Monthly Archives: October 2013

Sunday Poem – Paula Cunningham

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Morning folks!  I am writing this from my hotel room at the Torbay Festival of Poetry http://www.torbaypoetryfestival.co.uk/

I have had a lovely weekend here – on Thursday I drove to Leicester and stayed at my mum and dad’s house for the night and drove over to Torbay on Friday morning.  I was really lucky with the traffic and managed to get here with enough time to have lunch and see Alison Brackenbury read.

The organisers of the festival, Patricia and William Oxley and their wonderful committee are very friendly.  The whole festival is in one hotel, which is where I’m staying, which is a genius idea I think.  I love being able to go to my room in between things, although yesterday I went to my room to send a couple of emails and ended up falling asleep and missed half an event….

I read on Friday at 5pm with Emily Hinshelwood who was lovely to read with – I’m hoping to have a poem from her for the Sunday Poem once I’ve read through her book.  What has been nice is that a lot of people seem to be around for the whole weekend so I met people for the first time at the reading and then I see them again later on – this is how I met the lovely Arthur Broomfield, who has come over from Ireland just for the festival – he came up to get me to sign his pamphlet (get me!) and then I bumped into him yesterday and we have been gabbing non stop since then and having a really good laugh – I often tend to meet people at poetry events who it feels like I’ve been friends with for years  – I hesitate to add names here in case I miss anyone important out but recent examples of this have been John W.Sexton and Ben Johnson at the Fermoy Poetry Festival in August and Michael Scott at the Swindon Poetry Festival – so for me a festival is worth going to for that alone, never mind the poetry!

Yesterday I went to part of a Pat Borthwick workshop which was good fun and then I had to sneak out before the end to do a Poet to Poet question and answer thing, chaired by Danielle Hope with Mike Bartholomew-Biggs as the other poet being questioned.  I was a little nervous about this because I’ve only ever done it once before and that was  last week but it was actually really enjoyable and good fun – and I’m sure this was because Danielle was so professional and good at keeping the whole thing going.

Last night Gillian Clarke read – I’ve seen Gillian read quite a few times but she was on fire last night – a brilliant reading, very warm, very passionate – maybe it was because the tables were all set for everyone to have a three course meal afterwards, maybe she felt like she was reading poetry for her supper but I really enjoyed it.

Which brings us to today – I’m off to a workshop this morning as well and then depending on the weather – I’m hoping to stay for Allison McVety reading this afternoon and Angela France and John Greening later on.

The other major thing that happened earlier on in the week was a joint concert with my junior band (Barrow Shipyard Junior Band) and the Barrow Steelworks Band at Trinity Church Centre in Barrow.  It was a great night and although there were a couple of empty seats in the hall there weren’t many.  We raised nearly £600 which will be split between the Furness Branch of the National Autistic Society and the Junior Band.  I’m still buzzing from the concert actually – the junior band played brilliantly and I was really proud of them.

So today’s Sunday Poem is ‘Driving North’ by Paula Cunningham, which is a very apt title as I will be driving north today and tomorrow on a bit of an epic journey from here back up to Cumbria.  This poem comes from Paula’s brand new shiny collection from Smith/Doorstop called ‘Heimlich’s Manoeuvre’ which is currently shortlisted for the 2013 Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize.  You can buy the book from the Poetry Business by clicking on this link: http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/shop/842/heimlichs-manoeuvre-paula-cunningham

I love the honesty of this poem  – it is one of those poems that as soon as I read it, I wished I had written it because it brings that jolt of recognition and that feeling of ‘Of course this happens – why didn’t I think of that?’ when I read in the poem of the ‘angels and ogres’ from the past who come into our present day relationships through the power of gesture – and it is all held together by the lyrical way the words relate to one another – all the wonderful internal rhymes that are threaded through the poem – ‘back’ and ‘scratch’ and ‘crack’ and ‘that’ in the middle of the poem and ‘alive’ and ‘smile’ and ‘time’ towards the end.

Finally, I would like to mention before you read the poem, Phil Read.  Phil died yesterday from cancer.  I haven’t seen Phil probably for over ten years – he was one of the conductors of the junior brass band I was in and he played baritone in the senior band when I was in Leicester.  I have been friends with Phil on Facebook and sent him a message when I saw he was ill to wish him well and thank him for everything he did when I was younger – so although I haven’t spoken to him (apart from online) for ten years, I felt profoundly sad yesterday when I heard he had died.   I learnt how to run a brass band from him and our other conductor, Rob Boulter.  Rob used to jump up and down on the spot when we made a mistake in rehearsal and we used to think it was funny.  Phil did the same – although not as often – and I have been known to do my own jumping up and down in mock frustration.  The kids still think it’s funny.  So Phil carries on in a very small way – as well as with his family, friends and the musicians down in Leicester, he will be remembered up in Cumbria as well.  Which again, fits with the Sunday Poem today as well.

I hope you enjoy the poem.

Driving North – Paula Cunningham

Returning late in rain from Connemara,
each time we pass a ‘Welcome to our County’
I slow and sound the horn, a single toot,

Galway toot Mayo toot Sligo…
and I’m explaining ‘Davy did this,
my first real boyfriend, twenty years ago.’

And when approaching sleep you call me sweetie,
I know your friend, your ex, still calls you that,
and later when you flex and click your knuckles

you will tell me of a lover, way back,
who’d twist and stretch so ardently
that each and every vertebra would crack.

And when you make me scratch
your back it’s childhood and your daddy;
the wheaten bread each Saturday’s my ma;

that thing when I touch the back
of your hand with the back of a hot
coffee spoon’s a man I loved abysmally

and that man’s granddad.  And this is how it is:
angels and ogres jostle at our shoulders,
anxious for their chance to vanquish time,

and these fleeting appearances, toot, brief
visitations that make us scowl or smile, keep
all of our losses, even our dead, alive.

Sunday Poem – Michael Scott

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Afternoon everybody!  I am having a very lazy Sunday today hence the blog happening whilst there is still daylight.  And by lazy Sunday I have decided to get jobs done today that I can do using my laptop and sitting in my pyjamas on the sofa.

This week instead of the usual band rehearsal with Barrow Shipyard Junior Band on Monday nightwe had a joint rehearsal with the Barrow Steelworks Band to get ready for our concert together on the 23rd.  I think there were close to fifty brass instruments playing at the same time on Monday – we had to get extra chairs, put up extra stands – so it was slightly more chaotic than usual, if that can be believed.  All proceeds from the concert will be split between the National Autistic Society and the Junior Band – we have to build up our funds again after all of our exploits last year – extra workshops for the pupils, new music and instruments and recording our first CD. 

I had just about recovered from that on Tuesday morning and then I got a phonecall to say my pamphlet has been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award.  As far as I know this is the only major award for pamphlets so I am ridiculously excited and happy to be on the shortlist.  This excess of emotion resulted in a couple of star jumps whilst teaching the year 3 class of baritones, trumpets and cornets, but strangely enough the children didn’t really notice.  This made me wonder whether they are so used to me jumping about/doing silly dances – maybe star jumps are just normal?

The rest of the shortlist consists of Kim Lasky, ‘Petrol, Cyan, Electric’ published by Smith/Doorstop, David Clarke:  Gaud  (Flarestack Press), Ben Parker: The Escape Artists  (tall-lighthouse), Neil Rollinson:  Talking Dead (Aussteiger Publications) and Chrissy Williams:  Flying into the Bear (Happenstance)

I already had Kim Lasky’s pamphlet and Neil Rollinson’s and I decided to order the other pamphlets as well so I could do my reading before I meet all the poets at the Award ceremony on the 19th November.

There is a publisher’s award as well and the shortlisted publishers are Flarestack Poets, Mariscat Press, Pighog Press, Rack Press and Shearsman Books.  If you want to find out more information about the awards you can go to https://wordsworth.org.uk/poetrypamphlets/mmpamphlet.html

So there was that rather exciting news which means I get to swan off to London on the 19th.  Luckily I have plenty to distract myself between now and the 19th November so that I am not obsessing about it – in between I have the band concert and readings in Torbay, London, Kendal, Carlisle and Aldeburgh to keep me busy!

On Wednesday I had my performance management meeting with my manager which went ok with the welcome news that as a part-time member of staff I only need to have two objectives to work at over the next year instead of the three that a full time member of staff has. 

On Thursday I spent my day off reading poetry – and doing a little bit of writing, and Friday I headed over to Dove Cottage to do the first ‘Real Live Writer’ workshops with a sixth form group.  The workshop is a combination of opportunities for students to write taking inspiration from Wordsworth and Dove Cottage and a chance for them to learn about the history of the Cottage through a tour and through the Wordsworth museum.  This was the first workshop and we had some lovely feedback from the staff who came with the pupils but I already have a couple of ideas to make it slicker and better – a necessary part of running workshops (and teaching) is evaluating what worked and what to improve – so this is going to be an exciting learning curve for me as well as the students who come along to the workshop!  There is more information about the range of workshops the Wordsworth Trust provide here: https://wordsworth.org.uk/learn/educational-visits.html

Yesterday I got the famous 6.20am train from Barrow to Sheffield to go to a writing day as part of the Writing School programme organised by my lovely publishers Smith/Doorstop.  I must admit when my alarm went off at 5.15 I did question my sanity, but once I got onto the train with lovely poet Jennifer Copley who is also part of the writing school I’d woken up and cheered up.  It was a fantastic day yesterday and I think I got a couple of poems out of the workshop which I am very happy about as I’ve been writing very slowly recently.

I got home at 9.30 ish to find an accceptance slip from the TLS – two poems ‘The Fall’ and ‘After Work’ so I did a bit of a dance and a few more star jumps in celebration.  So I’ve had a great poetry week today – everyone has been very kind and pleased for me, which I appreciate – it would be rubbish to have good news and have nobody be happy for you – I am very lucky to have such friends.

Talking of friends – today’s Sunday Poem is by the lovely Michael Scott – who is one of the organisers of the Swindon Poetry Festival.  I hadn’t met Michael before a couple of weeks ago – I thought I would get on with him – because he is very good friends with Hilda Sheehan and I trust her judgement….

However, sometimes you meet people and get on straight away and think you might be friends with them for a long time – this has happened to me a lot since I started writing poetry – maybe it is having something in common that it is easy to get passionate/obsessive about – I was thinking of listing those people but then realised there would probably be too many AND I would miss someone and they might be upset – so I will just say that Michael is one of those people – we had such a laugh all weekend and part of me would quite like to run off to Swindon and hang out with Michael and Hilda and go to lots of poetry events…however, I would then miss the hubby and all my poetry friends up here and the dogs and the cat etc so I stay put.  But instead here is a poem from Michael.  I found this on Michael’s wonderful website and asked if I could nick it.  He (obviously) said yes.  Michael’s website can be found here http://michaelscott.org.uk/

The poem was originally published in the Morning Star http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk

I love the title of this poem and I think it has a real energy about it with the use of dialogue that feels completely authentic.  I say dialogue – but although the poem details both halves of a conversation – the only part of the conversation that we get direct speech for is the neighbour’s words.  The ‘I’ of the conversation is reported speech by the poet – and it is clear from this technique that listening is only working one way – even though they both appear to be ignoring each other – the ‘I’ is responding to the ‘daily mail headines’ coming from the neighbour’s mouth by trying to distract – the neighbour is not responding at all to the ‘I’.  I don’t know if I have made that sound really complicated – but read the poem.  You’ll hopefully see what I mean and Michael does this more skilfully than I can explain in prose. 

I hope you enjoy the poem and maybe I will see some of you in Torbay at the Poetry Festival!

