Tag Archives: animal concern

Sunday Poem – Josephine Dickinson


Afternoon all – today I’m writing this blog from the Animal Concern West Cumbria branch which is also my twin sister’s house.  She is the Site Manager for the Egremont branch of Animal Concern.  She lives on site in a large bungalow owned by the charity.  Half of the house is used for charity business – there is an office, a room where families can meet dogs they are thinking of adopting and at the minute there is a dog who has just given birth to two puppies living in a room at the end of the house.

The charity has nine indoor heated kennels and four outdoor ones which are only used in emergencies if the indoor kennels are full.  I had a look around the site quite a few months ago when my sister had just moved in.  Now she’s been here just over six months and is managing a team of volunteers as well as looking after the various dogs that come in.  The kennels are all finished now as well and she seems to be enjoying her job.

Living on site means that you are basically working all the time though.  It’s Sunday but she still has to get up and start walking the dogs before the first volunteers arrive.  This morning a family came to meet a dog and she is currently in the office with a volunteer who will be going to do a home check on another family who want to adopt a dog.

The line between work and home life is not just blurred, it’s non existent.  It is lucky that she’s obsessed with dogs – you couldn’t do this job without it.  I think dogs are the equivalent of what poetry is to me now – it is something I do as a job, for at least part of the week, but it is much more than that as well – it is my social life and the thing I do to relax.

For example, here I am on a Sunday as well.  This morning I read a fabulous poem by Josephine Dickinson which Deborah Hobbs had posted on Facebook and sent Josephine a message to see if I could use it for today’s blog.

I always collect four or six weeks worth of Sunday Poems if I can, and I came to the end of the last batch last week, so this morning I’ve been reading to gather some more in. I can’t tell you who I’ve been reading though, because that would give the game away as to who the next couple of Sunday Poems will be by, and I like to keep it as a surprise.  My point is, this is work and it isn’t.  I’m reading for pleasure, but also for the blog, which is also both work and not work.  It isn’t work in the sense that I get paid for it, but it is work in the sense that many of the people who book onto the residential courses that I run come through this blog.

It has been a slightly less manic week this week after the craziness of last weekend.  I think I worked out I spent about 21 hours driving to poetry events which I don’t really want to repeat any time soon.  On Monday evening I let the junior band and myself have the night off as we have been working really hard for the last couple of months, getting ready for various extra concerts.  I was going to go for a run, but when it came to it, I was so tired I just went to bed instead.

On Tuesday I went to Barrow Writers, one of the monthly critiquing groups I go to, run by lovely poet Jennifer Copley.  This week I’ve also been sending emails back and forth to Holland as I’ve been asked to read at a poetry festival on an island called Vlieland.  I’m really excited about this as I get to see some good friends that I first met in Ireland a couple of years ago – Tsead Bruinja and his wife Saskia Stehouwer – both excellent poets and I’ve just found out that my ‘other husband’ and fabulous poet and photographer Jan Glas has arranged to come as well.  Luckily both husbands get on really well with each other – in fact Chris tried to kidnap Jan and take him back to the UK when he found out he could cook.

Tsead is also arranging for ten of my poems to be translated into Dutch which is amazing so I sent those over this week as well.  So rather randomly, I will now have poems that have been translated into Croatian and Dutch.

I’m also reading over in Ireland this summer – all the details will be on my Readings page (when I get round to editing it, which SHOULD be today) but basically, on the 24th July I’ll be running a workshop and then taking part in a reading at The Elbow Lane Inn in Fermoy and then I’m reading again in Dublin on the 28th July with Arthur Broomfield and Jane Clarke.

So that is my summer holiday pretty much sorted – full of poetry already which makes me very happy.  There is one more week of term left and I still have one more school concert to do, but it feels like the end is in sight now.  It feels like this school year has flown by when I look back.  In September I will only be teaching music for 2 days of the week – on a Tuesday and Wednesday which will leave me the rest of the week to write, read and pick up work as a writer.

Other things that have happened this week – I drove to Endmoor with Chris and two friends from the running club on Wednesday to do the Endmoor 10k – a notoriously hilly race.  Last year I did it in 56 minutes and 56 seconds – this year I managed it in 50 minutes and 33 seconds.  I would have loved to have got under 50 minutes, but I have to be happy with knocking over six minutes off my previous time I think.

On Thursday I had a school concert in the afternoon and then went straight from there to Halifax to read at The Square Chapel, a monthly reading series organised by my friend and fantastic poet Keith Hutson.  It was a lovely event – I was reading with Peter Sansom and Keith had bought two cakes – one to celebrate the fact that both Peter and I had new collections out and the second to celebrate Peter Sansom’s birthday.   Peter is a fantastic reader, very entertaining, not taking himself too seriously but the poems are so well-crafted, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, but all written with a very light touch.

