As I prepare for a weekend of workshops with Leicester Writers' Club, I'm still enjoying the harvest from last Saturday's publishing fair - States of Independence. This wonderful event is organised very year by the team at DMU's Creative Writing Department and is a highlight in the packed cultural calendar of Leicester and the East Midlands. Indeed the dozens of indie publishers came from far and wide and the rooms of the Clephan Building were thrumming with free workshops, book launches, panel discussions and readings. That's if you could tear youself away from corridors lined with bookstalls. The one laden with luscious-looking poetry chapbooks was especially seductive - how often do you get to browse such a range of contemporary poets and chat to the editors? And while you were burning the plastic and amassing a rucksack of new purchases, you were also greeting new and old writer friends because everybody was there ...
I particularly enjoyed book launches by Margaret Penfold - for her marvellous novel Patsy set in the British Mandate of Palestine - and Caroline Cook - for her chapbook Primer, an exquisitely packaged volume of poetry by Soundswrite Press. A panel discussion on Digital Poetry was quite mind-blowing on new possibilities for poetry as an art form blended with e-technology. Questions like: can the hyper-text become the text? do we need a fixed entry/exit point into a poem? can the text play simultaneously with other aural/visual/ tactile media? is the 'reader' the 'performer' of the text in the interactive world of e-communication? I have no idea of the answers to these questions. But just as the printing press transformed our approaches to narrative and invented the novel - so I do think we will reach a point where we stop just 'loading up' poetry texts onto the computer and pretending it's a page - and begin to create in new ways that the screen ennables.
And as for the tottering pile of new books I brought back, the first I reached for was an Oystercatcher Press chapbook by Lucy Sheerman: Rarefied (falling without landing). I was inevitably drawn in by the beautiful image of an astronaut who seems to have been stitched out of applique. It turns out to be inspired by a documentary about the Apollo wives, who were not only trapped in a media circus throughout the Apollo years but who subseqently suffered a spiralling rate of divorce. I remember watching that progamme and thinking 'someone will write poems about those wives.' The dozen poems in this sequence are haunting, lyrical, witty, sad, mysterious and - spaced out. Distances open between their ten lines. Separation ruptures. Loss leaks out. I especially liked her referencing of the myth of a spellbound Theseus abandoning Ariadne on an island after their love- affair:
'... she finds him gone again.
... She just looks upon the moon and the stars,
gifts he gave to the dark and empty skies.
Incongruous as rain in the desert.'
I am sure I will be returning to this chapbook, even as my own space obsession grows. And my reading will be deepened by this interview with the poet on her experience of writing it.
Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.
Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:
My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:
Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:
- Leicester, East Midlands
- As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring.