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Reading Poets: An Anthology

Exciting news! I’ve been hard at work with my editing hat on and am delighted to announce that the fruits of a communal labour will be published this June by Reading’s Two Rivers Press.

Reading Poets: An Anthology features work from 37 emerging and established Reading poets, and presents a vibrant and diverse collection, reflecting the energy and variety of the town’s arts scene. The book is fronted by a contemporary urban cubist painting by award-winning local artist, Michael Garaway.

Selecting works for the title was a much more daunting task than I’d anticipated, with such a high number of submissions. Curating a collection of work from disparate writers is a tricky business but after much consideration, work from the following poets’ was included:

Liam Anslow-sucevic; Kate Behrens; Denise Bundred; J. A. Clothier; Maisie Crittenden; Marcin Czyż; Fiona Dignan; Jo Farrant; John Froy; Anastasia Gale; Martin Haslam; Kitty Hawkins; Megan Hay; Frances Hudson; Karen Izod; Andrew Jamison; Charlotte Johnson; Zannah Kearns; Gill Learner; Katherine Meehan; Kate Noakes; Louise Ordish; Patrick Osada; Lillie Postlewhite; Victoria Pugh; Kate Pursglove; Susan Roberts; Lesley Saunders; Geoff Sawers; Isobel Shirlaw; Megan Slater; Antonia Taylor; Robin Thomas; Susan Utting; Jean Watkins; Ann Westgarth; Jules Whiting.

Thanks to all at Two Rivers and the wonderful Claire Dyer for her support – it has been a joy to work with such a professional and passionate team!

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They’ve arrived!

Well, here we are – two boxes have arrived packed full with copies of The Omniscient Tooth Fairy, published by Indigo Dreams Press.

It’s been a long time coming; the ‘most vintage’ poem dates back to 2008 and this book collates those that mark the journey of the last ten years – touching on motherhood & parenting, growing older, learning the world and my/our place within it.

In a sense, next comes the hard bit. Sending a bit of me out in to the world for people to take home and take the time to read, is a fairly daunting thing. But I’m proud of what’s inside, and I hope it captures the journey that so many of us navigate in our 30s/40s in all it’s glorious messiness and wonder.

Its contents are designed to express and connect, and I’m hugely grateful for the opportunity to share my poems with others, especially when it’s so beautifully presented (thanks to Ronnie and Dawn of IDP and the artwork of Alix Souissi.)

I’ll end with some great words from Dylan Thomas:

“Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.

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Not just any piece of paper…

What should come through my door this morning but a rather special piece of luxurious card with my name on it! Indeed, I’ve recently qualified for a PG Certification in Teaching Creative Writing. What does this mean? That I can offer a variety of classes and workshops, and as an attendee or event organiser, you can rest assured that I’m truly invested in developing skills, boosting the confidence of young writers and nurturing a love of the written word.

You needn’t be a seasoned poetry-writer to partake in any sessions I facilitate – the beauty of creative writing is it can be adapted to a great many settings, participants and requirements. Here are just a few classes I can offer:

  • Writing for mindfulness – a pressure-free run through of various strategies which can be employed for happy scribbling time
  • Poetry mentoring/feedback sessions – hone your work, share with others and develop your craft
  • Poetry analysis – learn more about traditional and contemporary poetry and how it relates to you
  • WordArt poetry collage workshop – a great group activity, suited to schools, youth settings and ideal for ice-breaker corporate sessions
  • Tips and tricks for better performance – relates to all kind of public speaking and confidence boosting!

Do get in touch for more information!

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new anthology news

An exciting announcement indeed for all poets with a connection to Reading town! Esteemed local publisher, Two Rivers Press have launched an open window for entrants to send their best work for consideration to be included in a brand new anthology, forthcoming in 2024.

Following the success of Two Rivers’ first Anthology, this collection aims to showcase newcomers and experienced poets alike in a beautifully produced book which reflects Reading’s burgeoning poetry and arts scene.

Those selected to be included in the collection will receive a complimentary copy and a discount on further issues.

Don’t miss this opportunity to have your poetry published! We would love to read your work.

