Jam, Bargain Booze and Pi

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They’ve arrived. Copies of Jam. You never know what your book’s going to be like until you hold a copy in your hand.

They arrived yesterday, in fact, but I didn’t get my hands on them until the evening. I got back from Aston University (an RLF Fellowship day) to find one of those notes you get, by the front door: ‘Sorry you were out…’ The good news was I didn’t have to walk to the delivery office on the other side of town to get them (and I’d never have been able to carry them on my bike). They’d been left at a drop-off point, Bargain Booze, just round the corner. I told the bloke what was in the box. ‘I’m not very poetic, I’m afraid,’ he said. ‘It’s OK, I’m not either.’

Also yesterday, I had another poem from Jam published online in International Times, ‘Dog-speak’. Jake is really Pi, a Jack Russell that lives over the road. Pi’s great. One of my heroes. He makes you glad to be alive.

Teachers as Writers

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Here’s where I was last Wednesday. Exmouth. I’m working alongside two English teachers as part of the Arvon Teachers as Writers project. The idea is to research into the impact of teachers writing on their classroom practice. Great to work with two enthusiastic committed teachers and to be part of the project.

I also really enjoyed the poetry salon event in Ledbury recently. It was in the panelled room in the Master’s House. Great audience and Chloe Garner’s questions couldn’t have been better. A podcast will be available soon.

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Finally, I co-tutored the Poetry Business Writing Day with Peter Sansom the other Saturday. It’s always astonishing how many good poems get written on those days, and the atmosphere is invariably brilliant.

Ledbury Poetry Salon Wed 8 June and the stones

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I’m featured poet at the Ledbury poetry salon on Wednesday 8th June, 7-9pm in the Panelled Room at the Master’s House. More information here, along with details of Ledbury Poetry Festival events. There’s an open mic in the second half. If you’re in the area, it would be great to see you. In the meantime, let me introduce you to these two, from last week in St Ives. They lasted until the evening, when the tide came in.

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Trams on Corporation Street and the moon over the water

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Good to read from Jam last night alongside Judy Brown (her cracking new collection Crowd Sensations) at an RLF event in Birmingham and straight afterwards to catch Luke Kennard reading from Cain in Waterstones. Brilliant. And 10pm heading for New Street for the last train home, there it was on Corporation Street, lights on and bell going. Great to have trams back in Brum. And here, just for the sake of it, the moon over the water in St Ives a few days ago.

 

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‘Heidelberg’ and the International Times

I have a poem that’s just appeared in the International Times, ‘Heidlelberg’ from Jam, my forthcoming collection. I left school at sixteen, as soon as I could, and got a job in a printing factory as an apprentice printer. It was a good job in those days, the union was strong and looked after you. My dad always said it was important to get a trade, and printing was certainly in that category. I stuck it for six months, did another couple of jobs and eventually ended up at Kidderminster College of FE. It made a big impression on me, working in that printing factory and I sometimes think what would have happened if I’d stayed on and completed the apprenticeship. I was in Paris one time, walking down a side street past somebody’s garage, and inside there was a bloke on a Heidlelberg platen. The sound and the smell took me right back, stopped me dead.

Writing Poetry at the Hurst

I’m very much looking forward to teaching a course on writing poetry with Helena Nelson at the Arvon Foundation at The Hurst in Shropshire, September 26th – October 1st. Sean Burn will be our guest reader on the Wednesday evening. I can’t recommend Arvon courses highly enough. Here’s the theme of our week, from the Arvon course brochure:

Daring to be different
How do you sharpen and strengthen your own distinctive voice? What makes a poem arresting? We will explore a variety of ways into writing and read an eclectic range of contemporary poems in a course designed to surprise you into writing the poems that only you could have written. This stimulating week will energise both new and experienced poets.

I think the course is already booked up, but it’s possible to be added to the waiting list. There are more details on Arvon’s website.

 

Jam

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Here’s the cover of Jam, my new collection, due out next month from the brilliant smith/doorstop. It’s been a couple of years since the Selected Poems, seven years since the first publication of Frank Freeman’s Dancing School, and there were ten years between Frank Freeman’s and Henry’s Clock, my first full-length collection, so I must be speeding up. Jam contains some poems from my pamphlet Bike, Rain, and a lot of new work. To be honest I’m quite surprised by Jam. I thought I hadn’t written anything for ages, but when I looked, I found all these poems.

For a preview of some of the work, there are poems which have recently appeared online in Stride Magazine here: ‘We Didn’t Go to the Cinema in Those Days’ and ‘Riversound (in which Kevin learns to breathe above water)’. I was pleased that Kevin managed to find his way into Jam. He first made his appearance in ‘The Pond Poems’ in Henry’s Clock, where he had three heads. I wrote a whole sequence about him, leaving his pond and moving in with his girlfriend, going on the run when the scientists got too close, riding into the Atlantic on his motorbike to start a new life. Four of those poems got into Henry’s Clock, and a handful of others found their way into magazines. Kevin turned up in a poem called ‘Return’ in Frank Freeman’s Dancing School, and also in ‘Invisible’ a short story anthologised by Comma Press, where he appeared in the final paragraph playing drums in a band. In some ways, Kevin hasn’t made much progress, he’s still struggling to breathe above water. On the other hand there’s a world of difference between ‘The Pond Poems’ and ‘Riversound’.

Another poem, ‘The End of the World Again’ went online today at the International Times, illustrated by Claire Palmer. I used to buy the International Times from a newsagent on Mill Street in Kidderminster, when I was at Kidderminster College. It’s good to see it online, still standing its ground.

Not all the poems in Jam are like the ones in Stride Magazine and International Times. In some ways the collection feels like it was written by a bunch of different people. That’s just me saying that, of course. My ambition is always to write something completely different to everything I’ve written before. I remember thinking I’d managed it one time, I showed the poem to a friend and they said, ‘This is such a Cliff Yates poem.’

Oh yes, the cover. I have to say something about the cover. The photo of the plane and the sun was taken by my brother Paul. I was knocked out by that photo when I first saw it.  You can imagine the chances of taking a photo of a plane flying in front of the sun. It’s not photoshopped, it’s the real thing.