Monthly Archives: June 2015

Sunday Poem – Gordon Hodgeon


The weather cannot make up its mind today.  I spent most of my morning standing on Walney Island as a marshal for the Walney Fun Run with the wind blowing (although maybe not as hard as it could have done) and pouring rain.  I had waterproof trousers on, which I quickly discovered weren’t really waterproof and my outdoor hiking coat which did save the top half of me at least from the rain. I must admit, I longed to be running around in the wind and the rain- at least you are warm when you are running!

Despite this, I’m glad I volunteered – it’s nice to give something back and I do enjoy seeing the different ways people run, the different ways they react to the marshals.  Most of the runners at the front were completely focused and gave no sign whether they heard us or not.  When I’m in race mode (although I’m not at the front) I hear the marshals but I don’t look at them or acknowledge them – not because I’m not grateful to them, but more because I’m conserving energy, and I’m concentrating, but it does make a difference to have people there cheering you on.

As you get further and further back in the field though, people smile and are happy to see you.  One man even had enough breath to say ‘thank you for coming out marshals’ which was nice!  The children often pick up the pace if you cheer them on, going from a walk to a trot, or a trot to a little sprint.  So from 9.15am when I arrived until about 12 it was raining and spray was blowing in from the sea.  Then suddenly the sun came out and it is now a glorious day with blue skies.  By that time though I’d had enough and felt all damp and cold and bedraggled and decided to go home, but I have been sat in the garden for a little bit this afternoon at my new table and on one of my new chairs which I bought yesterday.  This is an exciting event for me because I’ve never owned a garden or a table and chairs to go in a garden.

I’ve also been having great fun picking plants to go in the garden and have rather irresponsibly just been picking ones I like the look of and randomly sticking them in the garden.  Yesterday I spent a couple of hours pulling up bindweed which grows so fast – it is a bit like that plant in Little Shop of Horrors – it seems to have a mind of its own.  I left a stick propped up against the fence about a week ago and yesterday there were tendrils of bindweed growing up it – how is that classed as a plant and not an animal with a mind of its own?

I have some weeks where I have to accept that I’m doing lots of music teaching and poetry has to be put on one side but this week it feels like I’ve been yanked from one world to the other.  On Monday I had a 2 hour rehearsal with my junior band to get ready for our end of term concert on Thursday. This was to go through the music with my friend who had agreed to play drums for us.  Disaster struck on Thursday as my friend had a family emergency and couldn’t play in the concert.   I had two hours to find another drummer and heard that an ex-pupil of mine was back from university, so he came along at the last minute and played brilliantly.

The concert was made up of the Barrow Shipyard Junior Band which is pupils ranging in age from 8-18 (about 30 now) and my other band Brasstastic, which has 14 primary school pupils in it.   They both played really well and to finish off the night we played a mass piece which we’d not rehearsed together before but which they managed brilliantly.  I couldn’t believe how well my ex-pupil played the drums – he is also a talented cornet player and singer but he followed every single tempo change – I was really impressed with him.

On Saturday I was at another rehearsal with the Barrow Shipyard Junior Band at Furness Music Centre because we have one more concert on July 4th where we are playing with an orchestra, wind band and choir at the Coronation Hall. Again, the kids were really good and it was nice to not have to conduct and to sit and play along with them a little bit.

I also did Park Run on Saturday and managed to get a new PB – 22.49 which I am really, really pleased about.  I’ve wanted to go under 23 minutes for a while.  I think it will be another couple of months before I can shave anything more off that time – this is the problem though, as soon as I achieve one goal, I start thinking ‘hmm wouldn’t it be nice to go under 22 and a half?’ Anyway, we shall see!

On Friday morning I was still buzzing from the junior band concert but I had to force myself to settle down and plan my workshop for Dove Cottage Young Poets which was Friday afternoon and then I drove straight back from Kendal and went to Bardsea for A Poem and a Pint’s collaborative night with ‘The Quiet Compere’ aka Sarah Dixon.  Sarah Dixon is travelling around the UK, putting on an event made of ten poets reading for 10 minutes each.  It was nice to have the chance to hear a lot of local poets read – it made me realise how much talent there is in the local area.  I enjoyed hearing everybody read but the most exciting set for me was David Borrott, whose new pamphlet Porthole has just been published by Smith/Doorstop as a ‘Laureate’s Choice’.   David was very funny and read really well.  I know how hard he has worked at writing and I’m really happy that his work is now going to get a wider audience.

So, gaining a wider audience brings me on to today’s Sunday Poet, who I’d never heard of before my friend John Foggin sent me his book as a present.  Gordon Hodgeon is published by Smokestack and was born in Leigh in 1941.  He was active for many years in NATE, in Northern Arts, Cleveland Arts, New Writing North and Mudfog Press.  HIs previous books of poetry include November Photographs (1981), A Cold Spell (1996), Winter Breaks (2006), Still Life (2012) and Old Workings: New and Selected Poems (2013).  He lives in Stockton-on-Tees.

Writing that list of books makes me a little ashamed that I hadn’t come across his work before so I’m grateful to John for bringing his poetry to my attention.  I’m going to quote from the back cover of the book to give some context to the Sunday Poem today:

“For the past five years the poet Gordon Hodgeon has been confined to his bed.  Following a series of unsuccessful operations on his spine, he is now unable to move his arms and legs, and cannot breathe without the help of a ventilator.  In the last few months he has lost the power of speech.  Today he can only communicate with the outside world by blinking at a Dynavox computer screen or by dictating to his carers, letter by letter.”

After reading this, I was prepared for a book of poems that felt hard won, laboured, as if every word had been dragged out to lay on the page.  I wasn’t prepared for poetry that made me conscious of my own body and consciousness, in the way that running does.  I wasn’t prepared for the first poem in the collection which is now the Sunday Poem.  I have to warn you that reading this poem may have a strange effect on you.  I read it and then I had to shut the book.  I couldn’t read any further – someone had just articulated for me the edge between the body and the soul, the difference between feeling powerful and being powerless.  It is only a tiny poem but I came back to it the next day, read it again with the intention of going on with the book and had to stop.  The third time I read the book cover to cover, without stopping.

Of course the title of the Sunday Poem ‘I Walked Out This Morning’ contains within it a sly nod to Laurie Lee’s ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’ memoir of leaving his life to travel through Spain.  There is also W.H.Auden’s ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’ but the poem it really made me think of was W.B. Yeats ‘The Song of Wandering Aengus’ with its first two lines ‘I went out this morning/because a fire was in my head’.  I don’t know why this jumped into my head when I read the title of Gordon’s poem, but there you go.

The title and the first line have a fairy-tale feel though, or the air of settling down to tell somebody a really good story.  Only yesterday I was telling someone I don’t like poems with the word ‘memories’ in and then, I find it in this one, and it works perfectly.  There is also something very subversive going on here.  Nothing is quite what it seems.  The speaker in the poem ‘walks out’ but in walking out finds a man in his bed with a ‘fly on his nose’.  Then that shocking sixth line ‘Only his weeping eyes could move’ and there is something of the fairy tale about this as well and this is continued with that childlike line which sounds like a refrain ‘Oh dearie me, oh dearie him.’  The last five lines are the clincher – look how deftly he turns this around – suddenly the speaker is the one who cannot speak, the walker is the one who cannot move.  Even without the background information provided on the back cover, this is a strange and discomforting poem.  The writing is skilful and measured and controlled, full of insight and questions.

The collection is called Talking to the Dead which sounds quite macabre, but don’t let this put you off.  The second poem is the title poem and what struck me in this one is that even in the act of Talking to the Dead, the speaker wants to learn something new.  He says ‘Who can teach me/guide me through their dark palaces/their ungrowing fields?’

This poem reminded me of why I started the Sunday Poems in the first place – that feeling of reading something amazing and feeling like you might burst if you don’t tell someone about it.

Anyway, here is the wonderful ‘I Walked Out This Morning’.  I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you are moved to buy a copy from Smokestack.  You can order Gordon’s book here.  It is a short book, only 47 pages, which I’m guessing is why it is only priced at £4.95 but this seems ridiculously cheap for such quality.

I Walked Out This Morning – Gordon Hodgeon 

I walked out this morning
from the jigsaw jumble of
dreams and memories
and found a man in my bed
with a fly on his nose.
Only his weeping eyes could move.
I asked if I could help him
but could not understand his reply.
Oh dearie me, oh dearie him.
So I turned away to go and saw
him in the mirror standing
about to leave the room, and me
supine in the bed with a fly on my nose
and only my weeping eyes could move.

Fourth Tutor Announced for Poetry Workshop Carousel


I’m really excited to be able to announce that the fourth tutor for the Poetry Workshop Carousel, taking place from the 11th-13th December 2015 at Abbot Hall Hotel, Grange Over Sands will be the fantastic Amanda Dalton.  I first met Amanda when I was studying on the MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and she was always astute in her observations, generous with her time and gave invaluable advice and I’m really looking forward to working with her.  Below you will find all the information about the tutors.  Please see the Forthcoming Residential Poetry Courses tab for more information about the course.


