CARER (for Wendy and the many like her)

For #gladtocare poetry challenge

gray lightfoot

b0f2e6b5-57d5-47e7-a768-9f46013206afToday…12th of August 2019
Was the day you should have retired.
The inglorious twelfth when the powerful decide
That the grouse have spent long enough on this earth.
It should have been a national thank you
For a working life spent caring for others.
You left school to work in a mill at fifteen
As a child paying her National Insurance,
A contract undertaken for fifty years hence.
You fulfilled your side of the bargain…
And worked each day of your life ever since;
Whether in shops caring for customers
Or on the road to care for the elderly.
And now, as best as you are able
You help them see out their days
So that other people don’t have to.
You paid your taxes throughout your life
And now at the whim of those who sit on their arse
Desperate to work out ways of not paying theirs,

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This Small Patch by Tom Kelly (Red Squirrel Press)

Tears in the Fence

Born in Jarrow, working at sixteen in the Merchant Dry Dock and still living not far away, Tom Kelly has been producing plays, music and film lyrics, short stories and poems for over thirty years in his native North-East. His lifetime’s knowledge of his locality continues, as the title here signals, to be his major source of subject-matter. This collection ‒ his eighth from Red Squirrel in the last twelve years, not forgetting earlier ones from KT, Here Now, Smokestack, and (long ago) Tears in the Fence ‒ also contains song lyrics, speeches from the 1930s Jarrow Crusade, and explanatory prose commentaries. The lyrics lose something on their own, as lyrics generally do, but it’s worth checking the Men of the Tyne songs on the CD, and the documentary on YouTube, where they come into glorious full effect. Of the poems, there’s none here as brilliant as the earlier, savage…

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sonja benskin mesher 111..

just words added together making phrases


programmed I guess
without anyone noticing

until they do
of course

then comes embarrassment
on realisation

it means nothing

we prefer it this way

i have been imagining and that is all it is

invented scenarios in my mind


how are you guys doing over there now?

at first here it felt difficult for me
for shopping and other tasks

we found our way
now it is the way

of life

rang the helpline about my laptop james
he says he thinks we are the virus on this
earth that kills the trees and animals

that kills each other

i walk each day
some days stay dry

forever imagining

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The Art of Constructive Criticism.

Roy Marshall

I’ve been thinking and reading a little about the delivery of constructive criticism to creative writers. I’ve also been thinking about how an understanding of what constitutes good feedback can help us recognise quality and good practice and it’s opposite –  poorly delivered feedback which is potentially destructive and demotivating.  I’m not talking about what is said but the way in which it is said.  When I’ve had time, perhaps in a week or so, I’ll write my thoughts findings and ideas and share them here.

In the meantime I thought I’d start at the very beginning by looking closely at the meaning of the phrase ‘constructive criticism’.

I looked up the words separately and found a list of synonyms for each. When I put the lists together I found they dovetailed nicely and can be seen as providing a set of mini definitions.  This is the list I made. You…

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#GladToCare Awareness Week poetry challenge 6th-12th July. Let’s celebrate, notice the often unappreciated work of carers, both at home and in carehomes. What stories do you have to tell? Please email your poems to me. Monday: Home Carers, Tuesday: Care Homes Wednesday: How Do I Want To Be Cared For, Or Not Thursday: How I Care? Friday: Who Will Be Choosing My Carehome Saturday: ‘A day in the life of a loved one in a care home’ Sunday: Why Do We Care?

I have had to find carehomes for my Nanna, my Dad and my Step-mother. Often this involves visiting the homes themselves. They are all so different. Some plush, some sad. What experiences have you had? How were/are loved ones cared for at home?

#GladToCare Awareness Week poetry challenge 6th-12th July. Let’s celebrate, notice the often unappreciated work of carers, both at home and in carehomes. What stories do you have to tell? Please email your poems to me. Monday: Home Carers, Tuesday: Care Homes Wednesday: How Do I Want To Be Cared For, Or Not Thursday: How I Care? Friday: Who Will Be Choosing My Carehome Saturday: ‘A day in the life of a loved one in a care home’ Sunday: Why Do We Care?

Four Poems by Pamílèrín Jacob

IceFloe Press

Disillusionment Sutra

The smallest unit of hope
is fantasy—

I am wishing again for peace
though the razor, some minutes
ago, was pulled out of my right thigh,
stained. I

want to believe
loneliness, gutted, will reveal
the primacy of devotion, that
the body, in the absence of hands
holds itself. But look,

all this red, I am cordial with
disillusionment. Sometimes, all

a metaphor does is sharpen grief
or give it a new name. The truth is

all my life, even as I hewed
my childhood out of its innocence

I was a captive of tenderness
but mistook its shimmering
for the backside of an elegy.

The Sutra on Paternal Yearning

Always, I try to touch my father
but it is his religion I grasp, the insides
of his psalms, & benedictions.

