Sunday Poem – Ian Duhig

Evening folks!  Today I told my hubby I ‘need’ to write my blog, so managed to get out of that most awful part of decorating, the tidying up afterwards.  This weekend my mum and dad have been visiting – they brought with them their new border collie puppy Taz, which they adopted from a dog rescue centre.  My parents came up to help us put a new laminate floor down – not only was our old floor eight years old and peeling at the edges, it was peeling in the middle and in fact all over so it needed doing if we wanted to sell the house.  So in our rather small terraced house this weekend was two border terriers (mine), a very grumpy cat (mine), a very energetic 17 week old border collie puppy (the parents’), my parents, me, the hubby and various power tools and bits of flooring and dog cages and dog toys – then my twin sister and her husband turned up with their two terriers – thank god they had decided to buy a camper van on the way so they slept in that last night – their first night in the camper van was spent outside our house in Barrow – so they probably didn’t get much of a scenic view this morning…

So that was my weekend – learning to lay a laminate floor.  You will be glad toknow that since Monday, when I did an eight hour painting stint on my bedroom, I have actually done poetry things, which is, after all what this blog is about.

So this week I have read more Ovid – I’m about 2/3rds of the way through now.  I’ve just read about Pygmalion.  Not much to say about that really, other than ew.  I tried to write a sonnet this week after doing session with Young Writers last week on sonnets.  I would say I’m 2/3rds pleased with it so need to crack on this week and have another go at it.  I went to Grange Library on Thursday to the launch of a poetry anthology by Grey Hen Press – the anthology is called Running Before the Wind’ which is a collection of poems about the sea and our relationship with it.  I enjoyed the reading – particularly Penelope Shuttle’s poem, which was read by local poet Geraldine Green. My only slight criticism was that there are only so many poems I can hear about the sea before I started hearing the same words coming up again and again – which is not to say this was a weakness of the poems, more the fact that the sea has to be a constant thread that runs through the book.    However I think as a book to dip into, it is a wonderful thing.  You can order the book here On their website it says that Grey Hen Press publish poetry by ‘older women’ – I don’t know what the age is that they consider you as an ‘older woman’ but if you consider yourself as one then they are definitely worth checking out – the production of their books is beautiful.

The other exciting thing that happened to me this week was that Suzanne Vega favourited my tweet!  I was bursting to tell my Dad this momentous news, thinking he would be impressed, but he said he hadn’t heard of her – deeply disappointed.  He also doesn’t really get Twitter, or what favouriting means, but oh well. Anyway, if you click on the link below, you can hear a wonderful interview with her on The Verb and a brilliant new song from her album. And if you keep listening you will hear the lovely Zaffiar Kunial, the new poet in residence at the Wordsworth Trust, talking and reading some poems – after which, I’m sure you will agree, you will decide he is the Real Deal.  You can listen to the episode here

And one more exciting thing that happened this week is that my lovely poetry friend John Foggin won 1st prize in the Plough Poetry Competition.  I am really happy for John – because he’s a nice guy and a good poet, but also because he ‘works’ really hard at poetry – he goes to workshops and readings and open mics – and I put work in inverted commas because I know he doesn’t see it as work – he loves poetry and just wants to be around it and around people who love it as much as he does.  So it is lovely that his dedication has been recognised.  John also always comments on everybody else’s poems on this blog in a most generous way, so therefore he is my ‘bestie’ as my pupils would say.  You can read John’s poem and the other prize winning poems here

But onward, onward, onward! A whole hour and a half earlier than last week – here is today’s Sunday Poem by the wonderful poet Ian Duhig, who I’ve wanted to have a poem from for ages, but kept changing my mind about which of his poems I liked best – but then, in the end decided to ask Ian if I could have his ‘A Curse on Heptonstall’ poem.

This poem brings back so many great memories for me – I was on a residential course last summer and Ian was one of the tutors along with Ruth Padel.  I think it was our last workshop when Ian decided we would all write Curse poems and showed us his own Curse poem as well as ‘Little Songs of Malediction’ by Fiona Sampson which are great as well.

