Thursday 31 December 2015

For Love of 2015

I've had an extraordinary year. The only diminishment to the pleasure has been the inability to share any of it with my parents, especially my mother, my best friend, who I often used to speak to in my thoughts.

The first spectacular was the shortlisting of Imagined Sons for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry by The Poetry Society--or, more specifically, the judges, Julia Copus, Kei Miller and Grayson Perry. For a manuscript first completed in 2006, honed nearly until publication in 2014, I was honoured and thrilled to receive national recognition.

Not long after the shortlisting, Susannah Herbert phoned to ask if I'd serve as a judge for the Forward Prizes in Poetry. The work proved exceptionally heavy--180 books, 225 poems (or thereabouts)--with a quick turnaround before the shortlist meeting. It was a treat to work with A.L. Kennedy, Emma Harding, Warsan Shire and Colette Bryce, and I learned so much about the way poetry collections operate, about the way they achieve integrity and excellence.

With the Forward prizegiving and celebration on 30 September and the new academic year commencing at the same time, I felt overwhelmed and delighted with my year in poetry. At the end of October I attended one of the most personally gratifying events of the year, with the launch of my late friend Linda Lamus's collection, A Crater the Size of Calcutta. Many publishers didn't want to touch a posthumous book by an unknown poet, but Mulfran Press took it on and produced a beautiful volume. The launch of the book in Bristol, with ten people who loved her reading a poem each, was perfect.

Yet there was more, relevant to my position teaching at Bath Spa University. To my delight, I received some teaching relief for the upcoming academic year, so while I'd be coordinating four modules, teaching PhD and undergraduate students doing independent studies, doing the usual load of moderation of marking for my own and other modules, and running the weekly first-year plenary series, I would not be teaching directly any individual modules and so not doing any large loads of marking. Instead of working five days a week for Bath Spa (I'm on a .7 contract, which means just under three-quarters' time), I would be working 2-3 days, so I'd have 4-5 days a week for my writing. Wa-hey! Further recognition came in December, with promotion to Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa.

I've had a splendid few months using the extra time the university's given me. I've been writing as much as possible, researching (this is the first book of poetry I've worked on that involved extensive research), and reading widely and voraciously. Thanks to my friends, colleagues, students and readers for your encouragement and support--I'm so grateful.

Here's to 2016!

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