My wet, tired, arms. It is their duty
to translate thunderous amens to warmth,

to echolocate his…

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sonja benskin mesher


yes. when i go visit, go further i shall stop counting

in wales it is hoped that this may be so
that we may visit one other household
be part of that .even stay over

the day is yet to arrive

i enjoyed my garbage run james
we call it recycling and very well

another trip out that left me buzzing

things can change
and if they do

the counting stops then

the laptop is in disarray
so I tap here neatly by phone

it feels neat and particular
With little noises to accompany

and more help with the spelling

it gives me capitals so I change them quickly 

I wonder if I will visit tregaron this fall
go to lampeter to see if the walnut tree
has anything for me

betwixt the mobile and laptop
things come awry and we leave it so

the random nature…

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Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Caleb Parkin

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers three options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger, or an interview about their latest book, or a combination of these.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Caleb Parkin picture

Caleb Parkin

is a day-glo queero techno eco poet & facilitator, based in Bristol. He won second prize in the National Poetry Competition 2016, first in the Winchester Poetry Prize 2017, and various other competition shortlists. He has poems published in The Rialto, Poetry Review, Under the Radar, Butcher’s Dog, Coast to Coast to Coast, Strix, Magma, Envoi, Lighthouse, Finished Creatures, Tentacular and Molly Bloom. He tutors for Poetry Society, Poetry School and First Story. In 2019, he completed an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes through Metanoia Institute and was awarded Arts Council DYCP funding to explore queer ecopoetry in his first collection. From October 2020, he’ll be the third Bristol City Poet.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write poetry?

I really started to get into poetry as a teen (as lots of poets do, I suspect). At the time, your GCSE English Language could be a longer-form piece of work which, for me, was a folder full of poems. I found it not long ago, with various early experiments with poetry! That definitely set something in motion for me, for which I’m really grateful. My family are really wordy, though I’m the only big ‘w’ Writer – we’re playful about language and absurd humour, all of which finds its way into my writing.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

My earliest memory of poetry is likely my elder sisters reading me silly poems and stories – one I especially remember about a duck, where she’d replace a lot of the nouns with things like ‘pots and pans’ to make it really surreal. Which I loved, and still do.

At secondary school, it was my English teacher, Mr Charleston (see above re the GCSE task). Actually, I re-met him in the last couple of years when performing at Poetry in Aldeburgh (I’m from the Essex-Suffolk border). It was delightful to reconnect in the context of being an adult, practising poet – a path he was very instrumental in setting me on. He’s running a bookshop now, of course.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

If you mean, by the ‘canon’ – then I guess the curriculum is set up to really push those now, to its detriment. It wasn’t quite as such growing up – but being state schooled during the Section 28 era (which was only repealed in 2003, to many people’s surprise) there was a total lack of queer poets or very little queer culture on my horizon growing up. Some of the work I do now with school sessions is certainly about redressing this balance, offering students a wider range of queer and intersectional poetry voices.

Thankfully, I did have other experiences and exposure to poets and poetry, including a reading I remember at Colchester Sixth Form College with John Cooper Clarke and Martin Newell, supported by the now very well-known Luke Wright – who was in the year above me at College! (He got straight on with the poetry, whereas I meandered off before coming back to it…)

4. What is your daily writing routine?

Oh gosh, I don’t have one! It varies hugely for me. I go through cycles of being more generative, then periods of time where I’m focused on editing – which I view very much as part of the writing process. I like Don Paterson’s idea of the ‘wild red eye’ of writing and ‘cool blue eye’ of editing – often too much focus is placed on the former. That inspirational phase of writing is important, but there’s a whole load of other ways to be nourishing your writing skills and ‘craft’. So whether I’m writing, reading poems or criticism, critiquing other poets’ work, researching a course I’m hosting…Is see it all as part of being a poet.

5. What motivates you to write?

For me, poetry is a way through the world. In my own practice, it’s helped me to process experiences by containing them and extending a hand to others through that poem. So there’s a wellbeing aspect, for sure (I graduated with an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes in 2019). Sometimes when I haven’t been writing much, Poetry feels like it’s following me around, tapping me on the shoulder. And then I have to pay attention to it.

When I do sit down to write, it’s usually great fun – I love the surprises that crop up when you write, the way the thinking and mechanical action of pen on paper, flow together. By practising this regularly, there are those moments where something pops out and you feel like you downloaded it from a spaceship. Something numinous, but which also has the beginnings – with crafting, editing – of articulating exactly what you wanted.

6. What is your work ethic?

I view writing and tutoring/facilitating/education as two wings on a bird/plane. When I’m researching a course, I’m still involved in poetry and ‘being a poet’. There’s this idea of a ‘network of enterprises’ – or a portfolio, most people call it – and I like having lots of things on the go (up to a point). Working full-time in one place never suited me, so I’m delighted to largely structure my own time and order my work in a way which feels sustainable and enjoyable. Most days, the joy of this carries me through and I get a lot done!

