Plans For The Blog
I’m hoping to be posting here at least once a month with a poem from a collection that I’ve loved. Now that my PhD is finished, I’m finally finding a bit more time to read poetry collections and I’ve read some amazing books this month. I used to post a poem every Sunday, but I can’t keep up with the pace of that any more. But I think I can keep up with posting one poem a month along with an update of what I’ve been up to.
January Freelance Life
January has been absolutely full-on. In a normal year, January is usually a pretty quiet month in the life of a freelancer. Most literary organisations are making plans for the rest of the year – there’s not many gigs around as people recover from Christmas (or at least this is what I’ve found in previous years). However, because the shape and the way I make income as a freelancer has changed a lot this year, January has been alarmingly busy. I’m now doing a lot of work mentoring poets – this includes longer-term mentoring which takes place over a year or more, and working on pamphlet and full collection manuscripts. My mentees obviously had some down time over Christmas and managed to get lots of work done as the submissions came into my inbox thick and fast in the first few days of the new year.
Last term I was also offered some teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University again. I had a break whilst I was pregnant and then finishing off my PhD, but it was great to be teaching again on the ‘Approaches to Poetry’ module, which is a whistle stop tour of poetry from the Renaissance through to Contemporary poetry. I always feel like I learn a lot when I’m teaching this module, and it was lovely to work with my former PhD supervisor again. Disappointingly, I did forget to introduce myself to the students as Dr Kim Moore though. The marking for this module started in January and is due in about four days – so I’ve been working hard on that.
WORDSWORTH GRASMERE READING SERIES
January also saw the launch of Wordsworth Grasmere’s contemporary reading series ‘Go to the poets, they will speak to thee’ which I’ve been asked to host and curate. Each event will feature a guest poet and an open mic. The reading series was due to take place last year, but obviously the pandemic scuppered that. I’m really happy that it’s now been moved online. We had the first event this month with the fabulous Louise Wallwein and some brilliant open miccers, and our next event is February 10th with Anthony Anaxagorou, which I’m sure will be just as good.
When I was designing the reading series, I decided each event should be based around a theme, and this theme should be a quotation from Wordsworth, and that this quotation from Wordsworth should link in some way to something the guest poet was exploring. I’m not sure the complexity of this is noticed or appreciated by anyone else apart from me, but I enjoyed thinking about it!
Anyway, the quotation for the February event is ‘Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge’ which I think argues for poetry’s place as the best way of getting closer to the truth of human experience. Anthony Anaxagorou’s book After the Formalities seems to me to strive for and create new ways of knowing, both in its exploration of content and form. So the theme for the February open mic is to bring a poem about knowing or not knowing in some way.
You can find all the information you need about how to book a ticket and sign up for the open mic here
The reading series will be live transcribed by Otter, and all open mic poets and guest poets are asked to send their poems along in a document so that I can screenshare during the event. I hope with the combination of these two tools, it makes the event more accessible.
DOVE COTTAGE YOUNG POETS
I’ve been running this group for quite a few years now (funded by Wordsworth Grasmere)and originally it was based in Kendal. However, during the pandemic, we’ve been meeting on Zoom and it’s been really enjoyable.
I’ve decided to open up recruitment in the New Year and as we are continuing to meet online, the group is now open to any young people based in Cumbria between the ages of 14 and 23 who would like to join. If you are a young person who would like to get involved, or you know a young person, please email Zoe McClain at email@example.com for more information. Each session involves reading, writing and discussing poetry and the emphasis is on creativity and enjoyment of language.
There are also plans in place to run a group for 11-14 year olds – so watch this space!
KENDAL POETRY FESTIVAL
This is my biggest, most time-consuming project at the moment. This year it has grown from a three-day in person festival to a nine-day online behemoth. Every time I fini sh one job and tick it off the list, another one pops up. It will either be absolutely amazing, or send me over the edge! If you haven’t already had a look at our programme, you can see it here – tickets are still available, and we would love to see you there. We hope the festival can be a point of connection whilst we are all still so far apart.
Clare Shaw is my new co-director, and on Twitter the other day we started making a list of all the jobs we do to put together a festival, but then we kept forgetting them and adding more on. So here is what we got so far (although I’ve not been doing all of these in January, but still): planning the programme, contacting the poets, chasing the poets up, collecting biographies,collecting photos, writing event descriptions, writing all text for website, formatting and proofreading everything, liasing with ticket sellers, creating zoom account, researching otter, organising young poets, sharing social media posts about events to sell tickets, liasing with Katie Hale regarding the guerilla poetry project, designing Open Doors project, writing back to applicants for free tickets/bursaries, responding to enquiries asking for a reading, applying for arts council funding, applying to a charity for funding, applying to kendal town council for funding, liasing with all funding bodies, setting up zoom events for every reading, writing a press release, sending it out to organisations and media, writing to poets to remind them of time and date of their event and ask them to screenshare their poems, write to their publishers and ask them to promote their poems, I forgot all the liasing with the website designer.
