THE POETIC JOURNEY

In the Beginning…

When I was nine I had two poems published in The Surrey Comet: The Stallion and James Bond and Dirty Dick.  I won’t include them here but I was, of course, delighted — a veritable child prodigy, coining the immortal lines:
James Bond was the man in front, Dirty Dick the one behind,
One was bad, the other was kind.

In those days, you could get a Poetry Society Poetry Reading Certificate.  My teacher, Miss Moriarty, was very encouraging, as was my best friend’s mum.  My best friend and I went up to Earls Court twice to recite our poems at Society HQ and receive our critiques and certificates — little did I know that fifty years later I would still be open mic-ing!  As well as William Blake’s The Fly, I also opted to read my own poem, The Stallion and, looking back at my shy nine-year-old self, I’m not sure where I got the pizzazz to do this — perhaps at that age I thought that all poems were born equal…

In secondary school I studied Ted Hughes, Charles Causley, R. S. Thomas and Rupert Brooke.  I had a terrible teenage crush on Brooke and his golden boy Grecian profile.  My schoolfriend and I would sit in Richmond Park with a picnic and learn his poems off by heart together.  I went through a phase of writing self-pitying teenage poetry, often accompanied by my trademark biro drawing of myself crouched against a wall, head buried in arms, the archetypal posture of an angst-ridden creative.

Then, in my late teens/early twenties, I became a kind of amanuensis.  I left school at sixteen to do a bilingual secretarial course at Kingston College of Further Education.  I could type extremely fast in French and English, as well as being a whizz at shorthand.  Two male friends of mine were writing what I considered to be excellent poetry, so I would work my way through their boyish handwriting to produce typewritten versions and lost my own poetic way a little.  My main personal writing at this stage was report writing and a bit of journalism.

In the early 2000s I decided to start take creative writing courses to knock my own writing into shape after many years of nurturing students’ writing at the University of East Anglia.  I considered myself a short story writer and, while I did get a couple published, soon discovered poetry was a stronger presence and suited what I wanted to say.  I was fooled by an early success with Mslexia (see below) but soon realised how hard it was to get even single poems published, let alone a collection.  I believe rejection is a badge of honour, how can you be a serious writer if you haven’t tried and failed and then failed better, to misquote Beckett…  Honestly, though, you only get better if you give a rejected poem a good hard look and try to make it its best/better self and then send it out again.  My publication journey below shows, I hope, a growth in skill and confidence and is a record of my personal journey as a poet.  I can see how I started to veer away from more familiar magazines and try my luck more widely.  I have great respect for poetry editors — they have to make difficult decisions and are often unpaid aficionados who sift through piles of poems for the love of it and probably die a little inside every time they have to say “no” — so, don’t take it personally, every “no” is a valuable lesson.

2001
The Angel, Islington (short story) & An East Anglian Journey in “Tales of Eastern Promise” — anthology of work from Diploma in Creative Writing, University of East Anglia

2005
In Dreams of Starlit WaterMslexia (Issue 26)

2006
My Life in SouvenirsMslexia (Issue 31)

2007
My Resistance to DollsMslexia (Issue 34)

2008
Kinosaki OnsenWriter’s Forum (Issue 81)

Earthquake, Lincolnshire 2008Writer’s Forum (Issue 83)

Diary of a Haircut (short story)Writer’s Forum (Issue 87) & Turner Maxwell Books Best Short Stories of 2008

2009
My New BowlPoetry in the Waiting Room

Late Night Forensics of the Ladies’ Room; No Going Back &

Men are From Mars

Poetry anthology “Up to our Necks in it” (Black Tulip Books)

Selected HaikuWriter’s Forum (Issue 92)

Closed Cell; No Going Back; Shibboleth; My New Bowl; Gion Nights“Call to Contrast” Exhibition 4th-26th July 2009 The Assembly House, Norwich (Collaboration with artist Fionn O’Beirne)

2010
The Distractor Brides of St Petersburg & A Walk in the Peaks

The Literary Bohemian

The Big Freeze : Ely January 2010Writer’s Forum

On Accepting Oysters from StrangersCake Magazine

2011
A Walk in the Peaks

Country Living Magazine Poetry Competition, Runner up

Rock-a-bye-babyWriter’s Forum Issue No 114 May Commended Poem

2012
Cannibalism — Kettle’s Yard Blog, Cambridge Poetry inspired by Alfred Wallis

The Right Honourable Mrs George Robertson-Blythe Addresses Her HusbandMslexia (Issue 56)
 

Tips on Getting Published
First and foremost, treat each poem like a job application — it should look smart and professional on the page and tell the publisher that it wants to be taken seriously.  No fancy fonts.  No fancy form just for the sake of it.  No colour.  Just plain, clear, black and white.  Poems reflect who their writers are, and this means you need to make sure the magazine you have sent it to is right for you and for the poem.  Don’t try and second guess editors and competition judges by tailoring your poems to their perceived needs.  Instead, make your poem stand out with a great title which suits the poem and is not just a gimmick — your title should say, “Look, choose me, I’m different and will make you see the world in a different way!”  Do your research.  I used to spend hours in The Poetry Library on the South Bank looking through magazines and getting a feel for their individual flavours.
 

 
2013
The Big Freeze 1963Writer’s Forum Issue No 139

Elizabeth Cromwell Dreams of SilkBrittle Star Magazine

I’m Not Wearing Chanel for the RadioThe Cannon’s Mouth

2014
Spitting DistanceThe North

From Single Poems to Collection
I think it was at this point that I underwent a sea change with my poetry.  I started to realise that I had enough work for a collection and I wanted the collection to reflect my interest in landscape, the Gothic and liminal spaces.  This was the beginning of what is now In the Kingdom of Shadows, but which started its life as Moments of Sleeping and Waking.  Somehow the poems started to come from the same place in terms of feeling, associations and theme.  They felt as if they were in dialogue with each other.  In 2015 went on a week-long Masterclass in Poetry at Ty Newydd in Wales led by Gillian Clarke and Maura Dooley and worked with a fantastic group of poets, most of whom I am still in touch with.
 

 
2015
Seven Easy Steps to Working with Angels & What Scott KnewOrbis

MetropolisThe Lampeter Review

The Chandelier CompetitionInk, Sweat and Tears

Of Ice and MenStride Magazine

Marsh FeverThe Fenland Reed

2016
A Short History of BirdsStride Magazine

A Peregrine Falcon on Norwich Cathedral Suffers Delusions of Grandeur
I was delighted with Judge Tiffany Atkinson’s comment on my peregrine poem, which was commended in the 2016 Café Writers Competition.  I’m not hugely successful when it comes to competitions, often the bridesmaid, lost in the short/longlists, rather than the bride!
“A wonderfully gutsy ventriloquism of a famous local predator… a celebration of wildness in the very midst of the city, ‘red in tooth and claw’.”
 

 
The Long GoodbyeThe Fenland Reed

The Kingdom of Shadowslonglisted in Cinnamon Press 2016 Pamphlet Competition

In Printemps Department Store & Jean GabinThe French Literary Review

Dead SheepThe Fenland Reed

Billancourt 1938 & Looking for François TruffautBrittle Star Magazine

Mapping It — Longlisted in National Poetry Competition 2016

Arts Council Grant and Lumière
It all began with a chance conversation over coffee with a film colleague who used to employ me to run film courses at Cinema City in Norwich.  The education team had devised a new thread, Cinema Cities, a series of film days which would look at films set in certain cities.  Would I do Paris?  I never looked back!  I was already teaching French film and sourcing and researching as many films shot in Paris as I possibly could became an obsession.  It was at this point that I started to think that this would be a wonderful topic to write about.  I put in an application for an Arts Council grant and at the end of 2015 (Christmas Eve in fact!)  I discovered that I’d received a grant which would enable me to stay in Paris and write and research (I did this for six weeks), run an Inspired by Film Poetry Competition, buy myself some writing time so I could work less and produce more, start writing my blogposts and, finally, go on two Arvon courses which I could not have otherwise afforded.  This opportunity really changed me as a poet, it was hugely validating and the time I had to write really paid off. I wrote more than I ever had before and my writing underwent a marked in quality because I was writing so much.  The result was my debut pamphlet, Lumiere, published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in 2018.
 

