Tag Archives: mentoring

January News

Standard

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

MENTORING
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.

MARKING
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 education@wordsworth.org.uk 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!

WRITING HOUR
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.

JANUARY POEM
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

Sunday Poem – Tom Cleary

Standard

I’m writing this feeling very delicate as I went out last night to a friends 50th birthday party.  Lady C, as she shall be called on this blog had no idea her husband had planned a surprise party and thought she was just popping round to the bar where the party was for a quick drink before being whisked away to enjoy a slap up meal at a restaurant.  As the room of about 150 odd people fell silent so we could all shout ‘Surprise!’ as she opened the door I did think how terrible it would be if Lady C fell over with the shock.  She is made of sterner stuff though and soon recovered.  It was lovely to see such a large amount of people turning out for Lady C’s birthday.  There was a great band on as well called The Sidecars who got everybody up dancing.  I only drank three bottles of lager but then I was up dancing all night and now I feel like I drank ten bottles.  Does anybody else get that?  When I used to go out drinking and dancing when I was younger, I used to get horrible hangovers but that was because I drank like an idiot.  It felt like a fair exchange – drink and stay out all night and pay for it afterwards.  Now however, I only drink a little bit and I still feel terrible in the morning.

I broke off from writing this blog to go for my Sunday run.  I normally go at 10am but everybody was at Lady C’s party last night as well so we decided to go at 12pm instead.  We went for a run along the beach but nobody had remembered to check the tide times which meant risking running over the stones and possibly breaking an ankle or going up and down the sand dunes.  I was all for risking broken bones but nobody else agreed so off we went, up and down the rather steep sand dunes.

 

This week has felt like the week I learnt to prioritise things.  I often make lists of jobs to do, but then I waft about from job to job on the list and then I have a panic because I’ve left something to the last minute.  This week I went through the list, helped by my trusty husband and put things in the order they needed to be done.

Hanging over my head this week is the dreaded tax return which isn’t helping things. When I look back over my spreadsheets that I’ve kept over the last few years I do feel quite proud.  2011-2012 I made a loss as a writer.  This was the first year I really started working as a poet.  2012-13 I managed to break even and 2013-14 I will be making my first ever profit – not enough to retire on, but enough to consider it a viable part-income, at least.

So Monday will be the day the tax return gets finished, even it kills me, even if I don’t see the light of day ALL DAY etc etc.  Not that I’m being dramatic about it or anything.

My first and most pressing deadline this week was to write out the first assignment for my Poetry School online course ‘What Work Is’.  I managed to get this finished on Thursday so that was one job ticked off the list.  The course doesn’t start till the 28th January, but the Poetry School are doing some work on the website and the assignment needed to go up this week.

My second job was to ring the lovely Clare Shaw to have a chat about a course that we are tutoring together at Ty Newydd in a couple of weeks time.  We will be spending a week with a group of girls from a school in Manchester.  I’m really looking forward to the week.  We did get slightly distracted from planning by catching up on various bits of gossip but never mind.   I haven’t been to Ty Newydd for a couple of years now, but it is a very special place to me.  I went on my first, life-changing residential poetry course there and then went and did a course every year for the next three or four years so the house and the area mean a lot to me.

Bookings for the St Ives Residential poetry course that I’m tutoring with Steve Ely are going really well.  We now have just two places left, if there is anybody who has been swithering about whether to go or not.  It will be a fantastic week in beautiful surroundings.  I’ve managed to book my train ticket to Crewe where I’ll be getting picked up by John Foggin and Steve Ely before we head down to St Ives.  I’m looking forward to this week as well – I went on family holidays to Cornwall every year when I was younger so again, I get the chance to feel all nostalgic when I’m there.

I am also doing my first bit of mentoring for the Poetry School tomorrow, which is really exciting.  In fact, after I’ve finished writing this blog, I’ll be reading through the poems I’ve been sent, ready for the skype chat with my mentee tomorrow.  If anybody is interested in a tutorial or extended mentoring with me, please get in touch with The Poetry School or contact me directly by email (you can find this on the Contact page)

This doesn’t sound like I’ve had that much to do actually – but it has definitely felt like it!  In between the above tasks I’ve been answering emails, gathering content for the website for Kendal Poetry Festival, inviting a set of poets to come and read for A Poem and a Pint in 2016.  One evening was spent sending emails out about St Ives to get the last few places filled.

So today’s Sunday Poem is by a lovely man called Tom Cleary.  I first met him when I did a reading in Hebden Bridge bookshop a couple of months ago. He bought my book and asked me to sign it, not mentioning that he also wrote poetry until I asked him and then he didn’t say anything about the fact that he’d had a pamphlet out in 2014.  I only found that out a month or so ago, when I was the guest poet at Puzzle Poets and Tom got up to read and read a few poems from his pamphlet.

