Report from the Festival by Jamie Hale

Kendal Poetry Festival UK - Bringing a Poetry Festival to Kendal and the Lake District

In the second of our series of ‘Reports from the Festival’, one of our Bursary recipients, Jamie Hale gives his account of the weekend.  Reading his thoughts after the weekend is over brings home how important it is that organisations make specific and tangible changes to ensure that events are accessible, so that as many people as possible can attend and are made to feel welcome.  Thanks to Jamie for writing this comprehensive reflection on the festival experience, and we wish lots of luck and open doors to you for your future.
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Kendal Poetry Festival – Doors were Opened
By Jamie Hale


I was awarded one of the three Opening Doors bursaries to Kendal Poetry Festival. The fact that these bursaries exist is incredible – when I first heard about the Opening Doors bursaries, I didn’t see how this could be done in a way that was accessible to me, as I’m completely reliant on wheelchair access, and home-based bursaries would not have been accessible. Discovering that thanks to the generosity of the poet Christine Webb, the festival were able to offer a bursary based in the adapted hotel.  This meant that for the first time I could look at attending a festival, and having attended my first festival I’ve caught the bug.

The bursary came with a hotel room for two nights, and a wristband that allowed me to attend all the talks and events – and I so greatly enjoyed everything I went to. My underlying condition limited the amount I could do, as did the length of my journey and the time I had someone available to do my care, but the access in the festival was incredibly well arranged, maximising what I was able to do. I’ve come away feeling a part of a poetic community that I have never encountered before.

The opening talk by Tim Robertson, exploring Wordsworth’s Daffodils, “I wandered lonely as a cloud…”, could so easily have been an excruciating cliché, but was instead refreshing and rejuvenating – much like his jaunty reading of it. Tim’s talk explored the events occurring at the time the poem was written and role of poetry in relation to society. It was political to write a poem about solitude and freedom at a time when the slavery abolition movement was growing, and the world felt tumultuous. The fact that it was written following a walk with his sister, Dorothy, also felt significant – that solitude and aloneness are different, that freedom, and solitude, and beauty can be experienced mentally, from anywhere. I really enjoyed that as an opening, and kept coming back to it during the weekend, as we heard lots of different poetic approaches. A reminder that poetry doesn’t have to be political to speak to politics.

Relying on wheelchair access and personal assistants means that I often miss events in my local city, so being able to drink in so much poetry over a weekend, and have it all be accessible, was an incredible experience. The highlight of the readings for me was Pascale Petit. I’ve read (and loved) Mama Amazonica, but hearing it performed brought it to life on a new level. The extended metaphor of the mother as the Amazon is beautiful, lush, and deep – hearing it be performed it swirls round the listener, I felt caught in currents and eddies of idea, the beautiful and the terrible, which is also the beautiful. The reading was incredible, and I really didn’t want it to end.

Another reading that stayed with me was the desperate entanglement of joy and grief in Sasha Dugdale’s Joy – a combination of emotions that speaks to anyone who has lost someone. The monologue in the voice of Catherine Blake, following the death of William Blake gains power as it’s spoken and heard, moving round the room and communing with the people inside. I found myself overwhelmed by the emotions in the words, but also in the reading, and have been left with a deep silence of contemplation.

Bursaries like this are so important in allowing people like myself, who would never have considered themselves able to attend a poetry event, access to poetry. Like most people attending (I’m sure), I also write – and while reading poetry broadens poets, I was reminded at the festival how much hearing poetry also broadens poets. I kept hearing (or sometimes mishearing) a line or phrase that sparked off a new chain of thought, and I feel like my creative work will be responding to my experiences in Kendal for a long time. Following the bursary, I plan to stretch myself further and work harder to attend poetry events when I can. It is so important in a tumultuous world to create space for freedom and solitude, especially solitude as a togetherness, and Kendal Poetry Festival achieved it.

Report from the Festival by Hannah Hodgson

Stay tuned for a series of reports/reviews/overviews of the Festival!  The first is from our wonderful Blogger-in-Residence, Hannah Hodgson, pictured here reading at the Open Mic.  If you didn’t manage to get to the festival this year, we hope this in-depth account will make you feel like you could have been! 

