Tag Archives: residential poetry courses

Sunday Poem – Catherine Ayres

Sunday Poem – Catherine Ayres

A late-night instalment of the blog as I’ve spent the whole day walking round the Kentmere Horseshoe in the mist and rain with two friends and the husband.  I decided last weekend, after an enjoyable hiking session up Seatallan with blue skies and views for miles that I wanted to do all of the Wainwright walks.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, when I was sat in the pub, eating a burger and chips and quaffing lager (followed by tea of course).   The husband took my vaguely expressed wish very seriously, and suggested the route today which would include eight Wainwright hills.

I often seem to be writing this blog in physical discomfort – it seems to be a habit I’ve gotten in to on Sundays.  My feet are killing and my legs are aching, and climbing up the stairs is a slow and arduous process tonight! The walk today was about 25 kilometres, with 4000 feet of ascent.  We actually did nine Wainwright peaks, as the husband decided he would just ‘take in’ another one.  I should add he only told us about this decision when we were halfway up the extra hill and it was too late to turn back.  It was a lovely walk though, despite there being no views at all as there was so much mist and fog.

I’ve spent the whole of this week cracking on with my marking for my university teaching.  Having avoided doing any marking for the best part of 13 years, I feel like I’m paying my dues now.  I’m not sure if it is just because it is something new, but I’ve actually really enjoyed marking the essays.  To be fair, I only had about 35 to do, and maybe if I’d had many more it would have felt a bit more like hard work.

When I’ve not been marking, I’ve been working on the blasted RD1 form.  I sent it to a few friends who gave me some good feedback on it, and yesterday I sat down and read through their suggestions.  I’ve been regularly getting overwhelmed with the RD1 and yesterday was no exception.  However, once I’d worked out that I needed to just slow down, calm down, and work through each suggestion one at a time, I think I made progress – enough progress in fact that I could justify spending today out on the fells.

Pauline Yarwood and I had our final marathon session last Tuesday to finish off our Arts Council bid for Kendal Poetry Festival.  We managed to get it sent off and now we are waiting with slightly frayed nerves to hear if we will get the funding we need.  We did get some amazing news today though – Kendal Poetry Festival is a finalist in the Cumbria Life Cultural Awards for ‘Festival of the Year’.  The award ceremony and the results will be announced February 3rd at The Theatre By The Lake in Keswick.  I’m really pleased that the festival has been selected as a finalist – I don’t know what the likelihood of winning is, but it will be a nice night out anyway.

I’ve also been working on preparations for the residential courses I’m running in the next couple of months.  The February residential with David Tait as my co-tutor down in St Ives is now sold out, but there are still places available on the April Residential in Grange-Over-Sands.  The original price for the week was £448, but as there are now only non en-suite rooms left, this has been reduced down to £396.  There are only three double rooms left, a few twins and a few singles, so if you’d like to come and want a double room, I would urge you to book as soon as possible.  You can ring the hotel on 015395 32896 and pay a small deposit to secure your room, so you don’t have to worry about paying the whole amount now.

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Catherine Ayres and comes from her first collection Amazon, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.  Catherine sent me her first collection a few months ago and it has been sitting on my ever-growing pile of books to read.  I sat down with it at the beginning of this week and read it cover to cover.  I found the whole collection very moving.  The book explores the experience of surviving breast cancer – but it is much more than this.  She writes movingly about the body, and what is left when the body is altered.  She writes about relationships and loneliness and emptiness – but this isn’t to say that the book is depressing because it isn’t.  There are moments of sadness and grief, but there is a lightness of touch to many of the poems in the collection.

One of my favourites was ‘How to get rid of elephants’ which unpacks and explores the cliche of ‘an elephant in the room’ as something not said.  This is a poem that is both heavy with sadness, yet light because of its emotional honesty and clear-eyed way of looking at things.  The elephant in the room, the things that are unsaid turn out to be

‘You Will Never See Me Naked Again
I Want To Disappear
We Still Haven’t Talked About What Happened’

There is something frightening in the directness of stating these things, and yet incredibly liberating.

The poem I’ve chosen to talk about is ‘Silence’.  It’s hard to pick out poems from this collection because although they stand on their own, I also think the poems gain momentum from being read one after the other.  However, it was this poem that made me stop reading for a minute and take a breath.

The first line is very shocking.  When I read this the first time, and this is a bit of a weird leap I know, but it reminded me of working in a men’s prison, and one of the men telling me that when I shook his hand it was the first time he’d been touched by another human being in weeks.  I know this has nothing to do with the poem in content, but that sadness about touch, or that yearning towards it is maybe what made it come into my mind.

The third stanza with the scar as a cage is beautifully expressed.  It gives both the image of the scar as the bars on a cage, but also the scar as a cage, as something that is trapping the spirit of a person inside.

The use of the question in the fourth stanza is very moving.  Here the scar has moved from a cage to a closed mouth.  Again, I find that image so striking.  If the scar is a closed mouth, then the woman must speak through the scar.  Even if she manages to speak, it will be muted.

