Collaboration and Networking – Keys to Happy Poeting

I’ve been active on the poetry scene in Cheltenham since about 2004 and shortly after began to go to Angela France’s Buzzwords (when it was upstairs at The Beehive) and Cheltenham Poetry Society (CPS) meetings at Parmoor House, Lypiatt Terrace. A highlight for me during that time was winning a place in a Gloucestershire Writers Network (GWN) competition to read at Cheltenham Literature Festival and, soon afterwards, I began an MA in Creative and Critical Writing (Poetry) under Nigel McLoughlin and Kate North at The University of Gloucestershire, graduating in 2010. Shortly after that, I became Chair of CPS and was also on the Committee of GWN for a few years, when Rona Laycock was in the chair … and I co-judged the GWN competition one year. In recent years I’ve also judged the Chipping Sodbury poetry competition and co-selected poems for South Magazine. These are the kinds of poetry activities I enjoy most, along with selecting and publishing poems for my Good Dadhood project which I ran on-line a few years ago, attracting wonderfully affirming and positive poems in praise of fatherhood from poets all over the UK. I also enjoy doing occasional reviews of poetry collections, but as my method of reviewing is very ‘in-depth’ I don’t undertake many of these a year!

I began organizing Poetry Café Refreshed in August 2015 – a popular monthly guest poet and open mic event at Smokey Joe’s, Bennington Street, Cheltenham. I’ve booked nearly 70 guest poets (and one or two musicians) from all over the UK since ‘Refreshed’ began, hosted on the night by Roger Turner. One of the things I enjoy offering at ‘Refreshed’ is a good photographic record of guests and open mic poets, thanks to my husband who is a keen photographer. Usually, I share a video slideshow to Facebook within a few hours of the event, and this seems very popular. We welcome everyone to ‘Refreshed’, from beginners to experienced poets, whether they favour page or performance poetry or spoken word. Everybody is welcome.

As for Cheltenham Poetry Society, I’ve been Chair for most of the past 10 years, with a couple of ‘respite’ breaks, while I’ve nevertheless continued in a ‘communications’ role. At present, Roger Turner has taken the chair back for a period while I try to focus on my own work, but I still attend all CPS meetings, and organize events with the corresponding promotion and publicity. CPS runs workshops for developing poets, a monthly series of writing group meetings for experienced poets, and a poetry reading group, as well as the popular Annual Awayday Writing Retreat at Dumbleton Hall in May … and occasional readings and recitals. We’re always keen to link up with other groups for joint events, as we’ve done previously with Winchcombe Poets and Evesham-based poets. We’re especially looking forward to a joint event with other Gloucestershire poets during Gloucester Poetry Festival in October 2020, thanks to Gloucestershire Poet Laureate, Ziggy Dicks. CPS takes its community engagement programme seriously too. In recent years we’ve run various readings and recitals in local churches, and one of the most rewarding activities for some of us is reading poems and running collaborative workshops in local care homes. This led to me giving talks to groups of community workers in Cheltenham and Gloucester last summer, about the kinds of activities CPS are able to offer. Demand seriously outstrips the number of volunteers to participate in these activities, alas.

As well as writing, reviewing and event management, I also edit and publish anthologies through my publishing label, Eithon Bridge Publications. The most recent book to appear from the press (January 2020) is an anthology on behalf of CPS – Poetry from Gloucestershire. The book features 33 poems by 12 members of Cheltenham Poetry Society, and over 30 photographs illustrating the poems. It was thrilling to have endorsements from Alison Brackenbury and Angela France for the back cover, and I am very much looking forward to the launch of the book at Suffolk Anthology Bookshop on 24 March, with readings from the contributing poets. We are also presenting an illustrated performance of poems and photos from the book at Wotton under Edge Arts Festival on 21 April.  I am hoping for many more opportunities to promote the anthology over the coming year or so. The book is on sale for £9.99 from Suffolk Anthology Bookshop in Cheltenham and Alison’s Bookshop in Tewkesbury, or is available direct from the contributing poets, or for £9.99 plus £1.80 p&p by email to eithonbridge@gmail.com  More information about the book, and about Cheltenham Poetry Society is available by emailing cheltenhampoetrysociety@gmail.com or watch out for an article in March’s edition of The Local Answer! 

Publishing this book came hard on the heels of another anthology – Invisible Zoos – which I co-edited with poet/editor/publisher Simon Williams and published through Eithon Bridge in November 2019. This book featured 36 poems by 12 poets who had been on the weeklong residential Invisible Zoos masterclass with me at Ty Newydd in North Wales in September 2018, tutored by two wonderful poets, David Morley and Pascale Petit. The poets attending the course and subsequently contributing to the book came from all over the UK … and also from Canada/USA and France/Switzerland. Previous to that, I co-edited and published the illustrated All a Cat Can Be anthology in support of New Start Cat Rescue in 2018, featuring poems from poets all over the UK. Before founding Eithon Bridge, I also did the bulk of the work to edit and publish the illustrated Cheltenham 300 anthology for CPS in 2016 … for Cheltenham’s tercentenary as a Spa Town. All four of these anthologies, and an earlier CPS one, Chance Encounters, were printed by Stroudprint, based unsurprisingly in Stroud, who provide an excellent and very helpful service.

As for my own poetry, I’ve had over 150 poems accepted/published in anthologies (from Cinnamon Press, Eyewear, Indigo Dreams, Smokestack, Fair Acre, Zoomorphic, Beautiful Dragons, Yaffle and others), in magazines (eg Magma, Obsessed by Pipework, Prole, Here Comes Everyone, Reach, Picaroon, and more), and on-line in many ezines such as Ink Sweat and Tears, Atrium, Rat’s Ass Review, Riggwelter, Amaryllis, Algebra of Owls, Snakeskin and many more. I’m also a fan of Visual Verse website, and enjoy writing to the time constraint stipulated. My pamphlet Interned at the Food Factory was published by Indigo Dreams in 2019. I’ve enjoyed ‘touring the book’ with readings locally as well as in Bristol with Silver Street Poets, Wells with The Fountain Poets, Welshpool with Verbatim and the highlight, The Poetry Café at Betterton St in London last September, with fellow Indigo Dreams poets Brett Evans, Holly Magill and Marie Lightman. Other places I’ve read in recent years include Colwyn Bay (with Prole magazine) and Llandudno Pier (with Prole and Picaroon). I’ve also very much enjoyed going to Welshpool Poetry Festival in 2018 and 2019, curated by the indefatigable Pat Edwards, which has fabulous visiting poets and workshops … as well as a bumper open mic on the last day.  A visit to the excellent Poetry Pharmacy in Bishops Castle, pioneered by the wonderful Emergency Poet, Deborah Alma, was also a highlight last year.

So, what began as a hobby fifteen years ago has mushroomed into a varied portfolio of activities and a widespread network of contacts … many now firm friends … throughout the UK. This networking was facilitated further by participating in Jo Bell’s ground-breaking 52 Group on Facebook a few years ago, and attending festivals in various other towns not too distant, eg Swindon and Evesham … but, most of all by the collaborative and supportive poets throughout Gloucestershire, and bodies such as Cheltenham Arts Council and Gloucestershire Writer’s Network, Rona Laycock’s wonderful Writer’s Room sessions on Corinium Radio, and Anna Saunders’ Cheltenham Poetry Festival which runs an incredibly rich programme of events each spring. I especially valued being one of the reader’s at the Indigo Dreams launch for For the Silent anthology in support of the The League Against Cruel Sports last year, and CPS gave an illustrated reading for their Cheltenham 300 anthology at Cheltenham Poetry Festival in 2016 – rerunning a similar event at Cheltenham Literature Festival’s Locally Sourced programme that October.

Now a fresh wave of ‘poetic energy’ is sweeping over the county thanks to Gloucestershire Poet Laureate, Ziggy Dicks; Cheltenham Library’s Poet In Residence, Josephine Lay; and other poets from Gloucestershire Poetry Society, with whom I’ve read a few times … and will do again, with the CPS anthology poets, during Gloucester Poetry Festival on 18 October 2020. I also read with Gloucester poets for International Women’s Day in March 2019, with Angela France and many other great women poets … and I’m looking forward to another IWD event in Gloucester this March, thanks to Josephine Lay.

It’s wonderful having poets like Alison Brackenbury and Angela France in the county. I’m indebted to Alison for supporting the anthology and launch for All a Cat Can Be, and for inviting me to be one of the readers for the launch of Candlestick Press’s Ten Poems About Horses, which Alison edited, and which was launched at Alison’s Bookshop in Tewkesbury last year. It’s also good to have poets locally like Jennie Farley, running New Bohemians in Charlton Kings. Readings I have coming up this year are at Piranha Poetry, Stroud, with Jonathan Muirhead from Swindon … thanks to Gary Death; and Writers at the Goods Shed in April, with Belinda Rimmer … thanks to Phil Kirby. This will be the second time I’ll have read with Jonathan Muirhead already this year. We enjoyed sharing a poetry event for Burns Night at The Rising Sun on Cleeve Hill on 25 January. It’s good to read with Belinda again too.  We shared a launch event for our Indigo Dreams pamphlets at Suffolk Anthology Bookshop last summer, and will be reading together again at Buzzwords in July, thanks ­– again – to Angela France. I’d also like to give a big shout out to Philip Rush, a fabulous poet, who also runs great workshops at Museum in the Park, and the wonderful Yew Tree Press which showcases the work of poets in Gloucestershire and beyond.  Philip’s Wool and Water pamphlets, timed to appear alongside the exhibition of that name at Museum in the Park, were super … and I was thrilled to be invited to contribute to the Wool one, sheep being close to my heart!

