Three new pamphlets are cooked to a turn for July reading, but also read on for a post script to last week’s J C Squire entry.

Three new pamphlets are cooked to a turn for July reading, but also read on for a post script to last week’s J C Squire entry.

Lydia Fulleylove’s Notes on Sea and Land really does have a lot of sea in it, in the best possible sense. And the sea is subtle, personable and female: “I wait for her, stroked by early heat, / an arrow dance of seagull feet.”

Crossing the Ellipsis, by Lorna Dowell, stretches the boundaries. Do you, like me, ever swim in your local pool? If so, you mustn’t miss the vicious early-morning swimmer in ‘Measures’. There’s preoccupation with communication, and the lack of it in most of these poems: “you lie in your sleep / in a speech bubble / it’s too dark to read.”

And then there’s Michael Loveday, editor of 14 Magazine, who presents his first collection: He said / She said. The tension of opposites is at the forefront: male/female, English/Polish, secret/public, forgetting/remembering: “have you got / the can’t forget / don’t forget / the can’t forget.”

So don’t . . . forget. You’ll find these in the online shop (with sample poems), or send for all or any by post if you prefer, enclosing a cheque (they are £4.00 each):

21 Hatton Green

And on another tack – the J C Squire blog entry last week produced some lovely responses, D A Prince pointed out that the ‘one liner’ I mentioned is in fact a line from a whole comic poem, The Ballade of Soporific Absorption, which happily can be found on line, because I can’t find it in any of my Squire volumes. Wonderful.

Another response was from George Simmers quoting ‘If Gray had had to write his elegy in the cemetery of Spoon River instead of in that of Stoke Poges’. It’s originally from the volume Tricks of the Trade, a satirical collection in which 10 poems are grouped under the title ‘How they would have done it’.

The poem George quotes (thank you, George!) is also titled ‘If Gray had written Spoon River Anthology’, and like all parodies, it partly depends not only on your knowledge of Gray (which is probable, since the elegy is still widely anthologized) but also on your acquaintance with the American poet Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology (1915) – perhaps fairly unlikely. Squire almost certaintly didn’t think much of Spoon River (though parody can be a form of compliment), and you may note he has a passing swipe at Masefield, whom he also held in dubious regard, see his parody of ‘The Everlasting Mercy’ in the same volume (it’s actually a parody of how Masefleld would have written Dorothy Heman’s poem, often known as ‘The boy stood on the burning deck’).

It’s a sad (to me, anyway) thought that Squire, who was a brilliant parodist, could write in the style of practically anybody, and produce huge mirth. Now it’s hard to believe a) anybody could do this and b) readers would be sufficiently well-read to get the joke.

In any case, Hemans’ poem celebrates the tale of young Giocante, son of the French commander Casabianca, who heroically remained at his post on deck of the French ship Orient, during the Battle of the Nile in 1798, as his father had instructed him, until the ship blew up.

Here’s a bit of Hemans:

The flames rolled on he would not go
Without his Father’s word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.


He called aloud ‘Say, Father, say
If yet my task is done?’
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.


‘Speak, father!’ once again he cried,
‘If I may yet be gone!’
And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames rolled on.


And here’s a bit of Masefield:

Up go the winders, out come heads,
I heard the springs go creak in beds;
But still I heave and sweat and tire,
And still the clang goes “Fire, Fire!”
“Where is it, then? Who is it, there?
You ringer, stop, and tell us where.”
“Run round and let the Captain know.”
“It must be bad, he’s ringing so,”
“It’s in the town, I see the flame;
Look there! Look there, how red it came.”
“Where is it, then? O stop the bell.”
I stopped and called: “It’s fire of hell;
And this is Sodom and Gomorrah,
And now I’ll burn you up, begorra.”

And finally, here’s Squire doing Hemans in the style of Masefield:

Dogs barked, owls hooted, cockerels crew,
As in my works they often do
When, flagging with my main design,
I pad with a descriptive line.
Young Cassy cried again: “Oh damn!
What an unhappy put I am!
Will nobody go out and search
For dad, who’s left me in the lurch?
For dad, who’s left me on the poop,
For dad, who’s left me in the soup,
For dad who’s left me on the deck.
Perhaps it’s what I should expeck
Considerin’ ’ow he treated me
Before I came away to sea.

[You might want to know that Masefield shocked readers when ‘The Everlasting Mercy’ was published because it contained words like ‘Damn’ and ‘Bloody’, as well as passages in the vernacular. And though I am a Masefield supporter, Squire has a point. Several, actually.]

ps For your homework this week, rewrite the first section of In Memoriam in the style of one of the following:


But sometimes you can get a bit too much of it.

For example, last December I published a pamphlet by Tim Love. I’m always interested when a poet incorporates in his or her name a word that is ‘loaded’ when it comes to poetry. No single word is more pregnant with emotional cargo than ‘love’.

