All through the day snow has been falling
like stars out of place or angels or prayers; slivers of universe
with millions of possibilities that if singled out and caught by
a warm hand will pale to a tear
leaving only a memory
of a feathered touch or eyelash kiss.
From within we watch the new night sky
filter out its blanket of white
silencing the ground as it mimics
a clean sheets over our bodies.
Slowly the wind strengthens and like a wolf
the once silent fall becomes
an orchestra of science as
snow twists past street lights,
spirals over houses and dances past the last
bus that now takes a unknown diversion.
Snow defying gravity, soaring,
flailing and falling
onto a frozen landscape
that we watch developing
like a photograph;
the paper restless in chemicals,
a world in darkness with only
a muted oxide glow to guide our hands
and the sound of wolves now scratching at the door.
The snow shoulders farms
against the moor, fills lanes
once engraved through land,
amplifies the essence of our existence
and brings the last moving traffic to a dead stop.
We look down upon the village,
down towards the snow globe centre
where a clear web of lights
that once spiralled out from its core
Children make their escape to first floor rooms
taking treasured possessions and shelving
photographs, books and computer games
for safe keeping. They watch from relative safety
the commuters clearing driveways
throwing salt stone and filling kettles
ready for the bite of a morning unknown.
The snow and the wind continue
and together they conspire
to cover everything, leave nothing undone.
In the dawn grey light the children jump
from their bedrooms
and slide into drifts where garden walls
once stood. Without boundaries
the commuters give in and turn over,
their driveways scarred but slowly recovering.
At the reservoir skaters erect temporary
fencing and jostle for space
practising the latest toe picks and steps
in time to the click of the make shift
chair lift that now runs the length
of the banking much to the water board’s
disliking. An old man argues with a group of
German ski enthusiasts, who, unable to build houses,
are offered the chance
to take part in the first Pennine slalom
made of frozen sheep and stone. The snow continues.
And in the village where cars no longer exists
dog walkers turn out en-mass, carrying their plastic purple bags,
but deciding to turn back, much to each dog’s delight,
next to where the last bus was abandoned
with its lights still on and windows steamed and the driver
reported missing in the last hour as per company policy. The new school
head clambers over the football pitch regretting the early morning text
but looking at the plus of trying out her new coloured boots, one piece suite
and combination head scarf that works as both casual and smart.
The snow continues. Warning signs that have flashed
through the night go out.
The wind howls. Roads disappear,
as does the ground floor of that row of terraced houses
nearest to the river now frozen to the shape of claws.
An Australian, visiting relatives for the first time, joins a group
of Finns who have all been prescribed light
and feel short changed. They make out
at a self built sauna hidden out of sight with a discarded barbeque,
garden shed and a selection of furs smuggled under clothing.
The Australian’s relatives, in some desperation,
follow snow angels on tree lined paths and join the group
naked in the drifts. The snow continues.
And last to move is the farmer who makes
a half hearted attempt to clear the lane
but misjudges the weight of the counterbalance
and upends like a duck, slipping from his seat to become
caught by the Saint Christopher around his neck
now half strangled on the tractor’s gear stick.
We give in and watch the snow fall.
We watch the village slowly fade from sight.
Darkness falls again. Villagers make their escape to higher ground,
walking on rooftops, as streets begin to drown.
First to go is the pub, then the bakery and the gallery.
Then the post office, convenience store
and charity shop. Gone is the off-licence,
the take-away and flower market. Also
the doctor’s surgery, news agent,
haberdashery and selection of newly
opened cafe bars and restaurants
catering for individual tastes.
Gone is the police station, swimming baths, library
and school. And on the outskirts, where property
once made a better investment, the Social,
Conservative, Liberal and Band clubs are all going under.
And the snow continues with no sign
of it ever petering out. From the hills
we see the distant city glow, the only
light in the valley, as the people hunker down
in make shift shelters where we listen to the sound
of our breathing amidst the cries of wolves
that leech out in the cover of snow. And we wait for the thaw,
wait in reverence with cold empty hands.
Snow first appeared in my debut pamphlet, Flowers by the Road, published by Templar Poetry in 2017. You can purchase a copy from the Templar Shop
The Poetry Village now provides an on-line platform for your poems. Submit up to three poems by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Full submission details here. Good luck!
We are delighted to be working with Huddersfield Literature Festival and the Friends of Marsden Library to bring a very special celebration of poetry to Marsden Mechanics on the 2 March 2018. The evening, which begins at 7.30pm, will feature four award winning poets who have been brought together by the independent and innovative poetry publishers, Templar Poetry. The evening, hosted by Marsden poet, David Coldwell, will feature readings by Tom Weir, Ian Harker, Mike Farren and Jo Haslam. Templar Managing Editor, Alex McMillan will also be present throughout the evening with a wide selection of books available to purchase.
Tickets are priced between £1.50 and £3.00 and can be purchased on-line here or from Waterstones, Huddersfield.
Delighted that the poem, Homecoming has recently been featured on the popular webzine – Ink Sweat and Tears. You can read the poem here.
Two new poems with audio are featured on-line at the excellent Clear Poetry. You can find them by clicking on the following link.
