Monday, 12 October 2009

tonights meeting

Tonight we wrote on the theme of ‘favourites’ - music, colours or food. After a bit of a slow start where I tried (and failed) to find adequate words in praise of Hallelujah, as orgasmic as mashed potato or as lush as any shade of green, I tuned into the following words which I'm sharing with you exactly as written (scary!!). Karen x (Monday 12th Octobr 2009)

there are some things you want to feel, touch, say, do, hear, smell
and there are others that do all those things to you;
whether you want them to or not
things you feel were there at the beginning
things you hope will be there at the end
things that make you weep when you want to rage,
things that make you rage when you want to fall
that trip you up when you want to fly
and that shoot an arrow through your heart
when you soar beyond
letting the pain slip out of your breast
and float you down to earth
a feather at a time.
the lightest thing, the hardest thing, the wildest thing.
the heart aching yes,
the gut wrenching please
the take me with you when you go
and the no, the no, the no.
the wrapping round like a pashmina
the heaving up like coal sacks
the dragging back like trunks of forgotten pleasure
the sinking down, like dead weight to nowhere, returns to earth

Thank you Renee for tonights ideas and Jimmy Cliff for the associated feelings.

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Thursday, 8 October 2009

Where did that one go?

Aaaah, it's October and I think the world is caught up in that back to school rush of busyness that can make us forget to stop and be creative, silly, playful. That's why Sapphist Writers is here, a little gentle reminder to just write - don't save up your words for that Something Important you're going to write when you retire - write now, write free, write in fun, in play, and squander your words wherever you will.

I recently noticed a rather trivial piece of my writing pop up in QB and stopped for a second - was that really me, the women who edits and edits and never sends anything off, sending some casual little snippet out into the world without a thought? Yes, it is me, thanks to this writing network! Being brave enough to share even when I don't feel I've something mighty to say. Gosh, I might not even read through this post before putting it up . . .

Next meeting, all you wonderful discovered and undiscovered Sapphist Writers, is this coming Monday 12th October. Come and play!

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Thursday, 10 September 2009

Monday 14: Next Meeting of Sapphist Writers

Don't forget to come to the Sapphist Writer's meeting this coming Monday, the 14th, at 7:15pm! We'll meet at the Nottingham Women's Centre (30 Chaucer Street) as usual. See you there!

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Saturday, 5 September 2009

Words to Sandy's poems

Do not feel beyond this point

We cannot tolerate sadness here,
It echoes with our own.
You must not let us see your fear . . .
It does not need to be known.
Your anger is unwelcome;
No matter if it’s justified
You may very well have a reason
But you should keep it all inside.
In time, you’ll learn containment;
You’ll not let anything show,
Your exterior will shine contentment
While your inside is hollow.
You’ll be corroded to the core,
A dump for toxic waste;
A brightly painted steel door
Protecting our distaste.
Your pain might be infectious
And being cold is the only art;
Our sensibilities are more precious
Than your beleaguered heart.

Waiting for the train

We heard its whistle once again
And stood, still, waiting for a glimpse.
You and I, in limbo, in the grey,
Hardly expecting to be here,
Forgetting our mutual joy
Under the cloud oppressing us.

Over the grey weeks that we walked,
Catching sound but never a sight,
We strained to glimpse our bashful train
And on this of all days, it came.
We barely had the faith to wait
But somehow we stood, mesmerised
By a far-off whistle’s promise
And distant chugging on the air.

A moment before hope ran out
The plume of steam appeared in view,
A purer cloud beneath the grey,
Wreathing the engine’s ancient black,
Like signs of spring crept upon us.
I saw joy in your face, and yet
You would not take it as a signTo be patient, my love, and hope.


How can she not remember
Why she tears at me distractedly,
Ripping long shreds from me,
Without remembering
A father’s hands shredding into her?

She leaves when he comes to her
And finds herself here, after.
Picking at me as if I can tell her.
As if to uncover a secret
She has buried in the plaster.

Click here to read post in full..


Hello kittens! I’d like to encourage those who participated in the making of the videos to provide the written poems they created. When I viewed the videos we have thus far, I had a desire to see them written and maybe learn how they came about.

I’ve included in this post the poem I read on video. The poem was the result of an exercise given us by Rock Chick Viv at our last monthly meeting. After drawing an unknown object from a bag, there was a task of writing something, anything within a five minute time limit. I pulled from the bag a metallic and plastic thing that confounded me. I had to ask for help with identifying what was the whistle part of a kettle! So, with whistle bit in hand and tea on my mind, I wrote the following:

I Love My Tea

You whistle at me
stealing my

I stroll in casually -
I can't give away
just how much
I want . . .
what you've got.

You go silent;
I slowly stir things up.
That special scent
wraps itself around me.

I sigh-
and burn my lips
upon that


Click here to read post in full..

Friday, 4 September 2009

More Poets in Performance

We promised you more videos, and here's Sandy stealing the show. I heard that's just what she did at Women in Tune over the weekend! Go Sandy!

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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Women In Tune

I just returned from the WIT festival in beautiful Wales; my very muddy car looks slightly surreal on the urban streets, and my brain is re-adjusting to the presence of men. ‘No, Sandy, that is not a very masculine-looking dyke, it is actually a bloke,’ my partner tells me patiently.

Exciting, moist, inspiring, emotional, intimate, tender, raucous, solemn, silly, professional, homespun, playful . . . – what more could I have wanted from my bank holiday? Being blown away by the talent of a multitude of musical and artistic women both renowned and obscure, and having a chance to explore ourselves and our creativity, and above all to play in a nurturing and liberating, feminist atmosphere that is there for all women, but is exceptionally Sapphist-friendly.

There were so many poets this year, on main stage, open mic and fringe, and plenty of writing-themed workshops; I’m thinking of suggesting a spin-off “Lit WIT”. Best of all was when the wonderful Erica suggested we do some “spontaneous combustion” – find a space, improvise for the briefest of times between lunch and the afternoon workshops, and see what happens. How could we refuse? We didn’t have long, but Erica was prepared, with a pile of daily newspapers and an exercise inspired by Dadaism. We drew a grid on a random page, and using only words that were on the grid intersections, we constructed our pieces. An alternative exercise used only the letters from Women In Tune to construct the lines of a poem.

I’m always fascinated by the way constraints push us to be more creative with how we use words – the structure of a poem drives us to reach for new ways of expressing, and in this case, the scarcity of our words pushed us to search for deeper meaning. For some reason, I found myself with the letters page of the Daily Express, and writing with a pen from the North Yorkshire Police Department. It was bound to be surreal:

Time matters
These are just experiments;
Fizzy missions
And Pepsi-cola politicians
Feeding our suspicions.

Bogus claimants
And phoney applicants;
Threat to our system.
Where’s the choice?
Who’s the voice?
Luckily, time matters
These are just experiments.

Naturally, we went on to perform our pieces to the enjoyable bemusement of the WIT audience. . . So, welcome to Sapphist Writers my new-found WIT comrades and here is some of what the other group members produced:


All energy
Bats screaming
People play
Own upbringing
Mum gets daughter
Dads in massive pants
Crazy day
Amy, Sharon, Kelly
She ran in garden with the moss
Cool boy spoke most
And bit on football and flour?


The cast were pleased someone with a Welsh name dramatised the early radio hit and then started performing at the working men’s club, exactly. Very British!

People with long holidays coincided were drummed in otherwise it might have bombed.


The clear emissions of
Seasons settle
Earth levels vital
Ideological debate in
Cold glowing darkness
In body energy balls

Clear emissions
Earth levels vital

Flawed climate power
(Of) fossil carbon beliefs
The material machine
Restored: carousels
Incandescent light

Clear emissions
Earth levels vital

Washout creationist beliefs converted groups

Earth levels vital

In secular darkness
The ideological train skids
The cold pearl’s glow
Houses creation energy

Clear emissions
Earth levels vital


The Escape

Someone physically bound
Frustration within ourselves;
Cranky and repetitive work
Creates someone alone.
Confront their position,
The energy is in ourselves.


(An extension of the second exercise)

All night baptism session

Money and wine, wino mine
Emotions spoken after nine
Nouns mown to fit my line

Green tones untie turns and toes
My hazy vision shrinks and grows
Body’s whispers turn to bellows

Money and wine, wino mine
Emotions spoken after nine

Bottles rub out tones and tunes
No need now for our Sapphic runes
Whiskey mines my dizzy croons

Money and wine, wino mine
Emotions spoken after nine

Erica/jointly authored by group:

(From the letters w.o.m.e.n.i.n.t.u.n.e.)

To tune
In tune
In time

New . . . m_ew!

Neon time

In time
In tune
To tune

No men.

Wom . . . wom . . . wom

To tune
In tune
In time

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Sunday, 30 August 2009

Poets in Performance

It was certainly a fun night on our first attempt at performing to the group. Of course, members have been sharing their writing by reading aloud at meetings since the group began. But to actively think of ourselves as "performers" marks another step in reaching a wider audience. Thanks for the motivational tips, Pam!

We want to involve and encourage women who are unable to make our meetings, as well as welcome a far wider readership to our work. If you know of local accessible venues holding open mics or happy to host an event - whether one-off or regular - please let us know.

Here is just a sample of our work. More videos to follow ...

Raise the roof, first of all, for Renee:

Now, note if Nicki nailed it:

Thanks for watching!

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Saturday, 29 August 2009

Caught On Cam: Sapphist Writers Doing Their Thang!

A big hello to the wild women of the Sapphist Writers Group! I hope all are well and enjoying a wonderful bank holiday weekend. This past Monday we had a cracking meeting. For a change, we actually performed some of our work on camera. Thanks to the gorgeous (and oh, so shy) Pam for providing some skills training to help us be able to focus and not feel so self-conscious about performing. It was an enjoyable mini-workshop.

Many thanks go to the delectable Nicki for operating the camera; she was a pro! We had fun watching the results of our readings before the meeting was over – we have a talented pool of writers and soon, Nicki will post here on our blog the video results of our efforts.

Personally, I hope we do it again in the not too far future because it helped us exercise our ability to deliver what we write, and it was a privilege to hear the words spoken by the women who wrote them. Of course, we had a most excellent surprise when Sarah actually sang (a cappella, baby!!) lyrics she had written. We’re talking brass ovaries!!!

There was thought provoking, deeply emotional work as well as some silly stuff to round out the evening. Thank you kindly to all who participated; it was an inspiring meeting.

I wanted to share a little heads up for you this weekend. Take a peek at the Saturday Review of the Times, you’ll find a bit of a treat. Jeanette Winterson (Oranges are Not The Only Fruit, Sexing the Cherry, etc.-meow!) has interviewed Carol Ann Duffy, Britain’s poet laureate. What a treat for the holiday!!
Have a safe weekend everyone; I hope you enjoy the company of others, have some good food, great sex, and maybe get to sleep late. Bliss.


Click here to read post in full..

Thursday, 30 July 2009

A Fagment of Lesbian Wisdom

When a dusty tome recently fell into my hands (I can’t tell you my source because then I’d have to kill you and I just did my nails), I was amazed to have found what seems to be the beginnings of an encyclopaedic work by a lesbian writer. The following was written by hand in an ornate, leather journal covered with dust and mould (eww). Try as I might, I cannot find a name for the woman who was writing this book. I believe this may be a significant literary find. It is but a fragment, which is a shame, but whoever the author was, she is not forgotten; she lives on. I am but a humble servant offering to my sisters the wisdom set forth by her.

Behold: The enDyklopaedia

Darwinian dyke: A dyke who is dangerously close to her primate ancestors. This form of dyke is often observed to scowl, grunt, burp, fart and scratch her crotch; to be avoided by all but the most dedicated animal lovers.

Dastardly dyke: A dyke who is mean-spirited; to be avoided.

Deadpan dyke: A dyke who is without a variety of facial expressions, the most likely expression being a lost, heavily glazed.

Decadent dyke: A dyke who wants it all; a high maintenance dyke; to be avoided.

Decaffeinated dyke: A dyke who has not ingested the requisite amount of caffeine to render her human; this is a highly dangerous form of dyke and must be administered coffee with all haste.

Decent dyke: The beloved form of dyke one wishes to present to mama and papa.

Decisive dyke: A dyke who knows what she wants. Meow!

Decontaminated dyke: A dyke who has sought medical help and is now rid of that nasty bug; proceed with caution.

Depleted dyke: A dyke who lacks funds.

Depreciated dyke: A dyke who is on the way out.

Deputy dyke: A dyke in the employ of law enforcement.

Dextrous dyke: A most excellent friend to have in times of need.

Diabolical dyke: A dyke who upon break-up sews day old prawns into your curtain hems and seeds your carpet with something fast-growing; to be avoided.

Dialectical dyke: A dyke who likes to argue for the sake of argument.

Diaphanous dyke: A dyke who is easily seen through.

Diligent dyke: A dyke who works hard at all she does; likely to be a pleasing lover.

Dinky dyke: A dyke of less than five feet in height.

Dire dyke: One’s nightmare dyke.

Disco dyke: A dyke who finds enjoyment in dancing, whether or not their talent is appreciated by others.

Discourteous dyke: A dyke who is rude.

Disengaged dyke: A dyke who is no longer engaged; an available dyke.

Dishevelled dyke: A dyke who has not made acquaintance with grooming tools, clean clothing, or soap.

Disobedient dyke: A dyke who requires a wider collar and more diligent correction.

Diversified dyke: A dyke who has a girl in every port.

Dizzy dyke: A dyke who is most often of the blonde persuasion.

Dodgy dyke: A dyke who uses one’s toothbrush without first obtaining permission.

Domestic dyke: A highly sought after dyke who possesses the skills and knowledge necessary for housekeeping.

Dramatic dyke: A dyke who thrives upon living from one crisis to another.

Dream dyke: The elusive dyke of one’s dreams.

Dry rot dyke: A dyke who suffers a lack of orgasmic activity.

Duplicate dyke: A dyke who has a twin.

Dusty dyke: An aging dyke.

Dysfunctional dyke: A dyke who is not right in the head.

Dysmorphic dyke: A dyke who thinks she’s hot, but clearly is not.

After the last entry, nothing more is written. We can only imagine the wisdom meant to fill the rest of the pages. Thank you for allowing me to share this important part of our literary history with you.

Your servant,

Click here to read post in full..

Saturday, 25 July 2009

deja vu?

My words from the Jackie Kay quick write exercise were...

branches, wind, storm, field, warning, leaves, secret, mother, cherries,
fall, help, scattered, levitated, gale, rooted, flew, picture, landed

The result reads like a kids story, and can you guess which famous movie I took inspiration from?


I was scanning the orchard from my bedroom window. I'd heard the wind throwing leaves against the panes, jumped as branches creaked and twigs snapped outside in the yard. The weather was closing in and the once stagnant air was now pushing and pulling its way through the cracks in the window frames and under the badly finished doors.

I could see the storm heading this way across the barley field. To the left was the orchard where mother had gone to pick cherries for a secret birthday cake we would bake later for father. A siren was raised in the distance, a gale warning. I saw mother fall from her ladder. I hoped she'd landed softly but my fear took hold and I imagined her lying there with a broken leg.

Suddenly the most amazing thing happened. As I called for help (not that it would have been much use, as the nearest neighbour lived miles away), I saw an incredible picture; my mother was uprooted by a small tornado. She was levitated, along with the cherries which were scattered all around her; she flew a hundred yards or so and landed, splat, on a great big piled high compost heap.

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Sunday, 19 July 2009

Accidental Meanings

I found Nicki's Jackie Kay exercise powerful, and was surprised how what started out almost as a nonsense poem began to touch on some deep stuff, as if something was freed by the necessity to experiment. Try it, it may take you to unexpected places!

Here, completely unedited, is what I came up with:

My words: feel fine mercy forgiveness silence whipped light hearts field song seven missed cherries stone feet lifting help geese flying buffeted rooted anthem dove soft


i feel fine
fine as goosefeathers
fine as crystal
singing, ringing

i feel light
light as whipped cream
weighed down with cherries
laden with their stone hearts

i feel missed
my soft feet unrooted
buffeted by
their lack of mercy

i feel seven
flying above my body
a dove lifting me
above the field of silence

i feel my song
into a broken anthem
reaching for words like forgiveness

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Friday, 17 July 2009

As requested...

Here is the poem I wrote at last Monday's meeting... with a few amendments!

The words I selected from Jacqui Kay's work were:
trees, feets, mercy, bend, witness, field, song, others, bass, she, stone, feet, door, floor, wind, small, hour, roted, time, leave, dead, down, branches.

And this is what I did with them...

The wind winds around the trees,
branches bend down,
leaves fall, dead.

A small sapling pushes through
the litter, caught in time,
yielding to the hour.

She feels the song that others knew,
witnessing the bass notes
of wood and stone.

Now rooted in this place,
seeking the door to mercy
and more perhaps beyond,

feet welded to this field's
floor, always fixed
in time's relentless hold.

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Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Take three poems, choose your words and ...

Jackie Kay inspired many of us recently when we had the pleasure of hearing her read (perform would be more accurate) as part of the Lowdham Book Festival last month. She is a star! So it seemed appropriate to select Jackie Kay's poetry collection Darling to spark our writing exercise at this month's meeting.

Three poems were chosen at random from the collection by asking group members to suggest a page number. Everyone noted down between six and 10 words from each poem as the poems were read aloud to the group. Members then had 15 minutes to write in any format as long as they used all their chosen words. I've participated in this exercise on a number of occasions now and always been surprised and excited by the results. Not just in how it frees my own imagination, and creates interesting new associations between words. What's great is hearing everyone else's contributions. Did we choose similar words or different ones? And what did we make with them?

This is what I came up with. It may be the beginning of a short story, and I aim to work more with the persona/character that 'appeared' on the page. I'm encouraging other members to post their writing from this exercise here. Come on - you know you want to!

Words selected::
trees, whipped, cotton, scream, bass, landing, happen, telling, keep, missed, trousers, toffee, skin, bones, revolutionary, gulls, waving, learned, returned, soft, down.

There's nothing revolutionary in my trousers.
It's just the way I like telling it in a full
bass voice: "See what I can make happen".
And I did. All those years ago, when I was
skin and bones and I couldn't do a press-up
for toffee, you thought me soft;
tried to keep me down. While the gulls
would scream, preparing for landing
on yet another bag of chips, I was patching
myself with cotton. There's a turn-up
in these jeans. I learned what I missed
under that pier, rolling off you as the wind
whipped my backside raw. The crack of
the boards was trees splitting. The only joy
in waving you off imagining what returned.

Click here to read post in full..

Friday, 19 June 2009

The Dead Fish Excuse

When I was little, really little, like an ovum, I was cursed. It’s a long story, but essentially, my mother thought I was indigestion, and somehow ended up at a gypsy woman’s tent, as one does. She upset the woman and was subsequently cursed. As the curse was being placed, it deflected off of my mother’s titanium alloy heart and inadvertently struck a teeny little wandering egg: me. Well, me after a miserably hot pregnancy in the tropics.

The curse is that if something stupid is going to happen, it’s going to happen to me. Hang on because there is a link between the curse and dead fish. Just wait for it. I was all excited (and a little nervous) about going to my first meeting with fellow writers. Transportation to the meeting was a matter of concern for me that night, but in the end, it was of no concern at all! I shall explain.

As a goddess, I understand some of the finer subtleties that relate to my image. You see, a goddess is only as strong as the fidelity and adoration she inspires in those who worship her. So, in my endless wisdom, I decided a long time ago that a goddess looks her most worshipful when she appears to be gliding forth. Not walking like everyone else (ambulation is overdone and so last season). Chariots, however stylish, can be problematic in modern life. Stabling horses in the city is fraught with difficulties, and so in the end, I decided against using a chariot. Instead, I opted for something modern, quiet, and decidedly free of horse apples: I chose an electric wheelchair. Baby, I glide!

Anyhow, back to the story at hand. There was some sort of mix up at the temple and I was not going to arrive at the meeting accompanied by the usual pomp and circumstance. I decided against bringing in those annoying jugglers and acrobatic girls, and thought better of that cavalcade of elephants. The city council was not happy about the prospects of cleaning up two-foot high piles of pachyderm poop. I graciously took their concerns to heart and was going to disguise myself as a typical woman and catch the tram and glide my way to the meeting.

At four in the afternoon, I thought I’d have myself a leisurely pee, then eat dinner, and then get ready to leave for the meeting. I was sitting next to my bed, leaning over onto my elbow, rearranging my clothing, when -whammo!- my elbow slipped out from beneath me. I was trapped, unable to sit up and stupid me, I had given every last slave the night off, and forgot to have my phone nearby in case of just such an emergency. I was stuck in that position for sixteen hours until the next morning when my head slave came in to attend me. Man, did I have to pee!!
So, what does a goddess do for sixteen hours of insane discomfort? She thinks! When I’m earth-bound, I try to work a minimum of magik, so I was determined not to cheat and do something easy like give myself magikal strength or call forth a slave through ESP to assist me; I wanted to tough it out and have an experience. I spent my time devising a helpful system for pain management. For every ach, I tried to vividly imagine something pleasurable that could cause such a pain (rather than something humiliating such as lying in one position like a dead fish for sixteen hours).

My hips hurt and so I imagined how that might come about in a real life, positive way. Cognition ensued and I saw two of my lovely slaves practically fighting over who was going to get the sweet spot; there was a slave at each thigh, passionately pulling at me, not realising they were hurting me in their uncontrollable desire. How delicious! Pain is good!

You see how the system works? The pain at my neck turned into one of my darling followers biting just that much too hard; perfection! With practice, you, too, can enjoy insane discomfort. The next time you have a moderate headache, try to slip into a different frame of mind by convincing yourself that of course your head hurts- whose head wouldn’t hurt after eight hours of shagging like a chimpanzee?!

If you can fake-out your own mind, you can manage most any calamity- that horrible bus ride home that never ends and the guy next to you who just looked at your boobs, that bitching out your boss gave you when she had cheese and onion sandwich breath that made you nearly stagger, or that menacing bull dyke whose girlfriend you accidently flirted with who now wants to kill you very slowly (with a spoon).

Those sixteen hours of doing my impression of a dead fish helped me achieve transcendence. As a goddess, this looks really good on my CV. I am sorry to have missed the June meeting, but all going well, and as long as I don’t decide to do anything else stupid (what are the odds on that?), I might just show up at the July meeting, probably on the wrong night, and maybe an hour late.


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Thursday, 7 May 2009

I have been pondering lately what it is about me, about my life, about the way I live that makes me want to write.

I am not one of those writers who simply has to write or they will explode. I write when I want to, when the mood strikes (which is not helpful financially, incidentally), or when I have a looming deadline.

I edit, though, often, and will usually put my editing work before my writing. Other people's writing takes precedence.

