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It’s night on White Moss. It is a deep dark, new to me. And these new days of 2017 are darker still.

I’m here working as the Clarissa Luard Poet-in-Residence at the Wordsworth Trust, feeling my way into archives at the Jerwood Centre, looking at Wordsworth’s pencil notes for The Prelude which might have been written while he was out walking.

I’m also pencilling my own poems, writing on site in caves, quarries and twilights across the Lake District and I’m documenting all this – plus the young writers’ poems from my road trip of workshops throughout Cumbria – online at lines-left.co.uk.

Lines Left (in the dark) takes its name from the peculiarly unspecific gesture towards a specific site in the title of Wordsworth’s poem ‘Lines Left Upon a Seat in a Yew-Tree which Stands Near the Lake of Esthwaite, On a Desolate Part of the Shore, Yet Commanding a Beautiful Prospect’.

The residency is also an extension of my doctoral research into site-specific writing practices via geology, sculpture and vision from Wordsworth to the present day and I’m looking forward to drawing all of this work together at the end of this year when I will be writing up my thesis.

At the start of my residency, I busied myself making small Claude glasses. These small curved dark mirrors were used by 18th-century poets and they have been BIG with my school groups where everyone 6 to 16 knows how to smash any selfie.

My residency runs from the 13th January to the 10th February. I am halfway in, halfway out, looking in at the dark mirror, looking out at the protests and marches and petitions that grow worldwide in its bright reflection.

poetrypleaseYesterday’s Poetry Please on BBC Radio 4 opened with Bertolt Brecht’s poem ‘In the dark times / Will there also be singing? / Yes, there will also be singing. / About the dark times’ and rang out with a chorus of singing from ee cummings, Raymond Carver, Sister Mary Agnes, Emily Dickinson, Kathleen Jamie and quite a few more.

The whole half hour was a good glowy balm, if you’re in need of it. The programme also includes a recording of me reading my own favourite small song for dark days, the Anglo-Saxon metrical charm ‘Against a Wen’, starting at 12 minutes in.

Turn on the lights and listen here.

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If you’ve had your radios tuned to BBC Radio 3 recently you might have heard me reading my poems at the Royal Albert Hall for Proms Extra Lates. I shared a stage with the band Snowpoet and the oh good grief the most 🌟 dazzling 🌟 voice of Lauren Kinsella. If you didn’t hear the event live, the recording is available online for the rest of the month.

I read a new poem ‘Anniversary’, plus two poems which were originally published by The Junket as ‘Charm Against Wednesdays’ and ‘From What I Remember’, here titled ‘Field Dress’. And I started off with Aft, a poem for a passenger ferry called Matilda, commissioned by Spike Island in 2015 – and that reading is also online as a clip.

A million thanks to the Poetry Society for making it happen and to Georgia Mann at BBC Radio 3. I also got to sneak into the Proms proper and open my ears to bits of Reinbert de Leeuw’s The Night Wanderer which features barking dogs, big hammers and a recitation of Goethe’s poem The Wanderer’s Nightsong in German. I was clapping with my upped thumbs and I’m so grateful for the chance (the luck of it, the opportunity to be there, both). I had never been to the Royal Albert Hall before and here is my view of the audience gathering…

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And if you were listening to BBC Radio 4, you might have caught me squeaking ‘hi there!’ to John Keats (at a fictional poetry festival (in a pub run by Sally Phillips (in a collective/fever/day dream of a village (in the mind of Glyn Maxwell)))).

I was one of three ‘new poets’ in the two-part programme ‘How to Write a Poem’ alongside Victoria Adukwei Bulley and Dominic Fisher. Thanks to the incredible Mair Bosworth for inviting me to get aboard Glyn Maxwell’s minibus to share a pint with John Clare and attend a Q&A with Emily Dickinson. Keats, Clare, Dickinson and Byron reply to us with lines taken verbatim from their poems, letters and diaries. It’s strange but all the better for it.

In Episode 1, I discuss my poem ‘Female Vapourer Moth’ with Glyn and in Episode 2, I talk briefly about writing on the move and in particular on the M4 as I chase a poem all the way from Bristol to Cambridge.

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Jerwood / Arvon Mentoring Scheme 2014/15 Mentors and Mentees at The Hurst

Jerwood / Arvon Mentoring Scheme 2014/15 Mentors and Mentees at The Hurst

Ahead of tomorrow and the beginning of The Cruellest Month, March has been all yes yes and oh boy by gum.  After a long winter of rewriting, good news arrived like buses.  In a single Monday morning, two double decker party buses of good news pulled up.

Bus One.  My name appeared amongst the Highly Commended poets in Faber & Faber’s announcement of the winners of the Faber New Poets series.  For those waiting, it was a long one and I am still checking the press release to make sure I haven’t made this up.  My wildest congratulations to the winning poets – Rachael Allen, Will Burns, Zaffar Kunial and Declan Ryan – whose pamphlets will be out in the autumn.  YES!  Thrilling things, for sure.

And as if that wasn’t enough to have me high-fiving my way through some writerly celebration montage, fist pumping to Woman’s Hour and waltzing with a plant pot, etc. the phone rang again. Arvon were calling to let me know that after my interview, Clare Pollard had selected me as one of three poets to be part of the Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Scheme.  The radio and the pot plant went out the window and I think I had to have a little sit down.  Oh March!

And so.

I have just returned from The Hurst, where nine emerging writers – three poets, three novelists, three playwrights – began our year together with our Jerwood mentors with an intensive week of workshops and eating, late nights and bright mornings.  It was incredible.  I am enormously excited about the year ahead as I begin to work on my projects with Clare’s guidance – and I am privileged to be doing this alongside poets Deborah Stevenson and Ian Dudley, whose performances last Friday night were so beautiful, so good I almost ate my own hands.  Also, workshops in movement with David Eldridge and narrative voice with Jenn Ashworth punched tiny holes all through my writing, and I am indebted to David in particular for making us speak only in vegetables for an hour. Mangetout, mangetout, mangetout – (thank you) – to all of you, and especially Arvon and the Jerwood Foundation for having me on board the bus.