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!

Poetry Thanks and Praise, 2020

This blog article aims to record my appreciation of the many wonderful ‘people in poetry’ I have met and worked with over the past year. I would like to thank each and every one of them for their extraordinary efforts in a year when we have all had to overcome immense challenges simply to handle everyday life. To achieve anything additional to getting through each day has required greater determination, patience and flexibility …  and more creativity and ingenuity in finding new ways of doing things.  So thank you to everyone in the world of poetry who has helped anyone to find ‘an outlet for their output’ during a year that seemed determined to lock everyone in and close everything down. Thanks for your resilience and energy … in spite of everything.

Publications and Launch Events

Firstly, huge thanks to the hard-working and astonishingly innovative publisher, Mark Davidson of Hedgehog Poetry Press https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk for all he does to publish pamphlets and collections, to inspire and encourage new writing through competitions and challenges and via the unique ‘Cult’ and a new Weekly Book Club, tirelessly promoting poets’ work by social networking and newsletters. Without Mark’s determination, quick thinking and kindness, my collection Dualities would not have gone to print in the autumn, in a thin sliver of time between lockdowns. Thank you, Mark … and thank you TJ Books, Padstow. I was thrilled to take delivery of my ‘box of books’ and it was lovely to see the Cornish language featuring on the package: Gwrys yn Kernow – Made in Cornwall. https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/product/sharon-larkin-print-edition/ 

Thank you to Oz Hardwick, Angela France and Pat Edwards for reading the manuscript of Dualities and providing such insightful and quotable words of endorsement.  Thank you too, Michael Newman, David Ashbee and Catherine Baker for timely reviews after the book came out. (I’d naturally welcome more reviews if you, dear reader, are so inclined!) https://sharonlarkinjones.com/2020/10/14/dualities-reception/ https://sharonlarkinjones.com/2020/11/

Thanks to Stroudprint in Gloucestershire for doing a great job printing the anthology of poems and photographs, Poetry from Gloucestershire, which I collated and co-edited with Roger Turner and published under my Eithon Bridge Publications label in January. http://EithonBridge.com/anthologies Thanks to the other eleven contributing poets from Cheltenham Poetry Society: Roger Turner, Michael Newman, David Ashbee, Stuart Nunn, Robin Gilbert, Gill Wyatt, Sheila Spence, Belinda Rimmer, Catherine Baker, Annie Ellis, Alice Ross. A big thank you to Alison Brackenbury and Angela France for words of endorsement for the book, and to Tom Hadfield of The Local Answer for a two page spread promoting the anthology. https://tinyurl.com/ycb8mu98

Thanks to Helen Hewett of Suffolk Anthology Bookshop in Cheltenham https://theanthology.co.uk/ and Ian Nicholson at Alison’s Bookshop in Tewkesbury https://www.alisonsbookshop.co.uk/ for taking copies for sale in their bookshops. A launch event at Suffolk Anthology and an illustrated reading from the book at Wotton Under Edge Arts Festival in the spring had, alas, to be cancelled because of the pandemic but we are hopeful of opportunities to do (illustrated) readings from the book in 2021.

Thank you to Leo Boix and Nathalie Teitler, editors of Magma 76 (the Resistencia issue) https://magmapoetry.com/archive/magma-76/ for publishing my poem La Trinchera https://magmapoetry.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Magma-76-Contents.pdf and for the invitation to read at the launch via Zoom. It was exciting to be involved in this international event … a highlight of my year.

Thank you to Brett Evans and Phil Robertson of Prole Magazine for publishing a cheeky poem Another Proposal (one of my ‘Middlemarchian sonnets’) in Prole Issue 30. https://www.prolebooks.co.uk  Prole is a rare treasure of a magazine, not least in no-nonsense content … and actually paying royalties for contributions.  

Thank you to Andy Jackson and Bill Herbert for so swiftly providing a home for pandemic poems: Postcards from Malthusia, at New Boots and Pantisocracies … and for publishing my poem Noli me Tangere on the site on 9 April https://newbootsandpantisocracies.wordpress.com/2020/04/09/postcards-from-malthusia-day-thirteen-sharon-larkin/

Thanks to Ziggy Dicks of Gloucester Poetry Festival for giving my poem Noli Me Tangere another airing in the GPF’s Pandemic Poetry anthology. I also had a stanza in a collaborative poem in the same anthology (more information later in this blog). Thanks to Ziggy too for the 10 November Zoom launch of Pandemic Poetry, when I had the pleasure of reading my poem with 25 other contributing poets. Copies of the book, in hardback and softcopy, are available here: http://www.gloucesterpoetryfestival.uk … profits going to charity.

Thank you to Claire Walker and Holly Magill for taking another of my pandemic poems, Herd Mentality, for Atrium on 10 April https://atriumpoetry.com/2020/04/10/herd-mentality-sharon-larkin/

Thank you to Helen Ivory for taking my pandemic poem Waiting for Ink Sweat & Tears on 27 April http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/pages/?p=21737

Thank you to Tracy Gaughan for taking three of my poems Green Turtle, Conspiring for Beginners and The New Circadians, for Abhaile, at The Blue Nib on 24 July https://thebluenib.com/three-poems-by-sharon-larkin/

Thank you to Paul Brookes for including my poem At the Apple Orchard Clinic for Eating Disorders in the International Mental Health Day feature at The Wombwell Rainbow. Paul does so much to promote poetry and poets; it’s good to have the opportunity to reciprocate here … in modest measure. https://tinyurl.com/yyfxlacd

Thank you to Visual Verse for taking the following poems during 2020:
Synoptic Accounts https://visualverse.org/submissions/synoptic-accounts/,
Gearing Up https://visualverse.org/submissions/gearing-up/ and
Reports to Mission Control https://visualverse.org/submissions/reports-to-mission-control/

Thank you to Edwin Stockdale and Amina Alyal for including my sonnet The New Middlemarchian in An Insubstantial Universe published by Yaffle Press in collaboration with Leeds Trent University (an anthology in celebration of George Eliot’s bicentenary).  Thanks too for a very enjoyable launch event via Zoom – a wonderful tribute to a wonderful novelist. https://tinyurl.com/y9dl5l2t

Thank you to editors Rebecca Bilkau and Gill Lambert for including another sonnet, entitled Lessons Learned in the anthology Bloody Amazing and to Jane Burn for the amazing illustration for the book’s cover … also for all the extra work Gill did to dispatch copies to contributors. A wonderful collaborative effort by Dragon Yaffle publishing.  Thanks to Gill too for two launch events over a weekend 17/18 October in order to accommodate the many contributors to this fine, and long overdue, anthology … so many brilliant, powerful, pain-filled poems from brave and sensitive poets. https://www.bloodyamazing.co.uk/the-anthology

Thanks for all the poets who rose to the call for poems for Good Dadhood on line (March to June 2020): Alwyn Marriage, Wynn Wheldon, Sarah James, Veronica Aaronson, Kevin Reid, Luke Palmer, Sarah L Dixon, Beth McDonough, Simon Williams, Rachel Burns, Paul Waring, Catherine Baker, Susan Taylor, Roger Turner, Sanjeev Sethi, Aaron Williams, Charlie Markwick, Z D Dicks, Maggie Mackay, Hilary Robinson, Steven Kedie, Sheila Jacob, Patricia Ace, Zoe Mitchell, JLM Morton and Jenni Wyn Hyatt.
The poems represent another major contribution to an already substantial Good Dadhood on-line anthology of poems celebrating fatherhood. https://gooddadhood.com

Thank you to Aurélien Thomas for taking my poem What Passes Between for a forthcoming print anthology of Fatherhood poems.

Thanks to Bean Baker for taking my poem The Well for the You Tube channel of Cheltenham Elim. Thanks too for providing the sensitive musical accompaniment for the video, and thanks to Bean’s mother for the excellent drawing of the well, which she develops as the video progresses. I was very pleased to be involved in this collaborative project. Thanks also to Dave Wellington for encouragement, kind words and posting my poem Pentecost on the Elim Website.

Other Poetry Events

I was grateful to The Rising Sun Hotel, Cleeve Hill, Cheltenham, for inviting me to put together an event to celebrate Burns Night on 25 January 2020.  What started out as being a quartet of poets turned out on the night to be simply a duo … including Jonathan Muirhead who took the train up from Swindon just for the occasion.  I was very grateful to him for providing an essential Scottish authenticity to what would otherwise have been a much less convincing event! Alas, this was to be the last occasion I would see Jonathan, which causes me to look back on 25 January with great sadness, as well as huge appreciation for his talent and kindness. I was devastated in August to learn that Jonathan had passed away. Terrible, shocking news. Jonathan was a warm, kind-hearted, gentle person and, after our Burns night reading, I had envisaged many more evenings of poetry performances in his company. Sincere condolences to Jonathan’s family; his many poetry friends will deeply miss his talent, kindness and warmth.

