Tag Archives: Steve Ely

December Poetry Carousel


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Sitting here listening to the birds singing, and the sun vaguely shining, and after days of beautiful weather, it feels like December is very far off.  It feels strange to be planning for winter when summer is starting.  However, this December, I’m really excited to be running another residential again.  This time it’s the Poetry Carousel, back by popular demand.  The Carousel came about when I was trying to think of a way to utilize the uniqueness of running a residential course in a hotel – all those bedrooms, but we were only using 16 of them.  I also wanted to try and combine the best bits of a residential with a poetry festival – so I came up with the idea of the Poetry Carousel. The course will take place at Abbot Hall Hotel, Kents Bank, (nr Grange over Sands in the Lake District)

One of my favourite parts of running residentials is working with the other tutors.  The process of selecting tutors to work with is really exciting – I always choose tutors that I’ve either worked with before so I’ve seen them in action, or that I’ve been in a workshop with as a participant.  They also have to be great performers, and they have to be poets that really care about teaching.  And for the Carousel purposes, they have to have three different approaches to poetry – this is one of the reasons why it feels different to a traditional residential.  There is no unifying theme for the weekend.  I just ask the tutors to run a poetry workshop on a theme or idea that they feel passionate about.

The 2017 team consists of David Morley, Steve Ely and Hilda Sheehan.  I ran a residential down in St Ives with Steve last year, and I was really impressed with his level of preparation for the workshops, and his kindness and generosity towards the participants on the course.  I’ve known Hilda for quite a few years now – we first met when we shared a room together on a residential course.  Hilda is great fun, very energetic and I’m sure she won’t mind me saying, slightly bonkers.  She runs the Swindon Poetry Festival and both her energy and her humour are legendary!  She runs fantastic workshops and is a great performer of her work.  I went to a workshop run by David Morley at The Wordsworth Trust quite a few years ago now and I’ve never forgotten it.  It was completely different to every other workshop I’ve been to.  There were lots of different strategies for taking us all out of our tried and tested methods of writing poetry, and again, David’s energy and enthusiasm was infectious.

So those are some of my reasons for assembling this team of tutors – now all we need are the participants! The hotel tells me that a fifth of the places are already booked for this course, and the nicer rooms are always booked out first, so if you are thinking of coming, I would book sooner rather than later.   If you would like to book, you need to contact the hotel directly on 015395 32896.

If the course sells out (as I’m expecting it to) there will be 32 people booked on.  Those 32 people will be divided into groups of 8.  Each group of 8 will have a 2 hour workshop with one of the tutors on the Friday afternoon at 4pm.  We then all come together for dinner, and an evening reading from two of the tutors.  On Saturday morning, each group of 8 moves on to the next tutor for another two hour workshop.  There will be free time on Saturday afternoon, then the whole group of 32 comes together for dinner and an evening reading from a guest poet.  On Sunday morning, each group of 8 moves on to another workshop with another tutor.  There’s free time in the afternoon again before we meet for dinner and evening readings from the other two tutors.  On Monday, the group moves on to the last tutor and their last workshop of the weekend.  We meet for lunch before everyone heads off home.  The course officially finishes at 12 and lunch is straight after this.

So that’s the general outline – so although there are 32 people on the course, giving the weekend more of a festival feel in the evenings, the workshops are actually very intimate.

The cost of the weekend is £360 and this includes accommodation, workshops, breakfast, lunch and three-course evening meals.

Below is some biographical information about the tutors.  Towards the end of the week, I’ll be sharing information about the workshops that will be running over the weekend -so keep an eye out for this!

David Morley

David Morley won the Ted Hughes Award for New Poetry in 2016 for The Invisible Gift: Selected Poems and a Cholmondeley Award for his contribution to poetry.  His collections include The Gypsy and the Poet, a PBS Recommendation; Enchantment, a Sunday Telegraph Book of the Year; The Invisible Kings, a PBS Recommendation and TLS Book of the year. A dramatic poem The Death of Wisdom Smith, Prince of Gypsies has been published by The Melos Press. David is known for poetry installations within natural landscapes: ‘slow poetry’ sculptures and poetry films. A Professor at Warwick University and Monash University, David is also a National Teaching Fellow.

