Monthly Archives: May 2013

The nice things people say


Afternoon everybody.  Today I got an email to say I hadn’t won a Northern Writers Award – which is a bit of a bummer.  However two lovely things have been written about me this week online – the first is a review of the reading I took part in a couple of weeks ago at the Lyric Festival.  You can find the whole review here, written by Lizzy Jewell –

but I’ll quote the bit about me because I get described as ‘delightfully northern’ which is quite nice – I sometimes forget that I’m originally from Leicester!

“Secondly, was the delightfully Northern and extremely engaging Kim Moore. Moore playfully admits that she always reads her poem about wolves first, so she doesn’t have to explain what it is about, because even she isn’t quite sure. It is  ‘Tuesday at Wetherspoons’ which is an overwhelmingly realistic portrait of ageing couples in rural England. Images of forced affection with uncomfortable references to ketchup covered chins. Playfully, again, she claims that a comparison has been made between her poem about Wetherspoons and Dante’s circles of hell. But apparently that wasn’t intentional…”

and yesterday the lovely David Coldwell who has the official title of being the 2nd person to use my paypal button to buy a pamphlet did a lovely piece on his blog about the launch of the Sculpted Anthology that I’m in which took place in Hebden Bridge – I wasn’t there but my pamphlet had just arrived and I get called ‘hard-working’ in this piece!  Have a look at David’s blog which is at

but here is the bit about me!

“….in the anthology is a new poem from the very hard working, Kim Moore. Being Married retains the same voice that created many of the poems in her wonderful, prize winning pamphlet, If We Could Speak Like Wolves. I’ve been a fan of Kim’s poetry since reading some of her work through The Poetry Business but refrained from buying a pamphlet as I’ve been trying to catch her live at one of her many readings – it seems that Kim could also possibly do with a set of wings after following her adventures on the blog. Sadly work commitments have led me astray so it was a nice coincidence that together with last week’s Sunday Poem, Kim announced the arrival of a PayPal button on her site. Without further ado, the button was pressed and two days later the pamphlet arrived, signed and with a thank you note.”

So thanks to David Coldwell and Lizzie Jewell who have showed me that it’s not all about money – the nice things people say mean a lot as well.

Poetry and a paypal party


It is eleven a.m now so I’m not going to say good morning in case it’s not morning by the time I finish.  I’m currently on half term which equals sitting in my onesie for most of the day reading until hunger drives me outdoors to go and get food.

My half term started last Friday at 3pm.  I finished school and then went and picked the husband up and went to a wedding reception.  I stayed there till 6pm – the hubby is a psychotherapist and it was a psychotherapist getting married – consequently the whole wedding was full of psychotherapists!  That is all I’m going to say about that!  I had to leave early as I was MCing the Brewery Poets event  The Brewery Poets are a group that meet once a month to critique each other’s poetry – they also put on events twice a year.  I say ‘they’ but the organisational force behind the readings is concentrated in the form of Pauline Yarwood who was actually a guest poet this time alongside Jean Harrison, another member of Brewery Poets.

I’ve seen Pauline read three times in the last couple of months – once she came and did a ‘local poet spot’ at Poem and A Pint, once at ‘April Poets’ in Lancaster and then on Friday as well.  It’s been great to see Pauline growing in confidence over the three readings – at all three events she read her poems really well but she is starting to develop the elusive skill of ‘setting up’ her poems – I think introducing a poem is a skill in itself.  Not all poems require an introduction – but if they do, I like the introductions that don’t tell you what a poem is about but that open a door into the poem for the audience and Pauline was really good at this on Friday.

Jean Harrison read and it was lovely to see that she has a new book out with Cinnamon Press called ‘Terrain’.  Jean is a careful observer and she brings this exacting eye to her poetry.  I bought a copy, but haven’t got around to reading it yet.  It is on a pile of things to read this week which include the new Rialto, Poetry London, Claire Dyer’s ‘Eleven Rooms’, the new ‘Artemis’ and I’m still only half way through ‘How to Read a Poem’ by Terry Eagleton although so far I am managing with reading the poems, despite not having finished a book which purports to tell me how!  Still, as I boasted to someone the other day, I now know what a signified and a signifier is – although how far that knowledge will get me I don’t know!

