So, I decide to blog less often…and end up blogging more each time instead!

The past few weeks I have mainly been busy sorting my new study/office/spare bedroom (last pieces of furniture to get on Monday so people can at last come and stay without having to sleep on the floor) and making sure I get all my deadlines and submissions sorted before my boys broke from school. (I’ve mostly managed this!)

I was also delighted to hear that four poems (one previously unpublished, three new/two tending towards mainstream, two more experimental) have been accepted for the music anthology edited by Rupert Loydell and Mike Ferguson, which is due out from Knives, Forks and Spoons Press next year.

What I have been reading

I haven’t had as much time as I’d like for reading, but I have been enjoying the HappenStance pamphlet I won in the Zest ‘water’ theme four-line poetry competition. This is Hannah Are You Listening? By Hamish Whyte. I love his twists/slants of viewpoint in the poems, and also the humour. ‘The Giraffe in Our Living Room’ is a particular favourite.

I’ve also been enjoying ‘Letting Go’ by Angela Topping (Mother’s Milk Books, the press also currently has writing competitions running), though I’ve not had a chance to get very far through it yet. The poems of daughterhood are very moving and I love the vivid sensual details and juxtapositions. My particular favourites so far include ‘Father’s Bronchitis’, ‘Players Navy Cut’, ‘Reverse Routes’, ‘Second Best’, ‘She leaves her Body to Science’ and ‘Paper Patterns’. When I was a child most of my clothes were secondhand or made by my mother, who had a Singer sewing machine. My Mum is a very good seamstress and upholsterer but I always felt awkward and clumsy in her homemade creations. And I was rather a tomboy too.

On Friday, I also started dipping into my newly received Adventures in Form from Penned in the Margins. I’ve not got very far into this anthology yet, but already lots of excite and inspire.

Christmas Cards and Poetry

This time of year is one I find both fun and disturbing. The children’s enjoyment of it is a delight, as is having them at home for the holidays and spending time with family.

But it’s also a time when the weather can be bleak and expectations disappointed, particularly with all the advertising and commercial overhype that now seems to come automatically hand in hand with this ‘season of goodwill’.

This year, instead of sending paper Christmas cards, I decided to use simple electronic greeting and donate to charity – Médecins Sans Frontières.

My poetic offering this year, also comes in two forms, or two poetrees about these two sides to Christmas. I hesitate to call them poems, they are more word play. The verbal baubles wearing away as pine needles fall from the tree.

Books Offers

I’m delighted to have the following limited-time post-Christmas/New Year special offers on Be[yond] (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press) and Into the Yell (Circaidy Gregory Press).

I normally sell these at £7 and £7.99, plus postage and packing. In my offers below, not only are the books reduced but postage and packing is free.

Into the Yell and Be[yond] for £12

Into the Yell for £7

Be[yond] for £6.50

I’m happy also to sign these, if requested. Alternatively, of course, you might want to buy them direct from the presses (links above, check their sites for cost) and take advantage of any offers or other collections that you might like.

Meaningful Books

Last week I was also tagged in by poet Lindsey Mansfield Holland on something that has been doing the rounds on Facebook: to rapidly select 10 books which mean something to me.

It wasn’t easy defining what meaning was meaningful enough! So my list is not 10 books but eight, and it is not a list of ‘top’ books, simply ones that were/are important in some way. They are in no particular order and in some cases for entirely unliterary reasons. They’re also partly limited by my appalling memory.

1) Flaubert’s ‘Madame Bovary’ read for A level, uni, then re-read recently for the Wesleyan University/Coursera Modernism and Postmodernism course. (In the French, some translations suck.) Love it, so much so that I’m currently working on a modern poetry alternative, cross-genre version, working title ‘The Magnetic Diaries’.

2) Austen’s ‘Northanger Abbey’ – could probably have been one of her others, they all kind of felt the same plotwise. But I loved the free indirect speech form of narrative. This also meant something because I wrote about her works for my Oxford entrance exam, though then messed up the interview.

3) ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’, Richard Bach – wonderful illustrations, uplifting, saw some dark moments with me.

4) Michael Symmons Roberts’s ‘Corpus’ – the first time I brought two whole collections by one poet one after another. This overrode all the poetry-writing advice I’d received up to that point about not writing religiously/spiritually. Therefore: be very careful about whose advice you listen to and that any rules can be broken if broken well. (I still prefer this to his most recent award-winning ‘Drysalter’. Though the latter poetry is richer and many poems in it speak to me, one of the beauties of ‘Corpus’, for me, is that it opens up the world and spirituality. In ‘Corpus’, it feels like one could have any spiritual belief and find that voiced/explored in these poems, whereas some poems in ‘Drysalter’ feel like they tie things down too much, shutting out me as a [no longer Christian] reader. But that’s probably just my prejudices/subjectivity and I tend not to like ‘oh’/’o’ poems. Yes, that also applies to my ‘oh’ sections of the poetrees above!)

5) ‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel. Gripping story, beautifully written, very clever without being too clever. Thought-provoking.

6) ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ Milan Kundera – beautifully written, amazing psychological and philosophical insights. Spoke to me personally when I needed that. Made me cry.

7) Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’ – (despite uninspiring teaching at school) the characters, sauce, humour…I would love to create a modern hypertext version, alongside the original, the recent tv versions, Patience Agabi’s recent version and Bergvall’s ‘Meddle English’. And also linked to Francois Villon’s ‘Testaments’. However, as this would require an enormous amount of work/I couldn’t take comparison with Chaucer, Bergvall and Agabi/I think the recent popularity of the Tales may have gone past its peak point, this is an ‘on the back burner’ idea.

8) Herman Hesse’s ‘Steppenwolf’ – 21st birthday present (French translation) that I never read until a year ago (in English). A bit long-winded but interesting structure and observations. Also meaningful as a reminder of one of the weirdest years of my life, some high points, and hells I never want to go back to/guard against.

The Quiet Compère Tour

Tickets for the Birmingham event at the MAC, where I will be reading alongside some fantastic West Midlands poets are now available from here.