Sunday, 10 April 2011

Guest Blog: Sheila Templeton

As part of Poetry Month on May Contain Nuts I thought it might be cool to hear from one of my favourite poets, who just happens to be one of my favourite people. Taking early retirement from teaching, Sheila found a whole new career in Poetry and has won prizes galore and fans aplenty with her honest, approachable and lyrical style.

I give you (you can imagine a drum-roll here) the divine Ms T herself - Sheila Templeton! 

            Hey Michael, a big thank you for inviting me to write as a guest on your blog. I know I used to be a bit of a grumpy old woman on the subject of blogs...but I have to say, yours is so good it's definitely winning me over! (note from MJM - flattery will get you everywhere)

            And the fact your timing is terrific ie the launch of my new poetry collection is on Tuesday evening, details below, folks, is no bad thing either.

            So having gone from shameless 'sooking-up' to shameless book promotion, here goes:

            Your readers might like to know how you and I know each other. The answer is...through writing! We first met at a wonderful writers' course held down in Derbyshire, where you and I, Michael, bonded forever over the shared creation of a wee plasticine man with Rastafarian locks, an inhabitant of the fantasy world we'd created together.

            Then we sort of fell into a marvellous group of four poets, the Makar Press, a publishing cooperative which we set up to publish our first collections...and almost accidently, turned into a much sought after reading/performance group! Oh the fun we had. We still do readings together, indeed we have one scheduled for the end of May at Culzean Castle. But we are being published elsewhere now, like my new collection Digging For Light pub by New Voices Press.

            What has astonished me late in life is to find I LOVE PERFORMING. Me, who used to refuse to recite at my Grannie's Sunday afternoon gatherings, unless I could hide under the long fringed tablecloth, my personal audience-proof shield.

            Fast forward a number of decades and here I am standing up in front of crowds, reading my own words, an exposing process which the first time I read in public, I was actually convinced I would die of fright. But I didn't. And I got better at it. Then many readings in the shelter of the Makar Press and got yet more confident, so that although I am often sick with nerves before a I know once I get out there, I'll love it. And that is quite something.

            One of my favourite poets is an American poet called Mary Oliver. In When Death Comes, she says

 'When it's over, I want to say; all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms...
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.'

            That's why I read poetry and write poetry. Because if I don't, I'll be selling myself short. I'll be playing small and who do we serve if we 'play small'? Nobody. It's patronising anyway, to pretend to be less than you are, just in the hope you won't offend anyone. I want to feel I am fully engaged with life, 'married to amazement.' It does help in being a writer if you are curious, nosy even...about other people, about the physical world, about your own inner process.

            Sure, sometimes my words have raised eyebrows...and I wouldn't say I am either abrasive, or controversial, or even like to shock for the sake of it. But if a 'sweary' word is the right word, the only word for a poem, I'll use it. And I have!

            It helped me when I began writing about 15 years ago, to read contemporary women poets. I ate up the likes of Liz Lochhead and Kathleen Jamie, two fine Scottish poets. I discovered it was okay to write about my own experience. I could say what it felt like to realise one day that my upper arms were best covered up! And yes, folks, that's the poem I have the 'f' word in!

            I cannot imagine my life now without poetry in it. I go to so many poetry gatherings in Glasgow, I could get dizzy thinking about them all. I've been a judge at Poetry Slams. Now there's a nail biting genre. I've read outdoor, indoors, at open mics, as a 'head line act', as a two minute participant with everybody else. I'm often terrified, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

            And I read, read, read poetry. I don't think anyone can write good poetry if they don't read good poetry!

            So wish me luck on Tuesday night at the launch...Digging For Light, pub New Voices Press, 6pm for 6.30pm ,The Junction Bar, Tuesday 12th April,West George St, Glasgow G2 1DA. I'll be the one up by the microphone, trying to look nonchalant and cool and A POET...

            Nah! I'll just be being me.


  1. A lovely post, Sheila - I'm glad Michael gave you space to share with us. All the very best with your new book of peoms (look forward to reading it) and the launch. Would love to be there, but not sure if I can be at the moment.

  2. Great post, Sheila - and, as you say, it's just you being you. I'm one of the ones lucky enough to have seen you and that rascal Malone perform with the other Makars. It's great entertainment and proves that poetry isn't just yelled by misunderstood blokes in whirling capes standing on top of the Jungfrau in a storm but it's about the simple, beautiful (and ugly) everyday things too. Poetry is REAL writing.