Amanda Dalton






Amanda is a poet and playwright. She started writing in her mid 30s when she was working as vice principal in a Leicester comprehensive school. She has published two pamphlets and two collections with Blooodaxe: ‘How To Disappear’ which was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best first collection, and ‘Stray’. She was selected as a Next Generation Poet in 2004. Her work for BBC Radio includes original dramas, poetry, and radical re-workings of silent movies The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Nosferatu. She has made site-specific work with Wilson+Wilson and Sheffield Theatres, drama for young people and adaptations of work by Jackie Kay and David Almond.  She is a Visiting Writing Fellow (poetry and script) at MMU’s Writing School and Director of Engagement at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre. She lives in Hebden Bridge.


Ian Duhig


Ian Duhig (6)








A former homelessness worker, Ian Duhig has written six books of poetry, three of which were shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize as well as the Whitbread and Costa Poetry Awards. He has won the Forward Best Poem Prize, the National Poetry Competition and was a joint winner of a Shirley Jackson Award for one of his short stories. A Cholmondeley Award recipient and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he has taught at all levels from beginner to post-graduate and his university posts include being the International Writer Fellow at Trinity College Dublin.  If you would like to order any of Ian’s books, you can buy them direct from Picador here


Andrew Forster











Andrew Forster is originally from South Yorkshire but he lived in Scotland for twenty years before moving to Cumbria in 2008. He has published three full-length collections of poetry, two with Flambard Press, ‘Fear of Thunder’ (2007) and ‘Territory’ (2010), and ‘Homecoming’ with Smith Doorstop (2015). ‘Fear of Thunder’ was shortlisted for the 2008 Forward Prize for Best First Collection and ‘Homecoming’ is shortlisted for the Lakeland Book of the Year Award . Two poems, ‘Horse Whisperer’and ‘Brothers’, appear in the AQA GCSE syllabus.  He has worked in Literature Development for 17 years and until recently was Literature Officer at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere

Kim Moore

Society of Authors Awards June 2011Kim Moore  Eric Gregory Awards







Kim Moore’s first full length collectionThe Art of Falling’ was published by Seren in 2015.  Her first pamphlet ‘If We Could Speak Like Wolves’ was a winner in the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition in 2012.  It was named in the Independent as a Book of the Year, shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and was the runner up in the Lakeland Book of the Year Award.  She was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer prize by Poetry Review in 2010, an Eric Gregory Award in 2012 and a Northern Writers Award in 2014 and is one of five UK poets selected to take part in Versopolis, a European project aimed at bringing the work of young UK poets to a wider European audience.  Her poem ‘In That Year’ is on the shortlist for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Published Poem.


Sunday Poem – Martin Zarrop


Evening all.  Those of you that are friends with me on Facebook will know I’ve had a rather strange week, filled with missing trumpets and forgetfulness and general confusion.  I am not the world’s most organised person in general, but I normally bump along in my own unique way with not too many disasters befalling me.  However, this week, I have excelled myself in my levels of complete confusion.  When I look back, it probably started with a horrible start to the week, which I can’t write about because it wouldn’t be professional, but I went to bed on Monday evening feeling fairly upset.

Tuesday was a better day – I had two new pupils turn up to Brasstastic, the junior band I run for primary school pupils and teaching went along without anything to get excited or upset about.  In the evening I had rehearsal with the Soul Survivors and I got a lift home with Julie, the sax player.  In the car park in rehearsal, Julie was messing about, driving the car forward every time I tried to open the door and in the end I jumped in the front with my trumpet, music stand and bag with music piled on my knee.  I am telling you this to emphasise that I remembered distinctly jumping in the car with all my stuff on my knee.

When I got to the house I walked inside and put all my stuff down in the middle room, my writing room.  On Thursday I was due to go to quintet rehearsal in the evening.  When I went to get my trumpet, it wasn’t in its usual place.  I looked in the car – it wasn’t there.  I immediately went into complete panic – my lift was waiting outside to go to rehearsal.  I had to go and tell them I couldn’t find my trumpet, which sounded ridiculous.  I turned the house upside down looking for it and began frantically ringing Julie to see if I’d left it in the car, even though I knew I hadn’t, because I remembered piling it all on my knee, and I even remembered dumping it in the dining room.  It was like it had vanished into thin air.

Thursday is my day off teaching and I’d got quite a lot of work done at home.  I’d been upstairs working for quite a bit of it but the back door had been open so the dogs could run in and out of the garden. I began to convince myself that someone had been in the house, while I was upstairs and stolen my trumpet.  It didn’t matter how much Chris pointed out to me that this seemed unlikely as nothing else was missing, and how would a thief know how much the trumpet was worth?  I was in the midst of a complete meltdown and wasn’t stopping to think.  Chris and I went and knocked on the neighbours doors to see if they’d seen anything, which they hadn’t.  My dad still pays the insurance policy for my trumpet so I rang him to tell him to ring the insurers.  I tried to ring the police who said they didn’t take lost property reports anymore – it didn’t help that I didn’t know if it had been lost or stolen.  Chris was convinced I’d put it down in the street and just walked off because I had my hands full of stuff, but I knew I hadn’t.  I knew I’d walked in the house with it.

Anyway, turns out I was right.  I had walked in the house with it on Tuesday.  However there had been a whole day (Wednesday) between Tuesday and Thursday which I’d somehow managed to forget about.  On Wednesday I’d taken my trumpet into school to play but hadn’t remembered doing it.  It was like Wednesday had just vanished from my mind.  On Wednesday I’d been to work, taught a private pupil after school and then done a 2 hour live chat as part of my Poetry School course.  I hadn’t remembered any of it.  Once I realised that Wednesday did in fact exist, I retraced my steps back and found my trumpet in a cupboard at one of my schools.

I’d wasted the whole of Friday, which was the one day off with nothing to do that I’d had in ages on the phone to the insurers, on the phone to my dad, on the phone to the police.  It was a truly horrible day, and finding the trumpet, while it was a relief didn’t really feel that good because I then started to berate myself for being such an idiot.  I then had to ring the insurer and my dad and the police again and tell them I’d found it.  I had to post on Facebook and tell everyone I’d been a complete numpty.

In my defence, a new trumpet of the same model would cost about £2,200.  I’ve lived with it for 14 years.  I would say the first seven of those years – from the age of 18 to 24 I would have played it every day for three or four hours.  The bag the trumpet is in is an old leather gig bag, given to me by my old trumpet teacher.  So yes, I went into a complete panic, a meltdown.

There have been some good things that have happened this week though, despite all of that going on.  I’ve got a poem in the Best British Poetry Anthology, edited by Emily Berry and Roddy Lumsden which cheered me up.  The poem is called ‘The Knowing’ and it was first published in Poem.  It’s another poem from the sequence about domestic violence, which makes me very happy, because those poems mean a lot to me.

I haven’t been running very much this week – Chris and I went out on Tuesday and I got a really horrible pain in my right buttock (don’t laugh) and had to hobble back home.  By the next day the pain had disappeared, but I was too paranoid to run all week.  I went spinning on Friday and then had a little jog around the park and it seemed ok so today I went and did the Holker Hall 10k.  My aim was to get around the course without developing a pain in my butt.  I had a bad night’s sleep last night though, I woke up convinced I was going to be sick and feeling really hot.  After lying down very dramatically on the bathroom floor to cool down and then taking the bin back to bed just in case, I eventually fell asleep, but I didn’t really feel great this morning.

I told myself I would just jog around the course, use it as a training run.  Of course that never happens, and I did push myself round in 48:43 which is my second fastest time, but still a minute off my PB, but considering the week I’ve had and the disturbed night, I was pretty pleased with that and no aches and pains apart from the usual ones that come from running and getting out of breath.

I was fourth woman back which I was busy sulking about until I realised I was part of the winning women’s team so that made up for it a bit.

So that is my week – a bit of a tale of woe I’m afraid.  One other exciting thing that has happened is that something I’ve been plotting for a long time has finally come to fruition.  I’ll be one of four tutors running a Poetry Workshop Carousel weekend December 11th-13th at Abbot Hall, Grange over Sands.  Everyone booked on the course will attend a small group workshop with each tutor for two hours.  In the evenings the groups will come together for readings from invited guest poets and tutors.  I’m really excited about it because it feels kind of like a mini poetry festival to me and it’s something different that I certainly haven’t tried before, and I don’t think there is anything like it going on anywhere else.  If you would like more information on the course, have a look at ‘Forthcoming Residential Poetry Courses’ at the top of the page.  Because of a mix up with dates from my end (yes, more confusion) the original tutor, the fantastic poet Rebecca Goss is unable to make it up to tutor on that weekend.  I’m hoping she’ll be able to tutor on the 2016 Poetry Workshop Carousel  So the fourth tutor is yet to be announced, so please watch this space!

I posted about the course on the blog on Friday and already over a quarter of the places have gone.  If you are thinking of booking, please do so as soon as possible.  I’m expecting the spaces to go very quickly.

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Martin Zarrop – a lovely man who I met about six or seven years ago on a residential course.  I know I often say poets that I feature here are lovely and they all are – but Martin has a kindness about him coupled with a very quick wit.  Since that first residential, I went on another residential course which Martin was on about four years ago, I’ve bumped into him a couple of times at events in Manchester and then he came on the residential course that I was running this year at Abbot Hall at Easter.