As so often in this collection, there is some light in the poem towards the end.  The woman in the poem ‘unpicks in silence’ and the image of the rain coming at the end is a welcome noise in this poem which has been full of silence, not just the speaker, but also the lover in stanza 2 who ‘said nothing’.

There is also something very interesting going on with this poem in its shift in tone towards the end.  It starts in the first person with ‘my breast’ and ‘My lover’ until that question, which is for me the pivot and the emotional centre of the poem.  How is this achieved, when it is at this point that the poem shifts perspective? I think it is precisely because that ‘I’ voice, that first person speaker is lost in this stanza, she is silenced.  In Stanza 3 she is in the cage, and in Stanza 4, the authorial voice, or a voice from outside has taken over to tell the story.

If you would like to order Amazon you can do so from Indigo Dreams Publishing.  Catherine Ayres is a teacher who lives and works in Northumberland. In 2015 she came third in the Hippocrates Poetry Competition and in 2016 she won the Elbow Room Poetry Prize with ‘Silence’. Her debut collection, ‘Amazon’, was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing in December 2016.

Here is her wonderful poem ‘Silence’ – hope you enjoy it.

Silence – Catherine Ayres

The last man to touch my breast held a knife.

My lover said nothing;
his eyes told me to wear a vest

Sometimes I spread my hand over the scar
to feel its cage

How does a woman speak
with a closed mouth on her chest?

She unpicks in silence

until the rain comes
like burst stitches on the glass

Sunday Poem – Penelope Shuttle

Sunday Poem – Penelope Shuttle



Back to my bad habits of writing my blog late at night! My excuse today is that I’ve been in Lancaster running a 10k race.  I’m not even going to play it cool, pretending to drop this in casually as part of the usual run of the mill blog post…

I ran 45 minutes and 1 second for 10k!

My last ‘personal best’ time was 46 minutes and 17 seconds, about seven months ago, which is why I’m so chuffed.  I’ve been doing a bit more training though, in the last few months, so I knew I would beat my PB, but didn’t think for one second I would be at the 45 minute mark.  I was also 5th woman back, and I got the V35 prize (first time I’ve ever won a prize in a race!) and won the Ladies Team Prize along with my two friends, J and K

This race was called the ‘Jailbreak 10k’ and you signed up to do the race inside a cell in one of the prison wings.  The prison is now shut down of course, but I was actually quite freaked out by the cells.  They were very small and there was a toilet in the corner with a board at the side of it, presumably to give a bit of privacy, and that in itself was shocking – that this tiny space was for more than one person.  It was also really cold in there – and the prison wasn’t shut down that long ago! I couldn’t believe that people were kept in there, that people would have lived in there.  It definitely gave me goosebumps.  I thought the prisons I’d been into were pretty brutal, but they had nothing on the Lancaster Castle prison!

So two photos, and then I promise I will say no more about it.  The first is at the start – I did eventually get away from the unicorn.  (It was optional fancy dress for the race – only three people wore fancy dress – a Ghostbuster, a Witch and the Unicorn).  The second is at the end of the race, having just got to the top of the hill – so am in a bit of pain here, and pulling my famed ‘running face’.


This week has been relatively quiet apart from today! I decided I needed to get organised and make myself a timetable, to ensure I’m getting enough PhD work done.  So I did that on Monday, and did manage to make some progress.  I ordered 2 poetry collections by Marie Howe, who I’ve only just discovered.  I absolutely love her work, but this hasn’t helped with narrowing down the possibilities of poets to focus on.

I’ve also been carrying on reading Kate Millet’s ‘Sexual Politics’.  It’s a pretty big book.  I’m now over half way through though and still enjoying it.  The RD1 form is my next big hurdle, and my supervisor gave me an example one to look at.  So I’ve read that through and had a go at writing the first part of mine, just to see how it went.

I’ve also been reworking a review from last week after some feedback, and on Saturday night I had a gig with the Soul Survivors in Ulverston.  I guess it doesn’t sound that quiet now I look at it, but there hasn’t been as much rushing about as there usually is.

I’ve got a few dates coming up of readings and workshops – on Thursday I’m reading at Brantwood with Geraldine Green and Kerry Darbishire.  There is also an Open Mic – tickets are £12 and include food.

On the 4th November, the Brewery Poets are putting a reading on at The Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal.  I’m the MC, and guest poets will be Pauline Yarwood, Jennifer Copley and Ian Seed.  These nights usually sell out, so if you’d like to come, book a ticket quickly!

I’m also running my Dove Cottage Young Poets group on the 4th November, and am recruiting for new members! If you know any young people (from the age of 14 to 25) who would like to come to a free fortnightly writing group, please get in touch.  We have lots of fun, and the young poets get lots of opportunities throughout the year to perform (if they want to) and to work towards Arts Awards.

