Saturday, 31 July 2010

Saturday Poem

Today's Saturday Poem in the Guardian is Bishop in Louisiana by Frances Leviston.
So far this year, this column has featured 20 male poets and 9 female poets.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Batteries Charged

My beautiful poetry writing week at Ty Newydd finished this morning, so I'm back in the bosom of my family. More of the course later, I'm sure. 
Instead of rushing home, we're having a couple of days camping in Wales, so I can acclimatise and come down gradually off my cloud. As it turns out, it's a dark rain cloud, so we're sitting in a tent in Welsh Wales with a storm blustering round outside. But I wanted to do a post out in the country in the middle of a field because I'm a modern girl and I have the technology.....

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Where the bee sucks.....

This week I'm in a beautiful part of Wales on a writing workshop. I've taken five minutes off to write this post. Now I must get back to my homework poem. Deadline Friday 10am. Buzz, buzz, buzz.....

Sunday, 18 July 2010

One that got away

What faint-hearted, poor excuse for an outdoor swimmer am I ?
My friend from Dublin is over for the weekend for her daughter's graduation. This morning we were meant to be meeting at Hatchmere in Cheshire for a dip. As I've never swum there before, and as we were in Chester yesterday, me and 'im indoors did a recce on our way back home. 
The lake was smallish and lovely, no swimmers there, but several fishermen brollied up on the banks - always a sight that makes my heart sink. 
There's been a well publicised campaign by Hatchmere swimmers, asserting their entitlement to swim in the lake. Some kind of agreement has been reached. The swimming and fishing communities now rub along beside each other, apparently. But as I've never actually tried it, I was a bit wary about finding out for myself how accepting the fisherfolk on the frontline might be in practice. 
Sunday in Manchester dawned, damp, grey and miserable. Making an early morning cuppa I wondered whether we could cry off. No, that would be too mean on my friend, who I imagined would be heartbroken not to swim in an English lake.
At 9.30 the phone rang. She too was having doubts. Yes, we shelved the plan! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Three Cheers! Hip hip Hurrah!
Oh, the unexpected luxury of a day when the wettest I'll get is in the shower or dodging raindrops.

Photo: Jacov Lev

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Swimming and Poetry Weekend Round-up

Today in the Review section of the Guardian, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has commissioned another poetry special (like the ones about war and ageing) on the subject of sport. Her contribution to the article is her poem 'The Shirt', mentioned here yesterday. 
We don't normally get the Independent newspaper, but as my dad is here for the weekend and it's his regular Saturday read, we bought it too. Serendipitously, it has a feature - 'The 50 best swimming pools', which highlights an interesting selection.
Obviously it doesn't include Tynemouth pool, since it's now derelict, but the photos above show how fantastic it was in its heyday. The colour one was taken only 40 years ago. With the upsurge of interest in outdoor swimming, I'm sure there'd be lots of people who'd use it, in the unlikely event of it ever being dug out of retirement.

Friday, 9 July 2010

The Shirt

Hey, what did I tell you on 20 June? Well, here it is - The Shirt!

Mslexia Poetry Competition

It's that time of year again - time to assemble some poems and spruce them up for a beauty contest in the form of  Mslexia's annual Poetry Competition.
This year's judge is Vicki Feaver, a poet whose work I admire very much. Although she was interested in poetry from a young age, she only started writing in earnest and publishing her work later in life  - comparatively speaking - in her mid-thirties. Unlike some female poets, she brings her experience as a woman very potently into her poetry, I really appreciate and enjoy this aspect of her work, and take permission from it when I'm writing. There's a vulnerability to the way she writes, about some very dark subjects. Yet in the vulnerability, there is a streak which comes over as doggedly determined and tenacious. For example, listen to her reading her poem Music and God. I can't stop myself from crying when I hear it. And as for the ending, well I won't spoil it, but the first time I heard it, it came as quite a shock, and still makes my hair stand on end.
So, which poems to send to her? They will have to have legs, to run past the initial sifters, and make it to the final batch that she'll get to see. The cost to enter this competition is relatively cheap - £5 for 3 poems, so how many little batches will I select - one? two? three?!! Last year one of my poems was a runner-up, a very small poem, picked out by Ruth Padel. It was such a wonderful, thrilling experience, I'd love to repeat it, so here goes.....

