Tag Archives: poetry in barrow

Sunday Poem – Ilse Pedler

Sunday Poem – Ilse Pedler

I’ve just got back from a run with the dogs.  I decided to run through the dunes and then back along the beach.  It has been a beautiful day here in Barrow – very hot and sunny.  I was running as the sun was going down and the sky turning red.  Although it was beautiful, I still didn’t enjoy it as much as I do when I go with friends.  Why is running alone so much harder than running in a group?  Is it because you are left to your own thoughts?  If I didn’t know I’ve ran 13 miles in three different races, I wouldn’t have believed it, from how tired I felt running along that beach back to the car.

I normally go running in the morning with the Walney Wind Cheetahs, but couldn’t go today as I had family visiting this weekend.  My twin sister and her husband were doing the Keswick to Barrow 42 mile walk yesterday, along with my husband so they came over on Friday night, and then got a coach up to Keswick, leaving at 3.30am on Saturday morning.

I must admit in the preparations for the Keswick to Barrow, I was quite relieved that I had a reading booked at Keighley Library at 3pm so I couldn’t take part.  I was even more relieved when they all started stomping about at 2.45 am and I could stay in bed.  I got up to go to Park Run and decided I would jog round and not push myself. Instead, I ended up running round with my friend J.  J hasn’t been running for a few months so decided to do my bit to get him back into the peak of physical fitness.  Think of the White Orc driving the other Orcs in The Hobbit, and you will have an idea of how Park Run was.  I’m sure I heard J sob at one point, but as I said to him afterwards, if you can sob then you clearly have too much energy!

After Park Run, I got a phone call from the husband, who had developed blisters.  Husband never gets blisters and had done lots of training so the sudden appearance of the blisters was a mystery.  I helpfully suggested that maybe he’d put his shoes on the wrong feet, but this didn’t go down too well.  I drove to Lowick with a spare pair of shoes, dumped them with my parents, who were one of the support cars for my sister’s team, and then drove like a slightly crazed person to Keighley.

There was a great crowd at Keighley, and a lovely friendly librarian running the show.  Carole Bromley had been running an ‘Exploring Poetry’ session beforehand, and I managed to get a copy of her new book ‘The Stonegate Devil’ which I’ve read a bit of in the sunshine this afternoon.  I did my reading, and a Q and A session and then drove back to Barrow in the hopes of seeing the husband and my twin sister and her husband finishing.

Sadly, Chris was too quick for me and had already got to the end by the time I got back to Barrow.  There aren’t even any photos of him – he is like the Scarlet Pimpernel.  I walked back from Dalton to Barrow with my sister, waving like the queen and stealing some of her glory for walking forty-odd miles, which she couldn’t complain about, as she knew I would bring up the time she pretended to be me at my book launch and was thinking about signing my book!

Poor Matt, my sister’s husband, got really dehydrated and collapsed dramatically against a wall about two miles from the finish.  My dad was with him and threw some water down his throat and got him going again and he managed to finish. So, whilst beforehand I felt no great urge to do the Keswick to Barrow, yesterday was such a great day that I did feel that I’d really missed out not doing the walk, so I’ve put my name down for next year.  My sister was raising money for Animal Concern, where she is the Manager, and will be looking for some more people to make her team up, so if any poets are interested in walking 42 odd miles from Keswick to Barrow, do get in touch!

I also did the Kendal 10k on Wednesday, which was really hard and hilly, but I’m aware that a) this blog has been too full of physical exercise already and b) complaining about the difficulty of Kendal 10k after talking about the Keswick to Barrow is probably not going to work!

Other than running, I’ve been doing other stuff as well.  Poetry-wise, I’ve been catching up with my submissions.  I’ve submitted some poems to the Mslexia Poetry Competition and the Bridport Poetry Competition.  The closing dates aren’t for a while yet, but I decided to just get it done.  I’ve also been working on a poem about my time working in a prison as a poet a couple of years ago.  I’ve tried to write this poem before, and gave up because it didn’t work, so it is interesting to revisit the memories of that time again.

I also had my first mentoring session with my new mentee, which was really lovely. So lovely, in fact that I ran over and forgot to go to Barrow Writers afterwards.  Whoops.

Next week is a busy week.  If you’re anywhere near Ulverston, I’m running an Open Mic at Natterjacks on Wednesday 11th May.   It’s a lovely cafe, and the Open Mic is really in honour of some poetry friends who are holidaying in the Lake District, and wanted a poetry event to go to.  There weren’t any, so I decided to organise an Open Mic instead.  The owners are letting us have the venue for free, so I really hope people come out, buy a cup of tea or a cake, or both, which I’ll be doing, and show their appreciation that way.  It’s free entry, and if you’d like to read your own poem, or a poem by someone else, you can just sign up on the door.

