Tag Archives: Andrew Forster

A Review of the 2015 Poetry Carousel

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A Review of the 2015 Poetry Carousel

 

The poet Elisabeth Sennit Clough was one of the 32 participants on last year’s sold out Poetry Carousel.  I asked Elisabeth to write an account of what the experience was like.  If you’ve been debating about whether to come, this is a must-read! Elisabeth is a fantastic poet, and has a pamphlet forthcoming after winning the Paper Swans Pamphlet Competition in 2016.

This year’s team of tutors are myself, Clare Shaw and Dutch poets Saskia Stehouwer and Tsead Bruinja.  You can find more information about the 2016 Carousel here

2015 Poetry Carousel

by Elisabeth Sennit Clough

Cumbria is about as geographically and aesthetically distant from my present home in a West Norfolk village as possible, but a current obsession with poetry retreats compelled me to abandon my husband and three children and travel to Grange-over-Sands for the weekend.

As I trundled my case along the short distance from Kents Bank Station to Abbots Hall Hotel, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I couldn’t remove the definition of ‘carousel’ from my mind: 1) a merry-go-round at a fair or 2) a conveyor system at an airport from which arriving passengers collect their luggage.  

On the first evening, we were assigned to groups and stayed in those groups as we rotated through the four workshops (the premise of the poetry carousel being to move around four workshops, each with a different tutor). Like the merry-go-round, it had the potential to be great fun while it lasted – or, like the baggage carousel, it could just go round and round monotonously and I could end up right back where I started (I have an ambivalent relationship with airport carousels). 

My first workshop was with Kim. In my group were fellow MMU student Hilary Hares (whom I’d met on a Teaching Creative Writing Course) and Helen Kay – whom I had never met – but had corresponded with about the Nantwich Festival. Given how small the UK poetry world is, it was somewhat inevitable (and lovely) that I would bump into familiar names and faces.

The coincidences continued: Kim is a huge Philip Levine fan and I used to live in Fresno (where Philip Levine ran the MFA Programme at CSU). Kim adopted the title of Levine’s award winning collection What Work Is, articulating the lives of Detroit factory workers, for her workshop. What exactly is work? Our ice-breaker involved trying to answer that deceptively hard question. Having read poems such as ‘My People’ and ‘A Psalm for the Scaffolders’ in Kim’s The Art of Falling, I could see why work as a subject matter was important to her.

I learned that many people on the carousel had attended previous poetry workshops with Kim – a testament to her engaging teaching style and ability to put people at ease. For example, her workshop helped me find a way into writing successfully about a subject I’d been battling with for years; that is, my own experiences as a teenage factory worker.

Kim describes the carousel as promoting ‘a festival atmosphere in the evening, when we come together for dinner and readings from the tutors and invited guest poets.’ This is a very accurate description: in the evening, Kim read some of her work, along with guest-readers, Jennifer Copley and Lindsay Holland. Lindsay is co-editor of The Compass and one of six poets shortlisted for the 2015 Manchester Poetry Prize. After reading, each poet discussed aspects of her work: Jennifer, for example, has published collections with several different imprints and spoke about that experience, while Lindsay discussed long poems and the significance of thoroughly researching your subject matter.

My next group workshop (the following morning) was with Andrew Forster, the other editor of The Compass. Andrew’s ‘Encounters Workshop’ involved writing about ‘an encounter that made you see things differently.’ This inspired me to write a poem about a migrant farm worker that went on to be accepted by The Rialto. Andrew commented on the strength of voice in the poem and this gave me the confidence to continue developing the poem in the same tone.  

My third workshop was with Ian Duhig. His latest (and seventh!) collection, The Blind Roadmaker (about the incredible Jack Metcalf), is one of those books that I read initially because I was interested in the subject matter, but then found myself reading again and again just to admire the exceptional craft of it.

Ian’s workshop prompted me to take an imaginative leap with my subject matter (it’s the first poem I’ve written that’s set in space!), but this freed my poem from the constraints that were constantly working against me as I wrote. Another useful device for my toolkit involved possibly turning a negative outcome in a poem into a positive one. This inspired me to change the ending of one of my poems to great success. Now, when struggling with an ending, Ian’s voice pops into my head, asking, ‘what would its opposite be?’

My final workshop was with Amanda Dalton. Amanda helped me to focus on the drama in my poetry: where should I place the tension on my dramatic arc, for example? We used postcards as prompts and placed emphasis on movement (or not as in the example of my poem below from Amanda’s workshop). I wanted to capture the idea of stark animal nakedness, the sense of unpleasantness inside and out that I interpreted from Freud’s work.

 

Sleeping By the Lion Carpet

After a painting by Lucian Freud

Like the lioness, I am alert
to the alpha in this female, feigning sleep
in an armchair: how her flesh demands
attention from the artist’s brush.

I know the mind of a woman
like this – the way she plants
her ego on the floor, stands back
and laughs as you trip over it.

Her milk contains so much venom,
her thick-ankled daughters will grow up
to puncture the limbs of prettier girls
with the points of school compasses.

She has named them Immaculate
and Conception. She has no sex –
the artist has painted her:
a fat child with breasts.


Far from ending up right back where I started, the carousel took me to unexpected places. I learned a lot of new techniques, resulting from a combination of different teaching styles melding over the weekend. Several months on, I am still developing poems inspired by the carousel weekend and re-reading my notes. And yes, my head does still spin from time to time with all the new skills and poems I brought home.

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Poetry Carousel 11th-13th December 2015 – Workshop Blurbs

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There are a handful of places left on the Poetry Carousel – a residential poetry course with a difference that is running at Abbot Hall Hotel, Kents Bank, Grange Over Sands from December 11th-13th, 2015.  Tutors are myself, Amanda Dalton, Ian Duhig and Andrew Forster. All participants on the course will take part in a 2 hour workshop with each tutor over the weekend and there will be readings in the evenings from the tutors and guest poets.  Workshop groups will be limited to 8 people per workshop! For those of you who have been tempted to come, but haven’t quite made your mind up yet, have a read through of the workshops that each tutor will be running throughout the weekend.

If you would like to book, please contact the hotel directly on 015395 32896

BETWEEN WORLDS with Ian Duhig

Wallace Stevens wrote to the effect that we don’t live in places, we live in descriptions of places. On courses like these we find ourselves investigating new territory unusually subject to such words, from directions to introductions, conjuring up who we are and where we are, where we’re from and where we’re going. This workshop will look at these almost-magical processes with reference to contemporary poetry you may be unfamiliar with, due to its newness or strangeness, so that it may act as a catalyst in the alchemy of creating your own new work and new directions in your work.

OUT OF THE MARVELLOUS:ENCOUNTERS WITH THE EVERYDAY with Andrew Forster

Heaney’s phrase celebrates the wonders encountered in daily existence. Our lives are made up of tiny encounters , with animals, people, places, objects, ghosts even, that leave us changed in large or subtle ways. In this workshop we’ll look at the way poets have handled some of these meetings, and try some strategies to get started on encounter poems of our own.

VOICE, STORY, CHARACTER, ACTION – with Amanda Dalton

In this playful, practical workshop we’ll utilise some of the contents of the theatremaker’s toolbox to explore what happens when we apply them to making poems. Working with everyday objects, scraps of found text, and fine art prints, we’ll make a start on creating some of our own story-poems, finding new voices along the way.

WHAT WORK IS – with Kim Moore

Effort, toil, task, job, labour, slog, chore, drudgery, exertion. In an article published by Jeremy Seabrook in The Guardian in 2013 he argues that “Words indicating labour in most European languages originate in an imagery of compulsion, torment, affliction and persecution”.  How has our concept of work changed and have contemporary poets tackled this subject? During this workshop, we will set off writing our own poems about work in all its different guises.

Fourth Tutor Announced for Poetry Workshop Carousel

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I’m really excited to be able to announce that the fourth tutor for the Poetry Workshop Carousel, taking place from the 11th-13th December 2015 at Abbot Hall Hotel, Grange Over Sands will be the fantastic Amanda Dalton.  I first met Amanda when I was studying on the MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and she was always astute in her observations, generous with her time and gave invaluable advice and I’m really looking forward to working with her.  Below you will find all the information about the tutors.  Please see the Forthcoming Residential Poetry Courses tab for more information about the course.

 

Amanda Dalton

 

 

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Amanda is a poet and playwright. She started writing in her mid 30s when she was working as vice principal in a Leicester comprehensive school. She has published two pamphlets and two collections with Blooodaxe: ‘How To Disappear’ which was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best first collection, and ‘Stray’. She was selected as a Next Generation Poet in 2004. Her work for BBC Radio includes original dramas, poetry, and radical re-workings of silent movies The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Nosferatu. She has made site-specific work with Wilson+Wilson and Sheffield Theatres, drama for young people and adaptations of work by Jackie Kay and David Almond.  She is a Visiting Writing Fellow (poetry and script) at MMU’s Writing School and Director of Engagement at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre. She lives in Hebden Bridge.

 

Ian Duhig

 

Ian Duhig (6)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A former homelessness worker, Ian Duhig has written six books of poetry, three of which were shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize as well as the Whitbread and Costa Poetry Awards. He has won the Forward Best Poem Prize, the National Poetry Competition and was a joint winner of a Shirley Jackson Award for one of his short stories. A Cholmondeley Award recipient and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he has taught at all levels from beginner to post-graduate and his university posts include being the International Writer Fellow at Trinity College Dublin.  If you would like to order any of Ian’s books, you can buy them direct from Picador here

 

Andrew Forster

 

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Andrew Forster is originally from South Yorkshire but he lived in Scotland for twenty years before moving to Cumbria in 2008. He has published three full-length collections of poetry, two with Flambard Press, ‘Fear of Thunder’ (2007) and ‘Territory’ (2010), and ‘Homecoming’ with Smith Doorstop (2015). ‘Fear of Thunder’ was shortlisted for the 2008 Forward Prize for Best First Collection and ‘Homecoming’ is shortlisted for the Lakeland Book of the Year Award . Two poems, ‘Horse Whisperer’and ‘Brothers’, appear in the AQA GCSE syllabus.  He has worked in Literature Development for 17 years and until recently was Literature Officer at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere

Kim Moore

Society of Authors Awards June 2011Kim Moore  Eric Gregory Awards

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kim Moore’s first full length collectionThe Art of Falling’ was published by Seren in 2015.  Her first pamphlet ‘If We Could Speak Like Wolves’ was a winner in the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition in 2012.  It was named in the Independent as a Book of the Year, shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and was the runner up in the Lakeland Book of the Year Award.  She was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer prize by Poetry Review in 2010, an Eric Gregory Award in 2012 and a Northern Writers Award in 2014 and is one of five UK poets selected to take part in Versopolis, a European project aimed at bringing the work of young UK poets to a wider European audience.  Her poem ‘In That Year’ is on the shortlist for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Published Poem.

 

Poetry Workshop Carousel – New Residential Poetry Course, 11th-13th December

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 Society of Authors Awards June 2011Kim Moore  Eric Gregory AwardsandrewforsterIan Duhig (6)Question_mark_(black_on_white)

Due to an early mix-up with dates between the hotel and myself, Rebecca Goss is no longer able to tutor on the 2015 Poetry Workshop Carousel, which I’m really sad about.  She will hopefully be coming back to tutor on the 2016 course, so please watch this space!

The new dates for the Poetry Workshop Carousel are the 11th-13th December 2015.  Tutors confirmed so far are myself, Andrew Forster and Ian Duhig.  I will hopefully be able to confirm the fourth tutor in the next couple of days or so, and it will be someone as equally fabulous as Rebecca, but fabulous in a different way.

In case you missed my earlier post about this, the Poetry Workshop Carousel will be taking place at Abbot Hall Hotel, Kents Bank, Grange Over Sands.  The course will be made up of a carousel of four workshops with four different tutors.  Each participant will attend a 2 hour workshop with each tutor as part of a small, intimate workshop group.  In the evening, the groups will come together for poetry readings from the tutors and invited guest readers.  I estimate the workshop groups will be between six and eight people.

The cost of the course will be £230.  This includes four workshops, two readings on the Friday and Saturday night, accommodation and all food for the weekend – a three-course meal on Friday night, breakfast, lunch and three course evening meal on Saturday and breakfast and lunch on the Sunday.  The course begins at 4pm on Friday and finishes at 12 on Sunday.

