Say Sum Thin 10

FB_IMG_1452970181053Sorry for the deafening silence on here over the last month, BUT I have exciting news. One of the reasons I’ve been so busy over the last month is because Mouthy Poets have been busy preparing for our spring show: SST10. We’ve been polishing and rehearsing our poems for the show over the last month and along with our headliners, Deanna Roger and Raymond Antrobus,we have such a variety of poets and as well as the performance itself we’re working on a gorgeous risograph-printed zine of our work which you’ll be able to buy. SST10 is at Nottingham Playhouse on the 5&6th of February so just search Facebook for the deets 🙂

 

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In which I use technology to talk about the joys of being cut off from technology (and what it can do for your writing)

Last week I was lucky enough to go with Mouthy Poets on their annual Arvon course at Totleigh Barton in Devon. It was basically a boot camp for the imagination — we were warned in advance that the cottage has no wifi or phone signal. What it does have is a well-stocked library, an equally well-stocked kitchen (because cake and biscuits are essential to the writing process, duh), nice squishy sofas to write from and snug rooms to sleep in. It wasn’t a holiday though — all the tools are there for you to allow you time to really push your craft and, from talking to others on the course, it was great hearing the thought processes and little triumphs of other writers on the course.

Hopefully I’ll share some of the poems from the course on here soon 🙂

Our tutors:

RA Villanueva (caesura.nuwas scheduled to tutor us on this course, but his baby son arrived the week before over in America so at the last minute…

Roger Robinson (rogerrobinsononline.com) a Trinidad born, British  based writer and musician stepped in. This was a real bonus firstly because I got to discover the work of another great writer, but also because Roger’s straight talking advice is right on the money. He reminded us all that we need to be reading reading reading all the time, figuring out what we love about a poem and also what we can learn from the ones we don’t love. Just as importantly, we need to be getting our work out on the internet and performing it. Roger’s words reminded me to really reprioritise life towards the things I care about and a week with the absence of Facebook and the presence of a poetry library really kick-started that for me. Roger is working on a new and selected works and he had us in stitches with tales of his youth in Trinidad.

It would be really easy to hate someone who had their first poetry collection published at 15, especially since the poems are actually good, but Caroline Bird (carolinebird.co.ukis lovely and her anarchic sense of humour comes through in both her poetry and her teaching style. Caroline was fond of getting us to write about the really deep, dark topics we would never usually touch — and it’s surprisingly easy to go really, really deep when you’re writing about it in a playful way! — and then ‘persuading’ us to read what we’d written to the group. Caroline’s workshops helped me to see that, especially if you’re writing about something personal, you’ll often make a more interesting poem if you approach it in a kind of sideways, playful way. It’s a bit weird being taught by someone whose poems you’ve read in an actual real-life book (at uni it happened the other way around) but Caroline was really encouraging to all of us as well as being an insightful editor of early drafts.

And our special guest, for one night only…

Jess Thom, aka Touretteshero (touretteshero.com)

Enthusiastic people make you enthusiastic about things. Playworker, artist, performer and superhero Jess decided a few years ago to use the ‘word-generating machine’ which her tourette’s tics supplied her with for the greater good of humanity and started her website and blog with the mission to change the world one tic at a time.

Jess has faced overwhelmingly positive and ridiculously negative experiences because of her disability, and she shared some of these with us on Wednesday night, as well as a little segment of her show Backstage in Biscuit Land. Jess was engaging and funny, and her performance was just the tonic for the end of a busy day writing and cooking. I also learned a whole bunch of things about Tourette’s syndrome, without it feeling like a lesson, so I’ll share a couple with you now:

  1. A tic feels like a blink. Tourette’s is a neurological disorder, not a behavioural or mental health problem, so a person with Tourette’s can no more not tic than you or I can not blink or sneeze. It’s just a case of the brain telling the body to do something.
  2. It’s not x-rated. Despite the reputation, only 10% of people with Tourette’s have ‘obscene tics’. Jess is one of the 10%, but she is still more likely to tic ‘biscuits!’, ‘hedgehogs!’ or ‘I love cats!’ than a fruity four-letter word. Tics can also be movements like clapping.
  3. Tics are not what the person is thinking. Jess clarified for us that she has no strong feelings about cats and she doesn’t spend all her time thinking about biscuits. (Incidentally, I do spend most of my time thinking about biscuits, but hey, no one’s judging)

I’m reeeeeaally looking forward to Jess’s show arriving in Nottingham in March, and also (hopefully) reading a guest blog post one of the Mouthy’s may be doing for her website. It’s been a tiring week but I really feel like I’ve been pushed in my writing life, and just at a time when I needed it and I’m grateful to all the Mouthy’s, the Arvon Foundation and our lovely tutors for making it all happen.

What I’ve been reading recently

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Gut — I heard about this book when I was listening to Women’s Hour with my Mum a few months ago, because I just live a dangerous lifestyle like that. Anyway, the segment was basically this charming German medical student talking about what an interesting system the digestive organs make. My interest was piqued because I have IBS, and so anything to do with the gut is interesting to me partly in a knowledge-is-power-and-maybe-hopefully-a-cure way, but also because part of me despairs of ever finding a cure so in the mean time let’s just laugh at how funny-gross poo and farts are.

Giulia Enders is basically a more sophisticated gut evangelist than me. Her book is direct, never shying away from the accurate details or the comical aspects of her subject, but she never goes all-out crude or sensationalist either. If you’re a proper scientist, you might find it a bit too popularist, but for whimsical humanities grads like me who are only just getting interested in How Stuff Works, it’s brilliant.

What I didn’t expect: Enders sister, an illustrator, decorates the book with off-beat drawings which could have come straight from my own imagination.

Presence — I’m kind of cheating here because I haven’t actually finished this book, but it’s basically about how much more we could all get from life if we stopped writing blog posts on our phones while watching Strictly Come Dancing and were actually, you know, present in the moment. It’s written by a drama practitioner who noticed how people basically ‘switch on’ when they spoke about something they were passionate about, and also how, people hide away or force their energy into the world when they aren’t comfortable. All this talk of ‘energy’ and ‘circles’ is a bit new agey for my liking but Rodenburg gives examples and anecdotal evidence which I can relate to, so that keeps me on board.

What I didn’t expect: To actually enjoy a self help book. Ever.

Over land, Over sea — poems from those seeking refuge, an anthology — A variety of writers contributed to this anthology, and crowd funding meant that the printing costs were covered, so any profits will be donated to local charities helping refugees. Though an East Midlands based project, the anthology has attracted contributors based all over the UK, including some refugees and asylum seekers. The premise of the book being this, I couldn’t help but hope that more of the poems would be written by writers who have experienced displacement first hand, but then, I’m nosey and I want to hear everybody’s life stories in the medium of poetry. If anything, this collection is testament to the human imagination. The poems I’ve read so far feel neither melodramatic or idealistic –they are understated, genuine, and all the more heartbreaking because of it.

What I wasn’t expecting: Such good and varied poems, to be honest, because I think it can be difficult to write convincingly about an emotive subject. That said, these poems are about humans, basically, and humans are varied and good, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.

 

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley — I read this for BooksQuad, my book club, then didn’t go to the meeting because a pub dinner with a friend who was about to fly out of the country beckoned. But good God, I was hooked. (Or should I say Good Ford?) I started to read this when I was in year 9 but I think I was basically traumatised by the bit about sex play and didn’t read any further (too close to home perhaps?) Of course now it is too close to home and that’s exactly why it is so compelling. Of course, all the characters sound like they’re from Downton Abbey, but I guess it was written in that era, so that was what sounded convincing. Yes it’s a caricature rather than a photograph of modern Europe, but caricatures are uncomfortable because they bear a likeness. Rampant consumerism? Check. Unpoliced recreational sex? Check. Reliance on drugs, and an obsession with sterility and hygiene? Check. Religion as a dirty word? Check. Aldous Huxley, how did you know?

What I didn’t expect : To be so addicted. My inner adolescent hears ‘Classic’ and thinks ‘hard work’, but for me Brave New World practically read itself.

 

Reliquaria, RA Villanueva — This is a collection of poetry by one of the writers who will be taking an Arvon course which a group of Mouthys, including me, will be going on tomorrow. I got the collection as an ebook and although I normally find poetry reading tricky on a small screen, Villanueva’s poems suck you right in —  they are complex poems, poems you really need to spend time with, and doing so is rewarding. Tiny details are zoomed in on, events captured so vividly it’s like being able to peek at someone’s memories, and just as you’re letting one image soak in, Villanueva moves onto another. These poems make me want to really study them, memorise them even.