And lastly for now, on the 12th November, I’m running an all day workshop for Lancaster Spotlight.  You can find details here, but to book a place, just email spotlightclub@btinternet.com

Today’s Sunday Poem is by the wonderful Penelope Shuttle. I’ve always loved Penelope’s work, right from when I first started writing eight years ago. Penny has featured on this blog before – you can read that post here.

As you will see from this previous blog post, Penny is one of my favourite contemporary poets, so I’m quite excited that she has sent me a poem from her forthcoming collection with Bloodaxe to put up on the blog this week.  I’m even more excited that Penny has agreed to be the guest poet for the Residential Course that I’m running in St Ives next year with co-tutor David Tait.  Penny will be coming to the hotel to have dinner with the course participants, and then she will be reading from her work on the Wednesday night of the course.  There are only four places left on this course, so if you’d like to book, please get in touch with Treloyhan Manor Hotel on 01736 796240.

In 2015 Penelope published (with John Greening) their exploration in poetry  of many aspects of Heathrow airport and Hounslow Heath upon which the airport now stands:  Heath (Nine Arches). She also published a pamphlet titled Four Portions of Everything on the Menu for M’sieur Monet! (Indigo Dreams Publications). Penelope has given many readings of her work, and has been a tutor for many organisations.  She is currently a mentor for The Poetry School.

This poem comes from Penny’s forthcoming collection Will You Walk A Little Faster? which will be published by Bloodaxe in May 2017.  It was originally published in The Manhattan Review.

I love the idea of this poem – to be able to talk to your Life, to make your Life a person, rather than a collection of events.  I love that the poem seems to start mid-conversation with Life.  There’s something unbearably sad about this poem – of course, Life is addressed and personified as a seperate thing, but the whole time, we know that Life is also the speaker.

The language that is used seems deceptively simple, but the poem is full of surprising turns of phrase: ‘I’m sad of myself’ and ‘days live me in vain’ and then at the end ‘the walls are spells’ and ‘the roof’s a star’.  Maybe just because I’ve been reading a lot of Emily Dickinson but the capitalization of Life and the short lines made me think of her.

The sounds throughout the poem – all those repeated ‘L’s’ string the whole poem together.  I also love the intermittent address to Life, that comes back throughout the poem, as if the speaker is turning to Life and making sure they are still listening.

The line breaks are very effective as well, particularly at the end with the line ‘I know you so well’ which then carries onto the next line to say ‘My Life, not at all’.  I was left trying to puzzle out whether Life is known or not, and maybe that’s part of the point. Until I read the poem more carefully, I thought the ending was a repeat of the beginning and then I thought it was a straightforward reversal of the beginning, which says to Life: ‘you know me too well’.  This statement is supported throughout the poem.  What is questioned is whether the Speaker knows Life as well as the Speaker thinks they do, and just writing that I realise that of course they don’t.  We can’t know our own Lives without distance, and time to reflect, and we can never do that while we are still living them.

I hope you enjoy the poem – and please keep a look out for Penny’s collection, coming out next year.  If you’d like to find out more about Penelope Shuttle, you can go to her website here.



My Life – Penelope Shuttle

My Life, I can’t fool you,
you know me too well,
I’m sad of myself,
days live me in vain,
you test me
but bin my answers,
you’re so busy, so tired,
evenings in the glass,
drink them, My Life,
but you won’t,
driving your bargains
of years gone by,
promising me
this and that till
the walls are spells,
the roof’s a star,
I seal the hour
in a tear,
a mortal tear,
I know you so well,
My Life, not at all

Sunday Poem – Keith Hutson

Sunday Poem – Keith Hutson

I’ve had a rough day today.  I’ve spent most of it in bed with a horrible cold.  I’ve been ignoring this cold since Thursday but I succumbed today and spent the morning feeling very sorry for myself.  I didn’t get to do my usual Sunday run this morning, and I’d planned to go to Keswick to meet up with my cousin but I couldn’t drag myself out of bed.

I’m feeling a little bit better this afternoon.  I’m terrible at being ill – I’m impatient, and I get bored easily, and I feel guilty when I’m not doing something useful.  So spending a whole morning in bed was awful.

I’ve been in touch with Treloyhan Manor Hotel in St Ives and there are only 6 places left for the February 2017 Residential Poetry Course I’m running there with co-tutor David Tait.  Our guest poet who will be reading mid week is the fabulous poet Penelope Shuttle.  If you have been thinking about coming, I would suggest booking sooner rather than later – places will be limited to 16 and they seem to be selling quite fast.

Last weekend I was Poet in Residence at Swindon Poetry Festival which involved running two workshops, giving a poetry reading and then just generally hanging about and chatting to people (yes that really was in the job description!)  If you are looking for a small, friendly, slightly madcap poetry festival full of quirks, whacky ideas and things you probably won’t find at any other festival in the UK, then I would recommend Swindon.  It’s run by my friend Hilda Sheehan who is a brilliant poet herself, and whose enthusiasm and humour gives the whole weekend a unique and wonderful feel.

On the Friday night of the festival, I was released from my Poet in Residence duties as I had a reading at Winchester Poetry Festival.  I was reading with Ian Duhig and Sophie Hannah.  I loved reading with these two poets – I’ve read with Ian before, and he is one of those rare poets who actually has ‘Greatest Hits’ poems – like his ‘From the Irish’ poem – it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I hear it, I still enjoy it.  It was great to hear him read from his brand new collection of course, as well.

And Sophie Hannah – I bought one of her Carcanet collections when I was first starting to write poetry.  She has a wonderful and funny way of looking at the world – one of my favourite poems of hers that she read was about ‘people who flounce off’ – her premise being that there are people that flounce off, and people that don’t, and she is one of the people that don’t flounce off.  And where, she asked do the people who flounce off go to?

I went to a fascinating Close Reading by Frances Leviston on a John Berryman poem and a brilliant talk by Sinead Morrisey about researching her grandfather’s life as a Communist in Belfast.   I was also really pleased to meet up with a poet who I first met on a residential poetry course that I ran in St Ives.  We went to a stall and got some thai food and sat on a bench in the town centre to eat our food before going to the reading.  This was a new experience for me as I usually like to sit in a cafe and drink endless cups of tea whilst eating, but I quite enjoyed it and it meant we got to the reading in time.

I got up nearly every morning at 7am when I was in Swindon and went for a 5k run around Coate Water Park.  There is a lovely old diving board in the middle of the lake which I’m told nobody uses anymore and a path right round the lake which was perfect for running.  I don’t really like running on my own though and it was a relief to get back this week to going out for a run with my usual group of friends.

One of the highlights of Swindon Poetry Festival for me was seeing a few close friends perform.  I saw Roy Marshall read from his new collection, and was really impressed, both with the poems and his delivery, and then my friend Keith Hutson did a fantastic hour long show using material from his new pamphlet Troupers, published by Poetry Salzburg.

I must admit to being slightly worried about Keith when I heard he would be reading for an hour, but he was fantastic.  He managed to hold the attention of the audience, and it was a really entertaining hour.  The pamphlet is a sequence of thirty one sonnets celebrating famous Music Hall and Variety performers. As Keith was reading the sonnets out, there were lots of appreciative oohs from the audience who were old enough to remember the performers he was talking about (sadly, I am way too young to know any of them BUT I still enjoyed it!)

I asked Keith if I could post up the first sonnet here this weekend which he kindly agreed to.  I think this is a lovely poem, and the way Keith handles the rhymes, using half rhymes, and slant rhymes is great.  This poem is funny – look at that line ‘Some critics called it/nothing but self injury with rhythm’ and the mention of the character called ‘Tom Platt and his Talking Pond’ is great – what on earth was the Talking Pond and how did he get it on stage? We’ll never know – well not unless you ask Keith, who probably does know.

My favourite bit about the poem though is at the end, with the mention of running, not just running but running ‘on joy alone’.  When I read that, I thought, yes, I’ve done that, I’ve ran on joy alone.  In fact, only a couple of weeks ago, I was 8 miles into a hard, tough, hilly 12 mile run, and I got to the top of a hill and the view made me spread my arms wide as I ran down the hill, and it felt like I could take off, even though I was exhausted,that was joy.

So, below, you will find this joyful poem, by my mate Keith Hutson, whose enthusiasm when he is performing is infectious.  Keith used to write for Coronation Street and his poetry has been widely published in journals such as The North, The Rialto, Stand, Magma, Agenda and Poetry Salzburg Review.  He delivers poetry and performance workshops for The Prince’s Trust and The Square Chapel Centre for the Arts.

Keith will be appearing as the guest poet for A Poem and a Pint on the 19th November 2016 at The Laurel and Hardy Museum.   I hope you enjoy the poem!

Juvenile – Keith Hutson
i.m. Georgie Doonan 1897-1973

In time to a drumbeat, Georgie Doonan
kicked his own backside.  Some critics called it
nothing but self-injury with rhythm.
A newspaper dismissed the act as fit
only for idiots with no command 
over their sense of wonder, and went on
to call for Tom Platt and His Talking Pond,
no less, to come back, all is forgiven!

So why, when Georgie booted his behind,
did those who knew no better split their sides?
He must have made an impact deeper down.
And I know I’d have laughed, which won’t surprise
you if you’ve ever run on joy alone,
heels bouncing bum-high; if that’s what you’ve known.

Poetry makes nothing happen

Poetry makes nothing happen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Poetry – Kim Moore

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



2014 Review


Last night I got one of my many empty notebooks which live in my house and started to write down the name and date of all the Sunday Poets I’ve featured on this blog.  I wanted a record of these names to check I hadn’t missed anybody off, but I was also curious to check the gender balance of the Sunday Poets as well.

