The year so far has seen a fair amount of disappointment, rejections and general questioning-my-ability-to-be-a-writer. All, I am reassured, regular factors in the world of artistic freelancing. There are waves to ride, and after each wave comes a deep trough of terrible calm, breathlessly quiet, during which you sometimes find the damage done to your humble little boat. That has been me for a while now – I keep finding holes in my boat and trying desperately to find means of patching them up, only to discover more.
However, I think another wave might be coming – or, at least, I have managed to find all the current holes in my boat and things are a little on the up. Here are some of my recent activities, reminding me that my art is about more than my own gratification and that writing and performing are meaningful ways of engaging with the world.
Artjam Studios, Caversham
The Artjam studio in Caversham is one of my new favourite places. A little shop space on Prospect Street, run by one of the loveliest human beings I have met. Artjam studio exits for no other reason than to provide a creative space for anyone who needs one. It runs workshops in pottery, glass-work, painting, book-binding, marionette-making, egg-painting, knitting, crochet, Jewellery and silver-work and—now—poetry.
On Tuesday 3rd April, Maya the parrot and I embarked upon a two hour workshop with a couple of youngsters, writing poems and making our own books in which to put them. Although the turn out to the workshop was modest, we got some lovely poems and some beautiful books and all attendees enjoyed Maya’s input too. Given Maya’s presence, it seemed appropriate to talk about the idea of pets, and what kind of animals (real or imaginary) might make the best pets. We discussed what pets do for us, including providing comfort and love, friendship and safety, and came up with our own pets to celebrate in poetry form. From the youngest participant, seven-years-old, came the invention of the Bocca—a cross between a dog, horse, bird and taco (obviously), which rode in her backpack. From said youngster, came these two stunning lines:
‘she rules the sky with a fierce glare.’
‘she sings like she has just touched a star.’
Needless to say, I was delighted with both lines, and with all the poems produced. Here are some pictures of hand-crafted poetry- and writing-books made by the participants:
And the details for the Artjam studio, which everyone is the world should visit, are here.
Outspoken Poetry Prize.
Straight from the Artjam studio, after a meeting with the librarian of my residency school, I packed myself off to London for the prize evening for the Outspoken Poetry Prize 2018. I was on of six shortlisted names for the page poetry category. With three categories, there are eighteen names on the shortlist, from a reported 520 nationwide entries, so I am immensely proud of this. Although I didn’t win the category, I can, hand-on-heart, say that the winners of all three categories are phenomenal poets, whose work showed skill, heart, thought and soul, dealing with powerful and important concepts that rang true. That said, the entire shortlist was full of remarkable poets, so I was not sorry that I didn’t win, I was simply immensely proud to have been part of a crowd of such wonderful writers, and to feel that my work held its own.
The event was really enjoyable, even for a highly-anxious loner like me who really struggles with crowds, particularly of people I don’t know. The wonderful Joelle Taylor—utterly awesome poet, inspirational educator and, quite frankly, a tremendously kind, generous and beautiful soul—made me feel exceptionally welcome and I loved listening to each and every poem read, performed or shown. The range of subjects, the variety of voices and the exceptionally poignant use of language were all a privilege to have experienced, and I am still exceptionally proud to have been considered worthy of sharing the stage with such individuals.
My shortlisted poem, ‘Her Father’s Roses’, is about my grandmother who, when still a young woman and unmarried, was followed home after a dance one night, by a drunk man who, when he failed to catch up with her, tore up the roses in the front garden in his frustration. Although my Nan laughs about this incident now, and finds it particularly funny that her father blamed next door’s cat and threw a bucket of water over the poor creature, I wanted to write about an incident that women of every generation, including my own, can relate to, and which is only just becoming something that is spoken about and shared with the men in our lives, who often have little idea of what it means to walk through the world as woman and to face these kind of threats in every day life. My poem, along with all the other exceptional pieces, can be found here.
The year is yet long and there is more to achieve: shows to put on, workshops to run, books to write (and rewrite, and redraft, and re-redraft, and edit, and, finally, send off to agents with my soul in tatters). I hope to be blogging soon about other exciting things I am up to, but I have recently developed a strong sense of the growth and power that comes with documenting failure. Failure is universal, particularly to people whose spirit is so fundamentally intertwined with what they create. I will fail again. Of that, I have no doubt, and, though it is hard, I must try and remember that moments of failure and moments of triumph are equally as definitive, equally as formative and equally as important. From triumph comes motivation, but from failure comes growth. Neither indicate an end to the journey, they are just marks along a well-trodden path that ends who-knows-where, if it ever does. For now, I shall try to maintain my pride in these two achievements, strive for more, and hope to approach future failures with strength, humour and an attitude that all of this can make me better at what I do.