weekend 17/18 October in order to accommodate the many contributors to this fine, and long overdue, anthology … so many brilliant, powerful, pain-filled poems from brave and sensitive poets. https://www.bloodyamazing.co.uk/the-anthology

Thanks for all the poets who rose to the call for poems for Good Dadhood on line (March to June 2020): Alwyn Marriage, Wynn Wheldon, Sarah James, Veronica Aaronson, Kevin Reid, Luke Palmer, Sarah L Dixon, Beth McDonough, Simon Williams, Rachel Burns, Paul Waring, Catherine Baker, Susan Taylor, Roger Turner, Sanjeev Sethi, Aaron Williams, Charlie Markwick, Z D Dicks, Maggie Mackay, Hilary Robinson, Steven Kedie, Sheila Jacob, Patricia Ace, Zoe Mitchell, JLM Morton and Jenni Wyn Hyatt.
The poems represent another major contribution to an already substantial Good Dadhood on-line anthology of poems celebrating fatherhood. https://gooddadhood.com

Thank you to Aurélien Thomas for taking my poem What Passes Between for a forthcoming print anthology of Fatherhood poems.

Thanks to Bean Baker for taking my poem The Well for the You Tube channel of Cheltenham Elim. Thanks too for providing the sensitive musical accompaniment for the video, and thanks to Bean’s mother for the excellent drawing of the well, which she develops as the video progresses. I was very pleased to be involved in this collaborative project. Thanks also to Dave Wellington for encouragement, kind words and posting my poem Pentecost on the Elim Website.

Other Poetry Events

I was grateful to The Rising Sun Hotel, Cleeve Hill, Cheltenham, for inviting me to put together an event to celebrate Burns Night on 25 January 2020.  What started out as being a quartet of poets turned out on the night to be simply a duo … including Jonathan Muirhead who took the train up from Swindon just for the occasion.  I was very grateful to him for providing an essential Scottish authenticity to what would otherwise have been a much less convincing event! Alas, this was to be the last occasion I would see Jonathan, which causes me to look back on 25 January with great sadness, as well as huge appreciation for his talent and kindness. I was devastated in August to learn that Jonathan had passed away. Terrible, shocking news. Jonathan was a warm, kind-hearted, gentle person and, after our Burns night reading, I had envisaged many more evenings of poetry performances in his company. Sincere condolences to Jonathan’s family; his many poetry friends will deeply miss his talent, kindness and warmth.

Poetry Café Refreshed was held in January and February.  Thank you to Roger Turner for hosting on the night, and to Vickie Godding who owns and runs Smokey Joe’s in Cheltenham, for accommodating the monthly event for the last five years. Thank you to Jinny Fisher (the guest poet in January) and David Briggs (guest poet in February) for travelling to Cheltenham to appear at Refreshed and for giving the audience such powerful and enjoyable readings. Unfortunately, live events had to be cancelled after February, including guest readings by Raine Geoghegan, Ziggy Dicks and Mary Gilonne in March, April and May respectively. However, I now have an opportunity to thank the stalwarts in the audience of Refreshed over the last five years … including Gill Wyatt, Michael Newman, Catherine Baker, Chris Hemingway, Annie Ellis, Marilyn Timms and Howard Timms to name just a few of the many Gloucestershire poets who supported Refreshed month by month. Thank you, too, to those who came from, time to time … and especially those who travelled from further afield when they were able eg Nina Lewis, Kathy Gee, Claire Walker, Holly Magill, Ian Glass. Your support was much appreciated by Roger, me … and, especially, the guest poets.

Thank you to Josephine Lay for inviting me to be one of the headliners for the event Raised Voices for International Women’s Day in March, just before lockdown, alongside Angela France, Alby Stockley, Sharon Brown, Tish Camp, Zoe Brookes, Annie Ellis, Carol Sheppard, Drea MacMillan, Halima Malek, Iris Anne Lewis, Jennie Farley, Julie Allan, Juliette Morton, Maggie Clutterbuck, Marion Feasey, Tanya Feasey, Emma Lord and Kuma San. Around 60 people attended, and proceeds from the event went to The Nelson Trust, a women’s charity devoted to addressing addiction and all that stems from it. Thanks to Josephine for organizing the splendid event, at St Mary de Crypt, Gloucester.

