Tag Archives: Arthur Broomfield

Sunday Poem – Arthur Broomfield

Sunday Poem – Arthur Broomfield

I’m writing today after last night’s terrible events in London.  It feels like there isn’t anything I can say that would mean anything.  The 24 hour news cycle, the constant speculation, the grilling of obviously traumatised eye witnesses by news reporters, live on television doesn’t feel healthy.  Probably like a lot of other people, I can’t stop thinking about the families of those injured or who have lost their lives, and how they probably don’t know for certain whether their relative or friend is alive.  And following on so closely from the Manchester atrocity, a lot closer to home for me, it all feels relentless, and heart breaking.

But a friend today posted a picture of himself on a bike ride out in the sun, saying after everything on the news, it makes him appreciate being alive, and I think this is true.  This morning I went out and walked the dogs in the fresh air and the sunshine and I felt lucky to be able to walk around without fear.

Blogging every two weeks has really taken the pressure off.  I find myself looking forward to it, and feeling a little frustrated as I’ve read so many good books recently and the two week gap means it takes longer before I can tell you all about them (assuming you’re all still there, and you’ve not wandered off in the two week hiatus).

I’ve been looking forward to the end of May for a long time, as my schedule eases up a lot now.  Although I’ve still got quite a lot on, I can do a lot of it from home, rather than dashing around the country.  Over the last two weeks, I’ve been very gradually building my running up again, after another injury setback.  I started doing just ten minutes, and then every other day I’ve been adding two minutes on.  I’m now up to 22 minutes, so I’m hoping in maybe another two weeks I will be fit enough to be back out running with my friends and able to be a bit more relaxed about how far I go.

On the 26th May I went to have my tattoo, which I’ve been looking forward to for ages.  I’ve always wanted a tattoo on my stomach/ribs but always talked myself out of it, mainly in case I put weight on and the tattoo stretched.  I finally decided that I’d spent ten years worrying about this, when I could have been enjoying having a tattoo, so I booked myself in.  I am now the proud owner of a flowery tattoo thing.  I won’t put a picture up yet, as it’s not finished.  I have to go back in mid-July and have the colour put in.  I was there for about five hours though, and it was so painful – much worse than having one on your shoulder or your arm.  I’m still getting used to having it, but I like the way having a tattoo makes you think differently about the body.  The body becomes art, but also something that I own and have control over.  This is my fourth tattoo, and I can honestly say, for someone who cares too much about what people think of me, with my tattoos, I don’t care at all! When I had my first tattoo, it was so liberating to realise I didn’t care if anyone else liked it or not.

I’ve been to a couple of great readings in the last few weeks or so – Hannah Hodgson, one of the Dove Cottage Young Poets  was the guest poet at Verbalise, hosted by Ann Grant, and Ann had also written a play based around one of my poems, and some young actors performed it, so that was an interesting night – Hannah read brilliantly, and it was interesting to hear one of my poems changed into another art form.

I also went to Katie Hale’s pamphlet launch this week.  That was also a lovely night with lots of food, and Hannah Hodgson read there as well, along with Emily Asquith, another Dove Cottage Young Poet, who actually performed for the first time.  I was very proud of them both. Katie has been working really hard at her writing for a long time, and it was lovely to see this hard work and effort being recognised.  The pamphlet is called ‘Breaking the Surface’ and is published by Flipped Eye.

I also had a meeting with my PhD supervisors.  I feel a lot calmer now about the overall shape of the PhD, and we’ve agreed that I should write 3000-5000 words by mid-July time to show my supervisors, and I also need to keep writing poems, which has actually been going ok recently.  So I have a clear way forward, now all I have to do is sit down and do it.  I spent some time looking back over my notes for all the things I’ve read this year, and I’ve actually done a lot of reading, which really surprised me.  I now just need to start reflecting on it properly and write something down.

Last Wednesday, Katie Hale and I went into Kendal with the Dove Cottage Young Poets to give out free poetry to random people in the town.  Lovely poet Caroline Gilfillan came as well in case we needed an extra adult, although as it turns out, Caroline and I sloped off to get a cup of tea from the cafe and left the young poets to it.  As well as giving out free poetry, it was also a way of trying to get the word out about Kendal Poetry Festival, and I think it worked as we had 4 times as many hits on the website as we usually do.  Some people were very suspicious or just not interested in getting a free poem, but lots of people were very lovely and friendly.  We even persuaded one of the armed policeman to take a poem, and he tucked it behind his bullet proof vest!

This week’s Sunday Poem is ‘Assumpta’ by Arthur Broomfield, who I met a few years ago at Torbay Poetry Festival.  Arthur has featured on the blog before, but since then, his first collection Cold Coffee at Emo Court, published by Revival Press has been published.   I read this collection in manuscript form because I agreed to write a blurb for Arthur and I think it is a good introduction to his work (even if I do say so myself!).  I wrote:

There’s a warmth and tenderness at work in these clear-eyed poems, laced with a shot of dry humour.  Arthur Broomfield is as likely to be inspired by a visit to a hurling match as an art gallery – these are poems that live in the real world, rooted in the everyday, with a commitment to the importance of language.

‘Assumpta’ seems particularly apt for a day like today.  It’s not a political poem.  It’s a love poem, or maybe more accurately, a poem written about that time when you can be poised on the edge of falling in love.  I know that Assumpta is Arthur’s wife, but you don’t have to know this to enjoy the poem.

The poem is a direct address to Assumpta – starting with the pronoun ‘You’.  It’s interesting that the poem starts off with phrases like ‘in your element’ and ‘laid eyes on you’ which I suppose could be classed as cliches. However, the poet unpacks both of these ideas in the poem.  The line ‘laid eyes on you’ becomes fresh because of the specific detail that is outlined, the lovely touch of ‘Mrs Dermody’ and the ‘spruce up’ of the sitting room.  It is not just the speaker who is laying eyes on the ‘you’, it is the reader as well.  By the end of the poem, the first line of the last stanza returns to the line ‘in your element with the line ‘I just remember you poised in the elements’ which gives a fresh twist to this phrase.  The ‘you’ becomes like a bird poised in the air, or a fish poised in water.

Another unusual thing about this poem that just struck me, is that although it is very much in the tradition of a ‘male gaze’ poem, i.e a male poet writing about a female,who is gazed upon, with no sense of being looked back at, it does subvert this tradition, because the females in this poem are not passive, sitting to be looked at.  They are the ones with agency and action in the poem.  Mrs Dermody ‘spruces up’ the living room, while the ‘you’ or Assumpta is ‘measuring up the wallpaper’ and ‘cutting it to precision’.  The females are not looking back because they are busy, rather than passive.  I also really like the ending, both because of the double meaning of ‘focusing on how it could turn out,/wondering if you’d fall;’ which could refer to the relationship and the decorating, but also because of the vulnerability in that last line and a half ‘thinking you were too busy/to notice me’.

Dr Arthur Broomfield is a poet, novelist, publisher and Beckett scholar from County Laois.  His previous works include When the Dust Settles (International University Press), The Poetry Reading at Semple Stadium (Lapwing), The Empty Too: Language and philosophy in the works of Samuel Beckett (Cambridge Scholars’ Publishing) and Mice at the Threshing (Lapwing).  He is editor of the online poetry journal Outburst and delivers occasional lectures on the works of Samuel Beckett.  Cold Coffee at Emo Court is his first full collection.

If you’d like to order Arthur’s collection Cold Coffee at Emo Court, you can order it here.  Thanks to Arthur for letting me post his poem today.

Assumpta – Arthur Broomfield

You were in your element
the first time I laid eyes on you,
as you helped Mrs Dermody
spruce up her sitting room

you dished out know how
stepping back and forward, hands on hips,
across the improvised kitchen table,

measuring up the wallpaper
cutting it to precision
matching it, even into the corners
where the nosey might
hope to find a flaw.

I wasn’t drawn to the design,
if the paper had a design at all,
didn’t care if the paint had a silk finish,

I just remember you poised in the elements
focusing on how it could turn out,
wondering if you’d fall;
that your eyes were a special blue
and thinking you were too busy
to notice me.

Sunday Poem – Arthur Broomfield


Evening folks – it feels like much more than a week since the last time I wrote on here, so much has happened.  Sometimes it is difficult to write exactly what has been happening, especially if it concerns other people.  I am constantly thinking about whether what I’m writing about will upset anybody else, whether I’m revealing something that I shouldn’t.  However, if I don’t say anything, I would feel like I was blithely carrying on without acknowledging what has happened, which is uncaring and unfeeling.

