My return to work after ten weeks of post-op sick leave was a shock to the system, phased though it was. Thank goodness for a residential poetry course in Cumbria at the beginning of the Easter break – a kind of delayed convalescence holiday. After attending Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley’s co-run three-day residential in February last year (see here) I wasn’t about to miss out on a return trip to Abbott Hall Hotel near Grange-over-Sands for five days, with nothing but a change of scenery , blue skies and sunshine to distract me from wall-to-wall poetry in good company.
The rail journey went without a hitch and four and a half hours flew by in the company of Bernice Reynolds, friend and fellow member of Soundswrite women’s poetry group. We travelled up on the Sunday afternoon, giving us chance to settle in and have Monday morning free before the start of the course. I put my spanking new ceramic hip joint to the test on a brisk walk along the coastal path into Grange. Enjoying a coffee at my pavement table, full sun burning my denim-clad legs, I could have been on the Riviera instead of the north-west coast of England.
The course, entitled Encounters and Collisions, comprised a series of workshops using artefacts, poems, maps, pictures, photographs and prompts to spark ideas and set them on their way as early draft poems. Kim and Jennifer worked us hard and we rose to the challenge, I think. We wrote of landscape, animals and birds, the past, the body, ghosts, the dead. We surprised ourselves and each other.
Wednesday afternoon was either free time or an opportunity for a tutorial with Kim or Jenny. I came away with Jenny’s insightful feedback on several of my pamphlet poems.
Over four evenings, following a leisurely dinner, we shared our favourite poems by others, read our own work, enjoyed readings by our tutors and two mystery guest poets: Andrew Forster and Carole Coates. The two were a good contrast in terms of subject matter and writing style, and made for an interesting evening with the chance to ask questions about their work. I really enjoyed hearing Jennifer read poems from her new collection, Sisters (Smokestack Books) which I devoured in a cover-to-cover read after snapping it up from the Impress Books stand at States of Independence in March. As well as one or two poems from her pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves (Smith Doorstop), Kim read a series of new poems which will form part of her forthcoming collection with Seren. Like Jennifer’s work, they are darker poems with a story to tell. I really admire poets who are not afraid to explore difficult subject matter.
It was lovely to make new friends and to catch up with those I met last year: Rachel Davies, Lydia Harris, David Borrott and Hilary Hares. It was great to have the company of another Leics poet friend, Janet Lancaster, too. We all spent Friday morning critiquing each other’s poems. Thanks to everyone’s insightful feedback, I’ve now edited a problematic pamphlet poem. Here we all are on our last afternoon:
Our journey back to Leicester went very smoothly, thanks to fellow poets Hilary Hares and Emily Blewitt who shared the first leg of the journey, and to the wonderful Network Rail staff who met Bernice and I off our train at Birmingham and Leicester stations to help us our luggage, etc. People are so lovely.
Recharged batteries, a notebook full of would-be poems set to fledge from my scribble, new friends and happy memories. A huge thank you to Kim Moore and Jennifer Copley and to my fellow participants. What a week!
Of course, I’ve been so tardy with this post that others blogged its praises a couple of weeks ago. You can read Emily Blewitt’s here, Gill Garrett’s here and Kim Moore’s Sunday Poem blog post featuring Hilary Hares’ wonderful course-inspired poem, Kents Bank. Kim’s site also has details here of her next poetry residential in St Ives, Cornwall this October. Meanwhile, places on next year’s course in Cumbria are going fast…