Thank you to Gary D for inviting me to co-headline at Piranha Poetry, at The Ale House in Stroud, just before lockdown in March.  It is another poignant memory that Jonathan Muirhead was booked to headline too, but could not make it on the night. Much appreciation to Ziggy Dicks for stepping in and sharing the stage on the night.  Thanks to Gary for putting on such a professional and entertaining event, augmented with musicians and a strong open mic crowd. Thanks too to Susie Roberts for her warm welcome on the night.

Thanks to Charlie Markwick for giving me the opportunity to try Zoom for the first time in March, in anticipation of ‘real life’ events transferring to on-line platforms.

Thank you to Helen Ivory and Martin Figura for their Live from the Butchery events via Zoom.  I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion on 9 May, which featured excellent readings, discussion and fun! It was lovely to see so many poet friends gathered together.  

It was great to hear Helen Ivory read again at the Ledbury Poetry Festival’s Salon via Zoom on 12 June and to enjoy the open mic poems – with such diverse voices. Thanks to Chloe Garner who was brilliant at hosting the Ledbury Salon sessions via Zoom.

Thank you to David Ashbee for inviting me to read some poems from Dualities at the launch of his book Poems from the Mind Shop on 28 October, organized by his wonderful publishers Donall and Janice Dempsey (at Dempsey and Windle). It was a very enjoyable and well-run Zoom event. Thank you to David, too, for inviting me to join the Holub group of poets that used to meet at The Anchor, Epney, in Gloucestershire until moving onto Zoom. I enjoy the mix of music and poetry at these events which are well-run by David. Finally, thanks to David for selecting one of my poems, Two Christmases, for the Christmas edition of readings for BWBF – British Wireless for the Blind http://www.bwbf.org.uk/player/?url=http://www.bwbf.org.uk/localtns/cotsvalemag/TOPD_playlist.pls

Many thanks to Damien Donnelly – a fellow poet published by Hedgehog Poetry … hence a ‘hoglet’ … for inviting me to read on his Eat the Storms poetry podcast, episode 6, on 10 October https://open.spotify.com/episode/2rDglwxlGAGQFmAJ4elXr3?si=VyRer88IRJ2QVYsVK5RhXA  These innovative weekly podcasts, in which Damien so generously provides a platform for fellow poets, are very much appreciated.

Thank you to Mark Connors and Gill Lambert of Yaffle Press for WORD CLUB events.  They have a lively, informal style of hosting that makes the events a friendly place in which to enjoy hearing and sharing poetry. The excellent guest poets on 1 August were:  Julia Webb, Alison Lock and Natalie Scott.  I had heard Julia read previously, at Poetry Café Refreshed in Cheltenham … and especially love her poem We is in the bank.  A strong open mic included Jinny Fisher, Sarah L Dixon and Oz Hardwick whom I have also had the pleasure of hearing at Poetry Cafe Refreshed. It was also great to ‘meet’ Kevin Read who has been a long-standing Facebook friend to so many of us. It was also a great opportunity to hear poets I’d not met before, including Adrian Salmon whose poems inspired by music were enthralling. A super night all round. I was doubly grateful to Mark and Gill for inviting me to read from Dualities and my pamphlet Interned at the Food Factory (Indigo Dreams 2019) at the WORD CLUB on 28 August, co-headlining with Jinny Fisher and Tony Hill.

The Quiet Compère event organized by Sarah L Dixon, co-hosted with Kevin Reid, on 16 September was another wonderful Zoom event, which also included Sam Loveless, Math Jones, Chris Hemingway, Neil Laurenson, Nina Simon, Stuart Charlesworth, Anna Tuck, Hannah Stone, Steve Pottinger, Rose Condo, Ken Evans, Carolyn O’Connell, Anna-May Laugher. A strong body of poets with a variety of voices and themes … from a wide geographic area. I was so happy to have been included.  Thank you, Sarah and Kevin!

Looking ahead, thank you to Veronica Aaronson for the opportunity to read some poems at an on-line event being held by Teignmouth Poetry Festival in February 2021.

Poetry Communities and Support Networks

Thank you to Paul McGrane who until relatively recently ran the Poetry Society’s Stanza network throughout the UK, providing inspiring leadership and effective communication. Following his retirement from the position, he will be much missed for his enthusiasm, good humour and positivity.

