Monthly Archives: June 2012

Sunday Poem – slightly delayed – Ben Willems


You may (or may not) have noticed that no Sunday Poem appeared this week. 

I have a very good excuse in that I was swanning around London, reading at the ‘New Poet’s Festival’ organised by Roddy Lumsden and Emily Hasler.  I had a great time, but I didn’t get back to Barrow till midnight, so I physically couldn’t update the blog.

Anyway, this weekend I’m away again at the Poetry Parnassus – I’m going to blog more about this on Thursday night, my one free night this week but for now, here is your slightly delayed Sunday poem by the fabulous Ben Willems. 

I met Ben on the MA at Manchester Met, and when I read at Manky Poets in Chorlton a couple of weeks ago, he read this on the open mic.  I thought it was a fantastic poem  and he reads really well.  He’s been writing for about ten years and is based in Manchester and he describes his poetry as ‘performance-based’.  As you can see from this poem though, it holds its own on the page as well and has a vitality and freshness about it.  Ben should definately be more widely known and published than he is.  He says his poetry  ‘makes a spirited attempt to disobey the rampant consumer society we live in but is often caught out binging on Toblerones and going on about brands of trainers.’

Another reason Ben is great is that he sang Dolly Parton on the kareoke with me after the Manky Poets event and still managed to look cool. 

MAKING UP TIME – Ben Willems

After Galway Kinnell


Here I heard the midnight train speeding towards the west.
Here I came off my bike, attempting a wheelie at the age of 57.
Here I was told to stop drinking on medical grounds.
Here I reread Marcel Proust, three pages in late afternoon
overlooking Stockport.
Here I abandoned Marcel Proust for the second time.
Here I lived off chip barms, not butties or batches.
Here a plain clothes cop pulled up alongside and started asking me my business.
Here I voted Lib Dem – never again.
Here I realised how easy it was to fraud the system,
tell them exactly what they need to know and the rest is yours.
Here I brought up on You Tube John Cage’s 4’33, which Sarah played to me the first time,
and wanted to pass on ‘getting it’ to someone new.
Here I watched the video of “All Coming Back To Me” by Celine Dion
and quite enjoyed it actually!
Here I forgot to tell them exactly what they needed to know
and had to pay back £2,274 over 36 months.
Here the local pub sold Harvey’s Sussex bitter so I started drinking again.
Here I am on the midnight train speeding towards the east, four sets of reflections kaleidoscoping round me, the end of the first life’s lies and thwarted desires,
the germination of the second’s in the blackness beyond the window.

Roy Marshall composes a Poem instead of a Review of ‘If We Could Speak Like Wolves’


Roy Marshall, who was one of the first ‘Sunday Poets’ I featured on this blog, sent me my first review of my pamphlet in the shape of a poem by email today, and kindly said I could put it on my blog. 

Thanks Roy! 

Instead of a Review
For Kim

Her poem chills the bones
like cloud shadow
sliding a door across a lake.

These two taste salty;
one of sea salt
one of sweat.

This one is the heat and smell
of the pub extractor fan,
this is sparkling wine in a garden

and this a Love Heart sweet
offered by a little girl
with dirty hands and face.

This one moves from a bird’s eye view
to a pew and back out
to space.

This one hurts my eye,
this one holds
and takes my breath.

This one is horses
in a misty field,
the smaller one resting
on the big ones neck.

Roy Marshall

Sunday Poem 10 – Janet Rogerson


Today’s Sunday poem is by Janet Rogerson.  Janet has just had her first pamphlet published by The Rialto (www. and a thing of beuaty it is too.  The Rialto not only produce the fantastic magazine of the same name, they also create beautifully designed pamphlets and full collections too.  Take a look at their website and show them some support!

 I will try and add a picture of the front cover tomorrow at some point.  I would definately recommend buying a copy.  Janet has a way of writing which often descends into the surreal, but she always keeps herself grounded in reality. 

I first met Janet on a Poetry School course in Manchester and was struck by her poetry back then, so it was lovely to hear that she’d been picked up by The Rialto – well deserved!

The poem below is the last poem in her pamphlet, which might seem a funny choice to showcase, except this was one of my favourites.  I also think it’s a good example of Janet’s quirky way of looking at things. It reminded me of the well known story of the Greek poet Cavafy and how, before he died, he drew a circle with a dot in the middle – enigmatic to the last.  I wonder if Janet had this in mind when she wrote the end of this poem?

Anyway, please comment and let me know what you think of the poem!

If you would like to find out more about Janet her blog is


The graves were windows with their shutters down.
The flowers were fresh on some and dead on others.
Best is fresh, second is dead, and last is none at all.
An oblong with a stone, again and again and again.

Walking up and down the rows
I realised what was wrong and felt the need
to tell you quickly, just in case.  I left a message.

When I die curl me up and place me in a round box.
I cannot lie on my back like a corpse.
I started as a circle, so don’t iron me out.
Don’t make my last statement a linear one.

Manky Poets Weekend


Yesterday I drove to Chorlton Library to read for Manky Poets.  I met the organiser copland smith in the Spread Eagle pub before hand.  On the way, I stopped off for a sandwich and a cup of tea.  I didn’t realise that my new 15 year old car Victor doesn’t have a cup holder and I ended up spilling my tea on my top that I was going to wear for the reading – cue quick change in the car park of the Spread Eagle as I was too lazy to go into the toilets.

It was lucky that I had a change of clothes – I’m not vain enough (yet) to carry round various outfits with me, it was just that I had a spare set of clothes as I was staying at the poet Liz Venn’s house in Glossop. 

Anyway, clothing disaster averted, I went into the pub and met copland, who gave me a list of every poet that Manky Poets had ever had to read.  I was the 112th – and it was a pretty impressive list.  They’ve had Edwin Morgan and Jackie Kay come and read for them for goodness sake! 

It was a lovely suprise to see some of the poets that I’d met on the Creative Writing MA at MMU – the fantastic Martin Kratz, who has a Skeleton Man poem featured here as my Sunday poem a couple of weeks ago, Ben Willem, a great poet who will be featured on here in the next couple of weeks and Michael Conley, another great poet who I think is still finishing off his MA.

Janet Rogerson was also there – I mention this because I’ll be posting one of her poems from her new pamphlet as the Sunday poem tomorrow – she read on the open mic – really nice to hear a couple of her poems.

The whole night was a really great, well run affair.  It was very casual, very relaxed, and I think Manky poets have got a good thing going.  I hope it continues for another 112 poets!  I sold 8 copies of the pamphlet, and got the door money which covered my expenses, so I was very happy. 

We all went to the pub afterwards – me via a croggy, or what some people call a ‘backy’ on Martin Kratz’s push bike.  I used to travel around like this all the time when I was 15 and never thought anything of it – probably wasnn’t the most professional example to set as guest poet – but never mind!  I quite enjoyed it – poor Martin dutifully pedalled to the pub, a couple of blocks away from the library, and said his legs were wobbly by the time he got there.  Maybe I’ve put on a little bit of weight since I was 15, but surely not that much!

The night culminated somehow with my name being put down for a kareoke song at the pub (without my permission I hasten to add!)  Ben downed a couple of whiskys to help me out with the singing, and Lindy (a member of the audience) felt obliged to sing it with me as the whole thing was her fault in the first place!  Singing on the kareoke stone cold sober is not an experience I wish to repeat!  Apparently they don’t do this to all their guest readers though, so never fear!  I think as long as you don’t act like a teenager and jump on the back of someone’s push bike you’ll probably be alright!

Anyway, me and Liz drove back to Glossop – I collapsed in Liz’s spare bedroom and the next day we drove to Sheffield to go to The Poetry Business’s Writing Day.  I had a great day – I haven’t looked at my scribblings from the exercises to see if I think I’ve got any starts for the poems, but I had such a nice day. 

I guess now the pamphlet is out, it is easy to remember how much I just love sitting all day and writing.  It’s very hard to sit for that length of time at home and write – there is always something that needs doing – the dogs need walking, shopping, work etc.  But it made me realise that writing and listening to what other people have written is one of my favourite things to do.

Sunday Poem 9-Myra Schneider


Last night I was the MC for ‘A Poem and A Pint’.  The guest poet was my lovely friend David Tait, who did an absolute blinder of a reading.  I particularly enjoyed hearing his new poems in the second half – it will be really exciting to see them go out and make their mark on the world!

In the afternoon I ran an ‘Editing and Redrafting’ workshop at Barrow Library with five brave souls.  I think two of the participants had been to a few workshops before, but they had not had the opportunity to have their own work critiqued.  The first hour we looked at general editing techniques and the last hour and a half was spent looking at each person’s poem.  I was impressed with the level of quality of the work, but also the way that the participants, some of whom had never showed their work to another person before, responded to feedback in an open and positive way.  They were also great at giving each other feedback, which made my job easy!

