Skip to content

The Poetry High-Low

The Poetry High-low

This was a week of highs and lows. Thankfully the highs far outnumbered the lows! In chronological order it panned out something like this:

Second Week at Seren

Week two was similar to week one. I finished copy editing the 104-page creative non-fiction nature book and also the 96-pages of an issue of Poetry Wales. My favourite day of the fortnight came when Amy Wack, the poetry editor (of Seren’s poetry publications, not of Poetry Wales), came into the office and I was able to listen-in, and contribute to, a discussion about a poetry festival.

Seren is Wales’ leading independent literary publisher, specialising in English-language writing from Wales. With a list spanning poetry, fiction and non-fiction, many of our books are shortlisted for - and win - major literary prizes across the UK and America.
Our aim is not simply to reflect what is going on in the culture in which we publish, but to drive that culture forward, to engage with the world, and to bring Welsh literature, art and politics before a wider audience.
(from the Seren website)

... Once again I realised how much easier it is to spot mistakes in other people’s writing than in your own. My last day at Seren, 31 May 2019, also coincided with this:

End of Term Results

The marks for my poetry and creative non-fiction end of module assignments arrived on Friday. The marks for poetry came in before I set off for work ... 72 percent, which is a distinction. I’m obviously happy with this result though the comments show how subjective an art form poetry is. Compared to science subjects where there are right and wrong answers, whether the tutor gets what you’re trying to bring out in a poem can be hit or miss. Sometimes the comments were very apt, such as that in one poem I’d crammed too much into the poem. Other times, such as in a poem that uses three titles of jazz tunes as sub-headings, it was commented that in class the sub-headings included the relevant composer’s name (Ellington, Monk, Parker) and YouTube links to performances of the related tunes (Prelude to a Kiss, ’Round Midnight and Now’s the Time). The comment was that I’d removed the composer and YouTube link for each sub-heading. Well duh, I had a discussion about that when the poem was workshopped and I said then that I probably wouldn’t include them in my final version because that would imply a connection between the music and the words of the poem which was not intended. The tunes were the background music to the poem rather than a poetic description of the tune. If we’d needed to write a reflective essay like we did last term, this would have been something I would have mentioned.

The creative non-fiction result arrived just before I packed my bag to head away from the Seren office for the last time. For this module I received 65 percent, which is a merit. I’m happy-enough with that ... I didn’t find the subject easy and totally accept the comment that neither the first story (which discussed the survival rates of people I’ve known with cancer, myself included) and a travel story about the time I visited America and Canada for the first time, were vignettes and there wasn’t a sense of a bigger story.

Unexpected Gifts

The day after I checked out of Seren I checked out of my Air BnB accommodation. I remember how, two or three years ago, it took me two or three days to learn my way around a hotel room — figuring out where the bathroom and bed were, where the wardrobe was and important stuff like where the kettle was. To be able to navigate between kitchen, bathroom, sitting room and bedroom (and the sets of stairs between them) right from day one, is really encouraging. My number one aim from studying the MA in creative writing, was to regain my confidence about living by myself and being able to get places I need to get to, whether for poetry, work or socialising. This fortnight in Bridgend I think was a perfect illustration that, on the independence front, I’ve made very good progress :)

As my dad and I brought my last things out to the car, the Air BnB host, a lady called Mair whose children were at high school with two of my undergrad friends from 1991-94, came to say goodbye ... bearing a box of Cadbury Milk Tray for me! I might not be a lady but I do love Cadbury Milk Tray!!! ;)

First Competition of the Year

Now my modules are over I’ve had time and poems to submit to magazines and competitions. The first was Magma for its issue on the theme of loss. This is the fourth time I’ve submitted to Magma and yet again they turned me down! I gather there were around 2,000 poems submitted so no real surprise there. I’ll still keep my submitting to a minimum while I focus on my final dissertation ... maybe there will be a prize-winning-worthy poem in that :)

Published inblindnesscompetitions and submissionseducationPoetry


  1. Nell Nell

    Well done on these fantastic results! That’s just wonderful.
    Oh and Magma turned my poems down too. You are in good company!
    We lost out on LOSS but we gained one more rejection slip. The collection grows….

  2. Giles Giles

    thanks, Nell. I love that observation … we lost out on loss but gained another rejection slip! 🙂 xx

  3. Susan Susan

    It sounds like an overall good week, with fair results from your marks, and the proof of being more independent again. How great that you had that experience at Seren. I think that was a confidence builder, too.

  4. Well done Giles, keep it up! I met Amy Wack last week at Hay Festival – she’s a bright spark indeed. Enjoy your milk tray and the fact that Magma missed out on another one of your great poems!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2024 Giles L. Turnbull · All rights reserved

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: