Thursday, 3 June 2021

Putting Together a Poetry Collection

 Well, it's done I finally pressed send on my third collection and now, hopefully, it is in the hands/in tray of my editor. I just hope she likes it. 

One of the hardest things about putting together a poetry collection is whittling it down to a manageable size. I got mine down from well over a hundred pages to just under ninety - but I know it will have to get even smaller. 

The process goes something like this:

Print out all poems and decide which are strong enough to go in the collection. 

Look at what themes are emerging and group poems according to theme.

Decide if you want sections and what order they will be in (this can change later).

Order poems within their sections and think about how sections link together - is it a logical progression, does the end poem of one section link to the first poem of the next one.

Section order may be somewhat led my your strongest poems - you want your strongest poems first and last. Also think about how you want the reader to feel when they finish the collection. I always like to put a positive poem last.

Take anything out that feels like filler or poems that are doing a similar thing to each other - you are bound to have some of these - writers often explore the same ideas over and over. I don't necessarily mean poems on the same theme but poems that have a similar feel or message - pick the strongest. 

If you can get someone to read it and give you their impressions. If you can afford a mentor I would highly recommend it. People we workshop with regularly tend to be less critical because they already know our work - I like to (if I can) get someone to read it who hasn't read/workshopped the poems as I have been writing them. Having an outside reader can be vital. They can pick up if the order doesn't make sense or isn't working. With my first two collections I had funding for a mentor and she helped me make some really tough editorial decisions - changing order, taking out poems (and writing more to replace them) and crucially putting a strong sequence first - I had been a little scared of doing that for some reason. With the collection I just sent off, a friend read through it and flagged up a problem with the order of the final section which we were then able to fix.

Don't be afraid to take stuff out and write more. 

Don't feel that everything that has been published has to go in. Similarly not all your best poems have to go in. A collection is not your greatest hits - it should work coherently. I have a sequence of poems that is really strong but it just hasn't fitted with my last book or this one.




Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Books read in 2020


139) Broken Greek - Pete Paphides (non fiction)
138) The Discomfort of Evening - Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
137) How to Wash a Heart - Bhanu Kapil (poetry)
136) Postcolonial Love Poem - Natalie Diaz (poetry)
135) Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life (non fiction)
134) Princess Anne - Katharine L. Oldmeadow (fiction, re read)
133) The Driver's Seat - Muriel Spark (fiction)
132) Perrault's Fairy Tales - Charles Perrault (fiction, short stories, re read)
131) Barn 8 - Deb Olin Unferth (fiction)
130) My Darling from the Lions - Rachel Long (poetry)
129) Day Four - Sarah Lotz (fiction)
128) The Shooting Gallery - Carrie Etter (poetry)
127) Lost at the Fair - W. Perring (fiction, picture book, re read)
126) Mock orange - Anne Osbourn (poetry)
125) The Bears' Picnic - Stan and Jan Berenstain (fiction, picture book, re read)
124) Bunnikin's Picnic Party - A.J Macgregor (fiction, picture book, re read)
123) My Name is Why - Lemn Sissay (non fiction)
122) Wild Persistence - Katrina Naomi (poetry)
121) Intimates - Helen Farrish (poetry)
120) Because a Woman's Heart is Like a Needle at the Bottom of the Ocean - Sugar Magnolia Wilson (poetry)
119) Shine, Darling - Ella Frears (poetry)
118) Witches, Warriors, Workers - eds Fran Lock and Jane Burn (poetry)
117) The Carrying - Ada Limon (poetry)
116) In the Lateness of the World - Carolyn Forché (poetry)
115) Instructions for My Imposter - Kathleen McGookey (poetry)
114) Solar Cruise - Claire Crowther (poetry)
113) When the Trees Fall - Jane Clarke (poetry)
112) Vixen - Rosie Garland (fiction)
111) Scion - Sue Rose (poetry)
110) Lament - Briony Bax (poetry)
109) Murder in the Dark - Margaret Atwood (fiction, short stories)
108) One Evening in October I Rowed Out on the Lake - Tua Forsstrom (poetry)
107) Be With - Forrest Gander (poetry)
106) Love And/Or the Storm - Jonny Wiles (poetry)
105) Dressing for the Afterlife - Maria Taylor (poetry)
104) The Faithful Look Away - Melissa Lee-Houghton (fiction)
103) The Enchanted Wood - Enid Blyton (fiction, re read)
102) Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me - Kate Clanchy (non fiction)
101) More Than You Were - Christina Thatcher (poetry)
100) The Shaking City - Cath Drake (poetry)
99) Bombs On Aunt Dainty - Judith Kerr (non fiction)
98) I Hate and I Love - Catullus (poetry)
97) Between the Stops - Sandi Toksvig (non fiction)
96) The Rose Metal Field Guide to Prose Poetry (poetry)
95) Feck Perfuction - James Victore (non fiction)
94) Love Minus Love - Wayne Holloway-Smith (poetry)
93) Tiger Girl - Pascale Petit (poetry)
92) Just Ask the Universe - Michael Samuels (non fiction)
91) I love the Bones of You - Christopher Eccleston (non fiction)
90) My Thoughts Exactly - Lily Allen (non fiction)
89) Rendang - Will Harris (poetry)
88) After Fame - Sam Riviere (poetry)
87) Interior With Sudden Joy - Brenda Shaughnessy (poetry)
86) Night Wanderers - C.J. Flood (fiction)
85) Where Were You Robert? - Hans Magnus Enzensberger (fiction)
84) The River's Song - Jacqueline Bishop (fiction)
83) Amy and Isabelle - Elizabeth Strout (fiction)
82) Cloudstreet - Tim Winton (fiction)
81) Antisemetic for Homesickness - Romalyn Ante (poetry)
80) Primers Volume Five (poetry)
79) A Better Me - Gary Barlow (non fiction)
78) A Fold in the River - Philip Gross (poetry)
77) Little Kings - Peter Kahn (poetry)
76) The Nerve of It - Lynn Emanuel (poetry)
75) Monica's Overcoat of Flesh - Geraldine Clarkson (poetry)
74) Magnolia, 木蘭 - Nina Mingya Powles (poetry)