On Monday I managed to work out how to get a paypal button on here!  That means, lovely people who haven’t already bought my pamphlet – and I am wondering how many there are left of you – I think most of the poets I know bought one, so maybe I am running out of audience – anyway you can now buy my pamphlet at the click of a button.  If you are quick it will also come wrapped in lovely pink tissue paper (the tissue paper may run out) and with a nice arty postcard from Abbots Hall Gallery (the postcards may run out) and a note expressing my gratitude and affection.  That, surely is worth £5.50!  If the arty postcards do run out, by the way, I have some postcards of Barrow that I bought from a charity shop.  They are hilarious and they look as if they were made in the 70’s and then have just sat in the charity shop gathering dust until I rescued them.

I’ve been trying out some new developments on the blog as well – I’ve changed the Home Page – I’ve put in some tabs – I’ve made a page with all the past readings on that I’ve done because I didn’t like deleting them from the ‘Readings and Workshops’ page as if they didn’t exist.  Feel free to let me know what you think – if you feel so moved!

Tonight I’m going to an open mic night at Zefferellis in Ambleside, organised by the Wordsworth Trust.  Jane Routh is the guest poet – I was at last months because I was the guest poet – and it was a really good night – I’m taking lovely friend Helen and we are going to scoff pizza before it starts.

On the 8th of June   I am reading at the launch of the ‘North West Poets Anthology’ at the Jerwood Centre in Grasmere.  There is some information on the Wordsworth Trust site here but the North West Poets also have their own website here

And then I am hot footing it back to Barrow to get ready for Poem and A Pint in the evening with lovely guest poet Hannah Lowe.  We have a big venue to fill for this one, so please, if you can get there come along.  Hannah is a great reader as well.  You can find more information on this event here:

And I think that’s me!  I’m off to Leicester this weekend to see the family – then it’s seven weeks till the summer holidays!  Not that I’m counting or anything!

Sunday Poem – Kathryn Maris


I have a feeling that this may be a bit of a long blog post – this week has been full of lovely happenings.

On Monday I got the train to London and read at the Troubadour.  If I lived in London, I would be at the Troubadour for the readings all the time.  Next Monday, Paul Stephenson, a fantastic poet who is on the Writing School with me is reading alongside Simon Armitage and Frieda Hughes – what a fantastic reading that will be.  You can get information about the readings from the website

Anyway, on Monday I was reading with six other poets – Claire Dyer, who I went on a course at Ty Newydd with once.  Claire has just had her first collection ‘Eleven Rooms’ published by Two Rivers Press.  Also reading was Janet Rogerson, who has had a Sunday Poem on this blog, Kathryn Maris, Joshua Weiner and Margot Farrington.

I really enjoyed the reading – I’d only heard Janet read once and was looking forward to hearing her again – all the other poets I’d not heard read, which is quite unusual for me – most poetry readings I go to now, I’ve heard the poets before or at least read their books, but I hadn’t read any of Joshua Weiner or Kathryn Maris.

And I loved both of them!  I knew I’d love Claire’s poetry because I’d heard her poetry on a course, but Kathryn and Joshua were a new discovery.  Isn’t it nice when that happens?  I immediately kind of fell in love with their poetry – so went home with three new books that night.

A friend of mine from music college, Andrew Lines even appeared!  We haven’t seen each other for about ten years – Andy was on the guitar making course at Leeds College of Music whilst I was doing my degree there but we met because we worked behind the college bar together.  It was really nice to see him, and for him to make the effort to come to a poetry reading as well.

We were trying to work out when the last time was that we’d seen each other and Andy said ‘I think we were in the Atrium ( a nightclub in Leeds) and you were snogging some bloke in a beanie!’  Eh hem.  Yes, well.  Oh to be young again!

I stayed up with Jill till 2am then I remembered that I had to get up at some ungodly hour the next day to get back to work.  When my alarm went off at 6.30am the next day I was kicking myself.  Anyway, I got my 7.30 train from Euston and by 11am I was back in Barrow for an afternoon of teaching recorder and a music concert at one of my schools involving about 100 children.

Tuesday night I carried on my poetry obsession and went up to Grasmere to hear Hannah Lowe and Bill Herbert.  I must admit I was a little tired by Tuesday evening and I did think about not going, but I’m so glad I did.  It was one of the most entertaining readings I’ve been to for a long time – Bill and Hannah were on great form.  I’m also really looking forward to this Saturday when we are having Hannah read for us at Poem and A Pint at Rampside Village Hall in Barrow.

I also got a really exciting email this week as well from the Alligator Club.  They are a group of North West playwrights who have been putting on pop up productions in theatres around the North West.  A couple of months ago I went up to Keswick for a meeting/idea sharing session with the Alligator Club and some other local writers – mainly playwrights.  The Alligator Club wanted some local writers to work with to put on their next pop up production at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick.  It was a nice day and we had to send our work to them afterwards.  I didn’t really expect anything to come from it – because I thought I was slightly disadvantaged – not being a playwright – but apparently not!  I’m going to be on the project – I don’t know much about it at the minute – other than it is paid and it is going to be exciting and the production will be taking place in September – I will update here when I know more.  It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this, so I’m really excited about it – even though I don’t know exactly what it is going to be like yet.

So today’s Sunday poem is by Kathryn Maris who I read with on Monday.  Kathryn is an American poet who now lives in the UK.  Her first collection over here ‘God Loves You’ is published by Seren.  Her first book was published in the US by Four Way Books and is called ‘The Book of Jobs’.  She has won an Academy of American Poets University and College Prize and a Pushcart Prize.    Her reading was really, really good – she is funny and dry and I could have listed to her for double the length of time.

I’ve chosen ‘On Returning a Child to Her Mother at the Natural History Museum’ for a number of reasons.  I think it demonstrates one of the main concerns of Kathryn’s work in that it shows how she is playing with and subverting the use of the ‘I’ voice in the poem – she uses her own name in the poem, yet this poem comes after another poem in the collection ‘This is a Confessional Poem’ so I think the whole poem is very tongue in cheek – in that the ‘I’ voice of the poem is not really Kathryn Maris – it is a constructed voice.  Maybe that does not make much sense, or maybe I’m not sure what I mean.

It also reminds me of ‘The Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning – the tone of it – he starts off ‘Here’s my last duchess’ and this chimes with the ending of Kathryn’s poem – ‘Here’s Emily’.  I found that poem echoing in my mind whilst I was reading this one – something about the tone and the pacing and the way the speaker in the poem reveals more about themselves than they mean to.

It is also incredibly funny and I love the rhythm and pacing of the poem.  I love how I feel sympathy and empathy with the voice of the poem, even while the narrator is being cruel, and admitting her failures!

There is also a fantastic sestina in the book called ‘Darling, Would You Pick up those Books?’.  She read this on Monday, but it wasn’t till I read it through that I slowly realised it was a sestina.  I normally hate sestinas – I get very impatient with them and bored – but maybe it is rubbish sestinas that I get impatient and bored with because I’m kind of in love with this poem.

You can buy the book from Seren here

 This poem was first published in the anthology ‘Tokens for the Foundlings’ also published by Seren.  You can get a copy of that anthology here

Anyway, here is the poem!

