Sarah James

the possibilities of poetry…

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Wishing All a Safe & Merry Christmas & a Happy, Healthy & Hope-filled New Year

This poem is in the Christmas anthology from The Poet, 2020.
The photo was taken at my parents’ place near Monmouth in 2019. I’m very much going to miss celebrating with them this year because of covid-19 but looking forward to hopefully being able to see them and all my friends and family properly in 2021.

BIG NEWS

My big news to end 2020 with is that I’m absolutely delighted to have won the Chaffinch Press CP Aware Award Prize for Poetry 2021. The prize is awarded to a poet whose submitted collection is socially engaged and highlights cultural and/or political injustice towards individuals, gender groups, ethnic minorities, communities or institutions. Both the manuscript ‘Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic’ and this win mean a lot to me, as the poems tackle aspects of life with a hidden disability, as well as elements of sexism, ageism, and generally trying to find a meaningful sense of self and living life with purpose.

Slightly aslant to this but still related, I also have an article ‘It’s Not Personal But… or Getting All Confessional, Subjectivity and the Rejected (Reworked) Manuscript‘ up on The Blue Nib – about writer rejection, how I’ve bounced back from that and some of the ways I’ve overcome the fear of feeling exposed when writing about personal experience.

Meanwhile, my big thanks to Diabetes UK and Balance magazine‘s editorial team for featuring a piece about my type one diabetes-inspired Arts Council England funded multimedia hypertext poetry narrative > Room as the Star Letter in their Winter 2020 issue.

OTHER COMPETITIONS

Splattered (photo) is winner of the Poetry and Covid Photography Competition for October 2020;

Kelly’s Key (flash) shortlisted in the Tortive Theatre #FlashFiction101 October prompt-themed competition in Nov 2020.

The Invisible Bruise (short story) longlisted in Cranked Anvil Short Story Competition in Nov 2020.

PUBLICATIONS

Sickle Moon Dreams (poem) was selected as one of the 2020 Bards in da Bog poems displayed in local conveniences throughout Shetland, posted on the library web page, shared through the library’s social media and featured on BBC Radio Shetland’s Good Evening Shetland during Book Week Scotland (16 -22 November 2020).

Sea Glass (poem) on One Hand Clapping in November 2020.

The Hedgerow’s Song and The year everything stops except the seasons (poems) published on Poetry and Covid in October 2020.

Perturbing Paws for Thought (poem) published in Purrfect Cats (Dream Well Writing Ltd) in October 2020.

Another Shell (poem) features in Episode 2 of Salon B podcast at Berghan Books, which can be listened to here. (My poem is the final item on the podcast.)

Because One Thing Leads to Another an article on writing life, including creative flow, space leading to inspiration and fear as a challenge to be embraced, published in The Blue Nib (online and print versions) Issue 44 in December 2020.

It’s no secret that the environment and climate change have come to pre-occupy me (and my creative work) lately – as they should all of us. I also have to confess to coming to love nature a lot later on in my life than many people, having spent my twenties and early thirties pre-occupied with work, then children. My enjoyment and interest is perhaps the stronger though for having come to it through walking and cycling in the countryside and more rural areas as my most effective way of dealing with depression and as an escape from personal pain. Anyway, that background revealed, I’m delighted to have two pictures included in the Wood People Connective’s new online tree gallery here.

POETRYFILM

Writing Life a poetryfilm about a writer trying to capture the essence of life, and its beauty, in just one poem was selected for the Big Picture Festival 2020. The film is based on a poem first published on Irisi magazine.
 

VIDEO POETRY

I’m absolutely delighted that my videopoem Winter has been chosen as the Artists For A Better World International “Poetry of the Month” selection here. Although I’ve been working in poetry and film for about a decade now, this is my first video poetry success and was directly inspired by taking part in the Zebra Poetry Film Festival inspiring and informative Masterclass with Tom Konvyes last month.

ACCEPTANCES

I’m delighted to have two poems accepted for Highland Park Poetry’s Daily Poems. Viral Infections features in November and Stacking Up in December on Facebook. The poems are then be included on “Daily Poem” Gallery throughout the following month with all the other poems from the month.

Post-Everything, Day 186 (flash) for the ‘doors’ theme issue of Flash Frontier.

What We See (flash) for Fragmented Voices in March 2021.

Things here have been busy the past few weeks. Until last week, I would have said mostly in a good way, work-wise at least, and despite Covid-19. (For happy news only, please skip the next two paragraphs.)

However, there’s been a significant number of cases of Covid now at my sons’ high school, where each of their ‘bubbles’ are 300+ pupils – in contrast to the voluntary self-isolation that I and my family had chosen to maintain after lockdown. Although age is on my side, my type one diabetes makes me vulnerable, so I feel especially frustrated with the lack of safeguarding – putting staff, pupils and their families at risk through the schools. Meanwhile, both of my sons are in big exam years – with all the current gaps/disruption in teaching and uncertainty about exams/assessments/university hanging over them…

It’s definitely true that a crisis can bring out both the best in people but also highlight the worst aspects of society. Already underfunded and underpaid even before the extra pressure and workload from Covid-19, school staff, like those in the NHS, continue to cope and deal with things on the frontline, working long hours, with nowhere near enough support, equipment, facilities…

If you’ve come to my blog though, it’s unlikely you’ve come to hear about this, so I am going to set this aside as much as I can for the rest of this post – just know that I’m in total solidarity with anyone feeling a similar way right now!

On a personal level, I’m extremely grateful that my family and friends are still safe and well at the moment. In both my personal life and work-wise, I’m trying to focus even more than usual on the positive, as a distraction to the bad, because there doesn’t feel much else I can do right now and also because these are the things that life is really about.

My big gratitude and thanks therefore to all the people involved in making the following projects, competitions and publications possible – and to all out there fighting for the arts and literature right now, as well as all those still facing Covid-19 on the front-line.

COMPETITIONS

I’m delighted that my poetry manuscript Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic is one of five shortlisted for the Chaffinch Press CP Aware Award Prize for Poetry 2021. The prize is awarded to a poet whose submitted collection is socially engaged and highlights cultural and/or political injustice towards individuals, gender groups, ethnic minorities, communities or institutions. Both the manuscript and this shortlisting mean a lot to me, as the poems tackle aspects of life with a hidden disability, as well as elements of sexism, ageism, and generally trying to find a meaningful sense of self and living life with purpose. So, please keep your fingers crossed for me for the next stage.

My environmentally themed, politically-edged, experimental/vispo-influenced pamphlet Rain Falling Fast As Light was longlisted for the Paper Swans Press Pamphlet Prize 2020.

Too Fast (poem) was shortlisted for the Parkinson’s Art International Poetry Competition 2020.

The Last Night Shift (flash) was shortlisted in the Tortive Theatre #FlashFiction101 September prompt-themed competition.

Ó Bhéal International Poetry-Film Competition Shortlisting

I’m absolutely delighted that Andrew Curtis’s poetryfilm version of one of my poems, A Plague On All Our Houses, is one of 38 poetry-films (from 14 countries) shortlisted for the 2020 Ó Bhéal International Poetry-Film Competition. The shortlist was chosen from 288 entries received from 49 countries. The shortlisted films will be streamed online on Sunday, 29 November 2020, over two screenings at Ó Bhéal’s 8th Winter Warmer Poetry festival, via Vimeo Livestream. Access to the entire festival will be free to the public and A Plague On All Our Houses is scheduled for the 2pm screening.

MORE POETRYFILM

I’m delighted to have my first festival screening as a poetry filmmaker! The news that one of my poetryfilms is to be included in the 2020 International Film Festival of Thuringia this October is especially amazing as I had originally been due to talk about and share one of my other poetryfilms this autumn at the Swindon Big Poetry Weekend festival, unfortunately postponed because of Covid-19.

The 2020 International Poetryfilm Festival of Thuringia is an online festival from 22-24 October 2020 and my film Women Not To Be has been selected to be part of the Women in Resistance program. Women in Resistance demonstrates the central role of women’s narratives and feminism in today’s poetry film and video poetry. Besides the online screenings, there will also be a program of live streams during the festival. Women in Resistance will stream on November 2, at 6 pm (CET) and all of the movies will be available for three weeks, from October 22 to November 12, on the festival website www.poetryfilmtage.de within a password-protected area to make sure that all festival guests have sufficient time to watch individual programs and films. The ticket for entering the site costs 10 Euro and can be purchased from September 15 to November 12.

MOSAIC MODERN WORCESTERSHIRE COMMISSION

My Mosaic Modern Worcestershire for Worcester Art Gallery’s From the Art Gallery with Love x project is now live on the Museums Worcestershire website. This includes A Modern Mosaic of Worcestershire (using photographs for the tiles), a hypertext poem and a poetryfilm. All three parts of the project are inspired by Worcester City Art Gallery’s painting A Prospect of Worcester from the East (c. 1750 and attributed to John Harris the Younger). The work was produced for Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum (part of Museums Worcestershire) as the commissioner for the “From The Art Gallery With Love x” project, kindly funded by Arts Council England.

READING AT CHELTENHAM LITERATURE FESTIVAL

I was delighted to be the judge for Gloucestershire Writers’ Network poetry competition 2020 with a theme of ‘My World’ and had a delightful start to August immersing myself in the entries. The results can be found on the GWN website here.

The prize winners’ event was at Cheltenham Literature Festival at the start of the month. Although I wasn’t able to be there in person, I was delighted to hear the winning poems through the festival’s online Screen on the Green, and to do a reading of some my own poems.

My big congratulations to the winning poets and fiction writers, and to everyone who entered in a year where Covid-19 has had a massive effect on us all. I’m very much looking forward now to the winners’ anthology. (And very delighted too to have been asked to contribute a couple of poems, The Rain’s Tale and At Night myself.) The My World — Gloucestershire Writers’ Network Competition Anthology 2020 is available from Black Pear Press here.

PUBLICATIONS

Making > Room an article and photo about my hypertext poetry project > Room published in The Poetry Society’s Poetry News Autumn 2020.


 

My review of Pascale Petit’s Tiger Girl (Bloodaxe, 2020) published on The High Winndow.

Twist (poem) published in 14 magazine Series 2, Issue 1 in October 2020.

That first hunt (poem) published in The High Wolds Poetry Collection 2020 in October 2020.

