At the start of this year I was planning on which poetry events I wanted to go to in order to publicise my new collection ‘It’s All In The Blood‘. I managed a few local ones, and had a slot booked to perform at a Ludlow poetry night, right at the beginning of March. Then 2020 hit its stride in the UK.
Flooding meant that I wasn’t able to get to Ludlow, and lockdown meant no more poetry nights. What was supposed to be a year of poetry and readings, turned into four months of searching for new nooks and crannies in the house to reorganise. Of course I started off with the best intentions. I was going to finish my novel, work on my next collection of poems, and submit to every journal and competition under the sun. I did work on my novel, and I did write a few new poems, but I’m not close to finishing either project. Submission went very much the same way. In fact I’ve spent the last two months avoiding my laptop, and writing very little at all.
On a more triumphant note, I had a poem accepted by The Fieldstone Review for publication in their 2020 issue, and forced myself to complete a submission for the first round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction. My submission for the Birdport Novel Prize didn’t go anywhere, but I gave it a shot and I’ve not abandoned the draft completely so that means I’ve got the first part of a novel to my name. All in all, I’ve managed a few small victories over lock-down and I’m going to focus on those rather than the sound of my self-imposed full first-draft deadline whizzing past my ear.
Since my options for marketing my poetry collection are limited, I’ve started work on the next collection. Oddly enough, it was the last poem in ‘It’s All About the Blood’ which inspired the theme. I’m undecided if it will be a chapbook, or a full collection, but I do know that the poems will all link back to water.
Even in a landlocked county,
it all flows back to water.
Wells bursting into lakes,
to spurn greedy landlords,
women sink beneath them
with pondweed for hair.’
Last year I was part of a folk festival at Acton Scott, a historic working farm in Shropshire. I wanted to write a poem that reflected an aspect of Shropshire folklore, and as always the theme eluded me right up until the last moment. The quote above is the first stanza of three. It’s quite a short poem, and only gives the briefest overview of Shropshire folklore. What amazed me though, was how many of the tales revolved around water. The River Severn cuts through Shropshire and is a prominent feature of the landscape, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was.
To make up for the shallow referencing in ‘Trickle Down’ (pun very much intended) I started researching the folklore and history of Shropshire. As I said earlier, I’ve written less than I would have liked but I’ve managed to put together a few poems which link in with Shropshire’s watery roots. The collection was going to focus on Shropshire entirely up until today when I started a new poem about the inundation of the Nile in Egypt. The Nile no longer floods as it use to, but the river was vital of ancient life. It was so important that their maps faced south towards the source of the Nile, rather than north.
By broadening the scope of this collection, I’m going to allow myself a lot more room for inspiration, and also give readers a more varied collection of poems. While I love Shropshire and all its oddities, I don’t think there are many out there who would want to read fifty odd poems on the topic. I can also buy lots more books about history and folklore from around the world and call in research. Research that is greatly needed if I’m going to jump-start the dormant creative juices that lock-down has effectively put to sleep.
Finding the new-normal can be a little bumpy, but it’s about time I made an effort to work out what mine is going to be. At the moment that means finishing off this blog post, going out for a run (my lock-down diet is making itself evident), and when I get back I’ll have another go at this Nile poem. I’m going to get this new collection off the ground one stanza at a time, even if it does feel like the world is on the verge of ending.