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The Hawthorn Halls – the cat stone cast edition

The Cat Stone

Not only was the (nearly) full Glastonbury line-up announced this week but, more importantly, I was finally allowed to release details of the first ever Cuckoo Poetry Jam taking place in Marsden later this month. Advertised as a fringe event to the world famous Cuckoo Festival, the Cuckoo Poetry Jam organised in association with Write out Loud and Kirklees Libraries, takes place on Saturday 26 April between 11.00am and 1.00pm at the Railway Inn, Marsden. Full details can be found at our very friendly Facebook event page by following the link here, Poetry Jam

If you’re unsure what a Jam might look like then don’t worry. The Write Out Loud YouTube channel has a fantastic seven minute video edit from last year’s October Jazz festival Jam showing the great variety and superb atmosphere created by our compere and host, Julian Jordon. Julian will be back again for the Cuckoo Jam as will guest readers Steve Ely, Kim Moore, Michael Stewart and Michael Brown with more names being added to the list as I type. Many open mic spots available so if you are in the area please pop in, say hello, and enjoy some wonderful poetry for a couple of hours.

And to celebrate:

I have two very fine 2013 Templar Poetry Anthologies to give away. Peloton contains a selection of the best poems from submissions to the annual Templar Pamphlet and Collection Awards and I’m very proud that two of my own poems, The Cat Stone Cast and Late September, feature in the anthology. To get your hands on one of these fine books simply send me your name and address via my contact page and two individuals will be selected at random. Simple. All emails will then be deleted and not used for any other purpose. I’ll post details on the Cuckoo Jam Facebook page as to who can expect a book in the post.


The Cat Stone Cast is a Marsden poem, set around the Sparth reservoir on a hot summer evening. It’s a poem about discovery and in some ways, loss of innocence and comes from a sequence I’m currently working on provisionally titled, Down On Grange. The whole sequence works with the idea of you were there but what if you had never been here and looks at our relationships with people and places. It’s heavy but in a 1970s Vision On Polaroid kind of way. I had a wonderful surprise recently when Dagda Publishing selected another poem from the sequence as their poem of the day. You can still read Dark Side of the Street on their fantastic poetry blog.

Don’t forget, as well as exploring the landscape of the Cat Stone, you can also take in other poetry delights on Mark Kelly’s brilliant Marsden Poetry Trail which I would heartily recommend if you’re visiting the area through Spring and Summer.

This weekend, after many years of trying, I will finally be attending an Embrace secret gig which, unfortunately, is all I’m allowed to say. Have a look on YouTube if you want to find out more; Sunday is going to be wild! It’s a great buzz to be going. We’ve seen the band live a few times and I’ve been a fan since they were signed – local lads done good kind of thing – so no doubt I will have some tales to tell next time round.

For now, it has to be the come back record of all time; gifted to the band from Chris Martin as a way of saying thank you for allowing Coldplay to support them on tour before Michael Eavis discovered them and yes – I was in the bar.


The Hawthorn Halls (the saltwater edition)

If I was to step out of my front door and leap in to the air and whilst doing so grow wings then I would almost certainly join the crows to see if they do, in fact, fly in straight lines. It would be quite easy to tell by simply watching the passing towns below; first there would be Hebden Bridge to my left and then over moorland towards Colne before dissecting the M6 at Kirby Lonsdale and coming into land at Windermere or possible Ambleside to avoid the tourists. I might, if feeling adventurous, carry on towards Scafell Pike but perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m guessing it would take little less than an hour travelling at a constant speed and I would most definitely be home for tea. Regardless of all this, however, I still do not live in the North West.

Although, due to the Yorkshire watershed, I will never be a North Westerner, it was still a pleasure to hop over to Hebden Bridge (albeit by car) last week for the launch of the new poetry anthology, Sculpted. Described as the poetry of the North West, Sculpted is a collection of poems by sixty two of the NW best contemporary poets and to prove it, six of those poets crammed in to the sell out (yes, sell out) launch on a wet and windy Thursday evening.

Hosted by Hebden’s very own independent book shop, The Book Case, the line up included readings from J.T. Welsch, Andrew Oldham, Melissa Lee-Houghton and John Siddique. Also adding to the impressive line-up were the book’s editors, Angela Topping and Lindsey Holland.

J.T. (I don’t know and didn’t dare ask) opened the show and for me was the surprise hit of the event. There’s not a hint of red squirrels in his poem, Formby which he opened with and immediately mesmerised the audience into silence. Buy the book for this one poem alone and read it out loud in your best American accent to fully appreciate the playful use of language and imagery. And if you’re familiar with Formby, you or the kids won’t be disappointed by the lack of squirrels.

Angela Topping’s The Visited brought back some wonderful memories of being dragged around to people’s houses by my mother and very simply just popping in for a cuppa. This was something that just happened, and whilst mums would be knocking on the neighbours it was just as likely that the neighbours would be offering the courtesy of three knocks on our own door before tramping in and plonking themselves down at the kitchen table. Imagine Facebook in real life and you’re somewhere near.

John Siddique was the last to read and it was a joy to finally hear him in the right environment. The last time I saw John was in a busy Waterstones in Bradford where he battled against the piped pop hits of the day and where the manager had very kindly provided only three seats for the audience. You may not be surprised that there was only one shelf of poetry, tucked away at the back of the shop with a fantastic collection of Larkin, Duffy and Shakespeare (sales, however, were down).

John began by reading his contribution to the anthology, I Think of You in which he tenderly uses the sense of a place, this being ‘Spring Wood’ at Hardcastle Crags to recall a lost love. After several poems from earlier books, John ended the evening with poems from Full Blood. His moving introduction that recounted the horrors witnessed in Woolwich earlier made the poem, Thirst particularly thought provoking and, in many ways, healing.

Many a fine wine was drunk throughout the evening and it was a joy to meet so many wonderful poets and supporters of poetry in one swoop. The continued absence of wings meant that I could only watch the wine being soaked so eventually bid farewell and joined the one road out.

Lying next to John, in an editorial sense, in the anthology is a new poem from the very hard working, Kim Moore. Being Married retains the same voice that created many of the poems in her wonderful, prize winning pamphlet, If We Could Speak Like Wolves. I’ve been a fan of Kim’s poetry since reading some of her work through The Poetry Business but refrained from buying a pamphlet as I’ve been trying to catch her live at one of her many readings – it seems that Kim could also possibly do with a set of wings after following her adventures on the blog. Sadly work commitments have led me astray so it was a nice coincidence that together with last week’s Sunday Poem, Kim announced the arrival of a PayPal button on her site. Without further ado, the button was pressed and two days later the pamphlet arrived, signed and with a thank you note. Find out more at

Also on the reading list this week is Gillian Allnutt’s How the Bicycle Shone, Garry Ely’s Angel Visits and, courtesy of the PBS, Michael Symmons Roberts’ Drysalter. You may not see me for a while.

Musically, the Heavy Rotation award this week goes to The National with their new release, Trouble Will Find Me. What, with the lack of wings and everything, it’s been on constant play in the car which is a good thing as with any The National release, several plays bring gifts from music heaven. As a taster, here’s the opener which will very soon be taken its leave from the Halls and probably flying into a digitally sundrenched North Western sky.