Tag Archives: South Lakes Brass Ensemble

Sunday Poem – Katherine Stansfield


Hares I have seen – Katherine Stansfield

The first crashed a fence in a field near Shrewsbury.
It was after lunch of lamb slow-roasted for a night
and a day, its grease still slick on my fingers when she broke
from the stubble.  I forgot her later when I sat on a swing
and cried.  That time it was for loneliness.

The second raced the train taking me to Edinburgh.
A break in the hedge revealed for a blink the reach
of her stride, the gathering of feet beneath belly before
the hedge snapped back.  I forgot her later when I cried
into moussaka.  That time it was for loneliness and drink.

The third hung from a hook in a butcher’s in Ludlow.
Her legs were primly crossed and bound, her head
shrouded in muslin but there was no mistaking
the checked spring, the white flag beneath her tail.
She was too big that close though her ears were shorn
because what good are ears when paying by weight?
I couldn’t forget her but by then I’d given up crying.

That night she was in the mirror.  She pulled off muslin
to parade her holed skull, rolled her pale eyes and –
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<worst of all –
flashed a stiff grin of yellow teeth bared to chip any dish
I’d try to jug her in.  I went to bed without flossing.  I cried
into dry fur.  That time it was for everything.

Last Sunday I was at my friend Lindsey Holland’s house and we took her dog for a walk in the fields.  The landscape with the flat fields and the wide open sky reminded me so much of Leicester, where I’m from that it was a little bit painful, in that way that homesickness is painful.  Anyway, as we were walking along, we looked right across another field, and saw two hares, one disappearing into a hedge, and the other sat for a while before making off into the undergrowth.

They were far away and could have been rabbits, except it is impossible to mistake a hare for a rabbit. This unmistakable quality about hares does come through in Katherine’s poem.  In Stanza 2 we read about the ‘reach of her stride’ and in Stanza 3 she says there ‘was no mistaking/the checked spring, the white flag beneath her tail’.  This poem is about so much more than hares though.  It made me cry the first time I read it, which doesn’t happen very often.

This is a poem where what is not said is as important as what is said.  We don’t learn the nature of the loneliness that has the power to make the speaker cry.  By the second stanza things have got worse – the tears are for loneliness and drink. Something terrible is happening in the background of this poem, behind closed doors, while someone is eating, traveling on a train, shopping at the butchers.

The speaker in the poem cries for loneliness in the first verse, for loneliness and drink in the second, and finally, and heartbreakingly ‘for everything’ by the end.  What happens to bring this about? I don’t think it’s too dramatic to call it despair by the end.  What do the hares have to do with this?  Nothing and everything. The wildness of the hare in the first and second stanzas – crashing through a fence in a field or racing a train is partly tamed in the third stanza, with the ‘shorn ears’ and the ‘primly crossed’ legs but it isn’t erased by the end – the hare still has the ‘stiff grin of yellow teeth’.

This poem comes from Katherine’s first full length collection ‘Playing House’ which was published by Seren in 2014.  ‘Playing House’ has been on my shelf of books to be read for a while now and I finally got round to it this week.  It’s a great book with poems that cover a wide range of subjects – you will not be bored reading it!  You can order it from Seren and get 20% off as well.

Katherine Stansfield grew up on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. She moved to Wales in 2002 to study at Aberystwyth University where she worked as a lecturer in Creative Writing for several years before deciding to concentrate on writing full time.  Her novel The Visitor was published by Parthian in 2013. It went on to win the fiction prize at the 2014 Holyer an Gof awards.  Playing House, her debut poetry collection, was published by Seren in 2014. It includes ‘The woman on my National Library of Wales library card’, winner of the 2014 PENfro poetry competition, and ‘Canada’, Poem of the Week in The Guardian.  You can find more information about Katherine at her website here

Apart from reading Katherine’s book, this week has been another week of trying to catch up with myself.  On Monday I went to Manchester for the prize giving for the Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition.  It was lovely to meet the winner, Alex Toms and the other prize winning poems and a privilege to hear them read the poems.  It felt like meeting old friends again when I heard the poems and I will admit to being chuffed with myself for finding them amongst the 500 odd poems that were entered.  I thought reading that many poems would be hard work, but actually it was a real honour.  It felt like I was being given a window into 500 different lives – it was actually quite a moving experience, which I didn’t expect it to be.

