Black Lives Matter poem in Morning Star

Morning Star Aug 20Some poems arrive unexpectedly. My poem ‘The Chair’ in Wednesday’s Morning Star caught me blind-side while scrolling through my Facebook feed. There was an image. One I couldn’t get out of my head. The only solution. Write a poem.

Black Lives Matter has arisen spontaneously, through the power of social media. It’s a movement for desperately needed justice. Anger can be turned into action. Laws changed. Attitudes altered. We all have our part to play. Things are changing – but slowly.

Morning Star (12.8.20)

It seems deeply shocking that a so-called civilised society like America still executes people. The constitution allows each State to decide for itself, and tragically 25 States still have capital punishment on their statute books.

If that’s not horrendous enough, the colour of your skin has a lot to do with whether you receive a death sentence. The ethnicity of the murder victim is statistically the deal breaker – a white victim more often results in Death Row than if the victim were black. Old prejudices die hard.  Some lives are still deemed more equal than others, yet the US Supreme Court does not acknowledge statistical bias as a reason to overturn an individual sentence.

I’ve been a member of Amnesty International for much of my adult life. It campaigns for the abolition of the death penalty world-wide. Do please consider joining if you aren’t already a member.  Here is a link to their work on capital punishment: Amnesty International

imagesMy thanks to Andy Croft, who chose ‘The Chair’ as Poem of the Week in the printed newspaper. The Morning Star costs £1.20 and is available at a number of outlets, including The Coop, Budgens and McColls. You can also read its mix of News, Politics, Culture and Sport online, where my poem is also available to view at:  The Chair by Claire Booker

Finished Creatures is one year old

Finished Creatures (issue 3)_0001The biannual literary journal Finished Creatures has just celebrated its third issue with almost 70 pages of poetry on the theme of Balance.

Its luxurious crisp, white pages hold poems by Jill Abram, Isabelle Baafi, Claire Booker, Rachel Bower, Claire Collison, Martin Crucefix, Claire Dyer, Josh Ekroy, Susannah Hart, Hilaire, Matt Howard, Jenny Mitchell, Jessica Mookherjee, Matt Riches and Penelope Shuttle among a host of other poets.

It’s the brainchild of editor, Jan Heritage. And as so often is the case, she’s a gifted poet herself:

Finished Creatures is a new platform for emerging and experienced poets: an independent, no profit, printed magazine, carefully produced with an eye for detail and originality.

Here you will find poets engaging with the realities of the Anthropocene. You’ll find work that considers human and non-human beings with equal interest and affinity, and which sometimes explores the territory in between.  

Alongside environmental concerns and ecopoetry are poems that draw on personal experience, politics, myth and science to express something new and restless. Finished Creatures (issue 3)_0002

The theme of Balance was chosen before the virus took hold. But there are poems here that seem to foretell: chaos and apocalypse feature, as do gods – of mischief or of no use. Time takes on new meaning. Things disappear from view, perspectives change. But there is also the celebration of small triumphs, the ordinary and the near at hand.

The next issue is being guest-edited by Corrupted Poetry – a collective comprising Nic Stringer, Fiona Larkin and also Michelle Penn, whose poem, portrait of you as time, is featured on the inside cover of the Balance issue.

Issue One FCIf you’d like to submit your work, you have until July 31st to send up to four of your unpublished poems on the theme of Stranger.

Copies of the magazine cost £7.00 +1.50 p&p. ORDER DIRECT FROM THE PUBLISHER: poetry@finishedcreatures.co.uk    Or via: http://www.paypal.me/creaturespoetrymag

For more information, or to buy a copy of any of the first three issues: Airbourne, Risk or Balance, please follow this link: Finished Creatures

Words for the Wild – the magic of nature

 

Visually sumptuous, verbally lively – the webzine Words For The Wild is a joyful way of spending time with words and images that relate to Nature.

So a big thank you to poet Hilaire for introducing me to the webzine, and to editors Amanda Oosthuizen and Louise Taylor for posting my poem ‘New Arrival’.

To read it, please click here: New Arrival The same link will lead you through to stories and poems by a raft of gifted writers, including Shanta Acharya, Kathryn Bevis, Stephen Bone, Alison Brackenbury, Maggie Butt, Caroline Davies, Kate Firth, Hugh Greasley, Chris Hardy, Hilaire and S.A. Leavesley.

