Sunday Poem – Jane Houston

Evening folks!  I have had a BRILLIANT weekend – my much-talked about (by me) Poetry Marathon occurred yesterday.  On Saturday morning I got the 6.15am train to the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.  I have  been working on a project where I was matched up with a composition student from the Royal Northern College of Music, Gemma Balmoody.  I was given a song by Strauss and asked to write a poem in response to it, which I did, which Gemma then set to music.  Unfortunately the singer who was due to perform the piece was ill so the audience had to put up with me reading the poem instead.  Thank goodness they put me on before all the sopranos and music, otherwise I don’t know if I would have been able to resist bursting into song halfway through saying the first line.

Afterwards I headed off to the John Rylands Library with the lovely Rachel Davies who was also taking part in the project and various other poets and husbands (their husbands/partners that is – not mine)

We had time for lunch and I had time for a mooch around the library.  It is a beautiful building and I also had time to have a look at the Victorian toilets in the library – they looked just like the toilets at my primary school to me – couldn’t see any difference.  I don’t remember anybody saying they were Victorian!

Rachel is one of the committee members for ‘Poets and Players’ which is a fantastic free event that runs in Manchester.  I was really excited about this event because Alice Oswald was coming to read – unfortunately Alice lives in Devon so was unable to get up north because of the floods, so at very short notice the committee had managed to get Jo Bell and Greville Lindop to read.

Jo Bell read first and she handled the unescapable fact that she was not, in fact, Alice Oswald really well – mainly with humour and apologising to the few elderly people who hadn’t heard about it all – presumably because they do not access the internet as much as the rest of us.  I think I’ve heard Jo Bell read once before but it was a while ago – it was great to hear her – and I think she is similar to Alice Oswald in that she reads her poetry very well – they obviously read very differently – but both could teach us all a thing or two about how to construct a poetry reading.  She was very entertaining as well – and I could have listened to her for another twenty minutes very easily!

I am ashamed to say that in the second half I did get the giggles while the musicians were performing, the kind of giggles when I start to cry from laughing,which seems to be happening to me more and more lately.  I’m not sure if life in general is getting to be more fun or whether slight hysterics is a sign of age.

It was great to hear Grevel Lindop as well – Grevel gave me a commended one year in the Mirehouse Poetry Competition when I was first starting out, so I obviously think he is a wonderful man 🙂  But I enjoyed his set, particularly a poem about a hawk and learning to dance in Cuba.

Anyway, after that, Rachel and her partner and I drove back to Ulverston and got there just in time for Poem and A Pint where the guest poet was the wonderful Moniza Alvi.  The committee provided the floor slots this time and I tried out two new poems that I hadn’t read before.  Moniza Alvi was great.  I’ve always known that I liked Moniza’s work – but in the first half, as she read poems from ‘Carrying My Wife’ and ‘Europa’ and some of her other books – I realised I’ve been reading her poetry since I started writing – the only book of hers I don’t have is ‘Homesic for the Earth’ which is her translations of the poet Jules Supervielle, or versions as Moniza calls them, so I promptly brought that so now I have everything.  I think Moniza is a really important poet – I think she writes about violence and identity and gender in such an unusual way  and it was a real privilage to hear her.  It was a packed audience at Poem and a Pint, and it was a packed audience at Poets and Players which put me in a very good mood, to think that there was so many people that are interested in poetry.  If you would like to see photos from Poem and a Pint event you can have a look at – I’m not sure if they are up yet, but they will be soon.  I managed to sell four pamphlets as well which was a nice feeling as usual.

And that was the Poetry Marathon over!  Today I felt bursting with poetry and not tired of it at all…but have had to do normal things like be sociable and walk the dogs…

Next week will hopefully be full of poetry though – I have lots of things to do – I have my sequence to edit, I have poems to send out from said sequence to magazines (haven’t decided where yet).  On Wednesday there is also an open mic at Zefferellis in Ambleside.  The guest poet will be Zaffar Kunial, the Wordsworth Trust poet-in-residence – so I’m looking forward to that.  If you would like to come you can find more information here
It says that the event starts at 8.30, but I would arrive at 8pm if you want to make sure of getting a spot!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Jane Houston who I met last summer at Ty Newydd.  In fact, one of Jane’s poems set many people in the group off into fits of hysterical laughter – unfortunately this is one of those poems she can’t publish for particular reasons (i.e upsetting somebody) otherwise I would put it up here like a shot!  Jane has a very distinctive voice as you will see from this poem – I think she is a very talented poet and has just started sending poems out to magazines in the last couple of months.  She has had her first acceptances from the Interpreter’s House and Obsessed with Piipework so you can read more of her work in those magazines.  She very kindly sent some unpublished work which is very exciting for me and it was hard to choose just one poem from the set she sent.

I like how bonkers this is.  It reminded me a little of Don Paterson’s ‘Love Poem for Natalie “Tusia” Beridze in a good way – its language, its eccentricity and its chasing down a particular subject as far as it can go.  I did a lot of swimming when I was younger and retrieving dummies from the bottom of swimming pools so this poem spoke to me for those reasons as well – except this poem seems to be in the voice of one of the parents who have spent many long, sweaty and probably boring hours watching their offspring in the swimming pool…

The poem is very surefooted – I like the way it skips down the page, and the way that Jane has played with heightened language to create humour throughout the poem – and who could not cringe when they read the line about the plasters and the hairbands in the water – and then I think the last line is a killer – I was reading this poem, smiling as I read it and then the last line sort of wiped the smile off my face (in a good way!)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the poem and thanks to Jane for letting me use this poem.

Because of formatting problems, I have had to attach this poem so you can read it if you click on this link
To Possibility

3 comments on “Sunday Poem – Jane Houston

  1. phew, left this a bit late…just squeezed in before this weeks poem appears. I’ve spent the week, on and off, trying out readings of this poem, whose layout seems to say: come on, if you think you’re hard enough. It’s like improvising around a musical score. There are great list-lines, which is always nice. Not sure that I liked being reminded of rescuing bricks in a freezing cold Batley baths circa 1956, but excited to recall ‘harmatia/hamartia’…a word I could never be confident of spelling, but one to toss into a 16 yr old’s essay on ‘Hamlet’ implying an assumption of concepts I’d not quite grasped, and maybe never did. For that alone: thanks

      1. Absurdly pleased by that…’s just that you work so hard on your Sunday Poem, and it invariably introduces me to poets I’ve never heard of

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