Sarah James

the possibilities of poetry…

Looking up image 7 - tree lens scaled down for The High WindowI’ve been wondering and wandering a lot lately – on trees, nature, health, writing and many other interests and influences that shape both my life and how I feel about my life. I’ve not yet transcribed these thoughts to paper/screen, and possibly never well. Not all that is thought needs recording – in fact, given the state of my musings sometimes, heaven forbid!

Whether I like it or not though, what I think, believe and care about does tend to make itself felt in my work, even some things I believe I’ve consciously filtered out. Is this the nature of life in general as well as writing? I suspect so. I am my thoughts and actions, though the full picture of me may not be captured by just those things. As a writer, that inevitably means I am in everything I write.

For what glimpses it may give, and what those glimpses may or may not be worth, the past few months has seen me celebrating the following:

Looking Up to the Sky, Trees as inspiration, resource, lifeline article/essay with poems and photos published on The High Window in June 2019.

‘Woodland Walk’, ‘Bark’ and ‘Wearing Real Mist’ (poems) published in The High Window, issue 14, summer 2019 in June 2019.

‘A Countryside Town’ and ‘The Lamppost’ (poems) published in Scintilla 22 in May 2019 – available on
Amazon UK, Amazon USA, Amazon Germany, Amazon Japan.

A revised handout/series of tension-themed prompts following my workshop for Trinity Arts week at Trinity College, Oxford, can be found here.

I was also commissioned to write an anniversary-themed poem for Poetry on Loan, and then heard that this poem is one of a number chosen for use on a Poetry on Loan postcard, with various library spoken word events to follow – I’m so delighted, watch this space for more news soon!

Other good news includes a poem shortlisted in the Welshpool Poetry Festival Poetry Competition and a poem accepted for The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society anthology to be launched at Marsden Walking Festival in September. (The event takes place on Saturday 21 September between 6pm and 7.30pm at Marsden Library, Peel Street, Marsden, West Yorkshire – Facebook event:

And I’ve had a poem accepted for Words for the Wild next month and a flash for publication in September.

Meanwhile on the art front, I’ve two pieces from a sequence (Us too – among the lost hearts and Us too – lost hearts, swarming) in the latest issue of Bonnie’s Crew.

Snake Girl‘ (flash) and ‘Freewheeling‘ (flash) published on CafeLit in June 2019.

V. Press at the Flash Fiction Festival

Sunday, 30 June 2019 – Publishing with an Indie Press, Flash Fiction Festival
Trinity College Bristol, Stoke Hill, Stoke Bishop, 2.45-3.45pm. This event is part of the weekend festival – full details on booking can be found on the festival website at

‘Publishing with an Indie Press’
Diane Simmons, whose debut flash fiction collection Finding A Way was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in February 2019, Damhnait Monaghan, whose debut flash fiction chapbook The Neverlands was published in April 2019 by V.Press, and Susmita Bhattacharya published by Dahlia Press will talk about their journeys to publication and what has happened in the few months since, with publishers Jude Higgins from Ad Hoc Fiction, Sarah Leavesley from V Press and Farhana Shaikh from Dahlia Press. Diane, Damhnait and Susmita will read samples from their collections and there will be Q and A.

V. Press at Ledbury Poetry Festival – Sunday, 14 July 

This year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival includes three V. Press poets, Margaret Adkins, John Lawrence and Brenda Read-Brown, giving FREE 20-minute readings on Sunday, July 14.

Photo by Leah Adkins

20 Minutes with… Margaret Adkins
12:20 pm – 12:40 pm

Margaret Adkins will read from her debut pamphlet, Mingled Space. It won the inaugural V. Press Poetry Prize in association with the University of Worcester, and was launched in May. These poems inhabit real and imagined everyday spaces. Other work features in recent issues of Under the Radar and Prole magazines.

20 Minutes with… John Lawrence
3:20 pm – 3:40 pm

John Lawrence will read from his V. Press debut collection The boy who couldn’t say his name. His poems are packed with heart, humour, and a unique slant on everyday life. The Poetry Book Society Spring Bulletin reviewed The boy who couldn’t say his name as ‘… a thoroughly enjoyable debut collection. Running the full gamut of the comic and the tragic…’

Photo by Andy Smith

20 Minutes with… Brenda Read-Brown
5:20 pm – 5:40 pm

A look at the sharper edges of life, love and laughter, performance poet Brenda Read-Brown has turned to the page with her new collection, Like love (V Press). “The poems in Like love are uncluttered. They are simple, profound, and immensely touching…” Brian Patten. “These poems remind me of the tingles. I’m so happy to feel them. This collection makes me want to run outside, kiss, fall in leaves and then write.” Hollie McNish

Romalyn Ante is also a Nine Arches/Poetry School Primers:Volume Three poet reading on Saturday, July 13. (You can find details of her V. Press pamphlet Rice & Rain which won the Saboteur Awards 2018 Best Poetry Pamphlet here.)