I think this is likely because I have the self motivation of a sloth, and I have the imagination, most days, of wet concrete. This is why I know I am an editor first, and a writer second. Editing allows me to put all my creativity into helping someone else make their story the best it can be, and that's a very, very good feeling indeed.

That said, I am a writer. I enjoy it. I believe in the power of words to change lives, and specifically in the power of the written word as a catalyst for change. I believe that by writing down our thoughts, ideals, imaginings and desires and then throwing them out to the world, we are inviting people into a discussion. And there oh-so-many roads those discussions can lead, if we are willing to follow and lead down them. I have published various writings, and I get a wicked headrush from opening a book and seeing my name in it.

And I get a rush from knowing that other people not only read, but like my writing. Yay! I jump for joy and do a rhythm challenged dance around the house when I get good feedback.

Writing, for me, is about communication in black and white that blends into millions of shades of grey.

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Monday, 4 May 2009

Celebrating Carol Ann Duffy celebrating great women poets

Congratulations to Carol Ann Duffy - Britain's first woman poet laureate!

Watch Carol Ann Duffy being interviewed here after accepting the position.

Did you know that both Britain and America now have lesbian poet laureates? Read more about the American poet laureate, Kay Ryan.

Sapphist Writers are everywhere ;-)

And Sapphist Writers are for everyone.

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Thursday, 30 April 2009

What is Self?

Nicki's post "keeping inspired" resonated with stuff that's buzzing round my head just now about how we take the good things from western individualism but allow ourselves to connect, collaborate and be part of something bigger (a community, a planet) without merging, surrendering or smothering our differences. It seems to be a tricky struggle in our current culture, and I feel somewhat exposed to admit my need to belong and be part of something. This is what I came up with...

To be totally myself, in the absence of others…who am I but a reflection? What is me? A bundle of stories and conditions from the past, or an interface with the now? There are words I can use and feel solid in; woman, lesbian, feminist, anarchist, humanist, environmentalist, writer. These describe a space I occupy, but I’m not sure they’re me. It isn’t that I don’t feel solid, unique, but being human is also being part of something – not being the sound of one hand clapping. “Me” is simply a coalescence of thoughts, star dust, cells, events…I rub off and am rubbed off on. I am supposed to worship Western Individuality and the Cult of the Self but I hold being a champion of difference alongside being connected and in community. The importance of belonging is as strong as the need to express what is “me” freely, strongly and fully. So I slip towards other humans who occupy similar spaces and I feel part of something larger than just me, but the overall shape of the “us” is in harmony with the shape I occupy personally. And if I stand still amid the trees for long enough I can feel my feet throwing roots deep into the earth and I realise I don’t need to feel afraid of being connected to the whole planet.

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Monday, 20 April 2009

Conversation Pieces

Conversations between writers can be fascinating. Can we continue a dialogue here by responding to each other - in poetry or prose, or a mix of genre?

Take a look at LikeStarlings, a place for talking in poems, where the following project is taking place.

The idea is simple:

1. Pair poets who don’t know each other

2. Start with a poem by one of them

3. The other writes a poem in response, within a week

4. The first responds to that poem with a poem

5. That exchange happens again, so four new poems, and a conversation of five, are written

Can we do something similar? But of course our idea could look something like this: some of us will know each other, the response needn't be identified as a poem, we don't need to restrict the process to pairs, and we can have as few or as many exchanges as we please.

Responses invited to:

I seek reasons,
strive to meet
love in the afternoons,
returning deliciously cold,
fingers sodden
mouth frail.

Click here to read post in full..

Keeping Inspired

At the last meeting we agreed to experiment with some exercises here in the hope that we can inspire and respond to each other's themes. We also want to have some fun in the process, and provide something for you (the reader) to read!

Here is my opening encouragement and stimulus for inspiration. Although I wrote this some time before I joined Sapphist Writers, it does help me to celebrate the work that we're doing as well as our future ambitions.

I will come direct:
no second-hand mediocrity;
not a ritual required.
We are women
impelled to be
totally ourselves.

What does it mean to you to be totally yourself? When are you impelled to be nothing less?

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Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Well here's my first bloggeroo!! How exciting. Hmmm...what to write? Oh no! - White Page Phobia sets in...or not really because I'm writing already aren't I? Although it's just a stream of consciousness really, or stream of drivel in the hope that someone will have a literary tissue with which to clear it all up and blog something really interesting in it's wake so that all traces of this first and experimental blog disappears off the bottom of the screen never to be seen again. I'm fascinated to find that if you don't concentrate you can end up writing bolg and there's no spell checker so you have to keep looking up from 4 finger typing to see what mistakes need to be rectified...but I think bolg could be a word, it could nicely describe the kind of drivel one sometimes sees on blogs...bit like this piece ;o)

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Thursday, 19 March 2009

Dressing Table

At the latest Sapphist Writers meeting, we did an exercise inspired by a reading night at Chesterfield Library from the short story collection Some Girls' Mothers. The authors had tried this exercise themselves to generate ideas for their stories. The original exercise was to describe your mother's dressing table, but we widened it out. It can become a very deep and personal examination of someone's character; a surprisingly powerful exercise. One of our new members (who wishes to remain anonymous) produced the following freewrite:

My Dressing Table

My dressing table sits under a long dark mirror.
It is there every morning looking just the same, no matter what.

My table has had other people's things on it over the years: butterfly night lights, ashtrays and a gold T bar necklace, but now everything on it is mine.

A film star is centrepiece. She is named Luscious Lana and comes with me wherever I go.
She has within little magic pots of dazzling gold and concealer to hide blemishes, sadness and just plain tiredness.

A battered wooden box plays stage to my scented bottles - an Angel star, an Agent Provocatuer burlesque pink porcelain bottle and minimalist Prada for special days.

Twenty years ago I wouldn't leave the house without at least a half hour routine plastering on make up to hide the real me from the world.

One year ago my dressing table was a symbol of the 'Lady' someone else created for themselves.
Now it is mine to use when I choose. Or not.

