Monthly Archives: November 2013

Poetry in Cumbria and Call for Submissions for Second Light Anthology


Evening folks.  A quick update to let those interested know about three events taking place this weekend – all on the same day!  On Saturday afternoon there is an event taking place at the Wordsworth Trust – ‘Tales from the Dark Mountain’ which I’m going along to – you can find more details here on the Trust website

Afterwards, I will be dashing back home to get ready for another poetry, music and storytelling event at Bardsea Malt Kiln at 7.30pm with Ross Baxter, Alan Franks and Maz O’Connor.  You can find more information here

If you can’t make it out to Bardsea, the equally lovely Ann Wilson is hosting her regular Open Mic night at the Brewery in Kendal, with special guest Mark Mace Smith.  That starts at 7.30pm and if I hadn’t already promised Ross I would go and support him, I would have been down at the Brewery with Ann!

Myra Schneider has also asked me to highlight an exciting opportunity for women poets.  The Second Light Network of Women Poets have recently received Arts Concil funding to bring out a major new anthology of poetry by women poets.  It will be called ‘Wings of Glass’.  The book will focus on ambitious writing and be published in next autumn 2014 and launched at the Second Light Festival in central London in late November. The editors are Penelope Shuttle, Myra Schneider and Dilys Wood. Submissions will be accepted between 15th November and 15th January. Please see full details for submitting : is very keen to get as many submissions from women poets as possible – they do not want the anthology to be limited to just members of Second Light – so definitely worth having a go!

So to finish off – here is one of Ross Baxter’s ballads – which I hope he will be reading on Saturday –


being an account of the remarkable Battle between the Rooks and the Herons that took place in April 1775 in the Woods of Dallam Tower at Beetham.

Masters, listen, hold you still,
And hearken to me a spell;
I’ll tell you of the great battle
At Dallam Tower befell.

The year being 1775,
In April on a day,
The Herons all in the old oak grove
With their young nestlings lay;

When Daniel Wilson of Dallam Tower,
Being in want of wood,
With axe and rope he cut those oaks
And felled them where they stood.

“A grief! A grief!” cried the Heron King,
“To put us to such pain!
“Our houses spilled upon the ground
“And all our young ones slain!

“Rise up! Rise up, my bonny grey knights
“That suffer in this fall,
“To yonder copse of mighty firs,
“There to rebuild our hall.”

And then up rose those bonny herons,
A shining company;
Away they flew to the fir tree copse
Where their new home should be.

But when they came to the fir tree copse,
Their new home to survey,
A commonwealth of rooks arose
Ready to say them nay.

“Turn back! Turn back, you Heron King,
“You and your company,
“For since the world was first begun
“This is our rookery.”

“Away, you corbie squatters all,
“Away and take your flight!
“These trees are forfeit to the King
“And his court comes here tonight.”

Then up and spake those corbies bold:-
“And why should a rook bow down?
“And why should he give up his tree
“To a jammy crane in a crown?”

The Heron King called up his knights
And spake from the topmost pine:-
“These woods since time began were once
“And always will be mine.”

And at his word the Herons fell
On the Rooks without delay,
And threw them down from out of the trees
And drove them clean away.

Then the Corbie Captain rallied his troops:-
“Brave Rooks, stand fast!” said he;
“What mak of fish did that Jammy Crane eat
“That made him royalty?

“I put it to our Parliament
“That I call into this field,
“That we should fight for our common right
“To the death, ere we should yield!”

Then the Corbies they arose
And put their armour on,
Their faces pale, their cloaks were black,
And their blue steel bonnets shone.

The Herons stood with their gleaming spears
In a circle like the sun;
Down the Corbies fell on them
And attacked them ten to one.

Out of the sky the Corbies flew
Plummeting thick as rain,
And for every one the Herons slew
Nine more came on again.

All through the woods the battle raged
And all across the sky,
Till blood and feathers covered the ground,
Rained down from on high.

The Corbie Captain rose and stooped
Upon the Heron King,
And threw him from his topmost perch,
Beating him with his wing.

But the Heron King raised his head
And a loud laugh laughed he;
He pierced the Corbie with his beak
And pinned him against the tree.

And when they saw their Captain slain,
The Rooks sounded retreat,
The Herons harrying at their heels
To hasten their defeat.

