Winchester Poetry Prize – Winner!

**UPDATED**

Somewhere to Keep the Rain cover

My poem is the winners’ anthology title!

I was double-thrilled & beyond delighted to find out that my poem, Somewhere To Keep The Rain – after Wen Ying-Tsai, Umbrella (1971) won first prize in this year’s Winchester Poetry Prize – judged by (2016 T S Eliot Prize Winner) Sarah Howe.

It’s always an honour to make it to any of the mentions in a competition – not least because, like many poets, I put a lot of time, love and energy into entering and submitting work here, there and everywhere.

I discovered that I’d won the first prize while I was on holiday – via Twitter! After which there might have been a *few too many Maltese cocktails* and a sore head the following day.

Having a poem which feels close to my heart recognised – and by such a renowned poet – is wonderful. It’s a piece which responded to a sculpture previously installed in the Tate Modern’s ‘Tanks’ space – and, for me, gives voice to those days when you feel exposed, raw somehow, and like the volume of the world is turned up to the max.

So it’s not just winning the competition – but that a poem which tries to encapsulate this feeling has been understood, that it has communicated – and now gives its title to the winners’ anthology (see above). I’m looking forward immensely to reading this, cover to cover.

When nods like this (or my National Poetry Competition Second Prize and Rialto Pamphlet shortlisting ealier this year ) come around, it’s good to celebrate and really notice – it gives us fuel to keep going. So: keep going!

As I couldn’t make it to the ceremony, I made this video reading of the poem – I hope you enjoy it:

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Poetry Please & Filmpoem

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Two Good Things:

My National Poetry Competition second prize winner, ‘The Desktop Metaphor’ was featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Poetry Please’ on the theme of ‘Work’ last Sunday – you can listen here.

The poem was also turned into a splendid filmpoem by Helmie Stil (above!) and you can watch the filmpoem here.

It’s been great for the poem to have a bit of a media flurry – the different responses to and aspects of the piece readers have found. The filmpoem brings out a wonderful darkness and playfulness in it, which I’ve really enjoyed – and hope you do too.

The other filmpoems of the top ten National Poetry Competition entries will be being screened at a special event – am looking forward to seeing them all.

National Poetry Competition 2nd Prize!

or, Putting on Your Proper Poet Hat

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It’s with huge delight I can now celebrate that I was awarded second prize in The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition (NPC) 2016, with my poem The Desktop Metaphor.

Last Wednesday, we went to a prize-giving at the Savile Club in Mayfair – which was also the announcement for the Ted Hughes prize, which was originated and officiated by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy – and won this year by the brilliant Holly McNish, for Nobody Told Me.

It’s wonderful to see my poems ‘out there’ this month, with another soon to be in March’s Rialto. (And, of course, there’s the small matter of the £2000 prize money for the NPC – which is definitely the biggest cash prize I’ve ever won – eek!).

I’ve known about the prize since the beginning of February – and enter competitions quite regularly – so have been sitting on this information for quite a while, but for a select few confidants. It’s been interesting to notice my Inner Imposter piping up at times: What do you mean, you’ve won second prize in the National? Are you sure? Did they make a mistake?

The poem I entered was something of an experiment – one I felt like there was ‘something to’ which was slightly mysterious to me as well. So I thought: why not? Chuck it in, see what happens. The pamphlet I entered to The Rialto was full of experiments, too: this was one of the aspects which was favourably commented on in the feedback.

It’s immensely gratifying for another experiment to have won a main prize in such a pretigious competition. It’s made me realise that it’s one of the aspects of my writing which is strongest: to experiment, innovate, play around and take risks with poetry. Not all experiments will work – but some will, so it’s worth persisting with them, and enjoying the process. (Indeed the Ted Hughes prize is all about innovation – so why not keep trying?)

So I’m telling my Inner Imposter to sod off, and celebrating. Because for every one thing you win, there are many you don’t – and it’s easy to get stuck in an Imposter habit, as some kind of ‘hard hat’ for resilience, in this tough process of submitting work to journals & competitions.

Time to put the Inner Imposter in its bunker and  put on my Proper Poet hat. (No, it’s not a real hat – but you can imagine one if you like.)

It’s NaPoWriMo, after all – so a great time to go forth, and experiment!

Bony Orbit – Videopoem

A videopoem I made, based on some 1940s footage of How The Eye Functions, is now up on Atticus Review here, and embedded directly from YouTube below.

The piece was started over a two-day poetry filmmaking workshop in Bristol towards the end of last year – I recommend going on workshops/courses like this, to give youself spacetime/timespace to tinker and start something (not always easy to find otherwise).

