Tag Archives: poetry business

Sunday Poem – Kim Lasky


I am aware that I am starting to write this blog at 11.19pm which is way too late.  Most of you, in fact will probably read this in the morning – even my most loyal followers are probably tucked up in bed by now.  But never mind.

This week has another week of painting our house – poor unloved creature – some of the rooms have not been decorated since I moved in which will be 8 years ago in April.  I have learnt a few things about painting this week.

1.  Don’t worry about patches on the first coat – it all evens out second time around.

2.  It is much more exciting to paint in colour – I got to do a blue wall today but also much harder as you actually have to have straight lines instead of just slapping paint on wooden skirting boards.

3.  Painting is really hard work

My favourite job is painting the woodwork because I can sit down to do that.  I don’t really like standing up.  Today my office which is also our spare bedroom got its coat of paint – there are just the skirting boards in there to do now.  The next job I think is the living room.  Then after that we have the kitchen, our bedroom and the bathroom to do.  I’m quite enjoying it though – but then I have always loved monotony at work.  One of my favourite jobs was working on a check out in the Co-op in Birmingham.  I loved the robotic nature of it – not saying that people who work in supermarkets are robotic – but I definitely was.  I couldn’t be bothered to make small talk or smile at people but I did enjoy scanning food items and judging people on the contents of their trolleys.

Other exciting things that have happened to me this week include getting two poems accepted in The Rialto http://www.therialto.co.uk/pages/
which has a swanky new website which is worth checking out.  The Rialto is a prince among magazines I believe for a number of reasons – its production, its beautiful smell, its glossy pages, the lovely editor who even when sending a rejection always took the time to write a little note on the rejection slip, but best of all, when you do get a poem in you get a twenty pound note in an envelope which is a wonderful feeling.

The event page for a project I’ve been working on has gone up as well at https://tickets.bridgewater-hall.co.uk/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=23124

This project involved poets who were once MA students at Manchester Met being paired up with postgraduate composers from the Royal Northern College of Music.  The poets were given the text to a song by Strauss, or a literal translation of it anyway and we then had to write a poem in response to the text.  We also had to provide a short explanation of how we got from the Strauss text to our finished poem.  I forgot about this and then got an email asking for text and when I started to look into the process found out all kinds of interesting things.

The poets then had to send their poems to their composers.  I have no idea what my composer has done with poem.  I don’t mind really not knowing – it will be exciting to hear it though.

This is all happening on February 8th which is another poetry marathon day for me.  So I’ll be off to the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester for 10.30 which is the start of the performance.  Then I’ll be going to the Poets and Players event where ALICE OSWALD is reading.  I saw her read at Swindon Poetry Festival last year and it was the best reading I went to all year, so I clearly have to go and see her again.  That is at 2.30 – http://poetsandplayers.co/

and then I’ll be driving quite briskly back to Ulverston for 7.30 to Poem and A Pint where the wonderful Moniza Alvi will be our guest poet and I’ll be reading two poems as one of the warmup acts.  I’m hoping lovely poet Rachel Davies, who is as bonkers as me is going to accompany me in this madness and maybe stay at mine for a glass of wine as well afterwards…

The other lovely thing I did this week was work with Andrew Forster at the Wordsworth Trust to run a Young Writers session in Kendal.  This project is going to run for the next two Fridays and will culminate with a session with the young writers at Dove Cottage.  We had a group of four and they were the dream group – enthusiastic, keen, funny, engaging – I really enjoyed it.  It was nice to be working with Andrew as well – I am always slightly apprehensive about working with friends – it’s like going on holiday with them isn’t it – it can end in disaster when you wind each other up and leave the toothpaste lid off the toothpaste – but I think we worked well together and it was good fun.  Hopefully we will still be speaking to each other in a months time…

Which brings us to today’s Sunday Poem which is by Kim Lasky, another poet shortlisted for the Michael Marks award.  Kim was a winner in the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition last year with her pamphlet ‘Petrol, Cyan, Electric’ but she hasn’t let that slow her down – she has just had another pamphlet published with Templar called ‘Eclipse’.  I must admit to not having ‘Eclipse’ yet but I do have the PB pamphlet which is fantastic.  Her poems are very different – full of science, but in an approachable, readable way.  You can order ‘Petrol, Cyan, Electric’ from the Poetry Business at http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk

I picked ‘Pylons, 1929’ because it was the poem that I enjoyed most in the pamphlet.  I enjoyed the story it told of the man who tends pylons, which most of the time are unnoticed in the background of any landscape.  Unless you are like me, who had an obsession with Watership Down and used to look for pylons that looked like the pylon in Watership Down, halfway up a hill where a rabbit could hide itself in a clump of grass whilst a black dog ran past but that is beside the point, slightly.  I love the description of the pylon in the first section – particularly ‘lit strange as silver, a gateway in metal/on mapped land.’  I like the way Kim deftly creates two characters with her portrayal of insignificant details – the woman who ‘fetches/hair from her face with the back of her hand’.  Isn’t that  a beautiful way of putting it – ‘fetches’ – not ‘wipes’ or ‘pushes’ or ‘brushes’ – fetches is just right.  I also really like the description of the pylons in part 3 as ‘advancing like metallic warriors’.  It strikes me now that the most active parts of this poem are the pylons – they advance, they ‘staple the land’, they crackle and hum.  They are closely followed by the man, but his movement is not so immediate – we are told he turns for home and we have to imagine his movement for ourselves – and the woman is captured like a photograph – the way she ‘fetches’ her hair from her face.  By the end of the poem, it seems the only thing left that is active and can move in the poem are the pylons while the man and woman lie in bed.  The pylons have the power…I should also say this poem was highly commended in the 2012 Bridport Prize.

If you would like to know more about Kim Lasky and her work she has a website at http://kimlasky.com/

Thanks to Kim for letting me use her poem!

Pylons, 1929 – Kim Lasky


All day he has climbed
the ledges of outstretched arms,
finding footholds in their soldered webs.
Sweat has matted the hair beneath his cap,
tobacco flecked his tongue. Now the sun is falling
towards the horizon; amber comes to mind
as it aligns behind the half-built tower
lit strange as silver, a gateway in metal
on mapped land. He turns for home, thinks of her
watching the skillet on the gas, the way she fetches
hair from her face with the back of her hand,
how he’ll tell her there’s nothing troubling here,
just this― the uneven tilt of the earth,
the rising green of the hills, unconcerned.


The terraces line up just the same,
grey pavements, the smell of grease in the alley.
He lifts the latch, swings in;
the gate is all she hears in the kitchen.
At the door, he’s stopped by the curve of her back,
the knot of cotton at her waist that flounces
to the hem of her skirt. She checks the flame
before she turns, oblivious to the sweat of gas
on the window, the sulphur air. What she notices
is the breeze he carries in that pricks
like static on her skin, his matted hair,
how he looks before he leans to untie his laces,
something that’s beyond her knowing, half-denied,
lurking beneath the surface of his eye.


Then, when he lies awake at night
he thinks of them advancing like metallic warriors
charging, passing leaping arcs of current from arm to arm.
But he knows they are only waiting to crackle and hum
among the sheep in the fields, the circling birds.
So he fills his mind instead with things he knows:
tomorrow the drays will pull the cable; guy wire,
ground wire; 50 Hz, three-phase.
Against this, the weight of her sleeping next to him,
the callus on his hand, a thigh muscle flinching.
As, outside, the pylons stretch from striding legs,
stapling earth to sky― the threads of his labour
clinging mutely to the hillside, promising blue arcs:
proud, stock-still, unafraid of the dark.




Sunday Poem – River Wolton


This week was the last week of term – and it’s been a bit strange.  I can often be found counting down till the end of term – especially the Christmas term – I sometimes feel like I’m hanging on to my patience and my sanity with my finger nails.  Then term finishes, and I get a bit down and fed up and – well my husband would say grumpy but I think that is a little unfair! I have no idea why I get like this – I find it hard to relax and do nothing – I feel guilty so maybe this is something to do with it…

On Monday I went and played some carols with Barrow Steelworks Band for an hour in Morrisons from 4-5 then drove pretty sharpish over to Tescos for 5.30 to conduct my junior band playing carols.