And they fought till they came to Wilson’s barn,
With the wood stacked against the wall,
And there they called on the old white owl
Where she keeps her house and hall.

“A judgement! A Judgement!
“Let justice end this fray!
“For Heronry or Rookery,
“One of them must away.”

Then up and spake the old white owl:-
“Room enough for all;
“The more they chop the oak wood down,
“The more the firs grow tall.”

And so indeed it came to pass,
As you may plainly see,
The Corbies and the Jammy Cranes
Nesting in one tree.

Now Masters stay your hands awhile
Before you take what’s yours;
Think on what may follow on
When time has run its course.

For the Corbies and the Jammy Cranes
That never could agree,
Now live together side by side
In the branches of one tree.



Sunday Poem – Noel Williams


Evening folks.  It has been a strange, and lovely week.  I have been kind of overwhelmed by the reaction to my previous post – people have got in touch, both by commenting on the blog – by sending me emails or messages, by tweeting – people who are close friends, people I’ve met at readings, people I’ve never met before.  I feel very lucky to know you all.

So apart from getting all your wonderful messages – I’ve been at work doing the normal stuff.  Thursday and Friday are my normal days off but I worked all day Thursday to make up for the time off I had to go to London – then I walked the dogs and drove straight over to Lancaster for April Poets where I was one of the guest poets, along with Jim Turner, Mike Barlow and Jean Harrison.  Sarah Hymas and Steve Lewis performed an excerpt from ‘Sealegs’ which is a nautical mix of music and poetry – I would recommend if you want to hear something completely different.  It was nice to read alongside Mike, who has been really supportive of my poetry over the years.

And then Friday, I finally had a day at home and a real day off.  I decided to not get dressed till lunchtime, when I had to get dressed because I had to walk the dogs.  Then I went for a catch up with a friend and then came back home and did some more work on the sequence I’ve mentioned before.  I’m now up to 12 poems, although they still need some work – but I’m still enjoying writing them – every now and then I will see a preoccupation rise to the surface through the muddy water of 12 poems and then the larger picture becomes a little clearer.

Today I’ve been at the Dickensian Festival in Ulverston which involves some of the people who live in Ulverston dressing up in Victorian costume and lots of stalls selling various burgers and various musical acts throughout the town and crowded pavements and stewards in green vests and morris men and…well…lots of things really, but at 1.15pm my wonderful junior band, the Barrow Shipyard Junior Band were playing.

There was a musical act on before us so I gathered the children behind them.  The older children were setting up the music stands and some of the younger children were dancing to the three musicians, which I thought was quite cute.  I would be quite flattered if I was performing and that happened.  A woman came up to me shouting that the children ‘had ruined that musical performance by dancing’.  HOW CAN A MUSICAL PERFORMANCE BE RUINED BY DANCING?????

Unfortunately, this woman ( I don’t know who she was) only wanted someone to shout at, and barely gave me a chance to get a word in edgeways before she stormed off.  I spoke to the musicians who were performing and they said they didn’t notice the children dancing but they would have been flattered if they had.  I don’t know why I’m telling this story, except that I’m still annoyed by it.  The woman also shouted at the children – all between ten and eleven, at that wonderful age when they do dance spontaneously, without any self consciousness at all.  It angers me that she might have stopped them dancing.  I often randomly dance in music lessons – I’m joking around most of the time – breaking into dancing if the children are playing well – sometimes I’ll put on a power anthem and do some over the top miming to it just to make the kids laugh – what does this teach them?  Probably no anything about music, but I hope it teaches them not to care so much about what people think – and the best way to do this is by example – I think a lot of us care too much what other people think of us, and this inhibits us all the time in destructive ways.  That is part of the reason why children are great – up to a certain age, they don’t care so much.  But maybe the main reason I’m annoyed is because I didn’t get to say what I wanted to say because she walked away!! And even if I had said what I wanted to say, it is not like she would have said ‘yep you’re right, I’m sorry for shouting’.

Anyway, apart from that, we had a great time!  By mistake I picked up a bag of broken music stands instead of the bag of working musical stands which was very foolish.  So it was a bit stressful at the beginning – we had to have three children round a music stand and my music stand spun round randomly when ever it felt like it.  I should stop being surprised by the ability of the children to pull it out of the bag at every concert, but they always do surprise me.  The stewards and organisers at the Dickensian Festival were great, and apart from the one shouting woman, everyone else at the festival seemed determined to have a good time.

