Sastry Claus: He Moved Me

One thing I’ve found myself doing more as the years progress is making notes in the email app on my phone. I do it for poems, things I need to do, ideas for things to write, etc. At the start of the week I made some notes in an email draft for this weeks blog. It was mean to follow on from the post last week about the wonderful news from Red Squirrel. OMG, what do you mean you’ve not seen it. Get yourself back a week. NB, while I’m here I have to say thank you to anyone that messaged me, posted a comment or like on Facebook/Twitter. My Facebook posts are rarely as popular unless I put up a photo of Florence.

Anyhoo, where was I ? Ah yes, so I make drafts for things, a lot. It’s not a perfect system, a lot of the time I forget to write it down in notes. For example, I had another theme for today all neatly outlined by the time I got back from my run this morning, and this week I’ve come up with at least ten more titles to giveaway that are now sadly lost to the fog at the edges of my brain (NB- Fog at the edge, etc is now on the list).

There is a point and here it comes…

In the week when I’m actually prepared/have thought things through it strikes me as Sod’s law that something else comes along that compels me to abandon my plans.

A good poem will often reach inside of you and cause you to sat “Yes, that’s exactly it” even when it’s not precisely that. A good thread on Twitter can also do the same thing, and such a thing arrived today.

I was scrolling through Twitter as an act of displacement to avoid cracking on with some re-drafting and I stumbled across this thread from Tom Sastry. Tom is a relative late-comer to the Twitter, but by Jove has he taken to it like the proverbial avian to H20.

While I’m here I must also point you in the direction of his excellent poems, either by buying his Nine Arches collection, A Man’s House Catches Fire, or his Smith |Doorstop pamphlet, Complicity or at the very least reading this. Please, also go and see Tom read. He’s also a brilliant performer and reader of his work. I would be happy to be half as good as him in front of an audience.


I’m getting distracted again, sorry. Back to Tom’s thread. It may just be the most perfect example of the right thing appearing when you need it. I’d like to think of myself as an early career poet and so this caught my eye – especially as despite the sheer joy of last week’s news the realisation that while I have lots of time to spare before 2023 arrives, it also means I have loads of time to worry of I’m good enough/worthy enough. Over-confidence is not an issue, but I read on…

I’ve taken screen shots as I’m rubbish at embedding threads on here, but the link above should take you to it in situ.

There is a lot to unpack and unpick here. More than one blog post will allow. Particularly the point about different levels of permission to experiment—I certainly want to come back to that point, but I’m not even sure what I think/understand of the issue to be able to say anything remotely coherent about it now.*

* This is not a guarantee that anything that follows is coherent either.

I’ve kind of touched upon the going back to old drafts point before. Clearly Tom says it in a far more eloquent way to me, but it’s reassuring. His point but the endless creativity before you slow down is one I can attest to. I have boxes of poems and ideas to work with – many I suspect will never see the light of day, but I love the idea of the productivity, but as we see in Santa Claus: The Movie (Stick with me, there’s a point to this swerve) the character of Patch shows us that productivity doesn’t always equate to quality. Sadly, I can’t find the clip of the scene where Patch’s Toy-making machine malfunctions, but hopefully you know what I’m talking about.

I can, however, find a clip of The Super Duper Looper, so perhaps I should make some sort of valiant attempt to compare the difficulty of transforming all the productivity into something that is definable as quality/working out how to define the nebulous notion of quality to the trickiness of performing the SDL.

But I probably shouldn’t, so I just hope you enjoyed the clip. Dudley Moore is a long way from Pete and Dud by the stage.

What does ring true and hit home for me (and probably should for almost every poet) is the part towards the end where he talks about being wrong about your work, that idea of being dependent on the new poem high.

Yesterday I had some feedback from the lovely Nell Nelson as part of her January Feedback window for Subscriber – a service that is sadly winding up now. Of the six poems I sent her there was one that I was confident would be a standout. And I was half right. It was the one that she was the least positive about. I 100% agree with just about everything she says about it, and the other five poems, but the feedback on this one has rocked me. I have gone from thinking I have a straightin-at-number-one success story on my hands to something that will be lucky to be included in a 20th anniversary boxset.

I am, however, also still a believer in this poem and the idea behind it, so I am girding my teeth and gritting my loins to go back to it and MAKE IT WORK.

Thank you, Tom. Thank you, Nell. And thank you, you.

