I’ve had quite a nice poetry week this week – On Friday my copies of Ambit arrived with a really nice review of my pamphlet by Donald Gardner. And I also got an acceptance from Acumen for a poem entitled ‘For Jan’ which I wrote at the Fermoy poetry festival. The poem is about when you meet people who you feel like you’ve known all your life, when in fact you’ve only known them for five minutes. I had that feeling a lot in Ireland, and although the poem is for a lovely dutch poet I met over there, Jan Glass, a lot of the lines come from stories that the people that I met over there told me. I think a lot of the Fermoy poetry people will probably recognise themselves in the poem – once it comes out I’ll send a couple of copies over. In fact there is a line that references Jan Glass, Tsaed Bruinja, Billy Murphy and Ita Dempsey – ooh and Pat as well. So I’ll have to get five or six copies maybe. A friend also informed me that apparently there is a review of my pamphlet in Orbis – I went on the web to order a couple of copies of that today and couldn’t find a way of getting hold of it anywhere – does anyone have any ideas?
Other news – I’ve just been in Leicester all weekend – got back at about 7 into Barrow – it was my mums 61st birthday so we had a big family meal last night which was nice.
This week’s Sunday poem is by Alex MacDonald, who I think I’ve met once in real life, or maybe twice but have communicated with on Twitter a little bit, which I’m just getting into really. He is an officially ‘Young Poet’ still, and therefore eligible to enter for the Eric Gregory Awards and I rather cheekily asked if I could read his submission – which I really enjoyed. I think he is trying to do some really interesting things with language and is exploring what poetry is for (maybe I should have capatalized that). He is also one of the few poets I know who can write a good political poem.
Alex said, regarding this poem ‘It’s part of a short series I’m writing about instances of public speaking – or where someone is talking to someone else or a crowd directly. I’m currently writing up some more, specifically to do with Parliament speeches and debates etc.’
I really like the poise of the poem, and how the title sets up certain expectations which are then swiftly disturbed by ihe tmages that occur throughout the poem. For me it all turns on that final line from the hymn ‘Morning Has Broken’. It strikes me as brave and daring to use that line as a last line – a lesser poet might have bottled it I think.
Alex’s poetry has been published in several books and online, including recently the Oxfam Book of Young Poets. He also runs the blog Selected Poems and ran the reading series ‘Selected Poems at the V & A Reading Rooms’, championing independent poetry presses.
His website where you can find some more of his work is : http://audienceonvideo.tumblr.com
Self Help Tape – Alex MacDonald
In hushing tones – the meadows
are being cut, imagine it.
You are the rapeseed, grown out of nothing.
We’re painting your portrait in muted sun,
so calming, this picture, we can destroy it
by the sea, where the slot machine’s music
is like an old joke, where the beached bathers
are covered in cooking oil. The rapeseed’s soil
has broken glass in it, people go there to get lost.
You’re loosing yourself, the you with heavy breath.
Take each day as it arrives, with tired eyes,
open the front door to an empty wet field,
turn the tape over, this is the first day,
blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Hi everyone – Issue 6 of a really great online magazine – the Lampeter Review which has a poem of mine in and some great short stories and poems by new and established writers
And an interesting blog post from my lovely poet-vicar friend Manon on the recent disappointing developments in the church – with a wonderful poem from Menna Elfyn which illustrates the point very well!
I’m writing this with the remnants of a slight hangover – this is left over from Friday night – nowadays I don’t seem to be able to drink very much without feeling ill and it takes me longer to recover.
On Friday an old friend of mine from university came to visit. He has been working as a professional trumpet player ever since he left music college thirteen years ago and I think its safe to say he is as obsessed with playing the trumpet as I am with poetry, except he makes a living from his obsession. Oh, and travels round the world on cruise ships and on tour with musicals.
But my obsession did take me to Lancaster on Friday night, which is just as glamorous as going to Singapore to play in Annie the musical! I was reading at Lancaster Library with Trevor Meaney. Trumpet playing friend had never been to a poetry reading before – I do like going to readings with poetry virgins.
And then yesterday was Poem and A Pint with Fiona Sampson. Fiona was staying at my house and bought her new georgous puppy, Dushka, a lurcher cross collie. Luckily Dushka got on great with Miles and Lola ( the resident border terriers at my house) although Simba, my cat, was not impressed at all with the introduction of another dog.