This week I’ve been rehearsing with the South Lakes Brass Ensemble.  We have our next gig at Brewery Poets on November 13th, where we will be providing the music in between poetry readings by David Borrott, Kerry Darbyshire and Barbara Hickson.  I’ve had my Young Writers Group this week as well, a performance management meeting with my manager and my big sister, her husband and my lovely niece and nephew were up from Leicester for a brief visit.

We had a day out and got the steam train from Haverthwaite to Lakeside and went to the aquarium.  My niece spent the whole of the train journey writing a poem and apparently she carried on writing poems when she went to stay at my twin sister’s house as well.  My nephew has apparently written a story as well! Ha! My work here is done.  My big sister might possibly kill me if my niece or nephew become poets and she has to go to lots of poetry readings.

On Saturday I ran a workshop at Kendal Wool Gathering. It was a small workshop group, but it was actually really nice – there was lots of time to talk about poetry, to listen to what people had written and I met some really interesting writers.  Afterwards there was an open mic – again a small group of attendees but interesting people.

Throughout this week I’ve been cutting my milage back.  I’ve had sore shins, probably due to building up my milage.  I’m doing a half marathon next Sunday and every time I train for a half marathon I pick up some sort of injury.  I’ve been for two massage sessions though and I think I’ve got on top of it.  I ran 14 kilometres today with no problems, so I’ll just be cutting back now until next weekend.

If I have any readers that are within striking distance of Barrow, I’m running an all day poetry workshop on the 14th November which you would be very welcome to attend.  Please get in touch for more information, or have a look at the ‘Readings and Workshops’ tab.  There are about six spaces left.  The price is £15 and it includes tea or coffee and chocolate biscuits.

Sunday Poem – Terry Quinn


Today I’m writing this with pleasantly aching legs and shoulders after completing a 13 kilometre run in the sunshine with the husband and my two long-suffering dogs, Miles and Lola.  Chris and I are planning to run the first Hoad Hill Half Marathon together in August so we are very gradually building up the distance we run on our long run we do each week.  Next week I will probably do another 13 kilometre run as today I really struggled for the last two kilometres.  When Chris gets tired he talks more to distract himself and when I get tired I talk less so it works out ok.

We went for something to eat at Low Sizergh Barn and then had a look in the shop and I got very excited when I spotted some of Mike Barlow’s books in there, and some of the pamphlets that he publishes from Wayleave Press as well.  I bought William Gilson’s new pamphlet after reading the first poem, which is very good.  I also like to buy poetry if I see it out in the open and in an unexpected place, like a gift shop in the hope they will continue to stock it!

Yesterday I did Barrow Park Run, and after a couple of good runs recently and all the hill running I’d been doing in Crete, I thought I would push myself to see how close I could get to my PB.  I managed 23.27 which is only 18 seconds of my PB so I was very chuffed and feel full of beans and ready to have a go at the Dalton 10k this Friday.  I’d like to try and get close to 50 minutes but I have no idea if this is a bit unrealistic, as it is a pretty hilly course but I will have a crack at it anyway!

Last night was Poem and a Pint with guest poet Beatrice Garland and my very own South Lakes Brass Ensemble as the musicians.  It was at Greenodd Village Hall and at 7.25, five minutes before it was due to start there was about four people in the audience, not counting the brass ensemble.  We were also dressed in our customary black which I realised looked like we’d come from a funeral, but never mind.  Anyway, my heart was beginning to slowly sink as I thought about Beatrice (who also hadn’t arrived by that point) coming into a rather large village hall and being greeted with four people and a funeral party.  Then suddenly, people started arriving and we ended up with a full room!

Lovely Danny, who is the singer from the Soul Survivors turned up with his wife when I told him I’d be playing which I was really touched by.  I don’t think either of them had been to a poetry reading before but they seemed to enjoy it.  Rather bizarrely, our local MP, John Woodcock also turned up and read a very short limerick about the election which you can find on his twitter page if you are so inclined.  I admired him for getting up and reading a poem and I also felt a bit sorry for him as he got collared by various people and complained at, or told that they were voting Green, or asked about this or that.  It was Saturday night after all – and he had read a poem which I think should have given him a free pass out of politics for the evening.  Then again, it is his job!