On Returning a Child to her Mother at the Natural History Museum – Kathryn Maris

Hello, my name is Kathryn and I’ve come
here to return your daughter, Emily.
She told me you’d suggested that she look
around upstairs in ‘Earthquakes and Volcanoes,’
then meet you and her brothers in the shop.
You know that escalator leading to
the orb?  It’s very long and only goes
one way, you can’t turn round.  She asked me if
I knew the way back down and would we come
with her into the earthquake simulator –
that reproduction of the grocery shop
in Kobe, where you see the customers
get thrown around with Kirin beer and soy
sauce, things like that.  She told us stuff about
your family.  Apparently you had
a baby yesterday! That can’t be right:
you’re sitting here without one and my God
your stomach’s flat!  She also said she’d had
an operation in the hospital
while you were giving birth one floor below.
I know, I know: kids lie and get confused,
mine do that too.  She talks a lot.  She’s fat.
She may not be an easy child to love.
I liked her, though.  I liked her very much,
and having her was great, the only time
all day my daughter hasn’t asked me for
a dog!  We got downstairs and funnily
enough we found your middle son.  He ran
to us upset and asked us where you were.
But here you are – exactly where you said –
the shop!  Don’t worry: I don’t ever judge
a mother.  Look at me: my daughter drank
the Calpol I left out when she was two;
I gave my kids Hundreds and Thousands once
for dinner while I lay down on the floor,
a wreck.  I know you well!  Here’s Emily.

The Path to a First Collection – Hilda Sheehan on her way to Cultured Llama Press


Evening folks.  Here is another take on the path to a first collection – this time by Hilda Sheehan whose first collection was published a couple of months ago by Cultured Llama Press.  It’s a very different take on it to Roy Marshall’s story which you can find here

and I think you’ll find it interesting!  You can find a Sunday poem by Hilda here

or you could go even better and buy her book from Cultured Llama Press.  This would be a Lovely Thing To Do – especially this week with the news of poetry presses stopping publishing poetry – do something positive and support an independent press by buying a book

Here is Hilda in her own words.

The Path to a First Collection – Hilda Sheehan on the path to Cultured Llama Press

“I don’t really have the time to write poems. If I didn’t write poems I might still be a nurse or a teacher or a better mother. I’d have more money. Poems are distracting and take on a life of their own in my head. My husband Mike says I live in two worlds and he can tell when I have ‘gone.’ Other people have said that they can have whole conversations with me and then realise, I have not been there. This is where my collection came from. There are not many poems in The Night My Sister Went To Hollywood that I remember writing. Most are written in my ‘unconscious’ and left for me to play with later. This is a rather exciting process, like being gifted a set of strange words to form into something that could be poetry. Over ten years I ended up with hundreds of these mainly surreal, magically-real poems and I noticed that they began to get to know each other, that there were common themes and overlaps. However, they came into what I felt were two categories: the short surreal lyric and the ‘experimental’ linguistically innovative (perhaps). I had two pamphlets because I felt those two kinds of writing might not make a very cohesive collection. There’s also a path the poets must follow, a bit like engagement, marriage, house, baby. In poetry it is: poems in small magazines, poems in bigger better magazines, pamphlet, collection. It’s a career path towards professional poetdom and I got onto this rat-track of trying to fit. The trouble is, for a poet like me with young twins plus three other young people to care about, I had limited time and an even more limited budget to send poems out to where they needed to be going. Result was that I rarely sent poems out but over the past ten years had been putting the hours into becoming a better poet, and writing the kind of poems I wanted to write and not necessarily writing to please British editors. I found that my more work-shopped, less interesting poems were successful in finding the ‘right kind of home’ and those more lively, strange and misbehaving examples did not. I have realised that this is about confidence, my own belief that what I write is how I want to write and that they are OK and work in the way I want them to. Reading American poetry was such a revelation and early modernists such as Mina Loy and Gertrude Stein. This was like having poetry orgasms (and I really think there is such a thing) that made me gasp yes, yes, YES!

