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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…

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Flowers by the Road

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.

FOX (1 of 1)

A Fox Walks Across Our Path, Still Looking

The exhibition continues throughout March with pictures available to takeaway on the day.

Gallery

Enjoy Art, Marsden

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.

The Blue House

The Blue House

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

Throw open the windows and let the outside in!’ was the battle cry from the Middlemoor clan of Ravenshook. It was the annual celebration of the Haw and this meant spring cleaning at the Halls.

Garlands of evergreen that had framed each wall and hung from the cloisters and porticos throughout the dark months were pulled from their hooks and carried to the greening fields. Here a bonfire would be built whose flames would signal for at least thirty miles to the east the news that spring had arrived on the high lands.

People of the low lands waited patiently, looking west towards the mighty Pen – the green goddess whose sleeping outline formed the horizon. Only when the cuckoo stole its first nest on Middlemoor could the Ravens light the fire – only then had spring truly arrived on Middlemoor.

And then it snowed, again!

And did it snow – for the last two weeks I’ve had the surreal experience of driving on roads carved out of ice and edged with walls of snow that in places reached over ten feet in height. Views that would normally reach as far as York and Selby have been stunted by the solid white mass. The road over Holme Moss (the new Tour de France) was closed for fourteen days.

So as spring waited in nature’s lay-by (no overnight parking) then so did all our Easter plans for the outside. The ground works optimistically created during the now infamous ‘March’ dig have, in the last two days, just become visible again in the melting snow.

There were some positive outcomes from the Arctic exploration experience of being trapped. The main being that I could no longer find any excuses not to tackle the wall papering on the stairs and landing. Unfortunately I’d put the job on hold so long that all the paint work needed a fresh coat but at least the daunting task of hanging four metre lengths of expensive wallpaper on walls that laugh in the face of straightness is now complete. Now we sit patiently waiting for carpet that has been in storage for twelve months.

In the midst of all this cold gloom I’ve decided to re-open the Halls and throw out some sunshine. As a reminder, the purpose of the Halls is to re-discover all those songs that sit quietly at the back of your digital library waiting, as patiently as our carpet fitter, to be played for the first time. Sometimes I cheat by playing a favourite that’s been purchased twice with one download remaining un-played. Other times I simply let the dart of fate land on any number it likes. We’ve also had visitors to the Halls and this is very welcome particularly if you think I’m missing a trick. The rules are quite flexible.

This week I’ve re-discovered a real treat from 2007. Taken from their debut mini-album, The Thief and the Heartbreaker, I’ve Known for Long by Alberta Cross is the song of the week. If you imagine a mix of My Morning Jacket, Kings of Leon and Neil Young and get quite excited by the prospect then I would urge you to discover more at http://www.albertacross.net/. Not only is the website great but you can also currently download their first proper full album, Songs of Patience (2012) for the sum of £4.99 from a popular digital music download type company that also does phones and computers and things.

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