What’s next on my ‘Poetry agenda’? I ran a couple of workshops last year for a group of poets near Cirencester, under the ‘Stanza’ banner, having taken over the Gloucestershire Stanza Representative baton from Angela France earlier in the year. This year I want to develop more activities as the county’s Stanza Rep. The next such event will be a workshop at Parmoor House on 7 April, in conjunction with CPS, where I’ve invited Chaucer Cameron and Helen Dewbery to come and give us a workshop on the genre of poetry film. I would love this to spark a flourishing of poetry films from Cheltenham/Gloucester poets over the coming months and years!

I hope readers of the foregoing can detect my enthusiasm for poetry in the county … and beyond! There are so many opportunities for collaboration, reciprocation and mutual support throughout the poetry community in the county. If you’re not yet into poetry, why not join CPS at a workshop soon? Or perhaps the special Poetry Film workshop coming up on 7 April, when we will be gaining lots of valuable information on how to get started with this incredibly powerful genre … or why not come to Smokey Joe’s to hear wonderful poets like David Briggs (19 February) and Raine Geoghegan and musician partner Simon Callow (15 March) … and grab your spot at the open mic. New poets are always welcome!

You can contact me via Facebook http://facebook.com/sharon.larkin or Twitter SharLark, or Instagram Sharolarki, or you can email cheltenhampoetrysociety@gmail for details of the Society’s activities.

Edited 20 March to record the fact that many of the events mentioned as scheduled after 9 March have been cancelled or postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. A time, instead, for more writing … and learning new skills … including videoconferencing via Zoom, thanks to encouragement from Charlie Markwick.

2019: Another Wonderful Poetry Year

This has been another fantastic poetry year, with many people to thank for their generosity and encouragement, and for their warm-hearted contribution to the world of poetry, and to projects I’ve been involved in. I’m recording my appreciation here, with links to social networks so that these lovely people can, I hope, read my words of gratitude and appreciation for all they have done to make last year such a memorable year.

Interned at the Food Factory
Publication, reception, reviews, readings

My deep thanks are owed to Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling of Indigo Dreams for publishing Interned at the Food Factory which tiptoed out into the minefield of eating disorders in January 2019. Thank you, both, for taking the risk with me!  https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/sharon-larkin/4594486683

Thanks to Brett Evans and Kate Noakes who kindly read the manuscript ahead of publication and responded with endorsements for the book.

An especially big thank you is owed to Rosemary Muncie for reviewing Interned from the Food Factory in issue No. 60 of South Magazine and to Holly Magill and Claire Walker for making Interned at the Food Factory Atrium’s featured publication in April.  https://atriumpoetry.com/2019/04/07/featured-publication-interned-at-the-food-factory-by-sharon-larkin/

Thanks, too, to so many other kind people for their encouraging written or verbal feedback on the poems, including Dawn Bauling, Deborah Harvey, Belinda Rimmer, Catherine Baker, Dee Russell-Thomas, Anna Saunders and more. A selection of their feedback can be read here: https://sharonlarkinjones.com/2019/10/11/interned-at-the-food-factory-still-serving/

Out of the blue, one Sunday morning, I also received this: “A brave and necessary topic to tackle. Some great poems in there. Congratulations”  You know who you are. Thank you, I’m encouraged!  Be encouraged!

Thank you to everyone who has bought copies, and for asking for signed ones … so many sold that I had to reorder to ensure I had enough for events in the second half of the year!  Thanks, again, to Ronnie and Dawn for putting in the order just as they were about to go away on holiday!  Bless you, both.

Thanks to Belinda Rimmer … whose Touching Sharks in Monaco was also published by Indigo Dreams this year https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/belinda-rimmer/4594596027 … for joining up for a combined launch celebration of both books in June. A big thanks to Suffolk Anthology Bookshop’s, Helen Hewett https://theanthology.co.uk for hosting the celebration in Cheltenham … and thanks to the lovely audience that came to hear us read, and provided such warm and encouraging feedback.

Thank you to Rona Laycock for interviewing me about Interned at the Food Factory for Corinium Radio’s Writers’ Room programme in June, and giving me the opportunity to read poems from the book, as well as more recent work. The programme, broadcast on 12 August 2019, can be heard here: http://www.coriniumradio.co.uk/blog/2019/08/the-writers-room-with-sharon-larkin-3/

Thanks to The Poetry Cafe in London for hosting a reading with Indigo Dreams stablemates Brett Evans, Holly Magill and Marie Lightman, on an unforgettable evening in late September. Thanks to Ronnie and Dawn for their generous support towards the event. Thanks also to my son, David, for coming along on the night, and taking photos (and also for coming with me to The Poetry Library earlier in the day on my terribly egotistical quest to track down a copy of Interned at the Food Factory … which we did, at the end of a very long shelf of Philip Larkin’s poetry!)

Thank you to Deborah Harvey and Colin Brown of The Leaping Word for the kind invitation to me to read at Silver Street Poets in Bristol on 1 March … a preliminary event in the lead-up to Bristol’s Lyra Poetry Festival; great to slip surreptitiously into the brochure!

Thanks to Sue Johnson, Bob Woodroofe and Colin Pitts for the invitation to read with them at Evesham Library in the spring … an early event leading up to Evesham’s Festival of Words, for which thanks to Sue Ablett. It was good to read some ‘Asum’ poems, as well as a few from Food Factory. Thank you to friends and family who came to support me at that event: a special mention for Ann, Aaron and Susan.

Thanks to Ama Bolton for the kind invitation for me to read from Food Factory , and more recent work, at The Fountain Poets in Wells in July.  A lovely attentive audience, with some excellent poems at the open mic.  Thank you Ama, Jinny Fisher, Morag Kiziewicz … and everyone! https://wellsfountainpoets.wordpress.com/archive/

Thank you to  Pat Edwards for the invitation to read at Verbatim in Welshpool in July.  I so much enjoyed sharing poems from Food Factory, as well as older (son-inspired, Wales-inspired) poems and recent (sheep and butterfly-inspired) poems. The open mic poets were great … a wide variety of voices, including rap!  A lovely poetry group, so well run by Pat.

Thank you to Ziggy Dicks for organizing ‘Raised Voices’ for International Women’s Day at The Fountain in Gloucester in March, and for inviting me to read alongside some super poets. Thanks to Josephine Lay for organizing on the night, and to Chloë Jacquet for brilliant, spontaneous compering. I enjoyed hearing poems from Angela France, Josephine and Peter Lay, Jason Conway …  and many moving poems from poets at the open mic, especially those bravely performing for the first time.  A big, heartwarming evening of powerful words for International Women’s Day.

Thanks again to Ziggy – by then elected Gloucestershire’s Poet Laureate – for inviting me to read alongside Sarah Leavesley, David Ashbee, Roger Turner and Derek Dohren during Gloucester Poetry Festival in October.

Looking ahead, thanks to Phil Kirby for the invitation to read at Writers at The Goods Shed in Tetbury next spring … with Belinda Rimmer … and a big thank you to Angela France for the opportunity to read … alongside Belinda again … at the justly celebrated Buzzwords at The Exmouth Arms in Cheltenham in July 2020.

 

Anthologies Published
Establishing Eithon Bridge Publications

At the turn of the year, I am involved in publishing a sixth anthology, the third as Eithon Bridge Publications. Thanks to everyone who has helped me over the past year or so to consolidate Eithon Bridge as a publishing enterprise.  The books I’ve seen through to publication so far includes:

Beyond the Well-Mapped Provinces (published by Cheltenham Poetry Society, 2013)
Chance Encounters (published by CPS, 2014)
Cheltenham 300 (published by CPS, 2016)
All a Cat Can Be (co-edited with S MacIntyre; published by Eithon Bridge, 2018)
Invisible Zoos (co-edited with Simon Williams; published by Eithon Bridge, 2019)
Poetry from Gloucestershire (co-edited with Roger Turner; published by Eithon Bridge, 2020)

Invisible Zoos

Thank you to David Morley and Pascale Petit who were tutors on the residential masterclass entitled ‘Invisible Zoos’ that I attended at Ty Newydd near Cricieth in September 2018 … and for generously endorsing the resulting anthology which I edited with Simon Williams and published as Eithon Bridge in November 2019. The book contains 34 poems by 12 of the poets who attended the masterclass: Laboni Islam, Derek Littlewood, Karen McDermott, Caroline Messenger, Marion New, Lesley Sharpe, Theresa Sowerby, Susan Taylor, Joy Wassell Timms, Simon Williams, Annie Wright (and me).  Thank you to each of the contributing poets, especially co-editor Simon Williams, and designer Karen L McDermott who provided an array of images and options for the cover and a wealth of layout advice. Thanks to Chris Griffiths of StroudPrint  https://www.stroudprint.co.uk who arranged for the printing of the anthology.  Copies are for sale from me or via Eithon Bridge https://http://www.EithonBridgeBooks.com
Most of all, thank you to the all poets for their patience in the l-o-n-g editing process … and for buying copies for friends and family! And a final word of appreciation for the wonderful place that is Ty Newydd and the staff there who make it such a warmly welcoming and efficiently run location for first-rate writing retreats.  Diolch o’r galon.

Poetry from Gloucestershire

Thank you to Alison Brackenbury and Angela France for endorsing another anthology that Eithon Bridge will be publishing early in 2020 – Poetry from Gloucestershire, containing poems inspired by the county from poets who attended the Sixth Annual Awayday at Dumbleton Hall in May 2019.  The book contains 33 poems by the 12 poets attending the Awayday: Michael Newman, Belinda Rimmer, David Ashbee, Roger Turner, Sheila Spence, Gill Wyatt, Catherine Baker, Stuart Nunn, Robin Gilbert, Annie Ellis, Alice Ross (and me).  Thanks to contributing poets, some of whom also provided photographs to accompany the poems, and gratitude is also due to the staff at Dumbleton Hall who always make us so welcome, and keep us well sustained with food and drinks at our writing retreat!  Thanks will again be due to Chris at Stroudprint who will arrange for the printing of the Gloucestershire anthology.  Copies will again be available from me or from https://www.EithonBridgeBooks.com

Poetry Café Refreshed

Poetry Café Refreshed held its first event at Smokey Joe’s in Cheltenham in August 2015. As it enters its fifth year, we owe a big ‘Thank You’ to owner, Vickie Godding, for allowing us to hold the event at her wonderful café every month. I’m keen to thank the café staff, too, for all they do to help us make the event run smoothly. And, of course, an especially big ‘Thank You’ goes to all the guest poets in 2019:

Stephen Payne, Brett Evans, Holly Magill, Melanie Branton,
Maggie Harris, Philip Rush, A F Harrold, Raine Geoghegan,
Julia Webb, Oz Hardwick, Luke Palmer, Sarah L Dixon, Phil Kirby.

Thank you for your wonderful poems and performances, all the miles you travelled and all the expense you incurred in coming to read for us.

Thank you to Mr L for taking photographs, to Roger Turner for hosting and taking care of funds, and to everyone who has come to support the events and contribute poems at the open mic.
Stalwarts and regular supporters I’d particularly like to thank are Michael Newman, Gill Wyatt, Annie Ellis, Catherine Baker, Belinda Rimmer, Ian Parker Dodd, Chris Hemingway, Charlie Markwick, Howard Timms, Marilyn Timms, Jennie Farley, Dee Russell-Thomas, Christine Griffin, Cliff Yates, Ruth and Neil Richards, David Gale, Holly Magill, Claire Walker, Ian Glass, Kathy Gee. Thank you, too, to Alison Brackenbury Angela France, Ziggy Dicks and Josephine Lay for supporting Refreshed; and thanks for coming, Chloë Lees, Abdul-Ahud Patel, Sarah, Zoë, Tish and more!  Hope to see you again in 2020, which is shaping up to be another great year.  Here is just a taster:

Jinny Fisher – 15 January
David Briggs – 19 February
Raine Geoghegan – 18 March

Thank you to everyone who has made Poetry Café Refreshed such a success and such an enjoyable evening in the past … and  here’s to continued success in the future.

Festivals and workshops attended

I was thrilled to have a poem in the anthology edited by Ronnie Goodyer and published by Indigo Dreams in 2019. ‘For The Silent ‘ was published to aid the work of the League Against Cruel Sports.  It includes work by so many wonderful poets, including Ronnie himself, Simon Armitage, Pascale Petit, Philip Gross, Alison Brackenbury, Angela France, Carole Bromley, Matt Duggan, Phil Knight and many more.  It was good to share a stage at Cheltenham Playhouse with Ronnie, Alison, Carole, Matt and Angela for the launch event at Cheltenham Poetry Festival in May.  As well as my own poem, Fawn Drinking, I was privileged to read poems by Alwyn Marriage, Sheila Aldous, K V Skene, Pat Edwards and Belinda Rimmer.

It was also great meeting up with Holly Magill, Claire Walker and Ian Glass at the Black and Gold Café in Cheltenham in May, ahead of Holly’s reading at the Festival – a super reading!

Thanks to Pat Edwards for the superb Welshpool Poetry Festival in June.  I particularly valued a seminar led by Jonathan Edwards, which included helpful, detailed comments on poems that delegates sent in advance.  Liz Berry’s and Caroline Bird’s workshops and readings were excellent too.  I felt really privileged to be there.  Meeting up with so many friends from previous Welshpool poetry festivals is a real joy.  If I mention just a few of them, I’ll be in danger of omission, but here goes: Maggie Mackay, Angi Holden, Kathy Gee, Finola Scott, Helen Kay, Paul Waring, Gareth Writer-Davies, Deborah Alma, Bethany Rivers, Nadia Kingsley, John Mills,  Liz Mills, Ruth and Neil Richards, Ruthie Starling … and please forgive me because I know I’ve missed a lot of names, eek!
Tell me off in June 2020!

Thanks, again, to Pat Edwards for an excellent poetry workshop a few weeks after the Festival, which encouraged us to look with keen eyes at works at an exhibition at Mid-Wales Arts, Caersws, (where Mr L and I also had the good fortune to stay overnight, enjoying the wonderful hospitality of artist Cathy Knapp, surrounded by beautiful prints, paintings, ceramics and sculpture).

Thanks to Pat Edwards – again – for inviting me to her launch for Only Blood (Yaffle Press) and thus for the opportunity first hand to see the wonder that is Deborah Alma’s Poetry Pharmacy in Bishops Castle.  It was a wonderful occasion, absolutely full of familiar, happy faces to hear Pat read.  Great to meet Mark Connors and Gill Lambert of Yaffle Press, and to catch up with Paul Waring (whose launch I was sadly unable to attend in the summer) and so many other friendly poets from the borderland and beyond! A fabulous reading by Pat.  Lovely hearing Paul Waring, Jen Hawkins and Gill Lambert read too.

Jonathan Edwards also led an excellent workshop in Cheltenham later in the year, with lots more inspiration, ideas, suggestions and recommendations.  Thank you, again, Jonathan. And thanks Anna Saunders/Cheltenham Poetry Festival for organizing the event, and to Josephine Lay and the Sober Parrot – an excellent venue.  How wonderful to have the opportunity to attend TWO workshops with Jonathan this year!

Thank you to Philip Rush for an inspiring Haiku workshop at The Museum in the Park in Stroud in March, and to Lania Knight for introducing Adam Vines from Alabama, who led an unforgettable ekphrastic workshop at the Museum in March, drawing inspiration from ‘Room in New York’ work by Edward Hopper.

I’m still feeling the benefit from all these workshops, months later, and I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Angela France for her ongoing inspiration, feedback on poems and submissions advice, and for mutual encouragement from so many supportive local poets, notably Belinda Rimmer, Christine Griffin, Catherine Baker, Frankie March, Penny Haworth, Gill Garrett and Judith van Dijkhuizen.  Thanks also to Claire Thelwell for her ‘poetry friendship’ and some memorable evenings talking over poems in cafes and pubs!  And, as always, thank you to the members of Cheltenham Poetry Society’s august Writers’ Group: Michael Newman, David Ashbee, Roger Turner, Stuart Nunn, Robin Gilbert, Sheila Spence, Gill Wyatt, Alice Ross and, again, Catherine Baker. Thanks to everyone who supported me as Chair of CPS until I handed over to Roger Turner at the end of November.  (About time I took a break … and gave everyone else one too, although I remain on the committee and will probably keep as busy!)  Thanks to Roger and Michael as fellow committee members, to Roger, Dave, Stuart and Alice for running workshops in 2019, and to everyone who attended these, as well as meetings of the Poetry Writing and Poetry Reading Groups. Thanks also to Sheila and Gill for their valued friendship (and help with refreshments!) and thanks to Phil Collins and Cheltenham Civic Trust for providing the wonderful venue of Parmoor House for CPS meetings.

 A special thanks to everyone who came on Cheltenham Poetry Society’s Sixth Annual Awayday at Dumbleton Hall in May 2019, and who made the day such a success: Roger, Michael, David, Stuart, Robin, Sheila, Gill, Belinda, Cathy, Alice and Annie Ellis. Finally, thank you to Terry Hall and all the staff at Dumbleton Hall who made the day so smooth and successful for us … as always.  We’re looking forward to our Seventh Awayday in May 2020!

Other publication successes

An especially big thank to Leo Boix and Nathalie Teitler, editors for Magma 76, for taking my poem La Trinchera for the forthcoming Resistencia issue of Magma. This is my first poem in Magma, so I am delighted.

