Tag Archives: a poem and a pint

35 Weeks and counting and poetry updates


It’s been a while since I blogged again but I’ve been busy getting more and more pregnant and trying to get as much of my PhD done as possible before the baby arrives.  I’m now 35 weeks pregnant and officially on maternity leave from my PhD, which feels strange. I can’t quite let go of it at the moment still – it’s become a habit I can’t put down.

My maternity leave started on the 1st May and I decided to set myself a rather arbitrary target of getting up to 20,000 words of my critical thesis.  I say arbitrary because it was a self-imposed target, but I find I work best if I’ve got a goal to work towards.  Overall, the thesis has to be between 30,000 and 40,000 so I thought if I had 20,000 under my belt before my maternity leave started, I would feel a bit more confident that I would finish it.  The creative part of the PhD, my next collection I’m happy to let tick along at the side – it’s not finished yet, but I’m confident that I can finish it.  The critical part is harder to predict.

So the last couple of weeks have been kind of intense – I’ve been writing pretty much non-stop around the last few freelance commitments I’ve had.  I’ve had really productive meetings with two of my supervisors in the last few weeks as well on both the creative and the critical side – I know what I need to do next, and I’ve decided to slowly keep plugging away at it whilst I’ve still got the urge but just at a less frantic pace than I’ve been doing.

I also can’t believe that the baby will be here in five weeks.  It seems both that it’s gone really fast, and that I’ve been pregnant for years! It’s been a complete rollercoaster, which I know is a cliché, but it really has.  I’m now starting to feel excited instead of scared, and looking forward to the baby arriving, massively helped by attending a hypnobirthing course a few weekends ago.  I would highly recommend it to anyone feeling anxious/nervous/stressed about pregnancy or birth – it was full of really practical information about pregnancy but also lots of meditations to practice at home.  I was sceptical at first, but listening to a meditation on my phone the first night after the course helped me sleep straight through the night for probably the first time in about three or four months.  I listen to them every night now and I’ve gone from getting up four times a night because I’m so uncomfortable to just getting up once a night which I can just about cope with!

I have a few poetry updates for those that are interested.  The Poetry Carousel is happening again this December, although we’ve moved venue to Rydal Hall in Ambleside.  The course runs from the 6th-9th December 2020 costs £385 to share a room with a friend, £400 for a standard room or £415 for a superior room.  This cost includes workshops, accommodation, evening readings and breakfast, lunch and evening meals.

The Poetry Carousel is a residential course with a difference – four very different workshops with four very different tutors, all crammed into one weekend.  Each participant will be put into a group of between 8 and 10 to take part in a morning workshop with one of four tutors.  Afternoons are free for reading and writing, and in the evening, there are poetry readings in the Great Hall at the hotel.  Tutors confirmed so far are myself, Clare Shaw and David Tait with a fourth tutor to be confirmed.  If you’d like to book, you need to ring the hotel direct on 015394 32050 but any questions about the course, you can contact me directly on here or via email.

I’ve just got back from running my St Ives residential poetry course which was a brilliant week with possibly the best weather I’ve experienced since I started running the courses down there.  Kind of frustrating as I couldn’t get out and run or even walk very far but lovely for the participants!  St Ives will be running again next year, this time from the 27th April to the 2nd May 2020 and I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with the fabulous poet and writer Fiona Sampson as my guest tutor this year.  This course runs more like a traditional residential, with a maximum of 16 participants.  The cost of the week is £595 and this includes breakfast, three course evening meals, workshops, a tutorial with one of the tutors and readings in the evenings.  To book a place, please ring the hotel direct on 01736 796240.

A few other exciting poetry happenings in Cumbria – I’m on the organising committee of ‘A Poem and a Pint’ and our next event is happening on the 29th June with the fabulous poet Ilya Kaminsky.  The venue is Greenodd Village Hall and we will have some limited open mic spots available.  This is a really exciting opportunity to see one of the most brilliant poets writing today so get the date in your diary!

After the success of last year’s poetry competition, A Poem and a Pint are running a competition again this year, this time with the fantastic Carrie Etter as our judge.  First prize is £150, 2nd prize is £100 and 3rd prize is £50 with a special prize for a Cumbrian poet of £25.   The closing date of the competition is the 15th July 2019 and it’s a relatively fast turnaround – winners will be contacted by the 7th September and we will be having a prize giving event on the 21st September with Carrie Etter as our guest reader.  You can find more information about the competition here

If you need any information about any of the events listed here, please get in touch, and if you know anyone who might be interested in the residential courses, please feel free to share!







There are a few

Sunday Poem – Emily Blewitt

Sunday Poem – Emily Blewitt

It’s been a pretty full-on week this week!  Yesterday I had a lovely poetry marathon, like I used to in the Olden Days.  I started off doing 5k at park run – I thought I would have a good go and see how much fitness I’ve lost because of this ridiculous IT band injury which is hopefully (touch wood) gone now.  I did 23 and a half minutes which I’m pretty pleased with – and more importantly no knee pain! Hurrah etc.

After park run I went to Grasmere to the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition reading.  Three of the four winning poets were there.  I enjoyed the reading, but it was bloody freezing in the Jerwood Centre, to the point where I actually found it hard to concentrate.  I haven’t been there for so long I forgot how cold it is – good for Wordsworth’s manuscripts but not good for poetry audiences.  I bought all of the four pamphlets though so I will peruse them in the warmth and comfort of my own house.

In the evening we had our June Poem and a Pint event at Greenodd Village Hall.  What a brilliant night it was.  We had lots of people turning up to read on the Open Mic, brilliant music from Bradyll Friends, an acapella choir and Emily Berry, our guest poet was absolutely brilliant.  Her first set was quite funny, she uses a dry irony in her work which I love.  The second set from her latest book Stranger, Baby I found really moving.  I’ve just reviewed Stranger, Baby for the next issue of ‘Under the Radar’ magazine,  along with another fantastic collection by Sabrina Mahfouz called How You Might Know Me.  

I went on a training course to learn how to use EndNote at the beginning of the week at uni. This software will hopefully make doing the bibliography and referencing side of things for my critical work much easier.   I’ve got to hand in 5000 words to my supervisor next week, and I’ve been steadily progressing with it.  This is a bit weird, but I’ve actually really enjoyed using EndNote to do my references.  I’ve also really enjoyed writing the 5000 words.  If I take out of the equation my anxiety about whether I’m doing it ‘right’, if I forget about worrying whether I’m any good at it or not, if that has nothing to do with it at all, then I’ve absolutely loved doing the writing.

Also at the beginning of the week, I had a meeting about the 2018 Kendal Poetry Festival.  Yes, it actually never ends, and although we are still finishing the report for this year’s festival, we are already having to start thinking and planning for next year’s festival! It was a really positive meeting however, and I’m already feeling a little bit excited about next year.  Last week, I was full of what I am going to refer to as festival fatigue – this week, I feel much better, more myself and almost ready to do it all again.

Mid week I had my Annual Review Meeting with the lovely Helen Mort.  Helen was so enthusiastic about my project, and it was great to have a chance to talk through how the year has gone. As part of the review, I had to upload evidence of what I’ve been doing, so I gathered together the poems I’ve written this year – I think there were about 27 of them, which I’m not sure if that sounds like a lot or not.  Helen is probably the first person to read them all together and she was so positive and encouraging about them that I came away feeling a lot more confident in my own work.

