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Wordgathering is an online journal of disability poetry, literature and art published quarterly, in which I’m thrilled to have a poem this quarter.

Wordgathering-banner

Founded in March 2007 by members of the Inglis House Poetry Workshop, the journal promotes the work of writers with disability and aims to develop a rich source for those interested in disability literature.  And Michael Northern, editor in chief, has done an amazing job of producing another enthralling read.

I have endometriosis and mild scoliosis, therefore pain management for both is paramount, which is what attracted me to Daniel Sluman’s Poetry of Pain Workshop hosted through The Poetry School.  This is where my poem ‘Extramarital bliss’ originated, and was developed following an online feedback session facilitated by Daniel, a fantastic poet who also signposted this journal.

Disability literature is growing, and writing about its impact and associated pain can be extremely cathartic, because the challenge is being able to express something in words that takes your breath away.

I’ve just finished an open workshop in which poets were asked to explore their own experiences of pain and develop them into poems to share with the group.

Poetry of pain

Hosted through The Poetry School’s online social network CAMPUS, the workshop was facilitated by Daniel Sluman and ran for two weeks comprising assignment, reading, writing time and live chat. Daniel is an amazing poet, whose work often explores the challenge of the body and the pain it can cause, with two collections to his name – his first, Absence has a weight of its own, was published by Nine Arches Press in 2012 and then his latest, the terrible, is also available from Nine Arches Press.

So we were asked to recall the most memorable moments in our lives that have involved pain and note three down. Well once I started, I found it difficult to stop and ended up with over seven on my list! We then had to think about these times in an objective way with a focus on detail and other senses, i.e. not just the sensation of pain, drawing on poems by Matthew Siegel and Sharon Olds as exceptional examples of how pain can be conveyed.

I managed to draft and share three poems, with notes for another five, and poets had to choose one to be work-shopped during the two-hour live chat session. Having this at 4:30am my time (7pm London time), I thought showed commitment to the craft!

It was a really useful exercise and I met some fantastic poets along the way, whom I hope to remain in contact with. Daniel asked if we thought this course could be expanded upon; most definitely, where there’s pain, either physical or emotional, there’s a lot to say and share.

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!

This was the title of an article by Pascale Petit in the current edition of Mslexia, and it was an interesting read.

Mslexia

Pascale has a long list of poetic achievements and some fantastic collections, including The Zoo Father and The Huntress, both published by Seren. The latter focuses on her mother, as does this feature, in which Pascale explains the emotional journey she took when attempting to write about her mother and the impact of the abusive relationship she had with her. Those familiar with Pascale’s work know that animals and the Amazon are strong influences, and to be able to write freely about her mother Pascale identified these with her, in particular a golden jaguar quickly followed by a snow leopard, wolverine, giraffe, etc.  By doing this Pascale managed to literally exorcise herself of her mother’s ghost, eventually being able to think of her and love together in the same space, thanks to Pascale’s love for the creatures representing her mother in her work.

And this is what I love about poetry – catharsis is one of its many facets, giving us the opportunity to transfer difficult people and experiences onto those things so much more familiar to us and that feel far less uncomfortable. There is much to be said about this painful and then pain-free process.

Pascale Petit

I met Pascale by attending one of her courses at The Poetry School a few years ago back when I was living in London. The session was called ‘Life Class for Poets’, and focused on generating poetry from image, be they still pictures or a moving life model, encouraging us to free write whatever they inspired within us.  I remember I produced some pretty weird and wonderful pieces, which I really should make the time to revisit and develop further.

I’m currently using Pascale’s Towards a Collection course booklet I brought and downloaded from The Poetry School website (I tried to enroll for the face-to-face course but by popular demand it was over-subscribed, so I was thrilled to find I could still access the materials).  For anyone looking to do this it’s an invaluable tool, and I particularly like the simple exercise of surrounding yourself with all the poems you’re thinking of including to look for themes, patterns, and a general sense of how they look next to one another. You quickly see what works and what doesn’t, those that belong and those that belong somewhere else.

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