Monthly Archives: October 2014

I’m still alive….


Evening all – I just wanted to let you all know (in case you are worried) that I am still alive but have been really busy the last few weeks which has caused a severe dereliction of duty in regards to this blog.  I’m writing this from St Ives on the first day of a poetry residential that I’m running with the wonderful poet Clare Shaw.  It feels strange writing this as I know some people who read this blog are actually on the course!

Anyway, normal service of Sunday poems will begin again from next weekend and I have a real backlog of fabulous poems and poets lined up which will probably keep me going until Christmas.

Last weekend was the last weekend of the Ilkley Literature Festival and I’ve already told you all how wonderful it was.  Last Thursday I ran two workshops, one in a secondary school in Bradford and one in a primary school in Ilkley.  Then I ran an hour long session looking at how you get from the first draft of a poem to the last draft of a poem .  I used examples of my own poems and an example of a poem kindly donated by the ever generous Ian Duhig which worked out really well, as from looking at Ian’s draft, it seems he expands outwards from his first draft, making more and more links between words and ideas, whereas I contract inwards – I like to think of my first draft as a huge lump of rock that I have to chip away at to get at the shape of the poem inside.  After this workshop it was a sprint to the next venue to introduce the fabulous John Hegley, who gave a brilliant performance.  John’s performance was a masterclass in comic timing and how to keep an audience in the palm of your hand.  I also really like how John engages with the audience – he doesn’t just present poetry passively and expect the audience to listen quietly.  My favourite moment was when he got the audience members who wear glass to tap their glasses with their finger nails at the same time in answer to his own spectacle tapping…

On Friday I ran another workshop in a primary school in Bradford and then I had my own poetry reading with Matthew Sweeney and Michael Laskey.  This reading was a real treat because the competition winners of the Ilkley Literature Festival Poetry Competition read their winning poems out and one of the winners was my lovely friend John Foggin who came second.

On Saturday I got up early and dragged Phoebe Power, the apprentice poet in residence to Skipton Park Run, having not done a park run for weeks.  We couldn’t find the park in Skipton and parked the car and legged it across the field just as the runners were all lining up at the start ready for the whistle to go.  My fancypants Garmin watch couldn’t find me in time which was very disappointing so I had no idea how fast I was going or how far I’d gone.  The only thing I did know was that 4 laps in the park at Skipton felt much worse than 2 and a half laps of Barrow park.  My time was a minute slower than my Barrow park run time which I was a bit disappointed with..

On Saturday afternoon I had one to one tutorials with various poets, which I really enjoyed. If I had to redo my time at the festival, I would definitely put myself down for another afternoon of tutorials.  It was really fascinating having the chance to sit down with people and talk about their work and the half hour went by so fast.   The people who came for the tutorials were all at very different stages as well and I found it really interesting working with them all.

So last Sunday was the last day of the festival and it was probably my busiest day.  At 9am on Sunday I lead a group of intrepid and possibly foolhardy runners on a 5k run up on to Ilkley Moor – we made it to the top and back down again without any mishaps and then we went straight into a workshop about writing about the body which produced some brilliant poems.

After the workshop I went back to the hotel, had a quick shower and then went straight to the Mushaira which was a gathering of poets reading in lots of different languages which was a wonderful thing to be a part of.  After that, I hung around and caught up with the lovely Rodolfo Barradas, who worked at the Festival and belongs to a small group of people who I meet and instantly feel a connection with, and as if I’ve known them forever.

In the evening I was judging the Open Mic competition alongside Phoebe and Rodolfo and I must admit, the prospect of 18 open mic slots was not filling me with delight, after the afternoon of open mic at the Mushaira (lovely as it was).  However, it was such good fun!  And each competitor got five minutes and at the end of their slot a big timer came up on the screen so nobody could go over.  A great poet called Mark Connors won first place and he was very chuffed.  Everyone was great though.  I wasn’t bored once which can’t often be said at an open mic session!

I stayed in Ilkley on Sunday night which was maybe a mistake, because driving back from Ilkley at 11pm would probably have been a lot better than driving back from Ilkley at 6am because of traffic, but I was so tired I knew I wouldn’t be able to face it, so I went back to the hotel instead and got up early to get back from work on Monday morning.

