Ian McMillan’s relentless touring schedule finally sees him return to the Lake District on March 6 for another inimitable show of performance poetry, taken from his new anthology Talking Myself Home.
“I always enjoy coming to Cumbria,” says Ian, “I love the Lake District – it is a very beautiful and poetic place. It’s easy to see why it inspired Wordsworth so much.”
snow, several inches lying
and the road side trees
highlighted with it, gulls
at the corner of my eye
like flung snowballs
the fields, unbroken white
almost dazzling and sheep
as if posed for Christmas cards,
brown slush on the tarmac
and the verges splashed
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Commissioned poem #2 by Mike Smith
snow has fallen light upon the fell
which shows beneath as if a white
cloth had been dusted with soot or
an unfinished piece of universe
were draped with a torn sheet to await
completion at a later date
shot through with black infinity
and were you to go walking up there
you might putting a foot wrong
penetrate what we’ve failed to grasp
of this physical distillate
Commissioned poem #3 by Mike Smith
On the Slippery Slope
(or lines written a few hundred yards above Howtown Pier)
Frost has my fingers in a vice. My jaw’s clenched tight.
Rain has fallen, but it lies as ice.
I’m spreading grit and sliding down the drive
Like some daft kid, but that’s all right.
No-one’s about and even if they were
And saw me, shouted out to warn me
(some H&SE type no doubt)
I’d rather be caught doing this
Than hobbling on a stick, peering to see,
Or looking like some well fed smug old git.
And the sun’s on the rise over the snow white fells
And between clouds there are bright blue skies.
Only the tarmac road
Is slippery as time under my feet
All in all, this late in my year,
I should consider it a treat
To be able to cavort
(carefully of course, I want no broken bones).
So I’ll give the drive another whiz
Before I sprinkle it with salt
And when I do keel over
Somewhere on along the way
It’s no-one’s fault.
"Rock" by Edwin Page
The old man sits atop a large rock,
His gaze turned seaward,
Legs crossed like an undernourished Buddha,
His frame thin, face drawn.
He tries to comprehend the rock,
To understand its structure,
Its mass, its weight, its energy,
The vibration of its molecules.
Upon these things he quietly meditates,
His gaze adrift on the ocean,
As comprehension proves evasive,
For this one, solitary rock.
‘If I cannot comprehend this rock,
What chance of comprehension of existence?’
He asks in a whisper,
Waves breaking upon the shore in reply.
In that moment he is grasped by realisation,
Comprehension is not the key,
Belief in the rock is enough,
And through belief all else arises.
The simplicity of this truth fills him,
The old man leaps to his feet,
Raises his hands in the air joyfully
And shouts with all his might, ‘I believe!’
"If only we knew what you do" by Katie Metcalfe
We select your skeleton and manipulate
it for market convenience.
Born to believe you are programmed
to breed and bulk like a fat child,
seeing you as a feeding, squawking, shitting machine
incapable of being anything but palatable.
Acknowledge your existence for one season a year,
of course we close our eyes to your suffering,
only open them again Christmas morning,
happy to find your unnatural hulk defrosting.
Fingers crossed your pink wings will be
edible brown by three.
Celebrate your eventual destiny
on the table groaning with
your harmfully reared, cooked corpse
thinking nothing of the calcium leaked
from your bones as our children
clutch and snap apart your blinking wishbone.