The Emma Press craves your gothic poetry

Taf Estuary and mist cr Judy DarleyThe Emma Press are seeking poems inspired by the theme of gothic, for an anthology edited by Nisha Bhakoo and Charlotte Geater. Consider the things that make your skin creep – the uncanny, eerie and deeply dubious – and consider how you can give it a fresh and unexpected twist. Write it modern and unsettling, lace it with light, lust and loathing, or simply make your readers thrill to their core.

They say: “We are looking for uncanny poems that make us think about the gothic in a new way. We want to see dark poems that spook us to our core, as well as lighter poems that engage with gothic themes or motifs.”

Gothic stories are full of hidden urges and unutterable acts, but equally, it can be about the way light and shade fall on a scene and evoke a mood. They say: “It’s a big genre and it encompasses so much – think of Jane Eyre and Dracula, but also think of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea and Nick Joaquin’s Tropical Gothic.”

I’d also recommend a look at Poppy Z. Brite’s splendidly sultry gothic fiction.

You’re invited to send a maximum of three poems by 9th November 2018, but make sure you follow these guidelines:

  1. You must be a member of the Emma Press Club, which means you must have bought a book or ebook from the Emma Press website in this calendar year (i.e. since 1st January 2018), or already have been accepted into an Emma Press book. Read more about the Emma Press Club.
  2. Place a maximum of three poems, each no longer than 65 lines, into a single Word/PDF/ODF document. Please only include text in the document, and no images.
  3. Make sure your submission is anonymous. Make sure you haven’t put your name or any biographical notes in the document, and be aware that you will be asked to rename your document at a certain stage within the Google form.
  4. Fill in the Google form, which is accessible from here. It will tell you everything else you need to know.

Find full details and lots of tips here.

The deadline for submissions is midnight  on at the end of 9th November 2018. Good luck!

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

Poetry review Bragr by Ross Cogan

Bragr by Ross CoganBragr is Ross Cogan’s collection of entrancingly personal poems inspired by Norse mythology. Quite simply he picks up Earth and its neighbouring galaxies, gently placing them where we happen to sit or lie so that we nestle with wonders.

I found myself reading most poems more than once – firstly for the pure beauty of the word choices and secondly to drink in the meaning of the piece.

In Part 1, The Beginning, And The Rest sweeps us beyond the presentation of a creative act – writing, painting or music – and draw us to the exquisite nature of the silence just beyond that last fading note.

There’s a playfulness to the assortment – from the evident delight of selecting the perfect phrase to conjure a scene or emotion, to the joy of regarding the world and its surroundings, to summon up origin stories of time and humanity and pin them to the page.

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Poetry review – Kierkegaard’s Cupboard by Marianne Burton

Kierkegaard's Cupboard book coverBiography as poetry is an enticing literary choice. Rather than asking us to ingest and retain the cumulative details of a life, we’re instead invited to mull over scattered and strung selections of moments which offer a suggestion of the sum of the whole.In

While the majority of poetry shares roots with autobiography, for the poet to focus on a historic figure is a more unusual, but when done skilfully, the results are hugely pleasing. Think magician’s act blended with both anthropology and archaeology, and thoroughly interlaced with respect.

In Kierkegaard’s Cupboard, poet Marianne Burton has unearthed and thoughtfully restored a scant horde of treasures from the archives of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Throughout she has provided contextual signposts to help us understand the contemplations laid out before us, which support those of us new to Kierkegaard’s meandering preoccupations without intruding on the elegance of the poems themselves.

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The Aesthetica Creative Writing Award

MShed cr Judy DarleyThe Aesthetica Creative Writing Award celebrates outstanding short fiction and poetry from around the world. The deadline for entering the award is 31st August 2018.

Prizes include publication within Aesthetica Creative Writing Anthology and £1,000 for each category winner. Winner of the short fiction competition will receive a consultation with literary agency Redhammer Management, while the Poetry winner will have a Full Membership to The Poetry Society. To whet your appetite for creating more literary works, the winners will also receive, a subscription to Granta and books courtesy of Bloodaxe Books and Vintage Books.

There’s no theme – just submit your finest story or poem offering your own unique window on a slice of the world!

Fiction entries should be no more than 2,000 words each and poetry entries should be no more than 40 lines each. Both short fiction and poetry entries should be written in English. It costs £12 to enter the Poetry category and £18 to enter the Short Fiction category.

Timeline

  • Now until – 31 August 2018: Entries open
  • September 2018: Judging begins
  • December 2018: Winners and finalists are announced
  • December 2018: Publication of winners and finalists in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual

For full details, visit www.aestheticamagazine.com/creative-writing-award
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Enter The Bare Fiction Prize 2018

Almunecar cr Judy DarleyThe excellent folks at Bare Fiction are inviting submission to their creative writing awards. This year Deborah Alma judges the Poetry category (max 40 lines), C.G. Menon judges the Flash Fiction category (max 500 words), and Luke Kennard judges the Short Story category (max 3,000 words).

