Sunday Poem – Jane Routh

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Evening everybody! This week has mainly been about recovering from last Sunday – the all day workshop left me completely knackered – most of Monday I spent on the sofa watching rubbish TV which was about all my brain could cope with.  I didn’t expect many of the kids to turn up for junior band on Monday – I thought they would be as tired as I was and would probably have a night off – but I was wrong.  We had nearly a full rehearsal and the workshop seems to have enthused them even more – and it was the rehearsal that woke me up and got me moving again really.  Next weekend we are recording a CD – so tomorrow we are having an extra long rehearsal so we can go through the music.  After that, we are playing at Ormsgill School Fete on the 28th June, going to see the Haffner Orchestra on the 29th, and then playing in Barrow Park with St Pius School Orchestra on the 7th July.  I am getting slightly panicky when I think about this succession of dates – but trying to do one thing at a time.  So the next thing is the CD.

Before that on Friday 21st June, I’m reading at Lancaster Spotlight at The Storey, Meeting House Lane in Lancaster.  There are lots of other readers and musicians, including local poet Ron Scowcroft, so I’m looking forward to it, and hopefully seeing some Lancastrian folk as well!

Then on Saturday, I’m off to Grasmere to a all day Translation workshop with Sasha Dugdale – which I think there are still spaces for – get in touch with The Wordsworth Trust if you are interested.  Sunday is the CD recording.  My mum and dad are also coming up to visit for a while so it’s going to be pretty full on this weekend.

I found out yesterday that my pamphlet has been shortlisted for the Lakeland Book of the Year award.  I am one of three books shortlisted in the ‘Art and Literature Category and the awards ceremony is on July 2nd – so I’ll let you all know then if I win.  I’m very happy to be shortlisted – it’s not a specific poetry prize – it’s for books about or that reference the Lake District – so it will be interesting to see how my wolves get on…

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Jane Routh.  I’ve been meaning to ask Jane for a poem for ages now, but I wanted to wait until I heard her read, and then pounce on her and hopefully get my favourite poem of the night.  My opportunity came a couple of weeks ago in Ambleside when Jane was the guest poet at Zefferellis’ open mic slot.

Jane is based in Lancaster but I often bump into her at events in Grasmere.  Jane’s first poetry book ‘Circumnavigation’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and her second, ‘Teach Yourself Mapmaking’  was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.  Her third book ‘A Gift of Boats’ has come out very recently – all three from Smith/Doorstop.  You can buy one or all three by clicking on the link http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/jane-routh

I’ve chosen a poem from her second book ‘Teach Yourself Mapmaking’ because I heard her read it on the night and I knew one particular line would haunt me

‘tell me about your sly animal self/
among the dry ochre grasses of winter’

It is that ‘sly animal self’ – I think it is a wonderful turn of phrase – a wonderful truth.  I think this poem also encapsulates what a lot of Jane’s poetry seems to be about – our relationship with the environment and with animals and how we manage this.   I like that the tone of the poem is confident, almost an order, yet the voice of the poem contrasts to this because it is asking for knowledge, knowledge of another person – the speaker wants to know what another human being thinks, really thinks about things but it is clear from the tone of the poem that the speaker has very definite opinions of their own as well!  I think the curiosity displayed is another hallmark of Jane’s poetry.

After typing the poem up – which means that there is the possibility of typos, but I like doing it, unless the poem’s really long, because I like to try and inhabit the poet’s voice as I’m typing, I wondered if this poem, as well as addressing another, was actually about the act of writing.  Maybe it is a poem addressed to the self as well – asking the poet to tell the truth of things –

In the middle of the poem it says ‘No more about roses or snowdrops’ which could be seen as being typical poetry subjects – the poem is asking the poet to tell about things that are important – the ‘sly animal self’.  Anyway!  Maybe I should stop thinking.  Maybe it is neither of these things.

Anyway, here is this week’s Sunday Poem – I hope you enjoy it.

Tell Me What Else – Jane Routh

Now tell me why.  Tell me about greed.
Show me how to think about infinity.
How far does war go down with you?
Make me  a list of what counts.  Explain
why you think the moon’s the same size
as the sun: your answer’s who you are.
Say how three brothers trouble sleep,
turn, and draw their brown cloaks close
as they approach the arch – whether
they visit from another life, or whether
they’re already dreamed and something
in your brain has named them wrongly.
No more about roses or snowdrops
but tell me about your sly animal self
among the dry ochre grasses of winter.
Or tell me about the moment when you sit
on a boulder in the river and you are the river,
you are the alders and the early morning air
and the deer who doesn’t see you, high-stepping
among cobbles at the crossing place
on such thin legs.

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