Monthly Archives: January 2014

A few words – Nigel Jenkins


There are tributes all over the internet now for the poet Nigel Jenkins who died very recently.  There is a tribute with details of his life here on the Literature Wales site which gives some idea of the type of man he was –

I was lucky enough to meet Nigel in August 2007 at Ty Newydd on a week-long residential course.  I think I’d been writing a couple of months  and on the encouragement of my writing group, had decided to book myself on a writing course.  The other tutor was Sarah Kennedy – who has written her own tribute here where she mentions the course.
That course changed my life in so many ways – I met one of my best friends Manon Ceridwen there.  I left at the end of the week full of confidence and enthusiasm and determination that I could be good at poetry.  I went away, not believing that I was an amazing poet, but believing that I had potential – and it was Sarah and Nigel who gave that to me.  That was so important to me.  Nigel explained to me that learning to write poetry was like learning to play a musical instrument.  He said there were no short cuts.  He told me I should write every day and read every day.  Every single day without fail.  He asked me how much I had practiced when I was at music college.  I said two to three hours a day.  He said that is what you need to do if you want to be a poet.  This was a lightbulb moment for me – it didn’t depress me – it excited me – so hard work was all it took?! I could do that!

And so that is what I did.  Nigel told me that if I did this every day, within a year I would get a poem published.  A year later I had my first poems accepted in ‘Obsessed with Pipework’ and ‘First Time’ magazine.  I remember dancing around my living room brandishing an acceptance slip.  I will never forget that moment!  I emailed Nigel in 2008 and told him about my acceptances and asked his advice about doing an MA in Creative Writing.  I told him his teaching and that week had been inspirational.
He replied and was supportive and gave me some good advice.  I don’t delete any emails so I was able to find the email exchange tonight, which was what made me write this blog.  Reading those emails back I sound like a different person – much more naive about poetry, still barely contained enthusiasm…- Nigel’s voice in the emails sounds just as I remember him – calm, encouraging, full of sense.

If I am running a workshop now I always pass on Nigel’s advice.  I often quote him word for word.  In his poetry book ‘Hotel Gwales’ which I’ve just retrieved from the book shelf he has a poem called ‘Advice for a Young Poet’.  I loved this poem when I first read it.  It is a series of pithy stanzas seperated by asterisks – full of sense, as I said before but beautifully balanced.  Some of them are funny, some serious.  These are the last three sections, but the whole thing runs to seven pages.

from ‘Advice to a Young Poet’
by Nigel Jenkins

“Delight, of course,
in the play and shapeshift
of this serious game,

but don’t flinch from asking
of your new-born creation

‘Who needs it?’

Bear in mind, as you write,
that this poem

could be your last.


You may have, from the outset,
your creation’s last line,

but a poem’s ending is not its end.”

So in the spirit of telling people when they have touched  our lives for the better before it is too late, here are five poetry folk, most of whom I’ve not told what a difference they have made to me.  I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences as well – who are the poetry people who have touched your lives and made them better or inspired you?  I’ve limited myself to five but I could have gone on much longer.  In a time of sadness and frankly feeling slightly fed up with social media and the awful arguments between poets that I’ve witnessed this week, it would be nice to read some positive experiences…

So here are my five –
1. Andrew Forster – Literature Officer at the Wordsworth Trust and a good friend who has given me advice and support and been immeasurably kind to me.
2. Fiona Sampson – Fiona was another tutor on a residential course at Ty Newydd.  She was a wonderful tutor and every time I have asked her for help -with editing my pamphlet manuscript amongst other things, she has given her time freely and generously.  She published my work in Poetry Review, and then more recently in Poem.  She always treated me as if I was a poet, before I thought of myself as one.
3. Alan Jenkins – another tutor at Ty Newydd on another life changing course.  Alan doesn’t suffer fools but he has been kind, generous and supportive of my work.  Alan has often challenged me to push myself further when I have submitted poems to the TLS and is never afraid to tell me when I am writing a load of old tosh – which I really appreciate!
4. Sarah Kennedy – the tutor on the first residential course I went on at Ty Newydd along with Nigel.  Sarah was warm, funny enthusiastic, inspirational – a wonderful lady.
5. Nigel Jenkins – rest in peace.

