This is the first blog post I am writing from my lovely new/old desk which I bought in a charity shop last week for £60. It apparently came from a school. I quite liked it when I bought it but now I have it set up in my room I love it.
I have had a cold all week. I think it started on Monday or Sunday evening. The cold is a lot better but I feel really run down and tired. I didn’t think I looked that bad, but I’ve just been shopping and the woman at the checkout took one look at me and said ‘What happened to you?’. I said ‘I’ve had a cold and I still don’t feel great’ and then she looked at me and said ‘I’ll pack your bags. I’ll take pity on you’. I feel like I should be offended that she was basically saying I looked terrible, but I actually just feel grateful that she packed my shopping for me!
Today I was supposed to be running the Ulverston 10k. I was supposed to be running it in under fifty minutes, which clearly wasn’t going to happen the state I was in. I already decided earlier on in the week that it wasn’t a good idea to do the race but I was planning on going along and cheering on everybody else, but this morning I felt too ill again to stand out in the cold so I stayed at home feeling sorry for myself.
Yesterday was spent putting up a fence in the backyard. It is almost done – the last two fence panels are being delivered on Tuesday. I learnt how to use one of those screw gun things and was reprimanded for referring to a ‘screw’ as a nail. A friend came and chopped down the hedge and various trees in the back garden and we also found underneath the grass, mud and roots a bit of path. I didn’t really do much apart from float around with the screw gun and walk the dogs very slowly.
On Friday I ran my Young Writers Group and then went straight from there to a launch of four new pamphlets by Ron Scowcroft, Elizabeth Burns, Pauline Keith and Carole Coates, all published by a brand new pamphlet publisher ‘Wayleave Press’ which is run by Mike Barlow. The pamphlets are really beautiful – I think most, if not all of them have a front cover illustration by Mike. I was really impressed with the quality of the poetry on the Friday and I’ll be featuring some of the poets on this blog in the coming weeks.
Apart from that, all week I’ve just been trying to hold my head above water whilst feeling rubbish. Although quite a few of my schools are cancelling sessions, mainly due to rehearsals for school plays, I’m still busy because I’m doing lots of extra sessions with the junior band. I took 12 children from the band to Asda on Wednesday to play carols for a couple of hours in the evening.
Today I’ve been emailing back and forth with my editor with ideas for a launch for my collection. ‘The Art of Falling’ is due out in April next year and the date seems to be approaching alarmingly quickly. Organising a launch is a bit weird as well – it is a bit like organising your own birthday party in a way.
I’ve been trying to think back to all the launches that I’ve been to and what makes a good launch – for both the poet and the audience. I did have one for my pamphlet which was the reading at The Wordsworth Trust and the thing that made that amazing was how many of my friends were there and the excitement of reading with the other winners. So maybe for me, the key ingredient of a good launch would be the audience – having enough audience and the audience I get being made up (at least partly) of friends. I didn’t organise that launch though – it was part of the prize of winning the pamphlet. All I had to do is turn up.
The launch on Friday was good because the poetry was very good and I enjoyed hearing Mike Barlow talk about setting up a publishing press. His enthusiasm was infectious and it was so refreshing to hear somebody’s passion for other people’s work.
So far, there are tentative plans for a main launch in Ulverston, which although it isn’t my home town, it is only 15 minutes up the road from me, and from past experience, tends to draw bigger audiences than Barrow. The soul band I’ve been playing with have offered to play for this, so I think this evening will be a short reading, maybe with some friends reading too and then a break and time to sign books/drink wine and then the band can play and those who wish to can bust some moves. Or not. It is looking likely that there may be a launch in London, because lovely friend Jill Abram has offered to help me organise this and maybe one in Manchester as lovely friends Lindsey Holland has offered to help me put this one together. And that will be enough launching to last me for the rest of the year I think!
It is exciting sorting all this out and I’ve been touched by the offers of help I’ve received just by mentioning it. Poor Martin Copley who does our posters for Poem and a Pint has been volunteered by his wife Mrs Crabtree aka poet Jennifer Copley to make a poster for my launch. I bet she hasn’t told him yet but I know he reads my blog so he knows now!
