Monthly Archives: June 2016

Sunday Poem – Jill Munro


The end of my second week of living alone and the strain is starting to show! How do people with children do this? It has been hard work keeping up with teaching, and my freelance writing work, and walking the dogs, and trying to keep the house reasonably tidy, and remembering to get milk. We have a pretty good system usually, where if one of us is busy, the other one picks up the slack, and cooks dinner and goes to the supermarket etc, which works great, except when one person swans off on holiday.

Also, I have another complaint.  The birds are costing me a fortune.  I have two feeders and I put four fat balls in each one and they are getting through all eight in one day.  How is this possible? The largest birds we have are crows, but mostly starlings, sparrows and blackbirds.  Do I need to get a different type of feeder?  When I put seeds out they turn their nose up at them.  This is the kind of thing I’m having to deal with because Mr A isn’t here.

I am feeling a little hard done by this week, and a bit fed up of working.  I need a holiday, which is lucky as I have one booked for August with some friends from my running club.  This week I’ve had rehearsals, readings, meetings, concerts and a mountain of admin to catch up with.

On Monday I  met with Pauline and staff from Abbot Hall Art Gallery to finalise arrangements for Kendal Poetry Festival  which is happening next weekend. As I wrote that, my stomach did a little flip – I still can’t believe it’s actually happening, and that many of the events have sold out.  I thought that this first year would be relatively quiet, and that we would have to build our audience numbers up – but the demand for tickets has been completely unexpected.

I played trumpet for a amateur performance of Annie this weekend – one performance on Friday night, and then a Saturday matinee and a Saturday evening performance.  I really enjoyed doing this type of playing, in fact, I played in my first paid gig with my trumpet teacher when I was 17 and it was this that made me want to be a musician and a trumpet teacher.  It feels like I’d forgotten in the years since then, how much I enjoyed it.

On Thursday I drove to Stockport Library to do penultimate Read Regional reading.  Lovely poet Linda Goulden was there and has passed on some gardening books which I’m determined to read.  At the minute I just dig a hole, put the plant in and see if it dies, but I really think I need to do some research and refine my technique a little.

Anyway, I was slightly alarmed to see there were only four people at the reading, plus the two librarians.  Apparently a group from a charity were supposed to come, but they didn’t arrive.  I did find out afterwards that there was a car crash on the main road, and someone else who was supposed to come got stuck behind this, and by the time it was cleared away, it wasn’t worth coming, so maybe the same thing happened to the group.

It actually ended up being a really lovely afternoon.  I read my poetry, but we also talked and laughed and discussed poetry and writing.  Looking back now, I feel very privileged to have been part of it.  After that, I drove over to Manchester and met my cousin V for something to eat.  I haven’t seen her for ages.  We went for food and two hours just flew by while we were catching up.  I went to run the second session of my course for The Poetry School.  The workshop is two hours long, and again, the time went so quickly.

I finally got home at about midnight and crawled into bed.  The next morning my lovely friend The Duchess came round to supervise my judging of the Active Cumbria School Poetry Competition. 500 entries, three chocolate croissants and four cups of tea later, we had a winner for each Key Stage.

On Saturday I decided I was going to have a go at beating my time at Park Run and I managed it – 20 seconds off my best time, taking me down to 22.05.  So my next target is sub 22.  I know, I know some of you (Martin Copley for example) are not interested in the slightest in my running.  Maybe lots of you actually.  But I can’t help it! I was very pleased with myself this weekend, especially as I’ve been really struggling with my running during the heat that we’ve had the last couple of weeks.

Another very good thing that has happened this week is that five of the places for the Poetry Carousel in August have gone, so just over half the rooms have gone.  If you’ve been thinking about coming and have any questions, just get in touch.  I heard this week that Jill Abram had a poem accepted in The Rialto that she wrote during last year’s Carousel, and Rachel Davies wrote a poem during the week that subsequently was placed third in a competition.  So there you go! Although, sadly I won’t be able to give your money back if the poems you write during the course don’t get published in The Rialto, or placed in a competition.

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Jill Munro.  Jill was one of the participants of the online poetry course that I ran recently for The Poetry School.  Jill won the Fair Acre Press Pamphlet Competition in 2015, which resulted in the publication of her latest pamphlet  The Quilted Multiverse in April 2016. She has poems published or forthcoming in magazines including Orbis, Prole, Ink, Sweat and Tears, South Magazine, Poetry News and The Frogmore Papers.  She’s been long-listed three times for the National Poetry Competition and her first collection Man from La Paz was published in 2015 by Green Bottle Press.

I’ve chosen the title poem from Jill’s latest pamphlet for the Sunday Poem today.

The Quilted Multiverse
Jill Munro

When the train stalls to a slow graunch

along the track, the patchwork quilt

of urban Edens comes into view,

sewn and framed in creosote, barbed

wire, laurel bush or red stock bricks.


I spot the garden trimmed orange

in Sainsbury’s bags stuffed

with papier-mache magazines.

Next door the whirly-gig whizzes

on air rounds, fixing smells of last night’s


still smoking bonfire into hardening towels.

And there’s the holey tennis net

looping low, once taut and high,

abandoned rackets on the lawn –

the kids gone in for tea or good.


And then it comes – a glimpse of backyard

heaven – a huge brilliant blue trampoline

stretching to square boundaries, where

a floral-aproned grandma is bouncing high,

lighter, dreaming of another universe.

I’ve really enjoyed reading the pamphlet, but when I got to this poem, I burst out laughing.  The image of the grandma bouncing on the trampoline is so startling, especially after all the kind of worn out scenery that has been described so far – the tennis net ‘looping low’ and the garden stuffed with Sainsbury’s carrier bags.  One of my favourite things to do on a train is to look into the back gardens of people’s houses so i can identify with this poem, although sadly I’ve never seen a trampolining grandma!

There is also a fantastic poem about Virginia Woolf and a beautiful poem called The Red Scarf in the pamphlet and I was really pleased to see that the poem ‘The Court Verbatim Shorthand Reporter’ which Jill wrote during the ‘What Work Is’ course has made it into the pamphlet!

Well, it has gone midnight here, so I shall sign off now.  Before I go though, I’d like to direct your attention to the Fair Acre Press website, where you can read Jonathan Edwards report on Jill’s book.  If you would like to order a copy of Jill’s fabulous collection, you can do so by heading over to Fair Acre Press.   If you would like to find out more about Jill, you can check out her profile on the Poetry PF website.

Sunday Poem – Tsead Bruinja

Sunday Poem – Tsead Bruinja

This week I’ve been living on my own as the husband has gone on a hiking holiday – he is walking through Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia and last night he texted from Kosovo.  The novelty of being able to spread my stuff all over the house without being moaned at to pick it up, is starting to wear off now and I’m actually missing him a little bit!

Last week was my first week back at work after half term.  It is always a difficult week, because there are lots of instruments to sort out that have been left to rust over half term.  This has to be done whilst directing a class of thirty children to play Mary had a Little Lamb or whatever it is we’re playing, so by the end of my teaching day on Wednesday I was counting my blessings that the brass teaching week was over.

On Thursday I drove to Bridlington.  It took about four and a half hours.  I had time for a quick change at my B and B and then I went straight down to the library to do a reading – this was another Read Regional gig.  The audience were very nice, a mixture of keen poets and people who’d never been to a reading before, so I hope I didn’t put the latter off poetry altogether! That would be terrible.

I was finished by 4.30 so I went home, got my running gear on and headed down to the prom.  I did about 7 miles and it was the best run I’ve done in ages.  I felt really good – the scenery was beautiful – it was sunny but with a cold breeze and I didn’t get lost.  That is the furthest I’ve ran on my own so I was quite proud of myself.  I then went for a Thai round the corner in Bridlington and then went to bed quite early.

On Friday I had my young writers workshop in Kendal.  We did one writing exercise and then they read the sets that they are going to perform at the festival.  They really are good – I know I’m bias, but I’m so proud of them.  I think they are going to surprise and delight people at the festival.