Some days after drying my hair and a spray of deoderant I walk past the glamorous B star's lusciousness and smile.
My beauty is within. For all the pots of magic silver and gold could not hide an empty vessel.

And as my Prada nears the end of its life, mine is just beginning. The real me. Not a B star movie actress or someone else's vintage Lady.

Just an ordinary me.

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Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Canestan for the Soul

By Sandy Hopton

I lie awake and think;
I lie awake and miss you.
Long since all hopes were sunk
And we drew a line under the issue,
I still stalk you in my head,
Composing texts I’ll never send;
My heart dreams on undeterred
Of hopes I can’t defend.
You’re like a bloody case of thrush,
I just can’t get rid of you;
I want to be free of all this mush;
Your beautiful face is spoiling my view.

Poetry is great therapy. I haven't really thought of the subject of this poem since writing it! Go on, give it a try...

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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Every woman has a story ... more from the NRHP exhibition

If you've discovered this blog because you visited the Nottinghamshire Rainbow Heritage LGBT History exhibition and enjoyed our Sapphist Writers display, then welcome. You can find complete versions of some of the longer pieces of writing here, and some extra content that we'll be adding to the blog throughout February in celebration of LGBT History Month.

Just click the NRHP Exhibition label at the bottom of this post to be taken to all relevant material.

Don't forget to leave your comments.

Sapphist Writers exists to connect women who want to express themselves through writing. We are creating a collection of work that reflects our diversity and unique experiences. If you would like to add your story, poem or life writing to this anthology, please send it to

Many thanks for visiting.

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Nottingham by Galena Sossin-Arbatow

This is an unabridged version of the contribution to the NRHP Exhibition

by Galena Sossin-Arbatow

When I came to Nottingham in the middle of Dec 2006, I didn't know, what Notts had to offer, what I needed to experience, to enjoy, to let go of and which gifts were waiting for me to be picked up along my way....

Life started with LiNkNotts and a lift. A lift to a walking group, a young dyke in her Smart-car, a very early and cold Sunday morning the following March. And the laughing and exchanging and talking until you're dizzy still goes on today...even if some woods and the channel are between us.

Overall it was only 6 months of this life, packed and full of walking groups, very silly home parties, coffee & cakes in Sunday pubs, being observed as the 'lesbians' - look at their hair!.

Dance nights at NICHE, dancing wild and being drunk from fizzy water with blackcurrant juice and the black eyes of the waitress...arts and poems...

And PINK parties with monthly themes - so many lesbians - so many Sarahs - do you remember the Salsa course? Very funny…all these hips…

And the Switchboard, LGB helpline twice a month, trying to support the gay community. Good chats with colleagues about being out, work and gay history. Happy and meaningful times.

Same as our walks in Wollaton Park, which is the perfect environment to stroll around, discuss, shout, laugh, or cry. The woods don't mind. The dogs neither. Only the deer run.

Clarendon College's hair department cutting my hair every 14 days. Funny to encourage the young and sometimes beautiful girls to go for it. Yes, clippers. No. 2 in the back and along the sides, No. 4 on top. They were shaking- not because of me - but because of the excitement of first hand clipper-use.

Not to forget the Cinema with their ongoing movies on the walls. Gay friendly and you still get the important gay papers there.

Besides, I was living in a Buddhist Centre, cooking daily lunch. And I was looking for a job. My friends were looking for a girlfriend for me - tell me, is there any woman in this room you fancy? There wasn't. I wasn’t really bothered.

A study fell through and it felt urgent to go home. To Germany. Which I did beginning of September. Lots of tears and good-bye parties made me feed loved up and missed.

8 months later I came over again. For a week. Feeling familiar, but visiting. The places, the people. No searching for home, job, girlfriend. Again lots of laughing and chatting and cooking with my friends. A writing exercise in the Sapphist writing group. This is our member from Germany.

The waves of good-bye shadowing our times, making it more precious. Another walk, another good-bye party. So much laughter and love.

They came over last December, my Smartie and her girlfriend. 4 days of reconnecting. Thank you LinkNotts, thank you.

© Galena Sossin-Arbatow

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A Good Mother by Victoria Oldham

This is an unabridged version of the contribution to the NRHP Exhibition

A Good Mother
By Victoria Oldham, © 2007

She sat on her bed, shoulders slumped, head in her hands, her blonde hair falling in messy waves to her hips.

Pregnant. She had known it was a possibility, had even wanted it, in theory. But at that moment, just shy of her sixteenth birthday, she wondered what she had gotten into. What would she tell her mother? What would she tell Ray?

She had gone to her mother first, and received the reaction she expected, which only served to validate her reasons for getting pregnant in the first place.

“You’ll be a terrible mother, Susan. You can’t even take care of yourself. How stupid could you be?”

She had argued, yelled back, cried. But in the end, she had gotten her way, and her mother agreed that she might as well marry Ray, the “only Mexican in all of La Canada.” Then, she had called Ray, told him the news, and they were married at the Los Angeles County Courthouse the next day. She wore a nice dress, even though it was only in front of a judge. A lady from church even gave her a “little something blue” to pin in her dress. Supposedly, it was a piece of Queen Elizabeth’s dress.

Less than a year later, a few months after her daughter, Elizabeth, was born, she divorced Ray.

One day she walked in and found him in bed with a girl the same age as Ray, eighteen. She had red hair and an obnoxious, high-pitched voice that made Susan want to strike her every time she opened her mouth. Her freckles obscured her features, making her look like something from a Stephen King movie.

