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This place

Like the ubiquitous Christmas lights and Noddy Holder yelling ‘It’s Christmas!’ , I am reminded that the end of the year is approaching by Matthew Stewart, who has posted his annual list of Best UK poetry Blogs. I think that’s the third year Matthew has kindly chosen to mention  this place- this space that I visit when I have something I would like to share.

I don’t often visit the stats page of this blog. but I looked just now, and found that I ‘ve written on here less than last year- 45 posts so far this year, as opposed to 56 posts in 2015.  Also, that there have been 6,767 visitors at the time of writing – a couple of thousand less than last year- and 11, 067 views- about four thousand views less than last year.

What is more surprising is that this place has been visited by people from 114 countries! Among them have been visits from the Bahamas, Kazakhstan, North Korea (!) , Fiji, Liberia, Uruguay, Zimbabwe, Angola, Bolivia and China. 131 visits have been from Brazil, and 1692 from the United States.

Obviously, I wouldn’t post here if I didn’t want people to read what I’ve written. But I’ve not looked into how to maximize ‘hits’ or traffic or anything like that. And I don’t know what brought so many people here from around the world. Search engines are a mysterious thing, so perhaps the person in Macau, for example, was searching for something completely different from what they found. Hopefully, some visitors were looking for what they found here.

This year, like last year,  I’ve been lucky enough to share the work of several Featured Poets, (sometimes called ‘Guest Poets )  including Keith Hutson and John Foggin, both of whom have published wonderful new work recently. I hope these gentlemen wont mind me saying that neither of them are in the first flush of youth (maybe the second or third flush). Both have had busy working and family lives, and have finally found a bit of time to concentrate on their poetry. Both are outstanding writers, and with these new publications, their work is gathering much deserved attention.  I’m pleased to say that two fabulous younger poets whose work was  featured here last year have now found publishers: James Giddings, with Templar press, and Emily Blewit whose book will be out with Seren next year.
I have also posted a sprinkling of book reviews and a couple of interviews with poets. The piece on Putting a pamphlet together has proved to be popular again, as have a series of articles about constructive criticism and feedback. The Poetry Submissions page is always well frequented. Among other subjects, I wrote a piece on depression, and a few articles about translation which included examples of the original poem and my workings on it.

Hopefully I’ve maintained a balance between showcasing other’s work and exploring and sharing a little about my own travels in poetry, both physical and otherwise. Comments on my articles on writing have suggested that people have found some of them interesting and useful, so thank you to everyone who has taken the time to comment. If one person has benefited or discovered anything while visiting this place, then it has fulfilled its purpose.

Keith Hutson poet, Uncategorized

Featured Poet, Keith Hutson

I’ve found that in poetry one often meets friends of friends who become friends.

Keith Hutson has recently become the submissions editor for Hinterland which was set up by Rebecca Bird, who I used to meet up with to talk about poetry when she was studying in Leicester a few years ago.

Rebecca  originally set up Hinterland magazine with Ian Parks, who I had the pleasure of interviewing on here in August 2013. I will always be grateful to Ian for kindly offering to read through the manuscript of my book before it was published. He was very encouraging and made several useful suggestions, not least pointing out that the giant in the film ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ was in fact Talos and not Achilles as I had written in my poem.

Back to Keith. His work has recently featured on the blogs (or cobwebs, as John would have it) of my friends John Foggin and Kim Moore, although I didn’t know that Keith knew either when he said hello to me at a reading in Manchester a few weeks ago and asked if I would like to read at a poetry night he hosts in the Square Chapel in Halifax.

Keith has many strings to his bow, having run a landscape garden business for many years as well as writing scripts for Coronation Street and material for several comedians including the late great Les Dawson.

Keith currently delivers poetry and performance workshops to schools in the Calderdale area as part of a Prince’s Trust initiative. He is a keen runner, and as I mentioned in my last post, Keith and his partner Fiona keep a small herd of sheep on the slopes of the valley above Halifax.

I have only recently discovered Keith’s work but have already become an admirer of his skill and economy. The poems of his that I have read combine acute observation with gentle humour and understated elegance. I look forward to seeing a collection from him in the future. Keith has kindly agreed to let me feature the three excellent poems below.

History

That chap in the crowd, about to toss
his top hat rafters-high and shout
as, pristine and colossal
under steam, the locomotive
heaves and billows
from the shed: who was he?

Owner, backer, engineer,
or just a gent who had to let astonishment
escape, straight up, before he blew
– buttons, lungs and limbs –
in utter wonder
at the coming of an age?

