Tag Archives: Poem and A Pint

Sunday Poem – Keith Hutson

Sunday Poem – Keith Hutson

I’ve had a rough day today.  I’ve spent most of it in bed with a horrible cold.  I’ve been ignoring this cold since Thursday but I succumbed today and spent the morning feeling very sorry for myself.  I didn’t get to do my usual Sunday run this morning, and I’d planned to go to Keswick to meet up with my cousin but I couldn’t drag myself out of bed.

I’m feeling a little bit better this afternoon.  I’m terrible at being ill – I’m impatient, and I get bored easily, and I feel guilty when I’m not doing something useful.  So spending a whole morning in bed was awful.

I’ve been in touch with Treloyhan Manor Hotel in St Ives and there are only 6 places left for the February 2017 Residential Poetry Course I’m running there with co-tutor David Tait.  Our guest poet who will be reading mid week is the fabulous poet Penelope Shuttle.  If you have been thinking about coming, I would suggest booking sooner rather than later – places will be limited to 16 and they seem to be selling quite fast.

Last weekend I was Poet in Residence at Swindon Poetry Festival which involved running two workshops, giving a poetry reading and then just generally hanging about and chatting to people (yes that really was in the job description!)  If you are looking for a small, friendly, slightly madcap poetry festival full of quirks, whacky ideas and things you probably won’t find at any other festival in the UK, then I would recommend Swindon.  It’s run by my friend Hilda Sheehan who is a brilliant poet herself, and whose enthusiasm and humour gives the whole weekend a unique and wonderful feel.

On the Friday night of the festival, I was released from my Poet in Residence duties as I had a reading at Winchester Poetry Festival.  I was reading with Ian Duhig and Sophie Hannah.  I loved reading with these two poets – I’ve read with Ian before, and he is one of those rare poets who actually has ‘Greatest Hits’ poems – like his ‘From the Irish’ poem – it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I hear it, I still enjoy it.  It was great to hear him read from his brand new collection of course, as well.

And Sophie Hannah – I bought one of her Carcanet collections when I was first starting to write poetry.  She has a wonderful and funny way of looking at the world – one of my favourite poems of hers that she read was about ‘people who flounce off’ – her premise being that there are people that flounce off, and people that don’t, and she is one of the people that don’t flounce off.  And where, she asked do the people who flounce off go to?

I went to a fascinating Close Reading by Frances Leviston on a John Berryman poem and a brilliant talk by Sinead Morrisey about researching her grandfather’s life as a Communist in Belfast.   I was also really pleased to meet up with a poet who I first met on a residential poetry course that I ran in St Ives.  We went to a stall and got some thai food and sat on a bench in the town centre to eat our food before going to the reading.  This was a new experience for me as I usually like to sit in a cafe and drink endless cups of tea whilst eating, but I quite enjoyed it and it meant we got to the reading in time.

I got up nearly every morning at 7am when I was in Swindon and went for a 5k run around Coate Water Park.  There is a lovely old diving board in the middle of the lake which I’m told nobody uses anymore and a path right round the lake which was perfect for running.  I don’t really like running on my own though and it was a relief to get back this week to going out for a run with my usual group of friends.

One of the highlights of Swindon Poetry Festival for me was seeing a few close friends perform.  I saw Roy Marshall read from his new collection, and was really impressed, both with the poems and his delivery, and then my friend Keith Hutson did a fantastic hour long show using material from his new pamphlet Troupers, published by Poetry Salzburg.

I must admit to being slightly worried about Keith when I heard he would be reading for an hour, but he was fantastic.  He managed to hold the attention of the audience, and it was a really entertaining hour.  The pamphlet is a sequence of thirty one sonnets celebrating famous Music Hall and Variety performers. As Keith was reading the sonnets out, there were lots of appreciative oohs from the audience who were old enough to remember the performers he was talking about (sadly, I am way too young to know any of them BUT I still enjoyed it!)

I asked Keith if I could post up the first sonnet here this weekend which he kindly agreed to.  I think this is a lovely poem, and the way Keith handles the rhymes, using half rhymes, and slant rhymes is great.  This poem is funny – look at that line ‘Some critics called it/nothing but self injury with rhythm’ and the mention of the character called ‘Tom Platt and his Talking Pond’ is great – what on earth was the Talking Pond and how did he get it on stage? We’ll never know – well not unless you ask Keith, who probably does know.

My favourite bit about the poem though is at the end, with the mention of running, not just running but running ‘on joy alone’.  When I read that, I thought, yes, I’ve done that, I’ve ran on joy alone.  In fact, only a couple of weeks ago, I was 8 miles into a hard, tough, hilly 12 mile run, and I got to the top of a hill and the view made me spread my arms wide as I ran down the hill, and it felt like I could take off, even though I was exhausted,that was joy.

So, below, you will find this joyful poem, by my mate Keith Hutson, whose enthusiasm when he is performing is infectious.  Keith used to write for Coronation Street and his poetry has been widely published in journals such as The North, The Rialto, Stand, Magma, Agenda and Poetry Salzburg Review.  He delivers poetry and performance workshops for The Prince’s Trust and The Square Chapel Centre for the Arts.

Keith will be appearing as the guest poet for A Poem and a Pint on the 19th November 2016 at The Laurel and Hardy Museum.   I hope you enjoy the poem!

Juvenile – Keith Hutson
i.m. Georgie Doonan 1897-1973

In time to a drumbeat, Georgie Doonan
kicked his own backside.  Some critics called it
nothing but self-injury with rhythm.
A newspaper dismissed the act as fit
only for idiots with no command 
over their sense of wonder, and went on
to call for Tom Platt and His Talking Pond,
no less, to come back, all is forgiven!

So why, when Georgie booted his behind,
did those who knew no better split their sides?
He must have made an impact deeper down.
And I know I’d have laughed, which won’t surprise
you if you’ve ever run on joy alone,
heels bouncing bum-high; if that’s what you’ve known.

Sunday Poem – Gordon Hodgeon


The weather cannot make up its mind today.  I spent most of my morning standing on Walney Island as a marshal for the Walney Fun Run with the wind blowing (although maybe not as hard as it could have done) and pouring rain.  I had waterproof trousers on, which I quickly discovered weren’t really waterproof and my outdoor hiking coat which did save the top half of me at least from the rain. I must admit, I longed to be running around in the wind and the rain- at least you are warm when you are running!

Despite this, I’m glad I volunteered – it’s nice to give something back and I do enjoy seeing the different ways people run, the different ways they react to the marshals.  Most of the runners at the front were completely focused and gave no sign whether they heard us or not.  When I’m in race mode (although I’m not at the front) I hear the marshals but I don’t look at them or acknowledge them – not because I’m not grateful to them, but more because I’m conserving energy, and I’m concentrating, but it does make a difference to have people there cheering you on.

As you get further and further back in the field though, people smile and are happy to see you.  One man even had enough breath to say ‘thank you for coming out marshals’ which was nice!  The children often pick up the pace if you cheer them on, going from a walk to a trot, or a trot to a little sprint.  So from 9.15am when I arrived until about 12 it was raining and spray was blowing in from the sea.  Then suddenly the sun came out and it is now a glorious day with blue skies.  By that time though I’d had enough and felt all damp and cold and bedraggled and decided to go home, but I have been sat in the garden for a little bit this afternoon at my new table and on one of my new chairs which I bought yesterday.  This is an exciting event for me because I’ve never owned a garden or a table and chairs to go in a garden.

I’ve also been having great fun picking plants to go in the garden and have rather irresponsibly just been picking ones I like the look of and randomly sticking them in the garden.  Yesterday I spent a couple of hours pulling up bindweed which grows so fast – it is a bit like that plant in Little Shop of Horrors – it seems to have a mind of its own.  I left a stick propped up against the fence about a week ago and yesterday there were tendrils of bindweed growing up it – how is that classed as a plant and not an animal with a mind of its own?

I have some weeks where I have to accept that I’m doing lots of music teaching and poetry has to be put on one side but this week it feels like I’ve been yanked from one world to the other.  On Monday I had a 2 hour rehearsal with my junior band to get ready for our end of term concert on Thursday. This was to go through the music with my friend who had agreed to play drums for us.  Disaster struck on Thursday as my friend had a family emergency and couldn’t play in the concert.   I had two hours to find another drummer and heard that an ex-pupil of mine was back from university, so he came along at the last minute and played brilliantly.

The concert was made up of the Barrow Shipyard Junior Band which is pupils ranging in age from 8-18 (about 30 now) and my other band Brasstastic, which has 14 primary school pupils in it.   They both played really well and to finish off the night we played a mass piece which we’d not rehearsed together before but which they managed brilliantly.  I couldn’t believe how well my ex-pupil played the drums – he is also a talented cornet player and singer but he followed every single tempo change – I was really impressed with him.

On Saturday I was at another rehearsal with the Barrow Shipyard Junior Band at Furness Music Centre because we have one more concert on July 4th where we are playing with an orchestra, wind band and choir at the Coronation Hall. Again, the kids were really good and it was nice to not have to conduct and to sit and play along with them a little bit.

I also did Park Run on Saturday and managed to get a new PB – 22.49 which I am really, really pleased about.  I’ve wanted to go under 23 minutes for a while.  I think it will be another couple of months before I can shave anything more off that time – this is the problem though, as soon as I achieve one goal, I start thinking ‘hmm wouldn’t it be nice to go under 22 and a half?’ Anyway, we shall see!

On Friday morning I was still buzzing from the junior band concert but I had to force myself to settle down and plan my workshop for Dove Cottage Young Poets which was Friday afternoon and then I drove straight back from Kendal and went to Bardsea for A Poem and a Pint’s collaborative night with ‘The Quiet Compere’ aka Sarah Dixon.  Sarah Dixon is travelling around the UK, putting on an event made of ten poets reading for 10 minutes each.  It was nice to have the chance to hear a lot of local poets read – it made me realise how much talent there is in the local area.  I enjoyed hearing everybody read but the most exciting set for me was David Borrott, whose new pamphlet Porthole has just been published by Smith/Doorstop as a ‘Laureate’s Choice’.   David was very funny and read really well.  I know how hard he has worked at writing and I’m really happy that his work is now going to get a wider audience.

So, gaining a wider audience brings me on to today’s Sunday Poet, who I’d never heard of before my friend John Foggin sent me his book as a present.  Gordon Hodgeon is published by Smokestack and was born in Leigh in 1941.  He was active for many years in NATE, in Northern Arts, Cleveland Arts, New Writing North and Mudfog Press.  HIs previous books of poetry include November Photographs (1981), A Cold Spell (1996), Winter Breaks (2006), Still Life (2012) and Old Workings: New and Selected Poems (2013).  He lives in Stockton-on-Tees.

