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Now, I apologise in advance.  This should be a review of the Lee Marvin readings on Tuesday.  It is not.  It’s mainly about me.

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Keeping me company on the bill was Ken Bolton, host of the evening, Matt Hooton and Heather Taylor Johnson.  Ken was up first to read two poems.  I should say what they were about and had planned to make my usual notes but alas, found it difficult to concentrate (sorry Ken!).  Next up was Matt who read a piece of prose after setting the scene of being invited to look at a patch of ancient dirt (that much I remember and it really doesn’t do Matt’s work any justice, useless I am!).  And then there was me.

There were some big names in the crowd – my usual gang of Rachael Mead, Mike Hopkins, Alison Flett and Heather, and then Peter Goldsworthy, Shannon Burns, Mike Ladd and David Mortimer, one of whom told me beforehand they had come especially to hear me read so you know, no pressure.  And just like my launch, initially a bit nervous in the lead up but once up there, calm.  Strange.  I read 7 poems, two of which I had read at the launch, managed to get a few laughs in the right places and left the audience with thoughtful faces.  Result.  All after finding out that two of my poems had been published in the new Friendly Street Poets Anthology launched earlier in the evening at another venue, which was a real surprise and something I knew nothing about, one of which had been shortlisted by Mike Ladd for the Satura Prize (the best poem in the anthology) and then also discovered I’ve been shortlisted in the mindshare poetry awards, the winners of which will read at the Festival of Now in October.  So you could say my head was pretty spaced out, helped/hindered by the two glasses of wine I had had.  But again, apparently, I did good.  And again, really enjoyed it.  This may become a habit.  Why I’m writing in short sentences I don’t know.  Maybe I’m still slightly stunned.

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Now Heather’s set I remember (yay!) because I could relax.  Heather read two pieces of prose with a focus on her mother so emotive stuff, followed by a poem in three parts about coping with Meniere’s disease, a condition Heather herself suffers with which she projected onto Graham, the protagonist in her brilliant debut novel Pursuing Love and Death published by Harper Collins.  The poem was beautifully poignant brimming with sea imagery, with lines like ‘and with a body craving salt you are full of ocean’ to convey the debilitating giddiness associated with the disease.  I have no doubt this will feature in The Fractured Self Anthology Heather is currently pulling together.

So you know, back to me.  I managed to sell some more copies of my chapbook, with requests to sign from above famous poets(!) and left the Dark Horsey Bookshop stocked with a few aswell.  Definitely another night to remember – what a blast!

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.

With the beginning of a new year, I thought it would be a good time to review 2014 and take a look at some of the things I have achieved with my writing.

Review

Producing a short film for my poem

Being one of the winners of mindshare’s When words come to life poetry competition and given the opportunity to create a short video clip to accompany my piece was a most interesting experience. I learnt a great deal about storyboarding poems using impact, music, breath and movement, as well as finding that place you have to get to when reading aloud. And I made some good friends along the way, all of whom have either been impacted by or are involved in mental health.

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Breaking into the US market

Having been published in the UK, Australia and Canada, it was wonderful to be accepted into a journal published out of Maine in the US to add to the compliment of continents. The Aurorean was a journal I’d had my eye for a while due to the quality of work it publishes and the awards it has won. I can now be defined as an international poet – long may it continue!

Submitting a draft of my first collection

Having some time off work recently gave me the opportunity to finally develop a first draft of my first collection. Not as easy as you originally think and very all-consuming, but with the help of a course I took with Pascale Petit at the Poetry School and some words of wisdom from Kim Moore on how she did it, I managed to create a fairly cohesive submission that has been sent off to a publisher in London. Let’s see what happens!

