Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Spaces and Places - Nikki Bennett

As a young girl, I used to hand-write and hand-sew books for my parents to ‘borrow’ from my bedroom library; as a young woman I wrote for the ongoing situations and people in my life – some of these became From Puberty to the Menopause, now re-named Love Poems a book covering a span of forty years.

I made my career in the world of TEFL/TESL, teaching in many countries and to a wide selection of age-groups and professions, and had the opportunity to travel widely, including on the Trans-Siberian Train, so gaining a wide international viewpoint (Trans-Siberian Travels), and to run a group celebrating International Poetry and Poets (uni-verse)

As a volunteer, I worked in many organisations and was International Director and then National President of Business & Professional Women UK and represented UK for that organisation at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, among other events. So grew my awareness of and need to write to highlight women’s issues (The Places We’re Touched).

My public reading spaces have been varied: I have had several solo spots in UK poetry festivals and poetry group readings and have also read in the USA and Europe, including at the conferences of International Women Writers’ Guild, New York state and Geneva International Writers. Again, often flagging up women’s circumstances and issues.

Spaces and places have been both huge and tiny in my life. I been awed by vast spaces, such as those in South Africa and the Sahara and also had to learn to live in a small space: cooped up in a tiny student room, a medical isolation room (Pink Nightie Poems).

At times, the spaces in my heart and head fill immensely and words flow out to fill a whole book concentrating on one person (The Pebble Collection, Love Shines Beyond Grief). Yet once these poems are ‘out there’ they find their own place in the world, people identify with them and they grow their own space.

Friday, 25 November 2011

My Orange Duffle Coat - Susan Jane Sims

© Chris Sims November 2011

I am delighted  that so many people are taking an interest in this new dedicated competition site. Lots of people have written guest blog entries and if you look back over them all I think you will agree that they are all very inspiring.

This week has been particularly exciting  and I am putting this down to wearing my orange duffle coat nearly everywhere I have been. A long time ago my writing  mentor said to me: "find something to be a symbol for you, to give you confidence." For her it is a magic cloak, a metaphorical symbol that helps her to feel confident when standing up in front of a lot of people in a lecture hall  to give a presentation Me, I needed something real rather than metaphorical and I started to realise that whenever I wore my orange dufffle coat, now over ten years old I felt better about myself and wasn't scared to approach people and start a conversation.

 I have always loved the colour orange and as child in Bristol, leaving in a home behind a shop I sometimes felt invisible however what helped me then was helping Dad paint my room orange and having orange curtains at the windows. Mum made the curtains as that was something she did for a living. She made beautiful curtains and soft furnishings for total strangers, taking in the work through middlemen and women who delivered the material and orders to our door.  Much of the time I hated it as a Friday night delivery meant Mum, and also Dad ( because he helped her measure and cut the material), were working all weekend to have the curtains or cushion cover,s or whatever else finished by Monday morning. The demands were often totally unreasonable but the work had to be taken to pay the bills. This time though Mum made the curtains just for me. They were a beautiful shade of orange and not made from very thick material as we couldn't afford what Mum's customers could afford. However they were had sewn and lined with my mother's love, and as my room was a sunny room at the back of the house I would wake in the morning to a gorgeous orange glow that filled the room.

This week my orange coat worked its magic by taking me me into Foyles book shopin Quakers Friars, Bristol and now two brand new copies of Like It Is by Philip Lyons  are being on the shelves for people to walk in, browse and buy. Foyles' manager, Dave  has also agreed to Poetry Space putting on some events there in 2012 so do watch this space...

Bye for now,


Like It Is by Philip Lyons, Poetry Space Ltd October 2011. ISBN 978-0-9565328-5-5

Coming up soon a guest blog entry by Bath poet, Nikki Bennett

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

What's for you won't go by you - Eilis Gregory

I feel secure as a person, happy with myself;
even though I know I am dying. Even though I’m dying
lucky in lots of ways- supported, loved. In love with life.

Loving this Autumn, the golds, reds and russets on the trees.

The sounds of leaves rustling with soft voices in the wind.
How nurturing nature is from birth to death and back again.

I love the twilight melody of the sea and the birds early in the morning.

I see poppy fields filled with the faces of all my friends,
family who are dear to me far or near; gone, still here.

I want everyone to be strong, to go on after this wife, this mother is a                                                      
distant spirit. I pretend to be brave, but what is bravery ?
I am resilient and feel an inner calm, an acceptance.

I touch life, caress those I will leave with thoughts and memories

even as my tears reflect the things I will miss - my children growing up, married;
future families. The love I have for people, the love they have for me.

Time waits patiently for me around the corner....