Thank you to Alison Brackenbury for her kind, gracious, ‘poetry presence’ in the county … and splendid photographs too. Thanks to Michael Newman for being a steadfast, positive and encouraging poetry influence in the area. Thank you to both Anna Saunders and Ziggy Dicks for their energy, and undaunted efforts on behalf of Cheltenham and Gloucester Poetry Festivals during this difficult year. 

Thanks to Simon Williams for running Poem a Day (April and September) on Facebook and to Jo Bell for running Try to Praise the Mutilated World providing a prompt a day during the pre-Christmas lockdown … and thanks to everyone who participated and commented on each other’s poems.

Thanks again to Angela France for inspiration, encouragement and information on publication opportunities, and thanks to a great group of local women poets sharing constructive feedback on work. Thanks especially to Judith van Dijkhuizen for efficiently setting up meetings and Zoom sessions, as well as thanks to Penny  Haworth, Christine Griffin, Catherine Baker, Belinda Rimmer, Kathryn Alderman, Gill Garret and Frankie March. And thank you to Frankie for coordinating our collaborative poem for inclusion in the GPF Pandemic Poetry anthology (see above).

Thank you to Roger Turner and members of Cheltenham Poetry Society’s writing group: Michael Newman, David Ashbee, Stuart Nunn, Robin Gilbert, Sheila Spence, Catherine Baker, Gill Wyatt and Alice Ross for feedback on poems in meetings early in the year, then via email. Hoping the writing group will be able to hold regular meetings again some time in 2021.

Thanks to Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron for sharing their Poetry Film knowledge and expertise in the course we set up on Facebook. Originally, this was planned as a real-life event for Cheltenham Poetry Society, and under the banner of the Gloucestershire Stanza, but the pandemic offered an opportunity to move the course on-line and thus attract UK-wide interest. Thank you to everyone who participated, and congratulations to those who produced some fine poetry films, including Kathy Gee, Frankie March, Kathryn Alderman and Pat Edwards. Apologies for the film-makers’ names I have missed here; the content from the Facebook group was deleted on closing the project so I can’t go back and check who posted films to the group!

Thanks to Colin Bancroft for his brilliant Poets Directory which provides a platform for poets to advertise their publications, magazines, events, submission opportunities and so much more. https://poetsdirectory.co.uk

Thanks to the 18-strong group in Gloucestershire who have agreed for Cheltenham Poetry Society to continue holding their payment for the Annual Poetry Awayday at Dumbleton Hall which had to be cancelled last May.  Thank you to Dumbleton Hall for rescheduling us for May 2021.  We hope the Awayday can take place then.

Thanks to Angela France for her invitation to Belinda Rimmer and me to co-headline at Buzzwords in Cheltenham last summer, and thanks to Phil Kirby for Belinda and me to be guest poets at Writers at the Goods Shed in Tetbury last Spring. Both these events had to be cancelled because of the pandemic but we hope they might be possible some time in 2021.

Dualities: reviews

Short reviews continue to come in for my poetry collection, Dualities.
Here is one by Catherine Baker … for which much thanks.

Dualities reviewed by Catherine Baker 

Sharon Larkin’s ‘Dualities’ displays eloquence and craft. She writes with tenderness and threat, an enticing combination, always connecting on a deep emotional level. I admired the dry humour, the way the poet can ‘thwack’ a word into a poem and how she plays with the meanings of words. Her unexpected endings can astonish; what seems a light touch suddenly cudgels. Variety is also a feature of this collection; there are people who are prodded and grunt, houses that sweat and stew, skulls, snails on razor blades and girls sitting on stairs. Memorable lines include: “honeysuckle smuggles her scent” ” lunacy behind your face” ” your outline above the vol- au-vent” … and many more. An excellent, enjoyable, stunning collection. 

———

For previous reviews and observations about DUALITIES, please see: https://sharonlarkinjones.com/2020/10/14/dualities-reception/

Performing ‘Dualities’

Poems from my new collection, Dualities, from Hedgehog Poetry Press are having regular airings at Zoom events and via streaming.

