Hello all! It’s time to regale you with details of last week’s very exciting poetry course, run by the fabulous poets Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley. My, it was good! It gave me just the poetic kickstart I needed after feeling rather blocked.
You see, it’s no great secret that last year I suffered with moderate depression. I’m not going to go into detail about that just now, but suffice to say that I was unable to write poetry for quite a while. I’d become cripplingly self-conscious, and most of the time I felt like I was slightly outside myself, watching this unfamiliar person lead a perfectly good life that she was unable to enjoy and partake in fully. Although there was a lot to be grateful for, 2013 wasn’t a very happy year. Thankfully, I’m feeling much better these days – part of my recovery involved adopting a bundle of fur named Ozzie (who looms pretty large in these blog posts!) and rediscovering my love of poetry. Which is why I decided that I simply had to go on a poetry retreat this year.
I chose Kim and Jennifer’s course because the idea of ‘encounters and collisions’ sounded right up my street – both in terms of what I’m interested in as a poet, and what I write about as an academic. Ghosts, bodies, animals, the landscape and ‘others’ were promised, and I was really looking forward to discover where such collisions would take me. I’d also met Kim before, when she came to Cardiff to read at the XX Women’s Festival, and I’m a huge fan of hers. Her poetry pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves was the winner of the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition, and she is also an Eric Gregory Award holder, amongst other accolades. She’s just announced that her first collection will be published by Seren next year, and she is also about to become the Digital Poet in Residence for the Poetry School. I’m really looking forward to reading more of her work, which is fantastic.
Likewise, Jennifer Copley is brilliant. Her newest collection Sisters , which takes for its inspiration a nineteenth-century post-mortem photograph of two standing girls with their backs to the camera, is deeply haunting. Jennifer builds a world in which these motherless sisters live with their abusive father and straight-laced grandmother. Jennifer too is a prize-winning poet, and has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. She is the author of seven collections – and is so lovely and encouraging to boot. I felt like I could tell her anything.
The week itself exceeded expectations. Grange Over Sands is beautiful – look:
The other participants were very welcoming and produced such strong poetry. All were far more experienced than me, and when it came to workshopping one of my poems on the final day, that really helped. Our workshops were varied; there was something to suit every style of working – from free writing exercises to examining a selection of animal skulls (seal, cow, porpoise and deer). One of my favourites was the exercise in which we were asked to write a poem to our bodies.
There were also two mystery poets – Andrew Forster and Carole Coates. They were both wonderful, and very different. Andrew read about his encounters with animals such as deer and snakes; Carole submerged us in a dystopian world in which women were subjugated by a Christian cult, were forced to wear masks and were buried alive for rebelling.
I couldn’t have asked for more. I left the week with a clutch of newly-hatched poems held carefully in my notebook, all geared up to start submitting again.