Yet I am here for now and will live my life as best I can
for everyone I hold dear to me. Fields of love opening like flowers.

Yes I know that I am dying, yet even when I can’t sleep

I dream a dream that everything will be okay... and it will,
though not in the ordinary way. My family will survive for them and for me.

I want to be dignified in death, not linger desperately.  I will be Me to the last.
I don't want my family to suffer, I want them to celebrate me .I don't
want to leave them but..... what’s for you won’t ever go by.

I received this beautiful poem today via Poetry Space poet David Morgan and wanted to share it here on this blog as it is so inspiring. Thanks Ellis, thanks David. For us all ...a perfect autumn. Sue xx

Poem  © Eilis Gregory 
Photo © Chris Sims-  Old Wardour

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Long Way Home - Judith Kazantzis

When I was seven, I wrote an endlessly marvellous ballad all about Fairyland, in a school exercise book. Someone, my mother the chief suspect, threw it out, and Fairyland  never breathed again. Had I made it all up? Of course. Undaunted, a year later I  copied out a clever verse I fancied (a four-liner translated into English) by Madame Perrault, famous collector of fairy stories: it was her ending moral on the story of Bluebeard. Four perfect lines, rhyme, rhythm, morality and wit! My older brother read it and stared at me with new, amazed eyes. It took him about ten more minutes to check out the book, and sadly, all of a sudden, I wasn’t a Judith Shakespeare-to-be after all.  Still, it’s not impossible my short happy dishonesty first seeded the idea of a poet.

Child then teenager.  I wrote crummy ballads, then Wordsworthian blank verse about glorious nature and me, and so on, up to college days. Then I read The Wasteland. That was it, I more or less gave up. I took to having babies and, later, to painting. In 1973, quite accidentally, I read and was driven by Sylvia Plath’s The Colossus. Following this revelation of what language could do, I took my vengeance on the destroyer of Fairyland all those years before. I wrote a furious anti-mother poem. But it unleashed the daemon or demon or the hardworking muse, come to that. After many months of frantic writing, I joined an eccentric poetry circle, and out of that sprang a foursome. We were the Prodigal Daughters – I was (secretly) no longer Judith but Lilith.

We trod the boards wherever we could, and read our poems about motherhood and witches and revolt. I had already written on women’s emancipation – Women in Revolt, it was called (not revolting women, as Victorian misogynists called feminists). Inspired by Seventies feminism, I came almost dazzled to the idea that I might compose a poem that said something important to other women too. It was then and still seems a very satisfying aim, but readers aren’t necessarily lined up so neatly: all my poems from first to last have really been written for whoever wants to read them.

As for me, the chameleon nature of English in its written and spoken form both enchanted and  infuriated me from one day to the next.  But I wouldn’t, couldn’t give up. I was the prisoner of that house of endless, whispering voices, now metrical, now free verse, now slipping between that and the old iamb. The rhythm or rhythms set the tone, my mood or obsession set the tone which set the rhythm or rhythms: a circular dance if I was lucky and listened, a fall flat on the face as often.

Feminism meant so much because by then I was deeply conflicted by my wife and mother role and particularly by the image I felt it locked me into, another kind of house. Then came a car crash which made it literally hard to get out of the ‘prison house of home’ (as Victorian feminists called it) and find work as the children grew up. So therapy as poetry, yes, of course. I wrote to save my self. To open what was closed.

How odd that some British writers still mock this fundamental reason why writers may need to write or artists to paint or film-makers to make movies. Every writer, artist, every film-maker knows the craving to make good magic out of bad. To spin gold out of flax. If you can. If we can. To sit out the night and see what spins from the spinning wheel. And it isn’t poor old fairyland, it’s the real thing.  

                                                                                    Judith Kazantzis

In 2007 Judith received the Cholmondeley Award for Poetic Achievement.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

How to eat an avocado - Susan Jane Sims

There are days when you wake up with a bit of trepidation and this is one of them. Today something is ending that has been a big part of my life for the past two years. I have been chair and regional co-ordinator for the South West branch of Lapidus and thoroughly enjoyed it. No that's not strong enough, I have been inspired by it and loved inspiring others would more accurately describe the experience. I set a time limit on it though, two years because I believe every group needs new blood.

These past few weeks have been a bit strange. I was determined not to persuade anyone else to take over although ironically I was persuaded myself and it worked out well for me. Having put a lot of myself into the group over the past two years including inviting, selecting, collating and editing an anthology known as Elements of Healing from writers in the South West of England to raise funds for the group and provide continuous professional development for Lapidus members (writers who work within the community encouraging others to write to promote well-being) I felt it was time to step aside and invite others to come forward.

