Tag Archives: poetry

Go to the poets – they will speak to thee

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I can’t believe it is already nearly the end of May. I hope lots of you can join me for this event on Wednesday 26th May with the brilliant poet Wendy Pratt. The open mic is now full, but still plenty of tickets left for you to come and relax in your own homes and listen to a stunning evening of poetry! Tickets are £5, but we also have some free ones available if you are on a low income, please contact Hannah Catterall at Wordsworth Grasmere if you need a free ticket on h.catterall@wordsworth.org.uk.

More information about the event here – An Evening with Wendy Pratt – Wordsworth Grasmere

An Evening with Nina Mingya Powles

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It’s a bit last minute, but just wanted to let people know about this event that I’m hosting tonight, with a fabulous guest poet, Nina Mingya Powles. Tickets still available over at Wordsworth Grasmere

The event starts at 7.30pm and finishes at 9pm – there will be a short open mic as well as two readings from Nina, currently shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize.

Tickets are £5 but we also have some free tickets available for anybody who needs them, just follow the link and email Hannah Catterall at Wordsworth Grasmere to request them.

All poems will be screenshared and the whole event will be captioned by Otter.

PhD Viva and Other Stuff

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Viva!

Those of you who are not on social media may not know that I passed my PhD viva last Wednesday, with ‘minor typographical amendments’. This means I was given an A4 list of typos to correct, and I have to insert four paragraphs of text into my thesis to explain/develop what I’ve written. I’ve been given two weeks to do these amendments.

At first when I was given the list, I must admit my heart sank as it sounded like a lot. And I don’t know if anyone else has this but trying to enter into a piece of writing that is finished is a bit like putting on a shoe that is slightly too small – it feels uncomfortable and I have to wriggle around a lot to remember how it fitted in the first place.

Anyway, I can’t complain to much as I’ve done the amendments listed this week, so they were not too onerous. The most annoying thing is that inserting the paragraphs in messes up all my page numbers, which in a choose your own adventure thesis where the reader is directed to turn to one page or another at the end of each section is a bit of a problem! But only an irritating time-consuming problem rather than anything more serious. I’m planning on sorting the page numbers out tonight, in my night-owl working time (after the baby has gone to bed). I usually save this time to do tasks like this, that don’t need too much brain power.

The picture above is of the lovely surprise afternoon tea that my husband ordered, obviously in full confidence that I would pass! I scoffed pretty much everything you can see in the picture within five minutes of the viva finishing.

Other News

Throughout August, I decided to concentrate on preparing for my viva, so I stopped most of my freelance work. However now it is over, I will be running some online workshops, so please watch this space!

I can tell you that there are some spaces left for an online residential course that I’m running on behalf of the Garsdale Retreat. The course runs from the 5th-9th October 2020 and the guest poet is the wonderful Kerry Darbishire.

You can find more information about the course here: https://thegarsdaleretreat.co.uk/course-category/moore-kim/ but the price of £400 includes eight 90 minute workshops, one, 60 minute workshop, one 30 minute individual tutorial, evening readings/entertainment including both a tutor and guest reading plus afternoon chat room. A bargain!

If you missed out on a chance to book a ticket for my event ‘Poetry and Everyday Sexism’ on 29th September and you would still like to come, please add your name to the waiting list, which you can find here
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/poetry-and-everyday-sexism-tickets-116574211605

I’m swithering about whether to upgrade my Zoom plan so that I can have more than 100 people in the audience, or whether to just put on another reading of the thesis at another date, and the length of the waiting list will obviously help me make this decision!

35 Weeks and counting and poetry updates

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It’s been a while since I blogged again but I’ve been busy getting more and more pregnant and trying to get as much of my PhD done as possible before the baby arrives.  I’m now 35 weeks pregnant and officially on maternity leave from my PhD, which feels strange. I can’t quite let go of it at the moment still – it’s become a habit I can’t put down.

My maternity leave started on the 1st May and I decided to set myself a rather arbitrary target of getting up to 20,000 words of my critical thesis.  I say arbitrary because it was a self-imposed target, but I find I work best if I’ve got a goal to work towards.  Overall, the thesis has to be between 30,000 and 40,000 so I thought if I had 20,000 under my belt before my maternity leave started, I would feel a bit more confident that I would finish it.  The creative part of the PhD, my next collection I’m happy to let tick along at the side – it’s not finished yet, but I’m confident that I can finish it.  The critical part is harder to predict.

