Monthly Archives: September 2015

Sunday Poem – Ian Duhig


I’m writing this on Friday and am hoping to use the wonders of modern technology to get this to post on Sunday, all by itself, whilst I’m busy swanning around London.  The husband and I are making a weekend of it – we’re going to see Richard II or possibly Richard III on Saturday night (can’t remember which!) 

We are going to London because it’s it’s the Forward Prizes on Monday night. I’m looking forward to it – it will be lovely to meet people and see some familiar friends, but I am quite nervous as well.  In fact I felt sick with nerves last night but I’ve been just the normal amount of nerves today.

I found out last Thursday night, in the middle of soul band rehearsal that my poem ‘In That Year’ which is the one currently shortlisted for the Forward Prize is going to be published this weekend in the Financial Times, which is very exciting.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time this week finishing off admin chores in regards to the various residential courses that I’m running.  I spoke to the manager at Abbot Hall Hotel yesterday and there are only 4 places left on the December Poetry Carousel, so if you have been thinking about it and not doing anything, now is the time! If you would like to book, please ring the hotel directly to do so, but if you have any questions about the course, then just give me a shout!

My other news is that I’ll be running a monthly writing workshop in Barrow.  The first one will be at the Hawcoat Community Centre, Skelwith Avenue, Barrow in Furness on the 14th November.  The cost is £15 and the workshop will run from 10am till 4pm.  If you are really keen, you can even hang around and come to my evening gig with the fabulous Soul Survivors, the nine-piece soul band that I play with.  We will be performing at Hawcoat Park Sports and Social Club later that same evening.  Please contact me if you would like to book a place – spaces are limited!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by one of the tutors that I’m lucky enough to be working with during the Poetry Carousel, the one and only Ian Duhig.  I’ve chosen ‘Flooding Back’ from Ian’s latest collection Pandorama, published by Picador.  The first thing that attracted me to this poem was the story on the surface of the poem from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (which as you all know I’m obsessed with).  Baucis and Philemon offer hospitality to two gods, and when the gods take their revenge on the townsfolk who didn’t offer them hospitality, Baucis and Philemon are spared.  The only reward that they ask for is that they can die together, and eventually, instead of dying, they are turned into two conjoined trees.

The poem tells this story in a much better way than my rough paraphrase – Ian’s lines are much more beautiful of course:

‘To save them from the pain of either’s loss,
they’d begged this gift from gods they’d taken in’

There are some lovely lines in the poem as well: ‘when dead fish perched like scaly birds in trees’ is one of my favourites.  There is however, another story going on beneath the surface level of this poem, signalled by the epigraph ‘i.m. David Oluwale’.  I looked up David Oluwale, although I did know a bit about him, it’s a really sad story.  David Oluwale was an African immigrant to Britain whose death in 1969 was the first known incident of racist policing allegedly leading to the death of a black person.  Oluwale came to Britain from Nigeria by hiding in a ship in 1949.  He made a new life for himself in Leeds but was arrested in In 1953 Oluwale was charged with disorderly conduct and assault following a police raid on a nightclub. He subsequently served a 28-day sentence. In prison it was reported he suffered from hallucinations, possibly because of damage sustained from a truncheon blow during the arrest. He was transferred to Menston Asylum in Leeds where he spent the next eight years. When he eventually got out, he was unable to hold down a job and became homeless.  He was constantly harassed by the police and this eventually led to his death in 1969.

Floooding Backhas a real anger about it and I think it is functioning almost like a parable – the townsfolk did not welcome the gods in disguise, and the gods sent a great flood to wipe them all out.  Setting this story against the story of David Oluwale, who was also not welcomed or shown hospitality (an understatement really) makes me as a reader ask who are we and what happens to us if we don’t offer help, which again seems timely when we have the awful refugee crisis going on. It’s is a really effective way of writing a political poem, without looking like you are writing a political poem.  I also love the fact the poem has these two different stories that are set next to each other. One is silent of course apart from a name, but the other sheds light on it just by standing next to it.

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

Anyway, here is the poem – I hope you enjoy it!

