I’ve had a rough day today. I’ve spent most of it in bed with a horrible cold. I’ve been ignoring this cold since Thursday but I succumbed today and spent the morning feeling very sorry for myself. I didn’t get to do my usual Sunday run this morning, and I’d planned to go to Keswick to meet up with my cousin but I couldn’t drag myself out of bed.
I’m feeling a little bit better this afternoon. I’m terrible at being ill – I’m impatient, and I get bored easily, and I feel guilty when I’m not doing something useful. So spending a whole morning in bed was awful.
I’ve been in touch with Treloyhan Manor Hotel in St Ives and there are only 6 places left for the February 2017 Residential Poetry Course I’m running there with co-tutor David Tait. Our guest poet who will be reading mid week is the fabulous poet Penelope Shuttle. If you have been thinking about coming, I would suggest booking sooner rather than later – places will be limited to 16 and they seem to be selling quite fast.
Last weekend I was Poet in Residence at Swindon Poetry Festival which involved running two workshops, giving a poetry reading and then just generally hanging about and chatting to people (yes that really was in the job description!) If you are looking for a small, friendly, slightly madcap poetry festival full of quirks, whacky ideas and things you probably won’t find at any other festival in the UK, then I would recommend Swindon. It’s run by my friend Hilda Sheehan who is a brilliant poet herself, and whose enthusiasm and humour gives the whole weekend a unique and wonderful feel.
On the Friday night of the festival, I was released from my Poet in Residence duties as I had a reading at Winchester Poetry Festival. I was reading with Ian Duhig and Sophie Hannah. I loved reading with these two poets – I’ve read with Ian before, and he is one of those rare poets who actually has ‘Greatest Hits’ poems – like his ‘From the Irish’ poem – it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I hear it, I still enjoy it. It was great to hear him read from his brand new collection of course, as well.
And Sophie Hannah – I bought one of her Carcanet collections when I was first starting to write poetry. She has a wonderful and funny way of looking at the world – one of my favourite poems of hers that she read was about ‘people who flounce off’ – her premise being that there are people that flounce off, and people that don’t, and she is one of the people that don’t flounce off. And where, she asked do the people who flounce off go to?
I went to a fascinating Close Reading by Frances Leviston on a John Berryman poem and a brilliant talk by Sinead Morrisey about researching her grandfather’s life as a Communist in Belfast. I was also really pleased to meet up with a poet who I first met on a residential poetry course that I ran in St Ives. We went to a stall and got some thai food and sat on a bench in the town centre to eat our food before going to the reading. This was a new experience for me as I usually like to sit in a cafe and drink endless cups of tea whilst eating, but I quite enjoyed it and it meant we got to the reading in time.
I got up nearly every morning at 7am when I was in Swindon and went for a 5k run around Coate Water Park. There is a lovely old diving board in the middle of the lake which I’m told nobody uses anymore and a path right round the lake which was perfect for running. I don’t really like running on my own though and it was a relief to get back this week to going out for a run with my usual group of friends.
One of the highlights of Swindon Poetry Festival for me was seeing a few close friends perform. I saw Roy Marshall read from his new collection, and was really impressed, both with the poems and his delivery, and then my friend Keith Hutson did a fantastic hour long show using material from his new pamphlet Troupers, published by Poetry Salzburg.
I must admit to being slightly worried about Keith when I heard he would be reading for an hour, but he was fantastic. He managed to hold the attention of the audience, and it was a really entertaining hour. The pamphlet is a sequence of thirty one sonnets celebrating famous Music Hall and Variety performers. As Keith was reading the sonnets out, there were lots of appreciative oohs from the audience who were old enough to remember the performers he was talking about (sadly, I am way too young to know any of them BUT I still enjoyed it!)
I asked Keith if I could post up the first sonnet here this weekend which he kindly agreed to. I think this is a lovely poem, and the way Keith handles the rhymes, using half rhymes, and slant rhymes is great. This poem is funny – look at that line ‘Some critics called it/nothing but self injury with rhythm’ and the mention of the character called ‘Tom Platt and his Talking Pond’ is great – what on earth was the Talking Pond and how did he get it on stage? We’ll never know – well not unless you ask Keith, who probably does know.
My favourite bit about the poem though is at the end, with the mention of running, not just running but running ‘on joy alone’. When I read that, I thought, yes, I’ve done that, I’ve ran on joy alone. In fact, only a couple of weeks ago, I was 8 miles into a hard, tough, hilly 12 mile run, and I got to the top of a hill and the view made me spread my arms wide as I ran down the hill, and it felt like I could take off, even though I was exhausted,that was joy.
So, below, you will find this joyful poem, by my mate Keith Hutson, whose enthusiasm when he is performing is infectious. Keith used to write for Coronation Street and his poetry has been widely published in journals such as The North, The Rialto, Stand, Magma, Agenda and Poetry Salzburg Review. He delivers poetry and performance workshops for The Prince’s Trust and The Square Chapel Centre for the Arts.
Keith will be appearing as the guest poet for A Poem and a Pint on the 19th November 2016 at The Laurel and Hardy Museum. I hope you enjoy the poem!
Juvenile – Keith Hutson
i.m. Georgie Doonan 1897-1973
In time to a drumbeat, Georgie Doonan
kicked his own backside. Some critics called it
nothing but self-injury with rhythm.
A newspaper dismissed the act as fit
only for idiots with no command
over their sense of wonder, and went on
to call for Tom Platt and His Talking Pond,
no less, to come back, all is forgiven!
So why, when Georgie booted his behind,
did those who knew no better split their sides?
He must have made an impact deeper down.
And I know I’d have laughed, which won’t surprise
you if you’ve ever run on joy alone,
heels bouncing bum-high; if that’s what you’ve known.