So what does ‘love’ mean for Tim Love when he includes it in a poem? It can’t not resonate with his own name. Not that this matters all that much. I was at school with a girl whose surname was Darling, and I always envied her that. But that was before Alistair.

Anyway, sometimes synchronicity creeps into the equation. This week I took three new pamphlets to the printer. One was by Michael LOVEday. A second was by Lydia FulleyLOVE. Thankfully, the third author, Lorna Dowell has no love in her name, but she does begin with L and end with A, like Lydia, and she also has two Os, a key vowel in love.

None of this matters in the least bit, except when you get tired.

As you approach exhaustion, suddenly Lydia and Lorna start to sound remarkably similar, and the ‘L’ at the end of Michael shouts accusingly. You get fearful that you’ll end up with a front cover brandishing poetry by Lorna Fulleylove, or Lydia Dowell, and Michael Dowfull looms ominously on the horizon. . . .


HappenStance has an open submissions policy for poets. There are two reading ‘windows’ per year. The next one is July. Please don’t send them in June!

HappenStance has an open submissions policy for poets. There are two reading ‘windows’ per year. The next one is July. Please don’t send them in June!

Generally I like poets. I know they’re all potty to some extent or other, but that’s okay. I’m potty in just the same way myself.

Like most (but not all) editors and publishers, I’ve been on both sides of the business. I’ve sent my own poems away and felt, to varying degrees at different times, embarrassed or inadequate when the response was returned. I wasn’t an expert. I made a lot of mistakes.

But just now I’m stuck on this side of that process. So if you’re thinking of sending poems to me, you need to know something about my expectations before sending your valued cargo in my direction.

I have written a lot about this already, so the first thing to do (please, oh please) is to read it. Think of it as entering a competition. If you break the rules, it’s not going to augur well. So read the submission guidelines carefully. If the ‘window’ for reading is July, don’t send the poems in June, even though it also starts ‘Ju’.

You could also search back blog entries, using the Getting Your Poetry Published category.

Several submissions have arrived already, but I don’t read them in June. If they arrive in May or June they will go to the bottom, not the top, of the pile. (Actually I’m also away on holiday the first week in July and I’m not taking them with me). Best time to send is second week in July.

There is a document called 33 DOs and 13.5 DON’Ts of Poetry Submission available as a free download in the shop. It would be a good idea to get it and check the boxes as appropriate. Different publishers have different expectations. These are mine.

If you haven’t already read it, get How (Not) to Get Your Poetry Published. I wrote it because I had run out of energy to tell people all the things that are in it. I think you should read it, even if you think you know it all already. But I would think that.

Chris Hamilton-Emery’s book 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell is depressing in many ways, especially if you’re a gentle, modest, reticent person – the kind of person I like. But you should read it.

Bottom line: I spend most of my time worrying how I’m going to find readers for the poetry pamphlets I already have in print. I don’t make money from these publications, I lose it – and I am not rich.

I will turn down nearly all the submissions I get in July perforce, although I will give feedback, provided people include an envelope large enough to return the poems in (I invariably write on the poems in pencil as I read, and even if I accept the submission, that feedback has to go back to the author). If the submissions are from HappenStance subscribers, it will be detailed.

There are other pamphlet publishers too. I am not the only one. Check out my list of poetry pamphlet publishers – also in the shop. I keep updating it, though it is never comprehensive.

And bear in mind I am working two years ahead. If you want your poems published, in a specific set, sooner than that, enter one of the competitions. If you’re starting out, take a look at Iota Shots. Or look out for this year’s Poetry Business Competition. Hedge your bets.

Actually, there are lots of lovely people not reading this at all. And they are packing up poems to send to me at this very moment. Sigh. And it is starting to rain.

Meanwhile, I am putting together, in much more cheery mode, pamphlets by Michael Loveday (who edits the splendid little magazine 14), Lydia Fulleylove, who lives beside the sea, and Lorna Dowell, who is an expert on chocolate brazil soft-baked biscuits. I have been communicating with all three for years now, but the first approach from each of them was an unsolicited submission.

That’s why I continue to welcome these – and even to look forward to reading them. In July.

ps If you’ve already sent them, don’t lose sleep over it. Worse things happen at sea.



I teach loads of adult students who loathe poetry. Sometimes I hate it more than they do. I look at books of it piling up around me and I feel sick. I feel like the miller’s daughter locked in a room of straw without the faintest hope of Rumpelstiltskin.

I teach loads of adult students who loathe poetry. Sometimes I hate it more than they do. I look at books of it piling up around me and I feel sick. I feel like the miller’s daughter locked in a room of straw without the faintest hope of Rumpelstiltskin.

I’m not a creative writing tutor. That’s different. People who want to write poetry often love it. I teach literature (some of the time) in further education. Many of the people who arrive there read novels and enjoy films. But mention the big Po and a troubled look comes over their faces. I wish I could suggest a few hours in my classroom transforms their feelings. Sometimes it’s the reverse.

