Tag Archives: pauline yarwood

Feb-April News


I’ve just been reading back my last post, written in January, where I blithely say I’ll be posting once a month. HA! As you can see from this late arrival, that plan lasted a whole…one month. Ah well. Never mind! I blame Kendal Poetry Festival, which took place over nine days in February but basically ate the whole of my life from January through to last week. The festival was wonderful, and everything I hoped it would be. I knew the runup to the festival would be hard work, but I didn’t realise how hard the aftermath would be. We’ve been paying over 40 poets, writing the Arts Council Evaluation report, writing a more extensive report of the festival that we plan to use in the future for other things, analysing audience feedback and on and on and on and into the distance.

Each time I think this festival is just TOO MUCH, too much work, too much stress, too much everything, something lovely happens and it is a boost and motivation to do it all again! Whilst Clare and I have been drowning under a mountain of soul-destroying paperwork, the Sabotage Awards 2021 have been running and gathering votes. To be honest, the whole thing had passed me by (see soul-destroying paperwork)- so it was a wonderful surprise to find out that Kendal Poetry Festival is on the shortlist for ‘Best Literature Festival’. The final vote opens April 21st so please keep an eye out for that, and if you enjoyed the festival, then vote for us!

My freelance life for the last three months has been really busy. My main working days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11.30-5pm which is when Ally is at nursery. I try and get as much of my freelance work done as I can on those days. I also usually work from about 9.30pm-11.30pm each night as well, to keep up with everything. And then the husband and I usually halve the remaining time – so I take Ally on a Monday afternoon and a Friday morning. When I write it out like that I have no idea how I’ve fitted all of this in, but somehow it all worked!



As I mentioned in my last blog, I’ve decided to commit to writing/reading for an hour each day and am very pleased that I’ve managed to stick to it, just missing the odd day here and there. This small change that I’ve made has honestly changed my life. I was going to write then that I was lucky that my husband came on board with it and supports me in this, and then deleted it. I feel as if I shouldn’t have to be ‘grateful’ or feel ‘lucky’ – that this hour is the bare minimum that I need to stay sane, but the truth is, I know that it is unusual. I have plenty of friends who are mothers (and some fathers) who don’t have this – either because their partner isn’t supportive, or doesn’t recognise that it is important for them. So yes, I feel lucky and irritated at feeling it, and grateful that my husband understands and supports me in this.

For me the writing hour is also reconnecting me with my musician self, my other life, which really does feel like an other life at the moment as I haven’t picked up my trumpet since before the first lockdown. Writing for one hour a day takes me back to those days at music college when I used to practice for two to three hours a day, every day.

I am also not saying that everyone should write every day. Some people might not be able to for health reasons or work commitments. But for me, this is what works, so I’m continuing on, hopefully at least until the end of the year, but maybe even further. You might be wondering what this has to do with freelance life- nobody is paying me to do it, after all. However, my Writing Hour is intrinsically bound up with my freelance work – more on that later!


I’ve already talked a little bit about the festival, in previous posts, so I won’t go on about it anymore! But it was a huge part of my freelance work in the first part of this year.


I usually dread doing commissions and I will admit that my first instinct was to say no when Ilkley Literature Festival got in touch to ask if I’d be interested in writing a poem around the theme of ‘The Natural World’. My first instinct was to say no because my obsessions at the moment are writing about people, and I didn’t know if I could pull it off.

However, as a commission is one of those rare instances that you get paid to write a poem, and I love the people at Ilkley Literature Festival (they gave me a job as Poet in Residence quite a few years ago) and I have trouble saying no to things, I agreed.

This was where my Writing Hour really came into its own, as without it, I would have really struggled and probably have written something that was a bit rubbish. I was working on the poem throughout the lead in to Kendal Poetry Festival and I think for a little bit after the festival as well, which should have been a disaster, but because I’d committed to the hour each day, I just kept working at it.

I read lots of poets that write about landscape during those writing hours, particularly Jonathan Edward and Gillian Clarke, and I thought about how the natural world has basically kept lots of people going, including myself. I live in a small town, on the edge of the Lake District and haven’t gone into the mountains during lockdown. The only exercise I take is to go for a run round the same 3 mile or 6 mile loop, but I can see the mountains from the end of my street. I can run towards them for about a mile before turning off and either heading back into town or into some country lanes. I started thinking about how running roots you into the landscape and into weather, how weather is both noticed and ignored as a runner. Anyway, I ended up writing my first ever villanelle, which I am ridiculously proud of. I wanted a repetitive, looping form because that’s what life feels like at the moment (without slipping into too much misery!)

