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

 

A Poetry Kick

The first session of Kickstart Poetry in Cheltenham on 3 January exceeded my expectations in terms of numbers attending – given that it was so early in the New Year, and a cold night at that. We were very grateful to Parmoor House for finding us a bigger room than the one we normally use, which would have been a little too cosy!

Early feedback suggests that fellow Kickstarters agree that the workshop and supplementary information posted in our own Facebook group is helpful.  Here are some of their comments:


“Thanks for this wonderfully detailed information … and for hosting us yesterday. I really enjoyed it and enjoyed hearing some wonderful poetry.” 
“Really enjoyed the workshop last night. A good kickstart to the new year. Very helpful info thank you … No excuses but to get started now”.
“Have already put down ideas for three of the poems. Couldn’t stop poetry thinking last night.”
“I enjoyed it, thank you … lots of interesting ideas.”
“It was fab and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
“Thanks for a great session … Your group has a good mix of people, poetry and styles. I really feel that I can gain from the structure of it.”

“I very much enjoyed the session … and look forward to more in the coming months and working on the prompts in the book.”
“Fab time this evening at CPS Kickstart poetry workshop based on Jo Bell’s 52 … Good to have a structure to work with.”

“Very well done … pace, tone and level just right … generating plenty of enthusiasm.”

So, the new-style workshops under the auspices of Cheltenham Poetry Society seem to be a worthwhile addition to the Society’s calendar.

Credit must go to Jo Bell, whose book 52 – Write a poem a week.  Start now. Keep going published by Nine Arches Press is the inspiration for the workshops.  We’ve identified 12 primary prompts to write on in the monthly workshops in 2017, but also drawn up a timetable to keep people on track if they want to take up the challenge of writing 52 poems during the year.

Writing a first draft for one of the 12 primary prompts occupies the first part of each workshop, followed by a read-round, and a ten minute break for a drink and a chat – perhaps about publication opportunities and successes.  In the second half we’ll be   bringing pre-written poems (on the 3 or 4 other prompts for the month) to the workshop for feedback.  There will also be a quick look forward to the prompts for the following month.  Comprehensive handouts accompany the sessions but all participants have been encouraged to buy a copy of the 52 book … and The Very Best of 52 book from Nine Arches Press.

Thanks to Roger Turner, Annie Ellis, Samantha Pearse, Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe, Gill Wyatt, Penny Howarth, Frankie March, Belinda Rimmer, Kathryn Alderman, Judith van Dijkhuizen, Alice Ross, Marilyn Timms and Howard Timms for supporting the workshop.  See you on 7 February!  Meanwhile, feel free to post draft poems in the closed Facebook Group for kindly comments from other members of the workshop series.  This does not amount to publication; your finalised poems will be free to be submitted to magazines, ezines, anthologies and competitions.  And build your (next) collection with Kickstart Poetry!

Another Exciting Poetry Year Beckons

Lots of new ventures lie ahead in Larkin (no relation) Poetryland next year:

1.  The Good Dadhood Poetry Project.

Between 1 January and 17 June (Father’s Day), the website Good Dadhood will be live, receiving submissions of poems in honour of fathers.  Why?  Why not!  More information about the project is being posted on the site shortly. By mid-June, we should have a good store of Good Dad poems. I’ll then take stock and decide what to do next in terms of bringing the Best Good Dad Poems together in some form.

2. The Kickstart Poetry Project

This new venture starts on 3 January, under the auspices of a Cheltenham Poetry Society. This is a monthly series of workshops, following Jo Bell’s book 52 – The Book and picking up on the success of Jo’s 2014 on-line poetry writing project.  I’m really looking forward to working with a group of local poets who are all eagerly anticipating getting started!

3. Poets Alive

Another year of the poetry reading group meeting begins shortly, under the benevolent banner of Cheltenham Poetry Society! The first meeting on Tuesday 17 January will be considering the poetry of W H Auden. Poets are invited to bring poems by Auden – and also examples of their own work which make an interesting comparison or contrast with the ones they have chosen to bring by Auden. Other poets on the menu for 2017 include T S Eliot, Billy Collins, D H Lawrence and Gillian Clarke.  It’s going to be lovely being back in the CPS chair after a much-needed break last year.

4. Poetry Café – Refreshed

Held at Cheltenham’s unique venue, Smokey Joe’s, this popular monthly “guest poet and open mic night” restarts on 18 January when we (host Roger Turner and I) look forward to welcoming David Calcutt as guest poet.  We have an equally exciting line-up of poets for the rest of the year, and also look forward to the open mic participants who go from strength to strength month on month.

5.  Cheltenham Arts Council’s first meeting of 2017

This takes place on 11 January when we will be looking forward to the awards we will be making in the coming year, and especially the award ceremony in March. I’m slightly daunted at the prospect of heading up these ventures, in what is my first year in the CAC Chair, but there is a wonderfully  supportive committee to keep me on track.

6.  Regular and Special Poetry Events

Back to Cheltenham Poetry Society – I’ll be collaborating with other talented members to run our monthly series of workshops, reading and writing groups .. and also our special events, including the annual lecture in March, when David Clarke will be talking on the subject of German Poetry, and the annual Awayday retreat scheduled for May.  I’m also looking forward to continuing promoting the ‘Cheltenham 300’ anthology of poems and photographs – which came out of workshops at the 2016 CPS Awayday.  We’re especially looking forward to giving a reading – with photo projection – at Cheltenham Poetry Festival in May, thanks to CPF Director, Anna Saunders.

