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I have just finished reading a wonderful book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.  I don’t normally blog about books, but with this I just have to.

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The story begins as a simple one – Harold, the central character, leaves home to post a reply to a letter he has received from an old friend who is dying from cancer.  And then decides to hand deliver it, some 627 miles and 87 days later.   I think what I particularly liked was a certain “return to nature” perspective, a stripping away of life’s paraphernalia, with his impromptu decision leaving Harold to walk without map, mobile or even decent walking shoes.  His journey describes the simplest of things – the way the landscape changes under sun and starlit skies, the colours, the smells, the feelings it awakens, and of course with all this time on his hands and little distraction, Harold begins to look back on his life with each step he takes forward – the memory of his mother, his father’s brazen behaviour, the times spent with his son, his wife, the many regrets.

It’s the kind of book that makes you think, to look inward, maybe even examine your own path you have followed to be where you are now.  And it is the first book in a long time that has made me cry!  There is one very poignant scene described in such an emotive yet simple way, it makes me waver now to just think about it.

So if you haven’t read it yet or are looking for a last minute stocking filler, I can’t recommend this book enough.  Merry Christmas folks  🙂

Jo Bell is an amazing poet, and I particularly love this poem, helps me with our hot Christmas !

The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

10839646_10152887938015396_288294469_o First ice of the year, on the Trent & Mersey

This is what we call ‘cat ice’ – probably because it’s just thick enough to support a foolish cat…. for a while anyway. It came in the night and it’s still here at 11am. Our winter freeze has begun.

The ice will come and go now until the spring. Some years (like last year) we barely see ice at all. Some years (like 2010) we get ice so thick and settled that it grows to an eight-inch-thick pavement, and you can cross it with a wheelbarrow full of firewood. Well, you can if you want to. But you’d be an idiot, as I explained to my ex when he did it.

So here’s a poem about that first frozen morning on the canals…. and if you want to read it with an article I wrote in my first days as…

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Apart from reading, and reading widely, another good tip for a poet is to subscribe to some poetry journals and writing magazines, to also help keep them appraised of the latest events in the literary world.  I currently subscribe to seven publications, a mixture of pure poetry, book reviews and general writing, one of which is Mslexia.

 

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This magazine, published out of Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK, prides itself on being an ambassador for women’s writing, to get their voices heard in what can still be construed as a rather male-dominated field.  An interesting article in the current issue focuses on ‘bestselling poets’, with only three in the top ten prime sellers actually being alive at the moment.

Not surprisingly Carol Ann Duffy tops the charts, with an increase in her sales income on last year by just under £20,000 to £195,992.  I love Duffy’s work, the rawness and reality of it, two of my favourite pieces being from her collection of Love Poems, ‘Drunk’ and ‘Valentine’, in which she picks you up and makes you ‘be’ in the scene with her.

There’s an even split in the top ten in respect of gender, which includes the likes of Heaney, Plath and Armitage, and the piece reminds us that the poet’s income is a mere ‘pittance’ compared to the bestsellers in other genres, giving the example of historical fiction queen Philippa Gregory who earned close to £1 million this year.

 

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And so it ends with the advice of don’t give up the day job, which is all too true.  I have been lucky enough financially to be able to reduce my working hours for the first time in my life to focus purely on my poetry but yes, poets face an interesting challenge – to dream in a realist world.