We had a lovely Saturday and were late going to the meal before the reading because we were sat talking and didn’t realise the time. I’m hoping to have a poem on here in a couple of Sunday’s from Fiona’s new collection, due from Chatto in March 2013.
If you look on the Poem and A Pint website www.apoemandapint.co.uk you can find a write up of the event and some photos – I think it will be up in the next couple of days.
Today’s Sunday poem is by Hannah Lowe who had a wonderful pamphlet ‘The Hitcher” published by The Rialto in 2011 http://www.therialto.co.uk/pages/poets/hannah-lowe/ and has her first full collection ‘Chick’ coming out with Bloodaxe in 2013.
I met Hannah at the Inpress Poetry Garden Market a couple of months ago which was a day of readings and workshops to celebrate Inpress’s birthday, but I remember reading a poem of Hannah’s in The Rialto called ‘Fist’ and being struck by it, and then buying her pamphlet, which I would recommend, so I’m really looking forward to the new collection. She’s also coming to read for us for ‘A Poem and A Pint’ next year.
I could have chosen one of a number of poems from her pamphlet because I really like it, but decided today for various reasons I was in the mood for a love poem tinged with regret and missed opportunities, complete with cupcakes. What’s not to like?
ARTISAN DU CHOCOLAT, BOROUGH MARKET by HANNAH LOWE
So I unwind my body from yours and I clamber from bed
to cross over the river and find myself here
in this little patisserie just off the market,
its countertop loaded with bright yellow cupcakes
and chocolate eggs wrapped in ribbon and tissue.
I order hot chocolate, so thick it stands up,
while in between mouthfuls, the girl to the right of me
talks of her therapist, whether she’ll move to the suburbs
or stay in the city. I’m lonely she says to her friend
who is nodding, her mouth full of tart that is topped
with glazed apple. The waiter is yawning, leant on the counter,
chocolate smears at the sides of his mouth.
Through the window I see that the stalls have packed up
and the sky now is gathering and darkening as though it might sigh.
You are leaving tomorrow and here we all are
with the gateaux and pastries, the windows steamed up
and our hands round our mugs as we lull
our poor hearts with sweetness and sugar.
Sometimes it might seem as if I’m a little detached from what is going on in the world – yesterday I did a huge long post without mentioning Remembrance Sunday. I think this is because when I write on here I’m often looking back on what has happened – today I feel compelled to write about yesterday.
Me and the hubby went to the Cenotaph in Barrow for the service – I’ve played in so many Remembrance Sunday services – when I was a child in Leicester, Unity Brass Band used to play every year at Victoria Park. Although I can’t say I enjoyed it – it involved playing hymns, marching and standing for a long time, usually in the rain (and anyone who knows me will know what a terrible leaner I am – I find it really hard to stand up without leaning on something) I still did it every year. When I moved to Barrow, I started to play with the Barrow Shipyard Band every year at the Cenotaph.
This year, the Barrow Shipyard Band have ceased to exist. All of their kit, instruments and uniform have passed to the junior band which is thriving with 36 members. So I was interested to see which band were playing and it was the Barrow Steelworks Band. There were about 12 of them, and I went and introduced myself to the conductor Ian Bird, who I’ve not actually spoken to before. We agreed it would be good to collaborate – the Steelworks are struggling for players as well and would like to encourage some young people to join, and I want to support the last remaining brass band in Barrow.
I felt really sad on Sunday – obviously it is quite a sad occasion anyway, but it got me thinking about brass bands and the part they play in the local community. I didn’t see one general member of the public go and thank the band for playing the hymns for the service. Nobody really seemed to notice they were there. The band didn’t seem bothered about this, they packed up and went good naturedly. But what will happen when the last town band dies out, which it will do, unless something drastic changes. Who will play the hymns in November then? What will happen to all those years of tradition – the jackets, the name of the band, which always carries a weight of history with it – the Shipyard Band, the Steelworks Band.
Youth bands seem to be flourishing – I started a beginner band last week for primary school pupils and 43 children turned up. As I’ve said before, the junior band which I also run has 36 members and is closed to new members now because we can’t fit any more in. Why isn’t this translating into the adult bands? I don’t know, although I have my theories. I’ve also not been teaching long enough to see what happens to the kids. I guess they go away to university – whether they join a band as adults and help keep the brass band tradition going remains to be seen.
