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.