My title poem ‘The Night My Sister Went to Hollywood’ seemed to bring this collection together. The collection is about feeling out of sorts, odd, misplaced, ecstatic, grumpy, beautiful, ugly and no one is where they are supposed to be. This is the central theme: we all go missing in our lives to make new – by becoming lovers, mothers, husbands, wives or workers. There is a transformation, and we become different. My sister has never been to Hollywood and nor have I, I have never ridden a streetcar with Vivien Leigh or had a seal in my bathtub but examining these worlds made it possible for me to reveal a truth through the imagination.  My final poem, in its mixed up state of love and speaking beds seemed a good way to end the book. It sums things up and considering the entire process of writing it caused me to vomit, I felt it deserved this final spot. It is a poem I am most pleased with: a poem that made me work very hard, exhausted me, dug deep into my head for the strangest and most pleasurable piece of writing I have achieved to date. It says it all: How found was what? Love was in the biscuit tin. Kiss was in a kitchen cupboard. Guilt was under something under something else. Embrace was nowhere. Embrace they thought was dead behind the fridge. Lust laid out its whole body on a rug and waited for more. Henry definitely found disappointed.

I took the plunge, and sent off my varied collection to a new and wonderful press Cultured Llama. They enthusiastically accepted my collection and worked with me to make it shine. Next is how it is received, my favourite so far:  ‘I ate your book from cover to cover and didn’t need cooking or even a sprinkle of salt. It was like three square meals by Heston Blumenthal -sublime wing-smoked bacon ice-cream in twelve textures, deep-blood forest-gateaux, larks-tongue parfait – and he did all the dishes afterwards.” Cristina Newton.”

Sunday Poem – Michael Crowley


Afternoon everybody!  This week I’ve been to Grasmere three times – once to talk about a new project which I’ll be working on which sounds really exciting – I’m going to be running some poetry workshops with 16-19 year olds at various locations around Cumbria – the meeting for that was on Monday.

On Thursday I went back to Grasmere to St Oswalds’ church – a group of poets rounded up by Andrew Forster were shown around the church – we were told lots of history in the hope that we are inspired to write some poems.  These poems will then be responded to by some crafts people apparently – we have till July to think of something!

On Friday I had an email from Magma with an acceptance for my ‘Some People, Some People’ poem which I am very excited about!  I’ve only ever been in Magma once – and that was when I won an Eric Gregory Award and the magazine publish one poem from each award winner so  I’ve always wanted to try and get a poem in the normal way.

On Saturday I drove back over to Grasmere for the Poetry Business launch of the pamphlet winners – the four winners are David Grubb, Kim Lasky, David Attwool and Emma Danes.  You can order their pamphlets at

I really enjoyed the reading – I haven’t read all the pamphlets yet, but I have read David Grubb’s and I think that is outstanding.  He takes the famous Wallace Steven’s ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’ and riffs off this idea – the pamphlet is made up of a number of different sequences – ‘ Ways of Looking at a Very Old Lady’, ‘Ways of Looking at a Church’ etc etc.  They are completely different to anything else I’ve read and very inventive.

In between all this I’ve been to work and am in the midst of organising an all day brass workshop with Ewan Easton from the Halle Orchestra, in collaboration with John Packer.  The workshop is for adults and children and will take place June 9th at St Pius Primary School in Barrow.  It’s completely free for children and just a fiver for adults.  There will be a beginner ensemble and an advanced ensemble so everyone will be catered for.  Please get in touch if you are a brass player reading this and you have somehow missed out on receiving a letter and registering for this workshop.

Tomorrow I’m off to London to read at the Troubadour!  Really excited about this reading – the line up looks amazing – and lots of poets I haven’t heard read which doesn’t happen very often.  And I get to stay with the lovely Jill who is putting up with me yet again over night!  Information about the reading can be found here

Today’s Sunday poem is by Michael Crowley.  I saw Michael read a couple of months ago at an April Poets reading.  I was interested in his poetry because he has worked in prisons for a long time which is something I’m really interested in.  Michael Crowley is a writer and youth justice worker who is based in West Yorkshire.  He works as a playwright and has written for BBC Radio as well as youth theatre.  He has been writer in residence at a young offenders institution for the last five years.