I was saying to someone only today that I really feel proud of myself for the last three weeks, which might seem big-headed to say so, but I don’t care, because I rarely feel like that.  I normally feel like I ‘should’ feel proud about something because people tell me I should, but I usually don’t.  But this time I do – I feel proud that I not only got through my first real life residency, but I got some lovely feedback from people I worked with during it.  I kept up all of my teaching commitments although it would be dishonest to say I did this without losing my rather frayed patience by the end.

The one slightly terrible thing that happened this weekend was that my lovely friend Maggie who was looking after my dogs fell and broke her ankle.  My normally placid and mild mannered terriers apparently barked and growled at the ambulance workers but eventually were persuaded to let them put Maggie in an ambulance.  So my lovely new neighbours, whose daughter happens to play in my junior band have been helping out by looking after Maggie and the dogs whilst I was away.

This week I’ve been planning for the residential and finishing off printing out the last bit of stuff for my workshops so it’s not exactly been a relaxing week.  On Friday I ran my Dove Cottage Young Poets group in Kendal and then went straight from there to Preston to read at The New Continental with Judy Brown.  It was lovely to see Judy again and hear some of her poetry but I did too much nattering at the end and left rather late, and then on Saturday I got the train down to London and read at the Poetry Society Cafe on Saturday night with Jo Bell and Hilda Sheehan and various other poets and had a lovely night.

On Sunday I got up late and only just managed to get my train from London to St Ives and having located Clare Shaw on the train slowly realised that I couldn’t find my tickets anywhere.  I went to confess to the train guard that I had in fact lost my tickets – but I did have the collection reference number in my filofax.  My opening gambit was ‘Hi, I’ve lost my tickets, but I’m not a criminal, look I have a filofax’ which went down suprisingly well and the guard said I wouldn’t have to pay and to just explain to the next guard that got on what had happened.

The next guard was not quite so easy to convince and I didn’t get away without a lecture but it could have been a lot, lot worse and I managed to get to St Ives without having to pay for another ticket.  Which brings us up to date!  So there will be no Sunday poem because for a start, it is now very early on Tuesday morning but I will get back to normal Sunday Poem service next week.


Information for Course Participants at St Ives


Evening all – I’ve just sent this email to Treloyhan Manor Hotel and asked them to forward it on to the participants on our course at St Ives next weekend but I thought for good measure I would put it up here as well and hopefully everybody will see it!  The course is now fully booked which is really exciting.    Please pass this information on to anybody you know who is going on the course.

Dear Course Participants

We are really looking forward to seeing you all next week in St Ives on our poetry residential.

To ensure you get the most out of the week, please have a look at the timetable for the course, which you can find on my blog here

Here are a list of things you will need to bring with you:

1.  A favourite poem written by somebody else to read aloud and share with the group on Monday night

2.  If you would like a tutorial on the Wednesday afternoon, please bring 2 or 3 poems that you would like feedback on from one of the tutors.

3.  On Thursday night, course participants will have an opportunity to perform their own work.  You can bring poems that you have written previously (please bring a copy if you would like to do this) or you can read something you’ve created on the course.

2.  18 copies of a poem that you would like workshopped by the whole group on the Friday of the course.

Any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch
Best wishes
Kim Moore and Clare Shaw

Sunday Poem – Graham Austin


Evening all – here I am, breaking all the rules of the blog and posting on a Monday – but I do have an excuse of a sort – I got back from Ilkley Literature Festival with half an hour to spare last night before midnight struck – plenty of time to write my blog.  However, I got distracted by my friend Maggie, who has been staying at my house for the last two nights to look after my dogs.  I’m not sure if the dogs had driven Maggie to be slightly hysterical or whether it was the ‘one’ glass of wine she had consumed but I was slightly hysterical from tiredness and relief at being home again so we spent about an hour giggling before I went to bed and writing my blog went completely out of my head.

Apart from that – I probably wouldn’t have been able to string a sentence together last night.  Last week was pretty full on – Monday was full of teaching and I was going to drive back to Ilkley to go and see Margaret Atwood but I felt really ill all day – I had a sore throat and a headache all day on Monday.  I think I was just run down and it was probably a good decision not to do the two hour drive back to Ilkley but I felt really fed up about missing the Margaret Atwood reading.  Apparently it was really good.