(Thanks to Herefordshire Libraries who are supporting these readings.) The festival runs from Friday, July 5 to Sunday, July 14 and you can check out the full festival programme here.

In April 2019, I was delighted to be invited to run two workshops with the wonderful Creative Group at St Paul’s Hostel in Worcester.

The theme was light (and darkness), taking inspiration from and responding to the group’s own photos of Worcester Cathedral on the theme of ‘Finding Light’, which will be the title of the group’s next booklet.

I’m delighted to be able to share some of the beautiful poems created during these workshops!

(NB Just to note that the photos in these blogposts are my own. The group’s photography workshops were delivered by Neil Styles, tutor with Libraries and Learning, Adult Learning Worcestershire, over a period of 5 months. These photographs will be on display along with other people`s work in and around the Council Chamber at County Hall from 1-24 June and the exhibition then moves on to Worcester Cathedral in the last week of June.)

P1100091 st paul's hostel blog 2 title

Tempus Fugit: Carpe Diem

by Gerry Lowman

Time is flying: Seize the Day!
Whatever your circumstances find a way
To nurture yourself with inner reflection
And forwards onto outward action!
Listen to your thoughts and hear what others say
Live in this precious moment!
But do not dwell or overstay
Allowing inertia or anxiety to outplay
All the good urgently needed today.
Tempus fugit: Carpe diem!

The light on the sundial casts its shadow
Proof of the fact that we all must follow
That winged chariot taking us to the morrow.
Precious light from the life giving sun
The overriding goal that now must be won
Is to save our planet from our careless destruction
So leaving it safe for millennia to come
And make the future secure for the incoming generation.
Time is flying: Seize the Day!

Youth of today have taken up the banner
Stirring our consciences with their energy and fervour
Capture this moment, bring us all together
And acting as ONE save our precious earth forever!

Tempus Fugit: Carpe Diem!
Time is flying: Seize the Day!


A Guiding Light

by Paul Manley

A light distinguishing a path
On right and wrong
I would like to be
The Decider of the Path
Of men
On right or wrong

This is Easter

by Gerry Lowman

Enliven the usual scene of pomp and ceremony
With love and joy and amazing energy
For this is Easter, the Christ has risen
Raise your voices to the rafters
In praise and thanks and joyful laughter.
Turn to your neighbour and share the moment
This is the time to give voice to your emotions
What joy, what love is all around
Look down dear Jesus as we stand
On this holy ground.

cathedral inside pix july 2010 002

Bright Light

by Gerry Lowman

Through the windows pours the bright light
Casting kaleidoscopic colours upon surrounding arches
And contrasting the stark outline of the statue so white
So that its presence reaches out from the darkness
And our curiosity gained, with wonder, our sight
Follows where the statue is pointing, trying to gain our awareness
Of the hidden tales of glory and might
And myriad happenings down through the centuries
Revealed to us in ancient inscriptions, bathed in the light

Old steps of marble and shining metal

by Claire, the Poet with Passion

Old steps of marble and shining metal
Don`t glow in the darkest hours after midnight
They no longer entice your eyes
With twinkling light bursts of delight
They simply fade and die
Just like you and I.

cathedral inside pix july 2010 029

In the presence of an Angel

by Gerry Lowman

The warmth of the lighted Angel`s shadow
Upon the cold, austere grey stones
Brings comfort, unnoticed, by the crowds below
As it keeps guard over the cherished bones
Of the anointed King whose head rests on a stone pillow.
But in the darkness of the still night the Angel comes
Resplendent in shining purity and, now fully on show,
It graces this space with an eternal glow.
So stand still awhile and take time to allow
Yourself to feel the wondrous touch of
An Angel`s presence!

Light at the end of the dark arch tunnel

by Charley Gittings

There is light at the end of the dark arch tunnel
Weaving through the darkness to get to the bright bit of light at the end
Twirling the bits of brickwork together
Into a little blend
When you mend
The walls
Transfixing them to the dark dark arches together
Into a dark dark little room of the crypt

In her own low shadow

by Claire Cariad Morgana

She stands in the crypt below
In her own low shadow.
Sadly, for her, without her own day glow window.
She looks forlorn, lonely, sad and hollow
Without any life-giving marrow.
Been made by a chiselled stonemason fellow.
Centuries on from her army`s weapons of a bow and arrow
I would suggest that her thoughts are somewhat narrow.
She stands for all eternity, longing for sleep and a restful warm pillow.
She never ever gets to see that flying sparrow.

