It’s been a lovely summer – sunshine in between the rain, time with my sons, a few breaks away. As usual, the holidays have quickly become a distant memory. For once though, it’s also been a bright start to the autumn, with two big pieces of news.

The first is being one of five poets shortlisted in the Wigtown Poetry Competition 2019 Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize. I’ve been a bit despondent about my own work lately – the demands of time, energy, life – so this is really boosting news!

My second is exciting in a different way – I will be judging this year’s Against The Grain Poetry Press poetry competition. The press published my most recent poetry chapbook, How to Grow Matches, in 2018. I’m very excited to be working with them now as a judge, and to reading all the poems that I know are going to stun, move and leave me spoiled for choice in choosing the winners. You can check out the rules and enter here. (And my chapbook How to Grow Matches is available from the press here. Or drop me an email on lifeislikeacherrytree@yahoo.com if you’d like a signed copy posting out.)

Other news that I’m feeling very grateful for:

‘Love as a prose poem’ (poem) published in Bonnie’s Crew issue 4 (page 44) in August 2019.

‘The Mermaid with a 12m Tail’ (poem) published on The Stare’s Nest in August 2019;

‘Stopping for a Coffee on Drury Lane at Dusk’ (poem) published in Domestic Cherry 7 to be launched at The Big Poetry Weekend, Swindon (see below for link to the festival) on Sunday, 6 October, 7:45pm to late.

My The High Window Resident Artist autumn slot has just been published, with four pieces of photographic art created in response to four poems in The High Window. This was great fun to do and I only wish I could have done it for more of the poems – there are so many stunning poems to enjoy in this and previous issues!

I’m also delighted to have poems ‘No Still Life’ and ‘Salt of the Earth’ accepted for the Offa’s Press Poetry of Worcestershire anthology.

I’m similarly over the moon to get a place on one of Kathy Fish’s fast flash (fiction) courses in October. I love running V. Press but it inevitably takes a lot of my time and energy, meaning my personal output, submissions and publications often takes second place to press demands. I need to create myself though, and in particular to write and find new creative challenges, in order to rebuild the energy needed to do everything else. So this course is a well-needed chance to refocus on my own work – even just thinking about it, I feel re-energised!

REVIEWS/MICROREVIEW

My short OPOI (One Point of Interest) review for Rachel Piercey’s Disappointing Alice on calls for attention can be enjoyed on Sphinx here.

A second OPOI on the counter-side of calls for attention – responding – can be enjoyed below.

Different Kinds of Attention – responding

Rachel Piercey’s Disappointing Alice (HappenStance) reminds me that giving attention has never seemed more urgent. Also, how unrelenting expectations and a need for attention can become.

In ‘Post-Film’, the main character ‘has the pleasant sense of being watched’. But everything is reduced to a filmic focus. Even washing his hands must be interesting. The girls in his life become part of this angle, rather than individuals. Here ‘the rain | on his face will be the applauding of hands’.

Relying on others in expectations or for self-esteem is risky. In ‘Deep in the Desert’, the main character may evoke Lewis Carrol’s Alice. Her call for attention may sound simple if needy:

‘Alice sent a message re. her total dereliction
of spirit and body in a far-off country,
stripped of wallet and phone.’

But the language also recalls contemporary internet scams that hijack people’s email accounts to ask for money to help friends in an emergency. The demands for attention are unsatisfying all round: ‘They all felt terse and arid | about disappointing Alice’.

This is self-conscious or staged attention. But even paying attention to the present moment isn’t straight forward. In ’Spring Cleaning’, distraction results in wonderful imaginative analogies like ‘I would be frightened | to feed a horse with apples | but I feed the hoover dusty hairballs’. Blinking is inevitable. Yet, when attention shifts to garden delights, it leads to:

‘[…] the tangible rattle
up the hose of something substantial,
which might matter, which might be
something I wouldn’t want to lose,
stuck now in a matted shroud.’

Attention is always a choice that prioritises one thing over another. This leads neatly into Piercey’s editing and crafting. Reading Disappointing Alice, I’m never sure what will come next. And it’s not that I need to pay attention, but that I want to pay attention — because each poem has a striking style and interesting approach. Imagery, metaphors and allusions are reinforced by alliteration, rhythm, rhyme. This attention to detail not only makes me want to read on, but also to read again – to enjoy the lines at every level.

EVENTS

Thursday, 3 October 2019 – Reading/Performance – Hereford Library
The new Poetry on Loan postcards National Poetry Day launch will feature readings/performances from Jeff Phelps, Emma Purshouse, Brenda Read-Brown and Sarah – four of the eight poets whose poems feature on this year’s postcards. Sarah will be sharing her anniversary-themed Poetry on Loan postcard poem and other poems including a selection from plenty-fish and How to Grow Matches.
7pm for a 7.30pm start
Venue: Hereford Library, Broad Street, Hereford HR4 9AU

Saturday, 5 October, 2019 – The Big Poetry Weekend, Swindon – Poetry Publishing Panel & Reading

3-4 p.m. Poets & Publishers: Carrie Etter in conversation with Claire Crowther, Deputy Editor of Long Poem Magazine and Sarah Leavesley, Editor of V. Press. £7.

Claire Crowther has published three full collections from Shearsman and five pamphlets, the latest of which, Knithoard from Happenstance, launched in June 2019. Her first collection was shortlisted for the Aldeburgh Prize. Her poetry has been published in many journals including London Review of Books, Poetry Review, Poetry London, PN Review, Poetry Wales, and Times Literary Supplement. She writes reviews, teaches creative writing at Oxford University, and was poet in residence at the Royal Mint.

Sarah Leavesley/Sarah James is an award-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer, featured in the Guardian, Financial Times, on the BBC, and in the Blackpool Illuminations. Her work ranges across nature, place, the environment, family, relationships, disability and more. Her latest books are How to Grow Matches (Against the Grain Press) and plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press), both shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Awards. She also runs V. Press, a poetry and flash fiction imprint.

4:30-5.30 p.m. Reading by Claire Crowther and Sarah Leavesley. £7.
Venue: Tent Palace of the Delicious Air at Richard Jefferies Museum, Marlborough Road (corner of Day House Lane), Coate Water, Swindon, SN3 6AA

Full programme: https://bigpoetryweekend.com/full-programme/
Tickets (including weekend passes, and day passes at £15): https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-big-poetry-weekend-tickets-58628979857