Next Saturday is my Barrow Poetry Workshop.  If you know anyone who is interested in coming, there are still places available.  A lot of my regular workshoppers are on holiday or otherwise indisposed, so it will be a small and select group this month I think.  The workshop is £15 and includes tea, coffee and biscuits.

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Ilse Pedler.  ‘In the Balance’ is taken from her first pamphlet The Dogs that Chase Bicycle Wheels, which was a winner in the 2015 Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Competition.  

In the Balance – Ilse Pedler

We walked in silence that day
to Ladram Bay.  Tired of fighting
we threaded our way through the gorse
at the cliff edge, determined to admire
the rusty sandstone spires.

Then we saw it.  A kestrel balancing
on the back of the sea breeze.
A lightness of air infused bone, held.
Only the ruffle of wing tip feathers
revealing the difference between bird and sky.

We found ourselves standing closer
together, mouths open, staring.
It looks so effortless. 
It must be such hard work
we said, almost at the same time.

There are lots of great poems in the pamphlet, but I chose ‘In the Balance’ because I think, although it could be described as a ‘quiet’ poem, in its length, in its understated tone, it is brave in the way it tackles the complexities of relationships.  I think most people will be able to identify with it – the walking in silence after fighting with a partner, the determination to get some enjoyment from a day that has been ruined.  There is a real honesty here, and also a moment of revelation, I think.  This feels like one of those poems where the poet surprised themselves at the end.


In the second stanza and the first line of the last stanza, the reader is tricked briefly into thinking that the kestrel can bridge the gap between the couple but this doesn’t happen, as they both speak ‘almost at the same time’, saying completely opposite things.

At first, I found this really sad, but I think it can be read another way as well.  The couple do stand closer together, mirroring each other’s posture.  Maybe the poem is pointing out that even in the most perfect relationship, we can’t all think the same way, we don’t perceive things the same way, even when we are looking at the same thing.  Maybe the poem isn’t pointing out how incompatible because of their differing perspectives.   Maybe the poem is the beginning of the realisation and acceptance of difference?

I hope you enjoyed the poem.  If you’d like to order Ilse’s pamphlet, you can order it from Seren.

Finally, congratulations to my friend John Foggin, one of the winners of the 2016 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition.  What a superstar he is.  And as an aside, I’ve just heard an owl hoot.


Sunday Poem – Katrina Naomi

Sunday Poem – Katrina Naomi

Today has consisted of an 11k run in the morning, and then stripping wallpaper from a ceiling in my living room.  We started stripping the wallpaper off the actual walls in this room a while ago, which wasn’t too traumatizing, until we got to the ceiling.  Why would anybody wallpaper a ceiling anyway?  And why would they do it 5 times??  The husband decided to use the washing line pole and gaffa tape it to the steamer so that I could steam while he stood on the ladder and scraped.  I can’t stand on the ladder as I get vertigo so his ingenious invention meant the end of my excuses as to why I couldn’t possibly help with this most boring of jobs.  I told him that every time I steamed another patch of wallpaper, a poem was dying, but he was deaf to my complaints.  We have finally finished and now await the whims of the plasterer to sort out the various holes in the ceiling and walls of the room.

So I haven’t done any writing today, apart from catching up with emails.  I’m busy planning for the Poetry Carousel , which will be happening very soon (August 16th-19th).  In case you’ve just started following this blog, the Poetry Carousel is a residential course with a difference.  It ran for the first time last December and was a success, with all 32 spaces being filled.  I hope we can replicate that again this year with guest tutors including the wonderful Clare Shaw, from Hebden Bridge, and international poets Tsead Bruinja and Saskia Stehouwer from Amsterdam.

Each participant will take part in a 2 hour workshop with each tutor over the four days.  There will be readings in the evenings from the tutors and guest poets.  Workshop groups will be limited to 10 people per workshop.  I will be releasing information about the workshops that we’ll be running next week.  The carousel is a bargain at only £330.  This includes all workshops, accommodation, and breakfast and evening meals.

If you can’t make the Poetry Carousel, then I’m running another course at the hotel with tutor Jennifer Copley (October 24th-28th).  This is a more traditional residential course, limited to 16 participants.  The theme is ‘From Ordinary to Extraordinary‘ and costs £424, to include workshops, accommodation and breakfast and evening meals.

Places for both courses have been selling steadily over the last couple of months, and the hotel have advised early booking to get the nicest rooms!