As well as the For the Silent anthology (IDP), I have been pleased to place poems in other anthologies during the year.  Thanks to Andy Jackson and George Szirtes for including some of my clerihews in the wonderful Call of the Clerihew anthology, published early in 2019.
Thanks to the multi-talented poet Philip Rush for the excellent Wool and Water poetry project (which accompanied the exhibition of that name at Stroud’s wonderful Museum in the Park), and the launch of two pamphlets, in September.  I was very pleased to receive the invitation to take part, and to submit poems for the Wool pamphlet.  The launch was a wonderful occasion, on a sunny Sunday afternoon where we heard excellent poems from Rowan Middleton, Lesley Ingram, Mark Huband,  Caroline Shaw and Jacqui Stearn with a guest reading from Rick Hool. I also read three of the five wool-themed poems I had accepted for the pamphlet.  Thanks to everyone who made the event so enjoyable.  I was sad not to be able to make it to the launch of the Water pamphlet at an event shortly afterwards.  The Water pamphlet, with poems from Jo Bousfield, Kim Baker, Eley Furrell, James Holliday, JLM Morton, Maxine Relton and Maria Stadnicka, is a companion delight.

Thanks to Rebecca Bilkau for taking a poem for the Well, Dam! anthology from Beautiful Dragons Press and to Rachael Hooson for sending me my copies of the book!

Thanks to Brett Evans for taking poems for Prole;
Kate Garrett for taking poems for Bonnie’s Crew and
George Simmers for taking a poem for Snakeskin.
One or two of my poems have appeared at Visual Verse … thank you!

I’m delighted to have five poems up at the Places of Poetry website and map.  It was a chance to put some delightful but less well known places in England and Wales ‘on the map’.  Thanks to The Poetry Society, National Poetry Day, Paul Farley, Andrew McRae, The Universities of Exeter and Lancaster, and everyone involved in running and funding this amazing project. I could spend hours map-hopping, enjoying poems all over England and Wales.  https://www.placesofpoetry.org.uk

Competitions

Thanks – again to Ronnie and Dawn – for commending my manuscript, Sol y Sombra, in the Indigo Dreams’ Geoff Stevens Collection Competition in March 2019.  Congratulations to winners Jenny Mitchell and Carl Griffin and all the commended and highly commended poets, and especially Rufus Mufasa, Pat Edwards, Rebecca Gethin & Marilyn Timms.  http://indigodreams.co.uk/geoff-stevens/4594095381

Other lovely poetry things that happened in 2019

Thank you to Alison Brackenbury for the kind invitation to be one of the readers in June at the launch at Alison’s Bookshop in Tewkesbury of ‘Ten Poems about Horses’ selected and edited by Alison, and published by Candlestick Press.  It was a lovely warm-hearted event, with a reading and words about the book from Alison, and supporting readings from Tony Curtis (who also performed music, playing the guitar at the event), Neil Richards, Iris Anne Lewis & Christine Whittemore.  Thank you to Candlestick Press for the wonderful event, which included a fabulous bag of goodies for readers, including copies of Candlestick Press’s Ten Poems about Bees, Sheep, Dogs, Cats, Birds, Chickens … as well as Horses, of course … and some ‘horsey treats’ including Polo mints, and an apple! Thank you to the excellent Alison’s Bookshop in Tewkesbury to which I have … obviously …  returned for ‘visits’!

Thank you – again – to Alison Brackenbury for inviting me to read a poem at her launch of Gallop at New Bohemians in Charlton Kings, Cheltenham in the autumn. It was a lovely celebratory occasion for Alison’s collected.

Thank you – diolch – to Ieuan Morris who contacted me, out of the blue, in late 2019 to ask if my ‘erudite translation’ of the William Williams Crwys poem ‘Melin Trefin’ could appear, acknowledged, in his forthcoming book on Pembrokeshire from Y Lolfa Press. (I’m thrilled. I always wanted to have something in a book published by my favourite Ceredigion-based publisher!) Looking forward very much to acquiring a copy in 2020. Thanks … yet again … to Chris Hemingway for contacting me about the poem initially. This story continues to run and run!

Thank you – again – to Angela France for passing on the baton to me as the Gloucestershire Stanza  (Glostanza) representative.
Thanks to lovely poets from the Cirencester area for inviting me to lead, as a Glos Stanza activity, a couple of workshops at Somerford Keynes during the year: a lovely warm and welcoming group.  Thank you, especially, Iris Anne Lewis, for the invitation.
Thanks to the Poetry Society’s Stanza Coordinator, Paul McGrane, for a wonderful Stanza event at The Poetry Café in London in March, and for the opportunity to meet up with so many other Stanza Reps there, to hear a mini report on events in their area … and a poem from each representative present.  Hoping to meet them again … and probably other Stanza reps …  in 2020.
While talking about Stanzas, congratulations to Belinda Rimmer on being a joint runner up in this year’s Poetry Society Stanza competition.  (Glad that my poem about the Bayeux tapestry got a mention (described by the judge as being one of ‘two crackers’ on the subject!)

I enjoyed being invited to read a preview copy of ‘Everything Rhymes With Orange’ by Derek Dohren, ahead of providing an endorsement for this entertaining and accomplished first collection. *Do* buy a copy of the book! (It’s on Amazon).

Thanks to Michael Newman, Gill Wyatt and Alice Ross for joining me as a small team holding readings and collaborative workshops for residents at Cheltenham Care Homes and thank you to Jenny Spencer especially for inviting us, in the spring and again towards Christmas.  We always enjoy our visits, and are pleased the residents seem to enjoy it too!

I also gave two talks, to the wonderful people who work in residential care homes in Gloucester and Cheltenham. On consecutive days in September, I explained, first in Cheltenham and then in Gloucester, what a small group from Cheltenham Poetry Society have being doing in recent years in Cheltenham Care Homes. Basically, 3 or 4 of us read poems on a given, often seasonal, topic (eg Christmas, Easter, Spring, Autumn). These are a mix of poems by well known poets, and our own.  We use music to break the ice initially, playing a song patients are likely to know so they can sing along if they want to.  Then we use a flip chart and ask patients to suggest words and phrases on the theme.  We capture those, and encourage people to work with us to write, for example, a collaborative poem (perhaps 3 four-line rhyming stanzas with a good rhythm).  We encourage reminiscence which might be helpful to dementia patients.  The number of care workers attending the two information-sharing sessions averaged around 20-25.  It was good to discuss with them how poetry might help patients, and to consider suggestions from the care workers how our little CPS team might improve our sessions.  More volunteers are needed, so if you live or work in Cheltenham or Gloucester, and would like more information about serving your society in this way, please do get in touch.  It is both rewarding and enjoyable!

Thanks to Paul Brookes for giving me a poet’s interview for his website Wombwell Interviews. https://thewombwellrainbow.com/2019/01/09/wombwell-rainbow-interviews-sharon-larkin/

Thanks to Oliver Tipper and the Wilson Art Gallery and Museum’s open Thursday events during 2019, a highlight being The Enduring Eye exhibition showing photos from The Shackleton expedition to the Antarctic.  Local poets were invited to a private showing of the exhibition and then an event in February 2019 to read the poems we had written, inspired by the photographs.  A super initiative.  Thanks again, Oliver!

Thanks to Gill Wyatt, Belinda Rimmer , Claire Walker and Holly Magill for unforgettable chats about poetry … and life.  Thanks especially to Holly to for a super day out in Worcester in the autumn.

Thank you to Trustees, Committee and Members of Cheltenham Art’s Council for their support during my Chairmanship (2016-2019) and especially at the Arts Awards event in March and at the AGM in June.  Thanks to Paul Scott for hosting the awards night at The Playhouse and also speaking at the AGM about the exciting plans for redeveloping The Theatre as an Arts Centre.  An exciting prospect!  Thanks also to everyone who supplied articles and photographs for Perspectives magazine for which I was editor.  Thank you for the huge bouquet as I relinquished both posts at the AGM after 3 years as Chair, and a couple of years as Perspectives editor.

 

THANK YOU EVERYONE for the part you have played in my Poetry Year.
Glad to have played a part in yours too!

Finally … You don’t really want to hear my poetry plans for 2020 do you?
Oh, all right then! Here are 15 things I want to do:

1.  Go to Wales more often!
2. Find new ‘quiet places’ to write every day!
3. Join an online ’52 type’ group again for 2020.
4. Submit something every week!
5. Plan to go to Teignmouth Poetry Festival in March.
6. Buy tickets for Cheltenham Poetry Festival (done!)
7. Plan to go to Welshpool Poetry Festival in June.
8. Go to Evesham Festival of Words.
9. Go to Chipping Camden Festival of Literature.
10. Look at going to events at Bristol and Swindon Poetry Festivals.
11, Go to Cheltenham Literature Festival.
12. Explore regular poetry events in nearby towns/cities!
13. Publish ‘Poetry From Gloucestershire’ and organize a launch event.
14. Continue running Poetry Café Refreshed.
15. Enjoy being a member of CPS rather than its chair!

Interned at the Food Factory – still serving!

Now that my book’s been ‘out there’ for nine months, I thought it was a good time to review how it’s been getting on ‘in the world’.  So I updated my Facebook page for ‘Interned at the Food Factory’ (Indigo Dreams Publishing, January 2019) https://www.facebook.com/InternedatTheFoodFactory/
and thought it was time for another update here on my blog.