Thanks to fellow ‘Hoglet’, Damien Donnelly, I’ve shared three poems on one of his ‘Eat the Storms’ podcasts. These can be heard here:

https://open.spotify.com/episode/2rDglwxlGAGQFmAJ4elXr3?si=5BliT6fcSDOlyKCQS2k2gw

Thanks to Mark Connors and Gill Lambert, I had a guest slot on one of their Friday Night Word Club events in September, and am looking forward to joining them again on 30 October … at the open mic, this time.

David Ashbee has also invited me to be one of the nine guest poets at the Dempsey and Windle launch event for his magnificent collection ‘Poems from the Mind Shop’ on 28 October. It’s a 5-minute slot, and I intend to read a poem from my Indigo Dreams Pamphlet ‘Interned at the Food Factory’ (2019) as well as a couple from ‘Dualities’. The other guest poets are:

Belinda Cooke

Dónall Dempsey

Penny Lamport

Patrick Osada

M E Muir

Belinda Singleton 

Alicia Stubbersfield

Roger Turner

_______________________

I’m available for reading at other Zoom poetry events, so please message me if you’re looking for a guest poet … or if you are running an open mic. Happy to do a full 15-20 minute set, a swift 5-minute showcase, or simply to share a poem or two at an open mic.

Dualities – Reception

Thank you to the following poets who have commented on Dualities:

Endorsements prior to publication

Oz Hardwick (Professor of English, Programme Leader for Postgraduate Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University) has written: 

“There’s a lot to be said for / being an outsider inside,” and Sharon Larkin’s perceptive collection perfectly explores the dualities of being a stranger in one’s social and personal spheres, as well as in one’s own body. The poems explore the paradoxical intensity of dissociation, with delicate touches of domestic surrealism and scorched-black wit chalking the outline of desire, deception, and a secular redemption of sorts. This is uneasy reading, full of the naked-edged truth that lies unseen beneath so many magnolia-painted lives.”

Angela France (Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of Gloucestershire) writes:

“Sharon Larkin is a keen photographer and her trained eye is evident in this collectionnot only in the precise, sensory, detail but also in the care she takes with the angle of approach for each poem. The poems cover a range of themes but the Dualities of the title is evident throughout, always subtle and often in the form of a surprising twist which delighted me as a reader. Sometimes it is a line, other times a single word which re-focuses the whole poem such as in ‘Mismatch’, where the word ‘proprietorial’ in the last line turns tender care to something else entirely.”

Pat Edwards (Welshpool Poetry Festival) has written: 

“This is both a romp and a skirmish, a disturbing dream and a garden of delights. Larkin forces us to encounter what we might call love, lust, longing, and examine these stormy forces through all the stages of life. Honest, sometimes cynical, the poems explore the sparks, flames and embers that burn us all. Perhaps the most stark warning concerns times in our lives we might compare with dusk, when our vision is not always clear, and we “must chance a snarl” in order to discern dog from wolf.”

Reviews since publication

Widely published poet Michael Newman has written:

“I’ve enjoyed every poem … am reluctant to pick out favourites, but ‘Nocturne’ really impressed me with its imagery and clever rhymes. And a real touch of humour. I was also much taken by ‘August Evening with Lonicera’ … again, imagery and a touch of humour. And humour really comes to the fore with ‘Skulduggery’. Gorgeous!”

Equally well published, David Ashbee has observed:

Reactions from David Ashbee

“I’m dipping into Dualities. My first reaction was to find poems that spoke to me and felt like I could have written. Later I found complexities and insights I couldn’t have put into a poem. The affidavit/ oath background to ‘Release’ is intriguing and gives a much deeper dimension. I remember ‘Armslengther’ from Cheltenham (Poetry Society workshop) and love it more now.”

David also asked to read the poem ‘Two Christmases’ from the collection for the forthcoming December issue of Talking Newspaper magazine for the visually impaired.

Dualities

My poetry collection ‘Dualities’ is scheduled to be published by Hedgehog Press on 28 September 2020.

This is what I think it’s primarily about … but it might, instead or in addition, be about a whole lot of other things!

