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Feeling like myself

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For the last three days, I have been feeling like myself. I hesitate to write this in case it stops being true.  It feels strange to suddenly slip back into the place and the routine and the way of moving through the world that my old self occupied, but this seems to be what has happened.  It started slowly – Monday evening I took myself to another room and sat and picked up a book for my PhD that I’d started reading back in September, before I got pregnant.  The book is Relating Narratives by Adriana Cavarero.  I wouldn’t say it’s the easiest read, and I was worried about how I would get back into it all, but it felt like a relief, like climbing into a hot bath when you’ve been cold for a long time.

Reading Judith Butler back in September led me to Cavarero.  Cavarero says things like

the story reveals the meaning of what would otherwise remain an intolerable sequence of events

which makes such beautiful and perfect sense that I don’t mind not understanding anything else that she writes.  She talks a lot about narratability, about knowing the self as being narratable, or worthy of narration, and also of being exposed, and how we are all exposed to the world and to each other, that a life-story cannot exist without these two conditions.  She says

Only in the improbably case of a life spent in perfect solitude could the autobiography of a human being tell the absurd story of an unexposed identity, without relations and without world.

And though I have felt lonely in these last four months, though it has felt at times like everything was moving on without me while I was trapped in a body that was betraying me somehow, I know that later on, I will be able to find the story behind these events, the story behind the days when all my restlessness was taken from me.

On Tuesday I read more of Caravero.  When she says that women’s art ‘aspires to a wise repudiation of the abstract universal, and follows an everyday practice where the tale is existence, relation and attention’ something lights up in my mind, and I know that there is another path that I need to follow, around relationality and everyday practice which will link to another part of my PhD, that currently sits in darkness, because I’ve not reached it yet.

She writes about exposability, and exhibition of the self and the lack of space for women to do this in a political sphere, but by political she doesn’t mean political institutions, but rather ‘the plural and interactive space of exhibition that is the only space that deserves the name of politics’ which I take to mean that we need the space to talk about our experiences/lives/life-stories in a ‘space of exhibition’ and what better space of exhibition than poetry and poetry readings?

And through all of this, I have started to feel the baby moving, so though I say I feel like my old self, which is true, I am both my old self, and I am changed because there is someone else with me.  The movements feel like tiny bubbles, usually on the right side of my stomach.  They are not uncomfortable, but they feel strange, and I’m still not used to them – I am still surprised every time.

On Tuesday evening I am due at Barrow Writers, a monthly critiquing group run by one of my friends, the excellent poet Jennifer Copley.  I haven’t written a poem since all of this started except when I look back through my notebook, I find some notes, about being ill, about realising, no not realising, knowing, knowing as completely as I will ever know anything again, that I am trapped in a body, about not knowing.  I type it up, even though even the act of typing it makes me blush. I feel embarrassed now, now that I’m standing on the other side of the sickness and the fatigue.  It feels like exaggeration when I type the words, but I have nothing else to take, and sometimes embarrassment means the poem is risking something, which might mean something later.

On Wednesday I run for four miles, my longest run since being pregnant.  It is a beautiful day – the type of day that is cold enough that the air hurts the back of your throat, but the sun is still warm enough to feel.  I get back, and read more Cavarero and then get distracted by reading a book of essays called Soul Says by Helen Vendler.  An essay about Louise Gluck’s collection The Wild Iris sends me back to the collection again, maybe my fourth or fifth time of re-reading.  The first poem ‘The Wild Iris’ is one of my favourite poems.  You can find it here http://www.poetrymountain.com/authors/louisegluck.html

but is there any more perfect start to a poem than ‘At the end of my suffering/there was a door.’

The next essay is about A.R.Ammon and I remember that I saw that Simon Armitage has an essay in the recent Poetry Review about Ammon, who I’d only heard of and not read anything of.  Vendler says that Ammon in an interview wished to ‘draw a distinction between public responsibility  (writing with one eye on the topical) and public effect (in the short run, subversion; in the longer run, perhaps, conversation)’ and that this is ‘only one proof of his careful and anxious intelligence’.

It sends me to my anthologies to find poems by him and now it’s Thursday and I like the distinction between the short and long term public effects that poetry can bring about.  Poems that start conversations – to write such things, seems like the smallest ambition and also perhaps the most generous, all at the same time.

