Clare Shaw at Kendal Poetry Festival


When we applied for Arts Council funding last year, our venue, the Abbot Hall Art Gallery had a small cafe on site.  However, Kendal  suffered terribly in the floods, and the cafe at Abbot Hall is now unusable.  Pauline and I have been working hard to research alternative arrangements for food and Blackwells have come to our rescue, offering to deliver freshly-baked cakes and tray bakes for visitors to the festival over the weekend.  We will also have a tea and coffee urn on site, staffed by some enthusiastic and willing volunteers.  The venue is very close to the town centre, with plenty of restaurants and cafes within walking distance.

As part of the run up to the festival, we will be featuring poems from the poets that are appearing at the festival at regular intervals on this blog.  Our first poet on the blog is the wonderful Clare Shaw, who will be reading at the festival with Hilda Sheehan on Saturday 25th June at our 2pm Main Reading.

One of the most enjoyable experiences of putting together a poetry festival was deciding which poets we would like to make up our ‘dream team’ for this first festival.  Clare Shaw, described by the Arvon Foundation as ‘one of Britain’s most dynamic and powerful young poets’ was high up on both of our lists as someone we had to invite.

Clare is currently working on a new collection, and has generously allowed us to pick a new poem to feature on our blog this week.  As flooding has been at the forefront of our minds in the last week as we chased down alternative catering arrangements for the festival, we decided to choose a poem from a sequence that Clare is working on called ‘Measures of Impact’ which explores the impact of flooding.  Living in Hebden Bridge has meant that Clare has had terrible floods of her own to deal with.

We think this is a wonderful poem, conjuring up both the anger and the weariness felt by having to deal with flooding over and over again in the last couple of years through its use of repetition and the litany of the names of rivers.  Anybody that saw footage of the floods and the people affected by them will know exactly what that line means ‘Enough of friends with shut-down faces’.   Apart from anger and weariness, the poem also illustrates perfectly that feeling of waiting and watching to see if more rain was going to fall.

Clare says

“Living in an area that has flooded repeatedly and disastrously means that floods have entered my consciousness – and my poetry. Its hard to imagine the damage that floods inflict – and they function as a powerful metaphors for personal trauma.   “Measures of Impact” is a sequence of poems based on meteorological scales – such as the Beaufort and Mercalli – which measure natural phenomena according to the impact they have on people and the natural and built environment.  It follows the interwoven narrative of two catastrophes – a flood, and the end of a relationship”

 “Measures of Impact” by Clare Shaw

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