Please note: Poems can be written on any theme and in any style. Do please familiarise yourself with the Ts and Cs before sending your submission.

Featured image courtesy of Sally Castle.

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BBC #shareyourstory

I was delighted to be invited to join the BBC 100 ‘Share your story’ tour as a panelist advocating the pursuit of a creative career.

Your first reaction is probably similar to mine. ‘Poetry? Is that a career?’ Well, actually being kept on your toes by an army of teenagers wanting to know details of how, where, when and what you’re paid is the perfect environment in which to take stock of one’s profession – the journey, the day to day, the goal.

‘No, unless you are VERY lucky, poetry doesn’t provide a means to supporting yourself financially.’ Oh, why are you here then, Vic? ‘BUT the very act of diversifying my offering into teaching, research, writing, editing, event organising, hosting and sticking my hand up for pretty much anything enables me to live a life in poetry – not only writing, but advocating it, furthering it, questioning it.’ Am I quoting myself, yes, I actually am (sorry).

All these other components to my ‘career’ bring people into my world, and the shared journeys and sheer variety of my life feeds my personal education and my poetry.

I looked at each room full of secondary school-aged children and nearly-adults (we presented to over 2000 in the two days I joined the tour), and I felt excited for their futures, but also trepidation. The world has changed significantly since I was in their place. Back in 2000, the advent of phones was the only distraction. Now, there is so much choice, so much expectation and possibility, so little time to think. And if you can’t think, how can you really discover who you are and (most importantly) who you want to be?

I hope that my own story of pursuing a passion alongside forming a bespoke role which supports it wasn’t a turn-off for the students we saw. I know that there are scores of writers within the hoards, and many to whom being published is a dream. Whatever their background and support available to them, I hope that they continue to write, despite the lack of glory or glamour (or payslips) because having the passion for words is a gift, and so long as there’s a notepad or a phone available, is freely available to anyone as a bolt-on to whatever career they end up following. Which in itself, is something priceless.

Bravo BBC. You are truly inspiring. Read more here: BBC100 Share Your Story in partnership with National Literacy Trust and Voice 21 – BBC Teach

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debut collection: an indigo dream!

I am SO excited to announce that my debut poetry collection will be published in 2023 by the fantastic Indigo Dream Press.

I’ve long been an admirer of the poetry publisher and the work of those at the helm, Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling, so I cannot wait to work on this forthcoming book, The Omniscient Tooth Fairy and see it get its wings!

Already shortlisted and longlisted in several competitions, this collection has been five years in the making, and acts as a kind of poetic journal through the last decade of my life – motherhood, daughterhood, my understanding of the world being reshaped through a new perspective. Featuring competition winning poems and many new works fresh to the page, I hope that there is something for everyone enduring the process of life changes, and finding the glimmering jewels in all new situations.

Founded in 2009, Indigo Dreams is a much-loved and award-winning independent publisher who were voted ‘Most Innovative Publisher’ in the Saboteur Literary Awards 2021 and 2017, the only publisher in its history to have won the accolade twice.

Based in Cookworthy Forest in Devon, it is run by Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling, both published poets, and the first ever JOINT winners of the established Ted Slade Award for Services to Poetry.

For more information, visit Home (indigodreamspublishing.com)

Image courtesy of Alix Souissi – alixsouissi embroidery art (@alixsouissi) • Instagram photos and videos

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New release: ‘what colour is my brain?’

Poetry is often a highly effective balm when working through the difficult things in life, as Jules Whiting and I have found in the creation of our new petit-pamphlet ‘What colour is my brain?’, released by Hedgehog Poetry Press this month.

Meeting through our poetry group Thin Raft, Jules and I happened to connect over our shared experience of having an Electroencephalogram (or EEG), and the fact that we were both compelled to write about this.

We were thrilled to win Hedgehog Press’ stickleback competition with our joint endeavour, and even more delighted to see our four poems presented so beautifully in the trademark Hedgehog format.

This little pamphlet means such a lot to us. It’s about turning a negative into a positive. It’s about the power of imagination to go beyond and create something ‘other’, something positive, something that connects and is relatable.

