All a Cat Can Be #6 anthologies my poems were included in in 2018

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Sharon Larkin posted on Facebook about wanting to do something to help her local cat rescue, and coming up with the idea of a charity anthology of poetry for them. I don’t see myself as a cat person but I hate the thought of any animal suffering, plus cats, despite my ambivalent feelings towards them in general, though I have known and loved many individual ones, seem to keep slinking into my poems. I prefer the big wild cats, but I can understand why people want to have pet cats, as they are strokeable and cute. I do admire the superior attitude cats display to the world, and something about them fascinates me, so I sent Sharon a few poems. In the end she chose my children’s poem, ‘Savoy Hotel Cat’, which is in the voice of the cat that hotel kept to  set a place for to avoid there being 13 at the table, and the cat actually used to sit there with a bib on, on a dining chair, to eat. Naturally this made the cat even MORE superior. My poem has had other outings so I won’t include it here.
Sharon Larkin and Sheila Macintyre have assembled a goodly collection of poems here, and as a bonus included some great colour photographs of very pretty kitties, used as section dividers. The book is organised into sections, which breaks down the reading, and gives a sense of connection between poems. Sections include ‘Waifs and Strays’, ‘Whatever the Weather’ and that tricky one ‘Saying Goodbye’.

It’s always hard reviewing an anthology, because one doesn’t want to single out some poems at the expense of others, but I am going to mention a few of my personal favourites. ‘Seconds’ by Melanie Branton, uses language full of fun and invention, to bring life to her ‘roguish stowaway pirate’ of a cat rescued with his ‘more marketable symmetrical brother’. Angi Holden’s ‘Temporary Home’ about a car who came for a few days and stayed for 18 years, aptly called Rags, I found moving, as it shows how these animals can hook themselves into our hearts without us really noticing. I relished Lesley Quayle’s ‘Of Cats and Fish’ for its lack of sentimentality and its cheeky quote from Burns, and the tenderness  of memory, and Alison Brackenbury’s ‘Spotted’ poem about the feral hunting cat, which is written in quatrains with deft rhymes. Anne Drysdale’s poem about an unlovely but loved old cat, I found very beautiful, with lines like ‘busy feet treading the  slow mills of God’ . Jessica Mookherjee’s sonnet based on Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s ‘ How do I Love Thee’, ‘The Cat Lover’ similarly moves me. Mavis Moog’s ‘Catterel’, about an awkward cat, is witty and  the clever rhymes enhance that humour. Phil Knight’s poem ‘Ginger Cat’ gave me pleasure. I enjoyed both of Sarah J Bryson’s poems in the last section, and Rachel Clyne and Patrick B Osada contribute heart-breaking poems about the loss of cats – a topic which is almost a cliche, but they make it new and particular. I almost forgot to mention Jayne Stanton’s ‘A Kenning for Kitty’. I love seeing kennings and this is a really good one.

This anthology is family friendly and has many poems which are accessible to children. It reaches beyond the usual audience for poetry anthologies and would be enjoyed by all cat lovers, or people like me who have never had a cat, but admire them from afar.  It is £8.95, available from  https://eithonbridge.com/anthologies/

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Bonnie’s Crew #5 Anthologies of 2018 my poems appeared in

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Bonnie’s Crew is a tiny anthology with a huge purpose. When poet and editor Kate Garrett gave birth to her precious daughter Bonnie Melissa, she needed the care of Leeds Congenital Hearts. Thankfully, Bonnie is fine and thriving – and just turned one year old, but Kate Garrett was so appreciative of their care, and so empathetic with other parents whose child needed help, she decided to bring out an anthology in support of the unit as a fund-raiser. She also runs a blog of the same name and is still accepting submissions for that.

This darling little A6 pamphlet anthology is a little jewel. The artwork is by Marija Smits, and it’s a striking cover, but also eminently suitable as Bonnie is named for a famous pirate, Ann Bonny, as anyone who has read Garrett’s pamphlet Deadly, Delicate (Picaroon) knows. 

The resulting anthology is full of poems about courage, heart, childhood and hope. Louisa Campbell excels at verbs; the child in her poem can ‘wobble’, ‘splunch’ and ‘spin’ in her play, while her mother has to ‘flame away the dark’ at night. (Sandbags) Sharon Larkin writes of a mother ‘praying in tongues’ as her very ill newborn suckles ‘half-heartedly’, both literally and metaphorically true, as the baby has a suspected heart defect. Maureen Weldon’s poem of hope, ‘Midnight Robin’, is one I have always been fond of, and Finola Scott has an utterly gorgeous poem about feeling her daughter’s child move: ‘feel in my daughter/ her daughter dance beneath my hands’, similar to Angi Holden’s golden grandchild moment of her daughter ringing her to say she’d heard the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. Ben Banyard, like every parent, lives in fear of anything happening to his young ones or his wife, an anxiety I can empathise with as it has never left me since my first child was placed in my arms.