Previously published in Prole magazine

Journeyman

Half-hidden in the fog,
grey and trembling
like the shredded remnant
of a sail, he bent
to open up his battered case
on grandma’s step.
I gripped her hand.

Shell-shock, or gas, sweetheart,
she told me afterwards.
I always buy from him –
what’s a duster after all
he did for us?
I nodded solemnly –
grateful he’d gone away.

Previously published in The Rialto

 The Gloves Are Off

 Do not be fooled: they’re looking
like a pair of proper loafers
on the bench, but never
do they fully disengage.
The cheeky left may loll, skew-whiff,
across the napping hammer
of the right, but these are bruisers,
built to stay in shape,
perpetually flexed,
ready to fly, put on a show,
and elevate a scrap
to craft.

No one’s watching: slip
the rascals on, and feel them float
your hands up to your head,
like helium. Now you’ll bend a bit,
perform a fidget-jig, call
it your Ali-shuffle, laugh out loud,
then try a jab accompanied
by the customary hmmnph!
and swagger. That’s the way –
get in! You just can’t help yourself!
Soon you’ll want a skipping rope,
a heavy bag, a chin.

Previously published in Hark.

 

Uncategorized

In the middle

Living, as I do, near the centre of England (draw two axis lines through a map of the country and I’ll be sitting writing this where the two lines intersect) allows me to roam to the north, east, south and west, work and life commitments permitting, with relative ease.  Our house is a hundred miles from London and a hundred miles from Leeds.

It has occurred to me that I should try and get myself booked for more readings.  In an effort to get out more (I really should) I’ve approached one or two people who run spoken word events, including Staffordshire poet laureate Gary Longden, who runs Poetry Alight in Lichfield where I’m pleased to say I’ll be next Tuesday evening.

I decided to be more proactive in asking to read, since,  although I’m fortunate enough to have received requests for poems from magazine editors recently, I have seldom been invited and could probably sit here in the middle of England waiting forever to be asked.

Notable exceptions have included invitations to support Pete and Ann Sansom at Word! In Leicester in 2014, and to read at the Midsummer poetry festival in Sheffield with A.B Jackson and Nia Davies last year.

My two favourite invitations have come from Poets and Players at the fabulous John Ryland’s Library in Manchester, where I read a few weeks ago, and from Keith Hutson, editor, with Rebecca Bird, of online magazine Hinterland.

Keith, who runs Wordplay at the Square Chapel in Halifax, is a modest and kind man as well as a superb poet (I’ll be featuring three of his poems here next week, one of which is in the current issue of The Rialto) and his invitation included the option of staying at his smallholding near Halifax, which I gladly accepted.

Keith’s cottage nestles near the top of the valley, the fields on both sides and above and below slanting at forty degree angles. Keith and his partner Fiona keep a flock of sheep whose sole purpose is to keep the grass short on the steep slopes. Behind the cottage, past the odd Millstone grit boulder, Keith has planted fruit trees, whose fruit, when in season, the lucky sheep pluck and munch straight from the branch.

I took the opportunity of stopping at Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the way up to Halifax. There is too much to say about this wonderful (free to visit) park here, but if you haven’t been, do go. The highlight for me was this Henry Moore. Here is one of a series of photographs I took, but I think that the emotional and/or spiritual impact of this sculpture set in the landscape can only be experienced by visiting.

P1020185

The Square Chapel is a beautiful Grade II listed Georgian Chapel, the oldest of its kind in the country having been built in 1772. It was saved from demolition in 1918 by a small group of volunteers (I can only imagine some planners where intent on sweeping away the old in order to build something more ‘modern’ at the time) and is in the process of renovation and development which will include an extension linking it to the magnificent Piece Hall.

square-chapel

Keith’s other guest poets included James Caruth, winner of the Poetry Business completion, and Lucy Burnett who’s Leaf Graffiti was published by Carcanet in 2013 who both read brilliantly.

The audience was friendly and attentive, the open mike included a cracking Yorkshire dialect poem from Andy Smith, and it was good to have a chat with everyone and to be given a short tour of the chapel. I also received a pint of locally brewed stout on the house! It was a great pleasure to see John Foggin, wearer of fine waistcoats and leather jackets, who I met some years ago in Sheffield, and to hear him read a very moving and beautifully made poem about cutting his father in law’s hair.

P1020231
I awoke the next morning to the falling snow, (not an unusual site in this part of the world in March but a treat for me,) and after borrowing a pair of wellies and going out with Keith to feed the flock, headed back, sad to be leaving the north, but pleased, once more, to be close enough to spend time with some warm, generous and welcoming people and to briefly experience some of its geographical, historical and cultural riches.