Lost and Found at Write On, a Leicester Writers’ Showcase 15 February 2017

9780956696793Write On, a Leicester Writers’ Showcase featured the anthology “Lost and Found: Stories from Leicestershire Writers” (Dahlia Publishing, 2016) at Leicester’s Central Library. The evening had eight writers reading extracts from their stories and question and answer sessions with the writers and Farhana Shaikh, publisher.

Farhana Shaikh welcomed everyone and introduced the first four readers. I was first to read with an extract from my story “Someone Else’s Wallpaper”. It’s about a young couple, Mark and Charlotte, who move into a new house with their baby, Bethany. The house had been refurbished before they moved in with the exception of the master bedroom which had a chintzy rose-covered wallpaper. Charlotte’s been haunted by the scent of roses and suspects the roses have been multiplying. When Bethany takes ill with suspected pneumonia, a well-intentioned neighbour reveals a secret about the previous owner to Charlotte. Next up was Drew Gummerson reading from “Adrian” told from a viewpoint of a fifteen-year-old boy whose parents have (separately) left home so he falls under the influence of Adrian. Grace Haddon followed with “Zenith”, a story about a community on a space station where it’s announced they will be returning “home” (i.e. back to earth) but one girl, who was born on the space station, wonders where exactly her home is. Tony R Cox finished the readings for the first half with “Under a Savage Sky” about a man trying to make a home in an isolated house when storm forces him to confront the reason he’d been force to leave his previous home, a reason he’d buried in denial.

The question and answer session started with a discussion on inspiration. Grace said she’s brainstormed and took the idea to an extreme – what does home mean if you were born in space? Tony placed his main character in a place where he has to make a home. Drew’s story had elements of biography. Mine was inspired by a house viewing where a house had been refurbished but it looked as if the builders had thought “let’s give the main bedroom a feminine touch” and gone for garish pink-rosed wallpaper which got me thinking about who might have chosen such a wallpaper to live with and why. There was a question on how writers felt about being edited. Being edited is part of the job. Drew mentioned one agent liked his novel on the basis of the first ten thousand words he’d sent her but then, seeing the completed book, she asked that the ten thousand words be cut. That doesn’t necessarily mean that those ten thousand words were wasted: the ideas, characters or themes might recur in other work. The “what are you working on now” question was replied with editing, finishing or thinking about novels, drafting poems, about to write a review and writing blog articles. A question about whether writers consider sounds when they write prompted a discussion about how useful it was to read work aloud – whether poetry or prose – because the writer not only heard how it sounded but it highlighted repetitions, tongue-twisting sentences and odd words that were out of keeping with the others. I discussed how sounds leant meaning to the story as well: long vowels create smooth sounds or short, clipped vowels give a staccato rhythm which could be employed to support or counter the narrative strand either reassuring or discomforting the reader. There were thoughts on the differences between poetry and prose, the former being more concentrated and distilled, the latter giving writers more space to explore themes. When asked if I preferred prose or poetry, I said I had a preference for poetry but someone else might answer differently.

The second half followed the same format with readings from Jamie Mollart, whose “Home Game” looks at domestic violence through the lens of a crucial home game for Leicester City Football Club. Amy Ball with “Buzz’s Fury” about discrimination faced by a couple travelling with a circus. Rebecca Burns read from “Moving the Furniture” where a homesick woman yearns to return to England after circumstances push her to emigrate to New Zealand. Siobhan Logan’s “Whitby Jet” starts as a final holiday before an elderly lady surrenders to being packed off into a care home, which uncovers hidden memories.

When questioned about the differences between a novel and short story, the four seemed in agreement that short stories were more succinct, focused and offer more opportunity to experiment with form or structure. The writers felt their best short stories came when they could see how it was going to end before beginning to write. Farhana mentioned that in selecting stories for the anthology, all editors were clear that they wanted stories with a strong ending, not necessarily one that tied up all loose ends, but one that stayed in the reader’s mind and rewarded re-reading. Jamie pointed out that weak stories were those set up to end on a punchline that was interesting once but didn’t sustain re-reading. Some of the panel confessed to using music to set a mood. Jamie’s novels had soundtracks, music he’d played whilst writing, as it helped with a consistency of tone. Amy said she found music distracting while she actually wrote because she’d get caught up in the song and lose sight of the page. All four said they would read sections aloud while writing.

