Tag Archives: swindon poetry festival

Sunday Poem – Michael Scott


Afternoon everybody!  I am having a very lazy Sunday today hence the blog happening whilst there is still daylight.  And by lazy Sunday I have decided to get jobs done today that I can do using my laptop and sitting in my pyjamas on the sofa.

This week instead of the usual band rehearsal with Barrow Shipyard Junior Band on Monday nightwe had a joint rehearsal with the Barrow Steelworks Band to get ready for our concert together on the 23rd.  I think there were close to fifty brass instruments playing at the same time on Monday – we had to get extra chairs, put up extra stands – so it was slightly more chaotic than usual, if that can be believed.  All proceeds from the concert will be split between the National Autistic Society and the Junior Band – we have to build up our funds again after all of our exploits last year – extra workshops for the pupils, new music and instruments and recording our first CD. 

I had just about recovered from that on Tuesday morning and then I got a phonecall to say my pamphlet has been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award.  As far as I know this is the only major award for pamphlets so I am ridiculously excited and happy to be on the shortlist.  This excess of emotion resulted in a couple of star jumps whilst teaching the year 3 class of baritones, trumpets and cornets, but strangely enough the children didn’t really notice.  This made me wonder whether they are so used to me jumping about/doing silly dances – maybe star jumps are just normal?

The rest of the shortlist consists of Kim Lasky, ‘Petrol, Cyan, Electric’ published by Smith/Doorstop, David Clarke:  Gaud  (Flarestack Press), Ben Parker: The Escape Artists  (tall-lighthouse), Neil Rollinson:  Talking Dead (Aussteiger Publications) and Chrissy Williams:  Flying into the Bear (Happenstance)

I already had Kim Lasky’s pamphlet and Neil Rollinson’s and I decided to order the other pamphlets as well so I could do my reading before I meet all the poets at the Award ceremony on the 19th November.

There is a publisher’s award as well and the shortlisted publishers are Flarestack Poets, Mariscat Press, Pighog Press, Rack Press and Shearsman Books.  If you want to find out more information about the awards you can go to https://wordsworth.org.uk/poetrypamphlets/mmpamphlet.html

So there was that rather exciting news which means I get to swan off to London on the 19th.  Luckily I have plenty to distract myself between now and the 19th November so that I am not obsessing about it – in between I have the band concert and readings in Torbay, London, Kendal, Carlisle and Aldeburgh to keep me busy!

On Wednesday I had my performance management meeting with my manager which went ok with the welcome news that as a part-time member of staff I only need to have two objectives to work at over the next year instead of the three that a full time member of staff has. 

On Thursday I spent my day off reading poetry – and doing a little bit of writing, and Friday I headed over to Dove Cottage to do the first ‘Real Live Writer’ workshops with a sixth form group.  The workshop is a combination of opportunities for students to write taking inspiration from Wordsworth and Dove Cottage and a chance for them to learn about the history of the Cottage through a tour and through the Wordsworth museum.  This was the first workshop and we had some lovely feedback from the staff who came with the pupils but I already have a couple of ideas to make it slicker and better – a necessary part of running workshops (and teaching) is evaluating what worked and what to improve – so this is going to be an exciting learning curve for me as well as the students who come along to the workshop!  There is more information about the range of workshops the Wordsworth Trust provide here: https://wordsworth.org.uk/learn/educational-visits.html

Yesterday I got the famous 6.20am train from Barrow to Sheffield to go to a writing day as part of the Writing School programme organised by my lovely publishers Smith/Doorstop.  I must admit when my alarm went off at 5.15 I did question my sanity, but once I got onto the train with lovely poet Jennifer Copley who is also part of the writing school I’d woken up and cheered up.  It was a fantastic day yesterday and I think I got a couple of poems out of the workshop which I am very happy about as I’ve been writing very slowly recently.

I got home at 9.30 ish to find an accceptance slip from the TLS – two poems ‘The Fall’ and ‘After Work’ so I did a bit of a dance and a few more star jumps in celebration.  So I’ve had a great poetry week today – everyone has been very kind and pleased for me, which I appreciate – it would be rubbish to have good news and have nobody be happy for you – I am very lucky to have such friends.

Talking of friends – today’s Sunday Poem is by the lovely Michael Scott – who is one of the organisers of the Swindon Poetry Festival.  I hadn’t met Michael before a couple of weeks ago – I thought I would get on with him – because he is very good friends with Hilda Sheehan and I trust her judgement….