You can find a video of me reading the poem over at the Ilkley Literature Festival website. I look terrible on the video – months of no sleep and a bad cold and lockdown hair cut are taking their toll but NEVER MIND all of that…for those that don’t want to see the video, I’ve copied an image of the poem below.

However, if you do head to the website, you can also read the work of the three other commissioned writers – stunning stuff by Jason Allen-Paisant, Shash Trevett and Angela Readman.


A lot of my freelance writing work for the period from January to April has been teaching. I’ve carried on with my Dove Cottage Young Poets group which has expanded quite a bit after some recent recruitment – there are now regularly 18-20 young poets turning up. The group is open to anyone between the ages of 14-25 based in Cumbria – contact me here or Zoe McLain at Wordsworth Grasmere for more information on education@wordsworth.org.uk. The group is free to attend and we meet every other Friday between 4pm-6pm.

I’ve also been working with Wordsworth Grasmere to set up a new poetry group for young people between the ages of 11-14. This group is called ‘Untrodden Ways’ and runs every other Tuesday from 4pm-5.30pm. Again, it’s free for young people in Cumbria to attend, and if you’d like more information, contact Zoe McLain at Wordsworth Grasmere on education@wordsworth.org.uk.

Needless to say, both groups are currently taking place on Zoom and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

I’ve also been running a series of workshops for Lancaster Literature Festival with a small group of eight poets. These eight poets were chosen from a large number of applicants and it really has been an absolute joy to work with them all. I’ve also ran one Poetry Business workshop and will be doing another one soon – I think there are still spaces for my workshop and for some of the other tutors they are working with – have a look on their website here.

Lastly, I’ve finished the marking for the Approaches to Poetry module at Manchester Metropolitan and am now teaching on the Language and Technique module which is a Creative Writing module. It’s the last week next week and then I’ll be back into marking again.


I’ve really missed performing during lockdown, but I have been doing a few Zoom performances. I read at Lancaster Literature Festival as a stand-in for Sean O’Brien who wasn’t well, and this weekend I’ve just read at the Cardiff Poetry Festival. I read at the Grizzly Pear online reading series, invited by Dove Cottage Young Poet Matthew Sowerby. I found this event very moving – I was definitely the oldest there by about fifteen years, but so many poems about sexual harassment and assault from the young women. The news about Sarah Everard was everywhere and it made me angry and sad at the same time that these young women are going through exactly the same experiences I went through at their age, that sometimes it can feel as if nothing has changed.


I am starting to get into a rhythm with this reading series now – February we had the brilliant Anthony Anaxagorou, March was Sean Hewitt and in April, in just a few weeks time the guest will be Nina Mingya Powles. Nina’s first collection was shortlisted for the Forward Prize and it’s just been announced that the collection is also on the longlist for the RSL Ondaatje Prize for a book that best ‘evokes the spirit of a place’. Tickets are still available for this event, but the open mic is now full. I would love to hit triple figures for this event (our biggest audience so far has been about 65 I think) so please spread the word! Tickets available here and more information about the event available on the Wordsworth Grasmere website.


I am not sure if all of this stuff about what life as a freelance writer actually looks like is completely dry or not, so just in case it is, I am of course going to leave you with a poem! This one is from Pauline Yarwood’s latest pamphlet Loop, published by Wayleave Press. The pamphlet is hot off the press – in fact Pauline is launching it tonight – if you’d like to come along, contact Wayleave over at the website for the zoom link.

Many of you will already know that Pauline was a co-founder of Kendal Poetry Festival, and the co-director of the festival for the first three years. She stepped down from the festival in 2018 to pursue other creative projects, so I’m really happy that she has written this stunning pamphlet.

There’s a great quote by Glyn Maxwell in his book On Poetry where he writes ‘Recurrence of words isn’t repetition. Ever.’ He uses Robert Frost’s famous ‘And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep’, arguing that trying to say the same thing in exactly the same way is pretty much impossible. He says that

What’s intervened between the two technically identical lines is the need to say the same again. Either side of that are two different worlds. The relation of the two lines to thought is entirely different. One line outran thought, the second walks in step with it

On Poetry, Glyn Maxwell, pp45

I haven’t heard Pauline read this poem, but when I read it, and read the second line, I put more emphasis on the ‘this’ and it feels as if the speaker of the poem is trying to reassure themselves that they are still in the world, still part of it, still here. And this feeling of tremor, of vulnerability, of not quite being here, fits the start of the second stanza, where the repetition moves to desire, to repeated ‘I want’. If Maxwell is right, that the first time saying something is an outrunning of thought, and the second time is walking in step with it, that re-definition in line 8-9, from ‘close’ to ‘fall to’ feels as if the speaker is just hanging on to the edge of thought before it changes again.

I wanted to feature this poem here because I think it embodies a lot of the themes in the pamphlet, one of which is walking, is being in the landscape, but another is this balance between action and passivity. There are poems about sailing and climbing and hiking, adventurous poems, and then there are poems about falling and wanting to lie still and give up. This swing between these two different types of energy feels very current to me, although I know it is dangerous to read things through the prism of lockdown when many of the poems were probably written long before it happened, but the bursts of energy alternating with almost a giving up felt very familiar to me.

The poem returns to that first repetition, and the foregrounding of the gate which seems to be both opening into another world, and to be a world in itself, or at least a living thing with roots. A gate is always an opening to another place, but the desire at the end of this poem is to ‘sit at its roots/and not move’. Desire again, to be at a threshold, neither one place or the other.

I love the mystery in this final stanza as well – who is the ‘it’? Someone, or something is following the speaker. At first I thought of the ‘it’ as someone else, a shadowy presence that felt quite ominous. But I think it could also be read as the gate following in a kind of nightmare of never moving forward, which makes me think of lockdown all over again!

Do check out Wayleave Press – they are a fantastic publisher based in Lancaster and I know they would be very happy if they got a sudden flurry of orders for Pauline’s pamphlet – and feel free to comment below, I’ll make sure Pauline sees all the comments!

Thank you all for reading, and thank you to Pauline for allowing me to post her poem on here.

Pauline Yarwood

this is the gate I walk through
this is the gate I walk through
sometimes a fallen branch
between the metal and the wall
muffles the sound

I want unmuffled sound
I want to hear the clang of the gate
as I let it close behind me
as I let it fall to behind me
I want to hear the sound
echo round the valley
as I walk down the path
away from the gate I walk through

this is the gate I walk through
this is the gate I walk through
sometimes I look back
I look back from the gate I walk through
to see if it’s following
to see if it’s following
sometimes I want to go back
I want to go back through
the gate I walk through
and sit at its roots
sit at its roots
and not move

Sunday Poem – Pauline Yarwood

Sunday Poem – Pauline Yarwood

This week I’ve spent a bit of time planning my summer holidays.  In  August, I’m off to Macedonia to read at the Struga Poetry Festival, as part of the Versopolis project.  I’ll be at the festival for nearly a week, and then my husband is meeting me in Skopje and we’re going on our own holiday.  We’re going to stay in Ohrid for one night and then drive down to northern Greece and walk 17 km up Mount Olympus,  stay in a refuge near the summit for one night, before walking back down the next day.

I’m also going to Benidorm at the beginning of the summer holidays, on what is turning into an annual holiday with some of the women I run with.  This will be my luxury, sit around the pool and generally laze about holiday.

On Monday, Pauline and I finished the obligatory report on Kendal Poetry Festival for the Arts Council.  It took us five hours, but we were determined that we wanted to get the thing handed in and finished, so we can start work on next year’s festival.  Filling in the after activity report is not one of the fun things about running a festival so I’m glad that over with.

On Tuesday I had my meeting with my supervisor about my first attempt at 5000 words.  I feel so much better about the PhD.  We had a really good conversation about what I’d written and where I needed to improve, and also a frank discussion about the nature of a creative PhD, and that a lot of the critical writing will need to be directed by my creative writing, and that this way of working is going to be a challenge.  My supervisor also said she felt really excited about my project though which was really encouraging.   My main job over the summer is to get some reading done of writing about poetry.  I thought I would ease into it gently and start with Glyn Maxwell’s On Poetry as I’ve been wanting to read it for ages.   