Leicester Writes is running a short story competition with shortlisted and prize-winning stories included in an anthology to be published by Dahlia Publishing. Full Leicester Writes Short Story Competition details here.

Copies of “Lost and Found: stories of home by Leicestershire writers” are available from Dahlia Publishing.

Welcome to Leicester event at DeMontfort University 27 February 2017

Shindig Live Poetry Leicester 30 January 2017

Poster for Shindig poetry readingsShindig is organised by Nine Arches Press and Crystal Clear Creators and the former usually lead the first half while the latter take over after the interval. Tonight Nine Arches Press was launching Under the Radar #18 and Crystal Clear Creators featured readings from Deborah Tyler-Bennett and Andrew Button.

Each half starts with open mic slots. Will Coles took the first slot with a sonnet from a series of ‘delinquent sonnets’ looking at rubber-neckers gathered after an accident, “he’s moving so he’s not dead” ending on the line “We’ll feed on him another day.”. Thomas Irvine gave us another sonnet about Icarus. It was third poet Richard Byrt who hit on the novel idea of giving the audience the title of the poem about to be read, here “Motivating Millie”, a darkly humorous list of suggestions of things Millie could do, gradually revealing that elderly Millie’s relatives are thinking of a care home for her and these ideas are to “Stop them deciding they have to put you away.” Ambrose Musiyiwa rounded off the open mic slots with a topical poem about Martians (and the aliening of refugees) of which I know the title because I saw it published in “The Journal.”

Jane Commane of Nine Arches kicked off the Under the Radar launch by reading two poems, “Hail” by John Challis and “The Way Queenie Smokes” by Edward Long, confessing that the latter poem gave her cravings for a cigarette,

“The way Queenie smokes is why they call him Queenie,
ballet-poise along his whole arm out to his held fingers.
Long sensuous drawing up of the smoke into his lungs,
a gentle letting forth of smoke from his mouth.

The rasp to his laugh rattles his belly
squashed tight into his stained t-shirt.”

Reviews editor, Maria Taylor, picked Catherine Ayres’ “Solistice”

“Perhaps I’ll find you in the valley’s bruise,
the jolt of your eyes in a seam of light;
I have my plans these winter nights
when the spent candle stumbles, gone,”

This was read before Joe Caldwell’s “Transmigration.” Deborah Tyler-Bennett picked both of Josephine Shaw’s poems “On the Banks of the Aude” and “Mum and Dad enjoy a Cocktail.” Cathy Whittaker read “St Jerome” where she wonders if his wife viewed him in quite the same way as those who laud him, and “Message to My Grandfather” (not featured in the magazine). Reviewer D A Prince selected Ramona Herdman’s “Wake Up: Time to Die” which takes a quote from “Bladerunner” as its source inspiration, explaining “It grabbed me and I went straight back to the beginning to see how she did it.” Her second selection was a short extract from Martin Figura’s “Shed” which she had reviewed. Fiona Theokritoff read her poem “Cartographer” and another, “Wrong Turning.” Although availability played a big part in selections, in a issue which includes poems from Sarah Barnsley, Giles Goodland, Josh Ekroy, Fran Lock, Jessica Mookherjee and Rory Waterman amongst others, a mere two poems would have been a tough choice.

Maria Taylor was back, this time in her Crystal Clear Creators role, to get the second half underway. She read her own poem, “Don and the Age of Aquarius”, imagining someone like Donald Trump meeting a hippy angel in 1967’s Summer of Love. Jim Kersey had three short poems, “Inheritance,” “Inspiration” and “Dawn” forming part of an “Autumn Verses” sequence. The first two had a serious tone, exploring rich autumnal shades and colours. The third was light-hearted, starting “Shall I compare thee to a maple tree/ though thou are more temperamental.” More humour from John Lloyd’s “I Believe” based on the foundation that if he’d signed up to the university of life, “it enrolled me on the wrong course.” Most open mic slots were taken by Shindig regulars, but both Johns were reading at Shindig for the first time and got a warm welcome. Dave Tunnley kept up the autumnal theme in “Imagine Travel.” I read “The Shoemaker’s Walk” from “Welcome to Leicester“. Angela Bailey read “Rania’s Story”, a woman fleeing Syria with her children but leaving her elderly mother behind and the guilt, “as close as a sapling to its roots.” Rob Jones wrapped up the open mic session with a poem about a house shared by three humanities students living in “nostalgic tribute to ‘Black Books’ or ‘Withail and I’,” a poem apparently without title.

Featured poet, Deborah Tyler-Bennett started with three poems, “Ways Home,” “North’s Street” and “Sutton-in-Ashfield” from “Napoleon Solo Biscuits” which I reviewed for London Grip here. She then read new poems from her forthcoming collection “Mr Bowlly Regrets”, “Overheard on the Threes”, eavesdropping a conversation on a long bus journey. “No Relation” inspired by the discovery that some soldiers who served in the First World War had put down employers as their next of kin because they had no family to return to. “Then” inspired by a grandmother, looking at “Superstitutions” shared by her grandmother and her grandmother’s sister who saw “sleek magpies not as thieves but portents.” “Upstairs at the Trading Post” where a down-to-earth woman is wary of a ghost “lurking upstairs while she did the cleaning.” A star of the silent film era is recalled in “Popping By” where a “soldier hubby’s specs matching those of Harold Lloyd hanging on to that clock face.”

Second featured poet was Andrew Button whose “Dry Days in Wet Towns” has just been published by erbacce press. He introduced us to a selection of dryly observed humour. “Glasgow Hotel” could have been drawn from Edgar Allan Poe’s imagination. “The Only Clue” ends “roving extraterrestrials will still find a shopping trolley in a canal.” “after the drive-thru refusal (no fence involved)”, a woman takes her horse into McDonalds in “We’re Lovin’ It”. “Two Dickies” is about a statue to the cricket umpire Dicky Bird. “Turner in his Grave” muses on a Turner Prize entry. “Light of Wonder” was a tribute to Ray Bradbury who “coaxed my fledging pen to write on” and ending “your books will never burn.” Andrew Button is a collector of news stories, not unlike Marcel Proust, and the quirkier the better. “Navel Pursuit” takes inspiration from a story about a man who collected navel fluff. “Microphone” was a nod to childhood where he and friends would past the time recording made-up jingles. The final poem “After the Rain”, the name of a bubble bath, a tender tribute to his wife.

“Under the Radar” magazine is available from Nine Arches Press.

Deborah Tyler-Bennett’s collections are published by Kings England Press.

Andrew Button’s “Dry Days in Wet Towns in available from erbacce press.



DNA Fingerprinting, a Poem and a potential new Tourist Attraction

When we put a call out for submissions for “Welcome to Leicester”, we expected poems about King Richard III, Leicester City Football Club and areas with personal significance for the poet. While the poems started coming in, I began to write a list of topics I wanted the anthology to include in some way. Topics such as the Shoemakers’ Walk, Suffragette Alice Hawkins, adverts taken out to deter refugees in the 1970s and the contrast with events during Refugee Week and Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys’ discovery of DNA fingerprinting. My list became a series of poems, however, if someone submitted a poem on a topic I’d written about, I put mine to one side and did not put it forward for the anthology.

I was pleased to learn that Leicester City Council, Leicester University and the King Richard III Centre have teamed up to study the feasibility of creating a new tourist attraction to tell the story of Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys’ discovery of DNA and its significance in the clearing the name of an innocent man and providing evidence to identify the murderer, as reported in the Leicester Mercury.

You don’t really get Eureka Moments

“Complicated” became “Eureka”
at 9.05am on 10 September 1984:
I saw genetic fingerprinting.

It started with a chemist’s set
and sulphuric acid burns
leading to me wearing a beard.

After studies, an invite to Leicester
University gave me a lab,
a part-time technician and freedom.

to study human genetic fingerprinting,
disease diagnosis, inheritance
and evolution of genetic variations.

I proved two fifteen-year-old girls
were murdered by the same killer
but not the chief suspect.

I’d cleared a man’s name.
But the killer was still out there.
We continued testing

and looking over our shoulders.
Potentially the murderer knew
where we worked, where our families lived.

The price of my insecurity was £200:
the payment made for a man
to give a blood sample for a colleague

and mask a serial murderer/rapist.
Two hundred pounds.
Until a drink loosened his tongue.

Then the trial of a man,
of forensic DNA.
If it had failed, my work…

The remainder of my poem can be read in “Welcome to Leicester“.

Welcome to Leicester poetry anthology book cover

Leicester Poetry News

I’ve been caught up in typesetting “Welcome to Leicester” so I’m listing poetry related events taking place in Leicester during September and the beginning of October.

9 September 6 – 8pm Sanctuary Radio

Co-editor Ambrose Musiyiwa and I were interviewed by Marilyn Ricci for Sanctuary Radio’s book club programme and this will be broadcast on Friday 9 September between 6 – 8pm at www.sanctuaryradio.co.uk. We talk about “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” (Five Leaves, 2015) and “Welcome to Leicester” (Dahlia Publishing, October 2016).

17 September 2pm South Leicestershire Poetry Stanza

Meet at Leicester Language Academy on New Walk. Friendly workshop.

19 September 7.30pm Shindig

Western Pub, Western Road, Leicester. Featuring readings from Alison Brakenbury, Shruti Chauhan and Lydia Towsey.

25 September 2.30pm Enchanter

Film poem with live music accompliment at Phoenix Arts. Seating is limited.

1 October Journeys Poems Pop-up Library at Leicester Railway Station

October sees the Everybody’s Reading Festival in Leicester which runs from 1 – 9 October. During the Festival there will be a pop-up library at Leicester Railway Station featuring poems from “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” available as postcards for communters to take away.

3 October 7pm You Are Here Poetry Workshop led by Maria Taylor

Friends Meeting House, Queens Road, Leicester. Booking essential – see brochure. Workshop will look at generating new poems based on memory, places and how abstract emotions can be turned into raw material for poetry along with opportunities to read and learn from poets who write on these themes. Maria has a new pamphlet forthcoming from Happenstance and is Under the Radar’s Reviews Editor.

4 October 2pm Central Library Deborah Tyler-Bennett

Bishop Street, Leicester. Deborah Tyler-Bennett reads from her recent collection, “Napoleon Solo Biscuits,” a volume full of icons from popular culture, from the “Man from UNCLE” to Private Walker in “Dad’s Army” … The reading will be followed by Q and A about writing using popular figures.

4 October 8pm Word! with Malika Booker

Y Theatre, East Street, Leicester £7/£4. Open mic sessions available (arrive at 7pm to book).

5 October 7.30pm Gobsmacked

Upstairs at The Western, Western Road, Leicester £8/£6 booking recommended. Brand new show from performance poet and psychiatric nurse Rob Gee. From the bus driver who gets kidnapped by his own alter ego to the hazards of goalkeeping on tranquillisers, Gobsmacked explores the world of chaos and adventure that lurks behind the veneer of everyday life.

6 October 7pm Leicester Writers’ Club presents Writers breaking out of the Box

At Phoenix Arts, Midland Street, Leicester. £5 for non-members. Finding the words to tell our own stories is always a feat. It can be a game we enjoy playing. Authors from Leicester Writers’ Club discuss how they work creatively with various challenges such as dyslexia, English as a second language or visual impairment. Hear how their stories turn out and join in a Q & A. Guests are most welcome. Light refreshments will be available.

