Sarah James

the possibilities of poetry…

Enthusiasm is infectious – there’s no doubt about it after the lovely week I’ve had chatting to readers and writers about Into the Yell and books generally. Not only that, but it’s one of the few ‘infections’ that doesn’t carry a health warning!

I’m delighted to have joined a new (for me) group that meets at Worcester Cathedral. Not only was everyone very friendly and encouraging but it’s also a fantastically atmospheric place to meet. To my shame, this weekend was the first time I’d explored the tower and crypt since I was a teenager at school (ie longer ago than I care to remember!). And I’ve been trying out a new form – the sijo. Nothing ready to share yet but you can check out how to write one and read some other poets’ work at: .

Chatting to a local library creative writing group about Into the Yell and writing generally was also great fun and I’m looking forward to more writing and book discussions as the start of my MA in September draws closer. I had the reading list through last week and I can’t wait, though I must admit to feeling slightly nervous as well as excited. It will be strange to get back into studying after ten years out of university. I’m looking forward to it though!

It’s been another busy book, litfest and chat-filled week and I’ve been loving it!

It’s was fantastic to meet so many fellow writers and readers at the Worcester Literature Festival 2011 meeting on Thursday, as part of my day as writer in residence at Worcester’s Oxfam Bookshop and talking to a creative writing group at Droitwich Library on Friday about my poetry collection Into the Yell.

In fact, I couldn’t say what I enjoyed most out of hearing all the fantastic ideas for the literature festival, running my ‘radio Bookfest’ at Oxfam Bookshop and the reading, Q & A session and impromptu workshop I lead at the library. Not that I’m obsessed or anything, but it is great to see so many people not just reading and writing poetry!

Enthusiasm is definitely a theme of the weekend too as I’ve just found a lovely new (for me!) writers’ group and have been sorting the finishing touches for my ‘Window on the arts’ poetry canvases, photography and poems display that goes up tomorrow in the former Beaubelles shop in Salter’s Shopping Centre, St Andrew’s Square, Droitwich. It’s on for two weeks, so hopefully lots of people will get a chance to see it and I can’t wait to hear their feedback!

But first the weekend and a lazy Sunday’s afternoon’s relaxation – in other words time for some leisurely reading. Bliss!

One thing – besides the poetry itself – that has struck me most about both Ledbury Poetry Festival and my own collection launch at Droitwich Music and Arts Festival on Saturday is the friendliness and generosity of poets. (Or the ones I’ve met recently, at least!)
I was lucky enough to be taken into the Ledbury festival inner sanctum (the common room for performers and sponsors) by Angela France last week.  She also introduced me to Penny Shuttle was wonderfully welcoming and inclusive, given my smallness compared to her greatness in the poetry world.
When she found I was launching Into the Yell, poet and Bugged editor/organiser (as well as National Poetry Day organiser) Jo Bell also kindly offered to pass on details to the Bugged audience. In fact, it was in this way that I met local poet Maggie Doyle, who came to Saturday’s launch.
It was also lovely to meet another local poet, who I had been in communication with via email some months ago as she had hoped to join the stanza (poetry group) I run. Unfortunately, she’s been unable to make any of the meetings but on Saturday I got to meet her in person for the first time, which was great.
And, of course, it was unbelievably fantastic to share what was such an important day for me with both my family and my so many wonderful friends. So a big thank you to you all.

At last I am now Into the Yell! Yes, the poetry collection is now officially published and launched!

Luck was definitely on my side on Saturday as we had some gorgeously sunny weather for the start of  Droitwich Music and Arts Festival. The music at the opening celebrations was fantastic and the haiku\short poem collaborative display project I ran also proved to be both colourful and popular. All in all it was a great day, thanks to my family, friends new and old and all the people who turned up to take part and support me.

What with some great events and catching up with some lovely poets at Ledbury Poetry Festival too, it has definitely been a wonderful fun-packed week. I also finished the ‘mini anthology’ of work by children on my series of poetry workshops and had a second piece chosen for publication on Jo Bell and David’ Calcutt’s Bugged blog ( ) on July 4.

Launch over, I’ve no time to relax – not yet, at any rate. I’m busy judging a poetry competition at the moment,  recording some poems tomorrow for a fantastic Kidderminster Arts Festival installation organised by Sarah Tamar, shall be writer in residence at Worcester’s Oxfam Bookshop as part of Oxfam Bookfest on Thursday and I am going to be talking to a local writer’s group at Droitwich Library on Friday. Oh, and I’m hoping to squeeze some breathing in somewhere along the line!

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few weeks about my previous fansite blog about the criticism/praise that really matters to me as a writer.

One of the Mums from school, whose son is in the same class as my younger boy, is a singer, musician and songwriter. It was lovely when she read the collection to get almost instant feedback from her while she was in the process of reading it in the form of a series of text listing her favourite poems. And when she said that she’d like to borrow one of the lines for a song…Similarly, when a poet friend said she’d like to use one of the poems in some of her poetry workshops.

