Tag Archives: poetry school

Sunday Poem – Meg Cox

Standard
Sunday Poem – Meg Cox

I can’t believe it is already the end of the first week of the Easter Holidays.  I’m feeling much better than I was feeling last Sunday which is a relief.  The last week has been a busy one, leaving me wondering how I fit my two days teaching in.

On Monday my twin sister came down.  Last time I saw her she had green hair.  This week she has purple hair – who knows what it will be next week! She was taking a well deserved break from the animal rescue centre which she manages.  I made Beef Bourgignon for Jody and her husband Matt and didn’t poison them.  Or at least I haven’t heard that I have so far.

I had a Kendal Poetry Festival meeting on Tuesday  with Pauline Yarwood and the website designer Claire, which took a good part of the day – mainly discussing website and social media.  I managed to make some sweet potato and carrot soup in my slow cooker and again, didn’t poison any of my guests so was quite pleased with myself.

On Wednesday I had another poetry visitor – the lovely Clare Shaw, who was holidaying in the Lake District and came by to work on a proposal we are putting together for a project.  By this point, I’d exhausted my culinary skills and couldn’t face the thought of cooking again, so it was a great excuse to go to my favourite Thai takeaway.

My writing life has been busy this week as well.  I found out that I’ve got an interview next Tuesday for something that I’ve applied for, that I really want to do.  I’ve not had many interviews – I can probably count the amount of interviews I’ve had on one hand in fact, and I wouldn’t say I’m brilliant at them, so I’m quite nervous.  I do feel different about this one though, more determined not to let it pass me by, so I’m hoping this will be enough to get me through it successfully.

On Thursday I went to Methley in  Leeds and read to a book group. I met the lovely poet Linda France who did an ‘Exploring Poetry’ session with the group before I arrived there.  She had obviously done a good job because the group were very receptive, despite many of them saying they’d never been to a poetry reading before.  I sold 3 books that night and drove back home, getting back  around 1am.

On Friday I ran a Dove Cottage Young Poets session in Kendal and then drove over to Lancaster for the North-West Literary Salon, a reading series set up by Yvonne Battle-Felton and Naomi Kruger during their time at Lancaster University as PhD students.  I stupidly got the time wrong, assuming it started at 7.30pm instead of 7pm.  Luckily a friend rang at 7pm to see where I was (stuck on Lancaster’s one way system) and I dumped the car in a side street and ran about half a mile through town, lade down with books.  I eventually arrived at about 7.2opm.   Yvonne and Naomi were very kind and forgiving about it and had taken my late arrival in their stride, inviting the audience to eat first instead of later, so everybody seemed pretty happy when I got there.

The event had apparently sold out and sells out every month. I was reading with Deborah Andrews, a novelist based in Lancaster.  I really enjoyed the extracts from her novel, which is out next month and will definitely buy a copy once it is published.  It was interesting reading with a novelist as well – I’ve never done this before, but I connected with some of the themes that Deborah is exploring in her novel. I went for a drink in the pub afterwards, reasoning that Lancaster practically feels round the corner from Barrow (1 hour and 15 minutes away) after my three and a half hour drive to Leeds the night before.

Yesterday I ran my Barrow Poetry Workshop.  17 people this month – and two cancelled because of sickness so it is starting to get busy.  I like the beginning of the day, before the workshop starts, when everyone is talking and getting cups of tea and spilling sugar and catching up on the news.  I obviously like the rest of the day as well, but the beginning, before anybody has written a word, always seems so full with possibilities.

The quality of the work produced was excellent as usual.  I even did a little bit of writing during the workshop and felt motivated enough to do some more quite late last night.  I typed two new poems up from my notebook.  I haven’t looked at them again yet – I like to leave them in my folder now for a couple of days without looking at them so that they feel new when I come back to them.

As well as whizzing about between Kendal, Leeds and Lancaster I’ve also done quite a bit of running this week – my target is to try and run 40 kilometres each week, which I have managed (40.6 this week). I’ve been for a 13km run this morning which I really enjoyed, then got back, walked the dogs and then sat and obsessed about my interview.

Plans for next week include more Kendal Poetry Festival meetings, meeting a friend I haven’t seen for ages, the last Poetry School chat for my online course ‘What Work Is’, Brewery Poets meeting, a Barrow Shipyard Junior Band concert and A Poem and a Pint with the wonderful Liz Berry as our guest poet.

Today’s Sunday Poem is actually two Sunday Poems.  Although I usually stick to my strict rule of only picking one poem, I figured I could get away with it this week because Meg’s poems are quite short, and usually very funny.  I met Meg for the first time in February down in St Ives on the residential course I ran with Steve Ely.

On the last night of the course, when the participants read their own poems, Meg had the room in stitches with her poetry – not just the words but the dry delivery as well.  I went and bought her pamphlet straight away because I enjoyed the reading so much.

Both of these poems come from Meg’s pamphlet ‘Looking Over My Shoulder at Sodom’ published by Grey Hen Press and available to buy for a very reasonable £4.  The first poem I’ve chosen ‘The Best Medicine’ is one Meg read on the course.   I love the description of the mother shouting up the stairs to get the two children to go to sleep, to stop laughing, maybe because this is something my twin sister and I used to do- try to make each other laugh instead of going to sleep.  There is something wonderfully ridiculous in the mother’s shout towards the children to ‘Stop laughing now’.

The second poem is in a different tone altogether, much more reflective and quiet but it still has the sharp observation and unusual way of looking at things that many of the poems in this pamphlet have.  It is a beautifully optimistic poem – optimistic about poetry and continuity.  The children are surprisingly vivid with that line ‘bare legged in the rain.’
A new website has sprung up, developed by Robert Peake called ‘Poet Tips‘.  The ‘About’ page of the website says:

“Poet Tips is a website for recommending poets. By collecting “tips” about poets that are similar, we create an interface to information about poetry online—a kind of poet-wide web to browse and make discoveries. The goal is to help you find a new favourite poet to read, much like a trusted and knowledgeable friend.”

Anyone can add a poet – so if I look up myself it says ‘If you like Kim Moore you might also like David Tait, Clare Shaw, Helen Mort, John Foggin’ etc etc.  One poet who I think is a little like Meg Cox in the sense of a dry humour running through both of their poetry, is the late poet Graham Austin, published by HappenStance.  I’m going to try and add a Sunday Poet to the Poet Tips website each week, just for fun.  You can also vote on the Poet Tips and say whether you agree with them or not! It’s an interesting website or a brilliant distraction, depending on how you look at it!

Anyway, here are Meg’s poems.  I hope you enjoy them!

THE BEST MEDICINE
BY MEG COX 

It must be genetic
that just lying on our backs
made me and my brother laugh.
When we had adjoining bedrooms
our mother would shout up the stairs
stop reading now and go to sleep.
Later she would shout again
Stop laughing now.

Adult, I went to yoga classes
and at the end we had to lie
on our backs on our mats and relax
doing yogic breathing, but before long
I was asked to leave before that part –
disruptive to meditation.

Come to think of it
lying on my back laughing
has caused me quite a bit of trouble
in the past.

 

WAITING FOR THE BUS

Perhaps my dogs

that sit at the gate
every morning and bark

will live again
some years from now
in a poem by one of those children
who this morning waits
opposite my field gate
for the school bus

bare legged in the rain.

Sunday Poem – Myra Schneider

Standard

Evening all – I’m writing this feeling very sorry for myself.  I started writing it about 5.30 in a burst of enthusiasm and determination not to be up till all hours finishing it off, but I went upstairs to get something, sat down on the spare bed and the next thing I knew it was 7.30 and I woke up with a sore throat and feeling that special kind of rough that happens when you fall asleep during the day.

It is my own fault I fell asleep for two hours – yesterday we had Poem and a Pint with guest poet Zaffar Kunial and instead of going straight home afterwards and sorting my life out I went to the pub and talked non-stop for an hour.  In fact maybe that is why my throat is sore.

Zaff is currently Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth Trust – it was great to hear him read his poetry from his new Faber pamphlet as well as some new work that he has written during his time at the Trust.

When I got back from the pub I realised that I hadn’t sorted out the band folders and had visions of the 38 children in the band rifling through the folders on stage, pages blowing away in the breeze and decided to put the music in order.  It might seem like a simple thing to leave the children to find their own music, but if you think that, you obviously haven’t met my wonderful band, who have many strengths but the ability to find their music quickly is not one of them.  Sorting the folders out took me till about 2.30am and then I couldn’t get to sleep afterwards, the set list for the concert kept running through my mind and then when I did sleep I kept waking up, thinking I’d over slept.

The band played really well, especially considering that half the band was on the stage and half the band was in front of it which meant they were really spread out.  The half of the band on the stage told me afterwards they couldn’t really hear the other half and were just following the drummer and my amazing conducting skills.  Ok, I may have added in that last adjective.  Before the junior band, I played trumpet with the South Lakes Brass Ensemble which went great too.

