Tag Archives: Ian Duhig

A Review of the 2015 Poetry Carousel

A Review of the 2015 Poetry Carousel


The poet Elisabeth Sennit Clough was one of the 32 participants on last year’s sold out Poetry Carousel.  I asked Elisabeth to write an account of what the experience was like.  If you’ve been debating about whether to come, this is a must-read! Elisabeth is a fantastic poet, and has a pamphlet forthcoming after winning the Paper Swans Pamphlet Competition in 2016.

This year’s team of tutors are myself, Clare Shaw and Dutch poets Saskia Stehouwer and Tsead Bruinja.  You can find more information about the 2016 Carousel here

2015 Poetry Carousel

by Elisabeth Sennit Clough

Cumbria is about as geographically and aesthetically distant from my present home in a West Norfolk village as possible, but a current obsession with poetry retreats compelled me to abandon my husband and three children and travel to Grange-over-Sands for the weekend.

As I trundled my case along the short distance from Kents Bank Station to Abbots Hall Hotel, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I couldn’t remove the definition of ‘carousel’ from my mind: 1) a merry-go-round at a fair or 2) a conveyor system at an airport from which arriving passengers collect their luggage.  

On the first evening, we were assigned to groups and stayed in those groups as we rotated through the four workshops (the premise of the poetry carousel being to move around four workshops, each with a different tutor). Like the merry-go-round, it had the potential to be great fun while it lasted – or, like the baggage carousel, it could just go round and round monotonously and I could end up right back where I started (I have an ambivalent relationship with airport carousels). 

My first workshop was with Kim. In my group were fellow MMU student Hilary Hares (whom I’d met on a Teaching Creative Writing Course) and Helen Kay – whom I had never met – but had corresponded with about the Nantwich Festival. Given how small the UK poetry world is, it was somewhat inevitable (and lovely) that I would bump into familiar names and faces.

The coincidences continued: Kim is a huge Philip Levine fan and I used to live in Fresno (where Philip Levine ran the MFA Programme at CSU). Kim adopted the title of Levine’s award winning collection What Work Is, articulating the lives of Detroit factory workers, for her workshop. What exactly is work? Our ice-breaker involved trying to answer that deceptively hard question. Having read poems such as ‘My People’ and ‘A Psalm for the Scaffolders’ in Kim’s The Art of Falling, I could see why work as a subject matter was important to her.

I learned that many people on the carousel had attended previous poetry workshops with Kim – a testament to her engaging teaching style and ability to put people at ease. For example, her workshop helped me find a way into writing successfully about a subject I’d been battling with for years; that is, my own experiences as a teenage factory worker.

Kim describes the carousel as promoting ‘a festival atmosphere in the evening, when we come together for dinner and readings from the tutors and invited guest poets.’ This is a very accurate description: in the evening, Kim read some of her work, along with guest-readers, Jennifer Copley and Lindsay Holland. Lindsay is co-editor of The Compass and one of six poets shortlisted for the 2015 Manchester Poetry Prize. After reading, each poet discussed aspects of her work: Jennifer, for example, has published collections with several different imprints and spoke about that experience, while Lindsay discussed long poems and the significance of thoroughly researching your subject matter.

My next group workshop (the following morning) was with Andrew Forster, the other editor of The Compass. Andrew’s ‘Encounters Workshop’ involved writing about ‘an encounter that made you see things differently.’ This inspired me to write a poem about a migrant farm worker that went on to be accepted by The Rialto. Andrew commented on the strength of voice in the poem and this gave me the confidence to continue developing the poem in the same tone.  

My third workshop was with Ian Duhig. His latest (and seventh!) collection, The Blind Roadmaker (about the incredible Jack Metcalf), is one of those books that I read initially because I was interested in the subject matter, but then found myself reading again and again just to admire the exceptional craft of it.

Ian’s workshop prompted me to take an imaginative leap with my subject matter (it’s the first poem I’ve written that’s set in space!), but this freed my poem from the constraints that were constantly working against me as I wrote. Another useful device for my toolkit involved possibly turning a negative outcome in a poem into a positive one. This inspired me to change the ending of one of my poems to great success. Now, when struggling with an ending, Ian’s voice pops into my head, asking, ‘what would its opposite be?’

My final workshop was with Amanda Dalton. Amanda helped me to focus on the drama in my poetry: where should I place the tension on my dramatic arc, for example? We used postcards as prompts and placed emphasis on movement (or not as in the example of my poem below from Amanda’s workshop). I wanted to capture the idea of stark animal nakedness, the sense of unpleasantness inside and out that I interpreted from Freud’s work.


Sleeping By the Lion Carpet

After a painting by Lucian Freud

Like the lioness, I am alert
to the alpha in this female, feigning sleep
in an armchair: how her flesh demands
attention from the artist’s brush.

I know the mind of a woman
like this – the way she plants
her ego on the floor, stands back
and laughs as you trip over it.

Her milk contains so much venom,
her thick-ankled daughters will grow up
to puncture the limbs of prettier girls
with the points of school compasses.

She has named them Immaculate
and Conception. She has no sex –
the artist has painted her:
a fat child with breasts.

Far from ending up right back where I started, the carousel took me to unexpected places. I learned a lot of new techniques, resulting from a combination of different teaching styles melding over the weekend. Several months on, I am still developing poems inspired by the carousel weekend and re-reading my notes. And yes, my head does still spin from time to time with all the new skills and poems I brought home.

Poetry Carousel 11th-13th December 2015 – Workshop Blurbs



There are a handful of places left on the Poetry Carousel – a residential poetry course with a difference that is running at Abbot Hall Hotel, Kents Bank, Grange Over Sands from December 11th-13th, 2015.  Tutors are myself, Amanda Dalton, Ian Duhig and Andrew Forster. All participants on the course will take part in a 2 hour workshop with each tutor over the weekend and there will be readings in the evenings from the tutors and guest poets.  Workshop groups will be limited to 8 people per workshop! For those of you who have been tempted to come, but haven’t quite made your mind up yet, have a read through of the workshops that each tutor will be running throughout the weekend.