The Darkest Well (poem) published in Deep Time: Volume 2 (Black Bough Poetry) in October 2020.

EXTRA INSPIRATION & THANKS

I’ve found it harder than usual to feel motivated to write the past six months, unless I have a work deadline or commission to focus me. However, Ledbury Poetry Festival’s free Segments (monthly/4weekly) zoom workshops run by Sara-Jane Arbury have been amazingly inspirational – finally getting me back into a zone this autumn where I’m not only writing but really enjoying that writing. I’m extraordinarily thankful to have found these and signed up for them. What’s more the prompts for past sessions are also available online – though, if you can, I’d still recommend signing up for the live Zoom sessions to really get the most out of them! You can find more about them here.

AND OTHER BAD NEWS…

So I’m lucky to have some rays of writing light to take my mind off Covid-19. Most writers and artists that I know have lost work because of the pandemic, though this, of course, pales besides those who have been ill or lost loved ones to the virus. I am fortunate to have kept safe, so far.

This time last year, I was excited after hearing that I’d got a month’s paid residency at The International Writers’ and Translators’s House in Ventspils, Latvia. I would have been travelling out there for four weeks of pure research, writing, literary immersion this December. I wasn’t surprised, given the global situation, to hear that this won’t now be happening. To be honest, even if it had been possible on the Latvian end, I don’t think that I would have felt safe going out right now, given the pandemic and my type one diabetes. But the fact that this wasn’t unexpected doesn’t make it any the less disappointing. Hopefully, the residency is postponed rather than cancelled, but until exactly when is, obviously, very much up in the air. And, of course, many other writers will have been similarly affected over the past six months and winter months to come.

And here’s hoping that’s the worst of the bad news over the coming months.

Love and strength to all, and creativity and inspiration vibes to my writing and artist friends.

POETRYFILM

I’m delighted to have my first festival screening as a poetry filmmaker! The news that one of my poetryfilms is to be included in the 2020 International Film Festival of Thuringia this October is especially amazing as I had originally been due to talk about and share one of my other poetryfilms this autumn at the Swindon Big Poetry Weekend festival, unfortunately postponed because of Covid-19.

The 2020 International Film Festival of Thuringia will be taking the form of online festival from 22-24 October 2020 and my film Women Not To Be has been selected to be part of the Women in Resistance program. Women in Resistance demonstrates the central role of women’s narratives and feminism in today’s poetry film and video poetry. Besides the online screenings, there will also be a program of live streams during the festival. Women in Resistance will stream on November 2, at 6 pm (CET) and all of the movies will be available for three weeks, from October 22 to November 12, on the festival website www.poetryfilmtage.de within a password-protected area to make sure that all festival guests have sufficient time to watch individual programs and films. The ticket for entering the site costs 10 Euro and can be purchased from September 15 to November 12.

> ROOM

I’m really delighted to share the news that my multimedia hypertext narrative > Room has been reviewed on Sabotage Reviews.

“[…]This plays into one of the most fruitful ambiguities of > Room, the ambiguity of the internal and external. It’s a testament to James’ writing that this slippage between the body of the poem, the body of the speaker and their mental state itself, seems an organic part of the claustrophobic structure of the poem.

Reading > Room, I felt like the goal of the navigational aspect of the reading was escape, and the end engages with that drive through QR codes in a way I thought was fantastic. Discussing it here might feel like a spoiler so I won’t.

Enter > Room here http://www.sarah-james.co.uk/?page_id=12304

Harry Buckoke, Sabotage Reviews, full review here

BBC RADIO

I was chuffed to be invited back onto the Kate Justice evening show on BBC Hereford and Worcester on Tuesday, 8 Sept to share two of my poems and to chat about poetry, creativity in these ongoing Covid-19 times and my new commission for Worcester Art Gallery. The show is available to listen to online on the BBC for 29 days after the original broadcast here and I’m on first at around 3hrs 21 mins in, then again at around 3hrs 45 mins in.

 

 
LINES OF LOVE

The last six months have been tough, and it feels like the winter ahead is going to be tougher than usual, given the ongoing Covid-19 situation. So I decided to cheer myself up, and hopefully others too, by putting together a little something that is light-hearted and warmth-filled.

Lines of Love is a short online (hypertext) magazine style questionnaire that ends with a love poem recommendation. The project was inspired by a similar questionnaire that I put together a few years ago for my role as a library poet in residence – focussing too on love of books and libraries. I was also asked to play a fun ‘love laureate’ role at a local couple’s wedding using a similar questionnaire with recommended love poem, and also using some of the responses to create a crowd-sourced poem for the happy couple.

The free online version only takes a few minutes and can be found here: Lines of Love. Take a look, feel some love, get a love poem and if you enjoy the experience, please do share with friends too.

A WELCOME FLASH OF GOOD NEWS

Another Storm (flash) shortlisted (and published) in the Tortive Theatre Flash Fiction 101 August competition in Sept 2020;

After (flash) longlisted (and published) in the Reflex Fiction Summer 2020 Reflex flash fiction competition in Sept 2020.

WRITING A THING ABOUT ANOTHER THING I HATE WRITING…

Coming to Terms with Trying to Make Your Name or The Anguish of Author Biographies published on The Blue Nib in Sept 2020.

REVIEWING

Autumn and Covid-19 have me approaching full-on hibernation mode now. The great thing about this mood though is that it’s perfect for curling up indoors with a good book.

I’m delighted to have a review of the Maria Taylor’s Dressing for the Afterlife (Nine Arches Press) up on Everybody’s Reviewing here.

It has been a while since I last blogged…but it means I have lots of exciting news and projects to share.

Firstly, I’m delighted that my poem Waiting/Outlook has won first prize in the 2020 Waltraud Field International Poetry Competition!!!

From the Art Gallery with Love x Commission

My other big news is a successful proposal for From the Art Gallery with Love x project. My commission for Worcester City Art Gallery includes creating A Modern Mosaic of Worcestershire using photographs for the tiles, a hypertext poem and a poetryfilm. All three parts of the project are inspired by the gallery’s painting A Prospect of Worcester from the East (c. 1750 and attributed to John Harris the Younger). The project is very exciting, and I’m really excited to share the results with people. More about my commission can be found here.

OTHER POETRY & FLASH COMPETITION & PUBLICATION NEWS

I’m absolutely delighted to have my poem The Cat Cafe longlisted in the Write Out Loud Covid-19 competition to raise funds for NHS Charities. It will now be published in an anthology of 100 poems selected from the more than 2,000 entries. This Write Out Loud Beyond the Storm competition anthology can be ordered here. (After covering unit costs and administration costs, Write Out Loud will give also be giving all surplus from anthology sales to the charity.)

Below, you can hear me reading the poem for the Poetry Archive.


 
Not our neighbours’ place (poem) longlisted in Penfro Poetry Competition 2020 in Aug 2020;

More than ‘Structurally Unsafe’ (poem) published in Words for the Wild New Build issue in Aug 2020;

Marcasite (poem) published in London Grip in Sept 2020;

Orbiting Redditch and While Visiting (poems) in New Towns anthology (Wild Pressed Books) in Sept 2020;

Knot Me, Hedgehog Pinball, Anything but E.C.T, Mâché and “One Wild And Precious Life” (poems) published in The Mountains You Cannot See an anthology of poetry about metal health (Slice of the Moon Books) in Aug 2020;

Clotted Moons (flash) published on Fictive Dream on 12 July 2020;

The Dream Machine (flash) on Every Day Fiction on 17 Aug 2020;

Wrecked (flash) shortlisted in the Tortive Theatre Flash Fiction 101 July competition in Aug 2020;

OTHER NEWS

I was delighted to be the judge for Gloucestershire Writers’ Network poetry competition 2020 with a theme of ‘My World’ and had a delightful start to August immersing myself in the entries. The results have now been announced and can be found on the GWN website here.

My big congratulations to the winning poets and fiction writers, and to everyone who entered in a year where Covid-19 has had a massive effect on us all. I’m very much looking forward now to the winners’ anthology. (And very delighted too to have been asked to contribute a couple of poems myself.) I’m also very much looking forward to hearing the winners and reading some of my own poems for this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival event on Sunday, October 4 at 5pm. Details of this and tickets here.

I have been slower than usual in keeping up with blog news. (2020 has been that kind of year!) But some weeks back, I was delighted to hear that one of my In the Booklight interviews had been referenced in The Telegraph as part of a piece about Geraldine Clarkson’s wonderful new collection Monica’s Overcoat of Flesh (Nine Arches Press). The Telegraph article is here, and my interview with Geraldine about an earlier poetry pamphlet here.

I was delighted too to see my poetryfilm ‘And his open mouth is an olive grove’ included in Helen Dewbery’s wonderful article about poetryfilm for The Blue Nib. You can find the article (with link to ‘And his open mouth is an olive grove’) here.

The Sunday Tribune online has also run a fantastic article about my Arts Council England funded multimedia hypertext poetry narrative > Room, that you can read here. A podcast interview with me about > Room, poetry and living with diabetes has also just been released by Spoken Label here.

I’m delighted to have a poem The Two-Metre Mantra accepted for a fundraising pandemic anthology project set up by Z.D. Dicks. More details about this and The Crowdfunder page for it can be found here. I’m very pleased too to have been invited to read at the launch of Z.D. Dicks’ latest poetry collection Vexed on Monday, 14 September 2020. More about the collection and launch can be found here.

A Plague On All Our Houses is a lockdown poetryfilm collaboration with filmmaker Andrew Curtis. It’s based on a short poetry sequence – a lockdown Romeo and Juliet – written especially for Andrew to use for the film. I also have a slightly longer page-poem version of the whole sequence featuring emails between the two characters who live in different cities, so have to isolate separately during the pandemic.

Although created as a poetryfilm, I’m absolutely delighted that the audio narrative A Plague On All Our Houses was also broadcast on BBC Radio Gloucestershire Evening Show with Jon Smith on Thursday, July 9. This is available to listen again online for around three weeks here. The first part is at 3hrs 10 mins in and the second part just before 3hrs 22 mins.