Writing that list of books makes me a little ashamed that I hadn’t come across his work before so I’m grateful to John for bringing his poetry to my attention.  I’m going to quote from the back cover of the book to give some context to the Sunday Poem today:

“For the past five years the poet Gordon Hodgeon has been confined to his bed.  Following a series of unsuccessful operations on his spine, he is now unable to move his arms and legs, and cannot breathe without the help of a ventilator.  In the last few months he has lost the power of speech.  Today he can only communicate with the outside world by blinking at a Dynavox computer screen or by dictating to his carers, letter by letter.”

After reading this, I was prepared for a book of poems that felt hard won, laboured, as if every word had been dragged out to lay on the page.  I wasn’t prepared for poetry that made me conscious of my own body and consciousness, in the way that running does.  I wasn’t prepared for the first poem in the collection which is now the Sunday Poem.  I have to warn you that reading this poem may have a strange effect on you.  I read it and then I had to shut the book.  I couldn’t read any further – someone had just articulated for me the edge between the body and the soul, the difference between feeling powerful and being powerless.  It is only a tiny poem but I came back to it the next day, read it again with the intention of going on with the book and had to stop.  The third time I read the book cover to cover, without stopping.

Of course the title of the Sunday Poem ‘I Walked Out This Morning’ contains within it a sly nod to Laurie Lee’s ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’ memoir of leaving his life to travel through Spain.  There is also W.H.Auden’s ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’ but the poem it really made me think of was W.B. Yeats ‘The Song of Wandering Aengus’ with its first two lines ‘I went out this morning/because a fire was in my head’.  I don’t know why this jumped into my head when I read the title of Gordon’s poem, but there you go.

The title and the first line have a fairy-tale feel though, or the air of settling down to tell somebody a really good story.  Only yesterday I was telling someone I don’t like poems with the word ‘memories’ in and then, I find it in this one, and it works perfectly.  There is also something very subversive going on here.  Nothing is quite what it seems.  The speaker in the poem ‘walks out’ but in walking out finds a man in his bed with a ‘fly on his nose’.  Then that shocking sixth line ‘Only his weeping eyes could move’ and there is something of the fairy tale about this as well and this is continued with that childlike line which sounds like a refrain ‘Oh dearie me, oh dearie him.’  The last five lines are the clincher – look how deftly he turns this around – suddenly the speaker is the one who cannot speak, the walker is the one who cannot move.  Even without the background information provided on the back cover, this is a strange and discomforting poem.  The writing is skilful and measured and controlled, full of insight and questions.

The collection is called Talking to the Dead which sounds quite macabre, but don’t let this put you off.  The second poem is the title poem and what struck me in this one is that even in the act of Talking to the Dead, the speaker wants to learn something new.  He says ‘Who can teach me/guide me through their dark palaces/their ungrowing fields?’

This poem reminded me of why I started the Sunday Poems in the first place – that feeling of reading something amazing and feeling like you might burst if you don’t tell someone about it.

Anyway, here is the wonderful ‘I Walked Out This Morning’.  I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you are moved to buy a copy from Smokestack.  You can order Gordon’s book here.  It is a short book, only 47 pages, which I’m guessing is why it is only priced at £4.95 but this seems ridiculously cheap for such quality.

I Walked Out This Morning – Gordon Hodgeon 

I walked out this morning
from the jigsaw jumble of
dreams and memories
and found a man in my bed
with a fly on his nose.
Only his weeping eyes could move.
I asked if I could help him
but could not understand his reply.
Oh dearie me, oh dearie him.
So I turned away to go and saw
him in the mirror standing
about to leave the room, and me
supine in the bed with a fly on my nose
and only my weeping eyes could move.

Sunday Poem – Terry Quinn


Today I’m writing this with pleasantly aching legs and shoulders after completing a 13 kilometre run in the sunshine with the husband and my two long-suffering dogs, Miles and Lola.  Chris and I are planning to run the first Hoad Hill Half Marathon together in August so we are very gradually building up the distance we run on our long run we do each week.  Next week I will probably do another 13 kilometre run as today I really struggled for the last two kilometres.  When Chris gets tired he talks more to distract himself and when I get tired I talk less so it works out ok.

We went for something to eat at Low Sizergh Barn and then had a look in the shop and I got very excited when I spotted some of Mike Barlow’s books in there, and some of the pamphlets that he publishes from Wayleave Press as well.  I bought William Gilson’s new pamphlet after reading the first poem, which is very good.  I also like to buy poetry if I see it out in the open and in an unexpected place, like a gift shop in the hope they will continue to stock it!

Yesterday I did Barrow Park Run, and after a couple of good runs recently and all the hill running I’d been doing in Crete, I thought I would push myself to see how close I could get to my PB.  I managed 23.27 which is only 18 seconds of my PB so I was very chuffed and feel full of beans and ready to have a go at the Dalton 10k this Friday.  I’d like to try and get close to 50 minutes but I have no idea if this is a bit unrealistic, as it is a pretty hilly course but I will have a crack at it anyway!