If you would like to book, please contact the hotel directly on 015395 32896


Wallace Stevens wrote to the effect that we don’t live in places, we live in descriptions of places. On courses like these we find ourselves investigating new territory unusually subject to such words, from directions to introductions, conjuring up who we are and where we are, where we’re from and where we’re going. This workshop will look at these almost-magical processes with reference to contemporary poetry you may be unfamiliar with, due to its newness or strangeness, so that it may act as a catalyst in the alchemy of creating your own new work and new directions in your work.


Heaney’s phrase celebrates the wonders encountered in daily existence. Our lives are made up of tiny encounters , with animals, people, places, objects, ghosts even, that leave us changed in large or subtle ways. In this workshop we’ll look at the way poets have handled some of these meetings, and try some strategies to get started on encounter poems of our own.


In this playful, practical workshop we’ll utilise some of the contents of the theatremaker’s toolbox to explore what happens when we apply them to making poems. Working with everyday objects, scraps of found text, and fine art prints, we’ll make a start on creating some of our own story-poems, finding new voices along the way.

WHAT WORK IS – with Kim Moore

Effort, toil, task, job, labour, slog, chore, drudgery, exertion. In an article published by Jeremy Seabrook in The Guardian in 2013 he argues that “Words indicating labour in most European languages originate in an imagery of compulsion, torment, affliction and persecution”.  How has our concept of work changed and have contemporary poets tackled this subject? During this workshop, we will set off writing our own poems about work in all its different guises.

Fourth Tutor Announced for Poetry Workshop Carousel


I’m really excited to be able to announce that the fourth tutor for the Poetry Workshop Carousel, taking place from the 11th-13th December 2015 at Abbot Hall Hotel, Grange Over Sands will be the fantastic Amanda Dalton.  I first met Amanda when I was studying on the MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and she was always astute in her observations, generous with her time and gave invaluable advice and I’m really looking forward to working with her.  Below you will find all the information about the tutors.  Please see the Forthcoming Residential Poetry Courses tab for more information about the course.


Amanda Dalton






Amanda is a poet and playwright. She started writing in her mid 30s when she was working as vice principal in a Leicester comprehensive school. She has published two pamphlets and two collections with Blooodaxe: ‘How To Disappear’ which was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best first collection, and ‘Stray’. She was selected as a Next Generation Poet in 2004. Her work for BBC Radio includes original dramas, poetry, and radical re-workings of silent movies The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Nosferatu. She has made site-specific work with Wilson+Wilson and Sheffield Theatres, drama for young people and adaptations of work by Jackie Kay and David Almond.  She is a Visiting Writing Fellow (poetry and script) at MMU’s Writing School and Director of Engagement at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre. She lives in Hebden Bridge.


Ian Duhig


Ian Duhig (6)








A former homelessness worker, Ian Duhig has written six books of poetry, three of which were shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize as well as the Whitbread and Costa Poetry Awards. He has won the Forward Best Poem Prize, the National Poetry Competition and was a joint winner of a Shirley Jackson Award for one of his short stories. A Cholmondeley Award recipient and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he has taught at all levels from beginner to post-graduate and his university posts include being the International Writer Fellow at Trinity College Dublin.  If you would like to order any of Ian’s books, you can buy them direct from Picador here


Andrew Forster











Andrew Forster is originally from South Yorkshire but he lived in Scotland for twenty years before moving to Cumbria in 2008. He has published three full-length collections of poetry, two with Flambard Press, ‘Fear of Thunder’ (2007) and ‘Territory’ (2010), and ‘Homecoming’ with Smith Doorstop (2015). ‘Fear of Thunder’ was shortlisted for the 2008 Forward Prize for Best First Collection and ‘Homecoming’ is shortlisted for the Lakeland Book of the Year Award . Two poems, ‘Horse Whisperer’and ‘Brothers’, appear in the AQA GCSE syllabus.  He has worked in Literature Development for 17 years and until recently was Literature Officer at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere

Kim Moore

Society of Authors Awards June 2011Kim Moore  Eric Gregory Awards







Kim Moore’s first full length collectionThe Art of Falling’ was published by Seren in 2015.  Her first pamphlet ‘If We Could Speak Like Wolves’ was a winner in the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition in 2012.  It was named in the Independent as a Book of the Year, shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and was the runner up in the Lakeland Book of the Year Award.  She was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer prize by Poetry Review in 2010, an Eric Gregory Award in 2012 and a Northern Writers Award in 2014 and is one of five UK poets selected to take part in Versopolis, a European project aimed at bringing the work of young UK poets to a wider European audience.  Her poem ‘In That Year’ is on the shortlist for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Published Poem.


Poetry Workshop Carousel – New Residential Poetry Course, 11th-13th December


 Society of Authors Awards June 2011Kim Moore  Eric Gregory AwardsandrewforsterIan Duhig (6)Question_mark_(black_on_white)

Due to an early mix-up with dates between the hotel and myself, Rebecca Goss is no longer able to tutor on the 2015 Poetry Workshop Carousel, which I’m really sad about.  She will hopefully be coming back to tutor on the 2016 course, so please watch this space!

The new dates for the Poetry Workshop Carousel are the 11th-13th December 2015.  Tutors confirmed so far are myself, Andrew Forster and Ian Duhig.  I will hopefully be able to confirm the fourth tutor in the next couple of days or so, and it will be someone as equally fabulous as Rebecca, but fabulous in a different way.