It took a while and though I didn't want to persuade individuals to take over any of the roles that I and my stalwart committee team have assumed over the past couple of years I did try all my ploys on the group as a whole through my mailings. Apologies came in from some who were sadly too committed to other things or with young children and I can understand them not wanting to take it on. There was silence from others and tiny tentative bites from a few.

The story has a happy ending. Just when I had given up and sent out invitations to a reflective celebration for Lapidus SW to mark it's going into dormancy for a while three lovely Lapidus members stepped forward. At the eleventh hour you might say. New blood at the eleventh hour and we are not far away from Armistice Day so it feels symbolic and something I thought might be lost for a while is being restored in a new way and that feels right.

Today too I opened up my computer to write the very last part of my very last SW report and found I have a poem featured on the Southbank collection  of poetry magazines online.  I gave permission ages ago and now its there. Poetry, the slow burn.
Saisson Library Poetry Magazine collection online


Coming very shortly guest blog from writer and artist, Judith Kazantzis. Sunday 21st November 2011. This will make a lovely Sunday read.

Visit Lapidus
Visit Lapidus online journal

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Making Space for the Poet Within - Susan Jane Sims

I always tell people that I have written poetry since childhood and that is absolutely true and yet my output was low for many years because I did not really create a space for it in my life. The people around me were not interested in poetry I felt, and so I largely kept my poet self hidden beneath all my other personae: being a wife, being a mother, being a dutiful daughter, a diligent worker, all these roles got in the way of being a poet, because writing poetry does necessitate actually sitting down to write somewhere, at some time of the day or night. I'd write so many poems in my head throughout these sparse years and sadly very few ended up on paper.

Becoming ill in 2002, with  a thyroid disorder brought about a complete change in my priorities. I had been doing too much, I'd studied full time for a year to gain a PGCE with four children still at school and I'd gone into a busy job as a teacher without thinking about the possible consequences. Finally I had no choice. Health had to come first and I stopped work and study for a period of recuperation. This didn't last long and I soon started to train as a counsellor however I embarked on this with the idea of having my own practice and structuring my own days.

The concept of space; having space to develop as a person myself, and providing others with the space to grow too became a very important part of who I was and still am. The counselling practice when I started it was (and is still) known as Your Space Counselling, a creative writing newsletter I began at around the same time for a small writing group I was facilitating, became Space to Write.

Finally Poetry Space was born - just a modest website at first with the same host as my counselling site. I experimented by putting a few of my own poems on there and enjoyed the feel of looking at them in the lovely uncluttered space the website page enabled me to create. It felt as good as a crisp white page in a published book and I was so excited. I started another page and started  inviting others to send in poems and I put those on, again ensuring they were presented beautifully in a clear uncluttered space. I also encouraged readers to send in feedback and passed it on to the poets.I gradually started including images that poets  and artists sent in and some of my husband Chris' too. He's a great photographer.Poetry Space was growing and becoming valued. Many people began commenting that this was the very best poetry site they had ever come across.

Today, only two years later, Poetry Space is a small independent publisher of poetry books and the online activities have grown as well. The company is loved by most people who comes across it and naturally I'm thrilled by that. I only get the occasional disgruntled poet annoyed that their work has not yet appeared there. I even had one this week who copied in some well known poets who have appeared on our site or reviewed books for us, into a venomous tirade against our policies, including a complaint about how we are spending Arts Council funding!!! I think the chief executive of the Arts council was amongst those copied in. I should imagine it went straight into the said person's recycle bin.

 I patiently explained that we don't receive any Arts council funding, never have, and never intend to apply. The aim is for Poetry Space to be self sufficient with commercial  activities like the competition and gift shop supporting the publication of superb quality poetry books for people to enjoy and at the same time helping poets like Philip Lyons and David R. Morgan achieve wider recognition. The output for 2012 will include three children's books (the first by previously unpublished poet, Fiona Murphy and her artist friend Michelle Last) and at least one individual collection by a poet yet to be selected. I receive so many wonderful manuscripts and it is hard to choose. Even harder to reject people who have clearly spent a lot of time and effort in the preparation of manuscripts.

On November 26th this year (this month even) we shall have our first Poetry Space at the Poetry Cafe event at Covent Garden with Philip Lyons and David R. Morgan and on February 4th 2012 we shall be bringing together poets from our past two competitions and our anthologies. Invitations will go out by e-mail and via the websites and blogs, so look out for that and get in touch if you have had poems published in our printed anthologies or been successful in our 2010 and 2011 competitions. Plans for 2013 include a "New Voices" project where I shall be bring together 4/6 poets new to print in one book.

