Tag Archives: tsead bruinja

Sunday Poem – Tsead Bruinja

Sunday Poem – Tsead Bruinja

This week I’ve been living on my own as the husband has gone on a hiking holiday – he is walking through Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia and last night he texted from Kosovo.  The novelty of being able to spread my stuff all over the house without being moaned at to pick it up, is starting to wear off now and I’m actually missing him a little bit!

Last week was my first week back at work after half term.  It is always a difficult week, because there are lots of instruments to sort out that have been left to rust over half term.  This has to be done whilst directing a class of thirty children to play Mary had a Little Lamb or whatever it is we’re playing, so by the end of my teaching day on Wednesday I was counting my blessings that the brass teaching week was over.

On Thursday I drove to Bridlington.  It took about four and a half hours.  I had time for a quick change at my B and B and then I went straight down to the library to do a reading – this was another Read Regional gig.  The audience were very nice, a mixture of keen poets and people who’d never been to a reading before, so I hope I didn’t put the latter off poetry altogether! That would be terrible.

I was finished by 4.30 so I went home, got my running gear on and headed down to the prom.  I did about 7 miles and it was the best run I’ve done in ages.  I felt really good – the scenery was beautiful – it was sunny but with a cold breeze and I didn’t get lost.  That is the furthest I’ve ran on my own so I was quite proud of myself.  I then went for a Thai round the corner in Bridlington and then went to bed quite early.

On Friday I had my young writers workshop in Kendal.  We did one writing exercise and then they read the sets that they are going to perform at the festival.  They really are good – I know I’m bias, but I’m so proud of them.  I think they are going to surprise and delight people at the festival.

After the Young Writers group, I went to Brewery Poets and took a poem to be critiqued, and then finally, finally drove back to Barrow and collapsed into bed.  On Saturday I ran my Barrow Poetry Workshop – 12 writers turned up this week coming from Shap, Kendal, Ulverston, Dalton and Barrow. The quality of the work produced was excellent – I took poems by Tim Liardet, Jack Gilbert and Lisa Brockwell to the workshop to use as inspiration, or to discuss before writing.

On Saturday evening we had a Poem and a Pint event at Greenodd Village Hall with J O Morgan.  He read from his new book ‘Interference Pattern’ which is just amazing.  It is a series of poems in the voice of different characters, and when he reads from the book, he changes his voice and his accent as he goes from character to character.  It is extraordinary and mesmerising to watch and listen to.

This morning I’ve been for a 6 mile run and eaten a scone with jam and cream and that is the sum of my achievements.

Tonight I’ve got a rehearsal for ‘Annie’ and then next week is a busy one.  I’ve got meetings about Kendal Poetry Festival, rehearsals, a Read Regional reading in Stockport on Thursday afternoon, and my face-to-face course that I’m running in Manchester on Thursday night, school concerts, musical performances, and somewhere in next week I have to fit in reading and judging 500 school poetry competition entries.  It does sound a bit manic when I write it out like that!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Tsead Bruinja who is one of the tutors on the Poetry Carousel.  Tsead sent me the manuscript of a collection that has been translated into English – this poem has been translated by David Colmer.  The manuscript is called ‘Tongue’ and it is really good – I’ve not read anything quite like it before – it is lyrical, yet fragmented, using leaps and associations to communicate.

I first met Tsead at a festival in Ireland where we read together, but last year I went over to Holland to read at the ‘Read The World’ festival.  Rather than a normal reading, where I read my poems to the audience, I worked for a day with other poets and musicians to put together a performance where we read our own poems and each other’s poems, where the musicians played songs in between or behind while we were reading, to create a larger performance.  Tsead directed the whole thing and he was wonderful to work with.  I knew I liked the poems I’d read in translation of his, but working with him at the festival, and hearing him talk about the teaching that he does in Amsterdam, convinced me he would be a great tutor to invite to be part of the next Poetry Carousel.

There are still places left on the Carousel, which is running from August 16th-19th at Abbot Hall Hotel, Grange Over Sands, so do please get in touch if you would like to any questions.  If you’d like to book a place, it’s probably best to ring the hotel directly by ringing 015395 32896

Other tutors on the course include the wonderful Clare Shaw, Billy Letford (who will have copies of his new collection Dirt available) and myself.

Tsead Bruinja lives in Amsterdam. He made his debut in 2000 with the Frisian language collection called De wizers yn it read (The meters in the red). Bruinja’s debut in the Dutch language, Dat het zo hoorde (The way it should sound), was published in 2003, and was nominated for the Jo Peters Poetry Prize the following year. Bruinja compiles anthologies, writes critical reviews, hosts literary events and performs in the Netherlands and abroad, often with musician Jaap van Keulen and occasionally with the flamenco dancer Tanja van Susteren. At the end of 2008 Bruinja was the runner up after being nominated for the position of Poet Laureate for the Netherlands for the period of 2009-2013.

You can read more about Tsead over at his profile on the Poetry International website.  If you haven’t come across this website before, it’s a great resource- it includes articles about the poets featured, and has a selection of poems as well.

SHOW-OFF by Tsead Bruinja

not the horse that batters its hooves on the partition
or the horse that bolts across the green world
jolting its cart to pieces
nothing about wearing a body out and delivering it
to a metaphysical door
but the simple body of this woman
facing you
the clear head of this woman
facing you
a sea that speaks
and you as the doubting sky above
she says
your legs work
my legs work
leave the thinking to hands
smiling she moves her fist to my nose
which disappears between fingers
the fist pulls back to a grey horizon
and there where she squeezed my nose
a little mouse is staring out
she says
and not once in this whole poem
did she move her lips

I think this poem is very typical of a lot of Tsead’s work, which is playful, lyrical and manages to find an off-kilter way of looking at the world.  The style of using little or no punctuation also runs throughout the book, but the way he uses line breaks mean that the poems are very clear- it makes me realise how little punctuation is needed.  The lovely surprise at the end of the grey mouse appearing, the colloquial ‘gotcha’, the beginning of the poem which starts right away with the image of a horse which ‘batters its hooves on the partition’ – these are some of the reasons why I chose this poem.

It isn’t clear who is the show off in the poem – is it the horses, showing off just by being horses? Is it the woman with her ‘clear head’.  Incidentally, isn’t that a lovely thing to express admiration for in a poem?  I also love the idea of the sky being a ‘doubting sky’ as well, the sky not knowing who it is, maybe because it changes all the time?

It is a wonderful poem, and I hope you enjoy it – thanks to Tsead for allowing me to publish it here.

Change to the Poetry Carousel

Change to the Poetry Carousel

Due to ill-health, Saskia Stehouwer will not be able to take part in the Poetry Carousel this year.  I hope she will be able to come and  tutor on a future course, and wish her a full and speedy recovery.

The gap on the Poetry Carousel tutoring team will be expertly filled by Scottish poet William Letford, who has  agreed to join us on the residential course this year. The full team of tutors will be William Letford, Clare Shaw, Tsead Bruinja and myself.

William Letford’s debut collection Bevel was published by Carcanet in 2012. He has received a New Writer’s Award from the Scottish Book Trust, an Edwin Morgan Travel Bursary, and a Creative Scotland Artists’ Bursary, which allowed him to travel through India for six months. He has taken part in translation projects through Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine, and in 2014 a chapbook of his poetry Potom Koža Toho Druhého was translated in Slovakian and published by Vertigo. His work has appeared on radio and television and his second full collection Dirt will be published by Carcanet this August.

Bevel was one of the best first collections I’ve read for a long time, and I’m not only excited about working with Billy Letford on the Carousel, but also that he may have the first copies of his new collection with him, hot off the press!

You can find more information about the Poetry Carousel here.  To book a place, please ring the hotel direct on 015395 32896


Here are the details of William’s workshop

Workshop – William Letford
The beauty in the mundane 

I keep a journal, nothing fancy, just a notebook I can turn to whenever I see fit. No pressure, I don’t force myself to fill the pages but over the years the journals have built up and now I have quite a collection. Looking back over the books and entries has convinced me of one thing. I am boring. And I’m sure I’m not alone. In between the birthdays, marriages, rollercoaster rides and funky dance moves our lives are mostly mundane. But that’s where the beauty is. I’d like to invite you to a workshop on exploring the poetry of the everyday. Bring all your boring bits with you.