There was an open mic session afterwards as well – I always enjoy open mics, but especially in a new area, where I don’t know the readers so I don’t know what to expect.  I stayed over at Keith’s and we managed to go for a run, put plans in place for a running and writing project that I’m really excited about, swap poems, gossip and feed Keith’s sheep, all before 2pm when I had to leave, which is pretty impressive going.

Yesterday I spent the whole day purging the garden of bindweed while Chris put up a new shed.  I think I would have been a good manual labourer – I love doing jobs where you don’t have to think or speak to anybody, where you can just get on with something.  I think I would have been a good labourer as long as I didn’t have to do a job that required any common sense or initiative, but digging bindweed I enjoyed because I can just get on with it and not stop until it is done.

So today’s Sunday Poem was a bit of a lucky find – I randomly read this poem after someone else posted it on Facebook.  It is by Josephine Dickinson, who lives on a small hill farm in Cumbria.  This poem isn’t a recent one – Josephine tells me she wrote it in 1998 which makes me think I should really have another of Josephine’s more recent poems on the blog in the next couple of months.

Anyway, it is nice to know that a poem has a long life, past the flurry of excitement that accompanies book publication, that it can carry on speaking to people.

This poem is a beautifully crafted sonnet and on the face of it, seems fairly simple.  The language is direct, the rhymes well handled and it has a lovely turn, as all poems purporting to be sonnets should.  However, it also carries all the weight of the relationship that is at the heart of it.  The poem is attempting to map out what this relationship is, who does what to who, maybe who has power and who doesn’t, which is a question in even the most benign and happy of relationships.  For all its gentle and loving tone, it does have an air of combativeness about it – look at the penultimate line ‘So, say I joined your river if you dare’.  The poem seems to be questioning whose life was joined to whose, whose life stayed the same and whose was changed in the joining together.  The use of the word ‘tributaries’ is interesting as well, especially as the word ‘tribute’ is buried inside it.  It makes me think that one partner paid ‘tribute’ in a kind of praising or worshipping.  Ultimately the poem says it doesn’t matter, but I am not convinced.  I think this kind of working out of the borders and edges of a relationship and people is one of the only things that does matter!

I’m writing this in a bit of a rush as we are about to go off and walk five rather restless terriers down to the beach.  I hope I don’t return and think WHAT on earth am I going on about.  I’ll be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on the poem as well.

Josephine Dickinson has published four collections of poetry: Scarberry Hill (The Rialto, 2001), The Voice (Flambard, 2003), Silence Fell (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) and Night Journey (Flambard, 2008).  If you would like to find out more information about Josephine you can visit her website here.

‘Josephine Dickinson has published four collections of poetry: Scarberry Hill (The Rialto, 2001), The Voice (Flambard, 2003), Silence Fell (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) and Night Journey (Flambard, 2008). She lives on a small hill farm in Cumbria.’

Do I Sleep with You? – Josephine Dickinson

Do I sleep with you or you with me?
It’s splitting hairs to say I came to you
and use your brush and comb, and therefore we
don’t ‘sleep together’. But it may be true.
In any case I say you sleep with me.
The action’s mostly yours. You made me stay.
Made staying perfect, future and to be.
Apart from that, it’s what most people say.
Tributaries join rivers, but they mix,
go to somewhere, neither cares to where.
Both stand and swell their bank beside a tree.
They’re not concerned with any verbal tricks.
So, say I joined your river, if you dare.
In any case, I say you sleep with me.

Sunday Poem – Judy Brown


Evening everybody!  I am pleased to report that I am writing this blog post on  my brand swanky new laptop!  My little netbook finally died last week after five faithful years of service.  My PC died about a month ago after about eight years of loyalty.  This has happened at a particularly inconvenient time as I have lots of writing ‘projects’ to do at the minute!  So this morning, I dragged the hubby and my parents round the shops to look for a laptop.

Part of me thinks this is very extravagant, to just go out and buy a laptop – especially now, when from September I will be down to three days a week as a music teacher, and I could technically share the husband’s laptop – except that I am rubbish at sharing (this comes from being a twin, I think).  Basically my idea of sharing is that the husband can use the laptop if I don’t need it.  Which doesn’t strictly stick to the definition of sharing at all really, does it?

I would also like to share a secret with you all today.  I say ‘you all’ – I have no idea who is reading this apart from my mum and dad.  But yesterday I felt like a writer.  This was a Big Deal.  I’ve never really felt like one before.  It happened like this – I emailed Acumen, a lovely poetry magazine which I urge you to have a look at if you are not aware of it already – www.acumen-poetry.co.uk to ask if they would be interested in a review I was writing about Fiona Sampson’s new book ‘Coleshill’.  I’ve had one review published by Acumen a couple of issues ago when I reviewed Myra Schneider’s pamphlet “What Women Want” so this wasn’t a completely random request.  I have no idea by the way, if this is the usual way of getting reviews published – I thought that the normal thing was to wait to be asked to do a review – but writing, very politely to an editor to ask if they are interested in a review seems to work, because I got a nice email back from Glyn Pursglove, the reviews editor, the next day, to say yes, and if I could get it to him by the end of the month it could go in the next issue.