First, second and third prize winners in each category will receive £500, £200 and £100 respectively, plus two highly commended entrants will receive £25 each.

Fee per entry is £5 for poetry, £6 for flash fiction, and £8 for fiction, however, Bare Fiction is offering free entry to the Bare Fiction Prize 2018 for 50 UK low income writers. To be eligible you must be in receipt of benefits such as Job Seeker’s Allowance, Working Tax Credits, Universal Credit, Disability Living Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, or Employment and Support Allowance, or earn less than the London Living Wage of £9.45 per hour.

Eligible applications for free entries will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, and must be received by Tuesday July 31st 2018.

Click here to submit your application for free entry.

There’s no theme, but bear in mind that the British periodical aims to “offer a platform for new creative writing across poetry, fiction and plays to encourage writers who are testing their boundaries to stretch themselves creatively.”

The deadline for all non-free entries is 31 October 2018. Find full competition details here.

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Poetry review – In Her Shambles by Elizabeth Parker

In Her Shambles by Elizabeth ParkerI recently had a conversation with poet Elizabeth Parker in which I mentioned that post-it notes are a reviewer’s greatest ally. They’re a tool that can work brilliantly, but also have their fallibilities. With In Her Shambles, I ended up needing almost as many post-it notes as pages, as every poem contained lines to call me back, and make me want to re-absorb their power.

Parker is a master of shimmering last lines, drawing you quietly to a crescendo – a moment of thrill or unease. In each case, the final few words lie in wait, ready to tilt you off kilter, steadied only by the surety of Parker’s pen.

In Lasagne, the making of a meal represents a deeply rooted love affair, in which the ending stanza speaks volumes: “I peg pasta/ between fingers and thumbs/ lay it down for him.”

In Lavinia Writes, a eulogy of sorts to Shakespeare’s ill-fated character from ‘Titus Andronicus’, that ultimate declaration is a shout of rebellion, as the silenced victim, her tongue cut out, finds a way to share her anger by unpicking the stitches of her wound: “I tear more, free more/ until I am fluent.”

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A Poem to Remember competition

Red poppy by Judy Darley

Enter a new national poetry competition to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

You’re invited to breathe in the spirit of the Great War poets, and write a poem that honours those affected by service while paying tribute to humankind’s capacity to overcome adversity. The winner will receive a £2000 cash prize. Deadline 9th April 2018. 

The competition has been launched by the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC), itself a new organisation designed to become one of the world’s best clinical rehabilitation centres for the armed forces and potentially civilians too. Inspired by the war’s famous poets, including Wilfred Owen, Muriel Stuart and Siegfried Sassoon, they’re seeking poetry “that honours those affected by service and pays tribute to humankind’s capacity commemorate the moment the guns fell silent in the First World War. It will honour the fallen and those who took part, remembering that many survivors suffered very serious injury which affected the rest of their lives.”

The best five entries will be chosen by a panel of judges, chaired by historian Dan Snow, and then go to a public vote.

The winning entry will be read out by Prince William at the opening ceremony of the new Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre near Loughborough , and will be displayed prominently in perpetuity at the Centre.

The overall winner will receive a £2,000 cash prize, with four runners-up receiving £500. Only one entry is permitted per person. Poems must be no longer than 25 lines.

Closing dates for entries is 23.59pm GMT on April 9th, 2018.
For inspiration, read more about modern day soldier poets.

Find the full competition details, rules and terms and conditions here.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

Taf – a poem

Walking to Dylan Thomas' home in Laugharne with Dad 2016 cr Judy Darley

Walking to Dylan Thomas’ home in Laugharne with Dad, November 2016

I’m thrilled that my poem Taf has been published in issue 3 of DNA magazine. I wrote it while visiting Laugharne in South Wales with my mum last summer. It’s a place we’ve often stayed as a family, and this was the first time I’d visited since Dad became too unwell with Alzheimers to travel.

The issue hinges on the theme Locations, so a poem written with such a strong sense of place felt like the right submission. The town, its woods and the tidal estuary are full of reminders that Dylan Thomas lived there for a while, and this time it felt as though Dad’s ghost and Dylan’s were strolling together through every view. It’s a strange thing to grieve a person whose heart still beats.

My poem Taf aims to capture some of that emotional conflict, as well as the beauty of Laugharne. You can read the poem here.

