Forward March

I nearly fell off my chair when I read the email from those wonderful people at Structo Magazine, who had written to say they were nominating my poem, Lunch in Ars en Re, for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. I am so glad I ate lunch in Ars en Re that day… it was a very fine lunch too- in fact here is a picture of it…

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Pushcart Prize Nomination

One of the poems I wrote for my dissertation, Lunch in Ars En Re, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the wonderful people at Structo magazine, who published it earlier this year in issue 10 of their excellent journal. It’s a lovely surprise and I feel honoured.

The Pushcart Prize was established in 1976, and is a highly regarded literary project, based in New York. It represents the best of the small presses, which nominate up to six short stories, poems, essays, memoirs or novel extracts from their published output during the year, for possible inclusion in the Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series.

You can read a post here at the Structo blog about the nominations. It is a great magazine and I feel very lucky to have had two poems published in it this year. The nomination is the cherry on top!

University of Life

I’m delighted that Gingerbread has published the blog post I wrote after running The Big Fun Run. I am hoping to run the British 10k for them next July but running has been happening in fits and starts since the end of October. Something to do with the increasingly cold weather and the fact that I seem to be busier then ever- how did I ever make time to study?

The dust is settling after the handing in of my dissertation and the excitement of receiving my results. I have been enjoying having more time to spend with my son and be a mum. The house is looking less like the scary scene out of the film Brazil with the paper flying everywhere, and resuming its status as a home which contains far too many books (I know, there is no such thing…) and neat piles of paper which are slowly being filed away in boxes marked ‘Recycle’ , ‘Research, ‘Review’ (aka- dunno wot to do with this).

I have hardly written a word, apart from a few lines here and there, updated my cv and started applying for jobs… it’s been good to take a break from it and give my creative writing muscle a much-needed break. But I have written down a brief plan for a new writing project which will keep me busy for, at least, the next year and possibly longer.

Because this is just the start- not the end. This is where I get to be a writer without the safety net of university, although I do hope to go back to higher education to teach because it was the highlight of my last year of academia.

The Final Furlong

Five years ago I went to university, to get qualified as a journalist, to study creative writing, to gain a teaching qualification which would enable me to teach in higher education institutions. To eventually go out and earn enough money to support me and my son.

I’m a month away from finishing that five years, from completing the goal, realising the aim…and all that…

This year has been a challenge, studying the Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher education, alongside completing the final year of the MFA in Creative Writing, has twisted my melon into new and uncomfortable positions a melon should not find itself in.

I am now facing Becher’s Brook, a melon leaping against all odds, at the final furlong,  a collection of 40 poems plus critical essay stuffed in the saddle bags.

Not quite 40 yet…but they’re coming along slow and steady.

Life continues to be rich, surprising, satisfying and blooming weird…definitely blooming

When it’s all over on 30 September there will be more blogging and there may be more before then… anything that helps me get this final ‘thing’ achieved…five years at university is a long time- but, apart from motherhood, it’s been the making of me.

POEMS FOR #PUSSYRIOT PROTEST

Tomorrow the appeal for the three jailed women from Pussy Riot will be heard. Their lawyers do not expect their sentences to be overturned but that they may be commuted. The Russian Orthodox church has issued a statement regarding this today suggesting that their repentence should be taken into consideration.

The women are unrepentant following their arrest in February for  performing an anti-Putin song, a ‘punk-prayer’, in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. They apologiesd at their trial for causing any offence to believers but said they were committing a political act. The case has attracted wide condemnation as a violation of the right to freedom of expression.

There is a protest outside the Russian Embassy in London tomorrow to help raise awareness of the appeal and in support of Pussy Riot. Several poets including me will read their contributions to the Poems for Pussy Riot project.

My poem Tricky D.I.S.C.O is here

CATECHISM: POEMS FOR PUSSY RIOT, edited by Mark Burnhope, Sarah Crewe and Sophie Mayer, is published on 1 October: ePUB, Kindle and PDF versions will be available here from 00:01hrs. 110 poets have contributed to this amazing collection.

I am thrilled to be part of it- as a mother, an ardent feminist, and a creative person I am horrified that these women have been incarcerated and separated from their families for singing a song in a church; for freely expressing their opinions and strong feelings regarding the political and religious situation in their country.