Covid-19 and lockdown haven’t been easy. I’ve been very lucky personally that none of my loved ones have caught the virus. It almost seems frivolous to write or worry about anything else at the moment. But work, life and writing are still there – if cast in an entirely different light and perspective by everything that is going on in the world right now. A small sliver of my personal experience of the past few months, including time, nature and the nature of time can be found in my article The Writing Mind’s Underlands and the Perspective of Time on The Blue Nib. This also takes in lockdown lethargy (writer’s block), my collaborative poetryfil lockdown love story, acute and chronic projects, and reading Robert Macfarlane’s amazing Underland and Alison Brackenbury’s beautiful Skies.

On the BBC

I was really delighted to be invited onto BBC Hereford & Worcester’s The Evening Show with Kate Justice for a short interview and to share two of my poem. I had a really lovely time chatting with Kate, and it was great to perform People Scare Me Because… and Doing the School Run with Freud for her and The Evening Show listeners. You can listen to this here. I’m on about 3 hrs 24 mins through, and then again around 3 hours 42 mins. (The replay should be available for about 3 weeks after this blogpost.)

Other poetry news

Not quite vintage (poem) wins fourth prize in the Evesham Festival of Words Poetry Competition 2020 with its theme of Thinking outside of the box in June 2020.

Singing Everyone a Home (poem) published in DOORS anthology in aid of Bromsgrove and Redditch Welcome Refugees in June 2020 and is available on the BRWR website here;

I’m delighted to have some haiku featured in an Ingestre Orangery inspired poetryfilm ‘missive voices.’ by Mal Dewhirst.

My review of Hush by Majella Kelly (Ignition Press) for The High Window can be found here.

I’m also pleased to have a poem, Twist, accepted for 14, a poem, In the Dream-Catcher Hung by a 40th-Storey Window at Fallsview, Niagara for Kissing Dynamite‘s anthology PUNK (due out later this summer), and another poem, Perturbing Paws for Thought, accepted for Purr Fect Poems anthology (Dream Well) in support of Stafford & District Cats Protection.

Fiction news

I’m chuffed to have a flash, After, longlisted in the Reflex Fiction Summer 2020 Flash Fiction Competition. It will be published online some time over the summer and also in the Reflex Fiction anthology next summer.

I’m very happy too to have a flash, Shipwrecked, longlisted in the Lightbox Originals photo-inspired 100-word story competition.


 
This is a poetry film version of my poem Singing Everyone a Home (poem) published in DOORS anthology in aid of Bromsgrove and Redditch Welcome Refugees in June 2020, available on the BRWR website here.

A longer launch video featuring several poems from the pamphlet can be enjoyed here.

PRIZE DELIGHT & ACE FUNDING

April was a cruel month here on the writing front as well as Covid19. On the poetry front at least, May and June have come in delightful contrast.

I was stunned and over the proverbial moon to win the open category of this year’s Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. Although my poem People Scare Me Because… isn’t directly about my diabetes, it’s about some of the psychological effects of this chronic condition/my diagnosis with this disability.

The 2020 Hippocrates Prize Anthology is available on the Hippocrates Prize website here and a video of me reading the poem below.

 

I’ve also asked for some of my prize money to fund a limited number of free entries for the Hippocrates Prize for writers on low incomes (one poem each for 10 poets in the Hippocrates Prize Open Category and 10 poets in the Hippocrates Prize Health Professional Category). So please do look out for that when the 2021 prize opens for entries.

> ROOM

Room 38 tope layer

My Hippocrates Prize news also leads indirectly into the fabulous news that I’d been successful in getting Arts Council England funding for a collection-length hypertext multi-media poetry narrative > Room. It’s been a lot of work but also a lot of fun busy working on this, and can your explore the results here.

These poems are particularly close to my heart as living with type one diabetes from the age of six hasn’t been easy – for me, or those around me!

> Room hasn’t long been live but already I’ve had feedback about its accesibility, interactiveness and labyrinthine qualities. It’s early days, but other descriptions have included ‘exciting’, ‘thrilling’, ‘moving’, ‘powerful’, ‘inventive’ and ‘intriguing’. What do you think? If you have a chance to explore it, I’d love to hear how you find > Room.

OTHER PRIZE NEWS

Holiday Lets commended in The Beach Hut Coastal Writing for Wellness Competition in May 2020;
Stargazing in the Waiting Room highly commended in the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin’s Poetry Competition in celebration of Poetry Day Ireland 2020 in April 2020;
Beside the bed selected for PITTOC Volume Two anthology in May 2020. Proceeds from this volume of PITTOC (Poetry in the Time of Conoavirus) are to benefit Doctors Without Borders and Partners In Health. My link is for UK amazon, but it’s also available on Amazon.com.

