Six poems written overall in 2020, which is not only more than I usually write in a year, but I also feel they're some of my best work. However given that one of them spent two years being written on a note app on my phone, and the rest were written late at night while suffering from insomnia, this doesn't appear to be a sustainable practice.
So after saying I'd be more proactive I disappeared again. Mostly I've been keeping my poems in circulation, and working on a couple of new ones. I had a bit of a slump over May and June and didn't turn around anything that came back, so getting everything back out today took a while. Sixteen submissions later and I'm done, hopefully not to see them again for a while...
Since I'm being a bit more proactive on the poetry front these days I've decided to do a proper separation of poetry and my speculative fiction writing, including moving old poems to under this name. I now have a website, and have reactivated social media links on Twitter and Facebook. Several poems are available at Curious Fictions, although you may still see them under the old name where they were originally published.
My speculative fiction work remains under the name C.L. Holland, and my website can be found here. I also have profiles on Twitter and Facebook, and a blog at Dreamwidth although the content here is mirrored on the website.
I got a bit behind on my submissions, because I was self-rejecting and not sending anything out. But poetry is subjective, and even if you've read the magazine that you're submitting to the editor is the best person to make the call on whether your work is suitable. So now everything is back out.
You'd think sending poetry out in batches was quicker and easier than sending out a piece at a time, but it's really not. You still have to check all four or five pieces to make sure you're not resubmitting. Then you have to combine them all into a single document and format to market requirements as there isn't really a standard.
Now I need to Write More Poems. I bought Robert Lee Brewer's Smash Poetry Journal to help with that (he's the guy who does Poem a Day), but it will probably end up like the other writing prompt books I've bought - I just can't seem to write in them. And I started a poem, but needed to look something up in a particular book that I can't find despite the fact it's never left the house.
I'll get there.
This is a poem I wrote in response to Brexit, mostly out of anger at the hypocrisy of people who want to deport EU nationals but still eat in French, Italian, Greek etc restaurants. Who do they think is going to cook all that food for them?
Off the Menu
by Lucy Gabriel
Welcome to the Albion Arms!
Previously the George and Dragon --
he was Greek (George, that is),
so we've reclaimed our sovereignty.
Here's our new menu,
we've changed the jacket from red to blue.
No longer a foreign affair,
we only serve the best of British here.
Pasta, while popular, has no place.
No lasagne, carbonara, macaroni cheese.
Likewise tapas and taster plates.
You'll be pleased to see we've got the EU out.
Curry is counter-cultural.
Chicken tikka masala, born here
but its ancestry is from the colonies.
We don't use seasonings spicier than salt.
We've made changes to breakfast,
the "Full English" isn't quite.
Baked beans are American as apple pie,
tomatoes Mexican, and hash browns, well--
potatoes are a problem.
Originally from Peru,
they've integrated well
but aren't exactly native.
Which means no fish and chips,
bangers and mash, bubble and squeak.
The Sunday roast is missing some trimmings,
don't get me started on the origins of onions.
What's that, not your cup of tea?
Not a problem, we don't serve it here.
There's a reason they say
not for all the tea in China.
Since I used up my first rights on the Sea Music anthology for this one:
Dare the Waves
by Lucy Gabriel
my plastic bucket is full
of stripes and swirls
made bright by sea water.
I chase waves
and build castles
that dry and crumble,
or are washed away by tide,
and build them again.
sandcastles are an exercise
The shells have dulled
in a bowl on my windowsill
Too old for bucket and spade,
too self-conscious for swimsuits,
there's nothing to do
but sit in the sun
with sand disappearing
up my butt crack.
I only go when it's quiet,
after the crowds,
to walk barefoot in waves
that wet rolled up trousers.
Dog walkers nod and smile,
while I fill pockets with treasures
still damp with sand,
build free-form castles
and dare the waves to take them.
Back in September I went to a poetry workshop run by Becci Louise. It was part of an initiative by a local museum to support the upkeep and promotion of Sea Music, a sculpture by Anthony Caro.
Due to issues with promoting the workshop on the website only a few people turned up, but that made for a cosier and less classroom atmosphere. We were amply supplied with tea, coffee and biscuits, although Becci's companion parrot Maya forcefully let us know she wanted to share in the latter.
We started with a few minutes of drawing our interpretation of the spirit of the sea. We also did some free writing to Clocks and Clouds' Towers Fall Into the Sea, a majestic track that I felt was a little ruined by the pop-style drums. We also browsed some images of the sea, both artwork and pictures of some of the more unusual creatures that inhabit it. Throughout Becci asked us to write poems based on each of the exercises.
We also shared our opinions of Sea Music, and our thoughts about the sea. I reflected on how mine has changed as I've grown older. That led to more poems.
After lunch there was time for a little more work and chat, but then a cameraman turned up to film Becci reading her poems as part of the promotion. The rest of us left to finish our works, as it had been asked if we'd be willing to donate one or two to an anthology Becci was putting together to support the planned exhibition.
The exhibition itself opened on 21st October. I donated two poems, "Storm and Spirit" and "Dare the Waves", and received a copy of the hand-made anthology. There was also a collection by Becci herself, of the work she wrote while Writer in Residence.
I'm not normally a fan of workshops, but really enjoyed this one. Becci was expert at coaxing words out of even shy or reluctant poets (seriously, I hate free writing), and there was no pressure to share. I'd go to another, given the opportunity.
While it's possible to get inspiration for poems from what's going on in the world (the news, family events), sometimes I find I need a little help to get started.
I've got a Poetry Prompt Pot, basically a jar in which I keep prompts from writing magazines, and leftovers from Poem a Day. If I'm stuck I can pull a prompt from there, although I usually pick three and throw two back.
There are also several sources online. The Poetry Society has a page of prompts, as does Creative Writing Now, and Writers Digest posts up a fresh prompt every Wednesday. Robert Peake's website has a prompt generator that will provide a list of words, a challenge (eg "Refer to an an extreme or intemperate landscape" and an image - plenty to combine for inspiration. The Visual Writing Prompts blog provides a selection of image/instructional prompts based on the genre of prompt you choose. There are probably apps as well, although I haven't personally tried any.
So plenty to be going on with, and thousands more at the click of a Google search. The only problem is finding time to use them all!
I've done number of poetry courses over the years, so I thought I'd share some of what I've learned. In bullet points to begin with, although some of these will be worth a blog post of their own.