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Hello, dear fellow poets and pub-goers, both regulars and newcomers. Marina Sofia here with you tonight. Come in, relax, let me mix you your favourite tipple and tell me about all your plans and hopes or concerns for 2016. I don’t believe in resolutions, but I do believe in making gradual changes, especially if it’s something that will support your creative habits.

As I bid you welcome, I also have to bid you goodbye. I will retire from my pubtending position, although I will still join in occasionally with prompts and Open Link Nights. I have loved meeting you all and your poetry at dVerse Poets, and I cannot even begin to tell you how helpful it has been for me, encouraging me to share my poetry with other people.

The last two years or so have been rather difficult for me personally and there are many changes coming up in my life this year, not least moving to another country. I have decided, however, that poetry and writing will not take a back seat this time, as they so often have done in the past. Instead, I will cut down on my paid work until the summer and learn to say no to the many other projects and volunteer activities I am involved in. Sadly, that includes dVerse, because I simply don’t feel I can do it justice, give your poems the attention they deserve and make thoughtful comments rather than just a meaningless ‘Nice one!’.

I’ve always admired the people who have such single-minded focus and purpose in life, who can really get things done, without distractions. It’s much harder for those of us who lack this singularity. I like to think of us as multi-talented: there are so many possible ways in which we could go and we don’t want to give anything up! However, the next few months may be my last chance to finish my novel and to put together a selection of poems for a chapbook, so it is time to give up those other things which are fun but not strictly necessary…

What are you prepared to give up for your art or your goals? Or do you think single-minded focus is a myth or a brainwashing device to make us work harder?

I close with a fragment from a poem entitled ‘The fear of poetry’ by Muriel Rukeyser, which I think best describes why poetry is so important to me.

Now, when it is hard to hold
for a moment
the giant clusters of event and meaning
that every day appear,
it is time to remember this other kind of knowledge and love,
which has forever been a way of reaching
complexes of emotion and relationship,
the attitude that is like the attitude of science
and the other arts today,
but with significant and beautiful distinctness from these —
the attitude that perhaps
might equip our imaginations to deal with our lives —
the attitude of poetry.