I also view myself as part of an ecology, so really like making time to join people up, spot ways that people might collaborate, generate my own collaborations, and so on – in order to be a part of that ecology. This is also part of the work of being a poet, I think, and what makes it such a lovely world to be in. It’s not a ‘zero sum game’! There’s not a finite amount of poetry or creativity or joy – they’re endless, and we should work to share them, celebrate each other and create opportunities.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Growing up, I read widely and particularly enjoyed those infused with sci-fi, fantasy and the surreal. These included Kurt Vonnegut, H G Wells, H P Lovecraft; I love Margaret Atwood as a writer who spans amazing fiction and poetry – and still enjoy her work now.

As a teenager, I read ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison as my A-Level personal study and remember reading it in bed and weeping, especially some of the chapters where Morrison experiments with voice and form so effectively and affectingly.

Poetry-wise, I liked (and still like) contemporary stuff which plays with form, language and experiments with what a poem can be. Moments of E E Cummings appearing on the curriculum were those where I really perked up and often I’m looking to make free with language like that, while still reaching a reader – which Cummings’ work does so well.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I do think we’re in a lineage and various traditions, blends of tradition, and that includes of queer poets – so I wish I’d been more aware of those who came before me, but am catching up now. The contemporary queer poetry scene is incredibly rich and writers like Ocean Vuong, Danez Smith, John McCullough and more particularly inspire me to push what I do with my own practice further, to write better and take more risks. From a ‘leisure reading’ perspective, I adore David Sedaris for his ability to balance wicked, incisive humour, with poignancy and bathos – the way he can turn in a moment. Sometimes I’m looking for that in my poems too.

9. Why do you write?

I think I’ve mentioned this above, but a big factor is enjoyment, play and experimentation. Not knowing where an idea will take you is so invigorating – and then when that’s really developed and gets shared and someone gets it, or really doesn’t! Those are really exciting moments in human connection, including where it connects with something in someone that isn’t easy, or might be a point for discussion. (I’ll always say that in workshops when we read a poem: do you like it? Do you really dislike it? Both are useful.) Poetry opens out questions and I’m hoping to do that with my work – especially in my new role as Bristol City Poet – while also, yes, making people laugh and introducing them to new, peculiar ideas.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

Eek! There’s so much to this. It depends on what you want to write and why, of course.

If you’re in poetry, then you’ve got to know that it’s the thing you’re here to do and that you’ll do it anyway, even if poetry ‘success’ never arrives. But if you are committed to it and keep learning, growing, practising, then as I said above, I think, hope, there’s plenty for everyone.

As a poet friend of mine said, “There are contexts in which it’s much easier to be excellent”.
There are lots of structural reasons why some poets find it harder to get on than others (race, class, gender, geography, dis/ability, sexuality, and so on) – so I don’t want to seem glib about this. These factors can make it even harder to access opportunities; there are subtleties to all of these facets of identity; and intersectional identities (ie which span more than one of these tags) exist and need to be heard!

As such, I’d say to find your network and support, find those who are prepared to offer their experience and knowledge, establish that community – this will definitely bolster your confidence, resilience and potential. Groups like Malika’s Poetry Kitchen have been powerful in raising up voices that the wider poetry scene has missed out on before. It’s not just as simple as keeping at it – but building your networks will help you to do so.

From my perspective, being part of a critiquing group and tutoring/facilitating have been crucial in developing my work and making it sustainable. Making a living through poetry can be hard, so having the ability to host groups is important – and again, there are structural factors which prevent some poets becoming teachers.

I’m just in the process of setting up a couple of lots of free mentoring, for those who can’t access training or mentoring, to support specific skills in submitting work and facilitating groups – so I hope that this does a tiny bit to address this. I’ve benefitted from mentoring and training a great deal, so this is an effort to pass that on. I’ll post this up on my Twitter once this is good to go!

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

The big news is that I’ve just been appointed Bristol City Poet for 2020 – 22! I’m really looking forward to writing poems for the city which reflect on, celebrate and challenge what’s happening in the city I’ve made my home.

My pamphlet is in process and should be out with tall-lighthouse press, in the first quarter of 2021 – more on that as it emerges.

For the last year or so, I’ve had some Arts Council England Developing Your Creative Practice (DYCP) funding to write and edit a collection of poems around queer ecopoetry. This has been such a gift and the work has really progressed – I’m excited to see it evolve into a full-length publication. It feels like something really distinctive and unique is emerging.

I’m also involved in various poetry education projects, including the Beyond Words programme with Cheltenham Festivals, tutoring for Poetry School, a ‘Queering the Museum’ commission with Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) Exeter – and investigating setting up an online Writers in Museums Network. I’ve probably forgotten something, but that’ll do for now.

More about my network of enterprises at:

Or find me on Twitter @CalebParkin or Insta @Couldbethemoon 109..

sonja benskin mesher 109..

i have counted & now
the counting stops soon


all is changing

i cleaned the kitchen yesterday
while outside it rain
quite thoroughly

i find that soon i may visit my
family, not be solitary

that i may travel further
that i must still be very

so i cleaned the kitchen
and wondered about it all

i had got used to it james
quite used to it even
enjoyed it

i shall also make changes
now the kitchen is tidy

one +


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