I’ve read two more chapters of Cavarero interspersed with writing quickly four terrible first drafts – more ‘All the Men I Never Married’ which might not ever make the light of day but I hope have something of Cavarero’s thoughts inside them, when she says that identity ‘from beginning to end, is intertwined with other lives – with reciprocal exposures and innumerable gazes – and needs the other’s tale’.

 

You can buy The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck here from the Carcanet website https://www.carcanet.co.uk/cgi-bin/indexer?product=9781857542233

You can buy Relating Narratives by Adriana Cavarero here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Relating-Narratives-Storytelling-Selfhood-Philosophy/dp/041520058X

You can buy Soul Says by Helen Vendler http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674821477

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Hello 2019

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It’s been over a month since I last blogged and I’m really pleased to report that I am feeling a lot, lot better than the last time I wrote on here.  I seem to have turned the corner with the worst of the hyperemesis gravidarum that I’d been struggling with.  In fact, I woke up in Week 13 of being pregnant and felt suddenly better – which seemed completely bizarre, even though lots of people had told me that this would happen.  People kept telling me to hang in until Week 12, the end of the first trimester and I’ve got to say that Week 12 was probably the worst week for me mentally.  I felt really depressed and down as well as being physically exhausted, and started to worry that I was going to be ill right through the pregnancy which is a possibility with hyperemesis gravidarum.

There were moments when I really didn’t want to carry on with the pregnancy because I felt so ill, and if I’m honest, the only thing that stopped me carrying that through was because I felt too ill to get myself to the doctors.  The thought of having the conversation was exhausting and overwhelming – it was easier to just lay on the sofa and feel miserable.  I’ve since found out that it’s estimated that 10% of women who suffer with HG end up having a termination of a wanted pregnancy.  It seems that there is still not a lot known about the condition, and it is pot luck whether you get a doctor or midwife who is sympathetic and knowledgeable.

Now that I’ve got through the worst (hopefully) I’m so, so glad that I stuck it out. I would say to anyone else suffering from morning sickness – the diagnosis of HG is not constant vomiting but whether your symptoms are so severe that they are debilitating – i.e they stop you living your life. As soon as I told the doctor that I was on the sofa all day and night and couldn’t climb the stairs, that I was unable to walk or stand because I was so exhausted and that I felt sick all the time, I should have been diagnosed with HG and given medication.  However, because I was still at that point, able to eat and drink a little, I was told basically to just get on with things, and things progressed and got much worse, ending up with a hospital stay and severe dehydration.

Anyway, that terrible period is over, and it is a new year! Over Christmas I made the mistake of stopping taking my anti sickness medication altogether because I felt really good.  Gradually, I became unable to eat anything again and things came to a head in an unfortunate throwing up episode in the services on the way back up north after leaving my parents house down in Leicester.  I only just made it into the toilets and had to throw up down a toilet which someone else had not flushed! I was breathing in someone else’s urine for a good five minutes – this experience probably comes in a close second behind the hospital canteen vomiting episode for pregnancy trauma.

I’m back on my tablets again and feeling much better.  In fact I can’t believe how different I feel now – not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.  I’m excited for the first time about being pregnant and looking forward to having a baby for the first time.  If someone had told me a few weeks ago, I would be feeling happy and excited about it, I wouldn’t have believed them!  That’s another weird thing that happens in pregnancy though – things change hugely from week to week.

In the last few weeks I’ve been running again, although very slowly.  I managed to play my trumpet on New Years Eve with the soul band I play with, the Soul Survivors, with a combination of sitting down to rest and standing up to play the high notes.  My stamina on the trumpet has never been better – maybe because there’s a solid mass of baby sitting underneath my diaphragm and helping to support it?  I noticed I was getting some pain towards the end of the night around my pelvis bone area – I’ve also been getting pain there after going for a run.  It was really bad yesterday but better today – I’ve ordered a belt to support my belly when I’m running and will take it easy and monitor it till then.  I really don’t want to go back to the doctors if I can help it this week, as I feel like I spend half of my life there at the moment!

I don’t really want to do a huge review of 2018 – so much happened, besides getting pregnant and becoming ill.  I taught on four residential courses – a schools course at Ty Newydd with Hilda Sheehan, a Garsdale Retreat course, a weeks residential in St Ives with Helen Mort and a Poetry Carousel in Grange-Over-Sands with Sean O’Brien, Greta Stoddart and Andrew McMillan.  Plans for next year’s Poetry Carousel are already afoot – I’ll be moving the course to Rydal Hall just outside Grasmere, so keep an eye on the blog for news of dates and tutors, which should be immanent.