First, to recap, the poems in this book deal with eating disorders of various kinds, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, early years abuse, bullying and neglect, body dysmorphia and appetite confusion; food production and especially factory-processed food; gourmets and gourmands; predatoriness and predation in various guises  …  and the search for healing/possibility of recovery from food-related conditions. But there’s quite a lot of humour and fun in the book too!

Thank you to Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling of Indigo Dreams Publishing for being such positive and supportive editors and publishers of a book touching on what are ‘tender’ areas for so many people.

Reception – update

There are several mini-reviews in my previous blog post (see below), and quotes from longer reviews. Now I can add a few more: including a recent review from Rosemary Muncie in South Magazine (October 2019):

“There is no evasion in these well wrought poems.”

“Only a true poet would stand apart from themselves to observe this process and report back with such intriguing detail.”

“A cool and sensitive final poem”.

Jude Cowan Montague has described the pamphlet as ‘powerful’.

Supplementing their previous comments, included in my previous blogpost, Brett Evans Deborah Harvey and Dee Russel-Thomas have added:

“A cracking collection of poems” – Brett Evans, poetry editor, Prole magazine.

“A really thoughtful and thought-provoking collection” – Deborah Harvey.

‘Anyone who has any kind of love/hate relationship with food will relate to this gem of a book. It unravels a myriad of feelings and yet manages to find humour in the depths of despair. Privilege to have read it!’ –Dee Russell-Thomas

Thanks, again, to Rosemary, Jude, Deborah, Brett and Dee for this encouraging feedback.

Readings – update

I’ve had the pleasure of giving readings from the book in a number of places including:

• The Poetry Cafe in London with IDP stablemates Brett Evans, Holly Magilll and Marie Lightman, on 25 September.

Silver St in Bristol thanks to Deborah Harvey;

• Fountain Poets in Wells thanks to Ama Bolton;

Verbatim in Welshpool thanks to Pat Edwards;

* a joint launch event with Belinda Rimmer at Suffolk Anthology in Cheltenham thanks to Helen Hewett

• Gloucester Poetry Festival on Saturday 26 October with Sarah Leavesley, David Ashbee, Roger Turner and Derek Dohren thanks to Ziggy Dicks, and

* a reading leading up to Evesham Festival of Words, thanks to Sue Johnson and Sue Ablett …

… and on Corinium Radio, Cirencester thanks to Rona Laycock. Here’s a link to the programme which was recorded for The Writer’s Room, hosted by Rona: https://www.mixcloud.com/coriniumradio/the-writers-room-12-aug-2019/

Forthcoming readings (with other poets) include:

• Writers at The Goods Shed in Tetbury next spring with Belinda Rimmer thanks to Phil Kirby and

• Buzzwords, again with Belinda Rimmer, next summer, thanks to Angela France.

I’d be thrilled to give more readings, especially at places within 90 minutes of Cheltenham, so please get in touch if you organise events within that radius. I’m very happy to do joint readings with another poet or poets. Please just ask!

I avoid including – in public readings – any of the more triggering poems, concentrating instead on the hopeful, humorous and healing aspects of the book. I’ll include more recent work in readings too … from a wide variety of other topics, which could include ecological-environmental themes, the natural world/countryside, Wales, relationships, dystopia, eschatology and more!

Thank you to everyone who has bought and read Interned at the Food Factory so far. Further copies are available from me (signed if you like, just comment below) for £6 plus p&p … or from my author’s page on the Indigo Dreams website: https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/sharon-larkin/4594486683

Photographs below are from the Indigo Dreams Showcase at The Poetry Cafe in London on 25 September with Brett Evans, Holly Magill and Marie Lightman:

img_7622
Reading at The Poetry Cafe, London

img_7549
Sharon Larkin, Marie Lightman, Holly Magill and Brett Evans at The Poetry Cafe, London

Finally, while in London, I found ‘Interned at the Food Factory’ at The Poetry Library on the South Bank … at the end of the copious shelf of Philip Larkin books (no relation!) …

 

2017 Poetry Thanks and Praise

A Bumper Year

2017 was an exceptional year for poetry – in all contexts and at all levels.  Here is a record of my poetry-related activities and achievements during the year. But, much more importantly, here is a record of people I am grateful to, and things I am thankful for in the world of poetry.

The Good Dadhood Project

I began this online project on 1 January 2017, looking to publish a body of poetry celebrating Father’s and Fatherhood. It was to be my way of saying “Thank you” to – and praising – fathers who often don’t receive the appreciation and recognition they deserve.

The project exceeded all my expectations in the number of poems and poets published in the 6 month’s to 17 June (Father’s Day) – the culmination of the project. Thanks to all the contributors to this project which aimed to be as inclusive as possible. It resulted in a fine body of poems in honour of Fatherhood … by a fine body of poets.  https://gooddadhood.com

41 poets contributed. Thank you to each one …
Kathryn Alderman 
David Ashbee 
Carole Bromley 
Kevin Brooke
Sarah J Bryson 
Helen Burke 
Martyn Crucefix 
Stephen Daniels 
Janet Dean Knight 
Annie Ellis 
Jennie Farley 
Angela France 
Chris Hardy 
Angi Holden 
Tamara Jennette
Sue Johnson 
Sharon Larkin 
Sarah Leavesley 
Mandy Macdonald 
Maggie Mackay 
Laura McKee 
Frances March 
Rufus Mufasa
Terry O’Connor
Matthew Paul
Jeff Phelps 
Nicky Phillips 
Mat Riches 
Belinda Rimmer 
Dee Russell-Thomas 
Finola Scott 
Rebecca Sillence
Jayne Stanton
Matthew Stewart 
Carl Tomlinson 
Roger Turner 
Chris Willis
Bob Woodroofe 
Paul Wooldridge
Aaron Wright 
Dorothy Yamamoto

Poems published: 76
Photos: 14
Visitors to Good Dadhood: 1776 (as at mid-June 2017)
Number of views: 3963 (as at mid-June 2017)
Number of countries viewing: 44 (as at mid-June 2017)
Top 10 countries viewing: UK, US, Canada, Spain, Ireland, Australia, India, China, Germany, France (as at mid-June 2017)

The Good Dadhood project received encouraging feedback along the way, for example:

• “I’ve loved Good Dadhood … both being involved and reading the many and varied contributions”.
• ” … lovely project …. So refreshing to read celebrations of fathers and snapshots of their positive influences . An antidote to darker works where the focus is on blame and hurt”.
• “Thank you … for giving voice to love.”
• “… thank you for Good Dadhood … It’s been excellent!”

Thank you to Rebecca Sillence in Cheltenham Library for arranging for a display about the project, to appear in the Children’s Library during the Father’s Day period, and for featuring three of the poems from the project in large-format posters in the Children’s Library, prominently displayed.

Thank you to everyone who provided positive feedback on the project, which proved beyond doubt that it was a project worth pursuing.

Poetry Café – Refreshed, Cheltenham

Poetry Café – Refreshed is now in its third year, offering the opportunity of hearing an excellent poet read, and an open mic. ‘Refreshed’ has gone from strength to strength since it was launched in the summer of 2015.  Thanks are due to Vickie Godding and all the staff at Smokey Joe’s, Bennington St – a unique vintage and retro coffee bar, with an excellent ambience for performing poetry. We appreciate being able to hold Refreshed at Smokey Joe’s and are grateful to the staff for looking after us so well on the third Wednesday (usually) of every month. As the internet-face. ‘booking agent’ and general organiser of Refreshed, I owe a big debt of gratitude to Roger Turner for hosting on the night, controlling the finances, and providing sage guidance and advice about which guest poets to book. Also, a big thank you to everyone who has taken the mic during 2017, either as a guest poet (see list below) or at the open mic.  I’m also grateful to Tony for the scores of photographs and video clips taken at these events that help us to provide a pictorial record for participants.

We’ve been thrilled to welcome the following guest poets during 2017, bringing us quality and variety:

David Calcutt – January 
Stephen Daniels – February 
Jennie Farley – March 
Sam Loveless – April 
Michael W Thomas – May 
Stuart Nunn – June 
David J Costello – July 
Jeff and Dan Phelps – August … with Dan’s wonderful music
Angela Topping – September 
Matthew Stewart – October 
Kate Noakes – November 
Ann Drysdale – December 

Each guest poet brought us a valuable, entertaining and unique contribution, for which the Refreshed crowd are grateful and appreciative.

A personal ‘special mention’ for Ann Drysdale who travelled from Wales to be our guest poet on a dark and cold December night, and who, after returning home, speedily posted me a copy of one of her books because the last one was sold at the event. I am indebted to Ann for her friendship, former mentorship and on-going encouragement in poetry. Thank you too to Angela France for making Ann’s – and Otis’s – overnight stay in Cheltenham possible.

Next year we are looking forward to JPDL (January), Ash Dickinson (February), Gareth Writer Davies (March) and Gillian Allnutt (April) – with further bookings in the process of being confirmed.