On Tuesday it was more teaching and frantic planning late into the night for the schools poetry workshops that I’d be running as part of my residency at Ilkley Literature Festival.  Since Tuesday we have also had the boiler man in to fit a new boiler as we have had no central heating in our new house.  By the end of Tuesday there were holes everywhere – in the floorboards, in the walls and I was longing for my lovely hotel room with hot water and no holes in the floors.

On Wednesday I nipped home at dinner time to pack my suitcase so that I could leave straight after school on Wednesday and somehow managed to tread in dog muck – and worse indignity, not even my own dog’s!  I walked into my house, ran upstairs, remembered something, went back down the stairs through the dining room and into the kitchen before I realised not only did I have dog muck on my shoe but I had managed to traipse it onto pretty much every carpet in the house.  And then the boiler man stepped in the dog muck that I had brought into the house so he had it on his shoes as well, so for the first, and I hope, last time in my life I had to clean a man’s shoes…plus my own of course and scrub the carpet, which of course left no time for packing at all, so it all had to be done when I got back from work at 3pm, which meant I got to Ilkley later than planned and even more stressed than usual.

Last Wednesday it was the ‘Poetry Banquet’ which is an annual event at Ilkley Literature Festival, which is basically an open mic whilst eating a two course meal at Panache, an Indian restaurant in Ilkley.  It was great fun, and as well as all of the local poets of course, the highlight was when the chef came out of the kitchen to recite some poetry by Tagore.  I was in a lovely hotel room, even better than last week.  It had an amazing bath at the foot of the bed, but I didn’t get to use it as I ran out of time.

On Thursday I went into Ashlands Primary in Ilkley to run a poetry workshop in the morning and then in the afternoon there was another open mic, this time at a pub called The Vaults in Ilkley which I co-hosted with Phoebe Power, the apprentice poet-in-residence at the festival.  That was in the afternoon, and then it was my ‘Close Reading’ event, which was looking at work by poets that were appearing at the festival.  I was quite nervous about doing this, because I was worried I would run out of things to say, but I underestimated my talent at obsessing about poets and poetry and the people who turned up to take part were really enthusiastic, so actually the hour went really quickly, too quickly in fact.

After that, there was a reading from the Next Generation poets tour – the lovely Ian Duhig was reading, representing the 2o poets picked ten years ago and Tara Bergin and Adam Foulds from the current list and Paul Adrian, who I guess is an up and coming poet that might be on the next list.  We went straight from there to another Indian restaurant – the Aagrah Restaurant and managed to catch the last course of a three course meal before reading some poetry to the rather lively diners, which was great fun.  In fact, I just stopped myself from getting the giggles as someone fell of their chair during my introduction, apparently there was lots of fine wine to taste as part of the package between courses….

On Friday I went into another primary school, this time Crossflatts in Bradford and in the evening I introduced Kei Miller and Lorna Goodison before they read who it goes without saying were absolutely brilliant.  On Saturday I went to Phoebe’s workshop in the morning and then had to go and catch a train to Durham where I was reading at the Fringe Festival.  By a series of missed trains I managed to end up on the same train as the lovely Andrew McMillan who was also reading along with Andrew Forster.  I must admit, it was wonderful to meet somebody who I already knew, not having to start at the beginning with small talk, and we talked all the way from Leeds to Durham, but not so much that we didn’t manage to eat a whole bag of family sized minstrels.

The reading was in a venue called The Empty Shop which is basically what it says on the tin – when we first went up the stairs to get to the empty shop I did wonder how anybody was ever going to find the venue – but they obviously have a loyal following there because about 30 people turned out.  Then it was pretty much straight back to Ilkley and I arrived to catch the last of the quiz, where I realised two interesting things about myself

1) Quizzes are possibly the only thing in life that I don’t get competitive about

2) I don’t remember ANY facts at all.  Even the facts I know go out of my head in a quiz.  Thank god they didn’t have a poetry round otherwise it could have been embarrassing.

