Today was the last Sheffield meeting of the Writing School, run by the Poetry Business, in Sheffield, which has been one of the biggest influences, aids and joys of my recent writing. Partly this is down to Ann and Peter Sansom who run and tutor it, partly to the other excellent poets the School brings together to rub shoulders and share words.

We will have a final get-together in Rydal in February, culminating in a reading at the Wordsworth Trust. If you’re around the Lakes then, perhaps you’ll come and hear us.

I recommend the Writing School. It stimulates your work, and puts you in contact with ways of writing you will not have considered before.

I also picked up a copy of River Wolton’s new book, Indoor Skydiving. Not read it yet, but it looks pretty good. And a copy of the latest The North (the Poetry Business poetry magazine), issue #51. I’m pleased with this one, as I’ve two poems in it, and Peter asked me to contribute to their periodic piece “Blind Criticism”, in which poets are invited to critique a poem without author which they’ve never seen before. I was partnered with Helena (“Nell”) Nelson, who runs Happenstance Press and offers sharp, close criticism. This seemed an honour to me, and a little bit scary. Suppose I came up with a critique which slated some well-loved, well-reputed poet? Suppose I disagreed radically with Nell’s view of the poem, was even hostile to it? Suppose I showed how ignorant I was of some style, form, tradition – there are so many and I’m so limited in my knowledge.

As it turned out, I really enjoyed the task, wrote far more than Peter could use, and found my account and Nell’s largely fitted together. And so, looking at it now in print, I’m almost as pleased with it as I am with my two poems: “Late Night, Radio 3” and “To an aubergine”. The latter poem was written in a Writing School workshop. You can maybe get an inkling of the School from this little example.

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