Tag Archives: literature

Sunday Poem – Ann Wilson


Even though I’ve been on half term for the last week I’ve felt really busy.  I’ve been getting ready for a new part of my job for Cumbria Music Service which is delivering poetry workshops in schools.  My first one is on the 12th of January, and it will be the first time I’ve delivered a poetry workshop to children rather than adults.  The theme is ‘Riddles’ and tonight I finished my swanky Powerpoint – having a powerpoint always makes me feel safe as this is what I use a lot when I’m doing my class teaching to thirty trumpets.  It’s taken longer than usual as well because I haven’t done anything like it before.

This week I’ve also been cleaning the cupboard out at the band room.  The junior band that I run (the Barrow Shipyard Junior Band) are moving venue after Christmas to Ormsgill Primary School, so I got some lovely parents and band members to help clean the cupboard out, and help me make decisions about what to do with all the kit that we don’t need.  I’m rubbish at throwing things out.  I did find about 300 brass band CD’s, all different bands, so if anyone would like a free lucky dip handful of CD’s, just send me something to cover postage and I’ll send some to you!

And apart from that, I also decided to sign up for National Novel Writing Month.  I’ve always wanted to write a novel, although I have no idea what about.  But I’m so fed up of worrying about the fact that I’m not writing poetry, that I decided to deliberately not write poetry.  I’ve only done 2,000 words, so at this rate I’ll probably be finished in February instead of by the end of November, and I have no idea where the story is going to go, what’s going to happen to the characters or anything.  I think it is a young adults novel though…It’s not like writing a poem though.  I read it to hubby, and when he asked questions about it, I actually had to answer them – in a poem – I just put on a mysterious voice and say ‘What do you think?’  That doesn’t work in a novel.  There has to be answers.  Maybe I could set up a page to post the novel as I write it…am I really that brave?  With no editing?  I don’t know.  I’ll think about it…

This weekend I’ve been playing trumpet in Phantom of the Opera – my favourite musical ever.  The Lakes School in Windermere are the first school to get permission to perform the musical apparently.  We had two all day rehearsals today, so it’s been a bit tiring, and I’ve just managed to rearrange my teaching so I can do the matinee on Tuesday afternoon – so that means teaching all day tomorrow on my DAY OFF!  Grrrr.

I wonder what other people do when they are not writing poetry.  I’m trying not to worry about it, because that seems to make everything worse.  I’ve got about eight or nine new poems that I’ve written since the pamphlet came out at the end of May and I’m currently hawking those round to various competitions, in the vain hope of winning some money so I can pay my credit card off or buy something very frivolous.  I don’t feel blocked – I just feel  – not quite engaged with the world enough to write about it…I don’t know if that makes any sense to anybody else.


Today’s Sunday poem is Ann Wilson, a lovely poet lady who lives in Cumbria.  When I first started writing Ann was one of the people who really encouraged me to carry on.  If you know Ann, you’ll know what I mean when I say she is positive, energetic and generous to other people.  I thought I’d put two poems of Ann’s up to show the two sides to her writing -the first is a more ‘serious’ poem, and the second is Ann in ‘performance poet’ mode.  ‘I’ve got Patsy Palmer stuck inside my eye’ is Ann’s very funny response to not knowing what was wrong with her eye!


Ann Wilson (aka Ann the Poet) is a South Cumbria based writer who performs and delivers creative workshops.  She has performed her poetry, stand-up and music in theatres and at festivals and events throughout the UK since 1995.   She’s the host of the Spoken Word Open Mic at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal.  She was South Cumbria Poet Laureate in 2006.

Ann is currently working with Whitewood and Fleming in the role of Looked After Children’s Projects co-ordinator.   She’s half of the music duo 2 Baa Chords. Her latest poetry collection is “Ann the Poet’s Gig Book”.  Her previous collections are “Synesthetic” and a poetry/sonic art album and exhibition “The Resting Bench”

You can find out more about her on www.annthepoet.com

Drying Up-Ann Wilson

Now it hangs on the back of the kitchen door,
colours almost washed out,
representations of scenic holiday hot spots faded
like those vivid dreams.
Remembering vibrant times,
my brother playfully twisting that material
all round, back on itself, ready to whip
my pale, naked legs, he didn’t really
want me to hurt.