I also did lots of readings all over the place – probably my highlights were reading at the Gdansk Poetry Festival in Poland in March as part of Versopolis and returning to Ty Newydd to perform as a guest poet for Gillian Clarke and Robert Minhinnick’s Masterclass.  This felt really special to me because Ty Newydd was where my writing journey began – it is still a little bit surreal to me that I’m returning there as a reader, after attending so many courses there as a participant.

Another highlight was Kendal Poetry Festival which I run alongside Pauline Yarwood.  This year it took place in September, but we are planning to move it back to June for the next instalment, which is looking likely (due to various commitments for both myself and Pauline) to be June 2020, giving us a year and a half to organise it, which worked well this year.

I also managed to pass my RD2 for my PhD and complete a good chunk of the creative work for it, and at my last count, I have about 9500 words of my thesis.  2018 was the year I really started to enjoy doing a PhD, instead of constantly worrying about it.  I feel like I’ve got my head around what I want it to look like now, what shape it is going to be, and I just need to find the head space and the energy to ease myself back into it now.  I decided to take a rain check on it all till after Christmas but am looking forward to getting back to it now I’m feeling a bit better.

Before that happens though, I have the small matter of 9500 poems sitting in my house.  I’m one of the judges this year for the National Poetry Competition, and I’ve spent the last few weeks reading for this.  I’m relieved I had this work to be getting on with, as it was something that I could do even whilst feeling really ill.  Our first deadline for sending a long list over is approaching very soon, and whilst I’ve enjoyed doing this, it will be a relief to tick this job off my list!

I’m not making any new years resolutions either – I want to try and keep the pressure off myself for once.  I want to keep running for as long as I can through the pregnancy, and once the National Poetry Competition reading is done, I’ll be getting back onto my PhD and getting as much of that done as possible before the baby arrives, but that’s about the extent of my plans!  I won’t be blogging on here every week throughout 2019, but I hope to keep in touch on here at irregular intervals.   Thank you to those who have been in touch and sent well wishes – I really appreciate each and every one of them, and I hope to see you all in person at some point during this year.

 

Pregnancy and sickness

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I’m writing this from my sister’s sofa, which makes a change from my sofa, which is where I’ve spent most of my time for the past six weeks or so. I found out I was pregnant at the beginning of October – in fact, a few days before I headed down to Swindon Poetry Festival and I’m now 12 weeks and have had the first scan. I even saw the baby stretching and yawning which was pretty amazing. I look back now on that first week when I found out I was pregnant with fondness now – although it was a lot to get my head around, I had no idea how quickly my life was going to change. I naively thought that I would gradually slow down as I got bigger, that I would have to gradually start not rushing around as much. However my body and the baby had other ideas.

From about week six I’ve really suffered with morning sickness and extreme fatigue. I had no idea how debilitating morning sickness could be. And the tiredness – about ten years ago I had tonsilitis and because I didn’t rest properly I developed post-viral fatigue syndrome afterwards, and I feel exactly the same as I did then. For much of the time between week six and now I’ve had to lie down on the sofa or in bed. I’ve been unable to read or concentrate on anything other than bad television. I’ve felt sick 24 hours a day, although at the moment I’m mostly being sick in the morning.

I went on a holiday with two friends to Spain in about week 8 or 9 which was a huge mistake. I spent the whole long weekend in bed and couldn’t keep any food down, which then progressed to not being able to keep any fluids down, so I ended up having to call the doctor out and then being sent to hospital and put on various drips – severely dehydrated for the second time in as many months. I nearly missed my flights home because I was too ill to be discharged – it was possibly the most stressful thing that has happened to me. I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum or extreme morning sickness.

Since I got back from Spain, I am a lot better. I’m still being sick but not constantly sick. Just before the first scan there was an unfortunate projectile vomiting incident in the hospital canteen, where I managed to throw up not just on the floor but on my own shoes, and the deep cleaning team had to come out to clean it up, which was possibly one of the most humiliating experiences ever. But in general, I am managing to keep food down now and I’m managing to drink and stay hydrated. I am managing to get out and do some readings and teaching but I’m having to take it very easy, which anyone who knows me will know how much I will be struggling with this concept.