On Sunday I went to an incredibly moving event to remember and celebrate the poet Michael Donaghy. His widow, Maddy Paxman has written a book, ten years on after his sudden death which I’m halfway through at the minute.   It is an exploration not only of their lives together, but also of the process of grieving.  I found it incredibly moving, and kept thinking back to that time when my husband fainted in the middle of the night and I woke up and found him lying on the floor and covered in blood, and I thought he was dead.  He wasn’t of course, and I can’t imagine how you begin to cope with that feeling, that panic and fear becoming a reality that you can’t change.  Maddy was very dignified, very brave and the book is a very honest exploration of a relationship as well.  Don has also published a book which is a close reading of the poetry of Michael Donaghy, but as he said, unafraid to use personal anecdote woven in with critique.  I haven’t read this book yet but the extract that Don read sounded really interesting.

On Sunday I did the introductions for Don Paterson and Mario Petrucchi.  That was a good reading too, and I particularly enjoyed hearing Don’s new poems and have already started obsessing about his new book, which is apparently coming out next year.  Which brings us up to date – I drove back after the reading to Barrow.  So that is a whistle stop tour of my second weekend in Ilkley.  When I applied for the job I remember searching on line for any blogs about what being the Poet in Residence was like so maybe this will be useful to somebody one day.

So I have one more weekend – I’m going back on Wednesday, ready for more schools workshops and workshops and my reading on the 17th of October.  I’m reading alongside Michael Laskey and Matthew Sweeney.  If you are near by – please come! It would be lovely to see you.  There is lots of other things going on – I’m leading a run followed straight away by a writing workshop, a ‘First to Last Draft’ workshop and there is an open mic competition on the Sunday night.

The other nice thing that has happened this week has been that I’ve had two poems accepted in Poetry Review.  Maurice Riordan took my poem ‘Candles’ a while ago and suggested some really useful tweaks to sort out some slightly awkward grammar.  He wrote to me this time saying he would like to take two of the poems I sent: ‘The World’s Smallest Man’ which is a very new poem, and ‘How the Stones Fell’.  He said he had a couple of suggestions and when he sent them through, I couldn’t believe what a big difference these tiny shifts and edits made – it was like my poem had been standing on a wobble board before and wasn’t quite secure and with the edits, it suddenly had its feet on the ground and wasn’t shifting around like a plate of jelly..

I also found out today that the course I’m running with Clare Shaw in St Ives in the last week of October has sold out which is very exciting and also a relief as at least I know I can cover my train fayre down there…

One thing I have missed is my running this week.  I’ve not done much because I’ve been so busy so I am very glad to have this wonderful poem by Graham Austin which is about running.  I heard Graham read this on the open mic at the last Poem and a Pint and I thought it was hilarious.  Graham is a fantastic and much loved local poet who lives in Ulverston.  We always look forward to him reading on the open mic because he is a great performer – in fact, he read on the open mic when Helena Nelson, the editor of Happenstance was our guest poet, who was so impressed with him, she ended up publishing his pamphlet ‘Fuelling Speculation’ which you can order from the Happenstance website and which I recommend as a breath of fresh air…

I hope you enjoy the poem!




Brian’s new dilemma – Graham Austin


One day Brian’s wife said to her husband

‘I think, dear, you should do the Great North Run.

It’s a long time since you did something socially

significant and people are beginning to talk.’

And Brian said ‘That doesn’t seem to be a

very good reason for my doing the Great North Run.’

And Brian’s wife said, ‘Yes, it is, Brian. Mrs Maxwell

has sponsored you for 50p a mile

and Mr Taylor has said you can wear

his suit of mediaeval armour.’


Then Brian said sarcastically , ‘Oh, in that

case I better draw up a suitable

training programme.’ And Brian’s wife said, ‘I’ve already

done that. Here it is’, and she gave him a complete

schedule including stipulations regarding

not only exercise but also food and drink.

And Brian read the document with misgiving and

saw inter alia that he must get

up at 7 o’clock, forgo beer, chips, and pies,

run around the block each evening to be in bed


asleep by half-past ten. And Brian said

‘But I have only just recovered from

a double hernia, gout, and chicken pox.’

And Brian’s wife said ‘That’s no excuse.’ And Brian

cried ‘I think it’s a bloody good excuse!’

then he felt a bang on his shoulder and heard his

wife say ‘Brian, you are using bad language

in your sleep. Stop it at once.’ And Brian said

‘Sorry, dear. Nightmare.’ And Brian’s wife said

‘You need to take more exercise, Brian.

