Sarah Barr

Writer, poet and teacher

Distressed

Yes – but I’m far from distressed at hearing the very good news about the American election. A relief indeed! And then there’s the promising news about success with the coronavirus vaccine. Much-needed news.

And I’m certainly not ‘Distressed’ because my poem with that title appears in the current issue of The New European newspaper. I’m very pleased, in fact!

The poem is about the clothing industry and female exploitation. It is a disturbing subject but I hope that my poem is also an interesting and accessible piece of writing.

January

I’m delighted that my poetry pamphlet, ‘January’, is to be published by Maytree Press next month. The very attractive cover is by artist Richard Clare.

Maytree is a fabulous indie publisher, established by David Coldwell two years ago and going from strength to strength with some excellent poets – so I’m in very good company!

More about this soon.

What Next?

Who knows what will be next although it seems certain that Covid 19 will be with us for many more months. The pandemic has brought terrible losses all over the world so I’m not going to offer trite reassurances or advice. I can only do my best to weather the situation.

On a brighter note, though many writers and poets are finding it hard to write or even impossible, others are discovering more space for for their writing. I’ve been sorting and rewriting my work over the last few months – these tasks can be therapeutic!

I’m pleased to have one of my poems in the ‘What Next?’ summer anthology 2020 published by Dempsey & Windle alongside many other poets including Trisha Broomfield, Oz Hardwick, Belinda Singleton and Jackie Morris. I like anthologies and find it refreshing to read different voices and very different styles of work. It’s a bonus when there’s a theme, as in this case,  loosely holding the poems together. A nice small book available from the D&W website.

Another of my poems has been highly commended in the Charroux prize for poetry competition – thanks to Charroux lit fest and judge Matt Bryden. Like so many literary festivals the Charroux in France was cancelled this year but I’d love to escape to it when it returns, hopefully next year.

 

 

New poem on The Poetry Village

I’m delighted to have a poem published today on The Poetry Village as part of the Earth Shadow sequence. I wrote ‘St Helen’s Oratory, Cornwall’  when I was at Brisons Veor on a writing residency. Seeing the poem and the atmospheric black and white photo on this lovely poetry webzine reminds me of my stay and the writing and walking I did around St Just and Cape Cornwall. It was winter, the weather quite mild and sunny, but even so I didn’t swim in the sea! I would love to go back  in summer.

Getting Out and About

It’s been great to get out and about more now that the lockdown restrictions have been eased. This morning I had coffee in Wimborne with my friend Pauline and we sat outside chatting and observing the world go by. I can’t say it was sunny but we were grateful the rain held off, although my garden could do with the much forecast imminent downpour.

My poem, ‘Walking Out After the Pandemic’, appears in the August issue of ezine Snakeskin. I wrote it earlier in the summer when we were all beginning to venture out more, which was a relief, and something to enjoy. I also wanted my poem to express the disquiet that we may not get back to how things used to be any time soon. There are some excellent poems in Snakeskin 275. It’s well worth reading.

 

Silver Linings

There are positives even during a terrible pandemic – chatting with family and friends on the phone, or on screen, or outside in a garden, drinking coffee in the sunshine, going for a walk even if it’s drizzling. Not going shopping much is a positive for the environment (and should theoretically save time but I can’t say I’ve noticed!).  I’ve called in at our local bookshop several times recently, and I’m so glad it has reopened. I’ve been supporting local businesses by shopping online.

I was delighted to learn that one of my poems has been shortlisted in the Frogmore poetry competition and will appear in the next issue of The Frogmore Papers. I’m pleased to be included alongside 7 marvellous poets some of whose work I know a little such as Wendy Klein and Chloe Balcomb and to get to know the writing of other poets such as Ron Scowcroft whose poem won, and Simon Maddrell. I won’t list everyone here because they can be seen on the Frogmore page. I’m going to enjoy browsing through the work of these poets.

