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The MeToo movement started as a hashtag in October last year to demonstrate the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault, empowering women to speak and be heard. Poetry gives voice, gathered and shared in this astonishing anthology.

Published by Fair Acre Press and edited by Deborah Alma, it’s a rollercoaster of emotion in print, leaving you with fistfuls of tears and nothing to hide. Split into seven parts, each bear witness to different states:

  • ‘silly lasses’
  • ‘my ordinary walk home’
  • ‘I see myself lie quiet as snow on rail tracks’
  • ‘Domestic’
  • ‘They can’t help it’
  • ‘I said I was the proof’
  • ‘make for the light’

akin to the grieving process, because here too there is loss, shock, denial and anger, with closure in a realm of its own.

From banter to rape, these are powerful poems from brave women – Emma Lee, Helen Ivory, Kim Moore, Katrina Naomi, Zelda Chappel, Pascale Petit and Holly Magill to name a few – who had the courage to revisit a place they’d rather not go. And I’ll leave you with a particularly poignant one by one of my favourite poets, because I believe this speaks to many.

 

The Library of Broken People

 

is catalogued by injury: the fractured;

the ruined from hunger; the raped;

 

the hammered shut. Some are clumped

together as “lost souls”; only the librarian

 

can retrieve those. There’s no ABC to damage,

they litter the alphabet ad hoc. If you browse

 

the catalogue they gift their injuries, lay

themselves flat. Last week two girls displayed

 

their abdomens to a first-year student,

bickered over abuse, spoke of neglect,

 

said life’s an unworkable toy. Other victims

are quieter, don’t talk so much, even when

 

the library’s shut. They drop to the back

of an index, all seal pup eyed, bones skittering

 

at the slightest flex. I survive amongst them,

wear a long jumper, drag sleeves down wrists.

 

Copyright @ Abegail Morley 2018

This is a gem of a book. Edited by Abegail Morley, Catherine Smith and Emer Gillespie, co-founders of Ekphrasis, this anthology of poems reveals new perspectives on Alice in Wonderland from some outstanding poets.

2016-04-10 09.56.55

With an insightful foreword by Ian Duhig, the book formed part of the British Library’s ‘150 years of Alice’ celebration ‘creating a dialogue between one art form and another’. And there are some big names in here keeping the editors company – Sharon Black, Helen Ivory, Sarah Salway, Penelope Shuttle and Tamar Yoseloff to name a few, contributing exquisite pieces. I will draw on some favourites.

In Abegail’s ‘Daisy Chains and Downers’ we find an Alice-esque girl ‘hanging out on Stanley Road after dark’, where ‘clocks untick’ and ‘time slackens’ culminating in ‘You can date me by bone density, scraps / of fabric, the shape my heart makes as it stops’, a beautifully haunting stanza.

In Helen’s ‘Wunderkammer with Escher Stairs and Cheshire Cat’ we fall into its bizarre world where ‘the ladder kinks off into another room’ and the infamous ‘drink me’ bottle ‘shrinks the day / and the cat shapes a cave from her sleeping bones’.

In Catherine’s ‘The Grin’ a child waits outside ‘the Head Teacher’s office, / convicted for day-dreaming in Trigonometry’ as their grin takes on a life of its own, ‘to take its place in the longest grass, / with all the other banished grins, / the smirks, the yawns, the blurted truths’.

In Heidi Williamson’s ‘Disappearance at six o’clock’ Alice is asked to wake up ‘step out of your dream now’, a poem inspired by Stephanie Bolster’s Portrait of Alice with Persephone, where there are ‘clouds in the water / like drowned breaths’.

I could go on but it would be better to read it firsthand. Poetry lovers should get a copy of this collection simply for the quality of work it contains. Non-poetry lovers should also because let’s face it, who doesn’t love Alice?!

from Karen Dennison of Smashed glass at midnight on Abegail Morley’s The Poetry Shed.

Cover image of Smashed glass at midnight

A beautifully written piece, insightful and thought-provoking, you may need to get yourself a copy  😉

After finishing Catherine Smith’s online feedback course earlier in the year through The Poetry School and finding it extremely useful, I thought it about time I enroll on another to give life to some poems that just want to sleep and do nothing all day. So I did.

Bill Greenwell

I had heard good things about Bill Greenwell’s poetry clinic and discovered his work through Abegail Morley, an extraordinarily talented poet who Bill used to mentor. The course runs over 10 weeks and is hosted through an online learning environment out of Exeter University, with the absence of ‘live’ sessions suiting me perfectly due to the time difference.

The aim is simple – to share poems with other poets and an experienced and published tutor, cue Bill, for discussion and critique. So the idea is to present a poem a week, or two if time and length permits, and now half way through the course I have five poems to work on using invaluable feedback.

And even if widely published before, I believe a poet should never stop improving, learning and sharing to develop themselves, their work and fellow poets. Thus I’m in brilliant company, joined by the likes of Sharon Black and Valerie Morton, two poets with excellent track records, as well as solo collections.

So with that in mind I best get back to it. Stop blogging, making cups of tea, thinking about lunch…

I recently found out about a project very close to my heart through Abegail Morley’s The Poetry Shed. To help promote Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK from 11-17 May, Sarah James will be using her blog to host With You In Mind. Sarah James

Sarah is an inspirational poet whose work has been widely published in a variety of journals, anthologies and newspapers, as well as in solo collections. The first, Into the Yell, was published by Circaidy Gregory Press in 2010 and won third prize in the International Rubery Book Awards the following year.   Sarah’s second collection, Be[yond], was published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press in 2013, who have also published her latest book, The Magnetic Diaries, earlier this year.

Like countless others, Sarah has her own stories of mental health that she shares on her site and through her work, something I can relate to as I do the same in my own (try it, it can be very cathartic!).  So having been involved in the last couple of mindshare poetry projects to promote Australia’s Mental Health Week in October, I contacted Sarah to offer my support for her project and any help to promote it. I was then thrilled to be asked by Sarah to use my poetry film, Black dog, in an advance posting of her project.

So keep an eye on Sarah’s site over the coming week to read some fantastic poetry from the likes of Helen Ivory, Carolyn Jess-Cooke, Abegail Morley and Catherine Smith, all of whom have generously donated some of their work to this very worthy cause.

That’s the number of poems I’ve had published, or will have very soon thanks to an online literary journal based in Dublin called The Burning Bush 2, who recently told me they would like to use some of my work in their next issue!

Burning Bush 2 header

So 30…is this good or bad? Or just plain mediocre? I actually think it’s not too bad considering I’ve never had a collection published, and the spread is across a variety of journals, magazines, both in print and online, anthologies, competitions, with even one turned into a short film. And they’ve crossed the Pacific and Atlantic, and back again to cover three continents. It could be higher, but it’s a good solid number to grow and become more me thinks.

And then reading an update by fellow poet Abegail Morley about her forthcoming collection, The Skin Diary, being published by Nine Arches Press next year, has kick-started me again to return to my own collection I’m currently putting together. It will only be pamphlet-size to be sent to a publisher in Australia with a current call out for such work. So we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I’ll pocket my 30 and raise you

smiley face

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