Of course, all this means the more to me as Into the Yell F-day, festival-day (or should that be L for launch day?) approaches and I get progressively more nervous. (The tell-tale signs including a tendency to insomnia and eating too much chocolate!) I am looking forward to it though, fingers crossed for nice weather, and have been distracting myself with some more advance haiku for the collaborative display. I even got both my sons to write a short poem, though one had to be bribed to do so!

Anyway, here’s my latest offering, ready for the day:

festival of arts
music, painting, poetry
fun for all ages

With just eight days to go to the launch of Into the Yell at Droitwich Music and Arts Festival, it has been a busy but phonically fun week.

Yesterday was a double whammy of listening and being listened to. Firstly, it was D-day for the Bugged writing project by Jo Bell and David Calcutt ( Never one to fail to rise to the challenge – and glad of any excuse for taking an interest in life around me! – I spent much of the day eavesdropping. Or at least attempting to. Pickings were sparse but I made do, with the result that my first submission 7am Rising was one of six chosen for today’s Best of the Bugged on the blog. And I’ve still got two more ‘Bugged’ poems in the draft process!

Having worked my ears, it was my turn to make some noise in the evening, when I read from Into the Yell as well as some new and some old poems for the opening night of the Social Ritual art exhibition at Kidderminster Library (part of the town’s arts festival 2010).

Sarah reading at Social Ritual. Picture by Jackson Bollock.

Sarah reading at Social Ritual. Picture by Jackson Bollock.

Poets Jenny Hope, Sarah James, Jodie Lea Ford and Sophia Dimmock. Picture by Jackson Bollock.

Poets Jenny Hope, Sarah James, Jodie Lea Ford and Sophia Dimmock. Picture by Jackson Bollock.

Listening is definitely the theme to the coming few days, as I head off to Ledbury Poetry Festival tomorrow to see Jane Weir, Pascale Petit and Billy Collins. I can’t wait!

Then on Monday, I shall have the strange sensation of hearing my own voice on radio as some of my readings of poems from Into the Yell are to be broadcast on I am so excited! The live show is from 8pm to 10pm and is also due to feature some previously unbroadcast recordings from last year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival. Happy listening everyone – wherever you are, whatever you’re doing!

I’m starting to gear up now for the launch of Into the Yell on July 10 as part of Droitwich Arts and Music Festival. Well, any excuse for some new clothes and shoes!

As I’m going to be running my collaborative haiku display and drop-in workshops as part of this, I thought I maybe ought to get practising. I’ve had some of my workshop children trying out the form  (or a loose interpretation of it, as they’re quite young to fully get to grips with the notion of syllables). And here’s one of my own, a morning, music inspired haiku:

awaking at dawn
collage of pastels, light, warmth
fisticuffs of song

It’s been a fantastically busy but productive week on the poetry front.

The Into the Yell display is  sorted, ready for the collection launch at Droitwich Arts and Music Festival of July 10. The collaborative haiku project I’m organizing for the festival on July 10 is also well in hand. And my Window on the Arts poetry, photography and art display is now finalised for July 19 to August 2 in Salters Shopping Centre, Droitwich.

Into the Yell has also received its first post-printing review this week – and a fantastic one too! – from Magdalena Ball at Compulsive Reader: .

I had a great time reading from Into the Yell and other poems at The Phonic Room at Boston Tea Party in Worcester on Thursday night. (It’s a great venue!) And the same day I also found out that my poem Preparing had been chosen as Ledbury Poetry Festival’s winning May theme poem for the festival blog at!

All this – with a children’s party also organised for tomorrow – and I still managed to squeeze in a leisurely breakfast on the decking in the sunshine this morning, complete with Derek Walcott’s White Egrets, which I’m still dipping into. Of course, the same time tomorrow morning and I may not be feeling quite so relaxed… 😉

At the end of the day the real critics of any piece of writing must be the readers and the actual author.

Similarly, the real critic of one’s behaviour, achievements etc must at the end of the day be oneself ( or God, if that is one’s belief system). But the external voices I listen to most of all have to be those of my husband and parents.

Even I was surprised at how deep-seated this is. So much so, that when my Dad, who is not a poetry-reader, rang last night to say he’d read my collection and had really enjoyed it, I was almost in tears. All the more so, as I know there are themes and some language he won’t have approved of!

What a suntastic weekend! With the good weather, Worcester Literature Festival 2011 discussions and so many readings coming up, I’m so buzzing with ideas and new poems that I don’t know what to blog about! (I’ll manage, of course, I’m never stuck for words for long!)

On top of the poetry, my camera has also been leading me astray this week. Yes, I’ve been busy snapping away in the sunshine when I probably should have been varnishing the fences, mowing the lawn or something equally practical (yawn!) but not so creative or fun. Well, who wants to watch paint dry?!

I’ve also been enjoying a new challenge – verbal karate, writing some children’s flash fiction as a fundraiser for a martial arts club. It’s certainly been keeping my imagination fighting fit! (Hence, the flurry of puns!)

Hope all the dads out there have had a great Father’s Day and that everyone’s enjoying the sun.

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