Tag Archives: Wendy Pratt

January News

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Plans For The Blog

I’m hoping to be posting here at least once a month with a poem from a collection that I’ve loved. Now that my PhD is finished, I’m finally finding a bit more time to read poetry collections and I’ve read some amazing books this month. I used to post a poem every Sunday, but I can’t keep up with the pace of that any more. But I think I can keep up with posting one poem a month along with an update of what I’ve been up to.

January Freelance Life

MENTORING
January has been absolutely full-on. In a normal year, January is usually a pretty quiet month in the life of a freelancer. Most literary organisations are making plans for the rest of the year – there’s not many gigs around as people recover from Christmas (or at least this is what I’ve found in previous years). However, because the shape and the way I make income as a freelancer has changed a lot this year, January has been alarmingly busy. I’m now doing a lot of work mentoring poets – this includes longer-term mentoring which takes place over a year or more, and working on pamphlet and full collection manuscripts. My mentees obviously had some down time over Christmas and managed to get lots of work done as the submissions came into my inbox thick and fast in the first few days of the new year.

MARKING
Last term I was also offered some teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University again. I had a break whilst I was pregnant and then finishing off my PhD, but it was great to be teaching again on the ‘Approaches to Poetry’ module, which is a whistle stop tour of poetry from the Renaissance through to Contemporary poetry. I always feel like I learn a lot when I’m teaching this module, and it was lovely to work with my former PhD supervisor again. Disappointingly, I did forget to introduce myself to the students as Dr Kim Moore though. The marking for this module started in January and is due in about four days – so I’ve been working hard on that.

WORDSWORTH GRASMERE READING SERIES
January also saw the launch of Wordsworth Grasmere’s contemporary reading series ‘Go to the poets, they will speak to thee’ which I’ve been asked to host and curate. Each event will feature a guest poet and an open mic. The reading series was due to take place last year, but obviously the pandemic scuppered that. I’m really happy that it’s now been moved online. We had the first event this month with the fabulous Louise Wallwein and some brilliant open miccers, and our next event is February 10th with Anthony Anaxagorou, which I’m sure will be just as good.

When I was designing the reading series, I decided each event should be based around a theme, and this theme should be a quotation from Wordsworth, and that this quotation from Wordsworth should link in some way to something the guest poet was exploring. I’m not sure the complexity of this is noticed or appreciated by anyone else apart from me, but I enjoyed thinking about it!

Anyway, the quotation for the February event is ‘Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge’ which I think argues for poetry’s place as the best way of getting closer to the truth of human experience. Anthony Anaxagorou’s book After the Formalities seems to me to strive for and create new ways of knowing, both in its exploration of content and form. So the theme for the February open mic is to bring a poem about knowing or not knowing in some way.

You can find all the information you need about how to book a ticket and sign up for the open mic here

The reading series will be live transcribed by Otter, and all open mic poets and guest poets are asked to send their poems along in a document so that I can screenshare during the event. I hope with the combination of these two tools, it makes the event more accessible.

DOVE COTTAGE YOUNG POETS
I’ve been running this group for quite a few years now (funded by Wordsworth Grasmere)and originally it was based in Kendal. However, during the pandemic, we’ve been meeting on Zoom and it’s been really enjoyable.

I’ve decided to open up recruitment in the New Year and as we are continuing to meet online, the group is now open to any young people based in Cumbria between the ages of 14 and 23 who would like to join. If you are a young person who would like to get involved, or you know a young person, please email Zoe McClain at education@wordsworth.org.uk for more information. Each session involves reading, writing and discussing poetry and the emphasis is on creativity and enjoyment of language.

There are also plans in place to run a group for 11-14 year olds – so watch this space!

KENDAL POETRY FESTIVAL
This is my biggest, most time-consuming project at the moment. This year it has grown from a three-day in person festival to a nine-day online behemoth. Every time I fini sh one job and tick it off the list, another one pops up. It will either be absolutely amazing, or send me over the edge! If you haven’t already had a look at our programme, you can see it here – tickets are still available, and we would love to see you there. We hope the festival can be a point of connection whilst we are all still so far apart.