What I wasn’t expecting: Recently,  I’ve been enjoying poetry about the every day, the recogniseable. So being plonked into the middle of poems where I’m not totally sure where I am has been invigorating.

 

How to inadvertently have a really productive day

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Turn your alarm off because it’s a non-working day and you can. Stretch like cat and fall back into that delicious dozing phase where you’re asleep enough to dream but awake enough to gloat because you’re in bed and the birds aren’t. Look at the clock and curse yourself. Wonder which item on the list of things you were going to do today to miss off. Decide not to miss any. Run. You’re slow and it’s hard but the air feels like a clean drink and your muscles like being used. Eat a thoroughly un-nutricious breakfast and get two buses. Go to a gorgeous library. Make a hot chocolate. Write. Read.  Suddenly feel inspired and emotional and write more. Read a bit about Sappho and learn that people have been a) homophobic b) fond of bitchy gossip, for thousands of years. Take solace in the fact that, if these have always been traits of certain humans, it probably means that humanity is not getting significantly worse. Walk to the shopping centre to get free wifi. Use the wifi to find out how to get to the venue of a Nottingham Poetry Festival event. Spend several hours wages on reading materials because that’s just how edgy your life decisions are. Successfully navigate your way to the poetry event venue and feel like Christopher Columbus. Go to the room where the poetry performance is happening and find that it’s not a performance, it’s a workshop.  Your brain runs screaming out of the door because you’ve got writer’s fatigue, but your bum remains planted on your seat because your parents raised you to be polite. Surprise yourself by writing two first drafts with potential. Get a snapshot into some other interesting minds. Walk to the bus stop with poems jangling in your backpack. Decide that maybe, you can actually handle life. Read poems from an anthology about refugees. Your tummy rumbles and although you’re embarassed you realise that your tummy has never rumbled at a time when food wasn’t going to be available, sooner or later. Feel angry and in love with the world. Fall asleep on the bus home like a little kid. But at least you read and wrote and heard today. Today, you were really alive.

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer

For all my faults, let it never be said that I don’t have sticking power. Whether it’s a recipe where I don’t have all the ingredients, a degree from a university nobody’s heard of in a town that’s miles from anywhere or the wrong side of an argument with someone who is infuriatingly right, I see it through to the bitter end, and that’s just what I did one week ago when I booted another deed unceremoniously off my bucket list and ran my first half-marathon.

‘But Beccy, you’re a poet’, I hear you say, ‘Aren’t you supposed to be anaemic and basically allergic to fresh air?’

‘NO!’ I reply. In fact, I have a few reasons why I think running and writing are a match made in heaven.

  1. Inspiration comes to those who seek it (in expensive trainers and a technical t-shirt) Urgh. You know what I’m talking about. The Blank Page Fear is to the writer what shin splints are to the runner: A right royal pain that you need like you need a chocolate teapot. Luckily, there’s exercises you can do to prevent shin splints and there’s also exercises you can do to prevent Blank Page Fear; something else. Anything will work; cooking, painting, putting the contents of your floordrobe into your wardrobe, but a run has the added benefit that it drags you outside, into contact with nature, other people and all those muscles which have been neglected whilst you’ve been hunched over your laptop.
  2. The flâneurs did it. If it was good enough for Baudelaire it’s good enough for us, right? Okay so I’m asking you to put in a bit more effort than just a leisurely stroll around your environs, but the more you put in, the more you get out.  Bonus points here for anyone who has actually read anything by Baudelaire. 
  3. They’re actually pretty similar. Running embraces the paradox of being a solitary pursuit which gives you immediate access to a friendly, supportive community. Sound familiar? Just as your average open mic night will see all manner of poets, and storytellers applauded for work they may have spent hours working on alone, so every runner is congratulated on completing their race. Sure, there can only be one winner, but everyone gets a goody bag, and that’s because running, like writing, honours the fact that while each journey is different, all call for courage and grit.
  4. Writing snacks. Because I don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly rewarding myself with carrot sticks for each poem I finish.
  5. It’s free research. As I mentioned before, runners are a pretty diverse breed. As are poets, too, of course,  but I tend to find that only spending time with other creative types does not necessarily benefit my writing. Unless you only want to write for and about other writers, it helps to have one foot in everyday life and running forces you to do that; to notice the way that elderly person walks with their shopping bags, what the air smells of and that blackbird shredding berries from a bush.