‘Habitat’ the poem I’ve chosen for today comes from his pamphlet ‘Close to Home’ published by Prolebooks and can be ordered here

I liked this poem because I think it is very evocative of the mixed emotions that working in a prison conjures up and I like the ambiguity of the poem – who is not innocent – the prisoners, the bird?  How can a bird not be innocent?  Is pity the most useless emotion we have?  Maybe if you are working in a prison it is…


Habitat – Michael Crowley

Cornered in the sky, a jackdaw
flinches over the arms of B wing;
the winter gulls are circling, laughing.
They release it, swagger along the roof awhile.

A boy’s arm extends beyond the bars,
hands out breakfast to a duck that doesn’t judge.
The shadow of a shut face says: I am giving
because it is forbidden here.

On the balcony, a sparrow beats its back
against a treacherous light.  Two prisoners wait beneath,
twisting their towels, eyes to the skylight,
It’s got to be killed boss.
It dies against the white tiles of the showers,

face against a waste pipe, the sodden shades of bark
resembling a turd.  Outside, a bollard orange beak
droops at the earth.  The oyster catcher
puddles the grass, plots a primordial border.
It isn’t innocent and feeling sorry for it won’t help.

Sunday Poem – Mimi Khalvati


Afternoon everyone.  The Sunday Poem is going up a little earlier than usual today for a number of reasons.   The hubby and I already walked the dogs this morning through some fields near Dalton before the rain really started – which has now happened so that is that job done.  I also have to prepare to do a small talk on an Ofsted video about best practice in music teaching at an Inset session on Tuesday so this is me distracting myself from doing what I don’t want to do.  After I’ve made this blog post as long as possible, I think I will have to actually do what I’m supposed to be doing.

This week has mainly been work and some poetry things.  I’ve been doing lots of reading this week – the ‘Letters of Ted Hughes’ which I find unbearably sad.  I also want to read everything that Ted Hughes references that he is reading in the letters – but I think I would need to have at least ten more hours in each of my days.  I’ve started reading the Forster-Cavafy Letters as well and I’m halfway through reading a book by Terry Eagleton ‘How to Read a Poem’ which was on the reading list when I started the MA at Manchester Met.  I dutifully bought every book on the reading list when I first started – I didn’t want to be caught out by not having the right book – I’m such a goody two shoes.  As it happened, the book was never mentioned and I started reading it stubbornly to get my money’s worth, but I’m actually quite enjoying it now and learning quite a lot from it. The chapters I’ve read so far are 1.  The Functions of Criticism 2. What is Poetry? 3.  Formalists and I’m about to start Chapter 4 ‘In Pursuit of Form’.  It is actually more entertaining than it sounds!

On Tuesday I went to another reading up at the Wordsworth Trust .  This time it was Anne Stevenson and M.R. Peacocke.  On Friday I went to Brewery Poets which is a critiquing group which meets at the Brewery in Kendal on the second Friday of every month.  There were two new people there this month but still only six of us as various people couldn’t come for various reasons.  However, I really enjoyed it and enjoyed reading people’s poems – it reminded me of the positive aspects to writing groups.

Yesterday a copy of Acumen arrived with my review of Myra Schneiders’ pamphlet ‘What Women Want’ and a cheque for £25!  This is so nice when this happens – I had a little dance around my office.  A part of me still can’t believe that I can get paid for writing.  I really like doing reviews as well – it somehow feels easier than writing poems – you don’t have to wait for the poem to come to you – you can just get on and start writing.

Today’s Sunday Poem is by the lovely Mimi Khalvati, who I read with last week at the Lyric Festival in Sheffield.  Mimi has a new pamphlet out with Smith/Doorstop called ‘Earthshine’.  Actually to call it a pamphlet is slightly misleading because it is posher than a pamphlet – it has a spine and a glossy front cover – it is a beautiful object.  Mimi is well known for her skills as a tutor as well and I experienced this first hand at a residential last year with Mimi and Myra Schneider as the tutors, run by the Second Light Network.  Mimi seems to me to be a very gentle person (although I don’t know her well), very softly spoken, always smiling, but she does not pull any punches in workshops!  She is very astute with her comments and manages to be challenging without making anyone feel bad because she is so nice!  And most importantly, you can trust her opinion – if she says something is good, she means it, because she would tell you if it wasn’t – she is very honest.  If you can get along to one of her workshops, you should.