I am so very proud of this gorgeous little book. Mark Davidson, editor of Hedgehog, has worked his magic, and I can’t wait to share the result. I’m proud of what it stands for, and to have my name on the cover next to my friend, Jules, a hugely talented poet and wonderful human being.

What a privilege 😊

If you would like to order a copy, priced at £3 including P&P, email vicpickup@gmail.com.

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A thing of beauty

I have the great privilege of hosting a gorgeous little open mic once a month on a Friday lunchtime, on behalf of Poets’ Café online. All who come are gifted, warm and receptive to the work of others, hence why I feel blessed to be a part of this monthly poetry meet.

One of our regular readers is the talented Karen Izod, whose work I have come to greatly admire. The sharp observation and poignancy typical of Karen’s poetry lingers long after it is heard. And so, when she arrived to one online session with a rather beautiful little book in hand, I was keen to know more.

Karen was one of two winners of Coast to Coast to Coast’s fourth poetry prize in 2021, with 35 of her limited edition journals created this year.

Bright and beautifully crafted, each of Karen Izod’s ‘While there is hope’ editions is a work of art, with the design, creation and stitch from the fair hands of Maria Isakova Bennett. My admiration of these books goes further than aesthetics, with Karen’s poems every bit as lovingly formed – precise, contemplative and powerful – this short series of poems is a bundle of perfection.

As her preface, Karen explains that early in the pandemic, when so little was known about the virus, she found herself exploring ideas of how hope sustains, what we hold on to in ourselves and in the world and questioning how long we can hold out for something before we give up or allow in feels of despair.  As the pandemic continued with feelings of being trapped, coerced, or caught up in much larger environmental concerns, themes of loss and change, questions of how we might bring ourselves to these changes, and what we might see as progress emerged.

For more information, visit https://www.mariaisakova.com/coast-to-coast-to-coast-news and https://twitter.com/MariaIzaB1/status/1479212780100198402

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Back to school

As my youngest heads off to her first year in school, I too am preparing for a return to education with sharpened pencils and packed lunch in tow.

I’m thrilled to be starting a part-time PhD at Reading University this September, working in the English Literature department, but more specifically embedded in the Mills & Boon archives which are (fortunately for me!) located within the University’s special collections.

The University has very generously funded my course, to enable the continuation of my running local poetry events and raising the profile of poetry and creative writing within our communities.

The MERL at Reading, home to the University’s special collections archive

I’m also very fortunate to be spending much of my time at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), poring over the M&B collection, consisting of some 75,000 documents. I think if I read very fast, I can get through them in a year… 🙂

These archives are full of correspondence between publisher and authors, and only 10 boxes in (out of 100), I am already enraptured, and the poems are beginning to flow.

Not a moment of this privilege is wasted on me. I am determined to make this project of discovery count, revealing untold stories, awakening characters stowed in boxes, seeing what can be created from this rich source of history. Watch this space!

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ICE, ICE BABY

I’ve just submitted the final essay for my last module on the PG Certificate in Teaching Creative Writing at Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education.

I’d pined over this course for two years, and plucking up the courage to apply was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Over the three modules, I have learned so much about the history of Creative Writing and how to teach and assess it properly. We’ve had incredible, inspiring tutors and been lucky enough to have the opportunity to do it all in person.

The setting makes for a perfect place to immerse yourself in the subject. Madingley Hall is utterly beautiful, and we were well fed during each of our three residentials – the decks clear of life’s usual ‘stuff’ gave us the perfect opportunity to bond as a group and soak up every minute of this amazing course.

Madingley Hall

I’m hugely grateful to our tutors, Dr Lucy Durneen and Patricia Debney, for their wisdom and support in what has been a rather incredible journey. I finish this course feeling invigorated and excited about bringing all I’ve learned to the real-world teaching environment. What’s even better – the friends I have made along the way. We have created a rather special community and already have plenty of collaborative projects planned for the future.

If you’d like to find out more about this course and others available through ICE, visit Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) | (cam.ac.uk).