You can follow Hannah on YouTube, or on her blog

At our Festival Launch Matthew Sowersby performed three poems, each on a different theme. One that made my hairs stand on end was after the Manchester Bombings, while watching the OneLove concert he spoke out of the cowardice it takes for grown men to attack children. We also heard from the Director of the Anne Frank Trust Tim Robertson, who spoke of how the reputation of Wordsworth’s daffodils poem has vastly differed over time, with the most comedic and toe curling of those mentioned being the Heineken advert, “refresh[ing] the poets other beers cannot reach!”

We also enjoyed the first performance from the Young Musician in residence, Alistair Burton on the Violin.

On Friday evening both Kayo Chingonyi and Judy Brown read for us.

Kayo read  about an initiation rite called ‘Kumukanda’, which would have normally been performed only a short while after he left Zambia. This rite is to “cross the river boys of our tribe must cross in order to die and come back grown.” This, and other poems read by Kayo have a strong sense of culture – specifically him feeling close to sometimes, and far away at others. His performance also gave the audience an appreciation of how important this initiation right is, because he talks of this other self (that would have been come to life after the Kumukanda) having opinions on his “literary pretentions”; and the idea that this other self knows all of his ancestors in the afterlife “Would he be strange to me as I to him, frowning as he greets me in the language of my father and my father’s father and my father’s father’s father?”

Judy then read. She performed an array of poems around being short sighted, and the gruesome discovery of a dead rat on her sofa. The last poem that she read was about her father having heart surgery. The poem detailed the medical professionals cooling her fathers body down so his organs weren’t so oxygen hungry, and then about heart restarting itself after surgery; this made the whole operation almost sound like an act of wizardry. It made the reader confront the reality of mortality, but also the strength of the human condition.

On the Saturday of the festival, our first reading came from Wayne Holloway Smith and Dean Smith.

Wayne read a poem called ‘Everything is always sometimes broken’, which used the image of “a single crow fell out of my mind and fell at your feet” as a metaphor for a deep sense of grief. This image is so powerful because it works on both a physical and visceral level. We all know what a dead crow looks like, but we also all know deep emotional pain which can make you feel numb, or even a little dead on the inside for a while. You may be trying to think of where you have read about a crow and grief before, and that would have been in Grief is a thing with feathers by Max Porter, which frustratingly for Wayne was only released a week before his book came out. However, having read both I feel the way in which they differ is the recognition that many people can be having these feelings at once – “Some people have crows, its no big deal” means the poem not only addresses his feelings, but potentially the feelings of readers as well.

Dean read from both his book The Swan Machine and The Bubble Wrap. He read the poem “Sweet Offer”, which involves a rather melted Murray mint, and how a few misheard words can land you in a rather sticky (pun definitely intended) situation with someone.  Another poem he read revolved around Robert Broomfield “The cobblers laureate”. Before reading Dean said that he sees himself as a modern day ‘Peasant poet’, and so felt an affinity to the subject of the poem. He also noted that the poet Robert Broomfield sold 20,000 copies of his book in the first two years of sale, and to put this in to context Wordsworth only sold a matter of hundreds. The poem charts both his literary success, and the factors that led to his downfall. Dean’s poems have a deep sense of humour, and they linger in your mind long after you have left the reading.

During the Saturday afternoon we heard from both Patience Agbabi and Sasha Dougdale. Patience recited work from her most recent book, Telling Tales which is a retelling of the Canterbury tales. Patience is a performer, she had memorised all of the numerous poems she read out, had developed accents and character traits for each poems speaker; and gave an entrancing performance. The rhyme scheme, length of poems and performance skills of Patience gave the audience a feeling of being spellbound, totally in the world she was creating for us. Patience also read from another piece of work she had written in conjunction with a refugee. Although had to change the persons details for their safety, her work brought in to sharp focus the ease of which someone’s life can be ruined, and nearly ended (by a house fire) simply because of some documents the dictatorship government believed she had seen, when in fact she had no idea what they were referring to.

Sasha is a poet and playwright, and this definitely came across in her monologue ‘Joy’, which won the Forward prize for the best single poem in 2016. The poem is from the perspective of Catherine, William Blake’s widow. It seems to, at times, be oxymoronic with grief – such as with the actual title of ‘Joy’ – but also gives the reader windows in to her deep sadness.

