Festival Update

We can’t quite believe that there are less than three weeks to go until this year’s festival.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that Pauline and I were collapsing in a little heap after the first festival.  Preparations have been forging onward since I last blogged.  Our official Young Blogger-in-Residence, Hannah Hodgson has been busy interviewing some of our Festival Poets.  Each interview is followed by a poem by the poet.  You can find Hannah’s latest interview with William Letford here, but there are also interviews with Linda Gregerson, Kathryn Maris, Katrina Naomi and Chrissy Williams.  There’s even an interview with myself and Pauline about the process of putting together a festival here.

I’ve been busy working with my Dove Cottage Young Poets group.  Five of our seven members who read at last year’s festival went off to university, so this year we’ve been recruiting new members.  There are now nine Dove Cottage Young Poets who come from different secondary schools and sixth forms in and around Kendal.

Part of our funding bid was to have the group work with the poet Katie Hale on a ‘guerilla poetry mission’.  A couple of weeks ago Katie led a workshop with the young poets to create some poems to put on postcards, and next Wednesday we’ll be heading into Kendal town centre to give free poems to the residents of Kendal.   On one side will be a poem written by one of the Young Poets, and on the other side will be an advert for Kendal Poetry Festival.  The idea behind this is to get poetry to people that might not necessarily go looking for it, so I will let you know how that goes!

Ticket sales are going really well – workshops are sold out, apart from a few places left on Chrissy Williams’ workshop.  Chrissy will be leading a workshop in Abbot Hall Art Gallery, so as well as a chance to do some writing, this is also an opportunity to look around the Julian Turner exhibition.

We have between ten and fifteen tickets left for each of our Main Readings and we would LOVE it to be a sell out again this year, so if you’ve been holding back from buying your tickets, you could make us very happy by splashing out! There are only 12 free tickets left for the Jack Mapanje event so I would definitely book that sooner rather than later.

I also wanted to draw your attention to the ‘Tuning In‘ event with Martin Kratz.  On the feedback forms last year, people loved the ‘Tuning In’ event, which is basically a whistle-stop tour of the poets appearing at the festival.  If you can’t go to everything, then it’s a great way of getting a flavour of what’s happening throughout the weekend.   I’ve been working with Martin for the last year at Manchester Metropolitan University, and he is one of my favourite people to talk to about poetry, and I know this will be one of the discussions at the festival that will be really interesting.  He’s already told me about some fascinating connections he is drawing between the poets appearing at the festival.  ‘Tuning In’ is happening just before the launch of the festival, so you can go to that, and then come and get a free glass of wine!


Five Minutes with William Letford



Below is a quick five minute interview with William Letford. I met William about a year ago at a writing residential that Kim Moore was running. I first discovered his work through this, and have continued reading it ever since. I am very excited to see his reading on the Friday night of the festival alongside Hannah Lowe. You can buy tickets for this reading here

 William has won many poetry awards, including a Scottish Poetry award, and published two collections with Carcanet: Bevel in 2012 and Dirt in 2016.


HH: What are you reading at the moment?

 WL: At the moment I’m reading Dog Run Moon by Callan Wink, which is a collection of short stories, and I’m reading Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, which is a Novella.

HH: What is your writing process? Do you usually go straight for a pen or paper or to a computer?

 WL:I’m gunning straight for the computer at the moment, but there’s something cathartic about the swoop of ink. There’s punch and rhythm on a keyboard. In a quiet room there’s the hint of the ocean on a page.

 HH: How did you decide on ‘Dirt’ as the title to your latest collection?

 WL: While travelling I had a lot of time to sit and stare. Sterile environments like shopping centres were less appealing to me than old hotel rooms filled with decayed grandeur, peeling wallpaper, rusty pipes. Dust and dirt had texture. And beauty.

 HH: When did you first come across poetry?

 WL: I had a book by Lewis Carroll, and I remember reading the poem, Phantasmagoria. In fact, I remember memorising a few stanzas and rushing through to recite them to my parents.

 HHHave you got any tips for any budding writers?

 WL: Enjoy every step. One day you’ll wish you could go back and do it all again.


The January fashion confession

The hat

My aunt shops online using Glens
vodka and Irn Bru to channel the Christmas
spirit. Last year she downloaded some
knitting patterns, began a self prescribed
course of codeine, then went to work on gifts
for the family. I received the yellow and
red Mohawk hat with ear flaps and tassels
Something magic had happened in the knit
Somewhere in the opiate induced
alcohol and Irn Bru trance my aunt
had found the shamanic. A melted quality
More like a Mohawk flame than a hat.

