Nine days ago I was in Camden for the launch of my chapbook ‘Larach’ …..you can see what it looks like if you click on My Books at the top of the page; if you want to buy it, I’ll be delighted. Of course, if you do, you should probably buy Josephine Corcoran’s new pamphlet, and Liz Berry’s Black Country and pre order Kim Moore’s Art of falling, and, well, it’s Xmas. You get the picture…..but, anyway, Camden High Street was all Friday night bustle and junk and tattooists (I was much taken by the the chaps standing at intervals with boards that advertised tattoos, piercings. And tatto removal. It didn’t strike me as a smart sales pitch) and many young people all full of life and purpose; and it was cold. Proper cold. Winter cold. It was like being twenty again, out in a frosty city, all scarves and duffel coats, and up for it. Whatever that was.
And then I got to read at the Trinity Reform Church venue. And meet my editor, Adele Ward, and the Camden/Lumen organiser Ruth O’Callaghan for the very first time. And to see my book for the first time. It is truly lovely. Thank you, WardWood Publishing. All sorts of friends turned up, one I hadn’t seen for about 50 years. He was in the very first class and form group I had in my first teaching job in 1965. Thank you for coming, Steve Lewis. Andy Blackford, also from Middlesbrough High School and one of this year’s (un)discovered gems. Sally and Emma..my best friend’s daughters. Anthony Costello from Todmorden’s Kava poetry venue. Greg from ‘Write out loud’ (thanks for the write-up, Greg. Brilliant!). And then there were the Commended poets. That’s when it gets humbling. I couldn’t, can’t, see why my poem should have won and why theirs didn’t. Light a candle for all the commendeds and highly commendeds, the nearly-but-not-quites. If you’re reading this, thank you for your poems and your readings. Then I drove to Northampton with my lovely friends, Dave and Heather, and the next day drove home, and packed notebooks and boots and pens and the next day drove to Whitby with poetry friends Keith Hutson (who I hope will be an (un)discovered gem ere long) and Maggie How…and the Poetry Business world-famous writing workshop.
It’s the second year running for me to marvel at the endless inventiveness of the wonderful Sansoms, and at their sheer stamina. I get knackered by the end of a single Saturday in Sheffield. Whitby is five Poetry business writing days end-on, with extra poetry readings every night. Sixteen talented writers, totally focussed day after day.And of course, Whitby. Whitby in December. Wind off the sea. Another episode of extended deja vu. Remember the 50’s and 60’s? When did you last wake up and find your fingers were cold? Like being twenty again, or even younger. Amazing sunrises, and home-made biscuits of rare beauty, in this residential centre that used to be a girls’ boarding school attached to St Hilda’s priory. Sneaton Castle. You should try it. Because you couldn’t make it, the rest of this cobweb strand will be a ‘wish you’d been there’ packet of postcards…and a very fast piece of writing out of a single workshop task. Notations of a wander round Whitby.
careful hikers close the footpath gate and snib the catch
right by the five-barred gate where someone’s daubed
in tin-end paint : trespasers will be shot
trees all lean inland
away from viking wind
its knives and hard words
laminate town, levels and layers
climbing out of the fisherman’s river
like the wash from a big dropped stone
ginnels, snickets, steep narrow cobbled ways;
a place of roofs and corrugations, terracotta,
pantiled screes, oxblood, orange, leafdrift
a stone stair via dolorosa , penitential,
cruel and unusual punishment, this ascent for the blameless
seaside donkeys, and steelwork sinners out for the day
headland gravestones, pitted with salt and years,
congregate and crowd, incline towards the church
and all the dead in the way of the wind from the sea
one single sculpted stone fends off the whole north sea;
it throws an arm around the round river at the tide’s mouth.
It says. Hush. Shh. Sh
I don’t know if I’ll manage a post next Sunday. Just in case, a happy christmas, and thankyou for staying with me through all these Sundays since early this year. May next year bring you everything you’d wish for yourselves. xx