Monthly Archives: February 2014

Sunday Poem – Paul Stephenson

Standard

So this weekend I’ve been down in Leicester for my dad’s 60th birthday – his birthday is actually Thursday but we had a meal for him on Saturday – there were 16 of us altogether, mainly sisters, brother in laws, neices, nephews and one great neice.  I have one neice who I bought a Michael Rosen poetry book for this Christmas which she absolutely loves, and while waiting for dinner to arrive she asked me to write a poem with her.  She decided she wanted to write one called ‘Rabbits and Dogs’ and then we played a game which I often do in school workshops – we listed as many words as we could beginning with a letter (in this case T) and then made a sentence out of them.  The sentence was ‘I twirl and twist my tiny toes underneath the tall and tricky table’ which I was quite impressed with!  She is seven years old – but even at that age when she was writing her rabbits and dogs poem she was worrying about using adjectives because that gets extra marks – it makes me sad – but playing the game of listing words and then making nonsensical sentences made her forget about that and have fun with language I think.

My eldest sister has been to one of my poetry readings, but since then has refused to attend any more so my plan of revenge is to turn her daughter into a poet, thus ensuring that she has to go to lots of poetry readings and read lots of poems.  Both of my sisters also keep my pamphlet on a shelf but haven’t read any of the poems apart from the one poem that is a bit rude ‘Picnic on Stickle Pike’.

All of last week was half-term but I didn’t do anything exciting – I spent pretty much the whole week painting.  We have finished the living room now for those of you who are following the painting saga with baited breath,which is probably nobody if I’m honest!  Next weekend I’m away in Grasmere with the Poetry Business Writing School on a residential weekend which is the end of the Writing School course – we are giving a reading on the Sunday at the Wordsworth Trust which is free to attend https://wordsworth.org.uk/attend-events/2014/03/02/readings-from-the-poetry-business-writing-school.html

so unfortunately no painting for me!  Am hoping to return at the end of the weekend and see either the bathroom or the kitchen transformed by hubby.

It was lovely getting back to the house tonight because there was lots of post waiting for me.  There was the Poetry Book Society bulletin with the new John Burnside collection ‘All One Breath’.  I really like John Burnside so I’m really looking forward to reading this.   There was also a cheque waiting for me for a poetry workshop that I ran at the beginning of January so that was rather pleasant. And two books arrived as review copies from Under the Radar so I’m looking forward to getting stuck into them as well.  This plethora of books almost made me feel guilty for buying the new David Constantine book when I spotted it on sale in the shop at Durham Cathedral but it was a momentary twinge and it disappeared when flicking through the Constantine collection I read this line ‘Nothing in a swallow says, I don’t want to leave this place’.  Isn’t that beautiful?

So today’s Sunday Poem is by Paul Stephenson who is a lovely guy and a very good poet.  He will be reading on Sunday as part of the Writing School event in Grasmere.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know Paul a little better over the last 18 months while the Writing School has been running – he is an exciting writer I think who often surprises us all in workshops when he reads back his work – Paul’s poems never sound like that dreaded beast ‘the workshop poem’.

I asked Paul to send a biography over and he is so modest he didn’t mention his most recent competition wins – a 1st prize in the South Bank Poetry magazine competition, judged by Clare Pollard, a 1st place in the Magma Short Poem prize in 2013, 2nd in the Cafe Writers competition in 2013, 2nd in the Troubadour in 2012….He is also currently taking part in the Jerwood/Arvon mentoring scheme.  His background in Modern Languages and European Studies has an effect I think in the way he plays with language and his interest in experimenting with words – Paul says that recently he often finds himself “looking for words within words, anagrams, palindromes, rhymes, that this helps give me a texture for the poem and a word constraint.”

Paul says that the context for this poem was that “I heard David Cameron on the radio in January 2013, I think, talking about multinationals avoiding corporation tax. And he said ‘Wake up and smell the coffee’, obviously referring to a large coffee shop we all know. And I thought, gosh, that is such a tired old expression, how can I play with it and travel somewhere unexpected….”

which I think gives a really interesting insight into the writing process, although I also think it is not necessary to know this to enjoy the poem.  I didn’t know it when I read the poem, but I enjoyed the playfulness of it and the slow transformation of ‘coffee’ to ‘coffin’.  I picked this poem as well because it is very different to the poems I normally choose, completely different from anything I would write – which is probably one of the reasons I like it – and maybe in my head it is linking back to this weekend and sitting at the table playing around with words with my neice….