I found out last week that I’ve had four of my ‘All The Men I Never Married’ poems accepted for publication in the next issue of The Rialto, which I’m really pleased about – and I think that’s about it for my news!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by the fabulous Emily Blewitt, who I met when she came on a residential course that I ran quite a while ago now at Abbot Hall in Grange Over Sands.  I thought she was a fantastic poet back then, so I was really happy for her when I found that my publisher Seren were publishing her first collection.

Emily was born in Carmarthen, Wales.  She studied at Oxford and York, and has a PhD from Cardiff University, where she specialised in poetic representations of pregnancy in nineteenth century and contemporary women’s writing.  She has published poetry in The Rialto, Ambit, Poetry Wales, The Interpreter’s House, Furies, Hinterland, Brittle Star and Cheval.  Her first full-length collection This Is Not A Rescue was published by Seren a few months ago.  The title poem of the collection was Highly Commended in the 2016 Forward Prizes in the Best Published Poem category.

I took this poem to a session I ran with Dove Cottage Young Poets and it went down really well.  The young poets really liked the poem, and they wrote some fantastic response poems to it as well.  I really like the one line statements, and the way the voice of the dance teacher is both sustained and developed throughout the poem.  As the poem goes on, the personality of the teacher and the relationship between the teacher and the student becomes more apparent.

Everything seems professional until the sixth line ‘If you don’t like me smoking, sit over there’ which says so much in so few words! We know the student doesn’t like smoking.  We know the dance teacher doesn’t care, but not in a horrible way.  I think we get a sense of the time period as well – some time in the 80s perhaps, when smoking teachers could still get away with it.

That line ‘You’re blushing again’ is wonderfully understated as well, showing the growing awareness of the student of her own body.  I think the use of phrases and cliches here works really well, such as ‘If you don’t use it you lose it’ and ‘It takes a bit of grit to make a pearl.’

Although there is a level of inappropriateness here in some of the lines, things  I wouldn’t say as a teacher, such as ‘You’re as flat-chested as I am’ – for me there is still a deep level of affection there, particularly in lines such as ‘You remind me of me when I was your age’.  There is also humour as well of course ‘If I had my time again, I’d be a historian.’  The teachers seems like a real character, who both uses well worn phrases and cliches, and then comes out with unexpected and random things.

I would really recommend ordering this collection.  If there was any justice it should be on a First Collection shortlist but even if it doesn’t make it on to one, buy it anyway! You can get it with 20% off from the Seren website here.

Things My Dance Teacher Used to Say – Emily Blewitt

Chassés are chasing steps

To spiral, you spin slowly and trail your pointed foot

Practise standing on one leg

Use contrary body motion

Your arms should show control and musical interpretation

If you don’t like me smoking, sit over there

It shouldn’t burn

Keep your eyes up

You’re blushing again

You’re as flat-chested as I am

If you don’t use it you lose it

If you don’t click this time, there’s something wrong with you

You’re too naive

You’re not afraid to swing those hips

I was a loose cannon

I used to sprint barefoot at school

You remind me of me when I was your age

If I had my time again, I’d be a historian

Use resistance

It takes a bit of grit to make a pearl

Sunday Poem – John Mills

Sunday Poem – John Mills

Another week with no medical disaster, trauma or mishap so I think I am out of the woods.  Before my operation, I would work until at least midnight, writing or catching up with admin.  Since the hospital though, I’ve been going to bed at the latest by 10pm and getting up at about 8am.  I’m used to functioning on 6-7 hours sleep a night, so it feels very strange to be needing 10 hours sleep, just to get by on the minimal activities I’m doing at the minute.  I’m trying to accept it as part of the healing process.  I keep telling myself my body is still getting back to normal, readjusting after the shock of being cut open, poked,prodded and stitched back together again, and the rational part of my mind knows and understands this.  But the non-rational part of my mind is having a panic attack about all of the stuff that I’m not getting done on time.  People have been very understanding so far though, so I know I need to chill out a little bit.

Next Thursday 15th December I’m giving a lecture at the final Kava Poetry series.  I read for Kava earlier on this year with a terrible cold – in fact I didn’t read very much because I started coughing terribly, and in the end my friend Keith had to do the reading for me.  Kava is unique because as well as having a poet who reads their own work, there is also another invited poet who is asked to give a lecture on a topic of their choosing.  The series is run by Anthony Costello, and next week is the final one, which is sad, but I’m also looking forward to being there at the final Kava and seeing Anthony get some appreciation and recognition from the regular audience members.

This was one of my deadlines that went whizzing past – Anthony prints the guest poet’s lecture in a small pamphlet, and understandably asked for the lecture to be sent to him by the week before.  I was a day late – eventually sending it on Friday afternoon.  Anthony was very understanding but I did feel bad, as it can’t be easy organising an event, and printing a booklet out each time as well!

As most of you will know, the only thing I’ve had in my head for the past three months is my PhD, and feminism and poetry, so I decided to write my lecture around this.  I actually really enjoyed writing it and I’m looking forward to Thursday – not feeling too nervous at the minute.

This week I’ve also had a committee meeting for A Poem and a Pint and I have a list of poets to invite to Cumbria in 2017.  This is one of my outstanding jobs that I didn’t manage to get on with this week.  I also managed to make it to Manchester on Tuesday to meet two fellow PhD students, both at differing stages of the PhD.  It was both reassuring and inspiring to hear their thoughts and advice.  Rachel Davies writes a blog about her experience of the PhD – in fact, reading her blog was one of the main reasons why I decided to apply – it helped me to realise that doing a PhD could be for ‘people like me’ as well.  If you are thinking of doing a PhD, I would recommend reading Rachel’s blog – it’s really fascinating.  Rachel Mann, the other student that I met, is coming towards the end of her PhD.  Rachel is pretty amazing at being able to pull academic theories out of the air to illustrate a point – my ambition is to be able to talk like that about my PhD in three years time!

Seeing other people do things first is very important for me.  When I look back at all the big decisions I’ve made, they’ve always been foreshadowed by someone close to me making the leap first.  David Tait winning the 2011 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition made me determined to have a go the next year.  My friend J left her job with the music service to take up a new position elsewhere, and my sister left her job with the music service to go and be the manager at Animal Concern in Egremont.  Seeing them both go and do something they believed in gave me the confidence to go part time as a teacher the year after.  Rachel Davies doing a PhD – I read her blog for a year and finally worked up the courage to have a go.  I’m not sure if this is creepy, or just well thought out! Maybe my next ambition should be to do something without anyone doing it first – to inspire myself to make a leap into new territory.  Or maybe this is the way that everybody moves on, and if I asked all of those people, a chain of other people that they have learnt from and been inspired by would unfold, further and further back into time.

This week I’ve also managed to get along to two poetry groups – Barrow Writers and Brewery Poets, and I even had two different poems to take along to be critiqued.  I’m supposed to be concentrating on the RD1 and not worrying too much about writing poetry this term, but I can’t seem to stop.  It’s because I’m reading a lot – even reading academic books seems to make me write.  I’m not complaining though!

