Becoming Poet in Residence: Portsmouth City Council Library and Archive Service

                                                        (image – author’s own)

When I applied for the three-month post of Poet in Residence: Portsmouth City Council Library and Archive Service (funded by the Arts’ Council), late last year, I was encouraged by friends but little thought I’d get it. Portsmouth is full of excellent poets, better known on the scene and with greater credentials in the field. My public writing persona has mainly been prose-driven: short stories in anthologies and in local performance; novels written as part of academic goals. However, the word ’emerging’ in the remit persuaded me to throw my hat into the ring – coupled with my having included poetry in spoken word forays over the previous year. I am, I hope emerging.

Much of my poetry is personal and connected to my earlier years, but another swathe is historical – retelling stories from the past in poetic form. The two areas are distinct and it’s always been my plan to bring out two collections, once my post-grad studies are concluded. With the exception of my poem The Sweetness of Clay, written ahead of the centenary of the start of WWI, I’ve not submitted many poems for publication – saving them, instead, for a big reveal in 2020. ‘Sweetness’ was a winner at Tongues and Grooves 10th Anniversary event competition, in 2012, and has recently been published in Star & Crescent, for The Armistice, honouring 100 years since the end of that awful war. I have some other pieces in print, including in Jon Everitt’s Octomorphosis, a delightful little book carrying responses to his wonderful art – which came from a collaboration with Portsmouth Writers’ Hub, in 2016. I was also part of the Ferry Tales’ Project, in 2017, another Arts’ Council funded collaboration with Robyn Bolam and Maggie Sawkins: bringing writers from Portsmouth, Lymington and the Isle of Wight together via workshops, short travel adventures, exhibitions, performance and publication. Two of my poems were included on the dedicated website and in the book: a further piece The Wight-Link Whale being performed at the launch.

In truth, though, I think it was my other credentials that gained me the post. At interview I was asked about devising workshops using archive materials – with a career in teaching, spanning all sectors of education, that part was second nature. They were also wanting someone comfortable with social media and here, my output perhaps spoke for itself. I helped form a fifty member spoken word troupe, T’Articulation, early last year and one of my roles within the group is promotion. In addition I run a writers’ support group, The Writing Tree, have an author’s page on Facebook and active accounts on other social media platforms. I also have energy, enthusiasm and ideas – many ideas.

As for my poetry, I wrote through my teens and my twenties with a modicum of success, and began again a few years ago. I’ve taught analysis of poetry, at most levels, and the craft of it at some; I’ve judged competitions, both local and regional. I’ve been a member of The Poetry Society for four years and wish there was a Poetry Stanza group in my city. [With no others offering to set that up, that may be a dream for the future.] I’m still learning but, then, aren’t we all? ‘Emerging’ is part of that trajectory. I attend events, performing at some, honing my craft and developing my style: listening and working alongside the more established and generously spirited poets of Portsmouth helps me to do that. Portsmouth is a hotbed for creative talent, writing included. It always was. It’s why I moved here. I salute those who’ve gone before and those who stand alongside; I feel privileged to have been chosen. I aim to honour the position I’ve been given and will record my adventures here. With my first glimpse into the archives, and a meet up with the Senior Archivist, this Tuesday, I can’t wait.

It would be lovely to have your company, if you’d like to join me on the journey.

AG Jan 2019

  (image – author’s own)

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