Evening all! First of all, I apologise for the silence over the last two weeks – last Monday I moved house finally – we had our offer accepted on a house, and accepted an offer on our house in April and have been waiting to move since then. All I can say is that now I know why the economy ground to a halt – clearly solicitors hold the keys to the economy! Anyway, last Sunday I spent the whole day packing the rest of the house up – and as my poetry books were the first thing to be packed, I didn’t have any access to the Sunday poem – which wasn’t the best planning admittedly.
So this is the first blog post I’m writing from my new house. When I pulled up this afternoon and got out of the car, the bird song was deafening and then I realised that the only birds I ever heard in my old house were the seagulls. I like the sound of seagulls – it reminds me of holiday but I don’t think I’ve ever lived anywhere where I can hear birds actually singing.
This morning I went for a run with the Walney Wind Cheetahs and ran down from the house to Furness Abbey where we meet which is about 2 kilometres. I’m thinking about doing a half marathon in November so I’m gradually trying to build my distance up – the problem for me is going to be finding time to do this – the only solution may be to run faster, which I had to do today so I could get back in time, have a shower and then get to Lancaster for 1pm to run a workshop for Lancaster Spotlight called ‘Body Language’ – looking at different ways of writing about the body. We looked at poems by May Swenson, Sharon Olds, Fiona Sampson, C.P Cavafy and C K Williams. There were twelve people booked on the workshop today and they were lovely to work with.
If you are interested in attending workshops and live in the Lancaster area, get yourself on the email list for Lancaster Spotlight. They have visiting tutors who put workshops on every now and then and I think the cost to participants is five pounds for a three-hour workshop which is excellent value.
On Saturday I did the Park Run – sadly on my own as my ‘boys’ that I usually run with were unavailable – one was dressed as a leopard (don’t ask) and one was gallivanting on holiday. I wasn’t going for a PB – I just wanted to get round in a controlled fashion and not feel like I was dieing but I managed 23.45 which in fact was only 9 seconds away from my best time, so was slightly annoyed at myself for not having a go, especially as, looking at my diary, I don’t think I can do another one until the end of October.
On Saturday afternoon the husband took me to Linthwaite Hotel for afternoon tea as an early birthday present as I’ll be busy in Ilkley on my birthday, which is October 4th in case you want to lavish me with cards and presents. Now, bearing in mind I don’t like sandwiches I ate a ham sandwich, a cucumber sandwich and a salmon sandwich. The hotel had also cut them into nice neat oblong shapes which may have had something to do with my enthusiasm for them. The cakes were amazing as well and both stuffed ourselves silly so we didn’t have to cook when we got back.
I also managed to unpack my poetry books this weekend as well. The new house has two downstairs rooms and at the minute, the front one is our living room and the middle room next to the kitchen is now to be my writing room – I’ve finally got all my poetry books in one place. It’s near the kitchen and the kettle. I don’t have to climb the stairs to get to it. All very exciting. And once the boiler man comes next week, I’ll hopefully be able to use the gas fire as well.
I’ve still got lots of stuff still to unpack, but we’re slowly getting there – and I’ve started writing as well which I’m very happy about! At the minute, the poems I’ve been writing are sitting in my notebook because I’ve not had time to type them up, but the fact that they are there, humming away quietly to themselves, makes me feel much better.
Last Thursday (25th) I drove over to Hebden Bridge to read at The Bookcase. Carola Luther invited me to read alongside Peter Sansom and John Killick. It was nice to meet John who I’d not met before and to see Peter who is always great fun. Peter read a fantastic poem about cross country running which I’m hoping to use in some fashion in one of my workshops at Ilkley. It was a lovely reading with a big audience, all squeezed in amongst the bookshelves and the bookshop owner was very friendly and helpful. I managed to sell 16 pamphlets – I don’t think I’ve ever sold that many at one reading, apart from maybe at my launch. I met some lovely people afterwards who came and chatted to me, and some of my favourite poetry friends were in the audience – the wonderful Amanda Dalton, who was one of my tutors on the Manchester MA and John Foggin, regular commenter on this blog and Keith Hutson who is another running poet.
Moving on Monday made this whole week manic. We didn’t get the keys till 4.45pm which was highly annoying and stressful. We got the last box off the van by 11.30pm – luckily we had my mum and dad helping us, otherwise we might have been there till 3am.
Last Saturday I took some of the junior band to see Grimethorpe Colliery Band perform at Forum 28 in Barrow – absolutely amazing concert and I would definitely go again to see the band. They were really entertaining and it was great to see so many young people in the audience. Last Friday I was the Guest Poet at Spotlight in Lancaster and as well as it being a great night with some fantastic performers, I also managed to sell six pamphlets, which took my total pamphlets sold to 500. I’m on 517 now after the Hebden Bridge gig and some sales through this blog and am now officially sold out! The Poetry Business are sending their last 25 to Ilkley where I’ll pick them up on Friday and are reprinting next week so hopefully will have some more copies soon.
I also had a meeting with South Walney Infant School staff the week before last to discuss ideas for a poetry workshop and I’ll be running an all day workshop for them around the theme of the Rainforest in early January, which I’m looking forward to. So that’s basically what I’ve been doing – running, planning workshops, moving and unpacking boxes for the last two weeks.
I have my Sunday poems sorted for the next month or so now, so I’m hoping that will make it easier to keep up with the blog, even when I’m at Ilkley.
Today’s Sunday poem is by the lovely Rhian Edwards, who came to read for Poem and a Pint a couple of weeks ago. Rhian stayed at my old house with us and was great fun, as I think you can tell from the poem. I love the first line of this poem which is immediately funny. The whole poem is funny in fact, even the ending, which is also, I think, a little sad – the idea of the Pest Controller saying ‘Then you don’t know what love is’ – what a thing to say to someone – one of those things that is an insult without the person who said it probably being aware that it is. I also like the over-the-top drama of the poem – for instance in the second stanza ‘Another one came to my bedroom to die.’ And in the third stanza I laughed out loud at ‘wondering/whether to give him a dedicated/copy of my book or slap on some face.’
This seems an appropriate poem this week, as I have found no rodents in my new house, and therefore do not (thank god) need to procure the services of a pest controller. Hurrah!
Rhian’s first collection ‘Clueless Dogs’ is published by Seren. You can find more information about Rhian at her website here. ‘Clueless Dogs’ won the Wales Book of the Year 2013 and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2012. Rhian has featured on this blog before with the very first poem ‘Parent’s Evening’ from her first collection but I loved her performance of this poem so much I wanted to put it up here.
Pest Controller – Rhian Edwards
My offer of tea was cryptic code
for marriage. He politely declined,
obliging me to make small talk
about infestations. I showed him the oven,
where I accidentally roasted a mouse
and told him I drowned one in a bin
when I caught it pissing blood.
Another one came to my bedroom to die.
I explained I wrote poems to excuse
my bedlam hair, ramshackle clobber
and foul play with rodents.
What kind of stuff do you write? He asked,
sticking his head in the bathroom cupboard
while fiddling for daydreaming vermin.
Love poems, the dark side, I said
hounding him round the house, wondering
whether to give him a dedicated
copy of my book or slap on some face.
Then you don’t know what love is, he said,
shaking poisoned grain into boxes
as if he were emptying a sweet jar.