Trigger warning: this post mentions harassment and assault.
According to the Poetry Foundation, the term ‘Confessional Poetry’ came into use in 1959. “Confessional poets wrote in direct, colloquial speech rhythms and used images that reflected intense psychological experiences, often culled from childhood or battles with mental illness or breakdown. They tended to utilize sequences, emphasizing connections between poems. They grounded their work in actual events, referred to real persons, and refused any metaphorical transformation of intimate details into universal symbols.” [Confessional Poetry, National Poetry Foundation].
Take for instance the poet Isabella Dorta. With around one million followers on TikTok, she is a successful poet who openly calls herself a confessional poet. Her poetry is inspired by past relationships, and personal experiences. Her poetry creates an instant connection with audiences because often she is talking about shared experiences: love, heartbreak, betrayal, and jealousy, which are universal emotions.
A lot of us have written love poems at some point or another.
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When I started writing my second collection, I thought I was writing a pamphlet of poems about Shropshire folklore, and the way that water weaves through so much of it. That assumption made sense at the time, as the idea stemmed from my poem ‘Trickle Down’, but as I kept writing, different pieces of history and myth started to work their way into the manuscript. I realised I was working on something bigger than a pamphlet, and Shropshire was only part of the puzzle. The pamphlet that I’d been calling ‘Water, Witches, and Women’ started to become ‘Stone Tongued’.
The collection isn’t finished, but since it’s International Women’s History Month, I wanted to to talk about some of the Shropshire women (and women linked with Shropshire) that have inspired poems. The collection pulls from history and myth, so in places the line between those two gets a little blurred. There are stories I couldn’t have included if I was writing a traditional history, because I cannot reference the source material. Writing poems about these poem allows me to focus on finding their voices, rather than double checking my footnotes.
In this post I’m going to be going voice to five women (ten if you count carefully). Kathryn Garner who was tried for witchcraft, Placida who was a Roman woman living in Britain, Mary Jones who was a resident in the Oswestry House of Industry, Hafren an ancient British princess, and Ginny Greenteeth the water hag. I will hand you over to them:
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Babies and poetry don’t mix. I don’t remember who said that to me, but I remember it being said, and it stuck. The dread it inspired when I started to consider how being a mum and a poet would work still lurks in the back of my brain, and I probably spend more time than I should be worried over the subject. This post isn’t a how-to on balancing motherhood and writing, but it is my personal experience of how I’ve managed those two elements of myself so far. ‘One size fits all’ is almost always a lie, and it’s important that we share our experiences openly and honestly so that others can find the path that works best for them. Parenthood is riddled with judgements, the sense that we’re not doing enough, and that someone is always doing it better. In reality, most of us are doing our best and that is enough. We don’t need to be perfect, we just need to be ourselves. Finding how we do that is sometimes the hardest part.
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These are just the events that I know of – so if you have any that would fit on this list please do leave the details in the comments and I will update.
Monthly Open Mics:
Natter Bolton – run by Romina Ramos and Stuart Beveridge in Bolton.
Shrewsbury Poetry – runs the first Thursday of each month, alternating between in-person and zoom. Details can be found on Facebook for each in-person event. The next zoom is Thursday 02/03/2023 and the person to contact about details is Jean Atkins.
Poems & Pints – Macclesfield – runs the first Wednesday of each month at The Button Warehouse in Macclesfield – events are listed on Facebook
Nantwich & Crewe Writers – meets once a month at Hopes & Beams in Crewe.
Poetry Whitchurch – runs the third Monday of each month, alternating between in-person and zoom. The March meeting will be a zoom meeting and log in details can be obtained by containing the charity through the Facebook page.
Northern Poets Society – Follow the Northern Poets Society on twitter or Instagram (@northerpoetssociety) for the exact dates on this monthly open mic. It runs virtually through zoom once a month, with in-person events throughout the year at various places such as the Manchester Art Gallery, and Clitheroe Castle.
Cirque-du-Artswarm – this is a bi-monthly event and not limited to poetry. The next night is Saturday 20th May in the Wistaston Memorial Hall in Crewe. Run by Mark Sheeky.
Word Stafford – Next open mic is Monday 3rd April due to the poetry slam taking place in March.
Wordcraft – currently on hiatus – but events are hybrid!
Stone Scratch Night – Second Thursday of each month at the Wren in Stone.
Malpass Poetry – Second Friday of each month at Magpie bookshop in Malpass, Shropshire.
There is so much sky in this county, it stretches from one horizon
to the other, and a string of clouds scattered like vertebra
arch, their edges pink, and hazy, the sun sitting low
beneath this smudged spine
and in response my own joints loosen, unlock,
lungs fill and grow
until they are as big as this county, as big as the sky
finally full, finally home.
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