I love how this poem has so much personality in it – it is great fun with the repeating rhyme sound at the end of each line and the curses get more and more outrageous and over the top and then it is rounded off nicely at the end with that half rhyme, which gives the impression that the curser after venting his spleen has finally ran out of energy.  I like the knowingness of this poem as well – it is such a rant, it is easy to forget you are reading a poem, but then it reminds you ‘my verse has just begun to stall.’  But it is also very well crafted and some of the lines, whilst full of, well cursing, are actually beautiful – what about ‘May shingles wrap him like a shawl’…Lovely!  Really you have to hear Ian read this poem as well – or at least read it aloud to yourself.

The workshop got completely over the top as well – at one point about half the participants were crying with laughter at each other’s awful curses – someone cursed their mother in law, I cursed the children who have annoyed me over the years – see it sounds harsher than it actually was! Anyway, it was very carthartic – I’ve never laughed so much but it also produced some great poetry.  My Trumpet Teacher’s Curse is going to be in the next Rialto – thinking about it now, I really should have put ‘after Ian Duhig’ underneath the title, but I didn’t – which is quite rude really, as I don’t think I would have written it without that workshop.

So IF my mythical first collection, which has all the physical characteristics of the best mythical creatures, like dragons and unicorns (ie doesn’t exist) ever comes into being, then I will be sure to acknowledge Ian somewhere for the opening of the door into my poem with his own wonderful Curse.

Ian has written six books of poetry, most recently Pandorama (Picador, 2010). He has won a Forward Prize, the National Poetry Competition twice and three times been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. He works extensively with other artists and musicians, supplying text for composer Christopher Fox’s Dark Roads, premiered this April at Tate Britain.  If you would like to order one of Ian’s poetry books, or maybe even two, or three or six, go to the Picador website which is

I hope you enjoy the poem, and thanks to Ian again for letting me use it.

 A Curse on Heptonstall – Ian Duhig

Come all you demons, heed my call
to bless this curse on Heptonstall
where Pilot pens aren’t safe at all
for stuffed with thieves is Heptonstall.
Please, let my couplets never pall
before well-cursed is Heptonstall;
for every ill, I’ll cast a trawl
and dump my catch on Heptonstall;
may all vile things that creep and crawl
repair at once to Heptonstall;
let drunken bears and werewolves brawl
around the streets of Heptonstall
and then may they play basketball
with human heads in Heptonstall
while madness-fits like those of Saul
afflict the folk of Heptonstall;
let every storm and freezing squall
blow in their winds to Heptonstall;
may shite and fire and brimstone fall
on every roof in Heptonstall
while mortar rots from every wall
that holds a roof in Heptonstall.
May shingles wrap him like a shawl
who stole my pen in Heptonstall:
let pus gush like a waterfall
from all his sores in Heptonstall
and each sore bore in like an awl
through his foul flesh in Heptonstall
so all the fool can do is sprawl
and weep and groan in Heptonstall;
I’d hear him scream, I’d hear him bawl
and beg for death in Heptonstall
and set about him with a maul
to break his bones in Heptonstall.
O queue you fiends by Satan’s hall
and catch the bus to Heptonstall –
my verse has just begun to stall,
so take your turn on Heptonstall:
you have the evil wherewithal
to serve them well in Heptonstall,
that cankered Pennine caul
of dandruff, Heptonstall
where pens get stole.

3 comments on “Sunday Poem – Ian Duhig

  1. “..where pens get stole.” – ha ha ha! Great ending! Thanks for posting this, I shall look out for your trumpet teacher’s curse poem in the Rialto! … funnily enough I have an ‘after Ian Duhig’ poem coming up in Interpreter’s House, after discovering The Lammas Hireling while on a course at Ty Newydd. Fab stuff.

  2. You’ve left me nothing to say, Kim. Except. Yes. Exactly. There’s something splendidly medieval about it. And it takes me back to all the times I spent at Lumb Bank when I was an English Adviser for Calderdale, and I could drop in for a pot of tea with Maura Dooley, and pretend it was part of my professional remit. Reminds me, too, of Roger McGough’s poem about Muffin, the Lumb Bank cat….not everything about Lumb Bank makes everyone ecstatic. Maybe it’ll set me off about Heptonstall which is the creepiest of villages. I used to think you could do a remake of ‘Straw Dogs’ there. And the school at the end of the village where there was a whole room full of exercise books. Each one only had one piece of writing in it because the Head never marked the top juniors’ work, and gave out a new book every time he set a writing task. There’s symbolism in that, somewhere.

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