Tag Archives: kendal poetry festival

Sunday Poem – Ina Anderson

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Sunday Poem – Ina Anderson

It’s been three weeks since my last blog.  I was under the delusion that it had only been two – time apparently flies when you’re not blogging.  Since my last blog, I’ve done a lot of swimming, which started as replacement activity for running, but I’m now quite enjoying it.  I used to be in a swimming club and swum competitively when I was younger.  When I started playing the cornet, band concerts started to interfere with swimming galas, so I gave up swimming completely.  I’m not sure what age – maybe I was about 13 when I stopped.  Since then, I could probably count on one hand the number of lengths of a pool I’ve actually swam.

As I wrote that, I realise this is a bit of a pattern with me.  I do something obsessively, sometimes for many years, and then when I stop, I stop completely, and it’s like it never happened.  Regular readers of this blog will know I also did this with trumpet playing when I stopped playing completely for about seven years.   However, I seem to be breaking this habit, as I’m now playing again with a soul band (The Soul Survivors) and we do between 1-2 gigs a month, and I’m now swimming twice a week.

I try and do 40 lengths of a 25 metre pool, alternating between breast stroke and front crawl.  I haven’t quite got the hang of doing more than one length of front crawl at a time without feeling like I’m going to drown.  I go with the husband early in the morning – we normally get into the pool by 8am and are done by 8.45am.  I’m convinced the swimming has helped with my IT band/knee injury.  I can feel every muscle stretching as I’m plodding up and down the pool.

In the last week I’ve managed four 4-5k runs at a very steady pace, but it is so good to be back in the outdoors, and with no knee pain! I was supposed to be running the Coniston to Barrow yesterday, but I decided not to in the end.  I think I could probably have walked it, but I know my injury would have flared up again, and then I would probably not be able to run for another five weeks which would have driven me up the wall.  This week, I’m going to try and limit myself to 6k runs, and just try and build up very slowly, and try not to trigger the injury again.

So instead of running the 21 miles between Coniston and Barrow I was in the support team for both the Coniston to Barrow and the Keswick to Barrow team.  Towards the end of the day I ended up dashing about between limping walkers in various states of injury. I had to get some trainers to a walker in my sisters team and I managed to blag a ride on the back of a quad bike to get to them as cars weren’t allowed on the road.  Here’s a shot of me posing on said quad bike.

quadrescue

Last weekend I headed off to Petersfield, or actually East Meon, near Petersfield to run a poetry residential for the South Downs Poetry Festival.  This is my third residential this year, and it actually felt very different as I was only responsible for the tutoring side of things rather than doing all the organising.  It felt much easier to have someone else taking care of that side of things! Hugh Dunkerley was the other tutor, who I hadn’t met before the weekend, but we got on great, which was a big relief! We all stayed in rooms in The Sustainability Centre, and Tim Dawes, the South Downs Poetry Festival Director, cooked for us all weekend, and put up with my raids into the kitchen to get more food.  For some reason I couldn’t stop eating that weekend, maybe it was something to do with the fact that I’d started running again.  There were some lovely participants on the course, and the last night where they all read was as good as any poetry reading I’ve paid to go to.

Other things I’ve been up to – I’ve finished my marking for the unit that I taught at Manchester Met this year, so that feels really good to get that over and done with.  I am doing some cover marking, so I have a meeting next week with the lecturer to go over the marking scheme and then I will have another 20 or so to do.  Pauline Yarwood and I have been getting on with stuff for Kendal Poetry Festival – there are quite a few new blog posts up about the various poets that are coming to the festival – please head over and sign up and then you won’t miss any updates.  At the minute, Hannah Hodgson, our Young Blogger-in-Residence is doing a series of 5 Minute Interviews with the Festival Poets.  So far she has interviewed Chrissy Williams, Kathryn Maris and Katrina Naomi and up next is Pauline and I on the process of putting a festival together – this post will be going live tomorrow.   If you feel like a poetry festival is missing from your life, please consider coming along to Kendal Poetry Festival, 16th-18th June.  Although we are a small festival, there is lots going on and some fabulous poets are reading and giving workshops and leading discussions.  There are also opportunities for you to read your own work at the two Open Mic sessions at the festival.  You can book tickets at The Brewery Arts Centre

I have two pieces of good news – firstly, as some of you may know, Clare Shaw and I have been writing poems back and forward to each other for the last couple of months.  We performed these poems together at the Feminist Poetry Jambouree, an event we put on together in Ulverston.   I’ve absolutely loved working with Clare on these poems, and I’m really pleased that The North  poetry magazine have agreed to publish all six of our poems, in the back and forth format in their next issue.

I’m also relieved that my RD1 has now been passed and signed off for my PhD.  Relieved is a bit of an understatement, as I’d got myself worked up into a bit of a frenzy about it.  I think I found out on Thursday that it had been signed off.   One of my friends thought this meant that I’d passed my PhD! Sadly not, but I have passed through the first doorway. I’m now going to be moved onto a more creative PhD (not sure when) and I’ve got a meeting in a couple of weeks with both my supervisors to discuss the next steps forward.  In the meantime, I’m going to carry on writing poems – if in doubt, write poetry, seems to be the best way forward.

So today’s Sunday Poem is by Ina Anderson.  I organised a launch for Ina to celebrate the publication of her first collection Journey Into Space a few months ago now.  It was lovely to hear Ina read at the launch, alongside Carlisle poet Malcolm Carson.  I’ve really enjoyed the collection – Ina knows how to tell a good story in her poetry, and she has had interesting and exciting experiences in her life to draw on.

