Category Archives: Women’s writing

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

New Drama at the Arts Theatre

Paperback PicturesUpstairs at The Arts Theatre in Covent Garden is a lively venue with a bar at the back for those of thirsty inclination. Pretty handy during a recent hot May night when upwards of 80 people packed into its bijou space to enjoy new dramas by Claire Booker, Aaron Hubbard, Dean Moynihan and Chris York, plus music by Lescines and Rebecca Vaughan.

My play ‘Blue Line Day’ was directed by Paul Heelis and featured Monty Burgess and Leonora Barton in the roles of Michael and Rachel – a couple who can’t live with (or without) each other.  Thank you to all involved for their talent and hard work which really paid off.

We were also treated to a bravura performance by Alexandra Robinson in Chris York’s ‘Build a Rocket’ offering up the joys (and horrors) of childbirth, whilst ‘The Boy Who Built a Clock’ by Aaron Hubbard made us question our prejudices. And Dean Moynihan’s very clever play within a play, ‘This is This’, had us all wrong footed – several times over.Paperback Pictures 2

Paperback Pictures’ bimonthly new writing event, Foot in the Door, showcases work by upcoming theatre professionals. And they’re hungry for more! If you’re a writer, actor, director, musician or theatre technician looking for an audience and a chance to hone your craft, find out how to get involved at:  http://www.paperback.pics/

Sibling productionsIt’s always a thrill when I discover one of my plays has been performed north of the border. ‘Socks Go in the Bottom Drawer’ had another airing in Scotland, this time in the town of Lauder (ashamed to say I had to get the atlas out and find it – just above Galashiels). Thank you to Lauder Amateur Dramatic Association for giving it a four night run in March, and thank you to Comedy Plays for bringing the play to their attention.

If you’re a playwright who is happy for your work to be performed by amateur actors, do check out the possibilities at: www.comedyplays.co.uk/

Women Refugees Speak it, Hear it!

OBR

One in three women will be victims of rape or violence at some point in their lives. So what can we do about it?

It was my privilege to organise ‘Speak it, Hear it! – a fund-raising poetry event held in Clapham earlier this month as part of One Billion Rising (www.obrfestival.uk) which campaigns for an end to violence against women. The evening featured contributions from invited poets Sue Johns and Lisa Kelly, open-mic excellence  and a heart-stopping performance from women refugee poets.

The communal poem Set Her Free  was created by a group of 12 women in association with Women For Refugee Women (www.refugeewomen.co.uk) which works to help empower women who have sought asylum in the UK. Grassroots coordinator Marchu Girma, introduced two of the original poets, Jade and Joy, whose moving stories helped create Set Her Free. Their performance was brilliant, deeply moving and very humbling.

Speak it W4WRefugees

Click here to watch the full version of Set Her Freehttps://youtu.be/EQEEthsuF08

Open mic poets were in fine form during ‘Speak it, Hear it!’ and included Angela Brodie, Laura Collins, Patricia Foster, Jane Grael, Hilaire, Susan Hodgets, Rachel Joseph, Frank Mariani, Anne McCaulay, Camilla Reeve and Caroline Vero.

Subject matter ranged from inappropriate police behaviour and domestic violence to the tempting of Adam by Eve and one woman’s experience of Paris burlesque. A humble apple even got a bit (or should I say bite) part in one of Sue Johns’ poems.

Speak it Sue Johns, Frank Mariani

Sue Johns’ latest poetry collection Hush was published by Morgan’s Eye Press in 2011. Sue also writes and performs theatrical monologues and works with art/word collaborations. She is currently working on a series of poems about prostitution.  www.suejohns.co.uk

Speak it Lisa Kelly

Lisa Kelly’s finely observed poetry tackles both personal and social issues. Her poems have appeared widely in leading literary magazines. She is a board member of Magma and her pamphlet Bloodhound is published by Hearing Eye.

The One Billion Rising Festival was organised by Goblin Baby Theatre Company (www.goblinbaby.com) and staged at The Bread & Roses Theatre, Clapham, between 7th and 14th February. Events included sell-out performances of The Vagina Monologues and The Princess Monologues, stand-up comedy, play readings, burlesque, drumming, body confidence workshops, an art exhibition and talks on topics such as human trafficking and respecting femininity.

 Photos courtesy of Tessa Hart.

Poetry Gigs I Know and Love

Performance is a great way to test out a new poem or recharge an old one. Looking back over 2015,  I’ve performed at some great gigs – either as an invited feature or open-mic – and learned so much. Thank you all for having me!

