Sunday Poem – John Foggin

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Today is the end of the first week of the easter holidays for me.  It is also the end of the first week of National Poetry Month.  For the first time this year I am taking part in a group on Facebook to write a poem a day for the month of April.  I thought this would be a good way to celebrate National Poetry Month.  As with most things though, it’s never that simple is it?

I’ve written a poem on Day 1, 5 and 6.  We’re on Day Seven now – so my hit rate is not too good.  I’m finding it torturous to put first drafts up – I don’t have time to do any work on them, so they are literally first drafts.  This goes against everything that comes naturally to me – I’m normally a perfectionist, I like to put poems away for a while before showing them to anybody… But you’re on holiday I hear you cry – surely you have lots of time!  Yeah – that’s what I thought, but no.

I never normally write poetry unless I feel absolutely compelled to – so this is a strange way of working for me.  If I don’t feel like writing, I normally just read so this is very different for me and I wouldn’t say the three poems that I have written even sound like me – I know they are not good poems – but maybe it’s a good thing that I’m writing differently.  I’m enjoying reading everyone else’s poems as well and commenting when I can and it is teaching me not to be so precious about stuff…

Apart from agonising over that and trying to write something to put up, I’ve been busy just doing other stuff.  On Monday I drove over to Halifax to read at Puzzle Poets, to a small but beautifully formed audience.  The lovely John Foggin turned up, despite being in the middle of a rugby match and it was lovely to see him again.  I’ve met John a few times at Poetry Business workshops and it was great to hear him read on the open mic as well.  John’s enthusiasm for poetry is infectious.  I heard John read the Sunday Poem on the open mic and asked if I could have it for the Sunday poem.  More on that later.

Anyway, then I stayed at the lovely Gaia Holmes’s house – full of fabrics, and georgous dresses hanging up, just waiting to be worn, and purple ornaments and lovely objects and plants everywhere – she also has a Sunday Poem on here  and then the next day I drove down to Leicester and did a reading at the Y Theatre for Word!.

There were about twenty open mics before me – this sounds horrendous, but it wasn’t because they were interesting, varied and they all stuck to their 3 minutes and were very disciplined.  I really enjoyed the whole evening.  My mum, dad, twin sister, aunty, old running coach and a friend from university who now lives in Leicester turned up as well so it was a good night.  It was great to see Maria Taylor of Nine Arches Press and Roy Marshall of Crystal Clear Creators as well and to hear them read.  I also saw the lovely Jayne Stanton who was on my residential course in Grange – great to hear her read again on the open mic.

I sold four books at the Puzzle and six books at Word! and my mum bought a second edition copy of my pamphlet to go with her first copy edition so a grand total of 11 pamphlets sold for the two days.

Then on Thursday it was back up to Cumbria with my twin sister – it took us about six hours to do a journey that normally takes three and a half – the M6 was a nightmare.  I’m suprised we didn’t kill each other.

Then on Friday I was interviewed on BBC Radio Cumbria about the two brass bands that I run – the link is here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0163h83 and it’s about 40 minutes in if you would like to listen to it.  I got myself nervous all day about doing the interview, but doing it was much easier than thinking about doing it!

On Saturday I went with Mr P, a teacher that I work quite closely with at one of my schools to a brass repairer who has some old instruments that he reconditions and services and sells for very cheap so spent a nice afternoon with that wonderful smell of old brass and valve oil and grease.

And today I’ve just got back from walking the dogs with the hubby – we had a lovely walk – saw a collie rounding up some sheep on the fell, a farmer helping a lamb give birth and wiping his hands on the grass afterwards, a dead sheep that was wedged between two rocks, a buzzard and it was hot enough to sit down outside the cafe in Broughton for lunch.

Poetry news – I got paid for the residential course that I ran with Jenny Copley in February!  A lovely cheque arrived in the post with enough money to finally pay off the credit card!  I also got a cheque for £30 for an article that I’ve written for Artemis so very happy about both of those things.  I’m writing a review of Hilda Sheehan’s new book alongside Emily Berry’s new book for Under the Radar mag – deadline June/July.  I’m looking forward to re-reading both books again – I think they both use language in very interesting ways and they both write about the body as well – so that may be my ‘door’ into writing the review.

So the Sunday Poet today is John Foggin.  I know John has had a poem in The North before, but I don’t think he has sent much work out really – he is an undiscovered gem!  Thanks to John for letting me use his poem here – as I said, he read three cracking poems on the open mic, abandoned a rugby game to come and support me and is generally a lovely chap.  I hope you enjoy the poem.

It Snowed for Thirty Years – John Foggin

And there was so much we forgot;
colours, mainly – or how to say them.
Lost all those synonyms for greens and browns:
sepias, terracotta; chartreuse, malachite and lime.

We coined a whole new lexicon for shades of black.
We had to put a stop to conversation-killing
compound words and phrasal nouns
that lumbered like battalions of Panzers
through the cowering sentences they’d occupied.

… words for the shiny black of fresh split coal;
the edging-on-purple-or-plum of skies
at a certain time of night; 
the black you see
behind the fireworks show that’s on your retina
when the lamps go out in caves; 
the black
ingrained in the nails of time-served car mechanics.

You get the picture.
Don’t get me started on the shades of lilac
shadows in blown drifts, of blues in layered ice,
of whites in dry, or wet, or spindrift snow.

Our children roll their eyes
if ever we start on about the way
words used to be when the world
was just as young as us.
Before the snow.

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2 responses »

  1. Loved the blog and enjoyed John’s poem very much. I am looking forward to working alongside John at Ann Sansom’s Almassera Vella course in May. I hope there’ll be sunshine not snow there!
    Janet L

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