Back to the pamphlet though – Earthshine is a sequence of poems which started from observations of each days weather and then spin off on various trajectories.  A lot of small creatures inhabit these poems – mice, mouse lemur, bats and the pamphlet is tinged with an air of elegy, rather than being made of elegy if that makes sense.  Only a few of the poems make a direct reference to the death of a mother but the whole pamphlet carries this feeling – although I wouldn’t want to mislead you into thinking this pamphlet is sad, or maudlin.  It does have sadness but it is also funny.  In the first poem ‘House Mouse’ the ‘I’ of the poem finds a dead mouse and the poem finishes ‘I tuck her into the finger/of my banana skin – a ferryboat to carry her over the Styx.’  This is funny and sweet and sad – sometimes the poems leave you not knowing what to feel.  They are also a lesson in close observation.  In ‘Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur’ the lemur is referred to as ‘itsy-bitsy portmanteau,/ little living furry torch’ and ‘a geisha lowering her fan’.

I’m raving about these poems that focus on tiny animals because the poem I’ve chosen is one of the poems that deal directly with death and has no animals in it at all! But I love the use of repitition in this poem, the blue running right through it and then that twist at the end is heartbreaking.   So here is the Sunday Poem, with thanks to Mimi Khalvati for permission to use it here.    You can buy ‘Earthshine’ by clicking on this link

– Mimi also has full collections available – most recently ‘Child – New and Selected Poems’ published by Carcanet, available here.

What it Was  – Mimi Khalvati

It was the pool and the blue umbrellas,
blue awning.  It was the blue and white

lifesize chess-set on the terrace, wall of jasmine.
It was the persimmon and palm side by side

like two wise prophets and the view that dipped
then rose, the swallows that turned the valley.

It was the machinery of the old olive press,
the silences and the voices in them calling.

It was the water talking.  It was the woman reading with her head propped, wearing glasses,

the logpile under the overhanging staircase,
mist and the mountains we took for granted.

It was the blue-humped hose and living wasps
swimming on the surface.  It was the chimneys.

It was sleep.  It was not having a mother,
neither father nor mother to comfort me.

Sunday Poem – James Caruth


Evening folks.   I’ve had quite a nice weekend – I’ve been in Sheffield at the Lyric Festival.  On Friday I was reading as part of a Poetry Business event with Ed Reiss, Mimi Khalvati and Michael Laskey.  It was a really lovely reading.  I tried some new poems out as well as reading some from the pamphlet.

Afterwards Liz Venn and I went along to the pub with Peter and Ann Sansom, Seni Seniviratne, Michael Laskey, Mimi Khalvati and River Wolton.  We were sat with Seni and Michael and although I’d heard of them both as poets, I hadn’t met them properly before, but they were really easy to talk to.  Seni has one of the most interesting life histories I think I’ve ever heard, and when she gets round to writing it as a novel, I’ll definitely be buying it – and Michael – well, Michael used to edit Smiths Knoll, which is now not being published.  Smiths Knoll was an amazing poetry magazine that published new and established writers.  When I was first starting out it was one of the first magazines I subscribed to, and one of the first I submitted too.  And boy did I submit.  Smiths Knoll was famous for replying within a week, sometimes within days.  I think I submitted maybe twenty, thirty times – and I used to get these lovely little notes on the rejection slips – Michael would always tell me which one or two poems had the most promise, and this would give me a boost of confidence and I would package those poems off to a different magazine and send poor Michael six more.  I don’t know if he got so many different submissions that he didn’t notice that I was obsessively submitting.  I think at the time I thought he wouldn’t notice it was the same person submitting with sometimes no gap at all.  Maybe he didn’t – but his rejection slips were always so positive that I never felt despondent being rejected.  In fact it had the opposite effect! So Smiths Knoll was important for me in my development as a writer, although I was never published in it, I always harboured a secret soft spot for it.  I think the literary scene is the poorer for it not existing.  However, it may also mean that Michael will have more time for his own poetry which is pretty wonderful as well, and this can only be a good thing.  Anyway – Michael listens when people talk.  I realised how rare this was when I spoke to him.  He really listens.  Not in a ‘I’m waiting till you finish your story so I can tell my story’ kind of way.  He listens because he’s interested – he’s interested in people and this makes him easy to talk to.  Especially when you’re like me and you don’t stop for breath!  I think he is a contender for the Nicest Man in Poetry Award.

