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!

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

 

Happy 2nd Birthday, Poetry Café Refreshed

July marks the second birthday of Poetry Café – Refreshed, held on the third Wednesday of every month at Smokey Joe’s in Cheltenham.  We are looking forward to celebrating our continuing run of fine poetry from gifted poets – welcoming David J Costello as our guest poet on Wednesday 19 July.

For the record, here is our roll of honour – our guest poets – during our first 2 years, from August 2015 until July 2017:

John Alwyine-Mosely – August 2015
Tom Sastry – September 2015
Nina Lewis – October 2015
Avril Staple – November 2015
Brenda Read-Brown- December 2015

David Clarke – January 2016
Sue Johnson, Bob Woodroofe, Joy Thomas – February 2016
Paul Harris – March 2016
Matt Duggan – April 2016
Rachael Clyne – May 2016
Lesley Ingram – June 2016

Ben Banyard – July 2016
Patrick Osada – August 2016
Deborah Harvey – September 2016
Kathy Gee – October 2016
Claire Walker – November 2016
Anna Saunders – December 2016

David Calcutt – January 2017
Stephen Daniels – February  2017
Jennie Farley – March 2017
Sam Loveless – April 2017
Michael W Thomas – May 2017
Stuart Nunn – June 2017
David J Costello – July 2017

And we are looking forward to welcoming more talented poets in future months!

Jeff and Dan Phelps – August 2017
Angela Topping – September 2017
(October and November – being confirmed)
Ann Drysdale – December  2017

Here are some random photographs of guest poets’ posters and performances!

 

We look forward to another great year of Poetry Café Refreshed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy birthday, Refreshed!

On 10 August 2016, Poetry Café – Refreshed celebrated its first birthday. We were delighted to welcome Patrick Osada, who is on the management board of South magazine, as the guest poet on this special occasion.

Poetry Café – Refreshed, a monthly event, hosted by Roger Turner and organized by Sharon Larkin (yours truly), is held in the unique surroundings of Smokey Joes in Bennington St, Cheltenham – a café with an informal and relaxed atmosphere, an American diner-inspired décor given a British twist … and offering an irresistible menu.

Smokey Joes – a relaxed, informal atmosphere

We’ve been enjoying some superb poetry. Over the past year, we’ve had a succession of exciting guest poets come to read and perform for us:

  • John Alwyine-Mosely – August 2015
  • Tom Sastry – September 2015
  • Nina Lewis – October 2015
  • Avril Staple – November 2015
  • Brenda Reid-Brown – December 2015
  • David Clarke – January 2016
  • Sue Johnson, Bob Woodroofe and Joy Thomas – February 2016
  • Paul Harris – March 2016
  • Matt Duggan – April 2016
  • Rachael Clyne – May 2016
  • Lesley Ingram – June 2016
  • Ben Banyard – July 2016
  • Patrick Osada – August 2016

… and the quality of the poetry from the open mic poets has been high too!


At the ‘anniversary edition’ of Poetry Cafe – Refreshed  on 10 August 2016, at the open mic we had:  David Ashbee, David Clarke, Miki Byrne, Annie Ellis, Jennie Farley, Robin Gilbert, Sharon Larkin, Michael Newman, Stuart Nunn, Belinda Rimmer, Roger Turner, Gill Wyatt.        

We’ve had many more poets join us at the open mic over the past year, including Kathy Gee, Sarah Bryson, Polly Stretton, Judi Marsh, Holly McGill, Anna Saunders, Howard Timms, Marilyn Timms, Kev Alway, Courtney Hulbert, Briony Smith, Chris Hemingway, Aled Thomas, Gill Garrett, Elizabeth Chanter, Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe, Samantha Pearse … and on one memorable occasion Dom Joly.

We look forward to the next year of Refreshed.  Guest poets for the next three months are:

  • 21 September 2016 – Deborah Harvey
  • 19 October 2016 – Kathy Gee
  • 16 November – Claire Walker

Please make a note of 16 November and 14 December, the last two Poetry Café – Refreshed events for 2016 … and we already have a number of exciting guest poets lined up for 2017!

We’re most grateful to Vickie Godding and the staff at Smokey Joes for being so welcoming and accommodating towards us. We love your waffles!

And thanks to TL for taking photos at Poetry Café – Refreshed.

Some photographs from our first year:

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John Alwyine-Mosely, guest poet August 2-15

Tom Sastry, guest poet, October 2015

Nina Lewis, guest poet, October 2015

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Christmas Special

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Guest Poet, Brenda-Read Brown, December 2015

David Clarke – guest poet, January 2016

Sue Johnson, guest poet with Bob Woodroofe and Joy Thomas, February 2016 

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Bob Woodroofe, guest poet with Sue Johnson and Joy Thomas, February 2016

Joy Thomas – guest poet with Sue Johnson and Bob Woodroofe, February 2016

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Paul Canon Harris – guest poet for March 2016

Matt Duggan, guest poet, April 2016

Dom Joly (uninvited guest, April 2016)

Rachael Clyne, guest poet, May 2016

Lesley Ingram, guest poet, June 2016

Ben Banyard, guest poet, July 2016

Patrick B Osada, guest poet, August 2016

Deborah Harvey, will be guest poet in September 2016

Roger Turner, host of Poetry Café – Refreshed

Sharon Larkin, organizer, at the open mic