TITLE GIVEAWAY

  1. The Old Switcheroo 
  2. Trickier than pulling teeth out of a Hen
  3. Hen’s Dentist
  4. Never an Oeuf
  5. Len’s Flare
  6. Len’s Flair
  7. Boutros- Boutros Svengali
  8. Planting Fig Trees
  9. Guerilla Gardening
  10. Scabby Horse
  11. Start With the Punchline and Work Backwards
  12. Big Dogs
  13. Fog At the Edges of my Brain

THE WEEK IN STATS

38.9k running – The 0.9 is very important.

20 days on the bounce of running. Although today I said 21, having a) counted NYE -which is fine and b) made up a day – which is not

5 Poems worked on – Cycle, Working Out, A Short Survey, I nearly died (although it has a new title at present), Editing The Arecibo Message. Basically 5 of the 6 poems I sent Nell.

3 poems fedback to a friend

1 Running Club inaugural evening. Spent with the people I normally run with because the rest dropped out.

18 days without cigarettes. We’ll see.

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

READ, SEEN, ETC

Read: 
Sightings – Kathleen Jamie – Finished this week, don’t know how it’s taken me so long
Becoming Faiake, Jo Reed Turner
Guabancex – Celia A Sorhaindo
The End – Gareth Writer-Davies


Watched: 
The Masked Singer, Succession (S2E5-10), The Dirty Dozen, The Wild Geese, Love Island

Listened to: 
Beth Orton, Comfort of Strangers
Adem, Seconds Are Acorns
Margo Price, All American Made
Mazzy Star, Seasons of Your Day, Among My Swan, So Tonight That I Might See
Laura Marling, Semper Femina
Lucy Dacus, Historian
Slow Club, One Day All of this Won’t Matter Anymore, Complete Surrender
The Verb, Publishing Podcast
and of course, The Archers…

I must be ‘Dreymin’: On Becoming A Red Squirrel

I’ve spent a long time thinking how I’d say this, but now that I find myself able to actually write the words I have absolutely no idea how to say it, so I just will…

I have a book coming out!!! An actual book of my poems is going to exist!!!

The lovely Sheila Wakefield at Red Squirrel Press is going to publish a pamphlet of my work in 2023…I can’t wait. I mean, have you seen their books? They are beautifully produced things, and the ones I’ve read have been wonderful. I look forward to reading more of them. Oh yes, and the idea that I’ll have someone like Gerry Cambridge designing and typesetting my poems is a bit of a dream come true.

There is no recorded footage of me receiving the news, so please make do with this fairly accurate recreation of the celebrations.

Not actual footage. I was too stunned to record anything at the time.

Looking forward, I plan to use this blog as a way of documenting the process of getting a book out. At present there isn’t much to say other than that it will exist and that I am overjoyed to be joining the ranks of Red Squirrel Press poets. I wonder if they are they known as a Drey???

I suspect the poems I want to include now might not be the same in a year or two, or the title I have in mind now could be wildly different, but I have a line up of poems for it in my head now which I will write down in the next week or so to post here.

There are lots of people to thank, but for now all I will say is thank you to Matthew Stewart for suggesting I get in touch with RSP and to Sheila for getting back to me and saying yes.

Now, 2023 may sound like a long way off, but it really isn’t. It gives me plenty of time for prevarication, panic and properly working to make it the best it possibly can be. And to read more RSP poets…

I’ve picked the wrong month to lay off the drink, but please join me in raising a glass of something.

The gift that keeps on giving

Yesterday was a bit of a shocker for the poetry world, the death of Roddy Lumsden has hit a lot of people hard. He seemed to be a poet that was very much about celebrating other poets and bringing people into the fold – I’ve seen a lot of folk talking about this on various social medias…celebrations of the man, tempered with grief at his loss. My thoughts are with them and with his family.

I didn’t know much of his work, but what I did know I liked. His was a body of work that I have always been getting round to – on the mental list of poets to get hold of. I only have one of his books, The Bells of Hope, which I like a lot, so I have no idea why I’ve not gone further with his stuff, but I’m sure I’ll get round to it.

For now, here are two poems from The Bells that I really like and seem to be apt for the moment.

The Haunt, The Bells of Hope
The Approximation, The Bells of Hope

In the spirit of trying to spread some poetry-based joy I have two books to offer up. I find I have spare copies of Polly Atkin’s ‘With Invisible Rain‘ and Paul Stephenson’s ‘The Days That Followed Paris‘.

Both are excellent books that deserve a loving home. I will happily send them on to anywhere in the UK – either both or to separate homes. Leave me a message below and I’ll be in touch. * UPDATE – THESE HAVE NOW GONE*

Polly Atkin, With Invisible Rain
Paul Stephenson, The Days That Followed Paris

TITLE GIVEAWAY

  1. Dad Bod
  2. Dad, Bod
  3. Bod, Dad
  4. Bod Dad
  5. Light Seconds

THE WEEK IN STATS

36.5k running – The 0.5 is very important.