Last night was Poem and a Pint with guest poet Beatrice Garland and my very own South Lakes Brass Ensemble as the musicians.  It was at Greenodd Village Hall and at 7.25, five minutes before it was due to start there was about four people in the audience, not counting the brass ensemble.  We were also dressed in our customary black which I realised looked like we’d come from a funeral, but never mind.  Anyway, my heart was beginning to slowly sink as I thought about Beatrice (who also hadn’t arrived by that point) coming into a rather large village hall and being greeted with four people and a funeral party.  Then suddenly, people started arriving and we ended up with a full room!

Lovely Danny, who is the singer from the Soul Survivors turned up with his wife when I told him I’d be playing which I was really touched by.  I don’t think either of them had been to a poetry reading before but they seemed to enjoy it.  Rather bizarrely, our local MP, John Woodcock also turned up and read a very short limerick about the election which you can find on his twitter page if you are so inclined.  I admired him for getting up and reading a poem and I also felt a bit sorry for him as he got collared by various people and complained at, or told that they were voting Green, or asked about this or that.  It was Saturday night after all – and he had read a poem which I think should have given him a free pass out of politics for the evening.  Then again, it is his job!

The really weird thing was that even though the open mic performers and Beatrice didn’t know he was there, they read quite a few political poems.  Beatrice read a great poem about working in the NHS.  I was suprised how much politics seeped into people’s poetry in a way I haven’t noticed before. Another strange thing – Beatrice read quite a few poems about falling and then came and told me she’d just written a poem called The Art of Falling, inspired by Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘The Art of Losing’.  Maybe falling is going to be one of those things that everybody writes about like bees were a couple of years ago!  Thank goodness my book is out already!

After the interval I had to switch into musician mode and I performed with the South Lakes Brass Ensemble.  The most popular piece seemed to be Pastime with Good Company which we played to start off, and ‘The Nearness of You’, which is a Hoagy Carmichael number arranged to feature the French Horn.  Someone came up to me and said that it had made them cry, which my sister as the soloist was very pleased about.  I was doing the introductions to the pieces and I couldn’t believe how out of breath I was from playing – it was like I’d been for a run.  I don’t know why I keep being suprised lately by what a physical thing it is to play the trumpet.

The rest of last week was all given over to rehearsals – Monday night with the junior band, Tuesday night with the South Lakes Brass Ensemble, Wednesday with the Soul Survivors and Thursday with the South Lakes Brass Ensemble.

Poetry-wise, I spent Thursday finishing off a review I’m writing for Under the Radar magazine.  The two books I’m reviewing are The Years by Tom Duddy and Common Ground by D A Prince, both published by the marvellous HappenStance.  I really enjoyed writing this review and I also love working with Maria Taylor, who is the Reviews Editor.  She is always very patient with me, and finds a way of correcting my sometimes rather silly mistakes without making me feel silly or stupid.

On Friday morning I finished off the review and then planned my workshop for Dove Cottage Young Poets which I was running in the afternoon.  I left at lunchtime to have a quick meeting with Ian at Abbots Hall Art Gallery.  On the 15th May the art gallery are having an event called ‘A Night of a Thousand Selfies’.  There will be lots of stuff going on – music, a photobooth, a temporary tattoo artist, free pizza and drinks and an open mic, which I will be running.  I’m looking for more poets to read on the Open Mic, so if you are interested, please get in touch, or have a look here for more information.

I’m feeling more and more excited about next Wednesday, which is the first public reading from The Art of Falling.  The reading is in Leeds at the Heart Cafe in Headingley and I’m reading alongside John Foggin, Andrew Forster, Keith Hutson, Peter White and Mark Connors.  It would be great to see any of you there if you happen to live within striking distance of Leeds.  It has been a strange feeling, having a box of my books living underneath my desk like some sort of hibernating pet.  So many of my friends have got in touch to say that they have bought copies already that I’m beginning to doubt the wisdom of buying a box of 100 – am I being too optimistic?  We will see – I’ve got a few readings coming up, and although I know how fast my pamphlet sells, I have no idea how fast the book will sell – it is going to be a bit of a learning curve.  At the minute there are no plans to sell the book through this blog, as you can get a copy with 20% off direct through Seren.  If you would like a signed copy, make your way to one of the readings on the ‘Readings and Workshops’ page or email me!

So today’s Sunday Poem is by Terry Quinn, who I met quite a few years ago now.  I can’t actually remember where we met – probably at an open mic in Lancaster actually.  I’ve been meaning to ask Terry for a Sunday Poem for at least two years.  His collection ‘The Amen of Knowledge’ came out with Indigo Dreams Press in 2013 after he won the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize in 2012 and I read it, thought ‘ooh, I must ask Terry for a poem’ and then forgot to actually ask.  Well, I never claimed to be organised!

Terry Quinn was born in Birmingham and settled in Preston in 1995. He retired in 2012 from his career as a Medical Engineer in the NHS.

Terry has been active in the local poetry scene for over 15 years and is Vice President of Preston Poets’ Society.  As well as his Indigo Dreams publication which you can get hold of a copy of here Terry also published another collection in 2010 called ‘Away’ published by Poetry Monthly Press.

He has been published recently in The North, South, French Literary Review, Acumen and Ink, Sweat and Tears.  His poem is featured on the BBC Poetry Proms website as a runner up in the competition and if you find yourself in Guernsey, you will see one of his poems on a bus!  Terry also has a blog here if you would like to find out more about him.

