A New Ulster, issue 121, January 2023

With dark, chilly weather and a new batch of Covid circling, the news that I have three poems in the latest issue of A New Ulster is enormously cheering. What an excellent magazine ANU is. It’s always a rewarding browse and you can find issue 121 here.

These poems along with Off the Map published before New Year on the Mary Evans Picture Library’s ‘Poems and Pictures’ blog are included in my fifth book of poetry, coming soon. More news when I have it …

Irish Voices – Mary Evans ‘Poems and Pictures’ blog in collaboration with In-Words on Thursday 16 February, 2023

On Thursday 16 February, 2023, 19.30 – 21.30 GMT, Irena Hill of In-Words will host an evening featuring Irish poets who have appeared on Gill Stoker’s marvellous Poems and Pictures blog on the Mary Evans Picture Library’s website. I’m honoured to know both these excellent women. I’ve been a contributor and big fan of Gill’s blog since its early days. Irena was a member of my earliest writing group in Bermondsey in 2011 and we’ve been friends ever since. Very many thanks to them both for inviting me to read alongside Catherine Phil MacCarthy, Eithne Hand, Geraldine Mitchell, Geraldine O’Kane, Linda McKenna, Maureen Boyle, Maurice Devitt and Noel Duffy.

This is a free, online event – you can find more about the poets and how to contact Irena to get your Zoom link here. 

Colorful Crow Publishing

Karli Land of Colorful Crow has asked to quote my blogpost about what we can expect after the glorious day when you finally receive an acceptance. I’m happy and honoured to say yes. You can see Colorful Crow’s website here. Thank you, Karli, for your kind words.

My other posts range between August 2017 and September 2018 and are listed here on my home page.

Colorful Crow is a great site – I wish you a happy ramble among its books. I don’t have a picture of colourful crows, I’m afraid, so here are some beach huts instead. Yes, I was up to my middle in the sea with my camera.

OFF THE MAP poem on the Mary Evans Poems and Pictures blog

Well into his eighties and not so steady on his feet, my father would drive from his home in Belfast past drumlins and sheep fields to his beloved Mourne mountains in County Down. Safely back, he would call and regale me with tales of the people he’d had wee chats with and the places he’d revisited, how much he loved the air there, the spirits of the mountains. As a young man he’d climbed there at this time of year, overnight in a canvas tent with his friends, waking to the glint of first sunlight on snow all around them.

On one of my visits from London, I persuaded him to talk about what he remembered. He was in his twenties, a teacher at Down High, when he discovered rock-climbing. Thanks to weekends clambering all over the place with the minimal equipment of the time, he’s recorded as having led six Mourne first ascents. He and his friends went on to climb in other countries but it was always the Mournes my darling father loved best.

My poem Off the Map passes on what he told me about one of those first ascents: the ‘F-M’ climb on Slieve Lamagan. It’s the title poem of my fifth collection, to be published in 2023 by Lapwing Publications in Belfast and I’m thrilled to see it here on the wonderful Poems and Pictures blog, curated by Gill Stoker, on the Mary Evans Picture Library’s website.

These photos have aged, I’m afraid. The baby in the second one – yes, it’s me.

Merry Christmas, everyone

The first news, and I’m bursting to tell you, is that Lapwing Publications have accepted my fifth poetry book Off the Map for publication some time next year. I’m thrilled that Lapwing will be its publisher. Dennis Greig is so fast, it’s already typeset with the cover chosen!

On 16 February 2023, I will be reading at Irena Hill’s In-words event in East Greenwich featuring Irish writers whose work has appeared on the Mary Evans Picture Library Poems and Pictures blog, namely Catherine Phil MacCarthy, Eithne Hand, Geraldine Mitchell, Geraldine O’Kane, Linda McKenna, Maureen Boyle, Maurice Devitt and Noel Duffy. What company to be part of! More about this soon.

Three of my poems will be in A New Ulster coming out soon and the title poem from Off the Map has been accepted by the Mary Evans blog.

Recently Churchill Writers got together again in person, more of us than ever, and it’s been a very happy experience. With the college’s support some writers were there online as well – very many thanks to the staff for all their help. Upcoming dates are here. If you have a connection with Churchill College, Cambridge and would like to join us, let me know. A weekend retreat at the college has been suggested too and we’re looking at a date in June. We’ll have workshops, crit groups, discussions and that energy of writing together in the same space with, I hope, online links too.

Many thanks to everybody who invited me to read at their events this year and to everybody who was there: the Faversham Festival in February for my poetry event with Fiona Sinclair; to the wonderful people of SaveAs in Canterbury; Clair Meyrick’s exciting new event in Oare with Charlotte Ansell; and Richard Cooper for involving me in his Faversham Fringe event about home with Maggie Harris and Barry Fentiman Hall. Thanks to Richard too for bringing so many of us together in Faversham Guildhall to read the uncompromising, beautiful words of his late wife, Rosemary McLeish. This north Kent poetry community has tremendous energy and warmth and I’m so grateful to be part of it.

It’s time to close the laptop now for a while. However you celebrate this festive holiday, I wish you and yours a warm, healthy and very happy time.

Faversham Fringe event – Friday 28 October, 8.30 – 9.30pm

The trouble with getting older is that sometimes we don’t get enough time. Before the pandemic, Rosemary McLeish came to read at some events I ran in Whitstable on the north Kent coast and, like everyone else, I fell under the spell of the rich embroidery of her language, her humour and fearless truth. We felt like two retired warhorses who’d wound up in the same corner of the field – we knew we had scars in common without having to say – and I wish we’d had more time to be friends. Rosie contracted cancer and died not long ago and from this Kent coast to Glasgow and beyond, Rosie and her poetry are hugely missed. Her husband Richard reads Rosie’s work on her behalf wherever he can and has organised an event at the Faversham Fringe on Friday 28 October, 8.30 – 9.30pm, in the Sidney Room in the Alexander Centre. I am deeply honoured to be included alongside Maggie Harris and Rosie’s publisher, himself a poet, Barry Fentiman Hall.

Please come – you’ll be in for a treat.

Churchill Writers: Saturday, 10 Sept, 2022 – in person & online CANCELLED

Out of respect for our late Queen, TOMORROW’S SESSION HAS BEEN CANCELLED. We hope to meet online and in person next month.

For the first time in over two years, my Churchill College writing group will be together again in person, with online access available. We will gather over tea and coffee from 3pm, as we did in pre-pandemic days, with the writing session running between 3.30 and around 5.30pm.

If you would like to join us, please drop me a line on rosiejohnstonwrites@gmail.com with a few lines about yourself and your connection with the college so that I can welcome and introduce you. You will find more about how the group works here. It’s as much about friendship as writing and we’ll be very happy to see you.

Throughout the pandemic, we have met about once a month by Zoom and are looking forward very much to this, our first blended, in-person session. We will not return to our old schedule just yet (four Saturdays in college each term) and will combine our monthly Zooms with with one or two meetings in college per term while we feel our way.