If you haven’t been to Kents Bank or Grange Over Sands before, it is a beautiful place.  The hotel is set in wonderful grounds, right on the edge of Morecombe Bay and a two minute walk from Kents Bank train station.  There is a lovely swimming pool in the hotel and the intention for the weekend is to take over the hotel with poets!  If you have any questions at all about the course structure or content, please get in touch with me via the Contact page.  Places are limited and I’m expecting them to go quickly, so if you would like to book, please phone Abbot Hall directly on  015395 32896.

Over the weekend, I’m planning to put up a draft programme for the weekend, but the start time for the first workshop will be 4pm on Friday 4th December and the finish time will be Sunday lunchtime at 12pm, if you are thinking about booking trains.

Here is a little bit more information about the fantastic tutors who I’ve chosen not just because of their reputation as poets, but also because of their reputation for running fantastic workshops.

Ian Duhig

A former homelessness worker, Ian Duhig has written six books of poetry, three of which were shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize as well as the Whitbread and Costa Poetry Awards. He has won the Forward Best Poem Prize, the National Poetry Competition and was a joint winner of a Shirley Jackson Award for one of his short stories. A Cholmondeley Award recipient and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he has taught at all levels from beginner to post-graduate and his university posts include being the International Writer Fellow at Trinity College Dublin.  If you would like to order any of Ian’s books, you can buy them direct from Picador here

Andrew Forster

Andrew Forster is originally from South Yorkshire but he lived in Scotland for twenty years before moving to Cumbria in 2008. He has published three full-length collections of poetry, two with Flambard Press, ‘Fear of Thunder’ (2007) and ‘Territory’ (2010), and ‘Homecoming’ with Smith Doorstop (2015). ‘Fear of Thunder’ was shortlisted for the 2008 Forward Prize for Best First Collection and ‘Homecoming’ is shortlisted for the Lakeland Book of the Year Award . Two poems, ‘Horse Whisperer’and ‘Brothers’, appear in the AQA GCSE syllabus.  He has worked in Literature Development for 17 years and until recently was Literature Officer at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.

Kim Moore

Kim Moore’s first full length collectionThe Art of Falling’ was published by Seren in 2015.  Her first pamphlet ‘If We Could Speak Like Wolves’ was a winner in the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition in 2012.  It was named in the Independent as a Book of the Year, shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and was the runner up in the Lakeland Book of the Year Award.  She was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer prize by Poetry Review in 2010, an Eric Gregory Award in 2012 and a Northern Writers Award in 2014 and is one of five UK poets selected to take part in Versopolis, a European project aimed at bringing the work of young UK poets to a wider European audience.  Her poem ‘In That Year’ is on the shortlist for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Published Poem.

*FOURTH TUTOR TO BE ANNOUNCED SHORTLY*

WATCH THIS SPACE!

Sunday Poem – Stephanie Green

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Today it feels much longer than a week since I updated my blog – maybe because it has been a really exciting week.  First of all I did my first public reading from my new collection.  Although I did read from it whilst tutoring on the residential course I was running with Carola Luther in Grange over Sands, that was to a small audience of 17 people and it was a lovely, intimate atmosphere.  This time I was reading at the Heart Cafe, in Leeds – it was still a lovely, intimate atmosphere, even though there were maybe 30 or so people there – the room was full with just enough chairs for everybody.

It was a really special evening, not least because it was a bit of a repeat of history.  In 2012, the night before my official pamphlet launch at The Wordsworth Trust, Peter Sansom drove specially over to Leeds to drop off a box of my pamphlets at The Heart Cafe so I could do a pre-launch reading there.  I got stuck in traffic, and by the time I’d got there, David Tait had already sold about 20 copies of my pamphlet.  Peter White, who now organises the readings had bought the first copy and came straight up to me and asked me to sign it.

Fast forward three years and I find myself in Leeds again, just two weeks after the book is officially published.  This time I drive over to Leeds the longer way on the A65 instead of using the motorways with the wonderful poet Andrew Forster and my equally wonderful husband Chris, who puts up with us talking about poetry all the way from Grange over Sands to Leeds.  We went straight to get something to eat in a small Greek restaurant and were joined by Lindsey Holland and her daughter and then the lovely Abigail, who used to be an intern at the Wordsworth Trust, and so far has the coveted title of ‘Kim’s favourite intern.’