In case you missed my earlier post about this, the Poetry Workshop Carousel will be taking place at Abbot Hall Hotel, Kents Bank, Grange Over Sands.  The course will be made up of a carousel of four workshops with four different tutors.  Each participant will attend a 2 hour workshop with each tutor as part of a small, intimate workshop group.  In the evening, the groups will come together for poetry readings from the tutors and invited guest readers.  I estimate the workshop groups will be between six and eight people.

The cost of the course will be £230.  This includes four workshops, two readings on the Friday and Saturday night, accommodation and all food for the weekend – a three-course meal on Friday night, breakfast, lunch and three course evening meal on Saturday and breakfast and lunch on the Sunday.  The course begins at 4pm on Friday and finishes at 12 on Sunday.

If you haven’t been to Kents Bank or Grange Over Sands before, it is a beautiful place.  The hotel is set in wonderful grounds, right on the edge of Morecombe Bay and a two minute walk from Kents Bank train station.  There is a lovely swimming pool in the hotel and the intention for the weekend is to take over the hotel with poets!  If you have any questions at all about the course structure or content, please get in touch with me via the Contact page.  Places are limited and I’m expecting them to go quickly, so if you would like to book, please phone Abbot Hall directly on  015395 32896.

Over the weekend, I’m planning to put up a draft programme for the weekend, but the start time for the first workshop will be 4pm on Friday 4th December and the finish time will be Sunday lunchtime at 12pm, if you are thinking about booking trains.

Here is a little bit more information about the fantastic tutors who I’ve chosen not just because of their reputation as poets, but also because of their reputation for running fantastic workshops.

Ian Duhig

A former homelessness worker, Ian Duhig has written six books of poetry, three of which were shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize as well as the Whitbread and Costa Poetry Awards. He has won the Forward Best Poem Prize, the National Poetry Competition and was a joint winner of a Shirley Jackson Award for one of his short stories. A Cholmondeley Award recipient and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he has taught at all levels from beginner to post-graduate and his university posts include being the International Writer Fellow at Trinity College Dublin.  If you would like to order any of Ian’s books, you can buy them direct from Picador here

Andrew Forster

Andrew Forster is originally from South Yorkshire but he lived in Scotland for twenty years before moving to Cumbria in 2008. He has published three full-length collections of poetry, two with Flambard Press, ‘Fear of Thunder’ (2007) and ‘Territory’ (2010), and ‘Homecoming’ with Smith Doorstop (2015). ‘Fear of Thunder’ was shortlisted for the 2008 Forward Prize for Best First Collection and ‘Homecoming’ is shortlisted for the Lakeland Book of the Year Award . Two poems, ‘Horse Whisperer’and ‘Brothers’, appear in the AQA GCSE syllabus.  He has worked in Literature Development for 17 years and until recently was Literature Officer at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.

Kim Moore

Kim Moore’s first full length collectionThe Art of Falling’ was published by Seren in 2015.  Her first pamphlet ‘If We Could Speak Like Wolves’ was a winner in the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition in 2012.  It was named in the Independent as a Book of the Year, shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and was the runner up in the Lakeland Book of the Year Award.  She was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer prize by Poetry Review in 2010, an Eric Gregory Award in 2012 and a Northern Writers Award in 2014 and is one of five UK poets selected to take part in Versopolis, a European project aimed at bringing the work of young UK poets to a wider European audience.  Her poem ‘In That Year’ is on the shortlist for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Published Poem.



Late Sunday Poem – Jane Clarke


I know this is not even close to Sunday any more but this was the closest I could get.  I’ve had a really busy weekend which wasn’t helped by the fact I got lost leaving Lancaster last night after reading at an event.  There were lots of roadworks and diversion signs and I missed the turning for the motorway in the dark.  Then I stupidly took the wrong turning and went the wrong way up the motorway due to tiredness, I think.  I saw a sign for Preston and off I went, forgetting I was already further north than Preston – doh!  By the time I got home it was about 1am.  The event was a poetry reading to raise money for children in Palestine and Syria, organised by Lizzy Hare.  It was really well attended and I found it very interesting and bought two books – one was an anthology of Palestinian poetry, translated by Scottish poets called ‘A Bird Is Not A Stone’ (what a fantastic title!) and a book by ‘Izzeldin Aubelaish called ‘I Shall Not Hate’.

I travelled to North Wales on Saturday afternoon and stayed with my friend Manon and her husband Dylan.  We went for a lovely chinese buffet on Saturday evening and then on Monday I drove from Manon’s house for about 45 minutes to Cymau to run an all day poetry workshop for a Stanza group there.  The workshop was organised by Robbie Burton and Martin Zarrop and I had a really lovely day with the group – the standard of poetry produced was  really high.  During the workshop we read poems by Ian Duhig, Jane Clarke, Shazea Quirashi, Pascale Petit, Ruby Robinson, Carolyn Jess-Cooke and Vicki Feaver.

On Friday I had a gig with the Soul Survivors at The Nines nightclub in Barrow which was really good fun but again, meant a late night on Friday and then getting up at a reasonable time to get myself organised for the weekend.

To be honest, last week was a bit ridiculous – and it was all my own fault.  On Thursday I decided I wanted to go to Dove Cottage Poets, a monthly poetry group that meets at the Wordsworth Trust, under the direction of Andrew Forster.  I also decided I wanted to take part in the weekly sprint session at the park at 6pm.  So after Dove Cottage Poets, I raced back from Grasmere, got changed and flew out again.    I’d bought tickets to see Germaine Greer at Forum 28 on Thursday night and hadn’t written it in my diary, so had promptly forgotten all about it until I was reminded by my friend.  I was also supposed to be at a soundcheck and rehearsal with the Soul Survivors for Fridays gig.  I decided to compromise, which worked out really well.  I went for the first half of the Germaine Greer event and then ducked out in the interval, rejoicing because after the interval it was question and answer time with the audience, and I’m not sure my temper would have survived that.  I got to the soundcheck about 8.30 as promised.

On Wednesday, my manager came to observe my teaching in the morning.  Then I did the 2nd live chat for the Poetry School for the online course I’m running – that was good fun, but hard work and quite intense.

Which brings us up to date and the exciting news that has been officially announced today – I have a poem on the shortlist for The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.  I’m especially chuffed because it is a poem from the sequence called ‘In That Year’.  I’ve known for a few weeks but haven’t been allowed to say anything.  It was first published in Poetry News and I’m really grateful to The Poetry Society for sending it in to be considered for the prize – I had no idea they had even entered it so it was a wonderful suprise!

Today’s Late Sunday Poem is written by Jane Clarke.  Poems like ‘Inheritance’ by Jane perfectly illustrate why I first thought of the Sunday Poem and thought about blogging.   I wanted somewhere that I could write my excitement when I I read something that I loved.  This is one of those poems – as soon as I read it, I wanted to tell everyone I knew about it.  The repeating line ‘I’d give it all up in a minute’ is really effective and creates a great conversational tone.  I love the assertion ‘I’d give it all up in a minute’.  It’s so ordinary, and yet, we become aware more and more as the poem progresses, of the unreliability of the narrator – will she ever be able to give it up?  The movement throughout the poem is really interesting as well as the narrator starts off saying all of the horrible things that he would not miss but by the end they are beautiful, natural things that he will miss.

I loved the use of the word ‘himself’ as well – kind of fond and disparaging at the same time. It’s a wonderfully short and deceptively simple poem.   Jane Clarke’s first collection is ‘The River’ published by Bloodaxe. This is one of my favourite first collections that I’ve read this year – I think the whole book is really stunning.  I’m falling asleep now, so am going to leave you with some information about Jane before I let her poem take over.

Originally from a farm in the west of Ireland, Jane now lives in Co.Wicklow.  She received the Listowel Writers’ Week Poetry Collection Prize in 2014 for her then unpublished first collection.

If ‘Inheritance’ doesn’t persuade you to go and buy ‘The River’ then you officially have a heart of stone!  I really hope that this book gets on some of the shortlists this year – it certainly deserves to.

Inheritance – Jane Clarke

I’d give it all up in a minute,
every last rock,
stream and sod of it.

They can have the price of sheep,
the grant for the cattle shed
and the bills from the vet.

They can have himself
with his humours and stories
and fear of anything new.

They can have the saplings
planted last spring, the kestrels
nesting in the mill.

I swear I wouldn’t miss a thing,
not one swallow sweeping
through the yard, not the geese

on the callows in March,
not one blade of foxtail
or meadow-grass heavy with dew

Sunday Poem – Louise Karlsen


Evening all!  I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas, what ever you were doing.  I spent the first half of this week finishing off shopping for Christmas presents.  Normally I’m still buying them on Christmas Eve but this year I’d finished by the 23rd which I was exceedingly proud of.  A TK Max store arrived in Barrow this year which was a godsend – I bought most people’s presents there.  The husband got a box of fancy herbal teas – I wouldn’t touch the stuff, but he likes them.  I also bought him a globe which he mentioned he wanted a couple of weeks ago – he loves maps but his other two presents I bought by mistake. I went into a small independent clothes shop in Barrow and picked a T-shirt and then the assistant started offering me a discount if I bought jeans as well so I caved in and just bought them.  I think she must have seen me coming…

My main present from the husband was a satnav.  Not very romantic, but very practical and I’ve been moaning for ages about having to use my phone as a sat nav.  The first Christmas we were together I remember he bought me a Cumbria A-Z map so I could find my way around my schools easily.  And an ice-scraping kit for my car.  I think one of us being practical works well.  And I still have the ice scraper, ten years or so later and it came in most handy this morning when the car was frosted over.

On Tuesday we drove from Barrow to Egremont to my twin sister’s house, a four bedroom bungalow that comes as part of the new job that she has just taken up, managing an animal rescue kennel.  Jody had to stay on site so she didn’t come down to Leicester to my mum and dads so she volunteered to look after my two dogs, along with the three she already has.   Which sounds like a nightmare, but they all get along ok, and my dogs are quite boring really, they usually just sleep a lot.

We stayed at my sisters over night but we didn’t get much sleep – someone had bought a puppy back because it was crying at night.  The puppy was staying in the room next to ours and it didn’t just cry.  It whined, howled, barked and made a variety of other noises.  It also had an upset stomach and at about 2.30am my sister was fetching new bedding and cleaning out the crate it slept in.  I tried to clean the crate out but I couldn’t do it.  My sister just got on with it – maybe she has a stronger stomach than me.  Then it cried for maybe another hour before eventually falling asleep.

At lunchtime the next day we set off for Leicester but we were so tired, not just from the crying puppy, but also from work and weeks of being ill.  I managed to get to the first services on the motorway near Penrith and we pulled over and got something to eat and I felt a bit more awake.  I drove to the next services and had to pull over because I was so tired I felt like I was falling asleep.  The husband drove the next twenty or so miles to the next service and then he had to pull over because he was falling asleep.  Then I drove about fifty miles, missing out one services and stopping at the next one because I was falling asleep again.  At this point we decided to admit defeat and go to sleep for an hour in the car.  After that I managed to drive the rest of the way to Leicester.

Christmas has been great, although it has been weird not being with my twin sister, but it has been nice to see my two older sisters and their families and spend some time with my mum and dad, although the extent of their obsession with their border collie is slightly worrying.  It even has a mat in the kitchen with its name on.  And its crate is upstairs in the third bedroom, so the dog basically has its own room!  I blame my twin for this, as they adopted the dog from her rescue kennel last Christmas.