Made of Plantation Cotton

by Claire, the Poet with Passion

The flag, those ancient flags
Some made of plantation cotton
Enforced slavery
A plantation manager, so very rotten.
Centuries later
Post the Windrush begotten
The British white purist
Fascists have forgotten
That this material
This soft clean cotton
Made those men very rich
And maybe the flags helped
With the rotten leave Brexit pitch.


There once was a pink giraffe

by Gerry Lowman

There once was a pink giraffe
Who gave all visitors a laugh
To Worcester Cathedral it came
And here has achieved fame
Let`s give our pink giraffe a name!

In April 2019, I was delighted to be invited to run two workshops with the wonderful Creative Group at St Paul’s Hostel in Worcester.

The theme was light (and darkness), taking inspiration from and responding to the group’s own photos of Worcester Cathedral on the theme of ‘Finding Light’, which will be the title of the group’s next booklet.

I’m delighted to be able to share some of the beautiful poems created during these workshops!

(NB Just to note that the photos in these blogposts are my own. The group’s photography workshops were delivered by Neil Styles, tutor with Libraries and Learning, Adult Learning Worcestershire, over a period of 5 months. These photographs will be on display along with other people`s work in and around the Council Chamber at County Hall from 1-24 June and the exhibition then moves on to Worcester Cathedral in the last week of June.)

P1100091 st apul's hostel pic finished


by Theresa Fisher

Warm and bright reflecting happiness untold
And making things unfold
Like flowers in the park
And lighten up the dark
A yellow daffodil, bright and cheery
Makes the day less dreary


by Paul Manley

Light goes into night
Night goes into day
Day goes into seeking
This is what we portray

In the day

by Charley Gittings

In the day the light reflexes off the arches
With the colours dashing
Around in the midst of the dark places
But when it is dark there is no cascading
Of bright literal colours bouncing
There is just
Black of black
In the pitch of the night

cathedral inside pix july 2010 020 straightened

Bury my past

by Claire, the Poet with Passion

I would hold a party to bury my past
Play only Wagner`s “Flight of the Valkyrie”
Insisting that my past will vanish and die.
I`d bring a huge spade and loads of dirt
And shovel in all the anger, pain and hurt.
I`d dress up in the darkest shade of black
Cast a spell to prevent it from ever coming back.
I`d dance, trance like, with friends and several witches
Bury the painful memories in many ditches
Promising myself that I`d never revisit
A past that I wish had never existed.

Creepy Crawlies

by Paul Manley

Creepy crawlies
Draughty corners
To the touch
Wondering why
You seek
So much

Light feels like hope when it heals

by Claire, the Poet with Passion

When you stand in the darkness, pausing
Hope is what pulls you towards the daylight
Visible through that open door.
Light gives me hope for a future life
A dream that I will eventually be so much more.
Light allows me to open the door, the drawer, my mind
To such prospects and opportunities that I`ve yet to find.
Fear of failure and mass rejection
Makes me shy away from the light`s reflection.
Yet I know if I am to be successful and persevere
I absolutely must allow light into my life
To remain with me here.

cathedral inside pix july 2010 014 lightened and cropped

Angel shadow

by Ray Morgan

Bright with black and white
Bright is the angel, dark is the night
Whisper of cold, pure delight
Here stops quickly
Either rich or poor
The angel shows you mercy
When she shows you the door

The Door

by Paul Manley

The door is to seek
The door is to forget
What is beyond?
Beyond is to forget
The situation
You go through

There isn`t no brime or grime

by Charley Gittings

There isn`t no brime or grime
There`s just shine and a little bit of slime
It used to be white by sight
And so so bright within the light
But now it`s got to fight the might
By the dark dark night.
The sun shines a shadow from the pillows
Of snow upon the mallows
Shall we follow the glow and grow
To the fellows of the Mellows?

I am the slow burning lamp

by Gerry Lowman

I am the slow burning lamp
Keeping alight the cross in the darkness
I am the ancient light
Using the wick of life
In the clay crucible where we all began.
The ancient light, using God`s gift of oil
Within the smooth cradle of the warm mother earth.

IMG_3276 fire

A camp Fire

by Peter Middleton

I can simmer as an ember, but be the brightest flame
For I see the light and darkness and life is not a game.
I play with fire my every day
But the ash and darkness don`t go away
The darkness is not my desire
Still I need someone to stoke the fire.
The body is weak and old and the fire is at its low
With a little breath of air
I know it can still glow

I`d want to be a flame

by Claire, the Poet with Passion

I`d want to be a flame, an energetic fire
Like the kind who engulfed Notre Dame`s spire
I`d sometimes be safe and comforting and slow
Then often I`d want to set the horizon aglow
I`d be the darkest yellow and the fiercest red
I`d light the pathway to the cemetery`s dead
Sadly there`s not warmth and fire when you`ve passed away
Thus my passion and flame must burn brightly for today.

cathedral inside pix july 2010 010

The next few months I’ll be running round with even more hats than usual, having taken on an exciting new role as Ledbury Poetry Festival Guest Editor for Versopolis Review. Part of the role is commissioning new work for publication on Versopolis Review in the run-up to this year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival at the start of July. As usual the festival is packed with great events – meaning I’m almost too spoiled for choice in choosing what to feature!!!

With a different hat on, this year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival also includes three V. Press poets Margaret Adkins, John Lawrence and Brenda Read-Brown giving free 20-minute readings on Sunday, July 14. (Thanks to Herefordshire Libraries who are supporting these readings.) You can check out the full festival programme here with public booking opening next Saturday (May 18).

On then with the party hat for my own writing. Life has been busy but I’m delighted to have a few personal publications to celebrate, and workshops and readings coming up this week. So…

Extracts From His Wives’ Diaries a photo flash combination sequence (photo flash cartoon strip) published in Riggwelter issue 21, May 2019.
Catch‘gets a ‘special mention’ in Five Aspects of Me Poetry Competition 2018 (theme ‘the spirit of childhood’).

broadstsheldonianblog pictrinitychapel


Tuesday, May 14, 2019 – Trinity Arts Week poetry workshop – Trinity College, Oxford, 3.45pm-5pm

Trinity Arts week presents a poetry workshop with Sarah James and Sophia Thakur. Sarah James is a prolific and award-winning artist, editor of, has been shortlisted for the International Rubery Book Awards, and won the Overton Poetry Prize. Sophia Thakur is a spoken word poet who has performed at Glastonbury, has collaborated with Nike, and recently headlined a sold-out show in London. Expect a range of exercises on the Arts Week theme of ‘Tension’ and don’t forget to bring pen/paper/laptop or whatever you write with. The workshop is free (and open to the public as well as students) but places are limited, so please reserve a place through the tickets/booking link here. Facebook page here.

At: Trinity College, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BH

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 – Trinity Arts Week Jazz and Poetry – Trinity College Chapel, Oxford, 8pm

An evening of Jazz and Poetry in the beautiful and intimate space of Trinity chapel. Poetry readings by Sarah James and Sophia Thakur. Music Line-up TBA. Venue: Trinity College Chapel, Trinity College, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BH. Facebook event page here.

Thursday, 16 May 2019 – Vanguard Readings, Peckham

Vanguard Readings May 19


Last month, I was delighted to be invited to run two workshops with the wonderful Creative Group at St Paul’s Hostel in Worcester.The theme was light (and darkness), taking inspiration from and responding to the group’s own photos of Worcester Cathedral on the theme of ‘Finding Light’, which will be the title of the group’s next booklet. Towards the end of this month and the start of June, I’m delighted to be able to share some of the beautiful poems created during these workshops. So look out for those – and the group’s exhibition – soon!

spring haiku for Nine Arches smaller size

The photo-poem above features a spring haiku written for Nine Arches Press last month.

I’m very pleased to have ‘Like a bird‘ published in Unbroken journal for prose poems and poetic prose issue 21.

I’m also delighted to have a photo and poem, ‘Sparkle’, included on The Writing Manchester Map just launched by Manchester Metropolitan University and WordLife. ‘Sparkle’ is set at The Midland hotel and features Ada, the main character of my Overton Poetry Prize 2015 pamphlet Lampshades & Glass Rivers. The map can be explored here. (And the direct link for my poem and photo here – though I’d really recommend enjoying exploring the full map.)

Balancing Acts: My Writing Day‘ article with photos on Rob McLennan’s my (small press) writing day blog in March 2019.

Sunshine and Rain: Photo-poems inspired by Jacques Prévert‘ published on The High Window in March 2019.