After the Dickensian Festival we went to my lovely friend Mark Carson’s 70th birthday party – he doesn’t look a day over 60 to me – maybe he is just saying he is 70 to get attention…

And now I’m back home in time to put a Sunday Poem up by a great poet called Noel Williams.  I met Noel at the Writing School that I’m a member of, run by the Poetry Business.  We have a meeting roughly every other month and in between we work as a group of three normally, looking at each other’s poems and discussing poetry books.  I worked with Noel a couple of months ago and had the opportunity to read a sequence he has been working on which I really enjoyed, so I asked him if he had any poems to donate.

I chose ‘Sunburn’ because I loved the energy of this poem -it is obviously a poem that is looking back, but it has managed to capture the energy of being young and that sense that summers lasted longer than they do when you are older.  And I think the poem manages to capture the sense of heat really well – I love the line ‘smouldering up to that solder sky’ with its assonance and internal rhymes.  And it is one of those rare poems – a poem about work! AND it is lovely to have a poem about summer to brighten up November – my least favourite monthI wasn’t surprised to learn that ‘Sunburn’ was awarded 2nd place in the Sentinel Literary Competition this year.  Noel, rather excitingly, has a collection coming out with Cinnamon Press next March ( called ‘Out of Breath’ – so do look out for it!

Noel is also one of the editors of Antiphon, an excellent online poetry magazine which can be found at

Antiphon is currently looking for new submissions – the window is only open until the 28th November so you haven’t got long – but Noel has told me there is still room for some more poems.  Please check out the magazine – they have published some fabulous poets and have over a 1000 readers for each issue and submit some poems!

Noel’s own blog can be found at

Sunburn – Noel Williams

The sun was bigger then, easily swallowed the sky,
so burning that at night there was no night,
in the swell of summer at the height of my life.
And the heat blazed back out of cornstalks and corrugated earth,
off the barn and chestnuts, elms and oaks,
smouldering up to that solder sky.

Every day I was new to the fields.
Turning and tedding the freshly mown
or straddling the baler behind the tractor
red as three fire engines, hauling out bale
after bale like squat logs, hefting them
off the conveyor, a hand slung under each twine.

That summer lasted years.
There were no rules – the future like sunburn
on my shoulders, peeling new skin,
cool pain under the skim of a single sheet
dreamless as the swifts scooping gnats
above the mud of the pond.

Knotting a headscarf over my mouth,
I stepped down the ladder into the grain bin.
It held the sunheat in its sheet steel box
a cake-tin to bake a man, lined with grain
so fine on walls and floor and clothes that it clogged
my nostrils with rich silt; a warm, perfumed frost.

I was stripped to my jeans and barefoot
sweeping dust like soot or fine plaster.
And the water was brought out to the field
in a bucket. And you threw mugfuls over me
streaking the grime off my back, making tears of my face
on the hot straw you laid under the hedge.

The Day After the Michael Marks Award


So it is the day after the night before – and I’m back in Barrow again after my fifth trip away in just over a month.  Yesterday was the Michael Marks Awards – I bought a dress- which as my friends will testify, is very unusual for me – I don’t normally do dresses – I feel very self-conscious in them,  so I just avoid them normally.  But I figured I might never be shortlisted for the Michael Marks again so I should make an effort.  So there was that – and then I couldn’t face getting changed in the loos at Euston so I decided to just wear the dratted dress down there.

I had the most wonderful train journey from Barrow to London.  I didn’t meet anybody I knew – which sounds very miserable, but I really just wanted to read.  I didn’t, this time meet anybody that I struck up a conversation with – again, sometimes this can be nice but I wasn’t in the mood.  I normally sit at a table so I can spread my books out but instead I sat in a normal seat and it felt much more cave like and protected from the rest of the world.  I read some of the new Robert Wrigley collection, published by Bloodaxe.  I’m only a third of the way through but I’m really enjoying it – here is a quote from a Robert Wrigley poem called ‘Cigarettes’ which I wrote down in my notebook as one of those lines I wish I’d written…

‘The first woman who ever let me
touch her, a girl really, only seventeen,
kissed me so deeply I fell out of myself
and became her’

I think this image is so beautiful and it carries something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, about the people we meet and who we have intimacy with – how we carry them around with us – for better or worse.