If I haven’t convinced you by now, I probably won’t. That’s okay; running isn’t for everyone, but just like writing, those who enjoy it tend to get a little bit addicted…

Enjoy doing what you do 🙂 x

It’s nice to be on the list

So I’ve had a bit of a grumpy day today, one of those days where it’s an effort to be nice and although you don’t know why, it feels like you’re sitting under your own personal raincloud. And then.

I got an e-mail telling me that I’d been longlisted for the Primers programme a couple of days ago but resisted the urge to brag about it because it was a blanket e-mail and I’d managed to convince myself it could have been sent to me by mistake. But now the list is there with my name on it (as well as fellow East Midlands poet Debris Stevenson’s, and some other familiar names which will doubtless get more familiar if we all stick at this writing thing).

Maybe you’re not supposed to show off about being on the longlist if you didn’t make the shortlist but I don’t care. It’s a small piece of evidence which I can add to the pile of ‘Times Something I Wrote Touched Another Human Being’ and that makes the days where I literally didn’t feel able to do anything except slump over my laptop in bed and write, totally worth it. And if anybody’s reading this thinking ‘Huh, lucky you, I think I may as well give up on this whole writing lark,’ PLEASE DON’T because I have felt like that many, many times. And feeling like that is okay as long as, when you can bear it, you grit your teeth and get on with the next poem, the next story or whatever it is that you create. Trust me, the graft is worth it.

I also feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how cool it is that The Poetry School and Nine Arches Press conceived this brilliant platform for emerging poets in the first place. You can keep an eye out on either website for news of the winners’s work next spring and hopefully this will become a yearly thing.

All the best to anyone suffering from writing/life-induced grumpiness & apologies for my moment of smugness.

xx

Reach for your own hand: An interview with Jim Hall

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Jim Hall is a Mouthy Poet alumnus, born in Derby but now based in Nottingham. After I got my grubby mitts on a copy of his debut poetry pamphlet Upon Arrival, Drop Your Cool, I asked him a few questions about poetry and life in general, and he was obliging enough to reply with his usual generous honesty.

When did you decide to be a poet? Is there a moment for you which crystallised that decision, or did you kind of fall into poetry?

We have to decide to be something each day. To leave the house, our duvet, own head. I try to give the energy required to simply exist towards being as decent a human as is possible. Being a poet is my check-in with humanity.

It is how I challenge what challenges myself & those around me in a way that still acknowledges the beauty, the worth of choosing to be here, whoever we are, as bravely & humanly as we are capable of.

I think my decision to be a poet (though I feel ‘become a poet’ more true) is also a choice to confront the many silences we carry through the world like luggage there is nowhere to unpack safely. That which we are either too ashamed to voice or simply do not know how to begin talking about. By this I mean the joyful as much as that which weighs us down.

I start that work with the page & try to reach a better language to help lift the many hands of those silences from around my own life, release what I find hardest to set free. In doing so I seek to remind myself & hopefully others, that we are not alone.

Memory: At twenty-four I walk back to my parent’s home, away from a city I had never felt so disconnected from. I am lonely, lost, and grateful to be alive, despite. I have one of those overwhelming truth-breakthroughs that often arrive at 3AM when lonely, lost & grateful to be alive, despite. I realise how deeply I would feel an experience & yet struggle to fit that experience around my mouth, to put what it meant into words. There is this freeing acceptance that though I will likely fail again & again to say what it is I need to, there is such worth in the act of trying.

How did the decision to self publish come about? Did you find it hard letting go of the poems, and knowing when each one was ‘finished’?

The deadline dropped by Nottingham collective The Mouthy Poets via a Facebook post offering alumni members of the group a space to sell their work at their upcoming event was a nicely timed prod in the productivity ribs.

It is often difficult for me to let go. Much of my writing explores that which I so desperately want to hold onto. Be that a person, place, feeling. Similarly I house poems for months in the dark room of my head/laptop before considering pulling up the blinds & letting the world in. Call it perfectionism. A protective stubbornness. The need to be one image closer to the image that says what I never could aloud.

It is easy for me to return to a poem with bared teeth & raised knuckles. Perhaps this is akin to my own self-critical nature. I am trying to be kinder on all counts. It’s easy to uncover a botched line break as though uncovering a can of Stella lodged down the back of the sofa from a house party & begin doubting whether it was a fun party in the first place. I try to trust that the party was worthy, either way.

