It feels like it is only mid-morning but it is actually 1.30pm at the time of writing – I had a lovely long lie in this morning after a slightly full weekend. I have lots of news this week – and those of you who are friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter will probably know all of this already, so you may want to skim over the next couple of paragraphs.
My first exciting news is that my first full length collection is due to be published by Seren in April 2015. For the last couple of weeks I have been copies of contracts have been flying back and forth from Barrow to Cardiff. My editor, Amy Wack has been fantastic – supportive and enthusiastic and encouraging – I couldn’t really ask for more at the moment, so I’m really happy about that. It still doesn’t feel quite real, and I don’t think it will feel real until the book is in my hands but I’m determined to try and enjoy the whole process – it will only happen once for the first time after all!
My second exciting news which I’ve known about for a little bit longer is that I’m going to be the new Digital Poet-in-Residence over at the Poetry School. No, I am not, as one of my friends helpfully suggested, going to be turned into a hologram, but I will be lurking about at CAMPUS, which is the Poetry Schools’ social media site – it is a bit like Facebook but with specially written articles, interviews and features about poetry. It is completely free to sign up to and there is lots of free content – it is also the place where the online courses that you pay to take part in are run from – but it is well worth checking out, and it would be lovely to see some familiar faces. My residency starts on Monday and I will be part of an online webchat with Amy Wack from Seren, Neil Astley, the editor of Bloodaxe and Hannah Lowe, Bloodaxe poet extraordinaire on May 7th. May 7th is also the Poetry School’s first Digital Open Day and there are lots of free activities going on all day and even through the night into the small hours! If you would like to get involved, head on over to http://campus.poetryschool.com/
At the minute, I am feeling a little overwhelmed with everything that is going on – it is all exciting stuff, but physically fitting everything in to each day is getting a little unmanageable! On Friday I went over to Ossett and stayed at the lovely John Foggin’s house – John is a reliable commenter on this blog and is never short of something to say 🙂 John’s house was amazing – no wonder he writes so many poems – he has amazing little objects all over the place – his wife is a talented artist and has paintings and pictures displayed on the walls – I didn’t spend much time looking through his book collection because I was too busy snooping at all the interesting things he has collected over the years. John and his wife Flo really looked after me – making me lots of cups of tea and feeding me home made pizza – their son, visiting for the weekend even gave up his room and slept in Flo’s studio — reminded me again of how lucky I am to have found poetry, which in its turn led me to make such generous and interesting friends.
On Saturday John and I made a little convoy and drove over from Ossett to Marsden – I was the Guest Poet at the Cuckoo Poetry Jam, run by Write Out Loud http://www.writeoutloud.net/public/index.php
There was an open mic and it was lovely to hear John read some of his poems. I also got to hear Louise Fazackerly who has just been awarded a commission by New Writing North and The Verb to create new work and the lovely David Coldwell who has a blog over at http://davidcoldwell.co.uk/ – it was nice to meet him in the real world after conversing on Twitter. Michael Brown started off the event and I enjoyed hearing more of his work, after meeting him at the Poetry Business workshop a couple of months ago. Michael B is definitely one to watch out for – his first pamphlet is coming out with Eyewear soon. I would have liked to have heard more of Michael Stewart, the other guest poet but time was running out – he read some interesting poems from his collection ‘Couples’ which is apparently full of poems that face each other or talk to each other across the page. The highlight of the event for me though was Steve Ely – a new poet for me to be obsessed with. Steve’s poetry is completely different from anything else that is being written recently. He is a good performer as well – but it is the poems that I was impressed with – he writes about politics and social history without resorting to preaching. After he finished reading, I felt I had learnt something that I didn’t know when I entered the room. I am very much in admiration of him, and have his first collection ‘Oswald’s Book of Hours’ published by Smokestack Press, next to me as I write, in the vain hope that I might get some time today to actually reread it again.
After the reading I hotfooted it back to Kendal ready for a reading at the Brewery as part of the Quiet Compere Tour, organised by Sarah Dixon. Apart from spilling a bit of water on the floor after kicking my glass over, which in true comedy fashion rolled slowly towards some of the audience it went well and was an enjoyable evening. Highlights were probably the lovely Ann Wilson, Polly Atkin’s poem to her chronic pain which used biblical language and Mark Mace Smith’s ‘found’ poem made from the testimony of a policeman.
The Sunday Poem today is by Hilary Hares – who I first met over two years ago at a workshop that I ran at Ledbury Poetry Festival. Hilary came on the weekend residential course that I ran at Grange last year and was there again this year – it has been great to see how Hilary’s poetry and I hope she wouldn’t mind me saying, her confidence has developed over the last couple of years and I asked her to send me some poems to choose from for the Sunday poem.
I chose this poem because Hilary wrote it on the course at Abbot Hall a couple of weeks ago – it is a beautiful poem, very measured and under control but full of a strong emotion as well. I love the uncertainty at the start of the poem that develops into complete certainty and accuracy in the descriptions of the pigeon which then opens out into that mysterious ending to the second stanza but my favourite part of the poem is that ending – and I’m really hoping the line break on the last line has come out on this pesky WordPress blog – because I think that illustrates what a line break should be for really.
Hilary is currently studying for an MA in poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University. She won first prize in the Christchurch Writers Competition in 2013 and has been published in magazines including First Time, South, Obsessed with Pipework, Orbis, Maine Magazine (USA), The Interpreter’s House, The New Writer, Writing Hampshire (website) and Elemental Dialogues (website) part of Ten Days in Winchester 2013
If you would like to read about other people’s experiences of the course there are two blog posts from participants Emily Blewitt and Gill Garrett here http://gillgarrett.blogspot.co.uk/ and here http://emilyblewitt.wordpress.com/
Kents Bank – Hilary Hares
I may have been awake
or in that place
that isn’t land or sleep.
I heard a pigeon
on the mossed slate roof
outside my window
and sensed it was the world.
Somewhere beyond is sea
leaking into the wounds
of the salt marsh,
present but undiscovered.
Here, before I move,
I feel your shoulder.
I know it cannot be
but here it is,