The other thing I really enjoyed about the collection is that a lot of the poems are set in Barrow-in-Furness, where Ina lived until she was twelve, and where I live now.  I recognise a lot of the places she talks about, some of the pub names are still the same.  When she was twelve she moved to Kirkby-in-Furness, which is about a 20 minute drive from Barrow.  The biography at the back of her collection says

Her first work was in her father’s tobacconist shop, weighing out snuff that made her sneeze.  Soon she set off to London and joined the staff of the Town Planning Institute as an editorial assistant.  That experience stood her in good stead when she came to the United States, where she worked as a technical editor on several professional journals.  Tired of being a literary janitor, she took to teaching, spending over twenty years at the Community College of Vermont as a faculty member and student advisor, teaching writing, speaking and literature.  Ina’s poems have appeared in several publications, including Poem Town Randolph, Mountain Troubadour, Red Fox Poets and a recent anthology Perhaps It Was the Pie.

The poem I’ve chosen is ‘Turning Back’ which I think is representative of much of Ina’s work.  There is a strong narrative and story-telling arc that drives the poem forward.  The language is colloquial and straightforward, but the poem is full of telling details and images – the precision of the jumper ‘with a little striped front piece’.  I think it is an interesting poem because I feel mixed emotions when I read it – I feel sad for the boyfriend whose ‘grin was wide across his face’, and I also feel relieved that the 17 year old speaker didn’t run away to Gretna Green to get married!  The story is extraordinary – to just jump off the train without saying anything.  I must admit, when I heard Ina read this, I had to go and ask her if it was true, and what had happened next.  Which I won’t divulge here – I will leave you to read the poem and make your own minds up.

I also really love poems that are about significant moments in a life, and this poem is about one of those moments or memories that we carry around for ever, that when we look back, seem lit up, or illuminated, they have stayed with us for so long, when a life is suspended between going one way or another.  Most of the time we don’t know at the time that we are in that moment until it has passed and we’ve made the decision.  Most of the time we don’t realise until we look back, years later.  The magic of this poem, or part of the magic anyway, comes from the fact that the speaker realised that she was in a life-changing moment while it was happening, and then ‘opened the door/and jumped to the platform.’

If you would like to order Ina’s collection, you can order it from her publisher Antrim House Books here or from The Norwich Bookstore in Vermont.  I’m also reliably told that Suttons Bookshop in Ulverston has a few copies, which they can post out, which will probably be cheaper than ordering it from the USA if you’re based in the UK.  Their phone number is 01220 588858 – I couldn’t find a web address!

Thanks to Ina for letting me post her poem here.

Turning Back – Ina Anderson 

My jumper was blue
with a little striped front piece,
the first I knitted all myself.
My case was small
to hide that I had gone.
He wore his tweed suit
like he always did.
He’d got on at Barrow,
and he already had us seats.
No one else but me
got on at Kirkby station.
The carriage was crowded,
full of men laughing together,
all headed for the jobs
up at Dounreay.

He was so nervous and so happy.
His grin was wide across his face.
I knew he had a ring in his pocket.
The ride up there would be a long one,
all the length of the Cumberland coast,
cross the border, through
the lowlands then the highlands.
But first we’d stop at Gretna Green.

I don’t know when my doubt set in.
I knew I loved him,
loved his loving too.
But perhaps it was the look it would bring
to my dad’s sweet face,
and my mum, she’d feel such shame.
Perhaps I thought seventeen
was a bit young too.
Getting close to Whitehaven,
almost an hour on,
I said I’d go to the loo,
and I took my little bag
but not my case.

I took a while in there,
deciding, deciding,
hardest choice I’d ever made.
Just before the train
started out of Whitehaven station,
I opened the door
and jumped to the platform.
Off went the train
with him and my case inside.

I don’t know how long it took him
to see that I had gone.
By then I was across the lines
and hiding in the station.
In half an hour I was
on the next train back.

It was Mum that night
said I was a bit quiet.
It was years until
she and Dad knew.

Kendal Poetry Festival

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Kendal Poetry Festival

I’ve been a bit quiet on here recently – but just wanted to draw your attention to one of the things I’ve been getting on with while I’ve been away.  Last year, Pauline Yarwood and I decided to set up a poetry festival (as you do) from scratch.   Kendal Poetry Festival took place at Abbot Hall Art Gallery and was a great success.  We decided to do it again this year, and we’ve been awarded funding from the Arts Council, the Hadfield Trust and the Sir John Fisher Foundation.

Tickets have been available for a couple of weeks now and sales are going well.  We’ve decided to offer 10% off 5 or more tickets bought before May 6th, so if you’d like to come, and want a bit of a discount, head over to the Kendal Poetry Festival website to have a look at the programme.

Our Festival Dream Team of poets include Jack Mapanje, Hannah Lowe, William Letford, Inua Ellams, Chrissy Williams, Malika Booker, Katrina Naomi, Kathryn Maris, Tim Liardet, Ian Duhig and Linda Gregerson.

I will be writing blogs for the Kendal Poetry Festival website in the run up to the festival, but this year I have a Young Blogger-in-Residence to help me.  Hannah Hodgson will be conducting a series of ‘Five Minutes with….’ interviews with many of our Festival Poets.

The first one, with the lovely Chrissy Williams is already up at the Kendal Poetry Festival blog page.  As well as the short interview, Chrissy has also sent us a poem from her forthcoming Bloodaxe collection Bear.

I hope you enjoy having a look around!

 

Sunday Poem – Catherine Ayres

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Sunday Poem – Catherine Ayres

A late-night instalment of the blog as I’ve spent the whole day walking round the Kentmere Horseshoe in the mist and rain with two friends and the husband.  I decided last weekend, after an enjoyable hiking session up Seatallan with blue skies and views for miles that I wanted to do all of the Wainwright walks.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, when I was sat in the pub, eating a burger and chips and quaffing lager (followed by tea of course).   The husband took my vaguely expressed wish very seriously, and suggested the route today which would include eight Wainwright hills.

I often seem to be writing this blog in physical discomfort – it seems to be a habit I’ve gotten in to on Sundays.  My feet are killing and my legs are aching, and climbing up the stairs is a slow and arduous process tonight! The walk today was about 25 kilometres, with 4000 feet of ascent.  We actually did nine Wainwright peaks, as the husband decided he would just ‘take in’ another one.  I should add he only told us about this decision when we were halfway up the extra hill and it was too late to turn back.  It was a lovely walk though, despite there being no views at all as there was so much mist and fog.

