Tag Archives: the arts

How to request that your book is added to the catalogue of theUnited Kingdom’s National Poetry Library

If you are a UK-based poet, did you know that you can ask the National Poetry Library to consider adding your works to their catalogue. To find out how to request that the Library consider adding your work, please see below.

Having published “The Writer’s Pen and Other Poems”, on 3 September 2018, contacting The National Poetry Library is on my list of things to do. (You can find “The Writer’s Pen” here, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GD1LBMV.

“My poetry book is published. How do I make sure the library has a copy?

Firstly check our catalogue to make sure we don’t already have a copy.

If it’s not there, please bear in mind that we receive 200-300 new items every month and are unable to accept everything that is sent for the collection.

The Acquisitions Panel meet regularly to consider submissions.

For your book to be considered, please send in a copy including a return address; the librarians will consider it and respond to you.

Please send one book at a time. We have standing orders with most of the UK poetry publishers.

If you are a new publisher who would like to submit your books please get in touch.

We are primarily concerned with collecting UK and Irish publications so please contact us before sending publications from overseas.

Please get in touch”.

FAQ:  https://www.nationalpoetrylibrary.org.uk/visit/faqs.

 

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“Disabled” By Wilfred Owen

Yesterday (20 July) I came across “Disabled” by Wilfred Owen, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57285/disabled. As someone who is himself disabled (I am registered blind), I was interested to see how one of the great poets of World War I portrays disability.

In “Disabled, Owen describes a young man who enlists in the army while underage, is terribly wounded (he loses both legs and its implied his arms also). Returning to the UK he is institutionilised and (the poem implies) his former joys, including any prospect of a woman’s love are at an end:

“Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands,
All of them touch him like some queer disease”.

In the above lines, Owen falls into the trap of assuming that disabled people are sexless, an idea which still persists to this day amongst some people (including the so-called educated sections of the population). Throughout history disabled people have (to state the obvious) had sexual relations both within marriage and outside of that institution. Here Owen is projecting his own view of disability onto an unnamed and depersonalised individual who has been horribly injured in war.

Having said the above, it remains as true today (as it did in Owen’s time) that many people will not entertain the idea of entering into a relationship with a person who has a disability. However it is by no means unusual for someone who is disabled to have a non-disabled partner (as a visually impaired man most of my relationships have been with sighted women).

The poem ends on the same sad note, that of a man who has lost all joy in living, including the possibility of finding love:

“Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come
And put him into bed? Why don’t they come?”.

(For an interesting article on the poem please see this piece on Disability Arts Online, http://disabilityarts.online/magazine/opinion/war-poem-disabled-wilfred-owen/).

Publishing And Diversity

On 9 June, the author, Lionel Shriver, published an article in The Spectator, https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/06/when-diversity-means-uniformity/. To give a quote from that article which does, I think sum up Shriver’s argument:

“Second: dazzled by this very highest of social goods, many of our institutions have ceased to understand what they are for. Drunk on virtue, Penguin Random House no longer regards the company’s raison d’être as the acquisition and dissemination of good books. Rather, the organisation aims to mirror the percentages of minorities in the UK population with statistical precision. Thus from now until 2025, literary excellence will be secondary to ticking all those ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual preference and crap-education boxes. We can safely infer from that email that if an agent submits a manuscript written by a gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of school at seven and powers around town on a mobility scooter, it will be published, whether or not said manuscript is an incoherent, tedious, meandering and insensible pile of mixed-paper recycling”.

Shriver has received a good deal of criticism. However, as a disabled (blind) poet I have some sympathy with the argument she makes (although I wouldn’t have expressed my views as Shriver does).

I wish to be judged on the merits of my poetry and not given preferencial treatment due to the fact that I am registered as being disabled. Having said that, I welcome initiatives to encourage the participation of under represented groups in the literary scene (provided that such initiatives are not prescriptive and do not entail the employment of quotas).

Amid the overreaction to Shriver’s article, one of the more balanced responses (with which I have considerable sympathy) can be found here, https://emmalee1.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/publishing-and-diversity/.

Kevin

Bingo Wings by Emily Roberts

My thanks to Emily Roberts for her kind permission to reproduce her poem “Bingo Wings”. This poem is copyright and may not be reproduced without the explicit written permission of Emily Roberts:

Bingo Wings

People with Bingo Wings are of low birth.

PAUSE
Am I looking for a job or am I just looking for a safe space?
Is my coffee routine the only routine I’ve got left?
I want a new look, …I dream of a…re-style, or shall I just shave
My hair off, like I’m being pruned.
We pull our hair out in wads…but we cannot get divorced from our haircuts…
Unique haircuts… Unique heads.
Sideburns to die for.
Groomed to within an inch of our lives.
But we don’t get paid for our style, or lack of it.
And it’s better not to be trapped in a room chasing a carrot,
I’ve grown into a curtain twitcher because people annoy me so much…
I’d recycle my brain if I could.
But we don’t want implants…
We don’t have implants we have great looking hair.
Even if we’re having a bad hair day.