The Europeans David ClarkeEven an ostrich with its head under several Saharas’ worth of sand couldn’t avoid Brexit. David Clarke’s new Nine Arches Press collection The Europeans does what British politicians currently seem to be failing to do – it cuts through the chaos to highlight what things really look and feel like in, and beyond, Britain and Europe. Clarke’s poems combine strong and striking imagery with beautifully crafted lines to retain a deceptively light touch yet dig deep. His poems here examine and re-imagine “this awkward age” and sometimes “cold rage” in light of the past, world uncertainty now and the implications on what may come next. A thought- and admiration-provoking collection!

9781911587163 Inside the Blue House cover imageIt’s been a good fortnight for me when it comes to enjoying new poetry. Inside the Blue House by Sonia Jarema (Palewell Press) is a striking selection of evocative and moving poems encompassing grief, growing up and going home, as well as migration, multi-cultural influences and more. The pamphlet opens with a short, interesting introduction to the background setting – both family history and the history of the Ukraine. The two are closely intertwined in the pamphlet where the past is inseparable from the present, however much life also throws new changes and challenges. Suffering is matched by resilience, striking details reinforced by memorable phrasing. Here:

“only the river is never swept away” (‘the earth holds secrets’);

“The ghost is a village of itself,” (‘Mariyka’s song’);

“I take my friend to a funeral and watch
as a detached blue and yellow car bonnet
is carried into church. Its edges
are shaped like Ukraine’s borders
but one part is missing…”

(‘Ukraine you come to me in dreams’.)

The Sticklebacks from The Hedgehog Poetry Press are one-of-a-kind. These ultra-slim booklets have ISSNs rather than ISBNs and feel like a cross between typical poetry magazine format and a solo-poet poetry card. As a cult member/ press subscriber, the six recent Sticklebacks arrived together – as if in a journal, and yet each poet’s work is actually presented in a stylish individual poetry-card style booklet with cover, endpapers and 4-6 pages of poems.
The recent set of sticklebacks includes:
Kate Garrett (The fifth and final – striking and moving poems of motherhood, nature, the generations before and behind us)
Martin Malone (Shetland Lyrics – evocative and beguiling poems of time, place and people)
Jeremy Reed (Spotlight on Jeremy Reed – imaginative, characterful, energetic and linguistically sizzling poems of celebrity, culture, society, politics)
C. R. Smith (Quiet Conversations With The Dead – a wide-encompassing, evocative and thought-provoking selection of poems of individual and ecological death, loss and memory)
Penelope Shuttle (Poems from Lyonesse – beguiling, atmospheric and characterful poems of legend and place)
Melissa Fu (String & Circumstance – beautifully choreographed and beguiling prose poetry, featuring childhood, family and life)

I could easily write more about all of these titles, but time being in constant deficit, I’m going to concentrate on one by a writer I’ve not micro-reviewed before. String & Circumstance by Melissa Fu is a beguiling series of second-person snapshots, combining narrative elements, strong characterisation and striking imagery, language and metaphor. They’re evocative and crafted, thought-provoking and emotion-stirring. But the closing lines of the ‘Kaleidoscope’ actually sums up this selection by Fu better than I could. “Their beauty falls through your vision, like water through your fingers. A dance choreographed from equal measures of chance and gravity.” Like these kaleidoscopic shapes, Fu’s words are beautifully choreographed, illuminating each insight or snippet of life from varied intricate slants.

PaperHouse cover image

The Paper House by Karen Dennison is a very enjoyable full collection from The Hedgehog Poetry Press. The poems are full of evocative and sensual details, with wonderful, beautiful, striking lines that made me gasp time and time again. Loss threads through all four parts – be it death, childhood memories or the lives, possibilities and relationships now behind the poet-narrator(s). But they’re crafted in a way that also brings insight and wonder: “Time stacks up behind us, a realisation that we’ve gone | too far, that turning back will bring only dark” (‘In the Mountains’). Family, place (London), artistic inspiration and a sense of home and not-home are other themes that hook me in. The imagery, narratives and characters are so vivid that I can see and feel them. But Dennison layers deftly as well as deeply, retaining light touches of mystery/the unexplained that leave space for reader interpretation and make for beguiling and haunting poetry. A beautiful, moving and spell-binding collection.

Karen is also sending any profits from sales to St Mungo’s Charity working to support the homeless and prevent homelessness. Copies can be purchased from here


Sunday, June 30 – Publishing with an Indie Press, Flash Fiction Festival
Trinity College Bristol, Stoke Hill, Stoke Bishop, 2.45-3.45pm. This event is part of the weekend festival – full details on booking can be found on the festival website at

‘Publishing with an Indie Press’
Diane Simmons, whose debut flash fiction collection Finding A Way was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in February 2019, and Damhnait Monaghan, whose debut flash fiction chapbook The Neverlands was published in April 2019 by V.Press, will talk about their journeys to publication and what has happened in the few months since, with publishers Jude Higgins from Ad Hoc Fiction and Sarah Leavesley from V Press. Diane and Damhnait will read samples from their collections and there will be Q and A.