Martin has very recently had a pamphlet published by Cinnamon Press called ‘No Theory of Everything’ which I would recommend. Martin also sent me a very modest 2 line biography which I heartily disapprove of, so I’ve done a bit of digging to find something a bit more boastful to say about him  Martin says he is a mathematician who wanted certainty but found life more interesting without it.  He has been published in various magazines and anthologies including Envoi, Poetry News, Prole, Kaffekatsch and The Book of Love & Loss.  He was Highly Commended in the 2012 Ledbury Poetry Competition, and his pamphlet was published by Cinnamon Press after winning their inaugral pamphlet competition.  The judge Ian Gregson said this of Martin’s pamphlet:

A very intelligent collection that draws upon a knowledge of science to describe, in effective poetic terms, the impact of scientific thought and discovery in the twentieth century. Its mingling of science and history is especially telling, and it manages to make science compelling by showing its relevance to personal experience.

I’ve chosen Coats from the pamphlet.  This is a poem whose emotional heart is driven as much by what isn’t said than what is said.  There is a whole history and life in these four short stanzas.  There is a real sense of poverty, or at least having to be careful with money in the first few stanzas – the thin ankles, the torn pockets and the folding of the coats underneath the theatre seats to avoid the cloakroom fee.

The poem is full of specific place names – Albert Square, the Exchange stalls, Cross Street but for all its specificity, it is also very mysterious.  We don’t know why the ‘you’ is angry in Stanza 3 but this has the feel of a turning point in a relationship – the place the relationship could have faltered or carried on, and it carried on. In the last stanza, I don’t know what the ‘weight of purple’ is, although it makes me think of the Jenny Joseph poem Warning which starts ‘When I am an old woman I shall wear purple’.  I have no idea if this little nod to the Jenny Joseph poem is deliberate, but it certainly makes me think that this relationship was a long one, that the ‘Later’ of the first line of the last stanza, refers to years later, not merely days.  The last line, the idea of running out of evenings is unbearably sad and beautifully understated.

If you would like to order Martin’s pamphlet, I am sure you will make him and his publisher very happy if you order direct from them here

Coats – Martin Zarrop

Your cardinal’s coat flapped against thin ankles
as our breath frosted Albert Square.I wore the check Oxfam overcoat,
hands driven into torn pockets.

Arm in arm we braved the town drunks,
sat in row F of the Exchange stalls,
coats neatly folded under each seat
to save the cloakroom fee.

In Cross Street, a taxi u-turned,
almost ran you down.
You were angry with me.
It could have ended there.

Later, you walked more slowly
under the weight of purple.
We ate pizza, savoured red wine,
ran out of evenings.

Poetry Workshop Carousel – New Residential Poetry Course, 11th-13th December


 Society of Authors Awards June 2011Kim Moore  Eric Gregory AwardsandrewforsterIan Duhig (6)Question_mark_(black_on_white)

Due to an early mix-up with dates between the hotel and myself, Rebecca Goss is no longer able to tutor on the 2015 Poetry Workshop Carousel, which I’m really sad about.  She will hopefully be coming back to tutor on the 2016 course, so please watch this space!

The new dates for the Poetry Workshop Carousel are the 11th-13th December 2015.  Tutors confirmed so far are myself, Andrew Forster and Ian Duhig.  I will hopefully be able to confirm the fourth tutor in the next couple of days or so, and it will be someone as equally fabulous as Rebecca, but fabulous in a different way.

In case you missed my earlier post about this, the Poetry Workshop Carousel will be taking place at Abbot Hall Hotel, Kents Bank, Grange Over Sands.  The course will be made up of a carousel of four workshops with four different tutors.  Each participant will attend a 2 hour workshop with each tutor as part of a small, intimate workshop group.  In the evening, the groups will come together for poetry readings from the tutors and invited guest readers.  I estimate the workshop groups will be between six and eight people.

The cost of the course will be £230.  This includes four workshops, two readings on the Friday and Saturday night, accommodation and all food for the weekend – a three-course meal on Friday night, breakfast, lunch and three course evening meal on Saturday and breakfast and lunch on the Sunday.  The course begins at 4pm on Friday and finishes at 12 on Sunday.

If you haven’t been to Kents Bank or Grange Over Sands before, it is a beautiful place.  The hotel is set in wonderful grounds, right on the edge of Morecombe Bay and a two minute walk from Kents Bank train station.  There is a lovely swimming pool in the hotel and the intention for the weekend is to take over the hotel with poets!  If you have any questions at all about the course structure or content, please get in touch with me via the Contact page.  Places are limited and I’m expecting them to go quickly, so if you would like to book, please phone Abbot Hall directly on  015395 32896.

Over the weekend, I’m planning to put up a draft programme for the weekend, but the start time for the first workshop will be 4pm on Friday 4th December and the finish time will be Sunday lunchtime at 12pm, if you are thinking about booking trains.