Submissions of prose and poetry are welcome year round, with changing themes. Your work can already have been published elsewhere (subject to copywrite). So far, they’ve covered the themes of Jungle, Fruit, Gift, and New Build.

The Ellen TreeThe ethos of Words for the Wild is one of celebration and action. “We are writers who love the countryside, and we want to stop the kind of development that will destroy our gorgeous green land; we want to conserve it for future generations. Of course we need houses but we also need to protect wildlife and retain these pockets of peacefulness where we can walk our dogs or jog or cycle or build dens, play or paint, or simply wander and think.”

Words for the Wild has published a paperback anthology of poems and stories (£6.40 from Words For The Wild) profits of which go to support the community campaign, AADD, which has just succeeded in preventing a housing development being built that would have threatened ancient woodland. More information at: Action Against Destructive Development

The Interpreter’s House is showing at a screen near you!

The Interpreter’s House joined the ranks of E-zines last year –  a sign of the times, I think. Interpreter's House Launch, Oxford

It’s always great to have a poem accepted, and issue 74 sits on my computer screen, offering some really strong prose and poetry from the likes of Jo Bratten, Natalie Crick, Josh Ekroy, Scott Elder, Helena Fornells, Sam Garvan, Roma Havers, Helen Tookey, Jean Taylor and Lydia Unsworth.

I’ve got four past issues of this fabulous lit mag on my book shelves. It always sported really eye-catching covers, and how nice to be able to flick through poems that I read perhaps years ago, but are still there, with my annotations, ready to read and enjoy again.

Of course, there are advantages to moving a magazine online. In the past, you would have to have part with a crisp fiver to read these poems and short stories. Now, just click on this link and read the entire magazine (including my poem ‘The Feral Dogs of Moscow’) for the cost of the electricity it takes to power your screen. Interpreter’s House (issue 74)

Interpreter's House issue 68It also takes some of the sweat and risk away for the editors – those long-suffering heroes and heroines, without whom contemporary writers would be seriously marginalised. And it’s great to be able to share a poem you like with other people, in a matter of seconds, using a simple link.

Do people read work online, in the same way as from a book? Possibly not. Digital is both easier, and perhaps less impactful an experience. The temptation to flit is quite strong. Perhaps more pieces get read, but with less depth of concentration. I also like being able to flick through a book and stop at a poem that has an interesting layout. Not possible in this type of format.

interpreters-house-64Not withstanding, Georgi Gill and her assistant editor, Andrew Wells, must be congratulated on creating a really clean, clear look to their website. You instantly see who the writers are, and the title of their work. One click and you’re in. The quality of the work speaks for itself.

They’ve also slimmed the magazine down, so now you get to read 2 or 3 short stories, and about 17 poets.  A very manageable number, which can be read in one sitting.

And how about a Zoom launch, so you get a chance to hear the writers read their work? It would be lovely to ‘meet’ the team, which includes Louise Peterkin (poetry editor) and Annie Rutherford (prose editor).  Community is everything, as Covid-19 has shown. Anything that can bring us together is to be greatly celebrated.

The Interpreter’s House operates submissions windows for poetry and prose in February, June and October. So there’s still time to get your work in this month. Plus don’t forget to check out their reviews, which are published on a separate web page. Full details on the website.

Arriba, arriba Magma!

Magma 76Call it Latinx, Latin American, Hispanic – the ‘Resistencia’ issue of Magma is a red hot fiesta of South America’s many vibrant cultures and their diaspora.

Poets featured include Juana Adcock, Gioconda Belli, Claire Booker, Olivia Dawson, Caleb Femi, Russel Karrick, Sharon Larkin, Katherine Lockton, Maria Negroni, Stephen Payne, Bianca Perez, Amilcar Sanatan, Adrianna Smith, Yome Sode, Claudine Toutoungi and Hilary Watson.

The poems include ghazals, sonnets and sestinas, as well as prose poetry, translations and other forms. They range from powerful acts of witness to whimsical musing and sensual meditative explorations. At a time when the UK is becoming increasingly multilingual, the richness of living in the creative tensions between languages is a fertile and critical area to explore.

Last month’s launch should have been at Tate Modern’s Terrace bookshop with resplendent views of the River Thames. Instead it was at my house, your house, houses across the globe, curtesy of Zoom. No lovely photos of the launch, therefore, (your know what a Zoom line-up looks like by now!) but a good hundred people turned up, many of whom would not have been able to make it to London.