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Poetry review – Sax Burglar Blues by Robert Walton

Sax Burglar Blues by Robert WaltonA verve for life rollicks beneath the poems in Robert Walton’s first collection for Seren. Pinned to the page, they jostle in place – I have the impression of them being eager to flurry off downstream, seeking new sights and new adventures.

Perhaps it’s the tumult of years inside them that’s caused this. Walton’s debut came out in 1978, and while the intervening years included plenty of publications of individual poems and even a chapbook, this, emerging 39 years later, is the second full book from the accomplished poet.

Walton refers to the expanse of time as an effort of procrastination, but I suspect his delight in actually living, rather than pondering, is part of the reason for the lengthy gap.

His appetite for the world ensures even the most ordinary sighting can be reconfigured, and through Walton’s eyes, a man with a double bass on his back becomes a Kafka-esque “armour-plated coleoptera.”

Elsewhere, an evening’s ironing is laced with tenderness and grace. Memories redrafted are rippled through with uncommon beauty, as a teacher’s words transform into “red kites playing the thermals over the Teifi.”

Humour shines throughout, making the moments of poignancy all the more striking. In The Only Medicine we meet his powerhouse Nanna. Elsewhere we get more of an insight into his own inner life. In Man and Boy, an utter sense of comfort and safety surfaces, while in Up the Bluebirds!, an effort to please is revealed through the simple detail of a scarf that: “lies folded in the dark.’

I’m pretty sure there’s a double-meaning on the word lie – a child’s treachery perhaps built on the love of and for his father. There’s a subtle shame behind the subterfuge, but also a faint self-mockery, not for failing to gain a fanaticism for football, for so yearning to do so. Walton is a man riddled with self-awareness, in both senses of the word, and blessed with an ability to take himself admirably lightly. Just as he sees the glory in everyday occurrences, he recognises the qualities in the paths he’s chosen, and of those he’s turned from.

There’s a fondness for those distant paths, however, which shines up brief flashes of appreciation into something powerful enough to stop you in your tracks. Under Robert’s gaze, the world is full of wonder.

This never more apparent than in his beautifully weighted poem Greenland, in which the scope widens then narrows with breathtaking skill as we take in a snowbound steppe that was once pulsed with life. Robert gather us up in his wings and swoop inwards to deposit us into a moment of dizzying intimacy, beside the white pillow where his mother’s head rests and he is willing her eyes to open.

Sax Burglar Blues by Robert Walton is published by SerenBuy your copy from Amazon.

Read my review of A Watchful Astronomy by Paul Deaton.

Read my review of In Her Shambles by Elizabeth Parker.

What are you reading? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to Judy(at)socketcreative.com.

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Poetry review – A Watchful Astronomy by Paul Deaton

A Watchful Astronomy by Paul DeatonIn his first full-length collection from Seren, Paul Deaton eases us into the depths of his life, awakening us to the complex constellations of families. Carried through months and years, we take in moments of sorrow, wonderment and self-depreciating humour that seems to sum up both the experience of one individual in a moment, and of the scope of human existence on Earth.

The key relationship here is Deaton’s uncertain navigation around his late father, but his sister, mother, friends and rivals populate his journey, along with the moon, weather systems and unexpected flurries of flora and fauna. These latter, from Starlings’ “tall-tree trumpeters” to Sea Bream Dinner’s “wholesome, silver sea thing” reveal a quiet observance of the natural world that borders on reverence.

Despite casting his net occasionally into the sky above, to me Deaton’s poems resonate so powerfully because they are rooted in the earth, drawing our attention to the cumulative marvels of minutiae that could seem mundane in other hands. It’s here that Deaton’s fluid metaphors gleam. A reference to the central heating’s “dull milk shed moan” in Late Hour sketches parallels to other lives we could have lived, while Voices draws back the curtain on what comes after as well. The loss of his father ripples throughout, most poignantly for me in DIY: “He turned up at my house too, when I hadn’t asked.” The recognition and faint irritation of unuttered love is spine-tinglingly palpable.

Throughout the collection, momentum builds as Deaton urges us to contemplate the unstoppable force of time and mortality. Our planet rotates, seasons change and we age, seemingly without mercy. Yet in the midst of this, plants and wildlife flourish, offering echoes of beauty and wonder that lift Deaton’s poetry and illuminate the gloaming.

At his launch in Bristol, Deaton described his poems as “an attempt to make the darkness visible.” He certainly achieves that, but at the same time this poet reveals the light shining amongst shadows, and what could be more human than that?

Read my review of Paul Deaton’s Black Night.

A Watchful Astronomy by Paul Deaton is published by Seren and is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Buy your copy from Amazon.

Read my review of Black Knight by Paul Deaton.

Read my review of In Her Shambles by Elizabeth Parker.

Read my review of Sax Burglar Blues by Robert Walton

What are you reading? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

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