February has been a cold but beautifully sunlit month – both literally and metaphorically. Having had one heavy cold at Christmas, I started the month with another flu-like bug. Not only have I had a lingering cough from this but also a lingering lethargy, without much energy to write, paint, take photos or submit work. (And yes, also two weeks off swimming and cycling.)

This made for an interesting few weeks for me, as I don’t do doing nothing well! But instead of fighting this gentler pace, for once I’ve been going with it. Light has come from pieces already scheduled for publication and submissions that I’d given up hope on. (The world really does seem to have life-lessons tucked up its sleeve for me this year!)

I’m absolutely delighted to have my photo ‘Warning’ published in Bonnie’s Crew Issue 1, February 2019;

after he moved in - buddha with lightbulbs

After he moved in‘ – a flash about false wisdom – was published by Litro as their #FlashFriday on 22 February 2019.

I’ve also had two poems ‘A Countryside Town’ and ‘The Lamppost’ accepted for Scintilla issue 22, a poem ‘Love as a Prose Poem’ accepted for Bonnie’s Crew issue 4 and two pieces of art from a series ‘us too’ (‘among the lost hearts’ and ‘lost hearts, swarming’) accepted for Bonnie’s Crew issue 3.

I’m also really pleased to have my syllabic sonnet ‘Love like glass’ shortlisted in Hedgehog Poetry Press Cupid’s Arrow competition, and set to be published in a Stickleback anthology next month.

Other news includes a lovely reading, talk and Q and A session with a fabulous group of students in the Literary Society at The King’s School, Worcester. I was also delighted to be one of the judges for this year’s Trinity Arts Week poetry competition at Trinity College, Oxford, where I did my degree. It’s great to see just how much enthusiasm, interest and talent there is among young writers and readers!

There have also been some great new poems over on LitWorld2 and a whole set of fabulous poetry and flash fiction pamphlets from V. Press – I’m proud and honoured to publish these writers.


This year I will have been running the Poetry Society’s Worcestershire stanza for ten years!!! I can’t believe how fast the time has gone (and we won’t talk about my ageing over that time either)! To celebrate the stanza’s 10th anniversary, I’ve set up a Worcestershire Poetry Map:

More information about how to navigate the poetry map and/or submit poems for this, can be found here. Initial submissions for inclusion on the map have been from stanza members, but I’d love to open that up to poets from across the county and outside of the county who are using Worcestershire places and people as inspiration for their poems – so please do check out the submission guidelines and send me more poems for the map!


In Search of Equilibrium Cover WEBTheresa Lola’s In Search of Equilibrium (Nine Arches Press)

Last month I finally got a weekend free and, with it, time to sit down properly with Theresa Lola’s In Search of Equilibrium (Nine Arches Press). Often I dip in and out of collections, but this is one I found myself reading from cover to cover; it is totally engrossing! Partly this is the narrative and thematic threads – Alzheimer’s , loss, death, depression, but also life and survival – the poems are very moving. But they’re also very inventive and striking, giving new slants on these very empathisable situations and emotions. Both Lola’s use of form and strong, effective, unusual metaphors repeatedly had me thinking I’d never thought of it like that, but actually that’s extraordinarily apt! A mesmerising, beautiful and haunting collection.


Herstory Flyer (1)

REST-front cover-for webIn my latest interview for In the Booklight, I talk to Martin Johns about his poetry pamphlet Resting Place from Palewell Press…

Who or what would you say is the strongest influence in/on your life and writing? Where and how can this be found in ‘Resting Place’?

Perhaps the strongest influence on my life has probably been my Welsh non-conformist upbringing. In my writing, I have been influenced by too many to mention. As a young person I was enthralled by the poetry of Dylan Thomas and later by Seamus Heaney. I could also highlight the work of Elizabeth Bishop. Of those writing today, Alice Oswald always dazzles me with poetry that’s both beautiful and profound.

When were the poems in ‘Resting Place’ written – do they come from a concentrated burst of inspiration or years of redrafting, editing, refocusing?

