It's a thankless task at times, this poetry lark. Submitting to magazines, anthologies and competitions, waiting months to hear, only for rejections to trickle back - usually just after the submission deadline for a publication for which you thought (almost certainly wrongly) that your tied-up poem would be a dead cert. Still, nobody makes us do it. When moved to complain, I often think of the line from the old Gang of Four song (with appropriate gender switch), "She said she was ambitious / so she accepts the process."
Sometimes, the effect is amplified by corporation bus syndrome - month after barren month, with several good things coming at once.
Thus, last week I found out that, for the second year running, I had been longlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize. Granted, there were 295 on the longlist but out of 1,952 it's not bad - and it puts my poem on a par with one by Kim Addonizio and means that it must briefly have caught the attention of Billy Collins.
Even better, though, was having a poem highly commemded in the York Poetry Prize - one of two that were shortlisted. 'The abattoir is Eden' derives from a visit to Malaga, late last year. We went to wonderful pop-up Pompidou Centre in the city, where there was an exhibition entitled Utopías Modernas - 'Modern Utopias'. Given the 'Hell in a handcart' state of the world then (and now), we felt that utopia was something we needed, and the exhibition was, indeed, fantastic. In one part of the gallery, two films were running consecutively on a loop: one was a piece by Chris Marker, while I failed to notice the author of the other - as I now greatly regret. The latter showed footage of an abattoir run in reverse, so that the slaughtered cattle were reassembled and restored to life, before being trucked back to an idyllic life in the fields. It's an idea that has been used a number of times before but I found it strangely moving and, after being unable to shake off the image, I realised I had to write about it. It's great that it connected with the judge, Sean O'Brien.
You can take a look at the poem and at me reading it on the York Prize page, along with other winners including my poetry friends Wendy Pratt, Emma Storr and Jo Haslam. Alternatively, here it is: