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
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 –
At night she dreams of a ladder –
her sister going up and down
to their mother above the clouds.
By Jennifer Copley