Clare Shaw is my new co-director, and on Twitter the other day we started making a list of all the jobs we do to put together a festival, but then we kept forgetting them and adding more on. So here is what we got so far (although I’ve not been doing all of these in January, but still): planning the programme, contacting the poets, chasing the poets up, collecting biographies,collecting photos, writing event descriptions, writing all text for website, formatting and proofreading everything, liasing with ticket sellers, creating zoom account, researching otter, organising young poets, sharing social media posts about events to sell tickets, liasing with Katie Hale regarding the guerilla poetry project, designing Open Doors project, writing back to applicants for free tickets/bursaries, responding to enquiries asking for a reading, applying for arts council funding, applying to a charity for funding, applying to kendal town council for funding, liasing with all funding bodies, setting up zoom events for every reading, writing a press release, sending it out to organisations and media, writing to poets to remind them of time and date of their event and ask them to screenshare their poems, write to their publishers and ask them to promote their poems, I forgot all the liasing with the website designer.

Clare then replied and said ‘you missed …. multiple visits to the sites to check rooms and accessibility. Appointing and leasing with our accessibility consultant and creating an accessibility statement, working with sites to maximise accessibility, Researching online platforms, researching online accessibility, consulting with potential audiences, creating Zoom workshops and resources for nervous first time Zoomers, regular meetings with your co-director and other supporting staff and volunteers, speaking to press and local organisations, promoting on social media, appointing and meeting with blogger in residence, writing and posting blogs, choosing logos for badges, book keeping and budgeting and keeping track of ticket sales.

Whoops. And to think I said to Clare when she said she would take on the job of co-director ‘Yeah, it’s not that much work really’. Anyway, it will all be worth it!

WRITING HOUR
In amongst all of this, I’ve also been determined to make sure my own writing still gets some time. I guess a more accurate description would be ‘creative practice’ but maybe that would be off-putting for some people! I read and write in my writing hour, as for me, these two activities are very closely connected. If you are on Twitter and would like to join me, I usually post a tweet with the hashtag #writinghour at some point in the morning, and then an hour later (roughly) reply to the same tweet with #checkin to say what I’ve done. I’ve found that this means I don’t just use the hour to do admin, which as you can see from the list of jobs above is very tempting! Because I have to checkin, I need to do something, even if it is just reading a poetry collection or an essay. If you would like to join, I’m on twitter as kimmoorepoet. There are not any rules – you can take the writing hour whenever you want during the day, and if you want to join in with the checkin, just reply to my original tweet and say what you’ve been doing. It’s lovely to hear about all of the creative projects that are going on, and equally cheering to read someone confessing to struggling with taking out a comma or putting it back in for the whole of the hour! The important thing is committing to your writing, in a world where it is so easy to put that last, after all the other jobs have been done.

JANUARY POEM
Which brings me to the January Poem. The January Poem is the title poem of Wendy Pratt’s new collection When I Think Of My Body As A Horse, published by Smith/Doorstop, and available for order here. I wrote a blurb for this book a while ago and loved it then, but reading it again a few weeks ago, it felt (like all good poetry books feel) as if I was encountering it for the first time. It is a book about motherhood and grief, threaded through with animals like horses and hares which seem to burst from the pages, they are so full of life. And although it is a book filled with an unbearable loss, the overwhelming feeling it left me with was one of love. It is a book of love. Not many poetry books make me cry, but this one did, and then it made me smile.

And this is to say nothing of the technicalities of line break and form that Wendy is negotiating and mastering in these poems. I think you can see this in the title poem, which comes in the last third of the book. In a book which has explored the terrible things that can happen to the body, where the body has been always there, considered and examined, I think that first line ‘Now I think of my body’ is just beautiful, as if the body has not been ‘thought’ of before, but has instead been negotiated in a different way. And of course the line resolves into that ending, and the poem leaps off from there, like a horse.

The emotional truth of this poem really resonated with me as well – of course, if we thought of our bodies as a type of animal, then we probably would be kinder to them. And Wendy pushes and pushes this metaphor, this idea and follows it further and further. It also feels like a poem of realisation as well, as if the writer made discoveries as they were writing.

At the beginning of the second stanza, for example, she writes that ‘We do not share a language’. But the third stanza finishes with the line ‘I taught it a language of pain’. This mirroring and development of this idea felt extraordinary to me – it feels as if the reader is allowed to watch the mind tracing these revelations, this deepening of thought.

This happens again in the fourth stanza. The poem starts with the premise ‘When I think of my body as a horse’. By the fourth stanza, that distance and logical/rational thought set up by the use of the verb ‘think’ has disappeared. In the fourth stanza, the body IS a horse, and as a reader, I absolutely go with it at this point.

