Sunday Poem – Heidi Williamson

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This week has been filled with work and lots of poetry.  On Wednesday I was the guest poet at Zeffirellis in Ambleside.  This was organised by Andrew Forster of the Wordsworth Trust.  There was a really good turn out, lots of open mics and the combination of being able to eat pizza whilst listening to poetry turned out to be very popular, and not nearly as antisocial as it sounds.  I didn’t notice any loud chomping noises whilst I was reading anyway!

Unfortunately the garage said my car would need a £1000 to get it going again, so it has gone to the great car graveyard in the sky – more commonly known as the scrappers.  I am still quite hacked off about it, as I still owe money on the car but trying not to think about it.

Meanwhile, me and hubby are ‘sharing’ his car which has led me to the discovery that I don’t like sharing, and I’m not good at it so we are looking round for a very cheap car.  There is no massive rush at the minute,as we are just about managing to share one.

Yesterday was Polly Atkin’s launch of her pamphlet -she was the winner of the inaugral Mslexia pamphlet competition, and her pamphlet ‘Shadow Dispatches’ is published by Seren.  It’s very blue and pretty and I really enjoyed the reading.  The reading was at Grasmere at the Wordsworth Trust.  Polly is a really good reader of her work, and her poems are packed full of imagery.  I think one of her strengths, from a first read through of it is the wonderful similes and metaphors she uses.  I would definitely recommend it.  I got a lift with Mark Carson and we whizzed off pretty sharpish afterwards so we would have time to eat and get sorted out before Poem and A Pint in the evening.

Poem and A Pint was great!  If you missed Billy Letford you should be kicking yourself- although not too hard, as he is reading at the Wordsworth Trust in June, so you could go and see him read there.  He recites all his poems from memory, no introductions and it feels as if the poem is holding the audience still – then he stops and the spell is broken and we all breathe again before the next one.  A masterclass in how to give a good reading – I would love to perform more like that – although if I just copied it would be ridiculous – but I have got lots of ideas of how to improve my own performance.

And today I am very proud of myself.  I lost the argument with the hubby as to who has the car – he was going hiking in the Lakes so his need was greater – so I actually used a bus to get to Ulverston.  I don’t know why but I have had an irrational dislike of buses – I think it’s from having to catch them every day in Birmingham when I was teaching there.  And once in Birmingham, I’m sure I saw a flea leap from the person’s leg who was sitting next to me on to my leg.  Now rationally, it was probably some other high-jumping insect, as I probably wouldn’t have been able to see a flea but I can’t help being convinced it was a flea.

So, this morning a nice bus driver stopped even though I was standing at the wrong bus stop and let me on the bus to Ulverston and it was absolutely fine.  No fleas – in fact hardly any passengers.

I was going to a Poem and A Pint committee memeber’s house who was looking after Billy Letford -we’d been invited for tea and cake.  That was very nice, and I got back again on the bus, no excitement, no traumas.

I think I also don’t quite believe that the buses adhere to timetables – and I hate waiting.  But I’ve decided these are irrational thoughts, not based on experience of Barrow buses, so I’m going to have to give them more of  a go I think.

Today’s Sunday poem is by Heidi Williamson. Her first collection ‘Electric Shadow’ is published by Bloodaxe and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. It was also shortlisted in 2012 for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry.

I read ‘Electric Shadow’ only recently, although it came out in 2011 and I really enjoyed the book.  It is easy to see why it has garnered so much interest- she uses unusual angles to write about big themes like in the poem ‘At the hands-on science centre’ when she recounts a couple standing between parrallel mirrors – really this poem, I think, is about relationships and power and absence, but she approaches this through the doorway of a science centre – which is unusual I think.

So when I spotted Heidi on Twitter I asked her if I could have a poem from the book.  As in most cases when I have permission to pick any poem from the book, it was hard to settle on one.  I decided to pick the strangest one in the collection because it was my favorite.

You can order ‘Electric Shadow’ from Bloodaxe here http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/personpage.asp?author=Heidi+Williamson and you can find out more about Heidi Williamson here: http://www.heidiwilliamsonpoet.com

So here is the poem:

If Then Else – Heidi Williamson

If
your lover asks you to bite his tongue,
do it
Else you are alone and bloodless

If
you cannot find yourself, Then
find another
Else you are alive and loveless

If
you breathe numbness, Then
rejoice quietly
Else you are woken

If
you age, Then
live
Else you age lifelessly

If
you die, Then
live
Else you age lifelessly

If
you die, Then
think,
Else you die thoughtlessly

If
you wish to eat apples and oranges, Then
choose
Else no distinctions can be made

If Then Else: A logic statement in high-level programming that defines the data to be compared and the actions to be taken as a result.  There can only be one of two outcomes.  There is no scope for ambiguity. 

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8 responses »

  1. I love your poem choices Kim. They’re profound yet accessible. And please don’t change your style of introducing poems……Loved If then Else. It left a real impression….but most of the poems you choose do, it’s just that I forget to leave a comment most weeks….sorry to hear about the car 😦

  2. totally hooked by the poem…take it or leave it, except you can’t leave it. It’s precise and remorseless, and there’s no reason why it should end; it takes no prisoners, does it?………and it’s one of those formulae that invites you to join in (and I like the dialect feel of ‘else’). Talking of formulae, I picked up a flyer for the Cleckheaton Folk Festival the other day. There’s a question at the top of one page that asks: where is Cleckheaton, and what will I find there?. Answers in a poem, please. Substitute anything you like for Cleckheaton.

    • Hi John – glad you like it. The language of the poem feels biblical to me. Are you going to Cleckheaton Folk Festival? You’ll have to let me know what you find there…

      • no; I know what I’d find there….a whole raft of diddly-diddlies. I’ve been before.

  3. Pingback: Sunday Poem – Heidi Williamson | Kim Moore

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