I really enjoyed reading this book – perhaps the thing that has stayed with me the most, or given me the most to think about are his thoughts on stanza breaks.  He refers to W.B Yeats ‘The Song of Wandering Aengus’ to discuss what happens in the white space between stanzas.  He asks what happens in between the stanzas and then answers ‘A change of place, a passing of time.’  He also talks about comparing stanza breaks to scene changes in a film, saying that ‘Some stanza breaks are cuts, some are fades, some are dissolves’.

This has given me lots to think about in relation to my own work but I’ve already started to use some of this in the workshops I’ve ran this weekend with Dove Cottage Young Poets and my Barrow Poetry Workshop.

On Wednesday I drove over to Lumb Bank in Heptonstall.  I was the guest poet on Ann and Peter Sansom’s Arvon course.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to do this – I’ve never been to Lumb Bank before, and it really is a magical place.  The scenery is so beautiful and it was such nice weather, I basically dumped my bag in the cottage and went straight out for a run through the woods and then back along the fields.  I only did 2 miles as I’d been out on Tuesday night and done a 7 mile run and I didn’t want to overdo it.

Then I got back, had a shower and then went for dinner with Ann and Peter and the course participants, and Jill, the assistant centre director, and then did the reading after dinner, sold lots of books, had a cup of tea with some of the course participants and then collapsed into bed! It meant a lot to me to be invited to do this because my whole journey as a poet and a writer started on a residential course, not at Lumb Bank, but at Ty Newydd in Wales.  That first residential that I went on completely changed my life, so it feels pretty amazing to go and be a guest poet on one.

The next day I got up early and went for a run with one of the people booked on the course who I will call D, as I forgot to ask permission to mention him here.  It was a great run, through the woods again but this time crossing the river.  I needed to be back in half an hour, however we got a bit lost and whilst D was bounding up and down the hills to find the right path I was puffing and panting behind trying to keep up.  D was a lot fitter than I thought, which was lucky really as it meant he could scout ahead.  It was a bit like that scene in Lord of the Rings when Gimli the dwarf is puffing along and Legolas speeds on ahead.

I needed to be back in half an hour so I could get to Kendal for 10.30am because I had an appointment to get my tattoo finished.  I managed to get there on time with minutes to spare, and I don’t know if it was because I was exhausted from the run, but the pain was nowhere near as bad as the first session on the tattoo a couple of weeks ago.

This brings us up to date with this weekend which I spent running Dove Cottage Young Poets on Friday, Brewery Poets on Friday night and then running my Barrow Poetry Workshop all day Saturday.  Next week I have a fairly quiet week, so I’m hoping to get lots of reading done and some poetry writing.

So today’s Sunday Poem is by Pauline Yarwood, who as well as being the co-director of Kendal Poetry Festival, is also a very good poet in her own right.  Her first pamphlet Image Junkie has just been published by Wayleave Press and her official launch was a couple of weeks ago.  It’s a great pamphlet and available from Wayleave Press for the bargain price of £5.

Reading through the pamphlet again, I realised that although a lot of the poems are concerned with visual themes (unsurprising as Pauline is a potter) many of the poems also explore the problem of speaking out, not speaking at all, speaking too much, who gets to speak and who doesn’t.  In ‘The Left Wing Coffee Bar, Manchester’ the ‘ex-POW fathers/told us you understand nothing,/nothing’. There are lots of other examples of direct speech in the poems, such as in’La Flaneuse’, ‘Basking Shark’ and ‘The Hare’ and often people are talking too much or not talking enough. 

The poem I’ve chosen  for the Sunday Poem this week is called’Put-downs’.  The hurtful things people can say to other people is something that seems to be on my mind a lot recently.  Helen Mort has just written a great blog about the effect that unsolicited advice and comments can have, which you can read here where she writes back to a male writer who offered some unnecessarily cruel and personal unsolicited remarks.  In the blog, Helen says

I’m sorry for writing an essay back in response to a short email. But sometimes, a few words online can spill over into someone’s life and have quite a profound effect, so I thought it was worth trying to put that into words

This really struck me when I read this.  Maybe it’s something that we all forget too often, that what we say and do can have a profound effect on other people.  Pauline’s poem discusses the effect that words and comments by family members can have on the self, not only as a child but as an adult as well.

The familiar phrase of ‘You’re a sight for sore eyes’ becomes unfamiliar in the poem as the gran gets it ‘the wrong way round’.  There is something funny in this misuse of the phrase at first, and the descriptions of the speaker ‘scratched and bleeding from climbing trees’ or ‘once hiding in tall grass being shown how boys pee’ has real energy and life to it.

By the end of the poem, this humour is wiped out.  There is a sense of something left unsaid with the description of the gran as ‘A woman wrapped in loss’ but this untold story is quickly moved on with the introduction of another familiar phrase.  The last three lines of the poem I found completely chilling, and in particular the last two lines: ‘She could destroy you six different ways with this/depending on where she put the emphasis.’ These two lines send you back to the line before with the phrase ‘who do you think you are’.  I couldn’t help myself but try and put the emphasis in different ways.  When you do this, when you practice saying ‘Who do you think YOU are’ or ‘Who do you think you ARE’ or ‘Who DO you think you are’ it is almost like the Gran emerges and forms, in the white space around the poem.

Thanks to Pauline for letting me post this poem! Here’s to a week, no even better a life of no put-downs and kindness to wash over us all.

Pauline Yarwood

My gran got it the wrong way round.
You’re a sight for sore eyes, she’d snap,
sharp, when I snuck in through the back door.
I’d be grubby from digging pits for dens
or scratched and bleeding from climbing trees,
red-faced from riding my bike a few feet
further than I was allowed to go,
then a sweaty race back hoping not to be seen,
and once hiding in tall grass being shown how boys pee.
It was years before I realised that being
a sight for sore eyes was a good thing,
a joy to behold.  But I was never that,
just a scruffy kid hoping for toast and marmite
and a bit of a welcome.  She could, I suppose,
have meant that me looking like something
the cat dragged in cheered her up, made her smile.
But that wasn’t my gran.  A woman wrapped in loss,
her other favourite phrase, which never leaves me,
was who do you think you are.
She could destroy you six different ways with this
depending on where she put the emphasis. 


Sunday Poem – Pauline Yarwood


This week I almost decided to write another blog post half way through the week so that this one would not be as long, but I didn’t.  Now, starting this at 8.30pm on Sunday night, I’m regretting my earlier tardiness.  Plus the X factor is on which is a little distracting – I like the audition stage when everyone is still quite raw and quirky, before they get manicured and prepped to within an inch of their lives.  Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted my weakness for the X factor – what about if I promise to never mention the X factor within these pages again?

So this week I’ve been in Penrith on Monday and Tuesday for two teacher training or Inset days.  It’s nice to see the other music service staff – because we are so spread out around the country we don’t get to see each other very much, but I’m sure I’m speaking for EVERYONE when I say by the time the end of Tuesday came we had all had enough of each other and were ready to go home…

On Monday I went with my twin sister Jody to Ulverston and we had something to eat and then had a cup of tea in Natterjacks which is this lovely late night cafe – who knew that Ulverston had such a thing?  We were killing a bit of time between the end of Inset and our South Lakes Brass Ensemble rehearsal in Penny Bridge.  In the cafe there is artwork for sale and some of the tables and chairs are even for sale and they have books and magazines and board games.  Jody found a pack of cards and bullied me into playing this card game which I don’t think I’ve played since I was 15 – and I’d completely and utterly forgotten about it – although forgotten implies that it was there and I just wasn’t thinking about it – but it was like this card game had been erased from my brain, but as soon as we started playing I did remember it – we used to play it ALL THE TIME – for hours and hours on end.  I can’t even remember the name of it now.  I’m looking over at the husband who is innocently listening to his audio book with his headphones in whilst the adverts are on and decide I will bully him into playing it with me too before the night is over.  I’ve just asked him and apparently he has packed them away!  For those of you that have missed the moving saga – we were meant to move house a week ago..now it is vaguely meant to be happening on the 15th but I’m not holding my breath.

On Wednesday the school term officially starts but only one of my schools wanted me in so I did 2 hours of teaching in the afternoon and then did a 5 mile run in the evening with Walney Wind Cheetahs.  I spent most of Wednesday trying to sort out my powerpoints for work – they are in a complete mess due to my habit of losing and then finding my pen drives which they are stored on.

And then it was Thursday and Friday which are officially now my Poetry days with a capital P.  This Thursday I did some work preparing for my stint as Poet in Residence at Ilkley Literature Festival.  I only managed to plan one workshop however – I don’t quite know now what I was doing for the rest of the day – apart from walking the dogs and eating of course.  Anyway, the workshop that is planned and organised can be found here but a couple of days ago when I checked there were only two places left on it so you will have to move quick.