“The eye watered

The world was a mote in that eye

The mote was a world in that eye

And his brush was a blade and his tears made a Lake.”

Sasha is very softly spoken, which only added to the beauty of this piece.

On Saturday evening we heard from Pascale Petit and Nicola Madzirov. Pascale read from her latest collection ‘Mama Amazonica’. It looks head on at her mothers mental health problems. Every poem is interwoven with beautiful metaphor from the Amazon rainforest, which Pascale uses to give stark contrast to her mothers experiences. Her mother needed sanctuary, which was given within the psychiatric hospital, the Amazon.

“My newborn mama washed clean by the drugs,

a caiman basking beside her.”

Taken from Mama Amazonica.

Nikola Madzirov lives in Macedonia. He read from translated poems, published by Bloodaxe. The poems said things in a way that is unlike I have ever experienced in poetry. The poems are written with sentences that are in a slightly different order than you would expect to find, and this gives it an extra special quality in translation.

On Sunday morning we heard from Claudine Toutoungi and David Constantine. Claudine read from her collection ‘Smoothie’. She read a wide range of poems on a variety of themes. The poem ‘Reunion’ centres around herself and a former lover, who have a coffee together. She manages to convey the awkward feelings between the two people who are chatting, the obvious feelings she still has for him, but also uses brilliant metaphor to convey this conflict of feeling in Reunion.

“You’re there in front of me looking like the longest, tallest coolest glass of water.”

David Constantine gave a reflective reading from his most recent book Elder. He read poems about aging and death, and mourning someone that you knew a long time ago. He talks of memories copying his teacher with school friends now passed on. He gives an unflinching look at both the past and all of our eventual deaths, showing us all the importance of fun as a young adult and remembering the dead for who they once were to us.

Our final reading of Kendal Poetry Festival was given to us by Liz Berry and David Harsent.

Liz read for us about both her love for her children and her struggle with post natal psychosis. Her beautifully chosen words create stunning images such as these, taken from her poem ‘spiritualist church’ –

“my soul rising from the X-ray of my skeleton like a white-veined moth.”

Her careful, considered writing is at odds with her horrendous experience of postnatal depression, and so she creates poems that are haunting, informing and beautiful all at once.

David Harsent was the final reader of this years festival. He read from both his latest collection ‘Salt’, and new poems he has been working on. Many of his poems have strong images of the sea; and as he was reading I noticed how tidal I found his voice. As it got deeper I felt the sea swelling around his words, and as he continued I felt another wave building. The poem that has stayed with me detailed the similarities between putting salt on a slug to kill it, and rubbing salt on a whipped mans back.

Thank you ever so much for coming to Kendal Poetry Festival this year. The dates of the next festival will be announced very soon, so please sign up to the blog or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be kept up to date. It has been a pleasure to both read at the festival and blog about it. Thank you so much to Kim Moore, Pauline Yarwood, Katie Hale and Caroline Gilfillan for all of your hard work organising this festival; and finally a last thank you to the poets who have made this years festival incredible.


2018 Kendal Poetry Festival highlights

Kendal Poetry Festival UK - Bringing a Poetry Festival to Kendal and the Lake District
The 2018 Kendal Poetry Festival is over and here at festival headquarters, we’re still feeling nourished by the poetry and sense of community that we felt over the weekend.  In case any of you are having poetry withdrawal symptoms, we’ll be posting a few blogs and photos over the next week or so to remind ourselves of what a fantastic time we had.
To get things started, here is a brilliant Kendal Poetry Festival highlights film, made by one of our Dove Cottage Young Poets, Em Humble.  You can find out more information about Em on her Facebook page here


Five Minute Interview with Peter Sansom



Welcome to ournext Five Minute Interview, this time with the legendary Peter Sansom.  Peter will be appearing alongside our special guest Stuart Maconie in a literary pub crawl, introducing audiences to a variety of new writing celebrating the British pub from the ‘One For the Road‘ anthology.  This event is on Sunday 9th September, 3pm-4pm.  Tickets are still available for this event from The Brewery Arts Centre for a mere £5.