Although today has been devoid of any poetry, last week was filled with it.  I went to a reading in Grasmere on Wednesday, organised by the wonderful Deborah Hobbs.  Six Cumbrian poets reading – Nick Pemberton, Mark Carson, Jennifer Copley, Mark Ward, Polly Atkin and Deborah – all very different, but very enjoyable to listen to.  Then on Wednesday I went over to Lancaster for an April Poets reading – Carole Coates was launching her fabulous collection ‘Jacob’ which I read yesterday afternoon and couldn’t put down – more on that next week.  Meg Peacock was also launching her New and Selected, which was also very interesting.  One of her poems, ‘Thirteenth Night‘ is one of those poems which is enjoyable no matter how many times you hear it, like listening to a favourite song, so I was really happy when she read it to finish off.  The musician who was playing at April Poets was absolutely fantastic, and it would have been worth the hour and a half drive from Barrow to hear him alone, although sadly  I can’t remember his name now.  Mike Barlow and Ron Scowcroft, the organisers of April Poets also read, celebrating a successful series of events, before they handed over the organisers baton to the new April Poets team, David Borrott and Sarah Hymas.  It will be interesting to see what direction David and Sarah take the April Poets event next.

The highlight of my week this week was reading in Chorlton for Manky Poets, run by Copland Smith, another great organiser-poet.  The event started off with an open-mic, where nearly everyone in the 20 plus audience got up and read one poem, the only rule being that the introduction couldn’t be longer than the poem.  The readers were so well-behaved that there was time to go around again – it was a really varied and interesting open mic.

When Liz Berry was here last weekend, we talked a lot about performing, or reading your poetry.  It struck me when I saw Liz read that she really ‘inhabits’ her poems.  I can’t really describe what I mean by this, except to say I know it when I see it.  Clare Shaw does it.  Helen Mort does it, Steve Ely does it.  It feels impossible to put my finger on exactly what I mean – something to do with commitment to the poem, sitting inside the skin of the poem, speaking from within the poem.  Anyway, I want to inhabit my poems more – I think I do it sometimes, but maybe not enough, and maybe it is dependent on circumstances, whether I feel comfortable or confident on that particular day.  I think I must have done something however because I managed to sell 12 books and 3 pamphlets, which I was very pleased about, and I’m sure it is connected, the sales and the inhabiting of poems when you read them I mean.


I got a lovely package in the post this week from my editor Amy Wack.  She sent me copies of new collections by Ilse Pedlar, Judy Brown and Katrina Naomi.  I’ve managed to read all three this week and would recommend all of them. I’m hoping that I will be able to feature a poem from all three poets on the blog in the next couple of weeks, so you can judge for yourself.

I read Katrina’s collection first which is called The Way the Crocodile Taught Me.  I’ve been looking forward to this collection coming out for ages, as I knew that Katrina has been working on a Phd on violence in poetry, which I’m assuming this collection is part of. Katrina’s PhD thesis is very readable, very interesting, and available online!  You can find a link to a PDF of the thesis here, on Katrina’s website.

I am interested in the way that violence, particularly domestic violence is explored and portrayed in poetry.  The statistics on domestic violence are grim – 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. 1 in 4.  That means of the 16 girls in my class of little trumpet players, 4 of them will experience domestic violence.  That is heartbreaking

I’m glad it’s being written about more now, although I can count the poets who have written about domestic violence one hand.  Katrina explores how childhood can be impacted by domestic violence in her collection.  The poem that I’ve chosen for the Sunday Poem is heartbreaking – the violence is both subtle and explicit.  The controlling behaviour of the stepfather is detailed in the middle of the poem, but the atmosphere of threat and tension is set up right from the first line,  when we read ‘You lie underneath him’, and later, this is elaborated on: ‘his 17 stones/pressing down on you’.

The sadness in this poem is unbearable – the line ‘I can’t talk to you,/knowing he’s also there, listening’ contrasts with the beautiful image at the end of the words ‘in a flotilla of paper boats’.  I love this image, the idea of words being the thing that you send to communicate, and the feeling of moving on created by the idea of the boats.

When I got to the end of this poem, with its lines about forgiveness, I had to put the book down and catch my breath. The idea of forgiveness, of blame, responsibility and guilt is something I’ve tried to explore in my own poems about this subject, and there is something complicated being explored here about responsibility and blame, and victims and perpetrators.

If you would like to know more about Katrina, you can have a look at her website here. She has a background in human rights, was the first writer-in-residence at the Bronte Parsonage Museum and holds a PhD in creative writing from Goldsmiths.  Her debut collection The Girl with the Cactus Handshake received an Arts Council Award and was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award.  She has also published prize-winning pamphlets.  Katrina is a Hawthornden Fellow and a lecturer at Falmouth university.  She is orginally from Margate and lives in Cornwall.

