Sarah James

the possibilities of poetry…

Browsing Posts tagged workshop. poet

A Mind of Autumn

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Sometimes there’s no leaving that big kid inside oneself behind! I was reminded of this fact twice over this weekend thanks to both this photo and a poetry masterclass with Philip Gross this weekend.

The fantastic Making Poetry workshop, organised by Jacqui Rowe, was about writing poetry for all ages and brought back very interesting childhood memories, including some things I still like to do, Yes, that’s right, eating Kit-Kats by nibbling all the chocolate off first, picking up pebbles on the beach, kicking autumn leaves around…

There’s not much autumn – or leaves- left around here now, more winter frost. But I was chuffed to find out this week that the picture above, which I took last month, had been used in the local daily newspaper.

Of course, Christmas is a time of year that is laden with childhood memories: snow, log fires, carols, presents…So while I gear up for the fast-approaching excitement of this year’s celebrations, I’ve been distracting myself with Wallace Stevens’s seasonal (but not at all festive!) poem Snow Man.

Some weeks are weeks and a half – others are weeks and several halves! And I’m not talking alcohol halves, though I have enjoyed a glass or two of seasonal mulled wine while away in Manchester.

I was up at  Manchester Metropolitan University for three days as part of my online poetry MA optional on-campus days. Not only did I get to meet some of my ‘virtual classmates’ in person for the first time but we had a fantastic reading from Carol Ann Duffy and some excellent workshops from Michael Symmons-Roberts, Jean Sprackland and Nikolai Duffy. Chris Hamilton-Emery from Salt also gave us a talk about publishing as part of the poetry-packed line-up.

Having sneaked up to Manchester a day early, I also took advantage of the chance to check out the city’s German Christmas market – complete with mulled wine, bratwurst and chocolate fruit kebabs (I’m  not sure how German they were but they tasted good!). While I was there – for the first time in 20 years – I did the full tourist thing and braved the big wheel. Nervous though I was (I’m not great with heights!), the beautiful views soon distracted me from any fear.

My other great discovery in Manchester was, of course, the fantastic Olympic 50m swimming pool. My hotel and the MMU campus were so near I could almost step out of bed into the water. I managed to cram in two early morning swims before classes started – and would have gone for a third if I hadn’t gone down back with a cold by the end of the trip!

All in all, I’d say if you get a chance to visit the city, then do. And if you can squeeze some poetry in too, so much the better!

Unfortunately, I did arrive home to find I was in the Bad Mummy stakes for having forgotten it would turn advent calendar month while I was away! Still – it was only four days late and I’ve been clambering back up the stakes by getting the Christmas decorations out and joining in a weekend of sports and  Dance Central on X-box connect. Despite being soundly and repeatedly thrashed by a seven year old, I have to admit, it has been rather good fun – but don’t tell the boys I said so!

Today’s writing prompt is inspired by the excellent performance poetry workshop I attended today.

One of the tasks Niall O’ Sullivan had us doing was reading out parts of Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions. (There are a few examples online here: )

We then tried writing down our own list of questions, not necessarily poetic, just a list of questions. It’s some of these questions, I’m going to put forward today as possible prompts. So…

Why do nice shoes dislike my feet?

Why are carrots orange?

Why does mud like carpets?

How many clouds can you fit in one sky?

Why do boys find farts so funny?

Have fun – and if anyone comes up with a sensible answer to the last question, please do let me know! 😉


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me behind
the stand

in front of
the mic

those faces

I’ve been re-reading some Ezra Pound and William Charles Williams this week – a week that rather suits the sparseness of the snippet above for more than just this reason.

Although, it’s been busy, it’s been one of those weeks where very little I’ve done particularly stands out. In fact, I’ve mostly been indoors, working for my MA and looking after an ill child. So it was great to get out today for a performance poetry workshop in Worcester run by Niall O’Sullivan. The new monthly event organised by Worcestershire Literature Festival ( Apples and Snakes ( was followed by an open mic – a great chance to try out the new pieces I wrote for the Tiger, Tiger campaign, which were published on the website this week ( ).

There is also a new open mic evening Parole Parlate: The Spoken Word ( in Worcester on Tuesday evening, which I’m looking forward to. And this time, much though I enjoy reading, I am looking forward to just listening and being one of those faces in front of the mic, for once!


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Join in the Droitwich Salt Day Poetry/Art Display

1) Choose a salt cube.

2) Write your short (three or four lines) poem about salt, Droitwich or ‘home’ (the theme for National Poetry Day on October 7, 2010).