With its nose for the cross-cultural, the collaboration, the unpredictable, Magma has pulled off a tour de force. Ignore this one at your peril.

download“This is probably the first poetry journal in the world to include Latin American poets from that region, British Latinx poets and North American Latinx poets, illustrating the way in which Latin American culture exists in diaspora,” write Leo Boix and Nathalie Teitler in their Editorial.

Coming from a mix of cultures myself (French, English), I love the fluidity of this issue – how it moves between languages, translations, some poems coming from a place of dual heritage, others from outsiders looking in. And I’m especially thrilled that my poem ‘The Bone That Sang’ has been included (literally the last poem in the issue), because it’s the title poem of my next pamphlet, due out later this year from Indigo Dreams (here endeth the plug!)

photo-1518593929011-2b5ef6be57c7There’s an astounding piece of writing by Pascale Petit, entitled Rio Tambopata, about her experiences in the Amazon. We’re in full-on Petit territory here, with its unmistakable magical realism and emotional impact: “I have to pass through the gates of the jaguar’s sparkling fangs, to imagine my birth.  . . . I lie on my leaf-cradle next to a baby caiman, and see the cockroaches scuttle into my mother’s flowering face.” A Thomson Holidays tour this ain’t!

Also in this issue, Francisco Aragon responds to work by Carmen Gimenez Smith and creates the found poem ‘With Carmen’: “The piece couldn’t exist without Carmen’s exquisite language. My contribution is the deliberate curation of and, no less crucial, ordering of that language.”  This raises the interesting point of why poets borrow from each other’s work, and how collaboration can yield exciting adventures with exactly the same words, but not necessarily – to quote Eric Morecombe – in the same order!

Plus there’s a fascinating evaluation of the Manifesto for a Latino-British Poetry by Dr Nathalie Teitler, as well as the usual in-depth reviews of newly released poetry collections.

To buy a copy of Magma (issue 76), take out a subscription or check on the next submissions window, visit: Magma

Surprised by The Spectator

Spectator 28.3.20.Having a poem published in The Spectator is one of life’s little joys. A quiet moment of celebration with suitable alcoholic beverage. Perhaps even a phone call to friends, to go out and buy.

But thanks to these unprecedented times, my poem ‘The Man God Oil’ appeared more than a month before I actually realised (on March 28th). The always efficient Arts & Books Editor, Clare Asquith, working from home, simply couldn’t keep pace with the 3 or 4 poets per week and their needs (poetry being only one of her many responsibilities).

My poem was inspired by a visit I made to Chongqin last autumn, and the extraordinary scale of just about everything to do with China, from buildings and reproductive health to bullet trains and the 3 rivers dam. Of course, little did I know what lay round the corner.IMG_20190920_214347973[1]

A big thank you must go to Hugo Williams for selecting ‘The Man God Oil’. If you possibly can, do beg, steal or borrow his latest collection Lines Off (Faber) and enjoy the poise and wit of his poetry. He also chose a very clever poem by Glyn Maxwell, ‘Seven Things Wrong With the Love Sonnet’, plus ‘Berrying’ by Andre Mangeot, and ‘The Inkwell’ by Nicholas Murray.

Spectator (28.3.20)_0002For those of you skilled in the art of light verse, the weekly Competition, curated by Lucy Vickery, pays £25 per successful poem, and has a different challenge set each week. On March 28th, the winners included DA Prince answering the call to submit a song that we can sing instead of ‘Happy Birthday’ during hand-washing. Each week, you have ten days to write and submit from call-out to final deadline.

If you’d like to submit a small selection of your poems for possible inclusion, please send them to Hugo Williams, c/o Clare Asquith, Arts & Books, The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP and include an SAE.

Boris Johnson fights the Jabberwocky

Jabberwocky by John TennielThank you Andy Croft, editor of the 21st Century Poetry slot at the Morning Star, for taking my Lewis Carroll pastiche Jab-or-Washy? Abs 2019-nCoV virus hologramIf Boris has time to read it when he returns to work tomorrow, he may see himself in a new light.