If you would like to order the collection, you can get 20% off if you order direct from Seren here.  I hope you enjoy the poem, and thanks to Katrina for letting me use it this week.

Letter to my Mother – Katrina Naomi

You lie underneath him,
a measure of mud between you.

This was our final argument – his and mine –
your husband/my step-father.

I’m told of a double headstone,
which I haven’t visited,

since I held my neice’s hand,
threw a lily and a tablespoon of chalky soil

on your lid.  I can’t talk to you,
knowing he’s also there, listening,

as he always did: the click
of the extension by your bed, the reading

out of my letters and your replies.
All these years, his 17 stones

pressing down on you, crushing
the soil between you.

I talk to you when I cross the Thames,
looking right to Shooters Hill –

Kent’s north edge.  I send you my words
in a flotilla of paper boats.  I forgive you,

I always have.  I forgive you
for marrying him.

Poetry makes nothing happen

Poetry makes nothing happen

It has been a whole month since the last time I wrote on here – this is the longest time I’ve gone without blogging since I started.  I didn’t plan to take a break, although at first it seemed necessary.  After the second Sunday of not writing to you all, if I am honest, it felt like a weight lifted from my shoulders.  Then the third week cycled round, and I decided to have the whole of February off before I started again.  Last Sunday, the last Sunday in February, my fingers were itching slightly to get going again, but I resisted.  If there is one thing I’ve learnt about writing poetry or prose, it is that resistance is good.  To resist the urge to write, to hold back sometimes is an important thing for me.  Now I’ve started writing the old feeling passes over me again, of enjoyment, excitement.  It is something to do with knowing that people are listening, but also that they might not be, that these words could slip through the gap, or be ignored and it won’t matter to me, because I’ll never know.

Last time I wrote I was recovering from my fright of having to pay an unexpected tax bill.  I’ve recovered from that now, although my bank balance hasn’t.  I’ve only spent two weeks of February at home.  The first week of February, I went to Ty Newydd to be a co-tutor with Clare Shaw.   We were working with 16 teenage girls all week.

Driving to Ty Newydd was actually quite an emotional experience for me! As I got closer to the house, and turned off the main A road onto a quieter, narrow country road, all the memories of my first time driving to Ty Newydd came flooding back.  I think it was maybe 2008 that I went there for the first time, and I got lost, or at least, I thought I was lost, because of this road.  It seemed so long and empty.  The trees and hedges were a brilliant dark green and everything seemed strange and unfamiliar, even that green and the way the world sounded when I pulled over, turned the engine off and listened to the dusk falling.  I was panicking about being away from home, a voice in my head asking me who did I think I was to be paying money to go on a writing course, what was the point, what a waste of money, to spend all of that money for selfish reasons, just because I wanted to etc etc.

Of course, looking back, going on that first course at Ty Newydd was the start of my life lurching off in another direction to the one it had been travelling along previously.  Or maybe I lurched off the road I should have been following way before that, and going to Ty Newydd shoved me back to the road I should have been following.

This time I didn’t get lost and instead of staying in a shared room in the house, I was staying in the tutors cottage, with a bookshelf next to the bed, and a writing desk, which I didn’t have time to use in the end, and a wooden balcony that I did sit out on, a little. The week was really full-on, intense, challenging, exciting, inspiring.  It felt strange being back there as a tutor and watching the Ty Newydd magic work on the young writers.  One of the wonderful things about working with young people is that they make huge leaps in their writing from one end of the week to the next.  I think with adults progress is steadier and more considered.  I’ve seen this happen with many young writers that I’ve worked with – they throw themselves into it, and their writing leaps onward without looking back.  There were many times during the week when I had goosebumps when the girls read their work out loud, or had to stop myself crying – it was that kind of heady, emotional week.  The other side of that was the laughter verging on hysteria with the lovely teachers and Clare of course.  It made me resolve to laugh more when I got back to my normal life, to see the funny side of things.

I came back home exhausted and then by the end of the week I was off again to St Ives, this time to tutor on a residential writing course for adults with Steve Ely.  Again, I had a fantastic week.  It’s the first time I’ve worked with Steve and he was a brilliant tutor – very conscientous, organised and great to work with.  I got the train to Crewe and then John Foggin and Steve Ely picked me up at the train station and we drove down to St Ives.  We had great poets on the course and a real mix this time of people I’d met before and strangers, who are now friends.