I’m blogging about this because I’m currently lying on the sofa feeling extremely sorry for myself! I only went public with being pregnant a few days ago on social media, and whilst it has been lovely to read everybody’s congratulations, part of me can’t feel any of it at the moment because I feel so bloody ill. So if you’re waiting for a reply to something and it’s been a while, please give me a nudge. It’s not that I’m ignoring you or don’t care, it’s just that I’m really struggling at the moment with the simplest things, and keeping up with emails etc has been hard.

My conclusions from the whole experience of pregnancy so far (all 12 weeks of it) is that women are really hardcore! I can’t believe the stuff they put up with – I know not everybody gets extreme morning sickness, but even the regular kind is pretty awful, and yet they go to work, look after other children etc etc.

I’ve also realised that I measure a lot of my self worth by what I ‘achieve’ each day – and having not been able to achieve anything (apart from making a baby of course) I’ve found it really hard to stay positive – that’s a bit of an understatement. I’ve felt pretty terrible, but I’ve also realised that measuring my self worth in that way probably isn’t the healthiest thing to do either. I wouldn’t say I’ve completely shaken this habit off, but I’m trying to change the way I think.

So, for now, I’ll sign off but I will say before I go, that if one more person tells me to try ginger biscuits, I will not be responsible for my actions!

Poems from the Duchess High School in Alnwick, Northumberland

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I’m always touched when teachers contact me to say they are using my poetry in their lessons, and I thought I’d share with you some work from pupils from the Duchess High School in Alnwick, Northumberland.  These pupils are lucky enough to be taught by the brilliant poet Catherine Ayres.  They were in Year 9 when Catherine sent this work to me – so I think they will be Year 10 now, and Catherine explains below how she introduced them to my poem In That Year, which you can find at the bottom of the post.
Catherine says:
In Year 9, the pupils at the Duchess High School in Alnwick, Northumberland do  half a term of poetry, which culminates in them producing their own poetry anthologies. It’s a fantastic amount of time (3 lessons per week for six weeks) and means that they can really explore different aspects of poetry and different poems. They love it.

1 lesson per week is taken up with analysing and exploring all sorts of different poetry, from Blake to world slam champions, and the other 2 lessons per week are used to explore poetry forms and write their own responses to the poems they’ve analysed and the poetry they’ve explored.

The first lesson of the term, I give them my favourite poems to look at. I don’t explain anything, I just read them (or we watch a video of performance) and then they read and discuss them in pairs and groups and start to explain in their own terms which poem they like from my choice.

One of their favourites was Kim’s poem ‘In That Year’, so we followed up the first lesson by looking in more detail at the poem, its startling imagery and its message. The kids’ work here is photocopied directly from their books – it wasn’t done for display or re-drafted, it’s their first raw response. I asked them to pick their favourite image, or the one they found most difficult, or the one that had stayed with them from their first reading. Then I asked them to draw what they saw when they read it and write a very brief explanation of how it made them feel about the speaker.

It was a very solemn and serious lesson. No one complained about having to draw (they usually do) and heads were bent to work for a good half an hour. Some of the kids I teach have difficult lives. Some of them never speak about those difficulties. Most of them have never read a contemporary poem.

This lesson was better than any PSHE lesson we could have done about relationships and abusive situations. And the boys were as active in the discussion as the girls. Every single teenager was alert to the poem. It was a special lesson for me and the thought of it has kept me going this year, through all the exhaustion of a demanding and sometimes difficult job. Here’s a selection of the drawings and explanations that really moved me.

 

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I found the interpretations of my poem really moving and I thought the students were very perceptive. I also found it interesting how they managed to create different narratives to go alongside the poem – and I love the drawings!

This blog post featuring these drawings and thoughts from the students is way overdue, but I hope you enjoy looking at them, and thanks again to the brilliant Catherine for bringing contemporary poetry into the classroom, and for using my poem as part of that.  Those students are very lucky to have you!

Here is the poem that Catherine shared with the students.

IN THAT YEAR 
KIM MOORE

And in that year my body was a pillar of smoke
and even his hands could not hold me.

And in that year my mind was an empty table
and he laid his thoughts down like dishes of plenty.

And in that year my heart was the old monument,
the folly, and no use could be found for it.

And in that year my tongue spoke the language
of insects and not even my father knew me.

And in that year I waited for the horses
but they only shifted their feet in the darkness.

And in that year I imagined a vain thing;
I believed that the world would come for me.

And in that year I gave up on all the things
I was promised and left myself to sadness.

