When 2020 began, it wasn’t my intention to return to my poetry site And Other Poems – to be honest, I’ve been enjoying not reading through submitted poems, replying to enquiries, accepting or rejecting poems (never easy to say “no thank you” to someone, especially people who I count as friends or who I’ve got to know well), formatting poems in WordPress, chasing poets up for bio’s and sharing poems on social media. But then… Covid-19 happened. As spring has turned to summer to autumn and nearly winter, and the UK is still immersed in various levels of lockdown, the thought crossed my mind that people might like somewhere to place poems they’ve been writing.
But I wasn’t keen to give myself ‘work’ because this year I’ve been trying to progress various writing projects, poetry and prose, and I didn’t want to ‘gift’ myself with any extra form of procrastination. But the niggly thought remained that I wasn’t doing anything for the Poetry Effort! These are tough times and it’s all hands to the pump! Or all hands to Zoom for poetry readings, in any case. With IRL poetry festivals and events cancelled, the online readings are booming and I’m not pulling my weight by taking part in any, as a host or audience member.
If not Zooming (because I’m not a fan) what could I offer the poetry community, I asked myself, because I do like to contribute something to the poetry world. Everyone knows that poetry is mostly read by people who write poetry (although I’m sure this will change one day!) so if I wasn’t giving out to the poetry ‘economy’ why should I expect anything back? The tipping point for opening up submissions to AOP was the US election, when we were waiting for results. I badly needed some kind of distraction, the tension was becoming unbearable! And I’m not even American. But, as a citizen of the world, I was feeling anxious about the outcome. And that is why I opened a smallish window for And Other Poems, from 6 – 15 November (quietly mentioned in a previous post).
The poems began to arrive at once and I started to accept them immediately, reading at speed and posting them up on the site. Because why wait? Who cares about conventions, especially in the time of a pandemic. Inevitably, my fast reading has probably meant that some magnum opus has slipped away without me noticing – it wouldn’t be the first time. I made myself promise that I would only post poems that made a strong connection with me and that I thought would connect with readers. I’m trying to choose a variety of different poems rather than all of the same kind. I like it when I sense poets aren’t playing safe.
In all, 173 poets sent in a total of 726 poems during this submissions window. I will reply to everyone and certainly within the next few weeks. I mention this just in case you’re reading this and expecting to hear from me.
My reward, as always always is the case, has been the poetry. What beautiful, knockout, fresh, funny, heart-melting, vibrant poems people are writing. What a privilege to be able to read them.
I’m posting poems four times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, from now until the end of January, 2021. And then, And Other Poems will be taking a rest again. For the time being. I do have some plans to possibly find a way of opening submissions again. I will keep you informed. National Blog Writing Month has gone to pot.