Tag Archives: Ruth Padel

Sunday Poem – Helen Ivory


Evening everybody.  I’ve just got back from my week at Ty Newydd – I stayed at my lovely friend Manon’s house last night.  I had a fantastic week – but it is now 11.48pm and I have twelve minutes to write this blog and get it in before midnight!  The course tutors were Ian Duhig and Ruth Padel.  I’ve been on quite a few residential courses now and Ian and Ruth were two of the hardest working tutors.  Their work rate was relentless, they were available for repeated tutorials with all of the participants.  The other thing that really impressed me on the course was how they sat in on each other’s workshops.  It was obvious that they were really interested in what the other one had to say and were learning from each other, which I think is an excellent example of how learning from other poets doesn’t stop even when you’ve published dozens of books!  I met lots of lovely poets on the course as well – some really talented writers – Tom who was cooking in the kitchen was great – I ate stuffed marrow, chickpeas, porridge and various other concoctions that I hadn’t eaten before so was quite proud of myself.  And more excitingly I wrote some poems!  I’ve got eight rough first drafts – whether they will all survive as poems is anybody’s guess but here’s hoping.  I’m very relieved as I was beginning to wonder if I was going to ever write another poem again!  But I think they have all been bottled  up and waiting for me to have some time to write.  As well as my eight first drafts I also managed to almost finish my play for the show on September 7th – the deadline is now imminent and as soon as I’ve finished writing this I’m going to rewrite the ending and send it through to the director so he has it ready to give to the actors on Monday…and rehearsals start the following Monday!  Which is very exciting.

I’m also playing trumpet in this show – it’s going to be apparently a call and response thing with a norwegian drum..one of my very talented pupils is going to play the other part…

So this is a very short blog post compared to normal – but I’ve had a wonderful week.  Today’s poem is very short, but beautifully formed.  I heard Helen Ivory read a couple of weeks ago at Grasmere and I bought her new collection ‘Waiting for Bluebeard’.  Helen Ivory has had four collections published with Bloodaxe Books and her own website can be found at http://www.helenivory.co.uk

She also edits the online magazine Ink, Sweat and Tears http://www.ink-sweat-and-tears.com/

I really enjoyed the book and particularly the way it is structured.  The poem I’ve chosen comes from a sequence of poems in which Helen gives a voice to inanimate objects.  Again, this has been done a lot in poetry – but I love the way that Helen has brought a fresh take to this subject, largely created by the scaffolding that she has put around the poems with the titles.  The sequence of poems are spaced out throughout the first section of the book.  So there is

What the Moon Said
What the Dark Said
What the Stars Said
What the Cat Said
What the Sea Said
What the Snow Said
What the Bed Said
What the House Said
What the Earth Said

Now if that list of titles doesn’t make you want to go and buy the book….

I’ve asked Helen if I could have the first of these poems ‘What the Moon Said’.  I like how Helen has woven our different concepts of the moon into this poem, from the nursery rhyme of the cow jumping over the moon to space travel.  But the thing that really makes me love the poem is the last image in the final stanza.  If you would like to order ‘Waiting for Bluebeard’ you can get it from http://www.bloodaxebooks.com

I hope you enjoy the poem


What the Moon Said – Helen Ivory

If you send me your jumping cows,
your space rockets
peopled by monkeys and dogs,
I will flatter you with my light.

And if you compose tunes,
I will choreograph
the bodies of the sky
for your delectation.

Cut open your church roof
let me drink milk
from a bowl on your floor.

Sunday Poem – Julie Mellor


It’s back!  The Sunday Poem I mean.  I’m sure there was a bleak hole in your sunday last week when I didn’t post a sunday poem up – for only the second time ever since I started (I think)

I got back from Fermoy Poetry Festival (www.fermoypoetryfestival.com) very late on Wednesday.  So most of Thursday was a write off – I got up, went and picked up a pile of books that I’d ordered that arrived while I was away (felt slightly guilty at picking large pile up – it always seems worse when they all arrive together).  One of the books was ‘Edgelands’ by Michael Symmons Roberts and Paul Farley.  I’m reading this as part of one of the tasks I’m doing for my Writing School course and really enjoying it.  It’s beautifully written, as you would expect from two poets, and I like how it’s grouped into sections of the various things you find in the ‘Edgelands’.  So far I’ve read a section on ‘Cars’, ‘Paths’ and ‘Dens’ and I’m just about to start the next section which is about ‘Containers’.  I’m aware that maybe those headings don’t sound particularly exciting, but they really are interesting and well written.

The two authors went looking for dens built by children – I remember building a den!  They report “even though our forays into fields and waste ground were hardly scientific and exhaustive, we didn’t once find anything we could call an active den.  Still, it’s possibly all still going on, somewhere out of sight of prying adult eyes…”

After I went and picked my books up, I then went up to Calderdale Bridge to pick the dogs up from the dogsitters.  I am pleased to report that they have behaved very well and have not disgraced themselves.  Lola was very pleased to see me, but Miles looked at me with disdain, as if to say ‘Oh.  You again.  You remembered we were here.  How kind.’

