Category Archives: Women’s writing

Poems in Mslexia and Stand

If at first you don’t succeed. At last, I have a poem in Mslexia magazine in their showcase section, themed: Eyes. The poem came out of a Poetry Kit prompt using a Jackson Pollock painting. Yes, poetry lurks in the strangest of places.

Mslexia has been a godsend to women writers since it hit the news stands in 1999. With 11,000 subscribers, the quarterly magazine is a financial success and can pay its contributors. It’s packed with short fiction, poetry, advice columns, literary news, photographic work and thought-provoking articles, with regular slots, as well as some left-field surprises (a piece on Jungian Archetypes!). Mslexia‘s competitions can be the stepping stone to an agent or publisher.

This summer’s Eyes showcase is spread across 16 pages and was judged by Helen McClory. Alongside my poem ‘The Colour Police’, she chose stories by Kirsty Cowan, Clare Shaw, Lauren du Plessis, Jenny Tunstall and Asia Haut, and poems by Siobhan Harvey, Katrina Dybzynska, Heleana Bakopoulos and Sophia Rubina Charalambous.

To buy a copy of Mslexia (issue 94), or take out a subscription for four copies a year, click here https://mslexia.co.uk/magazine/ You can also register for their free e-newsletter which sends out writing prompts, literary ‘gossip’ and info on a wide range of events and opportunities.

A lit mag to nurture and love, Stand has been bringing quality poetry and prose to our attention since 1952. I was delighted to have four poems in the Spring issue this year, alongside some wonderful work by Sharon Black, Jo Burns, Graham Clifford, Sally Festing, Chris Hardy, Patricia McCarthy, Sian Thomas and John Vickers, among others.

Stand‘s signature wide & narrow shape, allows for breathing space and all sorts of lineation. Three of my poems really tested the type-setter’s patience! I salute John Whale and his team for giving our words such a fine white paddock to gallop in.

As well as poetry and short stories, Stand also has a short Review section, plus at least one feature article. Elizabeth Cook’s in-depth article on the poet and painter Isaac Rosenberg really hit the spot for me. At Sussex University I studied a course entitled ‘Art and Letters in England (1900-30) and fell in love with Rosenberg’s extraordinary work – another from that gifted generation lost to war.

To buy a copy of Stand (Vol 20, no 1), take out a subscription, or submit your work, please click on: https://www.standmagazine.org/welcome

Artemis goes Down-Under

Calling all women poets! You have until Feb 28th to send in your poems for the Spring issue of Artemis. It’s a magazine that puts women in the driving seat, both as editors and contributors.

To ensure variety of content, Artemis invites a different guest editor to join general editors Katherine Gallagher and Dilys Wood in selecting poems for the next issue. There’s always a couple of featured poets, in-depth book reviews, plus feature articles around a theme, as well as notice boards, news items and some fun feminist cartoons.

I’m lucky enough to have a poem in the current issue, alongside a fascinating cross-section of poets selected by guest editor Ruth Sharman, including Hilary Hares, Rosie Jackson, Kaye Lee, Jill McEvoy, Myra Schneider, Kate Scott, Penelope Shuttle, Nicola Warwick, Margaret Wilmot, and Veronica Zundel. There are also the winning and commended poems in Second Light’s 2021 Poetry Competition. First prizes went to Cathy Whittaker and Daphne Milne in the Short Poem and Long Poem categories respectively.

“It is easier to muse on the struggle

than to struggle on the muse.”

(Cartoon by Caro Reeves)

The theme for issue 27 is Australian women poets. There are some incisive articles by Australians living in the UK (including Cath Drake of The Verandah fame and Kaye Lee); a closer look at the work of two Australian stalwarts Gwen Harwood and Judith Wright, plus insights by British poet Moya Pacey, who lives and writes in Australia, and offers her view on the improving opportunities for women’s poetry down under, including the marginalised voices of women of colour.