Poetry Café Refreshed was held in January and February.  Thank you to Roger Turner for hosting on the night, and to Vickie Godding who owns and runs Smokey Joe’s in Cheltenham, for accommodating the monthly event for the last five years. Thank you to Jinny Fisher (the guest poet in January) and David Briggs (guest poet in February) for travelling to Cheltenham to appear at Refreshed and for giving the audience such powerful and enjoyable readings. Unfortunately, live events had to be cancelled after February, including guest readings by Raine Geoghegan, Ziggy Dicks and Mary Gilonne in March, April and May respectively. However, I now have an opportunity to thank the stalwarts in the audience of Refreshed over the last five years … including Gill Wyatt, Michael Newman, Catherine Baker, Chris Hemingway, Annie Ellis, Marilyn Timms and Howard Timms to name just a few of the many Gloucestershire poets who supported Refreshed month by month. Thank you, too, to those who came from, time to time … and especially those who travelled from further afield when they were able eg Nina Lewis, Kathy Gee, Claire Walker, Holly Magill, Ian Glass. Your support was much appreciated by Roger, me … and, especially, the guest poets.

Thank you to Josephine Lay for inviting me to be one of the headliners for the event Raised Voices for International Women’s Day in March, just before lockdown, alongside Angela France, Alby Stockley, Sharon Brown, Tish Camp, Zoe Brookes, Annie Ellis, Carol Sheppard, Drea MacMillan, Halima Malek, Iris Anne Lewis, Jennie Farley, Julie Allan, Juliette Morton, Maggie Clutterbuck, Marion Feasey, Tanya Feasey, Emma Lord and Kuma San. Around 60 people attended, and proceeds from the event went to The Nelson Trust, a women’s charity devoted to addressing addiction and all that stems from it. Thanks to Josephine for organizing the splendid event, at St Mary de Crypt, Gloucester.

Thank you to Gary D for inviting me to co-headline at Piranha Poetry, at The Ale House in Stroud, just before lockdown in March.  It is another poignant memory that Jonathan Muirhead was booked to headline too, but could not make it on the night. Much appreciation to Ziggy Dicks for stepping in and sharing the stage on the night.  Thanks to Gary for putting on such a professional and entertaining event, augmented with musicians and a strong open mic crowd. Thanks too to Susie Roberts for her warm welcome on the night.

Thanks to Charlie Markwick for giving me the opportunity to try Zoom for the first time in March, in anticipation of ‘real life’ events transferring to on-line platforms.

Thank you to Helen Ivory and Martin Figura for their Live from the Butchery events via Zoom.  I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion on 9 May, which featured excellent readings, discussion and fun! It was lovely to see so many poet friends gathered together.  

It was great to hear Helen Ivory read again at the Ledbury Poetry Festival’s Salon via Zoom on 12 June and to enjoy the open mic poems – with such diverse voices. Thanks to Chloe Garner who was brilliant at hosting the Ledbury Salon sessions via Zoom.

Thank you to David Ashbee for inviting me to read some poems from Dualities at the launch of his book Poems from the Mind Shop on 28 October, organized by his wonderful publishers Donall and Janice Dempsey (at Dempsey and Windle). It was a very enjoyable and well-run Zoom event. Thank you to David, too, for inviting me to join the Holub group of poets that used to meet at The Anchor, Epney, in Gloucestershire until moving onto Zoom. I enjoy the mix of music and poetry at these events which are well-run by David. Finally, thanks to David for selecting one of my poems, Two Christmases, for the Christmas edition of readings for BWBF – British Wireless for the Blind http://www.bwbf.org.uk/player/?url=http://www.bwbf.org.uk/localtns/cotsvalemag/TOPD_playlist.pls

Many thanks to Damien Donnelly – a fellow poet published by Hedgehog Poetry … hence a ‘hoglet’ … for inviting me to read on his Eat the Storms poetry podcast, episode 6, on 10 October https://open.spotify.com/episode/2rDglwxlGAGQFmAJ4elXr3?si=VyRer88IRJ2QVYsVK5RhXA  These innovative weekly podcasts, in which Damien so generously provides a platform for fellow poets, are very much appreciated.

