Tag Archives: Billy Letford

Sunday Poem -Billy Letford

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Sunday Poem -Billy Letford

Back on track with the Sunday Poems now after a two week hiatus.  My life is still slightly chaotic, as the end-of-term approaches.   The end-of-term and end-of-school-year is always crazy, but this time it has been compounded by the fact that this is my last ever end-of-term, end-of-school-year as a trumpet teacher, as well as my usual freelance work, all piling on top of each other and threatening to bury me underneath it.

There have been times in the last couple of weeks when I’ve felt on the edge, on the edge of what, I don’t know, I only know the feeling, which is as if I’m going to tip over and fall, and rather than landing anywhere, just keep falling.  I’ve got one more week of running around and chaos, and then things (I’m hoping) will get easier.

It has probably all been compounded by the fact that last night, I had my final concert as a conductor of Barrow Shipyard Junior Band and my two beginner bands, St Pius School Band and Brasstastic. I was feeling quite calm as the hall started to fill up, but when my mum and dad turned up to surprise me, I burst into tears.  My parents came to every single band concert I ever played in when I was young, and supported me financially while I was at music college, so for them to turn up now, to support me as I finish that part of my life was enough to make me cry.  It made it all real as well somehow, as if up to that point, I could have changed my mind.

So, although it was a lovely concert, and the band gave me some great presents – my favourite was a notebook with messages from each of the kids, I’m relieved it is over.  I’ve got one more rehearsal with Barrow Shipyard Junior Band on Monday night and I’m already feeling emotional about that, so that is the next thing to get through!

Other stuff going on next week – I’ve got Soul band rehearsal after junior band rehearsal on Monday and then on Tuesday I’m reading in Ambleside at a kind of summer school for teenagers, and hoping to recruit some more teenagers for Dove Cottage Young Poets.  On Thursday I’m meeting with the Course Director at MMU so I should find out some more about the unit I’ll be teaching there – on the way I’ve got to run a workshop at a primary school in Penrith.  A year 6 child was the winner of the Cumbria School Games competition this term, and part of the prize was a workshop at their school.  I’ve got my Poetry School course on Thursday evening – the last session, and then I’m going to Lancaster Spotlight on Friday with my Dove Cottage Young Poets to watch them have a go on the Open Mic.

Last week I went to the Lakeland Book of the Year Awards and although I was on the shortlist I didn’t win.  I wasn’t too surprised as I don’t think poetry has ever won, and my book isn’t really about the Lake District as such.  Cumbria is more like a supporting character in the poems so it seemed unlikely I was going to win.  The winner overall was a young bloke who’d written a book about Cumbria’s waterways and he worked on the ferry on one of the lakes and came in his uniform to the awards which was very refreshing.  Maybe he was going back to work afterwards?

My friend Karen Lloyd won her category and was a runner up for the overall award with her prose book ‘The Gathering Tide’ so it was nice to be there to see that, especially as poor Karen was in agony with back pain, and it had been touch and go whether she would make it to the awards, or just stay in bed.

Straight after the Lakeland Book of the Year Awards I went and ran the Endmoor 10k race – one of my favourite races.  It has 195 metres of ascent in the middle and then a great downhill section in it and cakes for afterwards – a perfect 10k in my book! I managed to knock 2 minutes off my PB from last year so I was pleased with that.  I have had no time to run for the last two weeks but maybe the enforced rest has been good for me!

I also ran a poetry workshop on Shakespeare in Barrow Library and my Poetry School course in Manchester last week, my Dove Cottage Young Poets workshop in Kendal and my all day poetry workshop in Barrow, and although they were all lovely, I’m kind of glad that week is over.

I’m really happy about this week’s Sunday Poem.  I don’t often get to publish new work from poets I admire on this blog – I usually read a poem in a book that I really like, and then write to the author and ask if I can use it, so it is a real treat to have a poem that hasn’t appeared in print.

Billy’s debut collection Bevel was published by Carcanet in 2012. He has received a New Writer’s Award from the Scottish Book Trust, an Edwin Morgan Travel Bursary, and a Creative Scotland Artists’ Bursary, which allowed him to travel through India for six months. He has taken part in translation projects through Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine, and in 2014 a chapbook of his poetry Potom Koža Toho Druhého was translated in Slovakian and published by Vertigo. His work has appeared on radio and television.

