S. A. Leavesley/Sarah James is a poet, fiction writer, journalist and editor, fitting words around life and life around words.
How to Grow Matches, published by Against the Grain Press in 2018, is her seventh poetry title and available from the Shop. Overton Poetry Prize winner 2015, she is author of four other poetry collections, two poetry pamphlets, a touring poetry-play and a novella, Kaleidoscope. The sequel novella, Always Another Twist.
Sarah’s poetry has won or been shortlisted for many prizes, with individual poems published by the Financial Times, the Guardian, The Forward Book of Poetry 2016, on Worcestershire buses and in the Blackpool Illuminations.
A member of the National Association of Writers in Education, she is an experienced workshop facilitator. She has been a festival poet in residence in a church and café, as well as a library residency on the West Midlands’ Adopt a Poem scheme.
Other recent commissioned work includes an article, photos and poem for the Wellcome Collection, poetryfilms for Disappear Here’s Coventry ring road project, and a Camaraderie collaboration for Ledbury Poetry Festival 2017.
Her poems feature on the Polesworth Poets’ Trail in Warwickshire, a café mural , in the Blackpool Illuminations 2014 and around 12,000 copies of AGFA’s annual report distributed internationally.
A regular guest poet, she has read at Ledbury Poetry Festival 2013, 2015 and 2017, Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2013, 2015 and 2016, and the Carol Ann Duffy and Friends 2014 series at Manchester’s Royal Exchange. Her poetry has also featured on the BBC, in poetryfilms and on radio.
Stranger claims to 5-mins of fame include her poetry translated into Russian (through English PEN), a poem screened at a Bulgarian film festival (thanks to animators Emily & Anne), reading from the top of a glass cone furnace and poems shared in the American classroom.
She is also an award-winning fiction writer and journalist, and was longlisted for the memoir prize in the New Welsh Writing Awards 2017.
Her website is at www.sarah-james.co.uk and she also runs V. Press, poetry and flash imprint.
“It must have been a male painter…”
overheard at an exhibition
The colour of her cowl gives it away:
the scarlet of Little Red Riding Hood.
After all, doesn’t every girl dream of the wolf –
wish herself unseamed by his howling?
Look closer at this intimate portrait
of a nesting doll; the length of lashes,
small hands bound to lotus shape.
Everything curved, nothing straight.
And the open mouth, like she’d swallow
anything whole. Eyes cast down.
Note too the flowers on her belly;
each brushstroke increases their swell.
Then find the artist’s name, realise
this is recent, and painted by a woman.
How to grow matches
Take the long matchsticks:
those like pink-tipped bulrushes,
those Gretel’s step-mum
might strike to light her oven.
Snap one – like a sharp blow
sideways behind a man’s knees.
Then another and another
for each jibe or slight.
Note how easily the wood splits
after years of hidden anger.
A felled forest at your feet,
and still the pile grows!
Lay the toppled pieces
against each other’s thinness,
rested on crumpled paper.
Now you have a bonfire.
Don’t think of Moses,
not Guy Fawkes or Jeanne d’Arc,
but of waking every day
to stroke your curves
into those clothes,
hip-sways and lip expressions
condoned for your office
as a woman.
First published in Magma, Revolution edition