Workshops at the Poetry Carousel

Workshops at the Poetry Carousel

Tuesday 16th August 3pm – Friday 19th August at 12 midday
Abbot Hall Hotel, Grange-Over-Sands, To book ring the hotel direct on 015395 32896

This year’s Poetry Carousel will take place from the 16th August -19th August at Abbot Hall Hotel, Grange Over Sands. The cost of the course will be £330 and this includes workshops, accommodation, breakfast, lunch and three-course evening meals.

The Poetry Carousel is different from the usual residential course in that there are four tutors and up to 32 participants, divided into groups of 8 to have a two hour workshop with each tutor.  This year, there will be time in the afternoons to go for a swim in the hotel pool or a walk into Grange along the prom.  In the evenings, the whole group meets for dinner and poetry readings.

This year’s team of tutors includes myself, Clare Shaw, Saskia Stehouwer and Tsead Bruinja.  You can find more information about the tutors here

Below is a brief summary of the four workshops that the tutors will be running.  As you can see, they are very different!

The Poetry Carousel is suitable for beginners or more experienced writers.  Please get in touch for more information.

Clare Shaw
Workshop: Flood. Fire. Storm.
Disasters happen, sometimes on the grandest scale. Poetry offers one of the most powerful forms of language for documenting the experience and impact of natural calamities – at a global and individual level. Likewise, poets have long drawn on the flood, the fire and the storm as powerful metaphors for their own troubles. In this workshop, we’ll draw from examples to inform and inspire us to document natural events we have lived through; and to explore their potential for expressing a truth about our individual lives.

Kim Moore
Workshop: Illuminated Moments
All of us carry moments of experience which stay with us for the rest of our lives. How do we write about those moments without slipping into sentimentality or melodrama? Writing a poem about a moment that is important to us can capture it forever, reaching beyond the bounds of our own lives into the universality of human experience. During this workshop we will be looking at different techniques for using our own lives, and our remembered moments, as material.

Tsead Bruinja
Workshop: Going Dutch
Together with Dutch poet Tsead Bruinja you’ll be discovering the poetry from the low lands by reading, listening to and discussing ten of Bruinja’s favourite poems. This workshop will take a look at different strategies used in modern Dutch poetry. We will focus on ways of using characters in your poems, playing with repetition and how to deal with distraction. We’ll try to include the thoughts we normally try to keep out of our poems, like “ what do the fly and I mean to each other?”

Saskia Stehouwer:
Writing from space
Paradoxically, being in a state of stillness can be very helpful for writing. Quieting the chatter in our minds provides space and stimulates a receptive attitude, so that our own words can come to the surface. By focusing on the breath, the body and our imagination, as well as by being in nature, we can enter a more open, effortless state from which writing flows more easily. In this workshop, we will explore mindfulness, visualisation and other creative exercises to guide ourselves into this space. We will also take a short sensory walk in nature to stimulate the senses and become more perceptive. And from that space, to paraphrase Natalie Goldberg, we will “walk into poetry with our entire bodies”.

Sunday Poem – Katrina Naomi

Sunday Poem – Katrina Naomi

Today has consisted of an 11k run in the morning, and then stripping wallpaper from a ceiling in my living room.  We started stripping the wallpaper off the actual walls in this room a while ago, which wasn’t too traumatizing, until we got to the ceiling.  Why would anybody wallpaper a ceiling anyway?  And why would they do it 5 times??  The husband decided to use the washing line pole and gaffa tape it to the steamer so that I could steam while he stood on the ladder and scraped.  I can’t stand on the ladder as I get vertigo so his ingenious invention meant the end of my excuses as to why I couldn’t possibly help with this most boring of jobs.  I told him that every time I steamed another patch of wallpaper, a poem was dying, but he was deaf to my complaints.  We have finally finished and now await the whims of the plasterer to sort out the various holes in the ceiling and walls of the room.