I think you should do the Great North Run.’

And Brian didn’t sleep another wink.

Sunday Poem – Malika Booker


Good morning all!  I’m writing this from the wonderful establishment of The Wheatley Arms in Ilkley where I’ve been staying for the last two nights.  This weekend has been the first weekend of the Ilkley Literature Festival which is running from the 3rd – 19th October.  As most of you know, because I’ve witttered on about it before, I’m currently Poet in Residence at the Festival.  Someone asked me yesterday what the Poet in Residence’s role was and I said ‘floating about’ which is completely not true, although I have had some time to float about the place.  For example, this morning I got up before breakfast and floated from my hotel and up on to Ilkley Moor.  It didn’t really feel like floating actually because I haven’t ran since last Tuesday and I’d ‘forgotten’ about the copious amount of hills between Ben Rhydding where I’m staying and Ilkley so my gentle run turned into a slog up hill before I even got to the moor.  It was beautiful today – it is sunny in Ilkley, but cold, but a kind of crisp cold without any wind that makes me think of Christmas (only a little, though and definitely not enough to get out Jingle Bells to teach next week).

But I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit and telling you about this morning before I’ve told you about the weekend – so I’ve been in Ilkley since Friday.  I arrived Friday afternoon and went to the box office to have a meeting with Rachel Feldburg, the director of the festival.  Rachel is lovely, and I think, seems to have an air of great serenity, whilst the Festival madness goes on – if anybody has had a look at the programme, you will see what I mean – there are hundreds of events going on, lots of them simultaneously.

I’ve had a fantastic weekend so far – I arrived on Friday and had a chat with Rachel Feldburg, the director and got my timetable from her and a map of Ilkley.  On Friday night I went to a drinks reception and then Andrew Motion was reading from his new novel and from his forthcoming poetry collection.  I really enjoyed the event, despite not usually enjoying hearing extracts from novels – Andrew was very funny and seemed to connect with the whole audience very well.  He had a long queue of people waiting to get their books signed at the end.

Part of my job as  Poet in Residence is to take the poets for a drink – I know, what an onerous task!  Myself, Andrew and Phoebe Power, who is the Apprentice Poet in Residence went to the pub and we had a great time.  I forgot to tell Andrew about the random story of my dad working on a theatre doing the scaffolding and getting talking to the director and telling her about my scaffolding poem which she asked for a copy of she could show it to Andrew Motion who she was having dinner with that night.  Probably best I didn’t as I can’t remember the name of the theatre or the director.

On Saturday I ran an Early Morning Writing Workshop and was really impressed with the quality of the writing that was produced.  It was nice to meet such a good group of writers for the first time as well – I think I knew 3 out of the 12 in the workshop before hand.

After that, I went back to the hotel and worked on a poem I’ve been writing about my old band conductor from Unity Brass Band because I wanted to read it that afternoon.  I wouldn’t normally read such a new poem, but yesterday afternoon I did an event with Phoebe and Haworth Brass Band at the bandstand in Ilkley.  What a brilliantly positioned bandstand by the way – right in the centre of Ilkley and just set back from the main street.  We decided that the band should play a couple of pieces and then Phoebe and I would read one poem each.  Most of mine were my brass teaching poems – I didn’t quite realise how many I had – and Phoebe did a mix of her own work – she read a beautiful poem about harps, and a mix of poems more loosely about music or exploring sound, ranging from Emily Dickinson to Shakespeare.

The event worked really well – although I was worried about how the band would feel being interspersed with poetry, they really enjoyed it, and we had a loyal audience who sat and listened throughout as the sun came out and then got bored and went behind the clouds again.  I rather cheekily asked the band if they had the hymn tune ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ because I wanted to read my poem about Wallace Hartley, who was the band leader on the Titanic.  I knew they’d have it in their red hymn books! According to conflicting reports, this was the last song that they played before the ship sank and it sounded beautiful played by the band.  There are plans afoot to do something similar with Haworth Brass Band and I’d like to try the same format out with a band a bit closer to home if possible.