Yesterday my sister was walking her three dogs and my two dogs and one of my dogs, Miles was attacked by another dog.  The dog was a Patterdale Terrier and its owner had it on a lead.  Apparently Miles was just walking past and the owner allowed his dog to lunge and it locked onto Miles’ throat.  It took ten minutes to get the dog to let go, and the whole time, the man’s four other dogs were running around off lead and out of control and growling at my sisters dogs.

Afterwards he didn’t apologise, just walked off as quickly as he could.  My sister and her husband got Miles to the vets and although there was a lot of blood, the dog had only managed to grip the skin rather than his windpipe so his injuries were fairly superficial.  Poor Miles was in shock though and shaking a lot.

He seems ok now.  I think he’s a bit subdued but the husband thinks I’m imagining it.  I went and bought him a lovely comfy bed today to replace the old, rather thin one, and a new collar to replace the one that is now covered in blood.  I can’t understand why people walk around with dogs unmuzzled that are capable of doing something like that.  Maybe they get off on it, maybe they enjoy seeing their dog hurt another living creature.  In a satisfying twist, the dog bit its owner when he finally managed to get it to let go of Miles.  My sister says this is called redirection and is apparently quite common when splitting up a dog fight.  Redirection or karma – I hope he thinks twice before letting his dog attack another dog.

I would like to say I’m not talking about the usual type of feathers flying when two dogs have a bit of a growl and a dance around each other and show their teeth.  When that happens, it sounds horrible, but both dogs walk away unscathed and I think it’s the equivalent of two humans swearing at each other or having an argument.  This dog was going in for the kill and was locked on.  I’m lucky – in nine years of having Miles nothing like this has ever happened to me.

So that has been on my mind quite a bit today but I know I need to stop thinking about it now.  My lovely sister and husband did the best they could do in a horrible situation – it must have been really scary for them.

Today I’ve finally convinced the husband that he needs to rest after being ill for a week and not resting and he has finally agreed to do as he’s told.  I decided to have a week off running over Christmas because I still didn’t feel right, but this morning I went for a run with the Walney Wind Cheetahs – it was a bit dicey because of the ice but we managed to get round 9km without anybody falling over.  The rest of the day I spent food shopping, making lunch and unpacking, so a fairly chilled out day.

My next post will be, as in previous years, a round up of my year.  For the past two years, I’ve done this in the first week of January, but this year I’m aiming for New Years Eve.

This weeks Sunday Poem is by Louise Karlsen, a lovely poet lady I met at Ilkley Literature Festival.  Louise came to one of my workshops at the festival.  I suspect this was not due to my immense fame as a poet, but more due to the lovely Rachel Davies, who bought a whole host of poets along to my workshop, one of whom was Louise.

One of my favourite poems is ‘A Curse on Heptonstall’ by Ian Duhig which I’ve featured as one of my Sunday Poems before.  It’s a great poem to use in a workshop to break the ice and at Ilkley I asked everybody to write their own curse poem.  We had some great curse poems in the workshop but I really liked this one because of the way Louise has taken on board Ian’s rhyme scheme but made it her own.

In Ian’s poem he repeats the ‘all’ sound at the end of each line until he reaches the punchline at the end.  Louise has used the same sound for every four lines but I think the rhythm, which she controls so well, can be traced back to Ian’s poem.  I think Louise’s rhymes are really clever and funny as well – they don’t seem forced.  I particularly like the rhyme of nectar and spectre!

I also thought it would be great to post this poem up after Christmas.  From where I’m sitting, I can see two selection boxes, a tin of Quality Street, a tin of Heroes and a tin of shortbread biscuits – all Christmas presents.  How much running I’ll have to do to justify eating all of that doesn’t bear thinking about!

Louise, a retired local government art galleries and museums curator and service manager, has developed several historic public buildings and pioneered programmes of contemporary visual art and art interpretation. Collaborating with the hugely successful Bete Noire poetry readings in Hull, Louise brought together the visual arts and literature in the innovatory cross disciplinary programmes of Hull’s award winning Ferens Art Gallery throughout the 1990‘s. A notable guest then was Douglas Dunn, who was married to Louise’s predecessor as Principal Keeper of Art at the Ferens, Lesley Dunn, after whose tragic early death Douglas wrote his now famous “Elegies“.

Louise also sings blues and folk, and once sang both in choirs and semi-professionally as a soloist, but now enjoys writing both poetry and prose in several writers’ groups in the Greater Manchester area. As one of “The Seven Spelks” poetry group she has recently begun to read her work in public and looks forward to further readings with them in the near future.

I hope you enjoy Louise’s poem, and thanks to Louise for letting me host the first publication of this poem!


A Curse – Louise Karlsen
(after Ian Duhig)

A plague on biscuits, wine and cheese
and nuts and savoury things like these
that rob me of my will to slim
and make my future health look grim

Damnation on that last, fast bite
and all those designated light
that stop me in my endless fight
to lose the pounds and put me right

May all that’s fearsome come and fall
upon my cupboards, smash them all
and bury crumpets, jam and honey
trim my waist and save me money

Smash the bottles full of nectar
ferments, brews and make a spectre
of my current massive size
make me sylphlike, thin and wise

Blast these tempters and the gin
curse these foods and help me win
burn the breads and crusts delicious
sear them black and, hags, be vicious

Sunday Poem – Ian Duhig


Evening folks!  Today I told my hubby I ‘need’ to write my blog, so managed to get out of that most awful part of decorating, the tidying up afterwards.  This weekend my mum and dad have been visiting – they brought with them their new border collie puppy Taz, which they adopted from a dog rescue centre.  My parents came up to help us put a new laminate floor down – not only was our old floor eight years old and peeling at the edges, it was peeling in the middle and in fact all over so it needed doing if we wanted to sell the house.  So in our rather small terraced house this weekend was two border terriers (mine), a very grumpy cat (mine), a very energetic 17 week old border collie puppy (the parents’), my parents, me, the hubby and various power tools and bits of flooring and dog cages and dog toys – then my twin sister and her husband turned up with their two terriers – thank god they had decided to buy a camper van on the way so they slept in that last night – their first night in the camper van was spent outside our house in Barrow – so they probably didn’t get much of a scenic view this morning…

So that was my weekend – learning to lay a laminate floor.  You will be glad toknow that since Monday, when I did an eight hour painting stint on my bedroom, I have actually done poetry things, which is, after all what this blog is about.

So this week I have read more Ovid – I’m about 2/3rds of the way through now.  I’ve just read about Pygmalion.  Not much to say about that really, other than ew.  I tried to write a sonnet this week after doing session with Young Writers last week on sonnets.  I would say I’m 2/3rds pleased with it so need to crack on this week and have another go at it.  I went to Grange Library on Thursday to the launch of a poetry anthology by Grey Hen Press – the anthology is called Running Before the Wind’ which is a collection of poems about the sea and our relationship with it.  I enjoyed the reading – particularly Penelope Shuttle’s poem, which was read by local poet Geraldine Green. My only slight criticism was that there are only so many poems I can hear about the sea before I started hearing the same words coming up again and again – which is not to say this was a weakness of the poems, more the fact that the sea has to be a constant thread that runs through the book.    However I think as a book to dip into, it is a wonderful thing.  You can order the book here http://www.greyhenpress.com/books/ On their website it says that Grey Hen Press publish poetry by ‘older women’ – I don’t know what the age is that they consider you as an ‘older woman’ but if you consider yourself as one then they are definitely worth checking out – the production of their books is beautiful.

The other exciting thing that happened to me this week was that Suzanne Vega favourited my tweet!  I was bursting to tell my Dad this momentous news, thinking he would be impressed, but he said he hadn’t heard of her – deeply disappointed.  He also doesn’t really get Twitter, or what favouriting means, but oh well. Anyway, if you click on the link below, you can hear a wonderful interview with her on The Verb and a brilliant new song from her album. And if you keep listening you will hear the lovely Zaffiar Kunial, the new poet in residence at the Wordsworth Trust, talking and reading some poems – after which, I’m sure you will agree, you will decide he is the Real Deal.  You can listen to the episode here http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03s67jw/The_Verb_Suzanne_Vega_Blindsided_Zaffar_Kunial/

And one more exciting thing that happened this week is that my lovely poetry friend John Foggin won 1st prize in the Plough Poetry Competition.  I am really happy for John – because he’s a nice guy and a good poet, but also because he ‘works’ really hard at poetry – he goes to workshops and readings and open mics – and I put work in inverted commas because I know he doesn’t see it as work – he loves poetry and just wants to be around it and around people who love it as much as he does.  So it is lovely that his dedication has been recognised.  John also always comments on everybody else’s poems on this blog in a most generous way, so therefore he is my ‘bestie’ as my pupils would say.  You can read John’s poem and the other prize winning poems here http://www.theploughprize.co.uk/

But onward, onward, onward! A whole hour and a half earlier than last week – here is today’s Sunday Poem by the wonderful poet Ian Duhig, who I’ve wanted to have a poem from for ages, but kept changing my mind about which of his poems I liked best – but then, in the end decided to ask Ian if I could have his ‘A Curse on Heptonstall’ poem.

This poem brings back so many great memories for me – I was on a residential course last summer and Ian was one of the tutors along with Ruth Padel.  I think it was our last workshop when Ian decided we would all write Curse poems and showed us his own Curse poem as well as ‘Little Songs of Malediction’ by Fiona Sampson which are great as well.

I love how this poem has so much personality in it – it is great fun with the repeating rhyme sound at the end of each line and the curses get more and more outrageous and over the top and then it is rounded off nicely at the end with that half rhyme, which gives the impression that the curser after venting his spleen has finally ran out of energy.  I like the knowingness of this poem as well – it is such a rant, it is easy to forget you are reading a poem, but then it reminds you ‘my verse has just begun to stall.’  But it is also very well crafted and some of the lines, whilst full of, well cursing, are actually beautiful – what about ‘May shingles wrap him like a shawl’…Lovely!  Really you have to hear Ian read this poem as well – or at least read it aloud to yourself.

The workshop got completely over the top as well – at one point about half the participants were crying with laughter at each other’s awful curses – someone cursed their mother in law, I cursed the children who have annoyed me over the years – see it sounds harsher than it actually was! Anyway, it was very carthartic – I’ve never laughed so much but it also produced some great poetry.  My Trumpet Teacher’s Curse is going to be in the next Rialto – thinking about it now, I really should have put ‘after Ian Duhig’ underneath the title, but I didn’t – which is quite rude really, as I don’t think I would have written it without that workshop.

So IF my mythical first collection, which has all the physical characteristics of the best mythical creatures, like dragons and unicorns (ie doesn’t exist) ever comes into being, then I will be sure to acknowledge Ian somewhere for the opening of the door into my poem with his own wonderful Curse.

Ian has written six books of poetry, most recently Pandorama (Picador, 2010). He has won a Forward Prize, the National Poetry Competition twice and three times been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. He works extensively with other artists and musicians, supplying text for composer Christopher Fox’s Dark Roads, premiered this April at Tate Britain.  If you would like to order one of Ian’s poetry books, or maybe even two, or three or six, go to the Picador website which is http://www.picador.com/authors/ian-duhig

I hope you enjoy the poem, and thanks to Ian again for letting me use it.

