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.


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.


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 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!


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.


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.


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.


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.)