Tag Archives: residential poetry course

A Review of the 2015 Poetry Carousel

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A Review of the 2015 Poetry Carousel

 

The poet Elisabeth Sennit Clough was one of the 32 participants on last year’s sold out Poetry Carousel.  I asked Elisabeth to write an account of what the experience was like.  If you’ve been debating about whether to come, this is a must-read! Elisabeth is a fantastic poet, and has a pamphlet forthcoming after winning the Paper Swans Pamphlet Competition in 2016.

This year’s team of tutors are myself, Clare Shaw and Dutch poets Saskia Stehouwer and Tsead Bruinja.  You can find more information about the 2016 Carousel here

2015 Poetry Carousel

by Elisabeth Sennit Clough

Cumbria is about as geographically and aesthetically distant from my present home in a West Norfolk village as possible, but a current obsession with poetry retreats compelled me to abandon my husband and three children and travel to Grange-over-Sands for the weekend.

As I trundled my case along the short distance from Kents Bank Station to Abbots Hall Hotel, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I couldn’t remove the definition of ‘carousel’ from my mind: 1) a merry-go-round at a fair or 2) a conveyor system at an airport from which arriving passengers collect their luggage.  

On the first evening, we were assigned to groups and stayed in those groups as we rotated through the four workshops (the premise of the poetry carousel being to move around four workshops, each with a different tutor). Like the merry-go-round, it had the potential to be great fun while it lasted – or, like the baggage carousel, it could just go round and round monotonously and I could end up right back where I started (I have an ambivalent relationship with airport carousels). 

My first workshop was with Kim. In my group were fellow MMU student Hilary Hares (whom I’d met on a Teaching Creative Writing Course) and Helen Kay – whom I had never met – but had corresponded with about the Nantwich Festival. Given how small the UK poetry world is, it was somewhat inevitable (and lovely) that I would bump into familiar names and faces.

The coincidences continued: Kim is a huge Philip Levine fan and I used to live in Fresno (where Philip Levine ran the MFA Programme at CSU). Kim adopted the title of Levine’s award winning collection What Work Is, articulating the lives of Detroit factory workers, for her workshop. What exactly is work? Our ice-breaker involved trying to answer that deceptively hard question. Having read poems such as ‘My People’ and ‘A Psalm for the Scaffolders’ in Kim’s The Art of Falling, I could see why work as a subject matter was important to her.

I learned that many people on the carousel had attended previous poetry workshops with Kim – a testament to her engaging teaching style and ability to put people at ease. For example, her workshop helped me find a way into writing successfully about a subject I’d been battling with for years; that is, my own experiences as a teenage factory worker.

Kim describes the carousel as promoting ‘a festival atmosphere in the evening, when we come together for dinner and readings from the tutors and invited guest poets.’ This is a very accurate description: in the evening, Kim read some of her work, along with guest-readers, Jennifer Copley and Lindsay Holland. Lindsay is co-editor of The Compass and one of six poets shortlisted for the 2015 Manchester Poetry Prize. After reading, each poet discussed aspects of her work: Jennifer, for example, has published collections with several different imprints and spoke about that experience, while Lindsay discussed long poems and the significance of thoroughly researching your subject matter.

My next group workshop (the following morning) was with Andrew Forster, the other editor of The Compass. Andrew’s ‘Encounters Workshop’ involved writing about ‘an encounter that made you see things differently.’ This inspired me to write a poem about a migrant farm worker that went on to be accepted by The Rialto. Andrew commented on the strength of voice in the poem and this gave me the confidence to continue developing the poem in the same tone.  

My third workshop was with Ian Duhig. His latest (and seventh!) collection, The Blind Roadmaker (about the incredible Jack Metcalf), is one of those books that I read initially because I was interested in the subject matter, but then found myself reading again and again just to admire the exceptional craft of it.

Ian’s workshop prompted me to take an imaginative leap with my subject matter (it’s the first poem I’ve written that’s set in space!), but this freed my poem from the constraints that were constantly working against me as I wrote. Another useful device for my toolkit involved possibly turning a negative outcome in a poem into a positive one. This inspired me to change the ending of one of my poems to great success. Now, when struggling with an ending, Ian’s voice pops into my head, asking, ‘what would its opposite be?’

My final workshop was with Amanda Dalton. Amanda helped me to focus on the drama in my poetry: where should I place the tension on my dramatic arc, for example? We used postcards as prompts and placed emphasis on movement (or not as in the example of my poem below from Amanda’s workshop). I wanted to capture the idea of stark animal nakedness, the sense of unpleasantness inside and out that I interpreted from Freud’s work.

 

Sleeping By the Lion Carpet

After a painting by Lucian Freud

Like the lioness, I am alert
to the alpha in this female, feigning sleep
in an armchair: how her flesh demands
attention from the artist’s brush.

I know the mind of a woman
like this – the way she plants
her ego on the floor, stands back
and laughs as you trip over it.

Her milk contains so much venom,
her thick-ankled daughters will grow up
to puncture the limbs of prettier girls
with the points of school compasses.

She has named them Immaculate
and Conception. She has no sex –
the artist has painted her:
a fat child with breasts.


Far from ending up right back where I started, the carousel took me to unexpected places. I learned a lot of new techniques, resulting from a combination of different teaching styles melding over the weekend. Several months on, I am still developing poems inspired by the carousel weekend and re-reading my notes. And yes, my head does still spin from time to time with all the new skills and poems I brought home.

Sunday Poem – Tom Cleary

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I’m writing this feeling very delicate as I went out last night to a friends 50th birthday party.  Lady C, as she shall be called on this blog had no idea her husband had planned a surprise party and thought she was just popping round to the bar where the party was for a quick drink before being whisked away to enjoy a slap up meal at a restaurant.  As the room of about 150 odd people fell silent so we could all shout ‘Surprise!’ as she opened the door I did think how terrible it would be if Lady C fell over with the shock.  She is made of sterner stuff though and soon recovered.  It was lovely to see such a large amount of people turning out for Lady C’s birthday.  There was a great band on as well called The Sidecars who got everybody up dancing.  I only drank three bottles of lager but then I was up dancing all night and now I feel like I drank ten bottles.  Does anybody else get that?  When I used to go out drinking and dancing when I was younger, I used to get horrible hangovers but that was because I drank like an idiot.  It felt like a fair exchange – drink and stay out all night and pay for it afterwards.  Now however, I only drink a little bit and I still feel terrible in the morning.

I broke off from writing this blog to go for my Sunday run.  I normally go at 10am but everybody was at Lady C’s party last night as well so we decided to go at 12pm instead.  We went for a run along the beach but nobody had remembered to check the tide times which meant risking running over the stones and possibly breaking an ankle or going up and down the sand dunes.  I was all for risking broken bones but nobody else agreed so off we went, up and down the rather steep sand dunes.

 

This week has felt like the week I learnt to prioritise things.  I often make lists of jobs to do, but then I waft about from job to job on the list and then I have a panic because I’ve left something to the last minute.  This week I went through the list, helped by my trusty husband and put things in the order they needed to be done.

Hanging over my head this week is the dreaded tax return which isn’t helping things. When I look back over my spreadsheets that I’ve kept over the last few years I do feel quite proud.  2011-2012 I made a loss as a writer.  This was the first year I really started working as a poet.  2012-13 I managed to break even and 2013-14 I will be making my first ever profit – not enough to retire on, but enough to consider it a viable part-income, at least.

So Monday will be the day the tax return gets finished, even it kills me, even if I don’t see the light of day ALL DAY etc etc.  Not that I’m being dramatic about it or anything.

My first and most pressing deadline this week was to write out the first assignment for my Poetry School online course ‘What Work Is’.  I managed to get this finished on Thursday so that was one job ticked off the list.  The course doesn’t start till the 28th January, but the Poetry School are doing some work on the website and the assignment needed to go up this week.

My second job was to ring the lovely Clare Shaw to have a chat about a course that we are tutoring together at Ty Newydd in a couple of weeks time.  We will be spending a week with a group of girls from a school in Manchester.  I’m really looking forward to the week.  We did get slightly distracted from planning by catching up on various bits of gossip but never mind.   I haven’t been to Ty Newydd for a couple of years now, but it is a very special place to me.  I went on my first, life-changing residential poetry course there and then went and did a course every year for the next three or four years so the house and the area mean a lot to me.

Bookings for the St Ives Residential poetry course that I’m tutoring with Steve Ely are going really well.  We now have just two places left, if there is anybody who has been swithering about whether to go or not.  It will be a fantastic week in beautiful surroundings.  I’ve managed to book my train ticket to Crewe where I’ll be getting picked up by John Foggin and Steve Ely before we head down to St Ives.  I’m looking forward to this week as well – I went on family holidays to Cornwall every year when I was younger so again, I get the chance to feel all nostalgic when I’m there.

I am also doing my first bit of mentoring for the Poetry School tomorrow, which is really exciting.  In fact, after I’ve finished writing this blog, I’ll be reading through the poems I’ve been sent, ready for the skype chat with my mentee tomorrow.  If anybody is interested in a tutorial or extended mentoring with me, please get in touch with The Poetry School or contact me directly by email (you can find this on the Contact page)

This doesn’t sound like I’ve had that much to do actually – but it has definitely felt like it!  In between the above tasks I’ve been answering emails, gathering content for the website for Kendal Poetry Festival, inviting a set of poets to come and read for A Poem and a Pint in 2016.  One evening was spent sending emails out about St Ives to get the last few places filled.

So today’s Sunday Poem is by a lovely man called Tom Cleary.  I first met him when I did a reading in Hebden Bridge bookshop a couple of months ago. He bought my book and asked me to sign it, not mentioning that he also wrote poetry until I asked him and then he didn’t say anything about the fact that he’d had a pamphlet out in 2014.  I only found that out a month or so ago, when I was the guest poet at Puzzle Poets and Tom got up to read and read a few poems from his pamphlet.

I thought his poetry was really special on first hearing, but I didn’t manage to catch him to buy a copy as he whizzed off as soon as the reading finished to give someone a lift home.  I am nothing if not determined though, and the kindly Bob Horne agreed to pass on the money for a pamphlet and my address so that Tom could post it out to me.

Tom’s pamphlet is called The Third Miss Keane which strikes me as a promising title anyway and it does hint at what is to come in this pamphlet, which is a host of really good, and interesting stories.  The poems often feel slightly surreal, or fairy-tale like, but they always have their own inner logic.

Like Rose Cook, the poet I featured last week on the blog, I hadn’t heard of Tom Cleary before.  It just proves how many fantastic poets there are, writing brilliant poetry and not being noticed enough for the good stuff they are writing.  Or maybe it proves that I am losing touch with the poetry scene, and not keeping up…

 

Gobstoppers – Tom Cleary

On our way home from school
we bought boiled sweets in paper bags,
bright red gobstoppers highlighted with flecks of black,
gumballs, lemon drops, toffee slabs on a stick,
flavoured with aniseed, sherbet or mint.
We sucked and sucked until our mouths
glittered like lipstick.  Our tongues
burned with the sweet acid
and we stuck them out of our mouths
and fanned them with our hands.

We bought them in a grey shop
on the corner of nowhere, on waste ground,
in front of rows of cream and white pebble-dashed houses.
Behind the yellow of its misty window,
dead flies lay scattered and limp flags of cobwebs drifted.
A sickly young man in an advert behind a cracked frame
was scarved in drifts of smoke.

The owners were two elderly sisters, who could have been twins.
Their hair was scraped back in buns
with loose straggly wisps.  They stood awkwardly
like shy guests waiting to be introduced.
Their eyes reminded me of my aunt,
and I imagined them to be the lost wives of farmers,
abducted from their homes and carried away
over great distances, to spend their lives
exiled in this bare shop, selling sweets
to small boys for their hot pennies.

Behind the counter they were ill at ease,
standing at an odd angle to one another,
as if they’d been set there in place,
figures in an installation.  I sensed a yearning
in them, as though they’d never stopped wondering
what had become of the chickens that used to peck
at their ankles and their shoe laces.
When they handed us change
with a delicate bend of the wrist,
were they remembering the butter churn?

I think this poem is a good example of the work you can expect to find in the pamphlet. Throughout the pamphlet, and in this poem, ordinary circumstances become slightly surreal and strange.

It also gave me a lovely feeling of nostalgia – although we only bought sweets from the rather ordinary corner shop when I was young, which sat at the top of our road next to a chinese takeaway and a hairdressers, there was one long hot summer when my sister and I and our friends would put our money altogether and buy five or six paper bags of sweets and sit on the park, eating sweets all day, being bothered by wasps because the sweets were so sticky.  I remember watching the newsagent as he weighed out the sweets on a large silver scale and squeezing the bottom of the bag to check how much sugar had gathered.

Tom’s shop is a little more exciting though, and a little less hygenic than the one I remember from my childhood.  I love the detail of the shop window with its ‘dead flies lay scattered and limp flags of cobwebs drifted’ and of course the strangeness of the scene is set up before then.  The shop is ‘in the middle of nowhere.’  The portrait of the two elderly sisters who run the shop is also very cleverly drawn.  That detail of the way they stand ‘awkwardly/like shy guests waiting to be introduced’ gives you a picture of them straight away.  The best detail in this third verse though, is the ‘hot pennies’ at the end, again, as soon as you read that, you know exactly what he means.

The idea that they remind the speaker of the poem ‘of his aunt’ which he then goes on to develop saying he imagines them to be ‘the lost wives of farmers.’  He never implicitly says that his aunt was the lost wife of a farmer, but we are left to infer this.  It is such a strange idea, which he then develops brilliantly in the last stanza.  We are left not knowing if the aunt was the lost wife of a farmer, and she was full of ‘yearning’ or whether the two elderly sisters were or maybe nobody was, and it was all in the boys imagination.  I don’t mind not knowing though and I think this is what makes it a good poem – not only the brilliantly drawn details, but also the mystery we are left with.

In 2011 Tom won the Writers Forum/HappenStance Competition and in January 2014 he was featured poet in Orbis 166. I was interested to read that The WF/HappenStance prize was to have been the publication of a sampler. But there were too many good poems so HappenStance published a pamphlet instead: The Third Miss Keane which you can buy from the HappenStance website for the bargain price of only £4 plus postage.  In 2015, Tom was also a winner of the prestigious Northern Writers’ Award, one of six New North poets.  You can find out a little bit more about Tom on his profile page at the HappenStance website.

Hope you enjoyed the poem, and please do let me know what you think of it! I know if you wanted to order the pamphlet it would make a hard working publisher and a lovely poet very happy, which for just £4 seems like a Very Good Thing To Do.

Sunday Poem – Ian Harker

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THE LIONS OF LEEDS TOWN HALL – Ian Harker

Drawn from life at London Zoo
you could catch one from the corner
of your eye curling an oversize paw
like a cat in a square of sunlight
on the kitchen floor or flicking the dirt
from its mane – blackbright lions
lazing in the haze of fading might.

Here they come up Park Row,
claws clack-clacking on flags,
leaping parked cars, nosing over litter bins.
The city after dark is an outdoor enclosure
for owls and sheep, gargoyles and eagles
and a family of roe deer grazing placid
in Mandela Gardens.

At the Mechanics’ Institute the security guards
can hardly hear themselves think for the squawk
and scream of the treetops, yawning hippos
and an extinction of dodos hopping down the stairs
towards Millennium Square.
And who dare check that Nesyamun,
three thousand years dead, hasn’t shifted
his shrunken bones, sat up
and started tapping against the glass.

Today’s Sunday Poem is from Ian Parker’s first pamphlet, The End of the Sky, which was one of three winners of the 2015 Templar Pamphlet Awards and was published in November. I got to know Ian a couple of years ago, through my good friend David Tait.  I remember David telling me then that he thought Ian was a great poet and to watch out for his poems.  Ian has had a great 2015 – I’ve been noticing his poetry popping up in magazines and on various shortlists for competitions including the Bridport, The Troubador and the Guernsey International Prizes.  He’s also been published in numerous magazines including The North, Stand, Agenda and Other Poetry.

I haven’t seen Ian for ages so it was great to see him at Word Club in Leeds a couple of weeks ago.  I’m a bit lazy about buying books and pamphlets online now and much prefer to get them in person – so I’m glad I got the opportunity to get a copy of quite a few pamphlets from various poets based in and around Leeds.

As soon as I read the title of this poem I knew I would love it.  I thought I was the most unobservant person when I lived in Leeds – if it didn’t look like a trumpet, I wasn’t really interested, but even I apparently, had noticed the lions because I got a kind of pang of nostalgia just from reading the title – I remember those lions!

I love the idea that you could catch one ‘curling an oversize paw’ or ‘flicking the dirt from its mane’ when you are not looking.  I have no idea if ‘blackbright’ is a real word – it sounds made up, and yet, completely right and fitting.

I think the second stanza has captured the movement of the lions beautifully, even while keeping it in the reader’s mind that these are stone lions – their claws ‘clack-clacking on flags’.  It’s all a bit Museums at Night by the end, with that image of Nesyamun sitting up and ‘tapping against the glass’ – I love it!

Thanks to Ian for allowing me to use his poem forthe blog this week – I would heartily recommend his pamphlet, The End of the Sky, which you can buy by heading over to the Templar website.

Talking about Nesyamun and his three thousand year old bones, I feel a strange affinity with him tonight, except he maybe has a bit more life in him!  I’ve just got back from an amazing weekend, running the first ever Poetry Carousel.

In the days leading up to the Poetry Carousel, I started to worry that there might be a reason why nobody had done this sort of course before.  Thirty two participants, divided into four groups of eight.  Each group of eight had a two-hour workshop with four tutors, rotating around, from one tutor to the other. Tutors for this year were Ian Duhig, Amanda Dalton and Andrew Forster who were all great to work with and a brilliant support  throughout the weekend.

I can only imagine what it was like for the people taking part, moving from one workshop to another, one energy to another, one teaching style to another, one topic to another.  It must have been exhausting, and by the end of the weekend, there was certainly a sense of hysteria setting in with the tutors and a few of the participants. But I hope it was also inspiring and exciting and fun and made them think and question and think again.  I hope it was challenging as well – I think we need to be challenged sometimes, and prodded out of our comfort zones. The quality of the work produced during the workshops was outstanding and although at times, I felt sad  I wasn’t getting to spend as much time getting to know people as on a ‘normal’ residential course, it was lovely to walk around the hotel and hear the buzz and chatter of people talking and laughing.

We had two wonderful and very different guest poets, Jennifer Copley on the Friday night, and Lindsey Holland on the Saturday night, both at very different stages in their careers.  Jenny will be running a more ‘normal’ residential course with me in October: ‘From the Ordinary to the Extraordinary’ and it was great to hear some of the new poems she has been working on, including some surreal takes on nursery rhymes.  Lindsey has now finished a pamphlet she has been working on about her family history, and read three long poems as her set, including one of my favourites of hers, St Elmo’s Fire, which was one of the set of poems recently shortlisted for the Manchester Poetry Prize.

The carousel will be running again from the 16th-19th August 2016, and I’ll be making an announcement about the other three tutors very soon!

Apart from preparing for the course, which seems to have taken a huge part of my week, last week I spent two evenings at a school show, where I’d rehearsed a school band so they could perform in the afternoon without me as I had to be somewhere else teaching.  They apparently were brilliant in the afternoon, counted themselves in, finished together, kept in time and in the evening, when I was halfway on stage ready to conduct them, they counted themselves in again and off they went, so I scuttled off stage again! It was a strange mixture of pride that they didn’t need me and grumpiness that they didn’t need me, but the pride was definitely on top, as it should be!

I also ran far too much last week and now have sore shins again, which I’ve rested this weekend in the hope they will make a speedy recovery.  I also went for a lovely afternoon tea with my friend Helen who writes a great blog detailing her experiences at some of the county’s finest afternoon tea establishments.  My alias is ‘Princess K’ on the blog and I am the only one of her friends to be photographed and featured on said blog.  This might be because I kept photobombing the pictures she was trying to take of the cakes but never mind

Next year, starting towards the end of January, I’ll be tutoring on an online course called What Work Is through the Poetry School.  You can book onto the course here, but if you’d like to find out a little more about it, I’ve just written a blog post which talks about what we’ll be doing on the course which you can find here. Half of the places have gone already, so if you’d like to book, do get in touch with the Poetry School.

In February, I’m running a residential course in St Ives with Steve Ely – again, half of the places for this course have already gone so do get in touch with the hotel if you would like to book  a place.  You can find more information here

This is always a strange time of year – it feels like things are starting to wind down, but they aren’t really.  Next week I have a school concert, I’m taking Barrow Shipyard Junior Band busking twice, a soul band rehearsal and a trip to Galway to read at the Over the Edge reading series and then a soul band gig when I get back.  It’s not really winding down at all, but there is that sense of time running out, or running away.

The end-of-year lists are starting to come out – this blog is even on one of them, which I’m very, very happy about.  Matthew Stewart over at Rogue Strands has compiled a list ‘The Best U.K Poetry Blogs of 2015’ and happy to say my blog is on it.  My friend John Foggin has just blogged and included his four poetry blogs that keep him going and I’m happy to say this blog is mentioned there as well.

Poetry, and blogging can be like that.  I liked John’s analogy of it being like a long walk and needing friends to carry your rucksack and motivate you sometimes.  John was saying thanks to me for doing that today on his blog, not knowing that I was feeling like a three thousand year old corpse and trying to think of an excuse for not writing this blog .  Reading his blog made me remember why I like blogging – I like sharing other people’s poetry just because I like it, without expecting anything back, just because something in the poem spoke to me.  Writing a blog every week does feel like a long walk with a really heavy rucksack sometimes – there is no denying that.  Sometimes I wonder whether it is worth the time and the energy – but mostly I feel proud of it – that is what is mostly on top – which is how it should be.

Residential Poetry Course in St Ives

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Steve Ely and I have been working really hard this week to pull the timetable together for the residential poetry course that we’re running in St Ives next year, from the 15th to the 20th February.

Below you will find the timetable and a short description of the workshops that we have planned for the week.  You can also find this information by hovering over the ‘Residential Poetry Courses’ tab and clicking on the St Ives page or you can just follow this link here

The course takes place at Treloyhan Manor Hotel, which overlooks Carbis Bay and is situated on the edge of St Ives.  The price of £395 includes breakfast and a three course evening meal, accommodation and all workshops and tuition.

The course is suitable for beginners and more experienced writers.

Please get in touch if you have any questions about the course, but to book a place, please phone Treloyhan Manor Hotel on 01736796240

Draft Timetable (this may be subject to small changes!)
Thrown Voices – Monday 15th-Saturday 20th February 2016

Monday 15th February
5pm-6pm – Welcome and short writing workshop in the lounge

6.30pm – Evening Meal

8pmEvening Reading in the lounge
Bring a favourite poem to share with the group, written by somebody else.

Tuesday 16th February
10am-1pm – Morning Workshop with Kim Moore

Shape Shifters and Ventriloquists
Shape shifting is the ability to physically transform into another being or form, while ventriloquism is the art or practice of speaking in such a manner that the voice does not appear to come from the speaker but from another source. Poets have always become shapeshifters and ventriloquists to find ways of telling stories that are both their own, and somebody else’s.   During this workshop, we will experiment with different ways of throwing our voices and how taking the shape of another can impact on our writing. Please bring an object that means something to you along to the workshop.  

2.30pm-4.30pm – Afternoon Workshop with Steve Ely
Deviant Voices & the Dramatic Monologue
The truism ‘we all love a good villain’  is embodied in the fact that many of the most compelling characters in literature – Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost, Anton Chigurh in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men – are often the most immoral, corrupt and criminal.  This workshop will explore the ways poets have given expression to such deviant voices and provide resources, stimuli and techniques that will enable participants to create a consistent and compelling voice for fictional or re-imagined villains in the dramatic monologue form.  The possibilities of developing such work into more extended forms – such as sequences or pamphlet-length pieces will be explored.

6.30pm – Evening Meal

8pm – Poetry Reading in the lounge by Steve Ely and Kim Moore

Wednesday 17th February
10am-1pm – Morning Workshop with Steve Ely
The Bible from Below
Each book of the Bible contains a whole ensemble of characters alongside the main protagonists.   Alongside Jesus in the Gospels we find important but largely silent characters such as Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ father Joseph and the nameless ‘woman taken in adultery’.  Similarly, in the books of Samuel, alongside Saul, David and Samuel himself, we encounter Hannah, Samuel’s mother, Agag, the Amalekite king and David’s first wife Michal, each of whom is denied significant utterance.  This workshop will explore a range of Biblical texts to investigate the role and significance of these intriguing characters and to explore ways in which we might poetically articulate their voices and points-of-view, re-writing the Biblical stories ‘from below’.

2.30pm – 4.30pm – Afternoon Workshop with Kim Moore
Holding Your Tongue
In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the thing that kills a person who has been transformed into an animal, tree or bird, is not the transformation of the body, but the loss of speech. Ovid elevates the ability to communicate over and over again throughout his epic poem. There are many ways of being silenced of course but against this, putting pen to paper becomes an act of defiance. During this workshop we will be reading poems which push against an imperative for silence, exploring what it means to have a voice and writing about what happens when the ability to speak is taken away.

6.30pm Evening Meal

8pm – Poetry Reading with Mystery Guest Poet

Thursday 18th February
10am-1pm – Morning Workshop with Steve Ely and Kim Moore

People Watching in St Ives
During this workshop we will look at the different ways that poets write about people – from closely drawn observations to dramatic monologues. We will talk about the art of people watching before letting participants loose to wander the streets of St Ives. Participants will create their own dramatic monologues, drawing on observations and their imaginations to create their own characters.

2.30pm onwards – Free Afternoon – Tutorials available with Kim or Steve

6.30pm – Evening Meal

8pm – Poetry Quiz/Discussion in the Lounge

Friday 19th February
10am-1pm – Critiquing Workshop with Steve Ely and Kim Moore
Please bring 10 copies of a poem that you would like feedback on.  Photocopying is available at the hotel but there will be a charge.

2.30pm onwards – Free Afternoon

6.30pm – Evening Meal

8pm – Participants Poetry Reading in the Lounge

Saturday 20th February

Breakfast and departures

 

Residential Poetry Course at St Ives – Change of Tutor

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Sadly, Clare Shaw is no longer able to tutor at St Ives in February 2016 due to other work commitments which include a new post as the Royal Literary Fellow at Huddersfield University.  Although I am sad not to be working with Clare at St Ives, we will be tutoring together in the future – so do watch this space!  I’m really excited to announce that the fantastic poet Steve Ely will be stepping in to fill Clare’s shoes.

Steve Ely’s work fits brilliantly with our theme of ‘Thrown Voices’ – his work is wide-ranging and he writes extensively using history and politics to inform his work.  His first book of poetry Oswald’s Book of Hours is published by Smokestack and was nominated for the 2013 Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry in 2015.  Englaland, his second collection was published in 2015 by Smokestack.  His novel Ratmen is published by Blackheath Books.  Ted Hughes’s South Yorkshire: Made in Mexborough, a biographical work about Hughes’s neglected Mexborough period will be published by Palgrave MacMillan in July 2015.

The course will be running from 15th – 20th February 2016 at Treloyhan Manor Hotel in St Ives.  The cost of the course will be £475 for a standard ensuite room.  This has increased a little bit from last year – this is to cover the extra night at the hotel, and tutors travel expenses, which I didn’t calculate in last time (doh).  I think it is still excellent value for money though – this fee covers all workshops, tutorials and readings, accommodation, breakfast and three course evening meal.

Below is a little bit more information about the theme of the week.  Please book directly through the hotel – places are limited and usually fill up fairly quickly.  If you have questions about the course – please get in touch with me directly via the contact page on the blog.

Residential Poetry Course
Tutors: Kim Moore and Steve Ely

Monday 15th February – Saturday 20th February 2016, Treloyhan Manor Hotel, St Ives, 01736 796240
£475

Thrown Voices
Come and join us in beautiful St Ives where we will explore what happens when we throw our voices into other stories, bodies and objects.  We will look at what it means to have a voice, and how poets have written about what happens when this voice is taken away.  Drawing on personal artefacts and stories, published poems and the rich surroundings of St Ives, we will discover what it feels like to write in a voice that is both yours, and not yours; and to tell a story that may – or may not be – your own.  This course is suitable for new writers as well as more experienced poets

https://kimmoorepoet.wordpress.com/residential-poetry-courses/thrown-voices-residential-poetry-course-st-ives/

Fourth Tutor Announced for Poetry Workshop Carousel

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I’m really excited to be able to announce that the fourth tutor for the Poetry Workshop Carousel, taking place from the 11th-13th December 2015 at Abbot Hall Hotel, Grange Over Sands will be the fantastic Amanda Dalton.  I first met Amanda when I was studying on the MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and she was always astute in her observations, generous with her time and gave invaluable advice and I’m really looking forward to working with her.  Below you will find all the information about the tutors.  Please see the Forthcoming Residential Poetry Courses tab for more information about the course.

 

Amanda Dalton

 

 

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Amanda is a poet and playwright. She started writing in her mid 30s when she was working as vice principal in a Leicester comprehensive school. She has published two pamphlets and two collections with Blooodaxe: ‘How To Disappear’ which was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best first collection, and ‘Stray’. She was selected as a Next Generation Poet in 2004. Her work for BBC Radio includes original dramas, poetry, and radical re-workings of silent movies The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Nosferatu. She has made site-specific work with Wilson+Wilson and Sheffield Theatres, drama for young people and adaptations of work by Jackie Kay and David Almond.  She is a Visiting Writing Fellow (poetry and script) at MMU’s Writing School and Director of Engagement at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre. She lives in Hebden Bridge.

 

Ian Duhig

 

Ian Duhig (6)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A former homelessness worker, Ian Duhig has written six books of poetry, three of which were shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize as well as the Whitbread and Costa Poetry Awards. He has won the Forward Best Poem Prize, the National Poetry Competition and was a joint winner of a Shirley Jackson Award for one of his short stories. A Cholmondeley Award recipient and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he has taught at all levels from beginner to post-graduate and his university posts include being the International Writer Fellow at Trinity College Dublin.  If you would like to order any of Ian’s books, you can buy them direct from Picador here

 

Andrew Forster

 

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Andrew Forster is originally from South Yorkshire but he lived in Scotland for twenty years before moving to Cumbria in 2008. He has published three full-length collections of poetry, two with Flambard Press, ‘Fear of Thunder’ (2007) and ‘Territory’ (2010), and ‘Homecoming’ with Smith Doorstop (2015). ‘Fear of Thunder’ was shortlisted for the 2008 Forward Prize for Best First Collection and ‘Homecoming’ is shortlisted for the Lakeland Book of the Year Award . Two poems, ‘Horse Whisperer’and ‘Brothers’, appear in the AQA GCSE syllabus.  He has worked in Literature Development for 17 years and until recently was Literature Officer at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere

Kim Moore

Society of Authors Awards June 2011Kim Moore  Eric Gregory Awards

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kim Moore’s first full length collectionThe Art of Falling’ was published by Seren in 2015.  Her first pamphlet ‘If We Could Speak Like Wolves’ was a winner in the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition in 2012.  It was named in the Independent as a Book of the Year, shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and was the runner up in the Lakeland Book of the Year Award.  She was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer prize by Poetry Review in 2010, an Eric Gregory Award in 2012 and a Northern Writers Award in 2014 and is one of five UK poets selected to take part in Versopolis, a European project aimed at bringing the work of young UK poets to a wider European audience.  Her poem ‘In That Year’ is on the shortlist for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Published Poem.

 

Sunday Poem – Peter Jarvis

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Evening all – if I have done this right, this will be published on Sunday at 5.30pm, while I am away in Crete.  The wonders of technology.  I’m actually writing this blog on Friday night just after midnight.  I’ve been away all week tutoring on a week-long residential course with Carola Luther.  We had 16 lovely, talented poets signed up for the course  and it has been a great, if intense week.

My lovely friend Lindsey Holland is staying at my house this week, looking after my dogs and she picked me up from Grange and gave me a lift back to Barrow.  I slept for about an hour and then since then I’ve been packing.  Our flight goes pretty early in the morning – we are having to leave at 2am so it seemed pointless to go to sleep and then wake up feeling terrible.

So this week’s Sunday Poem is appropriately set in another country.  Peter Jarvis was born into an early-settler family in Mashonaland, Zimbabwe and was educated there and in South Africa.  He did postgraduate studies in Scotland at St Andrews and later Stirling universities.  He worked in African education in Zimbabwe, then in Fife for 25 years.  In 2000 he returned to Botswana as part of a team of British Council teachers and enjoyed a thorough immersion in African village life.  There were two further postings in Namibia as adviser and teacher.

I first met Peter at the birthday party of a mutual friend, Antony Christie.  Back then, my pamphlet had just come out, and Peter’s was, I think in the pipeline with Happenstance.  I saw Peter again at Stanza this year, when he introduced the event that I read at with John Dennison and was really happy to finally see his finished pamphlet Nights of a Shining Moon which I read in one setting.

The poems are set in Africa and are beautifully written.  They have a calmness and sureness about them which I think you can see in the poem I’ve chosen.  I like this poem because of its story though, told in the voice of a Lesotho shepherd. I thought I’d post this today because we’ve been looking this week on the course about the different ways we can tell stories in poems, and this poem uses one of the oldest, and best tricks in the book, which is to write the story in the voice of a character.

Although this isn’t a long poem, the characters have real colour and presence.  I like the mother who runs and shouts at the owner, and the kindness of the owners wife.  I like the consequences of the kindness, that the dogs go hungry.  There is also that lovely line about learning to sleep with hunger, and teaching the stomach not to want food.  This poem is not just straightforward though.  It has an air of strangeness to it in that line ‘The lightning means the witches want to kill us’.  My favourite part of the poem though is the list of useful things.  I love that finding water and finding food is given the same importance as making music and taming animals.

If you would like to order Peter’s pamphlet, you can order it through Happenstance and make lovely Helena Nelson, his editor a very happy lady.  Thanks to Peter for letting me use his poem.

A Lesotho Shepherd – Peter Jarvis
(He speaks at his mountain cattle post)

When you are a shepherd
the owner of the animals
must give you gumboots and a kobo.
At the end of the year he pays you
a cow, or two or three sheep.

Once, when I was six, I lost
a sheep in rain.  They ran
and scattered.  Sheep are silly –
cows are not so difficult.
All night I searched.
I was sjamboked.
My mother brought me water
to wash in and she boiled
plants as medicine for my cuts.
She ran and shouted at the owner.

For the next sheep I lost as a boy
I was not allowed food.
The owner’s wife, sorry for me,
gave me the dogs’ food.
That night the dogs went hungry, not me.
But I am used to sleeping with hunger –
I can teach my stomach not to want food.
If you lose a sheep far away at the motebo
you can say a jackal took it.
Your shepherd friends may back you up.

Here at my motebo on the mountain
I leave behind village noises, village smells.
But shepherds fear thunderstorms.
The lightning means the witches want to kill us.

So I wear a rubber necklace.
I’ve learnt in a difficult school.
I know useful things:
where to find water
how to find food
how to make music
how to tame animals

kobo = blanket
sjambok = rawhide whip
motebo = cattle post

Sunday Poem – Allison McVety

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This week has gone by really quickly – it’s been pretty busy but in a manageable way, rather than a manic way.   On Monday I drove to Kendal to pick two of the young writers, Ellie and Lizzie who attend Dove Cottage Young Poets which I run on behalf of the Wordsworth Trust.  We then drove to Manchester to the Royal Exchange where I was standing in as House Poet for the Carol Ann Duffy and Friends Reading Series.  Liz Venn, the usual House Poet, was off on her holidays.  Although I’ve done the House Poet job before, it was a long time ago. I think I stood in once for David Tait when he was ill, but it is all rather hazy in my mind now.

Ellie and Lizzie were great fun on the journey and I was treated to recitations of Spike Milligan, Christina Rosseti and the first half of the first chapter of Pride and Prejudice.  I kid you not.  I also had a go at reading my Thomas Hardy poem which I’m learning off by heart, and although I had a couple of stumbles I got through it.  It has made me more determined to learn some more poetry to amuse myself whilst I’m driving now.

The star poet on Monday night should have been Kit Wright, but he had to cancel due to illness, so Adam O’Riordan stepped in at very late notice to fill in. It was a great evening over all and lovely to meet lots of students who are currently on the MA at Manchester.  I will admit to a surge of jealousy – I absolutely loved doing the MA and wish I could do it all over again – but I suppose that would be a bit sad, to keep turning up every year to do the same course…

Apart from Carol Ann Duffy and Adam O’Riordan and myself, there were two other readers, Martin Kratz and Paul McGhee.  Paul is a current student on the MA and is just starting his writing-up year.  I hadn’t met him before so it was great to hear some of his poetry.  Readers of this blog will know that I’m a big fan of Martin Kratz’s poetry – you may remember one of his Skeleton Man poems which featured on this blog quite a while ago.  Martin doesn’t have a pamphlet out yet, but I will be first in the queue to get one when he does.

I managed to sell ten pamphlets as well which I was very happy about – not sure if this was due to my sparkling delivery, or thanks to Ellie and Lizzie who positioned themselves near the book stall and whilst waving my pamphlet about, said in very loud voices ‘wow, look at this book it’s amazing’ etc before the reading started.

By the time I got back to Barrow on Monday night after dropping Ellie and Lizzie off in Kendal, it was about 1.30am so teaching classes of trumpets on Tuesday seemed to be particularly loud to my slightly foggy brain.

This week has also been shaped by the fact that we are having our bathroom completely redone – it is taking about two weeks because everything is being ripped out.  This has meant I have had to be creative about where I get my showers after my runs – on Tuesday night after a 12 kilometre run with the Walney Wind Cheetahs, I went and imposed on my friend Janet and took advantage of her lovely power shower.  I also had a brainwave later on in the week and went and did a spinning class at the gym and used the shower there as well.  It has actually been fun coming home from work and seeing the bathroom slowly change from being full of an avocado green suite to being completely empty and stripped down by Tuesday, to what it looks like at the minute with the bath plumbed in, and the sink and toilet in place but not connected.
I’ve got quite a few writing jobs done this week. I’ve been working on the proofs for my collection by email with Amy, sending it back and forward for most of the week.  I’m looking forward to the moment when I’m not allowed to mess about with it any more, because until then, it’s quite hard to think about anything else.  If you would like to have a look at the cover you can find it over at the Seren’s blog as well as information on other collections that are forthcoming from Seren.  I’ve also been working on the blurb for an online course that I’m running with the Poetry School and with the help of the ever patient Will Barrett finally got that finished this week.  I won’t say too much about it, but it will be running in the summer and is based around Transformation in poetry, referring specifically to Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  I’ve been taking the first tentative steps towards putting together a project combining a brass band and poetry.  I can’t really say too much about this either at the minute, mainly because I haven’t actually got too far with any concrete planning, but I can say that one of the best brass bands in the country is potentially interested in being involved.  My next job for this is to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the Chairman and the Musical Director to talk through what the project could entail, so that is one of my jobs for this week.  The residential poetry course which I’m running at the end of March is filling up nicely.  I have the timetable ready to go and I will remember to put it up tomorrow night – I was meant to put it up last week but with everything else going on it slipped my mind.   At the last count there were only two places left on the course, so if you are thinking of coming, please book to avoid missing out.  You can find a general overview on the ‘Residential Courses‘ page on this blog or you can go to the Abbot Hall website.

On Friday I spent the day at South Walney Infant School, running a poetry workshop for two Year 2 classes.  It was my first time working with Key Stage 1, as a poet anyway.  I have done curriculum music teaching in Key Stage 1, but not poetry.  I think it went well and I think I probably learned as much as the children did.

On Saturday I decided to have a go at Park Run so I could put a figure on how much fitness I lost in my three weeks off due to illness.  The official number, I can now report is about 36 seconds, which is how far I was away from my PB.  Afterwards I walked home because the hubby had taken the car and I felt half fed-up because I’d ran as fast as I could and was way off my PB, and half pleased that it was only 36 seconds I had to make up.

On Saturday night my friend Rodolfo arrived for a visit.  I met Rodolfo in Ilkley where he was buzzing around organising events and authors and we got on straight away.  It’s been lovely to see him again – last night we went to the pub with the hubby and Jeff, who I go running with quite a lot and today we’ve been for a walk near Coniston and a Sunday roast at The Black Bull.

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Allison McVety.  As soon as I read this poem, I knew I wanted to feature it here.  It is the title poem from her latest collection published by Smith/Doorstop. 

I heard Allison read at Torbay Poetry Festival a couple of years ago, and in my head, I’m convinced that I heard her read this poem.  I don’t think the book was out then, but I’m sure I remember hearing her read this first line, which I think is one of my favourite ever first lines.  It feels so beautifully balanced to me in its rhythms, but also in its meaning – it makes both perfect sense and no sense at all.  I’ve always been a sucker for lighthouse poems – in fact, the first Sunday Poem on this blog was a lighthouse poem by Carole Coates, so a collection called Lighthouses is always going to be a winner, and a collection haunted by the spirit of Virginia Woolf, one of my favourite writers can’t really put a foot wrong in my eyes.

Many of you may know Allison’s poem To the Lighthouse which won the National Poetry Competition in 2011.  The poem is a interrogation of the writer’s relationship with the novel ‘To the Lighthouse’ by Virginia Woolf.  The poem has so many quotable lines.  Lines like ‘I learned/everything big happens in parenthesis’ which is so true, and so wise that it stopped me in my tracks when I read it.  Or the line ‘If not/the stew what was the woman on about.’ finishing off stanza 2 in exasperation.  You can find this poem here.

But back to our Sunday Poem and that beautiful first line, which leads to a row of trees described as a ‘beam of dark light’ which is so accurate it makes me stop before I read on again.  I love the echo of the fourth line and the shift to the ‘I’ instead of the you.  What is built up in this poem is the complicated dynamic of a relationship with the ‘you’ as a tree in a row of trees, and the ‘I’ as one bird in a flock of birds.

I really love the line at the beginning of the third stanza describing the trees as ‘lighthouses swallowing the sun’.  Although the title of the poem is ‘Lighthouses’ there are no real lighthouses in the poem – the trees are compared to lighthouses, something that guides travellers home to safety, but in this poem, the birds don’t seem to be interested.  Because they are together there are ‘something more than ourselves’.

I think this is one of those poems you can get more out of every time you read it.  It has a lot of mystery.  There is enough room around its edges for the reader to walk around and look at it from every angle – my favourite type of poem.  And a good one to be reading in bed at midnight, when your eyes are tired and drooping, if you are still up by now.  But also a good one to read tomorrow morning, instead of getting up and de-icing the car.

If you would like to order the collection, you can buy it from Smith/Doorstop.  Allison has also published two previous collections with Smith/Doorstop – The Night Trotsky Came to Stay in 2007 which was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.  Miming Happiness, her second collection was published in 2010 and work from this book was shortlisted in the Manchester Poetry Prize.   Lighthouses was published in 2014.  Her poems have appeared in The Times, The Guardian and many other poetry magazines and her work has been broadcast on Radio 3

If you would like to find out more information about Allison you can find her website here. 

I hope you enjoy the poem

Lighthouses – by Allison McVety

when you were a tree you were one tree
in a row of trees – a beam of dark light
reaching from a fixed point far across the snow
and when I was a bird I was one bird
in a flock of birds – parcels of night

folding unfolding – I added data to the air
the air was a white noise of many voices
all who looked saw the pulse of my wings
saw the world grown bigger

the trees were lighthouses swallowing the sun
asking the birds to come home and when their leaves arrived
when they spoke they were persuasive –
all calling out to the birds and the birds
were sky-ships answering back

build your nests in the crooks of our arms
sang the trees let us keep you from hawks and kites

the air lifted to the swoon of their song
we listed to their flightless words
but we were something more than ourselves
by then and – no! – we didn’t want to land

 

 

Sunday Poem – Isabel Bermudez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you enjoy the poem…

Heron – Isabel Bermudez

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