PUBLICATIONS

This poetryfilm is also featured, with my poem The lockdown school day, on Bromsgrove council website here, along with poems from other local poets;
The lockdown school day on Pendemic in May 2020;
The day we disappeared (flash with a hypertext twist) published on Ellipsis Zine in May 2020;
In hollowed oak… (art) and Writing Life and More than snapshots (poems) published in Irisi Hope issue in May 2020;
The Changing Landscape (poem) published on Poetry in Public in May 2020;
Along our coastline (poem) on The Beach Hut in May 2020;
Knives and Forks (flash) published on Fragmented Voices in May 2020;
Katherina’s Hair Chronicles (poem) in Abridged 0-19 Eris in May 2020;
Still a chance (drawing) and Watering the light (photo) in Flash Frontier in May 2020;
Churning Perspectives (poem) on The Glow of Emerald Light photo challenge 2 in May 2020;
Strange Orbits (poem) on Atrium in May 2020;
The Rising Sun (poem) published on The Poetry Village in April 2020;
Doing the School Run with Freud (poem) published in About Larkin in April 2020;
Sudden and Not Mercury (poems) published in Unpsychology 6 The Other-Than-Human anthology in April 2020, pages 134 and 135, available here.
Unpsychology 6 v1

FORTHCOMING

Other new advance publication news includes my review of Hush by Majella Kelly (Ignition Press) for The High Window this autumn.

I’m also delighted to have acceptances for:
two poems (on Redditch and Welwyn Garden City) accepted for the Wild Pressed Books ‘New Towns’ anthology, edited by Rob Francis;
five poems for the climate change/eco anthology Earth, We Are Listening (Slice of The Moon Books);
five poems for the mental healthy anthology The Mountains You Cannot See (Slice of The Moon Books);
Clotted Moons (flash) on Fictive Dream on 12 July 2020;

JUDGING

I am delighted to be the poetry judge for this year’s Gloucestershire Writers’ Network 2020 Competition, supported by The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival. The theme is ‘My World’ and the deadline is early July 2020. Full details about the competition and how to enter can be found here. Please do follow the instructions carefully, particularly making sure your entry is anonymous.

SHORTLISTINGS

I’m absolutely over the moon that my poem ‘People Scare Me Because’ is shortlisted in the open category of this year’s Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine.The final decisions are announced in May and I’ve had a fun time recording a video reading of the poem for the virtual award ceremony in the second Poems to Live for live-streamed Zoom session which will start at 9pm UK time on Friday, 15 May. Meantime, I’m keeping busy so I don’t have time to get too excited or too nervous about it!

With my editor’s hat on, I also have fingers crossed for two V. Press authors, Diane Simmons and Damhnait Monaghan, whose flash fiction novellas An Inheritance and The Neverlands are both shortlisted in this year’s Saboteur Awards for Best Novella. More on this and how to vote for them here!

MY NOVELLA KALEIDOSCOPE NOW AVAILABLE AS AN AUDIOBOOK – on Audible, iTunes and amazon!!!

Kaleidoscope audio cover

Like a lot of authors, I’ve lost out on work because of the current lockdown. But I do have a new book out – an audiobook recording of me reading the whole of Kaleidoscope is now available on:

Audible using this link;
iTunes in the app store;
Amazon UK on this link;
Amazon.com on this link.

POETRYFILM

A poetryfilm version of my poem Model Child from Vindication (Arachne Press) can be enjoyed below.

The Vindication anthology is available from Arachne Press here.

One of the reasons for making the above film is the Covid-19 lockdown, with traditional book reading and online poetry readings and experiences needing to fill the gap created by people being unable to go out to actual poetry events.

It’s also a time when poems can not only entertain or distract us but potentially help lighten the load and uplift. I was delighted to hear from the fabulous Brenda Read-Brown at Poetry on Loan that she was going to feature my commissioned postcard poem ‘And counting…’ on the Poetry on Loan website front page for this reason. You can read the poem here and it comes with my love and good health wishes to you all.

I’ve also created a poetryfilm of my Guillemot Press anthology poem ‘From Wild Sargasso Seas…” This can be enjoyed along with other eel poems here or by clicking play on the video below.

OTHER PUBLICATIONS

My poem Doing the School Run with Freud which was shortlisted and won a special mention in the East Riding Festival of Words Poetry Competition 2019 can be read here.
Through Our Letterbox (poem) in Caduceus 102 in March 2020;
In hollowed oak – a short owlish meditation on mothering (CNF flash) on The Blue Nib‘s The Write Life in March 2020;
Hidden histories and Worcester’s Second-hand Store (poems) on Nine Muses poetry on 2 April 2020;
Keeping Guard used as the cover image and published within Door Is A Jar Literary Magazine, Issue 14 Spring 2020 in April 2020, available in paperback here and as an ebook here;
Yin & Yang (photo) in Door Is A Jar Literary Magazine, Issue 14 Spring 2020 in April 2020, available in paperback here and as an ebook here;
About Halving (flash) in Door Is A Jar Literary Magazine, Issue 14 Spring 2020 in April 2020, available in paperback here and as an ebook here;
At White Lake on Spelk in April 2020;
The Nook and the Knack and Our Time (poems) published on Good Dadhood on 5 April 2020;
Apocalypses Don’t Start This Way (poem) published in Capsule Stories‘s special pandemic edition in April 2020, more info and e-editions are available here on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

ACCEPTANCES

‘watering the light’ (photo) and ‘still a chance’ (eco-inspired ink-drawing) for Flash Frontier in April;
‘The Darkest Well’ (poem) for Black Bough Poetry, issue 6 in April/May 2020;
‘Strange Orbits’ (poem) for publication on Atrium Poetry on 29 May 2020;
‘Cocktail Dreams’, ‘Uncaught’, ‘Nanna dances’ and ‘Tidemarked’ (poems) for publication in the autumn issue of The High Window;
‘Along our coastline’ (poem) for publication on The Beach Hut in April/May;
‘The day we disappeared’ (flash with a hypertext twist) for Ellipsis on May 4;

JUDGING

Unfortunately, this year’s Hastings Litfest has been cancelled, including the flash fiction competition that I was due to judge. However, I am delighted to be the poetry judge for this year’s Gloucestershire Writers’ Network 2020 Competition, supported by The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival. The theme is ‘My World’ and the deadline is early July 2020. Full details about the competition and how to enter can be found here. Please do follow the instructions carefully, particularly making sure your entry is anonymous.

