Monday, 6 May 2019

Update on Submitting to Magazines

Today I had an email telling me that I have just had a poem accepted by another magazine (Northampton Poetry Review), which reminded that I really should write about my progress with magazines and how I approach submitting to them. Since October I have had eleven poems accepted by seven magazines.

The magazines that have already published are:
The Dawntreader issue 45:
Obsessed with Pipework issue 85 :
The Curlew Crataegus issue:
Prole issue28:

The magazines who have accepted but not yet published are:
Fenland Reed:
Dream Catcher:
Northampton Poetry Review:

How I approach submitting to magazines
As so far my approach seems to be working, I thought I would share it with you.  It goes without saying that the most important thing has to be having poems ready for publication, so nothing goes out unless I am happy with it.

I did a lot of research into poetry magazines before I sent out anything. This included combining a trip to London to see my son with an afternoon in the Poetry Library, which is on one of the upper floors of the South Bank Centre in London. The Library has a large selection of current magazines on display as well as back copies. It also produces a list of magazines, which you can download from its web site; But I did find that the list included some magazines that no longer are in operation, which goes to show you do have to check with the magazines and their websites. What I was looking for was poetry magazines that I liked and wanted to be in and in which my poems would fit. I made a note of the number of lines on the page (no point sending poems which would be either too long or too short). I always make a note of the current editor's name (not always the same on the Poetry Library list), so I can write a personalise email/letter.

I drew up a shortlist and proceeded to buy copies of the magazines I was interested in. As I am a carer for my mum I don't have a lot of free cash, but I consider it a good investment, plus I really do not think that I can ask magazines to publish my work without being willing to buy at least one copy. I continue to buy magazines when I can afford to do so. 

Most poetry magazines have websites or blogs, where I find advice on submitting my poetry to them. I follow the guidance to the letter. Different magazines can have very different requirements and it is very bad manners not to do what they ask you to. I also subscribe to their blog feeds and Facebook pages, as sometimes they will announce submission deadlines, themes for the next edition etc. through these.

I have a spreadsheet to keep track of my submissions. When I first started submitting back in the early 1980s, I didn't have a spreadsheet or a computer for that matter and it was easy to get lost and send to two magazines at the same time, which is a no no. In my spreadsheet I have one worksheet which lists the poems down the left side, against that I put the names of magazine I send them to and date. When the magazine replies I enter the response. If it is a no, I send it to another magazine and enter that info into the worksheet. Another worksheet lists the magazines with useful info e.g whether they take email submissions, number of lines per page, maximum number of poems allowed per submission, and of course the website address. Another worksheet is a monthly calendar showing which magazines are accepting submissions when.

If you are thinking about submitting poems to magazine, I hope this information helps.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Buzzwords Poetry & Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

My New Year's resolution this year was to get over my anxiety and to start going to poetry groups. I am pleased to say I have succeeded. I have not only been going to Buzzwords regularly but I have made myself read a poem at each meeting. The group have been really welcoming and full of lovely people. 

Buzzwords happens every month, usually on the first Sunday, at the Exmouth Arms in Cheltenham. The website is here:  The meetings consist of a workshop led by a guest poet, readings by the guest poet and an open mic session. The guest poets have all been excellent.

This weekend saw the opening of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, which will go on until the 4th May. I have plans to go to at least five events and would like to go to more, but my care responsibilities make going to day-time and early evening events impossible.

Last night I went to a reading by students on the University of Gloucestershire Creative Writing Course. The course director is Angela France, who is also responsible for Buzzwords. Angela introduced her students to a sparse but appreciative audience. There were some good and accomplished poets in the group, as well as those who are just learning their craft. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Poem - My Grandfather and Uncle

This poem was first published in Pennine Platform magazine. It remains one of my favourites.


My grandfather and uncle
both returned to the earth
with untimely haste.
Although they worked it,
broke its back
for snow to bite into,
dragged sedge from ditches,
clawed back
lambs from snowheaps,
they did not inherit it,
unless it was
in the length and width
of a man's form.
And it claimed them
reaching up through the chest,
pain filling the arms,
which had gathered harvests.
And still they loved it
and still they cursed
on cold wet mornings,
as it worked
like ringworm into their hands.
In death
they shall inherit the earth.
Until this time
they have been living
on borrowed land.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Update and a New Year's Resolution

After a long period of self doubt I started sending poems to magazines again in October (see my post on 4th November). And I have been amazed how quickly they started being accepted for publication. Already I have had five poems accepted (by The Curlew, Obsessed with Pipework and Dawn Treader). What was I worried about!

My next task is to start going to poetry groups, which will mean getting over a problem with crowded confined places. There is a good poetry group, Buzzwords, in nearby Cheltenham. So my New Year's resolution is to get out there. Wish me luck!

Friday, 23 November 2018

Muscovy by Matthew Francis

Here's another review that appeared on my magic realism blog.

Like his acclaimed Mandeville (2008), Matthew Francis's fourth Faber collection explores a world of marvels, real and fantastic. A man takes off for the moon in an engine drawn by geese, a poltergeist moves into a remote Welsh village, and a party of seventeenth-century Englishmen encounter the wonders of Russia - sledges, vodka, skating and Easter eggs. The scientist Robert Boyle basks in the newly discovered radiance of phosphorus (the noctiluca of the title) and the theme of light in darkness is taken up by the more personal poems in the book: phoneboxes, streetlamps, moonlight. 
Goodreads description

Another lovely poetry book for you. Not all the poems are magic realism, but most have that magic-realist sensibility that I have written about in the past. 