7. Finally – and personally – I’m full of anticipation at the prospect of attending a Cinnamon Press poetry residential in North Wales later in January. There will, no doubt, be a separate blog post about it after the event!

So, there’s an exciting start in prospect to a poetry-full year.

Keep poeting!

Review of 2016 – mentor, monitor, mantra

It has been a year of mountain climbing and a little valley exploring.  High peaks have included:

Taking over the chair of Cheltenham Arts Council from Karen Jones – a hard act to follow. But there is a  lovely, dedicated committee of people from across the wide spectrum of the arts in Cheltenham to keep me on track. I’m learning so much – thanks to these mentors – and ‘network like an over-excited millennial’ has quickly become my mantra in this new ‘job’.

Working with Roger Turner to establish Poetry Café – Refreshed at Smokey Joe’s, Cheltenham has been an ongoing pleasure. I have loved welcoming all the guest poets and open mic performers – from Glos, South Glos, Worcs, Somerset, Oxon, Berks, Herefords, Wilts, Avon and Dorset! ‘Refreshed’ has become known for its friendly, relaxed, welcoming atmosphere, and – of course – its exciting poetry. Monitoring the rise and rise of this monthly event has been a source of considerable satisfaction.  With thanks to Smokey Joe’s for such a great venue – and a menu that is definitely worth monitoring at regular intervals!

Publishing Cheltenham 300, the Cheltenham Poetry Society’s anthology of poems and photographs to mark the Tercentenary of the town as a spa, offered a rich learning experience for me personally. It all sprang from an inspiring Awayday idea, very image-focused from the start … and so it was inevitable that the ensuing book would combine two passions shared by a number of CPS members  – poetry and photography. The richness of this particular learning experience came from choosing poems from those submitted, collaborating with Roger Turner (trusted mentor) on editing, sequencing and taking/selecting images. Investigating sources for some of the images and pursuing copyright permissions were other opportunities to ‘learn stuff’ … as were working with the printer to optimise layout, with a couple of ‘back to the drawing board’ moments!  Chris Griffiths at Stroudprint has been a most patient mentor!  His experience and advice were invaluable. The book was published in November, and according to my monitoring – akin to that of a new parent – it is selling well, at the Suffolk Anthology Bookshop, thanks to Helene. Many copies are also being sold  by the contributing poets, and by mail order (via email  cheltenhampoetrysociety@gmail.com). We have two events/readings coming up early in 2017, when my mantra will no doubt be:  ‘the book will be on sale at the end of the reading’.

An enjoyable morning was spent in early December with Rona Laycock – accomplished writer and experienced mentor – in The Writer’s Room at Corinium Radio, Cirencester. I loved sharing four of my poems from the ‘I Walk on Fire’ event (held in Cheltenham in October – to celebrate Dylan Thomas) … so my Corinium Radio spot had a Welsh flavour, satisfying another of my passions. Monitoring the programme as it went out – worldwide – was a ‘hold your breath’ moment … but I didn’t actually hate the sound of my own voice … because I thought it sounded like someone else! Another mantra:  it’s never too late to try something new.

Nor is it ever too late to have another go at something done previously.   A few years ago I participated in judging the poetry entries for the Gloucestershire Writers Network competition – the first time I’d judged one.  Earlier this year, Stuart Nunn asked me to judge the poetry entries for the Chipping Sodbury competition.  This was an enjoyable experience, with some obvious front runners during preliminary readings.  It took several more readings to place them in order.  The winner took me by surprise.  As I read and reread it, I began to realise that there were rich literary threads and social commentary running right through it. They had not been obvious on a preliminary reading, but an outstanding image towards the end of the poem alerted me to the fact that something deeper was going on in this poem than was at first apparent.  I appreciated the fact that this poet didn’t go for an easy option. The poem offered the reader the satisfaction of teasing out the meaning just beneath the superficial. A worthy winner.  And another lesson learned in the satisfaction and rewards of inviting a reader to ‘go deeper’ … another mantra.

Submissions-wise, it has been my most productive year ever, with a record number of acceptances and few rejections – according to fastidious monitoring via Excel spreadsheet. Much of this success can be traced back to the 52 Project in 2014.  Surely Jo Bell remains all participating poets’ favourite mentor! Her mantra – cut the last two lines – remains valuable advice.

But the ‘mentor of the year award, 2016’ for me personally has to be Ann Drysdale.  I can’t thank her enough for her experience, wisdom and patience as we’ve worked on my manuscript.

Glancing ahead to 2017, I look forward to more learning experiences – with a Cinnamon Press residential led by Jan Fortune – another brilliant mentor and champion of new writing.  This opportunity to learn will take place early in the New Year (back to Wales again – excellent!). I’ll also be beginning another stint in the Chair of Cheltenham Poetry Society next year, with a new series of workshops running throughout 2017 based on Jo Bell’s 52 book. As a new venture for the Society, I’ll be monitoring the success of the workshops, and learning much by mentoring some of those who attend. If there’s one thing my year teaching Welsh to Adult beginners taught me, it is that tutors learn as much by teaching learners as learners learn from tutors! My all-time favourite mantra remains “Never stop learning” …

At the head of this end-of-year resumé, is a word cloud containing elements from the titles of the poems I hope to see ‘out there’ in 2017.  I’ll be monitoring their progress with the utmost interest!  “Go, words!”