The poem was previously published in Lighthouse – a relatively new journal which you can find more information about here http://www.gatehousepress.com/lighthouse/

You can find out more about Paul by going to his website at http://paulstephensonpoet.wordpress.com/

Thanks to Paul for letting me use this poem – I hope you enjoy it!

Wake Up And – Paul Stephenson

smell the coffee
smell the coughing
the cacophony
the cafard
the cavern

wake up and smell Cavafy
wake up and smell Kefalonia

smell the kaftan
smell the kif
the köfte
the Kiefer
the O’Keefe

wake up and smell the cufflink
wake up and smell the coffin

Sunday Poem – Moniza Alvi

Standard

Evening folks – I’m really excited about this week’s Sunday Poem because it is by one of my favourite poets, Moniza Alvi.  I’ve been reading Moniza’s work since I first started writing poetry – so am very happy that she has agreed to let me use one of her poems today.  In fact feel slightly guilty about wittering about my week and making you wait for the poem! But I am nothing if not a creature of habit..

So this week has been pretty full – I’ve started running sectional rehearsals for my junior band to get ready for the South Cumbria Music Festival – this week on Monday the Solo cornets and the Soprano player came and rehearsed for an extra hour before the full band arrived.  Next week it’s half term so I have Monday evening off but after that I’ll be doing sectional rehearsals for an extra hour every week until the Festival.  I wouldn’t want you to think I was competitive though…haven’t even thought about winning…honest…

So as well as obsessing about the music festival and doing lots of music teaching I had some good news this week – the Wordsworth Trust managed to get some extra funding for some more sessions with the Young Writers group that I’ve been working with in Kendal which is great news because they are a fantastic group.  So I went off to Kendal this Friday to run another session – it just happened to STILL be Valentines Day – unfortunately I had forgotten this fact – despite remembering it in the morning and buying appropriate card for the husband – anyway, luckily for me the teenagers disliked Valentines Day as much as I do so were appreciative of not having to read any love poems during the session.  Anyway, all week I’d been looking forward to going for a meal after the session had finished at 5.30pm and before Brewery Poets, the critiquing group that I go to once a month started at 7.30.  There is a really nice Chinese restaurant called the Bejing House in Kendal that I wanted to go to after having a lovely meal there previously but it wasn’t until I sat down and looked around and realised that everybody in said restaurant was a couple and that the restaurant was festooned with red balloons and hearts everywhere that I remembered that it was in fact, still Valentines Day.  By then it was too late to escape and go to the drive through at Mcdonalds as I’d sat down and the staff had been very nice so I stayed.  And it was actually fine!  I would never have sat on Valentines Day, on my own ten years ago or maybe even five years ago, but it was kind of funny, not really embarrassing – so decided that my whole life, had in fact, been preparation for this day and this proved I was now emotionally mature, fully functioning, independent adult etc etc.  Maybe I read too much into it!

The other poetry related things I’ve done include finally finishing off my sequence!  I am very excited about it – 20 poems about domestic violence which I will maybe write more about another time – but they have now gone off to a publisher who has expressed an interest in publishing them as a pamphlet – so I’ll let you all know if I hear anything.  I’ve also sent 16 of these poems off to three different magazines – its the first time they have had the chance to be accepted or rejected and I’m not sure how well they work in a small group or on their own so it will be interesting to see what happens to them.

The other nice thing that happened this week was that the lovely Rialto arrived!  The Rialto is one of those magazines that smells really good.  I have two poems in there this time but am especially grateful to the Rialto because I read it whilst in the Chinese Restaurant on Valentines Day and maybe it was this that made me not care…I thought this issue was really, really good – new poems from lots of great poets – well worth checking it out at http://www.therialto.co.uk/pages/On the same day, rather excitingly, a proof from the TLS  for my poem ‘The Fall’ – I don’t know when it will be published but I have my mum and dad on watch!