So that was a nice night on Friday – I stayed at Liz’s on Friday night in Glossop, and then Saturday was a full day workshop at the Poetry Business.  It was a great day – and nice to catch up with lots of poets – Rachel Davies, John Foggin, David Borrott, Roy Marshall, Maria Taylor, Carole Bromley, James Caruth – also met Becca Audra who I’ve only spoken to on Twitter – so that was great.  Then we went to a Wetherspoons, had something to eat and went to more readings for the Lyric Festival on Saturday – Tishani Doshi and Priscilla Uppal again ( I know, I’m obsessed) and then a break and another reading – Jacob Polley, Lavinia Greenlaw and Paul Farley.  By this time I was shattered and ready for bed – so got back to Barrow at after midnight – so quite tired!

So today I just sat on the sofa all day and read poetry.  I read Mimi Khalvati’s new pamphlet, which is brilliant, called Earthshine, published by Poetry Business.  I read some of Ted Hughes’ letters.  I watched Dirty Dancing and cried at the bit where her father won’t speak to Baby and she starts crying.   I mooned at Patrick Swayze and thought about how that film (and Grease with John Travolta) sets young girls up for so many disappointments.  How come women I’ve not met one man that tries to be like John Travolta in Grease or Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing yet the media supposedly has a massive effect on the way we behave, look, think etc…

Anyway!  Today’s Sunday poem is by James Caruth, a man with such a lovely accent that he could read a Wetherspoons menu and make it sound like a poem.  I first met Jim at the Poetry Business workshops – he is a great guy, very humble and a real poetry lover – not just a poet.  What I mean by this is that he loves poetry – he gets excited about poetry, he likes talking about poems, not just writing them.

I’ve been meaning to have Jim as the Sunday poet for the longest time now – and the poem I’ve chosen is ‘Pinky’ from Jim’s recent pamphlet from the Poetry Business called ‘Marking the Lambs’.  A lot of Jim’s poems are elegies, or if not elegies, they are laced through with a wistful yearning.James Caruth was born in Belfast.  His first collection, ‘A Stones Throw’ was published by Staple Press in 2007 and the pamphlet ‘Dark Peak’ appeared from Longbarrow Press in 2008.  Jim’s poetry is very lyrical and musical and I would urge you all to get yourself to the Sheffield Poetry Festival in June (yes, Sheffield has TWO poetry festivals) where he will be reading with Bernard O’Donaghue.  The festival programme can be found at and they have lots of brilliant poets coming.

If you would like to order Jim’s pamphlet you will find it at


Here is the Sunday Poem –

Pinky – James Caruth

im. Patrick McKenna

He drank whiskey like John Wayne,
throwing it down his throat in one slug.
I once asked him if he’d like some water in it
and the answer came back like a shot –
Water’s for washing your face, son.

Now his face fails to live up to his name,
livid as raw fish, he lies stretched out
between the candles and the sandwiches<
dapper as always in his Sunday suit,
pressed white shirt, dark tie.

When I go, I want it to be like Pinky,
with whiskey and lies and people
whose faces I can’t recall, saying
my name in their prayers or talking
about me behind their hands –
another old gunslinger shot in the back.

And after, they’d sing legends
of things I’d never done,
so full of bravado and balls
that I’d be happy to swear
every single word was true.