Plans are now afoot for a whole day workshop at Barrow Library, probably after the summer holidays, so watch this space!

Today’s Sunday poem is by Myra Schneider, from her new collection ‘What Women Want’.  I first met Myra at a workshop that she was running in Lancaster – then a couple of months later I went to another workshop of hers in Ulverston.  Myra has a great energy and it was a pleasure to talk with her on the few occasions we’ve met. 

‘What Women Want’ has at its heart a long sequence exploring the life of Caroline Norton (1808-1877), whose enforced seperation from her children by her husband led her to campaign tirelessly for a change in the law.  The poem is too long to post the whole of it on here, and I didn’t feel I would be doing the poem justice by just posting a section of it – the real power comes from reading it all the way through and letting the narrative unfold.  I found it quite shocking – this didn’t happen that long ago – and I think it is a work of great importance – a piece of our history that I should have already known about.  To my shame, I’d never heard of Caroline Norton before, so I found the poem very informative. 

Anyway, the poem I’ve chosen is the first poem from the collection, which is called ‘The Composition Hut’.  I thought this fitted nicely with the Caroline Norton introduction – because although the poet is writing about the composer Grieg’s composition hut, the tone of the poem reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’.

There is obviously the hut which was Grieg’s ‘room of one’s own’ but there is also Myra’s description of her thoughts ‘slippery as eels travelling below the surface’.

If you would like to order ‘What Women Want’ or find out more about Myra, her website is 

The pamphlet is £6.95 and published by Second Light Publications and can be ordered direct from the website



Fairytale: the fierce slope of the roof, the pines,
the lake, so it’s easy to fold up this century,
its quick screens, its cables packed under streets.
Now is this green and blue silence, the hut
at the foot of the hill where Grieg worked.
I can almost see his newly-hatched shoals
of crochets and quavers. So why am I holding back?
The door’s unlocked – once inside wouldn’t my ideas
flow. No, I’d be beguiled by the spears of light
rising from the silkgrey water, by the voice urging
the rowers in that boat and I’d float to yesterday
when I saw a lifetime of waterfalls, mountains clad
with firs all pointing at ever. Lulled, I’d believe
the future safe, let littlefish words evade my fingers… 

Months on, the composition hut is still in my head.
It’s a hermitage where I could uncover layers of self
but does self have any meaning on its own?
I have no answer, only know I need the pines,
the lake of serenity, the idea of the hut as a retreat
or a perching place, at least, for my soul
where I can begin to face the discomposure
of composing and, undistracted, follow the thoughts
slippery as eels travelling beneath the surface,
let them lead me to the disruption and pain
beyond the trees. For when I shut off the outer tick
I find myself listening to the quickening beat
of this dear planet as if it were my own heart’s clock. 

Grieg’s Composition Hut at Troldhaugen

(from What Women Want Second Light Publications 2012)

Sunday Poem 8-Skeleton Man by Martin Kratz


Today’s Sunday poem is by Martin Kratz, who I met on the MA at Manchester Met.  He also came on a week’s retreat that I organised at Cove Park, and it was there that he introduced me to ‘Skeleton Man’ – a sequence of poems about a character of the same name.  I think they are brilliant, very witty, clever, poignant and reminiscent of Ted Hughe’s ‘Crow’ and Christopher Reid’s ‘Mr Mouth’.   The poem below is only one of a whole set of Skeleton Man poems – I can’t wait for these poems to be published, so I can read them in their entirety.

Martin will be finishing his MA at Manchester Metropolitan University this year.  He’s spent most of his time working in primary and special needs education.  His parents are German, but he grew up in London.  In 2011, he won the Rosamund Prize  – which is awarded for the best collaboration between a composition student from the Royal Northern College of Music and an MA student from MMU.  He then went on to write a libretto for an opera called The Mermaid of Zennor which was first performed at the RNCM last autumn.  It will be performed again next week in Manchester – see the link below for more information.

If you would like to find out more about Martin, he blogs at

Skeleton Man- Martin Kratz

My poor little skeleton boy, I can’t bear to think of it.
Driven to that strange house,
where that woman, Crooked-Bicycle-Spoke,
ushered you into the loft
and the door was closed.
At the point where the pitch of the roof was lowest,
the Boy-With-No-Bones chugged to safety like a squid.
The colour slid from him, when you entered.

 Skeleton Man,
this wasn’t a play-date. 
It was a could-be-worse, a
Take heart, Soft Touch, he never could have been your friend.
You had nothing in common.