Peter Sansom has published five collections of poetry, which include a Selected Poems with Carcanet and his most recent collection Careful What You Wish For. He is the director of The Poetry Business where he edits The North magazine and Smith/Doorstop books

Thanks to Hannah Hodgson, as always for this excellent interview and to Peter for taking part.

HH: Can you pinpoint a single thing that made you gravitate towards poetry as opposed to other mediums?

PS:Like most people ‘fit for nothing but literature’ I blame an inspirational English teacher.  The first poem in my Selected Poems is about mine, Mike Allen — not much older than us and completely on our side though completely different, being from the South and public school.  I’d like to write other things, best-selling novels for preference, but I don’t know enough and haven’t enough attention span.  Radio 4 broadcast a couple of plays by me and I’d love to do more, but somehow never seem to.  They were commissioned and while I was on with them it was like being a real writer. 

HH: For anyone who hasn’t come across the Poetry Business, how would you describe the work that you do?

PS: We’re a publishers and writer development agency, or the other way round maybe, and from being a single trader in 1986 the Business has become an organisation (ten people, all part-time), with me and Ann Sansom doing most of the teaching, mentoring and editing of books, pamphlets and The North magazine.  I’m fond of saying it’s better than being down the pit (which my mum worried I might) or being Peter Andre for a living (though actually he seems a nice man, Peter Andre).  The PB is an exciting place to be esp with our youngish team and the younger writers coming up now; though it is rather wonderful to read and to continue to be able to publish our older authors.  I like to think the monopoly that Faber (deservedly) had when I was growing up has given way a little and, though there’s more competition from other larger presses, specialist outfits such as ours are not as marginalised nowadays.  I’d like to think that.  But it’s human nature with books as in any other marketplace to trust the brand you know.

HH: If you had to pinpoint a person ( who may not be a writer themselves) who has influenced you, who would you choose?

PS: My favourite writer is the Sheffield poet Stanley Cook (1922-1991), who taught me at Huddersfield Poly, and whose poems spoke to me at once because of their honest, intelligent voice and their wit, and the way they look so closely at everything, especially the mostly working class world around him.   He was an influence in so many ways, and it was through him that I got a job at the Poly, which developed poetry workshops in a happy time of being young(ish) alongside Simon Armitage eg and Ian McMillan and with the Poetry Business just starting.  I wrote a poem about it (‘Sofa’) in my last book.  There was an article about Stanley Cook anyway in my first year on the library noticeboard photocopied from The Guardian, ‘Poet at the Poly’, when he won a competition (£2000, big money in the seventies).  Otherwise you’d never know he wrote poems.  He never mentioned it and his books were in the library but not many bookshops.  Later he was editor of Poetry Nottingham, which he published me in, and then Poetry Nottingham pamphlets with mine the first in the series.  I still can’t believe it, because he really knew what he was doing, and I certainly didn’t.  More amazing still was that he was an extremely private person and yet he let me read his long poem, ‘Woods Beyond a Cornfield’, in typescript when I was in my third year.   Douglas Dunn among others admired this poem (‘a masterpiece’) and the privilege of Cook letting me read it and some of his other poems before they were published has never left me.  The oddest thing is I do think he was well aware of my weaknesses (as a person and as a poet, posturing and that typical young man self-importance, some of which I hope I’ve grown out of, and shallowness) but he saw something else in me too, and that sustains me when I get knocked back or when (like almost everyone is) I am overlooked. I edited and published his Collected Poems after his death, and wish I’d thought to ask Simon A to ask Faber about doing it, because the PB didn’t have the clout to get him the readership he deserves.  His writing is so rooted in real life, and so clear-eyed and yet completely imaginative and at times otherworldly.  Stanley Cook also incidentally very much admired Ann Dancy, who later became the Bloodaxe poet Ann Sansom.  

HH: You obviously have a huge workload surrounding the Poetry Business – how do you make the time for your own writing? 