So the last couple of weeks have been kind of intense – I’ve been writing pretty much non-stop around the last few freelance commitments I’ve had.  I’ve had really productive meetings with two of my supervisors in the last few weeks as well on both the creative and the critical side – I know what I need to do next, and I’ve decided to slowly keep plugging away at it whilst I’ve still got the urge but just at a less frantic pace than I’ve been doing.

I also can’t believe that the baby will be here in five weeks.  It seems both that it’s gone really fast, and that I’ve been pregnant for years! It’s been a complete rollercoaster, which I know is a cliché, but it really has.  I’m now starting to feel excited instead of scared, and looking forward to the baby arriving, massively helped by attending a hypnobirthing course a few weekends ago.  I would highly recommend it to anyone feeling anxious/nervous/stressed about pregnancy or birth – it was full of really practical information about pregnancy but also lots of meditations to practice at home.  I was sceptical at first, but listening to a meditation on my phone the first night after the course helped me sleep straight through the night for probably the first time in about three or four months.  I listen to them every night now and I’ve gone from getting up four times a night because I’m so uncomfortable to just getting up once a night which I can just about cope with!

I have a few poetry updates for those that are interested.  The Poetry Carousel is happening again this December, although we’ve moved venue to Rydal Hall in Ambleside.  The course runs from the 6th-9th December 2020 costs £385 to share a room with a friend, £400 for a standard room or £415 for a superior room.  This cost includes workshops, accommodation, evening readings and breakfast, lunch and evening meals.

The Poetry Carousel is a residential course with a difference – four very different workshops with four very different tutors, all crammed into one weekend.  Each participant will be put into a group of between 8 and 10 to take part in a morning workshop with one of four tutors.  Afternoons are free for reading and writing, and in the evening, there are poetry readings in the Great Hall at the hotel.  Tutors confirmed so far are myself, Clare Shaw and David Tait with a fourth tutor to be confirmed.  If you’d like to book, you need to ring the hotel direct on 015394 32050 but any questions about the course, you can contact me directly on here or via email.

I’ve just got back from running my St Ives residential poetry course which was a brilliant week with possibly the best weather I’ve experienced since I started running the courses down there.  Kind of frustrating as I couldn’t get out and run or even walk very far but lovely for the participants!  St Ives will be running again next year, this time from the 27th April to the 2nd May 2020 and I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with the fabulous poet and writer Fiona Sampson as my guest tutor this year.  This course runs more like a traditional residential, with a maximum of 16 participants.  The cost of the week is £595 and this includes breakfast, three course evening meals, workshops, a tutorial with one of the tutors and readings in the evenings.  To book a place, please ring the hotel direct on 01736 796240.

A few other exciting poetry happenings in Cumbria – I’m on the organising committee of ‘A Poem and a Pint’ and our next event is happening on the 29th June with the fabulous poet Ilya Kaminsky.  The venue is Greenodd Village Hall and we will have some limited open mic spots available.  This is a really exciting opportunity to see one of the most brilliant poets writing today so get the date in your diary!

After the success of last year’s poetry competition, A Poem and a Pint are running a competition again this year, this time with the fantastic Carrie Etter as our judge.  First prize is £150, 2nd prize is £100 and 3rd prize is £50 with a special prize for a Cumbrian poet of £25.   The closing date of the competition is the 15th July 2019 and it’s a relatively fast turnaround – winners will be contacted by the 7th September and we will be having a prize giving event on the 21st September with Carrie Etter as our guest reader.  You can find more information about the competition here

If you need any information about any of the events listed here, please get in touch, and if you know anyone who might be interested in the residential courses, please feel free to share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a few

Poems from the Duchess High School in Alnwick, Northumberland

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I’m always touched when teachers contact me to say they are using my poetry in their lessons, and I thought I’d share with you some work from pupils from the Duchess High School in Alnwick, Northumberland.  These pupils are lucky enough to be taught by the brilliant poet Catherine Ayres.  They were in Year 9 when Catherine sent this work to me – so I think they will be Year 10 now, and Catherine explains below how she introduced them to my poem In That Year, which you can find at the bottom of the post.
Catherine says:
In Year 9, the pupils at the Duchess High School in Alnwick, Northumberland do  half a term of poetry, which culminates in them producing their own poetry anthologies. It’s a fantastic amount of time (3 lessons per week for six weeks) and means that they can really explore different aspects of poetry and different poems. They love it.

1 lesson per week is taken up with analysing and exploring all sorts of different poetry, from Blake to world slam champions, and the other 2 lessons per week are used to explore poetry forms and write their own responses to the poems they’ve analysed and the poetry they’ve explored.

The first lesson of the term, I give them my favourite poems to look at. I don’t explain anything, I just read them (or we watch a video of performance) and then they read and discuss them in pairs and groups and start to explain in their own terms which poem they like from my choice.

One of their favourites was Kim’s poem ‘In That Year’, so we followed up the first lesson by looking in more detail at the poem, its startling imagery and its message. The kids’ work here is photocopied directly from their books – it wasn’t done for display or re-drafted, it’s their first raw response. I asked them to pick their favourite image, or the one they found most difficult, or the one that had stayed with them from their first reading. Then I asked them to draw what they saw when they read it and write a very brief explanation of how it made them feel about the speaker.

It was a very solemn and serious lesson. No one complained about having to draw (they usually do) and heads were bent to work for a good half an hour. Some of the kids I teach have difficult lives. Some of them never speak about those difficulties. Most of them have never read a contemporary poem.

This lesson was better than any PSHE lesson we could have done about relationships and abusive situations. And the boys were as active in the discussion as the girls. Every single teenager was alert to the poem. It was a special lesson for me and the thought of it has kept me going this year, through all the exhaustion of a demanding and sometimes difficult job. Here’s a selection of the drawings and explanations that really moved me.

 

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I found the interpretations of my poem really moving and I thought the students were very perceptive. I also found it interesting how they managed to create different narratives to go alongside the poem – and I love the drawings!

This blog post featuring these drawings and thoughts from the students is way overdue, but I hope you enjoy looking at them, and thanks again to the brilliant Catherine for bringing contemporary poetry into the classroom, and for using my poem as part of that.  Those students are very lucky to have you!

Here is the poem that Catherine shared with the students.

IN THAT YEAR 
KIM MOORE

And in that year my body was a pillar of smoke
and even his hands could not hold me.

And in that year my mind was an empty table
and he laid his thoughts down like dishes of plenty.

And in that year my heart was the old monument,
the folly, and no use could be found for it.

And in that year my tongue spoke the language
of insects and not even my father knew me.

And in that year I waited for the horses
but they only shifted their feet in the darkness.

And in that year I imagined a vain thing;
I believed that the world would come for me.

And in that year I gave up on all the things
I was promised and left myself to sadness.

And then that year lay down like a path
and I walked it, I walked it, I walk it.

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I’m really excited to announce that I’ll be co-tutoring with the amazing Amanda Dalton at next year’s Poetry Residential at Treloyhan Manor in St Ives.  This course always sells out fast, so if you’d like to come, ring the hotel below to secure your place.  Amanda was one of my favourite teachers when I was studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, so I’m really excited to be working with her in St Ives.

The course is running from the 8th-13th April 2019 and costs £550.  This includes breakfast, three course evening meal, scones with jam and cream in the afternoons, accommodation, workshops and a tutorial with either myself or Amanda during the week.

If you’d like to book, please give the hotel a ring on 01736 796240.

More information about Amanda (and me) below.

Tutors
Amanda Dalton
Amanda Dalton is a poet and playwright. Her poetry publications include How To Disappear and Stray (both Bloodaxe Books) and her writing for radio and theatre includes radical re-workings of the Medea myth (Wilson+Wilson Co /Sheffield Theatres) and of the silent movies Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (BBC Radio 3) incorporating poetry and sung lyrics. Recent BBC audio drama also includes an adaptation of Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book. She is an Associate Artist at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, a Royal Literary Fund Fellow based at the University of Manchester and a visiting lecturer in the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Kim Moore
Kim Moore’s first collection The Art of Falling was published by Seren in 2015 and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize.  Her poem ‘In That Year’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize.  She won a Northern Writers Award in 2014, the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2011 and an Eric Gregory Award in 2010.  Her pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves was one of the winners of the 2010 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition.  She is currently a PhD candidate at Manchester Metropolitan University.