The poem came about in time-honoured fashion, through a small group of friends setting themselves a writing challenge. My brother laid down the gauntlet with a poem about Covid-19 composed in the style of Robert Burns. Duncan Fraser responded with a deliciously irreverent take on Shakespeare’s Cymbeline entitled Fear No More th’infected Bun. Then I shamelessly plundered Lewis Carroll’s great absurdist work for a chance to criticise how this pandemic has been handled. It was a record 7 days from writing the poem to publication. Normally it takes me months, years or, more frequently, never!

14-kotzI couldn’t have known that casting Boris Johnson as the tardy battler against the Jabberwocky, would have me dicing with death – literally.

When I submitted my poem, he was doing well at home, with very mild symptoms. By the time Jab-or-Washy? went up on-line at the Morning Star, he had been admitted to hospital. During the following three days, it looked increasingly as if my poem was about to cross the boundaries of extremely bad taste.

Luckily for Boris, he pulled through and is thankfully on the mend. Let’s hope his close shave with mortality will give him the necessary jolt to properly resource the NHS. Praise and appreciation of course is great. But money is pretty handy too!

imagesYou can read Jab-or-washy? by clicking on the following link: Jab-or-washy? by Claire Booker

The Morning Star’s Culture pages carry several poems a week, together with book and arts reviews and literary discussion pieces. You can read seven free articles per month, before being required to subscribe. To submit a poem, email it to Andy Croft at info@smokestack-books.co.uk

Dreamcatcher – worth a pile of beans!

Dreamcatcher 40_0001During the siege of Leningrad, people flocked to the libraries for nourishment. Here, we flock to the supermarkets for toilet rolls. Perhaps the Russians have something to teach us.

I’m fortunate (so far) in having food and books enough. And my contributor’s copy of Dreamcatcher 40 has just arrived, pulsating with verbal and visual treats.  It’s Wendy Pratt’s final issue as Editor, and she’s really pushed the boat out.

It includes some cracking short stories: Mark Jarman’s fascinating take on Shanghai; Kevan Youde’s mouth-watering sea voyage; a tale from Down Under by Christian McCulloch and something for Movie buffs from Mark Wasserman.

Poets featured include Claire Booker, Nick Boreham, Pamela Coren, Sandra Galton, Yvonne Hendrie, Michael Henry, Gary Jude, Mark Anthony Kaye, David Lewitzky, Karen Little, Jenny McRobert,  Jeremy Platt, Florian Rose, Iain Twiddy and Alessio Zanelli.Dreamcatcher 40_0002

The ravishing artwork in this issue has been selected from oil paintings by David Baumforth. Born in York, David’s inspiration is the ‘bitter beauty’ of England’s North East coast.  His technique is Turnerian, but the modern visual risk-taker is very much in evidence too.

Dreamcatcher 40_0003“I paint how I’ve always painted,” explains Baumforth, “and that’s with a focus on the truth of what I see in front of me. Yorkshire and its coastline are a constant source of inspiration. My last collections are very well received, and though that is gratifying, success or lack of it can be a distraction.”

Wise words indeed. And what fantastic use of colour. Clearly a painter I need to find out more about. So, thank you, Dreamcatcher for introducing him to me.

This issue also carries reviews of Derrida’s Monkey by Nell Farrell, and The Unknown Civilian by Antony Owen. Plus a very handy guide by Alan Gillott to three, on-line resources for writers: Write Out Loud, The Poetry Kit, and Rhyme Zone.

To buy a copy of Dreamcatcher 40, subscribe to the magazine (two issues a year), or check submissions windows, visit: Dreamcatcher

 

Artemis – a place for women poets

Artemis (issue 23)A literary journal which excludes men? How very 70s, do I hear? What need is there for literary purdah in the 21st century? Surely women have won the battle?

Perhaps so. And yet, how delightful it is to immerse oneself in uninterrupted female experience, with its own unique momentum and tropes. And why, I ask myself, has it taken me this long to read and submit to Artemis?

Happy indeed to have a poem published in issue 23 (November 2019) – a praise poem to my late mother-in-law, Selima, whose life was beset by ill-health and troubles, yet her deeply held faith kept her strong. What an inspiration.

Poetry editor for this issue, Anne Stewart, has chosen work by Yvonne Baker, Claire Booker, Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon, Charlotte Eastwell, Tess Jolly, Kaye Lee, Harriet Proudfoot, Martha Street, Grainne Tobin and Margaret Wilmot, among others.