After the Young Writers group, I went to Brewery Poets and took a poem to be critiqued, and then finally, finally drove back to Barrow and collapsed into bed.  On Saturday I ran my Barrow Poetry Workshop – 12 writers turned up this week coming from Shap, Kendal, Ulverston, Dalton and Barrow. The quality of the work produced was excellent – I took poems by Tim Liardet, Jack Gilbert and Lisa Brockwell to the workshop to use as inspiration, or to discuss before writing.

On Saturday evening we had a Poem and a Pint event at Greenodd Village Hall with J O Morgan.  He read from his new book ‘Interference Pattern’ which is just amazing.  It is a series of poems in the voice of different characters, and when he reads from the book, he changes his voice and his accent as he goes from character to character.  It is extraordinary and mesmerising to watch and listen to.

This morning I’ve been for a 6 mile run and eaten a scone with jam and cream and that is the sum of my achievements.

Tonight I’ve got a rehearsal for ‘Annie’ and then next week is a busy one.  I’ve got meetings about Kendal Poetry Festival, rehearsals, a Read Regional reading in Stockport on Thursday afternoon, and my face-to-face course that I’m running in Manchester on Thursday night, school concerts, musical performances, and somewhere in next week I have to fit in reading and judging 500 school poetry competition entries.  It does sound a bit manic when I write it out like that!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Tsead Bruinja who is one of the tutors on the Poetry Carousel.  Tsead sent me the manuscript of a collection that has been translated into English – this poem has been translated by David Colmer.  The manuscript is called ‘Tongue’ and it is really good – I’ve not read anything quite like it before – it is lyrical, yet fragmented, using leaps and associations to communicate.

I first met Tsead at a festival in Ireland where we read together, but last year I went over to Holland to read at the ‘Read The World’ festival.  Rather than a normal reading, where I read my poems to the audience, I worked for a day with other poets and musicians to put together a performance where we read our own poems and each other’s poems, where the musicians played songs in between or behind while we were reading, to create a larger performance.  Tsead directed the whole thing and he was wonderful to work with.  I knew I liked the poems I’d read in translation of his, but working with him at the festival, and hearing him talk about the teaching that he does in Amsterdam, convinced me he would be a great tutor to invite to be part of the next Poetry Carousel.

There are still places left on the Carousel, which is running from August 16th-19th at Abbot Hall Hotel, Grange Over Sands, so do please get in touch if you would like to any questions.  If you’d like to book a place, it’s probably best to ring the hotel directly by ringing 015395 32896

Other tutors on the course include the wonderful Clare Shaw, Billy Letford (who will have copies of his new collection Dirt available) and myself.

Tsead Bruinja lives in Amsterdam. He made his debut in 2000 with the Frisian language collection called De wizers yn it read (The meters in the red). Bruinja’s debut in the Dutch language, Dat het zo hoorde (The way it should sound), was published in 2003, and was nominated for the Jo Peters Poetry Prize the following year. Bruinja compiles anthologies, writes critical reviews, hosts literary events and performs in the Netherlands and abroad, often with musician Jaap van Keulen and occasionally with the flamenco dancer Tanja van Susteren. At the end of 2008 Bruinja was the runner up after being nominated for the position of Poet Laureate for the Netherlands for the period of 2009-2013.

You can read more about Tsead over at his profile on the Poetry International website.  If you haven’t come across this website before, it’s a great resource- it includes articles about the poets featured, and has a selection of poems as well.