Now it hangs on the back of the kitchen door,
Its story almost told,
Some stains never quite washed clean,
Each stain a crucial part of its fabric.
Remembering darker times,
My grandmother holding it under a scalding tap,
her hands raw red,
her being proud of not feeling the pain
and she would twist it too,
wring it out, in her way
she was keeping her household tidy.



I’ve got Patsy Palmer stuck inside my eye – Ann Wilson

I’ve got Patsy Palmer stuck inside my eye
Like a ginger eyelash
I thought she was a sty
When she bellows “ricky”
It really makes me cry
How can I get rid of Patsy Palmer?

I’ve rubbed my eye with knuckles
I’ve rinsed it out with water
I think she’s set up camp there
With her son and daughter
I’ve never watched Eastenders
But now I think I ought to
How will I get rid of Patsy Palmer

I keep seeing freckles
And hearing Bianca mind the stall
Which means Ricky is in there too
Dancing round my eyeball
If I blindfold myself that’ll show ’em
But then I’ll probably fall
How can I rid of Patsy Palmer

I started cutting onions
Then gave them a big sniff
I browsed through all my chick flicks
Then watched Schindlers list
I put a tissue in my eye
Then gave it a little twist
That’s how I got rid of Patsy Palmer




Strange search terms and last minute readings


It’s half term week this week, and I’ve been lounging around for a lot of it.  On Monday, I spent the day editing the Holland Haul Anthology, which is the anthology that comes from the course I went on with Second Light.  Each course member can contribute a poem to the anthology.  On Tuesday, I started to plan my first poetry workshop that I’m going to run in a school – it’s on the theme of Riddles, and I’m really starting to look forward to it, especially now I’ve got a basic outline in my head of what I’m doing. 

  I’ve now read 83% of John Burnside’s ‘A Lie About My Father’.  At the very beginning of the book, he talks about Halloween being a time that ghosts find their way home – and today, as I was walking the dogs round Millwood in the rain, it was easy to see how he could believe that.  The path was carpeted with leaves, and it was just starting to become dark – the type of dark that it feels like it’s trying to fool you, and arrive without you noticing.  There was nobody in the woods today – maybe they were all getting their halloween costumes on, or sensibly didn’t want to get wet – and there were these crows or rooks going crazy in the trees across the railway line.  They would fly around in a circle and then land in the trees again, and then take off, shouting and swearing at each other.

I love the way Burnside writes, but the last part of the book is taken up with talking about his drug and alcohol taking, and I’m starting to feel my attention wandering, but then he brings it back with something interesting.  For example, at the minute he is talking about how long it takes a person to fall, and how if you find someone who is ‘falling’ at the same time as you, you get on well.  He also talks about this ‘other’ who he feels has walked next to him all his life – and this idea really opens up his poetry to me – his poetry is full of a strange ‘other’. 

Bookings for the Abbot Hall Residential Course are going well – we’ve already got the minimum number of participants, which is a relief as that means the course will definately go ahead – so if you are interested, please get in touch. 

I also got an invitation today to read at a ‘Young Writer’s Festival’ at Bank Street Arts in Sheffield tomorrow night so I’m really looking forward to that.  If you would like more information the link is http://www.nawe.co.uk/DB/events/off-the-shelf-young-writers-festival-day.html

Friday night I’ll be at the Brewery Poets reading at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, introducing Patricia Pogson and Carole Coates – really looking forward to that event.

And then its all day rehearsal Saturday and Sunday at Phantom of the Opera at The Lakes school.  We had a rehearsal last weekend and I really enjoyed it.  My twin sister is playing French Horn and we haven’t played together for ages.  It reminded me that I do love playing. 

And next Tuesday, I’m really looking forward to because it’s Carola Luther’s launch of her new pamphlet ‘Herd’ at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.

And finally, strange search term of the day that brought some poor lost soul to my blog ‘where do you get dismantled bits of rocking horses’.  Hope whoever it was found a bit of horse somewhere.

Sunday Poem – Ian Parks


Today’s poem is by Ian Parks – a wonderful northern poet who I met through our mutual friends, David Tait and David Thom.  Ian is a lovely, warm person who takes time to encourage others in their poetry as well as writing his own. 

I read with him recently at the Heart Cafe in Leeds and I’ve been reading his recent work with interest, as he is working on a new set of translations of one of my favourite poets, C.P. Cavafy.  In fact, I was given a copy of Acumen www.acumen-poetry.co.uk  yesterday at the Inpress Poetry Garden Market ( more on that tomorrow) and I was very pleased to see that one of Ian’s Cavafy translations ‘The Watchman’ was included. 

I’ve decided to include here the title poem from his most recent collection, ‘The Exile’s House’ which is available from Waterloo Press.  http://www.waterloopresshove.co.uk/#/ian-parks-2012/4563010696

I think this poem demonstrates how Ian manages to control the pace in his poems – everything is carefully measured out and no words are wasted.  The poem is mysterious, and has an otherwordly quality about it, whilst at the same time being firmly fastened to our reality, and our time.

Described by Chiron Review as ‘the finest love poet of his generation’, Ian Parks was one of the Poetry Society New Poets in 1996. His collections include Shell Island (2006), Love Poems 1979-2009 (2009) and The Landing Stage (2010).

His poems have appeared in The Observer, the Independent on Sunday,
The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, London Magazine and Poetry (Chicago). He is the RLF Writing Fellow at De Montfort University, Leicester.


The Exile’s House – Ian Parks

Precarious, on a cliff above the sea
        the exile’s house is improvised
from objects found while walking on the beach.
        His crime, it seems, was speaking out
against a harsh regime.  Displacing
        dust he moves from room to room

or gazing at the sunset, sits and waits.
        The place is chained, and anchored down
with ships in bottles, figureheads.
        The ghosts of lovers breathe against the glass;
a trace of silver where they came and went.
         An open door, a broken blind,

a rocking horse dismantled on the floor
        with flying mane, distended eyes.
Under a lantern like a paper moon
        at a table ringed with stains
he drinks and listens as the night dictates
       words of resistance, lines of dissent.



I was trying to think of a more exciting title than ‘News’ for this post, but couldn’t think of one, so there it stands.  I have lots of news, or new things that have happened in the last couple of weeks, which is great, as I’ve actually not been writing very much.  I’ve been pretty busy with work, but also with various requests for poetry related things, which has never really happened to me before.  The editor of Agenda magazine, (www.agendapoetry.co.uk) Patricia McCarthy, got in touch to ask for a piece about the collaboration that I did with the composer Steve Jackson.  I collaborated with Steve last year to take part in the Rosamund Prize, and he wrote a song cycle for soprano.  There is a link to a performance of this here (http://youtu.be/9yQzsRm1IlE)

My collaboration article kind of turned into a write up of the two opposing, yet complimentary forces in my life (poetry and music).  I also sent the only two poems I’ve ever written that deal directly with being a musician and a teacher, so I think that lot is going to be appearing in a special ‘Poetry and Opera’ issue of Agenda towards the end of the year. 

I also found out this week that I was one of three winners of the Fermoy International Poetry Competition – the prize is a trip to Ireland and a seat on a ‘poetry bus’ that tours round villages in County Cork.  The festival website is here:  www.fermoypoetryfestival.com it sounds like it is going to be great fun, and I can’t wait for August now! 

I also responded to a submission call that Mslexia magazine put out on Twitter for 200 words about continuing to write whilst dealing with rejection and responsibilities.  I must admit, I concentrated on the rejection side of things  – and it was hard just fitting that into 200 words -but I got an email to say that has been taken for the magazine. 

My husband has also just got a new job – part time, 19 hours a week as a young person’s alcohol advisor, I think that is the title.  Anyway, it fits perfectly around the therapy work that he is doing, and this will make a massive difference to our finances.  I’m already planning when I can put my feet up and be a lady of leisure.  Ok, maybe that’s jumping the gun a bit……

Rather excitingly, the Michael Marks awards shortlist have been announced.  I’m very happy to see my publisher, Smith/Doorstop on the shortlist for the publisher awards, and also happy to see two Smith/Doorstop pamphlets on the shortlist as well from last year, Paul Bentley and Maitreyabandhu.  It’s disappointing to see one of the other winners from last year, David Tait didn’t make the shortlist – I think he should have been up there, but that is the beauty of poetry I suppose.  Everything is subjective.  Anyway, there will be a poem up here from David next Sunday – he is a fantastic writer, and actually young as well (as opposed to myself, who gets referred to as a young writer, but am actually decrepit compared to Dave!)  The Michael Marks award shortlist can be found here (http://www.wordsworth.org.uk/poetry/index.asp?pageid=642

To counteract all this, I would like to bemoan the fact that I have lost my filofax.  I have no idea where, in that I literally have no idea where.  I lost it sometime between Sunday evening on the train from Lancaster, and Monday night in Barrow.  I’m absolutely gutted, as stupidly I didn’t write down any of my commitments on a calendar – so now I’m having to try and chase them all up.  I know that I was planning to go to Spotlight in Lancaster this Friday (www.spotlightlancaster.co.uk) , but other than that – I haven’t a clue.  I could have something amazing and exciting planned for this weekend, and I would be none the wiser. 

So if anyone sees a brown, 80’s style filofax, please send it back home!


Women’s Poetry Festival


Last weekend I was in Grasmere for the Dorothy Wordsworth Women’s Poetry Festival.  I was taking part in a panel discussion, hosted by The Poetry Society http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk  hosted by Judith Palmer on the subject of competitions and prizes.  Also taking part were the poets Ann Gray and Vicki Feaver.  It was an interesting discussion, and I think I managed to come across coherently enough apart from for one question.  Judith asked me what I thought about the fact that more male poets are given prizes for collections, which obviously are not anonymous, compared with the National Poetry Competition, which has had a pretty even split of prize winners, and what I thought of the winners of the big prizes this year for collections.  Obviously at this point my mind chose to go blank.  I was quite suprised actually by the disparity in the figures, first of all.

Now I’ve had time to process this information, I’m starting to wonder.  Does this mean male poets can sustain ‘greatness’ over a whole collection, whilst female poets struggle to do this for more than the one great, competition winning poem?  I don’t think so.  I think there is still a long way to go before things are equal. 

But why didn’t this annoy me more, I wondered.  And I realised afterwards, that I don’t really buy poetry on whether the book has won a prize.  I buy poetry at readings, I buy it on recommendations from friends, I buy it from reading a review in a magazine that really sparks my interest.  I’m an obsessive poetry book buyer – so whether the book has won a prize or not is slightly irrelevant to me. 

However, I can see how people can get frustrated – obviously the book that wins the prize gets the oxygen of publicity. 

Over the weekend, I bought Jane Hirshfields ‘Come, Thief’ by Bloodaxe which is one of my new favourite collections this year because I really enjoyed her reading.  She was the discovery of the weekend for me.  I had not read her poetry before and it absolutely blew me away.

I also bought Ann Gray’s ‘At the Gate’ an elegiac sequence of poetry, full of raw passion and loss.  I read this cover to cover on the Saturday night, and again really enjoyed it. 

I also took two advance orders for my pamphlet! My first advance orders – it is becoming more and more real every day. 

While all this was going on, down in Leicester, my uncle was dying.  My parents, his wife and daughter, and his brothers and sister kept a four day vigil at his bed over the weekend.   My aunty (his wife) didn’t want any of his neices/nephews to see him in this last part of his life, and I’m mostly grateful for this.  I can selfishly keep my memories of him intact. He died on Monday morning, surrounded by his close family.  I’m currently writing a poem for him to read at the funeral, or I may be reading someone else’s poem  – don’t know yet.   Either way, the poem is made up of stories about him, and it has been lovely to remember him in this way. Rest in peace, Pete.