73) Face It - Debbie Harry (non fiction)
72) Unlocked - Sue Butler (poetry)
71) The Remedies - Katharine Towers (poetry)
70) The Artist's Daughter - Kimiko Hahn (poetry)
69) Flood - Clare Shaw (poetry)
68) Remember, Body - C.P. Cavafy (poetry)
67) The Little Book of Passage - Franca Mancinelli (poetry)
66) A Portable Paradise - Roger Robinson (poetry)
65) The Air Year - Caroline Bird (poetry, re read)
64) Call and Response - Rachel Spence (poetry)
63) On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous - Ocean Vuong (fiction)
62) I'm OK, I'm Pig - Kim Hyesoon (poetry, re read)
61) Lasagne - Wayne Holloway-Smith (poetry)
60) Memories of the Future - Siri Hustvedt (fiction)
59) Luxe - Amy Key (poetry, re read)
58) Why? And Other Questions - Robin Houghton (poetry)
57) Litany of a cardiologist - Denise Bundred (poetry)
56) Apple, Fallen - Olga Dermott-Bond (poetry)
55) About Leaving - Ian Glass
54) Tenter - Susie Campbell (poetry)
53) Body, Remember - Wes Lee (poetry)
52) Fruitcake - Selima Hill (poetry)
51) Shine, Darling - Ella Frears (poetry)
50) Sanatorium - Abi Plamer (poetry)
49) The Games - Harry Josephine Giles (poetry)
48) Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods - Tishani Doshi (poetry)
47) Plainwater - Anne Carson (essay/poetry)
46) Station Eleven - Emily St John Mandel (fiction)
45) Letters Home - Jennifer Wong (poetry)
44) Bones on Ice - Kathy Reichs (fiction)
43) Homie - Danez Smith (poetry)
42) Boys in Trees - Carly Simon (non fiction)
41) I'm Stupid, But I'm Not That Stupid - Selima Hill (poetry)
40) Green Migraine - Michael Dickman (poetry, re read)
39) Deluge - Charlotte Ansell (poetry)
38) Footnotes to Water - Zöe Skoulding (poetry)
37) This Is How We Lost Each Other - Karese Burrows (poetry)
36) Split - Juana Adcock (poetry)
35) Don't Try This at Home - Angela Readman (short stories)
34) Much Left Unsaid - Finola Scott (poetry)
33) Milk Tooth - Martha Sprackland (poetry)
32) and what if we were all allowed to disappear - Tania Hershman (poetry)
31) When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities - Chen Chen (poetry)
30) Hinge - Alycia Pirmohamed (poetry)
29) Haverscroft - S. A. Harris (fiction)
28) A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor - John Berger (non fiction)
27) Beautiful Place - Amanthi Harris (fiction)
26) My Shrink is Pregnant - Katie Griffiths (poetry)
25) Anything is Possible - Elizabeth Strout (fiction)
24) Hash - Torgny Lindgren (fiction)
23) My Name is Lucy Barton - Elizabeth Strout (short stories)
22) Silent Years - Alasdair Paterson (poetry)
21) The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë (fiction)
20) Coming Through Slaughter - Michael Ondaatje (poetry/fiction)
19) Horse-man - Em Strang (poetry)
18) Basic Nest Architecture - Polly Atkin (poetry)
17) Apple Water - Raine Geoghegan (poetry)
16) In Nearby Bushes - Kei Miller (poetry)
15) Finished Creatures (issue 2) - edited by Jan heritage (poetry)
14) If All the World and Love Were Young - Stephen Sexton (poetry)
13) That Lonsesome Valley - Melissa Lee houghton (fiction)
12) Truth Street - David Cain (poetry)
11) Wings made from the muscle of a river - Neil Richards (poetry)
10) Significant Other - Isabel Galleymore (poetry)
9) Isn't Forever - Amy Key (poetry)
8) Cuckoo - Nichola Deane (poetry)
7) The Aesthetics of Breath - Charles G Lauder Jr (poetry)
6) Interference Effects - Claire Dyer (poetry)
5) Nine Inches - Tom Perrotta (short stories)
4) Smoothie - Claudia Toutoungi (poetry)
3) Devoured - Anna Mackmin (fiction)
2) Tigress - Jessica Mookherjee (poetry)
1) sad boy/detective - Sam Sax (poetry)





First Draft of New Collection

I am working on my third collection, or what I should say is that I am struggling with my third collection. I have cut the poems down by two thirds. I have put them in an order that I like and makes some kind of sense to me but I still have way to many. At the moment I have 117 A4 pages which is way to many.

I thought it might be helpful to go back and look at what Threat looked like at this stage in the process. The second draft of Threat looks nothing like the finished article. The order is different and I counted thirty-six poems that didn't make the final cut - THIRTY-SIX! This is reassuring but also a bit daunting. There are some big decisions to be made. With my last book I was lucky enough to have funding for some mentoring but I don't have that luxury this time. I need to really interrogate each poem to make sure it is earning its keep, to check that I don't have several poems that are doing or saying the same thing. It is exciting. It is scary. It is exciting and scary!

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Books read in 2019


159) Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng (fiction)
158) Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream by Kim Hyesoon (poetry)
157) Body Thesaurus by Jennifer Militello (poetry)
156) The Emma Press Anthology of Contemporary Gothic Verse (poetry)
155) City of Departures by Helen Tookey (poetry)
154) The Black Place by Tamar Yoseloff (poetry)
153) This Tilting Earth by Jane Lovell (poetry)
152) Rock, Paper, Scissors by Richard Osmond (poetry)
151) A Map Towards Fluency by Lisa Kelly (poetry)150) Changing Room by Anna Woodford (poetry)
149) Baby by Patricia Debney (poetry)
148) Slattern by Kate Clanchy (poetry)
147) Shadow Dogs by Natalie Whittaker (poetry)
146) Naming Bones by Joanna Ingham (poetry)
145) Kismet by Jennifer Lee Tsai (poetry)
144) Dad, Remember You Are Dead by Jacqueline Saphra (poetry)
143) Coal Black Mornings by Brett Anderson (non fiction)
142) More Shadow Than Bird by Nuar Alsadir (poetry)
41) Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (fiction)
140) Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs (fiction)
139) Wedding Beasts by Jay G Ying (poetry)
138) Man's House Catches Fire by Tom Sastry (poetry)
137) Box Rooms by Laurie Bolger (poetry)
136) Firing Pins by Jo Young (poetry)
135) #AFTERHOURS by Inua Ellams (poetry)
134) After The Formalities by Anthony Anaxagorou (poetry)
133) Bowie: Loving The Alien by Christopher Sandford (non fiction)
132) The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (non fiction)
131) Surge by Jay Bernard (poetry)
130) fothermather by Gail McConnell (poetry)
129) Sodium 136 by Carole Bromley (poetry)
128) The Fantastic Book of Everybody's Secrets by Sophie Hannah (short stories)
127) Bridport Prize Anthology 2019 - Winning Poems, Short Stories and Flash Fiction (anthology)
126) Girl Falling by P B Hughes (poetry)
125) Eye Level: Poems by Jenny Xie (poetry)
124) The Tradition by Ben Jericho (poetry)
123) A Warm and Snouting Thing by Ramona Herdman (poetry)
122) Push: My Father, Polio and Me by Sarah Passingham (non fiction)
121) Diary of a Miu Miu Salesgirl by Jennifer Wong (poetry) Jennifer Wong
120) String and Circumstance by Melissa Fu (short stories)
119) Falling Outside Eden by Melissa Fu (poetry)
118) Urban Drift by Natalie Burdett (poetry)
117) All This is Implied by Will Harris (poetry)
116) Stitch by Samuel Tongue (poetry)
115) The Protection of Ghosts by Natalie Linh Bolderston (poetry)
114) THE DANCING BOY by Michelle Diaz (poetry)
113) Time Lived, Without Its Flow by Denise Riley (non fiction)
112) Dear Big Gods by Mona Arshi (poetry)
111) The Latest Winter by Maggie Nelson (poetry)
110) Playing House by Katherine Stansfield (poetry)
109) Search Party by Richard Meier (poetry)
108) Dancing on the Doorstep by Tom Corbett (poetry)
107) Overwintering by Pippa Little (poetry)
106) Zebra by Ian Humphreys (poetry)
105) Time is in Fields by Jean Atkin (poetry)
104) Fen by Daisy Johnson (short stories)
103) Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (non fiction)
102) Quicksand Beach by Kate Bingham (poetry)
101) The Turning by Tim Winton (short stories)
100) Notes from the Fog: Stories by Ben Marcus (short stories)
99) Lepus by Barry Wilson (poetry)
98) To Sweeten Bitter - Raymond Antrobus -(poetry, re read)
97) Things Only Borderlines Know by Olivia Tuck (poetry)
96) Support, Support by Helen Charman (poetry)
95) In Praise of Truth: The Personal Account of Theodore Marklund, Picture-Framer by Torgny Lindgren (fiction)
94) The Book of Jobs: Poems by Kathryn Maris (poetry)
93) American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes (poetry)
92) Basic Nest Architecture by Polly Atkin (poetry)
91) Something Bright, Then Holes by Maggie Nelson (poetry)
90) England: Poems from a School by Kate Clanchy (poetry)
89) Dear, by Alice Willetts (poetry)
87) Safety Behaviour by Emma Jeremy (poetry)
86) Live Canon 2018 Anthology (poetry)
85) The Unquiet by L. Kiew (poetry)
84) Reckless Paper Birds by John McCullough (poetry)
83) Erato by Deryn Rees-Jones (poetry)
82) The Woman on the Other Side by Stephanie Conn (poetry)
81) Flèche by Mary Jean Chan (poetry)
80) Noctuary by Niall Campbell (poetry)
79) The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here by Vidyan Ravinthiran (poetry)
78) Whistle by Martin Figura (poetry, re read)
77) An Unremarkable Body by Elisa Odato (poetry)
76) The Forward Book of Poetry 2019 by Various Poets (poetry)
75) Island By Stephanie Conn (poetry)
74) The Somnambulist Cookbook by Andrew McDonnell (poetry)
73) Hand & Skull by Zoë Brigley (poetry)
72) The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets by Ted Kooser (non fiction)
71) My Dark Horses by Jodie Hollander (poetry)
70) In a House of Lies (Inspector Rebus #22) by Ian Rankin (fiction)
69) Lumière by Sue Burge (poetry)
68) I'm OK, I'm Pig! by Kim Hyesoon, Don Mee Choi (Translator) (poetry)
67) The Anatomical Venus by Helen Ivory (poetry)
66) Kingdomland by Rachael Allen (poetry)
65) The Babies by Sabrina Orah Mark (poetry)
64) The Not-Dead and The Saved and Other Stories by Kate Clanchy (short stories)
63) Maps of the Abandoned City by Helen Ivory (poetry)
62) At Hajj by Amaan Hyder (poetry)
61) Your Relationship to Motion Has Changed by Amish Trivedi (poetry)
60) Some Pink Star by Sophie Essex (poetry)
59) An Unremarkable Body by Elisa Lodato (fiction)
58) Near Future by Suzannah Evans (poetry)
57) Madness by Sam Sax (poetry)
56) Girl by Rebecca Goss (poetry)
55) Collected Stories by W. Somerset Maugham, Nicholas Shakespeare (Introduction) (short stories)
54) Threat by Julia Webb (poetry)
53) by Lewis Buxton, Amelia Loulli, Victoria Richards, Jane Commane (editor), Kim Moore (editor) (poetry)
52) Hare Soup by Dorothy Molloy (poetry)
51) Hand & Skull by Zoë Brigley (poetry)
50) Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky (poetry)
49) Darling, It's Me by Alison Winch (poetry)
48) Rabbit by Sophie Robinson (poetry, re read)
47) In Search of Equilibrium by Theresa Lola (poetry)
46) Shiner by Maggie Nelson (poetry)
45) The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald (non fiction)
44) Your Fault by Andrew Cowan (fiction)
43) Lantern by Sean Hewitt (poetry)
42) Bitter Berries by Marina Tsvetaeva, Moniza Alvi (Translator), Veronika Krasnova (Translator) (poetry)
41) Moon Milk by Rachel Bower (poetry)
40) Spells: 21st Century Occult Poetry by Rebecca Tamás (ed.) (poetry)
39) Lanny by Max Porter (poetry/fiction)
38) Bluets by Maggie Nelson (poetry)
37) Discipline by Jane Yeh (poetry)
36) Goest by Cole Swensen (poetry)
35) Luxe by Amy Key (poetry)
34) How to Grow Matches by S.A. Leavesley (poetry)
33) At or Below Sea Level by Elisabeth Sennitt Clough (poetry)
32) Witch by Rebecca Tamás (poetry)
31) 50 American Plays by Michael Dickman (poetry)
30) Green Migraine - Michael Dickman (poetry)
29) The Triumph of Cancer by Chris McCabe (poetry)
28) The Healing Next Time by Roy McFarlane (poetry)
27) Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich (fiction)
26) The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy (non fiction)
25) The Built Moment by Lavinia Greenlaw (poetry)
24) Vertigo & Ghost by Fiona Benson (poetry)
23) How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships (non fiction)
22) The End of the West by Michael Dickman (poetry)
21) Isn't Forever by Amy Key (poetry)
20) Girl Golem by Rachael Clyne (poetry)
19) £5 for this love by Stephen Daniels (poetry)
18) The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos by Anne Carson (poetry)
17) The Escapologist by Jinny Fisher (poetry)
16) A Hostile Environment: A Poetry Conversation by Nigel Kent, Sarah Thomson (poetry)
15) Rosary of Ghosts - Grant Tabard (poetry)
14) OK, Mr Field - Katherine Kilalea (fiction)
13) The Red Parts - Maggie Nelson (non fiction)
12) The Perseverance - Raymond Antrobus (poetry)
11) Moving Into The Space Cleared By Our Mothers - Mary Dorcey (poetry)
10) In the Days of Rain: A Daughter, a Father, a Cult - Rebecca Stott (non fiction)
9) New Poetries vii - Michael Schmidt (ed.) (poetry)
8) The House with Only an Attic and a Basement - Kathryn Maris (poetry)
7) The Happy Bus - Louisa Campbell (poetry)
6) My Converted Father - Sarah Law (poetry)
5) The Art of Description - Mark Doty (non fiction)
4) Three Poems - Hannah Sullivan (poetry)
3) Faber New Poets: 10 - Will Burns (poetry)
2) My Name is Leon - Kit de Waal (fiction)
1) The Water Cure - Sophie Mackintosh (fiction)

