Inspirational (2)

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In the last post I was writing about poets who inspired me, who gave me the aspiration to write. Poets who taught me what I needed to be writing about, and sometimes how.

There are other kinds of inspiration ... those epiphanic moments that come back fresh and sharp, new-minted memories. Images. Two newly dead mackerel on an asphalt path below a train station. A goldcrest that killed itself, fl...

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Inspirational (1)

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I was inspired to write this post by another blog post about … inspiration. As is so often at the moment, it was the poet Julie Mellor. You really should follow her blog. Here’s the link.  I want to quote a chunk of the beginning of the post:

“This morning, checking my emails, feeling guilty abou...

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The forgotten ones

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The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Traditionally the world goes silent. The traffic stops. There may be salvos from field guns. Traditionally, the great and the good stand so...

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Notes from a small island (3)

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We’ll back home by the time you read this; still, I’m enjoying myself too much to stop. About five years ago, Effie’s daughters moved back to Skye, and the holiday cottage was needed as a family home....

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Notes from a small island (2)

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We’ve been going to the Isle of Skye for 20-odd years, renting a bungalow from Norman and Effie Macpherson in the crofting valley of Achnacloich on the Sleat peninsula. Norman was a shepherd all his w...

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Notes from a small island (1)

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For 30 years or more, we’ve been coming to the Isle of Skye at the end of October. Thirty years ago you could more or less rely on frosty nights and snow on the Cuillin. The world is warming, and thes...

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Thinking about extinctions: 'This Tilting Earth', by Jane Lovell

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The other day, I came across an interview with the poet Kim Moore in which she says in response to the question: What does poetry mean to you?

“This is a hard question! I’ve just had a baby, so my ...

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A collection that matters: Clare Shaw's 'Flood'

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About three years ago, Clare did something I find unnerving even now. She sent me the manuscript of the new collection she’d been putting together (it was provisionally called Floodtown) and asked me ...

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Two pamphlets: Victoria Gatehouse and John-Paul Burns

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I read this on Julie Mellor’s poetry blog last week: “I aim to post something once a week on my blog but last weekend I skipped it. Maybe I didn't have anything to say. Maybe I didn't have the energy ...

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A loss you can't imagine: young men and suicide

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1992. Only a few weeks after his twenty-first birthday, our son David died in a fall from the top floor of a high-rise block of flats behind the Merrion Centre in Leeds. I see it from the motorway eve...

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Pamphlets, collections, and a polished gem: Christy Ducker

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Every time I go to an open mic or a poetry reading, like as not I’ll come home with at least one (or more) pamphlets (or chapbooks … more of that later). More likely than to come home with a new colle...

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Bridges and troubled waters: Graínne Tobin (1)

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I’ve reached a point where I can hardly bear to listen to or watch news programmes, when politicians lie effortlessly and without shame, and when total strangers spew bile at each other on what we cal...

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The past, and other countries: Gráinne Tobin (2)

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It’s been hard to concentrate, these last few days. It’s hard to think about poetry when you’re consumed with rage and frustration in a world where truth is an endangered species, and the management o...

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Confessions of a tripe addict

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Lately I’ve been bingeing on Netflix and catch-up and box sets. The Killing, The Bridge, Borgen, Spiral, True Detective, The Wire, House of Cards (the American one); I’ve been reading comfort blanket ...

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Poetry that really matters: Ann Gray (part two)

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Tell me a story, Pew.

What story, child?

One that begins again.

That’s the story of life.

But is it the story of my life?

Only if you tell it.

 

I was a bit late starting to write...

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Poetry that really matters: Ann Gray (part one)

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Some weeks I despair of knowing how, and where to start. First-line nerves kick in, particularly when I worry that I won’t do justice to the guest poet. I’ve felt  it particularly acutely these last f...

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In praise of poetry anthologies

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I’m constantly reminded that I know a lot less about poetry (and everything else, too) than I’d like. At the same time, I’m wary of the business of keeping up with everyone else who’s busily ‘keeping ...

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My kind of poetry: six new poems from David Constantine

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Well, I hope my recent post sent you off to buy David Constantine’s Collected Poems, and maybe his prose work, too, and possibly the published lectures. At the very least I hope it got you wanting mor...

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My kind of poetry: David Constantine

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I’m feeling something of a fraud, having recently read the latest spat about the Oxford poetry professorship concerning one Todd Swift. I’ve never heard of him. It reminds me yet again that I know nex...

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Writing poems in the sleep of reason

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I remember one of my uncles, a lifelong trades unionist and old-style Labour man. He was an interesting man; he completed his Open University degree when he was 80. He once told me that the cleverest ...