However, sometimes you meet people and get on straight away and think you might be friends with them for a long time – this has happened to me a lot since I started writing poetry – maybe it is having something in common that it is easy to get passionate/obsessive about – I was thinking of listing those people but then realised there would probably be too many AND I would miss someone and they might be upset – so I will just say that Michael is one of those people – we had such a laugh all weekend and part of me would quite like to run off to Swindon and hang out with Michael and Hilda and go to lots of poetry events…however, I would then miss the hubby and all my poetry friends up here and the dogs and the cat etc so I stay put.  But instead here is a poem from Michael.  I found this on Michael’s wonderful website and asked if I could nick it.  He (obviously) said yes.  Michael’s website can be found here http://michaelscott.org.uk/

The poem was originally published in the Morning Star http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk

I love the title of this poem and I think it has a real energy about it with the use of dialogue that feels completely authentic.  I say dialogue – but although the poem details both halves of a conversation – the only part of the conversation that we get direct speech for is the neighbour’s words.  The ‘I’ of the conversation is reported speech by the poet – and it is clear from this technique that listening is only working one way – even though they both appear to be ignoring each other – the ‘I’ is responding to the ‘daily mail headines’ coming from the neighbour’s mouth by trying to distract – the neighbour is not responding at all to the ‘I’.  I don’t know if I have made that sound really complicated – but read the poem.  You’ll hopefully see what I mean and Michael does this more skilfully than I can explain in prose. 

I hope you enjoy the poem and maybe I will see some of you in Torbay at the Poetry Festival!

My Neighbour Speaks in Daily Mail Headlines – Michael Scott

‘Them addicts choose it don’t they?’
I told him it was a great day
to wash his car.

‘We pay them benefits, they buy heroin!’
I asked what sort
of wax he used.

‘And then they take it in prison’
I said I could tell he used
a chamois leather.

‘Or we pay for their rehab’
I admired his car but
thought of Carla.

‘Don’t give them nothing’
Carla sat next to me
full of smack.

‘Let them die’
Carla on Bournemouth beach
cuddling her dead friend.

‘Why don’t they understand?’
Carla at home
waiting for Dad’s sweaty palms.

‘It makes me mad it does’
I told him, I told him
he’d missed a bit.

Sunday Poem – Roy Marshall


Good evening folks.  Yes, yes, I know it is not Sunday anymore.  Sunday got away from me unfortunately, which is why I’m writing this on Monday…I have been on another Poetry Marathon over a long weekend and have had a fantastic time.  I’ve been down in Leicester for the last two days of last week and then in Swindon over part of the weekend, but it does feel nice to be at home again, especially as I have a huge pile of books that I’ve collected, and even some that were waiting for me when I got home – so no poetry withdrawal symptoms as of yet.

I did a workshop last week for ‘Soundswrite’ women’s group in Leicester as part of the ‘Everybody’s Reading’ festival which I really enjoyed – a lovely group of poets.  And they gave me a t-shirt with ‘Everybody’s Reading in Leicester’ on AND an anthology of their members poems from the previous year, which I must confess I haven’t read yet, but that is because I’ve barely sat down in one place since the workshop! AND they paid me promptly and were very welcoming – any women in Leicester looking for a writing group to be part of wouldn’t go far wrong with these guys!

On National Poetry Day I read to about 70 De Montfort University students alongside Ian Parks and Rory Waterman.  I met lovely Leicester poet Roy Marshall for a cup of coffee and a gossip and bought a copy of his fantastic new collection ‘The Sun Bathers’, published by Shoestring Press, which I must confess I have read, because I was planning on using a poem from it for the Sunday Poem this week – I will make my excuses later about why that didn’t happen!

On Friday, it was my birthday.  In my usual attention-seeking way, I announced it on Facebook and lots of lovely people made my day by wishing me happy birthday.  It doesn’t take much to keep me happy!  I also went shopping with my mum because I had a bit of birthday dosh and went out for a family meal in the evening.

On Saturday I drove down to Swindon – it took me four hours instead of the two that I expected because of awful traffic – but I am so glad I made the effort.  Alice Oswald read in the evening – I’ve never seen her read before and she was amazing – really, really worth the four hour drive.  She read some poems, or extracts of poems from all of her books, and she knew every poem by heart, but she doesn’t perform them from memory in a show offy kind of way – or I didn’t think so anyway – it was very intense- she uses silence a lot in her poetry and her readings.  I wouldn’t say she was necessarily one of my favourite poets before I saw her perform – but she has always fascinated me as a poet.  She constantly reinvents, or develops from collection to collection – and I like how she challenges perceived notions of gender by tackling that most masculine of texts, the Iliad.  And she read an amazing poem about a fox and about writing, which bears the weight of Ted Hughes’ ‘Thought Fox’ and manages to stand tall under the load.  I had to buy Memorium which was the only Oswald book I didn’t have.

But even better than Alice Oswald was meeting up with lovely friend and poet Hilda Sheehan again – we first met on a residential course last year.  Hilda is the mover and shaker of all things poetry in Swindon and a wonderful woman who genuinely loves poetry and wants to see it flourish.  I also met Michael Scott, who also organises various poetry things in Swindon – Hilda and Michael alongside Director Matt Holland were the organisers of the Poetry Festival.  I felt within five minutes of meeting Michael that I’d known him my whole life ( a similar feeling that I got when I first met Hilda) and we were soon merrily insulting each other.

So, I am thinking of them tonight – probably all at home, recovering from the festival- all three of them were working really hard all weekend – whilst managing to keep a sense of humour and proportion intact.

I read on the Sunday night with the lovely Claire Trevien – swapped books with her so now I have her brilliant new collection by Penned in the Margins – and the lively Elvis McGonagall.  Hilda’s lovely son Aidan did a couple of songs on the guitar – I thought he had a really soulful voice which sounded older and wiser than his years….

And then I had to get off  because I had to drive all the way back to Barrow from Swindon on the Sunday night because I had to teach at 8.45am on Monday morning.  It was actually not too bad a drive because I was still on a bit of a high from the reading and the festival, so I didn’t feel too knackered – not until I got up this morning that is.

During all this excitement, I ordered some books from Inpress because they had a special offer on for National Poetry Day – so waiting for me at home was ‘She Inserts the Key’ by Marianne Burton, ‘Oswald’s Book of Hours’ by Steve Ely and ‘War Reporter’ by Dan O’Brien, as well as the latest copy of Acumen with a lovely cheque for a review I’ve just done of Fiona Sampson’s new book Coleshill.  The other nice thing that was waiting for me when I got home was my cheque from Buzzwords competition – I got second prize or runner up which landed me £300 which is definitely better than a poke in the eye!

So, here is the belated Sunday Poem by Roy Marshall.  This is especially for my good friend John Foggin, one of my loyal commenters on here – who writes a lot of wonderful ekphrastic poetry.  I’ve just googled it to find a definition of ekphrastic poetry and I came up with ‘writing that comments upon another art form, e.g, a poem about a photograph’ I must admit, I am not usually drawn to this type of poetry – it has to be really good to get past my inner bigot.  Fortunately, Roy’s poetry is good- the title poem of the collection ‘The Sun Bathers’ concerns a painting, which makes up the front cover of his book, but it is a poem that comes from a sequence at the heart of the collection which I would like to share with you today.

The sequence is simply called ‘Leonardo’ and concerns the famous painter of the same name.  I like this poem because it made me understand the painting a little better – it captures the oxymoron of the Mona Liza – possibly the most famous image we have, yet still hopelessly enigmatic and mysterious.  I love the turn in pace from the fourth stanza – Roy tells me this poem also came from a newspaper article and is a true story.  There are five poems altogether in this sequence.  I read the whole book from cover to cover – and could have picked any one of a large number of poems as the Sunday poem to be honest.

You can order Roy’s book from his blog at http://roymarshall.wordpress.com/the-sun-bathers-3/ or from his publisher, Shoestring Press at http://www.shoestring-press.com/2013/09/the-sun-bathers/

Leonardo – by Roy Marshall

1. La Gioconda

Da Vinci was amusing and witty, and on each day
that I sat he remarked upon my beauty.
And what was there not to smile about?

Francesco, who was rich with silk, had bolts brought to the Villa;
the olive of Tuscan hills spilt across my breasts and thighs,
the slope of my hips and shoulders were the blue of Tuscan skies,

but the creased cream of clouds was only for his eyes, and yes,
I knew true happiness inside our frescoed walls.

Nothing that came after could temper my smile;
not my husband’s death, nor life inside the convent,
not its cold crypt which the government demolished,

not obscurity nor fame before the cordoned crowd,
not the landfill beneath a green hill
where my bones lie ploughed.