The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

From sea to shining sea

Helen looks for birthday cake on the beach

Either I was nice to someone in a previous life, or I’m due a spell of bloody awful luck soon. Last week, I was paddling in the North Sea during the StAnza festival – this week my toes dipped into  the Irish Channel on a beach in Anglesey. Poetic chum Ann Atkinson and other creative types were there on a writing retreat. I  joined them for a couple of days. It was a sunny little break – sharing work, celebrating a birthday with one of the writers and giving a very thorough testing to my orange vodka (it passed). On the way back I called in to see Simon Thirsk, publisher and poetry guru, for a lakeside stroll in Bala; he’s full of wise words and questions that make you wonder where you are going in life, and why.

I was already a bit dazed by all this poetic friendliness, and by my luck at being included in the watery project I told you about last week. Then I hear I’ve been shortlisted for the Strokestown International Poetry Prize, alongside fine poets like Mike Barlow and Jane Routh, whose Gift of Boats I read recently. It’s lovely to be invited to Ireland for the Strokestown festival, and lovely too to find that I will be travelling on the day of the royal wedding.  And I only have a couple of weeks before my long-booked residential week at the Arvon Centre in Shropshire. Immediately before that I’m running a workshop at the Kitchen Garden Cafe, a perfect little spot on the banks of the River Wye in Herefordshire (contact me for details) – and immediately after the Arvon course, the fieldwork for our Three Women in a Boat project begins.


A toast to poetry....

Now, if this all sounds like gloating, comfort yourself with the knowledge that I’m panicking slightly. All these opportunities, welcome though they are, eat in to my work time.  I have a crazy ten days days ahead of me, catching up and cramming in everything I need to do for National Poetry Day, for Ledbury Poetry Festival (whose programme is nearly complete), and for Winning Words’ online poetry course, which begins next week. Early mornings and late nights for me, I think… at least until this run of luck comes to an end and I fall down a big hole in the ground. Oh hang on… aaaaaaaaaaargh….

Just because it's pretty...

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