 A Curse on Heptonstall – Ian Duhig

Come all you demons, heed my call
to bless this curse on Heptonstall
where Pilot pens aren’t safe at all
for stuffed with thieves is Heptonstall.
Please, let my couplets never pall
before well-cursed is Heptonstall;
for every ill, I’ll cast a trawl
and dump my catch on Heptonstall;
may all vile things that creep and crawl
repair at once to Heptonstall;
let drunken bears and werewolves brawl
around the streets of Heptonstall
and then may they play basketball
with human heads in Heptonstall
while madness-fits like those of Saul
afflict the folk of Heptonstall;
let every storm and freezing squall
blow in their winds to Heptonstall;
may shite and fire and brimstone fall
on every roof in Heptonstall
while mortar rots from every wall
that holds a roof in Heptonstall.
May shingles wrap him like a shawl
who stole my pen in Heptonstall:
let pus gush like a waterfall
from all his sores in Heptonstall
and each sore bore in like an awl
through his foul flesh in Heptonstall
so all the fool can do is sprawl
and weep and groan in Heptonstall;
I’d hear him scream, I’d hear him bawl
and beg for death in Heptonstall
and set about him with a maul
to break his bones in Heptonstall.
O queue you fiends by Satan’s hall
and catch the bus to Heptonstall –
my verse has just begun to stall,
so take your turn on Heptonstall:
you have the evil wherewithal
to serve them well in Heptonstall,
that cankered Pennine caul
of dandruff, Heptonstall
where pens get stole.

Sunday Poem – Helen Ivory


Evening everybody.  I’ve just got back from my week at Ty Newydd – I stayed at my lovely friend Manon’s house last night.  I had a fantastic week – but it is now 11.48pm and I have twelve minutes to write this blog and get it in before midnight!  The course tutors were Ian Duhig and Ruth Padel.  I’ve been on quite a few residential courses now and Ian and Ruth were two of the hardest working tutors.  Their work rate was relentless, they were available for repeated tutorials with all of the participants.  The other thing that really impressed me on the course was how they sat in on each other’s workshops.  It was obvious that they were really interested in what the other one had to say and were learning from each other, which I think is an excellent example of how learning from other poets doesn’t stop even when you’ve published dozens of books!  I met lots of lovely poets on the course as well – some really talented writers – Tom who was cooking in the kitchen was great – I ate stuffed marrow, chickpeas, porridge and various other concoctions that I hadn’t eaten before so was quite proud of myself.  And more excitingly I wrote some poems!  I’ve got eight rough first drafts – whether they will all survive as poems is anybody’s guess but here’s hoping.  I’m very relieved as I was beginning to wonder if I was going to ever write another poem again!  But I think they have all been bottled  up and waiting for me to have some time to write.  As well as my eight first drafts I also managed to almost finish my play for the show on September 7th – the deadline is now imminent and as soon as I’ve finished writing this I’m going to rewrite the ending and send it through to the director so he has it ready to give to the actors on Monday…and rehearsals start the following Monday!  Which is very exciting.

I’m also playing trumpet in this show – it’s going to be apparently a call and response thing with a norwegian drum..one of my very talented pupils is going to play the other part…

So this is a very short blog post compared to normal – but I’ve had a wonderful week.  Today’s poem is very short, but beautifully formed.  I heard Helen Ivory read a couple of weeks ago at Grasmere and I bought her new collection ‘Waiting for Bluebeard’.  Helen Ivory has had four collections published with Bloodaxe Books and her own website can be found at http://www.helenivory.co.uk

She also edits the online magazine Ink, Sweat and Tears http://www.ink-sweat-and-tears.com/

I really enjoyed the book and particularly the way it is structured.  The poem I’ve chosen comes from a sequence of poems in which Helen gives a voice to inanimate objects.  Again, this has been done a lot in poetry – but I love the way that Helen has brought a fresh take to this subject, largely created by the scaffolding that she has put around the poems with the titles.  The sequence of poems are spaced out throughout the first section of the book.  So there is

What the Moon Said
What the Dark Said
What the Stars Said
What the Cat Said
What the Sea Said
What the Snow Said
What the Bed Said
What the House Said
What the Earth Said

Now if that list of titles doesn’t make you want to go and buy the book….

I’ve asked Helen if I could have the first of these poems ‘What the Moon Said’.  I like how Helen has woven our different concepts of the moon into this poem, from the nursery rhyme of the cow jumping over the moon to space travel.  But the thing that really makes me love the poem is the last image in the final stanza.  If you would like to order ‘Waiting for Bluebeard’ you can get it from http://www.bloodaxebooks.com

I hope you enjoy the poem


What the Moon Said – Helen Ivory

If you send me your jumping cows,
your space rockets
peopled by monkeys and dogs,
I will flatter you with my light.

And if you compose tunes,
I will choreograph
the bodies of the sky
for your delectation.

Cut open your church roof
let me drink milk
from a bowl on your floor.

Sunday Poem – Julie Mellor


It’s back!  The Sunday Poem I mean.  I’m sure there was a bleak hole in your sunday last week when I didn’t post a sunday poem up – for only the second time ever since I started (I think)

I got back from Fermoy Poetry Festival (www.fermoypoetryfestival.com) very late on Wednesday.  So most of Thursday was a write off – I got up, went and picked up a pile of books that I’d ordered that arrived while I was away (felt slightly guilty at picking large pile up – it always seems worse when they all arrive together).  One of the books was ‘Edgelands’ by Michael Symmons Roberts and Paul Farley.  I’m reading this as part of one of the tasks I’m doing for my Writing School course and really enjoying it.  It’s beautifully written, as you would expect from two poets, and I like how it’s grouped into sections of the various things you find in the ‘Edgelands’.  So far I’ve read a section on ‘Cars’, ‘Paths’ and ‘Dens’ and I’m just about to start the next section which is about ‘Containers’.  I’m aware that maybe those headings don’t sound particularly exciting, but they really are interesting and well written.