The collection opens with The Man in the Moon, an account of a trip to the moon powered by geese. It made me think of Calvino, although it is a based on a 17th century fantasy by Francis Godwin. Many of the poems in the collection are influenced by the past or by historical accounts. Some are realistic such as the title poem, which is based on an account by Andrew Marvell of an embassy to Russia. Others have a more supernatural  element e.g Corpse Candle and Familiar Spirit.  I have written before that historical novels (and poetry) that include the supernatural are presenting the world of the past realistically.

My favourite poem in the book is The Walker. It is a beautiful and subtle poem. It of course has a magic-realist angle, but also evokes its mountain setting accurately and in wonderful language:
And the sheep carried on, canted to one side,
    trotting on their adjustable legs

and the narrator's response to it:
I was an inkwash of myself, wet on wet, 
  among the limp vertebrae of ferns
  and the fuzz of bilberry. 
One stroke would smear me into a blur.

The natural eeriness sets the scene for the twist at the ending of the poem.

Wonderful stuff.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

"The Worst Enemy to Creativity is Self Doubt"

Well I have done it, at last. I have started sending my poems to magazines again.

When I was younger I was regularly published in  magazines, including South West Review, The Rialto, Aquarius, Pennine Platform, and others. I was probably on the point of getting my first collection, but something happened.

I lost confidence. I have since discovered, this is not uncommon among women poets. Jo Bell and Jane Commane write about it in their excellent book How to be a Poet  And I had a similar conversation about the issue with Briony Bax (editor of Ambit) at the Poetry Book Fair.  My loss of confidence was ridiculous really. I had two great poets saying I was good (Michael Horovitz, Philip Larkin) and still I gave up submitting.

There were some mitigating circumstances I suppose. Looking back I was struggling with depression, something neither I nor my husband really confronted. My way of dealing it was to stop being a full-time mum and taking on a demanding job, which meant I was balancing motherhood, career and poetry. Poetry was what suffered. It was not so much the writing, but the promotion that was the hard part for me and the easiest to give up. My poetry was increasingly taking the form of long sequences or indeed long poems and so not exactly suited to magazine submission, and I used that as an excuse for doing nothing. Then of course the longer I left submitting poems, the harder it was to get back into doing so.

But that is behind me now. I have restarted submitting poems and already in a just a month I have had three poems shortlisted for publication, so that is good for my confidence. Fingers crossed the poems make it to publication.

In case you are wondering about the quote in the title of this post - it is from Sylvia Plath.

Friday, 12 October 2018

The Girl Who Forgets How To Walk by Kate Davis

This review first appeared on my magic realism books blog.

"We never speak of it, but here we know the land
can t be trusted"

The debut collection from Cumbrian poet Kate Davis tells a personal narrative of contracting polio as a young girl, her subsequent disability and slow rehabilitation. A book of things known and not known, of untrustworthy ground and unsteady bodies, The Girl Who Forgets How to Walk finds comfort in the ancient limestone of her home county as she teaches herself to move again along its hills and coastlines. Inspiring, funny and deeply personal, with this book Davis creates her own map to navigate the wild landscape, demonstrating a unique connection to the earth beneath us.
Amazon description

After 278 posts, the vast majority of them reviews of magic realist books, I have rather run out of steam as evidenced by the low number of reviews this year. I don't want to stop posting on this blog, as I get great pleasure from sharing with you. But I have decided I need to make some changes - one is a bit of a break from reviewing novels. I will still review a magic realist novel when I read one, but I want to diversify. I have already reviewed an exhibition and a theatrical production, but there is one literary form which I have yet to review and yet it is ideally suited to inclusion in this blog and that is poetry. Of course this will require me to gain new skills and approaches, but then I need something new. I just ask that you bear with me as I find my way. 

The back cover of Kate Davis' poetry collection states Kate Davis writes magical realist poems, born of the hills, marshes and coastal edgelands of south Cumbria. And she does so wonderfully. 

The suite of poems The Girl Who Forgets How To Walk is the central section of the collection. It focuses on the story of the girl with polio. The beginning and concluding sections are made up of poems which complement it, being more focused on the landscape, its history and archaeology of Cumbria. These poems, while providing a setting to the girl's story (before and after her illness), do so much more.The girl's body afflicted by polio and the landscape mirror each other - 
We never speak of it, but here we know the land can't be trusted.

But the relationship between the Cumbrian landscape and the girl is a complex one. She wants to find the footpaths for herself. When she is shown geological maps she sees what is inside herself instead of seeing what is in the earth. In one of my favourite poems the members of the family are described as different rocks - 
Our mother was a stony outcrop,
our father a cobble chucked in a pond
and sunk.

A few poems, such as the one where she sees people floating in mid-air, are very obviously magic realist. But as I have written so many times magic realism is a sensibility and nearly all these poems share it. 

One of the joys of this work is that while Kate David deals with a highly personal and difficult issue she does so in a way that is joyous and even at times humourous. 

I recommend this collection to you.