I’ve spent the whole of this week cracking on with my marking for my university teaching.  Having avoided doing any marking for the best part of 13 years, I feel like I’m paying my dues now.  I’m not sure if it is just because it is something new, but I’ve actually really enjoyed marking the essays.  To be fair, I only had about 35 to do, and maybe if I’d had many more it would have felt a bit more like hard work.

When I’ve not been marking, I’ve been working on the blasted RD1 form.  I sent it to a few friends who gave me some good feedback on it, and yesterday I sat down and read through their suggestions.  I’ve been regularly getting overwhelmed with the RD1 and yesterday was no exception.  However, once I’d worked out that I needed to just slow down, calm down, and work through each suggestion one at a time, I think I made progress – enough progress in fact that I could justify spending today out on the fells.

Pauline Yarwood and I had our final marathon session last Tuesday to finish off our Arts Council bid for Kendal Poetry Festival.  We managed to get it sent off and now we are waiting with slightly frayed nerves to hear if we will get the funding we need.  We did get some amazing news today though – Kendal Poetry Festival is a finalist in the Cumbria Life Cultural Awards for ‘Festival of the Year’.  The award ceremony and the results will be announced February 3rd at The Theatre By The Lake in Keswick.  I’m really pleased that the festival has been selected as a finalist – I don’t know what the likelihood of winning is, but it will be a nice night out anyway.

I’ve also been working on preparations for the residential courses I’m running in the next couple of months.  The February residential with David Tait as my co-tutor down in St Ives is now sold out, but there are still places available on the April Residential in Grange-Over-Sands.  The original price for the week was £448, but as there are now only non en-suite rooms left, this has been reduced down to £396.  There are only three double rooms left, a few twins and a few singles, so if you’d like to come and want a double room, I would urge you to book as soon as possible.  You can ring the hotel on 015395 32896 and pay a small deposit to secure your room, so you don’t have to worry about paying the whole amount now.

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Catherine Ayres and comes from her first collection Amazon, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.  Catherine sent me her first collection a few months ago and it has been sitting on my ever-growing pile of books to read.  I sat down with it at the beginning of this week and read it cover to cover.  I found the whole collection very moving.  The book explores the experience of surviving breast cancer – but it is much more than this.  She writes movingly about the body, and what is left when the body is altered.  She writes about relationships and loneliness and emptiness – but this isn’t to say that the book is depressing because it isn’t.  There are moments of sadness and grief, but there is a lightness of touch to many of the poems in the collection.

One of my favourites was ‘How to get rid of elephants’ which unpacks and explores the cliche of ‘an elephant in the room’ as something not said.  This is a poem that is both heavy with sadness, yet light because of its emotional honesty and clear-eyed way of looking at things.  The elephant in the room, the things that are unsaid turn out to be

‘You Will Never See Me Naked Again
I Want To Disappear
We Still Haven’t Talked About What Happened’

There is something frightening in the directness of stating these things, and yet incredibly liberating.

The poem I’ve chosen to talk about is ‘Silence’.  It’s hard to pick out poems from this collection because although they stand on their own, I also think the poems gain momentum from being read one after the other.  However, it was this poem that made me stop reading for a minute and take a breath.

The first line is very shocking.  When I read this the first time, and this is a bit of a weird leap I know, but it reminded me of working in a men’s prison, and one of the men telling me that when I shook his hand it was the first time he’d been touched by another human being in weeks.  I know this has nothing to do with the poem in content, but that sadness about touch, or that yearning towards it is maybe what made it come into my mind.

The third stanza with the scar as a cage is beautifully expressed.  It gives both the image of the scar as the bars on a cage, but also the scar as a cage, as something that is trapping the spirit of a person inside.

The use of the question in the fourth stanza is very moving.  Here the scar has moved from a cage to a closed mouth.  Again, I find that image so striking.  If the scar is a closed mouth, then the woman must speak through the scar.  Even if she manages to speak, it will be muted.

As so often in this collection, there is some light in the poem towards the end.  The woman in the poem ‘unpicks in silence’ and the image of the rain coming at the end is a welcome noise in this poem which has been full of silence, not just the speaker, but also the lover in stanza 2 who ‘said nothing’.

There is also something very interesting going on with this poem in its shift in tone towards the end.  It starts in the first person with ‘my breast’ and ‘My lover’ until that question, which is for me the pivot and the emotional centre of the poem.  How is this achieved, when it is at this point that the poem shifts perspective? I think it is precisely because that ‘I’ voice, that first person speaker is lost in this stanza, she is silenced.  In Stanza 3 she is in the cage, and in Stanza 4, the authorial voice, or a voice from outside has taken over to tell the story.

If you would like to order Amazon you can do so from Indigo Dreams Publishing.  Catherine Ayres is a teacher who lives and works in Northumberland. In 2015 she came third in the Hippocrates Poetry Competition and in 2016 she won the Elbow Room Poetry Prize with ‘Silence’. Her debut collection, ‘Amazon’, was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing in December 2016.

Here is her wonderful poem ‘Silence’ – hope you enjoy it.

Silence – Catherine Ayres

The last man to touch my breast held a knife.

My lover said nothing;
his eyes told me to wear a vest

Sometimes I spread my hand over the scar
to feel its cage

How does a woman speak
with a closed mouth on her chest?

She unpicks in silence

until the rain comes
like burst stitches on the glass

Sunday Poem – John Mills

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Sunday Poem – John Mills

Another week with no medical disaster, trauma or mishap so I think I am out of the woods.  Before my operation, I would work until at least midnight, writing or catching up with admin.  Since the hospital though, I’ve been going to bed at the latest by 10pm and getting up at about 8am.  I’m used to functioning on 6-7 hours sleep a night, so it feels very strange to be needing 10 hours sleep, just to get by on the minimal activities I’m doing at the minute.  I’m trying to accept it as part of the healing process.  I keep telling myself my body is still getting back to normal, readjusting after the shock of being cut open, poked,prodded and stitched back together again, and the rational part of my mind knows and understands this.  But the non-rational part of my mind is having a panic attack about all of the stuff that I’m not getting done on time.  People have been very understanding so far though, so I know I need to chill out a little bit.

