On a breezy sunny August afternoon I got off the train at Hebden Bridge with my rucksack and found myself re-tracing my steps of a year earlier up the steep Heptonstall Road on route to the joys of Lumb Bank. Here was the strangeness of familiarity – negotiating the cobbles of Heptonstall, walking past many houses with stickers of yellow bicycles still in their windows, to then stopping for a rest on the seat at the top of the Lumb Bank lane. I had come back for another high-octane Arvon experience; this time a week of poetry with Daljit Nagra and Vicki Feaver.
I met Jack hard at work in the kitchen as I arrived. As usual, tea, cake and fruit were waiting in the sitting room and it wasn’t long before I was deep in conversation with other newcomers. At six o’clock Jill and Lucy gave us a briefing followed by a sumptuous and reviving supper. The week then kicked off later that evening with everyone meeting up with the Daljit and Vicki for an introduction to what lay ahead. As the days slid by we dug deeper into the poems we discussed, the poems we wrote and the poems we spoke. Cooking, writing, reading, talking, wine, and walking in the woods all contributed to the overall rising combustion.
I had come back for more poetry to help me reassess my own efforts over the last few years. By the end of the week, my work had not only become less abstract but had also loosened up thanks to the invaluable one to one tutorials with Vicki and Daljit. On Friday evening we all gathered in the barn for our end of week readings: sixteen poets each given a five minute slot. It was an evening not only of poetry but also of love and of an urge to communicate sounds, words and language. The 2014 course programme billed this course as The gift of a poem. The poems were certainly gifts, all created within that tried and tested chemistry of Lumb Bank.
On the Saturday morning I set off, unwillingly, back to the station, only this time I walked back slowly through the woods following the flow of the river as it tumbled over the Pennine rocks. Construction of a hydro-electricity plant across the river’s surge is currently in progress. It seems a fitting metaphor for Arvon: the continual creation of energy from the rawness of nature. When my poetry batteries run down, I think I’ll come back again for a re-charge.
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