Thanks to Yaffle

During the past year, with Covid concern easing and more poetry events starting up again, I still had to remain cautious of face-to-face meetings, for reasons I won’t go into here. Zoom therefore continued to offer lifelines in the form of poetry launches, readings and workshops … and opportunities to spend time polishing my Welsh, with classes offered by Learn Welsh Gwent. I was, and remain grateful to everyone who has provided an outlet for creativity and learning via Zoom over the past two and a half years.

Not least among these ‘generous providers’ of time and expertise have been Mark Connors and Gill Lambert whose Wednesday Wordship sessions I enjoyed, on a long run of Wednesdays in 2021/22. The formula Gill and Mark have developed for these, based on single-word prompts, is particularly fruitful. Encouraging everyone attending to ‘pitch in’ with examples of ‘the word’ in phrases and sayings, fires up the creative energy in all the ‘classmates’ … and, importantly, breaks the ice and keeps it bubbling throughout the session. There is a break for about 45 minutes where we all ‘go away’ to write drafts of poems inspired by the words, phrases and ideas generated in the first part of the workshop, then we rejoin Zoom to share our drafts. A very productive method of writing, from which I personally ended up with some 25 poems from the sessions I attended.

One of these was the poem ‘You Knit’ which has subsequently proved popular in various on-line poetry readings. It was inspired by the word ‘cast’ and its drafting coincided with the final stages of the Yaffle Competition 2022. Why I didn’t enter the competition I don’t really know … except that I enter very few! I was therefore surprised, and delighted, to be contacted by Mark and Gill to play a part in the final round of judging the competition, basically considering the shortlist and putting the anonymised poems in order of merit, as I saw it. Obviously, Mark and Gill had already gone through this process themselves, but it’s always handy to have a ‘third opinion’!

I enjoyed the process immensely, marvelling at the range of subjects and voices presented by the shortlisted poems. There were many memorable poems … but three, very different, poems leapt out at me and I had no hesitation of awarding them marks which placed them in first, second and third position on ‘my list’. I believe these decisions lined up with those Mark and Gill had already arrived at which gave us all assurance that we had ‘got it right’.

The Yaffle website carries the results of the competition, and Mark and Gill generously gave space for the notes I made when I was considering the shortlisted poems, You can read them here:

https://www.yafflepress.co.uk/competition-1

Hearty congratulations to Sue Burge, Ian Harker and Holly Bars whose poems were placed in the First, Second and Third positions respectively.

Assisting in the judging of the competition was reward enough for me! But Mark and Gill kindly invited me to offer a poem for the editors’ section in the Whirlagust III anthology of Yaffle competition poems which has just been published – containing the prizewinning, highly commended and commended poems on the shortlist … as well as the longlisted poems, and poems by Mark and Gill. It promises to be a rich and varied volume! I look forward to reacquainting myself with the shortlisted works … and to discovering more poems and poets in the longlist.

The icing on the cake was attending the launch of Whirlagust III, and the celebration of the winners and shortlisted poems, at the event on Zoom on 22 September. It was a really lovely event, made all the more so by the hosts, Gill and Mark, who make all their events and workshops so enjoyable with their welcoming, relaxed and affable style. Thank you, both, for a thoroughly positive experience all round.

Watch out for the arrival of Whirlagust III on the Yaffle website. It will be available for purchase here shortly: https://www.yafflepress.co.uk/anthologies

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