Here is a picture of the junior band.

ban

Saturday was a bit manic – as well as Poem and a Pint I did park run in the morning and beat my last time of 23.36 – this time I got 23.09 so I was very happy.  I don’t think that is an adequate description of the dancing, star-jumping and general bragging that the poor husband had to put up with when my official time came through.  I was also third woman which I’ve never been before.  I have been fourth a couple of times and I suspect that there were a few women missing which explains my elevated position.  Not that I’m obsessing about it or anything.

Afterwards, I went second hand furniture shopping, after discovering that the type of writing desk that I would really like that will enable me to write amazing poems and never be distracted by Facebook again costs about £400.  I found a ‘double pedestal’ writing desk, that apparently used to live in a school and bought it for £60.  I’ve bought some paint and handles as well – have never painted furniture before but have decided the desk should be purple…I might even put some before and after photos up.  Unless I completely ruin the desk in which case I will never mention it again and don’t ask about it…

On Friday I did a session with the Dove Cottage Young Poets.  I decided what the group needed in their life was a sestina and I took along Kathryn Maris’s wonderful sestina ‘Darling Would You Please Pick up Those Books’ which you can read here.

I’ve never tried to write a sestina before.  In fact, I will admit to a dislike of them, apart from Kathryn’s which I think is fabulous.  I hate it when someone tells me before they read a poem that it is a sestina – I don’t really want to know – it either sounds like you’re apologising for the repeating words or showing off that you’ve written one.  Anyway, I had a go and I think it could work!  If it does work, it fits in with the sequence I’ve been working on and should really go in the collection, but if that’s going to happen, then I need to work on it quickly.

On Monday I had Soul Survivor rehearsal straight after junior band and then Tuesday I had a lovely chat with Sasha Dugdale about a project I’m working on to ‘translate’ poems by a female Burmese poet, Moon Thueain. I say ‘translate’ in inverted commas, because of course, I can’t speak, write or read Burmese.  I’ve been working from a literal translation and have been sending various emails back and forward asking questions of both the poet and the translator.  It is a really fascinating thing to do, and I’m really grateful to Sasha for giving me the opportunity. Sasha is the editor of Modern Poetry in Translation and if you have a spare five minutes, have a look at the MPT website.  It’s one of my favourite websites because they have a page where you can have a go at posting your own version of a poem from a literal translation.  As well as the literal version of the poem, there is a short essay from the translator which is always really interesting.

On Wednesday I had meetings straight after school in my new role as Music Service Liason Teacher.  I met quite a few teachers from various Barrow schools who were responsible for music.  Some of them I already knew and worked with, but some I hadn’t met before.  I was heartened by the enthusiasm for music that the teachers showed and disheartened by the same concerns that are always voiced which are how schools can afford to pay for quality music provision.

Last week I said in the balance scales of music and poetry, music was definitely winning.  This week I would say it’s an even draw, mainly because I was able to have the whole of Thursday to sit and read some poetry, as well as catching up with some admin like emails and invoices.  I had a really lovely day and spent most of it in my pyjamas.  I read two collections for the second time – I won’t tell you what one was, because I’m featuring a poem from it next Sunday, but the other was ‘The Door to Colour’ by Myra Schneider.

Myra has been featured on the blog before but I thought it was worth celebrating the publication of her tenth collection, ‘The Door to Colour’ published by Enitharmon.  You can order ‘The Door to Colour’ directly from Enitharmon or email Myra at myrarschneider@gmail.com if youw would like to buy a copy directly from her.

The collection, as you may have guessed by the title, is full of colour.  I’ve picked a poem that I hope shows this, but one that also demonstrates another preoccupation in the collection, which is the object poem.  Object poems are so often done badly, being the stock exercise that is trotted out in workshops, but Myra is a genius at them.  Her object poems are often held together by a thread of free association.  The poem is not really about the object – the object is merely the doorway or the path to a deeper concern.

Elsewhere in the collection we have ‘The Black Glove’ which conjures up a childhood memory of a mother lugging coal.  In the poem ‘Spoon’ we read ‘How easy to Thumbelina my body/into this bowl smooth as butter – the fit/is perfect’.  The poem carries on imagining shrinking to be small enough to fit into a spoon.  This impulse to explore the life of things is explored further by a short sequence called ‘Seeing into Things’ which I think is a great title.

There are also lots of poems about music – both Mahler and Beethoven feature but perhaps my favourite part of the book was a long sequence at the end called ‘The Minotaur’ which explores an alternative view of the Minotaur and Theseus, the Greek hero who comes to kill him.

I thought this sequence was as readable and as action packed as a novel – obviously not as long, but it had that same forward momentum and drive.  I would have loved to have posted the sequence up but it is quite long, so if you are interested I would recommend buying the collection.

The poem I’ve chosen, another one of my favourites is called ‘The Throw’.  I liked this one for many reasons – the careful details in the second stanza of the ‘minute gold elephants’ which ‘walk in perfect lines’ along ‘the embroidered roads of the fabric’.

I like that I was suprised by the ending, that last line ‘where I wish pain, all pain to vanish’.  Until this point, I thought the poem was just a really beautifully written poem about a gift from a son to a mother.  The last line, which brings in pain took me by suprise, but when I went back to the beginning of the poem again, I realised there was a shadow of this pain in the very first stanza, when the throw ‘becomes and extra skin/ one that’s kind to my uncomfortable body.’

This quiet phrase slipped by me on first reading, but now I find it quite shocking.  Or maybe shocking is the wrong word.  It makes me realise that I’m lucky, to not be uncomfortable in my body, to not have ongoing pain.  Despite this dark shadow in the poem, I think it is overall a very positive poem – full of colour and imagination and life – the mind in this poem continues to free associate and think and dream, even whilst the body creeps into bed.

Myra has her own website if you would like to look up more of her work which you can find here.   As well as ‘The Door to Colour’ Myra’s five collections with Enitharmon include ‘Exits’ in 1994, ‘The Panic Bird’ in 1998, ‘Insisting the Yellow’ in 2000, ‘Multiplying the Moon’ in 2004 and ‘Circling the Core’ in 2008.  Her poem ‘Goulash’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for the Best Single Poem in 2007.  Myra is a generous and enthusiastic teacher and currently tutors for the wonderful Poetry School.  Myra has recently co-edited an anthology of contemporary women’s poetry called ‘Her Wings of Glass’ with the fabulous poets Penelope Shuttle and Dilys Wood. The anthology is published by Second Light Publications.  You can find out more about the anthology here and get a special introductory rate if you would like to buy it.  The Second Light network is well worth checking out -they also publish a magazine for women’s poetry called Artemis, edited by Dilys Wood

I hope you enjoy the poem – looking forward as always to reading your comments.

The Throw – Myra Schneider

my son brought me from Thailand is magenta,
a royal marriage of violet and pink.
When I lay it on my bed over the quilt
from India it becomes an extra skin,
one that’s kind to my uncomfortable body.

How I love its minute gold elephants, each
the size of the top segment of my little finger.
They walk in perfect lines, head to tail,
along the embroidered roads of the fabric
and when I stroke one an elephant god appears,

becomes the memory of riding in a high place
on a huge blur of animal, becomes the elephants
living in Mimi’s flat.  My son has elaborated
on the heat in Thailand but here winter is trying
to sneak into the house and steal its warmth.

I creep into bed, invite the elephants to tiptoe
across my body’s pathways.  When snowflakes
begin to float whitely down I close my eyes
and they melt into the soft purplish mystery
of nothing where I wish pain, all pain to vanish.

Sunday Poem – Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Standard

Afternoon all!  Seems strange to be starting writing this in daylight but I’m parked on the sofa for the rest of Sunday now.  In fact I’m feeling so lazy I can’t even be bothered to go and get anything to read, so thought I would do my blog instead.  I’m parked on the sofa because I’ve been for my first attempt at a fell run with the husband today instead of my usual hour run with Walney Wind Cheetahs on the road.  It probably wasn’t the best weather conditions to have a go at our first fell run – blustery winds and incessant rain, but most of it was fun, although I prefer the running part to the picking your way over really slippy rocks part.  I seem to be at one extreme or the other in terms of physical activity at the moment – either running lots of miles or spending the whole day on the sofa.

This week I’ve had a great time doing some runs – on Wednesday it was the Hoad Hill Harriers 10k in Ulverston and previously-featured Sunday Poet Keith Hutson came all the way over from Yorkshire to have a go at running it.  We had a great time and I managed to get my new best time for 10k which was 51 minutes and 12 seconds – I managed to knock over three minutes off from my previous time and Keith was just behind me after I rather rudely overtook him in the last hundred metres or so.  And then yesterday I ran 5k at the Barrow Park Run and got another new personal best time – 23 minutes and 39 seconds.

Anyway, I won’t go on about running any more because I know that most of the readers of this blog came to it because of poetry.  Unfortunately I’ve not been doing much poetry to be honest.  I’m still running the weekly Dove Cottage Young Poets group for the Wordsworth Trust – this week the teenagers brought some of the poems they’ve been writing and hoarding so that made a nice change.

I also went up to Grasmere to the Wordsworth Trust to see Paul Farley and Owen Sheers read.  Owen Sheers read from ‘Pink Mist’ which is a verse play drawn from interviews with soldiers who were injured in Afghanistan and their wives/girlfriends/mothers.  I’ve just finished reading Pink Mist and I think it’s very good – very ambitious, shocking, moving.  I’d definitely recommend it as something a little bit different – I think it is as readable as a novel.