Last Wednesday I ran what is probably going to be a bi-monthly event at Natterjacks, a late night cafe in Ulverston.  It was a wonderful event – I think we had 19 on the open mic, but everybody was well behaved and didn’t read for too long, so we managed to finish at a reasonable hour.  In the second half, it’s time for ‘Hunger Games Open Mic’ which if you haven’t experienced it before, it is my invention to get over the natural humbleness and deference of some poets.  Basically, who ever gets up and gets to the front first reads a poem and then sits down and somebody else charges up.  It’s great fun – and we have even evolved a system of ‘runners’ for those who don’t feel able to leap up and fight their way through to the front.

My other meeting this week was with Pauline Yarwood to hash out the finer details about Kendal Poetry Festival.  I’m getting so excited about the festival already – last year I think I just felt stressed about the amount of work – this year, I know what the reward will be for the stress, which more than makes up for the hours spent applying for funding and carrying out admin.  We’re meeting next week to start our Arts Council bid so wish us luck!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by John Mills, who I met at Swindon Poetry Festival a few months ago.  John came to one of my workshops, then read a poem on the Open Mic that made me cry.  I’ve just finished reading his pamphlet Scarred which I’ve really enjoyed.  He writes about a wide range of subjects – running, depression, illness, war, family and the poems cycle through a range of emotions.  Some of them made me smile or laugh out loud, and some were very poignant.

John was born in Stoke in 1952 and spent his working life teaching English and playing sport and music.  He is very modest, and didn’t say much more than that about himself, but he has some lovely quotes on the back of his pamphlet – Helen Mort says his poetry is ‘Compassionate, bold and generous’ and Roger Elkin says that his poetry is ‘what all good poetry should aspire to!’ So there you go!

I’ve chosen ‘Anno Domini’ to feature from John’s pamphlet.  This is the last poem in the pamphlet.  I had to google Anno Domini of course, having no Latin at all.  Google tells me it means ‘advancing age’.  This poem is clearly written by someone who loves language and playing around with words.  I really like the ‘shilly shallying’ on the second line! I think it’s the first time I’ve read a poem with those words in.  I like that this poem seems to be about finding out what you really want to do – instead of what you think you ought to, or what is easiest – a subject close to my own heart!

The poem has a lovely, passing reference to the poem ‘Warning‘ by Jenny Joseph, with it’s famous first line ‘When I am old I shall wear purple’, in the second stanza with its ‘Let’s see./I have worn a purple shirt’ lines.  Although this poem isn’t about quite the same thing – the speaker in ‘Warning’ wants to do what she wants, to be outrageous, to not care what people think.  The speaker of this poem is tired of the middle road, of neither ‘being one thing or the other.’

The character of the speaker is wonderfully captured in these lines – I love how his thinking gradually unfolds.  It was this stanza which made me laugh out loud – it was the line ‘having been a boy’ that did it.  There is also something poignant and uncomfortable though about having to wait for advancing age until you can do what you want – although the poem is funny, there is an undercurrent of uneasiness for me when I read it.  It forces the reader to take a look at their own life, and their own desires, but it does this without preaching or hectoring – it has a very light touch.

I also really love the punchline at the end – the spending of the ‘inheritance’, which with one deft touch brings in the extra characters of the children, and again made me laugh with the surprise of it.

If you would like to order John’s pamphlet, you can find him on Facebook – send him a message, and he will post a signed copy out for the princely copy of £4 which is a bargain – the pamphlet really is a good read.

Thanks to John for letting me use his poem this week!


Anno Domini – John Mills

I am through with this
ambivalent shilly shallying,
this messy abrogation of responsibility
and settlement, for what I neither like
nor hate.
No more of this
piggy in the middle,
jolly sailing through life without
being one thing or the other.

It is time to step out!
To be my own man!
Let’s see.
I have worn a purple shirt
and having been a boy,
I am a very competent spitter.
So far so good.

I can do better than this.
I shall refuse to be the milch cow.
I’ll move away and see
the views I want to see.
Shatter the shackles of responsibility,
shun the pills given to combat
the bones and marrows of outrageous mis-fortune
and ease the cork out of a potion of my own
as I work my way through their inheritance.

Sunday Poem – Lisa Brockwell

Sunday Poem – Lisa Brockwell

I’m not in my writing room today – sat on the sofa instead, in front of the T.V because I’ve been watching the wonderfulness that is Gogglebox.  Last time I watched this, I was in Groningen in Holland, curled up on the sofa with my lovely friend Jan, crying with laughter.  It’s not half as fun watching it on my own, although I like the kind of happy/sad feeling I get when I watch it now – happy because now watching that programme reminds me of Jan, and sad because I miss him.

This week I’ve been working on my poem for the BBC and National Poetry Day.  I’m writing a poem about Furness Abbey.  My deadline was Friday, and I pretty much finished it at about ten minutes to midnight, which was quite stressful, but expected.  I always seem to work better under a bit of pressure.

I had a meeting with the committee of A Poem and a Pint, and we put together a list of poets that we’d like to have as our guest poets in 2017.  My job now is to contact them all so I’ll probably be getting on with that next week.

On Wednesday, my friend Jennifer Copley had her book launch at Natterjacks.  As I mentioned in a blog post a couple of weeks back, her new pamphlet Vinegar and Brown Paper is out with Like This Press. Members of Barrow Writers, the writing group that Jenny runs also read and local musicians The Demix provided the music.  Here is a photo of Jenny looking glamorous whilst reading her new poems.


On Thursday I went to Manchester to have another meeting about the teaching.  This one was very useful, and I feel reasonably confident about next week.  As confident as anyone starting a new job I suppose! I had a brief meeting about my PhD following the meeting about the teaching, but we ran out of time, so have rescheduled for a couple of weeks.  My main job between now and then is to get some reading done and start to think about how I want to structure the critical part of the PhD (I think!).

I had my first wobble this week of thinking what on earth have I done, and who am I to think someone like me can do a PhD etc etc.  Imposter syndrome already, and I haven’t even had the PhD induction yet – that is the week after next!  However, I’ve decided I’m going to get started this week, and the first thing I’m going to do is work out a timetable of when I’m going to be working on PhD stuff this week.

After the meetings I met up with poet Emma McGordon and we made our way up to Black Cat Poets in Denton, where we were both performing.  It was a real honour to be reading with Emma – she was one of the first poets I saw perform at A Poem and a Pint and I loved her reading.  Her new work is really, really good and it was worth the trip over from Cumbria just to hear her read.  The audience at Black Cat Poets was small but perfectly formed, and the organisers and hosts were very friendly.   Then it was a late night drive back to Cumbria – I think I got in at about midnight, maybe just after.

I had a Dove Cottage Young Poets session on Friday night.  I only have two Young Poets left now – the rest have all gone away to university.  I feel very proud of them all, but very sad to see them go.  If anybody reading this knows any young people who would be interested in joining a completely free poetry group in Cumbria, do get in touch.

Other writing news – I was very happy that I got a poem shortlisted in the Bridport Poetry Competition.  This means I got to the top 200 out of 5400 entries apparently, so I didn’t win any money, but it is nice to know that my poem made it to that shortlist.