Torriano - Tessa LangSo let’s hear it for The Torriano Meeting House, which invited my Stanza Group, Original Poets, led by Tessa Lang (left) to perform some of our poetry in January. People meet every Sunday evening to share poetry at this unique Kentish Town venue. Don’t miss powerful young American Robert Peake reading there on Jan 17th. www.torrianomeetinghouse.wordpress.com

Original Poets meet every third Monday of the month (7pm) at The Bread & Roses pub, Clapham Manor Street, SW4 6DZ. All are welcome to attend.

Rachael Joseph, Barry Brock, Claire Booker, Frank Mariani, Angela Brodie

Rachael Joseph, Barry Brock, Claire Booker, Frank Mariani, Angela Brodie

In Feb, I was at Keat’s House in Hampstead to read a couple of my poems in the Templar Publication‘s 2015 anthology.  www.templarpoetry.com

Then Camden Poetry Series invited five regulars from Beyond Words to be their March feature. Open mic readers can have their poems included in the Camden/Lumen annual anthology which raises money for cold weather shelters. I was back again in June to read at the anthology launch.   www.camdenlumen.wordpress.com

Check out poetic combo Hilaire and Joolz who are featuring at Beyond Words on Tues 5th Jan. www.beyondwordspoetrylondon.co.uk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe launch of a new issue of Magma is an event to relish. Such a swanky venue (London Review of Books), so many great poets, such generous glasses of wine! What a privilege to read two of my poems at the launch of issue 61 (The Street) alongside poets such as Simon Barraclough, Lisa Kelly and Christine Webb. www.magmapoetry.com

Donnel Dempsey

Donnel Dempsey

In June, I headed to Guildford to give forth at the launch of The Keystone Anthology, then later as a feature at Pop Up Poetry. Both are run by formidable team, Janice Windle and Donnel Dempsey, who can pull sizzling hot poetry evenings out of a hat – any hat! Dempsey&Windle – books, pamphlets and poems

Stanza Bonanza June 15And where would we be without the frisson of a Stanza Bonanza? Original Poets (Mark Fiddes, Nicole Piggott, Steve Hoy, Michael Cosham, Tessa Lang and myself) representing Clapham, took on the might of Brixton’s best under the firm baton of Poetry Society’s Paul McGrane. If you’re serious about poetry, get serious about joining The Poetry Society (for as little as £20 a year). It’s been flying the flag for poets since 1909. www.poetrysociety.org.uk

Interpreter's House Launch, OxfordOxford’s eternal spires welcomed me in July to the launch of The Interpreter’s House (issue 59), where I joined fellow contributors in a fantastic evening of poetry, teapots and bonhomie. The submissions window for the summer issue is February. Email editor Martin Malone at theinterpretershouse@aol.com or visit:  www.interpretershouse.com

Drop in InstructionIn September I was guest poet at Poet In The City‘s Drop in at Waterstone’s in Picadilly, London. The theme was ‘Instruction’. My choice of poems included ‘Instructions for Building Straw Huts’ by Yusef Komunyakaa; ‘Timothy Winters’ by Charles Causley; ‘Sun a-shine, rain a-fall by Valerie Bloom; ‘Song’ by W H Auden and a couple of my own poems. Drop-ins are free, with a new theme each month. Bring your own poems or favourites. www.poetinthecity.co.uk

Stephanie James in 'Alleluiah'

Stephanie James in ‘Alleluiah’

Loose Muse is London’s premier event for women writers of all genres, and is expanding fast, with sister ships in Manchester, Cornwall and Winchester. Agnes Meadows, who IS Loose Muse, invited me to bring my short play ‘Alleluiah’ to the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden earlier this year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALoose Muse Winchester, set up and run by poet Sue Wrinch, booked me as their feature in November, alongside poet and novelist Claire Dyer. I can thoroughly recommend both venues as welcoming, well-attended and full of surprises. Women only get to perform, but men are always welcome in the audience. www.loose-muse.com

So here’s hoping that 2016 will be rich in opportunity and inspiration for each and every one of us. A very Happy New Year!

Alleluiah’s marital secrets gets mini-tour

After two fantastic nights at the Lost Theatre in February, I just couldn’t bring myself to put the lid on my 5 minute play ‘Alleluiah’. Stephanie James was stunning as Bridget, a woman on the cusp of adultery, walking the fine line between humour and pain brilliantly. So a mini-tour was born. (yes, let’s push the envelope – more than one performance qualifies as a tour!!)

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStephanie performed first at ‘Beyond  Words’ in Gipsy Hill, followed by another gig at Loose Muse at the Poetry Cafe. Audiences were warm and appreciative. Watch this space for news of further performances in the coming year.

If you missed the show, here’s a film of ‘Alleluiah’ courtesy of The Lost Theatre: