Tag Archives: trumpet

Sunday Poem – Bob Horne


I’m sat in my writing room looking out at darkness once again.  That isn’t entirely accurate of course.  I can see the edges of the houses whose back gardens lead onto ours.  I can make out the shape of a tree in one of the gardens, although our hawthorn tree is invisible.  To the right, the lights in a conservatory glow and every now and then, I see a car pass between the gaps in the houses.  I know if I opened the window, I would hear nothing until a car made its way up the hill.

I used to live in a street where at night the whole place would come alive. The arguments that had simmered quietly in the daytime would burst out once darkness fell.  Once I was woken up by somebody kicking a front door in across the road.  Once I was woken up by a fight.  Once I was woken up by somebody smashing someone’s car windscreen in.  Once a man who lived across the road, who was an alcoholic opened my front door and stumbled in, then stumbled out again.

In my old house, the morning was filled with seagulls crying.  We were closer to the sea than we are now, although we couldn’t see it.  We lived in an area of Barrow where the terraced houses seemed to make the sky smaller somehow.  Up here, at the top of a hill, the sky seems bigger, and the birds that I hear first thing in the morning are the sparrows. I realise I’ve never lived anywhere where there were birds before.

In Birmingham, where I lived for a year, there was the constant hum of a main road outside the front door.  There was a garden, but I never ventured into it.  In Leeds, the noise outside was of traffic, and a nightclub that held afternoon raves, as well as evening ones.  I’ve never lived anywhere so quiet before as here.

Everything links to everything else doesn’t it? Thinking about Leeds, and Birmingham, in the time when I still wanted, more than anything to be a professional trumpet player.  It’s no coincidence that this is on my mind this week, as I’ve spent more hours than I have in years playing the trumpet.

I’ve been playing in a production of The Wizard of Oz every night in Ulverston.  I started the week in agony – I went to a soul band rehearsal and could hardly play because I had a painful back and neck.  After talking to Julie (the sax player) I’ve really been working to try and keep my shoulders relaxed when I’m playing.  I’ve literally been forcing my shoulder blades down.

Just this simple act has completely transformed my playing.  My lip has lasted for the whole show instead of for 20 minutes.  I’ve been playing the high notes and it has felt easier.  I’m trying to remember now whether my teacher at music college ever said to put my shoulders down.  I can’t remember it if he did.  Maybe he said ‘Relax’ without explaining how to do this.

On Saturday I had three gigs – a matinee and evening performance of The Wizard of Oz and half of a soul band gig to do, and my lip held out! Before this little trick of keeping my shoulders down, I’d have been goosed after the first matinee.

Imagine meeting an ex who you loved more than you loved anybody before, but you met at the wrong time, or you were not ready, your head wasn’t right when you met, and the chances, the ones you were given, passed you by, or you did not reach out and take them.  Now imagine you meet that ex, but you have got older in the normal course of things, but they have stayed at whatever age they were when you met them.  They are unchanged.  That is how I feel about playing the trumpet  – I start playing again, and all the old ghosts that I didn’t deal with in the past, come back again.  I didn’t stop playing because I didn’t love it still, or that I wasn’t good.  I stopped playing because I didn’t feel good enough, because I couldn’t handle the feelings it brought up of doubting myself.

As you can probably tell, I’m still working through all of this in my own head.  I am really happy to be playing again, and there is some sadness as well that I’ve taken this long to get to this point – it feels like coming full circle in some ways, without even meaning to.

So apart from my epiphany (put your shoulders down) and my trumpet angst, and my joy at the feeling of playing my trumpet every day for the first time in many, many years I’ve had lots of other stuff going on as well.  I haven’t done as much running this week because I’ve been busy with other stuff, but I used the opportunity of a low milage week to have a go at Park Run on Saturday and get a new personal best time for 5k of 21.54.  I am very chuffed to be under 22 minutes for 5k.

I’ve also had an interesting week poetry wise.  I’ve been asked to be the ‘Artist of the Month’ in a local paper ‘Ulverston Life’ so on Monday I went to Ulverston and was interviewed by the lovely Helen Shacklady who has promised to turn my incoherent ramblings into something that is worth reading.

On Wednesday I went to Furness Abbey to record a poem that I’ve been commissioned to write for National Poetry Day by the BBC.  The brief was to write a poem in the voice of a landmark. I decided to write a poem in the voice of Furness Abbey, telling its life backwards.  If it is good enough for the story of my niece and her first boxing match, (see my first collection if you don’t know what I’m talking about) then it is good enough for Furness Abbey.  My interview for this was pretty dire – I forgot to mention anything about my publications which would have made me sound like I knew what I was doing and instead told the journalist about how I started writing poems every time I got dumped.  Oh well. It’s too late to worry about that one now as well!  The poem will be broadcast on BBC Cumbria on National Poetry Day and apparently there will also be a Facebook video of me walking around the Abbey looking up at the walls.  What could possibly go wrong with this?  Let’s hope the journalist wasn’t still recording when I did my Kate Bush impression whilst leaping through the Furness Abbey arches…

On Thursday I did my first day of teaching at Manchester Met.  I did a five minute talk in the lecture to about 100 students about a poem that I loved, alongside Angelica Michelis and Martin Kratz, the other lecturers on the unit that I’m teaching on, and then I did my first two seminars with my student groups.  I was really nervous about the lecture part, but once I got going I was fine, and  I really loved the teaching part.  There were no problem behaviours to manage.  I didn’t have to ask people repeatedly to be quiet.  I didn’t have to convince them that my subject was worthwhile and interesting.  I didn’t have to bite my tongue and keep my temper.  I didn’t need any patience.  It was bloody marvellous!

I also managed to get to the library and got out far too many books in one go, but I got a bit over-excited.  Tomorrow, I’m going for my Induction Day for my PhD, and I’m hoping this will kickstart me into getting to work, as I don’t feel that I’ve really knuckled down yet.  Oh and joy and rapture – I also got my staff card sorted so it is in my actual name rather than my married name.

So, on to today’s Sunday Poem.  I hope you’ve managed to read this far.  Bob Horne was kind enough to send me his first pamphlet, Knowing My Place, published by Caterpillar Poetry.  As well as being a great poet (as you’ll see from the poem) Bob is also a publisher, having set up the small press Calder Valley Poetry at the beginning of 2016. Since then, he has published five pamphlets by writers including John Foggin, Peter Riley, Steve Ely, Mark Hinchliffe  and John Duffy, with a pamphlet by Stephanie Bowgett in the pipeline.

I don’t know Bob very well, but when I have met him, the impression I got was one of generosity towards other writers and enthusiasm about poetry.  This has been borne out in the brief email exchange we’ve had, where he was very humble about his own work, preferring to talk about his work as a publisher.  So it is nice to put the spotlight on Bob’s own poetry for once!   Bob did tell me he did a Poetry MA at Huddersfield University in the mid 1990’s but then had a break until three years ago, when he started attending local events at The Albert, Puzzle and other local venues such as Anthony Costello’s Kava Kultura in Todmorden and Keith Hutson’s Square Chapel sessions.

This poem reminded me at first of one of my favourite poems – ‘Those Winter Sundays’ by Robert Hayden.  It seemed to me as if Bob was tipping his hat to this earlier poem – so I’d be interested to see if he has read the Hayden poem or not! If Bob has read the poem, then I think it is a lovely way of building up the layers of this poem.  The similarities between the two poems lie in the physical action of a ‘he’ lighting a fire, and in the use of the word ‘austere’ which seems, in my mind at least, to link them both together.  Bob’s poem is much more, I think about the self, and looking back on quite a solitary figure, of looking at a small space, and what happens when you move from the past to the present, from small spaces, to spaces without any boundaries, whereas the Hayden poem explores the relationship between a father and son, and the emotional dynamics of a household.

I love the focused concentration on the physical actions in the poem – there are lots of wonderful details that are very carefully observed: ‘Then, a scratch/ and a bud of flame’.  I love both the scratch and the bud of flame.

The title of the poem tells us where we are, and at first there is a narrowness, an inwardness to this poem.  The speaker is looking back to a particular season, a particular year, a particular house and room.  But by the end of the poem, it completely opens out, both to the wider world: ‘a rush of smoke/slid up the sooty/blackness of the chimney/to vanish in faraway air’ but it also opens out from the past to the present with that wonderful ending with the grown up shadow gazing back.

I do think this last stanza is extraordinary – it is both situated in the past and the present, the statue being the thing that time pivots around.  We’ve all been small and had our shadow, larger than ourselves thrown against a wall.  But this last stanza could equally be taking place now, in the present moment.

Thanks to Bob for letting me use his poem.  I hope you enjoy it!

Living Room – Bob Horne

I remember winter mornings
in nineteen fifty-one,
standing on the corner
of a ragged hearth-rug,
austere light from outside
screened by clothes on the creel.

With a hand-brush’s worn bristles
he swept cold ashes
from under the grate,
shovelled them onto paper
to be parcelled and stuffed
in the dustbin.

Then, a scratch,
and a bud of flame
felt along the ends
of knots of newsprint.
As they browned and flaked,
fire flowed through a stack

of sticks and coal from the cellar,
a rush of smoke
slid up the sooty
blackness of the chimney
to vanish in faraway air.

I turned to look across the room,
the heat at my back.
Still, in the middle
of a flickering wall,
my grown-up shadow
gazed back at me.


Sunday Poem – John McCullough

Sunday Poem – John McCullough

I’m writing this in the garden this week, in dazzling sunshine, so if there are more spelling mistakes than usual, you will have to excuse them – I am slightly blinded by the light.  I’ve also had some visitors this week – I’m looking after two of my sisters terriers, so there are four terriers currently running around the house.

My main news this week is I’ve been awarded full funding for 3 years from Manchester Metropolitan University to do a PhD in Poetry.  The PhD is full-time and when I went for the interview, I’d already made the decision that if I got it, I would hand my notice in as a brass teacher.   So, although I’ve known for about 2 weeks, I’ve spent those 2 weeks handing my notice in at Cumbria Music Service, telling my schools and the staff that I work with, and then finally, telling the 300 odd children that I teach.

It might sound strange, but it feels like this is the first time in my life I’ve committed to just one thing.  I think this is why I keep myself busy, I like to have lots of things on the go – teaching trumpet, conducting bands, playing in bands, writing poetry, reading at festival, running workshops, because then if any of them go wrong for whatever reason, something else that I do will catch me and be my safety net.

When I was 21 I auditioned to to a post-graduate degree at various music colleges.  I didn’t get in – I wasn’t ready, having spent my years at Leeds College of Music playing transcriptions of Chet Baker solos instead of the orchestral excerpts I should have been learning.  An amazing trumpet player, John Holland who was the Principal Trumpet of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (as well as teaching at Birmingham Conservatoire) said he would take me on privately and get me ready to audition the year after for a post-grad.

When you are 21 a year seems like a lifetime, and although I went to John for lessons for a year, and although at the time I thought I had committed my whole heart to it, looking back now I think I was deluding myself.  I decided I would do a PGCE in Birmingham at the same time, as a safety net, so I would always have something to fall back on.  As anybody knows who has done a PGCE, they are really hard work, and very time consuming.  When I look back now, it kind of breaks my heart.  I was 21 and should have believed I could do anything,but I bottled it, and did the sensible thing.

I did my PGCE in Secondary Music, specialising in Instrumental Tuition and I enjoyed it.  I only practised maybe one or two hours a day instead of the three or four I should have been doing.  At the end of the year, I didn’t audition to do a post-grad, although there was nothing I wanted to do more.  I decided to get a job as a full-time brass teacher instead, telling myself I could go back and do a post-grad, once I’d earned some money.

That isn’t the full story, of course.  There were other things going on as well.  I was in an abusive relationship while I was in Birmingham, and maybe it is not surprising that I didn’t have the self-belief or confidence to audition to do what I wanted to do.  Looking back, I can’t believe I finished the PGCE under those circumstances.  I wanted to teach as well, of course.  I enjoyed teaching, and even if I’d got onto a post-grad course, I probably would have taught eventually, most musicians do.  My point is, I bottled out of trying.

When I was between 16 and 18 I had a lovely brass teacher called Paul Bennett.  He had long hair that he tied in a pony tail and he was always rushing around between schools and gigs.  He gave me my first paid gig playing 2nd Trumpet in Singing in the Rain when I was 17, and then I’d regularly play 2nd trumpet with him in shows.  His life seemed very glamorous and I remember thinking I’d like to do that.  I’d like to rush around teaching and going through the drive through at McDonalds because there was no time to eat anything else (yes, McDonalds did seem glamorous to me age 17)

So I left the abusive relationship behind, far behind and moved up to Barrow and began teaching brass full time.  I don’t know why I’m writing all of this, except it all fits somehow, with finally committing myself and not leaving myself a safety net.  Maybe I wouldn’t have started writing if I’d done that when I was 21, and I know things happen for a reason, but if I could go back to my 21 year old self, I would tell her – what would I tell her? Maybe not to plan for the future so much.  To chill out a little bit, and just do what you enjoy at the time.  To not be afraid of what you really want to do.

I’ve loved the 13 years I’ve spent teaching.  I am a completely different person to the 22 year old who moved up here, alone and not knowing anybody.  I want to say that I was damaged and traumatised when I came here, after that relationship, which sounds melodramatic.  I was damaged and traumatised, and an expert at hiding it.

Somewhere in all of what I’ve just written, is the reason why I am finally leaving my teaching job, after gradually reducing my hours for years, after trying to juggle music and poetry. I haven’t worked it out myself yet, and it is not just about time, or feeling guilty that I’m not giving enough.  It’s something about finally, irrevocably admitting what I really want to do, and going for it, without a safety net, or a Plan B to fall back on.



I’m sure I’ll be writing a lot more about this in the future – and about my PhD.  My working title at the minute is Poetry and Everyday Sexism.  I’m interested in writing poems about annoying small acts of everyday sexism, and what happens if we elevate this into poetry.  I went in and did a voluntary workshop in a men’s prison this week and had an amazing afternoon – thought-provoking, challenging, and moving.  I’d love to go in again as part of my PhD and work with the prisoners on ideas about masculinity, which I think would work really well with the poems I’ve started writing about sexism and interrogating my own reaction to it.

So the Sunday Poem today is by John McCullough.  I came upon this book by chance, when I was in London a couple of weeks ago, and having a look in the Waterstones (or is it Foyles?) on the South Bank.  The poetry section there is quite impressive and I bought John’s latest book, on the basis of the beautiful production values of Penned in the Margins (the publisher) and the first two poems, which I read there and then in the bookshop.

This is what bookshops should be for – to make new discoveries like this.  The first poem in John’s book is simply titled ! and explores the exclamation mark.  It is clever, and moving and original, but I kind of fell in love with this poem when I read it.  Wordpress is evil to format when there are spaces in the poem, so the fact that I’m going to try tells you how much I love this poem!

Flittermouse – John McCullough

That old English word for bat returns
******to me at sundown, beneath a screeching cloud.
Shapes zigzag while the moon watches, thirsts.
******I think of you with Samuel Johnson’s dictionary
beside a shelf, your long fingers splayed
******across the spine.  Unable to swallow
one entry, you squealed and burst the library’s
******hush, then froze, astounded by the echo.

You fled town three weeks later, disappeared
******without a text or email.  Flittermouse,
what happened? In which rooms do you track
******down words like insects now, combing books
and specialist websites, open-eared,
******as you wait for your own strange voice?

Maybe I love this poem because one of my favourite emotional states to read about in poetry or to try and capture in my own writing – a kind of mixture of longing, or regret, but not quite either of those things.  Not even yearning.  A word for the moment when life could have gone one way but went another.

I love the word ‘Flittermouse’ although I’d never heard it before reading this poem.  I also like that I felt like I knew something important and true about the ‘you’ of the poem, without knowing their name, or anything that would normally be considered important.  We know that the ‘you’ has ‘long fingers splayed’ and in excitement will squeal.  I wonder now if this poem is really all about knowing, or not knowing a person.  By the end of the poem, we read that the you is surprised by their ‘own strange voice’.

John McCullough’s first collection of poems The Frost Fairs was published by Salt in 2012 and won the Polari First Book Prize.  It was Book of the Year for The Independent and The Poetry School and a summer read for The Observer.  He teaches creative writing at the Open University and New Writing South, and lives in Hove, East Sussex.  This poem is taken from his second collection Spacecraft which is published by Penned in the Margins, and you can buy a copy here at http://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/index.php/2016/04/spacecraft/and support a fabulous independent press at the same time.

Thanks to John for letting me use his poem this week.

Sunday Poem – Martin Reed


I am writing this post quite bleary-eyed again – not because it is particularly late – it’s only just gone 10pm but just because I’m exhausted.  I’ve spent the day at the South Cumbria Music Festival today conducting three of my bands in the junior brass band section of the competition – Barrow Shipyard Junior Band, Brasstastic and St Pius School Band.  The bands all played brilliantly – they did everything I’d asked them to do in rehearsals, remembered everything I’ve been going on and on about for months! Holborn Hill Brass Band won – not one of mine, but although I’m usually competitive, I’m not too disappointed.  I always say to the bands that I would rather they play the best they can play and come second, then play badly and win and they did play as well as they could, so I’m happy.  After the competition I had to rush off to get to rehearsal – I’m playing in a show called White Christmas next week at the theatre in Barrow.

So I’m finally home now and kind of looking forward to going to bed.  I have a new regime at the minute which I’ve stuck to for the last two weeks, which is to get up at 7am and read for an hour in the front room.  Our front room at the minute is the only nice room in our house – well the bathroom is nice as we decorated that when we moved in, but I can hardly sit in there.  The front room has been decorated and the hubby uses it as the room that he practices as a psychotherapist in, so it is always neat and tidy and we inherited a wonderful rocking chair from a friend that is my favourite place to sit.  Anyway, every morning from 7am-8am I sit in my rocking chair and read.  I’m getting through lots of books, and it’s started me writing again.  I’m really enjoying the discipline of it.


One of the books that I’ve read this week is published by today’s Sunday Poet.  I met Martin Reed on the course at St Ives, and he was kind enough to give me a copy of his pamphlet.  It’s called The Two-Coat Man and was published by Happenstance in 2008.  You can order a copy of Martin’s pamphlet here, directly from his publisher.  I knew I would enjoy the pamphlet because I loved the poems that Martin wrote during the week in the workshops.

I really like the premise of this poem describing a painting, while not really being about the painting at all.  We know that the poem is addressed to a lover or a partner, or at the least someone who the speaker lives with because of the use of the words ‘our old front room’ which are in the first line.  Something sad has obviously happened – a death, or a failed relationship – because the painting has been removed from the shared space in the front room and placed in the speaker’s bedroom.

The two lines that really move me are ‘No-one else’s work could say/the things your painting says tonight’ which I think is a really lovely, balanced couplet. This is a strange little poem, because I think it is really about art as witness.  The poem does describe the poem, but for a poem about watching and seeing and noticing, we don’t get much information about the ‘you’.  The ‘you’ disappears  the more that the detail of his painting is discussed and I think this is why it is effective, why it is sad and strange all at the same time.

