A Round-up of 2021 …  or Poetry, in Spite of Everything

Continuing ‘a mission, against the odds’ might sound like an over-statement in the context of writing poetry, publishing and getting published, during a pandemic, but for many writers and publishers, it has been nothing short of heroic. Vanishing opportunities for meeting with kindred spirits, performing work and maintaining a ‘platform’ have, of course, been mitigated by the ‘mushrooming of Zoom’ – thanks to which, poetry readings, ‘open-mic’ opportunities, workshopping, mentoring and book launches have all continued to happen. These have in many cases provided national and international ‘stages’ in contrast to the pre-pandemic local poetry venues many poets loyally attended every month. Poetry podcasts, streamed events and spots on digital radio have also been growth areas. 

All very positive, but perhaps the bigger impact of the pandemic on the ‘poetry mission’ has been ‘mindset’ rather than ‘opportunity’. The lockdowns, with the isolation and loneliness for many, had a depressing impact for some, reducing productivity and the inclination to do anything other than slump. Mercifully, I have not spent the last eighteen months alone, as some fellow writers … the heroes amongst us … have done. I don’t know how I would have fared without Mr. L. Thank you, my love.  

Post-lockdown, justifiable caution of face-to-face events continued for the more vulnerable poets among us, and for all of us, socialising in-person, after so long, was met with mixed emotions … pleasure and anxiety, to greater or lesser degrees. Let’s hope 2022 will be better for us all.

Looking back at previous end-of-year reviews, it is clear that my productivity was lower in 2021 than in preceding years – even lower than in 2020, when we had stricter lockdowns, and more fear and uncertainty generally.  However, there have been a lot of ‘poetry things’ to be thankful for in 2021 … and a lot of ‘poetry people’ to thank …

Dualities in 2021

First of all, a big thank you to Mark Davidson of Hedgehog Poetry Press for including my collection, ‘Dualities’ (published in late 2020) in the bumper Hedgehog Poetry ‘goodie box’ sent out to subscribers in the first quarter of 2021. I was thrilled that my book was in such great company, along with Dawn Gorman’s & Rosie Jackson’s ‘Aloneness is a Many-Headed Bird’, Margaret Royall’s ‘Where Flora Sings’, Gaynor Kane’s & Karen Mooney’s ‘Penned In’, Patricia M Osborne’s ‘The Montefiore Bride’, Darren J Beaney’s ‘Honeydew’, Adele Cordner’s ’The Kitchen Sink Chronicles’, Damien B Donnelly’s ‘Considering Canvases With Boys’, and Jenna Please’s ‘The Underside of Things’.  

Next, I am indebted to Nigel Kent for the generous review of Dualities on his website in April 2021. This was preceded by an invitation for me to submit one of the poems in the book for Nigel’s ‘Drop-in’ feature. The two links are here:

I was very encouraged by comments received in 2021 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 this particular reader, whose judgement I very much respect.

Copies of ‘Dualities’ can be purchased from Hedgehog Poetry Press: https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/product-category/for-sale/hoglets/sharon-larkin/
or from my website https://sharonlarkinjones.com/shop

Poems in Magazines/e-zines and Anthologies

The year started well with Ink Sweat and Tears, taking my poem ‘Post-operative’ in January, thanks to the wonderful Helen Ivory. 

I wrote the poem ‘At the Foot of the Tree’ for Good Friday 2021, at the invitation of Elim Church, Cheltenham. Thanks to Bean Baker for creating the poetry film, with music, and uploading it to You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi3OUOR8LP8&t=38s and thanks to all the lovely feedback, especially from Sandra Kemp and Sheila Hurst in Cheltenham … and Elaine and Carri in Arizona!

Thanks to Visual Verse for taking three of my poems, in April, June and September 2021.

I was grateful to Veronica Aaronson for taking two of my poems for her anthology ‘Despite Knowing’ in support of a charity providing counselling for those in recovery from addictions. 