As I said before, this week’s poem is by Moniza Alvi.  Moniza’s most recent book ‘At The Time of Partition’ was shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize this year and is a wonderful book – but because it is a book-length poem which is very much of a piece I didn’t think it would do the poem justice to quote just a section from it.  As well as this, I heard Moniza read last week from her book ‘Homesick for the Earth’.  Moniza has translated, or made versions of poems by Jules Supervielle who was born in Montevideo to French parents and grew up in Uruguay and France.  The poems have an edge of surrealism and I think a kind of childlike wonder sometimes – the poem I’ve chosen definitely has this.

I wrote to Moniza and asked her for this poem as soon as I read it – it is about a third of the way through the book.  Then I carried on reading and found more and more poems which I loved – in ‘Animal Faces’ the poem asks the question of what would happen if animals could speak – not a particularly original idea you might think – but the poem takes this idea and makes it surprising and thought-provoking – the poem finishes

“We long for a wink, a gesture from a foreleg.
But if you complied, we’d run a mile
in fear of the trouble this would cause.
We would never be alone in the fields or forests.
The moment we left the house
we’d hide our heads under a dark cloth.”

I love the ending of ‘Fish Swimming’ as well –
“Swim out to sea, leave me on dry land.
We weren’t meant to mix up our lives.”

The book also has the original French text on the opposite pages which I think is so important with translations…I read the book cover to cover and will definitely go back to it and re read it more slowly.  Moniza has also written a great introduction to the book as well about the challenges of translation which is worth reading.

So after you’ve read ‘Homesick for the Earth’ you should then go and read all of Moniza’s other books – they are all fantastic and I love the way Moniza does something new in every collection – she doesn’t hit something that works and then repeat it – it seems that she is constantly moving forward and developing and challenging herself – and the reader in fact – in her collection ‘Europa’ for example I think the way she writes about violence is original and exciting and necessary.

Moniza Alvi was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and came to England when she was a few months old. She grew up in Hertfordshire and studied at the universities of York and London.  She has published eight books of poetry with Bloodaxe and tutors for the Poetry School.  If you would like to find out more about Moniza Alvi you can go to her website at http://www.moniza.co.uk/index.html

If you would like to order any of Moniza’s books, you can go to Inpress which is a much more worthy company than the big A which I won’t mention here!  The Inpress website is here: http://www.inpressbooks.co.uk/homesick-for-the-earth/

I’ve chosen the title poem of ‘Homesick for the Earth’ because I believe in the voice of the poem.  I like how it made me think differently about the sun and the planet – for a short poem it does a lot of work!

I hope you enjoy the Sunday Poem!

Homesick for the Earth – Moniza Alvi/Jules Supervielle

One day we’ll say ‘The sun ruled then.
Don’t you remember how it shone on the twigs,
on the old, as well as the wide-eyed young?
It knew how to make all things vivid
the second it alighted on them.
It could run just like the racehorse.
How can we forget the time we had on earth?
If we dropped a plate it clattered.
We’d look around like connoisseurs,
alert to the slightest nuance of the air,
knew if a friend was coming towards us.
We’d pick daffodils, collect pebbles, shells –
when we couldn’t catch the smoke.
Now smoke is all we hold in our hands.’

The Blogging Tour

Standard

Evening folks.  You lucky lucky people! Two blog posts in two days – unheard of generosity from me.

The poet Em Strang got in touch with me via Facebook a couple of months ago to ask me if I’d be interested in taking part in a festival that she co-organises called ‘Carrying the Fire’ which you can find more information about here http://www.carryingthefire.co.uk/

From Em’s description it feels very different to any other festival I’ve been too – and we are working on a performance which will interweave our poetry with a musician – so I will have to (properly) learn my poems off by heart, rather than vaguely…gulp!

Anyway, Em then asked me if I would like to take part in ‘The Blogging Tour’ which involves answering a series of questions and then linking readers on to three other writers – so here goes…It’s a bit like a Neck Nomination but without the alcohol or lewd behaviour!

1. What am I working on?
I’m working on a sequence of poems called ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’.  I’m hoping to publish this sequence as a pamphlet.  The poems are about domestic violence, or more accurately about a relationship which is full of violence.  There is a lot of Ovid in the pamphlet in that I was reading him at the same time – Ovid’s Metamorphoses strikes me as the most violent of stories at a very basic level of the human body being constantly transformed and changed by an ‘other’.  The poems come from personal experience but they are not confessional and they do not really stack up to a narrative – not in the sense of ‘this happened, then this happened, then this happened’ – they are a working out of the effects of violence on the psyche, more than a timeline of specific events.