I’m off to bed now.  It is the most bizarre experience, but when I’m tired and falling asleep, my fingers keep writing out things – just now I fell asleep while I was typing and wrote ‘my fingers keep tapping the music stand.  Yes!’

So this is far too weird for me – so I will leave you to enjoy Martin Reed’s expert handling of form.  Form and end-rhyme are a preoccupation in this pamphlet.  Martin really does handle it well, often his rhymes are so clever that it is the second or third read through before you realise they are there.  If you would like to buy a copy and make Helena Nelson/ Martin Reed/ the world/the known universe very very happy please order here 

If there are any sentences in this post that make no sense, please skip over them! Thanks to Martin Reed for letting me publish his poem here. Here’s a bit about Martin in his own words:

Martin Reed grew up in Somerset and now lives in Malvern, Worcestershire near his children and grandchildren.  He has recently discovered the joy of writing workshops, including Kim’s in St Ives in February 2016 and would recommend them to any developing writer (i.e. all writers).  He won the National Poetry Competition in 1988 and has had work published in 2Plus2 (USA), Agenda, Anon, Assent, Encounter, Envoi, Frogmore Papers, The Interpreter’s House, Iota, London Magazine, Magma, Other Poetry, Orbis, Owl, Prole, Poetry Wales, Poetry Nottingham, Poetry Review, South, The Spectator, Stand, Under the Radar and by other small presses in the UK and USA.   He has read some of his work on Radio 3.   He has a Happenstance collection in print: The Two-Coat Man (2009).  He is also Vernon Scannell’s literary executor. 

Original – Martin Reed

for RR (1944-1962)

Your painting hung in our old front room,
the ‘best’ room I still dream of sometimes.
It’s on my bedroom wall now, the bloom
of your bright manifesto – blues, limes

and purples.  I see how moulded snow
sits in a dip long after the day
has heated rocks to an orange glow
where falls hit the lake in arcs of spray;

how a peak aspires and saplings play
their almost human limbs at twilight.
No-one else’s work could say
the things your painting says tonight.

Art changes us.  We’re taught to see.
You noticed things, like bark where a ray
of sunlight sparked a rain-blackened tree,
the scar where a branch was wrenched away.


Sunday Poem – Martin Zarrop


Evening all.  Those of you that are friends with me on Facebook will know I’ve had a rather strange week, filled with missing trumpets and forgetfulness and general confusion.  I am not the world’s most organised person in general, but I normally bump along in my own unique way with not too many disasters befalling me.  However, this week, I have excelled myself in my levels of complete confusion.  When I look back, it probably started with a horrible start to the week, which I can’t write about because it wouldn’t be professional, but I went to bed on Monday evening feeling fairly upset.

Tuesday was a better day – I had two new pupils turn up to Brasstastic, the junior band I run for primary school pupils and teaching went along without anything to get excited or upset about.  In the evening I had rehearsal with the Soul Survivors and I got a lift home with Julie, the sax player.  In the car park in rehearsal, Julie was messing about, driving the car forward every time I tried to open the door and in the end I jumped in the front with my trumpet, music stand and bag with music piled on my knee.  I am telling you this to emphasise that I remembered distinctly jumping in the car with all my stuff on my knee.

When I got to the house I walked inside and put all my stuff down in the middle room, my writing room.  On Thursday I was due to go to quintet rehearsal in the evening.  When I went to get my trumpet, it wasn’t in its usual place.  I looked in the car – it wasn’t there.  I immediately went into complete panic – my lift was waiting outside to go to rehearsal.  I had to go and tell them I couldn’t find my trumpet, which sounded ridiculous.  I turned the house upside down looking for it and began frantically ringing Julie to see if I’d left it in the car, even though I knew I hadn’t, because I remembered piling it all on my knee, and I even remembered dumping it in the dining room.  It was like it had vanished into thin air.

Thursday is my day off teaching and I’d got quite a lot of work done at home.  I’d been upstairs working for quite a bit of it but the back door had been open so the dogs could run in and out of the garden. I began to convince myself that someone had been in the house, while I was upstairs and stolen my trumpet.  It didn’t matter how much Chris pointed out to me that this seemed unlikely as nothing else was missing, and how would a thief know how much the trumpet was worth?  I was in the midst of a complete meltdown and wasn’t stopping to think.  Chris and I went and knocked on the neighbours doors to see if they’d seen anything, which they hadn’t.  My dad still pays the insurance policy for my trumpet so I rang him to tell him to ring the insurers.  I tried to ring the police who said they didn’t take lost property reports anymore – it didn’t help that I didn’t know if it had been lost or stolen.  Chris was convinced I’d put it down in the street and just walked off because I had my hands full of stuff, but I knew I hadn’t.  I knew I’d walked in the house with it.

Anyway, turns out I was right.  I had walked in the house with it on Tuesday.  However there had been a whole day (Wednesday) between Tuesday and Thursday which I’d somehow managed to forget about.  On Wednesday I’d taken my trumpet into school to play but hadn’t remembered doing it.  It was like Wednesday had just vanished from my mind.  On Wednesday I’d been to work, taught a private pupil after school and then done a 2 hour live chat as part of my Poetry School course.  I hadn’t remembered any of it.  Once I realised that Wednesday did in fact exist, I retraced my steps back and found my trumpet in a cupboard at one of my schools.

I’d wasted the whole of Friday, which was the one day off with nothing to do that I’d had in ages on the phone to the insurers, on the phone to my dad, on the phone to the police.  It was a truly horrible day, and finding the trumpet, while it was a relief didn’t really feel that good because I then started to berate myself for being such an idiot.  I then had to ring the insurer and my dad and the police again and tell them I’d found it.  I had to post on Facebook and tell everyone I’d been a complete numpty.

In my defence, a new trumpet of the same model would cost about £2,200.  I’ve lived with it for 14 years.  I would say the first seven of those years – from the age of 18 to 24 I would have played it every day for three or four hours.  The bag the trumpet is in is an old leather gig bag, given to me by my old trumpet teacher.  So yes, I went into a complete panic, a meltdown.

There have been some good things that have happened this week though, despite all of that going on.  I’ve got a poem in the Best British Poetry Anthology, edited by Emily Berry and Roddy Lumsden which cheered me up.  The poem is called ‘The Knowing’ and it was first published in Poem.  It’s another poem from the sequence about domestic violence, which makes me very happy, because those poems mean a lot to me.

I haven’t been running very much this week – Chris and I went out on Tuesday and I got a really horrible pain in my right buttock (don’t laugh) and had to hobble back home.  By the next day the pain had disappeared, but I was too paranoid to run all week.  I went spinning on Friday and then had a little jog around the park and it seemed ok so today I went and did the Holker Hall 10k.  My aim was to get around the course without developing a pain in my butt.  I had a bad night’s sleep last night though, I woke up convinced I was going to be sick and feeling really hot.  After lying down very dramatically on the bathroom floor to cool down and then taking the bin back to bed just in case, I eventually fell asleep, but I didn’t really feel great this morning.

I told myself I would just jog around the course, use it as a training run.  Of course that never happens, and I did push myself round in 48:43 which is my second fastest time, but still a minute off my PB, but considering the week I’ve had and the disturbed night, I was pretty pleased with that and no aches and pains apart from the usual ones that come from running and getting out of breath.

I was fourth woman back which I was busy sulking about until I realised I was part of the winning women’s team so that made up for it a bit.

So that is my week – a bit of a tale of woe I’m afraid.  One other exciting thing that has happened is that something I’ve been plotting for a long time has finally come to fruition.  I’ll be one of four tutors running a Poetry Workshop Carousel weekend December 11th-13th at Abbot Hall, Grange over Sands.  Everyone booked on the course will attend a small group workshop with each tutor for two hours.  In the evenings the groups will come together for readings from invited guest poets and tutors.  I’m really excited about it because it feels kind of like a mini poetry festival to me and it’s something different that I certainly haven’t tried before, and I don’t think there is anything like it going on anywhere else.  If you would like more information on the course, have a look at ‘Forthcoming Residential Poetry Courses’ at the top of the page.  Because of a mix up with dates from my end (yes, more confusion) the original tutor, the fantastic poet Rebecca Goss is unable to make it up to tutor on that weekend.  I’m hoping she’ll be able to tutor on the 2016 Poetry Workshop Carousel  So the fourth tutor is yet to be announced, so please watch this space!

I posted about the course on the blog on Friday and already over a quarter of the places have gone.  If you are thinking of booking, please do so as soon as possible.  I’m expecting the spaces to go very quickly.

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Martin Zarrop – a lovely man who I met about six or seven years ago on a residential course.  I know I often say poets that I feature here are lovely and they all are – but Martin has a kindness about him coupled with a very quick wit.  Since that first residential, I went on another residential course which Martin was on about four years ago, I’ve bumped into him a couple of times at events in Manchester and then he came on the residential course that I was running this year at Abbot Hall at Easter.

Martin has very recently had a pamphlet published by Cinnamon Press called ‘No Theory of Everything’ which I would recommend. Martin also sent me a very modest 2 line biography which I heartily disapprove of, so I’ve done a bit of digging to find something a bit more boastful to say about him  Martin says he is a mathematician who wanted certainty but found life more interesting without it.  He has been published in various magazines and anthologies including Envoi, Poetry News, Prole, Kaffekatsch and The Book of Love & Loss.  He was Highly Commended in the 2012 Ledbury Poetry Competition, and his pamphlet was published by Cinnamon Press after winning their inaugral pamphlet competition.  The judge Ian Gregson said this of Martin’s pamphlet:

A very intelligent collection that draws upon a knowledge of science to describe, in effective poetic terms, the impact of scientific thought and discovery in the twentieth century. Its mingling of science and history is especially telling, and it manages to make science compelling by showing its relevance to personal experience.

I’ve chosen Coats from the pamphlet.  This is a poem whose emotional heart is driven as much by what isn’t said than what is said.  There is a whole history and life in these four short stanzas.  There is a real sense of poverty, or at least having to be careful with money in the first few stanzas – the thin ankles, the torn pockets and the folding of the coats underneath the theatre seats to avoid the cloakroom fee.

The poem is full of specific place names – Albert Square, the Exchange stalls, Cross Street but for all its specificity, it is also very mysterious.  We don’t know why the ‘you’ is angry in Stanza 3 but this has the feel of a turning point in a relationship – the place the relationship could have faltered or carried on, and it carried on. In the last stanza, I don’t know what the ‘weight of purple’ is, although it makes me think of the Jenny Joseph poem Warning which starts ‘When I am an old woman I shall wear purple’.  I have no idea if this little nod to the Jenny Joseph poem is deliberate, but it certainly makes me think that this relationship was a long one, that the ‘Later’ of the first line of the last stanza, refers to years later, not merely days.  The last line, the idea of running out of evenings is unbearably sad and beautifully understated.

If you would like to order Martin’s pamphlet, I am sure you will make him and his publisher very happy if you order direct from them here

Coats – Martin Zarrop

Your cardinal’s coat flapped against thin ankles
as our breath frosted Albert Square.I wore the check Oxfam overcoat,
hands driven into torn pockets.

Arm in arm we braved the town drunks,
sat in row F of the Exchange stalls,
coats neatly folded under each seat
to save the cloakroom fee.

In Cross Street, a taxi u-turned,
almost ran you down.
You were angry with me.
It could have ended there.

Later, you walked more slowly
under the weight of purple.
We ate pizza, savoured red wine,
ran out of evenings.