Sunday Poem – Ben Parker


Another blog post which will (hopefully) creep in just under the wire, in the last few minutes of Sunday night!  I will try not to go on about painting as some of my friends have suggested on Facebook that I need to get help, that I am, in fact, obsessed with painting.  But to be honest, there is not much else going on at the minute!  This weekend we’ve been painting our bedroom, which is basically an attic conversion – so it’s the biggest room in the house.  The old paint wouldn’t stop flaking away on one sloping ceiling yet it wouldn’t let itself be scraped off – so that took up most of yesterday – very tiresome.  We hit on the brilliant idea (well the man in B & Q told us to do this) of lined paper to cover up this part of the roof rather than scraping the rest of the paint off.  Then we painted over the paper and had a lovely smooth roof.  So far the paper has not fallen off so all is well.  Before next weekend I need to do another coat of paint on the purple wall and gloss the woodwork.  This has to be before next weekend because my parents are coming to stay – my dad is going to help us lay a new laminate floor as our poor laminate floor has basically worn away in many, many places.  If our bedroom is not done before next weekend, we will have nowhere for my parents to sleep as we are currently sleeping in the spare room…

Now I will stop going on about painting and talk about poetry – although I haven’t done much poetry this week but I thought I could put up some links to things which I haven’t drawn attention to through my own tardiness.  First off all there is a link here to a podcast from the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival with me and the other pamphlet poets.  We did this straight after our reading when I think we were all a bit…well…unstable, or excited or exhausted…don’t know what adjective is best! To be honest three cheers for the poor soul who had to edit this down and try and find 15 minutes of sense…I’m talking about myself of course.  The others were very articulate…

I had a brilliant rehearsal with the South Lakes Brass Ensemble on Thursday night – we managed to get some photos as well as playing an arrangement of the Queen of Sheba which sounded fab.  I’ve been working on a blog for the group and am probably another couple of hours off it going live.  On Friday I got to work with the lovely Andrew Forster again at the Young Writers workshop in Kendal.  We focused on sonnets this week so I’ve had great fun researching sonnets.  In the end I took ‘Prayer’ by  Carol Ann Duffy, ‘Waking with Russell’ by Don Paterson and a sonnet by Nick Drake from a sequence of unrhymed sonnets about the death of his father from his book ‘From the Word Go’.  I also found a really interesting essay on the Poetry Foundation website which was really useful which you can read here if you are interested –

I applied for part time poetry work and got a positive response – but won’t say too much until details are firmed up – I worked on a poem that I’m translating from Burmese and sent it through to Sasha Dugdale at Modern Poetry in Translation – sent a couple of questions to Burmese poet to get clarification on a couple of things – went to work of course – and that is about all I got up to this week!

So today’s Sunday Poem is by Ben Parker, another of the poets I met at the Michael Marks award a couple of months ago.  I’ve chosen the first poem in Ben’s pamphlet to feature here today – I absolutely loved this poem when I first read it – I clearly have a thing for animal poems, because I had a similar reaction when I read Chrissy Williams’ bear poem in her pamphlet..

I think this poem has such a unique voice.  It’s completely strange, and slightly surreal.  I think Ben is playing with the idea of the unreliable narrator here because if we disbelieve the narrators assertion that the animal is a horse, if we accept that it is a dog, then it is not surreal really, just strange.  And then we have to accept that the narrator is delusional.  But if we believe the narrator then it is completely surreal.  And the narrator’s voice is so confident – it never says ‘I think’ or ‘we think’ or ‘maybe’.  The voice tells us with complete conviction what is happening.  I loved the fact that it isn’t just a horse that they find, it is the first horse.

