Let It Be

If I felt like it, I could posture a state of mild dudgeon from the title of this article. This worthy venture by the Places of Poetry team is not slightly mad, and its uniqueness is not something to be highlighted as folly. Quite the opposite, in fact: if I had my way, this kind of industry and unique use of the online space would be far more common. I’d see welcoming environments where poets could contribute, regardless of age or experience, and all be embraced under the same, literary umbrella.

This is a place where winning is not the point.

My hero’s right: the real point of any artistic endeavour is translating that stuff within you into something more than just the pictures in your head. That means, as a neophyte poet, a couple of choices. I can publish my own stuff on the internet until I’m blue in the face, and hope someone might notice, or try entering the almost constant stream of prizes, awards or events that encourage new writers to take part. The problem is, of course, not everybody can win.

This month, I crossed a magic threshold: 100 poems have been rejected from events as varied as the BBC Proms contest to the Poetry Society’s own flagship quarterly publication. The problem, such as I see it, is knowing how to pitch your work to fit the brief those publishing work or deciding ‘winners’ looks for, and no two judges/editors are the same. Without a decent brief or a clear idea of what an individual enjoys to read, I may as well just stick poems to my wall and throw darts at them to make reasonable choices.

Like David says, you don’t learn truths until a lot later on.

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What makes the Places of Poetry so joyous as an exercise was the complete lack of entry restrictions. The brief was beautifully, nay poetically simple: write about a place you love. Unique then becomes a totally apposite description of this project, because 65 people from age I can use a pencil or tablet so I can be a poet to age whatever you want write about the exact same place and they’re all relevant. No longlisting, no shortlisting, no weeks of hanging about hoping you’ll get an email telling you that eventually, a poem stuck.

The only entry criteria is you, in effect: are you prepared to write yourself into a piece of history? Where else can my 24 poems on Southend stand shoulder to shoulder with the work of the Poet Laureate? I didn’t need to pay to do so, and there’s no expectation that somehow, you’ve been specially chosen or this is a particular honour (though I acknowledge the work being done by specific groups in key locations to encourage the writing of poetry celebrating place). This is the most level playing field ever, our country, and we get to make it whatever we want it to be.

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I’ve had a quite interesting journey in the last twelve months: my poems co-incided with mental health counselling, brought me into a far more significant relationship with the town I’ve lived in for over thirty years. I’m also pretty confident my style of poetry means this collection would never be accepted by a publisher looking at current trends and interests. It’s so niche, utterly subjective observation from a poet who is still finding her feet. At 52, I can be a realist about my chances.

However, what the inclusion of these poems has done for me personally I may never be able to accurately quantify. For the six weeks it took to write, photograph and organise the project, I felt more alive than had ever previously been the case, and being mentioned in that article above was just glorious, because I was finally a part of something that mattered. It isn’t always the money and the glory kids, never forget this. Sometimes, you just need to feel you belong.

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We need to encourage more people to participate, and yet our entire existence as artists pushes commercial success as a goal. Maybe that’s not the way we move forward on a planet whose obsession with consumerism is driving slow, irreparable destruction into the DNA of every living thing. Perhaps we could, every so often, decide that nobody wins and try and encourage everyone to take part. Projects like this are very simply constructed: you put something in, and then your reward is what presents itself afterwards.

Satisfaction, achievement and belief are far better prizes for those of us who just want to let our voices be heard.

You can find my 24 poems on
Southend on Sea
HERE

[Edit: in a tweet on July 20th, Places of Poetry have clarified that their site is curated:  there is an effort made to ensure poems are not just relevant to the locations pinned but suitable for a general audience. These are rules that don’t restrict entry, simply guidelines that ensure the final work is accessible to as many individuals as possible.]

Answers to Nothing

/points at new header.

This is a thing of awesomeness.

GO FOLLOW @QuelFabulous immediately. Honestly, you will not be disappointed by the content.

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I’ve come to a number of revelations this week: a smart Influencer would save each one up for a separate, damning series of posts, but I’m not here for your drive by fealty. Instead, it’s time to sum up the week in a series of five line paragraphs, just to prove that its possible. The biggest revelation, by some way, is that I don’t give a flying fuck about appearances any more. I’m here for the real members of humanity.

Asking people to give feedback based on what someone else perceives as an acceptable method of management is largely pointless. If you’re not prepared to engage in dialogue over the stuff others consider incorrect, your measurement system becomes redundant. There’s no point me turning up at the Members Forum with my list of issues, because it appears the majority of them are ingrained as company policy.

I have no desire to provide feedback any more, and its your fault.

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However, I do completely love the group of people I have pitched up within, and last night realised that the method of exercise has become secondary when compared to those taking part. Everybody is different, but they are all special and brilliant and therefore I will be printing and framing my Blaze poem for everyone who gets a mention for eternity in the verse. People need to know how much they matter.

They also need to understand that they are the arbiters of real, lasting change in their communities. Hopefully, by the process of inclusion, others will feel the desire to explore their own possibilities with more interest: how they operate under pressure, how they react to stress and confrontation. Kindness really does need to be the norm in more places, but only if people are prepared to listen to reason.

These changes matter far more than I first realised was the case.

