It’s been three weeks since my last blog. I was under the delusion that it had only been two – time apparently flies when you’re not blogging. Since my last blog, I’ve done a lot of swimming, which started as replacement activity for running, but I’m now quite enjoying it. I used to be in a swimming club and swum competitively when I was younger. When I started playing the cornet, band concerts started to interfere with swimming galas, so I gave up swimming completely. I’m not sure what age – maybe I was about 13 when I stopped. Since then, I could probably count on one hand the number of lengths of a pool I’ve actually swam.
As I wrote that, I realise this is a bit of a pattern with me. I do something obsessively, sometimes for many years, and then when I stop, I stop completely, and it’s like it never happened. Regular readers of this blog will know I also did this with trumpet playing when I stopped playing completely for about seven years. However, I seem to be breaking this habit, as I’m now playing again with a soul band (The Soul Survivors) and we do between 1-2 gigs a month, and I’m now swimming twice a week.
I try and do 40 lengths of a 25 metre pool, alternating between breast stroke and front crawl. I haven’t quite got the hang of doing more than one length of front crawl at a time without feeling like I’m going to drown. I go with the husband early in the morning – we normally get into the pool by 8am and are done by 8.45am. I’m convinced the swimming has helped with my IT band/knee injury. I can feel every muscle stretching as I’m plodding up and down the pool.
In the last week I’ve managed four 4-5k runs at a very steady pace, but it is so good to be back in the outdoors, and with no knee pain! I was supposed to be running the Coniston to Barrow yesterday, but I decided not to in the end. I think I could probably have walked it, but I know my injury would have flared up again, and then I would probably not be able to run for another five weeks which would have driven me up the wall. This week, I’m going to try and limit myself to 6k runs, and just try and build up very slowly, and try not to trigger the injury again.
So instead of running the 21 miles between Coniston and Barrow I was in the support team for both the Coniston to Barrow and the Keswick to Barrow team. Towards the end of the day I ended up dashing about between limping walkers in various states of injury. I had to get some trainers to a walker in my sisters team and I managed to blag a ride on the back of a quad bike to get to them as cars weren’t allowed on the road. Here’s a shot of me posing on said quad bike.
Last weekend I headed off to Petersfield, or actually East Meon, near Petersfield to run a poetry residential for the South Downs Poetry Festival. This is my third residential this year, and it actually felt very different as I was only responsible for the tutoring side of things rather than doing all the organising. It felt much easier to have someone else taking care of that side of things! Hugh Dunkerley was the other tutor, who I hadn’t met before the weekend, but we got on great, which was a big relief! We all stayed in rooms in The Sustainability Centre, and Tim Dawes, the South Downs Poetry Festival Director, cooked for us all weekend, and put up with my raids into the kitchen to get more food. For some reason I couldn’t stop eating that weekend, maybe it was something to do with the fact that I’d started running again. There were some lovely participants on the course, and the last night where they all read was as good as any poetry reading I’ve paid to go to.
Other things I’ve been up to – I’ve finished my marking for the unit that I taught at Manchester Met this year, so that feels really good to get that over and done with. I am doing some cover marking, so I have a meeting next week with the lecturer to go over the marking scheme and then I will have another 20 or so to do. Pauline Yarwood and I have been getting on with stuff for Kendal Poetry Festival – there are quite a few new blog posts up about the various poets that are coming to the festival – please head over and sign up and then you won’t miss any updates. At the minute, Hannah Hodgson, our Young Blogger-in-Residence is doing a series of 5 Minute Interviews with the Festival Poets. So far she has interviewed Chrissy Williams, Kathryn Maris and Katrina Naomi and up next is Pauline and I on the process of putting a festival together – this post will be going live tomorrow. If you feel like a poetry festival is missing from your life, please consider coming along to Kendal Poetry Festival, 16th-18th June. Although we are a small festival, there is lots going on and some fabulous poets are reading and giving workshops and leading discussions. There are also opportunities for you to read your own work at the two Open Mic sessions at the festival. You can book tickets at The Brewery Arts Centre
I have two pieces of good news – firstly, as some of you may know, Clare Shaw and I have been writing poems back and forward to each other for the last couple of months. We performed these poems together at the Feminist Poetry Jambouree, an event we put on together in Ulverston. I’ve absolutely loved working with Clare on these poems, and I’m really pleased that The North poetry magazine have agreed to publish all six of our poems, in the back and forth format in their next issue.