7 October 10am Poetry for Beginners with Karen Powell

Hamilton Library, Maidenwell Avenue, Hamilton, Leicester. Free but booking required – see brochure. No experience necessary, this workshop will show beginners short writing exercises to turn ideas into poems-in-progress and will explore poetic techniques and forms.

7 October 7pm Launch of “Welcome to Leicester”

At the African Caribbean Centre, Maidstone Road, Leicester. Event for the Welcome to
Leicester anthology to be published by Dahlia Publishing featuring readings from the anthology. Poems have been submitted by writers who want to share stories about Leicester to tie in with National Poetry Day’s theme of messages. We will be encouraging you to read the poems alongside the performances so sharing stories about a familiar area and encouraging you to discover more about your neighbourhood.

8 October New Walk Museum

Day of writing-related events at New Walk Museum, including ‘Walls’ and poetry and rap.

8 October 7.30pm Burning Eye Books

Upstairs at the Western, Western Road, Leicester. £8/£6. Burning Eye Books Presents: Ash Dickinson, Lydia Towsey and Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves join us for a scintillating evening of high quality spoken word, comedy and entertainment.

8 October 7.30pm Under Milk Wood

The Guildhall, Guildhall Lane, Leicester. Free, booking essential – see brochure. Performed by Stage Left Theatre Workshop.

9 October John Hegley

at the Guildhall for two events, one child-friendly starting at 4pm and one evening event starting at 7pm.

Throughout the Festival, the Exchange Bar is offering a free cup of tea for a handwritten poem.

The full Everybody’s Reading Festival brochure is available at: http://www.everybodysreading.co.uk/

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Editing the “Welcome to Leicester” Poetry Anthology

Ideally all submitted poems would have been typed with the title, not all in capitals, at the top of the page, any dedications or epigraphs under the title, the poem and the poet’s name at the end, with any explanatory notes following the poet’s name, and sent by email to the correct email address. However, we considered poems that were handwritten, posted or, in one case, sent as an image despite not being a concrete poem or requiring a special layout. (It’s fine sending an image as a guide to layout, but the poem also needs to be provided as text: if you make work for editors, you’re setting up your poems to be rejected.) And even poems sent to the wrong email address.

No poem was rejected or ignored because it wasn’t in an ideal format. All poems were either typed (if send by post) or reformatted (if emailed) into a standard font so we could focus on the poem.

I have previously co-edited an anthology, “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” (Five Leaves, 2015), edited a posthumously published collection, Paul Lee’s “Us: who made History” (Original Plus, 2012), and have many years’ reviewing experience so can recognise a poem longer than 40 lines without having to do a line count. Poems with a line length significantly over 40 lines were rejected. Poems with line-lengths between 40-50 lines were looked at to see if they could be easily edited to the right length. We were being generous: other editors wouldn’t have bothered and competition administrators would have automatically disqualified these poems.

Surprisingly we did receive a handful of poems that weren’t about Leicester. These and the 50+ line poems were the only automatic rejections (we did write to poets and suggest they substitute alternative poems although we were not obliged to.)

We weren’t looking for a pre-determined number of poems. We were looking to put at least one poem from every poet forward for consideration (not necessarily acceptance.)

The selection process was simple. Once typed or reformatted into a standard font (if necessary), every poem was printed. We met periodically and read each poem from the page and aloud. Each poem was placed into either a rejection pile or a maybe pile. We weren’t making firm decisions at this stage.

Some of the maybes weren’t perfect poems. We were prepared to consider good ideas that weren’t fully realised poems yet. In some cases we wrote back to the poet to ask them to consider our suggested edits, in other cases we decided to wait to the typesetting stage. We didn’t expect poets to automatically rewrite their poem to our suggestions. We did expect poets to look at our suggestions, think about what their intentions for the poem were and edit the areas we thought were weakening the poem. Most did have another look at their poem and resubmitted a new version. Some poems were edited for context too: in an anthology about Leicester, setting and explanatory lines weren’t needed as they would be in a collection without a specific geographical setting.