My People: Poetry from The British School, Warsaw

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In the summer of 2017 I was a guest poet at an Arvon course at Lumb Bank.  I met a poet called David Cox there, who emailed me in January to tell me that he would be using some of my poetry with his Year 7 pupils at The British School in Warsaw to get them writing their own poems.  I asked David to send me some of the responses from his pupils, and he sent them through in January of this year.

I loved them straight away, but PhD madness and everything else going on at the moment has meant I’m a bit late in posting these poems up, but I wanted to share them with you all and say thanks to David and his talented pupils, who if the school term in Warsaw runs the same as ours here, will be about to go into Year 8 after the summer holidays.

These poems are in conversation with my poem ‘My People’ which I’ll post at the end of this blog post.

David sent through this introduction to the poems:

My Year 7 students at The British School Warsaw have been working on producing a series of poems inspired by  Kim Moore.  The original poem with its humour and edginess has spurned their imaginations into looking for an answer to the following question: who are ‘my people’? One students said it allowed me to “express my family and country the way I saw it…it was really fun thinking about all the things that come to mind when I think of ‘My People'” We have seen the dangers of ‘casual racism’ around us and its worrying effects. To this end, we discussed how we can unwittingly become part of groups with less than altruistic pursuits. Their pastiche responses to ‘My People’, at times reflect the pride of a nation or an ethnic group. Watching clips from the miner’s strike, students heard the brazen words ‘scab’ bellowed out towards buses of employees passing the picket line to understand how one community was torn apart by a declining industry. Such experiences continue to elicit a range of emotionally charged responses. They considered democracy versus mob rule. They considered how instrumental such union organisations as Solidarność were in Poland at loosening the shackles of the communist regime. I hope you enjoy these poems.

 

Here’s the first poem David sent – my favourite part of this poems is that surprising simile at the end where the poet turns our expectations on their heads.  Usually, to be compared to a snake would be negative, but this poet chooses to focus on the positive aspects of snakes: they are ‘clever and fast’.

 

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This next poem has some lovely phrases and images – I love the sentence ‘people who would kiss the bread if it fell’ and wondered if this was a story or saying that is well known in Poland?

 

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This poem is a tough look at how people can become obsessed with money, and become selfish – and again, a great last line – ‘Now they have become selfish like little toddlers’.

 

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A completely opposite opinion with this next poem! I like the line ‘people who care for others, even strangers’ in this poem.  Would definitely like to meet these people!

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I really like this one – again with a killer last line ‘My people are like small bees serving the queen bee’.  I also like the line in the middle ‘In the time of the Romans my people would probably be writing on scrolls or feeding grapes to the king’.

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I like that this poem explores positive and negative aspects.  These are people that don’t tolerate racism, but people that also what it is to be poor. I also like the two short snappy sentences that finish it off: ‘My people are like wolves.  They stick together’.

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I think this poem works really well at painting a portrait of a group of people.  I’m not sure if the last line in the first sentence is ‘up’ or ‘you’ – both would work really well, but I think I’d like it to be ‘I come from the people who don’t want to meet you’.  There are some wonderfully strange details in here as well, like the line about the people being ‘underweight and too strict’ immediately following the detail about the fights at the football match.  And another great ending – witches and fire breathing dragons!

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What a great first line this poem has, and the second line is just as good – people who ‘come from every corner of the world’.  I also love the last two sentences of this poem – the rhyme of ‘everywhere’ and ‘air’ makes it feel like the poem is a box, and the poet has just closed the lid, nice and tight.

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So that was the last poem!  Thanks to David Cox and his pupils once again – I’m very flattered that they’ve been using my poem for inspiration, or to start a poetic conversation about what it means to have a people.  I got the feeling that some of the poems might have been talking about people in terms of a close knit family, and some were talking about people in terms of a community or even a country, on a larger scale.

Here are my people below.