I thought his poetry was really special on first hearing, but I didn’t manage to catch him to buy a copy as he whizzed off as soon as the reading finished to give someone a lift home.  I am nothing if not determined though, and the kindly Bob Horne agreed to pass on the money for a pamphlet and my address so that Tom could post it out to me.

Tom’s pamphlet is called The Third Miss Keane which strikes me as a promising title anyway and it does hint at what is to come in this pamphlet, which is a host of really good, and interesting stories.  The poems often feel slightly surreal, or fairy-tale like, but they always have their own inner logic.

Like Rose Cook, the poet I featured last week on the blog, I hadn’t heard of Tom Cleary before.  It just proves how many fantastic poets there are, writing brilliant poetry and not being noticed enough for the good stuff they are writing.  Or maybe it proves that I am losing touch with the poetry scene, and not keeping up…

 

Gobstoppers – Tom Cleary

On our way home from school
we bought boiled sweets in paper bags,
bright red gobstoppers highlighted with flecks of black,
gumballs, lemon drops, toffee slabs on a stick,
flavoured with aniseed, sherbet or mint.
We sucked and sucked until our mouths
glittered like lipstick.  Our tongues
burned with the sweet acid
and we stuck them out of our mouths
and fanned them with our hands.

We bought them in a grey shop
on the corner of nowhere, on waste ground,
in front of rows of cream and white pebble-dashed houses.
Behind the yellow of its misty window,
dead flies lay scattered and limp flags of cobwebs drifted.
A sickly young man in an advert behind a cracked frame
was scarved in drifts of smoke.

The owners were two elderly sisters, who could have been twins.
Their hair was scraped back in buns
with loose straggly wisps.  They stood awkwardly
like shy guests waiting to be introduced.
Their eyes reminded me of my aunt,
and I imagined them to be the lost wives of farmers,
abducted from their homes and carried away
over great distances, to spend their lives
exiled in this bare shop, selling sweets
to small boys for their hot pennies.

Behind the counter they were ill at ease,
standing at an odd angle to one another,
as if they’d been set there in place,
figures in an installation.  I sensed a yearning
in them, as though they’d never stopped wondering
what had become of the chickens that used to peck
at their ankles and their shoe laces.
When they handed us change
with a delicate bend of the wrist,
were they remembering the butter churn?

I think this poem is a good example of the work you can expect to find in the pamphlet. Throughout the pamphlet, and in this poem, ordinary circumstances become slightly surreal and strange.

It also gave me a lovely feeling of nostalgia – although we only bought sweets from the rather ordinary corner shop when I was young, which sat at the top of our road next to a chinese takeaway and a hairdressers, there was one long hot summer when my sister and I and our friends would put our money altogether and buy five or six paper bags of sweets and sit on the park, eating sweets all day, being bothered by wasps because the sweets were so sticky.  I remember watching the newsagent as he weighed out the sweets on a large silver scale and squeezing the bottom of the bag to check how much sugar had gathered.

Tom’s shop is a little more exciting though, and a little less hygenic than the one I remember from my childhood.  I love the detail of the shop window with its ‘dead flies lay scattered and limp flags of cobwebs drifted’ and of course the strangeness of the scene is set up before then.  The shop is ‘in the middle of nowhere.’  The portrait of the two elderly sisters who run the shop is also very cleverly drawn.  That detail of the way they stand ‘awkwardly/like shy guests waiting to be introduced’ gives you a picture of them straight away.  The best detail in this third verse though, is the ‘hot pennies’ at the end, again, as soon as you read that, you know exactly what he means.

The idea that they remind the speaker of the poem ‘of his aunt’ which he then goes on to develop saying he imagines them to be ‘the lost wives of farmers.’  He never implicitly says that his aunt was the lost wife of a farmer, but we are left to infer this.  It is such a strange idea, which he then develops brilliantly in the last stanza.  We are left not knowing if the aunt was the lost wife of a farmer, and she was full of ‘yearning’ or whether the two elderly sisters were or maybe nobody was, and it was all in the boys imagination.  I don’t mind not knowing though and I think this is what makes it a good poem – not only the brilliantly drawn details, but also the mystery we are left with.

In 2011 Tom won the Writers Forum/HappenStance Competition and in January 2014 he was featured poet in Orbis 166. I was interested to read that The WF/HappenStance prize was to have been the publication of a sampler. But there were too many good poems so HappenStance published a pamphlet instead: The Third Miss Keane which you can buy from the HappenStance website for the bargain price of only £4 plus postage.  In 2015, Tom was also a winner of the prestigious Northern Writers’ Award, one of six New North poets.  You can find out a little bit more about Tom on his profile page at the HappenStance website.

Hope you enjoyed the poem, and please do let me know what you think of it! I know if you wanted to order the pamphlet it would make a hard working publisher and a lovely poet very happy, which for just £4 seems like a Very Good Thing To Do.