Sunday Poem – Graham Austin

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I’ve just got back from a really enjoyable evening playing the trumpet at a fundraising concert at St Mary’s Church.  It’s been about a year since I played any solo stuff on the trumpet but I really enjoyed it. The concert was organised by Father Gribben and was actually in his house rather than the church.  There must have been about 50 people in the audience and as well as me, Father Gribben played some great piano pieces and there was also a young oboe player who performed brilliantly.  The concert raised over £600 apparently.  I was asked to perform last week which was good as it left me no time to get nervous.  I went for a rehearsal on Thursday and it was great fun.  I didn’t get nervous tonight – maybe the first time I’ve performed a solo and not been nervous.  Maybe I’m turning over a new leaf!

This week I’ve been working till quite late most nights, getting various jobs done.  I’ve been writing to publishers to ask for books that I would like reviewed for the first issue of The Compass magazine, which has been great fun.  Although it was very tempting to get them all sent to my house first so I could read them, I realised this would slow everything down quite a lot and I would end up with no reviews because I was hogging all the books, so now they are going straight out to the reviewers.

This week I’ve been booked for three readings and a workshop.  I’ll be running a workshop for Mungrisdale Writers in July and reading in Todmorden in August and Lancaster Litfest and Cafe Writers in October.  I also had a request from Poems in the Waiting Room for permission to put my poem ‘You asked me to bring you a gift from my walk’ on a card and distribute it around NHS waiting rooms, which seems like an amazing thing to happen to a poem.  This particular poem I haven’t actually thought about in years – I wrote it seven years ago, when I was just starting it out.  It was published in Staple magazine and then didn’t make it into the pamphlet and then I forgot about it so it is nice that it is going to get a new lease of life.  I’ve also been asked to contribute a poem to a short pamphlet to celebrate the 30th reading of the series.

Today I sent what I hope are the last edits over to Amy on my collection.  I printed out the final proofs and instead of thinking of it as a dead animal sitting on my chest and blocking my view, I actually feel quite protective and fond of it now.  I’ve been carrying it around and having it sleep next to my bed the last couple of nights.

The running has not been going too well though this week.  I’ve been running with a pain in my groin for a while now and it has been getting a bit worse so I went to see a physiotherapist this Friday and I have an inflamed tendon, which is very annoying.  I’ve decided to give running a rest this week to see if it will go away.  I went to spinning at the gym instead today because I really don’t want to lose all my fitness again but it is looking unlikely that I’ll be able to do the half-marathon I’d planned to do in Blackpool in a couple of weeks time.

My lovely friend Keith Hutson came  up to visit this weekend.  We went for a fantastic walk in Grizedale Forest on Saturday and there was clear blue sky and a strange bird which sounded like a frog.  Keith caught me up on all the gossip and we even managed to get some editing done on each other’s poetry before he had to go back home to feed his sheep.

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Graham Austin.  I first met Graham at A Poem and a Pint when I was just starting out writing poetry.  Graham died last week, quite suddenly and unexpectedly.  It still doesn’t feel real now that I won’t be seeing him perform any more.  Graham was genuinely funny, and I know this is a cliche, but he really did have a twinkle in his eye.  He was always supportive of other poets.  He found it easy to show his delight in other people’s poetry.  Helena Nelson, who published his pamphlet ‘Fuelling Speculation’ a couple of years ago, has written a lovely and eloquent piece over at the Happenstance blog about Graham and you can read some more of his work there as well.  Graham’s wife has asked me to say a few words about Graham at his funeral and along with two of his other friends to read a few of his poems.  I don’t know what I’m going to say yet.  I will have to say something about how funny he was, although perhaps that is too obvious.  Of course everybody there will know how funny he was.  When I think of Graham I think of him on stage, waiting with that slightly suprised, pleased smile for the audience to stop laughing so he can go on with his next line.

Graham has featured on this blog before back in October 2014, again with a very funny poem, and if I have attracted any running poets, you will like this poem.

But here is Disappointment – I remember hearing Graham read this and he had got the audience into such a state of hilarity, he had to wait for quite a while before they would stop laughing so he could read his final stanza.

Disappointment – Graham Austin

It was as if nothing had happened.
Five minutes earlier we had sat down to watch the sea.
Now five minutes later we were still watching the sea.
It was as if nothing had happened.

‘It’s as if nothing has happened,’ she said.
‘Five minutes ago we sat down to watch the sea.
Now five minutes later we are still watching the sea.
It’s as if nothing has happened.
Kiss me.’

I did.
Six minutes previously we had sat down to watch the sea.
Six minutes later we were still watching the seae.
And it really was as if nothing had happened

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