Thank you to Mark Connors and Gill Lambert of Yaffle Press for WORD CLUB events.  They have a lively, informal style of hosting that makes the events a friendly place in which to enjoy hearing and sharing poetry. The excellent guest poets on 1 August were:  Julia Webb, Alison Lock and Natalie Scott.  I had heard Julia read previously, at Poetry Café Refreshed in Cheltenham … and especially love her poem We is in the bank.  A strong open mic included Jinny Fisher, Sarah L Dixon and Oz Hardwick whom I have also had the pleasure of hearing at Poetry Cafe Refreshed. It was also great to ‘meet’ Kevin Read who has been a long-standing Facebook friend to so many of us. It was also a great opportunity to hear poets I’d not met before, including Adrian Salmon whose poems inspired by music were enthralling. A super night all round. I was doubly grateful to Mark and Gill for inviting me to read from Dualities and my pamphlet Interned at the Food Factory (Indigo Dreams 2019) at the WORD CLUB on 28 August, co-headlining with Jinny Fisher and Tony Hill.

The Quiet Compère event organized by Sarah L Dixon, co-hosted with Kevin Reid, on 16 September was another wonderful Zoom event, which also included Sam Loveless, Math Jones, Chris Hemingway, Neil Laurenson, Nina Simon, Stuart Charlesworth, Anna Tuck, Hannah Stone, Steve Pottinger, Rose Condo, Ken Evans, Carolyn O’Connell, Anna-May Laugher. A strong body of poets with a variety of voices and themes … from a wide geographic area. I was so happy to have been included.  Thank you, Sarah and Kevin!

Looking ahead, thank you to Veronica Aaronson for the opportunity to read some poems at an on-line event being held by Teignmouth Poetry Festival in February 2021.

Poetry Communities and Support Networks

Thank you to Paul McGrane who until relatively recently ran the Poetry Society’s Stanza network throughout the UK, providing inspiring leadership and effective communication. Following his retirement from the position, he will be much missed for his enthusiasm, good humour and positivity.

Thank you to Alison Brackenbury for her kind, gracious, ‘poetry presence’ in the county … and splendid photographs too. Thanks to Michael Newman for being a steadfast, positive and encouraging poetry influence in the area. Thank you to both Anna Saunders and Ziggy Dicks for their energy, and undaunted efforts on behalf of Cheltenham and Gloucester Poetry Festivals during this difficult year. 

Thanks to Simon Williams for running Poem a Day (April and September) on Facebook and to Jo Bell for running Try to Praise the Mutilated World providing a prompt a day during the pre-Christmas lockdown … and thanks to everyone who participated and commented on each other’s poems.

Thanks again to Angela France for inspiration, encouragement and information on publication opportunities, and thanks to a great group of local women poets sharing constructive feedback on work. Thanks especially to Judith van Dijkhuizen for efficiently setting up meetings and Zoom sessions, as well as thanks to Penny  Haworth, Christine Griffin, Catherine Baker, Belinda Rimmer, Kathryn Alderman, Gill Garret and Frankie March. And thank you to Frankie for coordinating our collaborative poem for inclusion in the GPF Pandemic Poetry anthology (see above).

Thank you to Roger Turner and members of Cheltenham Poetry Society’s writing group: Michael Newman, David Ashbee, Stuart Nunn, Robin Gilbert, Sheila Spence, Catherine Baker, Gill Wyatt and Alice Ross for feedback on poems in meetings early in the year, then via email. Hoping the writing group will be able to hold regular meetings again some time in 2021.

Thanks to Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron for sharing their Poetry Film knowledge and expertise in the course we set up on Facebook. Originally, this was planned as a real-life event for Cheltenham Poetry Society, and under the banner of the Gloucestershire Stanza, but the pandemic offered an opportunity to move the course on-line and thus attract UK-wide interest. Thank you to everyone who participated, and congratulations to those who produced some fine poetry films, including Kathy Gee, Frankie March, Kathryn Alderman and Pat Edwards. Apologies for the film-makers’ names I have missed here; the content from the Facebook group was deleted on closing the project so I can’t go back and check who posted films to the group!

Thanks to Colin Bancroft for his brilliant Poets Directory which provides a platform for poets to advertise their publications, magazines, events, submission opportunities and so much more. https://poetsdirectory.co.uk

Thanks to the 18-strong group in Gloucestershire who have agreed for Cheltenham Poetry Society to continue holding their payment for the Annual Poetry Awayday at Dumbleton Hall which had to be cancelled last May.  Thank you to Dumbleton Hall for rescheduling us for May 2021.  We hope the Awayday can take place then.

Thanks to Angela France for her invitation to Belinda Rimmer and me to co-headline at Buzzwords in Cheltenham last summer, and thanks to Phil Kirby for Belinda and me to be guest poets at Writers at the Goods Shed in Tetbury last Spring. Both these events had to be cancelled because of the pandemic but we hope they might be possible some time in 2021.

Collaboration and Networking – Keys to Happy Poeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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