The coat

is a twenty-year old hand me down Parka
my uncle wore in the nineties when
he thought he was Liam Gallagher. Some of
the swagger was left in it. I find the rolling
motion helps to lift and plant the feet.


The boots

are surplus Dutch army bought during the
Forest of Ae World Ceilidh to help combat
the difficult suck of the festival quagmire
I’ve discovered they’re just as suited
to an icy pavement on a tricky Tuesday.

The canter

is how you’ll find me, a yellow and red
flame above a nineties Parka and a pair of
Dutch army boots, sure of foot and swift
of thought with a swagger to match
cutting through the frost like a blow torch.

Five Minutes With Linda Gregerson

HH: In one of my final five minute interviews, I talked to Linda Gregerson, an American poet. She is widely published with six collections of poetry and two of criticism. She has also won numerous prizes for her work, including an award from the Poetry Society of America.

 She will be reading in our final event on Sunday at 2pm on Sunday alongside Ian Duig.

 I first came across Linda’s work when the list of poets was announced for the festival. Since then I have picked up her collections and enjoyed them hugely. I was very excited to ask Linda the set of questions below.


HH: How long do you tend to sit and write for on an average day?

 LG: That question never fails to fill me with anxiety!  I’m afraid I have no average days. When I’m either blessedly free or insanely panicked because of a writing deadline (I write criticism as well as poetry), I might write from early morning until mid-evening when I can no longer see straight.  On days when I have an unrelenting series of other commitments (classes to teach, meetings to attend, appointments with students or colleagues), I’m lucky to snatch ten minutes for writing.  I’m a great believer in those ten minutes, though: far better to stay in touch with a poem or an essay in progress by paying a brief daily visit to the unfinished page than to let the barrier of distance harden. 

HH: If you had to choose one poet who has influenced your writing who would they be and why?

LG: Ah, there are so many! Without overthinking it, though, let me name Wallace Stevens. The poems are unabashedly sensuous, both musically and imagistically, and they are marvelously playful. But they are also committed to strenuous philosophical inquiry.  I don’t share Stevens’ passion for abstract thought, but I deeply admire the capaciousness of his poetic project.

HH: What do you do if you get writers block?

LG: I try to launch something reckless, to outwit self-censorship by beginning a poem with pieces of “received language” – language not my own.  These might be phrases I overheard on the bus that morning, or a remembered bit of homiletic from my childhood, or an unusual regional turn of speech I encountered in conversation with a friend, or some outrageous piece of hypocrisy uttered by a politician on the morning news.  I leave the computer behind and write on actual paper with an actual pencil (ink would be far too much of a commitment) so that everything feels safely provisional.

HH: What is your earliest memory of writing?

LG: I have a horrible memory of writing a very dreadful poem when I was in primary school. It very nearly put me off poetry forever. 

HH: Do you have any tips for young writers?

LG: Read read read. Take an interest in the world. Be one of those who *notices*.

SALT – Linda Gregerson

Because she had been told, time and
>>>>not to swing on the neighbors’ high hammock,

and because she had time and again gone
>>>>>>>>>>back, lured
>>>>by the older boys and their dangerous

propulsions, because a child in shock (we
>>>>>>>>>>didn’t know
>>>>this yet) can seem sullen or intran-

sigent, and because my father hated his life,
>>>>>>>>>>my sister
>>>>with her collarbone broken was spanked

and sent to bed for the night, to shiver
>>>>>>>>>>through the August
>>>>heat and cry her way through sleep.

And where, while she cried, was the life he
>>>>Gone before she was born, of course,

gone with the river-ice stored in sawdust,
>>>>>>>>>>gone with the horses,
>>>>gone with the dogs, gone with Arvid Anacker

up in the barn. 1918. My father was six.
>>>>>>>>>>His father thought Why
>>>>leave a boy to the women. Ole (like “holy”

without the h, a good Norwegian
>>>>Ole had papers to sign, you see,

having served as county JP for years–
>>>>would have chosen him too, he was salt

of the earth–and Arvid’s people needed to cut
>>>>>>>>>>the body down.
>>>>So Ole took the boy along, my father

that is, and what he hadn’t allowed for was
>>>>>>>>>>how badly
>>>>Arvid had botched it,

even this last job, the man had no luck.
>>>>>>>>>>His neck
>>>>not having broken, you see, he’d thrashed

for a while, and the northeast wall of the barn–
>>>>>>>>>>the near wall–
>>>>was everywhere harrows and scythes.