‘Resting Place’ contains a few poems written fairly recently, however most were written quite some time ago. I do tend to write in bursts of activity but I’m definitely in the category of those who endlessly redraft and edit. After writing, often using paper and pencil, I turn to the computer and start to redraft in earnest. I always leave poems to settle for a period of days, weeks or even much longer before reviewing, editing again and finally setting about polishing. There can be lines that just come into my head and remain in the finished poem but in the main, my poems are carved out over time. I’ve been fortunate to have had several mentors who have helped me to take a fresh look at my poems. Once a poem has been published in a magazine, I rarely wish to redraft.

How did the pamphlet title and the structure in four sections come about? How easy or hard was it deciding which poems to include, and where?

Choosing a title wasn’t easy but it’s an important part of a collection or pamphlet. Together with my publisher Camilla Reeve, I considered several possible titles before deciding on ‘Resting Place’. Often a collection’s title is taken from the title of a poem, as in the case of my pamphlet. However, other ideas were explored including using a line from a poem; ‘silver in the shadows’, for example, from the poem ‘At Porthcawl’ was considered. ‘The panorama is a moonscape / tugged by a sea that leaves / silver in the shadows…

Martin JohnsThe four sections came about at the suggestion of my publisher. This was mainly I think to accommodate poems I really wanted to include but were outside the publisher’s wish to focus on poems about the natural world. I had a serious health issue some years ago, the response to which resulted in a series of poems including ‘Assassin’ – ‘There were no warnings. From an unseen / shadow came a stab, the assassin’s / stab that left the dagger’s hilt a weight / pressed to my surrendered chest… Men perhaps tend to be more reluctant to write poetry about illness, however I was keen to share my poems on the subject of my life-threatening experience. The sections of the pamphlet, New World, Old World, Mortality, and Another Country, provide a structure to differing themes. There were poems that almost selected themselves whilst others proved harder to choose from the competing claims of past work.

Travel and foreign places – foreign for me at least – feature across the pamphlet. What’s your favourite location in the pamphlet and why?

Travel does always inspire me to write. Forced to choose a place from this pamphlet it would be New Zealand, despite only one poem in the pamphlet being related to that country. New Zealand is spectacular, having widely differing landscapes; rugged coastlines, palm edged sandy beaches, glaciers, rounded forest clad mountains, and fertile countryside.

Would you say most of your poems come primarily from the heart or the mind, or a mixture of the two?

To follow on from your previous question, place is important to me, but places are only a starting point. My poetry often uses the personal but is not necessarily personal, if that makes sense. For me, poetry is essentially about experiences, but my poems come both from gut emotions within and the mind, attempting to analyse and make sense of our world.

What haven’t I asked about the pamphlet that would you absolutely insist that I should question? And what is the answer?

People have asked me how easy or difficult it was to find a publisher. The answer is finding a publisher willing to take on a collection or pamphlet isn’t at all easy. In fact it’s very difficult to get a book published and I suspect the older a writer gets, the harder it becomes to find a publisher. Getting poems published in poetry magazines with a good reputation and building a track record is important. Although this too is far from easy.

REST-front cover-for webWhere can people get hold of a copy of ‘Resting Place’?

The easiest way to get a copy of ‘Resting Place’ is direct from the publisher Palewell Press: The pamphlet can also be obtained online from Waterstones, Amazon etc.

Thank you, Martin, for these insights into ‘Resting Place’, and some of the inspiration behind it.

To read more In the Booklight interviews with authors, please click on this link.

Meanwhile, I was delighted when Martin asked me a few months ago to write an endorsement for Resting Place, which you can find below:

“A powerful journey into many settings, Resting Place captures the evocative sounds and motion of cities and coastlines, in familiar and foreign locations, through precise imagery and vivid metaphors. But the pamphlet also maps inner landscapes, from an insect-splattered road movie (‘Persistence of memory’) to the convergence of past and present in ‘A longing for snow’: ‘Snow the conservator bringing us back | like dreams of childhood, the white bees | have come again to hug the trees.’ Historical backdrops, compositional inspiration, imaginative flights of the honeybee…the wide-ranging four sections – New World, Old World, Mortality and Another Country – pulse like chambers of the heart. Alongside beauty, sharp edges are exposed: the world’s darker elements and the human body’s personal, moving, fragilities. Ultimately though, each poem is a resting place: the words on the page and the space around them allow each image, rhythm and emotion to sink in, then resonate, as if ‘punctuated by the brilliant | echo of stars.’”

So I started 2019 with a full-on cold and a car with dead battery. The only great thing about this is that it heavily weighted the chance of January getting better rather than worse!

And the first good thing of the year wasn’t far away – ‘The Tything, 8.57am on a Wednesday‘ published on Atrium on New Year’s Day 2019.