I’m also working on my first collection which is provisionally called ‘For the Act of Falling’.  At the minute I have a quandry because I don’t know whether to put in the above sequence into it,which would mean other poems would have to come out..so I’m at the stage of trying different combinations of poems out.

How does my work differ from others of this genre?I suppose everybody wants their work to be different and unique but just as important to me is having the shadows of other poets standing behind my work – for example I don’t think I would have started writing the sequence if I hadn’t read Moniza Alvi and saw how she manages to write about violence or Helen Ivory’s latest collection ‘Waiting for Bluebeard’ where she uses the story of Bluebeard to write about domestic violence.  I guess the only way we can all be different from each other is to write about the things that only we can know – I don’t know another female poet who lives in an industrial town in the Lake District and is a trumpet player and has a father who is a scaffolder…and maybe it is these things that makes my work different from other poets….

Why do I write what I do?Because I can’t not write it!  Sometimes something happens to me and I know it will be a poem – although I don’t know when I will write it.  Sometimes I will be writing and I will discover what I really think about something – which sounds daft, but sometimes I don’t know until I write it.  I was thinking yesterday after a reahearsal with my brass ensemble, how both music and poetry are a kind of reaching out.  In the rehearsal we were practicing coming in together without counting in verbally first of all, then without using any body language to come in, then with our eyes shut and just breathing together.  In moments like that there is a connection between the members of the group, maybe for just a moment before it falls apart and we are out of sync again.  And then the musicians, after reaching to connect with each other in rehearsal must then reach to connect with an audience.  And I think poetry is like that, except the poet is somehow trying to connect with themselves – not in a confessional way, but in a what is the truth of what I’m trying to say way, and then the poem must also reach out I think, when it is read, or when the poet performs it at a reading…

How does your writing process work?
I write a lot in workshops – I really enjoy them – I think a good workshop exercise can be a good doorway into the poem you really want to write.  When I am writing, whether in a workshop or at home, it is usually a big block of prose which I then leave in my notebook for a couple of weeks before typing up on a computer and putting the line breaks in – I find it impossible to do anything with line breaks until I type it up.  I also really like the feel of typing on a computer – I like the shape words make when I’m typing – and am very grateful that I taught myself to touch type when I was 16! Good old ‘Mavis Beacon’ (helpful teach yourself touch typing program)

If my poems start from real life, I usually exaggerate them.  I don’t feel like I ever really sit down to write (unless I’m in a workshop) – I normally sit down to read and then writing comes from that if it is going to come!

If you would like to follow the blogging tour, three of my lovely writerly friends will be responding on Monday 17th –

Andrew Forster http://andrewforsterpoems.blogspot.co.uk
– Andrew Forster is the Literature Officer at the Wordsworth Trust.  His first full-length collection ‘Fear of Thunder’ was published by Flambard in 2007 and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.  His second collection ‘Territory’ was published in 2010 by Flambard and his third collection ‘Homecoming’ will be published by Smith/Doorstop in October 2014..

Maria Taylor –http://miskinataylor.blogspot.co.uk/
Maria Taylor has appeared in various magazines, including The Rialto, Acumen and The North and her first collection Melanchrini (Nine Arches Press) was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize in 2013.

Roy Marshall – http://roymarshall.wordpress.com/

Roy Marshall’s pamphlet ‘Gopagilla’ was published by Crystal Clear in March 2012 and his first full collection ‘The Sunbathers’ was published by Shoestring Press in November 2013

Sunday Poem – Jane Houston

Standard

Evening folks!  I have had a BRILLIANT weekend – my much-talked about (by me) Poetry Marathon occurred yesterday.  On Saturday morning I got the 6.15am train to the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.  I have  been working on a project where I was matched up with a composition student from the Royal Northern College of Music, Gemma Balmoody.  I was given a song by Strauss and asked to write a poem in response to it, which I did, which Gemma then set to music.  Unfortunately the singer who was due to perform the piece was ill so the audience had to put up with me reading the poem instead.  Thank goodness they put me on before all the sopranos and music, otherwise I don’t know if I would have been able to resist bursting into song halfway through saying the first line.

