A decade of poets in residence

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Ilkley Literature Festival A Decade of Poets in Residence 2003–2012



Ilkley Literature Festival A Decade of Poets in Residence 2003–2012


First published in Great Britain in 2013 by Ilkley Literature Festival. Copyright © Ilkley Literature Festival www.ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk Craig Bradley, Debjani Chatterjee, Antony Dunn, Dave Gill, Seán Hewitt, Gaia Holmes, Shamshad Khan, Valerie Laws, Andrew McMillan, Seni Seneviratne, John Siddique, Rommi Smith and Adam Strickson have asserted their rights under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the authors of this work. All rights reserved. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, electrical, chemical, mechanical, optical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Design: Richard Honey at dg3 Cover photo of John Siddique © David Collins

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A Decade of Poets in Residence 2003–2012 Following a long tradition which began in 1973 with the first Festival and included a residency by Angela Carter in 1977, in 2003 Ilkley Literature Festival re-established the tradition of an annual Poet in Residence. The first residency of the noughties was at the suggestion of Dave Gill and Craig Bradley and the scheme has continued successfully ever since. Over the last ten years a host of inspiring poets and their apprentices have spent three October weeks with the Festival, reading their work, leading workshops, going into local schools and working with community groups of all ages. While there is no pressure to create work as part of the residency many of our poets have chosen to and this anthology includes a selection of their work. Each Poet in Residence has brought something unique to Ilkley and over the years there has been everything from compelling readings, to workshops in the local swimming pool, readings from a tractor, poetry speed dating, an early morning poetry walk, a poetry freedom quilt marking the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade and poetry and yoga. Our past Poets in Residence have become part of the extended Festival family and are remembered with great fondness. We are grateful to them all for their time, energy, enthusiasm and above all their skill. Rachel Feldberg Director, Ilkley Literature Festival September 2013

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DAVE GILL AND CRAIG BRADLEY (2003) The Cow and Calf is a sandstone and shale outcrop on the northern edge of Ilkley Moor which overlooks the town. The following poems are based upon the various graffiti on the rocks. It isn’t clear at this stage which poet wrote which poem and we offer them here with apologies for the lack of clear authorship. Poetry On The Rocks (extracts)

The Cow And The Calf We risk life and limb for poetry, feeling for handholds and footholds, cracking ankles On the bony back of The Cow the world opens out like a giant’s picnic blanket spinning over and over the back of beyond. Below her nose juts into the earth like the titanic bows of a ship. The Calf’s overhang stands like a stonewave. It looms over the mess of red rooves and concrete in the valley. It seems solid now but under this springy bed of bracken and ling, the peaty sea slowly moves. Some day, perhaps in no-one’s lifetime, this wave will break and all the cryptic sentiments chiseled on the stones will tumble and crash, become so much sediment. This landscape is too big for words, so we leave the geography to itself, and turn our bag of metaphors to the rocky orthography.

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iv. E. M. Lancaster 1St XXIV Foot 1892 I came home all spit and polish. Sergeant’s stripes and a chest splashed with ribbon. A decorated man. But it’s these rocks I decorate for you my fallen friends. Under a khaki sky I’ll carve your names into a piece of forever. At ease lads, and let me give your memory to the moors.

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vii. Braille My old friend, today you have stubble. I can smell your mossy beard, feel your 10,000 year shadow goose-pimpling my back. But the names are still there beneath the green. EMILY as always waits for my touch to run through her chiselled ravines. OLD CRACK AND PACKETY JACKY are still going strong. Though not cut so deep, they’ve resisted the wind, the rain, the corrosion. I remember all the depths of your blackness, now I feel it with my weathered tips, stroke your jaw-line where it grins above the grass. From you I receive my sightings of history, you translate the years into sounds and textures. On you I scan a sandstone catalogue of love and numbers, rub my palms across anarchy, a broken Lord’s Prayer, a crudely chipped heart. For myself I carve a clear eye, that watches the bracken, the plovers, the occasional feral dog, or man, as they live and die, an eye that sends its sights to my heart as vibrations, the wise and inscrutable mutterings of rock.