PS: I write sometimes in the mornings (if possible not starting PB work till after ten) and it feels great if I can get some headspace and the momentum of several days in a row.  And now and then I write alongside others when I’m running a group.  I don’t write as much as I might, because though I know it isn’t, it still feels like an indulgence.  Even when poet in residence somewhere I’m comfortable actually writing, because people think my real gift is for getting others to do it.  My editor Michael Schmidt at Carcanet (another important person for me) tried to dissuade me from the Poetry Business, because it would distract from writing just as Carcanet might have done him, were he not actually three people.  Actually I think running Carcanet and PN Review and being a Professor of Poetry has distracted others from seeing him as a poet. 

HH: Do you have any tips for any new or young writers?

PS: I like Hunter Davies’s dictum ‘Don’t get it right, get it written’ — which is obviously saying trust yourself, trust the process, don’t worry that you think you’re not good enough — but it is also saying get your head out of your poem’s backside and get on with the next one now.   Most poets know their own writing down to the last syllable and never look with anywhere near the same attention at anybody else’s. It’s natural esp for beginning writers to be in love with their own work, but the poets who succeed grow into being interested in poetry rather than their own writing per se.  The other essential thing is to get out there — networking, publishing.  It’s not enough to write well, you have to be noticed.  Ann and I at The North always say we’re very unlikely to publish you if you don’t send us your work.  Magazines are a sort of meeting place, a place to see and be seen.  And actually meeting other writers at festivals and such as The Arvon Foundation is a great resource — you grow as a writer for being with other writers and you support each other and make alliances and take over the poetry world.  I may be wrong but it seems a very hospitable place the poetry world, but it naturally has factions and hierarchies, a word that spellcheck tells me I don’t even know how to spell. The other thing to remember is to enjoy yourself.  The other other thing fogeys like me will tell you is to be yourself, but who knows how to do that, so maybe it’s just enough to enjoy yourself, and to bear in mind that most poems in the Oxford Book Of Now That’s What I Call Poetry were written by young poets, not the old fogeys they became, so think on.

HH: Thanks Peter! If you’d like to read some of Peter’s poetry, you can order some of his books over at the Carcanet website 


Five Minute Interview with David Constantine


We are less than two weeks away from the start of the 2018 Kendal Poetry Festival and things are hotting up here at festival headquarters.  Pauline is travelling around Kendal so fast she has turned into a blur, distributing brochures,  putting up posters, checking in with the venues and doing a hundred and one last minute jobs.  I (Kim) am busy posting these blogs, liasing with the Festival Poets and rounding up the Young Poets  – always a job to keep me on my toes.

Our fourth Five Minute Interview of 2018 is with the David Constantine, who will be reading on the 9th September at 11am, along with Claudine Toutoungi.  You can get a ticket for David’s reading here.

David Constantine was born 1944 in Salford, Lancashire, and spent 30 years as a university teacher of German language and literature. He has published a dozen volumes of poetry.  His most recent collection is Elder (Bloodaxe, 2014); two novels, Davies (1985) and The Life-Writer (2015), and five collections of short stories. He is an editor and translator of Hölderlin, Goethe, Kleist and Brecht.

For his stories he won the BBC National and the Frank O’ Connor International Awards (2010, 2013). The film ‘45 Years’ was based on his story ‘In Another Country’. With Helen Constantine he edited Modern Poetry in Translation, 2003-12. His new and greatly enlarged Selected Poetry of Hölderlin will be published by Bloodaxe later this year.

You can order David’s books from the Bloodaxe website

Thanks to Hannah Hodgson, as always for this excellent interview and to David for taking part.

HH: On days that you know you have a lot of work to get done, so you have any treats / bribes to make yourself get your work done?

DC: I tell myself, You can plant the beans (or whatever else needs doing in the garden) when you have written what you have to write

HH: If you could narrow it down to one, what would you class as your favourite event that you have read at?

DC:  Over many years I have enjoyed many events.

HH: Can you recommend a book of poetry that you feel should have more ‘hype’ surrounding it?

DC: Sorry, no. I don’t think poets are helped by hype.

HH: If you could pick any poets as members of your poetry family, who would you choose?

DC: They are all on my shelves. But I’d be glad of a conversation with, say, Emily Dickinson or John Clare.

HH: Do you have any tips for any new or young writers?