This weekend I’ve not done any writing or reading really.  I’ve just been running and playing the trumpet.  I did Park Run on Saturday (22 minutes 15 seconds – 10 seconds off my PB!) and then I had a Soul Band gig on Saturday night.  This morning I did a ten mile run and then had two rehearsals for a musical I’m playing in next week in Ulverston: ‘The Wizard of Oz’.  So this is why I’m blogging so late today!

I am excited about today’s Sunday Poem.  I can’t remember how Lisa Brockwell and I became friends on Facebook – as we’ve never met.  Lisa sent me a copy of her new collection Earth Girls a while back though, and I read it cover to cover in one sitting.  Earth Girls is published by Pitt Street Poetry, a Sydney based poetry imprint.

Lisa Brockwell was born in Sydney, but spent a large part of her adult life in England.  She now lives on a rural property near Byron Bay, on the north coast of New South Wales, with her husband and young son. You can find more about Lisa at her website: www.lisabrockwell.com

I loved this poem as soon as I read it, and felt an instant connection to it.  It is easy to list the reasons why this might be –  I suppose we all imagine what might have been, what would have happened if we had stayed with this person or that person instead of leaving them, if we had taken that job or refused it.  I also like that thread of regret or yearning, which runs through the poem – as I may have said before is one of my favourite emotions to explore in poetry.

That first line is startling in its directness.  And the second – that ‘startled but not sorry’.  I think that is so brilliantly observed.  I love how marriage, or at least a long-term relationship is described as ‘The Long Haul’, and the term ‘day-to-day dedication’ – again, brilliantly, closely observed, and this is exactly what a marriage is.  The poem is also wonderfully honest: ‘The air between us no longer electric’.  I also love that just at this point when as a reader, I started to forget that what is being described is imaginary, it is then that the story starts to falter: ‘But whose dog jumps/on that bed’.

One of the cleverest things in the poem of course is that it manages to pass comment on two things at the same time.  Through describing the imaginary relationship, what might have been, we start to gain a picture of the real relationship, in all its complexity.

There is something beautifully tender as well in the line ‘But when, sometimes, we brush against/each other on-line I feel it and I hope you/ do too’.  There isn’t a whiff of betrayal or duplicity in the poem.  If there was it would be a less complex poem, a less interesting poem.  This poem has been hauting me since Lisa sent me her book, which is a good few months ago now, so I’m really pleased to be able to post it up here.

I hope you enjoy the poem, and if you’d like to order the book, please head over to Pitt Street Poetry

The Long Haul – Lisa Brockwell

There is another life where we end up together.
We wake in the same bed, startled but not sorry;
the timber frame is warm, hand-caulked
with the day-to-day dedication of the long haul.
The air between us no longer electric, all now
sanded smooth.  But whose dog jumps
on that bed: yours or mine? I don’t plan to think
about my husband or your wife; let’s leave
my son right out of it.  Fantasy, no more dangerous
than eating gelato and dreaming of Mark Ruffalo.
But when, sometimes, we brush against
each other on-line I feel it and I hope you
do too – you could have been my dawn breeze
and me your mast of oak.  There is another life
out there.  I watch it as it goes, a bobbing toy
with a paper sail, jaunty in calm weather; and wince
to see it tacking close to the mouth of the river.

Sunday Poem – Myra Schneider

Sunday Poem – Myra Schneider

No view today apart from the dark, and my own reflection in the window, and through the gaps of the houses opposite, I can see a few streetlights, and one window in the house opposite has a light on.  It’s only 10.30pm now, but it feels more like 2am, everything is so quiet.  When we first moved here two years ago, I couldn’t sleep because it was so quiet.  Our first house in Barrow was in a street where you could hear the seagulls all the time, so it took me a while to get used to not hearing them.  Now, of course, it’s quite nice not to be divebombed by seagulls between the front door and the car.

Today I went to Lancaster with lots of people from the Walney Wind Cheetahs and took part in the Lancaster Castle 10k, which actually turned into the Lancaster Castle 10.6k, as apparently some directional arrows were turned the wrong way, there were no marshals and lots of people ran the wrong way and got lost.  I was a bit gutted because I think I would have got a PB, but I suppose these things can’t be helped.  We had a nice day anyway, and I was 6th woman back which I’ve never been before so that was quite exciting!

Getting lost seems to be a theme this week actually, as I also went on a 10 mile run which turned into a 12 mile run on Wednesday with my friend Ian and forgot to turn left at a crucial junction, which meant we had to run an extra two miles and climb up a huge hill again, which nearly finished us off!

Apart from running and getting lost, I’ve also had an Induction Day at Manchester Met this week to prepare for the teaching that I’ll be doing there.  I don’t think anything can really prepare you for teaching apart from just getting stuck into it, I guess.

I’ve been working with Pauline Yarwood, the co-director of Kendal Poetry Festival on plans for next year’s festival.  We’ve already confirmed some poets (top secret, sorry, can’t tell you who they are) and are waiting to hear back from the remaining few.  Pauline’s been working hard on an application to a local charity and we’ve already sent that in.  This was the first charity we applied to last year, and when we were awarded the money, it really gave us a boost of confidence to apply for the rest of the amount to the Arts Council. I’m hoping this happens again this year!

Last night it was A Poem and a Pint with the fabulous Hollie McNish.  I’ve seen Hollie read a few times now – most recently (before last night) at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival.  At Aldeburgh she read a poem about class and accents and fitting in which made me cry, which I didn’t expect.  To cry, I mean.  She is a great performer of her work, not just the poems, but when she introduces them, she is very warm, very open.  It is a cliche but she really does feel like a breath of fresh air.  She is also a sharp and witty observer of life, or the kind of absurdities of life.  She writes poems that flag up things in life that we probably all pretend we don’t notice.    Anyway, last night at Poem and a Pint she was brilliant – the audience loved her.  I was the MC and kept forgetting to get up and introduce the next item, which is pretty standard for my MCing style!

The other thing I’ve been doing this weekend is painting the downstairs ‘middle room’ as we call it.  Do you remember that scene in Adrian Mole’s diary when he decides to paint the walls of his bedroom black to cover up the Noddy wallpaper, and the bells just keep showing through, no matter how many layers of paint he slaps on? Well in my more dramatic moments, this is how I feel about the middle room, except it is white paint, and it is patches, rather than bells.  Anyway, Chris has promised that one more coat should do it, so hopefully by this time next weekend, I won’t have to look at another tin of white paint for a while.

Next week there is lots going on.  My good friend Jennifer Copley is launching her latest pamphlet Vinegar and Brown Paper, published by Like This Press.  The launch will take place at Natterjacks in Ulverston at 7.30 – you can find more information here.  Members of Barrow Writers will also be reading and The Demix will be providing some music so it will be a great night!

I’m off to Manchester again on Thursday to have a meeting with one of my supervisors on the PhD.  On Thursday evening I’m reading at Black Cat Poets in Manchester, alongside the marvellous Emma McGordon, who was one of the first poets I ever saw read, so I’m quite excited about that! There is also an open mic for anybody that wants to come down and has a couple of poems knocking about that they fancy reading…

I’ve got Dove Cottage Young Poets session on Friday and then a Soul Band gig on Saturday and then rehearsals for The Wizard of Oz start on Sunday.  You will be happy to know that I’m not acting, singing or dancing in The Wizard of Oz, only playing the trumpet, which is probably a mercy for us all.