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GAIA HOLMES (poetic assistant’ to Dave Gill and Craig Bradley, Poets in Residence 2003) Gaia’s two poetry collections, Dr James Graham’s Celestial Bed (2006) and Lifting The Piano With One Hand (2013), were published by Comma Press. Gaia teaches creative writing throughout West Yorkshire and beyond. The following poem is based upon the various graffiti on the rocks.

Cabaret Whiskey on the rocks every night. Stumbled, staggered, not stirred. My home is in the dark holes, the dank crannies of the big black rocks. Curled into my rank picnic blanket I tap heat from the bottle. I’m like an insect. Turn over the fat stones and you’ll see me underneath, a soggy maggot wrapped in tatty tartan. I’m a loyal spectator, here every night, best mossy seat in the house watching a light display embroidering the mucky crust of the valley. Beyond the sulky crouch of hilltops there’s a fairground, stars spinning, nude white moon lit like a peep-show balancing on the humpy cusps, and the deep blue sky is a silky cabaret girl twisting her scarves of cloud. — 7


The show goes on all night. I’m hooked on the slow drama, warm and mesmerised until morning comes like a magician’s assistant: one swish of her dress, one click of her pretty fingers and the darkness is gone, the stage is green, the sun’s strutting over the hills, the valley’s stretching, blinking. Then the cold begins to bite. The midges gnaw, a jaunty procession of walkers pass, crackling in their kagools. Their dogs mistake my limbs for roots, cock their legs and spray against my loamy boots. I’m not at my best in the mornings so I curse and roar, give them Dragon’s breath, flash my fire-glow eyes, start off a legend. © Gaia Holmes

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JOHN SIDDIQUE (2004) John is the author of six books the most recent of which is Full Blood. His work has also appeared in Granta, the Guardian, Poetry Review, and on BBC Radio 4. John is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow, and is also the Honorary Fellow of Creative Writing at Leicester University. John also helped the Festival out in 2011 when funding cuts meant for one year there was no official Poet in Residence

Fit For Purpose The wheel turns. With my fingers I trace the outline of your arm, caress your waist. Throwing my weight into each moment, as clay to the wheel. Turning love into life by fire, to stay buoyant as I cross to you – your face lit by moonlight. Painting our love onto the clay of our flesh – brushstroke by brushstroke. – Each moment is the first moment. This cup of love. This vase of emptiness/fullness – bigger on the inside. Its surface painted with our story. The space inside is only ever filled by love. ©John Siddique 2013 Commissioned by Alchemy and Written for Ilkley Literature Festival 2011 and as part of London 2012. Performed with dancers from Northern School of Contemporary Dance. — 9


ADAM STRICKSON (2005) Adam is now Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Leeds and has recently been the lead artist for Wingbeats, the imove commissioned music-theatre project for the Cultural Olympiad. His second collection, Tear Up the Lace, was published by Bradford based Graft Poetry in 2011 www.graftpoetry.co.uk and his book of poems and libretti for Wingbeats by Valley Press in 2012 www.valleypressuk.com He has completed a dramatic cantata, Sailing to the Marvellous, composed by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, which will be performed for the 900th anniversary of Bridlington Priory this October. “The residency came early in my ‘career’ as a poet. Do poets have careers? It’s still one of the very best things that has happened to me. I remember three weeks jam full of joyful work: schools’ workshops centred on rhymes about fruit and vegetables, packed workshops and meals with famous poets, all centred in the business of writing and reading poems so what more could I have asked for! Highlights were a wonderful evening of poetry and music by and about Travellers and Gypsies (I’d just finished a stint working at the Travellers’ site at Bingley), a busy mushaira with themed refreshments and two lovely poetry walks along the river and on the moor. I’d love to do it all over again. Moor was written for an early morning poetry walk I did on Ilkley Moor for the festival and Poetry When the Sun Stops for Mario Petrucci, who was the poet I chose to read with at the festival. Both were published as brightly coloured posters during the festival and put up in shops in the town. I think Poetry When the Sun Stops was in the fish and chip shop!”