I’ve asked Terry for two poems, because they are only short ones and I liked them both too much to choose between.  ‘Wishful Thinking’ makes me laugh because my husband really did once come home and say ‘I almost bought you some flowers today’.  But there is also something really sad in the last verse – if it was being read out, it is probably one of those poems that would make you laugh in the first verse and then feel guilty for laughing in the second verse.  ‘Couples’ is so completely right with its description of one of the tribulations of being alone that I had to ask for that one too.  I like the linebreaks in ‘Couples’ as well, especially the words ‘One’ being on a line by themselves – it has a William Carlos Williams feel to it as it falls down the page.

Thanks to Terry for letting me use two of his poems, and apologies that it has taken so long to put them up!


Wishful Thinking – Terry Quinn

Have you still
got the dress
I almost
bought you

or did you
throw it out
with all
the other stuff



Gets a table
Joins the queue
Leaving me
With a tray
And a terrible
Sense of injustice

Sunday Poem – Greg White


Evening all – this week has been another busy week (is there any other kind?) It feels like I’ve been in non-stop rehearsals.  On Monday I had junior band rehearsal as usual and then Wednesday I had a rehearsal with the Soul Survivors, the nine-piece soul band that I play in.  It’s the first rehearsal I’ve been to in a month because I’ve been away.  On Thursday I had a rehearsal with the South Lakes Brass Ensemble – we are the musicians for the next Poem and a Pint on April 25th, held at Greenodd Village Hall.  The event starts at 7.30pm and it would be great to see some of you there.  The guest poet is Beatrice Garland.  Traditionally, our numbers go down when we go out into the village venues, so I hope any Cumbrian admirers of brass music, poetry or open mics will come and support us and Beatrice, who is travelling all the way from London to read in South Cumbria.

After the rehearsal with South Lakes Brass I went straight to the Nines Nightclub in Barrow for a soundcheck with the Soul Survivors, ready for our gig on Friday night.  The soundcheck can be a frustrating process and it is so different to playing in a quintet, where the players control the volume that they play at, or at least they are supposed to!  At the soundcheck the sound engineer has control over the sound of the band, having to mix everything that he gets through the speakers to get the right balance of sound.  Sometimes there is random feedback with no logic as to why it is there.  It is like there are little ghosts in the wires and the speakers that like to make mischief when they feel like it.  Luckily we have an excellent sound engineer and it all got sorted in the end – but we were rehearsing there till 11.30 when the bar staff let us know that they wanted to go home!

The gig on Friday night was amazing.  It sold out within a couple of weeks of the tickets going on sale.  We were playing to over 350 people at The Nines nightclub in Barrow but there was a great atmosphere in the room – it being Barrow most people seemed to know each other.  It was lovely to see so many of my friends there as well – poets, runners, teachers, teaching assistants amongst many others.

I’ve played in lots of different bands in the last twenty years – orchestras, chamber orchestras, new music ensembles, big bands, jazz bands, brass quintets, brass ensembles, brass bands but I think playing in the Soul Survivors is both the most challenging and the most rewarding.  For both of the gigs we have done so far we have done two sets which are about an hour long.  It is physically hard work.  You have to play in the same position because you are playing into a microphone so after a while your shoulders and your arms start to hurt.  It is always too hot on stage with the amount of bodies in the room and the stage lights, which often feel like what I imagine it must feel like in a tanning studio.  The music is not usually technically difficult, but it is usually quite high.  I woke up the next morning after the gig feeling like I’d done a half-marathon again – I was aching all over.  This might sound like I’m moaning, but I actually really enjoy playing in the band, but I guess I’m learning now how physically different it is to the other types of playing that I’ve done.  The other thing that is enjoyable is the other people in the band are really great – we have such a good laugh at rehearsals.  We have quite a few gigs coming up over the next few months so I will keep you posted.

My friend, the poet Keith Hutson also came up on Friday to the gig and then stayed for the weekend to help me and Chris with the garden.  We also had my running buddy Jeff and Chris’s friend Eddy helping out to.  I am normally very squeamish about insects but I don’t know if there are less about or if I was just not noticing them, but I only saw one slug which fell onto my arm from a bit of chopped down tree I was carrying and a worm when I was sitting on the floor eating my lunch.  Apart from that the insects didn’t bother me and I really enjoyed working at something which I didn’t have to think about too much – my job was getting rid of a huge pile of chopped down hedge from the bottom of the back garden to the front garden so the council can hopefully come and pick it up next week, so I could just get on with it.  Keith has rotovated the lawn and put down grass seeds and the fence has been concreted in.  I can’t wait for the grass to start growing – at the minute it looks like a bit of a wasteland.

Today me and Keith had a poetry day – it has been ages since I’ve sat down with a friend and looked at each other’s poems which was really useful for me as I’ve been telling myself for ages that I’m not writing and that what I am writing is rubbish.  To get a more balanced view on it was really useful.  Keith has a really exciting pamphlet in the making, exploring the lives of Troupers – artistes from the past but he is also writing about masculinity and what it is to be a man and also what it is to play a role.  It’s really interesting stuff.

This morning before our poetry marathon we went for a run with the Walney Wind Cheetahs and did the Dalton 10k route.  I am absolutely chuffed that I managed the distance without my injury flaring up and at a pretty good pace as well which I’m really pleased about.

This week writing wise there have been lots of exciting things happening.  I have been interviewed on the Seren blog and you can read the interview here. 

Seren also made ‘A Psalm for the Scaffolders’ their Friday poem and you can read it here. 