And what about the beginning of this poem by Robert Wrigley, simply called ‘Parents’ which starts ‘Old two-hearted sadness, old blight/in the bones,’

Two-hearted sadness.   I think that is so moving.  Anyway, so I was loving my Robert Wrigley which made me write something – I’m currently getting sidetracked by a sequence I’m working on called ‘How I Abandoned My Body to His Keeping’ about a relationship – I would maybe describe the poems as being haunted by violence – because I don’t want to deal with the violence directly necessarily, but I want it to be always in the background.  Which makes the poems pretty dark.  So anyway, I wrote another poem to go into this sequence which gives me ten so far.  I don’t know how many it is going to be – I’m just going with it at the minute.

So after I’d written this poem I felt so, so happy.  Which is strange because this sequence, or the writing of it has been quite painful sometimes.  But I think this poem is good – it says something that needs to be said, and it says it, I think, in a way, that will make other people have a jolt of recognition.  Maybe.  Bearing in mind I haven’t looked at it again since yesterday, so it could all very easily fall apart.  But I felt really happy and excited.  In fact I met the husband off the train and the first thing I did in the cafe at the station was recite the poem to him – poor guy.

Anyway, then we went to the British Library.  There were nice waiters and waitresses carrying round silver trays with quail eggs on and cheese and olives and little sausages.  I met the ultra cool Neil Rollinson and lovely Chrissie Williams of the bear poem which featured here a couple of weeks ago.  I met Kim Lasky – the other Poetry Business poet shortlised who is a nice lady.  I met Ben Wilkinson – shortlisted as well from Tall Lighthouse.  I didn’t meet David Clarke before the event – but I had a nice chat with Alan Jenkins from the TLS who tutored on a residential I was on about four years ago – and who has been so encouraging and supportive of my work – and brutally honest as well when it was was great to see him again…and lovely editors Peter and Ann Sansom were there – and Fiona Sampson who had just come from the palace and Andrew Forster – so lots of people who I really like!

We had a really nice meal which I ate too much of, and was then worried about getting up on the stage – or being able to move at all.  Peter and Ann entertained my half of the table and were making everyone laugh throughout the meal.  I skipped pudding and had a cup of tea.  The publisher’s award was won by Flarestack Poets and then each poet read for five minutes from their pamphlet.

I was the most nervous I’ve been for a reading – I have no idea why – maybe because shorter sets I find harder – there is no time to build up a relationship with the audience I suppose and because there were lots of poets that I admire in the audience – luckily I didn’t see Daljit Nagra till after I had read…Lady Marks – who sponsors the award, came up and told me she ‘loves my british sense of humour’.  So how about that!

David Clarke won the pamphlet award so Flarestack did a double!  Now I get to the crux of my post – or what has prompted me to blog – which is a mix of the upset caused by the reception at Buckingham Palace put on by the Queen to celebrate British Poetry and my own feelings after I didn’t win.  I’ve been silently lurking in the background watching the uproar about which poets got invited and which didn’t with a morbid fascination that I can only liken to the feeling I get when I’m watching Jeremy Kyle.  I couldn’t really understand why anyone would care whether they got invited to the Palace or not.  If I had been invited I would have gone, although I have no feelings one way or the other about the Royals.

But after the award ceremony – I went through a gamut of unworthy feelings – disappointment, envy – and felt ashamed of feeling these things – after all, I was only one of six, and I don’t think my book was any better than anyone else’s – in fact, if I am brutally honest, my money would have been on Neil Rollinson’s compelling pamphlet ‘Talking to the Dead’ – I felt that his years and years of experience of writing really showed in the consistency of quality in his pamphlet – but anyway, I felt quite ashamed of myself for being disappointed and not just bloody grateful to be there, so then I understood a little of what the poet Todd Swift was maybe feeling about the palace invitation or lack thereof.

And then I woke up this morning, still in a strange mood – almost a bad mood but not quite and walked from Fiona Sampson’s flat, where I stayed with the husband through the streets of West London to the tube -about a mile I think at 5a.m in the morning and it was really quiet and cold and peaceful and I started to gradually feel like I was coming back to myself again, which is not bitter/disappointed at the success of others, but happy for them and taking inspiration from it.

I guess the difference is I recognised those feelings as transitory and knew I would come out of it.  By 7.30am, once I got on the train at Euston, I felt like myself.  I posted congratulations to David and Flarestack and I meant every word.  I’m looking forward to reading David’s pamphlet again and hopefully mugging him for a Sunday poem, so you can enjoy his work if you haven’t already.  I was warmed by the lovely messages that my friends posted on Facebook.  I remembered that feeling of happiness when I’d been writing on the way up and tried to capture it again on the way back.

So I guess what I’m saying in a very round about, long winded way, that prize ceremonies and champagne are quite cool, but they can lure you away from what is important, which is that moment of happiness when you are writing and it is going well.  And I think most poets I know, would admit to those ‘unworthy’ feelings at some point or another – I think it is up to us then as human beings to squash them and jump up and down on them and ignore them and whatever you do – don’t act on them – because ultimately, it is not about writing.  It is not about poetry.  Would I have discovered this if I had won?  Probably not, because I’d be too busy running round the house still celebrating…

Sunday Poem – Martin Domleo


Good morning everyone!  I am back in Barrow again after more swanning about London.  I got back from Aldeburgh for a couple of days (Monday to Wednesday) and then I was off to London again on Thursday to read at Lauderdale House with wonderful poet Maitreyabandhu and Tom Lowenstein.  We had a small, select audience – made me realise the unpredictability of poetry readings – two days before I’d been at Aldeburgh in the Festival Hall reading to at least a hundred people I would say – now I was in a beautiful art gallery reading to an attentive audience of nine!  I actually think that those readings with a small audience are much, much harder.  They are more intimate which I find nerve racking.  There is less ‘performance’ to hide behind.  But that aside, it was a good evening.

On Friday I went on a boat down the Thames with poet friend Jill Abram – we went to Greenwich and visited the Painted Hall and the Chapel in the Naval College and we went to the museum there – my favourite things were these figureheads displayed on the wall from various ships – there is something so proud about them


yet they are also garish and a bit sad I think, not belonging to any ships any more.

We got back to Brixton via the DLR line – I didn’t even know this existed – but was my fave transport of the trip – a train with a glass front so you can see along the tracks as you go along – a spooky experience.  I also went on a bus and the normal tube while in London.  Everyone seems to spend most of their time traveling.

On Friday I ran a workshop with the Malika’s Kitchen Collective on how contemporary poets explore the concept of the Journey in poetry – I only had two hours so there was lots we couldn’t cover – I could have spent two hours for example talking about Cavafy’s Ithaca poem and Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich, which are two fantastic examples of journey poems which offer alternative viewpoints on the journey I think – the Cavafy poem argues that it is the journey that is important – whilst in Rich’s poetry it is all about the acquirement of knowledge (the end of the journey) and then the application of that knowledge..we didn’t talk about how migration is explored in poetry – how the very act of writing about a journey carries an implicit gesture towards the concept of ‘home’, even without mentioning it…but we did have a go at other journey related poems –  and I was lucky to work with such a talented and enthusiastic group of poets – they wrote some cracking poems and I have some new names to look out for in magazines and publications…

I bought a banana somewhere between Borough and Greenwich – I always worry about being hungry so I store food in my bag – unfortunately I forgot about the banana and when I was packing on Saturday morning I just stuffed my bag with all the books I’d bought with me.  On the train later that day, when I was gleefully unpacking the books and deciding what to read, I realised that the banana had squashed all over my lovely new books, which are now not so new and lovely.

I spent about an hour wiping them down, constructing little tissue bandages for them to soak up some banana, which in retrospect might have been a little excessive.  I haven’t looked at them this morning to see if they are ok.

It was also Poem and A Pint in Ulverston last night and I met the lovely Judy Brown, Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth Trust before hand and managed to escort her, my suitcase and a bag of chips up to Ford Park in time for the reading.  Judy read beautifully and it was wonderful to hear some of her new poems as well as some old  favourites.

Two poets from Preston, Terry Quinn and Martin Domleo read on the open mic – they are becoming regular features at Poem and a Pint and it is always lovely to see them.  Terry has his first collection out with Indigo Dreams Press – and I’m planning on hassling him for a Sunday Poem at some point – but today’s Sunday Poem is by Martin Domleo and comes from his book ‘Decelerations’ published by Lapwing Publications.