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Moor Off the motorway – spray, flatbacks, tiredness can kill – to wrap himself in rocks, hear holes, sip ironwash. He climbs to the knoll, views cattle, distantly neat; watches tiny moths mob heather; carries on up and up until he loses houses, finds flatness, leans into the rainwind, soothed by the stretch of sky, the absences. © Adam Strickson

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Poetry when the sun stops On attending a reading by Mario Petrucci, author of Heavy Water. By candles and gas mantles – such small lights – we assemble: the lady with bunches, the journalist in shorts who knee-worships this longest night, teachers, a late mother, a turbaned poet, a pissed plumber who’s stumbled in on a scene by Rembrandt – yellow glow; leather sagged faces with raven stares; clamped hands heavy as car springs; a resonant attentive hush brought on by your flare for clarity, for holding up to the sun lies and lives, the meltdown of Chernobyl: a three tailed fox, bones soft as white sea urchins. Foam drenches a bride; shoes melt, and feet; a daughter buries an accordion. Energy is all around. Why go faster than we need? No one wets their lips. We’re stuck in that cold dark, twenty years ago. Glistening acres of seeds await gatherers in spacesuits. We will grow old, most of us. Outside, shadows unload sacks of onions from the back of a van. The moon’s a greying grandpa spat at by stars. Cracks in the concrete open. Dead villagers play tunes. © Adam Strickson

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VALERIE LAWS (2006) Valerie recently published her 3rd full collection and tenth book ‘All That Lives’ after several pathology and neuroscience residencies funded by Wellcome Trust; her related AV poetry installation ‘Slicing the Brain’ has shown in exhibitions in London, Newcastle and Berlin. “The erotic ghazal I’ve chosen was written at the Festival for Debjani Chatterjee’s Mushaira, in which I enjoyed taking part. Highlights of my residency were Tony Harrison reading with me at my invitation, meeting and reading with Anthony Joseph, and all the authors, schoolchildren and volunteers I met, many of whom are still friends. The poem has been published in ‘Tadeeb’, and is in my latest collection, in the erotic strand among pathology and dissection poems!”

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Ghazal To My Lover, Whose Time Is Not Always Mine Your voice on the phone is coconut cream, But you take so long, my darling; I wait centuries for your replies, You take so long, my darling. I ask a question, but you hesitate, I hear your thoughts blossom slow as aloes. Mine are brisk as a North Sea breeze, But you take so long, my darling. When I challenge you, make you choose Between rock and hard place, your silence Stretches like Caribbean afternoons, because You take so long, my darling! So I leap to answer for you, that answer

Makes me angry, so I argue with myself, While you follow far behind, why Must you take so long, my darling? But when we are together, whole days Pass in your arms, endless slow tides Of ecstasy, and then, oh then, I love That you take so long, my darling! Š Valerie Laws Published in ALL THAT LIVES, Red Squirrel Press

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ROMMI SMITH (2007) Rommi features in We Are Poets, the award-winning film about the lives of six-young poets from Leeds, whom she is privileged to have mentored to attend Brave New Voices USA; the biggest and most prestigious poetry slam championships in the world. She acted as a consultant/advisor to Yemeni civil rights campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tawakul Karman, during preparations for her speech to Parliament in Autumn 2011. Selected Poems from Mornings and Midnights, (the chapbook of poems from Rommi’s forthcoming, full collection) is a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. Rommi has been awarded a prestigious Hedgebrook Fellowship in the United States, where she will complete writing her full collection in 2014. She is the recipient of the 2012 Elizabeth George Award. Rommi is one of three artists commissioned by Imove to respond to its archive; she is currently writing the poetic narration for a site-specific piece which she will perform in collaboration with a composer, jazz orchestra, film-maker, singers and actors.

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A Guide to the Exhibition Written to mark the opening of the British Slave Trade, Abolition, Parliament and People Exhibition when Rommi was Parliamentary Writer in Residence. Choose your route: don’t look for the map, or guide to show you. Find your own path; the way that instinct doesn’t carve a straight line for a lifetime to follow. Take each glass case as revelation; the fact you see your own reflection in each one is no accident. All the future is the past. Remember that these are not objects, things that rent a glass room in the house of history: yoke and whip and shackle and chain, were never just words – they are always intentions. Look up. Those floating angels stay wooden lipped, yet they could sing of nine centuries of change they’ve witnessed; the cold eye of envy rolling across Africa, to the hymn of cotton and indigo and rum and sugar, and gold and diamonds and salt fish and coffee and dealing in our suffering; yet the Somerset son rose up, and the sugar moon went down, as women stirred spoons of suffrage into their gold-rimmed teacups.