This poem comes from Ben’s pamphlet ‘The Escape Artists’ published by Tall Lighthouse.  You can order the pamphlet from the Tall Lighthouse website (who are also accepting submissions by the way for pamphlets I think)

If you would like to find out more about Ben you can have a look at his website

Hope you enjoy the poem and thanks to Ben for letting me use it.

Do you remember that day we found the first horse?
It was skittering the dust in a forgotten field adjacent to
a farmhouse that must have stood forever if not longer.
This was the horse from which all other horses were
bred; the horse of cave-paintings and untranslatable
mythology.  Undomesticated, rough-haired, and small,
it looked more like a mongrel dog.  We took it to the
backyard of our rented ground-floor flat.  Our friends
came over to see it.  That’s a dog, they told us.  We
resolved not to speak to them again. We brought our
horse fresh-cut grass every spring and oats throughout
the winter but it grew thin and restless.  We asked your
uncle, the vet, to inspect it for us.  He took you into a
corner and spoke in a gentle concerned tone, as though
he had forgotten you were an adult.  You sent him away
and cried for a bit.  That evening, to cheer you up, we
watched a documentary on horses and thought how
proud our horse must be to have delivered this noble
race.  Do you remember the day we found the first horse
chewing a rubber ball thrown over by the neighbours?

By Ben Parker

So today’s Sunday


Sunday Poem – Kim Lasky


I am aware that I am starting to write this blog at 11.19pm which is way too late.  Most of you, in fact will probably read this in the morning – even my most loyal followers are probably tucked up in bed by now.  But never mind.

This week has another week of painting our house – poor unloved creature – some of the rooms have not been decorated since I moved in which will be 8 years ago in April.  I have learnt a few things about painting this week.

1.  Don’t worry about patches on the first coat – it all evens out second time around.

2.  It is much more exciting to paint in colour – I got to do a blue wall today but also much harder as you actually have to have straight lines instead of just slapping paint on wooden skirting boards.

3.  Painting is really hard work

My favourite job is painting the woodwork because I can sit down to do that.  I don’t really like standing up.  Today my office which is also our spare bedroom got its coat of paint – there are just the skirting boards in there to do now.  The next job I think is the living room.  Then after that we have the kitchen, our bedroom and the bathroom to do.  I’m quite enjoying it though – but then I have always loved monotony at work.  One of my favourite jobs was working on a check out in the Co-op in Birmingham.  I loved the robotic nature of it – not saying that people who work in supermarkets are robotic – but I definitely was.  I couldn’t be bothered to make small talk or smile at people but I did enjoy scanning food items and judging people on the contents of their trolleys.

Other exciting things that have happened to me this week include getting two poems accepted in The Rialto
which has a swanky new website which is worth checking out.  The Rialto is a prince among magazines I believe for a number of reasons – its production, its beautiful smell, its glossy pages, the lovely editor who even when sending a rejection always took the time to write a little note on the rejection slip, but best of all, when you do get a poem in you get a twenty pound note in an envelope which is a wonderful feeling.

The event page for a project I’ve been working on has gone up as well at

This project involved poets who were once MA students at Manchester Met being paired up with postgraduate composers from the Royal Northern College of Music.  The poets were given the text to a song by Strauss, or a literal translation of it anyway and we then had to write a poem in response to the text.  We also had to provide a short explanation of how we got from the Strauss text to our finished poem.  I forgot about this and then got an email asking for text and when I started to look into the process found out all kinds of interesting things.

The poets then had to send their poems to their composers.  I have no idea what my composer has done with poem.  I don’t mind really not knowing – it will be exciting to hear it though.