I’m also running an online course for The Poetry School called ‘The Act of Transformation.’   If you’re interested in transformation or Ovid or bodies and souls and illness and birth and death and aging, then this is the course for you! Please have a look on the Poetry School website – there are only a few places left so you will have to be quick.  You can find a recent blog post that I wrote about the course detailing the areas I’ll be exploring here and information about the course here

So today’s Sunday Poem is Greg White.  It seems like years ago that I met Greg but actually it was only last October at Ilkley Literature Festival.  Greg read some beautiful poems about dementia and also some very funny poems as well.  I bought his book ‘best before’ which is a beautifully made thing with lovely paper and a cover, but also it is jammed full with fantastic poems, so much so that I asked Greg if I could use two of the poems for the Sunday Blog this week.

Greg says  I wrote poetry at school, but I found my way back to it as an adult by blogging about my Mother’s dementia. Writing was a strategy to help me focus and deal with my fright at witnessing her rapid decline, but it brought me friends from around the globe and I eventually found myself helping support others going through the same experience with their loved ones.


“best before” is an on-going project, with blog episodes constantly resolving themselves into further poems. The eventual collection is likely to be about 100 poems long, but I can’t say when it will be finished since my muse is always distracting me with more whimsical work about unrequited love, bathroom fixtures and biscuits.

My mate John Foggin does an ‘Undiscovered Gem’ feature on his blog and I think Greg is definitely one of those  He has had poems in three locally published anthologies ‘The Garden’, ‘Spokes’ and ‘How Am I Doing for Time?’ but apart from that he hasn’t had any poems published in magazines.  It is rare to find a poet who writes so well who hasn’t got into submitting poems to magazines yet but I think I have found one!

‘exam’ does its work really well – describing with accuracy the guilt and conflict felt by a carer.  This is good poetry though with lots of rhymes to hold it together not just the subject matter – betrayed and changes as a half rhyme, clue and you as a full rhyme.  I like how Greg is also exploring how the roles of parent and child have been reversed – he is the one anxiously looking after his mother.

I couldn’t resist putting in ‘little stranger’ as well because it is a brilliant poem.  It is very Emily Dickinson in it’s feel with the capatalized Mother and Stranger.  Perhaps my favourite bit of this four line poem is the last line, again, Greg is balancing very deftly, between the two definitons of stranger.  The pamphlet continues to develop a narrative of sorts around the issues of dementia but I wouldn’t want you to think this is a dark book full of depressing things – it is actually really funny in some places

The sad thing for you all is that Greg only has ten remaining copies of ‘best before’ which he is selling for a whole £5, including postage and packing.   If you would like one, please email Greg  nonesuchpoetry@yahoo.co.uk

exam – Greg White

You sit placidly, while you’re betrayed:
I list your failings, your mistakes,
your passivity itself a clue.  I fear I may forget, that I won’t convey
the scale of all the changes
only I can see in you.
The GP listens, and instructs you to retain:
“Candle”, “ball” and “shoe”,
then asks you for the month, the day.
You guess wrongly at these two.
And the season?
August is late spring, you say.

Now for maths, and counting back
from a hundred, it’s clear you can’t subtract.
It’s pathetic and he stops you,
points to his watch, his pen, his desk,
can you name them? Yes.

He draws two squares that overlap,
and handing you the pad, suggests
you copy what he’s done.
You tell him that you’re finished, but you’ve only sketched one.
He reminds you of the list
he gave you at the start,
and you remember “candle”.


The exam had ended, and you glow.
Is that satisfaction? I don’t know
how you can think that this went well.
I feel vindicated and ashamed,
because it’s me who’s passed today.
Because I’m relieved to see you fail.

little stranger – Greg White

A little stranger every day,
My Mother has quite gone away.
Who this is I cannot say.
She’s just a little Stranger

Sunday Poem – Jane Houston


Evening folks!  I have had a BRILLIANT weekend – my much-talked about (by me) Poetry Marathon occurred yesterday.  On Saturday morning I got the 6.15am train to the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.  I have  been working on a project where I was matched up with a composition student from the Royal Northern College of Music, Gemma Balmoody.  I was given a song by Strauss and asked to write a poem in response to it, which I did, which Gemma then set to music.  Unfortunately the singer who was due to perform the piece was ill so the audience had to put up with me reading the poem instead.  Thank goodness they put me on before all the sopranos and music, otherwise I don’t know if I would have been able to resist bursting into song halfway through saying the first line.

Afterwards I headed off to the John Rylands Library with the lovely Rachel Davies who was also taking part in the project and various other poets and husbands (their husbands/partners that is – not mine)

We had time for lunch and I had time for a mooch around the library.  It is a beautiful building and I also had time to have a look at the Victorian toilets in the library – they looked just like the toilets at my primary school to me – couldn’t see any difference.  I don’t remember anybody saying they were Victorian!

Rachel is one of the committee members for ‘Poets and Players’ which is a fantastic free event that runs in Manchester.  I was really excited about this event because Alice Oswald was coming to read – unfortunately Alice lives in Devon so was unable to get up north because of the floods, so at very short notice the committee had managed to get Jo Bell and Greville Lindop to read.