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You can be emotional and reasonable. It is possible to be angry and coherent: you don’t have to grab a woman by the throat to escort them out of a room. There is a lot to be said for understanding the significance of appropriate response, especially in contentious or difficult situations. However, if more people did their homework, it would be remarkably easy to spot the wankers in the room.

You can do that yourself: read people’s feeds and don’t just rely on other people’s responses to you. Check their followers, see what they’re ingesting as news and current affairs. Most crucially however understand that you can be different AND STILL GET ON, but it requires a level of give and take that most people simply aren’t prepared to offer any more.

Imagine what would happen if famous people read the feeds of their online champions and realised that sometimes, what you are given is not the whole truth.

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The truth is never exactly as you think it is.

Airbag

At the end of each week, I have a widget thingummy that gets fired up, which lets the obsessive in me know who’d jumped the Twitter ship in the last seven days. This is important to me for several reason, mostly because this isn’t about maintaining a healthy follower count. I am ready to interact with every single person followed: the reality, of course, is that most people don’t want that. They’re here for other, nebulously uncategorisable ends. For me however, interacting with people is what this is all about.

Social media, remember?

Once upon a time the people who’d left would be paid scant attention, unless of course we’d interacted and then suddenly, without warning, that person simply left, normally with me still following them. This is bad form. You want to keep me as a follower, but not listen to me talk. Mute is no longer enough for you, it is time to remove me from your sphere, but without having to sacrifice that vital +1 I provide. That’s why people who do this now (and it’s obvious as to why as it was today) are instantly blocked, because two can play at that game.

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It’s also increasingly apparent who is just using their Twitter for self promotion, that when you speak to them you are met with inevitable silence. The more you interact with real, honest individuals via the platform, the more obvious it becomes who really is listening, and that’s absolutely crucial going forward. There are changes already making waves in my timeline, curation and management approaches that will blow wide apart how it is that some exploit this medium whilst others attempt to nurture it.

The man behind the curtain might be fooling some of the people, but crucially not all of them, and the more that is opened to critical appraisal, the less likely it will be that you’ll be able to get away with anything for too long. I’ve counted three authors this week who have highlighted that other people are more than willing to duplicate their work without permission. This is neither big nor clever, and yet it keeps happening. I’ve had my work scraped at least once in current memory. Eventually, people will start calling you out.

notdoingthatagain

Eventually, the real people are very easy to spot, and those who only turn up to further their own ends… well, they become even more apparent. With over 200k’s worth of tweets, I’m absolutely here for the long haul. It won’t be long until someone starts dragging up stuff from years ago to prove what a twat I can be and guess what? I am sometimes, just like everybody else. However, if you are going to treat me just as a follower and not a friend? Yeah, you can expect short shrift when you decide to fuck it up.

Sometimes, you don’t just walk away.

Timebomb Zone

Day 4: Wow, that’s a two hours I never want to repeat again. I’m utterly with Duncan Jones: kids are hard work. I know, they didn’t ask to be born and you were the one who make the choice [and therefore accept the responsibility], but BOY some days is it tough. Anxiety-producing, pain inflicting, nerve shreddingly tough. If the sun was out and the country hadn’t just imploded, it would be easier. Today therefore is penance, and I’m surprisingly okay with that.

The Next Chapter Bar

There’s a significant fork in the road up ahead. Watching my husband cycle last night, his level of fitness is a reminder that if things matter enough, you will find a way. I don’t eat badly, exercise more than has ever been the case before and slowly, so very slowly, improvement is coming. It is on days like today when I’m mentally wiped that those gains matter so much more. Pushing beyond comfort zones might not be the answer for some, but for me there are days when if I don’t, the consequences can be catastrophic.

I should have started this particular journey with more vigour about 20 years ago.

The Next Chapter Bar

Decided to enter a book contest with the manuscript that keeps getting rejected. It’s really good, deeply personal and largely autobiographical, and I know full well why nobody I’ve sent it to thus far has shown the slightest bit of interest. So, if it gets rejected AGAIN it doesn’t get rewritten a third time. It stays this way, and we look for specialist publishers to send it to, and if that fails I fucking publish it myself, because sometimes it isn’t about compromise. Sometimes, what matters most is the idea, as you wrote it, not how someone else wants you to tell the story.

Occasionally you don’t write in the hope someone else validates you. You need to validate yourself.

Freedom ’90

Life is funny.

If you ask me what has gotten me here, in 52 years of existence, I’m betting only a very few would know the part Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd had to play in that process. Moonlighting was an almost vital part of my late teens, and although it is fair to say it has not aged well, its part in my mid 1980’s life was… well, indispensable. This song, and the Billy Joel album it comes from, had been lost from my memory until first thing this morning. Suddenly, it demands another listen.

The lyrics to this song are amazingly apposite as a metaphor for myself.

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When I got to Mulberry Street for the first time the significance of past to present didn’t really register. It’s taken all this intervening time, with exercise and writing, to grasp that an awful lot of my past has been suppressed. The reasoning behind this isn’t a massive surprise, and isn’t the point of this post. I’m here this morning safe in the knowledge that I don’t need to panic. Hard work is it’s own reward, that’s not just one of those stupid things people say because they can’t get the critical notoriety so craved.

Yes, you can change your life to suit your soul’s desire.

I’m also amazed that after thirty two years of not hearing an album the words to every track exist with perfect recall, but I can’t remember the names of any of the people I studied with at either school or college. How exactly does that work?