joolz sparkes

writing, reading, being

So this is Christmas, and what have you done?

As the inevitable Christmas songs start to ring out, I’ve begun to assess my poeting year, and it appears as if 2019 was the year I did LOADS! (Thank you very much for reminding me to look back and reflect, John and Yoko.)


1. Wowee – I had my very first book published: London Undercurrents, a joint collaboration with Hilaire, which uncovers the hidden histories of London’s heroines north and south of the river. It took us five years to research, write, secure funding, employ a mentor and find a publisher – 2019 was the year we turned all those hours of endeavour into a physical book.

2. I experienced what it’s like to have the might of a passionate publisher behind you. Holland Park Press took a chance on us – they hadn’t seen us read, or met us, but they saw merit in our manuscript and I’m so glad they did. Bernadette Janseon op de Haar  came into our lives like a beautifully dressed whirlwind and, along with her brother Arnold, has been tirelessly promoting our book ever since, including securing us a reading spot at London Book Fair, and throwing a wonderful launch party at Art Workers Guild.

3. I felt the wonderfully happy/weird sensation of launching a book to a crowded room filled with people from many aspects of my life; family, non-poetry friends some of whom hand never heard me read before, poetry friends and colleagues, other authors from our publisher’s stable. Now I know what that feels like.

4. I also got to feel how it feels to sign my name on the title page of my book for a queue of eager readers, and found out how suddenly you can’t spell anyone’s name, not even your own, and your handwriting goes all wrong.

5. I got to go on the telly box. London LIVE tv channel interviewed us about London Undercurrents, you can watch it here. We had no script, no rehearsal and no idea what questions we were going to be asked – an extraordinary experience, trying to forget about the cameras, cables and lights, while trying to sound coherent and not hugely nervous. All this, while also perching on a low level sofa, which is something that gets less and less easy for me the older I get. Watching the show back later, we did good – we clearly know our stuff and the way we interacted with each other was a true reflection of the respect we have for each other as writers and people. Which leads me on to…

6. I realised how lucky I am to have such a lovely, respectful working relationship with my fellow author, Hilaire, and I continue to thank my lucky stars that we met at a Spread the Word workshop, because our friendship, both in the poetry world and outside of it, has enriched my life in so many ways.

7. In my own writing practice I got oh-so-close to having a pamphlet of poems published by Live Canon. Making it onto the long list of 14 pamphlets in the Live Canon Pamphlet Competition 2019, among such wonderful company of established talented poets, was the affirmation I needed to keep going. Maybe 2020 will be the year I find a publisher for my collection exploring how women navigate living in a patriarchal world. Bring it on.

8. I submitted to magazines, journals and publishers. Which all means that I must’ve been writing too. Due to many submission rules requiring non-simultaneous submissions, I’ve had to keep generating new work. Which brings me to…

9. I have written many, many first drafts and beginnings of poems and ‘things’ that might turn into poems or prose at Malika’s Poetry Kitchen sessions every other Friday. I love being part of MPK, not just because I get to be taught by and hang out with the wonderful Malika Booker who founded the collective, but I get to meet big names on the contemporary poetry scene and to feel a kinship with the other collective members who continue to support, share and nurture each other in a truly wonderful way. It’s a brilliant way of generating new work.

10. I earned some money from poetry. Not enough to retire on, that’s for sure, but enough to put a meal on the table and splurge out on coffee and cake, and enough to reinvest back into the purchasing of poetry books, tickets to readings and events.

So then, 2020 – what ya got for me?



The meeting of many worlds in Berlin

I’ve been the official Copywriter for BBA Gallery in Berlin for a few months now, creating publicity materials for shows and working together with the Directors Nele Ouwens and Renata Kudlacek to create a new Tone of Voice which has now been successfully rolled out across the content of their website, and social channels. So it was a real moment of pride when they asked me to don one of my other ‘writer’s hats’ – my poet hat – and to be their featured poet at the private view for their group show Poetics of Change. This touring show has travelled to Dubai, and seeing as I’d written the publicity materials for it, I knew just how brilliant it is and how lucky I would be to be a part of it in some way. So I packed my bag and headed out on an early flight for a whistle stop visit to Berlin.

Continue reading “The meeting of many worlds in Berlin”

Mini walking tour, north

Earlier in the year, shortly after the publication of London Undercurrents, a friend and poet from Japan was passing through London and asked me to take her to some of the locations of my north London Undercurrents poems, so that I could explain more about the culture of London life.