SHOW-OFF by Tsead Bruinja

not the horse that batters its hooves on the partition
or the horse that bolts across the green world
jolting its cart to pieces
nothing about wearing a body out and delivering it
to a metaphysical door
but the simple body of this woman
facing you
the clear head of this woman
facing you
a sea that speaks
and you as the doubting sky above
she says
your legs work
my legs work
leave the thinking to hands
smiling she moves her fist to my nose
which disappears between fingers
the fist pulls back to a grey horizon
and there where she squeezed my nose
a little mouse is staring out
she says
and not once in this whole poem
did she move her lips

I think this poem is very typical of a lot of Tsead’s work, which is playful, lyrical and manages to find an off-kilter way of looking at the world.  The style of using little or no punctuation also runs throughout the book, but the way he uses line breaks mean that the poems are very clear- it makes me realise how little punctuation is needed.  The lovely surprise at the end of the grey mouse appearing, the colloquial ‘gotcha’, the beginning of the poem which starts right away with the image of a horse which ‘batters its hooves on the partition’ – these are some of the reasons why I chose this poem.

It isn’t clear who is the show off in the poem – is it the horses, showing off just by being horses? Is it the woman with her ‘clear head’.  Incidentally, isn’t that a lovely thing to express admiration for in a poem?  I also love the idea of the sky being a ‘doubting sky’ as well, the sky not knowing who it is, maybe because it changes all the time?

It is a wonderful poem, and I hope you enjoy it – thanks to Tsead for allowing me to publish it here.

Sunday Poem – Penny Sharman


I’ve had one of the best half terms ever -the weather has been great all week, and although I had a couple of things on during the week, I wasn’t rushing around at my usual frantic pace.

My Poetry School course started this week.  The course is called ‘What Work Is’ and I ran an online version for The Poetry School last year which sold out, so I’m now running it face-to-face in Manchester.  The online course had 12 students and was pretty full-on.  The course in Manchester has six, and in the first session it was great to have the opportunity to work with a smaller group, with time to hear everybody’s poems.  I’m really looking forward to next week – the first hour will be writing exercises to generate new work, and the second hour will be a chance for the participants to bring work that they started in Session 1 for feedback from the group.

It takes me two and a half hours to get to Manchester on the train, which is a huge commitment, compared to the online courses where I can sit in my pyjamas at home and teach the course, but my plan is to use the time on the train to read and write.  When I was doing the MA and I went to Manchester once a week on the train, I used to get loads done, probably because being on a train forces me to sit still, which I usually have great difficulty with.

The journey to Manchester was great but the journey back went less smoothly.  A large group of young blokes got on the train at Lancaster with one woman and proceeded to shout and play music loudly.  As soon as they got on, I closed my notebook and put everything away, because I didn’t want them to notice it and start commenting on it.  I put my headphones in and tried to ignore them, although I started to feel more and more irritated by their behaviour.

When the young female train guard came to check their tickets, they started shouting ‘Nectar’ at her – I didn’t know exactly what it meant, although I made an educated guess.  I felt even angrier then – this woman was just trying to do her job and she had a group of 10 men shouting stuff down the train at her.  However, I still sat there.  There was nobody else in the carriage, and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself by standing up and moving.  Then they started saying they were going to ‘teabag’ the girl and take a photo, and I couldn’t stand it any more.  I packed my stuff up, and decided I would move carriages, and I would also tell the train guard and ask her to keep an eye on the girl, who was at that moment, asleep or passed out from drinking.

As soon as I got up and walked past them all, as predicted, they started shouting ‘Nectar’ at me.  I turned round and asked them if it was really necessary to shout things at every woman that walked down the train.  For a couple of seconds, silence fell, and they looked completely stunned.  I turned around to carry on walking and one of them shouted ‘Nectar’ again.  Then I really lost my temper and used a few choice swear words.  When I marched off after this exchange, one of them shouted ‘Feminist!’ which would have made me burst out laughing, if I hadn’t been shaking so much.

I’m thinking a lot about my reactions to this sort of behaviour, because this is the sort of thing I’m hoping to explore in my PhD.  I’ve been thinking a lot about my reactions to it in the past, my coping mechanisms – which are usually to ignore it, or laugh along.  I don’t think I’ve ever confronted it in such a blatant way.  It felt terrifying, and exhilarating.  Apparently when the train guard went down to check on the girl, who seemed fine, the group of blokes were all very polite and subdued.  So maybe it did them good.  Maybe they will think twice about behaving like that in the future – who knows.

