Monthly Archives: September 2012

Sunday Poem – Carola Luther


I’ve spent a lovely morning re-reading Carola Luther’s two collections to pick a favourite poem.  This is why I started this feature really – to give myself a reason to take time to slow down and read my favourite poets again.

Carola’s first collection is called ‘Walking The Animals’ and the second is ‘Arguing with Malarchy’.  They are both published by Carcanet, and you can buy direct from their website which is

Carcanet publish lots of my favourite poets – just looking over my shoulder at the book case – Kei Miller, Bill Manhire, Jane Draycott so the website is well worth checking out.  You can also sign up to an email newsletter which normally has offers and free poems in it!

Anyway, back to Carola – it was hard trying to pick a favourite.  I narrowed it down to eight across the two books, but decided to go for ‘Mourning’ from ‘Walking the Animals’.   I think this was maybe the poem that gave me the open door into Carola’s work – it is like a prayer or a benediction, and despite its title, is full of hope.  I think it is also representative of Carola’s work in the way it weaves and references animals and nature into the fabric of the poem.

But listen to this quote from the poem ‘Moving House’ from ‘Arguing with Malarchy’ and you can see why it was hard to choose only one…

‘It began with the owl moving into the attic
under the chimney where the wind lived like an animal,
then the mouse and its offspring bedding down
in softnesses long forgotten in the cellar, then spiders,
many of them, hanging their shadows in string bags
beneath them, touching toes with themselves under lintel
and eave….’

The poem continues on from there on its headlong way through herons, owls, starlings, neighbours, cars and finishes…well, I won’t say where it finishes, because that will spoil it if you want to read the poem! 

Anyway here is the Sunday Poem

Mourning by Carola Luther

When I am hopeful I see
there is not much difference
between a rock and a rhino
that a rhino is warmed-up stone
that stone is tight water
that water is wind

When I am hopeful I see
there is not much difference
between giraffe and green trees
that trees are slow thoughts
that thoughts are quick fish
that fish are loose flecks
of river-light running
and rivers are longing.

When I am hopeful I see
there is not much difference
between a lion and warm wood
that wood is slow flame
that flame is lit sand
that sand is dry sea
that sea is wet sky
that sky is still mountain moving
from where I can reach
and touch you.

Poetry Wivenhoe Hangover


I’m writing from my throne on the sofa, in the throes of a Poetry Wivenhoe hangover.  On Thursday, I drove down to Wivenhoe, which was a six hour drive and arrived at my friend Chris Tanner’s house at about six.  I met Chris on a fabulous writing course at Ty Newydd (

Ty Newydd is kind of like the welsh version of the Arvon writing courses – I think I’ve been on four courses now, and I’ve always enjoyed them – the first one was life changing in fact! 

However, I met Chris on the third one-our tutors were Alan Jenkins and Fiona Sampson.  A group of us went swimming in the sea – I nearly drowned because I was trying to swim in knee deep water because of my phobia of sea weed – didn’t want to put my foot down…anyway, that is beside the point! 

So I turned up to Chris’s house – and his lovely wife Emma made an amazing beef stew  – I had second helpings for perhaps the first time in my life, and then we made our way down to the Royal British Legion in Wivenhoe for the reading. 

I read in Wivenhoe maybe a year and a half ago – before I won an Eric Gregory or had a pamphlet published, so it was lovely to come back and read there again. 

The organisers were friendly, the local poet Tom Vaine was superb, and the standard of the open mic very high.  I would definately recommend going along to a Poetry Wivenhoe event if you are ever down that way.  They have a website which is

The reason I have a Wivenhoe hangover is because it was a bit of a marathon – a lovely, thought provoking reading after a six hour drive, then I decided to drive two hours to Leicester so I would have a head start when I set off for work the next day, and then getting up at 6a.m to get back to Barrow for my afternoon teaching – so it really felt like I was hungover, even though I obviously hadn’t drank. 

I still feel pretty wiped out but I also had a lovely ‘poetry day’ yesterday – a poetry day is when nice poetry things happen to you – and they usually take place in threes.  So here are my three –

1.  I’ve had a review accepted in Acumen.  The review is of Myra Schneider’s book ‘What Women Want’ and you can find one of her poems on an early Sunday poem on this blog.  Having a review accepted feels just as good as having a poem accepted – and I find reviews much more ‘personal’ than my poems.  I see the poem as a piece of art, which though it can be related to my life is still seperate to me.  A review however, is my opinion – much more personal

2.  My certificate arrived for my MA.  It feels great to have the certificate – this signals the close of one part of my life, which I enjoyed immensely.  I can believe that its real now – I have an MA with Distinction. 

