Tag Archives: William Letford

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.


Sunday Poem – Billy Letford


Evening everybody.  I am writing this at the other side of a pretty full on weekend – even for my standards, it was a little hectic.  My mum and dad arrived on Friday from Leicester and I immediately dragged them off to Lancaster Spotlight (http://www.spotlightlancaster.co.uk/) as I was a guest reader.  To my delight, Sarah Fiske, one of the lovely organisers of Spotlight greeted my dad with ‘Oh, are you the scaffolder?’  His face was a picture!  Fame at last!

If you haven’t been to Spotlight before – it is really worth a visit.  Although it’s a long night, it is a really friendly event, lots of open mic spots and you get a mixture of poetry, comedy, music.  I was really happy to be reading with Ron Scowcroft.  I heard Ron read recently at an open mic but it was great to hear a longer set from him.

On Friday I was reading at Lancaster Spotlight along with various other readers, including Ron Scowcroft.  It was really nice to hear Ron do a longer set of poems – I think it’s been a while since I’ve heard him anywhere else apart from at the open mic.

Anyway, due to my uncontrollable urge to talk afterwards and gossip, we didn’t get home to after 1am.

Then on Saturday I went to a workshop at the Wordsworth Trust.  Ever since going to Poetry Parnassus last year I’ve been reading a lot of translated poetry – so when Andrew Forster told me that Sasha Dugdale was coming to Grasmere to run a workshop on Translating Poetry I knew I had to sign up!

And it was amazing!!  At first I wasn’t sure – we were ‘translating’ bird song from recordings but once we started I started to think about how we use consonants to define the rhythm of the bird song i.e ‘tikki tikki tikki’ but actually, birds don’t use consonants – I think their ‘song’ is made of vowels, and when humans use vowels, they come right from the body.  The use of consonants brings the sound up to the mouth, or more specifically, the tongue – but we do use vowels when we are in pain or when we are scared – think of if you hit your thumb with a nail – if you are Billy Letford you ‘roar like a lion’ – I would probably shriek but I think both would be made mainly of vowels…anyway…

After the bird song, Sasha read a poem in Russian and we had to write down a translation of the poem from the sound and from seeing the transliteration of the poem on the page – which was interesting – especially when Sasha gave us the literal translation.

Then we got another Russian poem, this one was by Boris Pasternak but this time we had a literal translation to work from.  I really enjoyed this – I don’t think I really understood before that there is no ‘right’ answer when you are translating – and it was so interesting seeing how the other people dealt with the tricky bits in the poem.

So then I hot-footed it home, this time without stopping to gossip, as I’d left my poor mum and dad at home to amuse themselves all day.  When I got back we drove up the west coast to meet my sister and her hubby for dinner.
And today I’ve been recording a CD with my junior band.  The band was brilliant – they played pretty solidly from 9.30-3.00.  They were shattered by the end of it – if you play a brass instrument you’ll know, or maybe you can imagine this is like running a marathon!  I can report I also had a very tired right arm from all that conducting –

We got ten tracks done so soon we will have our first album to flog to unsuspecting parents.  I might even put a paypal button on here for it, just in case there are any poets reading this who have always wanted a CD of a brass band playing Abba and other pop hits!

So marathon weekend is over and although it’s been good, I can’t say that I’m not relieved to have got through it!

Today’s poem is by the lovely William Letford – last Tuesday I went up to Grasmere to see him read along with Fred D’Aguiar.  It was a great reading and he kindly said I could use one of his poems from his first collection ‘Bevel’, published by Carcanet ( http://www.carcanet.co.uk).

William Letford has worked as a roofer, on and off, since he was fifteen .  He received a New Writer’s Award from the Scottish Book Trust and an Edwin Morgan Travel Bursary which allowed him to spend three months in the mountains of northern Italy helping to restore a medieval village.  He has an M.Litt in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow.

You can buy ‘Bevel’ from http://www.carcanet.co.uk

William came to read for us at Poem and A Pint a couple of weeks ago – and he was brilliant – but it was great to hear some new poems at Grasmere as well – I’m already looking forward to his next book!

If you haven’t seen him read, you need to.  It is a masterclass in how to present a reading – he does everything by heart, always looking directly at the audience and it helps that the poetry is really good as well!   As you will see from this poem which I have appropriated from his book!

So here is the Sunday Poem – I hope you enjoy it.

Be Prepared – William Letford

wear three T-shirts and one hooded top
layers are important
they can always come off
remember your oilskins
it’s always raining somewhere
wear a scarf
cold air moves down from the neck
wear gloves
they’re useless when wet
but handy if you hit the wrong nail
pay attention to the moment
the way water drips
the way a spider scuttles
have a healthy fear of heights
when working from a ladder
know which way to fall
railings and slabs are unforgiving
flower beds and fuchsia bushes are better
practise your scream
if you strike your thumb with the hammer
don’t squeal
roar like a lion
when the pain subsides and you look around
you’ll know exactly what I mean
acknowledge the moon
it was part of the earth once
its loneliness can make you feel beautiful
lift properly
you’ll need your back to make your money