I chose this poem from the book because I’m glad to be back in Cumbria – and this is a Cumbrian poem through and through – it has lots of rain in it for one thing!  I like the quietness of this poem – which is just what I need after the hustle and bustle of being in London for a couple of days.   This poem comes from his first book of poems, and you can find out more about Martin by going to his website

Martin is also trying to get some poetry events happening in Preston – and has plans for an event in March and one in October – more on that closer to the time!

I hope you enjoy the poem, and thanks to Martin for letting me use it.

In Borrowdale – Martin Domleo

Water sprinkled with light
through leaves
gathers in quiet pools.

By itself
a mallard dips for food,
paddles, then dips again,
staining the shallows red.

The crown
of its head is missing –
beaked out
by one of the crowd
splashing noisily upstream.

There is no going back.
It moves
like a mechanical lifeboat
on a flat calm sea

holding to task
while the sharks circle.

Aldeburgh Poetry Festival


Hello everybody!  Just to let you all know that I didn’t fall into the sea in Aldeburgh, but in fact made it safely back to Barrow, if slightly the worse for wear through a slight indulgence of red wine on the last night.  I wanted to blog when I got back and post a poem on the Monday instead of the Sunday – but…but….for the last three days I’ve been hanging on to my usual life by my fingernails basically – as in, I’ve gone to work, got home, ate, slept, got up, gone to work, ate, slept – you get the picture.  Who knew poetry could be so exhausting?  But in a completely good way of course.   Rather than recount everything that happened because I would be here all day – I thought I would do a list of the good things about Aldeburgh

1.  My accommodation – what can I say?  34 Lee Road, run by Pete and Sue is the nicest place I’ve stayed in.  Nothing was too much trouble for them and the room was beautiful.  And did I mention I had a JACUZZI!! I would highly recommend

2. Organisation – Naomi Jaffa, Dean Parkin, David Edwards and their committee and team of volunteers seemed to have thought of everything.  I got picked up and dropped off at the station, they organised my train tickets and my accommodation, I got paid at the festival, events ran on time and all the volunteers and event stewards seemed to be in a really good mood and enjoying themselves.  There were buses to ferry people back and forth from Aldeburgh to Snape.  I really do think that the festival team should be put in charge of running the NHS or the country or something –

3. The Book Stall.  Now this does need a whole bullet point of its own.  The book stall had books from every poet performing at the festival.   I have counted up my list of books that I bought at the festival – 13!

4.  The Poets – There was only two poets that I had seen perform before at the festival – Robin Robertson and Alison Brackenbury.  The rest I’d never heard read – which as regular followers of this blog will know is pretty unusual as I go to a lot of poetry readings.  There were lots of international poets there and it was a highlight of the festival for me.  I also met some wonderful people who I feel like I’ll be friends with forever now – and met some old friends and acquaintances who I haven’t seen for a while

5.  Readings and Talks.  I knew I’d enjoy doing my reading, because I love doing readings – but people were so nice to me afterwards – I sold around 50 wolves – it was a wonderful feeling.  I was also doing two discussion events – a ‘Close Reading’ where I had to take a poem that I like and talk about it – and  a ‘Blind Criticism’ which I wasn’t too nervous about because I couldn’t control that.  But I was nervous about the Close Reading because I’d never done anything like it before.  Going to Robert Wrigley’s close reading didn’t help – his was as rhythmical as a poem!  I stayed up till 2am refining my talk the night before after going to a couple of Close Readings by other people and getting some tips.  Again, people were really kind afterwards and I feel more confident about doing something like it again.  All kudos to the festival for taking a punt on me and giving me the opportunity to do something like that – I really feel like I’ve developed as a poet through doing it – I discovered things about the poem through doing it (For the Sleepwalkers by Edward Hirsch) and I’m very grateful for the experience.

6. Michael Laskey’s Workshop On the Sunday morning, encouraged by Peter Sansom, I turned up to Michael Laskey’s workshop, thinking there wouldn’t be many people there so early after a whole day and evening of poetry the night before.  How wrong I was!  I reckon there must have been fifty people crammed into the Peter Pears gallery – there was such a buzz when I walked in – yes, you guessed it, I nearly did a little star jump.  It was only 45 minutes but I think we did four or five exercises and everyone was happy and enthusiastic and in a good mood – it was great.