Next Thursday 15th December I’m giving a lecture at the final Kava Poetry series.  I read for Kava earlier on this year with a terrible cold – in fact I didn’t read very much because I started coughing terribly, and in the end my friend Keith had to do the reading for me.  Kava is unique because as well as having a poet who reads their own work, there is also another invited poet who is asked to give a lecture on a topic of their choosing.  The series is run by Anthony Costello, and next week is the final one, which is sad, but I’m also looking forward to being there at the final Kava and seeing Anthony get some appreciation and recognition from the regular audience members.

This was one of my deadlines that went whizzing past – Anthony prints the guest poet’s lecture in a small pamphlet, and understandably asked for the lecture to be sent to him by the week before.  I was a day late – eventually sending it on Friday afternoon.  Anthony was very understanding but I did feel bad, as it can’t be easy organising an event, and printing a booklet out each time as well!

As most of you will know, the only thing I’ve had in my head for the past three months is my PhD, and feminism and poetry, so I decided to write my lecture around this.  I actually really enjoyed writing it and I’m looking forward to Thursday – not feeling too nervous at the minute.

This week I’ve also had a committee meeting for A Poem and a Pint and I have a list of poets to invite to Cumbria in 2017.  This is one of my outstanding jobs that I didn’t manage to get on with this week.  I also managed to make it to Manchester on Tuesday to meet two fellow PhD students, both at differing stages of the PhD.  It was both reassuring and inspiring to hear their thoughts and advice.  Rachel Davies writes a blog about her experience of the PhD – in fact, reading her blog was one of the main reasons why I decided to apply – it helped me to realise that doing a PhD could be for ‘people like me’ as well.  If you are thinking of doing a PhD, I would recommend reading Rachel’s blog – it’s really fascinating.  Rachel Mann, the other student that I met, is coming towards the end of her PhD.  Rachel is pretty amazing at being able to pull academic theories out of the air to illustrate a point – my ambition is to be able to talk like that about my PhD in three years time!

Seeing other people do things first is very important for me.  When I look back at all the big decisions I’ve made, they’ve always been foreshadowed by someone close to me making the leap first.  David Tait winning the 2011 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition made me determined to have a go the next year.  My friend J left her job with the music service to take up a new position elsewhere, and my sister left her job with the music service to go and be the manager at Animal Concern in Egremont.  Seeing them both go and do something they believed in gave me the confidence to go part time as a teacher the year after.  Rachel Davies doing a PhD – I read her blog for a year and finally worked up the courage to have a go.  I’m not sure if this is creepy, or just well thought out! Maybe my next ambition should be to do something without anyone doing it first – to inspire myself to make a leap into new territory.  Or maybe this is the way that everybody moves on, and if I asked all of those people, a chain of other people that they have learnt from and been inspired by would unfold, further and further back into time.

This week I’ve also managed to get along to two poetry groups – Barrow Writers and Brewery Poets, and I even had two different poems to take along to be critiqued.  I’m supposed to be concentrating on the RD1 and not worrying too much about writing poetry this term, but I can’t seem to stop.  It’s because I’m reading a lot – even reading academic books seems to make me write.  I’m not complaining though!

Last Wednesday I ran what is probably going to be a bi-monthly event at Natterjacks, a late night cafe in Ulverston.  It was a wonderful event – I think we had 19 on the open mic, but everybody was well behaved and didn’t read for too long, so we managed to finish at a reasonable hour.  In the second half, it’s time for ‘Hunger Games Open Mic’ which if you haven’t experienced it before, it is my invention to get over the natural humbleness and deference of some poets.  Basically, who ever gets up and gets to the front first reads a poem and then sits down and somebody else charges up.  It’s great fun – and we have even evolved a system of ‘runners’ for those who don’t feel able to leap up and fight their way through to the front.

My other meeting this week was with Pauline Yarwood to hash out the finer details about Kendal Poetry Festival.  I’m getting so excited about the festival already – last year I think I just felt stressed about the amount of work – this year, I know what the reward will be for the stress, which more than makes up for the hours spent applying for funding and carrying out admin.  We’re meeting next week to start our Arts Council bid so wish us luck!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by John Mills, who I met at Swindon Poetry Festival a few months ago.  John came to one of my workshops, then read a poem on the Open Mic that made me cry.  I’ve just finished reading his pamphlet Scarred which I’ve really enjoyed.  He writes about a wide range of subjects – running, depression, illness, war, family and the poems cycle through a range of emotions.  Some of them made me smile or laugh out loud, and some were very poignant.

John was born in Stoke in 1952 and spent his working life teaching English and playing sport and music.  He is very modest, and didn’t say much more than that about himself, but he has some lovely quotes on the back of his pamphlet – Helen Mort says his poetry is ‘Compassionate, bold and generous’ and Roger Elkin says that his poetry is ‘what all good poetry should aspire to!’ So there you go!

I’ve chosen ‘Anno Domini’ to feature from John’s pamphlet.  This is the last poem in the pamphlet.  I had to google Anno Domini of course, having no Latin at all.  Google tells me it means ‘advancing age’.  This poem is clearly written by someone who loves language and playing around with words.  I really like the ‘shilly shallying’ on the second line! I think it’s the first time I’ve read a poem with those words in.  I like that this poem seems to be about finding out what you really want to do – instead of what you think you ought to, or what is easiest – a subject close to my own heart!

The poem has a lovely, passing reference to the poem ‘Warning‘ by Jenny Joseph, with it’s famous first line ‘When I am old I shall wear purple’, in the second stanza with its ‘Let’s see./I have worn a purple shirt’ lines.  Although this poem isn’t about quite the same thing – the speaker in ‘Warning’ wants to do what she wants, to be outrageous, to not care what people think.  The speaker of this poem is tired of the middle road, of neither ‘being one thing or the other.’