My Neighbour Speaks in Daily Mail Headlines – Michael Scott

‘Them addicts choose it don’t they?’
I told him it was a great day
to wash his car.

‘We pay them benefits, they buy heroin!’
I asked what sort
of wax he used.

‘And then they take it in prison’
I said I could tell he used
a chamois leather.

‘Or we pay for their rehab’
I admired his car but
thought of Carla.

‘Don’t give them nothing’
Carla sat next to me
full of smack.

‘Let them die’
Carla on Bournemouth beach
cuddling her dead friend.

‘Why don’t they understand?’
Carla at home
waiting for Dad’s sweaty palms.

‘It makes me mad it does’
I told him, I told him
he’d missed a bit.

St Oswald’s Church, Grasmere – Collaborative Project

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Evening folks.  A couple of weeks ago I took part in a project at St Oswald’s Church in Grasmere.  A group of 14 Cumbrian/Lancaster poets wrote poems about the church and then the Lakes Collective group created art work inspired by the poems and the church.  Their blog is here: http://lakescollective.blogspot.co.uk/p/poetry-and-place-event.html

You can also read what Sarah Hymas, another poet who took part, thought about the event here http://sarahhymas.blogspot.co.uk/

But I thought I would post my poem here for what it’s worth – more interesting is the beautiful art work that was created.  I was stupid enough to not write down the name of the artists that did this work – which was very remiss of me as one of the lovely artists gave me their art work to take home!

Anyway, here is the poem, imaginatively titled or what?

St Oswald’s Church, Grasmere

Tell me about the west wind that meant
no west door was built and Oswald
in the moment before he cut
the oak tree down, and Teresa of Avila
before she was turned to stone
and the man who placed her head
so she could see the altar.  Tell me
of the benches with their shoulders
against the wall, the saying the weakest
go to the wall
and then tell me of the lepers
gathering at the leper door and far-away
saints, standing to their waists in water
as the sun rises, prayers twitching
in their minds like newly caught fish
on a boat deck but most of all tell me
of the man who hangs the flag and winds
the clocks, and the women who lay rushes
as if animals still shelter here.

Here is my new house guest, a saint standing up to his waist in water, placed in the font on the advice of the very good humoured vicar at St Oswalds.

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Obviously I haven’t got the font to put him in, so he will have to go on a shelf.

Here is the other piece of art work created in response to my poem.  This was already sold – don’t know who to – but it is beautiful isn’t it? In the middle of the tree there is a a woman’s head – Teresa of Avila’s I think…

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Sunday Poem – Jennifer Copley

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Evening folks.  This week has been a relatively quiet week in that I have not been rushing off anywhere at the weekend, which was a bit of a relief actually, as it has been a bit manic here through September.  I did get back from Swindon very early in the morning on Monday (see previous post) and managed to get myself around my schools without too many problems.  On Tuesday I saw Roger McGough read at Grasmere – he seemed a very nice man, and it was an enjoyable reading – but I was a bit knackered – in fact, as I was sitting in the church, the air kept going hazy in a very strange fashion – as if I was seeing it through smoke – but I wasn’t.  Oh well.

This week I had two poems accepted by The North  – after I have finished doing this blog I need to go and tidy up some bits which lovely Peter Sansom has pointed out  are not quite working.  I agree with him, unfortunately – and there is a bit of time constraint, so that will be my next job after this – just a couple of tweaks.