You can send up to four of your poems for possible publication in issue 28 of Artemis. The poetry editor will be Kathy Miles. Submission guidelines can be found at http://www.secondlightlive.co.uk

And if winter is getting you down, why not raise a smile, or even a belly-laugh, by visiting the chuckle-making webzine Lighten Up Online? Edited by Jerome Betts, it’s published monthly, and includes everything from ballads and clerihews, to limericks, satire and rhyming couplets. You can check out two of the smallest poems I’ve ever written at: https://www.lightenup-online.co.uk/index.php/issue-56-december-2021/2206-interval-two-from-musk-oxen-to-marmots and https://www.lightenup-online.co.uk/index.php/isse-55-september-2021/2128-interval-one-a-flurry-of-fours

Lightening the Dark – Morning Star and Solstice Shorts

My poem about a female volleyball player, inspired by the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan, was published in The Morning Star newspaper on 23rd Dec, and can also be read online at: News Flash

‘Newsflash’ is one of those poems that write themselves out of an instant emotional reaction. I read with horror about the beheading of a young woman volleyball player by the Taliban. This coincided with a birthday celebration in Brighton on a beautiful sunny day. The mismatch was painful, and a poem started to rise up in response. The first draft was just in time for my Stanza group, where some helpful feedback ensued (thank you Brighton Stanza), followed by a second draft, then a quick email to Andy Croft who selects for The Morning Star‘s 21st Century Poetry column. Ten minutes later, he pinged back an acceptance (does he never sleep?).

I’m under no illusion that this poem will make a difference to how the Taliban treat women (or indeed men), but apart from supporting Amnesty, it’s all I can offer. As poets, we must write as we feel.

The winter solstice is a symbol of how dark and deadly the world can become. What better way to contemplate the lengthening of days and hope for positive change, than the fascinating mix of stories and poems in Arachne Press’ latest Solstice Shorts anthology, Words from the Brink?

Contributors include Jane Aldous, Julian Bishop, Claire Booker, Kate Foley, Katherine Gallagher, Lucy Grace, Mandy Macdonald, Ness Owen, Michelle Penn, Diana Powell and Robert Rene Galvan.

The amazing cover image is ‘Red Earth’ by Komal Madar, and beautifully reflects the anger of our planet driven to ground by human greed and ignorance. Published by Cherry Potts at Arachne Press, ‘Words from the Brink’ is the seventh Solstice Shorts anthology, marking the tipping point of each year. “We urge you all to do SOMETHING while we still can,” writes Cherry in her foreword. “Turn off that light, turn off that tap; reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle; plant a tree, protect the bees; write a song, a poem, a story that can reach people who need to hear. Everything may yet be all right, but only with your help.”

You can watch the zoom launch of ‘Words from the Brink’ at Arachne Press’s Youtube channel, or better still, buy a copy of the book at https://arachnepress.com/shop/

If you have a poem to share on the pages of The Morning Star, then drop Andy Croft an email at info@smokestack-books.co.uk. The Culture section at the Star’s website is also worth a read. You can check up to 7 articles per month, including featured poems, for free. https://morningstaronline.co.uk/categories/arts

Art and Nature – inspiring poetry

Thank you Katrina Naomi for choosing my poem Framed Woman as joint-runner up in this year’s Poetry Society Stanza Competition. The poem was inspired by an Edward Hopper painting used as a prompt at Poetry Kit’s on-line ekphrastic poetry course, then polished to betterment following feedback from the Brighton Stanza Group. Yes, many hands make light work!

Katrina chose a rich variety of interpretations on this year’s competition theme ‘Choice’. My poem focuses on a woman trying to move out of a claustrophobic relationship. The possibility of choice comes to her as “a tendril unlaces in the white hot sun.”

You can read Framed Woman, together with the winning poem (Sarah Wimbush’s Blood Sugar), joint runner-up Liz McPherson’s Outsider, and the ten commended poems by Julian Bishop, David Bleiman, Partridge Boswell, David Bundred, Sue Burge, Virginia Griem, Sue Norton, Michael Saunderson, Michael Shann and Paul Wellby, by clicking on: https://poetrysociety.org.uk/news/sarah-wimbush-is-chosen-as-the-poetry-societys-2021-stanza-competition-winner/

Stanza groups exist all over the UK (and even abroad). Everyone is welcome to attend, share their work, feedback on other people’s poetry. Some Stanzas hold organised public readings, publish anthologies, run workshops – the sky’s the limit. Check the Poetry Society website for details of your nearest group.

Nature is never far away in my poetry, so it felt really special to have a poem included in the poetry and flash fiction anthology Awakenings, published online by The Sussex Wildlife Trust.

It’s the brainchild of Lucy Townsend, who approached the Trust with the idea as a way to celebrate its 60th anniversary. You can read it all for free at: https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/awakenings

It’s great that organisations are increasingly including poetry in their communications with the general public. Every poem that reaches new constituencies is to be especially celebrated.

Living down here in Brighton, the South Downs are a big part of my life. The Brighton Downs Alliance now includes a poetry/flash section on their website. Check out Chalk It Up for my poem On Beacon Hill and 15 other snapshots of downland life at: https://www.brightondownsalliance.org.uk/chalk-it-up.html

Artemis – In Praise of Older Women

Artemis Poetry has a seductive power which draws you through its spacious pages, its poems, the interviews, the delightful artwork, and leaves you pleasantly sated at the end.

Issue 25 is no exception, with feature poet Margaret Wilmot’s six fine poems, a tantalising three from Alison Brackenbury on the back cover, an illuminating interview with Penelope Shuttle (with 4 poems to go) and work in the main body of the magazine from Claire Booker, Katherine Gallagher, Gill Learner, Kathy Miles, Jennifer Nadel, Ilse Pedler, Kate Scott, Sue Spiers, Myra Schneider, Marion Tracy and Merryn Williams among many others.

by Caro Reeves

Caroline Carver and Dilys Wood’s editorial is a paean to the creative potential of middle age and beyond. Here is an extract:

“‘Older’ is of course always a relative term. New generations may appear to tread us down even when we feel our bones are still green. There are real problems around ‘the cult of youth’ however natural it is for event organisers and editors to look out for new talent. Sometimes there is a quite wrong-headed disassociation between ‘freshness’ and innovation and a writer’s count of years. Among creative people across the arts, there are so many examples of older people either producing their best work at the end of their lives, or striking out in entirely unforeseen directions which may involve high levels of innovation.”

There’s a graceful elegance about this magazine, but it’s piping hot with ideas under the surface.

Penelope Shuttle gives a fascinating interview about the life of a writer: “. . . the main thing about poetry is to find your own voice, and develop it, stay true to you. You can’t trim it to the fashion of the moment.” You can read the winning and commended poems in this year’s Second Light Poetry Competition; learn more about the late, great Anne Stevenson and Elaine Feinstein, and consider Jacqueline Saphra’s perspective on older poets, with her suggestion that older women writers might exhibit “. . . divine rage, the kind of rage that ricochets down the centuries, takes the male canon to task and hammers on the doors of patriarchy.”

There’s a generous supply of book reviews, including the latest from Clare Best, Naomi Foyle and Fiona Sampson, plus interviews with RV Bailey, Nadine Brummer, Katherine Gallagher, MR Peacocke and Myra Schneider about what makes older women writers tick. Rather like Magma Poetry, Artemis uses a different poetry editor for each issue (Helen Ivory edited this one). As a result, you can never second guess an Artemis poem. It’s a fresh every time.

I enjoyed the magazine so much, I’ve decided to buy a subscription and become a member of Second Light, which offers a whole package of goodies, including workshops, online publication, member reviews and publicity. All for £28 a year (if you’re 40+) or £16 associate membership for women aged 30-40. For more information please visit: www.secondlightlive.co.uk

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!

400 years of women’s lives in poetry thanks to London Undercurrents

DwjEU33XcAALU3F[1]My review of Hilaire and Joolz Sparkes’ fascinating debut collection ‘London Undercurrents’ is now live on Ink, Sweat and Tears‘ review pages.

Congratulations to both poets for their lively handling of the subject and to Holland Park Press for creating such a lovely looking book.

It delves with great energy and dexterity into the lives of London’s unsung heroines of the past four hundred years. Quite unputtable down!

If you’d like to read my review then please visit the following link: Ink Sweat and Tears

Go buy the book at: Holland Park Press

Picaroon Poetry goes ‘Deranged’

DerangedWith Halloween just round the corner, why not treat yourself to some seriously unsettling poetry, curtesy of Picaroon’s ‘Deranged’ anthology, edited by Kate Garrett and Rachel Nix? The book is “for seriously ‘deranged poetesses’, in practice or in spirit, everywhere,” states its dedication.

Always happy to walk the edge, I’m delighted to have a poem in the anthology, alongside poets such as Rishika Aggarwal, Carole Bromley, Rebecca Gethin, Lizzie Holden, Amy Kinsman, Laurie Kolp, Misti Rainwater-Lites, Sarah Pritchard, Angela Readman and Sade Andria Zabala.  There’s a strong contingent from across The Pond, which is perhaps not surprising, given the move towards madness shown recently by the American electorate!

The anthology features poems about rule-breaking, gender nonconformity and women in the arts. It is “for those who openly refuse to be chained to the status quo; those who rebel quietly, biding their time; and everyone in between. ”  I’ll drink to that!

For more information on Picaroon Poetry please click the following link: Picaroon anthology

To order a copy of ‘Deranged’ direct, please click: Deranged

 

Meat /A Dog’s Life – 5 minute plays by Claire Booker

lost-festival-nov-2016Struck down with flu in November, I failed to see either of my two plays performed at the Lost Theatre Company’s 5 Minute Play Festival 2016. If I’d had any body fluids left, I’d have wept into my duvet.

But hey, U-tube came to the rescue and Meat and A Dog’s Life, together with the other plays selected for the festival, are available to view.

Meat is directed with verve by Jo Grieve. Rhiannon Story and Francesca Burgoyne offer spirited performances in their roles as animal activists who have a nasty secret in the boot of their car. (see link below)

A Dog’s Life is directed by myself. (Fess up time – I was too ill to get to the dress rehearsal, so an especially big thank you to Stephanie James and Jake Rowley for acting their socks off without me). When Baz runs over his wife’s pet pooch, he learns what a dog’s life is really worth. (see link below)

Finally, thank you to The Lost Theatre Company for organising the seventh 5-Minute Festival at their Stockwell-based theatre. I’ve had plays accepted there for six consecutive years and it’s always been a real pleasure working with such an enthusiastic and helpful team.

For information about The Lost Theatre’s current shows and future festivals please click on: www.losttheatre.co.uk

Review of Rosie Garland’s ‘As in Judy’

rosie-garland_0001What makes a good review? Is it readability? Accuracy? An instinct for the telling quote? Having grappled with writing my first poetry review, all I know is that, like any other art-form, it will take years of practice to hone the skill.

But not withstanding, it was a gripping experience to read the newest poetry collection from the multi-talented and heart-warmingly modest Rose Garland.  I can only urge you to get down to your local book store and order a copy of As in Judy. It’s full of verbal spark and hard-won humanity. Or you can go direct to Manchester-based publisher Flapjack Press (www.flapjackpress.co.uk) and buy it on-line.

If you’d like a taste of ‘As in Judy, here’s the link to my write-up on Write Out Loud (another gem of the poetry world):  www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=63176