DC: Read a lot of poetry, ancient and modern, from home and abroad. Translate a foreign poet if you can. Don’t ever write just to get published. Write when you must. Avoid the anecdotal (recounting your experiences. Robert Lowell: ‘A poem is an event, not the record of an event.’

HH: Thanks David! If you’d like to read some of David’s poetry, you can order Elder over at the Bloodaxe website


Five Minute Interview with Claudine Toutoungi




Our third Five Minute Interview of 2018 is with the wonderful Claudine Toutongi, who will be reading on the 9th September at 11am, along with David Constantine.  You can get a ticket for Claudine’s reading here.

Claudine Toutoungi’s debut poetry collection Smoothie was published by Carcanet in 2017. Her poems have appeared in various publications including PN Review, Poetry (Chicago), The Financial Times, Magma, The Tangerine, Poems in Which, The North, The Literateur and the anthology New Poetries VI (Carcanet, 2015). here.  


HH: Off the top of your head, can you think of any poets who aren’t talked about as much as they should be?

CT: Alicia Ostriker and Adelia Prado.

HH: Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve had writers block? How did you get yourself out of that?

CT:  I don’t exactly get blocked but I often get stuck or slightly lost with where something’s going. If I can I leave it and let it percolate and try and have a good walk or clean or do something non-cerebral for a while. Otherwise I drink a lot of coffee and push through. Of late I’ve also found using a white board helps. Something about filling it up quite quickly in quite a messy, random way can free up things for me..

HH: Has anyone in particular been a huge help/ influence in your poetry life?

CT: I have two or three friends who are very good and patient at letting me send them new poems and whose comments/gut reactions are invaluable. For two or three years here in Cambridge I did a workshop with Emma Jones and Sean Borodale (consecutively) and that was very motivational. Cambridge is a town stuffed full of talented poets and I’m lucky to be in an ad hoc workshop group with some amazing writers and that keeps me on my toes.

HH: How do you keep yourself motivated to write? Do you block off specific times to sit and get writing, or do you just write as and when?

CT: I do bouts of automatic writing pretty regularly and keep notebooks about my person and also am a bit of a demon for leaving myself long-winded voice memos of ideas that I don’t always follow up on. I don’t find it hard to motivate myself to use words, as such, as I love them but when it comes to finding the form or the structure for the idea sometimes the next step won’t present itself as readily as I’d like. On those days I’ll dip into other writers (of all genres) I love to inspire me (currently these include Tara Bergin, Catherine Barnett and David Sedaris). If I have a commission I try to reign myself in and be more structured but I do find sitting for long periods tricky, so do a lot of pacing and saying it out loud once I’ve got something resembling a draft.

HH: Do you have any tips for any new or young writers?

CT: Be messy. Write on post-its, steal eavesdropped lines in bus queues and record weird voice memos with them or type yourself random emails on trains. If you can, get yourself a whiteboard and scrawl on it. I think it all helps!

HH: Thanks Claudine! If you’d like to read some of Claudine’s poetry, you can order Smoothie here.

You can find out more about Claudine over at her website here and you can read some of her work over at The Poetry Foundation 

Claudine was also kind enough to send us a poem to post below – hope you enjoy!


Claudine Toutoungi

A gull takes me to the edge of the town.
It is only grey here; great slates of it
and the roll and smash of sea into stone.

What must he have thought? No hint
of orange blossom, not a palm in sight
and all the light drained from the sky.

The northern tales as strange as tides,
like the Newtown Boggle disguised as a loaf
till a foolish lass took him home to toast.

And what of the olive trees, the spices
on the wind, the boulevard lovers?
No one can be a flâneur in the mist.

Against the railings, the ocean holds me.
Spray soaks my face. I breathe it in,
leaning towards my father’s country

Five Minute Interview with Liz Berry



Welcome back to the return of Kendal Poetry Festival’s Five Minute With series.  Our Young Blogger-in-Residence Hannah Hodgson interviewed the fantastic Liz Berry, who will be reading on the 9th September at 4.30-6.30pm with David Harsent.  You can get a ticket for Liz’s reading here.