Partnership

Partnerships are demanding. Reconciling two sets of expectations, hopes, ambitions, desires and demands is an exacting business. The ideal is surely a mutually agreed balance between give and take, rights and compromises, constraints and freedoms. Any intrusion into a partnership is capable of challenging it, rocking it, even destroying it … but mutual recognition of a greater good can seal and cement a relationship. With mutual well-being as an agreed aim, supported by good humour, grace and forgiveness, individuals might grow the kind of partnership that becomes something more than both of them, something greater than they might have imagined.

More insightfully, here are what other poets are saying about ‘Dualities’:

“There’s a lot to be said for / being an outsider inside,” and Sharon Larkin’s perceptive collection perfectly explores the dualities of being a stranger in one’s social and personal spheres, as well as in one’s own body. The poems explore the paradoxical intensity of dissociation, with delicate touches of domestic surrealism and scorched-black wit chalking the outline of desire, deception, and a secular redemption of sorts. This is uneasy reading, full of the naked-edged truth that lies unseen beneath so many magnolia-painted lives.”
Oz Hardwick – Professor of English and Programme Leader for Postgraduate Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University.

“Sharon Larkin is a keen photographer and her trained eye is evident in this collection; not only in the precise, sensory, detail but also in the care she takes with the angle of approach for each poem. The poems cover a range of themes but the Dualities of the title is evident throughout, always subtle and often in the form of a surprising twist which delighted me as a reader. Sometimes it is a line, other times a single word which re-focuses the whole poem such as in ‘Mismatch’, where the word ‘proprietorial’ in the last line turns tender care to something else entirely.” Angela France – Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of Gloucestershire.

“This is both a romp and a skirmish, a disturbing dream and a garden of delights. Larkin forces us to encounter what we might call love, lust, longing, and examine these stormy forces through all the stages of life. Honest, sometimes cynical, the poems explore the sparks, flames and embers that burn us all. Perhaps the most stark warning concerns times in our lives we might compare with dusk, when our vision is not always clear, and we “must chance a snarl” in order to discern dog from wolf.” Pat Edwards – Welshpool Poetry Festival.

Dualities is available from Amazon:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1913499278/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_btf_awdo_4BTAFbJ2F8T8Z



Or visit my Shop page to order a copy … signed, if you wish!
https://sharonlarkinjones.com/shop/

Somewhat Like a Pregnancy

Waiting patiently for gestation to culminate in delivery is an obvious analogy for the period between sending off a manuscript and its publication. There are moments of delight en route; hearing the MS has been accepted can be compared with the thrill of the ‘Yes’ – or blue line – on the pregnancy test stick. But the publication of a book will not, of course, be anywhere near the rewarding and life-changing event a baby will be. The analogy can only go so far.

As well as delight at the good news of acceptance, there may well be anxieties en route. You want to shout about your book it as soon as you know it’s coming but, as with pregnancy, you probably feel it prudent to wait until certain other ‘tests’ are passed. Each communication with a publisher is like a visit to the ante-natal clinic. Sometimes, during pregnancy, blood tests raise questions about the baby’s wellbeing … or the mother’s. The arrival at a ‘proof’ is somewhat like a scan … where you, at last, get to see something resembling a perfect ‘baby’.

You ask others who have been through the process for reassuring words … endorsements for the collection’s cover, perhaps. You work with the midwife-publisher to ensure that everything is ready for the big day of delivery-release. Is everything looking right? Is everything looking good (including the cover design)?  Have you acknowledged everyone who needs to be recognised for this body of work?

Is the name you have chosen the best one for your baby? Obviously in the case of an infant, there is the possibility of waiting until after the birth before the final decision on a name. Not so with a book. Again, the analogy can only go so far.

You make plans for the big day; the ‘where’ if not, precisely, the ‘when’. Whereas babies may arrive a little early, the publication of a book is unlikely to emerge ‘pre-term’. Requests for ‘induction’ – hurrying along – are not appropriate. The precise timing is tricky; the printer is, after all, an indispensable member of the ‘delivery suite’. 

But when the baby is pressing to see the light of day, to take that very first breath … mother is obviously subject to high levels of agitation. She must, however, follow best practice and definitely NOT push too early. So parent, or poet, must just pant … with intense anticipation.

My collection ‘Dualities’ (twins perhaps) is due out from Hedgehog Poetry Press in September. I am patient … quietly knitting … preparing the nursery.