And then that year lay down like a path
and I walked it, I walked it, I walk it.

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I’m really excited to announce that I’ll be co-tutoring with the amazing Amanda Dalton at next year’s Poetry Residential at Treloyhan Manor in St Ives.  This course always sells out fast, so if you’d like to come, ring the hotel below to secure your place.  Amanda was one of my favourite teachers when I was studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, so I’m really excited to be working with her in St Ives.

The course is running from the 8th-13th April 2019 and costs £550.  This includes breakfast, three course evening meal, scones with jam and cream in the afternoons, accommodation, workshops and a tutorial with either myself or Amanda during the week.

If you’d like to book, please give the hotel a ring on 01736 796240.

More information about Amanda (and me) below.

Tutors
Amanda Dalton
Amanda Dalton is a poet and playwright. Her poetry publications include How To Disappear and Stray (both Bloodaxe Books) and her writing for radio and theatre includes radical re-workings of the Medea myth (Wilson+Wilson Co /Sheffield Theatres) and of the silent movies Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (BBC Radio 3) incorporating poetry and sung lyrics. Recent BBC audio drama also includes an adaptation of Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book. She is an Associate Artist at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, a Royal Literary Fund Fellow based at the University of Manchester and a visiting lecturer in the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Kim Moore
Kim Moore’s first collection The Art of Falling was published by Seren in 2015 and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize.  Her poem ‘In That Year’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize.  She won a Northern Writers Award in 2014, the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2011 and an Eric Gregory Award in 2010.  Her pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves was one of the winners of the 2010 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition.  She is currently a PhD candidate at Manchester Metropolitan University.

My People: Poetry from The British School, Warsaw

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In the summer of 2017 I was a guest poet at an Arvon course at Lumb Bank.  I met a poet called David Cox there, who emailed me in January to tell me that he would be using some of my poetry with his Year 7 pupils at The British School in Warsaw to get them writing their own poems.  I asked David to send me some of the responses from his pupils, and he sent them through in January of this year.

I loved them straight away, but PhD madness and everything else going on at the moment has meant I’m a bit late in posting these poems up, but I wanted to share them with you all and say thanks to David and his talented pupils, who if the school term in Warsaw runs the same as ours here, will be about to go into Year 8 after the summer holidays.

These poems are in conversation with my poem ‘My People’ which I’ll post at the end of this blog post.

David sent through this introduction to the poems:

My Year 7 students at The British School Warsaw have been working on producing a series of poems inspired by  Kim Moore.  The original poem with its humour and edginess has spurned their imaginations into looking for an answer to the following question: who are ‘my people’? One students said it allowed me to “express my family and country the way I saw it…it was really fun thinking about all the things that come to mind when I think of ‘My People'” We have seen the dangers of ‘casual racism’ around us and its worrying effects. To this end, we discussed how we can unwittingly become part of groups with less than altruistic pursuits. Their pastiche responses to ‘My People’, at times reflect the pride of a nation or an ethnic group. Watching clips from the miner’s strike, students heard the brazen words ‘scab’ bellowed out towards buses of employees passing the picket line to understand how one community was torn apart by a declining industry. Such experiences continue to elicit a range of emotionally charged responses. They considered democracy versus mob rule. They considered how instrumental such union organisations as Solidarność were in Poland at loosening the shackles of the communist regime. I hope you enjoy these poems.

 

Here’s the first poem David sent – my favourite part of this poems is that surprising simile at the end where the poet turns our expectations on their heads.  Usually, to be compared to a snake would be negative, but this poet chooses to focus on the positive aspects of snakes: they are ‘clever and fast’.

 

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This next poem has some lovely phrases and images – I love the sentence ‘people who would kiss the bread if it fell’ and wondered if this was a story or saying that is well known in Poland?

 

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This poem is a tough look at how people can become obsessed with money, and become selfish – and again, a great last line – ‘Now they have become selfish like little toddlers’.

 

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A completely opposite opinion with this next poem! I like the line ‘people who care for others, even strangers’ in this poem.  Would definitely like to meet these people!

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I really like this one – again with a killer last line ‘My people are like small bees serving the queen bee’.  I also like the line in the middle ‘In the time of the Romans my people would probably be writing on scrolls or feeding grapes to the king’.

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I like that this poem explores positive and negative aspects.  These are people that don’t tolerate racism, but people that also what it is to be poor. I also like the two short snappy sentences that finish it off: ‘My people are like wolves.  They stick together’.

