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?