Brighton POEM-A-THON, raising funds for The Refugee Council

Next month I am taking part in the BRIGHTON POEM-A-THON (more info below). If you have been looking for an opportunity to donate a little of your cash to support refugees, pledging some money via this page to the Refugee Council is a great way to do it! In return for your donation, I will be sharing my poems in public as part of this sponsored mega poetry marathon on 11th December!

http://www.justgiving.com/Sally-Jenkinson3

I need to raise £250 minimum by then, so any help you can offer will be gratefully received! THANK YOU for your support, I hope we can pull together and in a small way offer some help and friendship to our fellow humans in need.

YOU CAN DONATE HERE!

Brighton POEM-A-THON information:

Between 12 noon to 10 pm on Sunday 11th December, a  relay of 60 poets and readers will each read for 8 minutes throughout the day, at the Komedia, Brighton.

Start: 12 noon  Finish: 10 p.m

FREE ENTRY Komedia 44-47 Gardner Street, Brighton. BN1 1UN

Audience members can join us at any time throughout the day, staying for as long or as short a time as they wish.  There will be refreshments, a bookstall and tombola as well as information about our charity.

Notes from Skriduklaustur #5 – on being alone

I have got 4 days left of my writing residency at Skriduklaustur, in East Iceland.

I feel bowled over with gratitude for such an amazing and rare opportunity to take so much time to work on my writing, and in such a uniquely beautiful place.

The Fljotsdalur valley is one of the most beautiful places that I have seen in real life. Despite getting to travel more through writing and performance work in recent years, I still would not call myself a confident traveller, and I must admit I was daunted by the idea of coming all this way on my own, and staying in a place with no transport links or nearby amenities (I’m 39k from the nearest town).

People have been super kind and friendly, and in truth it has not been as scary or isolating as I was worried about, but still a challenge for a woman who grew up in a big,  noisy household and has always lived in cities!

I’m still ruminating on the effects of being alone on my creative process.

On the one hand, I have undeniably got lots of work done. I have managed to not only fully draft, but also start to edit and appraise and re-edit, this piece ‘Like The Water’ (mentioned in my previous post) which I have been trying to carve out the time to work on for years. I feel excited and intrigued by the results, and confident that I’ve got an interesting body of work which I can continue to work on back in the real world (it so much easier to work on and develop something which already exists than it is to create fresh work, in our busy lives). I have also finished a few articles (more on that later) that I had been commissioned to write, and had the creative time and space at explore other new writing – not attached to any particular project, just for the joy of making new poems, notes and ideas and squirreling them away until they’re ready to see daylight or be worked on later.

On the other hand, I have been second-guessing myself at every turn of the creative journey. Is this any good? Is it actually completely awful? Am I wasting this precious time by working on the wrong thing, weighting my time wrongly, pursuing work which is not high enough quality? In some ways, I still have no idea of the answer to these questions, and I don’t feel like I will know until I am back in my real life. It is as though being away from my reality – my friends, family, artistic community, and indeed any people at all, for the most part, has switched off my calibrator of what is and isn’t good writing, in my own work. It is interesting to realise, as a poet (ostensibly a very lonely pursuit) how actually collaborative my writing-mind is. I listen to and discuss and engage with other people at every step of the process of gathering ideas and creating work, often implicitly, and much more than I had realised.

There have been three undeniable advantages to working here, and working in solitude, though, and for those I am most definitely a better writer after this experience; this incredible setting (this house, the people who curate it, its resourses and this landscape around me) and the chance to explore it, the time and space to read everyday (and so much)*and of course, the lack of real-life distractions, meaning that I have now got those precious actual words on actual paper (and MS Word files) to work with, going forward!

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Ramya Chamalie Jirasinghe’s 2010 collection ‘There’s an Island in the Bone’. I bought this copy in Columbo in 2011 and it has been everywhere with me on my travels ever since; south-east Asia, Australia, Iceland.

*I have re-read Jackie Kay’s collection ‘The Adoption Papers’ and Ramya Chamalie Jirasinge’s ‘There’s An Island In The Bone’, two of my favourite books of poetry, both of which remind me what kind of writing I might one day create if I keep trying and learning. I have also read ‘The Good Shepherd’ and ‘Black Cliffs’ by Gunnar Gunnarson, two very different styles of novel, but both full of rich, loving, scary, and awesome descriptions of the Icelandic landscape, making them so brilliant to read whilst staying here, in the Fljotsdalur valley and in Gunnarson’s house! I  borrowed the english translations from the library here at the culture centre, and should you ever come across a translation in your own language then I really recommend both novels.

Notes from Skriduklaustur, East Iceland #4 -Like The Water

So the main reason I came here, apart from looking for waterfalls and falling off my bike, was to work on a piece I’ve been trying to have a proper go on for almost ten years. It has gone through so many configurations in that time, and is still forming itself really, so everything I say about it here can basically be prefixed with the sentence-starter ‘at the moment’.

Here goes. At the moment it is a long story / very short novel (piece of fiction, at any rate) in verse. It is broken into poems, like a collection of poems, but with a strong narrative throughout. It is set in Morecambe (or any northern seaside town where your imagination chooses to take you), and the voice is of a young woman who has been recently bereaved of her sister (step-sister, I suppose, but more on that later). To tell you any more would be giving too much away, but the themes I’m trying to deal with are; sexuality and mental health and grief in young people (especially young women), the ways in which a family can grieve seperately and collectively, and most importantly for me, it is a love letter to the non-nuclear family.

I will be editing and re-apprasing it for a long time to come, but it seems rude not to share a tiny peek at it, seen as we’re here.

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Excerpt- ‘Like The Water’, early draft.