It had long been an ambition of mine to print-publish an anthology of poems celebrating fathers and fatherhood (see Good Dadhood, below). Now, thanks to Aurélien Thomas, I can let that ambition lapse because in 2021 he selected and edited  ‘To Dads – with Love’, illustrated/designed by JinQue RD and published by Ayo Gutierrez. I’m glad that some of my ‘Dad poems’ are in the book, along with poems by poet-friends Angela France, Michael Newman, Catherine Baker, Christine Griffin and Frances March … and many other poets, worldwide. I was pleased to be invited by Aurélien Thomas to write the foreword for the book. The resulting volume is a handsome one … available from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dads-Love-Aurelien-Thomas/dp/B096TN7NN7

I’m always pleased when my love of poetry and love of Wales and Welsh coalesce. Thanks to photographer Ieuan Morris for including part of a translation I did of the poem ‘Melin Trefin’ by William Williams Crwys in Ieaun’s splendid book ‘Photographing Pembrokeshire’ (published, September 2021) and thank you to Victoria Bookshop in Haverfordwest for supplying me with a signed copy of the book. Copies are available from the publisher y Lolfa https://www.ylolfa.com/products/9781784617547/photographing-pembrokeshire as well as Amazon.

Another Welsh opportunity came in September when I  was contacted by Ennyn, a community interest company based in Ceredigion, delivering bilingual educational art workshops in schools and communities. They commissioned a folk singer, Owen Shiers, to compose and sing a sung version of the poem ‘Y Border Bach’, another poem by William Williams Crwys, which I have translated and which Ennyn found on my website https://sharonlarkinjones.com/…/another-crwys-poem…/.  My translation is to appear on the Ennyn website, alongside a recording of the song. 

I’m hopeful that one of my poems shortlisted for Hedgehog Poetry’s  ‘Looking Out, Peering In’ competition, will be included in the anthology at some stage.

Readings given … and in prospect

February brought my first opportunity to read in 2021, thanks to Veronica Aaronson who invited my to share poems in two 10 minute slots, along with Frances Corkey-Thompson, at Poetry Teignmouth at the Mill, via Zoom, on 23 February. There was a lovely audience on-line, with wonderful sets from Frances and an excellent ‘open mic’. A big thank you to Veronica for making it all happen, expertly organizing and sensitively hosting such a welcome opportunity for poets to present their work to an audience during the lockdown. The first and last poems I read were the first and last in my Dualities – Two Old Sticks and Firewords – seemed to go down best at the event. And one of the additional benefits of Zoom is that comments in chat are quick to copy before shut-down, so that responses to individual poems can be captured … valuable feedback!

I was again grateful to Veronica Aaronson for including me in the zoom launch event for the anthology’ Despite Knowing’ (see above) which took place in October. I was glad to read one of my poems from the book, in excellent company alongside a large contingent of contributing poets, including poet-friends Stella Wulf, Marc Woodward, Oz Hardwick, Vivienne Tregenza, Rachael Clyne, Kevin Reid, Hannah Stone and Jenny Robb. 

Now I am looking forward to attending a live launch event for ‘Despite Knowing’ at the Pavilions in Teignmouth in May 2022, Covid permitting. Thanks again to Veronica Aaronson for this invitation.


Another opportunity to share a poem or two on Zoom came thanks to Josephine Lay, at a reading for International Women’s Day on 8 March, joining with 17 other women poets, sharing one of our own poems, and one by another poet. I was pleased to share one by Christina Thatcher, whose work I very much enjoy. 

Two opportunities came to read on The Poetry Place, West Wilts Radio, thanks to Dawn Gorman. The first of these was an ‘open mic’ opportunity in August, when I shared three short poems on the programme at which Penelope Shuttle and June Hall were the guest poets. The second, exciting, opportunity came in November when I was a guest poem on The Poetry Place with David Cooke, with another great band of poets at the ‘open mic’. Thanks again to Dawn Gorman for The – wonderful – Poetry Place on West Wilts Radio


