I had a bit of a disaster with last night’s post. I got back from my reading at the South Yorkshire Poetry Festival and frantically began typing, having completely forgotten what day of the week it was (yes, who knew that was possible?) In fact the only reason I remembered at all that it was Sunday was because poet Jill Abram posted on Facebook that she was waiting up for the Sunday Poem. I got back to Suzannah Evans’ house, where I was staying for the weekend and started the blog post. I finished it in bed and thought I’d published it, but I woke up this morning to find it had completely disappeared. It is a mystery as usually unfinished blog posts can normally be found in a draft folder where they are automatically saved on WordPress but there was no sign of it.
I don’t suppose it was a wonderful post anyway, being written at midnight but I’m more upset because I’ve broken my resolution to try and post a poem every Sunday, so that’s annoying. However I’m sure my readers will be forgiving and I will be back on time and organised next Sunday.
The reason I forgot what day it was is because I’ve been in Sheffield since Saturday. I haven’t been to a Poetry Business Writing Day for at least six months and I’ve really missed going. This is the first one in six months that I’ve actually been able to make. I had a really nice time at the workshop and wrote a few things that I could develop into poems. Afterwards I went with poet Lindsey Holland to get something to eat. After dragging Lindsey around the streets of Sheffield with her heavy bags we finally found a Cafe Rouge and sat outside to have something to eat. After Lindsey looked a bit alarmed when I asked for half a Stella, I decided to try a Hoegarden which is what she was drinking and it came with a slice of lemon – my first time having lager with a lemon in so I am now, surely, officially Very Posh.
Afterwards we headed over to the Open Mic at the South Yorkshire Poetry Festival, hosted by James Giddings. I was a bit worried as two minutes before the open mic was due to start, there were only about four people in the audience, then suddenly lots of young people appeared as if by magic and the room filled up. James was a great MC – very funny and spontaneous and I really enjoyed the two poems that he started and finished the night with.
On Sunday Suzy and I went for a walk through the various parks of Sheffield which seem to just keep going and going forever. We both got a bit carried away and managed to break Suzy whose ‘fascist foot’ (her words not mine) started to hurt. I would love to say I gave her a firemans lift/piggy back to the flat but sadly no, she had to limp back unaided.
I was reading in the last night of the festival with Andrew McMillan and Ian McMillan. I don’t know which of the two was more excited about seeing the advance copies of Andrew’s collection. Andrew hadn’t even seen it – in fact he had to buy a copy of his own book so he could read from it. This seems to happen to poets a lot – the books arriving in the nick of time I mean. Anyway, the book is very beautiful and has a beautiful naked man on the cover which Andrew tells me is Definitely Not Him.
It was also interesting hearing Andrew and Ian reading together. They obviously are very different in their writing styles and their approach to poetry but I think they have some common ground as well. Andrew’s first collection is about masculinity and exploring masculinity. Ian says he likes writing about language and politics, but he didn’t mention masculinity, but I think a lot of his work does explore it as well, but in a different way. I loved Ian’s poems about someone who lives near him called ‘Norman’ and would love to see a whole pamphlet of Norman poems. I got to see quite a few friends that I haven’t seen for ages – lovely Noel Williams and Jim Carruth were there in the audience which made me feel less nervous.
On Friday Brewery Poets put on a reading at The Brewery in Kendal. The guest poets were Andrew Forster, Jane Routh and Ron Scowcroft who were all excellent as expected. Two of the young writers from Dove Cottage Young Poets came along to the reading as well. It was lovely to hear some new poems from Andrew and to see him getting a chance to be centre stage after all the work that he does organising poetry events and providing opportunities for other poets. Jane Routh was the consumate professional as usual, well prepared, engaging and with a lovely calm reading style. Ron read from his very recently published Wayleaves pamphlet – another poet that I’m hoping to nab a poem from for the blog in the next few weeks or so – I particularly liked his poems around the Falklands War. We had the wonderful singers The Demix performing as well which seemed to go down really well with the audience.
On Wednesday I had my first live chat with my Poetry School online workshop group. I decided to make handwritten notes on the poems and then touchtype comments during the live chat which I think worked ok except that it was quite full on and I couldn’t take my fingers off the keyboard. I’m going to try a combination of cut and paste and touchtyping this week and see how I go. They are a great group though and I’ve just had a peek at a few new poems that they’ve written for Assignment 2 and some revised versions of poems that they have written after getting feedback and I’ve been blown away again!