Tonight I’m off to the Hope and Anchor in Ulverston to play with the soul band – apparently it will be a tight squeeze so no room for a chair, but if it’s that tight, at least I should be able to prop myself up against a wall or something.
Today’s Sunday Poem is by the lovely Andrew Forster, who has featured here before a while ago but since then his shiny new collection ‘Homecoming’, published by Smith/Doorstop has been released. The collection is an extraordinary record of living and working in the Lake District, not just living and working in fact, but also traveling through the landscape as a resident rather than a tourist.
One of my favourite poems in the book is ‘Morecombe Bay’ which is a series of three line stanzas seperated by asterisks. Each stanza uses a different metaphor or image to look at the bay. It reminds me of the Wallace Stevens poem ’13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’. There are only 8 in Andrew’s poem, but they are lovely. Morecombe Bay is ‘a glass pathway’ in the first stanza, a ‘grey muslin sheet’ in the second, a ‘blue eiderdown’ in the third.
The collection is full of carefully observed poems. In ‘Lindale Hill’ the poem starts ‘It’s a village of layers, a place/in progress, where houses are messages/from different ages’. I know Lindale very well, having taught at the village school there for a few years, and smiled in recognition when I read this, but I think if you don’t know the village, you can picture it.
The poem I’ve chosen to feature this week is ‘Dusk in Lindale’. This is another beautiful, carefully observed poem. I know it’s not November now, but when I wrote to Andrew and asked him if I could use it, it was and I think this feels like a November poem. Maybe because of the quality of the light that is described in the poem – the dusk is ‘a shabby cloth/which parts as others, coming home,/emerge from shadows in our path.’ Later on in the poem, we can see the trees ‘pastel smudges/holding drums of darkness between them.’
This collection is full of descriptions of light and I think this is one of the hidden themes of the book. Behind the main theme of place and landscape and home is a concern with light and shadow which crops up again. Light is often used to set the mood or tone of a poem – in the first poem in the collection ‘At Carstairs Junction’ we read ‘the darkness hasn’t loosened its hold./Rain slants into the lamps like the grain/of an old film’ and in the last poem ‘Homecoming’ in the last three lines we are left with both light and dark.
‘Just beyond the lights Amanda stands,
with Walter the dachshund, his yips
of greeting rising over the departing engine.’
I’d be interested if you have the collection to hear your thoughts on the way Andrew has explored light in the poems, as well as the more obvious concerns of place.
Andrew Forster is originally from South Yorkshire but lived in Scotland for twenty years before moving to Cumbria in 2008. He has published two full-length collections of poetry with Flambard Press, ‘Fear of Thunder’ in 2007 and ‘Territory’ in 2010. Fear of Thunder was shortlisted for the 2008 Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Two poems from it ‘Horse Whisperer’ and ‘Brothers’ appear in the AQA GCSE syllabus. He won a Northern Writers Award in 2014.
If you would like to find out more about Andrew Forster he has his own website here
If you would like to order ‘Homecoming’ you can find it on the Smith/Doorstop website
Thanks to Andrew for letting me use his poem, and I promise next week’s post will be full of health rather than coughs and splutters.
Dusk in Lindale – Andrew Forster
By the time I’m home, the sun has slipped
behind Cartmel Fell and the sky holds
its last light in a sparkling grey wash.
The early dark forcing a different rhythm,
I walk the dog before day fades completely.
On the street the dusk is a shabby cloth
which parts as others, coming home,
emerge from shadows in our path.
The last houses shine like orange beacons,
small against impending night.
Cars purr around the bend, headlight beams
thrust out, the road left darker than before.
Woods run parrallel to the path,
the slatted fence almost invisible
so the trees seem closer, pastel smudges
holding drums of darkness between them.
The dog stops, quivering, small legs
braced, scenting the loamy Autumn air,
tuned into a world that exists beside us,
beyond the tangle of nettles and brambles.
Further on, at Castle Head, a roe deer springs
over the field. Russet, it flickers
like a faint torch in the growing night
before being extinguished completely.