I’m also relieved that my RD1 has now been passed and signed off for my PhD. Relieved is a bit of an understatement, as I’d got myself worked up into a bit of a frenzy about it. I think I found out on Thursday that it had been signed off. One of my friends thought this meant that I’d passed my PhD! Sadly not, but I have passed through the first doorway. I’m now going to be moved onto a more creative PhD (not sure when) and I’ve got a meeting in a couple of weeks with both my supervisors to discuss the next steps forward. In the meantime, I’m going to carry on writing poems – if in doubt, write poetry, seems to be the best way forward.
So today’s Sunday Poem is by Ina Anderson. I organised a launch for Ina to celebrate the publication of her first collection Journey Into Space a few months ago now. It was lovely to hear Ina read at the launch, alongside Carlisle poet Malcolm Carson. I’ve really enjoyed the collection – Ina knows how to tell a good story in her poetry, and she has had interesting and exciting experiences in her life to draw on.
The other thing I really enjoyed about the collection is that a lot of the poems are set in Barrow-in-Furness, where Ina lived until she was twelve, and where I live now. I recognise a lot of the places she talks about, some of the pub names are still the same. When she was twelve she moved to Kirkby-in-Furness, which is about a 20 minute drive from Barrow. The biography at the back of her collection says
Her first work was in her father’s tobacconist shop, weighing out snuff that made her sneeze. Soon she set off to London and joined the staff of the Town Planning Institute as an editorial assistant. That experience stood her in good stead when she came to the United States, where she worked as a technical editor on several professional journals. Tired of being a literary janitor, she took to teaching, spending over twenty years at the Community College of Vermont as a faculty member and student advisor, teaching writing, speaking and literature. Ina’s poems have appeared in several publications, including Poem Town Randolph, Mountain Troubadour, Red Fox Poets and a recent anthology Perhaps It Was the Pie.
The poem I’ve chosen is ‘Turning Back’ which I think is representative of much of Ina’s work. There is a strong narrative and story-telling arc that drives the poem forward. The language is colloquial and straightforward, but the poem is full of telling details and images – the precision of the jumper ‘with a little striped front piece’. I think it is an interesting poem because I feel mixed emotions when I read it – I feel sad for the boyfriend whose ‘grin was wide across his face’, and I also feel relieved that the 17 year old speaker didn’t run away to Gretna Green to get married! The story is extraordinary – to just jump off the train without saying anything. I must admit, when I heard Ina read this, I had to go and ask her if it was true, and what had happened next. Which I won’t divulge here – I will leave you to read the poem and make your own minds up.
I also really love poems that are about significant moments in a life, and this poem is about one of those moments or memories that we carry around for ever, that when we look back, seem lit up, or illuminated, they have stayed with us for so long, when a life is suspended between going one way or another. Most of the time we don’t know at the time that we are in that moment until it has passed and we’ve made the decision. Most of the time we don’t realise until we look back, years later. The magic of this poem, or part of the magic anyway, comes from the fact that the speaker realised that she was in a life-changing moment while it was happening, and then ‘opened the door/and jumped to the platform.’
If you would like to order Ina’s collection, you can order it from her publisher Antrim House Books here or from The Norwich Bookstore in Vermont. I’m also reliably told that Suttons Bookshop in Ulverston has a few copies, which they can post out, which will probably be cheaper than ordering it from the USA if you’re based in the UK. Their phone number is 01220 588858 – I couldn’t find a web address!
Thanks to Ina for letting me post her poem here.
Turning Back – Ina Anderson
My jumper was blue
with a little striped front piece,
the first I knitted all myself.
My case was small
to hide that I had gone.
He wore his tweed suit
like he always did.
He’d got on at Barrow,
and he already had us seats.
No one else but me
got on at Kirkby station.
The carriage was crowded,
full of men laughing together,
all headed for the jobs
up at Dounreay.
He was so nervous and so happy.
His grin was wide across his face.
I knew he had a ring in his pocket.
The ride up there would be a long one,
all the length of the Cumberland coast,
cross the border, through
the lowlands then the highlands.
But first we’d stop at Gretna Green.
I don’t know when my doubt set in.
I knew I loved him,
loved his loving too.
But perhaps it was the look it would bring
to my dad’s sweet face,
and my mum, she’d feel such shame.
Perhaps I thought seventeen
was a bit young too.
Getting close to Whitehaven,
almost an hour on,
I said I’d go to the loo,
and I took my little bag
but not my case.
I took a while in there,
hardest choice I’d ever made.
Just before the train
started out of Whitehaven station,
I opened the door
and jumped to the platform.
Off went the train
with him and my case inside.
I don’t know how long it took him
to see that I had gone.
By then I was across the lines
and hiding in the station.
In half an hour I was
on the next train back.
It was Mum that night
said I was a bit quiet.
It was years until
she and Dad knew.