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I think this poem works really well at painting a portrait of a group of people.  I’m not sure if the last line in the first sentence is ‘up’ or ‘you’ – both would work really well, but I think I’d like it to be ‘I come from the people who don’t want to meet you’.  There are some wonderfully strange details in here as well, like the line about the people being ‘underweight and too strict’ immediately following the detail about the fights at the football match.  And another great ending – witches and fire breathing dragons!

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What a great first line this poem has, and the second line is just as good – people who ‘come from every corner of the world’.  I also love the last two sentences of this poem – the rhyme of ‘everywhere’ and ‘air’ makes it feel like the poem is a box, and the poet has just closed the lid, nice and tight.

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So that was the last poem!  Thanks to David Cox and his pupils once again – I’m very flattered that they’ve been using my poem for inspiration, or to start a poetic conversation about what it means to have a people.  I got the feeling that some of the poems might have been talking about people in terms of a close knit family, and some were talking about people in terms of a community or even a country, on a larger scale.

Here are my people below.

My People – Kim Moore

I come from people who swear without realising they’re swearing.
I come from scaffolders and plasterers and shoemakers and carers,
the type of carers paid pence per minute to visit an old lady’s house.
Some of my people have been inside a prison.  Sometimes I tilt
towards them and see myself reflected back.  If they were from
Yorkshire, which they’re not, but if they were, they would have been
the ones on the pickets shouting scab and throwing bricks at policemen.
I come from a line of women who get married twice.  I come from
a line of women who bring up children and men who go to work.
If I knew who my people were, in the time before women
were allowed to work, they were probably the women who were
working anyway.  If I knew who my people were before women
got the vote, they would not have cared about the vote.  There are
many arguments among my people.  Nobody likes everybody.
In the time of slavery my people would have had them if they
were the type of people who could afford them, which they
probably weren’t.  In the time of casual racism, some of my people
would and will join in.  Some of my people know everybody
who lives on their street.  They are the type of people who will argue
with the teacher if their child has detention.  The women
of my people are wolves and we talk to the moon in our sleep.

Kendal Poetry Festival

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If you’d like a poetry fix and are missing the Sunday Poem, you can head over to Kendal Poetry Festival and check out our ‘News’ tab.  We’ve got three Five Minute Interviews up so far with poets that are appearing at the festival.

Hannah Hodgson, our Young Blogger in Residence has interviewed Claudine Toutoungi (read her interview here,) Liz Berry (read her interview here) and Wayne Holloway-Smith (read his interview here)

Kendal Poetry Festival takes place from the 6th – 9th September at the Castle Green Hotel in Kendal.  We have an amazing programme of events lined up and I hope to see some of you there!

Poetry Carousel News

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Because of an extremely busy schedule and other work commitmentsFiona Sampson is unable to tutor at the Poetry Carousel this year.   I hope she will be able to come and tutor on another course in the near future, and those readers based in Cumbria might want to try and catch her when she appears at Borderlines Book Festival this year.

I’m disappointed not to be working with Fiona this year, but happy to announce that Greta Stoddart has agreed to step in to tutor on this year’s Carousel alongside myself, Andrew McMillan and Sean O’Brien.  Those of you who were at the 2016 Kendal Poetry Festival may remember Greta from the fabulous reading she gave there alongside Fiona.

Greta Stoddart was born in Oxfordshire in 1966. Her first collection At Home in the Dark (Anvil) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 2002. Her second book, Salvation Jane (Anvil), was shortlisted for the Costa Book Award 2008. She was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Individual Poem in 2012. Her third book, Alive Alive O (Bloodaxe, 2015), was shortlisted for the Roehampton Poetry Prize 2016.

Her latest work, a radio poem called ‘Who’s there?’ broadcast on BBC Radio 4 was shortlisted for the 2017 Ted Hughes Award.

She has been Fellow at Warwick University, Writer in Residence at Exeter University and tutor at Bath Spa University and Goldsmiths College. She now lives in Devon and teaches for the Poetry School and the Arvon Foundation.

Information about the workshop that Greta will be running will be posted on the Poetry Carousel page shortly, so watch this space.

greta stoddart

Poem and a Pint Competition

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Just a quick message to pass on news of a new Poetry Competition! I am on the committee of ‘A Poem and a Pint’ and we run bi-monthly poetry events, hosting guest poets, musicians and open mic slots.

