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.

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2 responses »

  1. Kim, congratulations on your Michael Marks shortlisting, and the TLS acceptance too – I think I’d be doing star jumps myself, as long as I could have a lie down afterwards! Good luck 🙂

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