Poetry review – Take This One To Bed by Antony Dunn

Take This One to Bed by Antony DunnIn an homage to rural and suburban living, and the creatures that live among (and, in one case, within) us, poet Antony Dunn examines human nature by setting it alongside, well, nature.

We meet spiders, newts, frogs, slugs, sheep, mice, bats and crows startled to “beating black”; unborn children, born ones, and, most evocatively, lovers, all sensuously laid out in deceptively simple verses that summon up the world.

For me, Leaving: vi Two Mohitos in Bratislava, feels plucked from my own memory; causing my mouth to flood with a craving for the zing of citrus and mint. The word choices are crisp and visceral – happiness is sucked, a quartered lime fished, an ice-cube shunted. It’s deeply, satisfyingly, envy-inducing.

Even in a poem about a solo journey, Dunn conjures flavour and texture by mentioning “the woman with her honey in mis-matched jars” and  “sunlight quickening/ the dust and tar/ and rosemary”.

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Poetry review – Woven Landscapes

Woven Landscapes coverThis slim, blue volume from Avalanche Books brings together the words of six strong poets with a shared love of the world around us. Selected and arranged by editor Deborah Gaye, the affect is of attending an evening of readings, with each poet’s work presented as a mini collection within the book. It’s an unusual approach for an anthology, but it works beautifully, giving you the chance to absorb each writer’s tone and rhythms before drifting into the companionship of the next.

And each one truly does have a clear, resoundingly individual voice. Section one, from Roselle Angwin, is a sensual tangle of the intimate and universal, beginning with Apple Tree and a wassail in an orchard that offers up memories of rural customs even as the poet urges us to rest “your palm to the trunk, tell you how to open/ the eyes and ears of your hand” to experience the “journey between earth and star.” It’s a powerfully enticing beginning. Each poem conjures the same magic, elevating the ordinary details of life while contemplating big issues – politics, mortality, pilgrimage and migration, all elegantly laid out in vivid verse.

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Submit short stories on Change and Stasis

Windmill Hill City Farm pigs cr Judy DarleySubmissions are now open for issue #2 of The Ham Free Press. The themes for the issue are Change and Stasis – a great start to your writing year!

“The world, and its inhabitants, seem to be going through a period of profound change at the moment, physically, socially, and politically, and we want to explore the creative response to this change in our next issue,” say the editors. “On the other hand, we might be wrong, perhaps things aren’t changing that dramatically, perhaps things just happen in cycles, maybe we’ve been here before? Are there certain constants, unchanging and stable, whilst the world around us seems to transform?  We don’t know, we’re very confused, but we’re awfully excited to receive your submissions based on this prompt.”

Send up to three short stories or flash fictions up to a maximum of (4,000 words max for short stories, 1,000 max for flash fiction) and poems up to a maximum of 60 lines (the shorter the better). “We will accept up to five poems per submission and if we think they’re good enough we’ll publish them all, so go mad.”

Intriguingly, The Ham also accept any work of an epistolary nature, whether it be letters from readers, real life correspondence, “or fictional correspondence. Make us laugh, make us think, make us question our very existence.”

Send all submissions to thehamfreepress@gmail.com, but before you do so, take a moment to visit The Ham’s website and read the full submission guidelines.

The why, what and how of writing poetry

Coriolis Effect by Sarah Dncan

Coriolis Effect by Sarah Dncan

Poet Paul Deaton explains how he came to write Black Knight, his debut poetry pamphlet for Eyewear Publishing’s Aviator Series.

Writing for me has been an intuitive adventure. It first kicked off when I was a teenager; the need and struggle to place myself and where I was; to find something in my life to hold on to. Sounds a bit dramatic, but that was the genesis.

Why I write

Words can offer us a means to place ourselves within our own worlds, when perhaps you don’t feel well placed. Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis calls this a “sacred place, where I allow myself to express my true feelings.”

Poetry offers this self-private room, where words are the outlet and the poems can find balance, meaning and say things that might seem ordinarily, in one’s daily life, unsayable. The words become a mirror to your life.