Jo Bell read first and she handled the unescapable fact that she was not, in fact, Alice Oswald really well – mainly with humour and apologising to the few elderly people who hadn’t heard about it all – presumably because they do not access the internet as much as the rest of us.  I think I’ve heard Jo Bell read once before but it was a while ago – it was great to hear her – and I think she is similar to Alice Oswald in that she reads her poetry very well – they obviously read very differently – but both could teach us all a thing or two about how to construct a poetry reading.  She was very entertaining as well – and I could have listened to her for another twenty minutes very easily!

I am ashamed to say that in the second half I did get the giggles while the musicians were performing, the kind of giggles when I start to cry from laughing,which seems to be happening to me more and more lately.  I’m not sure if life in general is getting to be more fun or whether slight hysterics is a sign of age.

It was great to hear Grevel Lindop as well – Grevel gave me a commended one year in the Mirehouse Poetry Competition when I was first starting out, so I obviously think he is a wonderful man 🙂  But I enjoyed his set, particularly a poem about a hawk and learning to dance in Cuba.

Anyway, after that, Rachel and her partner and I drove back to Ulverston and got there just in time for Poem and A Pint where the guest poet was the wonderful Moniza Alvi.  The committee provided the floor slots this time and I tried out two new poems that I hadn’t read before.  Moniza Alvi was great.  I’ve always known that I liked Moniza’s work – but in the first half, as she read poems from ‘Carrying My Wife’ and ‘Europa’ and some of her other books – I realised I’ve been reading her poetry since I started writing – the only book of hers I don’t have is ‘Homesic for the Earth’ which is her translations of the poet Jules Supervielle, or versions as Moniza calls them, so I promptly brought that so now I have everything.  I think Moniza is a really important poet – I think she writes about violence and identity and gender in such an unusual way  and it was a real privilage to hear her.  It was a packed audience at Poem and a Pint, and it was a packed audience at Poets and Players which put me in a very good mood, to think that there was so many people that are interested in poetry.  If you would like to see photos from Poem and a Pint event you can have a look at http://www.apoemandapint.co.uk – I’m not sure if they are up yet, but they will be soon.  I managed to sell four pamphlets as well which was a nice feeling as usual.

And that was the Poetry Marathon over!  Today I felt bursting with poetry and not tired of it at all…but have had to do normal things like be sociable and walk the dogs…

Next week will hopefully be full of poetry though – I have lots of things to do – I have my sequence to edit, I have poems to send out from said sequence to magazines (haven’t decided where yet).  On Wednesday there is also an open mic at Zefferellis in Ambleside.  The guest poet will be Zaffar Kunial, the Wordsworth Trust poet-in-residence – so I’m looking forward to that.  If you would like to come you can find more information here http://www.zeffirellis.com/livemusic/event/poetry-open-mic5
It says that the event starts at 8.30, but I would arrive at 8pm if you want to make sure of getting a spot!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Jane Houston who I met last summer at Ty Newydd.  In fact, one of Jane’s poems set many people in the group off into fits of hysterical laughter – unfortunately this is one of those poems she can’t publish for particular reasons (i.e upsetting somebody) otherwise I would put it up here like a shot!  Jane has a very distinctive voice as you will see from this poem – I think she is a very talented poet and has just started sending poems out to magazines in the last couple of months.  She has had her first acceptances from the Interpreter’s House and Obsessed with Piipework so you can read more of her work in those magazines.  She very kindly sent some unpublished work which is very exciting for me and it was hard to choose just one poem from the set she sent.

I like how bonkers this is.  It reminded me a little of Don Paterson’s ‘Love Poem for Natalie “Tusia” Beridze in a good way – its language, its eccentricity and its chasing down a particular subject as far as it can go.  I did a lot of swimming when I was younger and retrieving dummies from the bottom of swimming pools so this poem spoke to me for those reasons as well – except this poem seems to be in the voice of one of the parents who have spent many long, sweaty and probably boring hours watching their offspring in the swimming pool…

The poem is very surefooted – I like the way it skips down the page, and the way that Jane has played with heightened language to create humour throughout the poem – and who could not cringe when they read the line about the plasters and the hairbands in the water – and then I think the last line is a killer – I was reading this poem, smiling as I read it and then the last line sort of wiped the smile off my face (in a good way!)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the poem and thanks to Jane for letting me use this poem.

Because of formatting problems, I have had to attach this poem so you can read it if you click on this link
To Possibility

Sunday Poem – Heidi Williamson


This week has been filled with work and lots of poetry.  On Wednesday I was the guest poet at Zeffirellis in Ambleside.  This was organised by Andrew Forster of the Wordsworth Trust.  There was a really good turn out, lots of open mics and the combination of being able to eat pizza whilst listening to poetry turned out to be very popular, and not nearly as antisocial as it sounds.  I didn’t notice any loud chomping noises whilst I was reading anyway!

Unfortunately the garage said my car would need a £1000 to get it going again, so it has gone to the great car graveyard in the sky – more commonly known as the scrappers.  I am still quite hacked off about it, as I still owe money on the car but trying not to think about it.

Meanwhile, me and hubby are ‘sharing’ his car which has led me to the discovery that I don’t like sharing, and I’m not good at it so we are looking round for a very cheap car.  There is no massive rush at the minute,as we are just about managing to share one.

Yesterday was Polly Atkin’s launch of her pamphlet -she was the winner of the inaugral Mslexia pamphlet competition, and her pamphlet ‘Shadow Dispatches’ is published by Seren.  It’s very blue and pretty and I really enjoyed the reading.  The reading was at Grasmere at the Wordsworth Trust.  Polly is a really good reader of her work, and her poems are packed full of imagery.  I think one of her strengths, from a first read through of it is the wonderful similes and metaphors she uses.  I would definitely recommend it.  I got a lift with Mark Carson and we whizzed off pretty sharpish afterwards so we would have time to eat and get sorted out before Poem and A Pint in the evening.