‘Like opening a box of fireworks; something theatrical happens when you open its pages, and a curtain is raised on a tradition that has been overlooked…Ted Hughes wrote about the natural magical and mythical world; The Invisible Gift is a natural successor…’. – Ted Hughes Award Judges

Steve Ely

Steve Ely has published four collections of poetry, most recently Werewolf (Calder Valley Poetry) and Incendium Amoris (Smokestack).  His biographical work, Ted Hughes’s South Yorkshire: Made in Mexborough, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015.  He lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Huddersfield.

Hilda Sheehan

Hilda Sheehan has been a psychiatric nurse and Montessori teacher. She has a collection of poetry, The Night My Sister Went to Hollywood,  published by Cultured Llama, and a pamphlet of short fiction, Frances and Martine from Dancing Girl Press.  “Like a firework set off in the heart of the culture’s kitchen”. William Bedford. Hilda is the founder and organiser of Poetry Swindon Festival and works as an education officer at the Richard Jefferies Museum.

Kim Moore

Kim Moore’s first collection The Art of Falling was published by Seren in 2015.  A poem from this collection was shortlisted for the Forward Prize.   Her first pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves was a winner in the 2012 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition and went on to be shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and named in The Independent as a Book of the Year.  She is one of five UK poets chosen to take part in Versopolis, a European funded project to bring the work of UK poets to an international audience.

Sunday Poem – Steve Ely

Sunday Poem – Steve Ely

I’ve discovered this week that I’m not very good at being ill.  I have quite a few friends who live with chronic pain or illness and they always seem to be cheerful and full of good humour, and to just get on with things.  I was ill on Thursday with some kind of stomach bug.  It only lasted one day – by the time I woke up on Friday, I felt much better, just very weak from not eating the day before. On Thursday though, it felt like I would never get better, and that I was in fact, mortally ill.  I told you I’m not good at being ill.  I get very dramatic and imagine that I’m dying.  I also get bored very easily because I felt too ill to even sit up  and watch TV, I couldn’t concentrate on a book, and I couldn’t go to sleep.  Anyway, very luckily it didn’t last long.  I cancelled my workshop on Friday with my Young Writers Group and didn’t go to Brewery Poets in the evening and spent Friday trying to take it easy.

On Saturday I had my Barrow Poetry Workshop.  It was only a small group this month – for the last four months of the workshops, the groups have been getting steadily bigger, peaking at 20 last month.  This month there were only six! Lots of  the regulars on holiday or gallivanting off elsewhere.  Those six wrote some brilliant poems though, so it was well worth the effort of running the workshop.  We looked at poems by Judy Brown, Hubert Moore, John McCullough and and J O Morgan today.

We’ve got the plasterers in this week, much earlier than expected as the plasterer had a cancellation and rang up to see if he could fit us in earlier.  So  at the minute we have two rooms worth of furniture in the front room, and we’re living between the front room and the garden.   Everything in the kitchen is covered in a film of white dust and there are radio stations playing all day which I wouldn’t normally listen to.  I’m sure the plasterers think I am completely idle.  The first day they were here (Friday) I was recuperating in my hammock in the garden for a lot of the day, which felt particularly lazy as they were obviously working quite hard. Then Saturday I was sat around having breakfast and didn’t go to work until 10.30 – they’d already been working for nearly two hours by that point! Then again, I was sat up until midnight, working on an assignment for Carrie Etter’s online course which I’m taking at the minute.  I have to analyse sentence structure in a prose poem, which I’m finding really hard.  It is interesting, but hard, and it feels like I understand what a compound-complex sentence is, and then the knowledge slips away from me again.  This is probably basic knowledge that I should already know but it feels like my brain just isn’t wired up that way, to label these things.