Publishing

I opened the Good Dadhood on-line poetry project for submissions on 1 April, publishing poems at the rate of twice a week until Father’s Day in mid-June, I’m proud of what Good Dadhood has become over its three ‘editions’ (2017, 2020. 2021) and the response from poets has been uplifting … in terms of the quantity and quality of poems submitted, often accompanied by photographs of or with Dads. It has been so good to have an opportunity to celebrate fathers and fatherhood in this way. You can read the poems and see the photos here: https://wordpress.com/home/gooddadhood.com  Thanks to the following poets for their contributions in 2021: Angie Holden, Sarah J Bryson, Suzanne Iuppa and Val Ormrod, Mark Connors, Ben Banyard, Zoë Siobhan Howarth-Lowe, Helen Kay, David Callin, Rodney Wood, Neil Elder, Janet Dean, Hannah Mackay, Carmina Masoliver, Hilary Robinson, Maggie Mackay,Kate Jenkinson, Finola Scott,George Colkitto, Catherine Baker,Peter Raynard, Rachael Clyne, Tom Kelly, Susan Castillo, Greg Freeman, Louise Warren, Jenni Wyn Hyatt.

My biggest publication project of the year came in the last quarter of 2021, with ‘Inspired by Music’, a new anthology from Cheltenham Poetry Society and Gloucestershire Stanza, which I  published through Eithon Bridge Publications in November.  Produced in just 12 weeks from the submission deadline to collecting the books from the printer, the anthology features 57 poems by 17 poets, with 25 carefully selected images to accompany the words. It was good to gather together with a dozen of the contributing poets at Pittville Pump Room in Cheltenham in early December, to collect copies, catch-up, and have an outdoor Covid-safe celebratory coffee together. Thanks to all the poets: Kathryn Alderman, David Ashbee, Catherine Baker, Annie Ellis, David Gale, Gill Garrett, Robin Gilbert, Chris Hemingway, Sharon Larkin, Iris Anne Lewis, Michael Newman, Stuart Nunn, Gillian Ridley-Wells, Belinda Rimmer, Sheila Spence, Roger Turner, Judith van Dijkhuizen; an especial thanks to Roger Turner for co-selecting/co-editing and to Stroudprint for first-rate printing services. Thanks to Mr L who helped enormously with proof-reading. Thanks to Oz Hardwick, Mark Connors and Mark Blayney for providing endorsements for the book. Further information and ordering info are here: https://eithonbridge.com/anthologies/

We still haven’t officially launched ‘Inspired by Music’ … or, indeed. our previous anthology ‘Poetry from Gloucestershire’, the launch for which had to be cancelled in early 2020 because of the pandemic.  I hope we will have opportunities to read from both books during the coming year.  We are open to offers!

Workshops attended

Thanks for Mark Connors (again) and Gill Lambert for their great Wednesday Wordship workshops on Zoom which I joined in the last quarter of 2021. 

And thanks to Angela France for her excellent workshops I attended while they were on Zoom in 2021 with other members of the Women Aloud group: Penny Howarth, Judith van Dijkhuizen, Frankie March, Gill Garrett, Christine Griffin and Catherine Baker. 

Thanks to so many poets for their poetry friendship, especially local friends Belinda Rimmer, Catherine Baker and Gill Wyatt.

Looking ahead

Thanks to Sarah L Dixon for the invitation to be part of her Quiet Compere event in August 2022, 

and, again, thanks to Veronica Aaronson for the possibility of reading a poem at the live launch of ‘Despite Knowing’ in Teignmouth in May.  

As ever, I am open to other reading opportunities!

Inspired by Music

A new anthology from Cheltenham Poetry Society and Gloucestershire Stanza, was published November 2021 by Eithon Bridge Publications, edited by Sharon Larkin and Roger Turner, featuring 57 poems by 17 poets, with 25 carefully selected images to accompany the words.

Back in August, poets Michael Newman and Sharon had the idea for the new anthology, and Cheltenham Poetry Society’s Chairman Roger Turner welcomed the suggestion, agreeing to support the project and to co-edit the book with Sharon. They all recognised that it would be a splendid opportunity to bring poets together – virtually, at least – compensating, to some degree, for the disappointment of having to postpone the CPS Awayday writing retreat, for a third time, because of the pandemic. The call quickly went out to poets who had originally signed up for the retreat, as well as stalwarts of Poetry Cafe Refreshed, which had had to stop meeting in February 2020. Poets supporting the local ‘Stanza’ (affiliated to The Poetry Society in London) were also invited to contribute to the book. The opportunity to submit poems for the anthology had instant appeal, uniting poets around a shared venture while they were waiting for regular meetings to start up again.