We met at Holloway Road tube, walked up the Holloway Road, back down to Islington, along Upper Street, veered off to Liverpool Road, then on into Barnsbury, stopping off for refreshment at The Albion pub and finishing up near Angel. At each stop I read the London Undercurrents poem that corresponded to the location: Hollywood comes to Holloway outside the Holloway Odeon; Regular Service outside what was once Jones Bros department store; Permitted to Play outside Arsenal Emirates Stadium; Paying for the Poor House outside what was once a poor house on Liverpool Road; A Lock In with Widow Liquorish outside the site of the Peacock Tavern. It was a great experience – like evoking the spirits from the dead and honouring the memory of many local women whose voices have gone unheard.

This might be something that co-author, Hilaire and I will take further – London Undercurrents walking tours. With actresses who read the poems at each stopping off point. Watch this space.

Photos by Hideko Sueoka

24 hours in Ledbury — London Undercurrents

How much poetry festival can you cram into 24 hours? Quite a lot. Ledbury Poetry Festival runs for 10 days in July, and this year we made it along for the final weekend. We arrived Saturday lunchtime and departed just over 24 hours later on Sunday as the…

via 24 hours in Ledbury — London Undercurrents

What reviewers are saying about London Undercurrents — London Undercurrents

To be seen. To be heard. To be understood. It’s made us a bit teary at times. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed our book – and thank you to all our readers. It’s what we did it all for – to communicate with our fellow human beings. If you’d like to review, or […]

via What reviewers are saying about London Undercurrents — London Undercurrents

South London – a homecoming launch — London Undercurrents

On Wednesday 17th July we read at Battersea Power Station. Woohoo! Hilaire writes: Okay, not actually inside the Power Station itself, which is still being restored, but in the nearby Marketing Suite.

via South London – a homecoming launch — London Undercurrents

A great turnout at Clapham Books — London Undercurrents

Despite an unexpected hitch, we had a full and lively audience at our reading at Clapham Books a fortnight ago. The Northern Line had been suspended between Kennington and Morden…

via A great turnout at Clapham Books — London Undercurrents

LBF Poetry Corner

A lovely write up of our London Undercurrents reading at LBF and Raymond Antrobus in the ascendant later on that same day


This really is a corner at LBF and sadly rather a noisy one, principally because of its proximity to coffee shops! However, this didn’t distract from the hardcore poetry lovers from perching on backless blocks or escape-proof bean bags, to enjoy a range of poetic offerings.

The first one I attended in full – I usually miss the opening because I have to dash the length of the Grand Hall to reach the event – was featuring two excellent poets, Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire reading from their new collection London Undercurrents.  Their work, which I have to say I found captivating, was inspired by the hidden histories of unsung heroines from their contrasting parts of London. 

North London based Joolz Sparkes (left) and South London based Hilaire (right) took turns reading extracts from their collection. The poems form a rich tapestry full of local colour throughout the ages combining…

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Made it into Magma

I can’t actually believe that I didn’t blog about this when it happened back in 2017. Getting a poem accepted by Magma has been No. 1 on my list of ‘I will be a proper poet when…’ ever since I started writing. And I have submitted and got rejections a few times.

But this time, success! I jumped up and down when I got the acceptance notification. I may have squealed, there was possibly a fist pump and a yell of YES!


The launch of Magma 68 Margins, took place at London Review of Books bookshop and I was asked to read. Reading at the London Review of Books bookshop is probably No 2. on my list of ‘I will be a proper poet when…’ So it’s ridiculous that I’ve waited until now to post about it. Maybe it’s because even when it was happening, none of it felt real? Oh the nerves were real alright. I was terrified. Here I was reading alongside Fleur Adcock and Katy Evans-Bush on hallowed ground. My knees were buckling and although I got positive feedback, I can see the tension in my body in the photos taken of me reading.

I think there are things in life that you build up and build up in your mind, and if/when they ever happen it’s too much to process at the time. It’s not until now, a year and a half later, that when I glance at my bookshelf and see my contributor’s copy of Magma, that it all feels real. Thank you to editors David Floyd and Lucy Howard-Taylor, and to the Magma Board members, particularly Lisa Kelly, for making a dream come true.

I’m just about to have another dream come true – my first joint poetry collection London Undercurrents, with poet Hilaire, is being published by Holland Park Press on Thursday 28th March, detail here.

A book.

That’s, like, No 1. on my list of ‘I will be a proper writer when…’

This time I vow to stay in the moment and to channel nervous energy into excitement instead. I very well may fist pump and yell YES too.

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