Flooding Back
i.m. David Oluwale

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book VIII,
he hangs fresh wreaths on branches of the trees
that Baucis and Philemon had become
at the same moment the old couple died.
To save them from the pain of either’s loss,
they’d begged this gift from gods they’d taken in
when every other door was closed on them.  But masked gods walk among us as a test,
for hospitality’s a sacred duty
binding all who claim morality;
on their high ground, Baucis and Philemon
were safe in their dilapidated home
when judgement visited the town below,
and neighbours tears, withheld for homeless gods,
now swelled a tidal wave that rose and fell
on mansion as on hovel, bank as church
a flood as levelling as that first great flood
when dead fish perched like scaly birds in trees
or wreathes left by respectful votaries,
while underneath, waves billowed like blown wheat
on wheatfields yielding only anchor holds,
as if the Aire became that element.
It sounded always destined to become,
a change to take the breath away from men.

Residential Poetry Course at St Ives – Change of Tutor


Sadly, Clare Shaw is no longer able to tutor at St Ives in February 2016 due to other work commitments which include a new post as the Royal Literary Fellow at Huddersfield University.  Although I am sad not to be working with Clare at St Ives, we will be tutoring together in the future – so do watch this space!  I’m really excited to announce that the fantastic poet Steve Ely will be stepping in to fill Clare’s shoes.

Steve Ely’s work fits brilliantly with our theme of ‘Thrown Voices’ – his work is wide-ranging and he writes extensively using history and politics to inform his work.  His first book of poetry Oswald’s Book of Hours is published by Smokestack and was nominated for the 2013 Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry in 2015.  Englaland, his second collection was published in 2015 by Smokestack.  His novel Ratmen is published by Blackheath Books.  Ted Hughes’s South Yorkshire: Made in Mexborough, a biographical work about Hughes’s neglected Mexborough period will be published by Palgrave MacMillan in July 2015.

The course will be running from 15th – 20th February 2016 at Treloyhan Manor Hotel in St Ives.  The cost of the course will be £475 for a standard ensuite room.  This has increased a little bit from last year – this is to cover the extra night at the hotel, and tutors travel expenses, which I didn’t calculate in last time (doh).  I think it is still excellent value for money though – this fee covers all workshops, tutorials and readings, accommodation, breakfast and three course evening meal.

Below is a little bit more information about the theme of the week.  Please book directly through the hotel – places are limited and usually fill up fairly quickly.  If you have questions about the course – please get in touch with me directly via the contact page on the blog.

Residential Poetry Course
Tutors: Kim Moore and Steve Ely

Monday 15th February – Saturday 20th February 2016, Treloyhan Manor Hotel, St Ives, 01736 796240

Thrown Voices
Come and join us in beautiful St Ives where we will explore what happens when we throw our voices into other stories, bodies and objects.  We will look at what it means to have a voice, and how poets have written about what happens when this voice is taken away.  Drawing on personal artefacts and stories, published poems and the rich surroundings of St Ives, we will discover what it feels like to write in a voice that is both yours, and not yours; and to tell a story that may – or may not be – your own.  This course is suitable for new writers as well as more experienced poets

Sunday Poem – Malcolm Carson


I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog in the last couple of weeks.  I’ve been getting a bit weary – not with picking the poems, which I love doing, but with writing about my week, which seems to become a bit of a long list.  People come up to me and tell me how busy I am.  I don’t think I’m busier than anyone else – it’s just that I’ve been documenting it all in minute detail.  However, I have worn myself out with it all, so I’ve decided from this week that I will be limiting myself to 1000 words for each blog post (excluding the poem) Which is still quite a lot.  I’m also going to write up the bit about the poem and the poet first, and then come back and do the bit about me afterwards, with whatever words I’m left with.  This week I was left with, excluding the poem, 469 words.

I’ve already used quite a few of them to explain this principle so I want to use the remaining words I have left to tell you about the fantastic reading that Steve Ely did for ‘A Poem and a Pint’ last night.  If you get a chance to hear Steve Ely read, go.  For me he is up there with the best poet-performers – people like Clare Shaw, Kei Miller and Alice Oswald.  His poems slip between the past and the present and his reading, particularly the moments when he read in Old English were really spellbinding.  The reading made my week – and he was a very amenable house guest as well, and didn’t even mind when he came down in the morning to find one of my naughty terriers had left a present on the carpet.

Before you go on to read about this week’s Sunday Poet, the wonderful Malcolm Carson (not to be confused with the equally wonderful Mark Carson from last week) I would like to tell you all that I spent all of Sunday morning trying to work out if the series of prose-poems that I’ve been writing, are in fact prose poems at all. I thought the best way to do this would be to put line breaks in and see if they fitted and if it added anything.  The breaking news, as of 11.07pm is that I think they are still prose poems.

I met Malcolm Carson at the Borderlines Literature Festival in Carlisle.  I was reading with Jacob Polley and Malcolm was introducing us both.  I got a chance to talk to him before the event and instantly decided that I liked him – we have the same sense of humour and we like and dislike the same people!  So, I was hoping that I would also like his poetry as well – there is nothing more terrible than meeting a kindred spirit and then finding out that their poetry is a bit rubbish.

However, I shouldn’t have worried!  Malcolm kindly sent me a couple of his latest books which I’ve really enjoyed reading.  Rangi changi was published by Shoestring Press in 2010 and Cleethorpes Comes To Paris is his latest pamphlet, published in 2014, also by Shoestring Press.  His first collection Breccia was published by Shoestring in 2007.  I decided to pick a poem from Cleethorpes Comes To Paris as this is his most recent work.  The pamphlet is a sequence of poems recounting and recalling the first trip to a foreign country and encounter with another culture.

If you have any grasp of French you would be expecting a poem about hitchhiking when you read the title of the poem that I’ve chosen for this week’s Sunday Poem.  Sadly, I have a tentative bit of french that I’m hanging on to with my fingernails rather than grasping.  Luckily the poem is self-explanatory and after I finished it, I googled the title just to double check because that’s the kind of thorough reader I am!

The poem is full of astute and pointed observations.  I particularly like the idea that being in someone’s car is like being in their sitting room – it tells you just as much about their personality and the way they live. I also like the idea of the hitchhikers feeling that they were obliged to talk ‘to pay them back’.   I think the sentence ‘Or else/we’d learn of problems/only strangers learn’ is brilliant as well and captures those occasions when a stranger tells you something that they probably haven’t told their own family.  I think the poem captures really well the tension of hitch hiking – ‘each phrase assessed, developed/or let drop if conflict was foreseen.’

It also made me think about my husband who used to hitch hike all the time in his youth, and in America got into someone’s car and sat next to a fully loaded rifle, laid out in between the drivers and the passenger seat.  He was careful about what he said as well!

Malcolm Carson was born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire but now lives in Carlisle with his wife and three sons.  He studied English at Nottingham University and then taught in colleges and universities.  He has his own website here and you can order his books from Shoestring Press if you would like to read more of his work – although you do have to download an order form.  An easier way of getting a book might be to go through Books Cumbria.  This way you will also be supporting the marvellous independent bookshop Bookends as well – the place of my £80 spent on second hand poetry books.

Here is the poem – I hope you enjoy it.

Autostop – Malcolm Carson

We’d wonder who we’d get,
as no doubt did they
in their approach,
a moment to suss us out,
pull in.  Destination settled
we’d start a conversation
as though to pay them back,
each phrase assessed, developed
or let drop if conflict was foreseen.
It was as if we’d entered
their favourite sitting room
or just as intimate
at any rate, where taste
and manners, predilections
and prejudices were on
display as they might parade
their new-bought suite.  Or else
we’d learn of problems
only strangers learn,
their secrets safe in our rucksacks.
Sometimes resentment stirred,
their chances lost to do
the same as us.  Others though
were content with silence,
the hum of company enough
until we’d disembark
and leave their lives, our brief
acquaintance vapourised
down the fast receding road.

Sunday Poem – Mark Carson


hove-toIt’s been my first week back at my job as a peripatetic teacher this week.  I’ve been doing this job for 12 years now – I can’t quite believe it’s been that long.  It feels different this year though because I’m only working 2 days a week, so technically I have more days as a poet than I do as a music teacher.  Last week I only actually did 1 day of teaching because I was away for a kind of training day for a new exciting project that I’m not allowed to say anything about.  So I’d better not – but that day away made it seem like the week went by very fast.

The rest of my week was made up of the usual mix of random things – a meeting with Pauline Yarwood about Kendal Poetry Festival, which we’re slowly starting to put together.  We’ve managed to secure a venue for the festival, which is going to take place at Abbott Hall Art Gallery, hopefully in June next year.  We’re now at the stage of finalising a first application for funding.  It is a load of hard work putting a festival together!  That might sound really obvious, but I didn’t realise how hard it was until we started.  It still feels very much like an uphill struggle at the moment, and we both have to keep telling each other that we are making progress.  We’ve got a draft programme, a venue and a nearly completed funding application so we are on our way!

I also drove to Preston with Mrs A to pick up a baby Eb Bass for the junior band which someone was selling on Facebook.  While we were there, I also bought a tenor horn as well – always a useful thing to have in the cupboard!

On Wednesday I took part in the Ulverston 5k and ran round with my friend Ian, who would usually be too fast for me to keep up with.  However he has took it upon himself this week to do some DIY and managed to stand on a nail which has slowed him down a bit, so he agreed to pace me round the course.  My best time for 5k, on the same course last year was 22 minutes and 54 seconds, so I thought a sensible time to go for would be 22 and a half minutes.  Ian had other ideas however.

I finished in a time of 21 minutes and 55 seconds which I was absolutely chuffed with – not only because I knocked nearly a minute off my time, but also because I’d broken the 22 minute barrier, which I didn’t think I would do this year.  It was a very fast course, and I don’t think I’ve got the mental discipline or the confidence to do it on my own yet.  Ian was convinced I could have gone faster, because every time he told me to ‘get on his shoulder’ I did it.  I tried to explain that this wasn’t because it was easy, it’s just that I’m obedient…

Anyway, that little effort put me completely out of action for the next day and I spent most of it in the garden, lying on my hammock.  I was quite relieved it was my day off and I decided to not do any writing but just to spend the whole day reading.  I actually fell asleep in the hammock and only woke up because the dogs ran out barking at a cat that was peering over the fence.

On Thursday night I went for another run (probably foolishly – but routines must be upheld) and then went to quintet rehearsal.   The other thing that happened this week is the quintet I run – the South Lakes Brass Ensemble were booked to play at a 30th anniversary dinner at the Coronation Hall.  We only had a couple of days notice as the people who booked us to play had been let down at the last minute, so I was pleased with how the gig went.

On Friday, I was running Dove Cottage Young Poets and then I went straight from there to Settle, where I was due to be reading that night with Meg Peacocke.  Traffic coming out of Kendal meant I was late arriving to the organiser’s house who had made lovely soup and laid out salad and bread and cheese and all sorts of lovely things, but I did manage to scoff some food.

Reading with Meg was lovely and the audience were really welcoming and friendly.  I managed to sell 8 copies of The Art of Falling and two If We Could Speak Like Wolves which I thought was good going.  I read from a lot of new poems in the second half, and in retrospect, I think that might have been a mistake.  I think next time, when I have two 20 minute sets, it would be better to mix the new poems up with the poems from the book.  The poems from the book can act as the scaffold then, to hold the new poems steady.  You live and you learn though!

Today I’ve been for a 15 kilometre run.  I’m trying to get one long run in each week in preparation for the Lancaster Half Marathon which I’m doing the first weekend in November.  If I manage it, it will be the first half marathon that I’ve done with a few long runs in the bag before hand and I’m hoping this will translate into an improved time.  Last year I ran 1 hour 52 minutes – this year I’d love to get as close to 1 hour 45 minutes as possible, although that seems like an impossible task, to take seven minutes off.

A few reviews are starting to come in for The Art of Falling.  David Cooke has reviewed my book alongside collections by William Bedford and Patricia McCarthy in the recent issue of The North.  Matthew Stewart has also written a really perceptive and generous review over on his blog Rogue Strands.  There will be a review essay about the book appearing in the next issue of Poetry Salzburg and they have also taken a new poem to publish alongside the essay – the first one I’ve had published since the collection came out.  This is my own lazy fault, as I have been hoarding poems instead of submitting them.