 

New poetry collection / Iceland residency

Over the last year, in between learning to run sensory workshops for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, and trying to stay financially afloat in the enemy-of-poor-people economy of my new home city of Brighton, I have been working on a new collection of poems…

It is called ‘Boys’ and will be published by Burning Eye Books in May of this year. Its a short collection exploring themes to do with…. you guessed it, boys. Growing up with boys, living with boys, fighting with boys, grieving for boys, and attemps to untangle some of the nonsense messages that this world we live in tells us about what boys (and girls) should say, think, do  and feel. I’ve worked really hard on it (along with my dear friend Jamie Harrison and his very sharp editorial brain), and I’m really excited that it will be available in real life very soon. I’m planning a small book tour in June to celebrate its release.

Also in May, I’m very very excited (and a bit nervous) that I’m going to be Writer in Residence at Klaustrid (managed by The Institute of Gunnar Gunnarsson) in the Fljotsdalur valley in East Iceland. It is situated at Skriduklaustur, which was built in 1939 by the famous Icelandic writer Gunnar Gunnarsson! Its apparently 40km from the nearest town. I full of trepidation about being so far from home on my own for a whole month, but also bubbling over with excitement about getting to explore a new part of the world, learn about a different culture, and have loads of time to get some writing done.

It took me SO long to get into the flow of writing and editing critically while I was working on Boys- its easy to get out of the right brain space, what with doing other work too, and money worries, and just being (as I am) prone to bouts of anxiety and depression which are not really conducive (for me) to a really meaty creative process. But now, just as the collection is finished, I find that I HAVE found my flow. New ideas come all the time, in my day to day thinking. I feel confident about knowing whether they’re shit or not, and pushing myself to work on them further if I think they’re ok. And best of all, I can feel the little magical wonderment compartment of my brain fizzing away- looking for magic, or ways of making things register as magic and unusual and fantastical, in the day to day. This often happens after a period of instensly working on something creative. The problem is that it is difficult to maintain once a project is finished and we are obliged to go back to normal life, with its bills and bedtimes and such. So, and I feel very super grateful about this opportunity to go to Iceland, and determined to use the time as productively as possible.

That’s all for now. Check back for details of the release date for ‘Boys’, I should know more soon!

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BRAND NEW short film of my poem Bit Red

Today is an exciting day because I can share this video for the first time! It is a short film of my poem Bit Red, imagined into visual form by film maker Zoe Alker.

I’m so pleased and proud of how sensitively and realistically it follows to poem’s theme of exploring how difficult it can be to talk about sex, and the kind of sex we want to have. I don’t think we live in a world yet where, especially for women, it is comfortable and natural to discuss, explore, express, articulate, explain the particulars, details, specifics of what kind of sex we would like to be having (or not having). I don’t want to say too much on the matter because its a poem not a socio-political statement, but hopefully poems can start conversations.

I’m so excited and nervous for people to see it. Please take a peek.The actors are Bryher Flanders and Harry Gould, and they are so brilliant.

THANK YOU TO THEM, and also to Zoe Alker, Ryan Sharpe, Georgia Ingles, Jamie Bell, Isabel Macfarlane, Chlo Edwards, Jack Cookson and Cat Wright for making this totally gorgeous and sensitive film!

A letter to a younger poet (or just to myself, five years ago)

Here’s a little thing I was asked to write for a residency I recently did for a lovely project called Word In The West. 

I hope it isn’t too prescriptive, its just a list of things I like to remind myself of occassionally, as a writer.

1.

Being able to support yourself with your art form does NOT validate your art. Emily Dickinson never made a penny from her work. If you can make yourself sit down and start writing a brilliant poem, still wearing your uniform, just after getting home from a ten hour shift in the pub / care home / office where you work, it is still a brilliant poem, and writing it is a worthwhile pursuit, even if no one ever pays you for it.

Having said that- the first time you DO get paid for a performance, commission etc, it will feel really great and that’s completely fine. The fact that doing something you love is earning you a little financial gain is of course really something to be excited about, it’s just not the be all and end all. Write anyway!

I want to make a distinction here between the importance of keeping on writing- experimenting, editing, trying new things artistically- regardless of financial reward, and the importance of not working for free. Performing, running workshops, writing commissions- that is working, and you must try to at least make sure your expenses are covered if you are going to work. Otherwise you are undermining yourself and the artistic community.

2.

I guess this applies particularly to poets who are keen to be involved in the world of performance. There are all different kinds of performers- big, loud, dramatic ones, funny ones, intense and confident ones, theatrical ones… and all these kinds can be brilliant. But what I want to say is- if you are none of these things, if you are not funny or flamboyant or intense, it does not mean that you can’t be a great performer. Poetry also sometimes needs performance that is understated or serious or warm or friendly in a quieter or more gentle way! You can bring these things to the stage and they can be valuable, but you must be clear and confident in your delivery. Your audience must be able hear your words or it is pointless saying them out loud! So, learn them. Say them clearly and honestly. Give them the reverence they deserve.

3.

You can’t – CAN’T – write well unless you read. And that’s not elitist, reading is free. And it doesn’t matter what you read, or what you like, but you’ve got to read in order to decide what you like, and what kind of writer you want to be!

If you find that are struggling to write anything good, put away your note books, get a stack of poetry books from the library and spend a few days reading and ENJOYING them! Think of it as putting petrol in the tank. Writing, and creating in general, is a process that requires you to choose to take part in it. Don’t wait for the muse to come and visit you. Be pro-active in trying things, experimenting, and improving your craft. On days when I feel like I am a terrible writer, I am comforted by the thought that there are almost endless things to read, study, and try out in order to improve my writing, and no limit to how much better I can potentially become with hard work, persistence and a love of words.