Liz Berry’s first full-length collection Black Country, published by Chatto in 2014 was described in The Guardian as a ‘sooty, soaring hymn to her native West Midlands’.  A winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, she makes a welcome return to Cumbria, reading poems from her new pamphlet The Republic of Motherhood, available here.  


HH: Are there any particular themes that you find you gravitate towards in your writing?

LB: Transformations. At the moment my mind is much on motherhood (I have two little sons) and how those early years transform us. I also love writing about my region – the Black Country and Birmingham – and its extraordinary dialect

HH: What are you working on at the moment? What wider poetry projects are you working on e.g. judging competitions?

LB:  I’ve just published a pamphlet called ‘The Republic of Motherhood’ (Chatto), fifteen poems about becoming a mother and the wild hard days of that first year. It’s a beautiful looking little thing and the poems are very raw and close to my heart. The title poem has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem which makes me happy as it was a hard poem to write but a poem that I hope will find others in their dark. tender hours. Other than that, I’m teaching workshops, judging competitions like the Winchester Poetry Prize and, as always, pottering away on poems.

HH: Can you remember writing your first poem?

LB: I wrote my first real poem when I was about seven or so. It was about the canting (beautiful West Mids word for chatty) women who lived in the street in the Black Country where I grew up. I still love writing about women and trying to capture their voices so I suppose not much has changed!

HH: What was the first poem you had published? And where?

LB: The first poem that was published that I was really proud of was “The Patron Saint of Schoolgirls” in Mslexia. It was commended by Carol Ann Duffy in their poetry competition. When I was growing up and starting to write, Carol Ann was such an important poet for me. I remember going to see her read at a branch library in Wolverhampton when I was about thirteen and suddenly feeling all sorts of things might be possible for me. So to have my poem chosen by her was a special thing

HH: Do you have any tips for any new or young writers?

WHS: Write what you feel you must write. Be patient and patient with yourself. Be fearless and kind..

HH: Thanks Liz! If you’d like to read some of Liz’s poetry, you can order Black Country and The Republic of Motherhood here

You can read some of Liz’s poetry over at The Poetry Foundation or if you’d like to hear Liz read some of her work, head over to The Poetry Archive


Five Minute Interview with Wayne Holloway-Smith



Welcome back to the return of Kendal Poetry Festival’s Five Minute With series.  Our Young Blogger-in-Residence Hannah Hodgson interviewed the fantastic Wayne Holloway-Smith, who will be reading on the 8th September at 11am with Dean Parkin.  You can get a ticket for Wayne’s reading here.

Wayne Holloway-Smith’s pocket book Beloved, in case you’ve been wondering was published by Donut Press in 2011.  He also gained a PhD in English and Creative Writing from Brunel University in 2015.

He won the Geoffrey Dearmer2016 prize, and his first collection Alarum was published by Bloodaxe in 2017.  John Challis reviewed Alarum on behalf of the Poetry School, and said ‘Alarum is enviably good…Hilarious and witty, it’s also terrifically sad, but wears its tragedy so lightly at first it’s hard to notice.’


HH: If you hadn’t become a poet, what do you think your career would’ve been?

WHS: I think I would have been the lead singer of The Strokes, or an ice cream man. Ha. In honesty, I don’t know if I can think about things as disconnected as that. I mean, most people I grew up with are either plumbers, carpenters, or else they work on building sites. My dad, in addition to being an asshole, was a builder and painter/decorator. The type of person I am now and what I do are both contingent upon people I meet outside of my own familiar environment, at different moments in my life – these people expose me to new ways of thinking about what I am allowed to do with myself. I reckon poetry ended up being a thing I loved and wanted to do as almost-accidentally as anything else someone might love and end up doing with their time.

HH: What is the strangest poetry event (scenario you have been in?)

WHS:  The best event I recently went to was a thing run by Inua Ellams and Theresa Lola, called RAP Party.  You walk into this dark and absolutely packed room, where everyone is drinking and dancing to a DJ playing hip hop.  Then, every so often, the music cuts, a spotlight hits a part of the room, and there’s a poet reading something interesting.  The particular month I attended, the theme was a specific Kanye West album, so each poet read a piece of work in relation to a track on that album (many seemed to critique the rapper in some way due to his recent behaviour).  The whole thing was so fresh, celebratory and inclusive.  It feels like these types of events are one way forward in terms of rejuvenating poetry readings.  No self-reverence.  No pretensions.  Just pluralism and loads of fun. 