I’m feeling quite lazy at the minute.  Although it doesn’t sound like it when I list what I’ve been doing, I’ve actually spent a bit more time this week deliberately resting.  I am prone when I’ve been ill to getting post-viral fatigue syndrome, so after the cold I’ve had I’ve been trying to take it a bit easier.  I know running 15k isn’t taking it easier, but I’ve been doing the minimum amount of emailing I can get away with.  I’ve also been trying to keep away from social media a little bit.  I’ve been posting on Facebook and Twitter probably just as much as usual, but I’ve been trying to stop wasting so much time scrolling down newsfeeds.  I must admit, I decided to do this after reading Anthony Wilson’s blog – at the minute he has taken himself off Twitter.  I don’t want to come off completely, but I remember when I was younger, I used to walk around the house with a book in front of my face reading.  The last thing I did at night before I went to sleep would be to read.  Now, the last thing I do is check Facebook and Twitter.  So I’d like to get back to reading more.  Plus, my shelf of books that I haven’t read yet is getting seriously crowded and I’m getting further and further behind.

Which leads me nicely onto the Sunday Poem for this week, which is by my good friend Mark Carson.  I’ve been friends with Mark for as long as I’ve been writing.  I don’t quite know how many years that will be now but Mark was at the first writing group, Fourth Monday Poets that I pitched up at.  We are now in two writing groups together – Barrow Writers and Brewery Poets.  He is also on the committee for A Poem and a Pint, taking on the least popular job of treasurer.  Mark is a lovely man – very kind and generous with a great sense of humour.  He has spent many, many years supporting other people with their work, including me, and I have never heard him be anything but enthusiastic and pleased at the news of other people’s success – and he really means it – he isn’t pretending!  He travels widely to attend readings in Cumbria and Lancaster, again to support other people’s readings, but he is also a very good poet.  He has been working quietly away at his poetry, sending submissions out and resending them if they come back without fuss or complaint.  He works hard at his writing but he is not the type of person to write a blog about it! Luckily he has me to fill that gap for him!  He has been on the blog before, and I’m sure I said similar things that time too – but this time Mark has a pamphlet out with Mike Barlow’s Wayleave Press.  The press has been going a year and Mike has already published some fantastic pamphlets but I was really pleased when I heard Mark was going to have his own pamphlet out.

Mark’s pamphlet is called Hove-to is a State of Mind and the poems draw on his Irish roots, a career as an ocean engineer and time spent in Africa. Mark also told me some interesting facts about the pamphlet, which might be of interest to those people putting together their own pamphlet.  One of the poems, Per Ardua ad Nauseam, dates back from 1980 (here is that hard work thing I’ve been talking about).  One of the poems collected 18 rejections before finally being published (here’s that hard work again).

Mark’s poems have been published in various poetry magazines – I can’t tell you which ones because he has been very modest in his biography and not listed them but I know one of the magazines he’s appeared in is Other Poetry.  He’s also done well in competitions – a commended in The Troubadour Competition in 2011 and the poem I’ve chosen for the blog this week ‘Donegal’ was longlisted in the 2013 National Poetry Competition.

I’ve always loved this poem, since the first time I heard Mark read it.  He evokes the place very powerfully, with those details that tumble after each other – the ‘crunching’ of the shingle, the light as it ‘bleeds into dark’ and the ‘thin wedges of cloud’.  These are all lovely, sensuous lines, but this is not just a poem about place.  It has a real mystery – we don’t know why the ‘I’ is walking the beach ‘for the last time’.   We don’t know why the ‘I’ is leaving.

This poem has a real loneliness, or a sense of the outsider to it.  That lovely word ‘sneck’ and the yellow light from the cottage make the cottage seem like a warm, inviting place, that is until we get to the last line of the second stanza and the reference to the people inside ‘murmuring’ secrets.

The last stanza though is the strangest – again the vocabulary is really rich – lots of lovely words – ‘curragh’ and ‘kelp’ and ‘bladderwrack’.  And the mystery of this stanza – why does he need a ‘wet brown cow’.  Where is he going?

Mark possibly has one of the most interesting biographies of any poet I’ve feature here –

Born in Belfast and educated in Dublin, Mark Carson went to Cambridge to do a PhD – Corrugation and the Dynamics of Rolling Contact –­ which should have led to a career in railway engineering. Instead he joined the National Institute of Oceanography, giving engineering support to geophysicists, marine biologists and meteorologists, and spending quite a lot of time at sea.