This is all happening on February 8th which is another poetry marathon day for me.  So I’ll be off to the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester for 10.30 which is the start of the performance.  Then I’ll be going to the Poets and Players event where ALICE OSWALD is reading.  I saw her read at Swindon Poetry Festival last year and it was the best reading I went to all year, so I clearly have to go and see her again.  That is at 2.30 –

and then I’ll be driving quite briskly back to Ulverston for 7.30 to Poem and A Pint where the wonderful Moniza Alvi will be our guest poet and I’ll be reading two poems as one of the warmup acts.  I’m hoping lovely poet Rachel Davies, who is as bonkers as me is going to accompany me in this madness and maybe stay at mine for a glass of wine as well afterwards…

The other lovely thing I did this week was work with Andrew Forster at the Wordsworth Trust to run a Young Writers session in Kendal.  This project is going to run for the next two Fridays and will culminate with a session with the young writers at Dove Cottage.  We had a group of four and they were the dream group – enthusiastic, keen, funny, engaging – I really enjoyed it.  It was nice to be working with Andrew as well – I am always slightly apprehensive about working with friends – it’s like going on holiday with them isn’t it – it can end in disaster when you wind each other up and leave the toothpaste lid off the toothpaste – but I think we worked well together and it was good fun.  Hopefully we will still be speaking to each other in a months time…

Which brings us to today’s Sunday Poem which is by Kim Lasky, another poet shortlisted for the Michael Marks award.  Kim was a winner in the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition last year with her pamphlet ‘Petrol, Cyan, Electric’ but she hasn’t let that slow her down – she has just had another pamphlet published with Templar called ‘Eclipse’.  I must admit to not having ‘Eclipse’ yet but I do have the PB pamphlet which is fantastic.  Her poems are very different – full of science, but in an approachable, readable way.  You can order ‘Petrol, Cyan, Electric’ from the Poetry Business at

I picked ‘Pylons, 1929’ because it was the poem that I enjoyed most in the pamphlet.  I enjoyed the story it told of the man who tends pylons, which most of the time are unnoticed in the background of any landscape.  Unless you are like me, who had an obsession with Watership Down and used to look for pylons that looked like the pylon in Watership Down, halfway up a hill where a rabbit could hide itself in a clump of grass whilst a black dog ran past but that is beside the point, slightly.  I love the description of the pylon in the first section – particularly ‘lit strange as silver, a gateway in metal/on mapped land.’  I like the way Kim deftly creates two characters with her portrayal of insignificant details – the woman who ‘fetches/hair from her face with the back of her hand’.  Isn’t that  a beautiful way of putting it – ‘fetches’ – not ‘wipes’ or ‘pushes’ or ‘brushes’ – fetches is just right.  I also really like the description of the pylons in part 3 as ‘advancing like metallic warriors’.  It strikes me now that the most active parts of this poem are the pylons – they advance, they ‘staple the land’, they crackle and hum.  They are closely followed by the man, but his movement is not so immediate – we are told he turns for home and we have to imagine his movement for ourselves – and the woman is captured like a photograph – the way she ‘fetches’ her hair from her face.  By the end of the poem, it seems the only thing left that is active and can move in the poem are the pylons while the man and woman lie in bed.  The pylons have the power…I should also say this poem was highly commended in the 2012 Bridport Prize.

If you would like to know more about Kim Lasky and her work she has a website at

Thanks to Kim for letting me use her poem!

Pylons, 1929 – Kim Lasky


All day he has climbed
the ledges of outstretched arms,
finding footholds in their soldered webs.
Sweat has matted the hair beneath his cap,
tobacco flecked his tongue. Now the sun is falling
towards the horizon; amber comes to mind
as it aligns behind the half-built tower
lit strange as silver, a gateway in metal
on mapped land. He turns for home, thinks of her
watching the skillet on the gas, the way she fetches
hair from her face with the back of her hand,
how he’ll tell her there’s nothing troubling here,
just this― the uneven tilt of the earth,
the rising green of the hills, unconcerned.


The terraces line up just the same,
grey pavements, the smell of grease in the alley.
He lifts the latch, swings in;
the gate is all she hears in the kitchen.
At the door, he’s stopped by the curve of her back,
the knot of cotton at her waist that flounces
to the hem of her skirt. She checks the flame
before she turns, oblivious to the sweat of gas
on the window, the sulphur air. What she notices
is the breeze he carries in that pricks
like static on her skin, his matted hair,
how he looks before he leans to untie his laces,
something that’s beyond her knowing, half-denied,
lurking beneath the surface of his eye.


