Monthly Archives: March 2016


My Writing Life

Last week was the Lancaster Litfest’s main series of events. First of all it’s great to see the Fest revived after a time of financial uncertainty. There was a series of events over several days and I went to part of the Poetry Day at the Public Library on last Saturday. This event focused on showcasing poets who have been published by two local presses, Wayleave and Emma Press.

I can’t write an unbiased account of the Wayleave contribution as the  poets published by and the people who run it are local and part of a network of writers I know and whose work I have seen in many guises at readings and launches over the years. It is sufficient to say that the session was enjoyable and lived up to my, now very high, expectations of this press.

In contrast the work of Emma Press was completely new to me. They have published a couple of A6 booklets of the work of young poets. It was enjoyable to hear new voices and to see new work, although the participants battled against the poor acoustic and their nerves and inexperience at performing. The  afternoon also gave an opportunity for us local poets to network away, which is always fun. There is much more to come as the poetry calendar fills up for the coming months.

April Poets are here again on Thursday 14th April at 7.30. at the Storey in Lancaster for their tenth year. It’s a great event and if you’ve never been, and live locally, go along. I’m going to miss this one as I’ll be away on holiday, but it’s a good night of poetry and music.

Last, but most certainly not least,  as a member of Brewery Poets I have to plug the first ever Kendal Poetry Festival 24th  to 26th June at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal. We have a great programme with many top line poets and lots of workshops and open mics etc. Follow the link, look at the programme, and book.

See you there!

Reading Week

Have I any time for reading books and poetry mags with all this festival stuff? Well a bad back has laid me low this week so I have actually spent more time reading and writing than I usually would.

Poetry magazines have been my things lately. I picked up a couple at StAnza and the ones I subscribe to have come round with their spring issue. I have enjoyed reading Envoi, MsLexia and Magma this last week or so. As someone who wants to get poems into magazines I really think there is no better way than to read what they take and it’s worth the extra expenditure. None of them come out that often. I have also found my way into The Compass, an online magazine. I think the content is really good but I do find the interface via their website a bit irritating. I would be interested to know what others think. Maybe it’s just me being an old fuddy-duddy. I have been reading novels too, but more about those next time.

Hare in the Headlights 

It’s confession time: I’ve been reading poetry magazines because I am currently sending poems off to various ones, one at a time, to see if I can get some of my stuff published.  The blow came when last week when I received my first polite rejection, on the grounds that they have a lot of submissions, from Envoi magazine. I felt somewhat consoled when I read  that J.K Rowling tweeted this week that the publishers who rejected her first detective novel, written under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, advised her to go on a creative writing course!

So I have moved swiftly on and sent three poems off today to Magma to their issue on Comedy. There are not really funny poems but they do have humour and I hope to get somewhere with them. I’ll keep you posted.

That’s all for now.


Recovering from Poetry Festivals – a Users’ Guide

My Writing Life

Because they are exhausting, in the nicest possible way, and leave you, on the one hand inspired and over stimulated and dying to get home to write, and on the other hand never wanting to hear or read another poem again ever! Believe me I have just been to one and am in recovery…

Seriously though it was great. The festival was StAnza the National Poetry Festival of Scotland which takes place in St Andrews every March.  I had never been to St Andrews before although I have been camping on the Angus/Fife coast, which is spectacular. St Andrews is a lovely seaside town with the Byre Theatre as the hub of the Festival and other venues close by, and selection of great bars and cafes and the sea two minutes walk away if you fancy a stroll on the beach.

I went for two very good reasons. Firstly because my friend and fellow poet, Lizzie Burns, who died last year, and who was a faithful StAnza goer, was being remembered at a reading and at the launch of a film about her final collaborative project; which brings me to the second reason which was that my friend Sitar Rose made the documentary film about this final project. Sitar and Lizzie never met each other, and it is one of my life’s strangest coincidences that I knew them both.

The reading was on the Friday afternoon and part of a two poet event, Poets Past and Present. Introducing the reading the Chair announced that Lizzie’s last pamphlet Clay had been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award 2015 which seeks to recognise excellence in poetry, highlighting outstanding contributions made by poets to our cultural life.

Here is the full quotation about the pamphlet from the Press Release on the Ted Hughes Award website.

Elizabeth Burns: Clay

is a short collection, published by Wayleave Press, of small, meditative poems exploring pottery and the potter’s craft which are themselves exquisitely formed vessels for larger enquiry and celebration. It was written by the poet Elizabeth Burns after she worked on a joint exhibition with painter Ann Gilchrist and potter Paul Tebble, and was published shortly before the poet’s death in August 2015.

(Wayleave Press is based here in Lancaster.)

So, to continue, the exhibition was also at StAnza having previously been at the Edinburgh Festival 2015. I spent the rest of Friday and Saturday at the festival, of which more later, and returned on Sunday afternoon for the launch of the documentary film about the Painter, Potter, Poet exhibition. It is a superb documentary (26 minutes) chronicling the progress of the project both in artists’ studios at the exhibition space and in Scottish woodlands.

If you go to the website A Potter, a Painter and a Poet there is a link to the film Big Words, which chronicles the biggest printed poem, Spiral, by Lizzie, which was displayed on Canongate in Edinburgh as the winner of the Big Words competition 2015.

Having devoted most of this blog to these key events, I have decided to devote the next  blog to writing about everything else I did at StAnza. There is lots more to tell.

My Reading Week

I didn’t have a lot of time for ordinary or leisure reading while I was the festival but I bought a book by Helena Nelson, of Happenstance Press, called How (not) to Get your Poetry Published. So far it is really helpful and I am working thorugh it. I particularly like the format of having a chapter about how to get published alternating with a prompt for creative writing. More of this later.

Hare in the Headlights

Just one scary moment coming on 19th March: my reading at the International Women’s Day event …

Bye for now