Sarah James

the possibilities of poetry…

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I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few weeks about my previous fansite blog about the criticism/praise that really matters to me as a writer.

One of the Mums from school, whose son is in the same class as my younger boy, is a singer, musician and songwriter. It was lovely when she read the collection to get almost instant feedback from her while she was in the process of reading it in the form of a series of text listing her favourite poems. And when she said that she’d like to borrow one of the lines for a song…Similarly, when a poet friend said she’d like to use one of the poems in some of her poetry workshops.

Of course, all this means the more to me as Into the Yell F-day, festival-day (or should that be L for launch day?) approaches and I get progressively more nervous. (The tell-tale signs including a tendency to insomnia and eating too much chocolate!) I am looking forward to it though, fingers crossed for nice weather, and have been distracting myself with some more advance haiku for the collaborative display. I even got both my sons to write a short poem, though one had to be bribed to do so!

Anyway, here’s my latest offering, ready for the day:

festival of arts
music, painting, poetry
fun for all ages

With just eight days to go to the launch of Into the Yell at Droitwich Music and Arts Festival, it has been a busy but phonically fun week.

Yesterday was a double whammy of listening and being listened to. Firstly, it was D-day for the Bugged writing project by Jo Bell and David Calcutt ( Never one to fail to rise to the challenge – and glad of any excuse for taking an interest in life around me! – I spent much of the day eavesdropping. Or at least attempting to. Pickings were sparse but I made do, with the result that my first submission 7am Rising was one of six chosen for today’s Best of the Bugged on the blog. And I’ve still got two more ‘Bugged’ poems in the draft process!

Having worked my ears, it was my turn to make some noise in the evening, when I read from Into the Yell as well as some new and some old poems for the opening night of the Social Ritual art exhibition at Kidderminster Library (part of the town’s arts festival 2010).

Sarah reading at Social Ritual. Picture by Jackson Bollock.

Sarah reading at Social Ritual. Picture by Jackson Bollock.

Poets Jenny Hope, Sarah James, Jodie Lea Ford and Sophia Dimmock. Picture by Jackson Bollock.

Poets Jenny Hope, Sarah James, Jodie Lea Ford and Sophia Dimmock. Picture by Jackson Bollock.

Listening is definitely the theme to the coming few days, as I head off to Ledbury Poetry Festival tomorrow to see Jane Weir, Pascale Petit and Billy Collins. I can’t wait!

Then on Monday, I shall have the strange sensation of hearing my own voice on radio as some of my readings of poems from Into the Yell are to be broadcast on I am so excited! The live show is from 8pm to 10pm and is also due to feature some previously unbroadcast recordings from last year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival. Happy listening everyone – wherever you are, whatever you’re doing!

I’m starting to gear up now for the launch of Into the Yell on July 10 as part of Droitwich Arts and Music Festival. Well, any excuse for some new clothes and shoes!

As I’m going to be running my collaborative haiku display and drop-in workshops as part of this, I thought I maybe ought to get practising. I’ve had some of my workshop children trying out the form  (or a loose interpretation of it, as they’re quite young to fully get to grips with the notion of syllables). And here’s one of my own, a morning, music inspired haiku:

awaking at dawn
collage of pastels, light, warmth
fisticuffs of song

It’s been a fantastically busy but productive week on the poetry front.

The Into the Yell display is  sorted, ready for the collection launch at Droitwich Arts and Music Festival of July 10. The collaborative haiku project I’m organizing for the festival on July 10 is also well in hand. And my Window on the Arts poetry, photography and art display is now finalised for July 19 to August 2 in Salters Shopping Centre, Droitwich.

Into the Yell has also received its first post-printing review this week – and a fantastic one too! – from Magdalena Ball at Compulsive Reader: .

I had a great time reading from Into the Yell and other poems at The Phonic Room at Boston Tea Party in Worcester on Thursday night. (It’s a great venue!) And the same day I also found out that my poem Preparing had been chosen as Ledbury Poetry Festival’s winning May theme poem for the festival blog at!

All this – with a children’s party also organised for tomorrow – and I still managed to squeeze in a leisurely breakfast on the decking in the sunshine this morning, complete with Derek Walcott’s White Egrets, which I’m still dipping into. Of course, the same time tomorrow morning and I may not be feeling quite so relaxed… 😉

At the end of the day the real critics of any piece of writing must be the readers and the actual author.

Similarly, the real critic of one’s behaviour, achievements etc must at the end of the day be oneself ( or God, if that is one’s belief system). But the external voices I listen to most of all have to be those of my husband and parents.

Even I was surprised at how deep-seated this is. So much so, that when my Dad, who is not a poetry-reader, rang last night to say he’d read my collection and had really enjoyed it, I was almost in tears. All the more so, as I know there are themes and some language he won’t have approved of!