Here is a little bit more information about the fantastic tutors who I’ve chosen not just because of their reputation as poets, but also because of their reputation for running fantastic workshops.

Ian Duhig

A former homelessness worker, Ian Duhig has written six books of poetry, three of which were shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize as well as the Whitbread and Costa Poetry Awards. He has won the Forward Best Poem Prize, the National Poetry Competition and was a joint winner of a Shirley Jackson Award for one of his short stories. A Cholmondeley Award recipient and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he has taught at all levels from beginner to post-graduate and his university posts include being the International Writer Fellow at Trinity College Dublin.  If you would like to order any of Ian’s books, you can buy them direct from Picador here

Andrew Forster

Andrew Forster is originally from South Yorkshire but he lived in Scotland for twenty years before moving to Cumbria in 2008. He has published three full-length collections of poetry, two with Flambard Press, ‘Fear of Thunder’ (2007) and ‘Territory’ (2010), and ‘Homecoming’ with Smith Doorstop (2015). ‘Fear of Thunder’ was shortlisted for the 2008 Forward Prize for Best First Collection and ‘Homecoming’ is shortlisted for the Lakeland Book of the Year Award . Two poems, ‘Horse Whisperer’and ‘Brothers’, appear in the AQA GCSE syllabus.  He has worked in Literature Development for 17 years and until recently was Literature Officer at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.

Kim Moore

Kim Moore’s first full length collectionThe Art of Falling’ was published by Seren in 2015.  Her first pamphlet ‘If We Could Speak Like Wolves’ was a winner in the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition in 2012.  It was named in the Independent as a Book of the Year, shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and was the runner up in the Lakeland Book of the Year Award.  She was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer prize by Poetry Review in 2010, an Eric Gregory Award in 2012 and a Northern Writers Award in 2014 and is one of five UK poets selected to take part in Versopolis, a European project aimed at bringing the work of young UK poets to a wider European audience.  Her poem ‘In That Year’ is on the shortlist for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Published Poem.



Sunday Poem – Jayne Stanton


I’ve been in London this weekend, once again launching my book into the world.  I was a bit grumpy about having to spend most of Friday on the train because the weather was so beautiful in Barrow – very sunny and warm and the trains from Barrow to Lancaster have no air conditioning.  They get very hot and stuffy very quickly.  When I arrived at the train station, the server was down, so I couldn’t collect my advance tickets that I’d bought online.  The woman in the ticket office told me to get on the train because the guards were aware of it, but having come to the attention of train guards before I wasn’t having any of that! The train guards in Barrow might well be aware of the server problem, and maybe even sympathetic, but the guards on the Virgin train from Lancaster onward might not.  She agreed and gave me a letter which I was able to use to fend off the guards in their ticket hunts.  You may note a certain sarcasm in my tone when I talk about guards on trains.  I wouldn’t like to tar all of them with the same brush, and I have met some nice guards, particularly the ones that are on the Barrow-Lancaster train, but broadly speaking, it seems the further south you go, some of them seem to become a bit power crazed and frankly, unreasonable.  Anyway, sure enough, I did get a bit of grief from the second guard, from Lancaster onwards, who chided me for not having my ticket, even though I explained that I couldn’t get the ticket because the server was down! And even with my special dispensation letter as well! Grrr.

Anyway, I got to London and made my way to Brixton where my friend Jill made me steak and chips for tea which was lovely, and then on Friday evening I ran a writing workshop for Malika’s Kitchen, which was really enjoyable.  The group seemed really nice and wrote some interesting stuff, and I even sold a couple of books.  I was kind of dead on my feet by the time I got back so I went to bed quite early, semi-determined to go and do a park run in London.

I ended up going to Burgess Park Run because the one nearest to Jill’s house which I could have walked to, was cancelled because there was another event going on.  Jill has a vast knowledge of the bus and tube system of London and told me which one to get.  When my alarm first went off, I did think why am I doing this – but once I got going, it was actually quite exciting!  The only other Park Run I’ve done apart from Barrow is Skipton, when I was Ilkley Poet in Residence, and that was actually quite stressful because I was driving around trying to find it – it was a bit of a nightmare.  This was really easy though and I got talking to a couple of runners who were really friendly.  One of them was called Tessa and she was running at a similar time to me (well actually about 40 seconds faster but who is counting?) so I tried to keep up with her.  She just pipped me at the post as I was hovering between letting my awful competitive nature show or being a nice person.  So that has taught me a life lesson! Don’t procrastinate!  I was really pleased with my time as well – 22.42 which is a new 5k PB for me – my Barrow Park Run time is 23.02 but Barrow is very hilly and the Burgess course is completely flat.  Afterwards I was so hot and I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting on a bus so I decided to run back to Brixton with the help of my sat nav on my phone.