We have received over forty thousand visitors this year. Some drop in to read poems by new voices and more established ones, others to buy books or gifts from the online bookshop and many submit to our online showcase of poetry, others to enter our competition. Our online Facebook open poetry group now has 70 members and whenever I look in there are poems being posted and poetry being discussed which is wonderful to see. Today I noticed a poem posted in  Greek (I think), in honour of a  poet from Ghana (Michael Somuah) who had his first exposure on Poetry Space and is now well known in Greece after winning a Poetry Peace award presented in that country.

 Well done Michael, you have made great use of the space.

To every one reading this, enjoy the space, enjoy the writing and enjoy the freedom it gives you to be yourself on the page.

(Susan Jane Sims)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Blood, Sweat and Tears - Karen Harvey

When Sue announced the launch of the Poetry Space Competition 2012 on facebook I made the light hearted reply ‘The closing date seems such a long way off but I expect it will be here before we can blink...’ and made a joke about time passing more quickly as we get older and promised that I would enter again this year.

Since then I’ve been mulling it over and recalling last year’s last minute entry.  It wasn’t that I intended to leave it till the last minute, I started working on several trains of thought about 6 weeks before the closing date but on the very eve of the closing date I was still wrestling with words. I’d been on  a great course with Rose Flint at the my little home from home Ty Newydd, The Writers Centre for Wales near Criccieth this spring, so I hoped I had some idea of what kind of poetry she might be looking for as a judge, and as entries are judged anonymously I thought it would be great chance to put my theory to the test.  I especially liked the subject ‘Green Space’ because we had done some of our writing out of doors so I took pen to paper quite a few times including taking a rather wet but wonderful writing workshop in the woods with a local tutor Alison Weetman but between my busy life and monkey mind there I was blood, sweat and tears on the eve of the closing date, 3 hours before midnight, 2 hours… 10 minutes… no 9, at last uploading the results of my labour and trying to negotiate my way through PayPal, which I should have remembered I always get in a tangle with. I finally pressed send at 11.59 and a bit. 

I knew I wouldn’t be shortlisted for this one, in fact I didn’t expect to be anything, I felt I might have done better had I started even earlier so I was pleasantly surprised when Sue offered to publish my poem in the anthology.  

I have just checked and it is over a month since the competition opened so it’s about time I sorted out a submission or even two.  I enjoy Poetry Space and look forward to new content on the poetry pages; I have even shared a few of my own poems there. The judge this year is Cheryl Moskowitz another amazing poet and the entry fee helps fund Poetry Space website so I can’t think of a better reason to enter this particular competition.

 I believe that once we start to enter competitions it is helps us hone our editing skills, and it has certainly helped me grow in confidence.  So now the time has come to think seriously about writing something new for this year’s competition… now where’s my pen?

Karen Harvey

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

First Success - Moira Andrew

Some say poetry is a solitary activity – certainly it’s not like rugby or soccer or being in a band.  Poetry begins in the poet’s head – ideas, words, colours, sounds, pictures tumbling together until there’s the urge to put them on paper, or more likely these days, on the screen.  Creation, the stringing of words together, is the private, individual part of a poem.  But there’s a time to share – poetry is ultimately about sharing, online, on the page or to an audience, even an audience of one!

My grandmother, who had the time to listen, was my first and probably my most appreciative audience.  I remember sitting in the sun with her on the window ledge of her spare bedroom, in the background the thwack of tennis balls from public courts across the road.  Gran put her hands in her lap, settled down and listened, watching me through thick spectacles as I read.  A pause, I looked up at her face, assessing her reaction.  ‘Lovely poem,’ she whispered.  It was all the accolade I needed.  Poets love to be appreciated!

Many years later I wrote this poem in my grandmother’s honour.  It is published on the title page of ‘Words with Wings’, one of my teachers’ books from Belair.

First success

The sun newly-minted
in the summer sky, the
mesmeric sound of roller
on clay, gentle pthud
thud of racquet on ball,
grandmother mouthing my words
under her breath.

My words!  I watched
her eyes, magnified to
medallions, move slowly
across the page.  ‘Lovely
poem,’ she said smiling.
We sat in the sun, well-pleased
one with the other.
                                    Moira Andrew

The Poetry Space competition gives poets the opportunity to share – and competitors will find an appreciative audience in the judges, both for prize-winners and those who don’t quite make it this time round.  And the prize-winners, of course, will have the delight of seeing their own poems online and in print.
                                                                                    Moira Andrew, October 2011

 Moira Andrew's website

Today is the official launch date for Poetry Space Competition 2012

We prefer online entries: simply pay by Paypal and send in your poems by email to susan@poetryspace.co.uk