So this week’s Sunday Poem is by Myra Scheider, who has featured on the blog quite a few times in the past.  The poem I’ve chosen comes from her latest book Persephone in Finsbury Park,  published by Second Light Publications.

Rebecca, the poem I’ve chosen is very representative of Myra’s work.  I often come away from Myra’s work knowing a little more than when I arrived – I didn’t for instance know that a pogrom is ‘an organized massacre of a particular ethnic group, in particular that of Jews in Russia or eastern Europe.’

This word sits in the poem like an undetonated bomb.  There is nothing else said about the pogroms, yet that word shadows everything that follows and precedes it.  The idealistic rural life filled with cows that Rebecca ‘knew by heart’ contrasts with the new life in Stepney.  By the end of the second stanza, there is another story that is mentioned and then never returned to in the poem – the ‘six-year old Judith’ who is ‘scalded to death tipping water from a boiling kettle.’

I wonder if these stories will be developed in later collections or poems.  There is certainly a wealth of material here – although of course the story of Judith is alluded to with the story of ‘Isaac’ who wasn’t allowed to play indoors in case he comes to harm – presumably in the same way that Judith did.  Although ironically, of course, he suffers the touch of extreme cold, the opposite of what Judith suffered.

The lovely thing about this poem is the surprise that Rebecca is the grandmother of the speaker, and the realisation that this is family history that is being shared.

If you would like to buy a copy of Persephone in Finsbury Park, you can order one from Myra by emailing her at  myraRschneider@gmail.com.  This is Myra’s 14th poetry collection – previous collections include The Door to Colour, published by Enitharmon in 2014, and Circling the Core in 2008.  She also writes prose and edits anthologies and runs creative writing courses .

Thanks to Myra for letting me use her poem this week – if you’d like to find out more about Myra, you can have a look at her website here


Rebecca  – Myra Schneider

Somewhere inside me: snippets from her life,
that village a dozen miles from Vitebsk, the cows
she knew by heart, the grocery shop and pogroms

left behind for a cramped existence in Stepney:
families living elbow to elbow, her six-year old Judith
scalded to death tipping water from a boiling kettle.

These scraps and others are in a bundle much smaller
than the bundle of linens she heaved through years
of unpaved streets after her husband died,

selling on the never-never.  There’s little Isaac
who couldn’t keep still for a moment, never allowed
indoors on his own – such harm might he come to –

playing outside till her day’s slog was over, in winter
at the mercy of frost which sank its teeth so deep
into his legs the bite was still raw ninety years later.

There’s the tale of how she dug her needle wit
into the boy for fooling in his new secondary school,
being placed twenty-ninth, then of how proud she was

when he became, not the rabbi she’d dreamed of
in the tiny bedroom they shared for years,
but such a scholar he was paid to go to university.

Rebecca, grandmother I never knew, your son
always called you mother – I didn’t learn your name
until seven years after he died – I’m proud of you.

Sunday Poem – Linda Gregerson


It is glorious sunshine today here, though half of the garden is already in shadow, now that it is mid-afternoon. The hawthorn tree is still covered in red berries, and at the bottom of the garden, the laurel bushes that we chopped down two years ago have grown back to chest height.

Last week was the first full week of the schools being back in action.  People keep whether I think I’ll miss it.  I don’t feel like I’ve really had time to miss anything yet – although what does feel strange is that the passing of time will not be marked in quite the same way anymore, by school holidays and term times.

Monday night will be difficult, because it’s the first band rehearsal back for Barrow Shipyard Junior Band.  I’ve decided to fill up my first free Monday evening to keep my mind off it and stop myself turning up at the bandroom, so I’ll be using my newly bought 1 month gym membership and going for a ‘Total Abs’ session, which I’m sure will take my mind off things.  After that I’ve got Soul Band rehearsal, so I’m hoping Monday evening will be over before I know it.

Last week I had another blissful week of not rushing around, although I did work quite hard at my desk.  I’m interviewing the American writer Sarah Kennedy for a journal, so I’ve been steadily making my way through her four novels and five poetry collections.  I’ve finished the poetry collections and am onto the first novel now.  I’ve already got a few questions I want to ask – and it has been a wonderful experience to read all of her work in one go, and to start to pull out threads and concerns that unite both her poetry and her prose.

I’ve also been working on my BBC commission to write a poem in the voice of a local landmark.  This is proving challenging (she says, keeping the rising panic from her voice) but I have a little bit of time left still.  I’ve also worked on a new poem this week, cheered on by my lovely writing room, and I’ve been reading various poets, looking for someone who is writing about feminism and sexism in a way that might be useful to my PhD.

Other things – a 5k race on Wednesday – 4th female back but no personal best time (missed it by 13 seconds).  I ran my Barrow Poetry Workshop all day yesterday – nine participants and the standard was very high.  We looked at poems by Jennifer L.Knox, Sharon Olds, Li-Young Lee and Luke Kennard.

After I’d finished the workshop I had an hour to eat and then it was straight back out to Kendal, where I read at Sprint Mill alongside lots of other poets – Hannah Hodgson, Caroline Gilfillan, Mark Carson, Mark Ward, Harriet Fraser, Geraldine Green and Luke Brown. It was organised by Karen Lloyd, who did a wonderful job of hosting, despite having a broken arm.  Sprint Mill is a fascinating place, and it is open for the next week or so for visitors as the C-Art exhibition is on.

Next week I have my Induction Day as an Associate Lecturer at MMU.  I’m hoping it is not like INSET was as a music teacher (i.e boring).  It surely can’t be as bad as that? I’m also the MC for A Poem and a Pint’s next event – the wonderful Hollie McNish will be coming to perform for us in Ulverston on the 17th September.  The event is taking place at the Laurel and Hardy Musuem and starts at 7.30pm.  There is an open mic, but we’re expecting this event to be busy, so don’t be late!

I’m really excited about this week’s Sunday Poem by the wonderful American poet Linda Gregerson.  I wrote a review of Linda’s latest book ‘Prodigal: New and Selected Poems’ for Poem magazine and I’m a huge fan of her work.

Writing out this poem was a wonderful exercise – the lines swoop back and forth, but reading Linda’s work is like reading a musical score.  The form of the tercet, with its short ‘pivot’ line in the middle, is a structure that Linda comes back to again and again.  The suffering of children, and how to witness suffering is another topic that she returns to.

This was one of the poems that I picked out in the review – it feels when you are reading it that you are discovering something along with the writer.  I only just noticed in the poem the three colours of traffic lights, in order at the end – finishing with the ‘bright red helmet.’  The craft of this poem is at work underneath the surface, so those phrases that loop back and forth feel effortless.  I also love the asides that Linda uses in this poem and throughout her work – I think they work to draw the reader in, but they are also beautifully measured and paced.

I would really recommend Linda’s book – if you’d like to read the full review of the book, you can subscribe to Poem you’ll also find fantastic poetry and essays in this magazine, edited by Fiona Sampson.