3.  This is a cheat because this is two nice things rolled into one.  There is a lovely review of my pamphlet on a very interesting poetry blog by Clarissa Aykroyd:

AND Poetry Review dropped through the door and my pamphlet has been reviewed by David Morley in a very positive fashion.  I’m very happy about this, and to be in such good company as well – the review is a kind of micro review of lots and lots of pamphlets and is well worth reading.

Other news – I sold ten pamphlets at Wivenhoe bringing the grand total up to 188.

Tomorrow there will be a poem by Carola Luther, Grasmere’s Poet in Residence.  Tomorrow I will also be planning my workshop for National Poetry Day (not done it yet) 

We now have only one place left on the workshop – and I’m really hoping that some local folk from Grange Over Sands come and support our evening reading and open mic.

Sunday Poem – Due to disorganisation, you’ll have to put up with a poem from yours truly


Hello everyone – I’ve had a bit of a busy weekend – reading at Lancaster Spotlight on Friday evening, reading at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake on Saturday afternoon, and then off to Poem and A Pint with the lovely Carola Luther as the guest poet and then it was suddenly Sunday, and I realised I haven’t sorted out a Sunday poem…

So I thought I could get away with it by giving you one of mine.  This poem was out in the last Rialto – No 75 – which was a brilliant issue with lots of my favourite poets in – I would definately recommend getting your hands on a copy from

Anyway, here is the poem. 

I”m Thinking Of My Father

I’m thinking of my father in the backyard
throwing more and more wood on the fire
as the slow dusk of summer descends
he’s throwing more wood on the fire

as his brother lies dying, but then I think
aren’t we all dying, but he knows,
my uncle, he knows what will kill him,
a tumour the size of a fist and growing

and still my father throws wood on the fire
as the new cherry blossom tree waits
to be planted, he throws wood on the fire
while my mother sits and watches TV

and outside the fire gets higher.  My father
cuts wood with a saw that screams as if someon
is dying and he doesn’t care about splinters
or safety as long as the fire gets higher.

And all the stone lions and grave little gnomes
in their cheerful red breeches are waiting
for the fire to falter, and the lamp that’s addicted
to heat flickers on, flickers off and the lawn sits

in its shadows and dark and its falsehoods
and the ending begins with its terrible face,
its strange way of being, its short way of living
and my father stops throwing wood on the fire. 




Hello all – This week has been my first ‘proper’ week as a part-time teacher instead of full time.  I had Monday off after a very full and exciting weekend down at the Inpress Poetry Garden Market.  The reading went really well and I sold 17 copies.  My dad has sold two of my pamphlets this week and given one away – it’s quite a funny story actually.  My dad is a scaffolder and is working on a theatre and has been talking to the director over the last couple of weeks, telling her about me writing poetry.  Anyway, the other day he managed to flog her a pamphlet – which actually doesn’t suprise me, as I think he has forced five unsuspecting scaffolders into purchasing my pamphlet – they probably have no interest in poetry, but that wouldn’t stop my dad!  Anyway, the director lady told my dad that she’d been having dinner with Andrew Motion (as you do) and she’d told him about Dad, him being a scaffolder and having a poet for a daughter, and Andrew would like a pamphlet as well, so actually she’d like to buy two!  So then my Dad says ‘Who’s Andrew Motion then?’ and when director lady tells him he’s the former Poet Laureate, he says ‘Oh, well in that case, he can have one for free’. 

I think my dad is now Officially Out Of Control.  Who knows who he will meet, and who he’ll sell one to next?  Anyway, my official sales count is now 169, and the first reprint of the pamphlet has now been deliverd to the Poetry Business Office.

Anyway, back to Inpress – it just so happened that the lovely Ita Dempsey, who I stayed with when I went over to Ireland for the Fermoy Poetry Festival, was over in London visiting family, so she came along to the reading, so it was lovely to see her.  And I was staying with my lovely friend Jill Abram, who I met on the Second Light course a couple of weeks ago, so it was nice to see Jill again.  The next morning Jill and I went to Brixton Market and we had lunch at this lovely cafe – it was a specialist burger place – but it was the nicest burger I’ve ever eaten.  On the way to the train station, Jill bumped into one of her neighbours, who is deaf.  They started talking in sign language, and suddenly the noise and the chaos of a busy street in Brixton seemed to be swallowed by this silence – it was the strangest, experience.  I was also quite impressed that Jill knows sign language – how amazing is that, to be able to converse with her neighbour?  You learn something new about people every day.