Selecting for South Magazine

I was thrilled to be asked to be a co-selector for the poems in issue 56 of South Magazine, along with fellow CPS member, David Ashbee. I can’t express how much I enjoyed that task – and how impressed David and I were at the standard of submissions. Thank you to Patrick Osada and the South Management Team for having me as a selector, and to David for proposing me. It also led to being asked to read a handful of poems at the launch event for Issue 56, with Dave, in Newbury in October. It was wonderful to meet poets I had only been aware of from the Internet/Facebook until then.  I was especially pleased to meet Nicky Phillips at last. Thank you to South Magazine that being a selector also resulted in a poem of mine – End of Season – being included on the South Magazine website.

Competition successes

I was pleased  that both of my entries for the Indigo Dreams pamphlet competition made the longlist – thanks to Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bunting for their (blind) adjudication. I was subsequently delighted that one of these pamphlet entries – ‘Interned at the Food Factory’ – was highly commended in the competition .. (Stop Press January 2018 – I can now share the amazing news that INTERRED AT THE FOOD FACTORY is to be published by Indigo Dreams – a big  thank you to Ronnie and Dawn).
I was thrilled to be a winner in the Amaryllis Christmas/New Year Poetry Competition. Thank you to Stephen Daniels for the lovely surprise and super prize: publication of the poem – Good Things Jar – on the Amaryllis website on New Year’s Day … and three poetry collections of my choice (I chose the latest collections by Pascale Petit, Michael Simmons Roberts, and Martyn Crucefix. They arrived in record time, thanks Stephen!

Thank you to Jan Fortune of Cinnamon Press for running the Debut Collection Competition and for publishing 10 of my poems, as one of the “final five” in the 2016 competition, announced early in 2017. The poems appeared in the Cinnamon Press anthology published in September 2017, alongside 10 poems each by Mick Evans, Liz Hayward and Vivienne Tregenza and individual poems by shortlisted poets. I was thrilled to be invited to read some of our poems from the anthology at a very well attended event with Liz Hayward on Poetry Day, 28 September, in Woburn Sands, Buckinghamshire.  Thank you to Liz for arranging the event, and the warm and generous reception from an appreciative and poetry-friendly audience, evidenced by the discussions over the book-signing. Thank you to Mick Jones and Tony for taking photographs. Thank you to Liz for the superb organisation and outstanding networking skills that made the event so well-attended and successful. Proceeds from anthology sales were donated to a local hospice. A reciprocal event, with Liz coming to read in Cheltenham Library on 10 November, with Cinnamon poet Lesley Ingram also joining us from Ledbury to read from her collection Scumbled,  was not as well attended as the Woburn event, but thank you to those who came – including David Clarke, Jennie Farley, Roger Turner, Michael Harriss and others including Liz’s friends.  And thank you again to Rebecca Sillence and Cheltenham Library for arranging and hosting the event. I was pleased to be able to donate proceeds from anthology sales on this occasion to Cheltenham Library.

A pamphlet entry of mine was also long-listed in the Cinnamon Press Pamphlet Competition, May 2017

Thank you to Brett Evans for running the Prole Pamphlet Competition – and thank you to judge Fiona Pitt-Kiethley for awarding my entry runner-up status, together with some very encouraging feedback. Another near miss!

I was also pleased to be commended in HappenStance Competition 16 (Dream) with Angi Holden & Hilary Robinson. Congratulations to winner Peter Kenny. Thank you to adjudicator J O Morgan and – of course – to Helena Nelson.


Poetry Published in 2017

In print

My poems Reaching for the Remote and Decisive Action were published in Prole 22, in May 2017, and my poem Girl on a Motorcycle, 1967 appeared  in Prole 23 in August 2017.  Thanks to editor Brett Evans

Poems View from the benthos, Under observation, Damsel dancing, Shaggy ink caps, Aquarium, What passes between, Bowerbird, Departure 1st April, Expanding universe and Fireworks were published in the Cinnamon Press anthology published in September 2017. With thanks to Jan Fortune.

My poem Therianthrope appeared in the Clear Poetry anthology 2016, published in January 2017, edited by Ben Banyard.  Thank you Ben for the great work you did with Clear Poetry.

Thank you to Paul Vaughan for publishing my Poem Grave in Algebra of Owls anthology in January 2017

On-line

Thank you to Stephen Daniels for publishing my Poem Lone Wolf  oAmaryllis (February 2017)

I was pleased to have been an early contributor to the newly-minted Atrium magazine with my poem On Seeing Bredon.  Thank you to Claire Walker and Holly Magill for including it.

I was happy to learn that my poem Akin to Déjà Vu in response to a photograph at the Mary Evans Picture Library in London, was to appear in the Words and Pictures feature on the Library’s website in April.  Many thanks to Gill Stoker for including it.

I was thrilled to have a poem. Birds do Mourning Well – and a photograph – in Riggwelter Issue 3. With thanks to editor, Amy Kinsman.

Thanks to Kate Garrett-Nield for publishing my poem 1024 Homage to Incubus in Issue 8 of Picaroon in May.

In February my ‘scary sonnet’ Pandafeche was published on the Fantastic Beasts webpage of Ledbury Poetry Festival, ahead of the 2017 Festival. Thank you to Ledbury Poetry Festival.

Thanks to South Magazine for publishing my poem End of Season on the South Magazine website, as a co-selector for issue 56

I became a fan of Visual Verse in September, and ended the year with four poems – Bandera, Divided by a Common Language, Under Surveillance and Higher Being – published on the site, for September, October, November and December respectively. https://visualverse.org/writers/sharon-larkin/

Forthcoming

Thank you, R K Wallace and Clochoderick Press for accepting one of my poems, A Dim View of Austerity, for the inaugural edition of Laldy, due for publication early in 2018 –  I appreciated the very fast response to my submission.

Thank you again to Claire Walker and Holly Magill at Atrium – for taking my poem Thé avec Imogen et toi for publication early in 2018.

And thank you, again, Stephen Daniels for publishing ‘Good News Jar’ on Amaryllis on 1 January 2018!

I’m more than grateful for the substantial body of published work I have accumulated in recent years, on-line and in print, and can cheerfully be thankful for the small handful of rejections received in 2017. It has, in respect of pamphlets and collections, been a year of ‘near misses’ but I have learnt more about publishers’, selectors’ and editors’ preferences in the process … and have high hopes of 2018!

 

Cheltenham Poetry Society

Kickstart Workshops

In 2016, I was grateful for a year’s respite as Chair of CPS – thankful that Roger Turner took back the role for the year.  With renewed energy, I became Chair again in January 2017 and set about launching a monthly series of Kickstart workshops to encourage people to write regularly and prolifically – following Jo Bell’s book ’52, Write a Poem a Week, Start Now, Keep Going’ published by Nine Arches Press.  The workshops were well attended, especially in the first half of the year …  to the extent that we needed to book a bigger room. https://sharonlarkinjones.com/2017/01/05/a-poetry-kick  I also started a Facebook group for ‘Kickstarters’ to post poems – for feedback by other members of the workshops, in between monthly meetings. By mid-year, competing priorities and illness, had had an impact on attendance, but I am particularly grateful to Gill Wyatt, Annie Ellis and Alice Ross, for sticking with the project until the cold, dark evenings of December.  And thank you too  to Michael Harriss and Claire Thelwell who joined the workshops later in the year; CPS is glad to have them as new members. Thanks also to Marilyn Timms, Howard Timms, Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe, Samantha Pearse, Kathryn Alderman, Frankie March, Penny Haworth, Gill Garrett and Judith van Dijkhuizen who attended the workshops during the year. Thank you to everyone who took a turn to provide refreshments, and … a special thank you to Gill Wyatt for the beautiful tulips I received at the last workshop – a breath of spring in darkest December. Lovely!

Writing Group and Reading Group

Our long-standing Writing Group for experienced poets continued to be the backbone of the Society, and we also continued with our ‘Poets Alive’ series within the Reading Group, holding individual evenings to focus on the work of T S Eliot, W H Auden, Gillian Clarke, D H Lawrence, Seamus Heaney and  W B Yeats. In the intervening months, we considered poems by ‘the great and the good’ on specific themes.

The Annual Awayday and Annual Lecture

Augmenting these three meetings a month were various performance opportunities (see below) and – the highlight of our programme for the past four years – the Annual Awayday writing retreat at Dumbleton Hall on the Glos/Worcs border in May. We are grateful to Dumbleton Hall staff, especially conference organiser, Terry Hall, for all they do to make these retreats a success, and thanks were especially due in 2017 to CPS stalwarts David Ashbee and Stuart Nunn for devising and running the writing exercises (on wood, trees and contemporary landscapes) which provided an inspiring set of prompts for our writing Awayday. https://sharonlarkinjones.com/2017/06/28/cheltenham-poetry-societys-annual-awayday-2017/
The excellent news for 2018 is that we will be holding our fifth Awayday in May at – where else? – the wonderful Dumbleton Hall.

A special thanks to David  Clarke who gave an excellent illustrated talk on Landscape in Post-war German Poetry for the CPS Annual Lecture in March – an enjoyable and informative evening. Thank you also to David, for providing an article on the same subject for Cheltenham Arts Council’s Perspectives magazine.