Billy sent me a poem from his forthcoming collection Dirt.  This is a beautiful poem that unfolds gradually. The reference to the short story ‘The Moor’ feels important here too – this story, about a chance encounter between a middle-aged man and the 80 year old woman who had been his lover three decades before echoes through the poem.  There is nothing in the poem about the ages of the lovers, but the reference certainly makes a disparity in ages a possibility, and also reveals it as unimportant.  There are ‘all kinds of bodies’.  The poem is working out what the ‘it’ of the second line is, and this working out is tender, slow-paced and sensual.

 

In a bamboo shack on the edge of a beach
Billy Letford

He read her ‘The Moor’ by Russell Banks.
It wasn’t the story, although the story is good,
and it wasn’t the way he read it. The Scottish
accent couldn’t quite grasp the Americanisms.
The sures and yeahs became parodies that
brought humour to beauty that didn’t need it.
It was the fact that she lay with her head
on his chest and he felt the rumble of his own
voice and a vibration of words gone before.
The story he read ends full of snow, and they
lay very still, but what to do? how long could
they remain there? So he traced patterns on
her skin with his fingers. And the patterns
became circles and the circles became words
and these actions have a tendency to progress.
He lifted her T-shirt over her shoulders and
we know the rest. There are all types of bodies.
If you’re lucky you’ll find someone whose skin
is a canvas for the story of your life.
Write well. Take care of the heartbeat behind it.

 

Billy’s new collection Dirt will be out in August, and you can pre-order a copy from Carcanet here.

Billy is also one of four tutors on the Poetry Carousel this August, so if you’re booked on to this, then you’ll be able to get a signed copy while you’re there!

There are currently six places left for the Poetry Carousel – so if you know anybody who might be interested, or you’ve been thinking about coming along yourself, my advice is to book swiftly.

I will have news this week about the guest poet who will be reading for us on one night of the course.  If you’d like a clue, I can tell you she is published by Bloodaxe, and has a new collection coming out very soon. Answers in the comment section below!

Sunday Poem – Tsead Bruinja

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Sunday Poem – Tsead Bruinja

This week I’ve been living on my own as the husband has gone on a hiking holiday – he is walking through Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia and last night he texted from Kosovo.  The novelty of being able to spread my stuff all over the house without being moaned at to pick it up, is starting to wear off now and I’m actually missing him a little bit!

Last week was my first week back at work after half term.  It is always a difficult week, because there are lots of instruments to sort out that have been left to rust over half term.  This has to be done whilst directing a class of thirty children to play Mary had a Little Lamb or whatever it is we’re playing, so by the end of my teaching day on Wednesday I was counting my blessings that the brass teaching week was over.

On Thursday I drove to Bridlington.  It took about four and a half hours.  I had time for a quick change at my B and B and then I went straight down to the library to do a reading – this was another Read Regional gig.  The audience were very nice, a mixture of keen poets and people who’d never been to a reading before, so I hope I didn’t put the latter off poetry altogether! That would be terrible.

I was finished by 4.30 so I went home, got my running gear on and headed down to the prom.  I did about 7 miles and it was the best run I’ve done in ages.  I felt really good – the scenery was beautiful – it was sunny but with a cold breeze and I didn’t get lost.  That is the furthest I’ve ran on my own so I was quite proud of myself.  I then went for a Thai round the corner in Bridlington and then went to bed quite early.

On Friday I had my young writers workshop in Kendal.  We did one writing exercise and then they read the sets that they are going to perform at the festival.  They really are good – I know I’m bias, but I’m so proud of them.  I think they are going to surprise and delight people at the festival.

After the Young Writers group, I went to Brewery Poets and took a poem to be critiqued, and then finally, finally drove back to Barrow and collapsed into bed.  On Saturday I ran my Barrow Poetry Workshop – 12 writers turned up this week coming from Shap, Kendal, Ulverston, Dalton and Barrow. The quality of the work produced was excellent – I took poems by Tim Liardet, Jack Gilbert and Lisa Brockwell to the workshop to use as inspiration, or to discuss before writing.

On Saturday evening we had a Poem and a Pint event at Greenodd Village Hall with J O Morgan.  He read from his new book ‘Interference Pattern’ which is just amazing.  It is a series of poems in the voice of different characters, and when he reads from the book, he changes his voice and his accent as he goes from character to character.  It is extraordinary and mesmerising to watch and listen to.

This morning I’ve been for a 6 mile run and eaten a scone with jam and cream and that is the sum of my achievements.

