National Poetry Day 2020 Bumper Blog 1 - A Year of September
Happy National Poetry Day 2020 everyone!! We’re already at the 1st October in this highly unusual year, so I’m going all out to celebrate National Poetry Day by bringing you a ‘Bumper Blog Day’ on cherrydoyle.com, with three posts in one day! The NPD theme this year is ‘Vision’, so I’m going to incorporate that theme (very loosely!) in my three posts.
As we’ve just rounded off September, it’s the perfect time to reflect on my pamphlet, September, from Offa’s Press, which has now been published for a whole year! In late summer I was treated to a wealth of Facebook memories from my launch events which reminded me of all the excitement I felt at the time, so now I want to stop and look back on what I’ve learned and what I’ve achieved in the past 12 months since September was published.
The first wonderful lesson I learned is that poetry people are the kindest and most supportive people around. I’ve been invited to perform at several poetry events in the past year or so (even online ones!) because the organisers know I have a book to promote. Alongside this, poetry friends and contacts alike are always happy to share and promote posts online, and to offer words of endorsement on social media. It’s a truly heart-warming thing to see how poets lift each other up, and I am so grateful to have experienced this, and give my utmost thanks to everyone who helped me in my journey of releasing September.
It’s not just the poetry community though – my friends and family were very supportive of me. I feel so lucky that I had friends who were excited for me and with me, who calmed me down, talked me up, and bought copies of September. I was astounded and truly grateful for everyone who came to a launch event, and who gave me such warm and loving feedback on my work.
Is there anything better than being able to add your books details to your writer’s bio? Well, probably lots of things, but this was a small thing which gave me so much excitement. The validation of a publisher really adds size to your ego! I’ve also been honoured to have had some very generous reviews. However, what encouraged me the most were the lovely comments I received from readers. Many friends, but also people I don’t know, got in touch to say how much they enjoyed September. At the time I was also jokingly keeping a ‘cry count’ – I got up to nine reports of tears on reading the pamphlet! Despite my facetiousness, the crux of this is that people were touched by my work. Or rather, they made their own connections with it – and I couldn’t ask for more than that. It’s what makes everything worthwhile.
This undoubtedly helped me to grow in confidence over the past year. I’ve sent more work out, been published in more places, and even started my Master’s degree in Poetry! I love my work more than ever before.
On the flip side, presenting September to the world uncovered anxieties in a way I hadn’t really felt before. The stark vulnerability, the imposter syndrome, the comparison to others, the fear that those you want and need to like your work might not. Doubting whether I made the right choices on poems to include or exclude, and ~gosh, what will people think of me?!~ It’s a delicate time, but it was completely unexpected for me. I was so swept up in the excitement and anticipation of actually having a pamphlet published, that the anxiety hit me like a brick. Thankfully I had booked a short getaway after my final launch, to help me catch up on ‘me time’, but if I were in the same situation again, I’d definitely take more time to work on mindfulness and relaxation in the midst of everything happening!
And on that note, there’s nothing quite like the high of holding your own pamphlet in your hands, and reading from it to people at events. You’re in a complete whirlwind and it feels like it’s going to last forever, but mark my words, the time will absolutely fly! Seeing all the Facebook and Instagram memories immersed me back in that heady time, and it made me realise that although things definitely calmed down, I didn’t really get a feeling of ‘oh, this is over now.’ I’m so, so grateful to have experienced such immense pride in myself, such a thrill from performing, and such warmth from people around me. I will treasure the memories always.
OK, OK, enough sentimentalism already!! Onto something tangible. The problem I always had with my poetry was that I only liked the last thing I had written. Most of the older things were immediately inferior as soon as I’d finished a new poem. There are two things having a pamphlet provides, which help you assess the quality of your work. Firstly, when sifting through poems to put in September, my natural tendency was to omit a number of the older poems – as I mentioned, my head was always in ‘recent in best.’ My editor had other ideas! He had favourites among some of my older poems which he ~strongly suggested~ were included. And seeing people enjoy those poems, and connect with those poems, reminds you that your perception of your own work can be skewed.
The other benefit is that the pamphlet is a benchmark – a point in time which summarises your work and skill level at that time. It’s given me chance to ‘prove myself’ and now I find myself becoming more experimental and taking more risks in my work. The pamphlet is a platform, from which I am growing into my next phase. Obviously my MFA is helping a lot with that, but I’ll always have this marker to compare my current work to, to measure my journey.
I hope this post has given you some insight into the experiences I’ve had in the past twelve months, following the publication of September. It’s been an experience to remember, that’s for sure. I hope I’ve inspired anyone who is considering putting together a body of work to just go for it!
Don’t forget to check back through the day for my other #NationalPoetryDay blog posts!