Monday, December 31, 2012

...the winner of the ryedale poetry competition 2012 is...


I’ll want my navy frock that sweeps the knee,

vermilion lipstick, brogues; today, you wait

in dishwater civvies, whistle, scuff gravel

at a corner baked with salt and rubble

where, underfoot, streets are thin gravy:

blood, energy, khaki have streaked into the sea.

When I read your telegram, I remembered

how caramel bubbles, then hardens.

Bittersoft edges burn my fingers.

Now I plunge through daylight’s

sifted sugars, towards you: rinse out

the unwound clock, cobwebs,

simmering next-door-neighbours,

chicken bones that boil too soon.

Read the other prizewinning poems and the winning short story here:

And on the York Press website:

This is what the judge, Andy Humphrey, had to say about my poem in his Judge's Report:
'Homecoming, the First Prize winner in the Adults’ competition, is a particularly clever poem because it never actually tells the reader what it is really about. It relies entirely on imagery to tell the story behind the poem. The poet paints a domestic scene: cobwebs, caramel, a lady putting on lipstick. An unwound clock, thin gravy and chicken bones suggest a time of austerity, perhaps wartime; references to telegrams, blood, khaki and “civvies” lead the reader to the realisation that the lady in the poem is waiting for her husband or lover to come back from military service. Every image in the poem hints at the emotions that the narrator is keeping bottled up; but at the end, the reader is left guessing, just like the narrator is.'

I am delighted to have won a poetry competition, and especially one that is linked to a festival that is so involved with local writers and the local community.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

open college of the arts in cambridge: poets on the radio

At Darwin College, Cambridge, last month, I co-tutored a poetry workshop for Open College of the Arts students with tutor John Drew, who will be a featured poet on this blog in the New Year.

We were recorded and interviewed by Cambridge radio presenter Simon Bertin, who also took part in the workshop.  His lively Cambridge arts show, Arts Round-Up, is a must-listen for anyone interested in the arts scene in Cambridge.

The December show, which is here, features snapshots of the OCA day, an interview with me about what the Open College of the Arts offers, student Catherine Foster, John Drew and I reading out poems, and part of a famous Chinese poem read out in Chinese by PhD student Yang Guohua. Many thanks to Guohua and Simon for taking such an interest in the day.

My blogpost about the day is on the Open College of the Arts blog.

One of the best things about 2012 for me has been that I have had opportunities to work with other tutors for both the OU and the OCA, to tutor distance learning students face to face for short, intense periods of time, and to collaborate with other interested parties.

We were asked to translate the famous Chinese poem 'Leaving Cambridge 1927' by Xu Zhimo. This is my version of part of the poem, which I read out for Simon's radio show: full year, one boat, one bright star.
Speckles of starlight sing themselves free.
But I'm unable to sing my own star free.
Quietly I steal away from reed pipe, flute,
summer insects. Now I sink into silence,
as this Cambridge evening sinks
into silence. This is how I leave,
quietly, just as I arrived, quietly.
I wave one sleeve, wave another,
walk away, don't leave myself
one slice of cloud.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

poetry snapshots revisited: david cooke


Lost in growth – and like an abandoned

burial mound you’d never notice,

but for the sign that names it,

taking your eye toward the planks

of a door into the earth.

For years it housed its glistening hoard

before technology passed it by,

making miracles ordinary.

Paid a pittance, until redundant,

servants stoked a glassy furnace.

Imagine stepping from endless

summer into that compact

lifeless core; and the way you’d

stoop to gain some purchase

with your pick and spade,

leaning in to the harvest

of its sullen, grainy crystal –

its dead leaves, dead seeds and insects –

savouring, too, its squelch and give,

its rasping slither into pails.

Lugged across that sweep of lawns

and past the lightsome gestures

of their pagan sculpture,

it is left down with a breathless

grunt onto the pantry floor.

In a room where all is brightness

they are laying out fresh linen;

will adjust to the nth degree

of seemliness a table fit for the quality –

the talented mistress of their king.


The closest my dad ever got to poetry

was when he savoured some word

like pugilist, or the tip-toe springiness

he sensed in bob and weave,

his unalloyed delight at the flytings

and eyeball to eyeball hype

that went with big fight weigh-ins.

I, too, might have been

a contender when I did my stint

in the ring, my dad convinced

I had style and the stamp of a winner.

But in the end I just got bored.

You had to have a killer’s instinct

to do much better than a draw.

In the gym the lights are low.

It’s after hours. I’m on my own.

The boards are rank with sweat

and stale endeavour. Shadow boxing

like the best of them. I will show

him feints, a classic stance,

trying always to keep up my guard.

'Shadow Boxing' appears in David's latest collection, Work Horses.

David Cooke won a Gregory Award in 1977 and published Brueghel’s Dancers in 1984. His poems and reviews have appeared in many journals such as Agenda, Ambit, The Bow Wow Shop, Critical Quarterly, The Frogmore Papers, The Irish Press, London Grip, The London Magazine, New Walk, The North, Orbis, Other Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry London, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, The SHOp and Stand. His retrospective collection, In the Distance, was published in 2001 by Night Publishing and a further collection, Work Horses was published by Ward Wood Publishing in 2012.

Monday, December 03, 2012

december special feature: tim ellis and robbie burns

Delighted to have as our December special feature the work of creative team Tim Ellis (poet) and Robbie Burns (artist with a poetic name).

                                 Cruz del Condor. A viewpoint on the Colca Canyon near Arequipa, Peru.

El condor no pasa

Dawn was a slobber drooled from fangs of giants.

We willed the canyon clogging mist to shift.

The Colca River roiled beneath the silence,

muffed in cloud. Snow-caps snarled. We got shoved

about by tour groups, guffawing and looking miffed

to see no condors. Us, we found some plusses,

hummingbirds, sierra finch, Andean swift,

but naturally the guides were worse than useless.

They shrugged and steered their clients back towards the buses.

The trippers file to their seats, muttering as if

they’d booked the birds to soar about this haunt.

The coaches throttle up and grumble off.

A crowd of hawkers wait the bus we want.

The veil of mist dispels. Three condors flaunt

their power of flight, wattles wobbling. They tease,

I swear to God, they spread themselves to taunt

the coaches as they distance down to toys,

primaries splayed like stiff fingers flicking Vs.

From Tim's book 'Gringo on the Chickenbus', published by Stairwell Books, and available online at Tim's website.

        By day he is a self-employed gardener who tends the luxuriant privet hedges of Harrogate, but Tim Ellis is also a well-known face on the Yorkshire performance poetry circuit. Last year was a good one for Tim: in a single week he scooped both the first prize in the Huddersfield Literature Festival “Grist” Competition, and was crowned York Poetry Slam Champion 2011. Not long after, he was briefly featured on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent, reading his favourite slam poem, “Around the World in 3 Minutes”. His second collection, “Gringo on the Chickenbus”, published by Stairwell Books, was listed as one of the 20 best small press poetry collections of 2011 by Purple Patch magazine.    

Robbie Burns grew up in rural Essex. She gained a 1st class Degree in Illustration at Camberwell School of Art, and worked as a freelance illustrator with work appearing in the Radio Times, the Spectator and the Observer magazine. Since meeting Tim in 1991 she has lived in Harrogate and travelled widely. She currently has two pictures on display at the Open Exhibition in Harrogate’s Mercer Gallery.

York Literature Festival HUB 2018 event, Tuesday, 20th March

I'm looking forward to my first event for absolutely ages - at the York Literature Festival HUB. Many thanks to YLF and Valley...