Talking specifically about my pamphlet Black Knight, all those previous years are in it – many, many years of clandestine writing.

It started taking real shape around eight years ago after I’d done an adult learning poetry course through Bristol University with Totnes poet Julie-ann Rowell. That was actually the point when I started to take my own writing seriously, because someone else, who I respected, took it seriously.

I’ll use that word again and I realise now, without good mirroring it’s quite easy to neglect those things we might have a talent or gift for.

The course in 2008 with Julie-ann was a moment of change. Finally I took some self-responsibility towards my writing. Sadly, I’ve been very good at self-sabotaging, a bit of an expert, which is, to put it another way, and again drawing on poet Gwyneth Lewis from her Sunbathing in the Rain, “I do have a responsibility for the maintenance of the gift.” Previous to 2008 I’d never quite respected my responsibility towards the gift. I’d let the writing flounder as much as I’d let it happen.

Black Knight really is the result of me responding to the ‘call’, and finally embracing it and actually working at it before it’s too late to do something about it.

I decided I couldn’t carry on letting it sleep lifelessly in me and then die. The poems for Black Knight come from this period when I started to graft and push beyond beginnings. It was about the writing and also a personal thing, a statement and a commitment saying this is what I’m about.

In that sense I think the pamphlet is declarative. There’s a new relationship hidden in there too amongst the scenery and also an acceptance of bloodline; a painful one with my father.

Parallex by Sarah Duncan

Parallex by Sarah Duncan

What I write

In terms of themes, the collection draws on two preoccupations or prisms; relationships and then my deeper sense and need for geographical topographical location which draws on a sense of place and the natural world. For me there is very much an interaction between the two, but this subject matter hasn’t been arrived at deliberately. It’s just the way it is for me.

I don’t think I’m capable of writing deliberate poems. In a good way, the poems happened inevitably, which I think is in line with what Seamus Heaney says; you’ve got to write without self-consciousness.

The themes, though, are just a reflection of a sensibility I have that comes to light sometimes, of being alive in the natural universe.

I find the natural world a huge store for correspondences and I’m curious about the interplay between the private subjective and this huge living cosmos, the universe, of which our consciousness is a part.

Like I say, it feels like a sensibility. I try and stay open to that, both of my own processes as a human being and the bigger on-going processes of sun, Earth, seasons, plant, bird life and so on happening around me and outside my back door.

In this way I try and keep the pores open and take it all in – Blake’s idea that we should “see heaven in a wild flower.”  I feel whole as a human being when the two can be brought together in some way; can touch and spark, when the psyche can find those images ‘out there’ in the natural world that can name its sense of itself and the interplay ‘of the big’ that sometimes we can feel a part of.

Undertow detail by Sarah Duncan

Undertow, detail by Sarah Duncan

How I write

In terms of structuring the pamphlet, it was a case of reviewing quite a strong period of new work. It was a bit like I had in my creative garden a load of fallen leaves and I just went about gathering together the ones that seemed most beautiful.

In that sense I wasn’t really writing for the pamphlet – in fact, after having got nil response after a few years’ attempts at pamphlet competitions I’d given up thinking about pamphlets – and this probably helped. I was just writing poems and trying to get them published. And thinking that maybe one day I’d go for the pamphlet or book.

But actually I wasn’t in any rush. For me, when the poems started to get published I worried less about the need for having a pamphlet. Publication felt like its own reward. So Black Knight is really just a bundle of closely connected fallen leaves pretty much off the same tree; that new relationship and the death of my father.

I’m delighted it’s here though, and delighted to be part of Eyewear and Todd Swift’s Aviator Series.

My full-length collection A Watchful Astronomy comes out with Seren next year, and will extend on from this starting point. And some of the poems for that book have moved on too, just as I have.

Paul DeatonAbout the author 

Paul Deaton’s poems appear in The Spectator, PN Review, The London Magazine, The Dark Horse Magazine, Gutter Magazine and anthologies. His debut poetry pamphlet Black Knight was published by Eyewear in March 2016. A Watchful Astronomy will be published by Seren in 2017.