The box of books has been living under my desk for the last two weeks, since their brief outing into the world at Grange.  I’m not quite sure why, except after that initial impulse to read it cover to cover, I then couldn’t even bear to look at them.  Not because I didn’t like it, but I just wanted to wait to enjoy it until the reading.  It felt a bit like when I was younger.  At Easter my sister and I would both be allowed to eat half of an Easter egg in the morning which we would eat really slowly to annoy each other by being the last one to have any chocolate left.  It felt like if I got the book out of the box before Wednesday it would be like scoffing my easter egg in one go.

Anyway, we got to the reading with moments to spare because the restaurant were quite slow at serving our food.  Andrew and I basically ate a whole leg of lamb in about five minutes.  I felt really bloated and was quite relieved to not have to read till later.

Peter White, who organises the reading series had asked me who I would like to read with me and between us we came up with the poetry dream team of Andrew Forster, Mark Connors, Keith Hutson, John Foggin and I decided to prod Peter into reading, as he has always been a great supporter not just of my poetry, but of poetry and poets in general, and I thought it would be nice to let him have some of the limelight.

I was really touched by the people who turned up to the reading.  There was quite a few people that I didn’t know, but lots that I did.  When I looked round the room, I realised that there were lots of poets sitting there who I’d thanked in my acknowledgements to the book, people that had read various versions of the manuscript and sent comments and feedback.  Clare Shaw was there – the first person I sent the whole sequence of domestic violence poems to.  If she hadn’t been as enthusiastic and excited about them as she was, I would not have sent them to Amy Wack at Seren, telling her that I was thinking of making a pamphlet out of them.  Amy told me they had to go in the collection.  I’m glad she did – that is what an editor is for.  I can’t imagine the book without them now.  It would be like its heart was missing.  Ian Duhig was there and Carola Luther and lots of people that I’d met during my residency in Ilkley, people I met when I ran a workshop at Leeds Writers Circle a few years ago now, my lovely cousin Vicky and her partner Tom, who had never been to a poetry reading before and who I’m hoping are not too traumatised by the whole experience.

John Foggin nearly made me cry three times – once by saying nice things about me, the second time by reading an amazing, amazing poem that I would ask to have for this blog, except that it needs to be published and reach a wider readership than I do here, and then the third time by bringing an early version of my manuscript that I sent him, that he commented on that he has had bound in beautiful leather.  Flicking through it very quickly, one of the main differences was that this earlier version was back to front.

Keith Hutson read a fantastic set of his poems about Troupers – these poems are going to make such a good pamphlet when he puts them altogether.  It was the first time I’d heard Keith do a longer set so that was a real treat.  Andrew Forster was his usual poised self, delivering a perfectly balanced reading of his work, ending with a new poem about his father, which I really enjoyed.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention somebody who turned up, and I apologise if it is you.  It is 11.15pm now and I have till midnight to get this finished, and I’ve only half told you about Wednesday! I wasn’t going to read from the sequence of domestic violence poems because they are by their very nature a bit grim, but then when it came to it, I felt like I had to, because they are a huge part of the book.  There will be readings, I think when I won’t feel able to read them, but this didn’t feel like one of them.  When I’m reading them it feels like I’m standing in a black hole, but I know the way to get out, and that makes all the difference.

You can find some photos of the event here

I sold 24 books on Wednesday, bringing my total sales up to 48. This means I have to write to Seren to order another box of 100 because I’m estimating I will probably sell the last 52 by the end of May.  Boxes of books are a lot more expensive than boxes of pamphlets, so here’s hoping I sell them all.  Failing that, as David Tait says, they make good door stops.

So, that was Wednesday!  The other exciting thing that happened this week was that I took part in the Dalton 10k race.  Last year when I ran this race I’d only been running for a couple of months after a ten year gap and I managed 56 minutes and 56 seconds.  Six months ago, I’d managed 51 and a half minutes for a fairly flat 10k course so I figured if I aimed for as close to 50 minutes as I could get, that was an ambitious enough target, considering I’ve been injured and I’ve not been getting as much training in as I would have liked.

I absolutely loved every minute of the race – and it is really, really tempting here to go into a blow by blow account of every kilometre and give you my splits for each kilometre, but I won’t because I understand, like looking at photos of other people’s children, it’s probably not that interesting for anybody else.  All of those hill runs Chris has been dragging me on so he could look at the mountains definitely paid off, because I actually enjoyed the hilly course. I eventually ended up with a time of 47 minutes 42 seconds, which I still can’t believe.  As in, I don’t know physically how I did that because I certainly haven’t been training at that speed or anything close to it.  Oh well!