13 days on the bounce of running.

2 Poems worked on – Cycle and Working Out.

1 Running Club set up, possibly – more news later

1 utterly awesome bit of news

10 days without cigarettes. We’ll see.

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

READ, SEEN, ETC

Read: 
Sightings – Kathleen Jamie
North, #63
Gopagilla – Roy Marshall


Watched: 
The Masked Singer, Succession (S2E2), Knives Out, The Dark of the Sun, The Dirty Dozen, Hidden (eps 4-8)

Listened to: 
Tindersticks, No Treasure But Hope, The Waiting Room, Falling Down A Mountain
Girl Ray, Girl
Emily Capell, Combat Frock
The Go-Betweens, Spring Hill Fair
Screaming Trees, Sweet Oblivion
Yorkston/Thorne/Khan, Everything Sacred & Neuk Wight Delhi
Mogwai, Kin
Grandbag’s Funeral – A new podcast
and of course, The Archers…

ReJaRuMo

If I may be permitted to quote Eddie Murphy’s character, Billy Ray, from Trading Places…MERRY NEW YEAR!!!

Incidentally, is Trading Places a Christmas film? If Die Hard is, can Trading Places be categorised in a similar way??? Yep, dealing with the big questions in 2020…

Now, I’m not one for the making of and the hanging of hats on huge resolutions. Been there, done that, can no longer fit into the T-shirt, but this month I’ve set myself the challenge of running every day in January. I’m trying to run 5K a day, but even one will do.

It’s part of a campaign called Red January by MIND to raise awareness of mental health issues. I was first introduced to it by a dear friend last year. He subsequently went on to run every day in 2019 – and has even kept it going into 2020. It’s quite astounding his dedication to this, and I suspect a lot of his persistence is down to habit and momentum: the act of showing up is at least half the battle, etc.

If I was a total wanker (or more of one), I’d attempt to make some sort of connection between the act of running every day and the idea turning up at the page every day to make an effort – eg for just 30 minutes, but I worry that I’d be tempted to call it something like ReJaRuMo.

And while I’m not casting aspersions on things like NaPoWriMo – it’s just not something for me. I’ve tried it and I didn’t like it. I think every draft of anything written during that time has been consigned to the rejects pile.

I’m sure the act of getting out and about will yield something useful somewhere down the line – the chance to let my mind wander will help. Maybe, I should read a draft of something and repeat it to myself as I run to find new ways into it – assuming my breath holds out for long enough. It can be hard enough to breath to stay alive sometimes, let alone chant half-finished poems.

We’ll see – let’s finish January and see if I’m still alive. It’s only day five, but there’s lots to look forward to.

TITLE GIVEAWAY

  1. A Momentary Stay of Execution
  2. Toodlepip
  3. You Can Lead a Hose to Water
  4. Ironing Pile
  5. Maintaining The Status Quo status quo
  6. Lost in the K-Hope
  7. Magaluf Mega-cops

THE WEEK IN STATS

39.8k running – The 0.8 is very important.

3 Poems worked on – Having said all of the above, I’ve managed to sit down today and work on some stuff: Phantom Settlements, Cycle and Working Out.

2 Days back at work

4 days without cigarettes. We’ll see.

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

READ, SEEN, ETC

Read: 
Sightings – Kathleen Jamie
North, #63
The Long Woman – Charlotte Gann
A fascinating article about Paper Towels Vs Hand -Dryers (No, comeback..)

Watched: 
Guilt (Available on iPlayer till Wednesday), The Masked Singer

Listened to: 
The National, High Violet, Boxer, Alligator, Cherry Tree, Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, Trouble Will Find Me, I Am Easy To Find, Sleep Well Beast, The National
and of course, The Archers…

The Last Post…

of 2020. I had planned to witter on about hitting my arbitrary running target and to make some leap of faith that allowed me to talk about writing and running being similar. Some gibberish about it being about showing up and putting one foot in front of the other, etc.

However, a poorly wife and me being sick for most of Xmas has robbed me of much oomph or interest in writing that post. It won’t change anything in the grand scheme of things if it doesn’t get written.

Instead, I’m choosing to wrestle something positive out of a shite situation.

A dear friend of mine, someone I’ve known since primary school, but haven’t talked to for a while messaged me last week to let me know that her father had died.