The Inpress staff were lovely – so well-organised and friendly.  There’s nothing worse than turning up to read somewhere and not feeling welcome, but Inpress were great and it was lovely to get the chance to hear the other readers – I spent far too much money on books though – which was good as there were delays on the train on the way back the next day, so that gave me something to do.

Anyway, my day off went pretty well – I finished a review that I’ve been meaning to do for ages, posted off some poems to a magazine that I’ve also been meaning to send to, met up with a friend, Jennifer Copley, to get the proposals finished for the residential course that we are running next year in Grange-Over-Sands (11th-13th Feb), posted off birthday cards to my neice and nephew and some baby clothes for my new great-neice and then went and did my stint of conducting with the junior band.  So it wasn’t actually much of a day off really!

Anyway, tomorrow (21st September) I’m reading at Lancaster Spotlight which is at a new venue, which is the Park Hotel, 1 St Oswald Street, Lancaster, LA13As, starting at 8.00pm.  If anyone would like a lift from Barrow, let me know!  And if anyone is going, let me know – it would be lovely to see some/all of you! 

And then on Saturday, I’ll be up at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick along with local poets Jennifer Copley, Antony Christie, Gill Nicholson and Martyn Halsall reading poets to go with an exhibition by Deborah Parker  called September is the Cruellest Month.  That starts at 1.00pm and if you would like more info, check out which is a geat site anyway, with lots of news/events/opportunities for writers.

And then on Saturday evening, it’s A Poem and A Pint!  Our guest poet is the Poet in Residence from the Wordsworth Trust, the lovely Carola Luther – one of the nicest people in the poetry world and a really interesting writer.  She is really worth coming to hear read – I think she has such a warm personality and I’m really looking forward to hearing her new poems.  In fact, there may very well be a Carola Luther poem on here on Sunday in way of celebration

I haven’t even told you all about the wonderful reading I went to on Tuesday at the Wordsworth Trust with Andrew Grieg and Graham Mort – I bought yet more books, but I think this post is probably far too long as it is.

If anyone would like more information on any of the events, just get in contact.


Sunday Poem – Ian Parks


Today’s poem is by Ian Parks – a wonderful northern poet who I met through our mutual friends, David Tait and David Thom.  Ian is a lovely, warm person who takes time to encourage others in their poetry as well as writing his own. 

I read with him recently at the Heart Cafe in Leeds and I’ve been reading his recent work with interest, as he is working on a new set of translations of one of my favourite poets, C.P. Cavafy.  In fact, I was given a copy of Acumen  yesterday at the Inpress Poetry Garden Market ( more on that tomorrow) and I was very pleased to see that one of Ian’s Cavafy translations ‘The Watchman’ was included. 

I’ve decided to include here the title poem from his most recent collection, ‘The Exile’s House’ which is available from Waterloo Press.

I think this poem demonstrates how Ian manages to control the pace in his poems – everything is carefully measured out and no words are wasted.  The poem is mysterious, and has an otherwordly quality about it, whilst at the same time being firmly fastened to our reality, and our time.

Described by Chiron Review as ‘the finest love poet of his generation’, Ian Parks was one of the Poetry Society New Poets in 1996. His collections include Shell Island (2006), Love Poems 1979-2009 (2009) and The Landing Stage (2010).

His poems have appeared in The Observer, the Independent on Sunday,
The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, London Magazine and Poetry (Chicago). He is the RLF Writing Fellow at De Montfort University, Leicester.


The Exile’s House – Ian Parks

Precarious, on a cliff above the sea
        the exile’s house is improvised
from objects found while walking on the beach.
        His crime, it seems, was speaking out
against a harsh regime.  Displacing
        dust he moves from room to room

or gazing at the sunset, sits and waits.
        The place is chained, and anchored down
with ships in bottles, figureheads.
        The ghosts of lovers breathe against the glass;
a trace of silver where they came and went.
         An open door, a broken blind,

a rocking horse dismantled on the floor
        with flying mane, distended eyes.
Under a lantern like a paper moon
        at a table ringed with stains
he drinks and listens as the night dictates
       words of resistance, lines of dissent.

Inpress Poetry Garden Market


This is just going to be a short post, as I am actually meant to be packing.  I also need to shower so that I don’t turn up to London all stinky. 


Tomorrow, I’m off to the Southbank in London to the 10th Anniversary Celebration of Inpress.  There are readings from 1.25pm.  I’m reading for 15 minutes at 2.10pm  – but there are lots of other really interesting poets – I’m particularly looking forward to hearing Hannah Lowe as I really enjoyed her Rialto pamphlet, but also looking forward to hearing Rhian Edwards – Hilda Sheehan recommended her to me…


Then there are drop in workshops between 3-6pm run by the Poetry School and then a birthday party at 8pm.  All of this is free and is taking place on the lawn outside Foyles.  I’ll be getting the 7.29 train from Barrow and hoping that they all run on time!