On Saturday I volunteered at Barrow Park Run and then spent the rest of the day writing. I bought myself another folder and decided to go through the poems I’ve half started in the last six months and print out any with potential.  Every time I tell myself I’m not writing and then it takes me six months to realise I’ve been writing the whole time, but I haven’t been organised and the poems have been in a rather scruffy looking folder.  You will be glad to hear they are now arranged in my posh new folder, ready to be edited and then make their way into the world.  In the evening I spent time writing up the first assignment for the online course that I’m teaching for The Poetry School, which starts next Wednesday.

I actually felt like a writer for the first time in months.  Not because I had a box of my own collection under my desk, or because I’d done a reading and sold lots of books, but because I was writing.  I might be writing complete dross, but I was writing, for a sustained and concentrate length of time, which I haven’t done for a while, for so long, in fact that I’d forgotten how much I actually enjoy writing.  Even when the poem is destined for nowhere more glamorous than the bin, I still love being in that moment of writing.

Today I’ve been to Printfest in Ulverston with a friend and stocked up on lovely cards and postcards and chocolate brownies and cookies.  This evening I went for a 6 mile run with two friends to try and get some of the Dalton hills out of my legs – I’m not sure if it worked, the hills were definitely still in my legs when I was running!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Stephanie Green, who I met at Stanza very briefly after going to her reading, where she read alongside D.A. Prince from her pamphlet Flout.  I really enjoyed Stephanie’s reading and took the opportunity of getting my pamphlet signed to ask her if I could use one of her poems here.  Stephanie moved to Edinburgh in 2000 and runs creative writing workshops and reviews Theatre and Dance.  You can order Stephanie’s pamphlet from the fabulous HappenStance  and you can find out more about Stephanie Green here.

I’ve chosen the poem The Njuggle  from Stephanie’s pamphlet.  A definition in the back of the book tells me that a Njuggle is a ‘demon water horse or pony found in Shetland and Orkney folklore’.  I love the story in this poem.  The language that Stephanie uses, like the word ‘scry’ in the second line, seems to fit with that folklore feel and that man’s face rising in the mirror in the third line reminds me of Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘Mirror’ when her face ‘rises towards her like a terrible fish’.  One of the things I love about this poem are the many wonderful words used to describe movement in it.  The piebald pony ‘ambled up’.  His muscles ‘shivered like water in the wind’.  When the Njuggle turns into water he ‘poured through my arms’.

I also love the idea of it – I’ve not heard of an Njuggle before, but the use of transformation in poetry is one I’m interested in at the minute and the story of an animal carrying off a human woman is an old and time-tested story.  The other thing to point out, which I’m sure you will have noticed is the wonderfully tight structure that holds this poem together.  It is very carefully put together.  The first and the third line of each three line stanza rhyme and many of the second lines of each stanza rhyme as well.

I’ve been reading so much Ovid recently, I can’t help thinking of it when I read this poem.  Stanza 4 reminds me of Europa when she is carried off by Jove in the form of a bull, and in the last complete stanza, when the Njuggle turns into water, it reminds me of the women in Ovid’s Metamorphoses who were turned into water to escape the unwanted attentions of one of the gods.

Thank you to Stephanie for letting me use this poem and do feel free to comment underneath, if you feel so moved.

The Njuggle – Stephanie Green

At midnight on Hallowe’en, my back to the moon,
I looked in the mirror to scry my lover-to-be.
His face rose like a drowned man’s.

At twilight I walked by the lochan in the hills
where the whaap’s cry wavers from the reeds.
A piebald pony ambled up.  His nostrils

pulsed as he blew into my hand.
Clicking my tongue, I patted his flanks
and his muscles shivered like water in the wind.

When he lowered his head, I knew I must mount.
I rode him through the night, gripping his back
between my thighs till I slid on our sweat

and he rolled me into cold, green fire.
I clung to his mane blooming with algae,
his shoulders encrusted with mussels and mire.

His hooves softened and opened into a fan
of fingers and toes.  Belly flattening, spine
whip-lashing, he bucked and shrank into a man.