Before I tell you about the Sunday Poem, I want to remind you all about my launch which is taking place on Thursday, May 28th at 7.30pm in the Supper Room of the Coronation Hall in Ulverston. It is free to get in but please bring some food because we will be having a ‘Jacobs Join’ after the poetry and before the Soul Survivors start playing.
I’ve been having anxiety dreams about my launch and when I say dreams, I mean actual nightmares about nobody turning up. Does this happen to other poets? When the pamphlet came out, it was at the Wordsworth Trust so all I had to do was turn up but this time I’ve organised it, which has meant it has grown into an epic poetry-food-soul night evening of course. I hope if you are within striking distance of Ulverston that you are coming – it will be lovely to see you and if you’re not, please don’t tell me as it might bring on another nightmare. I know it’s the polite thing to do, but I’d rather not know!
Enough about me – I’d like to tell you about today’s Sunday Poem which is by the lovely Paul Stephenson, who I met through the Writing School at the Poetry Business. Paul was born and grew up in Cambridge, and currently lives in Paris. He studied modern languages and linguistics then European Studies. In 2013/14 he took part in the Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Scheme. His poems have appeared in Poetry London, The Rialto, The North, Magma, Smiths Knoll and The Interpreter’s House. In 2012 he was placed second in the Troubadour International Poetry Prize. In 2014 he was chosen as one of the Aldeburgh 8 poets. He teaches at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. If you would like to find out more information about Paul you can go to www.paulstep.com
Paul’s pamphlet Those People was a winner in this year’s Poetry Business pamphlet competition. You can order Paul’s pamphlet from The Poetry Business.
I have two poems that have the word ‘people’ in the title. The ones in my collection are My People‘ and Some People and I was instantly drawn to Paul’s title poem which is ‘Those People’. I like any poems that deal with ‘people’ as a generic group. Paul’s poem is playing with stereotyping when he asks in the first line ‘What are they called? Those people who turn up/unfashionably early’. I love the direct way he addresses the reader in this poem. It feels like all the way through he is looking us in the eye, talking to the reader and he continues to qualify himself in the poem: ‘I mean the opposite of stragglers’ and ‘I’m talking eager beavers’ – each of these lines is an attempt to define what he really means, or to find a word for ‘Those People’. I think the poem is funny – it made me laugh out loud when Paul read it, but I also think there is a sadness and loneliness in it as well: ‘Those folk who don’t often get to go to parties’ which then made me feel a little mean for laughing. I like poems like this that upset our expectations, or make us feel one way and then another.
I really enjoyed the whole of Paul’s pamphlet. All the way through he is experimenting with language and form – I think it’s really exciting stuff. If I had to pick three other favourite poems in the pamphlet they would be Do You Have Any Questions, Gare du Midi and The Pull
I hope you enjoy the Sunday/Monday poem and apologies again that it did not arrive yesterday.
Those People by Paul Stepheson
What are they called? Those people who turn up
unfashionably early, too premature for it to be a party,
just a room full of drinks and square metres of carpet.
I mean the opposite of stragglers, not the hard core
with staying power and no home to go to, or the dregs
of the party who’ve no intention of going anywhere
but love to linger, end up getting chucked out into
the night, or if they’re lucky and it’s a good party,
into a warm sunrise. I’m talking eager beavers,
the party-goers who make a punctual appearance,
greeted at the door by hosts running around with
nibbles still in cupboards and half their face on,
the guests who arrive bang on and get shown through
to hover admiring the smoothness of wallpaper,
which they do politely, not entering yet into the spirit
of the party, swaying by a bucket of orange punch.
Those folk who don’t often get to go to parties,
so have it marked fluorescent for weeks in their diary
and make a mission of what to wear, but never sure
of the dress code, opt to play it safe and wear jeans.
Those characters who eight hours later could be
hitting Havana, sipping mojitos and dancing mambo
and rumba and salsa merengue with dollar-hungry
doppelgangers of Che Guevara in desperate need
of mechanical parts for dilapidated Dodges and
Chevrolets, but hey, instead revel in the refuge
of empty strip-lit galley kitchens, to sit on a ledge
of marbled Formica, slurring into sausage rolls
and spilling their life, is there a name for them?