The really weird thing was that even though the open mic performers and Beatrice didn’t know he was there, they read quite a few political poems.  Beatrice read a great poem about working in the NHS.  I was suprised how much politics seeped into people’s poetry in a way I haven’t noticed before. Another strange thing – Beatrice read quite a few poems about falling and then came and told me she’d just written a poem called The Art of Falling, inspired by Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘The Art of Losing’.  Maybe falling is going to be one of those things that everybody writes about like bees were a couple of years ago!  Thank goodness my book is out already!

After the interval I had to switch into musician mode and I performed with the South Lakes Brass Ensemble.  The most popular piece seemed to be Pastime with Good Company which we played to start off, and ‘The Nearness of You’, which is a Hoagy Carmichael number arranged to feature the French Horn.  Someone came up to me and said that it had made them cry, which my sister as the soloist was very pleased about.  I was doing the introductions to the pieces and I couldn’t believe how out of breath I was from playing – it was like I’d been for a run.  I don’t know why I keep being suprised lately by what a physical thing it is to play the trumpet.

The rest of last week was all given over to rehearsals – Monday night with the junior band, Tuesday night with the South Lakes Brass Ensemble, Wednesday with the Soul Survivors and Thursday with the South Lakes Brass Ensemble.

Poetry-wise, I spent Thursday finishing off a review I’m writing for Under the Radar magazine.  The two books I’m reviewing are The Years by Tom Duddy and Common Ground by D A Prince, both published by the marvellous HappenStance.  I really enjoyed writing this review and I also love working with Maria Taylor, who is the Reviews Editor.  She is always very patient with me, and finds a way of correcting my sometimes rather silly mistakes without making me feel silly or stupid.

On Friday morning I finished off the review and then planned my workshop for Dove Cottage Young Poets which I was running in the afternoon.  I left at lunchtime to have a quick meeting with Ian at Abbots Hall Art Gallery.  On the 15th May the art gallery are having an event called ‘A Night of a Thousand Selfies’.  There will be lots of stuff going on – music, a photobooth, a temporary tattoo artist, free pizza and drinks and an open mic, which I will be running.  I’m looking for more poets to read on the Open Mic, so if you are interested, please get in touch, or have a look here for more information.

I’m feeling more and more excited about next Wednesday, which is the first public reading from The Art of Falling.  The reading is in Leeds at the Heart Cafe in Headingley and I’m reading alongside John Foggin, Andrew Forster, Keith Hutson, Peter White and Mark Connors.  It would be great to see any of you there if you happen to live within striking distance of Leeds.  It has been a strange feeling, having a box of my books living underneath my desk like some sort of hibernating pet.  So many of my friends have got in touch to say that they have bought copies already that I’m beginning to doubt the wisdom of buying a box of 100 – am I being too optimistic?  We will see – I’ve got a few readings coming up, and although I know how fast my pamphlet sells, I have no idea how fast the book will sell – it is going to be a bit of a learning curve.  At the minute there are no plans to sell the book through this blog, as you can get a copy with 20% off direct through Seren.  If you would like a signed copy, make your way to one of the readings on the ‘Readings and Workshops’ page or email me!

So today’s Sunday Poem is by Terry Quinn, who I met quite a few years ago now.  I can’t actually remember where we met – probably at an open mic in Lancaster actually.  I’ve been meaning to ask Terry for a Sunday Poem for at least two years.  His collection ‘The Amen of Knowledge’ came out with Indigo Dreams Press in 2013 after he won the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize in 2012 and I read it, thought ‘ooh, I must ask Terry for a poem’ and then forgot to actually ask.  Well, I never claimed to be organised!

Terry Quinn was born in Birmingham and settled in Preston in 1995. He retired in 2012 from his career as a Medical Engineer in the NHS.

Terry has been active in the local poetry scene for over 15 years and is Vice President of Preston Poets’ Society.  As well as his Indigo Dreams publication which you can get hold of a copy of here Terry also published another collection in 2010 called ‘Away’ published by Poetry Monthly Press.

He has been published recently in The North, South, French Literary Review, Acumen and Ink, Sweat and Tears.  His poem is featured on the BBC Poetry Proms website as a runner up in the competition and if you find yourself in Guernsey, you will see one of his poems on a bus!  Terry also has a blog here if you would like to find out more about him.