 
2017
Parc Montsouris 1961Southword Journal Issue 31

SirensTailfins & Sealskins: An Anthology of Water Lore
Three Drops Press (Spring 2017)

A Peregrine Falcon on Norwich Cathedral Suffers Delusions of GrandeurPaper Swans’ Best of British Anthology 2017

Taken & My Mother Was Once A Cat Called FootsoLighthouse Issue 15

GothicLonglisted in Fish Poetry Competition 2017

LumièreShortlisted in The Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition 2017

Russian Doll, Rapunzel Syndrome & RipperThe High Window

In The Kingdom of ShadowsShortlisted in Live Canon First Collection Competition

Interlude in a Locked RoomModern Poetry in Translation 50th Anniversary Edition http://modernpoetryintranslation.com/transreading

Bryce & Peckover House CuriositiesLondon Grip — New Poetry

Fanny Burney Loses Her Right BreastMslexia Issue 79

2018
Trompe l’oeilUnder The Radar Issue 21

GolemMagma

from The Saltwater DiariesThe Interpreter’s House, Issue 68

The Unreliability of CloudsStrix Issue 4

Lighting Carmen — Tears in the Fence

Souvenons-Nous — (11th November 2018) in partnership with the Imperial War Museum/First World War Centenary Partnership and the 26 Group of Writers
http://www.1914.org/armistice-100-days

OhwillowtitwillowtitwillowWatch the Birdie Anthology (Beautiful Dragons)

2019
An Android Decides to Apply for a PassportEmma Press Future Anthology

NightcombingThe Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry

TriangulationTransreading feature — Modern Poetry in Translation on-line
http://modernpoetryintranslation.com/russian-and-ukrainian-poems-%09%09of-conflict-transread/

Mother RussiaThe Pangolin Review Issue 11

It Only Happens In My DreamsSurVision Magazine Issue 5

ZoneWords for the Wild

In Which a Middle-Aged Woman in Primark Jeans Denies Her InvisibilityPoetry News

Dark EcologyFinished Creatures Issue 2

GolemEmma Press Gothic Anthology

AspenThe Understory — 52 Sestudes on trees by writers from 26 (writing collective)

MarginaliaCoast to Coast to Coast Aldeburgh Special Edition

And into Lockdown…
The strangest year…. In 2017 we moved from King’s Lynn to East Runton — still in Norfolk, but by the sea.  I found I was writing a huge number of sea/nature poems and they really did seem to be in a clear dialogue with each other.  The Saltwater Diaries is by far the easiest book I have put together and I was delighted when Hedgehog Poetry Press brought it out towards the end of 2020.  At the same time I was putting together my second collection for Live Canon, Confetti Dancers, probably the most difficult book I had put together and which had been bubbling under for quite some time as I finally started to be able to poetically process the time I spent in the 1980s witnessing the effect of the AIDS pandemic.  I was also writing lots of one-off poems in response to Lockdown and the coronavirus pandemic.  I found I was sending more poems to on-line platforms as these proliferated in response to the crisis.  Some of these poems appear at the end of Confetti Dancers.  I was certainly not the only writer to be drawing parallels between the two pandemics!
 

 
2020
Snake River Outlook — Finished Creatures Issue 3 Spring 2020

Lee Miller Prose Poetry Sequence — The Ekphrastic Review April 2020

Imprint — Visual Verse Volume 07 Chapter 06 on-line anthology
https://visualverse.org

With Love from Lockdown — New Boots and Pantiscocracies — Postcards from Malthusia — Poetry for an Infected World

Unknown Portrait on Linden Wood — Curator’s Label
Visual Verse Volume 07 Chapter 07 on-line anthology

https://visualverse.org

Lockdown Seascape
Pendemic.ie — a journal for exceptional times

http://pendemic.ie/lockdown-seascape-a-poem-by-sue-burge/

Glow — Life in the Time of Corona — special feature (100 words of solitude)
https://100wordsofsolitude.wordpress.com/life-in-the-time-of-corona

Snowdream — Write Where We Are Now
https://www.mmu.ac.uk/write/snowdream.php

Glow, Snowdream & #stayathome
Pestilence – An Anthology eds. Peter Pegnall/Gerard Noyau (Lapwing Press)

With Love from Lockdown
Write out Loud Beyond the Storm Anthology August 2020

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Stone
Words for the Wild Summer 2020

https://wordsforthewild.co.uk/?p=10870

Ariel Rising — Emma Press Illness Anthology

Chosen — Finished Creatures Issue IV

Grey Long-Eared Bat
https://26project.org.uk/26wild/grey-long-eared-bat
The Story’s Not Over (anthology)

Pigeon, Grounded & The day the hairdressers close
Poetry and Covid

https://poetryandcovid.com/2020/09/27/two-poems-23/

Ode to Rust and Mould — The Alchemy Spoon, Issue 2

Taphonomy, Jane’s Table, Mother, Folded Small & Obituary for your last pair of ballet shoes — The Lonely Crowd Issue 12

Under the Pier — A Common Place – Eames Fine Art Gallery Catalogue

Yes, the universe can fit in the palm of my hand
Ink, Sweat and Tears
Twelve Days of Christmas Issue 2020

Readings and Open Mic Slots
My first featured poet slot was for Café Writers in 2017 alongside Sean O’Brien.  A great privilege as I had, at that stage, no publications to my name.  I had been open mic-ing since 2014.  My first ever was with FenSpeak, a wonderfully friendly and supportive organisation which organised regular open mic evenings in Ely.  I remember shaking from head to foot as I stood up there, the faces blurring, hardly able to read the words on the page (I’m the world’s worst memoriser of poems and can’t even remember the titles of my own poems, let alone the first lines!).  I had been teaching since my early twenties, sometime giving lectures to over 200 students, but it’s not the same — with poetry you are exposing your subconscious thoughts and fears and hoping your readers will receive your words with respect and gentleness.  I still get “performance nerves” even though I have now done a great deal of featured poet slots and countless open-mic events.  In 2017 I performed at the Cinema Museum in front of an audience of 70.  There were ten of us on stage and we had all responded to a different section of the 1916 documentary film “Battle of the Somme” — our reading preceded a screening of the film.  Even this wasn’t as scary as reading at Paris LitUp in the Culture Rapide Café in Belleville, where, if you haven’t read there before, they shout “Virgin! Virgin!” as you head up to the stage.  So why do I do it?  Reading your poems aloud to yourself is not the same as testing them out with an audience, you notice far more where the possible tweaks could come and however “finished” you feel a poem is, there’s always something to pick up from this opportunity for live editing.  One poet friend commented that since I’d been open mic-ing the soundscape of my poetry had changed and was much more musical.
 

 
2021
Alternates
Ink, Sweat and Tears

https://inksweatandtears.co.uk/sue-burge

Woolly Mammoths Discovered Under the A14
Finished Creatures — Volume V

You Will Know a Cockroach
Alchemy Spoon Issue 4

Reincarnation as the Eiffel Tower
Beautiful Dragons Anthology “Lighting Up”

I am building Paris in my bedroom
Live Canon 2021 International Poetry Prize Anthology

Easedale
Unlost Journal

The Weight of it
The Poetry Shed (November)

How to paint darkness
Paris, c’est une blonde
Bagatelle
Revue [R]evolution

www.revuerevolution.com/en/qelp-sue-burge

Something My Mother Said
Twelve Ripples #40 (Suffolk Poetry Society)

Paint Chart
https://poetrysociety.org.uk/membership/poetry-society-stanzas/competition

My Right Foot
Stand Issue 231