And it was this simple thing that gave me a little fizz of excitement in my stomach, and made me think ‘I’m a writer’.  And then it faded away, but that was enough to make me think ‘screw it I need, no not want, need a laptop.’  So I think I’ve hit upon the answer to saving the economy – which is clearly – give money to wonderful magazines like Acumen, who will then pay poets like me to write reviews, which will then give them a burst of confidence and propel them to the nearest well known computer selling store and buy a shiny new laptop.  Economy – solved.

Anyway, I digress, greatly.  This week as some of you my twin sister has being doing the Cumbria Coastal Walk with her friend.  They are raising money for Animal Concern, and if you did feel moved to send them some money for sponsorship, it is not too late!  You will find the info at http://www.animalconcernwest.co.uk/#/201307-charity-walk/4577022400

The plan was to walk 100 miles – from Grange over Sands to Workington.  My sister’s friend developed huge and evil-looking blisters that managed to consume half of the sand in the estuary they waded over, and so she was only able to do half days for the last couple of days of the walk, but she then morphed into support car driver for the rest of the walk, so she did not just put her crippled feet up!  The sister managed the whole walk – I did bits of it with her – and she had aggressive bullocks, missing paths, flooded paths, barbed wire fences that were not supposed to be there, high tides, jellyfish, diversions, brambles, runaway dogs and general being knackered to contend with, but am very proud to report that she did it all, and mostly without losing her temper!

In my previous post I was so tired because I’d just finished Day 1 – 17 miles.  I also did about ten miles of Day 2 which was Ulverston to Barrow.  Unfortunately Miles, one of my border terriers, stepped on a jellyfish and started having a very extreme reaction and I had to rush him to the vets so he could have a steroid injection, which was very distressing for him and me!  This all happened in 28 degree heat as well so it was just awful.  Anyway, it took about an hour and then he eventually calmed down and he was a lot better then – and is now fully recovered from his trauma!

So a lot of the week has been taken up with going back and forth and doing bits of the Cumbria Coastal Way, however on Saturday I went to the Theatre By The Lake in Keswick to meet up with the Alligator Club http://thealligatorclub.co.uk/

I think I’ve mentioned this before but I am working with two playwrights from The Alligator Club, alongside another local Cumbrian writer, Ian Hill, to write a play to be performed at Theatre by the Lake.  You can find information about it here – http://www.theatrebythelake.com/production/10963/Cartographers

The meeting went really well, and it’s really exciting to be involved – and it’s also going to be a completely different way of working to what I’m used to.  But this can only be a Good Thing.

In fact, I’m hoping to be doing lots of work on it in the next couple of days as on Thursday I’m swanning off to Ireland to the Fermoy Poetry Festival.  I’m going to try and blog before then, but there may be a brief hiatus in the Sunday poem whilst I’m away – I don’t know if I will have time to access a computer.

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Judy Brown and is taken from her first collection ‘Loudness’, published by Seren.  You can order a copy of Loudness here http://www.serenbooks.com/book/loudness/9781854115478 and you really should – it’s an excellent book.  I read it before I met Judy and I enjoyed it, but re reading it again, with the intention of picking a poem for the blog, I enjoyed it even more.  I think this is because I can hear Judy’s voice in my head now – I should explain I’m not hearing voices, Judy is Poet in Residence at The Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.

I picked this poem because it is about Angels.  Now, normally poems about Angels make me groan, because there are so many, and they are normally so predictable.  I feel the same way about poems about angels as I do about poems about children.  I expect them to be bad.  However.  This year I have discovered Kathryn Maris’s wonderful poems about children (also a Seren poet) and now, I discover a wonderful, fresh, invigorating look at Angels by Judy.  And I like being proved wrong about poetry, and this poem completely took me by surprise.

It is full of a dry humour but also beautifully lyric language; ‘When I turned/my face from flying,’ and ‘You never forget the standing start’.

My other favourite poems in the book were ‘The P45’ which finishes with ‘What else do I remember?/The revolving door twirling./My bent, martyr’s neck.’  I also really liked ‘In Praise of Greek Dogs’ and ‘On the First Night in the Cottage You Said It Was A Mistake for Me to Buy’ and if that title doesn’t make you want to buy the book, you are made of stone!  I should say that ‘Loudness’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Fenton Aldeburgh Prize.  The other thing I should say is that there are some fantastic ‘holiday’ poems in the book too – again, a topic which handled by a lesser poet, can be as bad as being forced to look at someone’s holiday snaps, but Judy’s holiday poems are really, really good.