I got a new pair of trainers last week – courtesy of Active Cumbria.  They were running a Young People’s Poetry Competition a couple of weeks ago and my rather persuasive running buddy Emma asked me if I would be willing to judge it.  I did it as a favour for Emma and then on Thursday she turned up with a swanky pair of trainers as a thank you present!  I’m telling you this now because I tried them out on my Park Run jaunt and am pleased to report no blisters, although my toes did go bizarrely numb when I was running round.  The shoes weren’t too tight or anything, so not quite sure what happened there.

After the madness of the launch in Ulverston with the soul band and runners and poets and music teachers and pupils and randomness, it was actually quite nice to do a more ‘normal’ launch.  Jill started off the evening and did a great set of poems, and then Kathryn Maris, whose work I love read some poems as well.  I love Kathryn’s dry humour in her poetry and I could have listened to her read all night.

I won’t name everybody who was at the launch, but it was really nice to see some of my friends from down south who I don’t get to see very much usually.  I was really touched that people like Ben Johnson and Hilary Hares had made quite big journeys to get there.  The other big surprise was my mum and dad turning up out of the blue.  My mum bought ANOTHER copy of my book – I don’t know who she is giving them to – but she swears she has sold the other 7 that she bought at the Ulverston launch.

My mum and dad came and met me at Euston today and I dragged them along to Judd Books which I have to visit whenever I come to London.  They have a great discounted poetry section and they often get a lot of American poets that you can’t get elsewhere.  I always make a point of going now if I’m in London.  I spent £50 but that was about 12 books so I have now satisfied my book buying urge for a while.

Last week seemed to fly by pretty quickly.  We have had quite nice weather so every morning I’ve been sitting outside drinking a cup of tea.  Just being outside and able to hear the birds puts me in a better mood for work.  I didn’t know I would like the garden so much though.

I’ve not managed to do as much running as I would have liked this week.  I did an 11 kilometre one on Tuesday and a sprint session on Thursday but no long run because I’ve just not had time to fit it in.  I also had an end-of-term concert at one of the primary schools I work in this week so that took up another evening.

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Jayne Stanton, who is another person I’ve been meaning to ask for a Sunday Poem for a long time now.  Jayne is one of my loyal attendees on the residentials that I run.  I think she has been to all three at Grange over Sands and it has been wonderful to see her poetry developing over the years and her confidence in her own writing growing.

Jayne’s poem Clothes horse, comes from her pamphlet Beyond the Tune, which is published by Soundswrite Press.  It was published in 2014.  I’ve chosen this poem for a number of reasons – I love the first line which takes me back to my childhood.  Although we didn’t have a wooden clothes horse, we had a plastic clothes horse and I remember sitting in front of the fire and giving way inch by reluctant inch to the clothes horse.  I like that everything in this poem has a personality and a will of its own.  The clothes horse ‘stole our heat’.  The clothes are ‘line-dried failures’ and stll-limbed charges’.   The electric fire ‘coaxed the steam from dampened spirits.’  Even the washing-up bowl is a pool.   I also like how the poem describes a very specific moment in time in great detail and how it moves from inside the house ‘on winter nights’ to ‘On summer days” in the second stanza.

Jayne Stanton is a teacher, tutor and musician from Leicestershire.  Her poems appear in Antiphon, Ink, Sweat & Tears, London Grip, Obsessed with Pipework, Popshot, Southword, The Interpreter’s House, Under the Radar and others.

She blogs at

I hope you enjoy the poem!  Eleven minutes late today – not too bad!

Clothes horse – Jayne Stanton

On winter nights, this wooden workhorse stole our heat.
its frame spread wide to shoulder the line-dried failuers.
Our double-bar electric fire purloined, it coaxed the steam
from dampened spirits, raised our hopes of extra layers.

On summer days, we pitched its A-frame on the back lawn,
lazed in army blanket shade, picnicked in coarse comfort –
a seersucker cloth, requistioned milk and wafter biscuits served
from doll-size plastic ware.  Teacup pinky fingers raised,
we made small talk.  Our stiff-limbed charges cooled,
skinny-dipped in a makeshift washing-up bowl pool

Late Sunday Poem – Jane Clarke


I know this is not even close to Sunday any more but this was the closest I could get.  I’ve had a really busy weekend which wasn’t helped by the fact I got lost leaving Lancaster last night after reading at an event.  There were lots of roadworks and diversion signs and I missed the turning for the motorway in the dark.  Then I stupidly took the wrong turning and went the wrong way up the motorway due to tiredness, I think.  I saw a sign for Preston and off I went, forgetting I was already further north than Preston – doh!  By the time I got home it was about 1am.  The event was a poetry reading to raise money for children in Palestine and Syria, organised by Lizzy Hare.  It was really well attended and I found it very interesting and bought two books – one was an anthology of Palestinian poetry, translated by Scottish poets called ‘A Bird Is Not A Stone’ (what a fantastic title!) and a book by ‘Izzeldin Aubelaish called ‘I Shall Not Hate’.