CPS Performances and Collaborations

Two highlights of CPS’s performance calendar were in May and October 2017 and featured poets who had contributed to the Cheltenham 300 anthology CPS published in November 2016, to commemorate Cheltenham’s tercentenary as a spa town.  I am grateful to Stroud Print for the excellent work they did producing this anthology for us – illustrated with a wealth of photographs (mostly taken by Roger Turner and me), which were projected during the readings in May and October 2017. The first of these was at St Andrews Church in Cheltenham during Cheltenham Poetry Festival and we are grateful to Anna Saunders for including the event on the festival’s programme, and arranging publicity and ticketing. Thank you to Roger Turner, Michael Newman, Robin Gilbert, Sheila Spence, Belinda Rimmer, Annie Ellis, Howard Timms, Marilyn Timms, Alice Ross and Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe for reading with me at this event. https://sharonlarkinjones.com/2017/06/28/cheltenham-300-poetry-reading-1
The event was followed by an excellent talk about Dylan Thomas – and again thanks to Anna Saunders for a great Cheltenham Poetry Festival programme in 2017. I found the Indigo Dreams showcase at the Playhouse, including Anna, Mab Jones and Bethany Pope particularly memorable.

The second Cheltenham 300 illustrated reading of 2017 was during the Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival in October, and I was grateful to Becca Di Francesco, Literature Festival Programme Co-ordinator for making the arrangements for our reading at this prestigious festival, including audio visual technical support, hospitality and generous remuneration.  We are also grateful to George at Waterstones for taking a supply of the Cheltenham 300 anthology for sale at the festival. Thank you to Roger Turner, Michael Newman, David Ashbee, Stuart Nunn, Robin Gilbert, Sheila Spence, Belinda Rimmer, Annie Ellis, Howard Timms, Marilyn Timms, Alice Ross for reading with me at this event and making it such a success. Thank you to Cheltenham Literature Festival also for an outstanding poetry programme this year.  I attended an excellent event featuring Helen Mort on poetry in translation, a celebration of Thom Gunn, the Picador Showcase featuring Don Paterson, Rachael Boast, Ian Duhig, Annie Freud, Jacob Polley and Hollie McNish. and an event featuring outstanding readings by Pascale Petit from her collection Mama Amazonica and from Michael Simmons Roberts from his collection Mancunia.  

Thank you to Peter Keeble of South Magazine for a favourable review of the Cheltenham 300 book in issue 56 of South Magazine, and to Patrick Osada for taking the book for review. Singled out for a mention in the review are poems by Belinda Rimmer and Roger Turner who respectively wrote the reviewer’s favourite poem and favourite line from the book. Sheila Spence and I also received a mention in the context of the poem/photo combinations in the book.

I was also grateful to Gloucester Poetry Society‘s Ziggy Slug and Jason Conway for inviting CPS to read at the inaugural Gloucester Poetry Festival in October.  This included Roger Turner, Michael Newman, David Ashbee and me, reading at Feline Frolics, in the Black Cat Bar at the Dick Whittington in Gloucester.  I was also pleased that Ziggy and Jason offered CPS members performance opportunities at ‘Villanelles’ nights at Waterstones in Cheltenham – and thankful to Rose Chanter of Waterstones for arranging this great venue. I read there in May, August and October – and thank Sarah Snell-Pym, Jason and Kurt Schroeder for photographs taken during these events. Other CPS members who read at Villanelles included Michael Newman, and Belinda Rimmer who was deservedly invited to do a guest slot. Looking ahead, I am grateful to Ziggy and Jason for offering CPS the opportunity to read in Gloucester Library during GPF’s second Festival in October 2018. All in all, CPS is delighted to maintain a cooperative and collaborative relationship with GPS/GPF and I wish them every success in all their activities.

I was also asked by Rebecca Sillence of Cheltenham Library if CPS members would like to read at their monthly lunchtime Poetry Café on a couple of occasions during the year. In May this included Michael Newman, Gill Wyatt, Belinda Rimmer, Jennie Farley, Howard and Marilyn Timms, Frankie March, Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe and me. Thank you to Rebecca and Cheltenham Library for these opportunities. We were also invited by Rebecca to read in October, in collaboration with students studying for degrees in Creative Writing at the  University of Gloucestershire.  We are grateful to Angela France for arranging their participation. CPS participants were Belinda Rimmer, Michael Newman, Roger Turner and me.

I was also pleased that CPS had the opportunity to read at Evesham Festival of Words event in May, along with with Sue Johnson, Bob Woodroofe and CPS members Belinda Rimmer and Annie Ellis and we are grateful to FOW leading lights, Sue Ablett and Sue Johnson for organising this opportunity for us.

CPS Performances also included two readings in February and August at the Whittington House Nursing Home in Cheltenham. I am grateful to Jennie Spencer for inviting us to participate, and to poets Michael Newman, Gill Wyatt, and Alice Ross for reading with me at these events.  The second one also included a fun activity to encourage residents to talk about their ‘favourite things’, and collaboratively to write a poem containing as many of these as possible!

Altogether the year was a successful one for CPS, and I’m pleased to say that I have been reelected Chair for 2018. Two innovations I am keen to implement for the next twelve months are a greater focus on reading contemporary poetry, and fewer writing workshops (5 instead of 12 over the coming year) since there is ample workshop provision in the town. There will be another Awayday – in My 2018.  Thank you to Alice Ross  for the box of chocolates and book – lovely presents to receive at the end of the year.

Finally, thank you to fellow CPS committee members, Roger Turner and Michael Newman, for their continued support, and especially to Roger Turner who will be taking over as Treasurer next year from Gerald O’Shaughnessy who retires after several decades of excellent service to CPS.  This was acknowledged in March at the Cheltenham Arts Council award ceremony, when Gerald received a citation for his long-standing service to poetry.  CPS is also grateful to the Executive Committee of Cheltenham Arts Council, and Cheltenham Borough Council, for its support over the years, for example the grant awarded to Cheltenham Poetry Society for the purchase of microphone and amplication equipment to enable the Society to perform in a wider variety of venues than formerly.

Poetry in Cymru/Wales

Anyone who knows me will know about my passion for Wales and Welsh language, literature and history.  Thanks, therefore, to the following people who gave me a good reason, or excuse, to cross the border in 2017.

I was very pleased to attend the Cinnamon Press residential week in the Conwy Valley in January 2017.  Thanks to Jan Fortune and Adam Craig and other members of the course. 

Thanks to Brett Evans and Phil Robertson, editors of Prole Books, and Kate Garrett Nield editor of Picaroon, for arranging a poetry reading on Llandudno Pier in August 2017.  It was great meeting other poets and making lasting friends there.  A special thank you to Brett, Phil, Kate, Paul Waring, Pat Edwards, Angie HoldenHolly Magill and many others for their continuing (Facebook) friendship and poetry encouragement.

I also had the delight of translating the poem The Mill at Trefin by Crwys in May, thanks to Jennie Way, and Chris Hemingway who became aware of the poem while visiting Trefin in Sir Benfro/Pembrokeshire – and looked in vain for a translation. I was very pleased to respond and thank Chris and Jennie for this opportunity to learn about Crwys and his work.  This led, later in the year, after I had put the translation on this blog, to an unexpected invitation from the village of Trefin to contribute to a booklet being prepared for the 175th anniversary of the chapel there in May 2018 – when Crwys (a minister as well as a poet) will be celebrated.  I am thrilled that my translation will feature in the booklet.  I have also been invited to attend the anniversary weekend and thank the chapel at Trefin for this opportunity to be involved.  This all came about because of the wonders of the Internet and Google search – as a result of which my translation came to the notice of the good people of Trefin! Miraculously, it also let to an approach from a grandson of Crwys himself, currently living in Australia, who was researching his ancestor and looking for information on (other) poems by Crwys. This led to my acquisition – from Abe Books and elsewhere – of pretty much a full set of Crwys’s published works – and an as yet unfulfilled  intention to translate more of his work. Despite the downsides of the Internet, there are wonderful advantages to the global interconnectivity it facilitates!  Thank you, Internet!

I was delighted to be asked to read at a Welsh-flavoured evening of poetry and music at New Bohemians, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham in February – and thank Jennie Farley and Su Billington for this opportunity.

In March, a long weekend in Cardiff included a guided tour round the Millennium Stadium – poetry of a different kind (and as thrilling and metaphor-inspiring as many an anthology out there!)  Diolch o’r galon, Bois!

In June, I was pleased to stay at Penrhyncoch in Ceredigion, principally to visit the Dyfi Osprey Project, but also taking advantage of the fact that  Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym‘s birthplace is in the Penrhyncoch area. I found a memorial stone inscribed to him. In previous years, I’ve been thrilled to visit Ystrad Fflur/Strata Florida, redolent with poets, princes and heroes of the past.

I was delighted  to visit to the First World War poet, Hedd Wynn‘s, home, Yr Ysgwrn, Trawsfynydd, in August (on the way back from the Prole/Picaroon gig in Llandudno).  Thank you to Hedd Wyn’s nephew, farmer Gerallt Williams, for patiently chatting to me in Welsh.  It was an unforgettable visit which was timed almost perfectly with the commemorations of Welsh losses at Passchendaele.