‘Catechism’ is distributed on the ‘Pay What You Think It’s Worth’ model popularised by Radiohead and others. All revenue will go to the Pussy Riot Legal fund, and the English PEN Writers at Risk Programme.

Please see English Pen’s web site for more information and to read some of the fantastic and extraordinary poems and images which have been posted there.

NO PASARAN

FREE PUSSY RIOT!

Treeathlon

Yesterday I was lucky enough to take part in Trees For Cities’s Treeathlon, which took place in the leafy environs of Battersea Park. It was a gorgeous early autumn, sunny September day, as predicted. Perfect weather to enjoy a 5k run round the park.

I was on the 7.47am train with my excited son, and in Battersea Park station by 8.12am! I never realised it was possible to get there so fast- which pleases me because Battersea Park is ace and Sam is desperate to go back. We met my friend Liz and her daughter there, who were coming along with us to support me and keep Sam company while I ran the race.

The event was well thought-out and impressively organised, with a large corner of the park set aside to accomodate Treeathloners and their friends and families. After registering and collecting my official Treeathlon Marcus Lupfer-designed tshirt (see above) I changed into it using the spacious changing tent provided. I was then able to leave all my ‘gubbins’ behind at the left-luggage tent for a very reasonable £2 donation to Trees For Cities. In the midst of all the ‘operational’ facilities  was The Blue Bus stage, playing cheerful festival-vibe music in between sets from London band Scarletts Roses and my favourite, The Sunshine Swing Band.

A small but perfectly chosen array of food and drink stalls complemented this, with freshly baked pizzas, vegan curry, candy floss on a stick, cocktails and jerk chicken wraps on offer.

At 9.45 the warm up began with Sinitta and flamboyant-is-an-understatement Francis Alejandro Cardoso from Dance Flavourz , who have performed on Britain’s Got Talent (not that I would know) and who led the expectant runners in a warm up. This began to my delight with Sinitta’s ‘So Macho’ and went on to some serious Samba music and movement.

The runners were called to the Start line in Advanced, Intermediate and Beginner sections. I had already decided to stay right at the back, so I missed Alex James from Blur who was apparently starting the race. After doing well with my training over the last eleven weeks I’ve been poorly over the last two and only managed two runs in the last fortnight. But after the support and generosity of friends and family who have sponsored me to the tune of £216 (thank you!) I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Instead I doubled up on my asthma medication and aimed to take it slow and steady like an Ent and see how I got on. If an Ent can walk than so could I if I had to…

I was helped along by the soundtrack in my ears which included Scritti Politti, Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow, Chicks on Speed and Arcade Fire (‘Month of May’ and ‘Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) driving me on for the last 1500 metres) which I’d selected the night before. But really I didn’t need much to spur me on, the atmosphere was fantastic, the enthusiasm palpable and the park is beautiful. We had two laps to run, past lakes with canada geese scudding onto their watery runways; fountains, rose gardens, tennis courts and playgrounds. Past people playing football, lifting free weights, walking dogs, cycling and in-line skating. All while shaded by a glorious canopy of trees.

Liz and the kids were there to cheer me on as I completed the first lap and were there again to meet me at the finish. In the end I managed a personal best of 39 minutes and 52 seconds to run 5km. Not bad going considering I have only run 5km three times! After running I went to choose my sapling and picked a rowan tree. Now I just have to work out where to plant it.

Trees for Cities did a great job of catering for familes, offering all kinds of child-friendly activities. While I was running Sam and Scarlett had their faces painted in exchange for a donation to keep those trees being planted. This was top quality work (see below), and plenty of grown ups were also taking advantage of the face-artistry on site! After the race the kids and I also had a go at hulahooping, and there was sack racing, space hoppers, ‘cutting and sticking’ and drawing on offer too.

As we sat enjoying the band and eating lunch Sam turned to me and said: “I’m really glad you did this today. Was it very hard to do?” Awwww….there were some older children running too, so I told him maybe in a few years he could do it with me if he wanted to.

I absolutely loved the whole experience- all four of us had a great time. I would definitely do it again. This is the start of running for me- I am aiming to keep going and see if I can push my distance up to 10 km over the next few months, once I am better and have handed in my dissertation.