What a suntastic weekend! With the good weather, Worcester Literature Festival 2011 discussions and so many readings coming up, I’m so buzzing with ideas and new poems that I don’t know what to blog about! (I’ll manage, of course, I’m never stuck for words for long!)

On top of the poetry, my camera has also been leading me astray this week. Yes, I’ve been busy snapping away in the sunshine when I probably should have been varnishing the fences, mowing the lawn or something equally practical (yawn!) but not so creative or fun. Well, who wants to watch paint dry?!

I’ve also been enjoying a new challenge – verbal karate, writing some children’s flash fiction as a fundraiser for a martial arts club. It’s certainly been keeping my imagination fighting fit! (Hence, the flurry of puns!)

Hope all the dads out there have had a great Father’s Day and that everyone’s enjoying the sun.

In the Air

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Can you smell it? No, not the rain or the England team’s bitter disappointment but my excitement still in the air after Into the Yell arrived from the publisher on Friday.

Thanks to the artists and the design by Kay Green at Circaidy Gregory Press (, the poetry collection is looking very nifty. And Into the Yell got its first outing on Friday night at a Word and Sound open mic event at Worcester Arts Workshop. Although, the official launch isn’t until July 10, I’m getting in all the reading practice I can and it was great to read from the actual book for the first time.

I think it could take a long while for publication shine and excitement to wear off, which is just as well given I’m reading again at Boston Tea Party in Worcester on Thursday, June 24. The Phonic Room event kicks off at 7pm and entry is just one pound.

Meanwhile, my new website, complete with facilities to pre-order signed copies of the collection, went live this morning. It all adds to the atmosphere of joyful anticipation, as I’ve also been with fellow poet Jenny Hope to check out the Farrier’s Arms in Worcester ahead of our charity reading there in aid of Worcester Breast  Unit Campaign on Wednesday, August 18.

Of course, I’ve got extra good reasons for making the most of the excitement , as we definitely need something to cheer us up  after England’s football disappointment on Saturday. At least my son’s sports’ day on Friday had a better outcome when their house came first in the years 1 and 2 section! Let’s hope some of the good vibes spread!

It’s been a weekend of sun, food, poetry and friends…and then more sun, food poetry and friends!

Thursday night’s meeting about plans to launch a 2011 Worcester Literature Festival had a fantastic turn-out.  It was great to see so many people interested and enthusiastic. I and fellow poetry stanza member Jenny Hope are now meeting up with the festival organizers to see how we can be involved in making poetry stuff happen. It’s very exciting!

Friday, we took a trip down Memory Lane, Oxford, and managed to get away without asking sat nav for help! My favourite Indian take-away is no longer there but the ice-cream parlour is. We also managed to make it into the Ashmolean for a first time – so much to see. We only managed the Egyptians, pre-Raphaelites and Modern art – missing out rather a lot in between! Still, there’s always the next visit! And while my favourite Indian restaurant no longer exists, we discovered Lebanese food for a first time – and it was delicious too!

Saturday, I met up with poet friends at a free Arvon taster workshop with Daljit Nagra at Keat’s House in Hampstead. It is a beautiful place and the workshop was very thought-provoking. As we also sneaked off to Covent garden and the Poetry Place on the way back, it was a very enjoyable day. And we caught sight of some beautiful elephants (sculptures!) strolling the streets!

All in all a great weekend and another great week ahead, planning a more detailed proposal for my National Poetry Day residency/workshop in October (more details when it’s finalized), the first copies of my poetry collection Into The Yell due to be delivered at the end of the week and reading at Worcester Word and Sound on Friday.

Hope everyone else has a good week lined up too. Enjoy!

It’s been officially proven this weekend: firstly, that snow is too cold for comfort and, secondly, I am not a natural skier – more a face flat in the snow non-skier!

Temperature and broken back (only kidding!) aside, we had some family fun at Tamworth Snowdome over the bank holiday and I definitely prefer snow to rain! Talking of which, inside has definitely been the place to be with much of this week, which has been a busy one – though more with organising writing than actually creating any.

Thanks to my brilliant sister’s excellent work, my new website is now nearly finished, just final bits of info to do. I’ve been working on some workshop exercises for a poetry workshop at Newent Community School and Sixth Form Centre, Gloucestershire, in July that I’m doing in combination with fellow poet Jenny Hope. We’ve also been kicking loads of ideas around for the new literary festival planned for Worcester next year.

It’s all exciting stuff – and keeping me nicely distracted  from the excitement of my imminently approaching collection publication. I’m hoping to have my copies of Into the Yell from the publisher the week after half-term, reading to gear up for the launch on July 10!

Happy Bank Holiday everyone!

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