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Lift every painted name to see behind it millions more unknown. And as the soul of the water rises, place your outstretched palms on its surface: underneath, the Woman Who Would Not Dance, laughs with ‘Enslaved Woman Number 47 ’ and they dance to the tune of their greatness and spread their skirts made from ocean. There is no need for tissues when tears come, for when they do, their salt weight is to testify that there is something of that ocean in all of us; for we all wear a dark wreath in the centre of each eye, woven from this loss. So, when we sleep tonight, we will dream of the African Atlantis, (where our ancestors rise from the book of the deep blue soul, each wave, page after indigo page, the roll call of their names); if we listen, we will hear the salt-soaked spirituals on their tongues, see they wear their afros like majestic shoals of thought and a sankofa bird in each of their right hands. Spirits, coming back to claim the pages in the book, in which their names do not exist. ©Rommi Smith 2007

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SHAMSHAD KHAN (2008) Shamshad Khan published her poetry collection Megalomaniac with Salt Publishing in 2007, she runs Hard Rain Poetry a monthly creative writing workshop and performance event at Isis cafe, Levenshulme, Manchester. “rummaging around in the year i did the residency has been good so much has flown When something fell in my lap, I looked at it. What is this and what is it doing here. I’m learning now to eat it quickly, before asking. thanks again for the wonderful opportunity would love to be back this time to eat more of the fruit”

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Commemorate When your Godfather dies It’s as though God has turned up In your musty hotel room On the top of a hill It’s as though There is no God Everything is prophetic Public engagements preposterous The show goes on The urgent ritual of placing flowers Of holding sorrow in our arms Until the flowers wilt Eyes drowning in their own tears Friends holding each others hands Or walking alone into the silver woods How solid the granite steps How tall the copper tomb © Shamshad Khan Breaking news Climbing the slope I kept ending up on the double bed The mobile phone pressed to my ear She delivers the news Clearly — 19


Walking up a hill Was all I could think to do The unexpected lake Sun and wind taking it in turns To flirt with the water The hotel room was dark My heart a sheet of startled sequins I carried the facts Up the hill past the unsuspecting gorse bushes Past the boulders that posed against the sky like unbroken grief Reality not fitting into Reality Gravity, the angle of my knees The lake with its circle of dedicated benches Empty the place the beloved used to sit The lake his unforgettable eye I walk down the slope She puts down the phone Š Shamshad Khan

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DEBJANI CHATTERJEE MBE (2009) An Ilkley Mushaira stalwart, Debjani was an Olympic 2012 Torchbearer and is currently Royal Literary Fellow at Leeds Trinity University, and her forthcoming adventure is adjudicating the Mamilla International Poetry Competition in Palestine. Her recent publications include Another Bridge (with fellow Mini Mushaira writers), and for children – Let’s Celebrate! Festival Poems from Around the World (jointly with Brian D’Arcy) and Monkey King’s Party. “Being Poet in Residence at the Ilkley Literature Festival 2009 was a marvelous experience and I loved the freedom it gave me to do a wide variety of activities: some mainstream and some quirky, but all hugely enjoyable. I ran workshops on writing limericks, clerihews, tongue twisters and spoonerisms at such places as the very hospitable Specsavers; workshops that combined yoga mudras with rhyming mantras to catch the early morning office-goer to indulge in a moment of tranquillity and inspiration at St Margaret’s; workshops on writing ‘food and drink’ poems at such haunts as the ever popular Red Pepper Deli (early on a Sunday morning!) and performing ‘food’ poems (‘Rhyme and Dine’) at such wonderful gourmet venues as the Panache restaurant and a vegetarian café – in fact there was a comment on ‘the culture vulture’ website (October 1, 2009) that: “This year they have a poet in residence, at home in pretty much every food emporium in Ilkley it seems. Debjani Chatterjee can be found in delis, cafes, restaurants, and the health centre, encouraging festival goers to share poetry about food & Darwin. Hope it’s not a case of survival of the fittest when it comes to grabbing a seat next to her!” There were many highpoints, one being a poetry reading with the warm and gifted Ian Duhig. Among the poems that I read at that event was a ghazal that I called my ‘revenge poem’ about Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital. After the reading a BBC reporter was very keen to interview me about the distressing episode that made me write that poem, but, much as I would have liked to do the interview, I could not agree for my post-traumatic stress from that — 21