I hope to see some of you there – If you need any more information check out the website at




Sunday Poem – Hilda Sheehan


Evening folks.  This week’s Sunday poem is by Hilda Sheehan, a lovely lady that I met on the Second Light course a couple of weeks ago.  I shared a room with Hilda all week, so thank goodness we hit it off straight away.  Not only is she funny, intelligent and rather good looking, she is also a fab poet and organiser of various things down south – including ‘Domestic Cherry’ – a rather fab looking magazine that publishes high quality work at the same time as not taking itself too seriously.  Hilda’s alter ego ‘Mabel Watson’ is one half of the editing team for this nifty little mag – she even managed to convince Sharon Olds to submit a poem, so you would be in fine company if you submitted to it!  The website address for Domestic Cherry is

Hilda also organises various events throughout Swindon as well as performing her own work – the highlight of my week down at Holland House was hearing Hilda’s ‘Sea Slug’ poem – in fact I might try and get that poem off her for a future Sunday poem. 

I hope you all enjoy the poem – please let me know what you think – I think Hilda is a brilliant poet – and I’ve resolved to nag her until she sends me her pamphlet manuscript to have a look at – and then I’ll nag her until she submits it somewhere – she definately deserves to be read more widely!

This poem is typical Hilda – funny, wistful, sassy, truthful.  Hilda’s website, if you would like to find out more about her and the various projects she has on the go is

The night my sister went to Hollywood – Hilda Sheehan

she left a stare on the bathroom mirror
and rubber gloves slumped over taps
like yellow dresses waiting for a clean.

There was a smashing of plates after tea
to avoid washing-up and what she cooked
for the kids before she left

could not be saved – not the fish
that wasted itself for years just swimming
nor the bacon that never met bread.

One earring left behind was mistaken
for the one she took with her; unique
and beautiful, hooked on the scent of pillow.

Hollywood made a film with most of the crying
included, ending with the hope of highlights,
Botox, bigger lips and no one seemed to care

if her bed was made, if her bed was unmade.

Gossip and part-time goodness


So since my last post, I’ve been to Bulgaria on a lovely holiday with the hubby.  We had a great time, despite there being no air conditioning in our hotel room, and our room being above a kareoke bar, where the host, who looked a bit like Pat Butcher, insisted on singing Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler every single night.  Apart from Wednesday, which was apparently her night off.  I used to like Meatloaf before this holiday!

Anyway, even though it had all the ingredients of a disastrous holiday, it was actually a really good week.  We soon got a system going to cool down our oven like room (both in proportion and temperature) which basically involved opening the balcony door and the door onto the corridor of the hotel, which actually created a nice breeze in the evening. 

There was no way of avoiding Meatloaf, but three years working in a gift shop where Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’ album was played on repeat have rendered me immune to background music, although this was slightly louder than a shop soundtrack…

We went on a coach trip to The Blue Mountains and met a lovely english couple called Carol Ann and Fulvio – I’ve found Carol Ann on facebook since then, so hopefully we will stay in touch – they had been at the hotel for a couple of days so they were helpful with letting us know the best times to go down for dinner etc.

We also went on a two day coach trip to Sophia, Plovdiv and Rila Monastery.  And on that coach trip we met a lovely young Russian called Jack who said to me and hubby (in broken english) ‘You are very beautiful people’.  He got Chris’s email address because he said he is hoping to travel, so maybe he’ll come and stay with us in the future…

We got back on Sunday at 1am in the morning – and then I was back at work – two days of Inset training in Penrith. 

My biggest news is that I have decided to go part time at work.  I”m now down to four days a week.  I’ve been thinking about it for a long time now, because I want more time for my writing, but I often find it hard to make decisions and usually just end up drifting through life – and I kept telling myself I would ‘just know’ when the time was right. And over the holidays – I don’t know if it was the confidence boost of going to Ireland and being asked to read again next year, or the wonderful week I had at Holland House, or maybe a combination of the two, but something clicked in my belly (which as we all know, is where all the important emotions hide) and I knew it was the right time. 

And luckily for me, it fitted in with work.  So this is the end of my first week back, and for the first time ever, I’m really looking forward to Monday, which is my day off!  It’s a very strange feeling, it feels like I’ve got a Bank Holiday every week. 

I’m hoping as well that this means I can be more flexible so that if any readings come up in the week, I can swap my hours around, but the main thing I’m looking forward to is reading, and writing!