So I haven’t done any writing today, apart from catching up with emails.  I’m busy planning for the Poetry Carousel , which will be happening very soon (August 16th-19th).  In case you’ve just started following this blog, the Poetry Carousel is a residential course with a difference.  It ran for the first time last December and was a success, with all 32 spaces being filled.  I hope we can replicate that again this year with guest tutors including the wonderful Clare Shaw, from Hebden Bridge, and international poets Tsead Bruinja and Saskia Stehouwer from Amsterdam.

Each participant will take part in a 2 hour workshop with each tutor over the four days.  There will be readings in the evenings from the tutors and guest poets.  Workshop groups will be limited to 10 people per workshop.  I will be releasing information about the workshops that we’ll be running next week.  The carousel is a bargain at only £330.  This includes all workshops, accommodation, and breakfast and evening meals.

If you can’t make the Poetry Carousel, then I’m running another course at the hotel with tutor Jennifer Copley (October 24th-28th).  This is a more traditional residential course, limited to 16 participants.  The theme is ‘From Ordinary to Extraordinary‘ and costs £424, to include workshops, accommodation and breakfast and evening meals.

Places for both courses have been selling steadily over the last couple of months, and the hotel have advised early booking to get the nicest rooms!

Although today has been devoid of any poetry, last week was filled with it.  I went to a reading in Grasmere on Wednesday, organised by the wonderful Deborah Hobbs.  Six Cumbrian poets reading – Nick Pemberton, Mark Carson, Jennifer Copley, Mark Ward, Polly Atkin and Deborah – all very different, but very enjoyable to listen to.  Then on Wednesday I went over to Lancaster for an April Poets reading – Carole Coates was launching her fabulous collection ‘Jacob’ which I read yesterday afternoon and couldn’t put down – more on that next week.  Meg Peacock was also launching her New and Selected, which was also very interesting.  One of her poems, ‘Thirteenth Night‘ is one of those poems which is enjoyable no matter how many times you hear it, like listening to a favourite song, so I was really happy when she read it to finish off.  The musician who was playing at April Poets was absolutely fantastic, and it would have been worth the hour and a half drive from Barrow to hear him alone, although sadly  I can’t remember his name now.  Mike Barlow and Ron Scowcroft, the organisers of April Poets also read, celebrating a successful series of events, before they handed over the organisers baton to the new April Poets team, David Borrott and Sarah Hymas.  It will be interesting to see what direction David and Sarah take the April Poets event next.

The highlight of my week this week was reading in Chorlton for Manky Poets, run by Copland Smith, another great organiser-poet.  The event started off with an open-mic, where nearly everyone in the 20 plus audience got up and read one poem, the only rule being that the introduction couldn’t be longer than the poem.  The readers were so well-behaved that there was time to go around again – it was a really varied and interesting open mic.

When Liz Berry was here last weekend, we talked a lot about performing, or reading your poetry.  It struck me when I saw Liz read that she really ‘inhabits’ her poems.  I can’t really describe what I mean by this, except to say I know it when I see it.  Clare Shaw does it.  Helen Mort does it, Steve Ely does it.  It feels impossible to put my finger on exactly what I mean – something to do with commitment to the poem, sitting inside the skin of the poem, speaking from within the poem.  Anyway, I want to inhabit my poems more – I think I do it sometimes, but maybe not enough, and maybe it is dependent on circumstances, whether I feel comfortable or confident on that particular day.  I think I must have done something however because I managed to sell 12 books and 3 pamphlets, which I was very pleased about, and I’m sure it is connected, the sales and the inhabiting of poems when you read them I mean.


I got a lovely package in the post this week from my editor Amy Wack.  She sent me copies of new collections by Ilse Pedlar, Judy Brown and Katrina Naomi.  I’ve managed to read all three this week and would recommend all of them. I’m hoping that I will be able to feature a poem from all three poets on the blog in the next couple of weeks, so you can judge for yourself.

I read Katrina’s collection first which is called The Way the Crocodile Taught Me.  I’ve been looking forward to this collection coming out for ages, as I knew that Katrina has been working on a Phd on violence in poetry, which I’m assuming this collection is part of. Katrina’s PhD thesis is very readable, very interesting, and available online!  You can find a link to a PDF of the thesis here, on Katrina’s website.

