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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.

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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?!

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…

So I finally got round to reading a couple of the writing magazines I subscribe to and reaching p.52 of Writers’ Forum, nearly choked on the tipple I was drinking! (a glass of chilled Nepenthe, very nice).

Writers' Forum poem

How fab is this, what a wonderful surprise! This is a poem I work-shopped during the Poetry School’s online feedback course I took part in recently hosted by Catherine Smith, which I then submitted to Sue Butler, the poetry editor of the magazine, a few months ago.

Writers’ Forum is an interesting read. Published every month out of Bournemouth in the UK, it’s essentially a toolkit for writers, full of articles, tips and reviews to help you along. The deadline for the poetry competition is the 15th of each month and with no entry fee and prizes to be won, I’m sure Sue gets inundated with submissions. So again a little bit pleased, got my happy dance perfected!

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.

I have just started my online feedback course through the Poetry School based in London hosted by Catherine Smith. Catherine’s work is just delicious, her collection of small stories, The Biting Point, evoke such powerful imagery in a hauntingly beautiful way.

biting_point_front_cover

The course runs over 10 weeks with members of the group uploading poems for feedback from each other on a fortnightly basis. Poets can upload as many versions of the same poem during this time, for Catherine to then feedback on the final version at the end of each two week slot. The idea is to dig out those ‘problem pieces’ that just don’t feel right – and I have plenty of these believe me, where I like a particular line or concept but something is just not working.

I’m finding it to be an incredibly useful experience, and have created a feedback document for each of my own pieces in which I’m saving all the comments I receive to later review the work with these to hand. And I’m meeting some wonderful like-minded poets along the way, who I hope to remain in contact with after the course has finished.

January has been a busy month. Other things keeping me buzzing are submissions – five achieved so far to a mixture of magazines and competitions – keeping up to date with the latest publications which yes, does involve purchasing some collections and books, and working out which sessions to attend during Adelaide Writers’ Week starting later this month. So having my wonderful Writer’s Diary has been an absolute saviour! It has really got me organised with submission deadlines, when to work on them in advance as I have, in the past, missed some due to a lack of allocated time, so every Friday now is just chock-a-block of what to achieve. The old paid job gets in the way 😉

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