There was a point during the writing process for this pamphlet when the second track from Pvris’s debut album swooshed into my ears & I felt like I was dancing through each poem. I am a terrible dancer but that is the point: I did not care. I just knew I needed to dance & so I danced. That feeling of just letting go in the healthiest, most positive sense, is what I wanted to capture when writing this pamphlet.

I hope to return to that feeling again & again when sharing these poems behind a mic, in a living room at 1AM, wherever they may end up visiting.

A lot of your poems are about embracing things you don’t necessarily want to embrace; painful memories, social awkwardness and that alone-feeling that our generation seems to specialise in. Why do you think it’s important to address these themes in poetry?

I feel it’s important to address these themes not just in poetry, but in life. It’s as easy for me to privately hurt as it is for anybody else. The ‘I’m all good’ response is a go-to for so many of us but the poetry is my truth-voice, whispering: ‘No, you’re not. But that’s cool. Let’s talk it out.’

The poem is often the jump off point towards a personal confrontation with the painful, the uneasy. Also the brave & the lovelovelove & the everything-held-inside. Then comes the attempt to voice that in a way that can tap a stranger on the shoulder & say: Hey! Me too.

‘Embrace’ is the best word you could have used to describe my approach to that process, so thank you for that. That sense of owning & celebrating what is not easy to feel is the charge that carries my work to places I feel glad to arrive at.

A lot of poetry collections now seem to follow a theme or a journey, whereas reading your collection felt like more of an emotional roller coaster to me — we could end one poem in a jubilant, hopeful mind and then be right back down in quite a dark place with the next one. Was it a conscious decision on your part, to shake up the ‘poetry journey’ model?

Very little of what I write is a conscious decision. I like the idea of being in my late twenties & flawed & working hard at being a positive human & the poems reflecting that. Perhaps there is a rollercoaster feeling because is the world right now not itself a rollercoaster of hurt, healing & still, somehow, tenderness & love?

I aim to end much of my writing in a place of hope & faith in whatever happens when the poem is over & the world crashes back into the room. Sometimes a poem that ends difficultly, can still somehow be beautiful. Just like something we live through. I believe this so much, I really do.

How do you make time to write, do you wait until you feel like writing or are you quite disciplined about it?

I make time by getting over myself. I forgive my lessthanperfect. My negative-voice goes: ‘Hey, Jim. You said you were going to write for an hour today but you did not you just played with a few poem titles & ate all the Pringles again.’

I say: ‘True, but I did at least play with some poem titles & you forgot to mention I texted my friend, hugged my girlfriend, tried to be as okay a person as possible.’

Some poems can’t be rushed. The Blue Nile took four years to release Hats & if I ever was forced to name an album as perfect, it would be Hats. Every crack of vocal, press of piano, is there for a reason. Note: I will never write a poem that makes somebody feel like I feel when ‘The Downtown Lights’ sweeps across my heart-eyes like some stretching skyline of woah, but I am over that.

I feel like energy, effort, discipline are your best friends as a writer. Call them back, arrange to meet up for coffee. Be gentle yet firm yet enjoy the failure. Make that failure sing.

In terms of the whole life/art balance this image haunts me:

A man scrawls at a desk in a locked room while his wife gazes at a brochure for the countryside walks they could stroll through, just a bus ride away. She came home from work three hours ago. He doesn’t exactly have a clock-off time. What haunts me is not this conviction to the page but the thought of him being so buried in the need to dig out the perfect metaphor for being in love, he misses out on being fully present & alive to that love.

Art is super-meaningful to my life, but is not its pulse. Nothing impresses me about a writer boasting about how many hours they put in a day like that is the only measure of success. How they wear their books to bed.

I’d rather hear a poet offer a rough draft of a piece about self-care then bail on the after-gig drinks because they need to call whoever they need to call to feel okay, than watch them drop some polished piece to a crowd-chorus of finger clicks, only to have forgotten their name at 5AM because why take care of yourself when you just shared the most beautiful poem in the room, right? Wrong.

I think what I am trying to say is that if you give everything you have to the page the way you would give everything you have to those you love, but remember the balance of those two things, something healthy and whole will emerge.