To raise money for next year’s programme of events, we decided to hold our first poetry competition! Our judge is the fabulous Clare Shaw (who was herself awarded a Northern Writers Award this week).

It’s £4 to enter one poem, £7 for two and £10 for three poems and the closing date is July 16th.  First prize is £150, second prize is £100 and third prize is £50.  If your poem is placed in the top 3 you will also be invited to give a ten minute reading at our next Poem and a Pint event, on September 29th, alongside the judge Clare Shaw.

For further details, just follow the link to the Poem and a Pint website http://www.apoemandapint.co.uk/competition.htm

 

 

 

June News and a poem by Martin Kratz

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June News and a poem by Martin Kratz

I’m writing today’s blog post from my back garden in blazing sunshine.  I keep thinking longingly of my hammock but I don’t think I’ll be getting it out of the shed.  The problem with a hammock is that it’s impossible to do anything in it other than relax.  It’s even hard to read in a hammock because the book has to be held above you – and I’ve still got far too much on to be able to justify lounging about doing nothing.

It has been a really busy month for me since I last wrote.  One of the projects I’ve been working on is a commission by The Sage in Gateshead to write some poems about what it means to be northern.  This is a huge project of which I’m only a small part of – there are two other poets that have also been commissioned to write some poems – Degna Stone and Andrew McMillan, and then four or five amazing musicians.  I’ve been over to Newcastle again to be interviewed for a Sky Arts documentary about the project, although i doubt very much my ramblings will end up being used and to have a short rehearsal with the musicians.  This was really interesting as I’d sent a recording of myself reading one of my poems over and they’d managed to compose music to go with it which chugged along in perfect time – who knew I was reading poems in a steady tempo of about 100 beats a minute?  And it wasn’t even a poem in a particular form or rhythm – what people would call a ‘free verse’ poem.  So we rehearsed that and I felt briefly like a bit of a rock star.

It’s not all been work though – I had a weekend holiday to Scotland with the husband at the beginning of June which was really lovely.  We stayed in a nice B & B and the weather was really hot.  I don’t think I’ve ever been in Scotland when it hasn’t rained so this was a novelty! We got a ferry down Loch Katrine and then decided to run the 13 miles back.  It was very hot and we took our time but it was still really hard work.  I felt fine but in the middle of the night woke up and was sick everywhere – I don’t know if I got too hot, or too dehydrated or just pushed it too much on the run but it wasn’t much fun.   We were supposed to be going up a mountain the next day, but as we’d both had about three hours sleep due to me being ill, and I was a bit shaky still we decided to amend our plans and we went to New Lanark instead and had a look around the old mills before coming home.

I also found time to see the Rolling Stones in Manchester! I went with my dad, my twin sister and my brother in law.  My sister and I succumbed to the over-priced T-shirts and even bought matching ones, which is kind of funny when I think of how much we hated wearing the same thing when we were younger – now I quite enjoy it! Here we are before the concert.  The Stones were amazing – I felt I had to dance non-stop seeing as Mick Jagger is over twice my age and was skipping up and down the stage without a care in the world.

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I’ve also had a few poetry readings this month – in Kendal at Brewery Poets with John Foggin, in Bradford at Beehive Poets  with Nick Toczek and in Hawkshead at a cat cafe called KITTchen with various open mic-ers and managed to sell a few books along the way.

I’ve had a busy time PhD wise as well.  I had my Annual Review at the beginning of June and it all went well.  Even I can see my critical writing has come on a lot since last year’s review.  I even submitted some of my PhD work to the Ivan Juritz prize and got longlisted – sadly I didn’t get any further than the long list but I’m going to have another go next year, when hopefully my thinking (and writing) will be that much further on.

I also gave a paper at a poetry art symposium called ‘I See You Seeing Me – Engaging the Female Gaze in Visual Art and Poetry.  organised by Kathryn Maris to raise funds for Poetry London.  I got really anxious in the run up to the day writing my paper with the usual imposter syndrome stuff and then when I got to London was freaking out when I realised I’d forgotten to bring any ‘smart’ shoes with me and would have to give my paper in my trainers which in my panic the night before, seemed like the worst thing to happen in the world.  However it all turned out fine, and as someone on Twitter pointed out, as I was giving a paper about The Female Gaze, I really just needed to turn up and not worry about how I ‘looked’.  Kathryn Maris was so lovely when I turned up as well a bit flustered that I felt much better.