I’ve had a relaxed but lovely start to 2020, matching the end of 2019. I don’t really believe in resolutions specific to new year. But July 2020 will be ten years since my first collection Into the Yell was published by Circaidy Gregory and at the end of last year, I decided that much my work at V. Press needed to slow enough to give me more space as a person and as a writer. I’ve felt quite introverted and somewhat isolated as a writer over the past few years, partly because of the workload involved with running a press. I love V. Press and the poetry and flash that we publish, so this won’t be stopping, I’m just building in more time for me to get out and see places, enjoy new experiences and meet more people.

COMPETITION NEWS

I started the year by judging the Against The Grain Poetry Press poetry competition, something which I wouldn’t have had time or space to do in other years as the competition had nearly 600 poems entered. The results and my judge’s report/comments can be found here. (See the end of this blogpost too for news of a flash fiction competition that I’m judging.)

Shepton Mallet reading 20200215_144910 (1)      Shepton Mallet Award 20200215_145736

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I’m absolutely stunned and delighted that my poem ‘Quiet Curves’ has won this year’s Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival Poetry Competition judged by Jane Draycott. The festival also runs a photography competition, a display of the shortlisted photos and poems, a poetry anthology and an award reading. It was humbling to hear the beautiful poems across the different age ranges and I the stunning quality too of the photos across the different age groups – I can away awed and inspired!

Sarah Leavesley magical profile picI’m absolutely delighted too that my poem ‘Landlords and lodgers’ – inspired by the owls that live at my parents’ converted barn – has won first prize in the Barn Owl Trust Poetry Competition 2019 and been published in the Wildlife Words Volume 6 anthology.

I’ve also enjoyed a trip up north for the East Riding Festival of Words Poetry Competition 2019 prize-giving in Bridlington, where my (humorous) poem ‘Doing the School run with Freud’ won a special mention (top 8). It’s quite a journey from where I live, but gave me a chance to explore York (my first visit to the stunning city) while I was up there. The competition theme was ‘My mind, my thoughts’ and it was great to here the range and slants the winning poems took on this. I don’t often write humorously, so it was also particularly lovely to hear one of the judges, The Philip Larkin Society’s Literary Adviser & Co-Editor of About Larkin James Booth comment on how funny my poem was. I came away with an extra glow from his kind words.

I’m super chuffed too to have had a microfiction, ‘Spinning’, shortlisted in the National Flash Fiction Day 2020 Micro Fiction Competition. National Flash Fiction Day is a fabulous annual day-long celebration of flash and takes place on Saturday, 6 June, 2020.

REVIEW NEWS

How to Grow with award croppedI’m also absolutely delighted to have had a new review of How to Grow Matches (Against The Grain Poetry Press) by Helena Nelson. The review means a lot because Helen Nelson is someone I particularly admire on numerous counts, as a poet herself, her work as a publisher at HappenStance and also in running the Sphinx/OPOI review site. A snippet from the review can be found below, but I’d really urge people to check out the whole thing and the Sphinx/OPOI site.

“This is a poet who most of the time avoids the first person and slips more readily into second-person mode, the kind of ‘you’ the reader can easily identify with. […] More unusually, words themselves, and their complex sounds (S. A. Leavesley is exceptionally sensitive to sound), become their own metaphor. They are dangerously alive and can be active barriers to communication, especially in the context of love.”

Helena Nelson, Sphinx/OPOI (One Point of Interest), full review here.

The pamphlet is available from the Against The Grain Press shop here!!!

It can also be ordered from the Poetry Book Society here.

PUBLICATIONS

Publications include:

A Cacophony of Lovers‘ (flash) in Bending Genres, Dec 2019;
Still the Apple‘ on Words for the Wild, Dec 2019;
Steps‘ and ‘Dead bunny season‘ (poems) on Apex Poetry in Jan 2020;
Sammy‘ (flash) for Fictive Dream on February 16;
Among the Buddleia‘(flash) for Reflex Fiction in February 17;
‘Rarely’ (flash) in the Museum of Walking’s Autumn Colours flash competition anthology chapbook published by Sampson Low – more on the anthology and inspiration behind the winning flashes can be found here and copies of the limited edition anthology can be bought here;
‘A Cacophony of Lovers’ (flash) in the Bending Genres Anthology 2018-2019;
From Poetry to Prose in a Flash‘ article on flash from a poet’s viewpoint on The Blue Nib on March 9;
International Swimming Pool Rules‘ (a hermit crab flash) for Ink Sweat & Tears on March 9;
My Last Angel‘ (poem) on Dear Reader on March 11;
In the leaves‘ (flash) on Mookychick (March 13).