On Thursday I spent the whole day sitting in my pyjamas and reading – it was brilliant.  I have missed this so much – and am planning to do more of it.  I love going round to readings and festivals and running workshops, but as well as being enjoyable, it also takes a lot of organisation and forward planning, things that I can do, and do every day, but I wouldn’t say they come easily.  I have to work really hard to be organised!  I spent the day reading Marianne Burton’s beautiful new book from Seren called ‘She Inserts the Key’ which is mysterious and different and wonderful and Dan O’Brien’s ‘War Reporter’ published by CB Editions’ which pushes the boundaries of what poetry is, and is visceral, and shocking and troubling and…anyway – I recommend both.  I also bought ‘Oswald’s Book of Hours’ by Steve Ely, but haven’t got around to that one yet as part of an offer that Inpress were running – all three books have been shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection – Emily Berry won this year with Dear Boy, which was actually one of my favourite books of the year.  I even managed to do a bit of writing on Thursday as well and catch up on emails that I had to send on behalf of Poem and A Pint to invite poets to come and read for us for next year – always a nice job!

On Friday I spent some of the afternoon at the Wordsworth Trust.  I’m running a workshop there next Friday as part of their ‘Real Life Writers’ project which you can find more information about here https://wordsworth.org.uk/learn/educational-visits/live-writers.html

I bought a copy of Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journal and a huge tome of Wordsworth’s poetry whilst I was there and have now embarked on what may become a new obsession.  There are lots of interesting notes at the back of the journal and I keep getting way laid as I’m reading it to read the poem that Wordsworth was writing at the time so it is taking quite a while to get through it, and that is without following the side paths off into poems by Coleridge that she mentions – and I really want to read the letters – which were a huge focus of her day – so that is my next job, once I’ve read the journal and read some more of the poems I think.  This is why I like doing writing workshops – I usually end up learning something when I’m preparing for it.

I have a busy week next week though – as well as the usual music teaching – on Tuesday I’m off to Bolton for the evening to read at the University of Bolton for the first event in their ‘Live Literature Series’.  You can find more information here https://www.bolton.ac.uk/MediaCentre/Articles/2013/Sept2013-06.aspx

but I’m reading with Mike Garry, who as well as being a good poet, can often be found on Breakfast TV, sticking up for all things poetry.  It is free, and it is open to the public and it would be lovely to see some of you there.  On Thursday I’m going over to Newcastle to shadow another poet as they work with classroom teachers in a poetry workshop, and on Friday I’ll be leading the creative writing workshop centred around the Wordsworths at Dove Cottage in Grasmere for a group of sixth formers on a school trip.  On Saturday I’ll have some time for my own writing because I’ll be going over to Sheffield to a Writing School workshop with the Poetry Business.

Yesterday the lovely Jennifer Copley had her launch of her new book ‘Sisters’ from Smokestack Books.  If you do have a spare £7.95, go to http://www.smokestack-books.co.uk and make the publisher’s day and buy a book.  There seem to be publishers closing all the time at the minute, and I think now is a good time to offer support so they can keep on publishing poets.  Buy ‘Sisters’ in fact!  The first half of the book takes its inspiration from a photograph of two girls, pictured on the front cover of the book, taken from a Victorian photographic memorial, in which the dead were photographed in ‘living’ poses.  In the first section Jenny explores the lives of these two sisters, and the second half of the book goes on to investigate the wider themes of family.  The book as a whole challenges preconceptions about death – I also wouldn’t want to give the impression that the book is all death and sorrow.  Some parts of it are funny and wry and surreal.

Jenny found out today that she has a poem in the 2014 Forward Poetry anthology, which nobody told her about, so that is a nice surprise – I’m waiting with baited breath to find out which poem it is – she doesn’t know yet.  Jenny featured on this blog a couple of months ago, one of only two poets to feature twice with a poem from her pamphlet ‘Mr Trickfeather’ published by Like This Press, but she has also had a pamphlet out with Happenstance called ‘Living Daylights’, and another book from Smokestack called ‘Beans in Snow’.  You can find out more information about her from her website http://www.jennifercopley.co.uk

It was hard to pick one poem from the book so I’ve asked Jenny if I can take the first two poems from the beginning of the book to give you an idea of the two sisters.  I hope you enjoy!

She Had Come So Far

since the petticoat race with her sister.
They’d set off at dusk, the arms
of their dresses tied round their waists,
jam sandwiches wrapped in a tea-cloth.
Her sister carried an apple pie in an old hat
which seeped through with a sugary smell
as they crossed the field.

