I had every intention of starting my blog this morning but was foiled by my laptop and its strange insistence on updating itself without my permission. It updated itself for about 2 hours so I gave up in the end and read half of the book that I’m going to be reviewing for Poem magazine.
I got a slow cooker for Christmas and decided to try it out today – it came with a recipe book. Anyone who knows me knows what a terrible cook I am, but one of my running friends swears by her slow cooker and is always saying how easy they are to use. Anyway, I made potato and leek soup and it actually tasted pretty good! I know this isn’t exactly a difficult dish for anybody else, but it is like rocket science for me, as I don’t have much common sense when it comes to cooking. I am now filled with probably mis-placed confidence and am going to make a batch of soup up for next week, which will hopefully stop me spending all my money in cafes at lunchtimes.
Today I’ve also been for a run – we had lots of snow in Barrow over night and it was really icy this morning, so I went with a few friends at 1pm down to the beach which was cold, but did have the advantage of not being icy. I’ve also been stripping wallpaper. The husband and I have got carried away in a wave of enthusiasm after our decorating triumph in the front room. Over Christmas we took the front room carpet out which had been there since 1950, re painted everything and it looks great. We then decided to start on the other downstairs room. The carpet in there is even worse and needs to be banished to another land, never mind the skip. We got away with just painting over the wallpaper in the front room, but the middle room the wallpaper was trying to make its own getaway so it has had to come off, which has bought some of the plaster down. Sigh.
On Monday my friend Pauline Yarwood and I found out that our application to the Arts Council to run the first Kendal Poetry Festival has been successful – we were awarded the full amount, so the festival will be taking place from June 24th-26th 2016 at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal. Quite a few people have got in touch to ask for reading slots at the festival. Sadly, we had to plan the programme quite far in advance and submit the names of the poets we wanted to read at the festival to the Arts Council as part of the grant application, so our programme is already booked up.
I would like to put a plea out for poets to come and support the festival though – poetry funding is being decimated in the north at the moment, particularly in Cumbria. For the festival to be a success, and for our accounts to balance, we have to get a good audience at each event, so please, make a note of the date in your diary. We’ve got some fantastic poets reading and running workshops and it will be a brilliant weekend. We’re currently starting to work on a website, but there will be details of the programme very soon.
I’m really glad that I’m working on the festival with Pauline. She is good at the things I’m a bit rubbish at so I think we will make a good team. I sent four panicky emails the other day listing all the jobs we had to do, and Pauline managed to calm me down and talk some sense into me. So far, we’ve managed to confirm with all the poets who had provisionally said yes that they can still make the weekend and we’ve got the times and room of each event. We’re liasing back and forth with the person who is building the website and creating a brochure for us. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s pretty much taken the whole week to get to that stage – but it has been really exciting.
Other than festivals, this week I’ve been writing my novel. I got up to 15,000 words and then came across a problem and I’m now going back over those 15,000 words, rewriting some bits and adding other bits in so I can solve the problem and keep going. One of the main issues, I think is that I’m not planning it out. I’m writing it like I would write a poem, just writing and seeing where I go with it. I have tried to plan a bit ahead, but I find it hard to come up with ideas, unless I’m in that kind of writing fever. Anyway, 15,000 words, even if they are a bit rubbish is not too bad.
On Thursday I spent some time editing two reviews that came in early for The Compass (thank you lovely reviewers!). I spent the rest of the day and evening, apart from nipping out for a run, planning for the workshops I’d be running on Friday. I left home at 7.30am to get to Dent Primary School for 9am, where I was running an all day workshop, the last in an extended project that I’ve been working on with the school on behalf of The Wordsworth Trust.
The children wrote poems about identity in the morning, then in the afternoon we looked at how to edit a poem. The children were really focused all day, and worked really hard. The day seemed to go really quickly. Over the next couple of weeks they are planning on doing some Poetry Bombing – they will be posting poems around Dent and in the wider area and I’m hoping to have a Dent Primary School takeover of the blog, where I will publish some of the work they’ve created over the three sessions I’ve had with them on here, so watch this space!
After I finished at Dent I drove to Kendal to run my Young Writers workshop – 6 very high-spirited teenagers. I’m currently running these workshops on behalf of Apples and Snakes and their ‘Picture the Poet’ exhibition. The Young Writers will be performing some of the work they’ve created at Tullie House on the 4th March alongside invited published poets (no news yet on who – but will post on here when I hear anything!)
After we finished our workshop, I drove two of the young writers to Grasmere with me, where I was reading as part of Richard Skinner’s Vanguard Reading Series on Tour. I was reading with Richard, Mark Ward, Geraldine Green, Deborah Hobbs and Josephine Dickinson. I felt really nostalgic driving to Grasmere – I haven’t been up there since the Trust lost the literature funding, and it made me realise how much I used to love the drive, especially in the dark, and how exciting it was to be going up there to listen to amazing poets..
I didn’t get back till about 2am due to a diversion on the A590 so I had quite a lazy day yesterday. I didn’t get dressed till about 4pm when hunger drove me out of the house to eat scones with my friend.
So, today’s Sunday Poem is a little unusual, in that I have never met Rose Cook, and I haven’t read her book, although I plan to change that when I get paid again. My friend Mike Kidson, who is the drummer in the Soul Survivors (the ten piece soul band I play with) sent me this poem as a hint I think but I absolutely loved it! I think Mike saw it on Facebook – anyway, I managed to track Rose down and ask if I could feature it here, and she very kindly agreed.
Although I’d not come across Rose’s work before, I have heard of her excellent publisher Cultured Llama Press. My lovely friend Hilda Sheehan is also published by them and they are a brilliant example of a small, independent publisher quietly going about publishing fantastic work.
When I read this poem, which Mike sent in a private message, I felt really moved. I know why he sent it me – because he thinks I do too much, and is worried I will one day fall over and not get up. The tone of the poem is so lovely though. It is not accusatory, it is not demanding. What it is full of is love,care, understanding – which sounds incredibly cheesy when I write it like that, but when the poem says all that in the second stanza it is like a little bit of magic.
It seems like a simple poem, but it is beautifully balanced – the line break after the first line and the repetition of the heart of the poem, the instruction or the plea to ‘Be still sometimes.’ Of course, I’m also a sucker for any poem that has something about falling in it, so the last line had me straight away.
I read a lot of poems that I love, a lot of poems that I like, a lot that I feel a bit indifferent about. This is the only one I’ve copied out and put in my wallet. I’d like to say that I’m going to listen to the poem, to try and be still sometimes, but I don’t think I’m quite ready to do it. But I like the idea of having the poem with me. It feels like carrying the poem around means I’m carrying round a little bit of stillness, a moment of quiet with me.
Thank you to Rose Cook, for allowing me to post this poem here. Rose Cook is a poet, who has been published by HappenStance with Everyday Festival (2009) and by Oversteps Books Taking Flight (2009). Her latest collection is Notes From a Bright Field published by Cultured Llama. You can find out more about Rose by heading over to her website here
*Update – after looking up Rose on her website I decided I couldn’t wait till pay day to order her book, so hopefully it will be winging its way to me some time next week.
A Poem for Someone Who is Juggling Her Life – Rose Cook
This is a poem for someone
who is juggling her life.
Be still sometimes.
Be still sometimes.
It needs repeating
over and over
to catch her attention
over and over
as someone who is juggling her life
finds it difficult to hear.
Be still sometimes.
Be still sometimes.
Let it all fall sometimes.