Launches and lunches and sales


This week I have been to three poetry events.  Tuesday night was a reading at the Wordsworth Trust with Mike Barlow and Mimi Khalvati.  Mike was his usual fabulous self and Mimi’s reading was exceptional.  Mimi was warm and generous with her introductions and hearing her read the ghazals from her recent book ‘Child: New and Selected Poems’ was great.  I’ve never really understood ghazals before – I didn’t get why they were necessary – which sounds really rude, but having heard the music of them it was like something clicked in my brain and I am now a fan.  It even made me want to write one, although I haven’t yet.  I’ve been too busy flitting about the North West.  I have written a review of Mimi’s book which can be found on under the Non-Fiction tab.

On Wednesday I went to the launch of ‘Lung Jazz – the Oxfam Anthology of Young British Poets’.  Young was defined by the editors as anyone born after 1970, so I was well within the age limits!  There are 160 ish poems by 160 different poets, one for each poet.  At the reading, each poet read their poem from the anthology and then one other poem.  There were about fifteen readers, which sounds like a nightmare, but because everyone was reading for only five minutes it seemed to go really quickly, and the quality of the poetry was outstanding.

My favourite poet of the night?  Probably Ryan Van Winkle, who I think is a Salt poet.  I think I might order his collection – the two poems he read were fantastic.  I would recommend the anthology, not only because it has some very good poetry in, but also because all the profits go to Oxfam.  The two presses that have published the anthology, Eyewear and Cinnamon Press have done so out of the goodness of their hearts.  You can buy the book here

The link to Eyewear, an interesting blog by Todd Swift is here who has now also set up an independent press of the same name, which is well worth checking out.

Then it was the last train back to Barrow, which got me in at half past midnight. 

Then yesterday I drove to Preston.  I didn’t check the start times of Word Soup until I got there, which was slightly silly and I arrived at 6.30pm to find out it started at 8pm, so I took myself off to  a Chinese restaurant near by.  I don’t know the name of it but I intend to go back there.  It was amazing.  It’s like an all you can eat buffet except you order the dishes you want and they bring it out to you.  I only wanted sweet and sour chicken (my favourite) but the waiter seemed appalled that I wouldn’t get my £13.50 worth of food, and proceeded to bring out duck (which he cut for me – very considerate) pancakes, salad and then the sweet and sour chicken.  I’m not a big eater – lots of food normally puts me off – but this food was so nice I scoffed lots, and then had to keep my trousers undone through the first half of the reading (concealed underneath my top of course!)

Word Soup: Womanhood was great – I got to see the lovely Ann Wilson, a Barrow poet who now lives in Kendal and Sarah Miller, who also used to live in Barrow and now lives in Manchester and Vicki Ellis did a great job of organising it all.  I also managed to sell five pamphlets, which was nice. 

I got back after midnight last night as well though, and it was only Bruce Springstein’s Born to Run on repeat that kept me awake.  I love that song. 

On the subject of sales, it is great fun having something to sell.  I’ve never had anything tangible to sell and I’m quite enjoying the exchange of goods for money.  I saw a post today on Facebook from Chris Hamilton Emery of Salt  saying he had sold 220 copies of his new collection and it started me wondering what the average numbe of sales is for a pamphlet.  I vaguely remember having a conversation with someone who said that 200 is considered good sales for a pamphlet – maybe there will be some editors reading this who can answer this question.  I’d be interested to know how the sales of a pamphlet and a first collection differ as well.

Anyway, I’ve decided to keep close tabs on how many I sell, because I find it interesting.  I would have been interested to read about someone’s experience of selling their pamphlet as well before I had one, so maybe someone else will like it too.  So to date, I’ve personally sold 49 (I don’t know how many Peter and Ann have sold through The Poetry Business website – I might ask them) and I’ve given away 15.  Four of those were to my dad who said he was going to threaten his scaffolder colleagues and make them buy one…so I may get some money for those.  It’s quite funny thinking of my dad selling poetry books actually.  You’d know what I mean if you knew him. 

Anyway, I’ll let you all know when I get to 100.  Anybody else want to add statistics of how their sales are going, I’d be really interested.  Just because I’m nosy really.  And if anyone does want to buy a pamphlet, message me and I’ll send you my address, and you can send me a whole five pounds and your address, and I’ll send you a pamphlet.  I’ll even write you a nice letter to go with it.  I bought some Basildon Bond specially for the job!