I believe in the inherent goodness of most people and I’m sure those blokes are perfectly nice people, when they’re not drunk.  I’m sure most of them wouldn’t want to intimidate, humiliate or embarrass a woman or anybody.  I’m also sure that they didn’t shout things at me or the train guard with this intent – I don’t think they even thought about it in those terms.  So I’m determined to speak up a little bit more often – when I think it is safe, or when I can’t hold my tongue for fear of doing myself an injury.

I have a lot to learn as well.  The first thing that jumped into my head was ‘Who are their mothers – and how did they get to this age thinking this was an acceptable way to behave?’  Why did that jump into my head, rather than ‘Who are their fathers?’ or ‘Who are their parents?’. Someone pointed this out to me and we had (I think) a good conversation about it – I was shocked that I’d said this without even thinking, and joined in with blaming women for the behaviour of men.

Other things that have happened this week – lots of sitting in the garden in the sunshine.  I’ve spent at least two full days editing poems, and trying to get some ready to submit to a magazine.  I was trying to work out why this was so difficult – when I was just starting out, I was really good and efficient at getting poems ready and sending them.  I’ve worked out that back then, I sent all the poems I’d written out because I trusted that if an editor liked one they were good enough to be read. Now,I don’t think I trust magazine editors with this.  I want to make sure everything I send out, I’m happy with.  In other words, I don’t just want an editor to think it is a good poem.  I need to know it is a good poem.

So the editing has been fun, if frustrating.  I’ve also read quite a few poetry books this week – the highlight has to be a book by Carmin Buga, published by Arc, which I won’t say too much about, as I’ll be writing a review about it very soon.  I’ve been doing a bit of writing – whether the poems will come to anything yet, is too soon to say, but I’ve felt like I’ve been getting on with it.

I’ve also been running quite a bit – but I’ve really struggled in the heat.  Some people seem to be unaffected by the heat when they are running – they might find it uncomfortable, but they can run as fast as they usually can.  I’m completely wiped out by it – I did the Morecombe 10k today and finished in just over 49 minutes – way over my personal best of 46 minutes.  I wasn’t too disappointed though – I knew I would find it difficult in the heat, and I was part of the winning team for the Ladies Prize, so that was quite nice.

Here is today’s Sunday Poem by Penny Sharman.


Above the bed – Penny Sharman

I remember the young boy,
how he was able to levitate.
He said it was like holding on
to a balloon, airless, weightless,
as he floated up like a cobra
being played by flutes.
He rose to the ceiling
and hovered with thoughts
of being free from his body,
from his lungs that struggled
with breath. He could see himself
lying on the bed but the moon
and stars were calling him home.
I remember the young boy
telling how he let go of the
strings and fell to earth, how
it was only the hard walls
of his room that kept him
from flying, from flying away.

Penny was part of the group of friends that I went to visit a couple of weeks back when they were having a holiday in The Lake District, and she’s also been on the Poetry Carousel last year.

I was attracted to this poem straight away, because of the subject matter.  I used to do this as well! I also developed an extension to this game, where I would stare at the ceiling so hard and imagine the whole room turning upside down, so the ceiling became the floor, and the hanging light bulb would become a beautiful free standing lamp post.

I always like poems that explore the division between the self and the body, and I think this poem does that really well.  It not only explores the division, but also the thing that binds the body and the self together – I love the description of levitating being like ‘holding on to a balloon’

We don’t learn why the boy ‘struggles to breathe’. Is this a symptom of an illness which would explain why he wants to levitate from his body in the first place? I don’t mind not knowing.  I also like the description in the last verse, and that it is the ‘hard walls/of his room’ that keep him from flying away – not the speaker, or family, but something unarguably solid.

It is a very mysterious and surreal poem, which again, is probably why I liked it. Thanks to Penny Sharman for letting me use it!

Penny Sharman is currently completing an MA at Edge Hill University, and has recently had four poems published in Obsessed with Pipework.