incident was still hugely affecting my life. But I believe strongly in the therapeutic power of writing and soon afterwards I wrote ‘What I Did Today’, another ‘revenge poem’ about the same hospital. Darwin’s connection to Ilkley inspired my Darwin limerick. The one about Newton just seemed to go well with it. Apart from running workshops, I participated in discussions and readings, contributed to the Ilkley Mushaira at the Playhouse and Kala Sangam’s unique ‘Poetry in Motion’ phenomenon, gave a talk at the Carers Centre, judged children’s poetry competitions and adults’ poetry performance, presided over a National Poetry Day ‘Open Mic’ event, introduced other poets and supported their events, and so much more. Meeting many different people and sharing with them the joys of poetry was a thrill, and I was so happily busy that I had no time to dwell over my forthcoming operation (the day after my residency ended) or over the various side effects of my cancer treatment. To quote a spoonerism that I invented and shared with many a Festival-goer at my workshops: ‘I had lots of furious sun and the lime of my tife!’”

What I did Today Today I blew up the Northern General – again; bulldozed the waiting room in Hell where I had sat all morning in a silly gown; I strangled the arrogant GP who knew so little but pretended to know it all; my itching hands throttled the oncologists: the indifferent one who cleared off on holiday, forgetful of referring me for a Hickman Line under anaesthesia at a half-decent hospital, and the one who lost my consent form and thrust me into a nightmare place of endless screams; I fought the boffin butcher who drilled holes in me; — 22


and finally I exterminated every homicidal side-kick masquerading as an angel of mercy... All these things and more I did today. In violent days and everlasting nights, I’ve lost count of the times I have done these things – making not one jot of difference. © Debjani Chatterjee What I Did Today is published in The Glyn Harris Awards booklet, Rapport, Cancer Care, 2010, and in The Sheffield Anthology, Smith/Doorstop, 2012

Out of the Loop We are a group of Darwin groupies who take no flak from hare-brained droopies. While Natural Selection exposes Evolution, it is taboo for zealous loopies.

There Was a Wise Man from Darjeeling There was a wise man from Darjeeling who frequently walked on the ceiling. He found the floor too full and thought gravity’s pull was Newton’s brain simply congealing.

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ANTONY DUNN (2010) Antony has since been appointed Artistic Director of Bridlington Poetry Festival. He continues to teach regularly for the Arvon Foundation and The Poetry School, and is working towards completion of his fourth collection. “I loved my time as poet-in-residence. It certainly ranks as one of the happiest experiences of my professional life. Undertaking around 25 events with the community of poets, workshop participants, school students and audience members in seventeen days shaped me considerably. I’m now a Festival Director myself, and I’m grateful every day for my experience of Ilkley Literature Festival in 2010, which taught me so much about poetry and the people who love it.”

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Self-Portrait in Bettys Café Tea Room, Ilkley He should know better than to face himself into a mirrored corner, in his state. He has a poet’s eye and by the time the tea-things are arrived and set out straight he’s gone and memorised the whole damn room – found himself, no less, at the cooling end of a minuscule affair of glances with a harassed mother several tables off. I know. I’ve been studying in the glass how he’s so intimately learned his place that when he stands, turns out to face the world he’ll find it, staggered, all the wrong way round, upset some tables, spill apologies to folk he does and doesn’t recognise. © Antony Dunn