I think this worry about ‘looking the part’ is a symptom of wider anxiety around class – whenever I move through these spaces there is part of me that feels I don’t belong there.  I feel ‘working class’ when I am in spaces/places that are not working class.  The times when being ‘working class’ rubs up against the surface of my life are always the times when I am in a space that has been traditionally shut off to people like me.

The first time I was aware of it was when I joined the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra when I was 17 – this was after 9 years of playing in brass bands and never thinking about it or even being aware of it.  And ‘joining an orchestra’ doesn’t sound very working class does it? But this was after receiving nine years of free lessons at school, and a free instrument from the brass band, and I joined the orchestra with my teacher’s second hand trumpet, which I’m sure had bits of gaffa tape holding various bits of it together.  I then got a job selling double glazing over the phone (horror of horrors) and saved up £1800 to buy myself a new trumpet.

Anyway, the symposium was great – my highlight were Katharine Engel who gave the keynote speech.  She wrote an amazing book called ‘Unmastered: A Book on Desire Most Difficult To Tell’ which is brilliant.  Her talk covered pornography, female desire, the difference (or not) between the body and the mind – it was really fascinating.  I also really enjoyed Ruth Padel’s thoughts on ekhphrasis and managed to get a copy of her new collection ‘Emerald’ which I haven’t read the whole of yet, but am enjoying so far.

I’ve also just found out that a slightly extended version of my paper is going to be published in Agenda magazine which I’m very happy about.  So most of my PhD time this month has gone into writing my paper, and then working on it to make it suitable for publication in Agenda.  It doesn’t sound like that much when I write it out like that but it has taken hours and hours!

I am also looking forward to the rest of 2018 which will be filled with me being extremely judgemental about poetry (wait for it)

I’m judging the Primers Volume Four Mentoring and Publication Scheme along with Jane Commane from Nine Arches Press – an amazing opportunity to have your pamphlet published by The Poetry School and Nine Arches as well as receive mentoring from yours truly. I’ll also be judging the National Poetry Competition alongside Kei Miller and Mark Waldron which I’m really excited about.

My other big news is that I was on Private Passions on Radio 3 yesterday being interviewed by Michael Berkeley.  I did the interview a couple of months ago and it was one of the nicest and least stressful experiences I’ve had on the radio! You can listen to the interview and my amazing and trumpet-filled choices of music here  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b7dqmy

I think that is all my news for now – phew.  A month’s worth takes a while to type up! Underneath all of that is Kendal Poetry Festival of course – still humming along with only 3 Festival Passes left now.

I will leave you with a poem from one of my favourite people Martin Kratz.  Martin’s first pamphlet A Skeleton’s Progress has just been published by Poetry Salzburg.  As well as being an excellent poet, Martin has also kept me sane throughout my PhD, offering advice and also being terribly English and pretending not to see when I have had the odd crying fit in my favourite cafe (Eighth Day in Manchester if you’re wondering)

Every poem in the pamphlet starts ‘Skeleton Man’ – the speaker of the poem is always talking to him, but really the speaker is addressing us, the audience and reader, telling us things through the conduit of Skeleton Man.  I’ve chosen this poem because I think it’s a great example of how Martin manages to ask big questions about the world but the poems wear those big questions really lightly.

Skeleton Man has various adventures throughout the pamphlet, including being elected to be prime minister and shot into space in a rocket before appearing again in another poem, as if nothing has happened to him.  He swims with sharks, goes into a pub and inexplicably hangs worms all over himself.  Lots of these poems are funny, but they’re also very moving as well.  There is something vulnerable or innocent in the character of Skeleton Man, but he also seems to possess more wisdom than the rest of us somehow.

If you would like to order A Skeleton’s Progress you can buy it from Poetry Salzburg here: http://www.poetrysalzburg.com/skeleton.htm for the measly sum of £6.50 plus postage and packing.  Thanks to Martin for letting me use his poem!

Skeleton Feelings 
Martin Kratz

Skeleton Man,
00000Where do feelings come from?
Here you are
00000Where you think no one watches
Reaching down under your ribcage
00000And back up past false
Ribs towards true.  To make a fist
00000Where a heart should be.

Skeleton Man, this muscle
00000Click-clacks when it should b-boom;
Grinds when it should m-murmur.
00000This is no centre for your pain, but
Take it away and I say
00000Something real remains.  Hand on heart.