The character of the speaker is wonderfully captured in these lines – I love how his thinking gradually unfolds.  It was this stanza which made me laugh out loud – it was the line ‘having been a boy’ that did it.  There is also something poignant and uncomfortable though about having to wait for advancing age until you can do what you want – although the poem is funny, there is an undercurrent of uneasiness for me when I read it.  It forces the reader to take a look at their own life, and their own desires, but it does this without preaching or hectoring – it has a very light touch.

I also really love the punchline at the end – the spending of the ‘inheritance’, which with one deft touch brings in the extra characters of the children, and again made me laugh with the surprise of it.

If you would like to order John’s pamphlet, you can find him on Facebook – send him a message, and he will post a signed copy out for the princely copy of £4 which is a bargain – the pamphlet really is a good read.

Thanks to John for letting me use his poem this week!

 

Anno Domini – John Mills

I am through with this
ambivalent shilly shallying,
this messy abrogation of responsibility
and settlement, for what I neither like
nor hate.
No more of this
piggy in the middle,
jolly sailing through life without
being one thing or the other.

It is time to step out!
To be my own man!
Let’s see.
I have worn a purple shirt
and having been a boy,
I am a very competent spitter.
So far so good.

I can do better than this.
I shall refuse to be the milch cow.
I’ll move away and see
the views I want to see.
Shatter the shackles of responsibility,
shun the pills given to combat
the bones and marrows of outrageous mis-fortune
and ease the cork out of a potion of my own
as I work my way through their inheritance.

Sunday Poem – Jill Munro

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The end of my second week of living alone and the strain is starting to show! How do people with children do this? It has been hard work keeping up with teaching, and my freelance writing work, and walking the dogs, and trying to keep the house reasonably tidy, and remembering to get milk. We have a pretty good system usually, where if one of us is busy, the other one picks up the slack, and cooks dinner and goes to the supermarket etc, which works great, except when one person swans off on holiday.

Also, I have another complaint.  The birds are costing me a fortune.  I have two feeders and I put four fat balls in each one and they are getting through all eight in one day.  How is this possible? The largest birds we have are crows, but mostly starlings, sparrows and blackbirds.  Do I need to get a different type of feeder?  When I put seeds out they turn their nose up at them.  This is the kind of thing I’m having to deal with because Mr A isn’t here.

I am feeling a little hard done by this week, and a bit fed up of working.  I need a holiday, which is lucky as I have one booked for August with some friends from my running club.  This week I’ve had rehearsals, readings, meetings, concerts and a mountain of admin to catch up with.

On Monday I  met with Pauline and staff from Abbot Hall Art Gallery to finalise arrangements for Kendal Poetry Festival  which is happening next weekend. As I wrote that, my stomach did a little flip – I still can’t believe it’s actually happening, and that many of the events have sold out.  I thought that this first year would be relatively quiet, and that we would have to build our audience numbers up – but the demand for tickets has been completely unexpected.

I played trumpet for a amateur performance of Annie this weekend – one performance on Friday night, and then a Saturday matinee and a Saturday evening performance.  I really enjoyed doing this type of playing, in fact, I played in my first paid gig with my trumpet teacher when I was 17 and it was this that made me want to be a musician and a trumpet teacher.  It feels like I’d forgotten in the years since then, how much I enjoyed it.

On Thursday I drove to Stockport Library to do penultimate Read Regional reading.  Lovely poet Linda Goulden was there and has passed on some gardening books which I’m determined to read.  At the minute I just dig a hole, put the plant in and see if it dies, but I really think I need to do some research and refine my technique a little.

Anyway, I was slightly alarmed to see there were only four people at the reading, plus the two librarians.  Apparently a group from a charity were supposed to come, but they didn’t arrive.  I did find out afterwards that there was a car crash on the main road, and someone else who was supposed to come got stuck behind this, and by the time it was cleared away, it wasn’t worth coming, so maybe the same thing happened to the group.

It actually ended up being a really lovely afternoon.  I read my poetry, but we also talked and laughed and discussed poetry and writing.  Looking back now, I feel very privileged to have been part of it.  After that, I drove over to Manchester and met my cousin V for something to eat.  I haven’t seen her for ages.  We went for food and two hours just flew by while we were catching up.  I went to run the second session of my course for The Poetry School.  The workshop is two hours long, and again, the time went so quickly.

I finally got home at about midnight and crawled into bed.  The next morning my lovely friend The Duchess came round to supervise my judging of the Active Cumbria School Poetry Competition. 500 entries, three chocolate croissants and four cups of tea later, we had a winner for each Key Stage.

On Saturday I decided I was going to have a go at beating my time at Park Run and I managed it – 20 seconds off my best time, taking me down to 22.05.  So my next target is sub 22.  I know, I know some of you (Martin Copley for example) are not interested in the slightest in my running.  Maybe lots of you actually.  But I can’t help it! I was very pleased with myself this weekend, especially as I’ve been really struggling with my running during the heat that we’ve had the last couple of weeks.

Another very good thing that has happened this week is that five of the places for the Poetry Carousel in August have gone, so just over half the rooms have gone.  If you’ve been thinking about coming and have any questions, just get in touch.  I heard this week that Jill Abram had a poem accepted in The Rialto that she wrote during last year’s Carousel, and Rachel Davies wrote a poem during the week that subsequently was placed third in a competition.  So there you go! Although, sadly I won’t be able to give your money back if the poems you write during the course don’t get published in The Rialto, or placed in a competition.

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Jill Munro.  Jill was one of the participants of the online poetry course that I ran recently for The Poetry School.  Jill won the Fair Acre Press Pamphlet Competition in 2015, which resulted in the publication of her latest pamphlet  The Quilted Multiverse in April 2016. She has poems published or forthcoming in magazines including Orbis, Prole, Ink, Sweat and Tears, South Magazine, Poetry News and The Frogmore Papers.  She’s been long-listed three times for the National Poetry Competition and her first collection Man from La Paz was published in 2015 by Green Bottle Press.

I’ve chosen the title poem from Jill’s latest pamphlet for the Sunday Poem today.

The Quilted Multiverse
Jill Munro

When the train stalls to a slow graunch

along the track, the patchwork quilt

of urban Edens comes into view,

sewn and framed in creosote, barbed

wire, laurel bush or red stock bricks.

 

I spot the garden trimmed orange

in Sainsbury’s bags stuffed

with papier-mache magazines.

Next door the whirly-gig whizzes

on air rounds, fixing smells of last night’s

 

still smoking bonfire into hardening towels.

And there’s the holey tennis net

looping low, once taut and high,

abandoned rackets on the lawn –

the kids gone in for tea or good.

 

And then it comes – a glimpse of backyard

heaven – a huge brilliant blue trampoline

stretching to square boundaries, where

a floral-aproned grandma is bouncing high,

lighter, dreaming of another universe.

I’ve really enjoyed reading the pamphlet, but when I got to this poem, I burst out laughing.  The image of the grandma bouncing on the trampoline is so startling, especially after all the kind of worn out scenery that has been described so far – the tennis net ‘looping low’ and the garden stuffed with Sainsbury’s carrier bags.  One of my favourite things to do on a train is to look into the back gardens of people’s houses so i can identify with this poem, although sadly I’ve never seen a trampolining grandma!

There is also a fantastic poem about Virginia Woolf and a beautiful poem called The Red Scarf in the pamphlet and I was really pleased to see that the poem ‘The Court Verbatim Shorthand Reporter’ which Jill wrote during the ‘What Work Is’ course has made it into the pamphlet!

Well, it has gone midnight here, so I shall sign off now.  Before I go though, I’d like to direct your attention to the Fair Acre Press website, where you can read Jonathan Edwards report on Jill’s book.  If you would like to order a copy of Jill’s fabulous collection, you can do so by heading over to Fair Acre Press.   If you would like to find out more about Jill, you can check out her profile on the Poetry PF website.

Clare Shaw at Kendal Poetry Festival — Kendal Poetry Festival

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When we applied for Arts Council funding last year, our venue, the Abbot Hall Art Gallery had a small cafe on site. However, Kendal suffered terribly in the floods, and the cafe at Abbot Hall is now unusable. Pauline and I have been working hard to research alternative arrangements for food and Blackwells have come […]

via Clare Shaw at Kendal Poetry Festival — Kendal Poetry Festival

Sunday Poem – Meg Cox

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Sunday Poem – Meg Cox

I can’t believe it is already the end of the first week of the Easter Holidays.  I’m feeling much better than I was feeling last Sunday which is a relief.  The last week has been a busy one, leaving me wondering how I fit my two days teaching in.

On Monday my twin sister came down.  Last time I saw her she had green hair.  This week she has purple hair – who knows what it will be next week! She was taking a well deserved break from the animal rescue centre which she manages.  I made Beef Bourgignon for Jody and her husband Matt and didn’t poison them.  Or at least I haven’t heard that I have so far.

I had a Kendal Poetry Festival meeting on Tuesday  with Pauline Yarwood and the website designer Claire, which took a good part of the day – mainly discussing website and social media.  I managed to make some sweet potato and carrot soup in my slow cooker and again, didn’t poison any of my guests so was quite pleased with myself.

On Wednesday I had another poetry visitor – the lovely Clare Shaw, who was holidaying in the Lake District and came by to work on a proposal we are putting together for a project.  By this point, I’d exhausted my culinary skills and couldn’t face the thought of cooking again, so it was a great excuse to go to my favourite Thai takeaway.

My writing life has been busy this week as well.  I found out that I’ve got an interview next Tuesday for something that I’ve applied for, that I really want to do.  I’ve not had many interviews – I can probably count the amount of interviews I’ve had on one hand in fact, and I wouldn’t say I’m brilliant at them, so I’m quite nervous.  I do feel different about this one though, more determined not to let it pass me by, so I’m hoping this will be enough to get me through it successfully.

On Thursday I went to Methley in  Leeds and read to a book group. I met the lovely poet Linda France who did an ‘Exploring Poetry’ session with the group before I arrived there.  She had obviously done a good job because the group were very receptive, despite many of them saying they’d never been to a poetry reading before.  I sold 3 books that night and drove back home, getting back  around 1am.

On Friday I ran a Dove Cottage Young Poets session in Kendal and then drove over to Lancaster for the North-West Literary Salon, a reading series set up by Yvonne Battle-Felton and Naomi Kruger during their time at Lancaster University as PhD students.  I stupidly got the time wrong, assuming it started at 7.30pm instead of 7pm.  Luckily a friend rang at 7pm to see where I was (stuck on Lancaster’s one way system) and I dumped the car in a side street and ran about half a mile through town, lade down with books.  I eventually arrived at about 7.2opm.   Yvonne and Naomi were very kind and forgiving about it and had taken my late arrival in their stride, inviting the audience to eat first instead of later, so everybody seemed pretty happy when I got there.

The event had apparently sold out and sells out every month. I was reading with Deborah Andrews, a novelist based in Lancaster.  I really enjoyed the extracts from her novel, which is out next month and will definitely buy a copy once it is published.  It was interesting reading with a novelist as well – I’ve never done this before, but I connected with some of the themes that Deborah is exploring in her novel. I went for a drink in the pub afterwards, reasoning that Lancaster practically feels round the corner from Barrow (1 hour and 15 minutes away) after my three and a half hour drive to Leeds the night before.

Yesterday I ran my Barrow Poetry Workshop.  17 people this month – and two cancelled because of sickness so it is starting to get busy.  I like the beginning of the day, before the workshop starts, when everyone is talking and getting cups of tea and spilling sugar and catching up on the news.  I obviously like the rest of the day as well, but the beginning, before anybody has written a word, always seems so full with possibilities.