My People – Kim Moore

I come from people who swear without realising they’re swearing.
I come from scaffolders and plasterers and shoemakers and carers,
the type of carers paid pence per minute to visit an old lady’s house.
Some of my people have been inside a prison.  Sometimes I tilt
towards them and see myself reflected back.  If they were from
Yorkshire, which they’re not, but if they were, they would have been
the ones on the pickets shouting scab and throwing bricks at policemen.
I come from a line of women who get married twice.  I come from
a line of women who bring up children and men who go to work.
If I knew who my people were, in the time before women
were allowed to work, they were probably the women who were
working anyway.  If I knew who my people were before women
got the vote, they would not have cared about the vote.  There are
many arguments among my people.  Nobody likes everybody.
In the time of slavery my people would have had them if they
were the type of people who could afford them, which they
probably weren’t.  In the time of casual racism, some of my people
would and will join in.  Some of my people know everybody
who lives on their street.  They are the type of people who will argue
with the teacher if their child has detention.  The women
of my people are wolves and we talk to the moon in our sleep.

Kendal Poetry Festival

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If you’d like a poetry fix and are missing the Sunday Poem, you can head over to Kendal Poetry Festival and check out our ‘News’ tab.  We’ve got three Five Minute Interviews up so far with poets that are appearing at the festival.

Hannah Hodgson, our Young Blogger in Residence has interviewed Claudine Toutoungi (read her interview here,) Liz Berry (read her interview here) and Wayne Holloway-Smith (read his interview here)

Kendal Poetry Festival takes place from the 6th – 9th September at the Castle Green Hotel in Kendal.  We have an amazing programme of events lined up and I hope to see some of you there!

June News and a poem by Martin Kratz

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June News and a poem by Martin Kratz

I’m writing today’s blog post from my back garden in blazing sunshine.  I keep thinking longingly of my hammock but I don’t think I’ll be getting it out of the shed.  The problem with a hammock is that it’s impossible to do anything in it other than relax.  It’s even hard to read in a hammock because the book has to be held above you – and I’ve still got far too much on to be able to justify lounging about doing nothing.

It has been a really busy month for me since I last wrote.  One of the projects I’ve been working on is a commission by The Sage in Gateshead to write some poems about what it means to be northern.  This is a huge project of which I’m only a small part of – there are two other poets that have also been commissioned to write some poems – Degna Stone and Andrew McMillan, and then four or five amazing musicians.  I’ve been over to Newcastle again to be interviewed for a Sky Arts documentary about the project, although i doubt very much my ramblings will end up being used and to have a short rehearsal with the musicians.  This was really interesting as I’d sent a recording of myself reading one of my poems over and they’d managed to compose music to go with it which chugged along in perfect time – who knew I was reading poems in a steady tempo of about 100 beats a minute?  And it wasn’t even a poem in a particular form or rhythm – what people would call a ‘free verse’ poem.  So we rehearsed that and I felt briefly like a bit of a rock star.

It’s not all been work though – I had a weekend holiday to Scotland with the husband at the beginning of June which was really lovely.  We stayed in a nice B & B and the weather was really hot.  I don’t think I’ve ever been in Scotland when it hasn’t rained so this was a novelty! We got a ferry down Loch Katrine and then decided to run the 13 miles back.  It was very hot and we took our time but it was still really hard work.  I felt fine but in the middle of the night woke up and was sick everywhere – I don’t know if I got too hot, or too dehydrated or just pushed it too much on the run but it wasn’t much fun.   We were supposed to be going up a mountain the next day, but as we’d both had about three hours sleep due to me being ill, and I was a bit shaky still we decided to amend our plans and we went to New Lanark instead and had a look around the old mills before coming home.

I also found time to see the Rolling Stones in Manchester! I went with my dad, my twin sister and my brother in law.  My sister and I succumbed to the over-priced T-shirts and even bought matching ones, which is kind of funny when I think of how much we hated wearing the same thing when we were younger – now I quite enjoy it! Here we are before the concert.  The Stones were amazing – I felt I had to dance non-stop seeing as Mick Jagger is over twice my age and was skipping up and down the stage without a care in the world.

