I started the year (or ended 2015) by playing with my best Christmas present…making scores of Minions out of card. I’m easily distracted. Even more easily distracted by photoshop, which lets me give you, and the Minions, a New Years Eve firework display.
I’ll end this year with a big thank you to everyone who’s made it a busy and happy year of poetry (the other stuff out there in the big world I’d rather briefly forget, just for a hour today. There’s nothing I can do about Brexit, about Trump, about the liars and cheats and egomaniacs hell-bent on destroying everything I, and, truly believe, you, hold dear. Grant us serenity to accept what we can’t change, and the courage to change what we can. Let us love each other better.)
Let me say thank you to all the people who recharge my batteries, and inspire me, and who inspire so many others. Particularly, to Kim Moore and Steve Ely for their residential course in St Ives in February. To Ann Sansom..again..for her course in Spain in June, and to Ann and Peter Sansom for the sheer exuberance of their end-of-the-year course in Whitby in December. To the Poetry Business Writing Days in Sheffield. To everyone who runs the open mic. poetry nights that give an audience to so many poets, and give confidence to those just starting out : Keith Hutson’s Word Play poetry nights at the Square Chapel in Halifax; everyone at the Puzzle Poets Live in Sowerby Bridge; Keely Willox at the Purple Room in Ilkley; Mark Connor’s Word Club at the Chemic Tavern in Leeds; South Street Arts Centre in Reading; Jimmy Andrex and John Clarke’s poetry nights at The Red Shed in Wakefield; The Albert Poets in Huddersfield. Thanks and ever thanks.
I’ve been very lucky this year. I had a pamphlet Outlaws and fallen angels published by Calder Valley Poetry in January. I was one of the winners of the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition; because of that I’ve had my first full collection, Much Possessed, published by smith|doorstop. And my friend and former pupil, Andy Blackford and I will be having a collection published in 2017 as a result of winning 1st prize in the Sentinel Poetry Book Competition. None of it would have happened without the network of creative support from those residentials, open mic.s, and workshops. None of it. So thanks and ever thanks.
Huge thanks to all the indefatigable curators of poetry blogs who do so much to provide a platform, particularly for new and emerging poets. It’s invidious to pick out favourites, but that’s never stopped me. Thank you especially to Kim Moore and The Sunday Poem, to Josephine Corcoran for And other poems; to Roy Marshall and his thoughtful, helpful essays https://roymarshall.wordpress.com/; to Anthony Wilson for being the best of the best; and to Ben Banyard and the splendid Clear Poetry. Plus a special word of gratitude to Greg Freeman who travels the country in order to sustain Write Out Loud. What a labour of love that is. If you feel so inclined, they could do with a bit of financial help to support their day-to-day running. Every little helps. https://www.writeoutloud.net/
And, finally, thank you to all the poets who’ve been guests this year on the great fogginzo’s cobweb: Carole Bromley, Wendy Klein, Tom Weir, Mike di Placido, Vicky Gatehouse, Bob Horne, Di Slaney, Graínne Tobin, Stephanie Conn, Gaia Holmes, Jim Caruth, Yvie Holder, Mark Hinchcliffe, Andy Blackford, Julia Deakin. Tom Cleary, Roy Cockcroft, Anthony Costello, John Duffy, Stephanie Bowgett, Wendy Pratt, Laura Potts and Yvonne Reddick.
Two poets who I loved and who were featured during the year have died. Gordon Hodgeon and Shirley McClure. They made the world richer and we are poorer for their loss. Light a candle for them. You don’t have to be religious. Just light a candle.
Just to remind you of the riches they all shared during 2016, I’ll be posting a bunch of poems every day for the next few days. My favourites, the best of the year. Today, from January:
Wendy Klein : South from Bakersfield
Town after town, farther and farther apart; you’re looking
for differences, no matter how small, haunted and baffled
by their alikeness: the filling stations with their dirty rags, tied
to the handles of tin buckets that hold grey water to swill
the desert dust from your windscreen. You know you’ll leave
streaks and tracks–the definition of clean seems different here.
There’s a half-grown boy to fill up your tank if you’re able
to rouse him, and if he likes you, he’ll wipe your windscreen
with fresh paper towels and he’ll grin, display a front tooth
missing, lost in a brawl at night on a rickety porch, over
a mousy girl who could be his best friend’s sister. Now
you’re ready to drive a hundred desert miles or more
to the next one, its twin, you guess, as you pass
the Baptist church, its pink neon cross blinking.
