Hey everyone This summer I was one of the applicants for a well known west of Scotland poetry project. The Clydebuilt poetry mentoring scheme is run by the St Mungo’s Mirrorball organisation which is one of biggest poetry events in Glasgow. It is also one of the best, attracting top quality poets not only from Glasgow but throughout Scotland and the UK to its monthly performance nights.
The scheme which is now in its ninth year is the brain child of the current Glasgow poet laureate Jim Carruth. Realising that Glasgow had a wealth of poetic talent Jim who follows the late Edwin Morgan and Liz Lochhead as the city’s makar developed the Clydebuilt scheme to provide support to those members poetry community who have the potential to take their work to the next level but who as yet have not had a published collection of their work.
For the four poets lucky enough to be selected the prize is a year’s free tuition from a professional poet. This includes group meetings of the mentees one to one supervisory sessions with the chosen mentor and the chance to develop a folio of work and gain a significant step towards publication of their first collection. This is I am sure you will agree a prize worth winning which is why I thought I would give it a go. Well you know what they say nothing ventured nothing gained.
The process of entering this scheme includes giving a short biography on your poetic history. It requires you to make a commitment to attend all the sessions be it with the group and the mentor, but when all is said and done it is the quality of your folio of 5 submitted poems which will determine whether or not your application is successful. With this in mind I selected what I believe was a quality set which covered a variety of topics. My poems of choice were The Lemon Dress which chronicled the problems I had growing up trans with no sisters in the socially conservative Scotland of the 1970’s Twenty Four Romanians which covered the immigration of economic migrants and the prejudices this can stir up. Home Comforts which looked at homelessness and the vulnerability of those society rejects. I also selected Silent Street which looks at the problems of fractured communities and how apathy can lead to an uncaring society. Finally in The Christmas Tree I looked the issues around sectarianism and the impact it can have within families. I considered this to be a strong set which showed the diversity of my work though whether it would be strong enough to be selected I wasn’t sure.
When I entered this scheme I did so hoping but not expecting to be chosen. I say this not because I am not confident in my ability, believe me I am. I make this comment not because I don’t believe I’m good enough to be published because I do. I qualify what I’ve said by making the following points.
(1) This was my first attempt at entering the scheme
(2) I knew it would be massively over subscribed
(3) I know the calibre of poets who in previous years have failed to gain a place.
(4) Sometimes the first attempt at something has to be used as a learning curve.
Taking all of those factors into consideration I was not too shocked that I wasn’t selected on this occasion. As I said the calibre of entrants was of a very high standard and putting my application together was rewarding if at times also challenging. Of course I would like to have been chosen but this wasn’t to be my year. Will I be back to try again? Why of course I will. I am nothing if not determined and my next application will be far better prepared because of this rejection. I have always believed you learn more about yourself from how you deal with disappointments than you ever do from your successes.
So what have I learned from this process? Well the first thing I have learned is I am a better poet than I previously believed. I now know I have written more quality poems than I had given myself credit for. I have learned that the toughest judge of your own poetry will always be you. I have learned that selecting a set of five poems is not as easy it sounds. However I think the most valuable lesson of all is that I have learned is to be kinder to myself and it is that fundamental truth which will be my Clydeside legacy from the first stop on the road I’ve yet to travel.
Love And Best Wishes