My own poem in here is a short and previously unseen by anyone poem about the wonders of what’s inside our bodies, a topic I am trying to write more poems about.

Copies can be bought here: https://bonnieandcrew.wordpress.com/

It makes a lovely little gift even for those who are not into poetry, as it is very accessible and enthralling.

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22 Wagons #4 anthologies my work appeared in in 2018

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How I came to be in this anthology was something of a miracle, and most unexpected. Danijela Trajković contacted me to ask permission to translate some of my poems into Serbian. I am not sure how she stumbled across my poetry, but her anthology of translations includes Fiona Sampson. Pippa Little, John Greening, Wendy Klein, Richard Skinner and George Szirtes, as well as myself. It is called 22 Wagons, The Collection of Anglophone Poets of 21st Century.

Danijela translated my poems ‘The Glass Swan’, ‘How to Capture a Poem’, and ‘What Became of the Black Piano’. I am sure her translations are wonderful. Unfortunately I can’t read Serbian but feel so honoured to think I can now be read in that language. I share a lot of my ethics of truth and clarity with Danijela, so I know her translations will have caught the spirit of the poems.

I love the cover too. It’s a wonderful thing to have the book on my ‘Angela Topping’ shelves.

I am not sure where to purchase a copy, but I am sure Danijela can help.

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Opening Words (The Cheshire Prize for Children’s Literature) #3 Anthologies I was in in 2018

20190117_123537Another competition anthology I was lucky to get into was Opening Words, from the Cheshire Prize for Children’s Literature. (University of Chester Press 2018). Both prose and poetry can be entered, but very few poems seem to make it into the anthologies, though I have no way of knowing what proportion of entries fell into either genre. A few years back, I won a prize with my poem ‘Maggoty Johnson’. I was astonished on the night and thrilled to get a hug from Tony Robinson, who was presenting the prizes. My poem was the only one out of the top five entries: the other four were all stories. This time around, there were other poems in the anthology. This time, there were four poems included out of 15 texts, and all the winning pieces were prose. Apart from mine, all the other poems were funny rhyming poems. So I was proud of that.

I went to the launch, in the beautiful riverside building of Chester University, with wonderful views from the balcony. It was a lovely event, though sadly, my name didn’t come out of the hat to read my poem, because all the contributors’ names were put in, even though not all attended. I never have luck getting my name pulled from hats – it must be heavy and sinks to the bottom. Phil Redmond happened to be there, because he’s married to the mayor who was presenting the anthologies. He’s a real gentleman, showed a lot of interest in everyone’s writing. Another lovely thing was one of the other poetry contributors came with his friend as a plus one, someone I used to teach years ago in my FE classes. So it was marvellous to see her again and hear her news. I hadn’t seen her since 1992.

It’s funny how a theme can often emerge even when none was set. The editor Simon Poole commented that ‘having a touch of magic was perhaps the defining characteristic for all the entries selected for this year’s volume’.

The Cheshire Prize is a wonderful institution and I do try to enter it whenever I can. It is free to enter and anyone who has lived or worked in Cheshire is eligible.

This is my poem:

A SHINGLE BEACH

No buckets and spades,
no hunting for shells:

this is a shingle beach,
a pebble hill;

but there’s stones to skim,
walls to be built.

Sort pebbles into size,
count their colours:

blue, grey, yellow,
red, white and black.

Listen to their clatter
and clack.

Sand can’t make
a noise like that!


It was written after visiting Seaton Bay in Devon, on a visit to my friend, the fantastic poet Jan Dean.

Where to buy a copy: https://storefront.chester.ac.uk/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=12_13&products_id=768

 

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Wolverhampton Literature Festival Poetry Anthology 2018 #2 Anthologies I was in in 2018

20190117_223843 (1)Another anthology I was pleased to be in this year was the Wolverhampton Literature Festival Poetry Anthology 2018. I rarely enter competitions but this one appealed to me, and it was judged by Emma Purshouse, a poet I respect enormously. It was the first competition for this fairly new festival, and the theme was ‘Out of Darkness’, which also appealed to me as it could be interpreted very widely. The competition was run by Write Out Loud, a tremendous organisation which helps bring poets to the audiences. As Emma Purshouse says in her report: ‘I’ve included poems that made me wonder about something, the ones that made me look the ordinary in a different way, those that gave me a history lesson, and those that made me want to go and look at a piece of artwork or a photo’. The competition winner was Rachel Plummer. Her poem is ‘Iris, the Oldest Particle Physicist at CERN’. I don’t really understand the technology, but the poem is very accomplished, a pleasure to read. Ros Wolner in second place, has a fabulously rich poem, in contrast with the pared down first prize, called ‘Sack of Night’, in which the reader is invited to reach inside a draw string bag to experience all the creatures, sights, smells of night. Caroline Bracken, in third places, writes about the darkness of mental health issues. It’s a bleak poem in five sections, with jerky syntax, telegrammatic language, and it’s about being detained by the mental health act in a secure environment. Joint third is Phil Binding, with a poem about being scared of the dark – I can empathise. It’s a poem full of speech, and a touching memory of his father, telling him about the darkness of the mine when the lamps are out, and instead of the father trying to make the child lose his fear, he admits he is scared of the dark too, a far better response. Another third prize went to Terry Jones, for his poem about what it must be like to be an octopus, an unusual angle, and he manages to give the creature a voice that is convincing.

