In which I am interviewed

June 13, 2014

Do you ever write as a form of therapy? Writing for health is way to take control of your world, and make sense of it. In a candid guest post, Fiona Sinclair offers an insight into how writing poetry has impacted on her emotional and physical wellbeing.

I have had a stop start relationship with writing.  I first began when I was twenty. I remember my excitement at being published in ‘Purple Patch’ which had just started and I received a charming letter from Geoff Stevens.  I recall too getting paid £5 for a poem from ‘The Lady’ magazine no less!

Life events overtook me in my late 20s and I found that great unhappiness crippled any desire to write. Free to resume my life in my 30s, I went to university. Funnily enough, studying great literature thwarted any return to writing on my part. I felt humbled by writers such as TS Eliot and Seamus Heaney. It seemed as if everything been written about the human condition. So why bother?

Going on to teach English at Secondary school level eroded my love of literature. Reading became homework and to teach well I simply had no free time.

Unleash your creativity

Ironically it was becoming ill that started me writing again. It was discovered that I had suffered from, amongst other things, depression for decades and once a course of CBT (Cogntive Behavioural Therapy) and medication kicked in, it opened the floodgates.

However I made a deal with myself that if my work was rubbish I would not bother. The world did not need, I felt, another bad poet.  My first poems were sent out to modest magazines. Some wrote back encouraging letters and a few took my work. By this time ill-health, both physical and mental, meant that I was only working part time so I was able to write for longer periods of time but I was still only averaging a handful of poems a year, since school work still needed to take precedence.

Nevertheless as my work improved I began to be placed in better magazines. By this I mean the live list of magazines on the Poetry Library website. These are the periodicals any aspiring poet should aim at.

Find balance through writing

It was when I developed a balance disordered and became house bound that, ironically, I was able to write every day.  Writing saved me, giving me a vital outlet when I was unable leave the house for three years. During this time the poems that were to form my first pamphlet ‘Dirty Linen’, simply poured onto the page. They charted the life I had led with my beautiful but flawed mother during my 20s. I published as I went along, in magazines such as the now defunct ‘Poetry Monthly’ and ‘Snakeskin’.

I always seek publication of every poem I write. It is the only means I have of judging if it is any good. When it is accepted I then place the poem in a file that will form my next pamphlet or collection.

By the end of that year I had a complete narrative and sent the MS to publishers I found inThe Writer’s Handbook and online.

Dirty Laundry coverThere were, of course, many rejections. Then, one Saturday while I sat watching Strictly Come Dancing, the phone went and it was Doug from Koo Press, Scotland. We spoke for an hour and he explained how intrigued he had been by my story. All through our conversation I kept thinking ‘but are you going to publish my pamphlet?’ At the end of the call he confirmed that he was. I can scarcely describe the feeling. For the first time I felt like a proper writer.

Strive to improve your writing

I received mixed reviews for Dirty Laundry. But I accepted that the reviewers were correct about my style, it was much too baggy and prose-like – a fault I still tend towards.  Clearly I needed to improve my technique so I acquired a copy of Steve Kowitt’s In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop.  This was revelatory. I suddenly understood the concept of ‘show don’t tell,’ which has become my mantra.

A Game of Hide and Seek coverMy next two mini collections, A Game Of Hide And Seek andWonderland were accepted byIndigo Dreams Press. They  were fabulous products, being glossy – like ‘proper books’ but again, even though I had improved some poems were still too longwinded. Influenced by poet Sharon Olds, I had taken to writing in block form, not giving a thought to my poor reader. I think part of my problem lies in the fact that my poems tell stories hence their predisposition to being prose-like. However I know that my strength is my language – I have a way with similes often employing black humour as well.

My first full collection was recently accepted by Lapwing Press and on initial sight of this beautlul book I burst into tears – overcome by seeing the culmination of seven years’ work. I have since revisited the’ baggy’ poems from my first two collections and have re-written them, cutting them down to quarter of their original size. There is something rewarding about severely editing work in this manner! I try to remember my first publisher’s advice that I am creating art and must not be bogged down by facts.

