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.
I hugely enjoyed the reading last night to celebrate thirty years of Smith/Doorstop in the Loom Lounge Dean Clough in Halifax (or ‘Halibut’ as my iPad text auto-correct would have it). Four of us – me, Stuart Pickford, John Foggin and David Wilson, all with new collections from S/D, and an open mic which included Ray Fisher reading poems by Janet Fisher. The event was organised and compered by the inimitable Keith Hutson, and it was the first time I’ve been introduced by someone who’s a difficult act to follow! Peter and Ann Sansom were there (co-directors of the Poetry Business and Smith/Doorstop) and blew out the candles on a specially-made cake. It’s hard to think of many people who do more for poetry, here in the UK, than Peter and Ann.
Thanks to Kim Moore who chose my poem ‘Gate’ for her Sunday Poem feature on her blog, for her generous comments. Kim and I both read in October at Swindon Festival of Poetry, organised by Hilda Sheehan, in the ‘Tent-palace of the delicious air’ on the grounds of the Richard Jefferies Museum.
“The first time I saw a collection by Ian McMillan it was four feet off the ground, winging across my classroom. It was 1988 and Ian, mid-peformance with Year 9, had just whipped out of his pocket a copy of his newly-published Selected Poems and hurled it into the corner as part of a ‘magic trick’ he was demonstrating. I was laughing so much that my stomach hurt but I remember thinking: ‘Oh, he’s written a book as well.’“ – from my ‘The Collection’ piece on Ian’s marvellous To Fold an Evening Star: New & Selected Poems in the latest issue of the North, now in its thirtieth year. Great to have poems in there too, in such good company.
After tutoring the writing poetry course for the Arvon Foundation at the Hurst in September, I’m very much looking forward to reading at Poetry Swindon Festival on Thursday 6th October alongside Wendy Klein. It’s worth checking out the rest of the programme, put together by the wonderful, tireless Hilda Sheehan. Andrew McMillan and Kim Moore are in residence and leading workshops.
The following day, Friday 7th October, I’ll be at Cheltenham Literature Festival introducing the students I worked with at Millbrook Academy as writer in residence for Cheltenham Festival First Story. They’ll be reading from their anthology (that I edited) as part of the Young Writers Showcase.
And the Sunday before, October 2nd, I’ll be leading a workshop and reading alongside David Clarke at Buzzwords in Cheltenham – Exeter Arms on the Bath Road – workshop at 7pm, reading and open mic from 8pm.
On a different note – there’s a wonderful article in the Guardian on Leonard Cohen’s final letter to Marianne here. And this follow-up article which contains a definition of poetry by Leonard Cohen that I haven’t come across before: “Poetry is just the evidence of your life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”
Thanks to Stephen Payne for his review of Jam at Sabotage Review in which he describes my poem ‘There’s a Full-size Snooker Table in the YMCA Furniture Shop’ as “a touching metaphor for the consolations of imagination“.
Great to have a poem in the excellent summer 2016 issue of Under the Radar, in good company. Thanks to the editors Matt Nunn and Jane Commane.
And here’s a bookshop we found in Montparnasse. Classic.
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.
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.
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.
I’ll be launching Jam, my new collection, in Nottingham next Thursday in Wired Cafe Bar. If you’re around it would be great to see you there.