I’m doing lots of other stuff at the festival but I think that needs another blog post.  So Thursday consisted of running in the morning – another five miles, planning workshop, eating lunch, walking dogs and then I went to Ulverston Library and played the Last Post to start off another commemoration to World War 1.

On Friday morning I planned my Young Writers workshop, paid the largest amount of money I’ve ever paid to the solicitors and then went to Kendal to run the young writers group.  We did quite a complicated extended exercise and halfway through I started to think that it was too difficult – but to their credit, the girls persevered and wrote some exceptional stuff – so that made it worth getting out of bed.  Then it was straight back for another quintet practice to really make sure we’re ready for this wedding fayre next weekend!

On Saturday I did park run again and beat my PB by three seconds (hurrah!) in the world of running this is considered good and I did start off thinking I was just going to take it easy but then changed my mind after the first kilometre.  I got back and for some reason thought I was due to be at the bandstand in the park playing with the Barrow Steelworks Band and after having a shower, sat on the doorstep for twenty minutes waiting to be picked up before ringing and finding out it wasn’t until Sunday…what a muppet I am.  I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon sorting through some free band music I’d been given, putting it in bags, a bag for my sister for her junior band, a bag with music suitable for my beginner band, a bag with music suitable for Barrow Shipyard Band and then a bag of music suitable for nobody in this century.  The husband rang to tell me he was two hours drive away – he’d been cycling with a friend, and I decided it would be a great idea to walk out of Barrow and meet him at the car park at Roanhead beach.  It was a beautiful walk even though it was a bit windy, I could see for miles along the beach, and I felt very lucky to be living where I live. But maybe two hours of walking after sprinting three miles was a little excessive.

Which brings us to today which has been full as well – I went for a run this morning with the Walney Wind Cheetahs and we had the most amazing weather – lovely sunshine but enough wind to make it not too hot.  We ran 6 miles with lots of hills and I definitely felt the two hours walking and the park run were still sitting heavy in my legs but I really enjoyed the run.  And today was the concert at the park that I was meant to be doing with the Barrow Steelworks band so again I sat on the doorstep and this time, did get picked up and taken to the park.

Thank you all for reading this far – I often think if you get this far through this meandering waffle then you deserve a medal, but I don’t have one, but you can have a poem instead!  This time courtesy of Pauline Yarwood, a lovely lady I first met – I don’t know when we first met.  It could have been in a workshop at the Wordsworth Trust, or maybe it was at one of the Tuesday readings in Grasmere which Pauline regularly attends.  It might have been at Brewery Poets, a monthly writing group that Pauline attends and organises along with another poet, Trish Pogson.  Anyway the point is, I can’t remember – it feels like I’ve always known Pauline, since I first started writing.  Maybe she will remember!

So I know Pauline’s work quite well – I’ve read her poems at Brewery Poets – I’ve seen how hard she works at her poetry, how she takes and responds to suggestions.  I’ve also seen the deep interest and enthusiasm she has for poetry, demonstrated by her loyal attendance at various poetry readings all over the place and her commitment to the writing group.  I’ve also seen in the last couple of months how her confidence has finally started to grow in line with the quality of her poetry!  Pauline has had work recently published in The Firecrane, The Interpreter’s House and The North.  Pauline taught English and Ceramics and now has her own workshop in the Lyth Valley where she makes pots and writes poetry.

I asked Pauline to send me five or six poems to choose from and all the poems she sent were great so I could have picked any of them, but I think this poem is really touching.  I think Pauline has captured the sense of desperation and guilt which is felt in these situations with the repeated aside of ‘you can’t keep him in this room’ and the lack of punctuation means that the poem passes easily between the opinion of the ‘I’ in the poem ‘you can’t keep him in this room’ to the bare and painful stated facts ‘there are women pissing themselves’.  With no punctuation the poem swivels between fact and opinion so that we are left unsure as to which is which.  Even with all of the awful details ‘neither of us remembers how to speak’ the poem has a black humour about it ‘the woman on the desk looks/as if she’d pimp her own mother’.

I think this poem is special as well because of how authentic it is – the dialogue when the father tells David to sit down – that is kind of heart breaking.  More heartbreaking in a way than the end – my nan used to say the same thing to an old lady in her care home.  And there was an old man in that care home who used to forget he couldn’t walk and he would make his way down the corridor holding on the rail as he went – up and down, up and down the corridor.