The programme for Ilkley Literature Festival arrived today – you can find it online here but I would recommend ordering it by post as it is very long!  I’m really looking forward to all the events I’ll be doing – I’m running quite a few writing workshops, including one where people have to sign up to do a 4-5 mile run first before they’re even allowed in the workshop!  I am running workshops when you can just slink in without having to worry about doing anything more energetic than pick up a pencil.

I’m also reading with the amazing Michael Laskey and Matthew Sweeney one evening and taking part in an event with Otley Brass Band which I’m really excited about.  I have a couple of weeks left of the summer holidays, so I’m going to start steadily planning the sessions I’m doing at the Festival – even though it’s not till October, I think it will be here before I know it and in between now and October I have to move house and hand my first collection in so I definitely need to keep on the ball.  The other thing that is happening in October is the residential poetry course that I’m running with Clare Shaw down in St Ives – when I checked a couple of weeks or maybe a month ago there were four places left, so if you’ve been thinking about it and not got round to booking your place now is the time!  More information here if you would like it, or please feel free to email me if you have any questions about the course.

I will also be back in work in September so I have a feeling the Autumn term is going to be busy.  There is one other thing happening – I’m one of FIVE tutors on this Online Poetry School course – I’m really looking forward to this – there will be five different assignments from five different poets followed by a live chat about the students poems.  Another occasion when I thank whoever is listening that I learnt to touch type when I was 17 – best thing I ever did! Anyway, if you would like more information on the course, ‘5 Easy Pieces’ you can find it here.

So today’s Sunday Poem is by Carolyn Jess-Cooke – Carolyn was due to be next week’s Sunday Poem but her publisher Seren are running a promotion on the kindle version of her poetry collection ‘Boom!’ – you can buy it for £1.99 instead of the usual £9.99 if you click on this link here.  I’ve only bought poetry a couple of times on Kindle because I like having the real book – but I think this is a very good offer and you can’t really go wrong for £1.99.

I first heard Carolyn Jess-Cooke read at the Women’s Poetry Festival in Grasmere as part of her ‘Writing Motherhood’ project which is currently touring the UK.  She read alongside Rebecca Goss whose poetry I’m also a big fan of and Sinead Morrisey who was fantastic.  In fact, I don’t mind admitting that I had a little tear in my eye by the end of the reading, which took me completely by surprise – as I don’t have children, it is not a subject that I would have thought I connected with easily – but the poems were wonderful.  As you can see from the Sunday Poem, as well as being about Motherhood, it is also about marriage and love and transformation.

I like this poem because of it’s physicality – the baby that is coming is likened to a hand grenade which changes everything.  The baby seems to have all the power in the relationship ‘threatening to explode’, ’emitting endless alarm-sounds’.  The baby ‘blew us to smithereens’ but by the end of the poem, we realise the end is not the end ‘We survived, but in a different state:’ I think this poem is interesting because of the way it explores change in relationships as well – I think it goes against the grain of the version of relationships that we listen to in love songs and observe in films – you get married and live happily ever after and that is the end.  This poem goes beyond that and explores what happens afterwards – ‘We held on, expecting each day to be our last.  We did not let go’.

Boom! explores the experience of raising four young children but there are also poems about the body and physicality explored in an honest and direct way.

Carolyn Jess-Cooke is an award-winning poet and novelist published in 22 languages.  Her latest novel ‘The Boy Who Could See Demons’ published by Pitakus in 2012 is being made into a film.  She lectures in Creative Writing at Glasgow University.  If you would like to find out more information about Carolyn head over to her website at http://www.carolynjesscooke.com

 

Boom! – Carolyn Jess Cooke

There was this baby who thought she was a hand grenade.
She appeared one day in the centre of our marriage
– or at least in the spot where all the elements of our union
    appeared to orbit –
and kept threatening to explode, emitting endless alarm-sounds
    that were difficult to decode.
On the ridge of threat, we had two options.
One was attempt to make it to the bottom
of the crevasse slowly, purposively, holding hands. The other
      was see how long we could stand there philosophizing
      that when she finally went off we’d be able to take it.
But then the baby who believed she was a hand grenade
      was joined in number: several more such devices entered our lives.
      We held on, expecting each day to be our last. We did not let go.
As one might expect, she blew us to smithereens.
We survived, but in a different state than before: you became
      organized, I discovered patience, shrapnel soldered the parts of us
      that hadn’t quite fit together before. Sometimes when I speak
it’s your words that come out of my mouth.