7. Walking to Thorpeness along the beach on Friday 8. The stars at 1am walking back to my accommodation on Sunday night So it can’t all have been perfect, I hear you say.  Well – the only thing that did annoy me at the festival was that there were events running concurrently and I wanted to be in two places at once and I obviously couldn’t.  Sometimes I missed things because I had to eat.  That’s not the festival’s fault though.  I am dreading the podcast interview that I did with the other pamphlet poets straight after the reading, because I was quite hyper and I think I was talking a load of old rubbish.  We will see – again, not really the festival’s fault though – more me getting way too excited!

Tomorrow I am reading at Lauderdale House in London with Maitreyabandhu and Tom Lowenstein so I am back in London!  I’m running a workshop on Friday for poetry group ‘Malika’s Kitchen’ and then I’m returning to Barrow on Saturday for ‘A Poem and A Pint’.  This time our guest poet is Judy Brown, the Wordsworth Trust’s Poet in Residence, so I hope to see some of you there, or in London or maybe Lancaster the week after…

You can find John Field’s official Aldeburgh Poetry Festival blog here:

but here he has blogged about the pamphlet poets reading and said lots of nice things

Sunday Poem – Chrissy Williams


Evening folks.  I am so excited about my Sunday Poem this week that I can hardly bear to tell you any other news – then again, I haven’t got that much so that is ok!

On Friday I read at the Brewery Arts Centre with Gill Nicholson and Mark Carson – two lovely poet friends, who I realised as I got up to do my set, were at the first writing group I ever went to, so have the dubious honour of being some of the first people to ever see one of my poems.  So this is all their fault, I think! Anyway, they were lovely and encouraging to me, so it was wonderful to read alongside them on Friday.

Pauline Yarwood, another lovely poet-friend was the MC for the night, and she did a great job – her introductions were warm and generous and full of enthusiasm for poetry, real enthusiasm, which as we all know is contagious and is what we need more of in the world.

I read some new poems and broke out from my usual set that I do from the pamphlet, which was both scary and liberating.  Reading from the pamphlet is like putting on a pair of comfy shoes – I do the same poems in the same order – but Friday’s reading made me realise that it is ok to shake it up a little bit!

I have had a great week for selling books – I sold six on Thursday in Carlisle and the bookshop took five to sell, which I am very grateful for as it is hard to get my poor spineless pamphlets onto a shelf, and I sold six on Friday in Kendal and then two through my lovely paypal button on this blog this week which takes my grand total to 406 copies sold!  Da da!  I’ll let you all know again when/if I get to 500…..

But! Off this unimportant stuff – and lets face it – it is not that important really – not compared to finding a poem that makes you wish you had written it – that makes you read and re-read it to get to the heart of it, and then realise you won’t get to the heart of it, and that’s kind of the point…and I have such a poem as my Sunday poem this week!

When I was shortlisted for the Michael Marks a week or so ago, it jolted me into ordering some pamphlets that I’ve been meaning to order for ages.  One of the other shortlisted poets was Chrissy Williams with her Happenstance pamphlet ‘Flying into the Bear’.  I read the first poem, and became a bit besotted with it.  Maybe it is because that bears slip in and out of Chrissy’s poems in the same way wolves lurk at the edges of mine – but it also has something to do with the beautiful language and the inner logic of the poem that holds it together against the more rational logic of the outside world.

I feel I’m gushing too much, so I’m going to stop as I will be meeting Chrissy soon at the Michael Marks Awards and I don’t want her to think she has a crazy stalker – but you should really order the pamphlet – it’s exciting stuff.  Some of it is bonkers – in a good way.  There are a few bear poems – there are a few strangely shaped poems – this is not a pamphlet which will bore you – you will be entertained from cover to cover, I promise.  An extra bonus – there is also a comic to go with this poem here:

Chrissy Williams lives in London and works at the Poetry Library and is half-Italian.  She is also joint organiser of the annual Free Verse Poetry Book Fair and has been published in various poetry magazines and anthologies.  You can order ‘Flying with the Bear at

I hope you enjoy – let me know what you think!

The Bear of the Artist – Chrissy Williams

I asked the artist to draw me a heart and instead he drew a bear.

I asked him, ‘What kind of heart is this?’ and he said, ‘It’s not

a heart at all.’

I asked him, ‘What kind of bear is this?’ and he said, ‘It’s not

a bear either.’

