I can’t believe it is already the end of the first week of the Easter Holidays. I’m feeling much better than I was feeling last Sunday which is a relief. The last week has been a busy one, leaving me wondering how I fit my two days teaching in.
On Monday my twin sister came down. Last time I saw her she had green hair. This week she has purple hair – who knows what it will be next week! She was taking a well deserved break from the animal rescue centre which she manages. I made Beef Bourgignon for Jody and her husband Matt and didn’t poison them. Or at least I haven’t heard that I have so far.
I had a Kendal Poetry Festival meeting on Tuesday with Pauline Yarwood and the website designer Claire, which took a good part of the day – mainly discussing website and social media. I managed to make some sweet potato and carrot soup in my slow cooker and again, didn’t poison any of my guests so was quite pleased with myself.
On Wednesday I had another poetry visitor – the lovely Clare Shaw, who was holidaying in the Lake District and came by to work on a proposal we are putting together for a project. By this point, I’d exhausted my culinary skills and couldn’t face the thought of cooking again, so it was a great excuse to go to my favourite Thai takeaway.
My writing life has been busy this week as well. I found out that I’ve got an interview next Tuesday for something that I’ve applied for, that I really want to do. I’ve not had many interviews – I can probably count the amount of interviews I’ve had on one hand in fact, and I wouldn’t say I’m brilliant at them, so I’m quite nervous. I do feel different about this one though, more determined not to let it pass me by, so I’m hoping this will be enough to get me through it successfully.
On Thursday I went to Methley in Leeds and read to a book group. I met the lovely poet Linda France who did an ‘Exploring Poetry’ session with the group before I arrived there. She had obviously done a good job because the group were very receptive, despite many of them saying they’d never been to a poetry reading before. I sold 3 books that night and drove back home, getting back around 1am.
On Friday I ran a Dove Cottage Young Poets session in Kendal and then drove over to Lancaster for the North-West Literary Salon, a reading series set up by Yvonne Battle-Felton and Naomi Kruger during their time at Lancaster University as PhD students. I stupidly got the time wrong, assuming it started at 7.30pm instead of 7pm. Luckily a friend rang at 7pm to see where I was (stuck on Lancaster’s one way system) and I dumped the car in a side street and ran about half a mile through town, lade down with books. I eventually arrived at about 7.2opm. Yvonne and Naomi were very kind and forgiving about it and had taken my late arrival in their stride, inviting the audience to eat first instead of later, so everybody seemed pretty happy when I got there.
The event had apparently sold out and sells out every month. I was reading with Deborah Andrews, a novelist based in Lancaster. I really enjoyed the extracts from her novel, which is out next month and will definitely buy a copy once it is published. It was interesting reading with a novelist as well – I’ve never done this before, but I connected with some of the themes that Deborah is exploring in her novel. I went for a drink in the pub afterwards, reasoning that Lancaster practically feels round the corner from Barrow (1 hour and 15 minutes away) after my three and a half hour drive to Leeds the night before.
Yesterday I ran my Barrow Poetry Workshop. 17 people this month – and two cancelled because of sickness so it is starting to get busy. I like the beginning of the day, before the workshop starts, when everyone is talking and getting cups of tea and spilling sugar and catching up on the news. I obviously like the rest of the day as well, but the beginning, before anybody has written a word, always seems so full with possibilities.
The quality of the work produced was excellent as usual. I even did a little bit of writing during the workshop and felt motivated enough to do some more quite late last night. I typed two new poems up from my notebook. I haven’t looked at them again yet – I like to leave them in my folder now for a couple of days without looking at them so that they feel new when I come back to them.
As well as whizzing about between Kendal, Leeds and Lancaster I’ve also done quite a bit of running this week – my target is to try and run 40 kilometres each week, which I have managed (40.6 this week). I’ve been for a 13km run this morning which I really enjoyed, then got back, walked the dogs and then sat and obsessed about my interview.
Plans for next week include more Kendal Poetry Festival meetings, meeting a friend I haven’t seen for ages, the last Poetry School chat for my online course ‘What Work Is’, Brewery Poets meeting, a Barrow Shipyard Junior Band concert and A Poem and a Pint with the wonderful Liz Berry as our guest poet.
Today’s Sunday Poem is actually two Sunday Poems. Although I usually stick to my strict rule of only picking one poem, I figured I could get away with it this week because Meg’s poems are quite short, and usually very funny. I met Meg for the first time in February down in St Ives on the residential course I ran with Steve Ely.
On the last night of the course, when the participants read their own poems, Meg had the room in stitches with her poetry – not just the words but the dry delivery as well. I went and bought her pamphlet straight away because I enjoyed the reading so much.
Both of these poems come from Meg’s pamphlet ‘Looking Over My Shoulder at Sodom’ published by Grey Hen Press and available to buy for a very reasonable £4. The first poem I’ve chosen ‘The Best Medicine’ is one Meg read on the course. I love the description of the mother shouting up the stairs to get the two children to go to sleep, to stop laughing, maybe because this is something my twin sister and I used to do- try to make each other laugh instead of going to sleep. There is something wonderfully ridiculous in the mother’s shout towards the children to ‘Stop laughing now’.
The second poem is in a different tone altogether, much more reflective and quiet but it still has the sharp observation and unusual way of looking at things that many of the poems in this pamphlet have. It is a beautifully optimistic poem – optimistic about poetry and continuity. The children are surprisingly vivid with that line ‘bare legged in the rain.’
A new website has sprung up, developed by Robert Peake called ‘Poet Tips‘. The ‘About’ page of the website says:
“Poet Tips is a website for recommending poets. By collecting “tips” about poets that are similar, we create an interface to information about poetry online—a kind of poet-wide web to browse and make discoveries. The goal is to help you find a new favourite poet to read, much like a trusted and knowledgeable friend.”
Anyone can add a poet – so if I look up myself it says ‘If you like Kim Moore you might also like David Tait, Clare Shaw, Helen Mort, John Foggin’ etc etc. One poet who I think is a little like Meg Cox in the sense of a dry humour running through both of their poetry, is the late poet Graham Austin, published by HappenStance. I’m going to try and add a Sunday Poet to the Poet Tips website each week, just for fun. You can also vote on the Poet Tips and say whether you agree with them or not! It’s an interesting website or a brilliant distraction, depending on how you look at it!
Anyway, here are Meg’s poems. I hope you enjoy them!
THE BEST MEDICINE
BY MEG COX
It must be genetic
that just lying on our backs
made me and my brother laugh.
When we had adjoining bedrooms
our mother would shout up the stairs
stop reading now and go to sleep.
Later she would shout again
Stop laughing now.
Adult, I went to yoga classes
and at the end we had to lie
on our backs on our mats and relax
doing yogic breathing, but before long
I was asked to leave before that part –
disruptive to meditation.
Come to think of it
lying on my back laughing
has caused me quite a bit of trouble
in the past.
WAITING FOR THE BUS
Perhaps my dogs
that sit at the gate
every morning and bark
will live again
some years from now
in a poem by one of those children
who this morning waits
opposite my field gate
for the school bus
bare legged in the rain.