I am interested in the way that violence, particularly domestic violence is explored and portrayed in poetry.  The statistics on domestic violence are grim – 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. 1 in 4.  That means of the 16 girls in my class of little trumpet players, 4 of them will experience domestic violence.  That is heartbreaking

I’m glad it’s being written about more now, although I can count the poets who have written about domestic violence one hand.  Katrina explores how childhood can be impacted by domestic violence in her collection.  The poem that I’ve chosen for the Sunday Poem is heartbreaking – the violence is both subtle and explicit.  The controlling behaviour of the stepfather is detailed in the middle of the poem, but the atmosphere of threat and tension is set up right from the first line,  when we read ‘You lie underneath him’, and later, this is elaborated on: ‘his 17 stones/pressing down on you’.

The sadness in this poem is unbearable – the line ‘I can’t talk to you,/knowing he’s also there, listening’ contrasts with the beautiful image at the end of the words ‘in a flotilla of paper boats’.  I love this image, the idea of words being the thing that you send to communicate, and the feeling of moving on created by the idea of the boats.

When I got to the end of this poem, with its lines about forgiveness, I had to put the book down and catch my breath. The idea of forgiveness, of blame, responsibility and guilt is something I’ve tried to explore in my own poems about this subject, and there is something complicated being explored here about responsibility and blame, and victims and perpetrators.

If you would like to know more about Katrina, you can have a look at her website here. She has a background in human rights, was the first writer-in-residence at the Bronte Parsonage Museum and holds a PhD in creative writing from Goldsmiths.  Her debut collection The Girl with the Cactus Handshake received an Arts Council Award and was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award.  She has also published prize-winning pamphlets.  Katrina is a Hawthornden Fellow and a lecturer at Falmouth university.  She is orginally from Margate and lives in Cornwall.

If you would like to order the collection, you can get 20% off if you order direct from Seren here.  I hope you enjoy the poem, and thanks to Katrina for letting me use it this week.

Letter to my Mother – Katrina Naomi

You lie underneath him,
a measure of mud between you.

This was our final argument – his and mine –
your husband/my step-father.

I’m told of a double headstone,
which I haven’t visited,

since I held my neice’s hand,
threw a lily and a tablespoon of chalky soil

on your lid.  I can’t talk to you,
knowing he’s also there, listening,

as he always did: the click
of the extension by your bed, the reading

out of my letters and your replies.
All these years, his 17 stones

pressing down on you, crushing
the soil between you.

I talk to you when I cross the Thames,
looking right to Shooters Hill –

Kent’s north edge.  I send you my words
in a flotilla of paper boats.  I forgive you,

I always have.  I forgive you
for marrying him.

Fermoy Poetry Festival 2013


Evening folks!  The festival is over – I’m currently sat in my room in my friend’s house.  I stayed with Ita last year and she kindly put both me and the hubby up this year.  I’m absolutely exhausted – have decided I can’t hack having a social life – which is what the festival has felt like!  We arrived on Thursday and we have stayed out most nights till one or two in the morning, and been out, all day at various poetry happenings.

Thursday night was the launch of the festival at the Grand Hotel in Fermoy.  There were lots of poets that had come from all over the world to be there – quite a few from America, one from India, a few from England and three from Holland.  Thursday was relatively low key – we introduced ourselves and a lot of the American poets read poems as a kind of American showcase event.

After the reading had finished, me and the hubby popped over to Elbow Lane, which had been the focus of the festival last year to say hello to some old friends, including Billy, the landlord of the pub.

On Friday we spent the day reading poems in various locations throughout the town including the barbers, which was great fun as the barber turned up to the poetry reading later and read a poem he’d written after having us all in his shop.  The barber experience seemed to inspire quite a few of the poets to write poems about it!  I decided to go in the next day to watch him at work when there were no poets there but at least two other poets said that they were writing about him as well! Poor man!

Friday night was the launch of the official anthology of the Festival, the Blue Max Review which has poems from all the poets who read at the festival.  If you felt so inclined you can order a copy of the anthology from http://www.fermoypoetryfestival.com/Blue-Max-Review-2013.html

My favourite poem from the anthology is Rachael Davies’s poem ‘Ten Things My Mother Never Told Me’.  I think it is a cracking poem and it is worth buying the anthology for that poem alone!