The quality of the work produced was excellent as usual.  I even did a little bit of writing during the workshop and felt motivated enough to do some more quite late last night.  I typed two new poems up from my notebook.  I haven’t looked at them again yet – I like to leave them in my folder now for a couple of days without looking at them so that they feel new when I come back to them.

As well as whizzing about between Kendal, Leeds and Lancaster I’ve also done quite a bit of running this week – my target is to try and run 40 kilometres each week, which I have managed (40.6 this week). I’ve been for a 13km run this morning which I really enjoyed, then got back, walked the dogs and then sat and obsessed about my interview.

Plans for next week include more Kendal Poetry Festival meetings, meeting a friend I haven’t seen for ages, the last Poetry School chat for my online course ‘What Work Is’, Brewery Poets meeting, a Barrow Shipyard Junior Band concert and A Poem and a Pint with the wonderful Liz Berry as our guest poet.

Today’s Sunday Poem is actually two Sunday Poems.  Although I usually stick to my strict rule of only picking one poem, I figured I could get away with it this week because Meg’s poems are quite short, and usually very funny.  I met Meg for the first time in February down in St Ives on the residential course I ran with Steve Ely.

On the last night of the course, when the participants read their own poems, Meg had the room in stitches with her poetry – not just the words but the dry delivery as well.  I went and bought her pamphlet straight away because I enjoyed the reading so much.

Both of these poems come from Meg’s pamphlet ‘Looking Over My Shoulder at Sodom’ published by Grey Hen Press and available to buy for a very reasonable £4.  The first poem I’ve chosen ‘The Best Medicine’ is one Meg read on the course.   I love the description of the mother shouting up the stairs to get the two children to go to sleep, to stop laughing, maybe because this is something my twin sister and I used to do- try to make each other laugh instead of going to sleep.  There is something wonderfully ridiculous in the mother’s shout towards the children to ‘Stop laughing now’.

The second poem is in a different tone altogether, much more reflective and quiet but it still has the sharp observation and unusual way of looking at things that many of the poems in this pamphlet have.  It is a beautifully optimistic poem – optimistic about poetry and continuity.  The children are surprisingly vivid with that line ‘bare legged in the rain.’
A new website has sprung up, developed by Robert Peake called ‘Poet Tips‘.  The ‘About’ page of the website says:

“Poet Tips is a website for recommending poets. By collecting “tips” about poets that are similar, we create an interface to information about poetry online—a kind of poet-wide web to browse and make discoveries. The goal is to help you find a new favourite poet to read, much like a trusted and knowledgeable friend.”

Anyone can add a poet – so if I look up myself it says ‘If you like Kim Moore you might also like David Tait, Clare Shaw, Helen Mort, John Foggin’ etc etc.  One poet who I think is a little like Meg Cox in the sense of a dry humour running through both of their poetry, is the late poet Graham Austin, published by HappenStance.  I’m going to try and add a Sunday Poet to the Poet Tips website each week, just for fun.  You can also vote on the Poet Tips and say whether you agree with them or not! It’s an interesting website or a brilliant distraction, depending on how you look at it!

Anyway, here are Meg’s poems.  I hope you enjoy them!

THE BEST MEDICINE
BY MEG COX 

It must be genetic
that just lying on our backs
made me and my brother laugh.
When we had adjoining bedrooms
our mother would shout up the stairs
stop reading now and go to sleep.
Later she would shout again
Stop laughing now.

Adult, I went to yoga classes
and at the end we had to lie
on our backs on our mats and relax
doing yogic breathing, but before long
I was asked to leave before that part –
disruptive to meditation.

Come to think of it
lying on my back laughing
has caused me quite a bit of trouble
in the past.

 

WAITING FOR THE BUS

Perhaps my dogs

that sit at the gate
every morning and bark

will live again
some years from now
in a poem by one of those children
who this morning waits
opposite my field gate
for the school bus

bare legged in the rain.

Kendal Poetry Festival

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Kendal Poetry Festival

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you will, by now, know that the website for Kendal Poetry Festival has finally gone live!  You can find us at http://www.kendalpoetryfestival.co.uk.  The festival will take place from the 24th-26th June 2016, at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal.

The full programme is now up.  Over the weekend we have two open mics, four main readings, three discussions about poetry and two workshops.  There are a few free events as well, all taking place in the beautiful surroundings of Abbot Hall Art Gallery.

Please head over to the website and have a look at the programme – we have some fantastic poets reading at the festival.  This has been the culmination of about a years worth of planning between myself and Pauline Yarwood, the co-director of the festival.

We found out in January that we’d got funding to go ahead with the festival, so it has been pretty hectic trying to pull the website and marketing together since then, so the website finally being live and kicking is a massive milestone for us.

We’ve got our wonderful poets for the programme, we’ve got a beautiful venue.   We’ve got a limited number of weekend passes at only £33 which will get you in to all the readings and discussions at the festival.  All we need now is an audience to make the festival a success.  We haven’t got a huge marketing budget, just enough to build a website and print our brochures.  We’ve got our Twitter account (@KendalPoetry) and the Facebook group but what we are really relying on is word of mouth, and the support of the poetry community.

The cuts to the Wordsworth Trust Contemporary Literature Programme hit writers in Cumbria hard.  This will be the first summer that we don’t all head up to Grasmere on a Tuesday evening to hear poets read.  The loss of the programme has left a huge hole, and in all honesty, a weekend festival can’t fill that summer long gap.

However, on a personal level, the loss of the readings at the trust galvanised me into action, to stop talking about running a festival, and actually go and do it.  It was a happy coincidence that I bumped into Pauline Yarwood and we got talking at Brewery Poets one week and I discoverd that Pauline  had already been making enquiries about running a poetry festival in Kendal.   I hope we can go back to the Arts Council next year and show them something astounding – audience figures much larger than what we predicted, and a festival that needs to become a yearly fixture in the calendar.

