Tag Archives: Carrie Etter

Saturday Night Poetry Pub Quiz

7 Oct
Carrie gets the quiz going

Carrie gets the quiz going

After the excitement of the Battered Moons competition, after a rainy day and after Swindon’s ‘People’s Poet’ Tony Hillier had doled out silly hats for everyone, Carrie Etter took the mic and the serious business of the Festival got started – Carrie’s carefully crafted Poetry Pub Quiz.

Bethan & Sophie

Bethan & Sophie on the book stall

Very quickly I realised that teams had been forming all weekend – anyone who had given off an air of knowing a lot about poetry were sought after as team mates. Sadly I hadn’t been poached or even approached so my poetry creds must be rock bottom. But at least I knew the name of the US Poet Laureate – just saying. Meanwhile I heard quite a few jealous whispers about Jill Abram who had suddenly appeared and was apparently highly sought after.

Before the gloves were off I took photos of the teams, asking them if they thought they were going to win. Judge for yourself who did (or didn’t) display the killer instinct!

Hilda's team

Pub quiz team

pub quiz team

pub quiz team

And the winners? Well, the dream team of Clare Shaw, Kim Moore, Sarah Dixon and Jill Abram scooped the top prize… this morning I heard someone mutter slightly tetchily ‘it was like pitching Man U against Scunthorpe reserves.’ And all for a bottle of prosecco! Who’d have thought those poets could be so -AHEM – competitive?!

Saturday: Carrie Etter reading

7 Oct
Carrie Etter

Carrie Etter

Saturday: after a tea break the rain was abating and a packed tent was treated to a wonderfully strong reading from Carrie Etter, who’s something of a darling with the Poetry Swindon audience. Hardly surprising given all that she does for the local/regional poetry scene. The Tent Palace was aglow with love!

Before the reading there was a lovely speech/farewell from Festival Founder/Director Hilda Sheehan. Hilda has relocated to Belgium, but she wanted to not only thank everyone who had worked hard for and supported the Festival, but also reassure us that it would continue, and get better and better. There was a special thank you to Helen Dewbery for taking on the organisation late in the day, and bringing the festival to fruition. We love Hilda!

And so to Carrie. She read from her collection The Weather in Normal (Seren), (so-named for Carrie’s original home town of Normal, Illinois.)

After opening with ‘Night Ode’, she told us how her father had been obsessed with watching weather reports, and even after she had moved away he would call her up to tell her the weather forecast for where she was.

Carrie calls the book ‘a eulogy to my Illinois’, and told us about her journey from Normal to California aged 19, and from there to England… although she still ‘returns to Normal once a year’.

A sense of loss – for her parents, her home, but also the effects of climate change on the landscape she grew up in – pervade the book. But she told us it’s also ‘a celebration of the place and the people.’

Here’s the last poem she read, ‘Trying to Say’:

Saturday: Liardet, Shearsman & Magma

7 Oct
Helen Dewbery

Helen Dewbery

It’s Sunday morning and I’m just writing up my notes from yesterday at the Swindon Festival of Poetry. There seems to be a fat wodge of them – oh dear. But I couldn’t help it – so much to write down .

Tim Liardet reading

Festival Director Helen Dewbery introduced Tim Liardet (“Lee-ar-day”, for those of us who weren’t sure) who gave a short reading, after which he was interviewed by Kim Moore.

Tim has written ten collections and been shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize twice; he’s also Professor of Poetry at Bath Spa University. He was talking about, and reading from, his ‘new and selected’ collection Arcimboldo’s Bulldog (Carcanet). Interesting to hear about the kinds of dilemmas facing a poet who reaches such a stage in their career – Tim wondered: what do you do with a ‘new and selected’? It’s not eligible for any of the prizes, he doesn’t want to jeopardise his next collection by including poems from that (the next collection, by the way, is more or less written.) To those of us poets a long way down the food chain these are ‘first world problems’… but fascinating nonetheless.

Arcimboldo’s Bulldog starts with Tim’s new work and then plunges into the earliest poems, dating from 1996. He admitted there were weren’t a lot from that period he wanted to include. In the Q&A with Kim that followed, he said he felt he only started to write in about 2006, when he began teaching in a high security prison, and ‘had to find a new register’. Before that he was ‘only trying to write…[…]  the older poems… I can’t hear them any more.’