Clare then replied and said ‘you missed …. multiple visits to the sites to check rooms and accessibility. Appointing and leasing with our accessibility consultant and creating an accessibility statement, working with sites to maximise accessibility, Researching online platforms, researching online accessibility, consulting with potential audiences, creating Zoom workshops and resources for nervous first time Zoomers, regular meetings with your co-director and other supporting staff and volunteers, speaking to press and local organisations, promoting on social media, appointing and meeting with blogger in residence, writing and posting blogs, choosing logos for badges, book keeping and budgeting and keeping track of ticket sales.
Whoops. And to think I said to Clare when she said she would take on the job of co-director ‘Yeah, it’s not that much work really’. Anyway, it will all be worth it!
In amongst all of this, I’ve also been determined to make sure my own writing still gets some time. I guess a more accurate description would be ‘creative practice’ but maybe that would be off-putting for some people! I read and write in my writing hour, as for me, these two activities are very closely connected. If you are on Twitter and would like to join me, I usually post a tweet with the hashtag #writinghour at some point in the morning, and then an hour later (roughly) reply to the same tweet with #checkin to say what I’ve done. I’ve found that this means I don’t just use the hour to do admin, which as you can see from the list of jobs above is very tempting! Because I have to checkin, I need to do something, even if it is just reading a poetry collection or an essay. If you would like to join, I’m on twitter as kimmoorepoet. There are not any rules – you can take the writing hour whenever you want during the day, and if you want to join in with the checkin, just reply to my original tweet and say what you’ve been doing. It’s lovely to hear about all of the creative projects that are going on, and equally cheering to read someone confessing to struggling with taking out a comma or putting it back in for the whole of the hour! The important thing is committing to your writing, in a world where it is so easy to put that last, after all the other jobs have been done.
Which brings me to the January Poem. The January Poem is the title poem of Wendy Pratt’s new collection When I Think Of My Body As A Horse, published by Smith/Doorstop, and available for order here. I wrote a blurb for this book a while ago and loved it then, but reading it again a few weeks ago, it felt (like all good poetry books feel) as if I was encountering it for the first time. It is a book about motherhood and grief, threaded through with animals like horses and hares which seem to burst from the pages, they are so full of life. And although it is a book filled with an unbearable loss, the overwhelming feeling it left me with was one of love. It is a book of love. Not many poetry books make me cry, but this one did, and then it made me smile.
And this is to say nothing of the technicalities of line break and form that Wendy is negotiating and mastering in these poems. I think you can see this in the title poem, which comes in the last third of the book. In a book which has explored the terrible things that can happen to the body, where the body has been always there, considered and examined, I think that first line ‘Now I think of my body’ is just beautiful, as if the body has not been ‘thought’ of before, but has instead been negotiated in a different way. And of course the line resolves into that ending, and the poem leaps off from there, like a horse.
The emotional truth of this poem really resonated with me as well – of course, if we thought of our bodies as a type of animal, then we probably would be kinder to them. And Wendy pushes and pushes this metaphor, this idea and follows it further and further. It also feels like a poem of realisation as well, as if the writer made discoveries as they were writing.
At the beginning of the second stanza, for example, she writes that ‘We do not share a language’. But the third stanza finishes with the line ‘I taught it a language of pain’. This mirroring and development of this idea felt extraordinary to me – it feels as if the reader is allowed to watch the mind tracing these revelations, this deepening of thought.
This happens again in the fourth stanza. The poem starts with the premise ‘When I think of my body as a horse’. By the fourth stanza, that distance and logical/rational thought set up by the use of the verb ‘think’ has disappeared. In the fourth stanza, the body IS a horse, and as a reader, I absolutely go with it at this point.
I love the exclamation mark used in the poem, how the exclamation mark ‘holds up’ the past conduct as ridiculous and holds me up as a reader to consider my relationship to what it is talking about. And then the heartbreak of the fifth stanza, and the acknowledgement of not blaming the body and not blaming the self, and the realisation that there must have been a time, when the speaker did blame their body, did blame the self, and the loneliness of that. And then that beautiful finish to the poem, the companionable ride.
If you love Wendy Pratt’s poem, you might also like this May Swenson poem, which is one of my favourites, and also says something important and radical and true about the body, whilst calling it a succession of animals
WHEN I THINK OF MY BODY AS A HORSE
BY WENDY PRATT
Now I think of my body
as a horse. I think of it
not as a vessel for my soul
or as an organic robot
or a means of transport,
but as another thing
I need to love and care for.
We do not share a language.
When my body asks for rest,
I have to know the signs,
have to watch the way
its elegant legs stutter
when it’s tired.
All those years I tried to train it
by punishment! How I hated
its disobedience, how I felt ashamed
of it. Poor body. I tried to cut myself
away from it, I scarred it, I starved it,
I taught it to be afraid of mirrors
I taught it a language of pain.
Now my body is a horse, I see
it is loyal, it is incredible. I line
all the bones of my body up,
from the nasal bone, to the thin string
of tail and marvel at its complexity.
I do not blame it for lost babies,
it did its best. I do not blame
myself for lost babies. I did my best.
I ride my body in a slow companionship,
comforting it at the end of the day
and I say, Body, you are beautiful,
you are beautiful.
If you would like to order Wendy’s book, you can find it here
You can also find out more about Wendy over at her website here
Wendy will also be reading in May as part of the Wordsworth Grasmere reading series, please keep an eye on the Wordsworth Grasmere website for more information