Y Border Bach – Another Crwys Poem Translated

 

A few years ago, I was approached by fellow poet Chris Hemingway about a poem by William Williams Crwys  that he had found on an information board at a ruined mill at Trefin in Pembrokeshire,  I translated the poem here  and several interesting spin-offs happened subsequently, including my trip to Trefin, visit to the mill and chapel, having my translation of Melin Trefin included in a tapestry at the chapel and a magazine, and being contacted by a descendant of Crwys, resident in the southern hemisphere, and consequently locating out-of-print books containing further poems by this well-loved Welsh poet.

It’s funny how these out-of-the-blue events develop a life of their own, and all seem to connect up in some mysterious way.

A few days ago, in early August  2020, I was contacted by someone whose father, soon to be celebrating his 90 birthday, has an interest in another poem by Crwys – Y Border Bach.  I quickly located the text … and not so quickly … attempted a translation.

As with all translations of poetry, a literal rendition of the original language sacrifices the poetic language of the original. Rhymes, assonance, alliteration and …. in translating Welsh specifically, cynghanedd … are inevitably lost. However, if one strives towards preserving these elements in any translation, liberties have to be taken with the meaning, and the poet’s apparent intent. Compromise is therefore necessary.

I have made some decisions which stray a little from a literal translation in order to achieve a ‘feel’ for the original intent, as I perceive it. I believe Crwys wished the simplicity of the modest flower border in this poem to ‘stand for’ Wales, and Mam – the central figure, and ‘planter of the plant’ in any Welsh home – along with her neighbours, to represent the people of Wales.  ‘Plant’ is the Welsh word for ‘children’.

With such a reading, it is possible to infer something about the showier blooms in the mansion gardens, and their ‘pedigrees’, as well as seeing the dandelion colonising the garden – as an upstart interloper.

As Crwys was a minister of religion as well as a poet – or rather a bard and an eisteddfodwr – other assumptions can be made.  Particularly, the Old Man referred to in the poem, as well as being the common name for a specific garden plant, is more than likely a reference to God … especially as this ‘Sage’ is seen as standing over and caring for the other ‘plants’ in the border  … ie the people of Cymru, and the speakers of the Iaith y Nefoedd (the ‘language of Heaven’).

As a lover of simple wild flowers rather than brightly coloured, highly bred garden flowers, I can relate to this poem. My Welsh father was of similar mind … “y pethau bychain” … the little things … were important to him, as was his garden, and always a preference for the unpretentious.

Here is the poem, followed by the translation. While I have learnt Welsh to an advanced level as an adult, I am, naturally and in all humility as a non-native speaker of Cymraeg, open to correction,  So if Welsh is your mamiaith, please do comment in kindly manner if you detect error in my translation, or misinterpretation of the sense and intent of the poet.  Thank you.

 

Y Border Bach

 

Gydag ymyl troetffordd gul
A rannai’r ardd yn ddwy,
‘Roedd gan fy mam ei border bach
O flodau perta’r plwy.

Gwreiddyn bach gan hwn a hon
Yn awr ac yn y man,
Fel yna’n ddigon syml y daeth
Yr Eden fach i’w rhan.

A, rywfodd, byddai lwc bob tro,
Ni wn i ddim paham,
Ond taerai ‘nhad na fethodd dim
A blannodd llaw fy mam.

Blodau syml pobol dlawd
Oeddynt, bron bob un,
A’r llysiau gwyrthiol berchid am
Eu lles yn fwy na’u llun.

Dacw nhw: y lili fach,
Mint a theim a mwsg,
Y safri fach a’r lafant pêr,
A llwyn o focs ynghwsg;

Dwy neu dair brlallen ffel,
A daffodil, bid siŵr,
A’r cyfan yn y border bach
Yng ngofal rhyw ‘hen ŵr’.

Dyna nhw’r gwerinaidd lu,
Heb un yn gwadu’i ach,
A gwelais wenyn gerddi’r plas
Ym mlodau’r border bach.

O bellter byd ‘rwy’n dod o hyd
I’w gweld dan haul a gwlith,
A briw i’m bron fu cael pwy ddydd
Heb gennad yn eu plith.