The first half of the week I spent whizzing around doing my usual things.  I went to Bowland Bridge on Monday to spend the day with a group of friends on a writing retreat before heading off to do my junior band rehearsal.  I went for a run on Tuesday after work.  On Wednesday, I was teaching till 6.30 and then I drove to Ulverston to host an Open Mic at Natterjacks.  The friends I spent the day with at Bowland Bridge had been in touch to see if there were any poetry readings happening in Cumbria in the week they were here.  There were none, so I decided to organise an open mic for them.  Rob and Valerie at Natterjacks offered the venue for free and I advertised it with a minimum amount of effort via Facebook and emails, so I was really pleased when we got a good turnout and managed to fill the cafe.  I think there were about 18 people signed up on the open mic, but everybody was well behaved and stuck to their time slot.  Rob and Valerie’s son, Connor, who plays in my band, recited my ‘Trumpet Teacher’s Curse’ – he’d already won his category in a poetry recitation competition at the South Cumbria Music Festival but I couldn’t believe how many laughs he got – much more than when I read it!

Then Thursday morning I was stopped in my tracks.  Which is probably a good place to introduce today’s Sunday Poem, by Steve Ely.  I had the pleasure of working with Steve last year in St Ives on our residential and he was great to work with, very hard-working and conscientious with the feedback he gave to people on the course about their poetry, and he runs as well – what more could you want from a co-tutor?

Here is Steve’s poem, taken from a brand new pamphlet Werewolf, published by Calder Valley Poetry.

The Death Dealer of Kovno

Lithuania, land of heroes, 
Thou our Fatherland that art, 
From the glorious deeds of ages, 
Shall Thy children take hear. 
May Thy children ever follow 
Their heroic fathers 
In devotion to their country 
(The Lithuanian National Anthem)

Duffy we hated, for his stink and snivelling
and strawberry birthmark, and when Mr Dowland
named him as the pen thief, the football team
rose in incredulous outrage that one
so contemptible, so negligible, so low,
would dare to place his scrubber’s hands
on our Papermates, Schaeffers and Parkers.
I chinned him at his desk in front of the teacher
to the raucous approbation of my peers
who swarmed over tables to land righteous blows
of their own.  Dowland, who knew
exactly how we felt, bollocked us
back to fractions and told us such conduct
had no place in school, though come four
it was none of his business. When we got him
in the ginnel even the first years joined in.
Hey-fatty-bum-bum could neither fight nor run.
He hedgehogged to a foetal and curled tight
till we sickened of booting.  He screamed
like a babby and bled like a pig:
fat-bastard, pen-thieving, beetroot-face bummer.
His Mam kept him off, until the school bobby
knocked with a summons.  We were warned.
Sitting at his desk, he’d lost weight
but his wounds had healed.  When he whispered
‘Yes Sir’, to his name on the register,
Dowland looked up from his careful herringbone,
and pointing with his Papermate,
asked if he’d learned his lesson.

On 25th June, 1941, the day after invading Nazis had driven out the Soviet occupiers, Lithuanians nationalists herded fifty Jews onto the forecourt of the Lietukis garage in Kovno.  In front of a cheering crowd, the Jews were marched at gunpoint to the centre of the forecourt, where they were beaten to death with an iron crowbar by Algirda Antana Pavalkis, a Lithuanian national in his late teens or early twenties.  After killing the last Jew, the Death Dealer of Kovno posed for photographs amongst the corpses before fetching an accordian and leading the crowd in a rendition of the Lithuanian National Anthem.  A 1950 photograph of Pavalkis seemed to indicate that he was working as a doctor in the USSR.

Phew.  So this poem, and indeed the pamphlet that it is taken from, is pretty dark, although I wouldn’t say unremittingly so.  It explores a world of male violence and I think this poem certainly sets out the ideas for violence being a spectrum or a continuum.  The violence that is meted out by both the children and the teacher, is compared to the deadly violence carried out against the Jews in the epigraph that follows.  There are copious notes at the back of the pamphlet, and the notes for this poem say that this is a ‘fictionalised version of an incident that took place in my middle school in 1978’ leaving the reader to wonder which bits are fictionalised and which are true.

