Tag Archives: The Poetry Society

Ten Ways to Meet Fellow Poets, and some caveats

We all need the company of people who love what we love, and it’s particularly important in poetry. I can’t understand poets who snub other poets, as some do, or those who see writing as a competition. Nor do I think having poetry friends who are totally sycophantic is any use either. If you want fans, ask your family.

For me, having someone to talk to about poetry is essential. I don’t need a mentor. I had a wonderful mentor in Matt Simpson, and for at least the last 15 years of our friendship we were each other’s first reader, and he would alter things as a result of my comments as well as the other way round. Since his death in 2009, I have needed a wider range of poet friends. Here’s how I found some.

1)      Support your local poetry nights. There’s a lot going on if you are prepared to travel a little. Read at the open floor events. Be friendly and talk to people. If someone reads something you like, go and tell them you enjoyed their work.

2)      Start your own local poetry event. I have negotiated a free room at a local pub and try to let everyone I know who is remotely interested, that it is happening. Mine is called BLAZE and it happens at Hartford Hall once a month. Invite others to come and be the guest. You can ask people whose work you like.

3)      Facebook is a great way to get to know other people with similar interests. I have connected with many poets who have been in the same anthologies as me, by searching for their names, or them finding me. I have gone on to meet many of them in real life and found we get on brilliantly. Facebook is also a great way to get back in touch with poets you might have known a long time ago but lost touch with.

4)      Go to writers courses. There are wonderful residential ones at places like The Arvon Foundation (which has 4 different properties). The Poetry Business does wonderful day length ones. You will be able to find something at your level, from starting to write to master classes.

5)      Go to festivals. These days almost every little place seems to have a festival, whether it’s just poetry or a music festival which includes some spoken word events. You will find they are full of enthusiasts who are only too happy to chat to you about their passion for poetry/music/ the spoken word etc.

6)      Join websites like Write Out Loud, which have listings of poets, and the facility of contacting each other. Write Out Loud also offers a residential weekend once a year.

7)      Do some reviewing, even if it is only on your own blog. If possible, be kind enough to send the publisher or poet a copy of your review electronically. You will become known as someone who reads and appreciates poetry, which is always a good way to connect with other poets.

8)      Try to get to book launches and buy a copy of the book if you like the sound of it. Book launches aim to give you a flavour of the work, and are usually fun events to attend. Many print magazines these days launch their issues. These are great to go to if you are in the magazine, but if you want to get accepted, a great way in is to go to the launch, buy a copy so you can see what sort of things are getting in, and chat to people who are there.

9)      Often you can get to know other poets on your publisher’s list. Salt, for example, offered us a free workshop in promoting our books and one of my former publishers organised a week at Totleigh Barton for all his authors, which was a brilliant way to get to know different poets.

10)    Join the Poetry Society. It is a bit expensive, perhaps, but worth it. The Stanza groups provide some outreach, and the newsletter is very helpful. There may be local organisations which focus on poetry too. Seek them out and get involved.

Your friends who don’t write poetry are vitally important: they keep you rooted and having fun. When I have caught myself being too poetry-orientated then it is these friends who have kept me going. Don’t neglect them.

Likewise, don’t impose on your new poet friends. We all help each other. You shouldn’t just be looking for a mentor, or someone to bore rigid with your work and your successes and failures. You should want to share theirs too. But it’s so wonderful to have a group of like-minded friends. I speak from experience. And they know who they are. It is only the truly talented, I have found, who are generous and encouraging. The ones who snub you are envious and not worth bothering with. A love of poetry, when it is genuine, transcends competition, different writing styles and different stages of success in the game. True poets know there is no career success. There is only writing the best you can and having the approval of those readers you trust to tell you the absolute truth.  



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Reading at The Shuffle

The guest list board.

I loved having a guest slot at The Shuffle on Saturday night. It was the first time I had ever read in London or set foot in The Poetry Cafe. We’d wandered round Covent Garden looking for somewhere to eat but everywhere was full, half an hour wait for a table was too long, and we weren’t all that hungry. So we had a drink in a pub on the corner of Betterton Street until the cafe opened. I was entranced with the photographs of poets on the wall who all seemed to be giving me a personal greeting, such as Elain Feinstein, whose collection Cities I had reviewed for Stride. She kindly told me that she thought it was ‘a generous assessment of what I was trying to do’. Do check it out on Stride.

Soon we were eating a wonderful soup and I made myself known to the hosts Jaqui Saphra and Gale Burns, who made me very welcome. They hosted the occasion admirably, and shared some of their own poems, which I enjoyed a lot. I was on last so I could sit back and enjoy the variety of readings, the wonderful audience and the poetic ambience. It was especially good to hear Salt poet Agnieszka Studzinska, though I have to say every single guest was excellent, and it was a really enjoyable evening.

I’d put together a set with a range of moods, starting with my Peter Pan and Wendy poem, ‘From the Wendy House’, which tends to go down well. I followed this with two more poems from The Fiddle, one about my dad’s death and one about my mum’s. I lightened the mood again with the poem Dialectic, about angels and devils and what it is like to have a relationship with them, then a sad one from The New Generation, and two poems which are coming out in my Salt chapbook in January, including the title poem I Sing of Bricks.

I had some wonderful comments afterwards, which really made my night, and an enthusiastic message from a facebook friend who came for the first time to The Shuffle because she wanted to hear me read.

All in all, I felt my London debut went perfectly and I hope I get to read down there again sometime soon.


Filed under Children's Poetry, Everything else, poetry, Poetry Collections, Salt, The New Generation