I asked him, ‘What kind of artist are you anyway?’ and he said,

‘I am the one who exists to put bears in your head, who exists

to put ideas in your head in place of bears, who mistrusts anyone

who tells you they know what kind of place the heart is,

the head, how it should look, what size, what stopping distance,

and as long as you keep me existing to put bears in your head

I will, because nights are getting shorter, and we’re all tired,

we’re all so tired, and everyone could use a bear sometimes,

everyone could use a wild bear, though they can be dangerous

and there’s nothing worse than a bear in the face, when it breaks

—always—remember how your bear breaks down

against the shore, the shore, the shore.’




Timetables, Readings and Traffic


Not a very exciting title I know – but it does sum up my week rather nicely.

I have been on half term this week – but last weekend I drove back from Torbay Poetry Festival to my parents in Leicester, then the next day from Leicester to Barrow, and it feels like I’ve spent the whole week stuck in traffic on a motorway somewhere.

Last night I drove to Carlisle to read at the Bookcase in Carlisle – what an amazing book shop – one of the biggest in the UK and an absolutely huge second hand poetry section, which I didn’t get enough time to properly look at – but I did manage to buy an Adrienne Rich ‘Early Poems’ hardback which I am very happy at finding.  I am planning a return visit to pick up some more poetry from them!

The other readers were Geraldine Green and Josephine Dickinson – I’ve heard Geraldine read before and she didn’t disappoint – but although I have crossed paths with Josephine at poetry events have never seen her perform.  Her reading and her poetry is completely compelling – to use a well worn metaphor – you could have heard a pin drop.  Josephine also talked about the wonderful people she had met through poetry – a subject close to my heart – I feel that we have a very unique, supportive community of writers in Cumbria – it is one of my favourite things about poetry!

And going back to traffic – I got stuck in traffic again, on the cursed M6 – which will, one day I’m sure drive me to some sort of breakdown.  I got to the reading with ten minutes to spare but no chance to eat but Gwenda from the bookshop kindly made me a cup of tea – a lovely poet called Deborah Hodge(s?) listened to me while I ranted for five minutes about the traffic and then I calmed down and was back to my normal, sane (or more sane) self.

There were some lovely people in the audience – one of my favourite people to bump into, Mick North and two Daves from the local poetry group – which they informed me was a reading group, not a writing group.  What a good idea – and a brilliant way to encourage people into poetry.  I’m vaguely toying with the idea of starting one in Barrow – but it’s fitting it in…

I am off to the Brewery in Kendal tonight to read with poets Gill Nicholson and Mark Carson which I’m looking forward to.  I’m mainly planning to read new poems I think as I am guessing most of the audience will have read/heard the pamphlet before.

Today I have been drafting the timetable for the residential course that I’m running with poet Jennifer Copley in April 2014.  This still has a couple of details to be put on – like what time the evening meal is (waiting to hear back from the lovely Hotel Manager) but this is the bones of the course.  Over the next couple of months I will post more detailed blurbs about the workshops we will be running.  You can also find this information on the ‘Residential Courses and Workshops’ tab at the top of the page.

Encounters and Collisions 14th-18th April 2014


Monday 14th April

2.30pm-5pmWorkshop with Jennifer Copley and Kim Moore
“Encounters and Collisions with Art and Other Media”


8pmEvening Reading in the lounge
Bring a favourite poem to share with the group, written by somebody else.

Tuesday 15th April

10am-1pm – Morning Workshop with Jennifer Copley
“Encounters and Collisions with the Past”

3pm-5pmAfternoon Workshop with Kim Moore
“Encounters and Collisions with Animals, Birds and Other”

8pm – Poetry Reading in the Lounge with Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley

Wednesday 16th April

10am-1pm Morning Workshop with Jennifer Copley and Kim Moore –
“Encounters and Collisions with Landscape”

Free Afternoon – Tutorials available – participants to sign up at the beginning of the week

8pm – Poetry Reading in the lounge with two Mystery Guests

Thursday 17th April

10am-1pm – Morning Workshop  with Kim Moore
“Encounters with the Body”

3-5pm – Afternoon Workshop  with Jennifer Copley
Encounters and Collisions with Ghosts and the dead”

8pm – Poetry Reading in the lounge by Course Participants

Friday 18th April

10am – 1pm – Critiquing workshop in the lounge

1pm – Course finishes