They’d chatted together with no clue
where they were going.  At least it wasn’t cold
and when they split up at the forest edge,
she knew she would worry three things
around in her head: how to manage the dark,
how much jam there should have been
and had she left the jar in the right place
between the butter crock and spoons

Sweet Tooth

When her tongue’s dry,
she sucks a rhubarb stick.
It’s sour without sugar,
catches her throat.

As she walks – her hair tucked
in her collar for comfort’s sake –
she sends messages to her sister,
gets them back like a needle through the air.

In No Man’s Land, she follows
small footprints through the mud.
They could be her sister’s –
slightly pigeon-toed.

At night she dreams of a ladder –
her sister going up and down
delivering mint-creams
to their mother above the clouds.

By Jennifer Copley

Launch of Jennifer Copley’s new book ‘Sisters’

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Evening folks.  This is just to let you all know that the fabulous Jennifer Copley is launching her new collection ‘Sisters’ on the 12th October, this Saturday at the Beach Hut Gallery at Kents Bank Station at 2.30pm.  This is a very creepy poetry book – based on a Victorian photograph of two dead sisters, posed as if they were alive – a very common practice in Victorian times apparently

I hope to see some of you there…

 

Sunday Poem – Roy Marshall

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Good evening folks.  Yes, yes, I know it is not Sunday anymore.  Sunday got away from me unfortunately, which is why I’m writing this on Monday…I have been on another Poetry Marathon over a long weekend and have had a fantastic time.  I’ve been down in Leicester for the last two days of last week and then in Swindon over part of the weekend, but it does feel nice to be at home again, especially as I have a huge pile of books that I’ve collected, and even some that were waiting for me when I got home – so no poetry withdrawal symptoms as of yet.

I did a workshop last week for ‘Soundswrite’ women’s group in Leicester as part of the ‘Everybody’s Reading’ festival which I really enjoyed – a lovely group of poets.  And they gave me a t-shirt with ‘Everybody’s Reading in Leicester’ on AND an anthology of their members poems from the previous year, which I must confess I haven’t read yet, but that is because I’ve barely sat down in one place since the workshop! AND they paid me promptly and were very welcoming – any women in Leicester looking for a writing group to be part of wouldn’t go far wrong with these guys!

On National Poetry Day I read to about 70 De Montfort University students alongside Ian Parks and Rory Waterman.  I met lovely Leicester poet Roy Marshall for a cup of coffee and a gossip and bought a copy of his fantastic new collection ‘The Sun Bathers’, published by Shoestring Press, which I must confess I have read, because I was planning on using a poem from it for the Sunday Poem this week – I will make my excuses later about why that didn’t happen!

On Friday, it was my birthday.  In my usual attention-seeking way, I announced it on Facebook and lots of lovely people made my day by wishing me happy birthday.  It doesn’t take much to keep me happy!  I also went shopping with my mum because I had a bit of birthday dosh and went out for a family meal in the evening.

On Saturday I drove down to Swindon – it took me four hours instead of the two that I expected because of awful traffic – but I am so glad I made the effort.  Alice Oswald read in the evening – I’ve never seen her read before and she was amazing – really, really worth the four hour drive.  She read some poems, or extracts of poems from all of her books, and she knew every poem by heart, but she doesn’t perform them from memory in a show offy kind of way – or I didn’t think so anyway – it was very intense- she uses silence a lot in her poetry and her readings.  I wouldn’t say she was necessarily one of my favourite poets before I saw her perform – but she has always fascinated me as a poet.  She constantly reinvents, or develops from collection to collection – and I like how she challenges perceived notions of gender by tackling that most masculine of texts, the Iliad.  And she read an amazing poem about a fox and about writing, which bears the weight of Ted Hughes’ ‘Thought Fox’ and manages to stand tall under the load.  I had to buy Memorium which was the only Oswald book I didn’t have.