Then, when he lies awake at night
he thinks of them advancing like metallic warriors
charging, passing leaping arcs of current from arm to arm.
But he knows they are only waiting to crackle and hum
among the sheep in the fields, the circling birds.
So he fills his mind instead with things he knows:
tomorrow the drays will pull the cable; guy wire,
ground wire; 50 Hz, three-phase.
Against this, the weight of her sleeping next to him,
the callus on his hand, a thigh muscle flinching.
As, outside, the pylons stretch from striding legs,
stapling earth to sky― the threads of his labour
clinging mutely to the hillside, promising blue arcs:
proud, stock-still, unafraid of the dark.




Sunday Poem – David Clarke


I nearly forgot it was Sunday again today – I think the paint fumes may have got to my head.  Yesterday I spent all day painting – well some of the time I was hoovering up dust and we have the most stupid, most impractical heavy hoover.  I was eventually let loose with a paintbrush and roller which I quite enjoyed and then I went off to walk the dogs while the hubby did all the high parts of the walls which I can’t reach.

A couple of years ago I flew in a plane with a really horrible cold, the type of cold that makes the skin around your nose peel away because you are having to blow it so much.  Anyway, since then I have had this sense of vertigo or dizziness when I stand near an edge so I can’t even face standing on a ladder without feeling this horrible sensation so the hubby has to do all of that.
Anyway, that was yesterday.  Today I woke up with aches in all kinds of places – I’m guessing from lugging around stupid hoover and rollering endless white paint.  We are hoping to sell house so most of it will be white.  If it was up to me, I would do different coloured walls everywhere just because I get bored of painting the same colour but hubby is more sensible and has restrained me to buying only one tin of purple and one of blue which I am allowed to use on one wall in two bedrooms respectively, if that makes sense.

We got up late today, walked the dogs on Walney Beach, bought some laminate flooring to put down – ours has been down for eight years and is peeling and falling apart..and then more white painting.

It has not escaped my notice that it is the T.S. Eliot readings tonight either.  This time last year I was there!  This time last year my day off each week was a Monday which meant I could go down to London for my friend Jill’s birthday and spend the day in a lovely spa hotel and then go to the readings.  This time last year I was standing at the bar next to Ruth Padel, who I grinned in a slightly demented manner, because of course I knew her face and recognised her, but she didn’t recognise me of course and probably thought I was some kind of stalker…

I really wanted to go again because I had a great time – but my days off this year are Thursday and Friday so not really practical, not without rearranging lots of teaching. I’ve just got back from a meal out with some friends and I have resisted looking at Twitter and Facebook all night but am looking forward to reading what everybody thought –

The other exciting thing that happened this week was that I was rehearsing on Thursday night with a new brass ensemble that I have been wanting to put together for ages.  We have decided to call ourselves the South Lakeland Brass Ensemble – there are seven of us and it all seemed to gel together well.  There are big plans afoot to play at a few wedding fayres in the area to get our first customers!

But the most exciting thing that happened this week was that I managed to finish my tax return – with the help of a couple of poet friends I even constructed a spreadsheet.  I have a hatred of all things to do with numbers and I hate doing my tax return.  Normally I leave it to the last possible moment.  In fact last year I thought I was doing well by doing it on the 30th but then HMRC website went down and I was frantically sending it in on the 31st just before midnight as usual.  So this is the earliest ever I have done it. And armed with my new spreadsheet, my new year’s resolution is to become more organised and note my incomes and expenditure and not be such a muppet about it so that I don’t have this pain and trauma next year…so far I have stuck to it but then it has only been 12 days and I haven’t done much poetry things so not much to keep control of at the minute…

Anyway, I should really stop wittering if I want to get this blog post done before midnight – it’s 11.1opm now! Today’s Sunday Poem is by David Clarke – who was the worthy winner of the Michael Marks Pamphlet Award this year.  He is published by Flarestack, who also won the Publisher’s Award.  David has a really interesting blog which is worth checking out which is at

I didn’t get to speak to David much other than to congratulate him at the MM awards – so it is nice to feature a poem from him here.  David was a winner in the Flarestack Poets Pamphlet Competition in 2012.  He lives in Gloucestershire and works as a teacher and researcher.

The Flarestack pamphlets are really beautiful objects – David’s ‘Gaud’ is a very deep green.  I meant to ask David what ‘Gaud’ meant actually and then forgot – so just googled it and the amazingly reliable internet (ah hem) tells me that it is a ‘showy and ornamental thing’ which makes the first poem in the pamphlet more remarkable and strange as it is about sword swallowing, which I suppose as well as being impressive and dangerous, is also showy and ornamental – I mean there is no use or point to sword swallowing is there? But then there is no use or point for a lot of the most important things in life I suppose.

The poem I’ve chosen for the Sunday Poem is Leda, which is after a painting by Karl Weschke, which you can have a look at here

Now, as a rule, ekphrastic poems are not my favourite type of poem, but I also love ekphrastic poems that make me change my mind again, which this poem does.  Maybe I connected with this one as well because I’ve been reading lots of Ovid recently and my mind is full of transformations and women turning into animals.

I’ve also always loved poems about Leda in general – obviously Yeats did one – my lovely friend Liz Venn has one – I’m sure there are more that I’ve loved which I can’t remember at this time – but what intrigued me about this take on the story of Leda, who, depending on your viewpoint and which version of the story you read is either raped or seduced by Zeus who is in the guise of a swan.

David’s take on this familar story worked for me before I ever saw the picture and I loved the sexually agressive tone of Leda’s voice – her knowingness, and the interesting questions he raises about who is in control in this poem – she holds Zeus’ neck and ‘stays’ his wings with her fury but in the last line of the poem she says ‘tonight our terror will beat at the palace walls’.  And that use of ‘our’ tells us she is not in control of things either – so who is? Her husband, who along with his courtiers is described as ‘brute and blunted’? Is he in charge? It is the palace which holds them captive – and the swan certainly isn’t in charge – Zeus is limited by the body he has to wear – the swans ‘feathered mechanics.’

And looking at the picture adds another layer of meaning and understanding and more questions to this fantastic poem, which is exactly what ekphrastic poetry should do – it should stand on its own, but also be like an onion, which when you see the painting allows you a little more understanding/knowledge/questions of the poem and reading the poem again should bring you to a little more understanding/knowledge/questions of the painting.  I think – I’m saying this as if it is gospel or a steady truth, when in fact I’ve just thought of it now.

I hope you enjoy the poem – if you would like to order David’s pamphlet from Flarestack Poets, then the website is

Leda – David Clarke
(after Karl Weschke)

I’ve seen the god in the prey of my husband’s hounds,
how it leaves muscle and breath as beasts are felled
like a breeze that shudders out of a sea of wheat,
its only trace a wake of stillness.  The courtiers
who sharpen their steel for the quarry, the nobles
who cast snagging nets in the forests, are all too brute
and blunted to know what they kill, what never dies –

a drive from deep in the world, it sparks black
in the swan’s eye, it cocks his head, ratchets
his body’s feathered mechanics.  The dead glass
of the lake is leaden as fate, bears no reflection.
I hold the neck, stay wings with my fury.
Mouth all feathers and blood, I tell him
tonight our terror will beat at the palace walls.

Sunday Poem – Jane McKie


Hello everybody.  I have only just remembered (i.e 5 minutes ago) that I didn’t do a Sunday Poem yesterday, despite having the whole day at home not doing very much.  My only excuse is I have been in a strange world over Christmas and New Year where my routine of being busy has been completely disrupted with great long stretches of time and nothing to fill it.

This had the effect of making me start some other, non-poetry-related projects.  I’ve been decluttering the house which you might think doesn’t sound like a very big job, but bear in mind, I don’t think I’ve ever decluttered in my life.  I’m the sort of person who keeps all their birthday cards since they were born. I found clothes that I wore when I was 18 and at university still in my wardrobe.

