Tag Archives: Hilda Sheehan

December Poetry Carousel


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Sitting here listening to the birds singing, and the sun vaguely shining, and after days of beautiful weather, it feels like December is very far off.  It feels strange to be planning for winter when summer is starting.  However, this December, I’m really excited to be running another residential again.  This time it’s the Poetry Carousel, back by popular demand.  The Carousel came about when I was trying to think of a way to utilize the uniqueness of running a residential course in a hotel – all those bedrooms, but we were only using 16 of them.  I also wanted to try and combine the best bits of a residential with a poetry festival – so I came up with the idea of the Poetry Carousel. The course will take place at Abbot Hall Hotel, Kents Bank, (nr Grange over Sands in the Lake District)

One of my favourite parts of running residentials is working with the other tutors.  The process of selecting tutors to work with is really exciting – I always choose tutors that I’ve either worked with before so I’ve seen them in action, or that I’ve been in a workshop with as a participant.  They also have to be great performers, and they have to be poets that really care about teaching.  And for the Carousel purposes, they have to have three different approaches to poetry – this is one of the reasons why it feels different to a traditional residential.  There is no unifying theme for the weekend.  I just ask the tutors to run a poetry workshop on a theme or idea that they feel passionate about.

The 2017 team consists of David Morley, Steve Ely and Hilda Sheehan.  I ran a residential down in St Ives with Steve last year, and I was really impressed with his level of preparation for the workshops, and his kindness and generosity towards the participants on the course.  I’ve known Hilda for quite a few years now – we first met when we shared a room together on a residential course.  Hilda is great fun, very energetic and I’m sure she won’t mind me saying, slightly bonkers.  She runs the Swindon Poetry Festival and both her energy and her humour are legendary!  She runs fantastic workshops and is a great performer of her work.  I went to a workshop run by David Morley at The Wordsworth Trust quite a few years ago now and I’ve never forgotten it.  It was completely different to every other workshop I’ve been to.  There were lots of different strategies for taking us all out of our tried and tested methods of writing poetry, and again, David’s energy and enthusiasm was infectious.

So those are some of my reasons for assembling this team of tutors – now all we need are the participants! The hotel tells me that a fifth of the places are already booked for this course, and the nicer rooms are always booked out first, so if you are thinking of coming, I would book sooner rather than later.   If you would like to book, you need to contact the hotel directly on 015395 32896.

If the course sells out (as I’m expecting it to) there will be 32 people booked on.  Those 32 people will be divided into groups of 8.  Each group of 8 will have a 2 hour workshop with one of the tutors on the Friday afternoon at 4pm.  We then all come together for dinner, and an evening reading from two of the tutors.  On Saturday morning, each group of 8 moves on to the next tutor for another two hour workshop.  There will be free time on Saturday afternoon, then the whole group of 32 comes together for dinner and an evening reading from a guest poet.  On Sunday morning, each group of 8 moves on to another workshop with another tutor.  There’s free time in the afternoon again before we meet for dinner and evening readings from the other two tutors.  On Monday, the group moves on to the last tutor and their last workshop of the weekend.  We meet for lunch before everyone heads off home.  The course officially finishes at 12 and lunch is straight after this.

So that’s the general outline – so although there are 32 people on the course, giving the weekend more of a festival feel in the evenings, the workshops are actually very intimate.

The cost of the weekend is £360 and this includes accommodation, workshops, breakfast, lunch and three-course evening meals.

Below is some biographical information about the tutors.  Towards the end of the week, I’ll be sharing information about the workshops that will be running over the weekend -so keep an eye out for this!

David Morley

David Morley won the Ted Hughes Award for New Poetry in 2016 for The Invisible Gift: Selected Poems and a Cholmondeley Award for his contribution to poetry.  His collections include The Gypsy and the Poet, a PBS Recommendation; Enchantment, a Sunday Telegraph Book of the Year; The Invisible Kings, a PBS Recommendation and TLS Book of the year. A dramatic poem The Death of Wisdom Smith, Prince of Gypsies has been published by The Melos Press. David is known for poetry installations within natural landscapes: ‘slow poetry’ sculptures and poetry films. A Professor at Warwick University and Monash University, David is also a National Teaching Fellow.

‘Like opening a box of fireworks; something theatrical happens when you open its pages, and a curtain is raised on a tradition that has been overlooked…Ted Hughes wrote about the natural magical and mythical world; The Invisible Gift is a natural successor…’. – Ted Hughes Award Judges

Steve Ely

Steve Ely has published four collections of poetry, most recently Werewolf (Calder Valley Poetry) and Incendium Amoris (Smokestack).  His biographical work, Ted Hughes’s South Yorkshire: Made in Mexborough, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015.  He lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Huddersfield.

Hilda Sheehan

Hilda Sheehan has been a psychiatric nurse and Montessori teacher. She has a collection of poetry, The Night My Sister Went to Hollywood,  published by Cultured Llama, and a pamphlet of short fiction, Frances and Martine from Dancing Girl Press.  “Like a firework set off in the heart of the culture’s kitchen”. William Bedford. Hilda is the founder and organiser of Poetry Swindon Festival and works as an education officer at the Richard Jefferies Museum.

