Loose Muse Winchester – Anthology

It’s a bit of cliche to say that writing is a solitary, often lonely occupation. And yet, the stereotypical banality of the phrase cannot hide the truth: most of us who write do so in semi-secret, snatching part of a lunch break on one day, forgoing several hours of sleep on another, plotting novels when we’re walking the dog, and planning poems while we shiver on the touchlines of a child’s Saturday morning sports club. There is always, it seems, something else to do that’s more worthy of one’s time. Indeed, all the secrecy and shuffling of commitments can make it easy to forget that writing is also something to be celebrated and shared.

This is not too difficult if you have a book deal or you’re a widely-read journalist – but it can seem like ascending Everest on skis if you’re anybody else. Fortunately, this is where events like Loose Muse can help.

The original Loose Muse, established by poet Agnes Meadows, is a London-based event, held at the Poetry Cafe. London’s only regular event for women writers, it still runs according to its original format: two women writers have 15-20 minutes to read from, and discuss, their work, and the rest of the time is devoted to an open mic session for audience members.

In 2015, Agnes asked poet Sue Wrinch to set up a Winchester branch of Loose Muse – and it’s thrived. Around two dozen regulars and many more occasional visitors have enjoyed readings by the likes of poets Liz Berry, Sarah Howe, Jo Bell, Helen Mort, Tania Hershman and Kim Moore, and authors Claire Fuller, Sarah Mussi and Claire Dyer.  The open mic is also always extremely popular. One of the best things about it is seeing all sorts of people grow in confidence as they share their work – poetry, flash fiction and, if time allows, the occasional short story – with the audience. It’s friendly, supportive and, if the cafe’s open, there’s even wine to help wash away any lingering nerves.

Sue has now taken Loose Muse Winchester to the next stage with the publication of an anthology featuring poems from many of those who’ve read in the open mic over the last three years. Supported by Winchester City Council, and edited by Sue and poet Abegail Morley, the anthology is a joy – and I’m very proud to have three of my favourite poems in it: In Birkenhead Park, Panthera Pardus and Moonwalk. In Birkenhead Park also features on Abegail Morley’s The Poetry Shed.

We celebrated the launch last night with champagne and readings. The anthology is available to buy from Sue at Loose Muse events. It’s also on sale at Winchester’s own independent bookstore, P&G Wells, and will be for sale at the forthcoming Winchester Poetry Festival.

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Poetry publication in The Woven Tale Press

I had a wonderful childhood. Sometimes, I wonder if it was too good – I remember struggling with the idea that it was finite and that I would (if lucky) live three or four times longer as an adult than as a child. When I was forced into reaching the inevitable accommodation, aside from all that other life, I discovered other consolations. One of those was memory. Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I walk around my childhood house in my head or I revisit a particular time, a certain event, a special place. There’s one such place that a cousin and I have agreed feels may be the strongest and most coherent memory we’ll ever be able to hang onto. (We’re not talking entirely out of our hats here; I think we both wonder if we’ll succumb to the dementia that took our grandmother.)

The place is Wales: North Wales and, specifically, the Lleyn Peninsula, where the Irish Sea boils up against a small spur of land that hangs off the side of Snowdonia. I grew up close enough to the place to feel some kinship or belonging anyway, but it was the annual holidays our families spent on a hill farm that really cemented my feelings. I’ve written plenty about Wales, and those holidays, in that writerly, appropriating fashion that I tend to fear must be at least mildly irksome to anyone else who regards the same places and incidents as as much theirs as any old writer’s. And, for that, I suppose I apologise – although I’ve done it again and, this time, The Woven Tale Press, a cornucopia of literary and artistic loveliness, has published the result.

My poem, At Dinas Dinlle, is available through here, together with the other contributions that make up the issue. You can subscribe (for free!) to the online version here. It is also possible to purchase a glossy printed version. My thanks to Sandra Tyler and her team for all their support and encouragement, and for producing such a beautiful and stimulating publication.