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ANDREW MCMILLAN (Apprentice Poet in Residence 2010) Three pamphlets, most recently ‘protest of the physical’ (2013 Red Squirrel Press) and the Best British Poetry 2013 anthology. Currently lecturing in Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores University. “Being apprentice under Antony Dunn was wonderful experience and one of the first jobs I ever got as a freelance writer. The experience I got, of curating events, broadcasting and observing workshops became the foundation of everything I’ve gone on to do. Antony was incredibly generous with his time and his wisdom. I don’t think I ever said thank you; so thanks Antony, and to the Festival as well.”

the field like one note held better then the curve the reach the mound the fall and rise a hand knowing its way around a face of rock a foot finding windworn pebble groove something to strive toward achieve and then be on the comedown from since coming here there is walking trains which flatten land there is standing on tracks waiting for the speedy weight of death before coming there was a scene of a film containing only a slow movement of people with mountains on their shoulders cursed are the lovers of the flatlands always the distance becoming present from which another distance runs © Andrew McMillan — 26


anxiety the blossom is coming off the trees a man died yesterday

the poets will be happy

the papers will be happy

I’ve only kissed one man for weeks

my mother will be happy

I take the recommended dose each hour the blues have beat the reds bad dreams are coming true

my doctor will be happy

half the city will be happy the prophets will be happy

my nephew is smarter than he should be my nephew is becoming less like his dad every day except in his speech which seems uncorrectable my nephew is a quiet child my sister will be happy new countries are being born in the ocean bed cartographers will be happy

they’re rising

we’ve almost convinced them we’ve dismantled those who won’t be convinced we have written things god will be happy the river’s split its seams will be happy

the river’s spread its legs

decorators

I’m buying more clothes I’m shedding skin weekly my bank will be happy my friend who manages a clothes shop will be happy China will be happy the blossom is coming off the trees they’ll be dancing in it © Andrew McMillan — 27

the poets will be happy


SENI SENEVIRATNE (2012) Inspired by contributions to the Poetry Hotspot 2012

An Old Typewriter An old typewriter, bought for two quid at a car boot sale could grow your imagination large enough to push open the doors of ignorance. It could let you take your mind everywhere and still leave you belonging, right where you are at any moment, with room to expand beyond the doors of perception or the place where cloth meets circumstance. You could follow the Perigree moon when it hangs above the horizon until you reach the purple mountains where sensimilla flowers are opening. If you forget the clocks with unmoving handles, you could pass through time, lighten your steps, let go of old longings, and still carry your keys in a bag of dreams. At the cornerstone, you could take the path to the place where birds build nests from the bones of trees. But if you sleep in the mouth of the moor, don’t let it swallow you. And watch out for cows! They have been known to stampede. © Seni Seneviratne

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Calvary The particular purple of an un-named flower takes its place above the crown of my head. A church bell rings somewhere no more specific than over there which makes other bells reply, as if the bells are all there is for a moment, drowning out the voices and shuffle of feet. I look up to where, they say, you arrive if you climb the Calvary steps, follow the Stations of the Cross. There’s a church where I would have lit a candle, but for the fact it was closed – for renovation. And yes, I still light candles in Catholic churches, though I am no longer a believer. A swallow turns the sun off and summer is in ruins, like that summer on Ilkley Moor – rocks named after beasts, me stalking them for ways through the impasse. © Seni Seneviratne

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SEÁN HEWITT (Apprentice Poet in Residence 2012) )

Éamonn an Chnoic Of an night, a rain-tracked blackness baying for me and finding my heels. I spent an hour barking at your door, hearing the English regiments come like teeth over the hill’s brink, seeing the thickets lift with the wind. I stood close with an army of dark, kept thought-spaces peopled about me. The night pressed against your windows, begging to be let in. Love whined for its owner. Your face shifting, and this minute hooked to fear. The fields heaved and grew into Gethsemane as I ran.

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Polly Vaughan The trees were mad and opened their mouths to the wind. Stalks snapped their long-held silences under my feet. Maybe it was just the air that thought again between the grasses, or her clean neck creaking and lengthening the length of an arm, a wing, or else it was the water, the lenses of the rain altering and falling, organising newly the splinters of light. When I clicked the safety latch and fired, the wind ate me, and then itself, and I found it breathing on the wingless ground by her feet.

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