Carole Bromley : Touch
There wasn’t a lot of it in our house.
We learned to live without
though I do remember one time
when my friend, Rosemary, died
and, on the same day, my boyfriend
told someone to tell me we were through
which was a shame since he
was one of the first people
in my whole life to touch me
and I loved it. That night my father
asked me to come down from my room
and watch the news with them.
Three and a half inches of snow
had fallen that day in Alamo.
I lay on the sofa while dad stroked my hair
like an awkward teenager
and, a quarter of a million miles away,
the Russians made the first soft landing on the moon.
Tom Weir : Day Trippin’ for Thomas
‘I’d ride horses if they’d let me’— Will Oldham
We talked all morning about the horse
that, if we’re honest, none of us actually knew existed
but it seemed worth it just to get you into the car,
to stop shouting. We mentioned it so often
you began to repeat it from your child-seat
like a mantra, and you’ll never know the relief,
having arrived and not been able to see a stable,
having stalled you with an ice-cream which you wore
like a glove as it melted over your hand,
of finding the woman who showed us where
the horse rides took place, where you waited
so quietly in line, where I stood and watched
as you approached the man with a five pound note
scrunched up in your tiny hand. You spent
the rest of the day repeating the words too little
like a radio breaking bad news every hour on the hour.
We took you down to the lake and watched
you throw stones at the water, watched clouds fall apart
and mend as rowing boats left the harbour and you
sat still, refusing to join another queue.
Mike di Placido: Not Quite Birdsong
A butcher where I worked once
was a whistler – you know the type:
aggressive, soulless. I’d stand around
being useless somewhere planning his death.
Days at his block and bacon slicer
rending the air, making his shrill statement.
Clocking on to clocking off –
Colonel Bogey or The Sheik of Araby.
And you could tell he worked at it –
thought he was good. I’d think
of his family, how they coped.
Thought about sympathy cards.
And the other butchers? Surely
he was pushing his luck
next to all those knives and meat-hooks.
Not forgetting, of course, the mincer.
Vick Gatehouse: Burning mouth syndrome
The doctor says it’s nothing serious, something
she’ll just have to live with, a malfunction
of the nerves perhaps, not uncommon in women of her age
and she leaves with a script for a mild antidepressant,
a leaflet counselling moderation in alcohol, tobacco
and spicy foods and when she returns, he says it again
after taking a look at lips, teeth and tongue –
‘nothing to see’ and he says it with a smile when she can feel
the bees humming in her blood, the tips of their wings
chafing artery walls and she knows without being told
they’re house bees, the ones who feed, clean
and ventilate the hive, pack nectar into the comb
without really tasting it, the ones who wait for mid-life
to take their first orientation flights and she can really
feel the smart of them, the bees in her blood, unfurling
their proboscises to touch the corolla of her heart,
so many years spent licking out hives, all the burn of it
here on her tongue and they’re starting to forage now,
to suck sweetness into their honey stomachs, and the doctor
he’ll keep telling her it’s nothing when they’re rising
like stings, the words she’s kept in.
[Runner-up, Mslexia Poetry Comp, 2015 (published Mslexia 2015)]
Shirley McClure: Engagement
Nurse dresses the wound,
we talk hormones, oestrogen,
how the levels will drop
like water in a summer pool
that yields only a dry ring,
a glaze of salt.
She says I can swim in salt
water, now that the wound
is healing; she says to ring
if there’s a problem. Oestrogen
used to be my friend. The pool
is out of bounds, but I can drop
down into the waves, swim till I drop,
crawl out covered in salt.
Sea water gathers in a pool
at my feet, and even the wound
shines. Sunbathers beam oestrogen,
and I stand, hopeless in a ring
of bare-breasted women. Can’t ring
any nurse about this. Can’t drop
out of the world because of oestrogen.
I change in our room, taste salt.
My sun-dress won’t cover the wound,
I pull on an old t-shirt, curl up by the pool.
You find me at the pool.
Still not used to your ring –
the ring came before the wound,
before the floor dropped
out of the world, before salt
baths and the war against oestrogen.
– Was it the oestrogen
you fell for, or the reflecting pool,
or my image conserved in salt?
Would you rather I gave back the ring,
would you rather we dropped
the whole plan? I wound
you with questions, wound with oestrogen,
the drops I have left, run from the pool,
your ring glued to my finger with salt.
Tomorrow, poems and poets from May, June and July.
May 2017 be all you hope for, and nothing of what you fear.