Linda Gregerson’s honours include a Guggenheim fellowship, four Pushcart Prizes, a Kingsley Tufts Award, and the selection of her collection Magnetic North as a National Book Award finalist.  Gregerson is a professor at the University of Michigan.  Her poetry has appeared in the Atlantic, The New Yorker, Poetry, the Yale Review and many other publications.  She lives in Michigan.

You can order her book Prodigal: New and Collected Poems here.  Thanks to Linda for allowing me to use her wonderful poem this week.


The Resurrection of the Body – Linda Gregerson
)))))((for Caroline Bynum

She must have been thirteen or so, her nascent
******just showing above the velcro strap

that held her in her chair.
*************Her face
******translucent, beautiful,

as if a cheekbone might directly render
*************a tranquil
******heart.  And yet

the eyes were all dis-
*****The mother with her miraculous

smile, frequent, durable, lifted
************the handkerchief-
*****you know the way a woman

will? – her index finger guiding a corner,
************the body of it gathered
*****in her dextrous palm – and with

such tenderness wiped the spittle
*****at her daughter’s mouth.  The faint

warm smell of lipstick – remember? – freighted
************with love,
*****and with that distillate left by fear

when fear’s been long outdone by fearful
*****The mother would give her soul to see

this child lift her head on her own.
************And down
*****the hall in orthotics,

I couldn’t for the longest time understand
************why the boy
*****required a helmet so complexly fitted

and strong – his legs were unused, his arms
************so thin.
*****A treadmill, I thought.  Or a bicycle, maybe, some

bold new stage of therapy anyway, sometimes
************he falls
*****and, safe in his helmet, can bravely

set to work again.  It wasn’t for nothing
************that I was
*****so slow.  Who cannot read those waiting rooms

has so far – exactly so far – been spared.
************It was only
*****while I was driving home,

my daughter in her car seat with her brand-
************new brace,
*****that I thought of the boy’s rhythmic rocking

and knew.  Green light.  Yellow.  The tide
************of pedestrians
*****flush and smooth.  And the boy’s

poor head against the wall – how could I miss it?
************and what
*****does God in his heaven do then? – and the boy’s

poor head in its bright red helmet knocking –
************listen –
*****to be let in.

Sunday Poem – Choman Hardi


Researcher’s Blues – Choman Hardi

Every day I try to lose them in the streets,
leave them behind in a bend in the road and keep on
walking.  But they follow me everywhere, their voices
combining into a hum from which sentences rise and fall.
The woman I never interviewed cut the string of my sleep
at dawn, whispering: ‘I am not well’.  Why didn’t I listen
to her story? Why didn’t I realise that she was dying?
The one widowed at 26 told me, ‘Imagine twenty
years of loneliness.’  I remember her in the middle of
an embrace and start weeping.  The pleading voice
of the woman who was raped echoes in my head:
‘I only wanted bread for my son.’  I wish I had told her
that she is good, she is pure, not spoiled as she thinks she is.
Then I remember the old couple in their mud-brick house,
surrounded by goats and chickens.  I remember their tears
when they talk about their children, when they remember
a woman who had been rich and powerful in her own village
but in Nugra Salman ‘she was stinking, abandoned,
worm-stricken’.  What was the dead woman’s name?
Why didn’t I try to find her family? I keep walking away.
All I want is to walk without crying, without being
pitied by people who think that I have problems
with love, without the homeless man telling me that he is
sorry.  I want to disappear, be unnoticed, unpitied.
Sometime ago when I started, it was all clear.  I knew
what had to be done.  All I can do now is keep walking,
carrying this sorrow in my soul, all I can do is
pour with grief which has no beginning and no end.

The Sunday Poem this week is by Choman Hardi, a poet that I heard read at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival last weekend.  I cried all the way through Choman’s reading, which was a new experience for me.  Crying, I mean, not the poetry reading.  Choman read poems from a sequence called ‘Anfal’ which sits at the heart of her new collection ‘Considering the Women’, published by Bloodaxe.  The sequence draws on Choman’s post-doctoral research on women survivors of genocide in Kurdistan, telling the untold story of the survivors.  The horror that these poems document is terrible, and that made me cry first of all, but what kept me crying was the calm and poise and grace that Choman read the poems with.  She did not let her feelings show when she was reading the poems, and I’m guessing this is so that there is no distraction from the stories that she is trying to tell, although I don’t know this.

Researcher’s Blues tells us that of course this type of work and this type of writing has a massive effect on the write, and it must take a superhuman effort to read those poems so calmly and clearly.  The poem documents the literal haunting of the writer by the people she didn’t speak to, as well as the ones she did, and feelings of not doing enough and not listening enough.

I know that poetry like this brings up strong emotions in people about whether this is what poetry should be for and I will stick my head above the parapet and say yes, I think this is absolutely one of the things that poetry is for.  Not every poem has to be about violence or trauma or witness, but some poems must be. It has to be good poetry of course as well and this is – right from the compelling first line.  The line breaks are also working really hard in this poem. I like the line break in Line 2 after ‘on’ and the break after ‘listen’ in Line 6.

This poem is working hard as well, pulling together threads that have been explored in the sequence, and things that will be explored later on, the idea that knowledge is a dangerous thing, that you can end up knowing both more than you started, and less: ‘Sometime ago when I started, it was all clear.  I knew/what had to be done.’  I also think that the desire for the erasure of the self at the end of the poem ‘I want to disappear, be unnoticed, unpitied’ is really interesting, especially when read in the context of the first poem of the sequence ‘Preface: Researcher’s Speech’ which says ‘fill me up with your words’.  At the beginning of the sequence, the speaker of the poem is prepared to be a vessel for the stories of the survivors.  By the end, even this desire has gone.  The speaker wants to disappear completely.

I guess I wanted to put this poem up today because of everything that has happened in Paris this weekend, and everything that has happened in Egypt and Beirut and Syria and Iraq.  The media don’t cover the terrorism that is going on in these countries –  I felt ashamed that I didn’t know about the terrorism attack in Beirut.  This poem, and Choman’s book centres on the idea of telling the story of people that have no voice, so I thought it was apt this weekend, in memory of all of the voices that have been silenced in terrorist attacks and bombing campaigns, voices that we won’t hear tell their stories.

I’ve been pondering this poem for a couple of hours now, trying to write this blog post and I still don’t quite feel that I’ve pinned down everything I want to say about Choman’s poetry, but I strongly recommend the collection.  Choman was born in Sulaimani and lived in Iraq and Iran before seeking asylum in the UK in 1993.  She was awarded a scholarship from the Leverhulme Trust to carry out post-doctoral research about women survivors of genocide in Kurdistan-Iraq.  Her first English collection ‘Life for Us’ was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2004.  In 2014 she moved back to her home city to become an assistant professor in the department of English in the American University of Iraq.

I hope you enjoy the poem, and thanks to Choman for allowing me to post it here.

My week has been really difficult this week.  I remember last year that the Autumn term was really manic – I don’t know if anybody else finds this, but it seems to be busy both as a music teacher and as a poet.  Anyway, I can just about keep on top of it all as long as I’m feeling fit and healthy but my dizzy spell at Aldeburgh developed into a horrible cold this week so I’ve been doing everything I can to keep my head above water.