It’s my hope to create more videopoems in the coming year – there’s a whole wealth of archive out there, just waiting to be moulded…

I hope you enjoy Bony Orbit, as puzzling as (I still think) it is:

Rialto Pamphlet Competition – Shorlisted!

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Some exciting news: I’ve been shortlisted in The Rialto pamphlet competition 2017!

It’s their first pamphlet competition and a really exciting honour to be included in the final ten poets. It also means I’ll have a poem from the pamphlet in their next issue – very exciting.

A word about resilience and writing: last year I submitted a lot of work, to a lot of different publications and competitions. They very rarely ‘land’. And it can – and does – become very disheartening at times. (Indeed, I had just declared a ‘break’ from submitting when I heard about this one.) I think it’s really important we acknowledge times we’re feeling vulnerable, or somewhat defeated – we all experience these, and they’re normal.

But for me there’s something about the practice of poetry, as a way of seeing the world, that keeps me reading and writing it, even when it becomes infuriating. Once you have a real relationship with poetry, it’s something you commit to – and that means even when you have a rough patch and your peculiarities get on each other’s nerves…

So it’s wonderful when poems, or groups of poems, find a readership in judges, or editors – but to me, it’s an affirmation of that relationship and way of seeing and finding a way through the world.

I heard the quote above a while back and it really did ring true: reading and writing really is and must be its own reward. ‘Amateur’, by the way, means ‘lover’.

As Rialto Editor Fiona Moore says in her blog post about the process: “Read to write and write to read. Read to make it new.”

It’s about poetry, and finding a community of poets and – hopefully – some readers. (Poetry definitely ain’t about the money, eh?)

So (a wise woman once said): Keep Going.

 

 

Visual Verse: Pachycephalosaurus

I’m one of the featured writers this month, on the excellent Visual Verse

You can read my curious poem here – and then submit your own work, inspired by the same image.

It’s a great project to nurture writing inspired by images, something I really enjoy doing and put to use in workshops I run.

(One of the brains behind Visual Verse is also the brain behind The Curved House – which you should check out too: they do wonderful work on visual literacy.)

Ware Poets Competition Commendation

A little ‘hooray for me’ post: I have been commended in the Ware Poets Open Competition 2016, for my poem The Thereminist Hails a Bus.

The competition is judged by Philip Gross, a poet for whom I have a lot of respect – so I’m really pleased.

Also, this is a poem that I wrote (quite quickly!) for day 22 of NaPoWriMo 2016 in April – which for me goes to show how it’s worth persisting with and experimenting with what you write!

I’ll be making my way to Ware on the 8th July for the prizegiving and anthology launch, am looking forward to it.

Hands

A poem of mine, ‘Hands’,  has just gone up on Folia Magazine online – you can read it here.

The poem came out of a workshop a couple of years ago in Leeds, with writer and facilitator Rommi SmithThe starting point was smells – for me, the Vaseline Intensive Care in the first stanza (with the second part leading on from that). 

Folia’s aim is to “foster a deeper appreciation for the poetry of life, death, and medicine” – which was why I submitted this piece. It’s a poem which moves around in time, with a childhood memory of driving in the car with my Mum (and her hand cream), juxtaposed with a later conversation about her going through chemotherapy.

I hope my Mum doesn’t mind this being ‘out there’; in some ways it’s not my experience to write about (though the conversation was, I guess). She dealt with the process of treatment with incredible humour and courage – so I hope the poem evokes this powerful being, who can (and does) deal with whatever life throws at her.

‘Chainmail’ Poetry School Project – Pamphlet Goes Live!

Our Poetry School Microcommission, Chainmail (for Nicky Morgan) is now in a wonderful PDF flicky book on their website – you can read it here.

It’s been an interesting process and the publication is intriguing and eclectic. We hope you enjoy it!

Please pass on the link to your STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Maths) contacts…

Poetry School Microcommission: First Report

Shaun’s response to a government report on Innovation…

There’s a quick update on The Poetry School Microcommission project, ‘Chainmail’, that I’m doing just now – you can read it here. Some really interesting work being produced; most looking forward to seeing the projects’ outcomes – and ours!

Email-as-art-form isn’t without its challenges! We’re a diasporic (yes it’s a word) team, across Bristol (where I am), London (where Luke and Rach are), Manchester (where Neil is / is off gallivanting) and finally in Orkney (to where Shaun has just moved and been rather foxed by BT’s failure to connect broadband). I’m the common point with the other participants, who I hope will get to know each other well through this work, and my main focus as the ‘nodal point’ has been ensuring these strangers all feel safe to experiment, take risks and just have fun with emailing.