After the brass band event, Phoebe and I went over to the Playhouse, almost getting lost on the way and managed to catch Ian Duhig who had just read from his new book ‘Digressions’.  I’m hoping I can catch this event elsewhere, as unfortunately I was brass banding whilst he was reading!  The lovely staff of the festival had also got me a birthday cake and a card and even sang happy birthday to me which was really sweet – before I left for the festival I have to admit I was a bit upset about being away on my birthday and not seeing my husband/family or my friends in Barrow.  But as it turned out, I hardly had time to think yesterday and I was really touched by the cake and the card and didn’t mind at all being away from home.

After the cake and the singing I went for a quick walk up on the moor with Phoebe and then we went to a poetry and music event with Alison Locke which was quite hypnotic – very calming and then straight to a showcase event of the Ilkley Young Writers who were full of enthusiasm, energy and confidence.  They answered questions from the audience with real consideration and maturity – I was really impressed with them.

So that brings us to today – I’ve been for a run, had a lovely breakfast and checked out of the hotel, only to plonk myself down in the corner and set up my computer to write this.  After I’ve finished this blog, I’m going to do some work on my ‘Close Reading’ event and hopefully my first schools workshop which will be on Thursday morning.  If I can get all that done I’ll be really happy!  I’m running a workshop 2-4.30pm based around the work of some of the poets appearing at the festival and I’m really looking forward to a poetry event tonight ‘New Writing from Zimbabwe’.

If you are anywhere near Ilkley, please have a look at the programme and come along for some of the open mic events at the festival.  I think there are three altogether and it would be great to meet some of you in real life.

The programme can be found here

So today’s Sunday Poem is by Malika Booker and is from her first collection ‘Pepper Seed’.  My friend Jill Abram who kindly puts me up when I come to London gave me Malika’s book when it first came out as a gift and it was added to my reading pile and I’m ashamed to say I only got round to reading it about a month ago.  I really enjoyed the whole book and had one of those moments which is why I created this blog in the first place – I wanted not only to write to Malika and tell her how much I’d enjoyed the poems, but I also wanted to tell other people as well.  I have met Malika a couple of times in real life and we are Facebook friends so it was relatively easy to get hold of her.  Anyway, I gushed at Malika and she graciously said I could post one of her poems here.

The poem I’ve chosen is called ‘Erasure’ which I interpret as being about an abortion.  I found it incredibly moving – although I’ve not directly had this experience, the poem is so powerful I don’t think that matters.  Those striking first words ‘This is no elegy’ cast a shadow over the whole poem because of course, the poem does become an elegy, even though it denies that it is one, which fits with the subject of the poem, the ‘erasing’ of a child, which seems more accurate, and more chilling than the usual langauge we use.  The whole poem is filled with these negatives – ‘There was no grief’ and ‘No guilt resides in my house’ but it is almost like seeing the negative of a photograph because the poem to me seems full of guilt and grief – unbearably so.

Halfway down the poem, it suddenly branches out into women’s history and then into biblical stories.  This last half moves up another gear – heartbreaking again with its relentless shouldering of responsibility and refusal to sidestep truth with the line ‘But this was no holy decision’.  I also think this poem says something important about grief, about the different types of grief, about how grief can rise up years later and be completely unexpected.

If you would like to find out more information about Malika Booker you can go to her website here. 

If you would like to order Pepper Seed, it is published by the wonderful Peepal Tree Press and not only will you be buying a fantastic book, you will be supporting a wonderful independent press.

Thanks to Malika for letting me post this wonderful poem.


Erasure – Malika Booker

This is no elegy; no one can write elegies
for such as you.  There are no scuff marks here
for your erasure.  No etches on a strong barked tree.

There was no grief.  You are my silence.
Why do you choose to rise now like shifting sand
blown by a slight breeze?

You were my simple crime against humanity,
and, like a criminal, I claim no regrets.
I buried you too deep to call you a name;

you are my trail of invisible lines
like the stretch marks that did not have time to form.
No guilt resides in my house.

I did what we women have always done.
I froze the tears into a block of ice
buried so deep that the guilt is a cold in me,

a thing that will not melt.
What can I say to you who never breathed, you callous dust?
I can talk of sacrifices, broken lives.

I can talk of Abraham almost slashing Isaac’s life.
But this was no holy decision.
I cannot tell you why I said no to you.

I am a white dress all ash and grey.
You unspeakable requiem, do not rise now.
Do not ask me the worth.

Who can measure the weight of ambition
against what could have been?