The Sunday Poem – Mike Barlow


Getting the Sunday poem in pretty close to the wire!  But I’ve been at the Dorothy Wordsworth Festival of Women’s Poetry all weekend.  More about that in a later post.

I went to Mike Barlow’s book launch last Thursday.  His new book, Charmed Lives is published by Smith/Doorstop.  You can order it from http://www.poetry business.co.uk

It was one of the few poetry readings I’ve been to where the organisers had to get more chairs out!  People had turned out in force to support Mike.  I think this was for two equally as important reasons.  Firsly, he is  a great poet, as you will see from the poem below, which is one of my favourites in the collection, but secondly, he is such a lovely guy, in fact he is reknowned for being generally nice.  You’ll know what I mean if you know him!

Anyway, it’s a great book with a fantastic cover, which I’m told is one of Mike’s paintings – he is a visual artist as well.  His website is

Let me know what you think of the poem!

Holding the Door – Mike Barlow

I held the door for my daughter
who waved and disappeared
before I’d had a chance to smile.
I held the door for my grandmother
still ramming her trolley
against the heels of the person ahead.
I held the door for a couple arguing,
I knew their words by heart.
I held the door for a pair of trainers
and a tiny muscular dog which sniffed my toes.
I held the door for a scar of scarlet lipstick
pursed in permanent disapproval>

I held the door for the verb ‘to love’
declining itself endlessly
to strobe lights and a drum machine;
for the colour red, it wore a mini-skirt
on a pale exhausted body;
for faith, looking straight ahead,
eyes fixed on the vanishing point;
for famine, trying to explain itself
again and again with the sound turned down;
for silence, its white sheet smoothed
and tucked into crisp hospital corners.

I held the door for childhood.
It flickered like an old newsreel
played in the daylight.
I held the door for history.
It swung through with a funny walk,
a punter in a hall of mirrors.
I held the door for tomorrow.
Blind fingers felt the furrows
on my brow, the creases down my cheeks.
I held the door for my shadow
but it seemed reluctant to go in front.

End of the Holidays and other stuff…


I’ve had a great week so far – feel slightly sad that the holiday is about to come to an end, but looking back just over this week, lots of lovely things have happened.   Tuesday was my last session in the prison and the group of prisoners that Tony Walsh and I have been working with did a performance to about forty other prisoners.  Because of the size of the library, the prisoners and I sat facing the audience at the front.  Tony Walsh was coming in and out from the stacks of books to introduce each person before they read, so he may have had a slightly different view to me, but I thought the audience looked quite scary.  I think this has something to do with the fact that at most poetry readings I’ve been to, the audience is dominated by women.  Obviously, it being a male prison, they were mainly men, although there were a few female guards or education staff there.  I don’t know if this is true of performance poetry nights, I’ll have to ask Tony if there are more men than women or vice versa.  Anyway, even though the audience looked quite scary, they didn’t make a sound while the prisoners were reading.  They listened to every word they said, clapped in the right places and seemed to generally enjoy themselves.  I hope when our group get out of prison, they start to engage with the poetry community. They have a lot to offer, not just their talent and life experience, but the respect and support they showed for each other during the ten sessions.  They would be an asset to any poetry group.

Then on Wednesday, my good friend Manon came to visit with her two daughters.  It was a flying visit, they were off again on Thursday.  I met Manon at the first ever writing residential course that I went to at Ty Newydd, which I think must have been four or five years ago.   The tutors were Nigel Jenkins and Sarah Kennedy, and I can safely say that course completely changed my life.  Nigel gave me the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given, which was to write every day, and read every day.  He told me to think of it as being the same as practicing a musical instrument, which I could relate to.  As much as I can, I’ve followed his advice to the letter.  By a spooky coincidence, exactly a year after he first said that to me was when I had my first poem accepted for publication. 

And Sarah was brilliant as well – warm, funny, encouraging, supportive.  Sarah is an American poet, and I would recommend anybody to look her poetry up. 

And of course, I met one of my closest friends on this course as well, Manon.  After the course had finished we started a tradition of meeting up in random places (Hull, Bristol, Manchester) and going for a night out.  Sometimes this would coincide with a literature festival, but mostly it would just be an excuse for a night out.