Afternoon everybody. It’s been a whole week since I’ve updated the blog – I’ve been playing trumpet in Phantom of the Opera this week for The Lakes School. This has involved teaching all day and then driving straight to Windermere, which is about 45 minutes from my house.
So this week I’ve felt really far away from poetry – both physically and psychologically. I’ve not had time to read any poetry, let alone write any. More importantly, I’ve not had anyone to talk about poetry with. If I’d had time to stop, I know I would have missed it – as it is this week has been so busy, I’ve not had time to miss it.
It has been a great week though, and playing in shows is my favourite type of performing and Phantom of the Opera is one of my favourite musicals. It was also lovely to see the level of appreciation for Adam Theobold, the Head of Music at The Lakes school who has worked for 13 months to put the musical together. There were lots of thank you’s last night for the various people that had helped – the children raised over 15000 pounds to fund the production and there were lots of volunteers involved but I think it is fair to say that without one extraordinary person to drive these things forward, they don’t happen. I also think often as teachers we don’t get to see whether we make a difference really, not until years later if at all. For example, I never thanked my lovely English teacher, Mrs Smith or my brass band conductor, Rob Boulter who were hugely influential. But last night, it was clear and obvious that the children involved with the musical will not forget the experience – most of them were in tears and all were saying thank you to Adam for everything he’s done. Adam also learnt to conduct in about a week – the first rehearsal he was conducting a downbeat as an upbeat and then he completely transformed in a week – I wish I could improve that quickly.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing this week – nothing to do with poetry but I wanted to put a Sunday poem on here that I’ve always loved and that would maybe help me find my way back to poetry. So today’s Sunday poem is by the wonderful poet Christopher Reid. One of my favourite poems of all time is the first poem from his collection ‘Mr Mouth’ published in 2006 by Ondt and Gracehoper. Looking at my copy, it says that the edition I have is limited to 1000 copies, so I don’t know if there are any still available, but I would really recommend trying to get hold of a copy. In the book, the character of ‘Mr Mouth’ is explored, always with humour. Re-reading it today, I also loved that it is an in depth exploration of speech, words and everything associated with the mouth. I also love the way Christopher has created a whole world around this character of Mr Mouth and this rather fantastical world where a baby has full speech by the time he is born keeps just enough of a grip on reality to make it pertinent to our lives, when the issue of speech and silence and being able to speak out is still being fought for across the world. The Mr Mouth poems remind me of Ted Hughes’ ‘Crow’ and Martin Kratz, a previous Sunday poet on this blog, is writing a wonderful sequence of poems with a central character called ‘Skeleton Man’ which in its lightness of touch and sense of ironic humour seems to be in the same vein as ‘Mr Mouth’.
Anyway, here is the Sunday Poem!
Mr Mouth is Born – Christopher Reid
Mr Mouth is born
to his life on earth
neither early nor late
not ripped untimely
not a difficult birth
nothing miraculous or heroic
just the normal form of conception
then nine months
and as punctual as you please
a textbook delivery
You shot out like a sneeze
his mother will tell him
more than once
in the years to come
But the trouble starts
when the nurse holding the wee chap
by his ankles
like a skinned and marinaded rabbit
deals out the slap
that is meant to set
the vital motor going
Ouch he says
twisting his features into a frown
That wasn’t kind
and thereby establishes
the lifelong habit
of speaking his mind
at every least provocation.
Even though I’ve been on half term for the last week I’ve felt really busy. I’ve been getting ready for a new part of my job for Cumbria Music Service which is delivering poetry workshops in schools. My first one is on the 12th of January, and it will be the first time I’ve delivered a poetry workshop to children rather than adults. The theme is ‘Riddles’ and tonight I finished my swanky Powerpoint – having a powerpoint always makes me feel safe as this is what I use a lot when I’m doing my class teaching to thirty trumpets. It’s taken longer than usual as well because I haven’t done anything like it before.
This week I’ve also been cleaning the cupboard out at the band room. The junior band that I run (the Barrow Shipyard Junior Band) are moving venue after Christmas to Ormsgill Primary School, so I got some lovely parents and band members to help clean the cupboard out, and help me make decisions about what to do with all the kit that we don’t need. I’m rubbish at throwing things out. I did find about 300 brass band CD’s, all different bands, so if anyone would like a free lucky dip handful of CD’s, just send me something to cover postage and I’ll send some to you!