On Tuesday I stood in for a teacher and conducted St Pius School Band at a concert at St Marks Church in Barrow.  It was a lovely concert – but I found it quite stressful – the kids knew how many repeats they were doing and when they were meant to be singing and dancing (!) thank goodness, but a couple of children turned up late so there I was trying to find chairs for them after the first piece, then another turned up and didn’t know where she’d left her instrument etc etc – made me realise that not only does playing in a band teach musical skills but it also should teach organisational skills and punctuality! Saying that, I went to a gig in Kendal (45 minutes drive away) and realised I’d left my trumpet at home once and I was an adult – and the children did cope very well with me conducting them instead of their usual teacher – they were not shy about correcting me either before we were about to start (“we normally play this one fast”) (“this one starts off with the drums”) etc and it is Christmas, so what I am trying to say, is that on balance, I forgave them their tardiness!

On Wednesday I spent most of the day driving round to various schools and there were no kids to teach – they had gone to the cinema or were having a party but I was still out and about most of the morning and then by 3.45 on Wednesday I was finished and that was when instead of feeling harried/tired I started to feel grumpy…

In my free time since then I have read Clare Pollard’s ‘Ovid’s Heroines’ (it was very good – very interesting as well – as in, gripping in the way a novel is gripping), done the Christmas shopping (on a strict budget this year which I have managed to stick to), done a leaflet for my school poetry workshops (I ran these through Cumbria Music Service last year – but this year I will be doing them freelance) and I have plotted to set up a brass quintet.

This is what happens when I have time on my hands you see!  But I am really excited about the brass quintet .  We have our first rehearsal booked in for early January and we will be performing at weddings and other occasions as required – once we have a name (which we don’t at the minute) I will be setting up a blog and a facebook and twitter group – but in the meantime, if you know anybody who would like a brass quintet for any occasion then get in touch!  There will be a special poets rate 🙂

So today’s Sunday Poem is by River Wolton.  River’s second collection ‘Indoor Skydiving’ has just been published by Smith/Doorstop and it is very good – completely rooted in the modern world  tackling issues such as human trafficking and assumptions about gender and identity.  River also has a pamphlet with Smith/Doorstop called ‘The Purpose of Your Visit’ and a first collection ‘Leap’.  You can buy all of these publications by going to http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk

The poem I’ve chosen was one of those rare poems that you read and instantly connect with – I loved it straight away.  I have no particular love for rats to be honest – when I lived in Leeds because of the students in the top flat bombing their bin bags into the rubbish yard we had a period of time when there were rats living in the building, and they weren’t particularly shy.  I remember coming into the entrance hall of the flats and a rat sitting on a bin bag, and when the light from outside fell on it, it just looked at me and watched me as I scampered past. This poem rests in the journey the reader takes – the poem unpacks the statement the poet makes in the first line and the reader changes their mind about rats by the end of the poem as well.  I really liked the movement in this poem – nothing is still – the floodwater flowing, the quick movement of the rat as she picks the babies up in her mouth and we can picture the rat in the water because of the description of her swimming against the current and that lovely ending of the young rats not knowing whether to fear the water or being in their mother’s mouth… I realise this is not a very festive choice but it does go with last weeks choice of a cat poem!

Rat – by River Wolton

I changed my mind
after a documentary:
floodwater in a sewer.

She took them one by one
scruff of their necks
as if to eat them.

They shrieked,
didn’t know where they were going,
couldn’t see

the torrent forced
into a lethal channel by
excellent Victorian masonry.

Against the flow she swam,
her snakey tail, her bead-black nose,
her children in her mouth,

then scampered to a higher ledge,
and dropped them.
Back again

to where those remaining quivered,
not knowing what to fear most,
the cold thickening around them.



Sunday Poem – Isabel Bermudez


If feels as if time is accelerating since the start of December – maybe it is because December gets very busy for music teachers and the pressure is now on to get Jingle Bells sounding like Jingle Bells before Christmas in my normal teaching – which is more complicated than it sounds!

