It has been a funny old week this week – overshadowed by the poet Graham Austin’s funeral. It was sad and funny all at the same time. Graham’s son and two daughters read beautiful eulogies for him which were really interesting as well as being funny and sad. Graham’s other daughter had made a beautiful slideshow of photographs of Graham and his family. I found out Graham used to be a runner – there was an amazing photograph of him in full sprint mode on a track.
The loveliest thing though was that the funeral was full of poetry. Graham’s grandson read one of his poems, and other poems were quoted from and then Mark Carson, Ross Baxter and I each read a poem. I read the poem that Graham sent me for this blog a while ago and it sounds inappropriate, but it nearly made me laugh whilst I was reading it, which was ok because lots of people were laughing at the poem.
My other day off from music teaching was spent meeting up with the lovely Pauline Yarwood to continue to hatch our plan to have a poetry festival in Kendal. We had meetings with two hotels who have expressed an interest and we’re now waiting for them to get back to us with some details and prices. I’ve never organised a poetry festival before – as I’m sure you all know, because otherwise you would have heard about it here. However, I’ve been to lots and have a good idea of what I think makes a good festival.
Brewery Poets was on Friday – the first one under the new leadership of myself, Pauline and Jenny. There were 13 people attending and it forced me to get my finger out and type up a poem from my notebook – another scaffolding one, this time a monologue in my Dad’s voice. I think he might be quite disturbed to see his speech broken into lines and made into a poem. But he’ll get over it. There are two lines in the whole poem that I put in, that my dad didn’t say but the group didn’t spot them, so I was relieved to have got away with that. It’s not right yet but I quite like it.
I have good news for those of you who are awaiting news about my running with bated breath! This week has been a week of going to random exercise classes so that I rest my inflamed tendon. Yesterday I finally cracked and went to do Park Run – and took it fairly easy. I decided to try and do the same time for each kilometre to keep myself amused – 4.59 for the first one, 4.58 for the second, 5.01 for the third, 5.08 for the fourth and 4.48 for the last one and I wasn’t in pain so am absolutely chuffed.
Today I ran very slowly to the gym which is only two miles away and then did a spinning session and then ran even slower back and it seems to have worked – I’m exhausted but no pain! Tomorrow I’m going to the gym but I will drive there this time and just do some cycling and then Tuesday I have my physio where I’m hoping she’ll sort me out so I can start running properly again.
My collection has finally gone and I can’t do anything more to it – what a relief. It is now out of my hands. It’s official publication date is 30th April and I’ll be reading from it in Leeds, Halifax, Sheffield and Ulverston in that order. I’m vaguely looking for a few more readings, without actually looking that is. Waiting to be asked would be a better description – which sounds passive aggressive but I really don’t mean it to be. It’s just that waiting around has always worked out ok in the past so I’m assuming it will be ok this time.
It is half term so no teaching tomorrow! I’m off to Manchester to speak at a workshop for students about employment opportunities after graduating. The irony is not lost on me that I’m doing this for expenses only but as I don’t have to take the day off work to do it, I thought it might be fun. And I’m really looking forward to the train journey – I can’t wait for the chance to read my book because there is nothing else to do. I might even do some writing.
Today’s Sunday Poem is by Keith Hutson who came to stay with me last weekend. Keith knows most of his poems off by heart which is pretty impressive and he recited this one to me in between puffs of his cigarette. It feels like I’ve known Keith for years now, although we only met less than a year ago. It’s the combination of running with somebody and reading their poetry I think.
‘Bath’ is a typical Keith poem actually – he is very good at turning an eye onto seemingly innocuous objects and subjecting them to close scrutiny. I like how this one seems to start mid-conversation, mid-sentence. I love the details in this poem – it is easy to picture everything – the nettles in the holes where the taps were. Keith did tell me what Sticky Willy was and I forgot (what did we do without Google?) Apparently it is a plant. Phew, that’s a relief then.
Questions in a poem often sound awkward or mannered I think, but Keith handles it beautifully here, conjuring up a picture of that pink, washed family, which also makes me think of a pink, washed family of piglets. I also really like the dialogue that’s thrown in with the farmer and then that lovely finish with the calf peering in to drink. Everything in this poem is carefully and precisely described.
‘Bath’ was originally published in Prole magazine. Keith has a poem in the forthcoming Rialto if you want to read more of his work but he’s also had work published in The North, Butcher’s Dog, Pennine Platform, Hinterland, Ink Sweat and Tears, Hark and Meniscus.
He is now Submissions Editor for Hinterland, and has been Poet for the University of Manchester/NHS Psoriasis ‘Shout Out’ campaign. He’s currently working for the Prince’s Trust, delivering poetry and performance workshops to schools in Calderdale.
Keith hosts the monthly WordPlay poetry and music night at The Square Chapel, Halifax, where he also runs a Creative Writing class.
He coaches boxing, is a keen runner, and plays at being a farmer on his smallholding where he keeps twenty two pampered sheep.
Bath – Keith Hutson
Cast-iron and cockeyed, half-embedded up a hill,
you can be seen from miles away:
an oblong shock of white against
the tumbled walls, the wash of green.
You don’t fit in, but bring a splash
of faded elegance to this rough pastureland,
despite the nettles in the holes that held your taps,
the Sticky Willy poking through your overflow.
Who dragged you here? Hands or tractor?
How long ago, and where’s the farm,
the family you rendered soft and pink
each Sunday night, religiously?
Maybe you’re the victim of a revamp, rescued
from the sledgehammer by a Eureka! moment:
Farthest field wants summat wot ‘olds watter!
Years of service, come to this,
this spongy corner of West Yorkshire,
bereft of scented bubbles, rubber ducks.
Don’t get too down: you touched bottom
but, despite your broken leg, the crack along your side,
you still hold enough of heaven for the calf
who, come to lap your slanted shallows,
sees a face reflected back, wide-eyed,
brand new and beautiful.