When we had a substantial number of poems, I started spreading poems in the maybe pile out on a table and grouping poems that worked together into a flexible order. We didn’t group poems by theme because some themes attracted a few poems which didn’t necessarily work together, other themes only had one poem and some poems would have fitted under more than one theme. I also periodically went through the rejection pile to see if any could be slotted into the emerging anthology, even though on first reading we’d put them aside.

There were one of three reasons for rejecting a poem

  1. It was a brilliant stand alone poem that didn’t slot into the anthology.
  2. The poem was a collection of notes for a poem, sometimes driven by a rhyme scheme, often including cliches, and not yet an actual poem.
  3. It failed the “do I recognise it?” test.

Most poems that failed the “do I recognise it?” test did so because they used generic descriptions and the resulting poem could have been located anywhere in the country. A list of children’s activities in a park is great for a tourist brochure but too vague for a poem. If your poem’s narrator is walking down a street of terraced houses, he could be in Nottingham. If your poem’s narrator is walking down a street of terraced houses where four are named after Disraeli’s novels, then he’s on St Peter’s Road in Leicester. Just one or two telling details can transform a poem’s sense of place.

Typesetting is underway. The anthology had been growing organically since the beginning of June and needed to be thinned down. We wanted to ensure each poem was carrying a message or telling a story and didn’t duplicate another. Some good poems were taken out, not because there was anything wrong with them as stand alone poems, but because they didn’t quite fit in the anthology.

Poets who have submitted poems have been notified of the outcome individually.

Top Tips for submitting poems to anthologies

  • Read the guidelines
  • If the  anthology is on a theme, submit poems on that theme no matter how obscure or tenuous. Poems that cannot be linked to the theme, cannot be considered.
  • Avoid generic, off-the-peg descriptions. Vagueness is fine if your poem’s narrator is struggling with language, struggling to recall a memory or you are presenting a series of clues for the reader. But avoid any phrasing that wouldn’t sound out of place in a marketing brochure.
  • Check you’ve read the guidelines.
  • Look at the presentation of your poem. Is it typed in a standard font and laid out the way you want it on the page? Always send the poem as text but accompany it with the image if you have a concrete poem or non standard layout.
  • Have you read the guidelines yet?
  • Have you written a poem or notes for a poem? First ideas often feel stunning, brilliant and original, but first drafts are rarely stunning, brilliant and original.
  • Check line-length. There is a default 40 line length (that’s lines of text, not including stanza breaks or titles) because that usually offers enough room for a poem and, where the number of pages is finite, offers the maximum opportunity for a variety of poets and poems. If everyone offered 400 line poems, there would be less opportunity for variety.
  • You have read the guidelines haven’t you?
  • Check you’re using the right email address. When submissions are sent to the right address, the editor can simply hit ‘reply’. If they’re sent to the wrong email address, which might be on a different email client/server, then the editor either has to copy and paste the reply email address or forward the submission to right address. That might not take long if you’re only forwarding one or two emails but when you’re up against a deadline and have a day-job, these irritations can lead to rejection.
  • Don’t create work for an editor: if you make it easy for an editor to reject your work, they will.
  • Those guidelines: you’ve read them, right?

Poems still sought for Welcome to Leicester

Deadline for submissions of poems on the theme of messages or stories about the city of Leicester is 15 July 2016.

Submissions can be made by email: poetry@leicesterwrites.co.uk or post and we can accept previously published poems.

Poets themselves do not have to be from Leicester

You could live in Leicester, work in Leicester, have family in Leicester, have visited Leicester, be that person in Timbuktu who decided to support Leicester City instead of Manchester United or be the Martian who tripped over Curiosity, the Mars Rover developed at Leicester University, and decided to find out more. Your poem can be set in the past, present or future providing it’s recognisably set in Leicester. It’s the poem that is the primary focus. Full submission guidelines are here.

