My shoal of plenty-fish arrived from Nine Arches Press last week, and I am absolutely delighted with them.

I said that I’d share the endorsements and why those poets’ opinions are important to me.

So, Catherine Smith has been kind enough to say: “Sarah James’s poems bring the natural world to the page in all its sticky, colourful, goose-pimpled and prickly reality, tingling with precisely observed images. With a photographer’s eye, and all her senses finely attuned, she writes with great honesty of the intimate joys and sadnesses of family life, the body’s frailties, and of the losses and gains that come with love and vulnerability. She identifies sacred moments in the everyday and ephemeral; at the flushing away of fairground goldfish, ‘My son demands a prayer.’ These poems are both grounded in a luscious physicality, and boldly metaphysical, touching on the numinous.”

My first contact with Catherine dates back many years, to when she was editor at The New Writer. These were my early poetry days. Unlike many editors (though I didn’t realise then quite how rare this was) when Catherine rejected my poems, she would send back handwritten note of feedback and encouragement with them. Often this also included those golden words inviting me to resubmit these poems again when I’d looked at those points. I learned massively from this process, as well as the boost of having re-worked poems accepted and published.

Catherine is a fantastic writer – a PBS recommendation, shortlisted in major collection prizes, a 2004 ‘Next Generation’ poet, as well as accolades in short fiction and radio drama. (You can find out more about Catherine here.) When my first collection Into the Yell was published in 2010, she kindly agreed to write some words for the back cover. I was delighted when she agreed to do the same for plenty-fish as I feel that her encouragement has been an important part of my development as a poet.

Angela France is another poet whose work I have admired for years and who has known me and my work’s development over the same period. I first met Angela at Derwent Poetry Festival after I was shortlisted in the Templar Poetry Pamphlet Awards in 2009. She was kind enough to read and comment on my first collection, and to agree to do the same with plenty-fish. Having both been published by different presses earlier in our writing lives, it is also a delightful serendipity for me to join her in being published by Nine Arches. Her wonderful collection, Hide, can be found here.

Writing about plenty-fish, she says: “Sarah James’s plenty-fish is an exciting collection with much to surprise and delight. Sarah James has a keen eye for the startling image and memorable metaphor, together with an obvious delight in language and a real sense of how poems feel in the mouth. Each poem is allowed to find its own form, its own space on the page and every line is given its own weight. Reading it from start to finish, I am left with a feeling of the whole collection celebrating ‘the slipperiness of life’ while never forgetting about ‘death’s strong stench’ (from ‘Past Sacrificial’).”

David Calcutt is not just a poet but also a playwright and novelist. My first introduction to David was through the Bugged project and anthology that he ran with Jo Bell. It was a delight to have a poem chosen for that, and to be part of many other projects across the Midlands that have seen us share a cause, stage, creative chatter. It is also a pleasure to hear how my work comes across to those who write and read outside of poetry.

His lovely comments on plenty-fish are: “I found the poems in this collection fresh, startling, and at times pleasingly unsettling and disturbing. They aren’t poems to comfort but to question and probe. In other words, they’re poems doing the proper job of waking you up, making you feel more alert to the world, to its brightness, its cruelty, its beauty. Sarah James has a sure and assured voice, the true poet’s eye for detail which she evokes with an unswerving clarity through well-crafted and precise imagery.”

What else this week? Well, a recording of my reading at Ledbury on Wednesday, July 8 is now live in the Audio Highlights on the Ledbury Poetry Festival website. It is the third event recording listed on that date, and my reading starts after Ruth Stacey’s at about 33mins 30secs.

On Saturday, I led my first workshop in yonks for Worcester Cathedral Poets. I really enjoyed this: a group of very talented poets, sunshine and unexpected music. It was great to hear some of the poems read aloud at the end and hear which part of the workshop had inspired them.

Writing about hearing poems, I am also delighted to have a whole range of readings planned for September, including part of Poetry Half-Hour in the afternoon at Droitwich Saltfest on Saturday, September 12, followed by the Droitwich launch of plenty-fish as part of the festival that evening. On Friday, September 18, there will be a Birmingham launch of plenty-fish as part of a Nine Arches launch for books by myself, David Hart, Myra Connell and David Clarke. I will be a guest poet at Leicester Shindig on Monday, September 21, and also taking part in the Nine Arches Vintage Poetry Bus reading experience as part of Birmingham Literature Festival on Sunday, October 11. More details about all these events can be found on my events page.

Other snippets of news include four poems taken for Southlight and lots of reading for V. Press and my next microreview…to follow, hopefully, next week.