What I Read in 2021, January: Emma Storr, Valzhyna Mort, Samuel Pepys, Rebecca Goss and the Poetry Review

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January is a crazy, crazy busy month. Mainly because, on top of my freelance work (running courses, facilitating workshops, mentoring and critiquing poems) January seems to be the month of applications. I spent most of the first half of January bedded in to a PhD scholarship application. This is my second attempt at it, you might remember I had a go last year and was awarded a place at York University, which I have deferred as I can’t do the PhD without a full scholarship. I just don’t earn enough. It’s a full scholarship with fees paid and bursary or nothing, and as you can imagine, the entire potential PhD community all want this golden opportunity. I’m up against such stiff competition that I doubt that I’ll get it, but with the help of my friend Claire Cox, I managed to translate my proposal into something more academic in style AND big myself and my career up in the CV part of the form. I’m not generally very good at that sort of thing and looking back on last year’s proposal, I can see I really did not blow my own trumpet enough. Lot’s of ‘I think I ams’ rather than ‘I ams’.

Among all the work I set myself a target of having finished reading 52 books by the end of December 2021. Reading keeps me sane and I also view it as a sort of Continued Professional Development – I like to keep up to date with the poetry world so I can bring that knowledge into my workshops and courses.

Here’s what I read in January:

I started the year with this pamphlet, Heart Murmur, by Emma Storr, published by Calder Valley Press. It was a good start to the year. The poems in this collection are from the point of view of a doctor and I particularly liked the delicate phrasing and interesting, unusual view point. The poems dealing with patient examination from the doctor’s point of view are particularly strong; a clever mix of medical facts and lyrical poetry. You can buy this book direct from calder Valley poetry by following this link: https://caldervalleypoetry.com/heart-murmur-emma-storr/

Next up was Collected Body, by Valzhyna Mort, published by Copper Canyon Press. I felt like I’d gone on a journey with this collection which mixes prose poetry and poetry beautifully. The poetry is vivid, dream-like. The imagery floats across the collection making connections with itself. It’s a collection that feels alive. The prose poetry and poetry merge and absorb each other. It’s difficult to describe, the whole thing feels like it is being created as the reader is reading it. It is completely absorbing. You can but the book direct from the publisher by following this link: https://www.coppercanyonpress.org/books/collected-body-by-valzhyna-mort/

Next I revisited my old friend Sam Pepys, this time in 1661. You might remember I read the 1660 one a while ago (https://wendyprattpoetry.com/2019/03/16/the-diary-of-samual-pepys-1660-what-i-read-in-2019/) I’ve decided to make this part of my New Year’s tradition and I’m already looking forward to visiting 1662 next January. The best bit was when Sam pinched his mate’s pewter jug and then sent him letters from the ‘thief’. An oldie but a goodie.

Next up was the journal The Poetry Review. I’m classing this as one of my 52 books. As usual it was an interesting mix of poetry, essays and reviews and while I didn’t find the poetry as enlivening as I usually do (maybe lockdown is having an effect on how I perceive the poetry world?) I did enjoy the essays, in particular an article by Charles Whalley. You can buy Poetry Review direct from the Poetry Society by following this link: https://poetrysociety.org.uk/publications/vol-110-no-4-winter-2020/

My final book of this month was Rebecca Goss’s collection Girl. I’ve long been a big fan of Rebecca’s work, her collection Her Birth is one I return to regularly. I wasn’t disappointed. I found the poems skilled and delicate, beautifully crafted and often unexpectedly moving. There’s an observational quality that brings the normal into something transcendental in Rebecca’s work. I’d highly recommend this book. You can buy it direct from the publishers, Carcanet, by following this link: https://www.carcanet.co.uk/cgi-bin/indexer?product=2251

I’ve started two other books but they’ll be finished in February.

I’ve also been busy organising review copies and distribution of the first signed copies of my own book. It’s such a strange feeling when your book enters the world and is read, there’s this weird hinterland between the book beginning to go out and getting any feedback, so I was extremely pleased and honoured the poet Kim Moore chose to feature a close reading of the title poem on her blog. It is wonderful when someone as established as Kim takes the time to do this. You can read Kim’s blog here: https://kimmoorepoet.wordpress.com

I’m a big fan of Kim’s work, and it was a lovely surprise to see the blog post as I’d actually used Kim as my ‘featured poet’ in my Women Writers Writing course that week. Kim’s poems always go down well in the workshops I run, so featuring on her blog is a real thrill.

Keep your eyes peeled for news of some new courses in March, which I’ll be launching in February, and in the Mean time I still have a few places on my Wednesday Writers group for February, grab your place here: https://wendyprattpoetry.com/shop/

Until next time, stay safe

Wendy

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