3) Choose where to place your poem on the display. Either:

a) Sprinkle your salt onto the chips. (But remember healthy eating! Too much salt or fat can be bad for you!)


b) Add your cube to the pyramid of salt being poured downwards. How big can we make this heap of salt?


c) Build the pillar of salt upwards (Lot’s wife turned to a pillar of salt when she looked back in the Bible story).

Poems may be anonymous. But please feel free to include your name and where you are from. Children may also wish to add their age and decorate their poem.

Poems may be photographed by the organiser for display purposes.

If you can’t make it in person on the day, then please feel free to email your poem to me at, telling me where you’d like it to go on the display. I can then copy it onto a salt cube for you.

Below, I’ve included two of my own short poems written for the display to help get ideas flowing.

Pillar of the Community

It was his wife’s Lot in life, looking back.

A common trait, that left her

thoughts and body frozen in the past, alone,

when she could have been looking forward, with him.

Sarah James


salt chips chunks of flavour

tingling the tip of my tongue

with the taste of town history

Sarah James

Striking out!

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There’s nothing like a change of scenery for blowing the cobwebs away – or helping one to appreciate the beauty in those very cobwebs.

Five days at Center Parcs in Nottinghamshire has been a great chance to relax with my family, search out leaves and shadows to photograph, get closer to nature and enjoy some great cycle rides through the beautiful forest.

Like most holidays, it’s also been a chance to put everyday life into perspective and if not strike out a new path, to strike out a new sense of perspective.

This sense of re-energisation was further boosted by another lovely review of Into the Yell, by writer Sophie Shanahan on her blog at: and the news that one of my poems has come joint first in the Exmoor Society Poetry Competition.

Once the inevitable unpacking and washing are sorted, I shall be putting this energy to good use to enjoy the last few days of the holidays with my boys and prepare to run another collaborative poetry/art display/drop-in workshop at Droitwich’s annual Salt Day festival on Saturday, September 11.

Hope everyone else is enjoying the bank holiday!

Waiting has always seemed to play a noticeable role in my life – sometimes too large a one for my liking! I prefer, wherever possible, to convert waiting for one thing into a chance to get on with something else. Life is for living, not waiting, after all!

It is however a theme that haunts/animates a fair few of my poems. Today was the launch of a Kidderminster arts installation entitled the ‘Waiting room’.  The project includes five of my poems and I can’t wait to see it!

At the moment, I’m also waiting for my ‘five minutes with’ interview in the local paper (Worcester News). One of the questions I was asked was about favourite music tracks. My answer included They Might Be Giants ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’. So while I’m waiting, I thought I’d turn this into my prompt for today.

Imagine you’re waiting somewhere, somewhere unusual like maybe a birdhouse. Or inside someone’s soul/body/brain. Or choose somewhere else serious, humorous or quirky. You might want to think about what you’re waiting for and how you feel about it. Perhaps you’re trapped there. Or maybe you chose to go there deliberately to distract yourself or get away from something. This prompt might also be a good one for exploring all the senses. What  do you see/hear/taste/smell/feel while you are waiting? Can the reader guess where you are waiting simply from how you describe it?

Happy writing – and if anyone fancies posting their thoughts, I’ll be waiting!

It’s been a weekend of sun, food, poetry and friends…and then more sun, food poetry and friends!

Thursday night’s meeting about plans to launch a 2011 Worcester Literature Festival had a fantastic turn-out.  It was great to see so many people interested and enthusiastic. I and fellow poetry stanza member Jenny Hope are now meeting up with the festival organizers to see how we can be involved in making poetry stuff happen. It’s very exciting!

Friday, we took a trip down Memory Lane, Oxford, and managed to get away without asking sat nav for help! My favourite Indian take-away is no longer there but the ice-cream parlour is. We also managed to make it into the Ashmolean for a first time – so much to see. We only managed the Egyptians, pre-Raphaelites and Modern art – missing out rather a lot in between! Still, there’s always the next visit! And while my favourite Indian restaurant no longer exists, we discovered Lebanese food for a first time – and it was delicious too!

Saturday, I met up with poet friends at a free Arvon taster workshop with Daljit Nagra at Keat’s House in Hampstead. It is a beautiful place and the workshop was very thought-provoking. As we also sneaked off to Covent garden and the Poetry Place on the way back, it was a very enjoyable day. And we caught sight of some beautiful elephants (sculptures!) strolling the streets!

All in all a great weekend and another great week ahead, planning a more detailed proposal for my National Poetry Day residency/workshop in October (more details when it’s finalized), the first copies of my poetry collection Into The Yell due to be delivered at the end of the week and reading at Worcester Word and Sound on Friday.

Hope everyone else has a good week lined up too. Enjoy!

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