Hen estron gwyllt o ‘ddant y llew’,
A dirmyg lond ei wên.
Sut gwyddai’r hen doseddwr hy
Fod Mam yn mynd yn hen?

               gan William Williams Crwys

 

Translation:

The Small Border

 

Along the edge of a narrow path
that divided the garden in two
my mother had her little border,­
the prettiest flowers of the parish.

A little root of this and that,
here and there, now and again
and, in this way, a little Eden
came quite simply into being

somehow, by chance, every time.
I don’t know how, but Dad always
swore that nothing ever failed
when planted by the hand of Mam.

Yes, almost all the plants were
simple flowers of poor people
and miraculous vegetables, notable
for goodness rather than appearance.

Among them were snowdrops,
mint and thyme and moschatel,
winter savory, sweet lavender,
and a vigorous bush of box.

Two or three primroses
and daffodils were sure to be
– all the plants of the small border
in the care of some ‘old man’.

They were a host of common folk.
None of them in that small border
could claim the pedigrees of those
blooming in the mansion’s gardens.

With a stab to the chest one day,
I came across an old alien, wild,
without precedent in the border –
a dandelion blown in from a distance,

smiling an insolent smile
in sun and dew, and­ I wondered
how that old coloniser knew
that Mam was growing old.

Notes:

  • Moschatel is Adoxa moschatellina, also known as muskroot or townhall clock.
  • Old man is a common name for Artemisia abrotanum, also known as sagewood.

    ………….
    Translated from the Welsh by Sharon Larkin, 3-5 August 2020

 

Poem for Pentecost

In the Upper Room

 

There is this fluttering, like palpitations,
or quickening, or perhaps butterflies
except not in the stomach, not low down.
This is up, aloft … a-hover now,
like a dove above a river
except that we are not outside.
This which we have waded into
has a strong current which is also electric.
There is a fragrance on the air,
and a wave-of-roaring sometimes,
a light tongue-lap other times,
or a flame a-flicker, a-dance overhead.
This is a presence that encompasses,
circumscribes like arcs around a radial dot,
except not one of us is just a dot.
Here, we are radiant motes
in the light from a scintillating source,
a focus for espousing photons – a touch
sometimes airy, featherlike, particulate
sometimes bright, irradiating, burning,
other times pulsing and as comforting
as a mother-hen, warm wings brooding.
This presence protects but is not safe.
This is like a breeze in the face sometimes,
other times, forceful – a gushing wind
to knock you backwards into a catcher’s arms
or to knee-buckle as if by your own free will,
whatever your will is anymore.
And sometimes there will be laughter
and sometimes groaning and sobbing,
or those silent tears that heal.
For This is That which was without,
and is now He who is within –
who is and was and will be …
up there, in here, now this side, now that
and, yes, even down
where we’d rather cover over.
He who blots out all trouble
calms all fear and flesh-nonsense,
retunes arrhythmia at the core,
clutches at lungs and announces
This is Pneuma
before breathing fresh life inside,
blowing the top of your head right off
for an instant neuroplasty
to rewire pathways, remap networks,
reignite dulled synapses,
wipe corrupt memories, install new software,
rewrite histories, recast futures.

 

 

Sharon Larkin, 31 May 2020

Postcards from Malthusia DAY FOURTEEN: Sharon Larkin

new boots and pantisocracies

Noli Me Tangere

We avoid alley, ginnel, snicket, jigger,

    favour wider lanes in rural areas

for dubious doses of fresh air, sun.

     Handshakes, hugs are supplanted

first by elbow bumps, then clasping 

     our own hands across our chests, 

gestures of intent, no eye contact. 

     A raised palm declares touch me not.

A nod while staring at our own feet.

     Perfume from that girl trails 

behind for yards, sneaks sideways 

     up nostrils, stirs unease, disgust.

Late night treks to supermarkets, 

      scarf bandit-like around mouth

and nose. Gloves, strict time limits,

     bills kept below the swipe amount, 

breath held at checkouts, gasping 

     to the door as if already a case.

Fingers wagging through glass: 

     Leave it on the step, sign for me.

Spraying deliveries and doorknobs. 

     Neural networks retrained 

to ban fingers from facial orifices, 

      handwashing to Happy Birthday, 

Jerusalem, God Save the Queen

      or Killing in the name of. Asking

will…

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