Sunday Poem – Clare Shaw

Evening everybody.  I’m now tucked up in bed writing this after a marathon weekend – in fact a marathon January where I seemed to be doing everything but writing poetry.  However, on Saturday, I got the 6.20 am train again to Sheffield and went to the Poetry Business Writing School workshop – this is an 18 month course that I’m doing and we have a workshop every other month.  I’m really enjoying it so far, and by the time Saturday came around, I was itching to get out of Barrow, and have some time to do some writing.  That is a misnomer though, because there is always ‘time’ to write – but I’ve found through January, that when I’ve had the time, I’ve just not had the energy – so I was really ready to write – I knew I had something to say.  That is the great thing for me about workshops – the exercise is really just an open door, or a way in to what ever subject I really want to write about.  The other poets on the course are really, really good as well and I really like hearing the different things they’ve come up with for each exercise.  Ann and Peter are great tutors as well – I know they are now my publishers, so I’m biased maybe, but I love the way they are so careful to include everybody, they are unfailingly interested in people’s writing and are in general the type of people who send you off with a warm glow after being around them.

Anyway, that was Saturday – and I think I managed to write two or three poems, or first drafts of poems anyway.  I say ‘think’ because I can never tell at first whether what I’ve written will be a poem, and I’ve not had time to look back through my notebook, or type them up since then – that is going to be my job tomorrow on my day off work.  I got back at 9pm on Saturday, and then went straight down to the pub to meet up with Dave Boroston, one of my oldest friends from music college, a really good trumpet player who’d come up from the Midlands to do an all-day jazz workshop with the Junior Band on the Sunday, so then I have to get my head out of poetry, and back onto teaching, and timing, and structuring a session etc.

Anyway, Dave had brought his friend Tom up to play piano, and today they’ve ran a workshop all day for the children.  By the end of the day, every single band member had improvised around a 12 bar blues, which is pretty scary if you’ve never done it before, so I was really proud of them.  I’ve just been back at the pub with Dave and Tom and they’ve been going on about how well-mannered the kids are in the band, and how well-behaved they were and enthusiastic so I’m made-up that they gave such a good impression of themselves.  It was a long day as well 10-4 and the youngest children there were year 4 – so they did so well to concentrate all day.

So I’m pretty shattered now – and I think I’m coming down with something – sore throat, slightly dizzy, headache, and bizarrely, a bruised sole at the bottom of my foot on the heel, which sounds bizarre, but it’s genuinely painful enough that I can’t put weight on it.  It sounds ridiculous I know but there you go.

Anyway, in honour of what we’ve been trying to do all day today, which is to show children that music is for them, that they can improvise, that it is not always important to be ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ but that the process of making music is more important, which is ultimately about expression, I’m very excited to be able to post a poem by Clare Shaw on the blog this Sunday.  Clare is one of my favourite writers and performers  and if you haven’t been to see her read, make the effort because she really is quite an unforgettable reader.

Her website is if you would like to see more of her work and find out more about her.  The poem that I’ve chosen for today comes from her new collection ‘Head On’ published by Bloodaxe books but I would also recommend her first collection ‘Straight Ahead’ also from Bloodaxe.

I was going to put up Clare’s first poem in the new book ‘I do not believe in silence’ because I thought it exemplified very concisely one of the themes which runs throughout the book – that of the problem of language, and how we express ourselves, what stops people being able to speak, who has power, who doesn’t… however, I noticed Clare had the poem on her website, so you can read it if you head over to it…so I thought I would put another favourite of mine up – a poem called ‘Tree’

This poem is very quirky but it kind of fitted with what was happening today as well – the struggle of the children to break free of constraints and self consciousness resonates with the Tree in this poem, who is ‘tired of being Tree’.  I love some of the images in this poem – the rooks and the ship at the end.  I can identify with this tree!  Anyway, here is the poem – I hope you enjoy it.


Tree by Clare Shaw

Tonight, Tree is very tired
of being Tree.
Tree wants to be something else.

Not another kind of tree, but
something different entirely –
like a dachshund

on a quiet summer’s morning in Tokyo
with an owner who knows nothing
of wood.

Tonight, Tree aches,
the way a cello does, or blood.
She cannot be comforted.

Tree wants no one to touch her or hold her
though she yearns for it more than the world.
Sick of the company of trees,

she loathes their steadfast insistence
on distance and closeness.
Their earnest intent to do good.

Tree is finished with goodness,
with Spring’s showy brightness.
She does not feel at home

except in Winter.
She is jealous of birds
and the air.

Tree will fly sometime
if it kills her.  But not tonight.
She is done with trying so hard.

Tree wants to lie.
Tree wants to be irresponsible and inconsequential.
Tree wants to do wicked things.

She doesn’t know what they are yet
but she sees them inside her
like rooks.

in the deep of the forest,
Tree itches and whispers

like a ship for a storm,
for something to sink her
or save her or change her.

Or failing that,

Or failing that,

2 comments on “Sunday Poem – Clare Shaw

  1. Kim I really enjoyed your blog this morning and this poem – both made me feel that this gloomy and droopy January is really over and something new and exciting lies around the corner. I think this poem identifies with how we all feel sometimes – that we’d like to be free from what shackles us to one spot and branch out towards fresh and unknown territory. And yet there is the contradiction -“Tonight,/in the deep of the forest,/tree itches and whispers” – that restlessness inside us all.

    Thank you for this.


    1. Thanks Valerie. It is a wonderful poem from a wonderful collection. I like the idea of the Tree wanting to be something different entirely, not just a different type of tree, but ‘a dachshund’. Glad you enjoyed it.

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