My poem is at the start of the shortlisted poems section, by virtue of my first name starting with an A. I like this egalitarian way of ordering the poems. My poem is a futuristic one, in which my house is being excavated by historians, and it was quite fun to write, though it took a fair amount of editing before I entered it. I can’t mention every poem in detail, but I was pleased to see several friends in here, such as Peter Branson and Roger Elkin, who I know in person, and Stephen Jackson, Sharon Black and Di Slaney, whom I know online. Anthologies like this serve to introduce readers to poets they may not have heard of before, or who may not even have been published much before. Because competitions are judged anonymously, everyone who enters has an equal chance.

I am not sure whether there are any copies of the anthology left, but if you are interested in obtaining a copy, contact http://wolvesliteraturefestival.co.uk/home/4593160946 or www.writeoutloud.net

The results of this year’s competition have just been announced. I missed the deadline this year, but huge congratulations to all those who were placed and shortlisted.

 

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I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree #1 Anthologies I was in last year

I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree (333 pages) £25 from Nosy Crow, is a lavishly illustrated large format hardback. Fiona Waters has selected the poems, and it was not open submission. She chose the poems she wanted and asked for permission to use them. So I was really delighted to be asked for the use of my poem ‘Winter Morning’, which appears on the 8th of February, only three days after my eldest’s birthday, which seemed serendipitous, especially since my children inspired a lot of my poetry. This book is for children, but also appeals to adults; it’s an heirloom book of the sort grandparents might buy for their grandchildren to treasure. I love the fact it has a cloth spine and is very sturdy.

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Fiona Waters has done a wonderful job in her selections, as she had the whole of literature to choose from. Poets I have always loved who are within these pages include: Emily Dickinson, Eleanor Farjeon,  William Blake, Charles Causley, John Clare, Robert Frost, Jack Prelustsky, Theodore Roethke, Ted Hughes, William Shakespeare Walter de la Mare and Christina Rossetti, along side stars of the children’s poetry world, some of whom I count as friends, such as Jan Dean, Roget Stevens, Coral Rumble, Celia Warren, John Foster, Brian Moses, Alison Chisholm and David Greygoose (aka Dave Ward). Other living poets include Jackie Kay, Carol Ann Duffy, Philip Gross, Gareth Owen. This is to give a brief overview of the 366 poems about nature, one for every day of the year. Anonymous (who to my way of thinking was likely to be female, the nameless women who made up poems to tell their children, which were then passed on orally) naturally features too, poems of folk wisdom about the cycle of life. Waters’ taste is impeccable.

The illustrations are by Frann Preston-Gannon, and they are wonderful, full of humour and brightness. The only way I can do justice to them is by including a few photographs. Every page is in full colour and on high quality paper.

 

The book has already enjoyed lots of attention. It was awarded Waterstones Children’s Gift of the Year 2018, was featured in The Independent as one of their Best New Poetry Books of 2018,  and in The Guardian as one of their Best New Children’s Books, as well as in the i as one of their best gifts for 2-year-olds. It is widely available and The National Trust is stocking it in all their shops.

It is certainly a book to treasure, and I shall.

 

 

 

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A Year of New Anthologies

2019 has been a good year for new anthologies, and I am very grateful to all the editors who have selected my work to appear in their book. I have edited several anthologies myself, and I am well aware of how much work goes into them, and how time-consuming they are, from the exciting part of selection, to all the painstaking work with permissions, proof-reading, working with publishers and arranging launches.

Anthologies have changed during my writing career. At one time, they were only for the few and the famous, and were there to mark a particular fashion or press. Then Bloodaxe started their wonderful themed anthologies which are owned by anyone with a serious interest in poetry. Then there were those wonderful children’s anthologies put out by Macmillan, OUP, Wayland and others, which encouraged so many of us to write for our inner child, and which have all but dried up, though a few still happen and maybe they will start multiplying again soon.  These days anthologies have really diversified, as you will see when I write about each individual one I’ve been lucky enough to be in.  Awareness-raising, charity, special occasions and tragedies, have all spawned anthologies recently, and many competitions produce an anthology of their winners and shortlisted poems. It’s all reaching out and making poetry more accessible for a wider audience.

 

I hope people will be interested to follow the posts, and I will be sharing mini-reviews and letting you know where you can buy a copy of each anthology, to support the cause and the press. I will also be sharing my adventures as I went on journeys with some of these lovely books.

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