P1100767 'Different kinds of flight or Haunted Beach' at Northcott Mouth

 
A series of connected articles featuring travel on a smaller scale has also been featured on The Blue Nib. ‘Becoming a wing-thru’ features seven daily pieces about discovering self and nature through cycling. It’s also a series about raising environmental awareness, overcoming depression and poetry appreciation of work by various nature-inspired poets. It includes some of my own accompanying photo-poems. The various parts can be read by following the links below:
Becoming a wing-thru: Part One – Rediscovery;
Becoming a wing-thru: Part 2 – The Landscape’s Languages and Lines;
Becoming a wing-thru: Part 3 – Fences and Memoryscapes;
Becoming a wing-thru: Part 4 – Sound Sounds and Keeping the Quiet;
Becoming a wing-thru: Part 5 – The Art of Endurance;
Becoming a wing-thru: Part 6 – Finding Self & Avoiding Wastage;
Becoming a wing-thru: Part 7 – Finding the Right Words/Terms.

I’ve also had various acceptances brightening the next few months ahead:

‘Hidden histories’ and ‘Worcester’s Second-hand Store’ (poems) for Nine Muses Poetry (April 2);
‘At White Lake’ (flash) for Spelk (April 3);
‘About Halving’ (flash), and ‘Yin & Yang’ and ‘Keeping Guard’ (photos) for Door is a Jar with ‘Keeping Guard’ also selected as the cover art, issue 14, Spring 2020 (April);
‘The Rising Sun’ (poems) for The Poetry Village (April 30)
‘Sudden’ and ‘Not Mercury’ (poems) in Unpsychology, issue 6;
‘Through Our Letterbox’ (poem) in Caduceus 102;
‘At breaking point’ (poem), which won second prize in the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine 2018, is to be included in an anthology of the main prizewinning poems from the first ten years of the Hippocrates Prize. The launch for this takes place at Medical Society of London (11 Chandos St, London, W1G 9EB, nearest tube Oxford Circus) on 25 March from 6-8pm.
Entry cost: £10 including a copy of the anthology and a glass of wine. Tickets (while they last) are available on EventBrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/launch-of-hippocrates-prize-anthology-the-first-ten-years-the-winning-poems-2010-2019-tickets-96440747873;
‘The Nook and the Knack’ and ‘Our Time’ (poems) for the Good Dadhood journal;
‘Writing Life’ and ‘More than snapshots’ (poems) and ‘In hollowed oak’ (an ink drawing and photo combination artwork) for Irisi Magazine‘s hope issue later this spring.

So that’s my recent out and about in person, online and on paper, and hoping that 2020 will bring more of all three!

STILL BORN

frozenandartsg1200A few years ago, I was delighted to be commissioned to write a poem for the Still Born project, responding to beautiful and moving artwork by Adinda van ’t Klooster (see the image above), who is now running a Crowdfunder campaign to help support a touring exhibition. Pledges to the campaign come with various rewards, including a high quality PDF or a high quality A4 print on lightfast paper version of the poem. The campaign can be found here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/tour-the-still-born-exhibition-to-three-uk-venues.

RECOMMENDED

Meanwhile, indoors is and always has been made for reading, and I’m delighted to endorse The Significance of A Dress (Arachne Press) by Emma Lee. A very short snippet of my thoughts about this collection can be found below. You can find a sample poem, more information and order this collection from Arachne Press here.The Significance of A Dress pic

Nothing is unimportant in The Significance of A Dress, where next year is not the future but a question. Each refugee, suffragette or shushed voice and narrative encompassed by the poems is personal and individual, yet simultaneously universal in its reach and significance. In ‘Dismantling The Jungle’, flames form “an echo of a former life”. This vivid collection is full of such flames and echoes. Whether it’s “Each dress hangs from a noose” (‘Bridal Dresses in Beirut’) or “Everything Abdel sees is smeared, despite his glasses” (Stories from The Jungle), Emma Lee’s focus is precise, poised and packs emotional punch. Her evocative imagery is reinforced by taut lines, striking juxtapositions and intimate, moving details. The Significance of A Dress is a beautiful, powerful and haunting collection.

JUDGING HASTINGS LITFEST FLASH FICTION COMPETITION 2020

I’m very very delighted to be able to share the news that I’m judging this year’s Hastings Litfest flash fiction competition. The deadline is early June. Full details about the competition and how to enter can be found here. Please do follow the instructions carefully, particularly making sure your entry is anonymous. I’m very much looking forward to reading the entries.

AND FINALLY

I’m pleased to have been a very small part of the Redditch Borough Poem – a community-written poem that will be launched on Friday 20 March, 2020, 19:30-21:30 in the Palace Theatre Studio in Redditch. The event will be presented by former Birmingham poet laureate Spoz and Tom McCann as part of a ‘Licensed to Rhyme Take Over’. As well as poems from the two presenters and a participatory performance of the Redditch Poem, there’ll be an open mic, giving writers the chance to share their work in a warm and welcoming setting. Tickets are just £5 and can be booked via the Palace website or over the phone at 01527 65203. (NB Before making plans, please do double that any events mentioned on this blog and my website generally are still as mentioned here.)

Happy Christmas & New Year 2019 to 2020

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