After the divorce, she asked her mother and sister for help. They said no, while lamenting her abilities to mother her child. They wanted no part of diapers, or baby vomit, or crying. They would want to look after her when she was older, could take care of herself, but until then, Susan was on her own. Ray pressed for custody. Married to the redhead, he thought they could take better care of his daughter. Susan rocked her at night, thinking that maybe everyone was right. Maybe she couldn’t do it. She locked Elizabeth into her car seat, set out to Ray’s. On the freeway, tears sliding down her face, she looked in the rearview and saw her daughter’s bright blue eyes looking right back at her. She pulled off the freeway and went home. She would do whatever it took, her child would have a good life, and she would provide it.

And then, one day in continuation school, she met Arleta Gomez. Arleta was a largely built, tough Mexican girl. Suddenly, Susan couldn’t do enough to please the girl, get her attention. She baked her cookies, she brought little bits of things that might make her smile. Arleta was her first kiss; at least, the first one that mattered, that made her feel anything.

From that moment forward, she understood why she and Ray hadn’t worked, other than the fact that he loved the freckle faced redhead. She began dating, and even had some long term relationships. Her daughter, though, had health problems. Elizabeth was always sickly, and her asthma had her in the emergency room at least three times a month. Susan was fired from different jobs because she had to leave to rush her daughter to the hospital. Once, the pre-school called and told her that Elizabeth had fallen from the monkey bars and bitten her tongue in half. She was sitting with an ice pack on her tongue and holding the piece of tongue that had come off. Susan had sped to the school, her boss’s cruel words ringing in her ears, “If you leave, don’t bother to come back. You should get a better sitter, or learn to take care of your daughter.” When the doctor came to sew her daughters tongue back together, she had thought she might faint, but she determined to be strong for the tiny little girl being so brave on the stark white gurney.

Lovers came and went, unable to be faithful or unable to cope with a sickly child. One weekend in June when Elizabeth was six, Susan was away in San Francisco with her current partner when her daughter called crying. Grandma had side swiped a car on their way home from the restaurant the night before. She had been drinking, and now Elizabeth was afraid to get back in the car with her. Susan came home right away. The lover left a month later. Ray decided he no longer wanted to be a part of his daughter’s life. The red head had said to his daughter, “Be careful, you don’t want to be a dyke like your mother.” Susan was glad they stopped calling, but her heart ached for the child who did not understand.

Susan taught herself accounting, determined to give her daughter a better life, one that didn’t require her daughter to get pregnant at fifteen just to get out of the house. She lied her way into jobs and then learned how to do the job while doing it. She went to night school, bought books, took exams. Her daughter grew up, liked reading and writing, hated math and science. When she learned to write, her writing was so bad Susan asked when she had learned to write in Spanish. Her daughter started crying, and explained that the teacher wouldn’t let her write with the hand she wanted to write with. “Left handed people were of the devil, and one should always use the right hand to be an angel.”

They moved, away from that school, away from the lover who had thrown dishes at her head. That lover took the sheets, dishes, tv, furniture. It was later stolen from her when she stopped to get coffee, the entire truck taken and dismantled.

Susan found a new lover, in a new place. She continued to learn, to better herself. She bought her first home at twenty eight, her first new car at twenty nine—a BMW, shiny black with crème interior. She called it Oreo. They stayed with this lover for seven years. She fostered her daughters writing, bought her any books she wanted, although she decided that Gone with the Wind was a bit too advanced and risqué for a twelve year old. She proudly watched her daughter win awards, achieve honors, excel. She worked her way up at the CPA firm, becoming one of the best. Her own mother still complained about Susan’s weight, her hair, her skin, her lovers. She complained about not being taken to church, she complained that Susan didn’t do enough for her daughter, or that her daughter was spoiled. Her sister took credit for anything good about Elizabeth, and taught Elizabeth how to bet on horses at the racetrack.

She and her daughter left the lover of seven years, moved to a small apartment in the city, but she drove Elizabeth to her school everyday so that she did not have to switch schools in the middle of the term. She met another woman, Season, and they moved in with her, but that didn’t work out. Season demanded all of the gifts she had ever given Susan back, and so Susan and her daughter sat and packaged all the gifts into boxes.

They moved, and Susan made kept an eye on her daughter’s grades. One day Elizabeth came home at lunchtime, unaware that her mother had decided to work from home that day. A bully was bothering her at school, so she fled every day at lunch to keep from being beaten up. A talk with the principal, and Elizabeth was given a pass to eat off campus at lunch everyday.

Susan’s mother got sick. They moved, took her in, took care of her. Six months later she moved out, complaining about how far she was from her friends, of which there really were none. They moved to an apartment where Elizabeth could walk to school, but it was so small Susan had to sleep on the couch. She met someone, and stayed with her most nights. A year later she and her daughter moved in with the woman in a brand new house in the desert. Elizabeth had her own room at the front of the house, and her own bathroom with tiles she had gotten to choose.

She watched as her daughter excelled in school, watched as she played powder puff football, watched the parade of boyfriends, most of whom she didn’t like. She cried when Elizabeth began dating a Latina girl from her class, and was disappointed that her daughter would have a harder life because of it.

And then the memories started, memories that clouded her vision, memories that took away the present and flattened her in the past, memories where she could smell, taste, touch the abuse all over again. She moved, leaving her daughter with the lover to finish out her senior year of high school, moved so that she could deal with the memories without her daughter seeing her crying in a heap on the bathroom floor. It embarrassed her, and she hated the look of helpless pity in her daughter’s eyes.

Susan met someone. She married her six months later. Her daughter was her maid of honor. Two months later, her daughter left to go to college on a scholarship. Colorado seemed so far away. But sporadically her daughter would surprise her, drive for a day and a half just to see her for the weekend, or Thanksgiving. Her daughter developed a relationship with a woman in Colorado, while Susan’s own lover spent money recklessly, hid it, spent more. Susan didn’t tell her daughter, just declared bankruptcy, sent Elizabeth small care packages to keep her going when she could.