I hadn’t known him well, but I remember him from the village I grew up in. He always seemed like a lovely man. I don’t know what happened to him in the intervening years after he left the village, but he died after a long battle with Alzheimers. Is it a battle, I’m not sure that’s the right word for the situation? I suspect my friend did most of the battling.

I recall a conversation between us earlier in the year (Subs to check actual dates) and we’d talked about poetry and suggested a few things to read that the other might like or not know of yet.

I must have had this in mind the other night when it dawned on me that Lavinia Greenlaw’s latest collection, The Built Environment, might be something that could help my friend; it being concerned with Greenlaw’s father and his own illness.

I’ve sent her a few poems from the first section to read now and another couple from the second section for reading in the new year, following the funeral.

I’m including this one from the second section as it seems as good a poem as any to have at a time of the year when we look to the future. I think it works in the context of the whole collection/the situations outlined above, but also a positive note for now regardless of the situation.

Chroma, by Lavinia Greenlaw – Taken from The Built Environment

Other than that, I’d just like to say a massive thank you to anyone that’s read these ramblings this year. I don’t know of I will manage weekly posts next year, I’ll try, but it does seem like a weird target. I’d like to say the quality will improve if I reduce the quantity, but I can’t guarantee that either.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year and that 2020 is an awesome year for you.

TITLE GIVEAWAY

  1. Turn Out The Lights On Your Way Out
  2. You Look Like You’ve Lost A Fiver And Found Ten Pence
  3. Selection Box
  4. Sock Curry
  5. Boxsets and Blankets

THE WEEK IN STATS

5k running – A quiet week, this week has largely been spent feeling grim after a bout of lurg. I had to get out and meet my arbitrary target for the year though, I was 5k short of 1,300k for the year on Boxing Day so went out and ground them out. I was expecting to be met with fireworks, etc as I crossed the mental line, but I didn’t. I suspect that was more due to tiredness and illness, so bring on the NYE run. And 2020…a marathon, maybe??

0 Poems worked on – Nope, nowt, nada, zilch, nish, and fuck all. Who cares? It’s only poetry.

1 new Star Wars film watched

5 days without cigarettes. We’ll see.

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

READ, SEEN, ETC

Read: 
Gaudent Angeli – Mary O’Malley
North, #63
Element – Rachel McCarthy


Ordered: 
1 set of Stove Glass beading to fix my wood burner – How frightfully Middle Class!

Watched: 
The New Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith (Blame Flo, I hate that film), Godfather 2, Paddington 2,

Listened to: 
The Highwomen, The Highwomen
Park Jiha, Philos
Juliana Barwick , Circumstances Synthesis
The National, I Am Easy To Find
Trembling Bells, Wide Majestic Aire
and of course, The Archers…

The original by Dinosaur Jr seemed a bit noisy for today, but it is ace..
Fuck it, have them both

Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Buildings and Loans…

It’s finally happened…I’ve finally seen It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s only take 43 years, but how wonderful is that film? It’s not without it’s issues, given the time it was filmed, but there was a certain moisture about my eyes when it finished. I think I shall have to make it an annual tradition.

I think I am in love with Donna Reed

Speaking of new annual traditions, there seemed to be a positive response to last week’s stats round up, so that will become an annual thing too.

It is worth pointing out that it wasn’t 161 individual poems sent out. I haven’t got that many poems. By my calculations it was an average of 4 poems per mag across 38 attempts. Some magazines I’ve had more than one attempt at, others need more attempts. A couple I’m just giving up on. I think it’s clear my work isn’t for them and that’s fine.

I managed to tempt fate and did get a new data point at the end of the week with a note about being declined by Ink Sweat and Tears. I was very grateful to Helen and Kate for taking an early version of a poem by me, so I was sad not to get in there again, but with two days left at work and a Radio Times to be marked up, I think I’ll be ok.

In other news, I finally got round to paying in the cash raised on the night from the Rogue Strands night..I know, I know, it was sat on the shelf at home and I kept forgetting to take it in to work, but it is done now. It takes our total raised up to £390. I’m happy with that. I’d like more, and obvs you can still donate here, but it’s all going to help at this time of year.

Right, eyes down for the end of the year

TITLE GIVEAWAY

  1. Even Lizards Succumb to Optical Illusions
  2. No Man Is An Iliad
  3. No Man is Isla St Clair

THE WEEK IN STATS

43k running – After an 18K run in the rain earlier, I’m 5K short of my 1300K target for the year. I think I can do it. It’s mad that I’m even contemplating this given where I was at this time last year.