I’ve asked Terry for two poems, because they are only short ones and I liked them both too much to choose between.  ‘Wishful Thinking’ makes me laugh because my husband really did once come home and say ‘I almost bought you some flowers today’.  But there is also something really sad in the last verse – if it was being read out, it is probably one of those poems that would make you laugh in the first verse and then feel guilty for laughing in the second verse.  ‘Couples’ is so completely right with its description of one of the tribulations of being alone that I had to ask for that one too.  I like the linebreaks in ‘Couples’ as well, especially the words ‘One’ being on a line by themselves – it has a William Carlos Williams feel to it as it falls down the page.

Thanks to Terry for letting me use two of his poems, and apologies that it has taken so long to put them up!


Wishful Thinking – Terry Quinn

Have you still
got the dress
I almost
bought you

or did you
throw it out
with all
the other stuff



Gets a table
Joins the queue
Leaving me
With a tray
And a terrible
Sense of injustice

Sunday Poem – Myra Schneider


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

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

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

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

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

Here is a picture of the junior band.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Throw – Myra Schneider

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

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

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

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

Sunday Poem – Rebecca Gethin

Sunday Poem – Rebecca Gethin

Evening all – you may all be relieved to know that I’m in a much better mood than I was last Sunday and am predicting that there will be no moaning in this blog post, or hardly any moaning anyway!  I would say music has won over poetry this week on the balance scales of my life which seems to be happening quite a lot lately.

On Friday night the brass band that I conduct, the Barrow Shipyard Junior Band had their autumn concert, which was a joint concert with the Barrow Steelworks Band.  All of the money raised was split between the Junior Band and the Barrow Foodbank.  We pick a different charity each year to work with and I try and pick a charity that has a direct impact on the children that we work with as well as having a wider impact on the community of Barrow.  Last year, for example, half of the money raised went to the Furness Branch of the National Autistic Society.

So because the concert was on Friday I got the children to stay for a longer rehearsal on Monady – 6pm-8pm instead of the usual 6-7.15pm.  Even though we had longer, and I made the children work really hard and didn’t let them have a break (what a cruel task master I am) we still didn’t get through all of the programme for Friday, so I had to trust in the magical power young musicians seem to have which enables them to pull something amazing out of the bag on the night.

On Tuesday I had work as usual and then a rehearsal with Soul Survivors – getting ready for our Top Secret gig in December.

On Wednesday I did a live Online Chat with Poetry School students who were signed up on a course called ‘5 Easy Pieces’ which involves 5 different tutors setting an exercise, one after the other.  The students have a week to write a poem in response and then the tutor has a week to read all the responses.  I spent the week reading the poems once a day and then on Tuesday night after I got back from Soul Survivors, I read them in earnest, and made notes on the pages ready for Wednesday.

I really enjoyed the online chat – not only because the poems were of a good standard, and the students seemed very open and willing to learn and listen to each other, but also because I found myself discovering more about each poem as it was under discussion.  Sometimes I ended up changing my mind – other times I would have defended my opinion – well not to the death, because that would be a bit extreme, but I would have stood by it in the face of everyone else disagreeing.  I think there is something very special created in the online chats which is that there is time (albeit a very short amount of time) to discuss poetry and words without distraction, as if, for those two hours of the online chat, there is nothing more important in the world.

This week I also had two anxiety dreams.  One was about my first collection.  I had a really vivid dream that there was a pile of bound proof copies waiting for me on the doormat downstairs, but when I opened the package and the six proofs fell out, they all had awful pink covers with various versions of flowers and a note from Amy Wack, my editor, saying I had to choose from one of those six, and as she was giving me such a lot of choice, she didn’t think this was unreasonable.  You know those dreams you wake up from when you are sweating a little bit and you are crying and you wake yourself up by crying? Yeah, that was me.  I woke the husband up and demanded he escort me down to the front door to check the package of books was not in fact there. He dutifully did, too sleepy to be able to present a reasonable argument about why this was not a good idea.