All images in this post (other than the pic of Paul) have been generously supplied by Sarah Duncan. Thanks Sarah! Find more of Sarah’s art at print.sarahduncan.net.

Got some writing insights to share? I’m always happy to receive feature pitches on writing genres and writing tools. Send an email to Judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Enter The Bare Fiction Prize 2016

Almunecar cr Judy Darley

This creative writing competition caught my eye in part because it comes from the excellent Bare Fiction. This year Helen Mort judges the Poetry category (max 40 lines), David Gaffney judges the Flash Fiction category (max 500 words), and Courttia Newland 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, as well as being published in the Spring 2017 issue of Bare Fiction Magazine and on the Bare Fiction website.

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”, so I’d advise letting your imagination run free.

Consider the name of the magazine and, drawing from that, produce something unsullied by overthinking – a piece of writing that’s clear and pure and straight from the heart.

The deadline for all entries is 31 October 2016. Find full competition details, including entry fees, here.

Get published by Into The Void Magazine

Wieliczka Salt Mine cr Judy Darley

Into The Void Magazine invites you to submit your finest fiction, nonfiction, poetry and visual art for Issue Two.

The deadline for submissions is September 25th.

They say: “We want work that screams out from inside you and grabs hold of us. We want to hear what you have no choice but to tell. Unpublished and less established writers have as good a chance as any – it’s all about the writing.”

Fiction

Submit stories in any genre and style of up to 4,000 words. “Although literary fiction tends to be our favourite, we love any kind of story that blows us away, from science fiction to speculative to fantasy to horror. The only requirement is writing your little heart out!”

Aim to enthral. “We prize beautiful, unique prose but clarity is a must. The most important thing we can tell you is this: Stories, always, always, always, are about people. Everything else is secondary. Write the story you simply must write – the one that screams its way out of your fingers because it needs to be read.”

Non-Fiction 

Submit essays of up to 4,000 words on any topic whatsoever that conveys passion and truth, be it personal or issue-focused. “We want essays that bite!”

Poetry

Submit poems in all forms and styles of up to 80 lines with no minimum line or word count.

“The key here is two-fold: A clear display of the intention to create a beautiful sounding poem, and an economical use of well-chosen words of powerful meaning and description. Poems can be about anything at all, and of all shapes.”

Art

The magazine needs submissions of cover and internal art, in any medium including photography, provided it is submitted as a high quality jpeg image.

Submit the highest quality version of your work, so the editors can see how big it will be on the page at print quality. Don’t send a lower quality version and tell us we can have a higher one if requested.

Renumeration

All contributors accepted for publication will receive a cash payment of €5 via Paypal, and will receive a copy of the magazine in both print and digital. Contributors will also have the opportunity to be featured as part of the ‘Interviews with Our Contributors’ section.

Top contributors will be nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

Submission fees

There is a submission fee of €1.40 (around $1.54/£1.17) to submit your written work.

For full details on how to submit, go to intothevoidmagazine.com/submissions/

I found out about this opportunity at ShortStopsGot an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at Judy(at)socket creative(dot)com.

Dawn Thread – a poem

Happy Summer Solstice! Today began when most of us were still sleeping (at 4.06am, rumour has it) and the air was green and fragrant. Gorgeous.

Nicholas Oakwell red feather dressThis week I’m pleased to share the news that my poem Dawn Thread has been selected for a special Midsummer issue of Enchanted Conversations: A Fairy Tale Magazine. In case you don’t know, Enchanted Conversations is a beautiful online journal of original fairytales, which has regular calls for submissions.

My poem came in a flurry after seeing an exquisite dress embellished by students and tutors at the Royal School of Needlework for designer Nicholas Oakwell (pictured left). The gown was hand sewn all over with more than 200,000 feathers, dyed in 18 shades of red, and made me think of the kind of tasks traditionally given to maidens in fairytales. The profusion of red made me think of the transition from girl to woman, and the feathers drew to mind several fairytales about long men turned into swans, and their sister sewing them shirts to return them to their human forms.