Afterwards I headed off to the John Rylands Library with the lovely Rachel Davies who was also taking part in the project and various other poets and husbands (their husbands/partners that is – not mine)

We had time for lunch and I had time for a mooch around the library.  It is a beautiful building and I also had time to have a look at the Victorian toilets in the library – they looked just like the toilets at my primary school to me – couldn’t see any difference.  I don’t remember anybody saying they were Victorian!

Rachel is one of the committee members for ‘Poets and Players’ which is a fantastic free event that runs in Manchester.  I was really excited about this event because Alice Oswald was coming to read – unfortunately Alice lives in Devon so was unable to get up north because of the floods, so at very short notice the committee had managed to get Jo Bell and Greville Lindop to read.

Jo Bell read first and she handled the unescapable fact that she was not, in fact, Alice Oswald really well – mainly with humour and apologising to the few elderly people who hadn’t heard about it all – presumably because they do not access the internet as much as the rest of us.  I think I’ve heard Jo Bell read once before but it was a while ago – it was great to hear her – and I think she is similar to Alice Oswald in that she reads her poetry very well – they obviously read very differently – but both could teach us all a thing or two about how to construct a poetry reading.  She was very entertaining as well – and I could have listened to her for another twenty minutes very easily!

I am ashamed to say that in the second half I did get the giggles while the musicians were performing, the kind of giggles when I start to cry from laughing,which seems to be happening to me more and more lately.  I’m not sure if life in general is getting to be more fun or whether slight hysterics is a sign of age.

It was great to hear Grevel Lindop as well – Grevel gave me a commended one year in the Mirehouse Poetry Competition when I was first starting out, so I obviously think he is a wonderful man 🙂  But I enjoyed his set, particularly a poem about a hawk and learning to dance in Cuba.

Anyway, after that, Rachel and her partner and I drove back to Ulverston and got there just in time for Poem and A Pint where the guest poet was the wonderful Moniza Alvi.  The committee provided the floor slots this time and I tried out two new poems that I hadn’t read before.  Moniza Alvi was great.  I’ve always known that I liked Moniza’s work – but in the first half, as she read poems from ‘Carrying My Wife’ and ‘Europa’ and some of her other books – I realised I’ve been reading her poetry since I started writing – the only book of hers I don’t have is ‘Homesic for the Earth’ which is her translations of the poet Jules Supervielle, or versions as Moniza calls them, so I promptly brought that so now I have everything.  I think Moniza is a really important poet – I think she writes about violence and identity and gender in such an unusual way  and it was a real privilage to hear her.  It was a packed audience at Poem and a Pint, and it was a packed audience at Poets and Players which put me in a very good mood, to think that there was so many people that are interested in poetry.  If you would like to see photos from Poem and a Pint event you can have a look at http://www.apoemandapint.co.uk – I’m not sure if they are up yet, but they will be soon.  I managed to sell four pamphlets as well which was a nice feeling as usual.

And that was the Poetry Marathon over!  Today I felt bursting with poetry and not tired of it at all…but have had to do normal things like be sociable and walk the dogs…

Next week will hopefully be full of poetry though – I have lots of things to do – I have my sequence to edit, I have poems to send out from said sequence to magazines (haven’t decided where yet).  On Wednesday there is also an open mic at Zefferellis in Ambleside.  The guest poet will be Zaffar Kunial, the Wordsworth Trust poet-in-residence – so I’m looking forward to that.  If you would like to come you can find more information here http://www.zeffirellis.com/livemusic/event/poetry-open-mic5
It says that the event starts at 8.30, but I would arrive at 8pm if you want to make sure of getting a spot!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Jane Houston who I met last summer at Ty Newydd.  In fact, one of Jane’s poems set many people in the group off into fits of hysterical laughter – unfortunately this is one of those poems she can’t publish for particular reasons (i.e upsetting somebody) otherwise I would put it up here like a shot!  Jane has a very distinctive voice as you will see from this poem – I think she is a very talented poet and has just started sending poems out to magazines in the last couple of months.  She has had her first acceptances from the Interpreter’s House and Obsessed with Piipework so you can read more of her work in those magazines.  She very kindly sent some unpublished work which is very exciting for me and it was hard to choose just one poem from the set she sent.

I like how bonkers this is.  It reminded me a little of Don Paterson’s ‘Love Poem for Natalie “Tusia” Beridze in a good way – its language, its eccentricity and its chasing down a particular subject as far as it can go.  I did a lot of swimming when I was younger and retrieving dummies from the bottom of swimming pools so this poem spoke to me for those reasons as well – except this poem seems to be in the voice of one of the parents who have spent many long, sweaty and probably boring hours watching their offspring in the swimming pool…

The poem is very surefooted – I like the way it skips down the page, and the way that Jane has played with heightened language to create humour throughout the poem – and who could not cringe when they read the line about the plasters and the hairbands in the water – and then I think the last line is a killer – I was reading this poem, smiling as I read it and then the last line sort of wiped the smile off my face (in a good way!)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the poem and thanks to Jane for letting me use this poem.

Because of formatting problems, I have had to attach this poem so you can read it if you click on this link
To Possibility

Sunday Poem – Ian Duhig

Standard

Evening folks!  Today I told my hubby I ‘need’ to write my blog, so managed to get out of that most awful part of decorating, the tidying up afterwards.  This weekend my mum and dad have been visiting – they brought with them their new border collie puppy Taz, which they adopted from a dog rescue centre.  My parents came up to help us put a new laminate floor down – not only was our old floor eight years old and peeling at the edges, it was peeling in the middle and in fact all over so it needed doing if we wanted to sell the house.  So in our rather small terraced house this weekend was two border terriers (mine), a very grumpy cat (mine), a very energetic 17 week old border collie puppy (the parents’), my parents, me, the hubby and various power tools and bits of flooring and dog cages and dog toys – then my twin sister and her husband turned up with their two terriers – thank god they had decided to buy a camper van on the way so they slept in that last night – their first night in the camper van was spent outside our house in Barrow – so they probably didn’t get much of a scenic view this morning…

So that was my weekend – learning to lay a laminate floor.  You will be glad toknow that since Monday, when I did an eight hour painting stint on my bedroom, I have actually done poetry things, which is, after all what this blog is about.

So this week I have read more Ovid – I’m about 2/3rds of the way through now.  I’ve just read about Pygmalion.  Not much to say about that really, other than ew.  I tried to write a sonnet this week after doing session with Young Writers last week on sonnets.  I would say I’m 2/3rds pleased with it so need to crack on this week and have another go at it.  I went to Grange Library on Thursday to the launch of a poetry anthology by Grey Hen Press – the anthology is called Running Before the Wind’ which is a collection of poems about the sea and our relationship with it.  I enjoyed the reading – particularly Penelope Shuttle’s poem, which was read by local poet Geraldine Green. My only slight criticism was that there are only so many poems I can hear about the sea before I started hearing the same words coming up again and again – which is not to say this was a weakness of the poems, more the fact that the sea has to be a constant thread that runs through the book.    However I think as a book to dip into, it is a wonderful thing.  You can order the book here http://www.greyhenpress.com/books/ On their website it says that Grey Hen Press publish poetry by ‘older women’ – I don’t know what the age is that they consider you as an ‘older woman’ but if you consider yourself as one then they are definitely worth checking out – the production of their books is beautiful.

The other exciting thing that happened to me this week was that Suzanne Vega favourited my tweet!  I was bursting to tell my Dad this momentous news, thinking he would be impressed, but he said he hadn’t heard of her – deeply disappointed.  He also doesn’t really get Twitter, or what favouriting means, but oh well. Anyway, if you click on the link below, you can hear a wonderful interview with her on The Verb and a brilliant new song from her album. And if you keep listening you will hear the lovely Zaffiar Kunial, the new poet in residence at the Wordsworth Trust, talking and reading some poems – after which, I’m sure you will agree, you will decide he is the Real Deal.  You can listen to the episode here http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03s67jw/The_Verb_Suzanne_Vega_Blindsided_Zaffar_Kunial/

And one more exciting thing that happened this week is that my lovely poetry friend John Foggin won 1st prize in the Plough Poetry Competition.  I am really happy for John – because he’s a nice guy and a good poet, but also because he ‘works’ really hard at poetry – he goes to workshops and readings and open mics – and I put work in inverted commas because I know he doesn’t see it as work – he loves poetry and just wants to be around it and around people who love it as much as he does.  So it is lovely that his dedication has been recognised.  John also always comments on everybody else’s poems on this blog in a most generous way, so therefore he is my ‘bestie’ as my pupils would say.  You can read John’s poem and the other prize winning poems here http://www.theploughprize.co.uk/

But onward, onward, onward! A whole hour and a half earlier than last week – here is today’s Sunday Poem by the wonderful poet Ian Duhig, who I’ve wanted to have a poem from for ages, but kept changing my mind about which of his poems I liked best – but then, in the end decided to ask Ian if I could have his ‘A Curse on Heptonstall’ poem.

This poem brings back so many great memories for me – I was on a residential course last summer and Ian was one of the tutors along with Ruth Padel.  I think it was our last workshop when Ian decided we would all write Curse poems and showed us his own Curse poem as well as ‘Little Songs of Malediction’ by Fiona Sampson which are great as well.

I love how this poem has so much personality in it – it is great fun with the repeating rhyme sound at the end of each line and the curses get more and more outrageous and over the top and then it is rounded off nicely at the end with that half rhyme, which gives the impression that the curser after venting his spleen has finally ran out of energy.  I like the knowingness of this poem as well – it is such a rant, it is easy to forget you are reading a poem, but then it reminds you ‘my verse has just begun to stall.’  But it is also very well crafted and some of the lines, whilst full of, well cursing, are actually beautiful – what about ‘May shingles wrap him like a shawl’…Lovely!  Really you have to hear Ian read this poem as well – or at least read it aloud to yourself.

The workshop got completely over the top as well – at one point about half the participants were crying with laughter at each other’s awful curses – someone cursed their mother in law, I cursed the children who have annoyed me over the years – see it sounds harsher than it actually was! Anyway, it was very carthartic – I’ve never laughed so much but it also produced some great poetry.  My Trumpet Teacher’s Curse is going to be in the next Rialto – thinking about it now, I really should have put ‘after Ian Duhig’ underneath the title, but I didn’t – which is quite rude really, as I don’t think I would have written it without that workshop.

So IF my mythical first collection, which has all the physical characteristics of the best mythical creatures, like dragons and unicorns (ie doesn’t exist) ever comes into being, then I will be sure to acknowledge Ian somewhere for the opening of the door into my poem with his own wonderful Curse.

Ian has written six books of poetry, most recently Pandorama (Picador, 2010). He has won a Forward Prize, the National Poetry Competition twice and three times been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. He works extensively with other artists and musicians, supplying text for composer Christopher Fox’s Dark Roads, premiered this April at Tate Britain.  If you would like to order one of Ian’s poetry books, or maybe even two, or three or six, go to the Picador website which is http://www.picador.com/authors/ian-duhig

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

 A Curse on Heptonstall – Ian Duhig

Come all you demons, heed my call
to bless this curse on Heptonstall
where Pilot pens aren’t safe at all
for stuffed with thieves is Heptonstall.
Please, let my couplets never pall
before well-cursed is Heptonstall;
for every ill, I’ll cast a trawl
and dump my catch on Heptonstall;
may all vile things that creep and crawl
repair at once to Heptonstall;
let drunken bears and werewolves brawl
around the streets of Heptonstall
and then may they play basketball
with human heads in Heptonstall
while madness-fits like those of Saul
afflict the folk of Heptonstall;
let every storm and freezing squall
blow in their winds to Heptonstall;
may shite and fire and brimstone fall
on every roof in Heptonstall
while mortar rots from every wall
that holds a roof in Heptonstall.
May shingles wrap him like a shawl
who stole my pen in Heptonstall:
let pus gush like a waterfall
from all his sores in Heptonstall
and each sore bore in like an awl
through his foul flesh in Heptonstall
so all the fool can do is sprawl
and weep and groan in Heptonstall;
I’d hear him scream, I’d hear him bawl
and beg for death in Heptonstall
and set about him with a maul
to break his bones in Heptonstall.
O queue you fiends by Satan’s hall
and catch the bus to Heptonstall –
my verse has just begun to stall,
so take your turn on Heptonstall:
you have the evil wherewithal
to serve them well in Heptonstall,
that cankered Pennine caul
of dandruff, Heptonstall
where pens get stole.