The two authors went looking for dens built by children – I remember building a den!  They report “even though our forays into fields and waste ground were hardly scientific and exhaustive, we didn’t once find anything we could call an active den.  Still, it’s possibly all still going on, somewhere out of sight of prying adult eyes…”

After I went and picked my books up, I then went up to Calderdale Bridge to pick the dogs up from the dogsitters.  I am pleased to report that they have behaved very well and have not disgraced themselves.  Lola was very pleased to see me, but Miles looked at me with disdain, as if to say ‘Oh.  You again.  You remembered we were here.  How kind.’

Whilst I was away in Ireland, I wrote my first poem in quite a while so Friday was spent typing that up ready for Brewery Poets, a poetry critiquing group that meet at the Brewery in Kendal on the second Friday of each month.   We had a really lovely night – only a small group this month of seven but it meant there was more time to look at people’s work.  I’m quite pleased with my poem but I think I’m going to let it settle in my folder for a while now.

On Saturday I had another meeting at the Theatre By The Lake to talk about the play ‘Cartographers’ which I’m writing part of alongside Ian Hill, another local writer and The Alligator Club.  The play will be set in the woods at the back of the theatre and there will be four ten minute plays.  Three of these the audience will see in a different order, depending on which group they are in, and then all three groups will come together at the end to see the final ten minute play – which will be my bit.

Last night I was motivated enough after the meeting to sit for about three hours and try to get ten minutes worth of material down so I could then start editing and moving things around.  I haven’t looked at it this morning – haven’t got the courage up yet, in case it is rubbish.  I’m enjoying writing it, but there is a time pressure – we are all aiming for our first full ten minute drafts to be sent round by Thursday as there is music still to be added in yet.  The play is being shown in two matinee performances – at 1.30 and 3.30 on September 7th – and you can find more information here http://www.theatrebythelake.com/production/10963/Cartographers

The other thing I have to get started this week is a commission – my first paid commission!  I don’t know if I’m allowed to say too much yet, but I’m off to Lancaster today to do some research – again the deadline for this is September 1st – so everything is feeling a bit tight this summer.

It doesn’t help that I’m off to Ty Newydd on a weeks residential writing course on the 19th August.  I’m really looking forward to this – the tutors are the wonderful Ian Duhig and Ruth Padel – but I’d really like to get all the script things and the commission writing done, or nearly done before I go so that I can concentrate on my own poetry whilst I’m there…not that I’m complaining – I am very happy to be busy and sometimes I think – am I really writing a script?  Am I really being paid to write some poems?  and I remember dancing round my living room when I got my first poem published in a magazine – Obsessed With Pipework (http://www.flarestack.co.uk/obsessedwithpipework.htm) and I feel very happy, but then I also start to panic with a crisis of confidence….can I do this? and then I start to babble, as this last paragraph shows…


Which brings us to Sunday and Julie Mellor’s wonderful poem which was supposed to burst onto the blog last Sunday.  Julie Mellor was one of the winners in the 2012 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition, alongside Rosie Sheppard, Suzie Evans and myself.  Julie is a lovely lady and a great poet.  I hope Julie won’t mind me saying this, but I noticed that she was shortlisted lots of times for the pamphlet competition before actually winning.  I think this is a great testament to her – she didn’t get offended or annoyed, she took it on the chin and just kept trying and eventually she won.  A lesser poet would have given up – and maybe that is the difference between being published and not being published – not just talent but sheer bloody minded determination and perseverance.

Julie lives in Penistone and read English at Huddersfield University and has a PhD from Sheffield Hallam.  Her poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Brittle Star, Mslexia, The Rialto and Smiths Knoll.   You can find more information and poems about Julie at Michael Stewart’s blog where there is an interview and review   at http://headspam.poesterous.com/

This is an interesting blog by Suzannah Evans about her residency at Bank Street Arts and Julie has a poem here too.. http://poetrymap.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/white-tiger-julie-mellor/

and another poem here at  Excel for charity at: http://excelforcharity.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/another-story.html

The poem I’ve chosen for the Sunday Poem is from Julie’s Poetry Business pamphlet ‘Breathing through Our Bones’.  I loved this poem straight away – the language is very thick and heavy and rich.  I think it is a masterclass in how to write and closely observe – and each image and metaphor she pushes and pushes at to take it further and further.  One of my favourite lines is ‘Clusters of sorcery, we store the sun’.  I think that is a brilliant line – an unusual image yet completely right for blackberries.  And these blackberries are evil aren’t they?  They have a personality all of their own – I wouldn’t like to meet them down a dark alley…

If you would like to read more of Julie’s poems in an actual book rather than on websites, get yourself over to http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/shop/791/breathing-through-our-bones-julie-mellor and order a copy of her pamphlet!  It’s only a fiver and you will make Julie and her publisher very happy!  I hope you enjoy the poem, and thanks to Julie for letting me post it here.

Blackberries by Julie Mellor

We have darkened like the end of the year,
the knuckled hulls at our core
white as a maggot or a baby’s first tooth.

Clusters of sorcery, we store the sun.
The juice of us is a blue flame.
Even the wary fall for our frumenty smell.

Between children’s fingers we bleed black,
store our vengeance until Michealmas
when the devil unleashes himself in spit

and piss, and we rot like the underside
of hide buried in lime, lose ourselves
in softness, sink back into what we are,

almost fruit, almost tar, resist the creeping nights,
the toll of winter curfew, wait
in our thinned clusters like the eyes of the blind,

until eel worms eat at our ingangs,
hang on to the last, juice thick as oak bark liquor,
seasoned, vile,

then shrivel back to seed,
like the mole on the back of the neck
that marks you for hanging.