My poetic tale offers a rather different ending, culminating at dawn on the longest day.

Read it here.

Poetry review – Astéronymes by Claire Trévien

Asteronymes cover cropClaire Trévien is adept at gloriously unexpected turns of phrase. Signs of early life include “collapsed/ arks, kicked in the groin.” History has been shoaled and mouths “left unzipped.”

Reading the poems of her latest collection, Astéronymes, published by Penned in the Margins, makes me feel we’re embedded both in modernity and in the past. At one point she mentions: “There’s a spectator in my boot”, bringing to mind contemporary paranoia and the more innocent species of bug in one neat line.

Asteronymes by Claire Trevien coverMore obliquely, she comments: “The grass here is the kind of green/ that can only exist after rain/ or a monitor failure.”

The collection title works beautifully with the dense and varied contents, referring to the asterisks used to hide a name, or disguise a password.

There is a sense of Trévien playing games, not only with words or sentence structures, but with our expectations, as in Azahara [edit] and The Museum of Author Corrections. In the latter of these, we’re presented both with a poem and a response to it, which is at least in part critical. It’s disconcerting and amusing, as well as giving the illusion of insight into the poet’s process.

A series of Museum have taken up residence on the pages, offering glimpses into ponderings on sleep (including a magical line in which “selkies bump against the hull”, waiting, shared meals and more, reminding us that every element of human life is worthy of examination.

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Poetry review – Black Knight by Paul Deaton

Black Knight by Paul Deaton cover cropDrawing on the darkness glimpsed down alleyways, between streetlamps and on the edge of urban parks, Paul Deaton’s poetry pamphlet Black Knight is an impressively self-assured debut.

From the break up of a love affair to the unspoken grief within a family, Deaton explores the strength of human emotions set against forces both immovable and elemental. There are also moments of humour, and of satisfaction, as a late walk home from the pub becomes a passage of quiet contentment.

Black Knight by Paul DeatonDeaton has a talent of bringing together the personal, and the universal, so that in the opening poem the sale of a bike becomes a eulogy to love lost and lessons learnt. Seasons and their offerings develop human characteristics, particularly vividly in August, when a crotchety old pear tree flings its fruit about in attention-seeking petulance, and somewhat more majestically in October: “Some burly blacksmith/ has quenched the sun/ in the cold sea of the sky, the cherry flames, distant, intensify.” Just beautiful.

In the poem Stalker, even the moon reveals its all-too human flaws, “He’ll watch all night like this, through/ his scarf of cloud, the broke drape; while we count faceless sheep/ he waits. He holds the hours we conflate.”

The visual qualities of these lines paint images inside my head, create characters, texture, and the delicious possibility of jeopardy. Continue reading

Poetry review – Spilt Ends by Claire Williamson

Split Ends by Claire Williamson cropQuestions about family run like a vein, or a seam of quartz, through Claire Williamson’s pamphlet Split Ends. She guides through the catacombs of her search for her biological parents and what this means in terms of identity, at times head on as in She Thought Her Father was a Butcher and Red Herrings, at others at a slant that seems full of glinting motes.

Split Ends by Claire WilliamsonOf the latter, Minotaur sent shivers through me. Elegantly told, this is both a lament and expression of hope. In the poem’s most chilling moments, the bull-headed creature of the title speaks of the “seven petrified children” brought as food, then being devoured only by each other in the desperate hunger of the dark. Including a glimpse of young Icarus adds a wonderful spark to the poem’s ending.

In other poems we’re offered a portrait of grandparents – the grandfather “who taught us kids to read a clock”, and the grandmother, described through the poignant details of the house she made “a home.” In After the Hanging, we meet Williamson’s brother, feel her pain as she writes of his suicide with an extraordinarily raw beauty.

Others glow with Williamson’s love for her daughters, and touch on the pain of separation by “cross winds, no rest-stops,/ hard shoulder, the motorways.” Continue reading