ArtemisAnd there’s a double dose of verbal joy, because issue 23 also includes the winning, and commended, poems from the 2019 Second Light Poetry Competition, judged by Kate Foley. First prize (short category) went to Kathy Miles for ‘The Music Room’ and to A.C.Clarke (long category) for ‘Poet at War’.

I love the foolscap size of Artemis Poetry, with its generous space for the poems, and an almost coffee table feel to the way the pages turn. I also like how there’s a new poetry editor for each issue. This helps keep the magazine fresh, and means you can never second-guess an Artemis poem. Towards the back of the magazine come  Readers’ letters, Readers Recommend, a Noticeboard and Members’ News, plus in this issue, a touching obituary by Clare Best for Sussex raised poet, Judith Kazantzis. There are also four poems by featured poet, Kathy Miles, and great use of the back cover, with three powerful poems by Lyn Moir.

Also on offer, Myra Schneider’s interview with novelist and poet Kay Syrad is both accessible and very challenging – what a great combination.  Kay works across the creative spectrum, including the visual arts and dance. The magazine also includes a number of reviews – mostly collections and pamphlets by members of the Second Light Network.

Full membership of Second Light is open to all women aged 40 and over for £28 a year. Associate membership for £16 a year is open to women aged 30-40. Something worth considering, as membership offers workshops, publicity opportunities, as well as free copies of Artemis twice a year.

There are no age restrictions for submitting to the magazine, however, and there’s a deadline coming up! Appropriately perhaps, it’s Leap Day (Feb 29th). The poetry editor for issue 24 is Alison Brackenbury, someone whose poetry I particularly love. So do send in up to 4 of your best poems before the end of this month to: www.secondlightlive.co.uk And remember, women poets only!

New Year’s resolution – keep Poetry healthy!

2019 collections (2)Still stuck for a new year’s resolution?  How about subscribing to an extra literary magazine, buying another collection/pamphlet, perhaps crowd-funding an event or renewing your membership of The Poetry Society?

Not yet a member? T.S Elliot must be spinning in his grave! He helped set up the society in 1909. Or, to paraphrase another great American wordsmith (record holder for speaking 350 words per minute): Ask not what Poetry can do for you, but what YOU can do for Poetry.

For the modest price of £23 per year, you can enjoy that warm glow of maintaining the heart beat of poetry in the UK, as well as a hamper of literary goodies. For £44 per year, you get a subscription to the quarterly Poetry Review thrown in too. What’s not to like?

Stanza Bonanza ColchesterFor me, the warm glow is enough. But I’ve enjoyed the benefits too. The society has over 100 Stanza groups in the UK where you can enjoy the company and technical feedback of other poets. Clapham used to be my Stanza group. Now I’m a member of the Brighton group. There’s one near you, almost certainly.

My poem Sp/lit was recently commended in the society’s 2019 Stanza Competition. You can read Sp/lit, along with the winning and commended poems at the following link. Just scroll down the right hand side of the page to find them all: 2019 Stanza Competition poems

If you live within reach of London, the Poetry Society’s refurbished headquarters off Long Acre, Covent Garden, is a great venue for its many events and activities, together with the Poetry Café where you can meet, eat and speak to your heart’s content. I recently went there for Poetry@3, a popular monthly Open Mic event hosted by the warmly Welsh and very welcoming Paul McGrane. It’s for poets who like to play in the afternoon. So handy for travel, if you don’t live in London. Trafalgar

20191205_poetree-2897-2048x1332[1]This Christmas, I went up to the Big Smoke again for the lighting up of the 100ft Norwegian spruce in Trafalgar Square. Is no-where safe from the Poetry Society’s influence? A specially commissioned poem, ‘The Gift’ by Clare Pollard, inspired by local school children, was part of the ceremony, touchingly performed by youngsters to a crowd of warmly wrapped people.

[2]Other benefits to membership include, discounted poetry surgeries, a free copy of the quarterly Poetry News, packed with essential reading, including a double page dedicated to young poets. And more than 20 different projects currently putting Poetry into the public arena up and down the country, from National Poetry Day, and The Annual Lecture, to the Canal Laureateship, Poetry and Podcasts, and vital archive work.

So, for the cost of a festive round of drinks, you get to support a heritage that goes back  . . . well, exactly when did poetry first start? Cuneiform, spoken, printed or virtual, all we can say for sure, is that it’s been going a very long time. Let’s hope it stays that way!

For more information about membership, please visit: The Poetry Society