The work starts here…

When I first started posting here more regularly – roughly three years ago, one of the things I wanted to document was the process of pulling together a pamphlet. I can’t guarantee it will be heavy on the insight. I suspect it will be more a case of following the usual rules (I think Roy Marshall has outlined the main ones here), but I think I’m on the edge of finding out for definite.

When I first got the news from Sheila at Red Squirrel Press that she would like to publish my work I was overjoyed (I still am), but 2023 seemed like light-years away at the time. Now it appears to be hurtling towards us.

With that in mind, I sat down in the garden this afternoon to begin the process.

I have been through the published and unpublished poems I have that I think constitute being “finished”. I’ve separated out the ones that don’t feel strong enough and then made a list of the likely candidates. The act of separating the weaker ones out has been strange as there are several in that pile that at one point felt like they would have been first names on the old metaphorical teamsheet, but now— while I have a fondness for them because of things like first print publication, first major acceptance, etc, they just don’t seem strong enough to warrant inclusion.

I’m working on the premise of circa 25 poems will make it in. The current list is at 27, with four more backups. There is so much to do, each one will need its tyres kicking to make sure it’s as strong as it could be, even the more recent ones where I think my writing has improved.

They’ve all got to earn their place, so after (or is it before) the above there’s the process of seeing how they talk to each other. Do I want sections? It’s sort of loosely fallen into 3 sections so far, but are they something to be called out? It seems like overkill in a pamphlet to me, but who knows if that will change? Do I need a theme? No, I don’t think so as yet. Not least because that probably means more poems need to be written and at the current rate of knots I wouldn’t be ready for 3023, let alone next year. Also, as much as I love a themed collection, it can get a bit samey. I don’t have a theme as yet, so it would be forced.

I’ve just reviewed a debut pamphlet by someone where the work seems to either have been written circa 2008ish (at least when it was first published somewhere) or more recently during lockdown, etc (based on the themes of the poems). I can’t tell which poems fell between those dates, but it feels like an old-fashioned debut of the best poems you have available in the best order and that is just absolutely dandy with me.

There will be loads more prevarications, changes, questions, pacing up and down, heavy drinking (not essential, but I like it) and the like to come, but this feels like day one, a marker in the sand, etc.

A poem

In recent weeks things have started to blur…ok in recent years things have started to blur, but certainly my old more productive routines have fallen away in a rush of work, house stuff and general whatnot-ery, but reading this poem recently, and having attempted to get back into the writing groove this weekend by clearly banning myself from doing any DIY, gardening or chores, means I have started to recover a sense of stopping to smell the roses (my dreadful sense of smell aside) and to take joy in the littler things.

I adore this poem and the first line of the second stanza is worth the entry fee alone.

Against MonotonyVona Groarke, taken from ‘Double Negative’, The Gallery Press

Today, a two-hundred mile drive and nothing
at the end of it but a glass of Merlot
and a radio fugue for voice and clarinet
which is a lot, when you think about it.

Oh, the squirrelling away of a snick of day
to come upon, unwontedly,
when the drive is polished concrete
and the playing fields, pure quartz:

that, right there, is a trick worth playing,
the kind of dark-blue, offhand trick
to be played maybe the once, and gently,
so you get away with it.


c50K running. 31K this week, including 10 miles this morning that were slow, but felt good.
4 trips to central London for work
1 birthday for me
5 Focus groups for work
8 actual Cds burned for a friend. How very old school.
0 massive hangovers, but I did try hard on Thursday evening
1 kitten still awaiting neutering
15ish (at least) journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
0 rejections:
0 poems finished:
2 poems worked on: Nature Abhors a Vacuum
0 poems published:
3 submissions: Poetry Review, 192, Acumen
1 acceptance: Bad Lillies
25 poems are currently out for submission. No poems left to submit beyond makeweights
75 Published poems
37 Poems* finished by unpublished
25 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
0 reviews finished:
3 reviews to write: How the fuck did that happen…I keep finishing them and then they keep coming.
2 day without cigarettes…I was doing so well, Oh well, back to it. As in giving up, not back to smoking.
0 Days since drinking
0 sleepless nights:
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

The Home for Retired Running Shoes
Not My Pablum
The Office of Official Fish Fingers


Stand: 19.3
Eavan Boland: The Historians


One Dove: Morning One Dove
Typhoon: Hunger & Thirst
Hatchie: Giving The World Away
Daniel Rossen: You Belong There
Thom Yorke: 4.17/That’s Just How Horses Are
The Appleseed Cast: Two Conversations
Agitation Free: Last
Sea Power: Everything Is Forever
The Brian Jonestown Massacre: Don’t Get Lost
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Green River, Pendulum, Wily and the Poor Boys
The Sundowners: Pulling Back The Night
Oren Ambachi: Ghosted
Matthew Halsall: Salute To The Sun Live
Elbow: Flying Dream 1
Guided By Voices: It’s Not them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them.
Symposium: One Day At A Time
Superchunk: Majesty Shredding
Melody’s Echo Chamber: Emotional Eternal
Charles Watson: Yes
The Cure: Concert
Mogwai: Come On Die Young
Keith Jarrett: Eyes of the Heart
HTRK: Over The Rainbow
Ben Ottewell: Shapes & Shadows
Ian McCulloch; Mysterio, Candleland, Slideling
Portron Portron Lopez: De Coléré Et D’Envie
Cranes: Loved
Margo Price: That’s How Rumours get Started
Sharon Van Etten: We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong
Albaster Deplume: Gold
Charlotte Cornfield: Highs In The Minuses
The Archers
Five Live: Arsenal Vs Leeds

Grace S2
Inside No.9 S6.E1 and 2
Slow Horses
Derry Girls

New running trainers
Sarah Mnatzaganian: Lemonade In The Armenian Quarter

New running trainers
Sarah Mnatzaganian: Lemonade In The Armenian Quarter

Inspiral Carpets – Dragging Me Down

3 thoughts on “The work starts here…

  1. Fab Vona Groake poem: thank you for that! I have HUGE difficulty remembering how to spell her name. I always think it’s Groark, and then I think of the Groke in the Moomins and then I give up…. MUST TRY HARDER.

    • Dammit, I knew I should have checked. I’ve fixed it. ow, but yes, what a fab poem and it’s a fab book. I’. Never m hoping to boost my Groarke collection. Don’t give up because of Moomins. We haven’t got a Moomin to lose.

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