By Sharron Green
Does your mouth water at the sight of a Pick ‘n’ Mix counter? What’s your favourite sweet or candy? Maybe you have a few? You might be surprised, but poetry is not dissimilar. Since taking up writing regularly in 2019, I have been amazed by the versatility and variety of opportunities open to poets keen to share their words and sharpen their skills. In this blog post, I will describe a few elements of my poetry practice – some may be familiar and others new to you – so grab a scoop and follow me on the Pick ‘n’ Mix Poetry Trail!
I wasn’t active on Instagram until my son Sam, and friends Jasma Patel and Catherine Phillips, suggested posting my poems there in 2019. @rhymes_n_roses was born! Almost immediately, Bob Pallister (@randomerbobsxyz) spotted my efforts and took me under his wing, introducing other poets and tagging me on their prompts. Bob has written two great books containing traditional and modern poetry forms along with examples to follow, which he often shares as challenges on Instagram.
I now have a great body of forms on which to hang or direct my thoughts and I’m always amazed by where they take me. Many of my pieces, especially the ekphrastic poetry based on art or photo prompts, would not exist without the inspiration on Instagram.
The majority of the accounts I follow are poets and many offer daily or monthly prompts. Some moderators (such as @altpoetryprompts @hellokoo.co and Sharon Andrews @inksomnia) share the poems created from the prompts.
I will always be grateful to the Instapoetry community for their instant and uplifting support.
From reading about the publishing journeys of others, I gained the courage to self-publish Introducing Rhymes_n_Rosesin 2019. I formatted the book and it was printed locally by Book Printing UK.
During Lockdown in 2020, I was able to compile my chapbook of pandemic poetry, Viral Odes, from the poems inspired by fellow inmates – particularly Poetix University @poetixu .
Then I discovered the hybrid publishing approach offered by Ink Gladiators Press, whereby they advised on edits to the manuscript and blurb; designed the layout and cover; uploaded the final version to online sales channels, and helped with the launch. I could also then print copies for myself locally as needed.
In addition, my poems have been published in over ten international anthologies thanks to call outs on Instagram. Although many of us have never met, I get a warm feeling from knowing that our words are assembled together in volumes of poetry.
Over the years, I have attended a number of poetry courses and workshops. In Guildford I have been to the Guildford Institute and taken classes at the Adult Education Centre, run at that time by Ruth Brandt.
In 2020, I enrolled on the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Surrey. There I had the opportunity to try new and innovative forms of poetry (the module of Textual Materialities was particularly enlightening) as well as flash fiction and screenwriting.
Unfortunately, most of the course was online but we still did our best to make connections and maintain them afterwards.
I have also joined online courses run by City Lit and Helen Cox as well as workshops from the Poetry School, the Women Poets’ Network, and Mslexia. Aside from the opportunity to improve my writing skills they have helped me to meet fellow writers and poets and learn from their experiences. Discussing approaches to publishing and tips on entering competitions has been invaluable.
Prior to Lockdown I went to ‘The 1000 Monkeys’ open mic nights organised by local publishers Dempsey & Windle in The Keep pub in Guildford. There I met fellow Booming Lovelies (our ‘stage name’!) Heather Moulson and Trisha Broomfield. Those open mics continue online on the first Tuesday of the month and I have also attended Write out Loud Woking at The Lightbox (last Thursday of the month) and Poetry Performance at The Adelaide in Teddington (first Sunday of the month).
These uplifting experiences spurred me on to offer to host an open mic at Solar Sisters in Guildford. A wonderfully cosy and welcoming zero waste café where Poetry & Pizza has been running since August 2022 on the middle Thursday of the month. I’m thrilled to say that we have built a supportive community of local poets of all ages, whose writing spans a variety of styles and themes, along with a sizeable number who form an appreciative audience. Our next gathering is on Thursday 13th April in case you’re free!
I am really looking forward to reading at and co-ordinating the Lunchtime Open Mic at the Surrey New Writers Festival on Saturday 27th May – reading slots will be limited but we will try to hear as many voices over the 90-minute session as possible.
Other events in the pipeline are a Guildford Fringe feature for the Booming Lovelies, where Heather, Trisha, and I will present a medley of pieces and, also in July, some poetry at the Burpham Wellfest.
I’ve run a few online, short-form based workshops and challenges. Haikus, elfchens, acrostics, nonets, triolets, and tankas may seem daunting but are easy to crack with practice and can be good brain teasing puzzles. I love reading the creative responses to them.
Recently, Trisha, Heather and I started running Poetry Party workshops in person at Solar Sisters. We tackle two forms in each session and are very impressed with the poems that emerge.
Sweet and Sound
Kathleen McPhilemy compiles Poetry Worth Hearing – a podcast featuring recordings of poets introducing and then reading out a piece of work. The latest episode, number 13, has poems in a variety of forms including my sestina ‘Where the Truth Lies’, which explores the pros and cons of using poetry forms.
Elaine McGinty’s Fiery Bird Show at Radio Woking and Wendy Young’s FreeOclock Show at K2K Radio both kindly feature poets from time to time discussing their work and reading pieces interspersed with favourite tunes.
Each month there are poetry competition deadlines to meet – usually I submit mine on the last day with hours if not minutes to spare. There’s generally a charge per poem, but it’s often reduced for each additional poem after the first.
So far, I have had poems chosen for a couple of anthologies and this year I’m thrilled to be a finalist in the Roger McGough Poetry Competition. Those shortlisted will read their poems out before the winner is revealed at a ceremony in May.
One of the most motivating elements of my poetry practice is the opportunity to volunteer or help charities.
I have written a number of personalised poems in support of good causes (e.g. to support Voluntary Action South West Surrey or GLive’s volunteer recruitment drives) and I also donate my time to help run open mics, workshops or festivals.
Occasionally, there are callouts for poems to go into an anthology and sales are then put towards a charity – for example, Mind for mental health charities; The Book of Hope for healthcare workers during the pandemic; or Poems for Ukraine, a Poetry Performance publication.
A Poetrython, or sponsored poetry reading, is another ingenious way to raise funds for causes whilst tapping in to the growing popularity of open mics.
To sum up, there is a huge variety of ways in which poetry can be enjoyed and shared. I am still a kid in a candy store sampling all the options, and I think it will be a while before they lose their appeal for me.
I hope that these suggestions are appetising to current or would-be poets. If you’ve tried any of them or have additional recommendations (wherever you may be) please tell us in the comments below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sharron Green is a poet and Creative Writing MA graduate from the University of Surrey who enrolled after the 2020 Surrey New Writers Festival. This year she is a Head Writer and will be hosting the Open Mic and in conversation with Ellery Lloyd on 27th May.
Sharron can be reached via:
Website : https://rhymesnroses.com
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok: @rhymes_n_roses