Tim read a number of poems from the latter sections of the book, starting with ‘Loy’s Return’, an ‘apocryphal tale of an inmate returning to the outside world’. Another event that shaped his writing was the tragic drowning of Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay in 2004. He told us he wanted to respond to this by creating a mythology around it, to ‘put a marker in the ground’, particularly as he felt it was made so little of by the media.  Tim read a poem called ‘Riding the Ghostly Velocipede’ in which he explored the topic through the means of a near-drowning experience from his childhood.

Kim Moore and Tim Liardet

The Kim n Tim Show

In the interview that followed, there was some discussion of issues such as appropriation – how does a poet write about events without taking responsibility for telling someone else’s story? Tim’s answer (as regards the cockle pickers) was that he didn’t want to imagine/tell their stories, but rather create a monument to them. Another question was in what ways did living in the US affect his writing. Tim response was that he felt a sense of spaciousness in the US, rather than the claustrophobia of here. He reads John Ashbery every day and feels his writing somehow personifies this spaciousness.  ‘Precision doesn’t exist in density’.

Kim did a great job having stepped in at the last minute when the scheduled guest Jennifer Militello was unwell.

Poets & Publishers

The mid-afternoon session was a roundtable chaired by Carrie Etter with guests Tony Frazer of Shearsman and Laurie Smith, one of the founding editors of Magma.

Shearsman was founded in 1981 and publishes a twice-yearly magazine as well as books – 51 books in 2017 alone – and Tony Frazer does it all himself – pretty amazing. Interestingly he described himself as ‘a reader, not a writer’. 15% of Shearsman publications are in translation and another 10% or so are works by US or Antipoedean authors.  Tony told us how his background was in reading mainly US poetry, which no doubt informs his tastes. I’ve always thought of Shearsman as being relatively avant-garde, so much so that I don’t think I’ve ever submitted anything there, but Tony claimed that what he liked was quite broad – from sonnets to explosions of phonemes across the page. It can all be fine  “if it works!”

Magma magazine, as Laurie explained, has always had two different editors for each issue, something that he admitted did mean there was no consistently recognisable style or ‘type’ to what it publishes.  He also described how for each issue the magazine received an average of 2,500 submissions. That’s a lot of poems to read!  But it was noticeable from both editors that they took the responsibility of reading seriously, otherwise, as Laurie said, ‘each poem that comes in gets the same level of attention – or you might miss something.’

Here are a few of the questions and answers:

Q: Would they ever start charging for submissions, as is common in the US?

Tony: no

Laurie: we wouldn’t dream of it. We’d like to be able to pay contributors, not the other way around.

Q; What do you think of simultaneous submissions?

Tony: it’s OK, although he’d like to be told (particularly in the case of books under consideration)

Laurie: you can’t prevent simultaneous submissions. It’s really up to the editor to get through the submissions in a timely way, you can’t expect people to wait six months before sending a poem about again.

Q: Who are you most proud to have discovered?

Laurie: Jen Hadfield

Tony: Janet Sutherland (I was very happy to hear this as Janet is a friend, and co-member of the Needlewriters collective in Lewes.)

Q: Would you ever move your magazine away from print and go completely digital (like The Interpreter’s House)?

Tony: no, although he may offer a digital version of the print magazine.

Laurie: Magma already has a digital edition but it would never going entirely digital. “There will always be a place for poetry on paper,” said Laurie, holding up a copy of Magma, “this will still be around in 100 years.”

Q: What would be your one piece of advice to someone thinking of submitting their work to you?

Tony: read a sample of what we publish – there are plenty of PDF downloads available on the website.

Laurie: Express strong emotion in original language.

Poets and Publishing #2

7 Oct
Poets and Publishers 2017

From left: Mary Jean Chan, Carrie Etter, Amy Wack

For the second year running, much-published poet and University Reader Carrie Etter quizzes two publishers from the world of poetry for tips on getting published.

This year, Carrie talked to Seren Books editor Amy Wack and Mary Jean Chan, co-editor of Oxford Poetry.