There were also readings from American and Irish poets on Friday night in Lombards bar.  This was the night I was prancing around the pub with my top on inside out, and didn’t notice till a local pointed this out to me.  How embarrassing.  I had a long white label trailing at the side of my top!  And a poet that shall remain nameless poured the milk that was meant to be for my cup of tea into his whisky by mistake (he thought it was water).

On Saturday we went to a couple of places to do readings but then we got a bit full of poetry so we went to the park and played on the swings and the exercise machines instead.  Saturday night was the launch of Gene Barry’s first collection ‘Unfinished Business’ published by Doghouse Press.  I like going to launches – they are different to normal poetry readings I think.  Much more celebratory and fun and you get lots of non-poets there who have come just to support the poet.

I read at Elbow Lane after Gene’s launch.  It was great to be back there again reading.  Rachel Davies, who I met originally on the MA at Manchester was one of the winners of the international poetry competition this year.  The other two winners were Ben Johnson and Erin Murphy – their prize was a flight to Ireland and a reading at the poetry festival and I thought they were all great.  Knute Skinner read and i liked his poetry enough to buy his book – but what I loved was his dancing!  You couldn’t stop him.  Not the same time as he was reading his poetry of course – this was afterwards when the musicians got up.

Sunday was the poetry bus and a poetry reading in the evening that was streamed live to Texas – hosted by Michael Clay.  By this point, after four solid days of non-stop poetry, I’m afraid I got a little hysterical and kept getting the giggles.  On the bus we had also invented the cliche whistle – I debated about whether to talk about this here in case some people got offended…but I will risk it as in the law of averages, four days of poetry readings are going to produce some cliches….

The cliche whistle is actually a little whistle that the hubby has on his hiking rucksack which you are meant to use if you are in distress when walking or climbing mountains.  We decided that two short blasts on the whistle should be sounded every time someone used a cliche in a poem.  This then developed to one long blast on the whistle if anybody introduced a poem with the words ‘This was inspired by’ (a personal pet aversion of mine).

Of course we didn’t actually blow the whistle at anyone apart from each other….

So last year, my highlights of the festival was meeting all the wonderful people there and how friendly everybody was.  This year was exactly the same – it has been great to spend time with some of my favourite friends from last year – Jan Glas and Tsead Bruinja.  But I also got to know Saskia Stehouwer a little better this year which was really nice.  Rachel Davies and Ben Johnson were a very funny double act this year and I’m so glad I met Ben – who lives in England, so I hope I will see more of him when I go back home at poetry events.  Michael Clay, who runs the poetry website Mad Swirl (http://www.madswirl.com/content/poetryforum.html)  is a lovely, lovely guy, unfailingly enthusiastic about other people’s poetry and about life in general.  John W Sexton was also great fun and I’m hoping to put a poem of his as a Sunday Poem in the not too distant future as I think he deserves to be much better known over here.

Lovely poet/musician/artist Pat O’Connor – a Fermoy legend has been great again – he picked us up from the airport, did a poetry reading and then burst into song and then the next day came and played violin and guitar and sang.  I hope Fermoy knows how lucky they are having Pat!  Michael Corrigan and Niall O’Connor were two more poets from last year who it was lovely to see again this year-  I enjoyed Mike’s poetry last year but I think it is really, really strong this year.  And Niall has a book out ‘Winds of Change’ which I haven’t got round to reading yet, but I’m sure it will be good.  Another star of the festival was Miceal Kearney – absolute legend.  He was even doing cartwheels in the streets.

There were lots of other poets that I haven’t mentioned which I am sorry for – but it is getting late now and I’m too tired!

Tomorrow I’m off to Gene and Margo Barry’s house – the organisers of the festival.  They are hosting the Dutch poets and we are having a translation day tomorrow!  Which I’m very excited about – all three – Saskia, Tsead and Jan are fantastic poets – they have such unusual voices and I’m really looking forward to it.  So, no, I haven’t had enough poetry yet.

If anyone reading this would like to add their own comments about the festival, please feel free to do so underneath.  And I’m sorry if I haven’t mentioned you all by name – but this post is already way too long….