Over the first May Bank Holiday weekend, I worked on my new chapbook/pamphlet Love and Stones published later this month by the small press Live Canon. This little book contains poems of love, family, and the climate crisis, set in a Wiltshire landscape of henges and standing stones at a time of heatwaves and the recent global pandemic.
Poems in this short collection, or versions of them, were first published at The Poetry Society website, in Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Morning Star, and at the Ledbury Poetry Festival website, in Poetry Wales, Under the Radar, and The North, and were longlisted, highly commended or longlisted in Live Canon’s annual poetry competition, in The Rialto Nature and Place competition, and Teignmouth poetry competition.
Some of this writing dates back to 2018 so inevitably poems have gone through several incarnations. Until a poem is published in a book, I can’t resist tinkering (tinkering, tinkering) with it.
A poem is never finished; it’s always an accident that puts a stop to it.Paul Valéry
or as more usually quoted in W H Auden’s paraphase
A poem is never finished, only abandoned.
After I’d spent time at my desk, tinkering with poems, writing a bio and acknowledgements, collating blurbs, giving feedback on a possible cover, I was happy to press ‘send’ and email everything to Helen Eastman at Live Canon.
“Thanks for giving me time and space this weekend,” I said to my husband, Andrew. “I’m pleased with my work and I’m sending everything off to Helen.” “You don’t want to sleep on it and send it tomorrow?” “No, I’ve done loads of work on this, it’s all done, I’m sending it off.”
Then time for some gardening after being deskbound for hours, stretching my limbs and planting sunflower, nasturtium and cornflower seeds saved from last year’s plants, plus some new seeds, basil, gypsophlia, sweetpea, cosmos, salvia. Who knows what will grow. The garden’s ready for No Mow May, my semi-wild flower beds are already bursting with forget-me-nots, dandelions, honesty, daisies, celandines and (I think) borage, herb robert and other not yet identified species.
Then, a good night’s sleep a little interrupted by doubts arriving in the night. What about that lockdown poem you haven’t managed to publish anywhere yet? Wouldn’t this be the perfect opportunity to include it? Could you swap out a couple of those small ‘seen-while-walking’ poems and replace them with this two page poem? Is this really the best order for these poems? Is that really the best poem to end the collection? Back to my desk and my manuscript for some rearranging. A hasty note to Helen to disregard my first email. Andrew’s saying nothing. Note to self: always sleep on it.
(My pamphlet launch, along with work by wonderful writers Matt Bryden and Isabella Mead, like me winners in Live Canon’s Pamphlet/Chapbook competition, is in-person and online, 21 May at The Bedford, Balham, London SW12. You can book free tickets using this link and our books are also available for pre-order using the same link).