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 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.

The Festival – from the perspective of the Blogger in Residence


The Kendal Poetry festival has drawn to a close for another year, and what a festival it was. We had poets who are at the top of their game come to Kendal and deliver bold and touching readings to audiences who loved every minute.

On Friday we had the festival launch, opened by Michel McGregor from the Wordsworth Trust. Our Young Poet in Residence Florence Jones (Flo to us at Dove Cottage Young Poets), read some of her work which spanned a wide range of topics – from playing percussion to nudist swimming. She read some of her ‘Flo classics’ (Kim was right in saying she is the only one of us that could ever get away with saying that!), which set the tone for the festival – packed out and relaxed.

After that we all went over to the first main reading – Billy Letford and Hannah Lowe. I enjoyed both readings. Billy had a mixture of bold poetry about everyday life and an accent that helped you be swept up in a tide of poetry. Hannah’s poetry was about her Jamaican Chinese father who was an immigrant, the things he got up to and the period in which she grew up in. Her poetry has stayed with me ever since the festival and I have been re-reading Chick since the event. I really enjoyed the poem about her son and the hens.

That evening I was extremely exhausted. For those of you that don’t know me I have a lot of routine and medical things to do in an evening. By the time mum and I were able to go to bed it was midnight, but I couldn’t sleep because I was so happy about the way the events had gone. I kept on thinking about what a good job Flo did her reading, which is mixed with nostalga for me because I was young poet in residence last year and understand what a pressure it could be if you allowed it to be. She did an incredible job, and if she had any nerves you couldn’t see them at all.

The next morning we had readings from Chrissy Williams and Inua Ellams. I had read Bear by Chrissy and had reviewed it on my personal YouTube channel, so was very excited to hear Chrissy read. Chrissy read in a very gentle way, which I would have never associated with her poems until she did it. She had such a gentle voice next to such dangerous and shadowy bears! Inua read from his new collection, which has poems by prolific poets alongside his own. This gave his work a very distinctive voice, and modernised some older poets. I enjoyed hearing the different ‘versions’, and loved that he had decided to publish the original poet alongside the poems he had written in response, instead of just crediting the titles.

That afternoon we had a reading from Katrina Naomi and Malika Booker. Katrina’s work looked at the family and all had a gentle violence and twist to them. She read some very personal poems and had the room in the palm of her hand. Malika Booker, fresh from her dash through blistering heat in Kendal, read her forward prize nominated poem and others from her collection. Her performance style is intense, and there is not a chance that anyone’s attention wandered for a second from her cutting poems. I also read in the segment, and would love to thank every single person who was so very lovely to me after I had performed. It boosted my courage so much that when I got home I uploaded a poem to YouTube that I had been nervous about for a very long time.

Unfortunately those were the only readings I could make it to, as the heat was not my friend that weekend and I was not feeling very well at all. I attended Katrina Naomi’s wonderful workshop on Sunday, which has encouraged me to try and stretch my poems further and try and make them last over a page. After this I packed up and went home. It was a fabulous weekend filled with lovely people who all gathered for the same reasons. A passion for poetry.

See you for the next one!


Five Minutes With Martin Kratz


Martin Kratz will be giving a whistle stop tour of some of our Festival Poets during his forty five minute session. He will be looking at the general themes that many of the poets explore in their work.   If you can only make a select few of our events this year,  it would be an excellent idea to book in to this talk. Or, if you haven’t heard any of a particular poets’ work and would like a preview, this is the event for you! The event is running on Friday 16th June, and would be ideal for those who are going to see Jack Mapanje from 3-4pm, as this event runs from 5-5.45pm, giving you the opportunity to grab something to eat before hand, then there will be time for a quick cup of tea or coffee before the launch begins at 6.30pm! You can book tickets here.  See you there!



HH: What is your personal background?

MK: I live in Manchester with my family. I am an Associate Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University. I have a particular interest in poetry. Currently, I am working on a project on John Keats. While I’m in this part of the world I’ll be visiting some of the places he wrote about in his letters. He came here on a walking tour in 1818.

HH: What will you be doing at the festival this year?

MK: I am giving a whistle-stop tour of the Festival. I’ll be talking about the poets who are reading and looking at some of my favourite poems. I have also tried to identify any themes that link this year’s writers. Family seems to be a particularly strong subject this year.

HH: Why is poetry about the family important and why?

MK: I have been wondering about this connection. The Old English epic ‘Beowulf’ is a poem full of passages which list various family trees. That recollection sparked something in my mind about the link between the poetic line and ancestral lineages. Lines and lineages. Perhaps it has something to do with the way poetry might have functioned as a mnemonic device, helping to establish the provenance of certain powerful families …a kind of litany of power.

This is a pretty narrow version of family though, and a far cry from the way family is considered these days and in the poetry at this year’s festival. Here, the scope of family is very broad, and involves poems of redress, memory, speculation, and reimagining … Ultimately, the common denominator in poetry about family is love. Even when it’s lacking. And given that love is the driving concern of so much poetry, it’s perhaps not surprising to find the family given that much attention.

HH: In these times of uncertainty do you feel that poetry about the family makes people feel reassured? Is that why it is so popular? Or do you think there is another reason? 

MK: I don’t know. Poetry certainly can have that reassuring quality you’re talking about. In this year’s line-up, you have something of that, but mostly you have family presented as the often challenging, knotty thing it can be. There’s no reaching after easy nostalgia. Family doesn’t just happen. It would be nice if it did. But family actually takes work, and perhaps the poetry is part of that work. Also, in difficult times we are reminded of what’s important to us of course.

What I have been struck by in particular is the recurrence of the grandparent as a prominent figure. I suspect that in literature the grandparent is a figure that is often written about pretty generically and too simplistically. Grandparents can often be represented as uncomplicated and one-dimensional… this year’s poetry definitely challenges that idea.  

HH: What advice would you give to anyone looking to write poetry about the family?

MK: Read! There are so many different ways to conceive of the idea of family and to write about it, whether you’re writing about real families or imagined ones. In the end, you should write what you have to. Perhaps, write what you know. But read what you don’t.

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!