So, I think for now, I will just say the bare minimum, which is that due to a family emergency, my husband had to get a flight to Australia yesterday.  We spent pretty much every minute together in Ireland for nearly a week, and now I’m suddenly not going to see him for three weeks or so.  It feels very strange to be unexpectedly on my own.

I promised that I would write another instalment about my time in Ireland.  Two Fridays ago I was staying at my friend Ita’s house in Fermoy.  I ran a 2 hour workshop for the Marketplace Poetry Group with 20 participants.  The workshop was great fun and they were a lovely group to work with.  In the evening I did a reading and there was an open mic afterwards.  The pub was full of poets – not only the workshop group, but a whole contingent of poets that had come from Cork with the fabulous Paul Casey, who runs the O’Bheal night there.  Other poets that I’ve seen every year I’ve been in Fermoy – Louis Mulcahy, Noel King, Kevin Griffin, Matthew Sweeney, Mary Noonan had also travelled over for the open mic – it was a fantastic night and finished with people playing violins and singing – as most nights in Elbow

Pat O’Connor who is known as the Bard of Fermoy, a talented musician, poet, and artist is doing a series of paintings of poets and he showed me a painting of me that he’d been working on, which was lovely and moving and surprising.  The painting is going into an exhibition soon.  Pat is one of my favourite people in Fermoy – he is not on social media – I don’t even know if he does emails actually, but he is such a big part of the community there.  He is such a good poet and performer that at the open mic, people were shouting for him to perform poems that were their particular favourites.

We went to bed very late on Friday night and we had quite a relaxed Saturday.  We got up late and had a late breakfast and then an even later lunch.  I’m sure I left Ita’s house a stone heavier than when I arrived. We drove to Killarney after leaving Ita’s and after much knocking on doors, managed to find  a really cheap but lovely B and B which I think was called Greenacre.  Although the room was small, it was spotless and the landlady was very kind and wouldn’t hear of taking the tip we tried to leave her the next day.

On Sunday we drove to Dingle to see the lovely poet and potter Louis Mulcahy and his equally lovely wife.  He has an amazing and famous pottery studio and he showed us all around the workshop and called us eejits when he found out we had ordered lunch in the cafe instead of coming to the house to have lunch.  We bought two vases, one for Lindsey Holland, who has been staying at our house looking after our dogs while we were away, and one for us.  I also tried to buy Louis’ latest poetry collection but he’d told the girls on the desk to give me a copy so I wasn’t allowed to pay for that either!

We’d booked into an expensive hotel in Dublin – much more than we would normally have been able to afford called No.39 or No.31 – something like that.  The problem with expensive hotels in Ireland is that it would be hard for a hotel to top the level of service you get where ever you go and I didn’t think it was really worth the extra money we shelled out for it to be honest.  We spent the day seeing the city on an open top bus and eating in cafes – we had a great time.

The next night we had great fun staying at Arthur Broomfield’s, who is the Sunday Poet for this week! More on Arthur’s poem later but suffice it to say, his poetry is much better than his direction giving.  If you want to know what I mean, read Kei Miller’s poem ‘In Which the Cartographer Asks for Directions’ and you will get an idea of what I’m talking about, except instead of a big white house and an old woman with only three teeth in her mouth, we were looking for a roundabout with a statue of the Virgin Mary, a row of birch trees and a very slight incline in the road.

Anyway, we arrived eventually at Arthur’s house to find a huge meal awaiting us there as well, cooked by his wife Assumpta (more on Assumpta later as well!) The whole time we were in Ireland, I couldn’t believe how hospitable and welcoming people were.  I know it’s a cliche that Irish people are very friendly but it is true – but what we experienced over the last week was beyond friendliness really – it was complete, no strings attached hospitality.  I think I left Ireland 2 stone heavier than when I went.

The next day, we had a lovely, long breakfast with Arthur and then headed back to Dublin.  We went into the Natural History Museum, full of exhibits of stuffed animals, which seemed very poignant considering what has happened with Cecil the lion this past week.  There are hundreds and hundreds of stuffed animals in the museum.  It made me wonder about the human beings that killed them, whether this would have been their job, to bring animals back for the museum.

In the evening, I read with Arthur and Jane Clarke.  It was a small audience, but a quality one.  I met a couple of readers of this blog who introduced themselves and Una, a woman I was on a course with quite a few years ago, who has gone on to have a collection published with Lapwing and is about to start an MA.  Michael Farry, a poet I first met in Fermoy was also there so it was nice to see him again.

After the reading, once everyone else had gone home, Chris and I went for a run in Phoenix Park just as it was starting to get dark.  At one point some of the wild deer that live in the park ran across the path in front of us – it was great to get out in the fresh air and it’s a lovely place to run, completely flat unlike our local park! We got the overnight ferry back to England after this and arrived back home Wednesday lunchtime.

I’ve been pretty busy since then.  On Thursday I was running a half day workshop with Mungrisdale Writers – another lovely group of people who really got stuck in with the writing exercises.  They also paid promptly on the day – a rare thing I’m finding in the world of poetry freelance work!  On Friday I had my Young Writers Workshop and of course having to help Chris get sorted so he could go to Australia.

Yesterday was my first day alone in the house and I actually got lots of work done.  I emailed invoices through and chased up review copies for The Compass.  Please go and have a look at The Compass if you haven’t already – it’s a really high quality online magazine.  I’m only in charge of reviews, but the magazine is open for poetry submissions. I also drafted the timetable for the Poetry Carousel which will go up tomorrow.  I’ve been emailing back and forth with Clare Shaw and we have our theme sorted for our St Ives Residential Poetry Course in February 2016.  I did a tiny bit of writing as well.

Today I’ve been for a run with Walney Wind Cheetahs and then a concert in the park with Barrow Shipyard Junior Band who were taking part in a project called Floodtide.  They had to play music generated by a sensor in Walney Channel so that was an interesting afternoon! This evening I went to Jennifer Copley’s house and her amazingly talented husband ( I know he reads this – if he hasn’t got fed up by now and given up) took pity on my husbandless state and made dinner for me.  In between scoffing dinner, we also sorted our theme out for the residential week we are running in Grange Over Sands in 2016.

News of the themes for the upcoming courses will be going up on the blog very shortly, so please keep watching this space.

Ok, on to today’s Sunday Poem.  As I’ve already told you, it is by Arthur Broomfield, who I first met at Torbay Poetry Festival a couple of years ago.  Last year, Arthur was a participant on the course in St Ives and it was great to see him again this year and meet his wife, Assumpta.  Assumpta is a professional gardener and is currently writing a book about snowdrops – she is a really fascinating person to talk to and has travelled all over the world in her capacity as a gardener.

I heard Arthur read this poem at the Dublin event and asked him afterwards if I could use it for my blog.  This is a quiet poem, which suits the title, about that most unassuming of flowers.  I like how it starts as if it is in the mdidle of a conversation, and how all the way through, a hidden story is hinted at but not revealed.  In fact this hidden story is hinted at in two lines really ‘after the last descent into alcohol’ and then ‘and for the bleak days’.  The rest of the poem is very tightly controlled and the emotion is held in check by the slow and careful description.  It is a strange and puzzling little poem – puzzling in that it feels very bleak all the way through, until that last image of the snowdrops on the doorstep, which seems to me so hopeful and optimistic.  Those last couple of lines lift you out of the rest of the poem.  The other thing that is interesting is that the ‘you’ in the poem and the speaker are very seperate.  In fact, we don’t ever meet the ‘you’, only her door and her doorstep, yet the relationship between the speaker and the ‘you’ is of great interest.  As you can probably tell, I’m still puzzling away at this poem and enjoying doing so.

Arthur Broomfield is a poet and Beckett scholar from County Laois, Ireland. His poetry has been widely published in Ireland and in Orbis, Agenda and Envoi. His chapbook The Poetry Reading at Semple Stadium (Lapwing) was published in 2012. Arthur is editor of Outburst, an online poetry journal that encourages innovation. His study on the works of Samuel Beckett, The Empty Too :language and philosophy in the works of Samuel Beckett  (Cambridge Scholars’ Publishing 2013) is available through Amazon.co.uk.  Arthur also tells me that he has a poem accepted in Acumen today which he is really chuffed about!

I hope you enjoy the poem and thanks to Arthur for letting me use it

Snowdrop – Arthur Broomfield

For Assumpta

And then,
after the last descent into alcohol
I’ll go to your door,
shuffle down the step  stones, your design,
through the beds where in summer
Arum Lilies and Gladioli disguise
the dun earth
and for the bleak days, leave,
on your doorstep,
Snowdrops, gathered that morning,
moist with dew.