They weren’t of course, and I went back to sleep but I did tweet about it the next day and then got the Marketing Department at Seren, who clearly have a great sense of humour sent me this lovely example cover as a joke…

joke cover

On Thursday it was my day off (yes, may have mentioned that before) and I drove to Grasmere to go for a cup of tea and a catch up with lovely Andrew Forster from the Wordsworth Trust.  I was hoping that there would be some amazing good news about the Wordsworth Trust’s lack of funding for the poetry program from next year, but unfortunately not.  I drove to Skipton from Grasmere to meet up with poet Keith Hutson about a possible project that we are hoping to put together along with Clare Shaw.

My other anxiety dream of the week was about the Junior Band Concert.  It probably wasn’t surprising that I was having anxiety dreams.  My manager and the manager of Cumbria Music Hub was going to be there, escorting the Mayor and Mayoress of Barrow, as well as all the parents of the children in the band, as well as my Mum and Dad.  And then there was the managing of the 54 brass players of course.  I dreamt that nobody turned up apart from the Mayor, Mayoress and my manager.  Of course this didn’t happen – the concert was a sell out – we had to find more chairs and put them out at the back.  The kids played really well as usual.  Maybe they just enjoy torturing me in the last rehearsal.  I got lots of lovely, positive feedback from the audience so that kind of blew all the cobwebs and negative feelings of last week away.

We made £508.60 from the concert which is fantastic for both the Junior Band and the Foodbank.

Yesterday I was at a workshop all day which was run by Foden’s Band and organised by the South Cumbria Music Festival.  It was an interesting day and it was nice to spend time with some of the band in a different setting.  And then today I’ve spent most of the day with the South Lakes Brass Ensemble in Grange over Sands, playing for their Prom Arts Day.  We played a mixture of carols and ‘normal’ music, but by the time we got to the end of our set, we were all really cold so I was quite relieved to come home.  Here is a picture of us all trying not to look cold.

south lakes brass ensemble

When I got home I found the husband hard at work putting a light up on the front of the house so that we are not fumbling to open the door in complete darkness.  He’d also tidied the front garden up as well so after a cup of tea I went out to the back garden or the ‘hayfield’ as John Foggin calls it and got to work snipping brambles which have managed to snake their way across the garden underneath all the dead grass.  The husband chopped down about a sixth of the hedge in the garden – you can see him brandishing his saw in this picture.  As you can see, still a lot to do.  But the pile of branches next to the shed is what he has cut down so far, and the green bin is full of my snipped brambles.


Today’s Sunday Poem is by Rebecca Gethin, who was one of the participants on the residential poetry course I ran with Clare Shaw.  Rebecca showed me this poem on the last night of the course and I liked it straight away.  I like the whole conceit of the poem which explores how the body is the receptacle of a personal and a social history.

I also love poems that try and write about the gap between the body and the self, so I love the first couplet with the body compared to a vehicle that the father and mother are inside.  I think the opening couplet also lulls the reader into thinking that this is going to be a celebration of parents, but by line 4 it has started to turn a little ominous ‘thinking thoughts, knowing mine’.  By stanza 3 the speaker in the poem is trapped: ‘I can’t extricate myself from the bones I’ve been born into’ and it is this point that the body changes from being a vehicle to being a cage.  I also love the ending to this poem – until this point, we have assumed that the parents are together but the last three lines puts heed to that notion by telling us ‘as far as I know/they haven’t met each other for decades’ – this is funny as well as sad.  The poem has a great last line as well and I love how the reference to the ribcage made me think of Adam and Eve, and Eve being made from Adam’s rib.  In this last line, the image of the body as a cage is made even more explicit by the use of ‘ribcage’.

I should also say that this is a brand new poem and has just been published in The Interpreter’s House, a great magazine edited by Martin Malone and well worth checking out.

I would also recommend Rebecca’s collection ‘A Handful of Water’ published by Cinnamon Press which I’ve really enjoyed reading.  Many of the poems are careful observations on wildlife and animals.  One of my favourite poems in the book is ‘Familiar’ which records a dream of searching for a horse.  Here is my favourite couplet from that poem

‘When the horse lay down to rest I lay with her, leaning against
the timpani of her belly, the sound of violins tuning up inside.’

That is so lovely, and so well-written.

Rebecca is very widely published and writes novels as well! Her first novel was published in 2011 after winning the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award.  Her first poetry collection ‘River is the Plural of Rain’ was published by Oversteps Books in 2009 and her second poetry collection was published by Cinnamon.

Anyway, if you would like to find out more about Rebecca you can have a look at her blog which is here

or you can order Rebecca’s book ‘A Handful of Water’ from her publisher, Cinnamon Press .  Rebecca also has an Author page on Facebook here

I hope you enjoy the poem.

Cryptic – Rebecca Gethin

Sometimes I find my father and mother
walking around inside me, as if my body were their vehicle.

They look through my eyes at the hedges flashing by,
thinking thoughts, knowing mine.

I can’t extricate myself from the bones I’ve been born into –
neither the shapes of my arms in their sleeves of skin

nor my wrinkled hands on the steering wheel.
Nothing seems constant any longer.

The expression of their frozen faces is melting
in the heat of my blood…as far as I know,

they haven’t met each other for decades but they’re talking
together inside my ribcage – as if I’m not here.

Sunday Poem – Philip Morre


Tonight’s post might be quite long.  Lots has happened this week – on Thursday I spent a lovely day in Ilkley and met up with the team behind the Ikley Literature Festival to talk through my events and stuff that I’ll be getting up to at this year’s festival.  It was a really great meeting in that I came away feeling even more enthusiastic about the residency, less terrified and ready to get down to some serious planning for the various workshops I’m doing.  If you would like to have a look at the programme, you can find it on the festival website as a PDF here.

One of the slightly bonkers things that will be going on in Ilkley is a run followed by a writing workshop.  I met up with poet Keith Hutson and we went for a run to work out a suitable route.  Before I arrived at the hotel where we will be setting off from, I had it in my head that it would be a road run, just because that is what I’ve been doing a lot of, but then I realised (I don’t know how this passed me by) that of course we are right on the edge of Ilkley Moor, and unless there are gale force winds, it would be criminal not to get up onto the moor.  So the first 2km of the run will be pretty steep, and up hill all the way – but it will be worth it when we get to the top because the views are really amazing.  And going up means you have to come down, so after the hard work it will be a nice easy run back.

I’m also running a workshop where participants will be writing new work inspired by poets at the festival.  Lorna Goodison is coming and I haven’t come across her work before so I broke my book ordering ban (I’m currently trying to save every penny to help with house move) and ordered her book from Carcanet.  And then I thought I might as well order Louise Gluck’s new book as well – I don’t know her work very well but she was featured in the Poetry Book Society bulletin and the poem that was in there was really beautiful.

The other exciting thing that happened this week was that Amy Wack, my editor at Seren, sent through a draft copy of the cover of my book which made it seem really real which was actually much less terrifying than when it didn’t seem real, if you get what I mean.  Having a cover helps me to think of it as a book, a proper book and it is a can’t-sleep-because-it’s-too-exciting experience.

This week I also booked in three readings for 2015, my first three readings from the book which is also pretty exciting – one in Liverpool, one in Halifax and one in Cardiff.

I’ve had a nice weekend as well – yesterday I was up in Grasmere at Ian Duhig’s workshop who was brilliant as usual and was incredibly kind and supportive and interested and interesting.

The only other things I’ve been doing this week include a rehearsal with ‘Soul Survivors’ – the soul band I’ve recently started playing trumpet for on Monday, teaching a tuba lesson on Tuesday and my new business cards and flyers arrived for the brass quintet I’m running – the South Lakes Brass Ensemble arrived on Wednesday.  If you know anybody who would like an amazing brass ensemble to play at their wedding – send them my way – more information at our rather sparse (at the minute) blog here

Related to the brass ensemble I’ve also spent a bit of time this week sending emails to hotels to try and get in to play at a few wedding fayres.  I’m waiting to hear back from a couple of wedding fayres – I find this bit of time intensely interesting – the time when you are getting something off the ground, just putting hooks out and seeing what will catch.  I’m not a Marketing or Publicity expert of course so I just have to do what I think and learn from what works and what doesn’t.

Apart from all this, I went running on Tuesday (about six miles), to a spinning class on Wednesday and Friday and today I did about 8 and a half miles – very slow but my first time doing over 7 and a half miles so am pleased that I did it.  I’ve also been battling with house stuff.  I don’t know how anybody manages to actually buy and sell a house in this country.  I’ve never known anything like it.  Everyone I deal with seems incompetent and inept.  I don’t know how people don’t just give up.  It is too depressing to go into, but suffice it to say, we are still not in our new house and who knows when we will be.  Probably just as I go back to work they’ll give us the keys to the house which has a condemned boiler, needs rewiring, damp proofing, a new bathroom, pointing etc….I already have some friends lined up who have said I can use their bathroom so at least I won’t smell when I inflict my presence on all the children again!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Philip Morre, who I’ve never met, but who made contact with me rather randomly by email after seeing my poem ‘The Fall’ in The TLS.  He wanted to know if he could translate it into Italian and had a couple of questions about the poem before he could do so.  He also brought my pamphlet and then sent me a copy of his fantastic book which was a lovely surprise to receive in the post, and this is where I found the Sunday Poem.  Philip lives and works as a translator in Venice.

I have also just discovered that Philip has a website and a delightfully outspoken blog – I’ve just read the last couple of entries and laughed out loud quite a few times.  You can find this here

In fact the blog is called ‘Blogrant’ and when you click on ‘Blogrant’ you will see that the title at the top of the page says ‘The unwelcome opinions of Philip Morre’.  Anyway, read the poem below before you get to the blog.

This poem is one of those poems which has a line which I kind of fall in love with – the very first line.  It is one of those lines that you could use to start people off on a free-writing exercise – I don’t mean that it sounds like a workshop poem – I mean the line has the lovely climb and fall, a pivoting movement to it that seems to work very well in workshops to encourage people to spin off on their own writing – another example of this to show what I mean was a line that Ann Sansom once gave as a free writing exercise ‘It was the beginning of Spring’ which to me has a lovely falling quality to it – as if it is inevitable that you just carry the line on.

This poem is deceptively simple but right from the first line I think it wrongfoots the reader in an enjoyable way – I thought it was going to be sad, then by the end of the first stanza I realised the poem had a touch of humour to its voice.

In stanza 2 there are the lovely sounds of the ‘saddled stallion’s faraway eyes’ and I think that touch of humour, or wryness is in this verse too.  By stanza 4, the poem throws us back into the tone of that first line with another cracking line ‘it assumed all the sorrows of the ocean’.

I think the last stanza is my favourite – that lovely wistful ending with its unanswered question is paced perfectly – a deceptively simple poem that is rather clever and very sure footed.

If you would like to order Philip Morre’s collection ‘The Sadness of Animals’ which is a kind of selected, compiling new work and previously published work from pamphlets copies are available from John Sandoe, Heywood Hill and Slightly Foxed in London, the Albion Beatnik Bookshop in Oxford or directly from sanmarcopress@googlemail.com.


The Sadness of Animals –  Philip Morre

Surely we imagine the sadness of animals:
the hangdog  dog in the piazza less likely
in mourning for a late selfish mistress
than concerned who will look to his dish,
or at his age whether sex is history.

And the saddled stallion’s faraway eyes
are not seeking that track through the hills
to rampant savannah where, carefree,
his sisters cavort in cabals.  He can just see
(and then vaguely) the roofs of the stables.

But once off Waisai and its soft-coral reef
a gloomy medusa, draped purple and pink
on the current as if tossed on a chair-back,
loomed over us, barely in motion.

For that instant, though we knew it a
rubbery insensate processor of plankton,
it assumed all the sorrows of the ocean,
in a glassy precipitation of grief.

I swear that the tears fogged our masks.
This morning the colt jumped the whitewashed
rail.  And the dog? Oh, the dog still mopes
in the piazza – who can say if he weeps?





Sunday Poem – Ben Parker


Another blog post which will (hopefully) creep in just under the wire, in the last few minutes of Sunday night!  I will try not to go on about painting as some of my friends have suggested on Facebook that I need to get help, that I am, in fact, obsessed with painting.  But to be honest, there is not much else going on at the minute!  This weekend we’ve been painting our bedroom, which is basically an attic conversion – so it’s the biggest room in the house.  The old paint wouldn’t stop flaking away on one sloping ceiling yet it wouldn’t let itself be scraped off – so that took up most of yesterday – very tiresome.  We hit on the brilliant idea (well the man in B & Q told us to do this) of lined paper to cover up this part of the roof rather than scraping the rest of the paint off.  Then we painted over the paper and had a lovely smooth roof.  So far the paper has not fallen off so all is well.  Before next weekend I need to do another coat of paint on the purple wall and gloss the woodwork.  This has to be before next weekend because my parents are coming to stay – my dad is going to help us lay a new laminate floor as our poor laminate floor has basically worn away in many, many places.  If our bedroom is not done before next weekend, we will have nowhere for my parents to sleep as we are currently sleeping in the spare room…

Now I will stop going on about painting and talk about poetry – although I haven’t done much poetry this week but I thought I could put up some links to things which I haven’t drawn attention to through my own tardiness.  First off all there is a link here to a podcast from the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival with me and the other pamphlet poets.  We did this straight after our reading when I think we were all a bit…well…unstable, or excited or exhausted…don’t know what adjective is best! To be honest three cheers for the poor soul who had to edit this down and try and find 15 minutes of sense…I’m talking about myself of course.  The others were very articulate…http://www.thepoetrytrust.org/poetry-channel/

I had a brilliant rehearsal with the South Lakes Brass Ensemble on Thursday night – we managed to get some photos as well as playing an arrangement of the Queen of Sheba which sounded fab.  I’ve been working on a blog for the group and am probably another couple of hours off it going live.  On Friday I got to work with the lovely Andrew Forster again at the Young Writers workshop in Kendal.  We focused on sonnets this week so I’ve had great fun researching sonnets.  In the end I took ‘Prayer’ by  Carol Ann Duffy, ‘Waking with Russell’ by Don Paterson and a sonnet by Nick Drake from a sequence of unrhymed sonnets about the death of his father from his book ‘From the Word Go’.  I also found a really interesting essay on the Poetry Foundation website which was really useful which you can read here if you are interested – http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/article/246410

I applied for part time poetry work and got a positive response – but won’t say too much until details are firmed up – I worked on a poem that I’m translating from Burmese and sent it through to Sasha Dugdale at Modern Poetry in Translation – sent a couple of questions to Burmese poet to get clarification on a couple of things – went to work of course – and that is about all I got up to this week!

So today’s Sunday Poem is by Ben Parker, another of the poets I met at the Michael Marks award a couple of months ago.  I’ve chosen the first poem in Ben’s pamphlet to feature here today – I absolutely loved this poem when I first read it – I clearly have a thing for animal poems, because I had a similar reaction when I read Chrissy Williams’ bear poem in her pamphlet..

I think this poem has such a unique voice.  It’s completely strange, and slightly surreal.  I think Ben is playing with the idea of the unreliable narrator here because if we disbelieve the narrators assertion that the animal is a horse, if we accept that it is a dog, then it is not surreal really, just strange.  And then we have to accept that the narrator is delusional.  But if we believe the narrator then it is completely surreal.  And the narrator’s voice is so confident – it never says ‘I think’ or ‘we think’ or ‘maybe’.  The voice tells us with complete conviction what is happening.  I loved the fact that it isn’t just a horse that they find, it is the first horse.

This poem comes from Ben’s pamphlet ‘The Escape Artists’ published by Tall Lighthouse.  You can order the pamphlet from the Tall Lighthouse website (who are also accepting submissions by the way for pamphlets I think) http://www.tall-lighthouse.co.uk/

If you would like to find out more about Ben you can have a look at his website www.benparkerpoetry.co.uk

Hope you enjoy the poem and thanks to Ben for letting me use it.

Do you remember that day we found the first horse?
It was skittering the dust in a forgotten field adjacent to
a farmhouse that must have stood forever if not longer.
This was the horse from which all other horses were
bred; the horse of cave-paintings and untranslatable
mythology.  Undomesticated, rough-haired, and small,
it looked more like a mongrel dog.  We took it to the
backyard of our rented ground-floor flat.  Our friends
came over to see it.  That’s a dog, they told us.  We
resolved not to speak to them again. We brought our
horse fresh-cut grass every spring and oats throughout
the winter but it grew thin and restless.  We asked your
uncle, the vet, to inspect it for us.  He took you into a
corner and spoke in a gentle concerned tone, as though
he had forgotten you were an adult.  You sent him away
and cried for a bit.  That evening, to cheer you up, we
watched a documentary on horses and thought how
proud our horse must be to have delivered this noble
race.  Do you remember the day we found the first horse
chewing a rubber ball thrown over by the neighbours?

By Ben Parker

So today’s Sunday