This is the story of the first year of my poetry blog And Other Poems where I’ve posted over 200 poems by 177 poets
Whether I continue to add poems to the blog will depend on the quality of work that’s sent to it and my own commitments. Anyone who has ever been involved in running a poetry blog will know the hours taken up by opening emails (God Bless the poets who send poems in the body of an email), reading submissions, corresponding with poets, proofreading, laying out poems in WordPress (never have I felt greater love for poets using regular spacing and line breaks), publishing posts and promoting the blog through social media. I’ve had a fantastic year, I’ve made friends through email, Twitter and Facebook and I’ve bought and read many pamphlets and books because of the work I’ve discovered through my own blog. And Other Poems has also given me backache and headaches (there is a lot of computer time involved) and has eaten into my own reading and writing time (but as the year progressed, I managed this more effectively). Has it all been worth it? Absolutely, YES.
a “gathering place for slightly dispossessed poems”
The blog has been described as, among other things, “a great resource”, “open-hearted”, a “rattle bag” and a “gathering place for slightly dispossessed poems”. It represents a small selection of, mostly British, poets publishing today, some famous, widely published and seriously lauded, some not so well-known – yet.
For the record I’d like to thank everyone who’s sent poems
..whether or not they’ve been posted on And Other Poems. I’m grateful for your interest in my blog and I’m especially grateful to all readers, likers and sharers – it’s been wonderful to see poems from my blog tweeted and linked across the World Wide Web.
As it stands today, And Other Poems is an advertisement-free archive of a selection of contemporary poetry written in English. I hope it continues to be read by anyone interested in poetry.
It started in August 2012
when I had the idea to put my own poems in a quiet, uncluttered on-line space – not poems that I was currently writing but ones that had already been published somewhere or had won or been placed in a competition. I called the blog And Other Poems, stealing the idea for the name from Ali Smith’s book of short stories, Other Stories and other stories.
So I posted my six previously published poems into my blog and within hours had received more views and likes than I’d ever received for my everyday blog (this one). I quickly realised that the blogging community likes poetry – but how to give them more of what they wanted?
No harm in asking, right?
So I had the idea of contacting writers to ask if they’d like to post poems on my blog. At that time I had perhaps 100 followers on Twitter and a few more contacts on Facebook. I’m a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at UEA so I do have some contacts in the flesh, as well, but not so many poets since I am a relatively new convert (my MA is in Prose Fiction and until 2009 I’d mainly written fiction and scripts). But I set out contacting the poets in my circle via the internet. No harm in asking, right? I was delighted that, very quickly, poets said yes and started sending me their poems.
Simply a blog of poems
I clearly set out the concept of my blog, which is that it’s a quiet, uncluttered place for poems and nothing else. Previously published poems are fine, providing the poet owns the copyright, and, if possible, the poems aren’t available to read elsewhere on-line.
I wanted to keep the blog simple, with lots of white space for the poems to “breathe”; I didn’t want Twitter and Facebook feeds cluttering the site so I chose a WordPress theme with an area at the foot of the site for widgets (archive, recent posts, etc.). I experimented with a few different themes and layouts before settling on the Twenty Eleven theme.
Hoping people will pop in to my poetry shop
However, now that the blog is one year old, I’m looking to refresh the site with a new theme so there are some changes ahead. I’m giving the Twenty Thirteen theme a try. If the new theme proves to be too distracting or unpopular, I’ll probably change back. I don’t want unhappy customers. It does actually feel, at times, like a shop, arranging the poems in the window and hoping people will pop in.
Once I’d contacted poets asking politely for their work, the poems started arriving and the rest is history, really. Before long, poets started contacting me and offering poems for the blog so I added submission details.
I began by trying to post a different poem every day, then several each week, then several poems on the same day. Eventually I settled on posting poems on Tuesdays and Fridays – sometimes a single poem, sometimes a short series by the same poet. Some poets choose to send previously published poems, some are out of print, some are new, unpublished poems.
With poems coming in left, right and centre (it certainly felt that way) I had to find a way of organising myself. I printed off blank downloadable calendars from the internet so that I could schedule when I’d post each poem and let the poet know which date their work would be appearing.
When I first started posting poems I was a little obsessive, spending hours on the blog to get it right and doing all I could to gather some interesting poems. I was shopping with my daughter, Kitty, who was 13 at the time, when a really great poem came in and I showed it to her on my phone. “You’ve turned into The Blogmother!” she quipped and, later, decorated my first schedule accordingly.
To this day, it remains my favourite. I keep pestering Kitty to send me one of her poems but so far she hasn’t been tempted.
Because not everyone says yes
when I ask them for a poem just as I haven’t been able to say yes to everyone who’s sent work. Sometimes poems just don’t fit the blog or are too similar to other work that’s been sent. I always try to respond quickly and I’m always kind (I hope) because I know what sending work out is like. With regard to my own poetry, my rejections far outweigh my acceptances. And in the interests of balance, I’ve left only one of my poems on AOP – perhaps I’ll post more in the future.
So there it is, a year of poems. I can’t really think of anything else to say so I’ll leave it to the poems to do the talking. Do pop in to visit them, you won’t need your coat or your wallet.