Amy is more of an unashamed traditionalist, a ‘sucker’ for form but ‘like it when people change my mind’. She is drawn to universal themes of nature, love (‘it worked for Shakespeare’) and bereavement. But she hasn’t had a transgender-themed submission and thinks it’s about time. There is a discussion about the importance of themes in collections – what if you have lots of good work, but no particular theme? It’s all about marketing, says Amy. Themed collections are easier to sell. Continue reading

Poetry publication advice

13 Oct
Nia Davies

Nia Davies of Poetry Wales

Poets, how can you get your poem in print?

Nine Arches Press and Under the Radar editor, Jane Commane, and Poetry Wales magazine editor, Nia Davies, was in conversation with poet, reviewer and lecturer, Dr Carrie Etter, at Poetry Swindon Festival.

Here’s their thoughts:

Q. How much time should a poet leave before chasing an editor regarding their poetry submission for publication?
A. Give a month longer than the time period specified by the publication. No one will penalise you for (gently) enquiring after the fate of your poem. Both Under the Radar and Poetry Wales use online process Submittable, which visibly tracks the progress of the poem with the editor. Continue reading

Ourselves and the Shoemaker

8 Oct

file_000Anybody who thinks poetry is a load of cobblers should listen to Linda Black and Carrie Etter, the poetic inhabitants of very different worlds but each with their own sparse word outlook.

Co-editor of Long Poem Magazine and a brilliant illustrator, Linda Black read first from her Shearsman collection Slant and took us on a dazzling trip into the dark woods of language alongside Elizabeth Bishop and Virginia Woolf.

With footwear that evidenced a special relationship with the Shoemaker himself, Linda led us her way. Continue reading


8 Oct

Erotic poetry workshop.

So, I got this. This ain’t my first rodeo.

Then Carrie Etter threw a suckerpunch, not happened since the Man for a Day workshop.

I’d been asked to write about a part of my body in an erotic way, a loving way, give it magic powers and turn this into a poem. Continue reading


7 Oct

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The night before at the Ruth Stone House Party – also featuring lots of poets – the intros seem to go on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. and basically a long list of publications.

Thankfully the point of Quiet Compere was for the audience to decide if the 10 poets x 10 minutes were any good by listening to their poems. And so our first half host, Sarah L Dixon, read a couple of her poems and introduced poets by way of their name only.

Sarah’s The Source was probably the muckiest poem I’ve heard about a marriage breakup – a horrid smell leading to a cloth in drawer for a collection of, ahem, male excretions. Continue reading

Imagined Sons with Carrie Etter at the Swindon Festival of Poetry

4 Oct
Carrie Etter

Carrie Etter

Quite an emotional day yesterday, beginning with Robert Peake and then Carrie Etter. Not to mention the film There is Nothing in the Garden with its toy babies in toilets on day one of the Swindon Festival of Poetry.

Carrie read from her third collection, Imagined Sons. It’s a surreal package of work about ongoing life trauma / serious stuff to work through about giving her son up for adoption at the age of seventeen.

Poetry might be wonderfully cathartic to write but it’s also an invitation to talk openly about traumatic subjects. I had no compunction in talking afterwards to both Carrie and Robert about both their losses knowing that it was almost certainly okay. There isn’t the embarrassment of the unknown, of how they would like me to act, the worry of causing emotional upset – I already had a heads up on where their heads are at. Continue reading

Sliproad Poetry – Up the Junction! at Swindon Festival of Poetry

6 Oct

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Yesterday I went down the M4. Well, physically I crossed the great divide of the M4 from the Marlborough side to the Swindon side. But poetically I travelled from Bristol to London, being a bit late for Swansea and Cardiff.

Up the Junction!, part of the Swindon Festival of Poetry, was the loose theme for sticking a bunch of poets together in a room (at the impressive youth centre The Platform) for a large chunk of the day. And it worked in the same way cabaret works – some you like, some you don’t and some passes you by.

At this point I must share that I took my (almost) six month old along and, as any parent will tell you, things tend to revolve around them. Sometimes because I have to tend to her needs, sometimes because I realise I’ve been stroking her head and not paid much attention to anything else.

Heather, who had her third child a couple of weeks after mine, was there with baby in tow. We are both pretty tired. ‘Are you getting much of this?’ I think she asked me, or I asked her. ‘Sometimes I catch a line I like, or one I don’t. Both good,’ she said. Continue reading