I love the exclamation mark used in the poem, how the exclamation mark ‘holds up’ the past conduct as ridiculous and holds me up as a reader to consider my relationship to what it is talking about. And then the heartbreak of the fifth stanza, and the acknowledgement of not blaming the body and not blaming the self, and the realisation that there must have been a time, when the speaker did blame their body, did blame the self, and the loneliness of that. And then that beautiful finish to the poem, the companionable ride.

If you love Wendy Pratt’s poem, you might also like this May Swenson poem, which is one of my favourites, and also says something important and radical and true about the body, whilst calling it a succession of animals

WHEN I THINK OF MY BODY AS A HORSE

BY WENDY PRATT

Now I think of my body
as a horse. I think of it
not as a vessel for my soul
or as an organic robot
or a means of transport,
but as another thing
I need to love and care for.

We do not share a language.
When my body asks for rest,
I have to know the signs,
have to watch the way
its elegant legs stutter
when it’s tired.

All those years I tried to train it
by punishment! How I hated
its disobedience, how I felt ashamed
of it. Poor body. I tried to cut myself
away from it, I scarred it, I starved it,
I taught it to be afraid of mirrors
I taught it a language of pain.

Now my body is a horse, I see
it is loyal, it is incredible. I line
all the bones of my body up,
from the nasal bone, to the thin string
of tail and marvel at its complexity.

I do not blame it for lost babies,
it did its best. I do not blame
myself for lost babies. I did my best.
I ride my body in a slow companionship,
comforting it at the end of the day
and I say, Body, you are beautiful,
you are beautiful.

If you would like to order Wendy’s book, you can find it here

You can also find out more about Wendy over at her website here

Wendy will also be reading in May as part of the Wordsworth Grasmere reading series, please keep an eye on the Wordsworth Grasmere website for more information

Sunday Poem – Wendy Pratt

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This week has been a bit of a strange week.  When I sat down to write this blog, I had no idea what I was going to say because I couldn’t remember what I’d done all week.  I’m hoping this is just because I’m on holiday, and not because I’m just losing the plot…

For most of the week I’ve been working on my collection.  I sent it to Amy (my editor at Seren) before I went on holiday to Scotland and she emailed me back with some suggestions on the order and a request for me to put back some poems that I’d taken out and to not worry too much about it being too long at the moment.  I’d been frantically counting pages and poems – I think this is a tangible thing that enables me to get a hold on the collection – it is a bit like my preference for stanzas with the same number of lines in – it is a constraint that I can put on myself to get control of something that is not very controllable.  So I’ve done this and sent it back again, knowing there is a lot more work to do still.

The problem is, as my husband pointed out today, I’m not good at little, fiddly jobs.  When we were decorating our house, I liked getting the paint and the huge roller out and painting the walls.  I hated doing the edges because they were time-consuming and boring and I wanted to paint the next wall instead because that had the biggest impact.  Often when I’m washing up, or tidying a room, I won’t finish off – I’ll leave something out or forget to wash a plate.  This must be a highly annoying habit to live with – but I just get bored, and once I’ve done most of the work, I can’t be bothered with finishing off the last little bit.  I also don’t like things that drag on too long – I like to do something, complete it and move on to the next thing

But I can’t be like this with this collection.  I have to keep going, I have to do the fiddly bits which is rearranging the poems and editing and thinking about the order.  The worse thing is, this could go on indefinitely! Putting a collection together and working on poems are both tasks which could be never ending.  There will always be something that could be better.  When I think about the collection in an abstract sense, without reading it, I’m terrified – in the same way I was with the pamphlet but ten times worse, about the poems being pinned down and committed between the covers of a book.  I have to force myself, or talk myself into sitting down and working on it.  Three times now, I’ve typed the whole thing out, poem by poem.  When I do this, I find it really enjoyable.  I love doing it.  I think I’ve got something.  I know I’ve got something.  I can’t wait for it to be out there.  It soothes me, typing the poems out – I can tell they’re good enough.  Some of them are even better than good enough.  The other worse thing of course is that it can’t go on indefinitely because there is a deadline.

I would be interested to hear what anybody else’s experience is of putting the collection together – it seems like this shadowy process in a writers life that people don’t talk about very much – so please feel free to comment below if you would like to share!

