This is how it went when I gave 90 poems to my mentor, Matt Black, to see what he thought of them.
The comments that came back were incredibly supportive and affirming. I was over the moon to read the text I got saying Matt was really enjoying my poems, but by the time it came to getting my book back, I wasn't as delighted as I thought I'd be...
I'd assumed part of my reason for giving those poems up for criticism was my need for affirmation - my insecurity about whether I am any good as a writer. Maybe I didn't need that as much as I thought? Unlikely!!
I think it was this... having been told I'd got enough good poems to go after a collection, I realised I need to do that - go after it. I need to do all the admin, marketing and self-promotion and competition entering that goes with that - meaning I have a lot less time to just write. It's all the stuff I hate doing, versus the stuff I love. When I first got published in my late teens, I was delighted, but I thought that getting published would unlock a secret door to success and I'd be whisked away through it. When it didn't happen, I thought maybe I didn't deserve that success after all and that one publication had just been an anomaly. It's not the case - success is about graft - the graft I've got coming if I want a published collection.
Having said all that, a few days after I got my poems back I began looking through other poems I've shelved because I thought they were too 'simple' or too 'difficult' or 'not ready' . I found I now know what I need to do with them. Matt's comments have given me a clearer idea of what I want to achieve and what kind of poet I am. I believe in my work and feel I know it in a way I didn't before. Getting that affirmation HAS impacted my confidence in my writing. I feel more courageous.
Matt also gave me some advice about a pet project to create some little illustrated booklets to sell alongside The Africa in My House at readings. I've decided to self-publish them as it means I can make them cheaply and get them out fast. I made two prototypes for the booklet and gave one to Matt and one to my poet/artist friend Mary Courtney. They were so chuffed with them I'm feeling inspired to do lots more creative projects - giveaways for readings, little activities and other ways of publishing my poems - posters for example. Why haven't I done a poster yet?! I want to bring more innovation to my work - and mix it up with my art a lot more.
I am also feeling really inspired by the TS Eliott stuff going on...keep your ears to the group for a new, Cov-based Wasteland...and then there's the City of Culture Project I'm working on with poet/artist Mary Courtney. Watch this space!