Sarah James

the possibilities of poetry…

Browsing Posts tagged poet

Question: What do Maid Marion, a River of Stones, tigers and International’s Women’s Day have in common? Answer: Nothing much except me. This said, even as I type, I realise that as a writer with a love of analogy, metaphors and circles, there are probably a 101 other ways of linking them!

But not today. Today is my day of rest after a wonderful, busy week of books and poetry…oh, and dressing up!

I had a fantastic afternoon as Maid Marion sharing books and poetry with some year 3 pupils (age 7-8) at a local first school. As well as talking to them, some of the youngsters from my creative writing workshops shared their poems and stories aloud. I was so proud of them!


I was also proud myself to take part in the Tiger, Tiger launch at Bookmark Bloxwich on World Book Night last night. It was great to listen to a whole pride of talented writers read their tiger-inspired poems, including Born Free poet in residence, Richard Bonfield, and help raise awareness and funds to help protect this endangered species.

The picture below of me and fellow Tiger poets Jenny Hope and Ruth Stacey, also feature a slide of some of the wonderful art that has been produced as part of the project. (So artists and writers interested in supporting this project, check out the website link above!)

Organiser Helen Calcutt is going to be talking about the project in a live transmission on internet spoken word radio site tomorrow night (Monday, March 7 from 8-10pm). They also have pre-recorded versions of me reading my two Tiger, Tiger poems.

Pay attention: a river of stones,in which I have a very small poem/poetry snippet, was also launched this week and is available as a download, paperback or hardback. Meanwhile, I’m also looking forward to reading at Worcester Oxfam Bookshop on Tuesday evening as part of A Bit of A Do to celebrate International Women’s Day.

And now I’ve rounded off the circle of words from the start of my blog, I’ll end with an unanswered question about word association. What is it about mentioning my MA essay in a few of many blog posts that I now keep receiving loads of spam comments trying to advertise websites that will write essays for one? No answers on a postcard, please! 😉

The link between love and poetry is a long-standing one. So, with tomorrow being Valentine’s Day, my prompt this week is one that will hopefully get to the ‘heart of the matter’. Or the ‘dark of the matter’, if that’s what you prefer!

On Friday, I received a marketing postcard from featuring a picture of a bottle with what looks like notes inside and a quotation from ‘Night at the Met’ in 77 Love Sonnets by Garrison Keillor:

“Not all dark thoughts need to be expressed.
“Know that I love you. Forget the rest.”

Whether you feel romantic or anti-flowers and hearts, whether you’re inspired to write a ‘love’ poem or the maybe the opposite, hopefully there is something for you in this quotation. If not love itself, perhaps the theme/notion of expression and communication, dark matter or dark thoughts, forgetting – or not forgetting – that might start you off.

Alternatively, suppose the sold or captured love in a bottle, what would it look, smell, feel, taste and sound like? What would, or should, the bottle itself be like?

Hopefully, something in this post will prove inspirational and that everyone enjoys a love-ly day tomorrow!

I’m sure we’re not the only household that gets fed up with junk mail. Sometimes it seems like we’re forever recycling unsought letters – but I want to recycle it in inspirational way for today’s writing prompt.

Take the last piece of junk mail you received. (Or the next if you’ve already binned the last piece you received!)

Have a read. Instead of looking on it as just rubbish, you might see if there’s a found poem hiding in the words on the page. Or perhaps there’s something in there that might work as the theme for a new poem or short story – home, insurance, credit, banks…? Alternatively could junk mail provide a theme in itself? Or just the general theme of rubbish?

What junk is there in your life? What is the first thing you would throw out if you could, and why? Is there’s something you know you really ought to get rid of but can’t quite bring yourself to clear out? Why not? What does your junk say about you as person? Are there emotions, habits, personality traits etc that you would throw out if you could? And, if you don’t want to apply these questions to your life, how about applying them to someone else you know or a character in one of your poems or stories.

Of course, chucking out the junk is also something you can apply to your work when editing…

Whatever it inspires, hopefully this prompt will turn plain junk it into a writing junket  – so that, for once, reading your junk mail has not been a completely wasted exercise!

It’s been a week of Ploughing through Feathers and a Photo Album to hold a Folding Mirror up to the Soul. Yes, that’s my way of saying I’ve had a couple of days of action on the poetry front!

Firstly, my copy of Soul Feathers arrived from Indigo Dreams ( I am absolutely delighted to have a poem in this anthology in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. It is a fantastic cause and the book is bursting with poems by some fantastic poets including Carol Ann Duffy and Seamus Heaney, as well as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and some wonderful local Worcestershire poets and friends too.

The Plough Prize 2010 results are also now up and it was an uplifting boost to find I’d had a poem shortlisted in the open section and another longlisted in the short poem section. (The results are available at the prize’s newly designed website:

A spontaneous Folding Mirror poem Photo Album, penned for my Twentyfirstpoets Makeitnew collaborative poetry project on Facebook, is also up on Marc Latham’s Folding Mirror blog at: .

Today, I’ve been busy on a kids’ party, skateboarding and biking front but did manage to collect a few photos during the car journey through the countryside to Malvern. (I’m rather in to taking reflection pictures in mirror or water at the moment and also enjoy the challenge of trying to capture snapshots while moving. Obviously, I wasn’t driving!)

Just one day and a few hours left of  the International Small Stone Month challenge and the route to Malvern also gave me an opportunity for spotting today’s ‘poetic’ small stone’, which turned out to be a partly built/roofed house. I loved the symmetry and openness of the exposed roof rafters – though that’s not much use for keeping out the rain!

the beauty of bare roof rafters
so much space for light and sky
a brave prayer for spring’s fair weather

I’ve small stones in my stomach today – looking forward to this evening’s guest poet slot at The Fizz in Polesworth!

If you’re in the Staffordshire area, the evening, which includes an open mic, kicks off at 7.30pm in Polesworth Abbey Refectory. I hope to read a few of my small stones, as well some poems from my collection Into the Yell.

Meanwhile, here’s small stone day 18:

the red wheelbarrow of water ripples
breaks my reflection into patterns of light
stray grass sticks to the side

Polesworth Abbey

Polesworth  Poets Trail Sculpture

It’s been a wonderful week enjoying poetry, the sunshine – and some natural beauty.

I was delighted to hear on Friday that some of my Christmas photos had proved the inspiration for this wonderful poem by Claire Knight. (You can check it out at: )

A walk out on the Clent Hills in today’s sunshine also proved inspirational for me, on both the writing and photography front, as did last week’s excellent Parole Parlate at Little Venice in Worcester.

The next date for this Worcester Literary Festival and Apples and Snakes spoken word evening is Thursday, February 3. Meanwhile, I can’t wait for their next Learn:Eat:Perform workshop and open mic with Francesca Beard at Worcester Arts Workshop on Sunday (January 16). (More details at: and

Following on from reading at Parole Parlate, I’m also looking forward to my guest poet slot at Polesworth’s The Fizz on January 18. The publicity details for the event, which also includes an open mic, are below.

Have a good week everyone!

“The Fizz number 5 will take place on Tuesday 18th January at Polesworth Abbey Refectory

We are pleased to welcome the Worcestershire based poet Sarah James to read from her first collection “Into the Yell” which was published in 2010 by the Circaidy Gregory Press.

Sarah’s imaginative narrative delivered in her distinct poetic voice explores the world from familiar to the fantastic. Her confidently crafted poems excite and engage the reader into her descriptions of the world, often bright, sometimes dark, but always inviting us to examine the theatrical complexity of our daily lives.

Copies of Into the Yell will be available for sale at the Fizz.

Admission is FREE and soft drinks will be available for a small charge.”

I’ve been enjoying reading Lorine Niedecker: Woman and Poet, so I thought I’d use her ‘Poet’s Work’ as inspiration this week – not so much as a prompt for a new poem from scratch but for redrafting.

You can read Niedecker’s beautifully concise poem about the art/work of condensing in poetry at: .

Of course, if this poem on its own sparks you into writing, so much the better. If not, my suggested challenge this week is an editing one.

Choose a poem that’s not too recent, that you don’t considered finished and that you’re not too attached to in its present shape.

The challenge is to try and reduce – or condense – this poem to half its original word count. If you can manage this straight-off then that’s great.

But if you get stuck, you might consider making a copy of your original poem and cutting out every other line. Take what’s left then and see what happens if use this as a starting point for either a different version/draft of your original poem or even as the framework for an entirely new poem, preferably without referring back to the original.

By the end, you may decide there’s very little you actually want or need to change in your original, in which case enjoy its strengths. Alternatively, you may find you end up keeping only one or two lines from your original giving you a new draft or entirely new poem to have fun with.

Even an early start after a late night has its own music. So here are my small stones day 7:

7am black rain
but the birds are singing

on the kitchen shelf
dust and a dead spider
fill my empty glass

And just to prove there are some good things about having to get up early for the school rush – small stone day 5:

curtains not quite closed
a grey soldier of sky dipped in yolk
with chimney teeth marks

And two photographic stones:


a lucky bamboo shoot
cocktail of sun

My poetic stone for today (spotted at the leisure centre):

pink daisy picture
reflects the lights
as classic UFOs

And a photographic stone in the supermarket car park – noticed for the first time after seven years of parking there!

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