Tag Archives: kendal poetry festival

Sunday Poem – Meg Cox

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!


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.



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

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


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.