As the dark fled, he turned to plunge me under
but dawn broke and he poured through my arms.
I was alone, calling, calling with no answer,

only the widening circles on the loch.

Sunday Poem – Andrew Forster

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This is the first blog post I am writing from my lovely new/old desk which I bought in a charity shop last week for £60. It apparently came from a school.  I quite liked it when I bought it but now I have it set up in my room I love it.

I have had a cold all week.  I think it started on Monday or Sunday evening.  The cold is a lot better but I feel really run down and tired.  I didn’t think I looked that bad, but I’ve just been shopping and the woman at the checkout took one look at me and said ‘What happened to you?’.  I said ‘I’ve had a cold and I still don’t feel great’ and then she looked at me and said ‘I’ll pack your bags.  I’ll take pity on you’.  I feel like I should be offended that she was basically saying I looked terrible, but I actually just feel grateful that she packed my shopping for me!

Today I was supposed to be running the Ulverston 10k.  I was supposed to be running it in under fifty minutes, which clearly wasn’t going to happen the state I was in.  I already decided earlier on in the week that it wasn’t a good idea to do the race but I was planning on going along and cheering on everybody else, but this morning I felt too ill again to stand out in the cold so I stayed at home feeling sorry for myself.

Yesterday was spent putting up a fence  in the backyard.  It is almost done – the last two fence panels are being delivered on Tuesday. I learnt how to use one of those screw gun things and was reprimanded for referring to a ‘screw’ as a nail.  A friend came and chopped down the hedge and various trees in the back garden and we also found underneath the grass, mud and roots a bit of path.  I didn’t really do much apart from float around with the screw gun and walk the dogs very slowly.

On Friday I ran my Young Writers Group and then went straight from there to a launch of four new pamphlets by Ron Scowcroft, Elizabeth Burns, Pauline Keith and Carole Coates, all published by a brand new pamphlet publisher ‘Wayleave Press’ which is run by Mike Barlow.  The pamphlets are really beautiful – I think most, if not all of them have a front cover illustration by Mike.  I was really impressed with the quality of the poetry on the Friday and I’ll be featuring some of the poets on this blog in the coming weeks.

Apart from that, all week I’ve just been trying to hold my head above water whilst feeling rubbish.  Although quite a few of my schools are cancelling sessions, mainly due to rehearsals for school plays, I’m still busy because I’m doing lots of extra sessions with the junior band.  I took 12 children from the band to Asda on Wednesday to play carols for a couple of hours in the evening.

Today I’ve been emailing back and forth with my editor with ideas for a launch for my collection.  ‘The Art of Falling’ is due out in April next year and the date seems to be approaching alarmingly quickly.  Organising a launch is a bit weird as well – it is a bit like organising your own birthday party in a way.

I’ve been trying to think back to all the launches that I’ve been to and what makes a good launch – for both the poet and the audience.  I did have one for my pamphlet which was the reading at The Wordsworth Trust and the thing that made that amazing was how many of my friends were there and the excitement of reading with the other winners.  So maybe for me, the key ingredient of a good launch would be the audience – having enough audience and the audience I get being made up (at least partly) of friends.  I didn’t organise that launch though – it was part of the prize of winning the pamphlet.  All I had to do is turn up.

The launch on Friday was good because the poetry was very good and I enjoyed hearing Mike Barlow talk about setting up a publishing press.  His enthusiasm was infectious and it was so refreshing to hear somebody’s passion for other people’s work.

So far, there are tentative plans for a main launch in Ulverston, which although it isn’t my home town, it is only 15 minutes up the road from me, and from past experience, tends to draw bigger audiences than Barrow.  The soul band I’ve been playing with have offered to play for this, so I think this evening will be a short reading, maybe with some friends reading too and then a break and time to sign books/drink wine and then the band can play and those who wish to can bust some moves.  Or not.  It is looking likely that there may be a launch in London, because lovely friend Jill Abram has offered to help me organise this and maybe one in Manchester as lovely friends Lindsey Holland has offered to help me put this one together.  And that will be enough launching to last me for the rest of the year I think!