Mix with other writers

When I was able to get out and about, albeit with some strong medication, I began to attend a local poetry meeting in Canterbury. My aim was to mix with and listen to other writers. The ‘SaveAS’ poetry group have been instrumental in encouraging me to read my world aloud, which terrifies me to this day; the group also organises book launches. Such launches are an ordeal for me but I know that every poet has to get out and self-promote in order to sell books. Kent, where I live, doesn’t have many such venues but I do my best to read my work out where I can. I even undertook a speech/reading with the WI recently, which was quite an eye opener!

The fact is that I am an average poet in the midst of many fine writers. I’m suitable fair for small presses, although it still amazes me that they choose me over any other writer. I know that neither Blood Axe or Faber are likely to come knocking, however I think of myself as a work in progress and want to continue improving making my work a viable proposition to small publishers.

Moreover, writing every day is good for me. It gives me a routine and orders my thoughts. It still seems to work as therapy. I would not say that I enjoy writing. In fact, I have to force my poor old brain to get working at times. However the results are pleasing and I get a strong sense of accomplishment.

Fiona SinclairAbout the author

Fiona Sinclair is an ex-English teacher. She is the editor of the online poetry magazineMessage In A Bottle. Her work has been published in numerous journals. Fiona’s first full collection ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ will be published by Lapwing Press, Belfast in September. Her pamphlet ‘Write Me Into Bed With Casanova Craft’ was published in May 2014 byOriginal Plus Press. Fiona loves handbags and Fred Astaire. Find out more at www.fionasinclairpoetry.com.

 

issue out

April 4, 2014
for good or ill , the Spring issue is out.  Have worked through repairing a garden and other impediments.  The issue is bumper , full of fine poets and poetry.

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Winter issue late

January 9, 2014

due to ill health, itinerancy and a store that has wrecked garden and caused damage to house but am working on dear readers and contributors!
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Autumn Issue out now

September 21, 2013
The Autumn issue is now out ....it's gorgeous ..give it a whirl..
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New Issue

June 28, 2013
A bit late but the summer issue is finally out . Check out Derek Sellen' s art work . I feel really proud to include it and feel it enhances the look!
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Alan Gleave, a winner again in SaveAs competition.

March 23, 2013
Much to my amusement who should I see emerging from the bar at The Jolly Sailor pub at the SaveAS awards evening? But Alan Gleave who came third last year . This time he came second with a wonderful poem . I pointed out that it boded well for next year!

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Off to 'SaveAs' poetry this evening.

February 10, 2013
at the 'Jolly Sailor' for the prize winning and reading from two fine poets. 

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AHHHHggggggggggggggg

September 22, 2012
Fancy font  makes this grumpy editor more grumpy. I am having to ask for submissions in plain font. I've tried cleaning on note book and using another browser but sometimes it just won't convert to Verdena.  Rant over.
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Poetry events like buses next week….

September 1, 2012

There’s  the Wise Words festival in Canterbury and Rochester Lit Fest. I don’t quite know what to expect from Canterbury but a map which looks like the plan of an imaginary land in a fantasy novel  is intriguing including teepees , slams in the high street which will please the shoppers and some well known poets reading including the ‘Olympic’ poet laureate. http://wisewordsfestival.co.uk/

And then in the evening,  Bethany Pope’ s new collection A Radiance is launched in Rochester ...


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Famous poet visits Kent , apparently

August 17, 2012


Somewhat under the radar,   Benjamin  Zephaniah  gave a reading at the Broadstairs Folk Week. This is wonderful. However not so wonderful was the price of attending the reading.  Put simply I couldn’t afford a ticket and I understand that other fans were unable to either. Cheaper tickets in future if you please. It costs less to see major comedians at The Gulbenkian.

We don’t get many ‘star poets’  visiting  around these parts so it would  also be wonderful if their gigs could be w...


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