Sunday Poem – Sasha Dugdale

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Hello everyone.  This is a very late blog – I have been busy all day today.  This morning I was working on a workshop that I’ll be delivering tomorrow in a secondary school in Oldham – I’m doing five sessions spread over the whole of year ten.  I’m a bit nervous but I am looking forward to it as well.

This afternoon I went to a friend’s hen party, which was afternoon tea at a very posh hotel in Bowness.  We had sandwiches, scones, tea and cakes and it was very nice – most of the people there were from a school I work at in Barrow – so it was nice to be included-my second one this year – after working for eight years without going to one!

Then I got back, walked the dogs round the slag bank and then watched Game of Thrones, which I have been obsessed with this week but I have got to the end of Season 2 so I’m hoping I can now get back to doing some actual work!  Season 3 has only just come out and it’s far too expensive to buy at the minute!  I’ve been watching it all week and finding it very hard to do anything else.

On Saturday I took my junior band to see the Haffner Orchestra.  For many of the children it was their first classical music concert.  It was interesting how many conventions I take for granted – one of the very young children started clapping after the orchestra had finished tuning up!  They now all know not to clap between movements in a symphony, and to clap when the conductor and the principal violinist comes on.  Lots of audience members came up to me in the interval and at the end and said how well-behaved the children were – so I was very proud of them.

This week I also had a concert with one of my schools and a concert with the band so it’s been pretty full on.  In between concerts and watching the Game of Thrones I’ve been working on a poem for a project in association with St Oswald’s Church in Grasmere – there is going to be a art and craft exhibition in response to poems written about the church – the deadline is Monday and I got my poem sent off yesterday – it’s only the second time I’ve written a poem ‘on purpose’ i.e with a purpose in mind, rather than just letting my mind wander..the first was written in response to a photography exhibition at the Theatre by the Lake…

We were shown around the church by an amazing guide who knew so many stories and facts about the church – but he mentioned the women who come and lay the rushes as part of the rush bearing festival and there is a man in the village who climbs to the top of the church tower to hang the flag.  He also winds the clocks and services the hotel pools in the area – so I guess my poem is about the people that are associated with the church – the saints and the local people who help out in the church now.

I’ve also sent my collection out to a few friends whose opinion I trust and I’ve had some really useful feedback that I haven’t had time to look at properly yet, but after I’ve got this workshop out the way tomorrow, I’m going to print their comments maybe  and go through it all again.  At the minute, if I had to use a metaphor to explain what stage I’m at, my collection is like a house with all the furniture not set out properly, or maybe a house with non-load bearing walls that need knocking down to make space…so that is what I shall be doing this week and the next week…

The next time I blog shall be Tuesday night.  By then I will have been to the Lakeland Book of the Year Award ceremony to find out if I’ve won, and I would also have heard Simon Armitage at the Wordsworth Trust – so I should have lots to say!

This week’s Sunday poem is by Sasha Dugdale, who ran the workshop which I previously raved about on here at the Wordsworth Trust.  I already had Sasha’s most recent collection ‘Red House’ published by Carcanet and after enjoying the workshop so much, I decided to re-read it.

As a workshop tutor, what struck me about Sasha was how much she listens to people, how interested she was in the way people’s minds worked.  As a poet, this quality of listening carries over into her writing.  When I wrote to her to ask her if I could have ‘Plainer Sailing (Alzheimer’s) for the blog, I wasn’t suprised to hear that this poem had been set to music.  I think her lines have a very clear, pure quality – it is the type of poetry that makes me think ‘yes, that is it exactly’.  The first two lines for instance – comparing someone suffering from Alzheimers as being ‘Frail as a cloud’.  But she doesn’t stop there, she pushes the image further so we see the person with Alzheimers’  is not just a victim – they are beautiful in their frailty – she says ‘filled with a cloud’s watered light’.

The other thing I really enjoyed about Sasha’s poetry was her rhyme which is never allowed to control the poem, but instead sits in the background of the poem, like a well trained servant…In ‘Plainer Sailing’  the rhyme scheme of abab never intrudes but it holds the poem together.

If you would like to buy Sasha’s collection, you can get it from the Carcanet website at http://www.carcanet.co.uk/cgi-bin/indexer?product=9781906188023

Sasha is also the editor of one of my new favourite magazines, Modern Poetry in Translation.  The magazine has a fantastic website where you can have a go yourself at translating a poem as well as subscribing!  This is at http://www.mptmagazine.com/

And here is the poem!

Plainer Sailing (Alzheimer’s) – Sasha Dugdale
for A.W

She walked then: pale and unbent
Frail as a cloud, filled with a cloud’s watered light
And all the ropes were gone, and the language unlearnt
And vital knots of past and future long untied.

There was once no sailing without the augur on board,
Who shaped each day and told what tumbled past,
Who sought the truth in feathered gore
Whilst others watched from the crow’s nest.

She too surveyed the calm, and was concerned:
What to make of all the signs, for the sea is rarely blank.
And there was a circling, a moment returned
When daughter was mother, and there the sun shrunk

And bent and was narrow at the line of sky
And still the clouds twisted and birds flew
All above at that time there was no end to life
And no end to other brightnesses at least as true

That seem like mirages now.  For signs were massing
To display themselves in a common light:
They did all surely point to the one passing
Of pale day into paler night.

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