I hope you enjoy the poem.  ‘Aftercare’ was previously published in the new issue of The North which has lots of wonderful poets in all the time and which you should definitely subscribe to.


Aftercare – Pauline Yarwood

you can’t keep him in this room
there are women pissing themselves
sitting legs agape
stockings rolled to their ankles
the one on the mattress on the floor
has been moaning for two hours

the woman on the desk looks
as though she’d pimp her own mother
turns her back on everyone
smooths the skirt of her uniform

you can’t keep him in this room

I push his wheelchair round an
unkempt quadrangle of garden
neither of us remembers how to speak

the ridiculousness of me pushing him

tears meet saliva at the corner of his drooping lip

back inside someone has forgotten they can’t walk
pushes up to standing
starts to head off

sit down, David, my father shouts.
David sits.

you can’t stay in this room

I’ll do whatever they advise, he says

odd, because you could never tell him anything
he could never tell me anything either

next day, pimp-woman grips the curtain round the bed

just before you see him, she says,
busy morning, not had time,
just telling you,
his mouth is still open.

Reading poetry, pyjamas, April Poets and collection thoughts


Good morning everybody! Arrgh, it’s already the last day of the Easter holidays!  The weekend doesn’t count you see, that’s the weekend.  This is the last day that I can sit and think, what SHOULD I be doing today – hmm, nine o clock Friday, I would be doing a half hour lesson in a primary school for two trumpets, one cornet and a baritone player.

Today I’m off to Glamorous Glossop to visit the lovely Liz Venn.  Apparently there will be red wine and bolognese.  Tomorrow morning we are both going to the Poetry Business for our next Advanced Writing School workshop.  This has two advantages – I don’t have to get the train at 6.20 am on Saturday morning and I get to see Liz!  And because yet again, there is a replacement bus service on the train line I can drive back with Jenny Copley to Barrow and get back at a reasonable time.

So I’ve been vaguely taking part in National Poetry Writing Month – which is where you join a group and write a poem a day.  I’m part of a ‘secret’ group on Facebook and I am a guest prompter which means I have to do a couple of prompts on certain days to set people off writing poetry.

I feel like I’ve already written about this in a previous post – sorry if I’m repeating myself!  Anyway, I’ve been reading other people’s posts, sometimes commenting, mostly being a silent, lurking observer, but what I have done all week is to basically sit in my pyjamas for most of the day and read poetry.  I went to the remainder bookshop in Sedburgh and got lots of brand new poetry books for half price and I’ve just been reading through those.  I made myself a nest and a flask of tea so I didn’t have to keep getting up and just sat and read.  So poets I’ve read this week include Phillip Gross, Heather Williamson, Peter Levi, Lucie Brock-Braido, Esther Jansma….I haven’t read all of these cover to cover – I’ve been kind of dipping in and out.

I’ve been playing Lucky Dip with the Poetry Archive whilst doing the washing up.  I learnt a Don Paterson poem off by heart.  I’ve written one poem which I think might be worth going on with and maybe five rubbishy ones.  I’ve done a map of my first collection which you can see below.  Barrow-in-Furness-20130410-00239

The boxes are themes and the little bits of writing are poems and I’ve done lots of spidery lines all over the place to see how they join up with each other.  I thought a lot about whether I should add little bits about the collection in between these conversations with other poets and I decided I would, although it feels strangely revealing and private to do so.  I know where there are gaps in the collection now, where I need to write more poems.

Last night I went to an April Poets event in Lancaster.  I’m really glad I did bother myself to get out of my nest and my pyjamas because it was a really nice event.  The room was packed with audience which is lovely to see – the open mic was great and the invited guest poets – Michael Crowley, Pauline Yarwood, Carole Coates and Judy Brown were varied, interesting and entertaining.

I had a chat with poet Antony Christie in the bar and from this very short conversation I think I’ve pinned down the first poem in my collection.

So this is how I’ve decided to ‘do’ National Poetry Month – pretty much what I do all the time, but more of it.  Lots of reading, a little bit of writing, and getting out and about as much as I can to see what else is going on with other poets.

By the way, if any of you do live anywhere near Lancaster, check out April Poets web page http://www.aprilpoets.org.uk/

They host events twice a year, and they are always fantastic and very well organised.  The next one is in November – I don’t know who is reading yet, but keep your eye on the website.