Kendal has been devastated by the floods recently.  In January, we didn’t have a venue, as much of the gallery was under water.  Coming to Kendal Poetry Festival will not only support poetry and writers in a rural county, which can feel quite isolated at times, it will also support the local community of businesses and cafes who have been flooded sometimes two or three times in as many months.

Finally, I hope you consider coming to the festival because there is something on the programme that inspires you, something that makes you want to travel from where ever you live to sit in a room and listen to poetry.

Sunday Poem – Mona Arshi

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It feels strange to be back blogging again after my slightly unplanned month off.  True to form, I have left it until the last minute, and I doubt very much whether this will be up before midnight, as it is nearly 11.30pm now.  This week has been great because it has been busy, but just a normal level of busy, not a ridiculous, if one thing goes wrong it will push me over the edge kind of busy.

On Monday we had a meeting with the website designer for Kendal Poetry Festival.  We now have a logo and a design for the website, which is being finished off as I write and we have written all of the content that is going on the website.  It should go live either next week or the week after, but if you’d like to have a look at the logo, we now have a Twitter account @KendalPoetry and a Facebook account.  Please follow us on Twitter or ‘like’ our page on Facebook if you haven’t done so already.

I went to South Shields on Friday, to do my first Read Regional event for a writing group at South Shields library.  I sold four books, which is nice, and they were a lovely group.  I then drove back over to Cumbria and hung arond Carlisle for a bit, as I was performing at the Picture the Poet exhibition, alongside Dove Cottage Young Poets and various other poets, including Ian McMillan.

The young poets were fantastic – I knew they would be good, but they were even better than I thought they would be, if that makes sense.  Ian McMillan made me laugh so much that my face started to ache.

On Saturday I ran my monthly Barrow Poetry Workshop.  It was a lovely group that took part, a few new faces, but lots of people returning.  The next workshop is April 2nd at Ormsgill Primary School, if anybody is interested!

Today I went for a 12k run in the morning.  In the afternoon, I edited a poem and then entered two other poems into the Basil Bunting competition, trying to think of it as being like a lottery.  In the evening, I had a band call or rehearsal for a show that I’m playing in next week.  I enjoyed the rehearsal – I haven’t played in a show for so long and I’ve forgotten how much I used to love it.

I’ve done a bit of writing this week as well, which always makes me happy!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Mona Arshi, winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.  I’ve been meaning to ask Mona for a poem for the blog for ages, ever since I met her last year at the prize giving for the Forwards in London.  The poem comes from her first collection Small Hands, published by Pavilion Poetry.

I love the mix of humour, desperation and darkness in this.  I like that it is slightly surreal and completely dramatic.  It reminds me of Kathryn Maris’s poem ‘Darling Would You Please Pick Up Those Books‘ which is one of my favourite poems, and luckily for you if you don’t have her latest book from Seren called: God Loves You the poem was a Guardian ‘Poem of the Week’ back in 2008.  Maybe because of the use of the word darling, but there is also something about the tone, as if they are singing in the same key.  Thematically of course, both address an absent partner who has no idea of the life of his wife.

There are some great lines in this poem – ‘the triplets need constant feeding/ they are like little fires’ is probably one of my favourites.  I also like the other more minor characters in this poem  are drawn  sharply into focus by the detailed description of their actions or the way they look.  The more I read this poem, the more I become convinced that it is really quite dark and upsetting because the speaker of the poem (‘I’) seems to be on the edge of some sort of meltdown.  The speaker of the poem actually seems desperately unhappy with her life and on the third or fourth run through, it doesn’t seem that funny anymore.

The poem does have a slightly surreal edge to it and we are never quite sure who has the power in the poem. At first glance it seems like the speaker is in charge and has all the power, as they continue to list a litany of complaints.  The ‘Darling’ who is addressed in the poem, does not get to speak, which I think is interesting in itself.

Mona Arshi was born to Punjab Sikh parents in West London, where she still lives.  She initially trained as a lawyer and worked for Liberty, the UK human rights organisation, for several years, undertaking test case litigation under the Human Rights Act.  She began writing poetry in 2008 and received an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia.  She won the inaugral Magma Poetry Competition in 2011 and was on the Complete Works Programme, a scheme founded by the Arts Council.

There is lots more I could say about this poem, but I’m falling asleep again, as I’m typing and when ever that happens, I write all kinds of strange things.

If you would like to buy Mona’s book, please head over to Pavilion Poetry or you can get more information about Mona from her website here

Bad Day in the Office – Mona Arshi

Darling, I know you’ve had a bad day in the office
and you need some comfort
but I burned the breakfast again this morning
and the triplets need constant feeding –
they are like little fires.  And the rabbit ….
the rabbit topped himself but not before
eating the babies and the mother stared at me
as if I was the one who did it!
Everywhere there is the stink of babies and it’s a good job
I can’t smell my fingers as they’ve been wrapped
in those marigolds for weeks.
The mother-in-law has been.  She didn’t stay,
just placed a tulsi plant on the doorstop,
with a nose saying she had high hopes of it
warding off those poisonous insects.
That estate agent arrived for the purposes of the valuation.
He dandled the babies on his lap and placed his index finger
on my bottom lip.  There’s some paperwork somewhere.
As for dinner, well that’s ruined.  Those chillies you sent for
from Manipur? The juice from the curry bored a hole
in the kitchen tiles and I’ve had to move the pot to the stump
at the bottom of the garden, next to the dock-leaves;
it was a short trip but it was good to get some air.
We need to keep reminding ourselves that when it rains
it is not catastrophic it is just raining.
The lady radio anouncer has addressed me on several occasions,
– did you know orangutans are running out of habitat
and we don’t have much time?
I’ve become quite adept at handling the eccentric oranges,
those root vegetables need sweating out . . . but it’s difficult
to concentrate when that sodding bunny blames me
though how could I have done it when all morning
I’ve been next to the stove stirring the damn pot.
The salsify is eye-balling me, it’s lying on top
of that magazine  article – Bored with the same old winter veg?
Give salsify  a go.  We promise you’ll never look back.