I was pleased to revisit Dylan Thomas’s haunts in Laugharne in August, including the Boat House, Writing Shed, the Castle, Milk Wood and Sir John’s Hill.

I need to thank the hosts at accommodation, hotels and B&Bs in Rowen, Penrhyncoch, Llanrwst, Llandudno, Laugharne, Dinas Mawddwy, Llanyre and Cardiff that gave us some memorable and enjoyable weekends in Wales during 2017!

While on the subject of ‘Wales’, I was delighted to have more than 20 people in two classes (beginners and improvers) I tutored in Ledbury from September – November.  Thanks to Lyn Goswell for arranging the venue for these and for doing all the communication with students and organising of finances. I might do more of this in 2018, poetry commitments permitting.

Cheltenham Arts Council

As a  recently-appointed Chair of Cheltenham Arts Council, I am especially grateful for the support of  President, Edward Gillespie, his predecessor Graham Lockwood and each member of the Executive Committee.  I am also, pro tem I hope,  the Editor of CAC’s New Perspectives on-line magazine – I co-edited the June – Sept edition with the previous editor Hollie  Smith-Charles (thank you!) and edited the October – January edition solo.  Thank you to Chantal Freeman for preparing it for the CAC website.  Listings for CAC associates’ events are included in each issue of the magazine for which I am grateful to Alice Hodsdon.

I am delighted with the insight being New Perspectives Editor gives me into the rich variety of arts activities in Cheltenham.  I was particularly grateful to Chapel Arts for the interview/article for New Perspectives – my first after becoming editor of the new on-line version of the magazine. Thank you to David Elder and Kathryn Alderman who have already given me input for the next issue covering February – May (due to be published by the end of January).

In March 2017, I was delighted to read the citations for awards on-stage at the annual prize giving ceremony at The Playhouse in Cheltenham, attended by the previous President of CAC, Graham Lockwood, and also the Mayor of Cheltenham. This annual event acknowledges outstanding achievements and excellence in music, performing arts, visual arts, literature, language and history in Cheltenham – and this year also recognised the Suffolk Anthology Bookshop, Cheltenham, for its contribution and support to voluntary arts in Cheltenham. A special thanks, therefore, to Helene Hewett whose splendid bookshop hosts so many literary/poetry (and other) events throughout the year. I was also pleased to have been invited to attend the Cheltenham Camera Club prizewinners’ exhibition at Parabola Arts in April.

As CAC Chair, I was also invited to speak at the Cheltenham Christian Arts Festival launch event as Cheltenham in January, attended by the Mayor, and ‘in my own right/write’  I read some of my poems at the Poems and Pints CAF event open mic at Cheltenham’s Frog and Fiddle in February.

Thank you to John Oldham of Radio Winchcombe for the invitation to be interviewed by him on air in April, talking about Cheltenham Arts Council and Poetry Society – the feature subsequently rebroadcast on BBC local radio in the South West i.e. BBC Radio Gloucestershire, Bristol, Wiltshire and Somerset.  I really appreciated this opportunity, so thank you again, John.

I get invited to a variety of things as a result of my involvement wit Cheltenham Arts Council, and was delighted to receive a complimentary ticket for the Fresh Art Fair at Cheltenham Racecourse in May.  A wonderfully inspiring event, offering much temptation to purchase!  I’m looking forward to 2018’s Fair, but my plastic cards might not be!

Finally …

I was grateful to pastors Luke Goodway and Dave Wellington for giving me permission to share my poem Something for Christmas in the Christmas Eve Carol Service at Cheltenham Elim – and I thank Manel for the suggestion.  It was a honour; to God be the Glory.

A huge thank you to Gill Wyatt, Ruth Martin and Fran Bazeley for your much-valued friendship, prayer and mutual support. You are special people.

TYJ

 

October Highlights

South Magazine Launch in Newbury

A busy month performance-wise. On Tuesday 10 October, fellow poet, Dave Ashbee, and I read at a launch event held by South Magazine in Newbury.  Dave and I were asked along, as we were co-selectors for Issue 56 of the magazine.  Dave’s set included the always-enjoyable found poem – The Gloster Birder, and my set included my seasonal poem – Shaggy Inkcaps.  The evening’s programme continued with poems read by a number of contributors to South, including many of the poems which Dave and I had selected for this issue.  A most enjoyable evening featuring impressive poetry and hospitable company – with thanks to Patrick Osada, Peter Keeble and other members of the South Magazine management team. South’s report on the evening can be found here: http://www.southpoetry.org/readings

Cheltenham Literature Festival

Next day, Wednesday 11 October, Cheltenham Poetry Society read at Cheltenham Literature Festival. The programme comprised poems and projected photographs from our anthology Cheltenham 300 … published to mark the tercentenary of Cheltenham as a spa town.

img_1675
Cheltenham 300 anthology

Poets reading at the event featured (left to bright in the photograph below):
Roger Turner, Stuart Nunn, Robin Gilbert, Alice Ross, Sharon Larkin, Sheila Spence, David Ashbee,  Belinda Rimmer, Michael Newman, Annie Ellis. Howard and Marilyn Timms (not in the photograph) also read at the event.

CPS members read at the prestigious Cheltenham Literature Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Villanelles at Waterstones, Cheltenham

On Monday, 16 October our friends in Gloucester Poetry Society ran their monthly event, Villanelles, in Waterstones, Cheltenham. The evening included performances by guest poet, Clive Oseman from Swindon, Jason Conway, Rose Chanter, Sarah Snell-Pym, Lania Knight, Kurt Schroeder (thanks for the photographs), George and other poets from Cheltenham and Gloucester. Thanks to Rose Chanter and Waterstones, and Jason Conway and GPS, for these enjoyable monthly events.

Reading with Gloucester Poetry Society’s Villanelles at Cheltenham Water stones

Poetry Cafe Refreshed, at Smokey Joes, Cheltenham

On Wednesday 16 October, several Cheltenham and Gloucester poets read at the monthly Poetry Café Refreshed event at Smokey Joe’s in Cheltenham, where we were thrilled to have Matthew Stewart as our guest poet.

img_1693
Guest poet Matthew Stewart

img_1694
David Clarke and Jennie Farley

img_1695
Gill Wyatt, Jennie Farley, Annie Ellis, Belinda Rimmer, Sharon Larkin

img_1696

img_1697-1
Roger Turner, David, Chris Hemingway, Charlie Markwick

The Wurlitzer Juke Box – always a star of the show

Reading at Poetry Café Refreshed,        Smokey Joe’s, October 2017

 

Gloucester Poetry Festival

Later in the month, on Thursday 26 November, Roger Turner, Michael Newman, Dave Ashbee and I read a selection of our poems in the Black Cat Bar, The Dick Whittington pub, in Gloucester, as part of the first-ever Gloucester Poetry Festival, organized by Ziggy Slug and Jason Conway.

Awaiting the poets

Sharon reads in the Black Cat Bar

Roger Turner at the mic

img_1678-1
Michael Newman’s spot

img_1681-1
Triumphant Triumvirate

Poetry Cafe in Cheltenham Library

And, finally, next day, Friday 27 October, Roger Turner, Michael Newman, Belinda Rimmer and I read in Cheltenham Library with a number of poets from the University of Gloucestershire, with memorable poems especially from George and Ziggy.  There was also an open mic. This was the latest event in the library’s monthly  lunchtime Pop-up Poetry Café programme. Thanks to poet and UoG lecturer, Angela France, and Rebecca Sillence of Cheltenham Library for making the event happen.

 

October – Poetry Month

For poets, every month is a poetry month, but in the UK we have National Poetry Day and a series of festivals around Britain which make every October a feast of poetry.

This year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival includes: Gillian Clarke and Alison Brackenbury, Luke Kennard and Melissa Lee-Houghton, Matthew Hollis and Blake Morrison, Simon Armitage, Sarah How and Rebecca Perry … and local writers and poets in a Gloucestershire Writers’ Network event.  I’m delighted to have tickets for all of these (not to mention a ticket for Ian McEwan, taking about his new novel, Nutshell.  He read the opening few pages at his event last night and it struck me as not only witty, humorous, astute … but, yes, poetic).  Cheltenham Literature Festival

Nearby we have Swindon Poetry Festival 2016 and Bristol Poetry Festival 2016 going on, and later in the month, a weekend festival here in Cheltenham celebrating Dylan Thomas, run by Anna Saunders/Cheltenham Poetry Festival I Walk on Fire and featuring Rhian Edwards and John Goodby, artist Anthea Millier, and local poets and writers:

img_9064

Meanwhile, regular events continue in the town:  Angela France’s Buzzwords featuring David Clarke and Cliff Yates on 2 October, Cheltenham Poetry Society’s ‘Views on Ted Hughes’ night on 4 October, Poetry Café – Refreshed at Smokey Joe’s on Wednesday 19 October, Cheltenham Poetry Society’s regular poetry reading group and writing group meetings on 18 and 25 October.  In other Gloucestershire towns, monthly writing/poetry groups run by Rona Laycock in Cirencester and Miki Byrne in Tewkesbury will be meeting at New Brewery Arts and The Roses Theatre respectively.

Yes, October is a month of feasting on poetry!