She moved. She lived by herself, learning about herself. She was tired, felt ill all the time. The doctor said Lupus. Confused, she began learning about it, told her daughter, who began learning about it too. Her daughter got sick, the doctor said AIDS. Then, the doctor said MS. No cure. Mother and daughter, in separate states, sick. Susan cried for her daughter, because she had so wanted a better life for her, for them.

Elizabeth smiled. “Mom, we have a good life. You have a house. I have a house. We can learn to live with our diseases. We have each other. I love you.”

Today, Susan stares out her window, rocking in her chair and watching the lightening bugs. The daughter she loves lives in England, too far away to hug, but at least she can be proud of all that she is seeing and doing. Her mother and sister are gone, both from cirrhosis of the liver. She can be proud that she raised her daughter, gave her what she never had. Someone who pushed her to excel, to live. Her own mother was wrong. Susan is and was and will always be, a good mother.

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Friday, 30 January 2009

Our History

Sapphist Writers was set up in 2007 to provide a space where women writers can come and be themselves. Lesbian love poetry and alternative viewpoints aren't always comfortable to air in general writing groups. We needed a space of our own. One sufficiently nurturing (and gently challenging!) to give us a chance to grow as writers, and develop the strength of our individual and collective voices.

A year and a half later we're going strong; our meetings are relaxed and fun but writing matters to us, and we are working towards an anthology of our work. Some members come every month, others drop in from time to time or contribute online. We are always happy to welcome new members.

Our next meeting is Monday, 9th February at 7.15.

Check out our exhibit at the Nottinghamshire Rainbow Heritage Project's exhibition, opening Tuesday 17th February, 7-9pm at the View from the Top Gallery above Waterstone's.

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Our Meetings

Sapphist Writers meetings are about enjoyment, support, sharing our work and ideas, developing creativity, embracing diversity. We’re not about literary elitism, genre snobbery or competition regarding publishing success. Some of us have had some writing success, some are absolute beginners.

We take it in turns to lead meetings, and generally we will read some of our work and also have a go at writing something “on the spot”. This free-writing is great for loosening up our writing and encouraging us to share without spending hours honing the work in private. Of course, no-one has to share what they’ve written if they don’t want to!

Example of a Free-Writing Exercise

This free-writing exercise was suggested by Pam. The prompt was ‘write for five minutes only on the subject of something within your line of sight.’

Pam: Inspired by a notice reading “this machine is emptied every night”

This machine is emptied at night. During the day the coins are pushed and fall, a piling store of golden treasure. This machine is emptied of its rich ground coffee granules gradually through the busy day. Fuelling workers, visitors, passers by.

With huge hot lumps of engineering in a humid tropical coffee plantation the journey begins. Growing, harvesting, processing the beans is Janwine. She works 12 hours through the day and feeds her family with her meagre wage. She gets home to cook, clean, do laundry and hold her children until it’s time for sleep. By the time she climbs into bed she is completely emptied.

Nicki: My eyes fell on a concert poster for "A Sea Symphony" by Vaughan Williams

It starts with a calling to the sky,
nothing to divide the two except a familiar glistening.

A rising and falling, helped by the sun.

Distance can't be understood here. Certainly not speed.
I've never developed the need for sea legs,
not had to wrap my head around knots.

Who would want to sail solo around the world?

I simply want to walk out onto that ocean
towards the light,
onwards, always.

Be my own siren.

The water would never come higher than my knees.
That's how certain I can be I'll keep going.

I have direction now.

Viv: Unfinished poem inspired by the word “workspace”

so does this space work for me
to work productively
create design produce each line
of carefully crafted words

work within my solitary cell
draw inspiration from a well
the words and meaning gently leading
my reader to my soul

my workspace closely lined with books
and files and papers often looks
chaotic or perhaps demonic
not the place to sculpture verse

or worse…

Sandy: Dialogue inspired by a poster entitled “Have your say”.

‘Talk, talk, talk, it’s all everyone does around here.’
‘Yeah but – ’
‘This ain’t a democracy, ya know.’
‘But –’
‘My day, everyone just put up and shut up.’
‘I know, but – ’
‘You’ve gotta just get on with it, right?’
‘I see what you’re saying – ’
‘It’s no good complaining when nuffin’s ever gonna change.’
‘Look, will you – ’
‘Quite the mouthy one, aren’t you?’
‘I’m sorry, have I – ’
‘There you go again!’
‘ – got this right – ’
‘All talk, never stop …’
‘You are the Customer Complaints Officer here … aren’t you?

Rachel: Inspired by the words “3 ways…”

Walking along the road I was thinking...There are three ways I could handle this. I could just come straight out with it, sit her down, get the coffees in and say "I've got something to tell you..." I can see her face now, sudden anxiety, possibilities running through her mind as to what could follow my blunt and clumsy opener. Nothing good ever comes after those words.Ok, on to the second option, skirting round the houses "You know that girl we used to know..." and hope she sees the relevance. No, that's too obscure. Right that leaves the third way. I'll write her a note, leave it in her bag to find when she gets home, give her time to digest it all. But what if she never speaks to me again. There must be more than three ways...

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Thursday, 1 January 2009

Welcome to Sapphist Writers

It's the first day of 2009! What better New Year's resolution could you have than to promise yourself creative inspiration.

We are currently working on a contribution to the Nottinghamshire Rainbow Heritage exhibition for LGBT History Month in February. Under the heading "Every Woman Has a Story" we aim to contribute a selection of short pieces of writing in the form of patches on a patchwork. These can be poems, life writing or flash fiction, but should be mindful of the overall Nottinghamshire Rainbow Heritage theme.

Please either bring finished and printed "patches" to the next meeting or send them to If we can make these multi-coloured and visual, so much the better. Try and keep to a readable font size 12-14 and overall roughly A5 size. Hopefully we can ask for further contributions to the patchwork during and after the exhibition and watch it grow.

So, join us on Monday 12th January for the first meeting of the new year. Email for more information. We would be delighted to welcome new members.

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