It is exciting sorting all this out and I’ve been touched by the offers of help I’ve received just by mentioning it.  Poor Martin Copley who does our posters for Poem and a Pint has been volunteered by his wife Mrs Crabtree aka poet Jennifer Copley to make a poster for my launch.  I bet she hasn’t told him yet but I know he reads my blog so he knows now!

Tonight I’m off to the Hope and Anchor in Ulverston to play with the soul band – apparently it will be a tight squeeze so no room for a chair, but if it’s that tight, at least I should be able to prop myself up against a wall or something.

Today’s Sunday Poem is by the lovely Andrew Forster, who has featured here before a while ago but since then his shiny new collection ‘Homecoming’, published by Smith/Doorstop has been released.  The collection is an extraordinary record of living and working in the Lake District, not just living and working in fact, but also traveling through the landscape as a resident rather than a tourist.

One of my favourite poems in the book is ‘Morecombe Bay’ which is a series of three line stanzas seperated by asterisks.  Each stanza uses a different metaphor or image to look at the bay.  It reminds me of the Wallace Stevens poem ’13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’.  There are only 8 in Andrew’s poem, but they are lovely.  Morecombe Bay is ‘a glass pathway’ in the first stanza, a ‘grey muslin sheet’ in the second, a ‘blue eiderdown’ in the third.

The collection is full of carefully observed poems.  In ‘Lindale Hill’ the poem starts ‘It’s a village of layers, a place/in progress, where houses are messages/from different ages’.  I know Lindale very well, having taught at the village school there for a few years, and smiled in recognition when I read this, but I think if you don’t know the village, you can picture it.

The poem I’ve chosen to feature this week is ‘Dusk in Lindale’.  This is another beautiful, carefully observed poem. I know it’s not November now, but when I wrote to Andrew and asked him if I could use it, it was and I think this feels like a November poem.  Maybe because of the quality of the light that is described in the poem – the dusk is ‘a shabby cloth/which parts as others, coming home,/emerge from shadows in our path.’  Later on in the poem, we can see the trees ‘pastel smudges/holding drums of darkness between them.’

This collection is full of descriptions of light and I think this is one of the hidden themes of the book.  Behind the main theme of place and landscape and  home is a concern with light and shadow which crops up again.  Light is often used to set the mood or tone of a poem – in the first poem in the collection ‘At Carstairs Junction’ we read ‘the darkness hasn’t loosened its hold./Rain slants into the lamps like the grain/of an old film’ and in the last poem ‘Homecoming’ in the last three lines we are left with both light and dark.

‘Just beyond the lights Amanda stands,
with Walter the dachshund, his yips
of greeting rising over the departing engine.’

I’d be interested if you have the collection to hear your thoughts on the way Andrew has explored light in the poems, as well as the more obvious concerns of place.

Andrew Forster is originally from South Yorkshire but lived in Scotland for twenty years before moving to Cumbria in 2008.  He has published two full-length collections of poetry with Flambard Press, ‘Fear of Thunder’ in 2007 and ‘Territory’ in 2010.  Fear of Thunder was shortlisted for the 2008 Forward Prize for Best First Collection.  Two poems from it ‘Horse Whisperer’ and ‘Brothers’ appear in the AQA GCSE syllabus.  He won a Northern Writers Award in 2014.

If you would like to find out more about Andrew Forster he has his own website here

If you would like to order ‘Homecoming’ you can find it on the Smith/Doorstop website

Thanks to Andrew for letting me use his poem, and I promise next week’s post will be full of health rather than coughs and splutters.

Dusk in Lindale – Andrew Forster

By the time I’m home, the sun has slipped
behind Cartmel Fell and the sky holds
its last light in a sparkling grey wash.
The early dark forcing a different rhythm,

I walk the dog before day fades completely.
On the street the dusk is a shabby cloth
which parts as others, coming home,
emerge from shadows in our path.

The last houses shine like orange beacons,
small against impending night.
Cars purr around the bend, headlight beams
thrust out, the road left darker than before.

Woods run parrallel to the path,
the slatted fence almost invisible
so the trees seem closer, pastel smudges
holding drums of darkness between them.

The dog stops, quivering, small legs
braced, scenting the loamy Autumn air,
tuned into a world that exists beside us,
beyond the tangle of nettles and brambles.

Further on, at Castle Head, a roe deer springs
over the field.  Russet, it flickers
like a faint torch in the growing night
before being extinguished completely.