Whilst I was away in Ireland, I wrote my first poem in quite a while so Friday was spent typing that up ready for Brewery Poets, a poetry critiquing group that meet at the Brewery in Kendal on the second Friday of each month.   We had a really lovely night – only a small group this month of seven but it meant there was more time to look at people’s work.  I’m quite pleased with my poem but I think I’m going to let it settle in my folder for a while now.

On Saturday I had another meeting at the Theatre By The Lake to talk about the play ‘Cartographers’ which I’m writing part of alongside Ian Hill, another local writer and The Alligator Club.  The play will be set in the woods at the back of the theatre and there will be four ten minute plays.  Three of these the audience will see in a different order, depending on which group they are in, and then all three groups will come together at the end to see the final ten minute play – which will be my bit.

Last night I was motivated enough after the meeting to sit for about three hours and try to get ten minutes worth of material down so I could then start editing and moving things around.  I haven’t looked at it this morning – haven’t got the courage up yet, in case it is rubbish.  I’m enjoying writing it, but there is a time pressure – we are all aiming for our first full ten minute drafts to be sent round by Thursday as there is music still to be added in yet.  The play is being shown in two matinee performances – at 1.30 and 3.30 on September 7th – and you can find more information here http://www.theatrebythelake.com/production/10963/Cartographers

The other thing I have to get started this week is a commission – my first paid commission!  I don’t know if I’m allowed to say too much yet, but I’m off to Lancaster today to do some research – again the deadline for this is September 1st – so everything is feeling a bit tight this summer.

It doesn’t help that I’m off to Ty Newydd on a weeks residential writing course on the 19th August.  I’m really looking forward to this – the tutors are the wonderful Ian Duhig and Ruth Padel – but I’d really like to get all the script things and the commission writing done, or nearly done before I go so that I can concentrate on my own poetry whilst I’m there…not that I’m complaining – I am very happy to be busy and sometimes I think – am I really writing a script?  Am I really being paid to write some poems?  and I remember dancing round my living room when I got my first poem published in a magazine – Obsessed With Pipework (http://www.flarestack.co.uk/obsessedwithpipework.htm) and I feel very happy, but then I also start to panic with a crisis of confidence….can I do this? and then I start to babble, as this last paragraph shows…


Which brings us to Sunday and Julie Mellor’s wonderful poem which was supposed to burst onto the blog last Sunday.  Julie Mellor was one of the winners in the 2012 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition, alongside Rosie Sheppard, Suzie Evans and myself.  Julie is a lovely lady and a great poet.  I hope Julie won’t mind me saying this, but I noticed that she was shortlisted lots of times for the pamphlet competition before actually winning.  I think this is a great testament to her – she didn’t get offended or annoyed, she took it on the chin and just kept trying and eventually she won.  A lesser poet would have given up – and maybe that is the difference between being published and not being published – not just talent but sheer bloody minded determination and perseverance.

Julie lives in Penistone and read English at Huddersfield University and has a PhD from Sheffield Hallam.  Her poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Brittle Star, Mslexia, The Rialto and Smiths Knoll.   You can find more information and poems about Julie at Michael Stewart’s blog where there is an interview and review   at http://headspam.poesterous.com/

This is an interesting blog by Suzannah Evans about her residency at Bank Street Arts and Julie has a poem here too.. http://poetrymap.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/white-tiger-julie-mellor/

and another poem here at  Excel for charity at: http://excelforcharity.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/another-story.html

The poem I’ve chosen for the Sunday Poem is from Julie’s Poetry Business pamphlet ‘Breathing through Our Bones’.  I loved this poem straight away – the language is very thick and heavy and rich.  I think it is a masterclass in how to write and closely observe – and each image and metaphor she pushes and pushes at to take it further and further.  One of my favourite lines is ‘Clusters of sorcery, we store the sun’.  I think that is a brilliant line – an unusual image yet completely right for blackberries.  And these blackberries are evil aren’t they?  They have a personality all of their own – I wouldn’t like to meet them down a dark alley…

If you would like to read more of Julie’s poems in an actual book rather than on websites, get yourself over to http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/shop/791/breathing-through-our-bones-julie-mellor and order a copy of her pamphlet!  It’s only a fiver and you will make Julie and her publisher very happy!  I hope you enjoy the poem, and thanks to Julie for letting me post it here.

Blackberries by Julie Mellor

We have darkened like the end of the year,
the knuckled hulls at our core
white as a maggot or a baby’s first tooth.

Clusters of sorcery, we store the sun.
The juice of us is a blue flame.
Even the wary fall for our frumenty smell.

Between children’s fingers we bleed black,
store our vengeance until Michealmas
when the devil unleashes himself in spit

and piss, and we rot like the underside
of hide buried in lime, lose ourselves
in softness, sink back into what we are,

almost fruit, almost tar, resist the creeping nights,
the toll of winter curfew, wait
in our thinned clusters like the eyes of the blind,

until eel worms eat at our ingangs,
hang on to the last, juice thick as oak bark liquor,
seasoned, vile,

then shrivel back to seed,
like the mole on the back of the neck
that marks you for hanging.