joolz sparkes

writing, reading, being

All the fun of the fair — London Undercurrents (me, Hilaire and HPP)

The Free Verse Poetry Book and Magazine Fair, that is.

via All the fun of the fair — London Undercurrents

Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire — Something Rhymed — London Undercurrents

This month Something Rhymed eavesdrops on a conversation between poets Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire, who let us in on the friendship behind their jointly published poetry collection with Holland Park Press. The culmination of five years’ research and development, part-funded by Arts Council England, London Undercurrents explores the hidden histories of London’s unsung heroines north […] […]

via Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire — Something Rhymed — London Undercurrents

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

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