The weirdest thing that ever happened was that two very drunk women had a massive fight right in front of a stage while I was reading.  I don’t know why.  

HH: What is the best thing that has happened to you because of poetry?

WHS: 1) I get to write, read and talk about what I enjoy the most, and get money for it to help support my family. 2) My personal politics is constantly being challenged and shaped by what I read. 3) I’ve met so many brilliant, intelligent and funny people, a lot of whom are now my best friends.

HH: If you could become someone else for a day, which poet would you choose?

WHS: Anne Carson or Mary Ruefle

HH: Do you have any tips for any new or young writers?

WHS: There’s no one way of writing.
Things happen differently for different people.
No one has the monopoly of what is ‘good’.  So you don’t have to listen to people who think they do.

HH: Thanks Wayne! If you’d like to read some of Wayne’s poetry, you can order his collection from Bloodaxe here, or head over to the Poetry Foundation or the Poetry Society to read some of his poems.

Meet our ‘Opening Doors’ Bursary recipients

Kendal Poetry Festival UK - Bringing a Poetry Festival to Kendal and the Lake District

We are very happy to announce the names of our three ‘Opening Doors’ bursary recipients.  We wanted to provide an opportunity for three writers to access the festival who might not otherwise be able to, and we’re really looking forward to welcoming Laura Potts, Frances Norton and Jamie Hale.  Laura, Frances and Jamie will receive accommodation over the weekend of the festival and a Festival Pass to access readings and discussions over the weekend.

Congratulations Laura, Frances and Jamie and another huge thank you to Ann from Brewery Poets who is hosting Laura and Frances for the weekend, and for Christine Webb, who provided a bursary for a writer who identifies as disabled.

Laura Potts is twenty-two years old and lives in West Yorkshire. Twice-recipient of the Foyle Young Poets Award and Lieder Poet at The University of Leeds, her work has appeared in Agenda, Prole and Poetry Salzburg Review. Having worked at The Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea, Laura was last year listed in The Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She also became one of The Poetry Business’ New Poets and a BBC New Voice for 2017. Laura’s first BBC radio drama aired at Christmas, and she received a commendation from The Poetry Society in 2018.

Jamie Hale has written his whole life and studied English and Spanish BA (1st Hons).  He is interested in how poetry can sit alongside critical theory.  He explores the disruption of the relationship between self and body.  He has recently performed at the Saboteur Awards, Tate Modern and Barbican Centre.  His poetry has been most recently published in Poetry Quarterly, and his journalism has been published in the Guardian, Rooted in Rights, Unite magazine and the New Statesman.  He is currently developing a solo show exploring Shakespeare’s Richard III, and a nature poetry collection.

Frances Norton  lives with her husband and two teenage children. She is a lecturer and researcher at art school and a practicing artist,  musician and a poet. Her art work and poetry are about the patterns of life, and how that sequence believed to be unshakable, immovable, impermeable can become an interrupted ornament, and the variations,  imperfections,  mishaps and diversions that make life interesting. Her poetry and painting reflect and mirror each other.

Last Chance to Apply for a Bursary Place

Kendal Poetry Festival UK - Bringing a Poetry Festival to Kendal and the Lake District

The deadline for applying for one of our three Bursary places is midnight tonight! Two places available for a low-income writer and one available for a writer who identifies as disabled.

Please don’t hesitate to apply.  A bursary covers accommodation and some meals and a Festival Pass to get into most events.  Please see our previous post for more information

To apply email the following in ONE document to

1. Please send in one document with your name, date of birth and email address and a short biography (100 words)
2. A 200 word statement outlining why it would be difficult for you to attend without a bursary and how you would benefit from the opportunity.
3. Contact details of a referee – someone who knows your work and knows you personally.
4. If you are applying for the place at the Castle Green Hotel, please make this clear in your application, and outline your specific access needs. This place is open for writers who identify as having a disability as defined by Disability Rights UK: A physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Deadline for submission is May 31st. Decisions will be made by mid-June and results announced on this website.