Pushed to choose a favourite word then without hesitation it would have to be spangled. Not only does it sound wonderful, but the child like mystery it evokes when added to basic word recipes adds glitter to the dullest imagination. It sounds pure and alive.

I generally keep my word obsessions private so I can only think that stars must have aligned across a spangled sky when Peter Spafford of East Leeds FM, sent me an email to advise that, as part of the 100 Poets project , my chosen rugby nation was the USA.

The 100 Poets project is a fantastic idea that brings together one hundred poets from across Yorkshire who will perform a series of poetic suites prior to the Rugby League World Cup match at Leeds Carnegie stadium on 08 November. It’s a meeting of poetry and rugby and a sell out crowd of twenty one thousand people.

Without wishing to give too much away, each of the sections has a world/sporting theme with the penultimate being the challenge to write a new anthem for one of the rugby nations. I’ve promised to dress for the occasion so if you see a dusty bow-tie and hear the word, spangled, then stop and say hello.

Friday will see the end of what’s been a busy couple of weeks, spangled with the glitter of poetry.

Hardcastle Crags

During half term we finally managed a walk I’d been planning for what seemed like years. Setting off from Hardcastle Crags, we completed a relatively modest circular walk inspired by the poetry and places of Ted Hughes. Half way point was the house, Lumb Bank set within its own walled garden amidst twenty acres of woodland. The house, once owned by Ted Hughes, now belongs to the Arvon Foundation and has no doubt inspired countless writers who have been lucky enough to attend one of the many residential courses.

Whilst the setting of Lumb Bank can be described as magical, with the golden canopy sun spangled, the silent steep sided valley is somehow awash in its own melancholy. Only after re-reading Hughes’ poem, Stubbing Wharfe (the pub which was our intended final destination), did I really begin to understand my own reaction to the place; a sense of loss for something unknown.

Lumb Bank

Retreating back up the steep lane, the autumn sun had tricked us into believing that there was still an abundance of daylight left above the valley. Only on reaching the footpath leading towards Heptonstall did it become clear that clouds had rolled across the moors bringing with them an ominous darkness. Winter was upon us.

Heptonstall is, of course, Sylvia Plath’s final resting place (and is again referred to in the poem, Stubbing Wharfe, ‘you saw only blackness’) and behind two newly raised headstones, laid her grave with its usual adornment of pens and trinkets. We silently paid our respects and left.

The darkness was rain which chased us back through the woods, down an impossible steep path, to our car. The intention had been to eat at the Stubbing Wharfe, our new favourite destination after summer walks, but the rain and darkness had made for an early retreat so we hopped back over to the Colne Valley where a split in the clouds brightened the last of the day.

The weekend welcomed the eighth Derwent Poetry Festival at Masson Mills in Matlock Bath. This unique festival showcases new titles from Templar Poetry. I had been invited to take part in the launch of the new anthology, Peloton which includes two new poems, The Cat Stone Cast and Late September. Sadly, due to work commitments, I was unable to make the Saturday which did feel a little like missing the ball but also gave me a steely determination to make the most out of Sunday.

The drive from Marsden to Matlock must surely be included in a list of one hundred drives to do before you die as unspoilt landscapes flood your vision from any direction as you pass through the High Peak and then on through the Derbyshire Dales. The return journey was even more spectacular with the setting sun adding the spangles.

This was the first time I had read at a festival so was a little unsure about the format and would have got a little nervous if it hadn’t been for the fact that I was first up with little time to worry. If I had worried then it would have been a worry wasted as the reading was over in a blink of an eye without any stumbles or mishaps. Next up was Gareth Prior who, along with all the poets, entertained and thrilled the audience. Gareth has written an excellent review of the festival which can be read by following this link, Derwent Poetry Festival.

The festival ended with, not wishing to sound like a beer advertisement, probably the best open mic session ever.  I had been invited to read a couple of extra poems and again was up first to avoid the waste of a worry. It’s a good thing because the list of readers that came next was astonishing. Paul Chambers and Rachel Spence were followed by the excellent Mat Bryden reading from his new collection, Boxing the Compass. Paul Maddern followed before the wonderful Dawn Wood, again celebrating the release of a new collection. Jane Weir then treated us to a couple of poems including the brilliant and timely Poppies and then, bringing the festival to a close, the fabulous Damian Smyth treating us to readings from Apparitions: A Hurricane.

Back on the Yorkshire side, we ended the day enjoying the surroundings of the Rose and Crown at Cop Hill on the Slaithwaite/Marsden borders where, on a clear day you can see as far as Selby and York. The sky was littered with fireworks. Explosive spangles.

This week’s short player comes from a game of music association. Starting with the Star Spangled Banner we skipped to 1969 and Woodstock and the legendary Jimi Hendrix before arriving at the much overlooked electric jam from the Waterboys 1993 album, Dream Harder.