Steve and I went for quite a few runs along the beach and the coastal paths.  Everything was wet and muddy and on one run we both fell into a bog up to our knees.  We found a dead gannet on the beach and Steve picked it up and spread out its wings.  Steve also had a jackdaw nest opposite his hotel window.  It was a bit like hanging out with Ted Hughes all week.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if a fox had started loping along next to us.  Pascale Petit came to read halfway through the week, which was a real treat, as she read some new work from her forthcoming collection Mama Amazonica.

I also started my online Poetry School course ‘What Work Is’  in February.  Today is the deadline for the third assignment and the poems are starting to trickle in from the participants.  I’m running this course in Manchester because the online version sold out – if you’d like to join in, you can book a place through The Poetry School here.

I’ve also been editing reviews that have come in for The Compass magazine, which should be going live very soon, and writing a review of Linda Gregerson’s latest New and Selected for Poem magazine.  Last weekend I hosted the Cumbrian final of the Poetry By Heart competition, and again, met wonderful and inspiring young people who reminded me why I love poetry.  It was great to hear some of my favourite poems recited and I could have sat there all night and been read to!

This Friday night I’m reading with young writers from my Dove Cottage Young Poets group at the Picture the Poet exhibition at Tullie House in Carlisle.  Ian McMillan is also reading, and I’m really excited about the whole event.  I’ve been working with the group for six weeks now, writing poems about identity and they have written some brilliant stuff.  It is free to go, but you should book a ticket in advance if you want to be sure of getting a place as I’m suspecting it will sell out.  You can find more information about the event here.

On Saturday, I’m running the fourth Barrow Poetry Workshop. I’ve now got enough people attending the workshop that I’ll be bringing in a second tutor, Jennifer Copley, to help run the afternoon session of the workshop.

I’m now going to break with convention as it is not Sunday, and I’m posting a poem that is one of my own.  I wrote it in Ty Newydd in Clare’s workshop in response to a discussion about the truncated quote ‘Poetry makes nothing happen’ by Auden.  We talked about how this quote is misinterpreted and you can read more about this take on it in an article by Don Share over at The Poetry Foundation.  I wrote this poem anyway, and I think I would struggle to get it published in a magazine because it is ‘about’ poetry.  I think it is walking a borderline between sentimentality and sentiment and it probably falls over on its face into sentimentality a couple of times. Having said that, I like it and I mean every word of it, except of course poetry did all these things and more for me, so it can stand here as a thank you to February, which although I disappeared from view on here, was so full of poetry and poems and young people and enthusiasm.  Really the poem is a salute to the residential writing courses that changed my life, to poetry that continues to change my life, and always for the better, poetry which has led me to such wonderful friends, to standing outside in the garden at Ty Newydd at midnight and seeing stars, everywhere, and the sky blacker than I’ve ever seen it, to laughing so much that I cry, to talking about poetry from Crewe to St Ives, to that moment when a young writer read a poem in the group and looked up and smiled and I said ‘You know that it’s good, don’t you?’ and she smiled again, and said ‘Yes.  Yes, I know it’.


Poetry – Kim Moore

It didn’t make my heart move or tilt or shake.
It didn’t make me cry a hundred times.
I don’t remember sitting in a café or a library
just to write.  If I was ever soothed
by the sound of other people’s hands
moving across a page it was temporary.
It didn’t lead me to a prison to work
with men who moved like wolves,
who carried poems folded in their pockets
or stuffed inside their socks.  It didn’t make
me cry.  It never made me change my life
or change my job.  It never gave me back
my voice or taught me what silence was.
I didn’t learn about truth or balance
abstractions on my palm.  I never sat
and wrote in front of a fire and let it lay
its burning hand across my face.
I never used language to work out
how much the leaving cost.   I didn’t let
someone else’s words push against my chest,
never wrote a poem about a man
I almost loved.  It wasn’t me on the beach
at midnight, my heart feral and full
of the violence I’d just spoken of.
It taught me nothing of repetition,
of circling back to have another look.
If there were wolves I didn’t see them,
if there were birds they did not speak.
I did not listen to my body, I didn’t write
its song. I didn’t set off on a journey,
I didn’t open up the box.



Poetry Workshop, Barrow-in-Furness


I will be running an all day poetry workshop on the 14th November at Hawcoat Park Community Centre, Skelwith Drive, Barrow in Furness from 10am-4pm.  The workshop costs £15 and beginners and experienced poets are welcome.

The day will consist of writing exercises to inspire participants to write their own poetry, and there will also be time to share a poem that you’ve previously written and receive feedback from the group.

If you would like to book a place on the workshop, please email me at kimmoore30@hotmail.com with ‘Poetry Workshop’ in the subject line.  There are about four places left at the moment.  I hope to see some of you there!