Other highlights of the month include:

P1100026 smaller size ‘Grey wonderer’ shortlisted in the 2019 Wolverhampton Literature Festival (WoLF) poetry competition and to be published in the WoLF anthology which will be on sale at the award ceremony on Sunday, 3 February at 2.30pm in Wolverhampton art gallery.

‘The House on the Moor’ – a five-part poetry sequence – won Hedgehog Press’s cult competition ‘Who lives in a house like this?’ and published in the Stickleback issue/anthology Who Lives In A House Like This?, available as a free pdf download here in Jan 2019.

Five poems – (Un)watching, Every speck/every drop/ everything, Feathers and Teeth, Atlas, “If I had the time…” – published in morphrog 18 here. (A photo-poem version of ‘(un)watching’ can also be found below.)

Review of Humanagerie (an anthology of poetry and short fiction edited by Sarah Doyle and Allen Ashley, Eibonvale Press, 2018) published on The Poetry Shed. (And a reminder that you can find links to my other micro-reviews and endorsements on my Reviewing page.)

Last month, I mentioned one of my poems, ‘Making Butter’, being selected for the Carers UK anthology volume 5, Keeping Well, Keeping Connected. I’m pleased to say that the anthology can now be ordered here.

I’m also delighted to share reading video recordings of my two poems in the 2018 Hippocrates Prize Anthology: ‘At breaking point’, which one second prize, and ‘Postpartum’, which was commended. These have been added to the videoreadings part of my site and can be enjoyed below. The anthology is available here. (And I believe there’s also a few weeks to go until the deadline for this year’s prize, for any poets interested in entering!)

Links to this and recordings of other prize/anthology poems can also be found on the Hippocrates Prize website here.


Sunday, 3 February – Wolverhampton Literature Festival competition reading, awards & anthology launch

I will be reading my poem ‘Grey wonderer’, shortlisted in the 2019 Wolverhampton Literature Festival (WoLF) poetry competition and published in the WoLF anthology which will be on sale at the award ceremony on Sunday, 3 February at 2.30pm in Wolverhampton art gallery. The event is free and the venue is in the Contemporary Gallery within the Art Gallery, Lichfield St WV1 1DU. Brief details of the event are here.

Monday, 11 February – Loose Muse, Winchester

I will be guest poet with Robyn Bolam at Loose Muse in Winchester for Loose Muse’s fourth birthday. The event, which also features open mic, is from 7.30pm-9.30pm. At Winchester Discovery Centre, Jewry St, Winchester SO23 8SB.

Saturday, 30 March – ‘Her Story: Why we Write’ – Women Writers Event with Positive Images Festival at Coventry’s Central library

I will be one of Positive Images Festival’s featured writers at this reading and informal panel/Q and A at Coventry Central Library Smithford Way, Coventry CV1 1FY from 1:30pm – 3:30pm.


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I’m delighted to end 2018 and begin the new year with news that I’m the The High Window Resident Artist for 2019!!!

Like most years, 2018 has had high points (including my second novella Always Another Twist and my chapbook How to Grow Matches) and low ebbs. I’m extremely grateful both to those who’ve given me opportunities and celebrated my successes, and those who’ve supported and commiserated me through the harder moments.

In general, I prefer to try to focus on the positives and look forward rather than back, so I’m not going to sum up the year that was here now, simply share a few pieces of news from the past month or so since my last blogpost.

At the start of December I blogged about my poem ‘Circles and Sandcastles’ winning the POSITIVE IMAGES PEACE FESTIVAL POETRY AWARDS 2018. Video of the award ceremony is now up on the festival website including me reading my poem in the nervous run-up to the announcement of the winners!

My poem ‘But‘ was published on Atrium at the start of this month and another of my poems is scheduled for New Year’s Day. I also have five poems accepted for the January issue of morphrog.

I love Candlestick Press ‘Instead of a card’ pamphlets – beautiful gifts to give and receive – so I was very delighted to be shortlisted in their recent Breakfast Poem competition! (And also great to see so many friends shortlisted as well as fellow Circaidy Gregory Press poet Catherine Edmunds as one of the winners!)


bird bath reflections
turn our world upside down, help
us swim in the sky

From my essay/article on photo-poems published in The Blue Nib issue 36 – available online here.

P1090936-002Earlier this year my poem “On the eyelid of the North” was part of the Northern Poetry Library’s Poem of the North. Over the festive period, the library has also been putting faces to names on instagram.

As for 2019, well it already looks set to be a cracking year for V. Press and with LitWorld2. On a personal front, I’ve various manuscripts and ideas buzzing at the moment, so I’m going to let the year start and see where it goes…

Happy New Year!!!

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