It wasn’t–I hope you can understand–
>>>>blood or the blackening face,

as fearful as those were to a boy, that forty
>>>>>>>>>>years later
>>>>had drowned our days in whiskey and dis-

gust, it was just that the world had no
>>>>>>>>>>savor left
>>>>once life with the old man was

gone. It’s common as dirt, the story
>>>>>>>>>>of ex-
>>>>pulsion: once in the father’s fair

lost field, even the cycles of darkness cohered.
>>>>>>>>>>Arvid swinging
>>>>in the granular light, Ole as solid

as heartwood, and tall . . . how
>>>>>>>>>>could a girl
>>>>on her salt-soaked pillow

compete? The banished one in the story
>>>>all that might save him by all

that’s been lost. My sister in the hammock
>>>>>>>>>>by Arvid
>>>>in the barn. I remember

that hammock, a gray and dirty canvas
>>>>I never could make much of it.

But Karen would swing toward the fragrant
>>>>>>>>>>branches, fleshed
>>>>with laughter, giddy with the earth’s

sweet pull. Some children are like that,
>>>>>>>>>>I have one
>>>>myself, no wonder we never leave them alone,

we who have no talent for pleasure
>>>>>>>>>nor use
>>>>for the body but after the fact.

From The Woman Who Died In Her Sleep (Houghton Mifflin, 1996)

Five Minutes With…Co-Directors Kim Moore and Pauline Yarwood

HH: I asked Kendal Poetry festival directors Kim Moore and Pauline Yarwood to take some time out from their busy schedules to answer some questions about what it is really like to start and run a poetry festival. I was Young Poet in Residence last year, and had the time of my life. Last years’ festival was an enormous success due to these two – so here’s to another successful year!

1. How did the idea of the poetry festival come about? It’s a huge project!
KM: I absolutely love going to poetry festivals, both as an audience member, and I really like reading at them as well.  I love that you can do a poetry-binge over one weekend, that you can catch up with people from opposite ends of the country in person rather than just on social media and you get to see poets that you might not get another chance to see again.  The other side to this is that a couple of years ago The Wordsworth Trust lost its funding for the Contemporary Poetry programme, which I loved going to, so it felt like there was a real gap in the area that needed to be filled.  I can’t honestly remember how the conversation came up though, maybe Pauline will be able to tell you, but it feels like it was one of those ideas that was passed back and forth between the two of us, and then just gained its own momentum as we got going on it.

PY: I’d been organizing the twice-a-year Brewery Poets readings for some time and thought that a poetry festival would be a good way of raising the profile of poetry in Kendal, bringing new poets to the area and trying to reach an audience that wouldn’t normally go to poetry readings.  It turned out that Kim had been having the same idea, so, with the help of Brewery Poets, we decided to see if we could do it.    At the beginning, I don’t think we thought of it as being a huge project – we just sort of cracked on with it.   I think we were surprised, and utterly delighted, that we got the first festival up and running in a matter of months, and even more delighted that it was such a success.

HH: If you had to put a number on it, how many hours would you say you have spent planning this years festival so far?

KM: Ha! I wouldn’t like to put a number on it! Now that the programme is up and ticket sales have started, I would say I spent on average an hour every day on the festival, either blogging or editing/proof-reading the blog and keeping up with the social media side of things.  When we were writing applications to the Arts Council and the other charities that have kindly agreed to fund the festival this year, Pauline and I would meet for four or five hours at a time, probably five or six times in total, and that was just to get the application forms filled in.  I spent the whole of a six hour train journey down to Swindon writing the copy for the website, and I’m sure Pauline spent just as much time editing that copy down to fit it onto the brochure!  There are so many jobs that people probably don’t think about that need doing.  We’ve had a few five-hour proofing meetings for the website and the brochure with our brilliant website designer Claire Steele as well.  Then there’s meetings with our venues, Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Kendal Library, meetings with Waterstones who are supplying the books this year, the list is endless! I knew it would be hard work putting a festival on, but I don’t think I quite understood the time that it takes.

PY: It’s impossible to say, but it’s a lot.   There is usually something to be done every day and some days are totally handed over to festival things.   I could count the emails that have sped between Kim, Claire Steele (our amazing web and marketing designer) and myself on a daily basis since last October – but, in the current run-up to June, there isn’t time!

HH: What were your personal highlights of last year?

 KM: There were so many! Seeing the rooms full to bursting for each reading and the atmosphere over the whole weekend was just amazing, and slightly addictive, which is why we’re doing it all over again this year.  I suppose the real highlight for me was seeing the Dove Cottage Young Poets standing on stage and peforming their work alongside the invited Festival Poets.  The inclusion of the young poets just gave the festival a completely unique feel for me.  I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite out of the Festival Poets though – every single poet was invited because we loved their poetry, and one or both of us had seen them perform and knew they would do a brilliant job at the festival.  I must say however, that the genius programming moment was putting together Clare Shaw (passionate, heartfelt) with Hilda Sheehan (surreal, playful).  On paper, it shouldn’t have worked, but in person, the reading was electrifying.

PY: My personal highlight was on the first evening.    Introducing the discussion between Jane Routh and Andrew Forster, I said ‘Welcome to the very first event of the very first Kendal Poetry Festival’ and a huge cheer went up.  It was such an unexpected response and it set the atmosphere for the whole weekend, which was fabulous.   I think Kim and I relaxed at that point, knowing that people were really looking forward to everything.

HH: If you could have any poet alive or dead come and perform, who would it be and why?

KM: I would love to have Sharon Olds at the festival.  She is one of my favourite poets – once I drove from my house to Sheffield (about three hours drive) just to see her read for 20 minutes.  Then I drove all the way back again and had very little sleep before getting up to do a full days teaching the next day.  So I would love to have her read in Kendal.  But for poets who are not alive anymore – I’d like to have C.P.Cavafy – he is one of my favourite poets to read in translation.  I don’t know how he’d be in performance – but sometimes you have to take a risk on these things!

PY:  Can I choose one dead and one alive?    Firstly, I’d choose Louis MacNeice because I’d love to hear him read his poem ‘Prayer before Birth’.   I love the speed, pace and rhythm of this poem, and I especially love that, although written in 1944, MacNeice’s political and philosophical themes in this poem are still so appropriate today. I’d also choose Tishani Doshi who is of Indian and Welsh descent.   I have only heard her read once, from her collection ‘Everything begins elsewhere’ and I’d love to hear her again.   She blends her experiences of two cultures in beautiful, lyric poems that simultaneously have strength and softness, weaving from memory, dreams, place, loss.  Quite mesmerizing.

HH: If you could give one tip to anyone looking to start a poetry festival what would it be?

KM: Find a friend who you can work with, who has different skill sets to you.  I think this is really important so that you can divide jobs up, and so that the other person can pick up the slack when life gets in the way.

PY: Make soup, get in the scones, jam and cream and start planning.   It’s exciting!

Three Days Left!

Although tickets will be available up to and during the festival, our special offer of 10% off five or more tickets ends on May 6th in three days time!  You can buy tickets for all of our events online at The Brewery Arts Centre

A quick update on ticket sales – there are three tickets left for the workshop with Kathryn Maris on Saturday morning.  Kathryn will be looking at fragmented techniques in poetry and the workshop will be a mixture of a discussion and writing techniques.  I (Kim Moore) have seen Kathryn in action in a workshop and was really impressed with her teaching, so this workshop comes strongly recommended.  There are four tickets left for the Chrissy Williams workshop on Saturday at 5pm.  Chrissy will be using the Julian Cooper exhibition in Abbot Hall Art Gallery as inspiration for her workshop.  This is a chance to have a look around the gallery and write poetry in response and not to be missed!

Other exciting news – Inua Ellams’ latest book #Afterhours published by Nine Arches Press has just been published.

This is from the Nine Arches website:

In 2015, Inua Ellams was poet in residence at the Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre in London. His #Afterhours project took him on a voyage of cultural translation and transposition through time and place, to the heart of the libraries’ rare books collection, and through his own life’s story as he selected poems published during each year of his life, from birth to the age of 18. In return, Ellams opens up a captivating and potent dialogue between poems, writing a diary and intricately-crafted poems of his own in conversational response to the poems he selected from the Poetry Library collections. Here, for the first time together, are the collected #Afterhours poems alongside the re-discovered poems which inspired them and the diary entries which follow this journey. In Ellams’ meticulous hands, this becomes an entire narrative in its own right, compelling and magnetic, drawing parallels of displacement, language and reclamation, and showing poetry’s great capacity to be a powerful amplifier of human experience.

This sounds like a fascinating project – I love the idea of writing poems in response to other poetry.  I also can’t wait to see the poetry that Inua selected to write in response to!

Our last bit of exciting news this week is that our Blogger-in-Residence Hannah Hodgson was the winner of a Curious Minds North-West Cultural Award in the Personal Achievement category.  Below is a picture of Hannah with her award – congratulations Hannah!