Late Sunday Poem – Jane Clarke

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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

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4 responses »

  1. Kim, thanks very much for including ‘Inheritance’ here and for your words about my collection. Congratulations on your shortlisting in the Forward Single Poem Prize. ‘In the Year’ is superb. I’m only surprised that your collection isn’t shortlisted too.

  2. Firstly, what a wonderful poem from Jane Clarke – I will certainly look out for The River. My kind of poem, that. I also wanted to say that the first time I heard you read Dear Mr Gove at your book launch, I found tears in my eyes – I thought it was the emotion of the whole evening getting to me (it was a cracking night after all) but then when you read it again on Sunday in Lancaster, the tears came again! I think it’s because although it’s full of humour, it can’t fail to make me cry for the terrible things Gove has done to education and how wonderful it is that there are still teachers out there like you that really do fly in the face of it all, and take your children with you – keep on flying!
    I was really sorry to hear about your long journey home on Sunday – that just wasn’t fair!

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