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.
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)
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
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!