(This post might make more sense if you read the ones below, first)
I’ve already had my main holiday abroad this year (the inspiring poetry course in Spain at Almaserra Vella, run by Penelope Shuttle, but the weather then was cold and wet, so I’m hoping to get some proper sunshine in August during my summer break from my job with the Birmingham Adult Education Service.
This August, it’ll be thirteen years since that poetry course at Arvon’s Lumb Bank Centre in Yorkshire. Joining that course was far more daunting than floating around in the sky, firmly linked to a boat in the coastal waters of Gran Canaria. It was also a more significant stepping stone into the future I wanted: being a writer. It’s amazing to think how far I’ve got with my writing since that particular turning point in my life.
I’d been dabbling in poetry during the previous years, when my job took up more and more of my free time. Not that poetry can easily be squeezed in to a brief half hour, here and there, but it was something that helped to satisfy that creative itch, and is still a significant part of my writing life.
Various friends and family members had said, ‘That’s really good.’ But then they would, wouldn’t they? I knew I needed to brace myself for something more objective from someone with more experience and knowledge of the craft of poetry.
The workshops, run by Joan Poulson and John Lyons were an inspiration, but I always dreaded the time when we were expected to subject our half-finished creations to the comments from the tutors and the group. It was fascinating to hear the contributions from all the others and I’d marvel at the standard of these offerings. I found it very enlightening to see how the tutors focussed in on the best parts, and explained what they felt had worked well, and why, with suggestions on how the piece might be further developed.
My life-changing moment came with my one-to-one appointment with Joan. She looked through the poems I’d brought with me and seemed to consider some of them worthy of publication. I’d known nothing about the various small poetry presses and she suggested a few that I might try.
Anyone who’s ever written poetry or fiction can imagine the size of the smile on my face for hours after receiving this news.
The next hurdle was to find somewhere to lodge this cheque. I’d decided years earlier to use my maiden name of Coleman for my writing endeavours, rather than my husband’s name that I’d (willingly) taken on at our wedding. I was shocked to find how hard it was to open a building society account in my own, original name. For the first time in my marriage, I felt like ‘goods and chattels’ as I was sent home to fetch my birth and marriage certificates, my passports, and a bill for the water rates that just happened to be in my married name, rather than his.