And apart from that, I also decided to sign up for National Novel Writing Month. I’ve always wanted to write a novel, although I have no idea what about. But I’m so fed up of worrying about the fact that I’m not writing poetry, that I decided to deliberately not write poetry. I’ve only done 2,000 words, so at this rate I’ll probably be finished in February instead of by the end of November, and I have no idea where the story is going to go, what’s going to happen to the characters or anything. I think it is a young adults novel though…It’s not like writing a poem though. I read it to hubby, and when he asked questions about it, I actually had to answer them – in a poem – I just put on a mysterious voice and say ‘What do you think?’ That doesn’t work in a novel. There has to be answers. Maybe I could set up a page to post the novel as I write it…am I really that brave? With no editing? I don’t know. I’ll think about it…
This weekend I’ve been playing trumpet in Phantom of the Opera – my favourite musical ever. The Lakes School in Windermere are the first school to get permission to perform the musical apparently. We had two all day rehearsals today, so it’s been a bit tiring, and I’ve just managed to rearrange my teaching so I can do the matinee on Tuesday afternoon – so that means teaching all day tomorrow on my DAY OFF! Grrrr.
I wonder what other people do when they are not writing poetry. I’m trying not to worry about it, because that seems to make everything worse. I’ve got about eight or nine new poems that I’ve written since the pamphlet came out at the end of May and I’m currently hawking those round to various competitions, in the vain hope of winning some money so I can pay my credit card off or buy something very frivolous. I don’t feel blocked – I just feel – not quite engaged with the world enough to write about it…I don’t know if that makes any sense to anybody else.
Today’s Sunday poem is Ann Wilson, a lovely poet lady who lives in Cumbria. When I first started writing Ann was one of the people who really encouraged me to carry on. If you know Ann, you’ll know what I mean when I say she is positive, energetic and generous to other people. I thought I’d put two poems of Ann’s up to show the two sides to her writing -the first is a more ‘serious’ poem, and the second is Ann in ‘performance poet’ mode. ‘I’ve got Patsy Palmer stuck inside my eye’ is Ann’s very funny response to not knowing what was wrong with her eye!
Ann Wilson (aka Ann the Poet) is a South Cumbria based writer who performs and delivers creative workshops. She has performed her poetry, stand-up and music in theatres and at festivals and events throughout the UK since 1995. She’s the host of the Spoken Word Open Mic at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal. She was South Cumbria Poet Laureate in 2006.
Ann is currently working with Whitewood and Fleming in the role of Looked After Children’s Projects co-ordinator. She’s half of the music duo 2 Baa Chords. Her latest poetry collection is “Ann the Poet’s Gig Book”. Her previous collections are “Synesthetic” and a poetry/sonic art album and exhibition “The Resting Bench”
You can find out more about her on www.annthepoet.com
Drying Up-Ann Wilson
Now it hangs on the back of the kitchen door,
colours almost washed out,
representations of scenic holiday hot spots faded
like those vivid dreams.
Remembering vibrant times,
my brother playfully twisting that material
all round, back on itself, ready to whip
my pale, naked legs, he didn’t really
want me to hurt.
Now it hangs on the back of the kitchen door,
Its story almost told,
Some stains never quite washed clean,
Each stain a crucial part of its fabric.
Remembering darker times,
My grandmother holding it under a scalding tap,
her hands raw red,
her being proud of not feeling the pain
and she would twist it too,
wring it out, in her way
she was keeping her household tidy.
I’ve got Patsy Palmer stuck inside my eye – Ann Wilson
I’ve got Patsy Palmer stuck inside my eye
Like a ginger eyelash
I thought she was a sty
When she bellows “ricky”
It really makes me cry
How can I get rid of Patsy Palmer?
I’ve rubbed my eye with knuckles
I’ve rinsed it out with water
I think she’s set up camp there
With her son and daughter
I’ve never watched Eastenders
But now I think I ought to
How will I get rid of Patsy Palmer
I keep seeing freckles
And hearing Bianca mind the stall
Which means Ricky is in there too
Dancing round my eyeball
If I blindfold myself that’ll show ’em
But then I’ll probably fall
How can I rid of Patsy Palmer
I started cutting onions
Then gave them a big sniff
I browsed through all my chick flicks
Then watched Schindlers list
I put a tissue in my eye
Then gave it a little twist
That’s how I got rid of Patsy Palmer