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I’ve also had a few poetry readings this month – in Kendal at Brewery Poets with John Foggin, in Bradford at Beehive Poets  with Nick Toczek and in Hawkshead at a cat cafe called KITTchen with various open mic-ers and managed to sell a few books along the way.

I’ve had a busy time PhD wise as well.  I had my Annual Review at the beginning of June and it all went well.  Even I can see my critical writing has come on a lot since last year’s review.  I even submitted some of my PhD work to the Ivan Juritz prize and got longlisted – sadly I didn’t get any further than the long list but I’m going to have another go next year, when hopefully my thinking (and writing) will be that much further on.

I also gave a paper at a poetry art symposium called ‘I See You Seeing Me – Engaging the Female Gaze in Visual Art and Poetry.  organised by Kathryn Maris to raise funds for Poetry London.  I got really anxious in the run up to the day writing my paper with the usual imposter syndrome stuff and then when I got to London was freaking out when I realised I’d forgotten to bring any ‘smart’ shoes with me and would have to give my paper in my trainers which in my panic the night before, seemed like the worst thing to happen in the world.  However it all turned out fine, and as someone on Twitter pointed out, as I was giving a paper about The Female Gaze, I really just needed to turn up and not worry about how I ‘looked’.  Kathryn Maris was so lovely when I turned up as well a bit flustered that I felt much better.

I think this worry about ‘looking the part’ is a symptom of wider anxiety around class – whenever I move through these spaces there is part of me that feels I don’t belong there.  I feel ‘working class’ when I am in spaces/places that are not working class.  The times when being ‘working class’ rubs up against the surface of my life are always the times when I am in a space that has been traditionally shut off to people like me.

The first time I was aware of it was when I joined the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra when I was 17 – this was after 9 years of playing in brass bands and never thinking about it or even being aware of it.  And ‘joining an orchestra’ doesn’t sound very working class does it? But this was after receiving nine years of free lessons at school, and a free instrument from the brass band, and I joined the orchestra with my teacher’s second hand trumpet, which I’m sure had bits of gaffa tape holding various bits of it together.  I then got a job selling double glazing over the phone (horror of horrors) and saved up £1800 to buy myself a new trumpet.

Anyway, the symposium was great – my highlight were Katharine Engel who gave the keynote speech.  She wrote an amazing book called ‘Unmastered: A Book on Desire Most Difficult To Tell’ which is brilliant.  Her talk covered pornography, female desire, the difference (or not) between the body and the mind – it was really fascinating.  I also really enjoyed Ruth Padel’s thoughts on ekhphrasis and managed to get a copy of her new collection ‘Emerald’ which I haven’t read the whole of yet, but am enjoying so far.

I’ve also just found out that a slightly extended version of my paper is going to be published in Agenda magazine which I’m very happy about.  So most of my PhD time this month has gone into writing my paper, and then working on it to make it suitable for publication in Agenda.  It doesn’t sound like that much when I write it out like that but it has taken hours and hours!

I am also looking forward to the rest of 2018 which will be filled with me being extremely judgemental about poetry (wait for it)

I’m judging the Primers Volume Four Mentoring and Publication Scheme along with Jane Commane from Nine Arches Press – an amazing opportunity to have your pamphlet published by The Poetry School and Nine Arches as well as receive mentoring from yours truly. I’ll also be judging the National Poetry Competition alongside Kei Miller and Mark Waldron which I’m really excited about.

My other big news is that I was on Private Passions on Radio 3 yesterday being interviewed by Michael Berkeley.  I did the interview a couple of months ago and it was one of the nicest and least stressful experiences I’ve had on the radio! You can listen to the interview and my amazing and trumpet-filled choices of music here  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b7dqmy

I think that is all my news for now – phew.  A month’s worth takes a while to type up! Underneath all of that is Kendal Poetry Festival of course – still humming along with only 3 Festival Passes left now.

I will leave you with a poem from one of my favourite people Martin Kratz.  Martin’s first pamphlet A Skeleton’s Progress has just been published by Poetry Salzburg.  As well as being an excellent poet, Martin has also kept me sane throughout my PhD, offering advice and also being terribly English and pretending not to see when I have had the odd crying fit in my favourite cafe (Eighth Day in Manchester if you’re wondering)

Every poem in the pamphlet starts ‘Skeleton Man’ – the speaker of the poem is always talking to him, but really the speaker is addressing us, the audience and reader, telling us things through the conduit of Skeleton Man.  I’ve chosen this poem because I think it’s a great example of how Martin manages to ask big questions about the world but the poems wear those big questions really lightly.