I got back from Aldeburgh at 5.30pm on Monday night and then had my junior band rehearsal followed by my soul band rehearsal.  On Tuesday I had teaching all day and then quintet rehearsal and another soul band rehearsal.  On Wednesday I taught all day and then packed and drove to Leicester because I was giving a lecture at Leicester University for the poet and novelist Jonathan Taylor’s undergraduate students.  I had a lovely chat with Jonathan in the canteen after the lecture, which served to remind me why I love poetry and poets.  I don’t know Jonathan very well, I think we’ve only met a handful of times, but twice now he has offered advice and encouragement – I was talking through ideas for a PhD and he came up with a list of books for me to look at.  It made me think – this is what doing a PhD would be like – sitting and talking about poetry, then being given a list of books to read.  It sounds like my dream!  Except if I was doing a PhD I would presumably have time to read the books.

Anyway, after that, I jumped in the car and crawled up the M6 through horrendous traffic to Keswick for the Cumbria Culture Awards.  As I got further north the horrible traffic died off  but I became convinced it was because it had all been washed away due to the torrential rain.  I ended up being late for the Cultural awards and although I’d  bought a posh dress and shoes with me, I ended up running into the venue and performing in my jeans, trainers and my mum’s cardigan.

One good thing about being up for Cumbria Life Writer of the Year and being against writers like Sarah Hall and James Rebanks was that I was a 100% sure that I wasn’t going to win, so I actually enjoyed the night.  It was really exciting to hear about all the amazing things that are happening in Cumbria.  The Barrow Shipyard Junior Band sadly didn’t win Musical Group of the Year either, but I think they did brilliantly to be shortlisted and it also didn’t feel horrible not to win because Cumbria Life had done a lovely film about each person or group in the shortlist so it felt like you were made a fuss of, even if you didn’t win.

By the time I got to Friday, my cold was awful and got worse as I ran my Young Writers group in the afternoon, and performed with the quintet at Brewery Poets.  The three guest poets were David Borrott, Kerry Darbishire and Barbara Hickson and they read really well, but to be honest, I felt like I was dying at this point ( I am nothing if not dramatic) and I was mainly focused on not having a massive tantrum because I felt so ill.

I woke up on Saturday feeling a little bit better, which was lucky really because I was running my first all day poetry workshop in Barrow.  The workshop was a real success – there were a few cancellations due to the bad weather, but ten poets turned up and they were a lovely group and wrote some fantastic stuff.  I’m hoping to book another workshop for January and then to hold them once a month after that.

On Saturday night I had a gig with the Soul Survivors and then today I’ve spent the day catching up with emails, so if you’ve been expecting a reply to an email for ages and you haven’t got one, please give me a nudge, as I think I’ve caught up with myself now.  This afternoon I drove to Maryport to announce the results of the Maryport Literature Festival poetry competition and to do a short reading.  It was a lovely event, but we finished early because of the bad weather.  On the way back, my headlights were actually underwater at one point driving through the flood at Holmrook, but the car kept going which was a relief as I don’t know what I would have done if I’d flooded the engine…

So that is my week.  Next week on Thursday I’m reading with Peter Riley at The Bookcase in Hebden Bridge – please see the ‘Readings and Workshops’ tab for more details.  On Friday I’m off to Cork to read at the Winter Warmer festival and Matthew Sweeney is heading to Ulverston to read at A Poem and a Pint, which I’m going to miss which I’m really sad about, although I’m obviously quite excited to be going to Cork.

At some point this week, there will be information going up about the workshops and timetable for the residential I’m running with Steve Ely in St Ives.  We have been putting the final touches to this and it is almost ready!

Sunday Poem – Kim Lasky


I am aware that I am starting to write this blog at 11.19pm which is way too late.  Most of you, in fact will probably read this in the morning – even my most loyal followers are probably tucked up in bed by now.  But never mind.

This week has another week of painting our house – poor unloved creature – some of the rooms have not been decorated since I moved in which will be 8 years ago in April.  I have learnt a few things about painting this week.

1.  Don’t worry about patches on the first coat – it all evens out second time around.

2.  It is much more exciting to paint in colour – I got to do a blue wall today but also much harder as you actually have to have straight lines instead of just slapping paint on wooden skirting boards.

3.  Painting is really hard work

My favourite job is painting the woodwork because I can sit down to do that.  I don’t really like standing up.  Today my office which is also our spare bedroom got its coat of paint – there are just the skirting boards in there to do now.  The next job I think is the living room.  Then after that we have the kitchen, our bedroom and the bathroom to do.  I’m quite enjoying it though – but then I have always loved monotony at work.  One of my favourite jobs was working on a check out in the Co-op in Birmingham.  I loved the robotic nature of it – not saying that people who work in supermarkets are robotic – but I definitely was.  I couldn’t be bothered to make small talk or smile at people but I did enjoy scanning food items and judging people on the contents of their trolleys.

Other exciting things that have happened to me this week include getting two poems accepted in The Rialto http://www.therialto.co.uk/pages/
which has a swanky new website which is worth checking out.  The Rialto is a prince among magazines I believe for a number of reasons – its production, its beautiful smell, its glossy pages, the lovely editor who even when sending a rejection always took the time to write a little note on the rejection slip, but best of all, when you do get a poem in you get a twenty pound note in an envelope which is a wonderful feeling.

The event page for a project I’ve been working on has gone up as well at https://tickets.bridgewater-hall.co.uk/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=23124

This project involved poets who were once MA students at Manchester Met being paired up with postgraduate composers from the Royal Northern College of Music.  The poets were given the text to a song by Strauss, or a literal translation of it anyway and we then had to write a poem in response to the text.  We also had to provide a short explanation of how we got from the Strauss text to our finished poem.  I forgot about this and then got an email asking for text and when I started to look into the process found out all kinds of interesting things.

The poets then had to send their poems to their composers.  I have no idea what my composer has done with poem.  I don’t mind really not knowing – it will be exciting to hear it though.

This is all happening on February 8th which is another poetry marathon day for me.  So I’ll be off to the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester for 10.30 which is the start of the performance.  Then I’ll be going to the Poets and Players event where ALICE OSWALD is reading.  I saw her read at Swindon Poetry Festival last year and it was the best reading I went to all year, so I clearly have to go and see her again.  That is at 2.30 – http://poetsandplayers.co/

and then I’ll be driving quite briskly back to Ulverston for 7.30 to Poem and A Pint where the wonderful Moniza Alvi will be our guest poet and I’ll be reading two poems as one of the warmup acts.  I’m hoping lovely poet Rachel Davies, who is as bonkers as me is going to accompany me in this madness and maybe stay at mine for a glass of wine as well afterwards…

The other lovely thing I did this week was work with Andrew Forster at the Wordsworth Trust to run a Young Writers session in Kendal.  This project is going to run for the next two Fridays and will culminate with a session with the young writers at Dove Cottage.  We had a group of four and they were the dream group – enthusiastic, keen, funny, engaging – I really enjoyed it.  It was nice to be working with Andrew as well – I am always slightly apprehensive about working with friends – it’s like going on holiday with them isn’t it – it can end in disaster when you wind each other up and leave the toothpaste lid off the toothpaste – but I think we worked well together and it was good fun.  Hopefully we will still be speaking to each other in a months time…