Simon Armitage (2017) The Unaccompanied. London: Faber and Faber
Simon Armitage (2017) Mansions in the Sky. Branwell Brontë Exhibit.Bronte Parsonage Museum. Haworth, West Yorkshire.
They say you should never meet your heroes but upon hearing the The Brontë Parsonage Museum was hosting Simon Armitage it was hard to resist. After greedily releasing two collections of poetry this week, his exhibit on Branwell Bronte, the ‘fail son’, opium-addicted, Bronte brother was also opened. His reading dealt with the complexity, speed and inequality of modern life, set against the background of West Yorkshire’s rolling Pennine hills. The eccentricity and telluric quality of Armitage’s writing was juxtaposed with the dizzying experience of the modern metropolis. You came away with a sense that this was a poet who, after translating and playwriting for many years, had come back to his stomping ground with a political point to prove.
Armitage filled the silences between his poems…
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So it seems the secret of navigating a cold Pennine February is simple: publish your first poetry pamphlet and launch a solo exhibition of new paintings inspired by the poetry. No problem…
Flowers by the Road became a reality after the collection won Templar Poetry’s Portfolio Prize in October 2016. The publisher planned an official launch party at Keats House in London on the 28 February 2017 so all I had to do was write, edit and re-write in time for a fairly generous deadline. That was the initial plan. It all changed, however, when Huddersfield Literature Festival offered me the opportunity to launch the pamphlet in my home village of Marsden as part of their support of local libraries. The only slight problem being is that these events coincide with National Libraries day at the beginning of February. Oops. Fortunately Templar agreed to bring the release date forward and before I knew it I was stood in a library full of people waiting for British Sea Power’s No Man is an Archipelago to finish on the pre-launch playlist so that introductions to begin.
You can see pictures of the launch event here.
Back in November 2016 the volunteer group, Friends of Marsden Library who had agreed to host the event at Marsden had secured the services of Simon Armitage for a night of poetry and library fund raising. It was during this event that I met some of the people who would be supporting my own event and afterwards, following a few celebratory drinks, where I agreed with local gallery owners, Sharon and Kevin, that it might also be a good idea to commit to a solo exhibition to coincide with the launch. Unsurprisingly I woke the next day with a slight hang-over.
The idea behind the exhibition was very simple: the paintings would have some connection with the poems in the collection. From this I began to plan a series of images inspired by single lines from various poems; the result being that the line of text serves as an introduction to the narrative of the painting rather than the painting simply being an illustration of the poem. Eight paintings were finished in this style and finally exhibited alongside a number of other works.
The exhibition continues throughout March with pictures available to takeaway on the day.
We eventually made it to London, enjoying the sights and making the most of our trip with visits to the Theatre and the Hockney retrospective at the Tate. Whilst the launch did clash with the premier of Kong at Leicester Square it didn’t seem to impact on audience numbers, so much so that after I finished my reading a late comer had pinched my seat! The wonderful Ellen Cranitch followed my reading with a spell-binding performance of poems from her latest Templar collection, The Immortalist.
So that was February. Now with feet firmly back on the ground and the sun making a re-appearance it’s been a time to get back out in the garden and do some digging.
Marsden Launch – pre-launch playlist:
Walls – Kings of Leon
The Ghosts on the Shore – Lord Hunron
Eyes to the Wind – The War On Drugs
Don’t Panic – Coldplay
Picture of You – Richard Ashcroft
Icebox – Rougue Valley
29 #Strafford Apts – Bon Iver
Atlantic City – Bruce Springsteem
Magnificent – Elbow
No Man is an Archipelago – British Sea Power
Interlitq: You refer in some of your poems to your childhood in India. Do you feel you need to travel to exotic places to gain a sense of wonderment?
I do feel a sense of wonderment – largely second hand – through my father’s experience of remote regions like the Amazon Rainforest and the evergreen jungles of South India. What could be more wonderful than seeing a cloud of lime blues, several thousand strong, rising from the banks of a stream in the Nagalapuram Hills? But I was lucky enough to develop a real passion for nature while walking with my father as a child in the English countryside. From early on, the tiny worlds that took hold on a rotten tree stump – the forests of moss, the clumps of wood sorrel – were as much a…
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The first launch event of my debut poetry pamphlet, Flowers by the Road took place on Wednesday 8 February to a full house at Marsden library as part of Huddersfield Literature Festival’s celebration of local libraries. The event coincided with library events taking place across the country to celebrate National Libraries Day which launched on the 04 February. It was wonderful, if a little nerve-racking, to see so many friends, family and supporters of poetry and libraries turn out on what was a bitterly cold mid-February night. Heartfelt thanks to all who came and made the event such a great success.
Friends of Marsden Library have created a picture blog about the event which you can see by clicking this link
The next launch event is at Keats house in London where I will be reading alongside the wonderful Ellen Cranitch. The event is free but booking is required. Find out about the event here
Flowers by the Road can be ordered direct from Templar Poetry – please follow this link
Please get in touch via the contact page if you would like me to read at an event or to request a review copy. Thank you.