Pomophobia is normal. Why? All sorts of reasons. School has a lot to do with it. We get Poetry, like an attack of flu. To get rid of it, we have to analyse it. We don’t understand it and this makes us feel stupid. We don’t like feeling stupid and we tend to dislike people and things that make us feel that way. So. . . .

And yet there are bits of verse (stuff the word ‘poetry’) that people do like. They’re memorable, frequently rhythmic, sometimes funny and, as you get older, and especially if you’re a boy, frequently rude. You can skip to them, sing to them, stamp to them, sigh to them, get revenge on them:

Helen Curry is no good (substitute name of victim).
Chop her up for firewood (you have to say ‘fy-er-wood’).
When she’s dead, stamp on her head
And make her into currant bread.

So it’s okay to rejoice in that kind of thing. I wish I dared share some of the rudest examples. I do collect them. ‘The Good Ship Venus’ is a winner.

But back to hating poetry, before I work myself back into an inadvertent lather of liking the stuff.

All those books piled up staring at me. Three more arrived to review yesterday. There are at least ten waiting unread already. I have books of poetry that people sent me as gifts. And I have small collections waiting in coloured folders waiting for me to read through and make them into HappenStance pamphlets.

The trouble with poetry is that it is so bloody demanding. It has one assertion only and it is this: READ ME. Total attention. Nothing less will do. READ ME. And then – READ ME AGAIN.

Coupled with this is the unstated promise: I WILL REPAY. The idea is that you read the stuff and it does something magical for you, something you won’t forget. Isn’t that so? But somewhere in there, there’s a secret, like the name of Rumpelstilkskin or Tom Tit Tot or Whuppity Stoorie. If you can’t come up with the secret name, the whole thing will stay straw and you’ll be stuck in that room with it for the rest of your life.

So how do you feel, when you read it and the spell doesn’t work? Horribly cheated, that’s how. Vengeful. Especially since the thing you didn’t understand a word of, or were totally bored by, is supposed to be important. The person who wrote it is hugely significant and has the key to the whole of life: it says so on the back cover.

But there is quite a good thriller on the bookcase and it won’t make you feel like that. All it demands is:



It will be easy. And a bit of fun.

All this I understand all too well.

However, on Friday, I sat quietly in a room full of poetry and a little bit of prose (some prose is necessary, like pasta, rice, bread or potatoes with your dinner). And the magic worked again. I had Mike Horwood’s book Midas Touch – not one poem made me feel inadequate. Lovely first collection. And August Kleinzahler’s New and Selected – a bit more nervous about that, and there were bits I teetered over, but some whole poems were okay. And Tim Liardet’s Shoestring pamphlet – oh hey – it even tells a story, a beautiful, sad story. And did you know Brian Aldiss, the science fiction writer, did Po too? I didn’t, but he does. Perhaps not the best poetry I have ever read but hey, it caused me no pain at all to read the lot. And I sailed through the one by Gail White practically singing.

But even better than this. I went back to three folders of PIPs. That, for the uninformed among you, stands for Poets In Progress, and these PIPs are the next three HappenStance pamphlets. They are Mike Loveday, Lorna Dowell and Lydia Fulleylove. Oh my goodness! I haven’t read them for ages, not properly, not since I said Yes to the pamphlet possibility. I slowly perused the poems that had been sitting in my yellow box beside the dining table for months, and I came out of the reading calm, happy and enriched.

And excited. It was the same with Ross Kightly and Kirsten Irving, only a few weeks ago. This is why I do it. I’m only the miller’s daughter. The magic has nothing to do with me, but these poets have transformed paper and scratchy words to gold. I want to share them and there’s nothing I’d rather do.

Meanwhile, I’ll inflict a poem of my own on you, no matter whether you hate it or not, because it’s relevant and I’d forgotten I’d written it until I came to do this morning’s blog. It emerged ten years ago, as a direct result of three lovely adult students who came to me woefully after I had forced them to read Shakespeare sonnet 138, ‘When my love swears that she is made of truth’. One of them really did say to me, ‘We’ve tried and we’ve tried and we can’t like it.’

The Challenge of Literature

(‘We’ve tried and we’ve tried and we can’t like it. . . .’)

I gave them the sonnet I always used.
‘You don’t have to like it,’ I conceded
when hardly a single one enthused.
‘Shakespeare can grow on you. Go on—read it.’

I was convinced it would do no harm
to meet the best of the best. Great art
is good for exams; it keeps you calm.
Some people even learn it by heart.

On the last day, in no mood for sighing,
I tossed them a titbit by Wendy Cope:
some nice little lines, a kind of test.
What would they think? Well—I dared to hope.

The bastards. They liked it without even trying.
I might have guessed.