Friday, 13 December 2019

The Post Book Slump

I hesitated about naming this post The Post Book Slump, but after talking to other authors I think it is something that needs to be acknowledged and talked about. What I am talking about is that time after your book has been out for a little while - in my case six months - when the excitement has died down but you still haven't got your writing mojo back.

I have very much been in this space for the past few months. At first I put it down to that fact that I had been travelling a fair bit for readings - but actually when I am 'on it' with writing, travelling is usually a fruitful time for me creatively. I have written before about how much I love writing on trains, but at the moment even trains aren't getting me writing. It is a bit like the post hand-in slump I used to get as a student, and very much like the cavernous feeling of loss I felt both at the end of my degree and the MA. I came across this blog post today https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1046-surviving-the-post-dissertation-slump which is about post PhD slump - but a lot of it feels pretty relevant to the way it can feel once a book is published - especially the feelings of 'so what' and Imposter Syndrome.

I had mistakenly thought that this would get easier with more publications, but for some reason I have found it harder with the publication of my second book than I did with the first. I have also found doing readings harder - partly because the subject matter feels more exposing and more gritty - there is always a niggly worry at the back of my mind as to how new audiences will react, which I didn't really have with the first collection. There is also a pressure (or it feels like there is) to write something radically different to what than what I have written before - but as a wise poet once said to me: 'you can only write what you can write.'

At the moment I am on a writing retreat. I had hoped that getting away and having time to read and write would give me the kick in the pants I feel I need. Of course things are never as simple as you imagine. I have been here a week now and the writing is slow - though I have done a little. Instead I have been focusing on reading poetry books, typing up and editing, and I have also used the time to make some submissions - something I have been very slack about of late. I am planning to use some of my Arts Council DYCP grant to pay for some mentoring and time management sessions. Life is busy when I am at home and it can be very easy to get so sucked down the rabbit hole of work that there is little time for anything else.

The main thing is that I have decided not to be too hard on myself and to try not to be too impatient. If you are in the post book/hand in slump I urge you to do the same.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Writer's Block


I have been thinking quite a lot about my writing practice over the past few days. I went to see Nick Cave in Nottingham last week - he is doing a Q & A tour - basically the audience asks him questions and he answers them, and in between he plays songs and piano. It was a very powerful performance and he was on stage for a whole three hours. I found the question and answer part of the show really interesting - he said a lot of things about song writing that really resonated with me about the way I approach poetry writing. He talked a lot about the commitment to just turning up at the page - which made me think that maybe I need to have a more defined writing practice when I am at home. I tend to be much more prolific when I am away - probably because I don't have all the distractions of home and at home I don't have a designated writing space - I mostly seem to write sitting on the sofa.