Later he went to Nairobi University as a teacher of engineering, only to return to Cumbria where he co-founded an offshore engineering software business, Orcina Ltd.

I hope you enjoy the poem, and if you would like to order Mark’s pamphlet you can order it here, direct from the publisher. Mark is also available for readings – get in touch with him through his publisher.  He enjoys performing and he is a great reader of his work and very good company!

Mark will be launching his pamphlet at Ford Park, Ulverston on the 8th October at 7.30pm.  There will also be music from Braddyll Friends and the South Lakes Brass Ensemble! What’s not to like?

Donegal – Mark Carson

I am walking the beach, for the last time crunching the shingle –
though the sun sank hours ago, light still bleeds into dark
and the trails of geese are stretched to the farthermost island,
thin wedges of cloud are nudging into the west.

Hear from the headland the sneck click and hinge squeak;
yellow light spills on the grass from the door of the cottage;
the dog makes his snuffling round, while murmuring speech
leaks secrets I don’t wish to know across inlets.

Bring me a curragh and a crew of hard-armed lads
and a wet brown cow with a bucket of kelp and bladderwrack.
We’ll push out bravely into the inky waters
and the oar’s creak will blend with the wingbeat of swans.

Sunday Poem – Nichola Deane



Evening all – I’m writing this from the glamorous location of a Virgin train, somewhere between Carlisle and Oxenholme. I’ve been at Borderlines – the Carlilse Book festival since yesterday afternoon and have had an amazing weekend.

When I got to Carlisle train station I was worried about getting home at all, as apparently there were horses running amok on the line but we were just a few minutes late setting off, so I’m hoping I’ll still make my connection at Lancaster. I’m facing the wrong way so I can see the landscape rushing away from the train. On the left the sky is a pale blue but the landscape on both sides is a dark black. It is that time of evening that I often find myself trying to write about – dusk, when the air is grey and there is this beautiful quality to the light. On the right, the far horizon is a mix of purples and pinks – it really is beautiful. Also, someone has just walked past with a cat in a cat box which miaowed at me loudly.

Yesterday I took what I think of as the ‘slow’ train up to Carlisle. It is only maybe half an hour or forty minutes slower, but instead of changing at Lancaster, this train goes up the west coast of Cumbria. It was a beautiful day then as well. I was in a relatively good mood – I’d got up early, got myself to Barrow Park run and ran a reasonably good time – four seconds off my PB which is annoying but still under 23 minutes which I’m really pleased with.

The landscape we went through was beautiful – past Roanhead Beach, which is my new favourite place to run, and then along miles and miles of coastline. I obviously like living in Cumbria – I’ve been here 13 years now, but I suddenly realised that I love it here – I love the landscape, the people, the life that I have here. I guess what I’m trying to say, is that I realised that I was happy, and it felt strange to know this, to articulate it. I feel strange writing it, almost as if it is something to be ashamed of, or something I should qualify. But I do, and I am. I feel very happy tonight.

This has a lot to do with the fact that this has been one of the good times, one of the good weekends to be a writer. I arrived at the Crown and Mitre hotel in Carlisle and checked in. The festival had sorted out a really lovely room and my evening meal was paid for. I got an Authors Pass so I could go to any events I wanted to over the weekend. Today I ran a workshop with incredibly talented writers. This afternoon I read with Jacob Polley, one of my favourite poets and the audience were lovely. A good few years ago – maybe five or six, I was Commended, alongside Jacob Polley, in the Mirehouse Poetry Competition. I was so uncomfortable at the prize giving ceremony, feeling like I wasn’t a proper writer and I didn’t deserve to be there, that even though I sat next to Jacob, I didn’t dare to speak to him and I scuttled off home as soon as I possibly could – and now I’m reading with him. I don’t pinch myself to make sure it’s real, because that is a cliché, and does anyone ever really do that? But I still get that feeling of slight disbelief that I’m getting to do these amazing things.

Last night I went to perhaps one of the most inspiring talks I’ve been to – Terry Waite, who was taken hostage in the 80’s. He is an amazing man, and I sat up till 2.30am reading his book last night. I couldn’t stop tears in my eyes while he spoke – I thought it was just me being sentimental – I do cry at anything, and when he talked about knowing the whole time that they could break his body, and bend his mind, but his soul was in another’s hands, that was me gone. But there were lots of people who were wiping tears away by the end.

This week in general has been a bit mixed. On Thursday and Friday I had two Inset teacher training days. I can’t say a lot without being unprofessional, but it is not my favourite way to spend my time. On Tuesday I had a meeting about a project that I’ll be working on in Dent Primary School in association with The Wordsworth Trust and Tullie House this term. It sounds like it’s going to be a really exciting project. I work with the school for a total of four days which seems like a real luxury to have that length of time working with the same children.

After that meeting I went for another meeting with Pauline Yarwood about a project we are trying to put together. It is progressing nicely, but I don’t want to go public yet with it until we’ve made a bit more progress, but watch this space!

Apart from that I’ve spent the rest of the time last week running. I’m feeling better again after the terrible cold last week and although my throat still doesn’t feel quite right, I feel a lot better. Tomorrow I have to somehow motivate myself to do my long run for the week – I’ve signed up for the Lancaster Half Marathon which is the first weekend of November. I did it last year in a time of 1 hour and 52 minutes so I’d like to knock some minutes off that if possible.

The Sunday Poem this week is by Nichola Deane, who I read with last week in Clitheroe, along with David Borrott and Wayne Price, last week’s Sunday Poem. I remember reading Nichola’s poem ‘Yesterday’s Child’ in an issue of The Rialto and making a note to myself to look out for her work, so I was pleased to hear she’d been selected as one of the ‘Laureate’s Choice’ poets.  This poem went on to be Highly Commended in the 2014 Forward Prize.

Nichola was born in Bolton in 1973.  Her first pamphlet, My Moriarty, won the 2012 Flarestack Poetry Pamphlet Prize and was later selected as the Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice.  As well as The Rialto, her work has appeared in magazines such as Poetry London, Magma, Archipelago, Oxford Poetry, the Moth and The SHop.  Her Laureate’s Choice pamphlet is called ‘Trieste’ and is available to buy here

The poem I’ve chosen ‘What Can a Flame Remember?’ is a strange little poem.  Nichola tells me that the title is from a poem by the Greek poet George Seferis called ‘Mr Stratis Thalassinos Describes a Man’.  I couldn’t find the poem online, but am looking forward to re-reading my Penguin anthology of three greek poets to see if it is in there.

I call it a strange little poem because it has that other-worldliness to it.  I love how the first line seems like a statement of absolute fact, though of course it can’t be. The poet can’t know what a flame remembers, if it remembers at all, but reading the poem I’m completely taken up by the inner life of the fire, of what it remembers and what it doesn’t.

This is a poem that seems to reach back in time to when we would all have been sitting around the fire, staring into the flames.  This is most evident in Stanza 3.   One of my favourite lines is ‘the jolt of its beginning’.  It is full of energy, and it made me think, yes, I know exactly what you mean – that illustrates perfectly the way that things catch fire.  I also admire the deftness of the way she has handled the language – look at stanza 5 with it’s repetition of arc and ark.  It takes a confident writer to take these risks.  Lastly of course, as many of you already know, I’m a sucker for a soul in a poem.  One mention of it and I go gooy eyed.  I’ve just (this minute) started to pick up all the biblical references in this poem – the ‘gospel of dark’.  The use of ‘the story’ instead of ‘a story’ makes me think of the Bible.  The use of the word ark and then finally, the soul free-falling at the end.  The flame remembers only one new thing.  The end of the poem makes me think of souls falling into hell – although when i first started writing this post, I thought the ending was wonderfully optimistic with its image of the soul falling.   Now  I think the poem is saying that the flame will not remember the souls as they fall towards hell. Which is obviously a little sad!

I’ going to sign off now, because I keep falling asleep while typing.  For example, I’ve tried to write this sentence three times now and each time I drift off and don’t get to the end!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy Nichola’s poem, and thanks Nichola for letting me use the poem on the blog.

What Can a Flame Remember – Nichola Deane
– Seferis

A flame remembers one near thing:
the heat rounding

on the spark,
the jolt of its beginning.

Not the world, nor the story,
nor the gospel of dark.

Nothing beyond the pale
of its own burning –

just the arc –
the ark of fire,

but not
the transitory,

the soul in fall.