The hubby is the complete opposite – he is not attached to ‘stuff’ at all and would very easily live out of a rucksack, and has done.  This, I told him, is one of the many reasons I married him.  I think if I was not married to him, I would be one of those people on the programmes you see on telly with the chronic hoarding problem, where they have a little tunnel through all the stuff to get from room to room…

You will be glad to hear that I have not got rid of any of my lovely poetry books – although at the minute, rather annoyingly my collection is spread in three different rooms – the reason we are trying to declutter is so that we can hopefully sell the house, you see and buy another one with a garden and an office each…so at the minute hubby is in a possibly doomed attempt to disguise the fact our house is actually a poetry library that we just happen to live in…

So that is what I’ve been doing all over Christmas really – I’ve not been on Facebook or Twitter very much – just retreated into sorting the house out.  I’ve been writing a little, and reading a lot as well, but nothing particularly exciting.

Tonight I’ve been doing my tax return, which is the most hated job of the year.  I was slightly depressed seeing how much money I’d spent on poetry compared to how much I’d actually earned – I think I had been deluding myself up to this point!

Anyway, today’s Sunday (Monday) poem is by Jane McKie who I’ve been on the Poetry Business Writing School course with for the last 18 months.  I received a batch of pamphlets from Mariscat Press and Jane’s was amongst them.  I didn’t know Jane had a pamphlet out – she kept it very quiet!  Jane is very modest – I did know that she had won the Edwin Morgan poetry competition in 2011 because in true stalker fashion, before the course started I had googled her.  Jane’s first collection ‘Morocco Rococo’ came out with Cinnamon Press and was awarded the Sundial/Scottish Arts Council prize for best first collection in 2007.  Her second collection ‘When the Sun Turns Green’ came out with Polygon in 2009 and the Mariscat pamphlet came out in 2011.

I asked Jane if I could have the title poem of the pamphlet ‘Garden of Bedsteads’ to use on the blog which she kindly agreed to.  I enjoyed reading the whole pamphlet but I chose this poem because it reminded me of an experience I had in France when I was on a school trip as a teacher staying in a monastery.  I sneaked upstairs into the attic of the monastery and found a whole room of bedsteads and they were very creepy.

The poem has that creepy feeling as well – the image of the hands around the bars, the bedsteads weeping rust, and their plaintive voices, but perhaps creepiest is the line that gives us a clue as to why they were carried out ‘the ceiling that caved, plastering hair’.  The poem gives just enough away to keep the reader guessing and wondering, which I like.  I hope you enjoy it and don’t have nightmares about bedsteads.

If you would like to order Jane’s pamphlet you can buy it from Mariscat Press for a measly £5 by clicking on

I should add that Mariscat Press were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers Award this year for the second year running I think so definitely worth checking out their website.

Garden of Bedsteads – Jane McKie

They came from the German orphanage,
just frames, no padding, craving
the crease of hands around bars.

In the garden, they wept.  Rust marks
on the grass stayed after they left,
after the lawn had been mown and mown.

‘Remember the eggs,’ they pined.
‘The dyed-red eggs at Easter time.
Under our pillows, painted with crosses –

the lightest of secrets.
Remember the walls that peeled to pink,
the ceiling that caved, plastering hair.

Remember the men who came with a van
and lifted us up from the gravel drive.
Already emptied.  Corroding in air.’

Highlights of 2013


Last year I did a round up of my highlights of the year, month by month which you can find here, if you’re interested

So I thought this is as good a tradition to start as any, and seeing as for some reason I am not sleepy at all, here goes…

January – I ran poetry workshops at Inglewood Primary School and with Leeds Writers Circle, read at a Penning Perfumes event and went to my friend Manon’s wedding, and went to the TS Eliot prize readings which just happened to coincide with a friend’s birthday and spa weekend.

February – In February I did a poetry workshop at Thwaites School and for Lancaster Spotlight but the highlight of February was tutoring on my first residential poetry course in Grange Over Sands at Abbot Hall Hotel.  The participants were fantastic and it was a great three days.