Anyway, so apart from my wild mood swings about the collection, I’ve been doing lots of running, and really enjoying it.  On Saturday I took part in a 5k Park Run – you can find more information here about these runs, which take place all over the UK.  I wanted to beat my previous time which I got a couple of weeks ago which was 24.46 and yesterday I managed to get 24.08, assisted by Ian Jones, who paced me all the way round.  Ian helps to run the local running group that I go to, the Walney Wind Cheetahs,  So I was really chuffed yesterday – once I got over feeling like I was going to be sick straight afterwards of course.

And apart from running and obsessing about the collection, I played with South Lakes Brass Ensemble, which is a new brass group that I’ve set up.  Please go and have a look at the blog and say hello – I’ve just started it, but it is not getting too much activity so far – I’m hoping I will have some more content to put up once we’ve started getting out and about a bit more.  We played at a World War 1 commemoration event – do click on the link to find out more.  I also conducted the Barrow Steelworks Band rehearsal as well, standing in for their regular conductor Ian Bird, who was off on his holidays.  I really enjoyed conducting and realised it was the first completely adult rehearsal that I’ve taken.  Ian said the band would enjoy my ‘thinly-veiled sarcasm’ but I didn’t make anybody cry so that is a Good Thing, and does not as a music-teacher friend suggested, mean I’m losing my touch!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Wendy Pratt, who I read with a couple of months ago in Leeds at the Poetry By Heart reading series in the Heart Cafe in Headingley.  Wendy read from her pamphlet ‘Nan Hardwicke Turns into a Hare’.  The title poem to this pamphlet is fantastic – I loved it as soon as I heard it.  I was thinking today about other poems that I’ve read by poets that are alive that I’ve had this instant reaction to – and I thought of two straight away.  I loved these poems as soon as I read them – I can even remember where I read them – I read ‘Fist’ by Hannah Lowe in The Rialto, and was blown away, and ‘The Visitation’ by Maitreyabandhu in Poetry Review and to this short list I’madding ‘Nan Hardwicke Turns into a Hare’.

From the first line Wendy establishes the character of Nan with that colloquial, confiding ‘I will tell you how it was’, so it feels as if the poem is being whispered in the readers ear. I love how the balance of power is explored in this poem – you can see this in the line ‘so I could settle myself like a child within her’ – the hare is the place of safety and Nan is a child – but then later on ‘An odd feeling this,/to hold another’s soul in the mouth like an egg’ so by this line it seems that Nan is in charge again.  Another favourite line is the description of the mind of the hare ‘Her mind/was simple, full of open space and weather’.  I read that and thought, well yes, of course, what else could a hare’s mind be full of?  I would really recommend buying the pamphlet – it is a moving collection of poems exploring loss and transformation.

You can order the pamphlet from Wendy’s publisher Prolebooks or you can find out more information about Wendy Pratt by having a look at her website here

Wendy Pratt was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1978. She now lives just outside Filey. She studied Biomedical Science at Hull University and worked as a Microbiologist at the local NHS hospital for some years. She is recently completed a BA in English Literature with the Open University and is hoping to study towards her MA in creative writing this year.   Her first full size collection, Museum Pieces  is also published by Prolebooks.   Wendy is the poetry correspondent for Northern Soul, where she writes a regular column called ‘Northern Accents’. She is also part of the womentoring project. Wendy was recently invited to read at Bridlington Poetry festival in 2014.  Wendy’s next collection, a pamphlet entitles Lapstrake will be published by Flarestack Poets in 2015.

Hope you enjoy the poem! Please comment below and let me know what you think.

Nan Hardwicke Turns into a Hare – Wendy Pratt
in memory of M

I will tell you how it was.  I slipped
into the hare like a nude foot
into a glorious slipper.  Pushing her bones
to one side to make room for my shape
so I could settle like a child within her.
In the dark I groped for her freedom, gently teasing
it apart across my fingers to web across my palm.
Here is where our seperation ends:
I tensed her legs with my arums, pushed my rhythm
down the stepping-stones of spine.  An odd feeling this,
to hold another’s soul in the mouth like an egg;
the aching jaw around her delicate self.  Her mind
was simple, full of open space and weather.
I warmed myself on her frantic pulse and felt the draw
of gorse and grass, the distant slate line
at the edge of the moor.  The air span diamonds
out of sea fret to catch across my tawny coat
as I began to fold the earth beneath my feet
and fly across the heath, the heather.