0 Poems worked on – I tried to do something earlier in the week and had nothing

1 baby cuddled. Thanks Clara


1 colleague lost to another company – Bye Allie.

1 friend’s dad gone. Bye Ivan.

0 days without cigarettes. I was doing so well, then had a bit of a relapse this week. Oh well, onwards and sideways…

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

READ, SEEN, ETC

Read: 
Gaudent Angeli – Mary O’Malley
Sightlines, Kathleen Jamie
Orbis #189

Ordered: 
All the Xmas presents

Watched: 
Last two eps of Giri/Haji – What a wonderful bit of TV.

Listened to: 
The Go-Betweens, Oceans Apart & The Friends of Rachel Worth
The Cure, Show and Disintergration
Julian Cope , Rite and Rite Bastard
and of course, The Archers…

And when I get that feeling, I need 'Statsual Healing'

I promised myself at the start of this year that I’d try and write a post every week of this year. I’ve pretty much achieved this (either by hook or by crook) and most of the time it’s usually ok coming up with a theme or finding something to write about, but I’ve found myself running out of steam in the last couple of weeks. I think it’s been a good thing to do and I definitely want to keep it going next year.

For starters, it’s meant that I’ve leapt straight to the top of Matthew Stewarts’ top Poetry Blogs of 2019 list…In with a bang!

In his round up Matthew mentions the slow withdrawal from blogging by a lot of poets. The reasons are multiple, for example people get busy, people get tired, they stop writing or the move to social media can have an impact, and far be it from me to say I’ll still have the energy for this in a year’s time, but for now I’ll keep going. Rejoice…Rejoice..

NB: He doesn’t say that it’s in any particular order, but I totally see that it’s a descending list. Well, I do for the purposes of this paragraph. Beyond this, it’s very much not—have you seen the list?

TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHART

I think, given the closeness to the end of the year I think it’s safe to post these charts. I’m also doing this to attempt to tempt the Gods of submissions to accept a few more of the poems I have out at present just to mess these charts up.

Year On Year, figures…

On the face of things it’s been a good year for me, my acceptances have gone up – a 50% increase year-on-year. In the interest of clarity one of the poems accepted this year has been published in a previous year, but in an old version. I’ve also not included that year in the data as I think it better to concentrate on 2017 onwards. I started taking things more seriously then, so I’m looking at data from then too. Also worth noting that one of the 2019 poems won’t be available till Feb 2020, but the acceptance falls in this calendar year, so I’m having it now.

While being up YOY is a good thing, it’s worth factoring in the increase in submission numbers, an almost 100% increase (not charted). I also note that my success rate is actually getting worse. What I haven’t factored in is the type of place the acceptances are coming from – that feels like it’s a more qualitative assessment. I’ll save that for another time, but I will at least say that the year includes two sets of 3 poems published in print. I’m happy with that. There are still many places I’d like to be published in, but on balance I think I can be very happy with this year.

Almost everything I have that is unpublished is out there with mags at present, so the next few months are about generating some more finished work. I’d like some more poems to send out and hopefully increase the acceptances next year.

Now, what the blazes am I going to write about next week?

TITLE GIVEAWAY

  1. Lizard Let Die
  2. What Is The Point of Arsenal Right Now?
  3. One Ill Octopus for Six Quid
  4. 300 Jars
  5. Build Me A Buttercup

THE WEEK IN STATS

28k running – Not a bad week. I’m 51K short of my 1300K target for the year. I think I can do it. It’s mad that I’m even contemplating this given where I was at this time last year.

4 Poems worked on – A Short Survey (I thought I’d finished this, but some new lines presented themselves), Working Out, Cycle and Follow That Taxi

1 shite result in the General election

1 Xmas present bought. Tomorrow’s job is to finish the rest.

0 days without cigarettes. I was doing so well, then had a bit of a relapse this week. Oh well, onwards and sideways…

2 reviews sent off  – You’ll see when you see.

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

READ, SEEN, ETC

Read: 
Craft – Ed by Rishi Dastidar 
Dad, Remember You’re Dead – Jacqueline Saphra

Ordered: 
1 Xmas present
1 x replacement copies of Rishi’s Break Of A Wave and Rebecca Perry’s Beaches that I’d given away

Watched: 
3 eps of Giri/Haji – Very much enjoying it

Listened to: 
The Hollies, Distant Light
Explosions In The Sky, Prince Avalanche and Manglehorn Soundtracks
Balmorhea, Constellations and Clear Language
Julian Cope , Citizen Cain’d and Dark Orgasm
The Cinema Under The Stairs Podcast, ep9
The Verb on Sports Writing
and of course, The Archers…