I’ve had a little twinge of guilt every now and then because I felt like my enthusiasm for individual poems was driving the selection of the Sunday Poets – which is good, but the downside of this is that I had no idea whether I had an equal number of male and female poets.  And I really want to keep an equal number really – so going forward in 2015 I will be keeping this at the back of my mind as the poems go up.

It was really interesting, and it was strange how some of the poems I posted in 2012 seemed as if I’d put them up only last week, I could remember them so well.  The Sunday Poem feature started on the 15th April 2012 with Carole Coates.  In that year I featured 33 poets, 16 male and 17 female.

2013 was the first full year of doing the Sunday Poem and featured a grand total of 46 poets.  This time there were 23 men and 23 women.  I felt quite pleased with myself before realising that really, this should just be a given, not something to be pleased about!

In 2014 I featured a total of 42 poets.  Only 15 were men and 27 were women.  I feel as if I’ve been reading more women’s poetry this year so these figures are probably a reflection of this, but I would like to keep the figures even in 2015, so I’m going to keep an eye on it!

The other thing I’d like to do in 2015 is to feature a full 52 poems and not have any weeks off.  I need to work out how to blog in advance and get WordPress to update itself at a specific time, which will help when I’m gallivanting off at weekends.

However this is supposed to be looking back at 2014, not leaping forward.  Here are a few of my highlights.

Top 5 Non Poetry Things I’ve Done This Year

1.  Started Running Again
I started running because superwomanpoet Clare Shaw asked me if I’d do a Total Warrior race with her.  I decided I really needed to get into some kind of fitness.  It was ten years since I’d pulled on a pair of trainers, but I joined my local ‘fun’ running group, the Walney Wind Cheetahs and started training in April.  Since then I’ve completed the Total Warrior Race, as well as numerous 5k Park Runs, three 10k races and a half marathon.  Running is definitely the best thing I’ve done this year.  I feel so much happier in myself since I started.

2.  Joined ‘Soul Survivors’
After quite a few years of being a retired trumpet player for various complicated reasons that probably need a whole blog post in themselves, I’ve come out of retirement unofficially.  Which means I’m only playing in the things I want to play in, like soul bands and brass quintets, and avoiding all orchestral gigs.

3.  Moved House
I’m so glad I moved house! I didn’t realise till I moved how lovely it is to hear birds singing when you open the front door!  I don’t think I’ve ever lived anywhere where I’ve heard that, although in my old house, the seagulls were very noisy outside and would often dive bomb you on your way to the car if their chicks were there.  Moving house was a hassle and as annoying as everybody said it would be, but it was worth it.  No more street fights in the early hours of the morning – at least not yet anyway.

4.  Holiday to Scotland with Jay-Ven Lee and David Tait and the husband
We had a great time this summer staying in a cottage in the north west corner of Scotland with David, Jay and the husband.  Yes, we were eaten alive by midges and intimidated by the red stags.  Yes we were often blown away by the wind.  And yes, there was one time when I may have sulked slightly because I lost at cards.  All the makings of a perfect holiday!

5.  Barrow Shipyard Junior Band
My brass band continue to make up for all the slightly rubbishy parts of my job by being wonderful.  This year they managed to win the South Cumbria Music Festival and the Kirby Lonsdale competition.  This Christmas they have been absolute superstars, carolling in the supermarkets to raise money for the band.

Top 5 Poetry Highlights

1.  Signing a contract with Seren for the publication of my first collection
I still can’t believe this is happening.  A big part of why I decided I wanted to be with Seren was because of Amy Wack, my editor.  Her enthusiasm and generosity, both towards my poetry and me has been overwhelming and it feels wonderful to have somebody who believes in my work.  But I’m also really happy to be with a publisher that publishes so many poets I admire like Carrie Etter, Deryn Rees-Jones etc

2.  Poet in Residence at Ilkley Literature Festival
Getting this job felt like a dream come true.  I gained so much experience and confidence from being poet in residence and there were lots of highlights.  Probably my favourite thing I did during the festival though was the one to one tutorials and judging the Open Mic competition.  Looking back now I think I was slightly crazy, teaching Monday to Wednesday then driving down Wednesday night, staying in Ilkley till Sunday and driving home again.  From this distance, even the exhaustion seems glamorous.

3.  Digital Poet in Residence at The Poetry School
This came before the Ilkley residency and without the Digital residency, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to apply to Ilkley.  Will Barrett at The Poetry School was really supportive and gave me great feedback on the prose that I was writing and helped me to tighten it up.   It combined two of my favourite things – writing and talking to people (online of course)

4.  Residential Courses
I know this is two highlights seamlessly amalgamated into one, but I felt really privileged to be teaching on the two residentials that I ran this year.  The poets who signed up were talented, keen and enthusiastic so we had a great week, both in St Ives in October and in Grange over Sands during April, and it was a privilege to work with Clare Shaw and Jennifer Copley.

5.  Aldeburgh Poetry Festival
Aldeburgh was a huge highlight, as I knew it would be.  My team won the Poetry Quiz!  And apart from that, it was amazing to be back.  I spent all my money on books again – I dread to think how much.  I’m still making my way through them all now, a couple of weeks later.

Talking of Anthony Wilson, in his Poetry Highlights blog he finishes

“But when I think of what poetry did to me in 2014, I go back to that morning at the campsite reading Ilhan Berk, the sky a cloudless blue and somewhere in it a skylark, briefly muffling the sea”

I was very taken with thinking of this idea of what poetry did to me in 2014.  I think for me, I think of those times when I’ve been actually writing, which have been less than I would have liked this year.  I think of that feeling I get, which feels like rushing, like I can’t write fast enough for the words.  It’s a slightly nauseous feeling, like controlled panic, and it is this which tells me I’m chasing the heels of a poem, rather than just writing my thoughts down.  Most of the time this happens to me in a workshop with other people sitting close by, and there is a strange stillness in the air.

So I’m sure I’ve forgotten lots of other things and this has been a hard post to write because I still don’t feel like I’ve summed 2014 up very well.  Whilst doing all of these amazing things, these residencies and working on my collection, I’ve had so many doubts about whether I could do any of it.  What I haven’t mentioned very much are the amazing friends and the lovely husband who often tell me to get a grip and pull myself together when I’m wallowing in insecurity –  people like David Tait and Andrew Forster and John Foggin and Keith Hutson and Clare Shaw and Noel Williams and Jennifer Copley – just doing the things that we do for our friends but it wouldn’t be a highlight post without mentioning them.

I’m looking forward to 2015 – as Roy Marshall posted on Facebook – the year my book is coming out. I’ve already got readings from the book lined up in Leeds, Halifax, Ulverston and Croatia!  So there is lots to look forward to.  I hope to see some of you in the real world during 2015, and thanks for following this blog, and putting up with my meandering thoughts!






2015 Residential Poetry Courses


It is quarter past midnight and once I’ve finished writing this, I’ll wake up and it will be the morning of New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow I’ve somehow managed to make my day quite busy but filled with nice stuff.  I’ll be going on my last run of 2014 at 10am in the morning (I really should get to bed).  Then I’m meeting lovely poet Jennifer Copley for lunch.  More about Jenny in a minute.  Then I’m going to meet the other 8 members of Soul Survivors to have our photo taken for the local paper to promote our first big gig on January 30th.  That’s at 3pm.  Then I’m going round to my friend’s house who is pregnant and due any day now.  I’m having a quiet New Year’s Eve this year apart from all that, probably just staying in with the husband, who is currently ill and has spent the last couple of days languishing on the sofa with post viral fatigue syndrome.

On Sunday night, after posting my last blog post, I realised I’d forgotten to tell my lovely poetry news in all the excitement.  Poetry Review arrived and it has two of my poems in – one poem ‘The World’s Smallest Man’ which my lovely friend John Foggin helped me with when I sent an early draft to him, and ‘How the Stones Fell’ which is a rewrite of Ovid’s Creation Myth, again linked to John Foggin.  We both became a bit obsessed with Ovid last year.

I felt really annoyed with myself for forgetting.  I originally started this blog to document what it was like to be a poet and do everything else alongside, and last weekend I forgot the important parts.  I’m not talking about being published although that is lovely, but the process of being a poet.  I’m not sure I’m explaining what I mean properly.

It has something to do with not reading enough which leads to not writing enough, to being too busy to go to my regular writing groups.  It’s something I want to (am going to) change in 2015.

Anyway, I know this is a stupid time to blog.  It’s gone midnight, most of you will be in bed I’m guessing.  And I’m doing my proper round up tomorrow where I look back through 2014.

But first I want to look ahead and draw your attention to the residential course I’m running in Grange Over Sands in 2015.  Details are below.  I’d love to see some of you there.  Half the spaces have gone already, despite me forgetting to publicise it with everything else going on.  It will be a week of nothing but poetry.  Maybe a bit of wine and good food as well actually.  But there will be time to read, write, talk, think about poetry.  It won’t break the bank.

You’ll be glad to know that myself and Jennifer Copley, although we forgot to really publicise the darn thing, have planned it meticulously.  There will be a detailed timetable going up at some point in the next two weeks with a short summary of each workshop.

I’m also going to try and get some testimonials from previous participants, just in case you needed any more convincing.

Here is the most up to date information about the course

Residential Poetry Course – ‘The Stories We Tell Ourselves’
Monday 30th March – Friday 3rd April Abbot Hall Hotel, Grange Over Sands

£370 includes accommodation, breakfast and three course evening meal and all workshops and readings

During this week we will explore how to use narrative in our poetry.  Using fairytales, myths, legends and your own family history we will start to create our own untold stories.  Suitable for all ranges of ability – come and join us for a week of workshops, discussions and readings. We will be joined by two mystery guests mid-week.

Booking is now open – please ring the hotel directly on 015395 32896.

If you have any questions about the course please get in touch via the Contact Page.


Sunday Poem – Hilary Hares


It feels like it is only mid-morning but it is actually 1.30pm at the time of writing – I had a lovely long lie in this morning after a slightly full weekend.  I have lots of news this week – and those of you who are friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter will probably know all of this already, so you may want to skim over the next couple of paragraphs.

My first exciting news is that my first full length collection is due to be published by Seren in April 2015.  For the last couple of weeks I have been copies of contracts have been flying back and forth from Barrow to Cardiff.  My editor, Amy Wack has been fantastic – supportive and enthusiastic and encouraging – I couldn’t really ask for more at the moment, so I’m really happy about that.  It still doesn’t feel quite real, and I don’t think it will feel real until the book is in my hands but I’m determined to try and enjoy the whole process – it will only happen once for the first time after all!

My second exciting news which I’ve known about for a little bit longer is that I’m going to be the new Digital Poet-in-Residence over at the Poetry School.  No, I am not, as one of my friends helpfully suggested, going to be turned into a hologram, but I will be lurking about at CAMPUS, which is the Poetry Schools’ social media site – it is a bit like Facebook but with specially written articles, interviews and features about poetry.  It is completely free to sign up to and there is lots of free content – it is also the place where the online courses that you pay to take part in are run from – but it is well worth checking out, and it would be lovely to see some familiar faces.  My residency starts on Monday and I will be part of an online webchat with Amy Wack from Seren, Neil Astley, the editor of Bloodaxe and Hannah Lowe, Bloodaxe poet extraordinaire on May 7th.  May 7th is also the Poetry School’s first Digital Open Day and there are lots of free activities going on all day and even through the night into the small hours!  If you would like to get involved, head on over to http://campus.poetryschool.com/

At the minute, I am feeling a little overwhelmed with everything that is going on – it is all exciting stuff, but physically fitting everything in to each day is getting a little unmanageable! On Friday I went over to Ossett and stayed at the lovely John Foggin’s house – John is a reliable commenter on this blog and is never short of something to say 🙂  John’s house was amazing – no wonder he writes so many poems – he has amazing little objects all over the place – his wife is a talented artist and has paintings and pictures displayed on the walls – I didn’t spend much time looking through his book collection because I was too busy snooping at all the interesting things he has collected over the years.  John and his wife Flo really looked after me – making me lots of cups of tea and feeding me home made pizza – their son, visiting for the weekend even gave up his room and slept in Flo’s studio — reminded me again of how lucky I am to have found poetry, which in its turn led me to make such generous and interesting friends.

On Saturday John and I made a little convoy and drove over from Ossett to Marsden – I was the Guest Poet at the Cuckoo Poetry Jam, run by Write Out Loud http://www.writeoutloud.net/public/index.php

There was an open mic and it was lovely to hear John read some of his poems.  I also got to hear Louise Fazackerly who has just been awarded a commission by New Writing North and The Verb to create new work and the lovely David Coldwell who has a blog over at  http://davidcoldwell.co.uk/ – it was nice to meet him in the real world after conversing on Twitter.  Michael Brown started off the event and I enjoyed hearing more of his work, after meeting him at the Poetry Business workshop a couple of months ago.  Michael B is definitely one to watch out for – his first pamphlet is coming out with Eyewear soon.  I would have liked to have heard more of Michael Stewart, the other guest poet but time was running out – he read some interesting poems from his collection ‘Couples’ which is apparently full of poems that face each other or talk to each other across the page.  The highlight of the event for me though was Steve Ely – a new poet for me to be obsessed with.  Steve’s poetry is completely different from anything else that is being written recently.  He is a good performer as well – but it is the poems that I was impressed with – he writes about politics and social history without resorting to preaching.  After he finished reading, I felt I had learnt something that I didn’t know when I entered the room.  I am very much in admiration of him, and have his first collection ‘Oswald’s Book of Hours’ published by Smokestack Press, next to me as I write, in the vain hope that I might get some time today to actually reread it again.

After the reading I hotfooted it back to Kendal ready for a reading at the Brewery as part of the Quiet Compere Tour, organised by Sarah Dixon.  Apart from spilling a bit of water on the floor after kicking my glass over, which in true comedy fashion rolled slowly towards some of the audience it went well and was an enjoyable evening.  Highlights were probably the lovely Ann Wilson, Polly Atkin’s poem to her chronic pain which used biblical language and Mark Mace Smith’s ‘found’ poem made from the testimony of a policeman.

The Sunday Poem today is by Hilary Hares – who I first met over two years ago at a workshop that I ran at Ledbury Poetry Festival.  Hilary came on the weekend residential course that I ran at Grange last year and was there again this year – it has been great to see how Hilary’s poetry and I hope she wouldn’t mind me saying, her confidence has developed over the last couple of years and I asked her to send me some poems to choose from for the Sunday poem.

I chose this poem because Hilary wrote it on the course at Abbot Hall a couple of weeks ago – it is a beautiful poem, very measured and under control but full of a strong emotion as well.  I love the uncertainty at the start of the poem that develops into complete certainty and accuracy in the descriptions  of the pigeon which then opens out into that mysterious ending to the second stanza but my favourite part of the poem is that ending – and I’m really hoping the line break on the last line has come out on this pesky WordPress blog – because I think that illustrates what a line break should be for really.

Hilary is currently studying for an MA in poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University.  She won first prize in the Christchurch Writers Competition in 2013 and has been published in magazines including First Time, South, Obsessed with Pipework, Orbis, Maine Magazine (USA), The Interpreter’s House, The New Writer, Writing Hampshire (website) and Elemental Dialogues (website) part of Ten Days in Winchester 2013

If you would like to read about other people’s experiences of the course there are two blog posts from participants Emily Blewitt and Gill Garrett here http://gillgarrett.blogspot.co.uk/ and here http://emilyblewitt.wordpress.com/


Kents Bank – Hilary Hares

I may have been awake
or in that place
that isn’t land or sleep.

I heard a pigeon
bully seagulls
on the mossed slate roof
outside my window
and sensed it was the world.

Somewhere beyond is sea
leaking into the wounds
of the salt marsh,
present but undiscovered.

Here, before I move,
I feel your shoulder.

I know it cannot be
but here it is,
your shoulder
pressing back.

Timetables, Readings and Traffic


Not a very exciting title I know – but it does sum up my week rather nicely.

I have been on half term this week – but last weekend I drove back from Torbay Poetry Festival to my parents in Leicester, then the next day from Leicester to Barrow, and it feels like I’ve spent the whole week stuck in traffic on a motorway somewhere.

Last night I drove to Carlisle to read at the Bookcase in Carlisle – what an amazing book shop – one of the biggest in the UK and an absolutely huge second hand poetry section, which I didn’t get enough time to properly look at – but I did manage to buy an Adrienne Rich ‘Early Poems’ hardback which I am very happy at finding.  I am planning a return visit to pick up some more poetry from them!

The other readers were Geraldine Green and Josephine Dickinson – I’ve heard Geraldine read before and she didn’t disappoint – but although I have crossed paths with Josephine at poetry events have never seen her perform.  Her reading and her poetry is completely compelling – to use a well worn metaphor – you could have heard a pin drop.  Josephine also talked about the wonderful people she had met through poetry – a subject close to my heart – I feel that we have a very unique, supportive community of writers in Cumbria – it is one of my favourite things about poetry!

And going back to traffic – I got stuck in traffic again, on the cursed M6 – which will, one day I’m sure drive me to some sort of breakdown.  I got to the reading with ten minutes to spare but no chance to eat but Gwenda from the bookshop kindly made me a cup of tea – a lovely poet called Deborah Hodge(s?) listened to me while I ranted for five minutes about the traffic and then I calmed down and was back to my normal, sane (or more sane) self.

There were some lovely people in the audience – one of my favourite people to bump into, Mick North and two Daves from the local poetry group – which they informed me was a reading group, not a writing group.  What a good idea – and a brilliant way to encourage people into poetry.  I’m vaguely toying with the idea of starting one in Barrow – but it’s fitting it in…

I am off to the Brewery in Kendal tonight to read with poets Gill Nicholson and Mark Carson which I’m looking forward to.  I’m mainly planning to read new poems I think as I am guessing most of the audience will have read/heard the pamphlet before.

Today I have been drafting the timetable for the residential course that I’m running with poet Jennifer Copley in April 2014.  This still has a couple of details to be put on – like what time the evening meal is (waiting to hear back from the lovely Hotel Manager) but this is the bones of the course.  Over the next couple of months I will post more detailed blurbs about the workshops we will be running.  You can also find this information on the ‘Residential Courses and Workshops’ tab at the top of the page.

Encounters and Collisions 14th-18th April 2014


Monday 14th April

2.30pm-5pmWorkshop with Jennifer Copley and Kim Moore
“Encounters and Collisions with Art and Other Media”


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

Tuesday 15th April

10am-1pm – Morning Workshop with Jennifer Copley
“Encounters and Collisions with the Past”

3pm-5pmAfternoon Workshop with Kim Moore
“Encounters and Collisions with Animals, Birds and Other”

8pm – Poetry Reading in the Lounge with Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley

Wednesday 16th April

10am-1pm Morning Workshop with Jennifer Copley and Kim Moore –
“Encounters and Collisions with Landscape”

Free Afternoon – Tutorials available – participants to sign up at the beginning of the week

8pm – Poetry Reading in the lounge with two Mystery Guests

Thursday 17th April

10am-1pm – Morning Workshop  with Kim Moore
“Encounters with the Body”

3-5pm – Afternoon Workshop  with Jennifer Copley
Encounters and Collisions with Ghosts and the dead”

8pm – Poetry Reading in the lounge by Course Participants

Friday 18th April

10am – 1pm – Critiquing workshop in the lounge

1pm – Course finishes