March – I ran poetry workshops at Greengates School and for Cumbria Adult Education and read at Headingley Literature Festival with the wonderful George Szirtes – but what made March extra special was my junior band, the Barrow Shipyard Junior Band winning their section at the South Cumbria Music Festival.

April – I went on a mini poetry tour in April (very mini) and read at Puzzle Poets in Halifax and Word! in Leicester.  I was also guest poet at Zefferelli’s in Ambleside at their first open mic.

May – I read at Sheffield Lyric Festival and at the Troubadour Club in London – I also discovered one of my new fave poets Kathryn Maris at the Troubadour and met an old friend from music college there after not seeing each other for ten years.

June – I read at the launch of an anthology ‘Sculpted’ and at Lancaster Spotlight but this month was special because my junior brass band spent a day recording their first ever CD.  They worked really hard and I was (am) very proud of them.

July – I did a whole day of workshops with Year 10 pupils at Holy Family College which I really enjoyed and the next day went to the award ceremony for the Lakeland Book of the Year.  Hunter Davies read my ‘Picnic on Stickle Pike’ poem out.  I crawled underneath the expensive table cloth in embarrassment.  It was a lovely afternoon though and definitely a highlight of the year, even though I didn’t win!

August – August was a great month! I went back to Fermoy in Ireland and met up with lots of old friends from last year, but also made some new ones – like the lovely Ben Johnson.  I attended a training day at the Wordsworth Trust so I could work as a freelance tutor for them.  I spent a week at Ty Newydd with tutors Ian Duhig and Ruth Padel who were brilliant – but perhaps the strangest thing this month was reading at the Breastfeeding festival in Ulverston with Hollie McNish and selling loads of pamphlets, despite not having poems about breastfeeding, not having had children…

September – I found out I’d been accepted as a ‘mentee’ on a New Writing North project to work with newly qualified teachers on their own creative practice and went for a training session.  I had the first ever ten minute play that I’d written performed at Theatre by the Lake – the writing of this play went on over the summer and this was a real learning curve for me, but very enjoyable.  I read in Cockermouth, Wakefield and Huddersfield but my favourite reading this month was reading in St Oswalds Church in Grasmere in a collaboration with local artists who made art work in response to the poems that local poets had written about St Oswalds Church.  Luckily this was the month I went down to three days a week at work to have more time for poetry stuff.

October – I ran a workshop for a lovely women’s group down in Leicester and read at De Montfort University the next day.  I read at Swindon Poetry Festival and got to hang out with two of my favourite poetry people – Hilda Sheehan I already knew was my favourite but Michael Scott became my new bestie…I read at Torbay Poetry Festival and met the wonderful Arthur Broomfield who is also new bestie, read in Bolton, organised by the lovely Anne Caldwell and ran my first poetry workshop for a schools group for the Wordsworth Trust.

November – In November I managed to get about a bit – I read for Brewery Poets in Kendal, Lauderdale House in London, April Poets in Lancaster and ran another schools session for the Wordsworth Trust.  I ran a workshop for the talented Malika’s Kitchen group and spent a brilliant three days in Aldeburgh, reading at the Poetry Festival.  This was the month I was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and got to spend an evening at the British Library

December – The highlight of December, without question has been taking the band to play christmas carols.  I’ve enjoyed it so much this year I even got the trumpet out and went and played carols with Barrow Steelworks Band.

An early finish to the year (only being three days a week) led me to have too much time on my hands so I decided to set up a brass ensemble of a professional standard.  We will hopefully be performing at a wedding near you in the not too distant future.  If you would like a brass ensemble get in touch – poets rates instead of mates rates!

So it has been a busy and wonderful year.  I hope 2014 brings lots of poetry into my life, more playing of the trumpet and more hanging out with family and friends – maybe that is a lot to expect for one year but who knows!  I hope to see you in 2014, or at least continue to lurk about in cyber space and interact with you all