I am taking the Barrow Shipyard Junior Band caroling next week – on Monday we can be found playing carols in Asda, on Tuesday we will be at Anchor Court in Dalton and Wednesday we will be at Ormsgill Primary School playing in their carol concert.  On Thursday I’ll be in Grasmere running a schools workshop for the Wordsworth Trust and on Friday you will find me in a heap somewhere…next Monday the band will be caroling in Tesco.  This is our main chance in the year to build our coffers up to enable us to do exciting things throughout the year – last year the money we made caroling meant we could make our first album – which was launched on Tuesday last week.
We sold 44 copies on the night of the launch – I think we need to sell 120 to break even on production costs so if you would like one please get in touch.

Apart from the launch night the other thing I got up to this week was driving over to Darlington to work on a project with New Writing North which is based around the idea of working with newly qualified teachers and helping them to teach more creatively..I was just observing in this session but next time I go over in February I will be teaching part of the session – Anna Woodford led the session this time – a lovely lady who was great fun.  I offered her a lift back to the train station and we nearly got lost – both of us paying no attention to our surroundings when we had arrived at the school a couple of hours later and then mishearing the directions we were given – but we got there eventually!

In other news I went to Sheffield yesterday to the last Writing School meet up at the Poetry Business.  I think I wrote at least one poem which I think will go into my sequence – so that takes me up to 14 (if I keep them all).  I also picked up two copies of The North magazine yesterday with my two poems in ‘My People’ and ‘The Dead Tree’.  There are lots of great poets in this issue – and if you are looking for  a good poetry magazine to subscribe to you can’t go wrong with The North.  You can order it at http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk

If you haven’t already – do have a look at the ‘Residentials and Workshops’ tab – there are details there of the next residential I’m running in Grange Over Sands with poet Jennifer Copley in April 2014.  You will also find dates for a residential I’m running in October 2014 with poet Clare Shaw down in St Ives – both are now open for booking – the Grange one has 8 places left – the St Ives one is ok for spaces as I’ve only just put the dates up.  Both are £350 and this includes tuition, accommodation, breakfast and dinner.  And my amazing company of course!  A bargain…

Today’s Sunday poem is by a lovely poet I met at Torbay Poetry Festival in October – Isabel Bermudez.  Isabel  was born in Bogota, and came to England as a child. She has been published in various magazines and shortlisted in a number of competitions, including twice for the Bridport. She was Highly Recommended in this year’s Torbay Open Poetry Competition.  Her documentary film  El Corazon de la Basura, was shown on Colombian state television and at the Cuban International Film Festival in 2000.

Isabel’s husband Simon is a wonderful artist and Isabel gave me this poem on a beautiful illustrated post card which Simon had painted…I am always partial to a heron poem but I do like the close descriptions in this poem – and how sure-footed the poem is – each line break feels right.  I also like the questioning or doubt in the middle of the poem and the description of the bird which looks only as if it is sleeping rather than dead – and the unnamed body found in the river that is the shadow behind the poem all the way through…

I hope you enjoy the poem…

Heron – Isabel Bermudez

Flung, her wings collapsed, elbows bent, intact,
as if heaving a huge sigh; her beak wrenched this way or that
brought in by the tide; grey lady, wheezed of life
morning in, morning after.  Bodies too, on this stretch of river
cast up bloated with weeds in their hair,
not pristine as this old lady here.  She’s only closed her eyes,
as if temporarily, only temporarily, forgetting to shake her wings,
take flight, as if any moment, she might…Suicide, murder, accident?
We’ll never know; a picture in the paper – party night,
walking home, last seen saying goodbye to friends;
hunched queen on Eel Pie Island, shriven, mute,
a grey flush of wings flying high over the slatey Thames.
No rescue boat, police cordon, divers, journalists
to document her demise, but for a short time only she’s
foreshore news for Sunday joggers, dog-walkers, wino
and the couples that walk on the towpath down by the brewery;
arms crooked; counting the days till spring


Sunday Poem – Jane Routh


Evening everybody! This week has mainly been about recovering from last Sunday – the all day workshop left me completely knackered – most of Monday I spent on the sofa watching rubbish TV which was about all my brain could cope with.  I didn’t expect many of the kids to turn up for junior band on Monday – I thought they would be as tired as I was and would probably have a night off – but I was wrong.  We had nearly a full rehearsal and the workshop seems to have enthused them even more – and it was the rehearsal that woke me up and got me moving again really.  Next weekend we are recording a CD – so tomorrow we are having an extra long rehearsal so we can go through the music.  After that, we are playing at Ormsgill School Fete on the 28th June, going to see the Haffner Orchestra on the 29th, and then playing in Barrow Park with St Pius School Orchestra on the 7th July.  I am getting slightly panicky when I think about this succession of dates – but trying to do one thing at a time.  So the next thing is the CD.

Before that on Friday 21st June, I’m reading at Lancaster Spotlight at The Storey, Meeting House Lane in Lancaster.  There are lots of other readers and musicians, including local poet Ron Scowcroft, so I’m looking forward to it, and hopefully seeing some Lancastrian folk as well!

Then on Saturday, I’m off to Grasmere to a all day Translation workshop with Sasha Dugdale – which I think there are still spaces for – get in touch with The Wordsworth Trust if you are interested.  Sunday is the CD recording.  My mum and dad are also coming up to visit for a while so it’s going to be pretty full on this weekend.

I found out yesterday that my pamphlet has been shortlisted for the Lakeland Book of the Year award.  I am one of three books shortlisted in the ‘Art and Literature Category and the awards ceremony is on July 2nd – so I’ll let you all know then if I win.  I’m very happy to be shortlisted – it’s not a specific poetry prize – it’s for books about or that reference the Lake District – so it will be interesting to see how my wolves get on…

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Jane Routh.  I’ve been meaning to ask Jane for a poem for ages now, but I wanted to wait until I heard her read, and then pounce on her and hopefully get my favourite poem of the night.  My opportunity came a couple of weeks ago in Ambleside when Jane was the guest poet at Zefferellis’ open mic slot.

Jane is based in Lancaster but I often bump into her at events in Grasmere.  Jane’s first poetry book ‘Circumnavigation’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and her second, ‘Teach Yourself Mapmaking’  was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.  Her third book ‘A Gift of Boats’ has come out very recently – all three from Smith/Doorstop.  You can buy one or all three by clicking on the link http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/jane-routh

I’ve chosen a poem from her second book ‘Teach Yourself Mapmaking’ because I heard her read it on the night and I knew one particular line would haunt me

‘tell me about your sly animal self/
among the dry ochre grasses of winter’

It is that ‘sly animal self’ – I think it is a wonderful turn of phrase – a wonderful truth.  I think this poem also encapsulates what a lot of Jane’s poetry seems to be about – our relationship with the environment and with animals and how we manage this.   I like that the tone of the poem is confident, almost an order, yet the voice of the poem contrasts to this because it is asking for knowledge, knowledge of another person – the speaker wants to know what another human being thinks, really thinks about things but it is clear from the tone of the poem that the speaker has very definite opinions of their own as well!  I think the curiosity displayed is another hallmark of Jane’s poetry.

After typing the poem up – which means that there is the possibility of typos, but I like doing it, unless the poem’s really long, because I like to try and inhabit the poet’s voice as I’m typing, I wondered if this poem, as well as addressing another, was actually about the act of writing.  Maybe it is a poem addressed to the self as well – asking the poet to tell the truth of things –

In the middle of the poem it says ‘No more about roses or snowdrops’ which could be seen as being typical poetry subjects – the poem is asking the poet to tell about things that are important – the ‘sly animal self’.  Anyway!  Maybe I should stop thinking.  Maybe it is neither of these things.

Anyway, here is this week’s Sunday Poem – I hope you enjoy it.

Tell Me What Else – Jane Routh

Now tell me why.  Tell me about greed.
Show me how to think about infinity.
How far does war go down with you?
Make me  a list of what counts.  Explain
why you think the moon’s the same size
as the sun: your answer’s who you are.
Say how three brothers trouble sleep,
turn, and draw their brown cloaks close
as they approach the arch – whether
they visit from another life, or whether
they’re already dreamed and something
in your brain has named them wrongly.
No more about roses or snowdrops
but tell me about your sly animal self
among the dry ochre grasses of winter.
Or tell me about the moment when you sit
on a boulder in the river and you are the river,
you are the alders and the early morning air
and the deer who doesn’t see you, high-stepping
among cobbles at the crossing place
on such thin legs.