I’m too old to recognized by anyone now…
People learn to get out of my gaze.
You must have special skills to face ‘us’
I cry on my own shoulder…armpit tears…slow release…
Maybe we’re only safe in the Bingo Hall.

Work was my place of worship, I could go home and be important if I was on a payroll…
And it’s nice to be conscious of being paid.
But now I’m looking for a new sort of confinement…
I want to be recognised as a rat in my own rat race…
I’m a product of the locker-room..
But the hairdryers there aren’t built for humans.
And running yourself ragged is not a therapeutic space
IT is not friendly to me,
I can’t keep up with my diary, or appointments.
I’m victimised by voluntary organisations
There are paid heads and unpaid heads
I’ll lose mine looking for the phone.
Vanished by social media.

Living or emailing, that is the question?
I’m better off staying in my own community…Anything to make me feel less upside-down.
After we’ve been sick we get to fill in a questionnaire.
I walk on the sick side…always.
I am more suited to knitting than work.
Knitting is a rebirthing project.
It also ties me up in knots.
Too jerky to work.
Too jerky to live.
Unfit to knit.
Knitting patterns give me the flight or fight syndrome.
And I’ll lose my head looking for the phone…
I’m unfit for that as well.
An unfit phone holder.
We are brutalised people.
We need support in the Wilderness.
We’re not good at shoes…
No, we’re on our hooves….
Our feet are on shifting sands and
Broken horses can’t sing or play ukuleles.
We’re too loud, we put people off.
We’re going to stay loud until the end…
We can raise our status by being sick.
Let’s do a Sick Walk
It helps to throw things out.
But then again, we can all have muscle imbalances.
And dodgy knees.
And the coffee shop can be an office too.
We are all in the desert.
There are very few safe spaces for us to be.

I’m a shadow of my former self, a male silhouette.
I’ve learnt not to look to closely at people or they run away.
I walk on the sick side.
I need a break from the toilet…
And dealing with my derrier…
I’m a strong purveyor of trapped wind and
I’d recycle my arse if I could.
But It’s bigger than a recycling box.
I’ve a cleaner like a cattle prodd and sitting is not a pleasure,
A page cannot be faced unless it’s in fright.
I spend a lot of time being head shy.
But now I’ve found support in the wilderness with ‘People Like Us’
I just dust the sick from my Bingo Wings and smile.

Cauliflower Ears

I cannot move jobs or gyms because I’ll leave a bad odour.
But I’ve got allies, and I can choose which allies I want…
O.C.D rings lots of bells with me.
I work out too much but I don’t deserve the dirty looks,
At least I’m not locked in the locker room.
Though it feels like I m wearing a ‘do not disturb sign.
Though I like the décor, it makes it feel more like an office.
And I’m not going to be sick in it today.
The doctor has disowned me.
Disowned my cauliflower ears..
I only go I want to play a health lottery.
It’s a waste of my energy going to a social groups…
On the other hand, I live my life for groups,
Groups of baked potatoes.
Because I heave around detritus like carrying my office on my back.
I can chart my life with detritus.
I live most of my life in exile or madness, but I’m funny, not angry and it’s not a good idea to open the windows round here.
Being heard encourages me a lot and it’s nice to know that I’ve got rid of the curry I had yesterday.
Proximity to the toilet encourages me to make new plans.
I’ve got news pants that can cover a lot of bases,
I can even wear them straight to the gym for a life of fixation and being sick…
I won’t question you about why you’re here on the Bank Holiday, if you don’t question me…
It’s just good that another person is here, to keep the place open…
Shall we go to the recovery café next
And learn to be a meaningful fly on the wall…
Summer is not good for my brain,
It gets furred up like a kettle..
Just call me ‘FurryKettleFace
And all kinds of people have made a contribution to my head.
What’s goose for the gander is goose for the head.
And I’m not alone,
I have allies,
But still my life is sewn up by the locker-room.
I’m only fit for elementary occupations.
And the cleaner is my ‘Overlord’.
All my leave is unpaid.
But I’m funny, not angry,
As I carry my tattiness around in this Dogtown

I Am No Poet

I am no poet, for when,
At 10 AM
Men
Of letters drink beer
You will see
A sight most queer,
Namely me
Drinking tea
Or coffee,
So how can I a poet be?!

At 3 AM
When
Men
Of poetry are kept awake
By young ladies of ill repute,
There can be
No dispute
That you will find me
(Unbound)
Locked In the arms of sleep
Profound,
‘Tis enough to make me weep!