***

For more of Jim’s thoughts & work follow him at flawsfoldedtoorigamiswans.tumblr.com

Were we always this selfish?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. A few months ago, in the staff room and on Facebook, people marvelled at how desperate these ‘migrants’ were to get to Britain, that they were prepared to risk their lives. And yet their imaginations could only conceive that this desperation is born from greed; ‘It’s because they’ll get benefits, isn’t it? And we don’t even look after our own.’ I find this thinking staggering. It’s like English people regard anyone non-white-British to be a different breed. I don’t know anyone who would risk their lives to get to a country where they are entitled to about £40 a week in benefits, especially since that £40 won’t go as far here as it would in their homeland, especially when the price of such ‘benefit’ is to be forbidden to work for a year and to be forced to report to centres on a regular basis, like some kind of criminal. And yet people find it perfectly plausible that foreign people would do this, more so than the idea that they are running from death, rape, persecution or torture.

My English peers seem to me a very strange breed; we take great pride in our part in wars few of us remember, a war against facism, a war where we took in a persecuted refugee population despite being in pretty dire economic state.  Yet the people who are proudest of this are the ones who condemn most strongly any move to help the desperate and persecuted today.

There’s a chilling reason why Save The Children’s viral video had to imagine the things which happen to children in Syria and Palestine and the Yemen happening to an English child. It should not have taken the image of another child; a real, Syrian, dead child, to get people to care. Even now I hear people worrying that we’re going to let terrorists into Britain along with the asylum seekers, and yet no one seems to care that these people have been subjected to terror on a daily basis. That in many countries, people still are.

This isn’t a particularly hopeful blog post I know.  But it’s a rant I’ve wanted to have for a while now.

At least not everyone is selfish. I’ve been heartened by the images I’ve seen of people’s support for refugees on social media. And a marvellous lady I know, who survived conscription and a world war before she was even old enough to vote holds no grudges against bearers of other passports — on the contrary, her wish is for peace. I sometimes wish I could ask her if people were always this selfish, but I think I don’t want to know the answer. I like to believe this is simply a low point for humanity — surely from here, things can only get better.

The dream is free

So today I googled writing exercises and one of the first results was a link to the most introspective writing exercise I’d ever heard of. The challenge was to ask oneself the (uncomfortable) question: Why do I write?

Well, I found it uncomfortable, which is why I decided to answer the questions and then share them very publicly on the internet. If you’re a writer I would highly recommend answering these questions, even if you decide to lock the answers in a box and hope that no one ever reads them. The post is here.

What do I want to write?

  • I want to write poems that crackle with life, that are relatable to other people but which also sound beautiful and make unexpected connections.
  • I want to write short stories which do the same and which linger in the reader’s mind.
  • I want to write plays which make people laugh and cry.
  • I want to write reviews which help people decide if they want to buy a book, I want to draw out a writer’s strengths for appreciation so that readers can decide if they would appreciate those strengths.
  • I want to write features which make people laugh and then get chucked in the recycling.

How often and how much do I write? Do I have enough time to write and could I make more time for my writing?

I categorically DO NOT write enough; on good weeks I mean this in the way that all writers mean when they say they wish they had more time to write. On bad weeks I mean that out of the 168 hours in the week, 74 minus work and sleeping, I dedicate a paltry amount of time to writing, despite having spent 4 years learning to be a better writer and a lifetime telling people that I want to be a writer. I’ve pinned a quote on Pinterest which goes ‘The dream is free; the hustle is sold separately.’ If I’m brutally honest I am just now deciding whether I personally want to afford the hustle. What can I say? Students like free stuff.

What are my top three goals as a writer?

  • To stop writing for self-esteem and praise.
  • To write for the sheer joy of it.
  • To publish a collection of poetry which is worth making public.

What is my five year plan as a writer? What do I need to do to achieve my goals?

  • To simply decide whether I truly want to achieve those goals and to put in the graft accordingly.
  • To develop an internal barometer for when a poem is doing what it needs to do in the best way in can instead of relying on other people’s opinions.

More time spent reading and listening closely and writing and writing and redrafting would probably achieve both of these macro-goals.

In the past year, what have I accomplished in working towards my goals?

It’s a diddy bit more than a year ago but I won two IdeasTap briefs and got some great feedback on my writing as a result, and I took part in a really cool online course which got me writing more regularly because I had deadlines.

So that’s it. Feel free to share your answers if you feel so inclined, because I’m nosey healthily curious.