Most poets are music-lovers, and the affinity between music and poetry is well recognised, reaching back to the oral tradition, with words memorised and recited down the generations,  developing into chants and songs. With such a heritage, and the contemporary blending of ‘spoken word’ and song, an anthology celebrating words and music seemed well overdue. The poems selected for inclusion span the genres, from opera, orchestral, sacred music, film music, folk, rock and pop. The poets share their experiences of concerts and gigs, listening to music on the move through headphones or in the car, or enjoying music at home – on radio, vinyl, CD or Spotify. Many of the poems relate to memories of people and places; others reveal emotions aroused by music, or moods and atmospheres created by specific songs or pieces. Further poems draw on memories from childhood, when learning to play, sing or dance. A surprising number of birds also feature in the poems.

The poets in the book are: Kathryn Alderman, David Ashbee, Catherine Baker, Annie Ellis, David Gale, Gill Garrett, Robin Gilbert, Chris Hemingway, Sharon Larkin, Iris Anne Lewis, Michael Newman, Stuart Nunn, Gillian Ridley-Wells, Belinda Rimmer, Sheila Spence, Roger Turner, Judith van Dijkhuizen

In December a group of the poets gathered, socially distanced, in front of Pittville Pump Room in Cheltenham, to mark the publication of their new anthology.

Left to right: Gilly Ridley-Wells, Judith van Dijkhuizen, Michael Newman, Iris Anne Lewis, Chris Hemingway, Sharon Larkin, Sheila Spence, Annie Ellis, Roger Turner, Kathryn Alderman.

Cover endorsements were kindly provided by Oz Hardwick, Poet and Professor of English at Leeds Trent University and Mark Connors, Poet and Managing Editor of Yaffle Press. Further endorsement was received from Mark Blayney, Poet and Royal Literary Fellow.

The following short presentation summarises their positive endorsement of the book:

Inspired by Music can be purchased from https://eithonbridge.com/anthologies along with previous CPS anthologies, including Cheltenham 300 (2016) and Poetry from Gloucestershire (2020).

Celebrating Fathers


Good Dadhood


I’m proud of what the Good Dadhood on-line poetry project has become over its three ‘editions’ (2017, 2020. 2021, culminating on Fathers’ Day in each of these years). The response from poets has been uplifting … in terms of the quantity and quality of poems submitted, often accompanied by photographs.

You can read the poems and see the photos here: https://wordpress.com/home/gooddadhood.com

The submission period for this year is now closed but it is likely to re-open in January 2022, so please check the link then if you are interested in how to submit poems for consideration for the website/ezine next year.

To Dads – with Love

I am also proud to have poems in the anthology To Dads – with Love, edited by Aurélien Thomas, illustrated/designed by JinQue RD and published by Ayo Gutierrez. I’m glad that some of my poet friends are also represented in the book: Angela France, Michael Newman, Catherine Baker, Christine Griffin and Frances March. Many other poets, worldwide, have contributed too. I was pleased to be invited by Aurélien Thomas to write the foreword for the anthology, in view of my work on Good Dadhood.

This international anthology has been a particular pleasure to be involved with because of the collaborative way it came together under Aurélien’s leadership, with lively consultation, suggestions and discussion between contributors – over the internet.

The resulting volume is a handsome one … available from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dads-Love-Aurelien-Thomas/dp/B096TN7NN7

Proceeds from the book go to a positive parenting charity that specifically supports fathers, and the anthology includes an impassioned essay, by Aurélien Thomas, pertaining to the status of fatherhood in contemporary society.

This book makes an ideal present for Father’s Day … or birthdays … or Christmas … or any time!

Happy Fathers’ Day to Dads everywhere!

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.