What to focus on in 2015

I will continue to submit to magazines and journals but perhaps be more selective, and take a step back from the competitions. I must make more of an effort to attend literary events and readings to network, and keep up with what’s happening on the local poetry scene. And in an attempt to be more organised, I’ve treated myself to the Mslexia 2015 Writer’s Diary, an invaluable resource that I’m wondering how I did without really. If anything comes from my first collection submission then that will take up a large chunk of my time to develop further and fine-tune. I also received news just before Christmas that some of my work has been accepted by a very reputable webzine in the UK run by one of my favourite poets, but more about that shortly.

So here’s to another 12 months of poetry success. A happy new year to you all, keep writing  🙂

To help celebrate Mental Health Week in South Australia, Mindshare hosted “HeadRead” on Wednesday night for the entrants and winners of their recent “When Words Come to Life” poetry competition to perform some of their work.

 

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The evening was brilliantly compered by Jude Aquilina, a wonderful poet who has published several fantastic collections and Nina Pearce, an MHCSA administrator who has been working tirelessly to help coordinate events throughout the week.

I was the second to read, and managed to do so with confidence and without issue!  I read alongside new and established poets, some with very poignant stories to tell, but all demonstrating a battle with the self and the impact of an unhealthy state of mind.  The whole experience felt almost cathartic, a real sense of opening up and removing the mask that some are better maintaining than others.  This took courage, and I felt privileged to be a part of it.

The session finished with showing the films of the winning entries (lookout for a little black dog, images courtesy of wonderful artist Fran Sherman).  All were very different, a beautiful kaleidoscope of images and words, again with some  very powerful moments that left an imprint long after the screen went dark, like closing your eyes on the sun.

It felt good to read my work, and to network, and share and listen, definitely an aspect to help maintain my own poetic mental health, and one that will almost certainly provide inspiration for future pieces.

And today is World Mental Health Day!  So take some time out to check in on your current state and make that mental health promise to yourself now.  It can be as easy as just taking the time to look after yourself, which could be getting more sleep, regular exercise, eating healthier meals but essentially, do whatever makes you happy.

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Mental Health Week in South Australia starts on 5 October and there are a range of events to get involved in across the State – breakfasts, book launches, walks and even “Odd Socks Day”, to promote the fact that we all have “odd” days!

 

OYM Logo

 

The week is organised by the Mental Health Coalition for South Australia (MHCSA) and will begin with a balloon launch to symbolise the “letting go” of the stigma still associated with this often invisible condition, with the purpose of the week being to raise awareness of the impact it can have on the daily lives of people, their family and carers.

Mindshare are helping to host the creative events, which include “HeadRead” taking place on Wednesday 8 October at the Coffee Pot on Rundle Mall, where entrants and winners of their recent “When Words Come to Life” Poetry Competition will perform some of their work alongside the short films based on the eight winning poems.

I have selected 3 pieces to read for the event, as my winning poem will be heard during the film I helped to create.  These poems convey a variety of states in respect of the delicate balancing act of the self with its mental well-being. This will actually only be the third poetry performance I have ever done, but I am very aware of the public profile poets require today, even if they do prefer privacy and solitude!  So I will get in some practice and keep my eyes open for further opportunities to “speak” rather than just write my work.

After a lull in creativity, I was thrilled to learn that I am one of eight category winners in the above competition recently run by Mindshare. The prize is turning your poem into a digital film (you may recall I won something similar with Mindshare last year so they must like my style!).

When words come to life

So last weekend I attended a workshop working with a small production team to storyboard my poem and develop it into a short film. We explored elements of image, music, breath and movement, and the place you have to get to when reading your piece aloud. This was new to me as ‘speaking’ my work is not something I often do (and when I do it’s to myself), but it made me focus on exactly what I wanted to convey. Something else new was working on an Apple Mac! Being a Windows-based girl this required quite a bit of patience and time (and not just mine!), so I am very thankful to the Mindshare team, Tracey Davies and Mona Khizam, and also to the wonderful illustrator Fran Sherman who produced all the images for my piece.

The films will be aired to the public during Mental Health Week 5-11 October, and I for one can’t wait to see the final cuts!

 

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