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I went to my first Dead Poets Society meet last night hosted by Dymocks to hear Alison Flett talk about Carol Ann Duffy.

Held each month, local poets pay tribute to infamous ones, originally those deceased although clearly they bend the rules every so often to capture the brilliance we still have. Being Scottish in common as well as amazing poets, Alison spoke about Duffy’s life and loves; how she fell into poetry at sixteen by meeting Adrian Henri, one of the Liverpool poets, after whom she wrote ‘Little Red Cap’ which Alison read, a clever poem relating Duffy’s journey into adulthood with Henri as the wolf.

This poem was from Duffy’s The World’s Wife, an ingenious collection from the perspective of the women behind famous men, from which Alison also shared ‘Frau Freud’, a witty piece reflecting on the male member.

Alison also read ‘Hive’ from Duffy’s latest collection The Bees published in 2011 along with ‘Premonitions’, a poem about Duffy’s mother whose death caused a hiatus in Duffy’s writing for about 10 years.

Alison finished by sharing some of her own beautiful poetry, including one of my favourites ‘Vessel’, the title poem from her chapbook in the Southern Land Poets series by Garron Publishing.

The talk was followed by a raffle and an open mic session, where readers share a favourite poem by the tribute poet and one of their own inspired by them. It felt good to be reacquainted with Duffy’s powerful and emotive work; it’s clear to see why she’s the current UK Poet Laureate.

Next month is D H Lawrence, whose novels I’m more familiar with than his poetry, so I may just mosey on along to that one too.

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.

 

Mslexia logo

 

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.

 

money

 

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.