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Take Me To Your Lido

I ordered this book about a week ago and it arrived this evening so I'm very eager to start reading asap. It's chock full of great pictures of old pools and lidos from England, Wales and Scotland, but it's more than just a picture book. Using case histories, Janet Smith 'tells the story of Britain's beloved lidos with verve, scholarsip and passion.' It's beautifully presented, feels very substantial and has great reviews from all the readers on Amazon, so without further ado, I'll get off now and make a start.....

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

More Things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio

Only the other day on this blog, Dominic Rivron mentioned  Polly Clark's sad poem 'Elvis, the Performing Octopus'. Today in the news, I was intrigued to read about Paul, the German octopus, who predicts the outcome of matches in the World Cup. So far he has an almost faultless track record. In their anger at his accuracy, some Argentinians are reported as saying they want to eat him. How very human of them! Poor old Paul! Don't eat the messenger, that's what I say. Go, Paul!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

6 Music Saved

It was announced yesterday that the BBC isn't going to axe  6 Music after all! Hurrah!!
I'm really pleased as it offers an eclectic selection of music and features which tick all the boxes as far as I'm concerned. A large part of the appeal for me is down to the entertaining presenters who know their stuff and put it across with passion and professionalism.
On Sunday afternoon I baked a chocolate cake - mmm delicious - while listening to Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service. Jarvis, who is a lovely man and a great lyricist himself, interviewed the Bard of Salford, John Cooper Clarke, which made for an interesting conversation. Then, in his own distinctive way, JCC recited his poem 'I've fallen in love with my wife' which was touching and very funny. Worth a listen if it's on catch-up radio or whatever it's called.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

This week I have been mostly reading.....

In June these are the books that have had my attention:
Farewell My Lovely - Polly Clark
Paraphernalia - Joanne Limburg
The Shape of Every Box - Helen Mort
The Striped World - Emma Jones
The Book of Blood - Vicki Feaver
The Handless Maiden - Vicki Feaver
The Lammas Hireling - Ian Duhig
The Heel of Bernadette - Colette Bryce
The Wounded Deer - Pascale Petit
The Wrecking Light - Robin Robertson
Dragon Talk - Fleur Adcock
Through the Square Window - Sinead Morrissey

Friday, 2 July 2010

End of the Odyssey

So after a cappuccino and a delicious Italian chocolate ice cream next to the Moot Hall in Aldeburgh - doesn't it look like it's made of gingerbread? - we hitched up the wagon and hit the road again. 

We dropped in on a good friend who's turned into a farmer over the past five years. After a tour of his large small-holding, he wowed us with his talent (brought out through hard graft under the wise gaze of his farming neighbour) as he and his trusty sheepdog, Stan, rounded up his sheep in true 'One Man and his Dog' style. Farmer Giles (no, really!) we salute you!!

Then, on to Cambridge, for a swim at Jesus Green. Yes, we made it!!
The soaring temperatures had pulled the crowds in, but by the time we arrived at 6.30, for the final hour before closing, the throng was thinning out - just how I like it! First thing in the morning, last in the evening - definitely my favourite swimming times for a bit of calm and space to think.

Female changing rooms to the left, male to the right - small, dark brown wood-panelled individual cubicles. There aren't any lockers - it's the old-skool system: stow all your belongings in a supermarket-style basket and exchange at the counter for a numbered rubber band. Love it!
The water isn't artificially heated - at the end of this hot day, it was a refreshing but very comfortable 21C. The pool is 100 yards long, so ten lengths was the goal, and the yards flew by. Swimming outdoors, I enjoy seeing the leaves and petals swirling on the bottom, and the occasional stray crisp bag for a bit of atmosphere. The pool's chlorinated, but not heavily, (best not to think about the number of kids who've been in all day.....) so the water felt light and silky. The can't-get-enough scent from the mock orange bushes in the borders perfumed the summery evening air. Heaven!
A couple of photos to remind us to come back


a picture of the lazy evening Cam, whose straight, narrow lines were the inspiration behind the design of this pool
then back on the road to Manchester

Listening between the Notes

Now, where was I? Ah yes, Aldeburgh, where I took this photo of an incredible, stripy rose! Aldeburgh, which celebrates with a fanfare its former resident Benjamin Britten, as does the English establishment. An awkward silence hangs in the air. What about the choirboys who were such an inspiration? The boy who protested, whose mother wouldn't believe him? Another boy, who grew up, fought in the Second World War, killed himself two months before his wedding? How come their voices have been drowned out? Idyllic Aldeburgh, pictures, soundtrack. Where are the words?