Which brings us to today’s Sunday Poem which is by Kim Lasky, another poet shortlisted for the Michael Marks award.  Kim was a winner in the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition last year with her pamphlet ‘Petrol, Cyan, Electric’ but she hasn’t let that slow her down – she has just had another pamphlet published with Templar called ‘Eclipse’.  I must admit to not having ‘Eclipse’ yet but I do have the PB pamphlet which is fantastic.  Her poems are very different – full of science, but in an approachable, readable way.  You can order ‘Petrol, Cyan, Electric’ from the Poetry Business at http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk

I picked ‘Pylons, 1929’ because it was the poem that I enjoyed most in the pamphlet.  I enjoyed the story it told of the man who tends pylons, which most of the time are unnoticed in the background of any landscape.  Unless you are like me, who had an obsession with Watership Down and used to look for pylons that looked like the pylon in Watership Down, halfway up a hill where a rabbit could hide itself in a clump of grass whilst a black dog ran past but that is beside the point, slightly.  I love the description of the pylon in the first section – particularly ‘lit strange as silver, a gateway in metal/on mapped land.’  I like the way Kim deftly creates two characters with her portrayal of insignificant details – the woman who ‘fetches/hair from her face with the back of her hand’.  Isn’t that  a beautiful way of putting it – ‘fetches’ – not ‘wipes’ or ‘pushes’ or ‘brushes’ – fetches is just right.  I also really like the description of the pylons in part 3 as ‘advancing like metallic warriors’.  It strikes me now that the most active parts of this poem are the pylons – they advance, they ‘staple the land’, they crackle and hum.  They are closely followed by the man, but his movement is not so immediate – we are told he turns for home and we have to imagine his movement for ourselves – and the woman is captured like a photograph – the way she ‘fetches’ her hair from her face.  By the end of the poem, it seems the only thing left that is active and can move in the poem are the pylons while the man and woman lie in bed.  The pylons have the power…I should also say this poem was highly commended in the 2012 Bridport Prize.

If you would like to know more about Kim Lasky and her work she has a website at http://kimlasky.com/

Thanks to Kim for letting me use her poem!

Pylons, 1929 – Kim Lasky


All day he has climbed
the ledges of outstretched arms,
finding footholds in their soldered webs.
Sweat has matted the hair beneath his cap,
tobacco flecked his tongue. Now the sun is falling
towards the horizon; amber comes to mind
as it aligns behind the half-built tower
lit strange as silver, a gateway in metal
on mapped land. He turns for home, thinks of her
watching the skillet on the gas, the way she fetches
hair from her face with the back of her hand,
how he’ll tell her there’s nothing troubling here,
just this― the uneven tilt of the earth,
the rising green of the hills, unconcerned.


The terraces line up just the same,
grey pavements, the smell of grease in the alley.
He lifts the latch, swings in;
the gate is all she hears in the kitchen.
At the door, he’s stopped by the curve of her back,
the knot of cotton at her waist that flounces
to the hem of her skirt. She checks the flame
before she turns, oblivious to the sweat of gas
on the window, the sulphur air. What she notices
is the breeze he carries in that pricks
like static on her skin, his matted hair,
how he looks before he leans to untie his laces,
something that’s beyond her knowing, half-denied,
lurking beneath the surface of his eye.


Then, when he lies awake at night
he thinks of them advancing like metallic warriors
charging, passing leaping arcs of current from arm to arm.
But he knows they are only waiting to crackle and hum
among the sheep in the fields, the circling birds.
So he fills his mind instead with things he knows:
tomorrow the drays will pull the cable; guy wire,
ground wire; 50 Hz, three-phase.
Against this, the weight of her sleeping next to him,
the callus on his hand, a thigh muscle flinching.
As, outside, the pylons stretch from striding legs,
stapling earth to sky― the threads of his labour
clinging mutely to the hillside, promising blue arcs:
proud, stock-still, unafraid of the dark.




A week full of poetry


Evening folks.  Lots has happened since last Sunday, so I thought I would blog today in the vain hope of cutting down the ginormous size of the Sunday Poem blog.

I got back from my lovely friend Manon’s house very late on Sunday.  Manon is a fantastic poet and she blogs here http://www.manonceridwen.wordpress.com  All week I’ve been thinking about Manon and wishing I lived a bit nearer so we could talk more often, hang out more often – the trouble with me, and maybe many people is we often don’t pick up the phone or reach out and say this – I just think it and then go on to something else and try not to think about it – I guess the news today of Seamus Heaney dying has made me think again about showing my poetry friends how much they mean to me – it has been humbling to read all the tributes to Seamus Heaney on social media – not just for his poetry – but him as a person – Jo Bell’s blog here illustrates this perfectly – she says ‘He was a giant who remembered how large the little people are’.  You can, and should read her whole blog post here  http://belljarblog.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/a-sunlit-absence/

On Monday me and the hubby went over to Blackpool to meet my parents who were having a holiday there to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary – they went to see a few shows but whilst we were over there for the day we went into Blackpool Tower and went to the rather amazing circus, the rather rubbish Dungeons and the scary SkyWalk at the top of the tower, so we had a really nice day.

On Tuesday Jacob Polley and Helen Mort read at Grasmere.  I was really looking forward to this as Helen’s new collection is one of the books I’ve been looking forward to for a while.  I read it in one sitting on Wednesday – I’m obviously planning to read it again, a little slower, but it was very, very good and I would highly recommend it.  It’s published by Chatto and is called ‘Division Street’. I don’t think it is officially out till next week maybe.  And Jacob Polley was good – if a little more subdued than when I heard him read at the TS Eliot prizes, when he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand…

The lovely Jennifer Copley also has a new collection out called ‘Sisters’ published by Shoestring Press – I won’t say too much because she will be making an appearance on the blog later with news of her launch in Barrow in Furness as well.

On Wednesday we had a meeting for ‘A Poem and A Pint’ http://www.apoemandapint.co.uk and I have the lovely job now of writing to some poets to ask them to come and read for us.  I haven’t done this yet – but I can reveal that Moniza Alvi will be coming to Ulverston on February 8th 2014 to read for us, which we are all very excited about.  Before that, we have Maitreyabandhu on September 21st at Ford Park in Ulverston and Judy Brown on November 16th, all at Ford Park in Ulverston.

On Thursday I went for a writing day with a couple of friends – taking it in turns to set exercises – in between a bit of gossiping and lots of tea drinking.

Which brings us to today – which started off in a wonderful way.  I applied for some work as a poet – and I got it!  I won’t say any more now but I will probably be able to say a bit more on Thursday when I’ve been for the first meeting.  It’s only a small job and fits in around my teaching but I was really happy because I haven’t really applied for many jobs full stop – so I feel a bit like I’m in the dark when I’m doing all this – so yes, very happy!

And then I heard about Seamus Heaney – and have felt strange all day, and moved by the tributes that have been coming in.  So tonight, I’m going to read some Seamus poems and have a glass of red wine, or two.

See you all on Sunday.