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My kind of poetry: Char March

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This will be the third, and for a time, the last of my northwords poetry posts. It comes with a kind of synergy or symmetry, in that while last week’s poet, David Underdown, travelled north from Manch...

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My kind of poetry: David Underdown

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Last week I decided not to comment much on the poems Bob Beagrie shared with us; I wanted to them to be heard, and work on the reader, for their music, the texture of the language. I’m just hoping tha...

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My kind of poetry: Bob Beagrie

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I like to toy with a notion that I came across years ago. I don’t know the source. I have a suspicion it could have been David Crystal; basically, it’s that if the accidents of history had taken a dif...

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My kind of poetry: Carole Bromley

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I was trying to decide between three possible posts for this Sunday, when my mind was made up for me by two things. On Wednesday I had a great time as a support reader at Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton...

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Let me count the ways: the things that lists can do

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I shall start a tad self-indulgently. Last Monday I was running an open mic at the Puzzle Poets Live in Sowerby Bridge. It was a special night with a guest poet of rare talent ... Peter Riley, the fir...

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My kind of poetry: Gaia Holmes

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Gaia Holmes's third collection was recently longlisted for the RSL Ondaatje prize. That’s all the prompt I need to revisit things I’ve written about her in the past, and to urge you to rush out and bu...

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Poetry workshops, the ins and outs: line breaks

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This will be a slightly edited version of a post I wrote some time ago. I hope it’ll be useful.

There should be a reason why every line ends where it does.

Think about this handwritten letter, b...

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My kind of poetry: Yvonne Reddick

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We can get used to all sorts of fashions and default settings in poetry, getting comfortable with psalms, and sestinas, and free verse, and minimalism, and stanzaic bits of ekphrasis and sonnets, and ...

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Blank notebook pages and first-line nerves

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A sort of mea culpa to start with on this ridiculously lovely Easter Sunday. I’m pretty sure I promised you a guest poet today, and I have her poems and her back-stories all lined up. But the fact is ...

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Poetry workshops: asking for advice about your poems

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Just to be clear; in this context, it’s not one where you write new work from prompts or whatever. I mean workshops where you take a poem that’s unfinished or unsatisfying in some way, in the hope tha...

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Poetry, place and identity: Elisabeth Sennitt Clough

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Some politicians are inescapably linked to things they said, often without thinking, or because they were poorly advised. Or plain stupid. JFK could never shake off the ‘ich bin ein Berliner’ thing, h...

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The ins and outs of poetry workshops: residential courses

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Over the last three or four years I’ve shared various thoughts about writers’ workshops of various shapes and sizes: from groups of like-minded friends who meet regularly in pubs to listen to and advi...

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The company of poets: why listening and learning provides that buzz

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I came back to Ted Hughes’ Season songs today, as I do on a day like this, with

 

     the earth invalid, dropsied, bruised, wheeled

  out into the sun,

  after the frightful operation

...

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Staying alive: me and Mr MacCaig

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There’s a sequence in one of Eddie Izzard’s shows where he’s riffing on supermarket shopping. At some point he remarks that if an old lady bumps you with her shopping trolley (which, by the way, will ...

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Readings and open mics: a beginner's guide

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Extraordinary to be sitting in the sun, in a T-shirt, watching blackbirds nest-building in the hawthorn. This time last year it was snowing. A poet friend of mine, Zoe Walkington, says poetry is a win...

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In it to win it: a guide to success in poetry competitions

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Let’s get something out of the way right from the beginning. The odds of your winning a poetry competition are dramatically increased if you enter. Simultaneously, so are the chances of losing, but no...

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A northern voice: accent, rhythm, and texture

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Sometimes I think I like the names of the northern Dales as much as the hills and the valleys themselves. Wharfedale, Ribblesdale, Nidderdale, Swaledale, Langstrothdale, and this one, Arkengarthdale, ...

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Ted Hughes, eco-criticism and the common reader

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“What do I want in a critic of poetry? I am a slow and basic reader: clarity, first of all. Everything else, the enthusiasm, the insight, even little bits of esoteric knowledge, can all come later. I ...

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Whose life is it, anyway? Writing poetry about real people

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A couple of years ago, I was writing in my own blog, the great fogginzo’s cobweb, about the way I had found myself conflicted about learning things about my granddad’s life that that didn’t fit with p...

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Knowing your place: locating the poetry of landscape

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Poetry and ‘landscape’. This lodged in my mind last week, probably because I’ve just finished an essay/review/guest blog post which has taken me, one way or another, more than nine months to write. It...

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Overlooked poets, open mics ... and how a blog got its name

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I started blogging around the same time as my friend and co-organiser of Puzzle Poets Live, Bob Horne, set up his poetry publishing venture Calder Valley Poetry. We both support the same poetry events...

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