Kim Moore

Kim Moore’s first collection The Art of Falling was published by Seren in 2015.  A poem from this collection was shortlisted for the Forward Prize.   Her first pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves was a winner in the 2012 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition and went on to be shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and named in The Independent as a Book of the Year.  She is one of five UK poets chosen to take part in Versopolis, a European funded project to bring the work of UK poets to an international audience.


The Path to a First Collection – Hilda Sheehan on her way to Cultured Llama Press


Evening folks.  Here is another take on the path to a first collection – this time by Hilda Sheehan whose first collection was published a couple of months ago by Cultured Llama Press.  It’s a very different take on it to Roy Marshall’s story which you can find here https://kimmoorepoet.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/the-path-to-a-first-collection-roy-marshall-on-his-way-to-shoestring/

and I think you’ll find it interesting!  You can find a Sunday poem by Hilda here https://kimmoorepoet.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/sunday-poem-hilda-sheehan/

or you could go even better and buy her book from Cultured Llama Press.  This would be a Lovely Thing To Do – especially this week with the news of poetry presses stopping publishing poetry – do something positive and support an independent press by buying a book


Here is Hilda in her own words.

The Path to a First Collection – Hilda Sheehan on the path to Cultured Llama Press

“I don’t really have the time to write poems. If I didn’t write poems I might still be a nurse or a teacher or a better mother. I’d have more money. Poems are distracting and take on a life of their own in my head. My husband Mike says I live in two worlds and he can tell when I have ‘gone.’ Other people have said that they can have whole conversations with me and then realise, I have not been there. This is where my collection came from. There are not many poems in The Night My Sister Went To Hollywood that I remember writing. Most are written in my ‘unconscious’ and left for me to play with later. This is a rather exciting process, like being gifted a set of strange words to form into something that could be poetry. Over ten years I ended up with hundreds of these mainly surreal, magically-real poems and I noticed that they began to get to know each other, that there were common themes and overlaps. However, they came into what I felt were two categories: the short surreal lyric and the ‘experimental’ linguistically innovative (perhaps). I had two pamphlets because I felt those two kinds of writing might not make a very cohesive collection. There’s also a path the poets must follow, a bit like engagement, marriage, house, baby. In poetry it is: poems in small magazines, poems in bigger better magazines, pamphlet, collection. It’s a career path towards professional poetdom and I got onto this rat-track of trying to fit. The trouble is, for a poet like me with young twins plus three other young people to care about, I had limited time and an even more limited budget to send poems out to where they needed to be going. Result was that I rarely sent poems out but over the past ten years had been putting the hours into becoming a better poet, and writing the kind of poems I wanted to write and not necessarily writing to please British editors. I found that my more work-shopped, less interesting poems were successful in finding the ‘right kind of home’ and those more lively, strange and misbehaving examples did not. I have realised that this is about confidence, my own belief that what I write is how I want to write and that they are OK and work in the way I want them to. Reading American poetry was such a revelation and early modernists such as Mina Loy and Gertrude Stein. This was like having poetry orgasms (and I really think there is such a thing) that made me gasp yes, yes, YES!

My title poem ‘The Night My Sister Went to Hollywood’ seemed to bring this collection together. The collection is about feeling out of sorts, odd, misplaced, ecstatic, grumpy, beautiful, ugly and no one is where they are supposed to be. This is the central theme: we all go missing in our lives to make new – by becoming lovers, mothers, husbands, wives or workers. There is a transformation, and we become different. My sister has never been to Hollywood and nor have I, I have never ridden a streetcar with Vivien Leigh or had a seal in my bathtub but examining these worlds made it possible for me to reveal a truth through the imagination.  My final poem, in its mixed up state of love and speaking beds seemed a good way to end the book. It sums things up and considering the entire process of writing it caused me to vomit, I felt it deserved this final spot. It is a poem I am most pleased with: a poem that made me work very hard, exhausted me, dug deep into my head for the strangest and most pleasurable piece of writing I have achieved to date. It says it all: How found was what? Love was in the biscuit tin. Kiss was in a kitchen cupboard. Guilt was under something under something else. Embrace was nowhere. Embrace they thought was dead behind the fridge. Lust laid out its whole body on a rug and waited for more. Henry definitely found disappointed.

I took the plunge, and sent off my varied collection to a new and wonderful press Cultured Llama. They enthusiastically accepted my collection and worked with me to make it shine. Next is how it is received, my favourite so far:  ‘I ate your book from cover to cover and didn’t need cooking or even a sprinkle of salt. It was like three square meals by Heston Blumenthal -sublime wing-smoked bacon ice-cream in twelve textures, deep-blood forest-gateaux, larks-tongue parfait – and he did all the dishes afterwards.” Cristina Newton.”