We have not yet made any final decisions

We will not make any final decisions until after the closing date when we have received all the poems. Please don’t ask us for a decision before the closing date because we cannot give one.

The poems that make it into the anthology will be a) poems that follow the guidelines and b) poems that want to share their discovery with the reader. I am prepared to make suggested edits to poems, but taking your epic magnum opus and distilling it into 40 lines is not editing. It would be me writing your poem for you. Despite many years of publication, I have plenty of my own poems to write so don’t have time to write yours as well.

Editing an anthology is not a simple case of selecting the best work

That might seem counterintuitive, but we want poems that will read well alongside each other, poems that illustrate all aspects of Leicester as well as each individual poem being the best it can be.

Occasionally a brilliant poem will only work if it stands alone in the spotlight, like a mirrorball. On a stage with others, its light falls in shadow or those polished, reflective surfaces rebuff engagement. We would like poems that can reach out, share their story and engage with readers.

Tips for giving your poem the best chance of being selected:

Check your Poem Conforms to the Guidelines

This shouldn’t need saying. The guidelines are not rules to be broken but a sensible way of giving each poem a level playing field. From experience, I can tell whether your poem is longer than 40 lines by looking at it. Your poem could be handwritten or in a fancy font, but every poem is typed or reformatted in a standard font before it’s read.

Check your Poem is on the Theme

Your poem about Gotham might be marvellous, but unless you relocate Wayne Mansion to Leicester castle and the batcave to under the Soar, we can’t use it.

Presentation Matters

This isn’t about whether your poem is typed or not (we will accept handwritten entries), but whether you’ve given thought to how your poem looks on the page. Is there an inexplicable fifth line in the third stanza of your ballad? Is there a good reason for centring your text rather than using a left hand margin? Would your poem about leaves falling on New Walk benefit from being leaf-shaped?

A pastel text colour on a pale background isn’t easy to read, neither is a neon font on a neon page; there needs to be a contrast between colours and it’s best to stick to black on white. Crumpled, coffee-stained paper suggests you’re not bothered, so why should we be?

Is this your Best Poem?

Did you dash down your first thoughts about Leicester, group them into stanzas and think “That will do?”

Did you notice the cliches in your second stanza?

Have you used generic or specific phrasing? ‘Yellow’ covers everything from neon highlighters to primroses. ‘Blue’ could be sky to sapphire. Which shade did you mean?

Is your description detailed? Every Street got its name because taxi drivers were supposed to be able to take you to every street in Leicester from that spot. However, if every street in your poem looks exactly the same, how can a taxi driver tell where they are?

How many times have you referred to Leicester in your poem? In the context of an anthology of poems about Leicester, the word is getting a little tired.

Does your poem say something new? Leicester is newsworthy: the discovery of DNA fingerprinting, uncovering Richard III’s bones, winning the Premiership, but I’ve read the news. Your poem needs to find something new to say, a different angle, a personal reaction (without cliches), some gem of information that wasn’t in the news. Poems can pick up a small detail and amplify it. We’ve had poems about Leicester’s win. But no one’s submitted a poem about Jamie Vardy’s TV rocking on its stand when his party erupted in celebration.

Read it aloud. Poems work both read silently from the page and read aloud. Some poets record and playback their readings to hear how the poem sounds. Reading aloud also helps you pick up awkward line breaks, sound patterns, obvious rhymes and that tongue twister in stanza four. Ambrose and I are reading poems silently and reading them aloud as part of our selection process and we have no bias towards page or stage.

Put it aside for a while and come back and read both silently from the page and aloud. A break can give you a fresh perspective.

Titles matter. Our anthology won’t work if the contents list 80 poems titled ‘Leicester’. What title would grab a reader to read your poem first?

When you think you can’t make any more improvements, send it in before 16 July.

We will accept emails date and time stamped before midnight on 15 July. We will accept postal submissions providing the postmark is dated 15 July or earlier.

We will not accept any submissions dated 16 July or later.