But even better than Alice Oswald was meeting up with lovely friend and poet Hilda Sheehan again – we first met on a residential course last year.  Hilda is the mover and shaker of all things poetry in Swindon and a wonderful woman who genuinely loves poetry and wants to see it flourish.  I also met Michael Scott, who also organises various poetry things in Swindon – Hilda and Michael alongside Director Matt Holland were the organisers of the Poetry Festival.  I felt within five minutes of meeting Michael that I’d known him my whole life ( a similar feeling that I got when I first met Hilda) and we were soon merrily insulting each other.

So, I am thinking of them tonight – probably all at home, recovering from the festival- all three of them were working really hard all weekend – whilst managing to keep a sense of humour and proportion intact.

I read on the Sunday night with the lovely Claire Trevien – swapped books with her so now I have her brilliant new collection by Penned in the Margins – and the lively Elvis McGonagall.  Hilda’s lovely son Aidan did a couple of songs on the guitar – I thought he had a really soulful voice which sounded older and wiser than his years….

And then I had to get off  because I had to drive all the way back to Barrow from Swindon on the Sunday night because I had to teach at 8.45am on Monday morning.  It was actually not too bad a drive because I was still on a bit of a high from the reading and the festival, so I didn’t feel too knackered – not until I got up this morning that is.

During all this excitement, I ordered some books from Inpress because they had a special offer on for National Poetry Day – so waiting for me at home was ‘She Inserts the Key’ by Marianne Burton, ‘Oswald’s Book of Hours’ by Steve Ely and ‘War Reporter’ by Dan O’Brien, as well as the latest copy of Acumen with a lovely cheque for a review I’ve just done of Fiona Sampson’s new book Coleshill.  The other nice thing that was waiting for me when I got home was my cheque from Buzzwords competition – I got second prize or runner up which landed me £300 which is definitely better than a poke in the eye!

So, here is the belated Sunday Poem by Roy Marshall.  This is especially for my good friend John Foggin, one of my loyal commenters on here – who writes a lot of wonderful ekphrastic poetry.  I’ve just googled it to find a definition of ekphrastic poetry and I came up with ‘writing that comments upon another art form, e.g, a poem about a photograph’ I must admit, I am not usually drawn to this type of poetry – it has to be really good to get past my inner bigot.  Fortunately, Roy’s poetry is good- the title poem of the collection ‘The Sun Bathers’ concerns a painting, which makes up the front cover of his book, but it is a poem that comes from a sequence at the heart of the collection which I would like to share with you today.

The sequence is simply called ‘Leonardo’ and concerns the famous painter of the same name.  I like this poem because it made me understand the painting a little better – it captures the oxymoron of the Mona Liza – possibly the most famous image we have, yet still hopelessly enigmatic and mysterious.  I love the turn in pace from the fourth stanza – Roy tells me this poem also came from a newspaper article and is a true story.  There are five poems altogether in this sequence.  I read the whole book from cover to cover – and could have picked any one of a large number of poems as the Sunday poem to be honest.

You can order Roy’s book from his blog at http://roymarshall.wordpress.com/the-sun-bathers-3/ or from his publisher, Shoestring Press at http://www.shoestring-press.com/2013/09/the-sun-bathers/

Leonardo – by Roy Marshall

1. La Gioconda

Da Vinci was amusing and witty, and on each day
that I sat he remarked upon my beauty.
And what was there not to smile about?

Francesco, who was rich with silk, had bolts brought to the Villa;
the olive of Tuscan hills spilt across my breasts and thighs,
the slope of my hips and shoulders were the blue of Tuscan skies,

but the creased cream of clouds was only for his eyes, and yes,
I knew true happiness inside our frescoed walls.

Nothing that came after could temper my smile;
not my husband’s death, nor life inside the convent,
not its cold crypt which the government demolished,

not obscurity nor fame before the cordoned crowd,
not the landfill beneath a green hill
where my bones lie ploughed.