Cave also said that he doesn't believe in writers block - either you are writing or not writing. This is something I totally agree with and have had debates about with friends and students. My observations of writer's block are that they mostly stem from either - being too busy, being emotionally pre-occupied (grief, new love, new baby etc) or from being a self-editor. By self-editor what I mean is when a writer is so hung up on finding the right idea or topic, or by writing something perfect, that they don't write anything at all. One of my students definitely falls into the latter category. I think that this is a case where something like morning pages can help - even if you are simply writing over and over 'I have nothing to write about'. I believe that if you keep doing this something will come eventually - I sometimes write lists of things to do, goals, wish lists, moans, anything really to get the pen moving. Getting all that stuff out of one's head and onto the page makes extra room for creative thinking. I find national poetry writing month helpful in this way too. The goal of the month is to write a poem a day. I usually find it difficult for the first six or seven days - if I can keep going that long then something usually changes or shifts and after that I find that some days I am writing two or three poems. This is what Cave meant about turning up at the page - a self editor often has a (mistaken) belief that every poem they write should be perfect. Why would you put that pressure on yourself? Artists wouldn't dream of starting a big commission without doing some preliminary sketches. In fact if you are not practicing your art (what ever it may be) regularly you get rusty. You need to keep producing to get the good stuff. In national poetry writing month I may write forty or more poems but I am happy if I have two or three that I consider worth pursuing - any more than that is a bonus. My advice if you have writer's block is 'just keep turning up at the page.'

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Threat - New collection published May 30th

"Forensically detailed and disturbing, the dark and sometimes brutal undertow of small town lives seeps to the surface of these unsettling and visceral poems."
If I had to sum what Threat is about in one short sentence, it would probably be - that which makes us human.
Threat has been a long time in the making. Some of the poems were written before my last collection was published. Some of them are much newer. When I started putting the collection together it was tentatively titled Hometown. As it turned out that title had already been taken by the marvellous Carrie Etter - but as the collection evolved it seemed that it was growing beyond its town boundaries and that a different title would be more apt. Threat was the title of a poem in the collection - the poem itself was edited out but the title remained - it just seemed to perfectly fit the themes and concerns of the book. As a collection I am both proud  and a little terrified of it. It feels incredibly exposing - the poems feel personal - and some of them are - though others are not - or rather bits of them are - there is an overlap, always, between lived experience and fantasy - or rather my lived experience and the experiences of other people. Like Sharon Olds I feel I can't claim all the experiences as completely or directly mine.

"Poems like mine - I don't call them confessional, with that tone of admitting to wrong- doing. My poems have done more accusing than admitting. I call work like mine 'apparently personal'. Or in my case apparently very personal." (Sharon Olds, The Guardian, 26th July 2008).

There is some sense of working out or through some difficult stuff  - but equally the narrator is trying to put into words or make some sense of experiences and feelings that might ring true for other people - experience such as human fallibility, loss, familial dysfunction (which we all experience to some degree or another), what it feels like to live in the human body, what it feels like to be an adolescent girl in a small town, ageing etc. I hope the reader is surprised by where the collection takes them - just as I was surprised at where the writing of it took me. It certainly visits some dark places but ultimately swims back up towards the light. There is a playfulness in this collection too - that I feel Bird Sisters perhaps lacked.



The cover art for the book was done by artist and graphic designer Natty Peterkin. I knew I wanted to use an image of Thetford forest as part of the art work but other than that I had to let go of control and let Natty run with it. Natty read the book several times and decided that he wanted to make some kind of painted semi abstract shadow creature part of the image. What he came up with is perfect - is it a man? Is it a beast? Is it a teddy bear? We just don't know.

Threat comes out with Nine Arches Press on May 30th and is available for pre-order now.

Julia will be launching the collection at Cafe Writers in Norwich on June 10th with Helen Ivory and at The Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden on July 19th with Jessica Mookherjee.