Skeleton Man has various adventures throughout the pamphlet, including being elected to be prime minister and shot into space in a rocket before appearing again in another poem, as if nothing has happened to him.  He swims with sharks, goes into a pub and inexplicably hangs worms all over himself.  Lots of these poems are funny, but they’re also very moving as well.  There is something vulnerable or innocent in the character of Skeleton Man, but he also seems to possess more wisdom than the rest of us somehow.

If you would like to order A Skeleton’s Progress you can buy it from Poetry Salzburg here: http://www.poetrysalzburg.com/skeleton.htm for the measly sum of £6.50 plus postage and packing.  Thanks to Martin for letting me use his poem!

Skeleton Feelings 
Martin Kratz

Skeleton Man,
00000Where do feelings come from?
Here you are
00000Where you think no one watches
Reaching down under your ribcage
00000And back up past false
Ribs towards true.  To make a fist
00000Where a heart should be.

Skeleton Man, this muscle
00000Click-clacks when it should b-boom;
Grinds when it should m-murmur.
00000This is no centre for your pain, but
Take it away and I say
00000Something real remains.  Hand on heart.

When you expose a problem you pose a problem

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The title of this blog comes from the book Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed. I made the mistake this week of posting in a public group about my disappointment that the local paper, the Evening Mail, failed in its report on the recent Keswick to Barrow 40 mile run/walk event to name the top three women finishers, despite naming the top three men. To be honest, I didn’t think I was saying anything particularly controversial – just pointing something out that could be addressed by adding one line of text to an article. I didn’t, and still don’t feel that anything negative could possibly come out of including women’s names.

You can cause unhappiness by noticing something. And if you can cause unhappiness by noticing something, you realise that the world you are in is not the world you thought you were in.

I caused a whole world of unhappiness by noticing this. Lots of people – men and women objected to the suggestion that the efforts of the top three women should have been acknowledged. Over and over again people told me that talking about naming women distracted attention from the fact that it was a charity event (doesn’t seem to harm the London Marathon), that the top three finishers just happened to be men (and they always will be unless we get an Olympic athlete rocking up to Barrow who just happens to be female).

Eventually, I had to turn off the comments on my post, and turn off the notifications.

We make things bigger by refusing to make things smaller

One friend posted a seperate post in support – that post was still going three days later and coming up to nearly 40 comments now with people telling her how wrong she is.  My twin sister is enjoying arguing with these people – my beautiful brave twin sister who would not stand and listen and say nothing, even though I told her not to get involved.

I’m too upset to look back at any of the posts now. Does how it felt to me matter? If I use words like bullying, like ganging up, is that an unfair accusation or is that my lived experience? I’m unsure now. If you are one person speaking up about something, and nobody else agrees, then maybe it will always feel like you’re being ganged up on. But thinking back now, without looking back at the post (because I can’t) one man offering his services as a lawyer to sue the paper was a way of getting me to shut up, a way of trying to humiliate me, a way of saying what you are pointing out does not matter. Men (and women) sharing pictures of their daughters saying ‘X did the walk for charity, not to get their name in the paper’ was designed to imply that I was merely interested in glory, and not in the more noble cause of raising money for charity, despite the fact that it wasn’t, was never about my name.  And this is another shaming technique.  Men and women asking why couldn’t I just be happy to be part of a great event – and look how happy we all are just to be here.  And this is another shaming technique

Happiness as a form of emotional labor can be condensed in the formula: making others happy by appearing happy.

There are ways to be a woman, and complaining about a system is not one of them. Complaining about injustice is not one of them. And having an opinion on social media and being a woman is a dangerous thing. It can end with having to turn your phone off because the constant comments are making you feel ill and anxious. I know that everything gets magnified on social media, that people say things they wouldn’t say to someone in person.

My friend N. pointed out to me that it was only thirty or so years ago that the first woman Kathrine Switzer ran the Boston marathon and was verbally and physically attacked because it was thought that women weren’t capable of running a marathon.

She pointed out that sport and the world of sport (and the pursuit of hbbies/interests/passions) have always been created for and dominated by men. I think about my hobbies/my interests – when I was younger, I played in brass bands.  One of the top bands in the country, Brighouse and Rastrick, finally appointed a female cornet player for the first time in their 130 year old history in 2011.  The brass band I grew up in had plenty of women in it and I would never say that brass bands don’t welcome women now (although I would say in my experience you have to be twice as good as the men to be thought of as half as good) but the world of brass banding (and running – my other hobby) was never set up for women, although women move through these worlds now, because of their tenacity and insistence.  And no, we are not told that we cannot join, we cannot run, not in so many words, but the fact that women’s achievement is ignored is one way of making our way through these worlds feel like wading through quicksand.

And what does it matter anyway? There are bigger things to worry about in the world. But how can we talk about rape when we can’t even agree that women should receive the same acknowledgement in a sporting event? How can we talk about domestic violence and helping victims when we can’t stand up for our friends online? How can we talk about sexism when we can’t even agree what it is?

This blog post has sat in my draft folder for over a week now.  At first I thought I wouldn’t post it at all.  Then I started  looking through Twitter today, following the #hometovote tweets from women travelling from across the world back to Ireland to vote to repeal the eighth amendment.  There is something beautiful in these women (and men) coming back home with welcoming parties at the airports – the reverse of the journey many women have to make to have an abortion abroad.  So this is one of the bigger things – bigger than speaking out about a stupid newspaper article – but you know and I know that everything is linked.  Women having autonomy and choice over what happens to their bodies is linked inextricably with women’s bodies being ignored, written out of history.  The silencing of women’s achievement is linked inextricably with the silencing of women’s voices.

I return again and again to Sara Ahmed, who sometimes feels like a lifeline. All of the quotes above are taken from her book Living a Feminist Life.  She talks about ‘Feminist Survival Kits’. This poem, from one of my dearest friends, and a woman who continually inspires me would be in my survival kit, because this week I’ve finally realised that I don’t believe in silence either.  And no, I won’t shut up.  And no, I won’t stop noticing.

To buy Head On, the collection of poetry that this poem comes from, head over to the Bloodaxe website http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/product/head-on-1046.  Clare also has a third collection Flood, coming very soon.

 

I Don’t Believe in Silence – Clare Shaw

Because, tonight –
however I try – I cannot get downstairs
without waking my daughter
I do not believe in silence.

Because of the Worboys enquiry,
because of the one hundred-plus women he raped –
because of the policeman defending the findings
unable to utter the word –
‘this (herrrm) crime, this (ahem)
assault, this category (cough)
of offence’ –
I do not believe in silence

because of the stairs and the banister’s crack;
the sound of the lock
and my hand on the door – the fifty-tone creak –
the magnificent echo of light-switch and click –
I do not believe in silence.

Because of Neda – and everyone’s sister –
and the man who said ‘Don’t be afraid’;
for the sake of my daughter, because of the burka,
because of the patter of rain;
because of two hundred thousand years of human history,
thirty-seven of them my own –
I do not believe in silence

for the sake of my arms, the wrists especially.
With respect to my legs
and my belly and chest
and the comfort long due to my throat

because of nightclubs at one a.m
and shouts in the street and feet in pursuit
and shops that don’t shut;
because of sirens and the dealers downstairs;
because of Levi and Akhmatova;
because of the itch of the blue-lipped prisoner;
the itch and the scratch of my pen;

I believe in the word.
I believe in the scrabble of claws
on uncarpeted floors.
I believe in my daughter’s complaints.
I believe in the violin, the E-string,
the see-sawing bow; the cello
straining its throat.

I believe in the heart and its beat
and its beep and the dance of the trace
on the screen, I believe in the volume
of colour turned up, and my blood
which was always too loud.

Because of the nights, and the sweats,
and the same rowdy thoughts;
because of that one afternoon
when I nailed my own voice to the air
and because there was nobody listening
and through it all
bird song
and the sound of cars passing –

I do not believe in silence.

Because, tonight –
however I try – I cannot