Tonight I’ve got a rehearsal for ‘Annie’ and then next week is a busy one.  I’ve got meetings about Kendal Poetry Festival, rehearsals, a Read Regional reading in Stockport on Thursday afternoon, and my face-to-face course that I’m running in Manchester on Thursday night, school concerts, musical performances, and somewhere in next week I have to fit in reading and judging 500 school poetry competition entries.  It does sound a bit manic when I write it out like that!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Tsead Bruinja who is one of the tutors on the Poetry Carousel.  Tsead sent me the manuscript of a collection that has been translated into English – this poem has been translated by David Colmer.  The manuscript is called ‘Tongue’ and it is really good – I’ve not read anything quite like it before – it is lyrical, yet fragmented, using leaps and associations to communicate.

I first met Tsead at a festival in Ireland where we read together, but last year I went over to Holland to read at the ‘Read The World’ festival.  Rather than a normal reading, where I read my poems to the audience, I worked for a day with other poets and musicians to put together a performance where we read our own poems and each other’s poems, where the musicians played songs in between or behind while we were reading, to create a larger performance.  Tsead directed the whole thing and he was wonderful to work with.  I knew I liked the poems I’d read in translation of his, but working with him at the festival, and hearing him talk about the teaching that he does in Amsterdam, convinced me he would be a great tutor to invite to be part of the next Poetry Carousel.

There are still places left on the Carousel, which is running from August 16th-19th at Abbot Hall Hotel, Grange Over Sands, so do please get in touch if you would like to any questions.  If you’d like to book a place, it’s probably best to ring the hotel directly by ringing 015395 32896

Other tutors on the course include the wonderful Clare Shaw, Billy Letford (who will have copies of his new collection Dirt available) and myself.

Tsead Bruinja lives in Amsterdam. He made his debut in 2000 with the Frisian language collection called De wizers yn it read (The meters in the red). Bruinja’s debut in the Dutch language, Dat het zo hoorde (The way it should sound), was published in 2003, and was nominated for the Jo Peters Poetry Prize the following year. Bruinja compiles anthologies, writes critical reviews, hosts literary events and performs in the Netherlands and abroad, often with musician Jaap van Keulen and occasionally with the flamenco dancer Tanja van Susteren. At the end of 2008 Bruinja was the runner up after being nominated for the position of Poet Laureate for the Netherlands for the period of 2009-2013.

You can read more about Tsead over at his profile on the Poetry International website.  If you haven’t come across this website before, it’s a great resource- it includes articles about the poets featured, and has a selection of poems as well.

SHOW-OFF by Tsead Bruinja

not the horse that batters its hooves on the partition
or the horse that bolts across the green world
jolting its cart to pieces
*
nothing about wearing a body out and delivering it
to a metaphysical door
*
but the simple body of this woman
facing you
*
the clear head of this woman
facing you
*
a sea that speaks
and you as the doubting sky above
*
hail
*
she says
*
your legs work
my legs work
*
leave the thinking to hands
*
smiling she moves her fist to my nose
which disappears between fingers
*
the fist pulls back to a grey horizon
*
and there where she squeezed my nose
a little mouse is staring out
*
gotcha
*
she says
and not once in this whole poem
*
did she move her lips

I think this poem is very typical of a lot of Tsead’s work, which is playful, lyrical and manages to find an off-kilter way of looking at the world.  The style of using little or no punctuation also runs throughout the book, but the way he uses line breaks mean that the poems are very clear- it makes me realise how little punctuation is needed.  The lovely surprise at the end of the grey mouse appearing, the colloquial ‘gotcha’, the beginning of the poem which starts right away with the image of a horse which ‘batters its hooves on the partition’ – these are some of the reasons why I chose this poem.

It isn’t clear who is the show off in the poem – is it the horses, showing off just by being horses? Is it the woman with her ‘clear head’.  Incidentally, isn’t that a lovely thing to express admiration for in a poem?  I also love the idea of the sky being a ‘doubting sky’ as well, the sky not knowing who it is, maybe because it changes all the time?

It is a wonderful poem, and I hope you enjoy it – thanks to Tsead for allowing me to publish it here.

Sunday Poem – Heidi Williamson

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This week has been filled with work and lots of poetry.  On Wednesday I was the guest poet at Zeffirellis in Ambleside.  This was organised by Andrew Forster of the Wordsworth Trust.  There was a really good turn out, lots of open mics and the combination of being able to eat pizza whilst listening to poetry turned out to be very popular, and not nearly as antisocial as it sounds.  I didn’t notice any loud chomping noises whilst I was reading anyway!