And yesterday, Friday I went to meet Ann Sansom, who is my editor for the pamphlet.  She was really brilliant to work with,  and had asked me to send her some new poems to look at as well.  I think I’m going to replace a few of the poems in the pamphlet with a few new poems on her advice – and save the ones I take out for the first collection, whenever that happens. 

It was interesting to discuss the poems with Ann in that much depth – a poem that I had bought to the last writing day which I thought was what I call a ‘something and nothing’ poem Ann thought should definately go in, because ‘it couldn’t have been written by anybody else’.  The poem is about teaching the trumpet.  I haven’t met any trumpet playing poets yet, but now I’ve written this, and agreed the poem should go in, I’m sure one will pop up!

And tonight is Poem and A Pint with Carole Coates, one of my favourite poets.  When I hear her tonight, I might ask if I can put one of her poems up on here from her collection.  She is a fantastic writer, and probably not as well known as she should be.



The end of the first week of the holidays – well almost.  I’ve had a great week, deliberately not planning anything, but it seems to have flown by all the same.  I’ve had the dogs to walk of course – most days I’ve managed to get out twice a day, and the weather has helped this too!  I started to clean out all my paperwork from our spare bedroom.  I’ve filled a huge box with old lesson plans and schemes of work that I haven’t used for years – I file them away, thinking that will save me replanning stuff, but then I can never find what I want anyway.  So out it has all gone.  Me and Chris are planning to have a room each, to stay true to the spirit of my new tattoo!  I’m getting the large room, as I teach in there sometimes and Chris is going to have the small room.  Then he can keep the small one ridiculously tidy, and I can let my creative energy spread over the large one, which is my way of saying I can leave my stuff where I like!  I still have two large boxes to sort out though – so we have a way to go yet….

In poetry related news, I’ve had a really exciting week, although I am very aware of something a friend, and excellent poet Holly Hopkins told me about on a recent writing retreat about ‘poetry related stuff’ that is all very good and exciting, like readings, competitions, prizes, publications etc that you can get caught up with.  However, this poetry related stuff is not ‘poetry’.  It’s not the same as that buzz that you get when you sit down to write and it is working and you know you are on to something, and it is important not to be seduced by it!  Maitreyabandhu did a brilliant article in Poetry Review about this and another, equally as brilliant in Magma recently.  I think he used a different definition, but I think he was talking about essentially the same thing. 

This week, I’ve really not written anything.  I’m giving myself a break now I’ve got the pamphlet coming out, but I’ve also been doing lots of ‘poetry related stuff’.  Which needed doing, but I am aware that it is not writing!

Saying that, I’ve had a poem accepted at an online magazine based in mexico, The Ofi Press.  The website address is www.theofipress.webs.com

I’ve been asked to write a review for the Cadaverine: www.thecadaverine.com

Poetry Review and Stand arrived with a poem in of mine

and this week a few readings came in: the 25th May with Ian Parks at Heart Cafe in Headingley and the same venue on the 25th July with Cora Greenhill and James Caruth with three more readers to be announced. 

I also found out one of my poems ‘Hartley Street Spiritualist Church’ got a runner up prize in the Kent and Sussex Poetry Competition, which was very nice.  The Kent and Sussex was the first competition I got placed in when I first started writing – I got a runner up prize then as well – don’t know what that says about my writing!

And I’ve been reading all the National Poetry Writing Month entries and secretly wishing I’d joined in – but now, due to my obsessive personality I will have to wait till next year, so I can do it properly – can’t join in half way through!

Also found out this week who is going to be my mentor as part of the amazing package that Ledbury Poetry Festival have put together as part of my Young Poet-in-Residence experience.  I don’t know if I’m allowed to say anything yet, so I won’t blab, but I am pretty happy about it – it will be a brilliant experience…

And the MOST exciting thing is that I have my editorial meeting with Ann Sansom from Smith Doorstop next Friday to work on my pamphlet.  Now that is happening, it actually feels real, and I’m really looking forward to it.  Any suggestions for cover colours are welcome.