So while others get drunk
As the proverbial scunk
I shall sip my coffee
Or tea
And studiously avoid poetry …

Are You Still Writing?

Are you still writing? I have lost count of the number of occasions on which this question has been asked of me.

My response to anyone posing the above question is always an emphatic “yes”. For me writing is an integral part of who I am. It constitutes self-expression. I could no more give up composing poetry than I could abandon an old and dear friend. At times friends can be irritating. We disagree and even argue, but true friendship survives such disagreements. Likewise, with my writing I sometimes find myself becoming frustrated. I swear at my computer (I never swear at my friends I must hasten to add)! – and close Microsoft Word in disgust. However while I do abandon specific poems I can never envisage giving up my writing.

Writing is, for me, an itch that must be scratched. While on my way into the office or walking in beautiful places, the germ of a poem often develops in my brain. I feel restless until I’m able to get it down on virtual paper (all my writing takes place on my laptops).

Writing is both pleasure and pain. The frustration of sitting at a computer for hours, only to throw away what I have been working on, is balanced by the pleasure of producing a poem which is (in my opinion) worthy of seeing the light of day via this blog and, perhaps also (ultimately) to find itself within the leaves of a book.

So when people ask “are you still writing?” I shall continue to answer with an emphatic “yes”.

Why Are People Disinclined To Engage With Poetry

I am part of an informal network where people meet over coffee to discuss their jobs. The idea behind the network is to enable individuals from diverse professions/disciplines to learn from one another in an unpressured environment. These informal chats also furnish people with the chance to discuss non work related matters, for example hobbies. During a recent meeting (having exhausted work related issues), the conversation turned to outside interests. I mentioned that I write poetry. At this juncture there emanated from my companion what I can only describe as a distinct titter. “So you don’t like poetry?” I said. “I don’t have much time for reading”, replied my newly made acquaintance.

Shortly after the above exchange, we shook hands and went our separate ways.

Looking back on the incident, I am torn between amusement at the fact that the writing of poetry elicited mirth from a grown person, and sadness at the seeming inability of my acquaintance to engage (or at least attempt to engage) with something other than their own narrow profession (that of finance).

There are, of course things with which I find it difficult to engage. For instance I am not a lover of opera. I would not, however dream of dismissing (or laughing at) this art form as to do so would indicate boorishness on my part. If a friend where to invite me to the opera I would go along as I am open minded and prepared to develop my tastes. Where I to attend an operatic performance and not find it to my liking I certainly would not titter but, as is so often said it takes all sorts to make a world.

My encounter with this individual reignited within me a curiosity regarding why some people dismiss poetry out of hand. One possible reason explaining the disinclination of people to engage with poetry is that the art form is often associated in the public’s mind with complex imagery and metaphor. For instance to fully grasp Eliot’s “The Wasteland” demands copious reading of notes with their references to mythology, history etc. I, personally find the effort entailed in following up on often obscure references enhances my understanding of Eliot’s work. I do, however understand that others feel differently.

While much poetry is complex, a good deal is not. For instance Alfred Noyes’s “The Highwayman” is a wonderful balad describing the doomed love affair between a highwayman and an inkeeper’s daughter. No arcane knowledge is required to enjoy the poem. None the less the idea that poetry “is not for me” persists in the minds of many.

Does the reluctance of some to engage with poetry stem from a fear of deep emotion. The best poetry frequently tackles issues with which many are disinclined to engage. To take a concrete example, in “Aubade” Larkin ponders on death and, in particular our fear of dying. It is often said that in Victorian England sex was the taboo subject. Perhaps in today’s consumerist society the great taboo is death, hence the reluctance of many to engage with poems (and other art forms) which tackle this topic. It is easier to flick between TV soap operas than it is to immerse oneself in the profundities of poetry.

However not all poetry is of a serious nature. “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear and the many limericks, written by countless individuals prove that verse need not be serious.

In conclusion, poetry is for everyone so why are significant numbers of people not attracted to this art form? As stated above, I believe that part of the answer to this question lies in the mistaken belief that poetry is by its nature intrinsically difficult. While some poetry is difficult to interpret, by no means all poetry falls into this category. Consequently any attempt to tackle the misconception that the art form is difficult needs to ensure that young people (and others) are introduced to as broader range of poetry as is possible (both “difficult” and not “difficult”).

As regards the saturated consumerist society in which we live, one in which beautiful women are used to sell all manner of products, this is a more difficult issue. As a liberal (with a small l), I have no desire to tell others how they should spend their leisure time. One man’s meat is another man’s poison and it is not for me to force a dish of my choosing on others. I can only hope that through a rounded education people will come to appreciate poetry at a young age and that this love will remain with them throughout their lives.