Poem and A Pint was great!  If you missed Billy Letford you should be kicking yourself- although not too hard, as he is reading at the Wordsworth Trust in June, so you could go and see him read there.  He recites all his poems from memory, no introductions and it feels as if the poem is holding the audience still – then he stops and the spell is broken and we all breathe again before the next one.  A masterclass in how to give a good reading – I would love to perform more like that – although if I just copied it would be ridiculous – but I have got lots of ideas of how to improve my own performance.

And today I am very proud of myself.  I lost the argument with the hubby as to who has the car – he was going hiking in the Lakes so his need was greater – so I actually used a bus to get to Ulverston.  I don’t know why but I have had an irrational dislike of buses – I think it’s from having to catch them every day in Birmingham when I was teaching there.  And once in Birmingham, I’m sure I saw a flea leap from the person’s leg who was sitting next to me on to my leg.  Now rationally, it was probably some other high-jumping insect, as I probably wouldn’t have been able to see a flea but I can’t help being convinced it was a flea.

So, this morning a nice bus driver stopped even though I was standing at the wrong bus stop and let me on the bus to Ulverston and it was absolutely fine.  No fleas – in fact hardly any passengers.

I was going to a Poem and A Pint committee memeber’s house who was looking after Billy Letford -we’d been invited for tea and cake.  That was very nice, and I got back again on the bus, no excitement, no traumas.

I think I also don’t quite believe that the buses adhere to timetables – and I hate waiting.  But I’ve decided these are irrational thoughts, not based on experience of Barrow buses, so I’m going to have to give them more of  a go I think.

Today’s Sunday poem is by Heidi Williamson. Her first collection ‘Electric Shadow’ is published by Bloodaxe and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. It was also shortlisted in 2012 for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry.

I read ‘Electric Shadow’ only recently, although it came out in 2011 and I really enjoyed the book.  It is easy to see why it has garnered so much interest- she uses unusual angles to write about big themes like in the poem ‘At the hands-on science centre’ when she recounts a couple standing between parrallel mirrors – really this poem, I think, is about relationships and power and absence, but she approaches this through the doorway of a science centre – which is unusual I think.

So when I spotted Heidi on Twitter I asked her if I could have a poem from the book.  As in most cases when I have permission to pick any poem from the book, it was hard to settle on one.  I decided to pick the strangest one in the collection because it was my favorite.

You can order ‘Electric Shadow’ from Bloodaxe here http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/personpage.asp?author=Heidi+Williamson and you can find out more about Heidi Williamson here: http://www.heidiwilliamsonpoet.com

So here is the poem:

If Then Else – Heidi Williamson

your lover asks you to bite his tongue,
do it
Else you are alone and bloodless

you cannot find yourself, Then
find another
Else you are alive and loveless

you breathe numbness, Then
rejoice quietly
Else you are woken

you age, Then
Else you age lifelessly

you die, Then
Else you age lifelessly

you die, Then
Else you die thoughtlessly

you wish to eat apples and oranges, Then
Else no distinctions can be made

If Then Else: A logic statement in high-level programming that defines the data to be compared and the actions to be taken as a result.  There can only be one of two outcomes.  There is no scope for ambiguity. 

A Poem And A Pint with Tony Curtis


Evening folks

Anybody who is within striking distance of Ulverston should really head over this Saturday to see the wonderful Tony Curtis performing at A Poem and A Pint, this Saturday 9th February, starting at 7.30pm at the Coronation Hall in the Supper Room.  It would be lovely to see some of you there.  There is no open mic this time, but the committee will be providing five minute floor slots- so that means I’ll be reading!  I don’t know what yet – I don’t like to be too organised, and after all it is only Thursday.

Today has been a hard day – I drove to Kendal to do 2 hours whole-class brass teaching  in the morning, then back to Barrow to do another 2 hours whole-class brass teaching there, and then straight back to Kendal to do a 2 hour Inset session.  I feel like I’m coming down with a cold – feel really run-down, but am determined not to be ill over half term.  That would be too cruel!

I’ve had a dodgy foot since Sunday which I have, to be fair been MOANING about, mainly because I’ve been hobbling about, and limping is really bloody exhausting – it basically feels like I’ve got a bruise on my foot.  Anyway, I went to the doctor’s yesterday, feeling like a bit of an idiot, and the doctor said I have plantar fasciitis so am on heavy duty anti-inflammatories.

I feel slightly guilty as my plantar fasciitis problem has trumped hubby’s glued-up-hole-in-his-chin problem (see previous post) and he’s been having to walk the dogs all week as I can’t put any weight on one foot.  However he saw the dentist yesterday, and they think he can just have a cap on his tooth which will cost £200 (!) and hopefully the teeth won’t fall out.  I thought it would make more sense to wait and see if the tooth falls out first before putting the £200 cap on it, but apparently not – the tooth will just get weaker if it is not capped.

I am now off for an early night (again).  I know I will see some of you on Saturday at Poem and A Pint, and I will be posting up a really beautiful Sunday poem this Sunday from one of my favourite poets – but you will have to wait to find out who it is.