My poem ‘Silver Linings’ appeared in The New European this week (pub. last Thursday) and I’m trying to stay with its hope, and thankfulness for all dedicated frontline workers, this week despite some gloomy headlines.

Midsummer and covid19

The sun is shining (as it has done for much of lockdown) and restrictions are easing so midsummer has brought us light in many ways. The threat of covid is still everywhere and we are hoping for tests, treatments and vaccinations – and all these seem possible. Despite the terrible news, there have been some good things about the situation. Some people have been able to rest and take more exercise. The air has been cleaner, the stars shone more brightly. I’ve been able to join in with so many festivals and gettogethers while not leaving home! I’ve been amazed by how wonderful some of the talks and events have been: Ali Smith did a thoughtful and restorative talk with beautiful visuals as part of the Hay festival; David Spiegelhalter was fascinating on statistics, also at Hay. Lemn Sissay  gave an amazing and inspiring talk about his writing for a Society of Authors online event. He said there are two things a writer must do: 1.write and 2. look after their emotional state and wellbeing. ‘Afternoon Tea with Roger McGough’ was another brilliant Society of Authors webinar. Roger McG said it took him years to find the balance between the lighthearted and the serious in his writing. What a treat to be invited into a poet’s home and see and listen to him. I hope these wonderful events that are so accessible for everyone wherever they live and whatever their physical abilities will be a feature of the future even when we have come out of our long isolation.

Staying at Home

In the nightmarish world of coronavirus, it’s been hard to post anything, and hard to write anything other than the very short poem or story that can be completed in a few hours. The current pandemic crisis means I don’t currently have the confidence to embark on a longer story or novel.  Hopefully, I will when we all emerge. Two friends have died recently which is affecting me. Yesterday, a poetry friend read aloud to me the poem ‘Sometimes’. I very much like its optimism. It is a  popular poem and I can see why. But it does have a dated feel partly to do with the use of ‘man’ as inclusive of man and woman. I read that the poet who wrote it doesn’t now want to be associated with it, partly  I guess because she thinks it’s been overused. Sheenagh Pugh has written many better poems and would, I imagine, rather people focused on these. Her website and blog are well worth visiting for poetry, reviews, politics and life.

Some of my poems have been published recently by Greenteeth Press and Marble Poetry magazine  and I am trying to support these and other independent presses, for example, the interesting and lively  Hedgehog Press 

 

 

 

Birthday

Very happy that Poetry Village posted my poem, ‘Birthday’, today. Poetry Village publishes a new poem twice a week. A wonderful collection to browse through and well worth supporting.

The Poetry Village

Birthday

A day so ordinary. Everything’s been said
and written before. A morning walk.
Curled cabbages spread over the field
alongside us. Chill air, low sun.
Not much of a view because of the hedges.
Not much to say except about our friend,
so ill after a simple operation.
We can’t see what’s coming next, we say
and maybe that’s as well.
You’ve forgotten some details since last time,
so we aren’t on the route we thought we were:
never reach the iron–age earthworks
I imagined us on top of, striding along.
It doesn’t seem so far-fetched to say
that one day people like us may blow up the world
with all its potential and beauty.
I don’t say that. The words stick in my throat.
We agree it doesn’t matter which way we take.
Now, I look back at you walking towards me,
your tartan scarf, your hair glinting…

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New Year!

New Year’s Day couldn’t have begun better for me. I went on a lovely, long moorland walk with my husband in drizzle and fog (yes, I love this sort of weather!). While we were out I discovered to my delight that two of my poems had been published in  the January issue of Snakeskin – thank you George Simmers!

Also on January 1st, I was excited to receive a message from poet John McCullough (@JohnMcCullough) who contacted me about my poetry, and tweeted my poem ‘January’ with some very nice comments. Thank you John! Congratulations to you for your collection, ‘Reckless Paper Birds’, on the Costa shortlist.

What a heart-warming start to 2020!

 

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