I travelled to North Wales on Saturday afternoon and stayed with my friend Manon and her husband Dylan.  We went for a lovely chinese buffet on Saturday evening and then on Monday I drove from Manon’s house for about 45 minutes to Cymau to run an all day poetry workshop for a Stanza group there.  The workshop was organised by Robbie Burton and Martin Zarrop and I had a really lovely day with the group – the standard of poetry produced was  really high.  During the workshop we read poems by Ian Duhig, Jane Clarke, Shazea Quirashi, Pascale Petit, Ruby Robinson, Carolyn Jess-Cooke and Vicki Feaver.

On Friday I had a gig with the Soul Survivors at The Nines nightclub in Barrow which was really good fun but again, meant a late night on Friday and then getting up at a reasonable time to get myself organised for the weekend.

To be honest, last week was a bit ridiculous – and it was all my own fault.  On Thursday I decided I wanted to go to Dove Cottage Poets, a monthly poetry group that meets at the Wordsworth Trust, under the direction of Andrew Forster.  I also decided I wanted to take part in the weekly sprint session at the park at 6pm.  So after Dove Cottage Poets, I raced back from Grasmere, got changed and flew out again.    I’d bought tickets to see Germaine Greer at Forum 28 on Thursday night and hadn’t written it in my diary, so had promptly forgotten all about it until I was reminded by my friend.  I was also supposed to be at a soundcheck and rehearsal with the Soul Survivors for Fridays gig.  I decided to compromise, which worked out really well.  I went for the first half of the Germaine Greer event and then ducked out in the interval, rejoicing because after the interval it was question and answer time with the audience, and I’m not sure my temper would have survived that.  I got to the soundcheck about 8.30 as promised.

On Wednesday, my manager came to observe my teaching in the morning.  Then I did the 2nd live chat for the Poetry School for the online course I’m running – that was good fun, but hard work and quite intense.

Which brings us up to date and the exciting news that has been officially announced today – I have a poem on the shortlist for The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.  I’m especially chuffed because it is a poem from the sequence called ‘In That Year’.  I’ve known for a few weeks but haven’t been allowed to say anything.  It was first published in Poetry News and I’m really grateful to The Poetry Society for sending it in to be considered for the prize – I had no idea they had even entered it so it was a wonderful suprise!

Today’s Late Sunday Poem is written by Jane Clarke.  Poems like ‘Inheritance’ by Jane perfectly illustrate why I first thought of the Sunday Poem and thought about blogging.   I wanted somewhere that I could write my excitement when I I read something that I loved.  This is one of those poems – as soon as I read it, I wanted to tell everyone I knew about it.  The repeating line ‘I’d give it all up in a minute’ is really effective and creates a great conversational tone.  I love the assertion ‘I’d give it all up in a minute’.  It’s so ordinary, and yet, we become aware more and more as the poem progresses, of the unreliability of the narrator – will she ever be able to give it up?  The movement throughout the poem is really interesting as well as the narrator starts off saying all of the horrible things that he would not miss but by the end they are beautiful, natural things that he will miss.

I loved the use of the word ‘himself’ as well – kind of fond and disparaging at the same time. It’s a wonderfully short and deceptively simple poem.   Jane Clarke’s first collection is ‘The River’ published by Bloodaxe. This is one of my favourite first collections that I’ve read this year – I think the whole book is really stunning.  I’m falling asleep now, so am going to leave you with some information about Jane before I let her poem take over.

Originally from a farm in the west of Ireland, Jane now lives in Co.Wicklow.  She received the Listowel Writers’ Week Poetry Collection Prize in 2014 for her then unpublished first collection.

If ‘Inheritance’ doesn’t persuade you to go and buy ‘The River’ then you officially have a heart of stone!  I really hope that this book gets on some of the shortlists this year – it certainly deserves to.

Inheritance – Jane Clarke

I’d give it all up in a minute,
every last rock,
stream and sod of it.

They can have the price of sheep,
the grant for the cattle shed
and the bills from the vet.

They can have himself
with his humours and stories
and fear of anything new.

They can have the saplings
planted last spring, the kestrels
nesting in the mill.

I swear I wouldn’t miss a thing,
not one swallow sweeping
through the yard, not the geese

on the callows in March,
not one blade of foxtail
or meadow-grass heavy with dew