Unfortunately the garage said my car would need a £1000 to get it going again, so it has gone to the great car graveyard in the sky – more commonly known as the scrappers.  I am still quite hacked off about it, as I still owe money on the car but trying not to think about it.

Meanwhile, me and hubby are ‘sharing’ his car which has led me to the discovery that I don’t like sharing, and I’m not good at it so we are looking round for a very cheap car.  There is no massive rush at the minute,as we are just about managing to share one.

Yesterday was Polly Atkin’s launch of her pamphlet -she was the winner of the inaugral Mslexia pamphlet competition, and her pamphlet ‘Shadow Dispatches’ is published by Seren.  It’s very blue and pretty and I really enjoyed the reading.  The reading was at Grasmere at the Wordsworth Trust.  Polly is a really good reader of her work, and her poems are packed full of imagery.  I think one of her strengths, from a first read through of it is the wonderful similes and metaphors she uses.  I would definitely recommend it.  I got a lift with Mark Carson and we whizzed off pretty sharpish afterwards so we would have time to eat and get sorted out before Poem and A Pint in the evening.

Poem and A Pint was great!  If you missed Billy Letford you should be kicking yourself- although not too hard, as he is reading at the Wordsworth Trust in June, so you could go and see him read there.  He recites all his poems from memory, no introductions and it feels as if the poem is holding the audience still – then he stops and the spell is broken and we all breathe again before the next one.  A masterclass in how to give a good reading – I would love to perform more like that – although if I just copied it would be ridiculous – but I have got lots of ideas of how to improve my own performance.

And today I am very proud of myself.  I lost the argument with the hubby as to who has the car – he was going hiking in the Lakes so his need was greater – so I actually used a bus to get to Ulverston.  I don’t know why but I have had an irrational dislike of buses – I think it’s from having to catch them every day in Birmingham when I was teaching there.  And once in Birmingham, I’m sure I saw a flea leap from the person’s leg who was sitting next to me on to my leg.  Now rationally, it was probably some other high-jumping insect, as I probably wouldn’t have been able to see a flea but I can’t help being convinced it was a flea.

So, this morning a nice bus driver stopped even though I was standing at the wrong bus stop and let me on the bus to Ulverston and it was absolutely fine.  No fleas – in fact hardly any passengers.

I was going to a Poem and A Pint committee memeber’s house who was looking after Billy Letford -we’d been invited for tea and cake.  That was very nice, and I got back again on the bus, no excitement, no traumas.

I think I also don’t quite believe that the buses adhere to timetables – and I hate waiting.  But I’ve decided these are irrational thoughts, not based on experience of Barrow buses, so I’m going to have to give them more of  a go I think.

Today’s Sunday poem is by Heidi Williamson. Her first collection ‘Electric Shadow’ is published by Bloodaxe and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. It was also shortlisted in 2012 for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry.

I read ‘Electric Shadow’ only recently, although it came out in 2011 and I really enjoyed the book.  It is easy to see why it has garnered so much interest- she uses unusual angles to write about big themes like in the poem ‘At the hands-on science centre’ when she recounts a couple standing between parrallel mirrors – really this poem, I think, is about relationships and power and absence, but she approaches this through the doorway of a science centre – which is unusual I think.

So when I spotted Heidi on Twitter I asked her if I could have a poem from the book.  As in most cases when I have permission to pick any poem from the book, it was hard to settle on one.  I decided to pick the strangest one in the collection because it was my favorite.

You can order ‘Electric Shadow’ from Bloodaxe here http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/personpage.asp?author=Heidi+Williamson and you can find out more about Heidi Williamson here: http://www.heidiwilliamsonpoet.com

So here is the poem:

If Then Else – Heidi Williamson

If
your lover asks you to bite his tongue,
do it
Else you are alone and bloodless

If
you cannot find yourself, Then
find another
Else you are alive and loveless

If
you breathe numbness, Then
rejoice quietly
Else you are woken

If
you age, Then
live
Else you age lifelessly

If
you die, Then
live
Else you age lifelessly

If
you die, Then
think,
Else you die thoughtlessly

If
you wish to eat apples and oranges, Then
choose
Else no distinctions can be made

If Then Else: A logic statement in high-level programming that defines the data to be compared and the actions to be taken as a result.  There can only be one of two outcomes.  There is no scope for ambiguity.