I’ve been writing poetry since I was a kid, and was awarded a literary shield when I was nine. I am not sure if that cemented the bug but I grew up adoring books and being delighted by rhyme. In my teens I encountered the war poets in English classes at school – Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon. I was intrigued by the imagery in Ozymandias by Percy Shelley. I loved the heightened imagery, compactness and mystery of poetry. Later, I started to encounter work that didn’t make the school curriculum – the majestic poetry of Maya Angelou, the phenomenal Benjamin Zephaniah and the Liverpudlian gem who is Levi Tafari.
I fell out of reading and writing poetry for a long time because of my day job and having a family. But when my kids were small I somehow found my way back to those delicious stanzas, and earnestly read again. This love of poetry eventually led to my pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing and Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University. Reading poetry became a welcome obsession and over time, I have found wonder and nourishment in the work of my tutors at Manchester, and also blissful travel through the work of Gillian Clarke, Carol Ann Duffy, Vicki Feaver, Kae Tempest, Raymond Antrobus, Kathleen Jamie and Rupi Kaur. There are so many wonderful poets out there, these are just a handful!
I have loved the opportunity to review for The Friday Poem. It gives me a chance to encounter new work, from poets I don’t know. The act of reviewing makes me read differently. I pay much more careful attention to the work, and spend more time with the collections, reading and re-reading. I sometimes cross check references, or look more into the symbolism of what is being said. I try to understand something of the context that the poet is writing in. It feels intimate and also journalistic, but I love trying to get close to the intention of the poet, whilst noting the work’s impact on me. I understand that curating a collection takes time and careful, sometimes, painstaking, decision-making. I want to decode, to try to understand, and to do the work justice. It is like going on a wonderful journey through an emotional landscape, someone else’s interior. That deserves treading with respectful honesty. If you are lucky enough to be invited to review for FriP, embrace it, because it’s joyous!
Outside of reviewing poetry, and a busy day job, I enjoy drinking in our precious natural landscapes and seeking solace in birdsong. For less earnest pursuits, I love a good cuppa and crap telly.