Here is the poem! I hope you enjoy.

The Ex-Angel – Judy Brown

My ballroom shoulders were ruined
by those wings.  Now there’s hardly a scar,
just a sheen on the skin as if the light
falling right there had passed
through frosted glass.  As it has.

I imagined them taking their leave
of my back: the exit hole fist-sized;
paramedics; a tussle of sinew and rag.
But it wasn’t like that.  When I turned
my face from flying, they shrivelled

like spiderplants freeing their young.
Feathers husked into onion-skin,
flaked, choking the shower.
You’ll miss the sky, more than one
person said.  They were wrong.

These days the strength of my body
is held in my legs and I like it that way.
I hung long enough like a doll
from the beating white engines of God.
(That kind of talk does no good.)

You never forget the standing start,
the torque of the upward stroke,
the rowing into the sun.  Yet I’d rather
sweat here, down on the dance floor,
tasting the street – if it weren’t for the birds.

When I see a swan, like a last clench of snow
at winter’s end, my eyes drizzle
melted light, my nose starts to drip.
Whatever I’ve done, it’s holy water still.
I dispose of the tissues with due respect.

Sunday Poem – Sean Borrodale


I am writing this post IN PAIN!  I’ve walked all the way from Grange over Sands today to Ulverston with my sister, her hubby, her friend and my hubby.

My sister and her friend are walking the Cumbrian Coastal Way to raise money for Animal Concern in Workington – they both volunteer there.  So they  are walking 100 miles of the Coastal Way – I sponsored them and said they could stay at my house and I thought that was all I had agreed to do, but apparently in one of those conversations where my attention wanders, I agreed to walk some of it as well!

So today, we did 17.5 miles – 5 humans and 5 dogs.  I have two blisters, my legs feel like they will never bend again and in the last 3km a tractor came tearing down the country lane (ok, tearing may well be a bit of a liberty).  Anyway, it nearly took me out with the trailer it was dragging behind it and I had to dive into the verge, which was full of nettles.

Tomorrow they are walking from Ulverston to Barrow.  I don’t know if I’m going to do that leg or not – I’m going to see how I feel when I wake up!

So I’m struggling to write coherent sentences tonight, so I’m going to leave you with the Sunday Poem, which this week is by Sean Borodale, who I heard read at Grasmere last tuesday.  His first collection ‘Bee Journal’ is published by Cape and was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize.  I must admit, at first I bought it because I’d met Sean at a Poetry Review launch and he seemed like a really nice guy, rather than any interest in bees.  However, once I started reading it, he completely won me over into his world of bees and I challenge you not to be fascinated.

The poems are set out like diary entries as in each title has a date.  However they are beautifully paced and very musical, so not like diary entries at all.  Sean strikes me as being a poet on a quest – as in – I’m already looking forward to his next book, because I know he will be trying out something new and exciting, he seems to be constantly pushing the boundaries of poetry as an art form.

I chose this poem because I think it is so accurate in it’s descriptions of the queen bee – yet original as well.  In the reading, Sean said he wrote this after his bees had died, and thought it might be the last poem in the book.  I can tell you it is not the last poem in the book, but if you want to find out what happens at the end, you will have to buy the book which you can buy from Cape at http://www.vintage-books.co.uk

My favorite lines are ‘Those eyes are like castanets, cast nets;/woman all feral and ironwork”.  I think that close repitition of  castanets and cast nets is really beautiful and sure footed.  And the last line of the poem is wonderful as well.

Anyway, here is the poem – I will try and write later in the week when I can make more sense!

10th February: Queen – Sean Borodale

I keep the queen, she is long in my hand,
her legs slightly pliant;
folded, dropped down, wings flat
that flew her mating flight
to the sun and back, full of spermatozoa, dronesong.
She was made mechanically ecstatic.
I magnify what she is, magnify her skews and centres.
How downy she is, fur like a fox’s greyness, like a thistle’s mane.
Wings perfect, abdomen subtle in shades of brittle;
her rear legs are big in the lens:
feet like hung anchors are hooks for staying on cell-rims.
Veins in her wings are a rootwork of rivers,
all echo and interlace.  This is her face, compound eye.
I look at the slope of her head, the mouth’s proboscis;
her thin tongue piercing is pink as cut flesh, flash glass.
Some hairs feather and split below the head.
Those eyes are like castanets, cast nets;
woman all feral and ironwork, I slip
under the framework, into the subtle.
The wing is jointed at the black leather shoulder.
I wear it, I am soft to stroke, the lower blade fans.
Third generation queen of our stock,
you fall as I turn.  I hold your hunchback;
a carcase of lightness, no grief, part animal, part flower.
How downy