I have been on so many Arvon courses over the past twenty years that I’ve lost count. Five years ago, I was on a course called Towards a Collection with George Szirtes and Kate Clanchy. They not only helped me to start putting together a first collection but also recommended me for the Arvon/Jerwood Mentoring Scheme which I began the following year. My tutor was Mimi Khalvati. It changed my life. At the end of it my first collection, A Guided Tour of the Ice House, was accepted by Smith/Doorstop and the Arvon Foundation even hosted my book launch at the Free Word Centre.
I continued to go on Arvon courses at all their beautiful centres. Not one disappointed. Last year I promised myself (and my editor) that I would complete a second collection by Christmas. I had a difficult year. My mother and my best friend died within weeks of each other and the book had to go on the back burner. Last October I went on a course with Michael Longley and Sinead Morrissey at The Hurst. I felt so privileged to be on that one. I shared some of the new poems with both tutors and received
encouragement and invaluable advice. In December I returned for a tutored poetry retreat and spent much of the week on hands and knees deciding what went where. Jacob Polley and Jean Sprackland gave feedback on individual poems and advice about the collection and I also wrote a number of new poems which found their way in. While cooking with three great poetry friends I tried out a number of possible titles and they took a vote. The book, still just a pile of sheets of paper, became The Stonegate Devil. It will be published in October. I am not exaggerating when I say I could not have done it without Arvon.
When I returned last week the Centre Director and her team not only
remembered me but asked about the book and were genuinely pleased to hear it was about to come out. I was touched by their warm welcome and, if you haven’t been, do. The Hurst is like a country house hotel filled with like-minded people.
I signed up for David and Penelope’s course as soon as booking opened. I knew both tutors and I knew it would be really special. It was. We were exploring inner and outer spaces and found ourselves writing startling new poems about our hearts and ‘describing the world as never before’ with Penelope ( I cried when reading mine out. No-one batted an eyelid). With David we had stars projected onto the ceiling, music playing and fairy lights. We went out into the fields and made conceptual art, hung poems from trees and stood looking up at the stars and listening to nature. Both poets were so generous and encouraging. My third book is shaping up nicely!
– Carole Bromley
A Guided Tour of the Ice House and The Stonegate Devil are published by Smith/Doorstop. My website is http://www.carolebromleypoetry.co.uk