Leaving aside questions of truth, and the uncomfortable feeling I’m left with when reading this poem as I remember incidences from my own childhood when I was complicit to violence or cruelty against others, or the victim of it, and going back to the poem, it is a masterclass in creating a believable voice.

The fact that Duffy was hated for his ‘strawberry birthmark’ – a completely arbitrary thing fits with my memories of all the things that children get bullied for.  I love the way he uses ‘hedgehogged’ as an action and the line ‘bollocked us/back to fractions’ – the teacher tells them off and makes them do fractions, but also the double meaning, of these boys being only fractions, only partly human.  That idea of them not being ‘human’ also happens, I think, because there is only one use of the personal pronoun ‘I’.  The rest of the time, the poem uses ‘we’ and ‘us’, as if the football team moves with one thought.

This is a brilliantly executed poem, and technically, I don’t think it puts a foot wrong.  It’s interesting to consider it without the title or the epigraphs that precede and follow it.  It’s still a strong poem, which explores childhood brutality and brutality wielded by someone in a position of power, but with the epigraphs, it opens it up to a wider consideration of violence in society and how it starts, and is allowed to take place.

If you’d like to read more of Steve’s work, you can email Bob Horne at Calder Valley Poetry at caldervalleypoetry@yahoo.com.  Calder Valley Poetry is a relatively new publisher, already producing beautiful pamphlets.  I’ve still got a pamphlet that Bob sent by Peter Riley that he has published recently, which I’m looking forward to reading.

Steve Ely is a poet from the West Riding of Yorkshire. His book of poems, Oswald’s Book of Hours, is published by Smokestack and was nominated for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2013 and the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry in 2014. Englaland, his second book of poems, was published in April, 2015, also by Smokestack. His novel, Ratmen, is published by Blackheath Books. Ted Hughes’s South Yorkshire: Made In Mexborough, a biographical work about Hughes’s neglected Mexborough period, was  published by Palgrave MacMillan in July 2015.  If you’d like to find out more about Steve, you can go to his website at http://www.steveely.co.uk/


Residential Poetry Course in St Ives


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

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

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

The course is suitable for beginners and more experienced writers.

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

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

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

6.30pm – Evening Meal

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

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

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

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

6.30pm – Evening Meal

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

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

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

6.30pm Evening Meal

8pm – Poetry Reading with Mystery Guest Poet

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

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

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

6.30pm – Evening Meal

8pm – Poetry Quiz/Discussion in the Lounge

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

2.30pm onwards – Free Afternoon

6.30pm – Evening Meal

8pm – Participants Poetry Reading in the Lounge

Saturday 20th February

Breakfast and departures


Residential Poetry Course at St Ives – Change of Tutor


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

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

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

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

Residential Poetry Course
Tutors: Kim Moore and Steve Ely

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

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


Sunday Poem – Malcolm Carson


I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog in the last couple of weeks.  I’ve been getting a bit weary – not with picking the poems, which I love doing, but with writing about my week, which seems to become a bit of a long list.  People come up to me and tell me how busy I am.  I don’t think I’m busier than anyone else – it’s just that I’ve been documenting it all in minute detail.  However, I have worn myself out with it all, so I’ve decided from this week that I will be limiting myself to 1000 words for each blog post (excluding the poem) Which is still quite a lot.  I’m also going to write up the bit about the poem and the poet first, and then come back and do the bit about me afterwards, with whatever words I’m left with.  This week I was left with, excluding the poem, 469 words.

I’ve already used quite a few of them to explain this principle so I want to use the remaining words I have left to tell you about the fantastic reading that Steve Ely did for ‘A Poem and a Pint’ last night.  If you get a chance to hear Steve Ely read, go.  For me he is up there with the best poet-performers – people like Clare Shaw, Kei Miller and Alice Oswald.  His poems slip between the past and the present and his reading, particularly the moments when he read in Old English were really spellbinding.  The reading made my week – and he was a very amenable house guest as well, and didn’t even mind when he came down in the morning to find one of my naughty terriers had left a present on the carpet.

Before you go on to read about this week’s Sunday Poet, the wonderful Malcolm Carson (not to be confused with the equally wonderful Mark Carson from last week) I would like to tell you all that I spent all of Sunday morning trying to work out if the series of prose-poems that I’ve been writing, are in fact prose poems at all. I thought the best way to do this would be to put line breaks in and see if they fitted and if it added anything.  The breaking news, as of 11.07pm is that I think they are still prose poems.

I met Malcolm Carson at the Borderlines Literature Festival in Carlisle.  I was reading with Jacob Polley and Malcolm was introducing us both.  I got a chance to talk to him before the event and instantly decided that I liked him – we have the same sense of humour and we like and dislike the same people!  So, I was hoping that I would also like his poetry as well – there is nothing more terrible than meeting a kindred spirit and then finding out that their poetry is a bit rubbish.

However, I shouldn’t have worried!  Malcolm kindly sent me a couple of his latest books which I’ve really enjoyed reading.  Rangi changi was published by Shoestring Press in 2010 and Cleethorpes Comes To Paris is his latest pamphlet, published in 2014, also by Shoestring Press.  His first collection Breccia was published by Shoestring in 2007.  I decided to pick a poem from Cleethorpes Comes To Paris as this is his most recent work.  The pamphlet is a sequence of poems recounting and recalling the first trip to a foreign country and encounter with another culture.

If you have any grasp of French you would be expecting a poem about hitchhiking when you read the title of the poem that I’ve chosen for this week’s Sunday Poem.  Sadly, I have a tentative bit of french that I’m hanging on to with my fingernails rather than grasping.  Luckily the poem is self-explanatory and after I finished it, I googled the title just to double check because that’s the kind of thorough reader I am!

The poem is full of astute and pointed observations.  I particularly like the idea that being in someone’s car is like being in their sitting room – it tells you just as much about their personality and the way they live. I also like the idea of the hitchhikers feeling that they were obliged to talk ‘to pay them back’.   I think the sentence ‘Or else/we’d learn of problems/only strangers learn’ is brilliant as well and captures those occasions when a stranger tells you something that they probably haven’t told their own family.  I think the poem captures really well the tension of hitch hiking – ‘each phrase assessed, developed/or let drop if conflict was foreseen.’

It also made me think about my husband who used to hitch hike all the time in his youth, and in America got into someone’s car and sat next to a fully loaded rifle, laid out in between the drivers and the passenger seat.  He was careful about what he said as well!

Malcolm Carson was born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire but now lives in Carlisle with his wife and three sons.  He studied English at Nottingham University and then taught in colleges and universities.  He has his own website here and you can order his books from Shoestring Press if you would like to read more of his work – although you do have to download an order form.  An easier way of getting a book might be to go through Books Cumbria.  This way you will also be supporting the marvellous independent bookshop Bookends as well – the place of my £80 spent on second hand poetry books.

Here is the poem – I hope you enjoy it.

Autostop – Malcolm Carson

We’d wonder who we’d get,
as no doubt did they
in their approach,
a moment to suss us out,
pull in.  Destination settled
we’d start a conversation
as though to pay them back,
each phrase assessed, developed
or let drop if conflict was foreseen.
It was as if we’d entered
their favourite sitting room
or just as intimate
at any rate, where taste
and manners, predilections
and prejudices were on
display as they might parade
their new-bought suite.  Or else
we’d learn of problems
only strangers learn,
their secrets safe in our rucksacks.
Sometimes resentment stirred,
their chances lost to do
the same as us.  Others though
were content with silence,
the hum of company enough
until we’d disembark
and leave their lives, our brief
acquaintance vapourised
down the fast receding road.