Guest blog from poet in residence, Beccy Golding

Dec 20 2019

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Beccy Golding

I'm delighted to share with you this guest blog from Holly Stoppit Workshops new poet in residence, Beccy Golding. 

Beccy has been working with me for the last three years as my administrator / workshop co-ordinator. If you've booked onto one of my workshops, you'll have experienced the wonder of Beccy's cheerful, clear and grammatically perfect emails. Beccy's steadfast support has helped me to stabilise my business and spread untold amounts of idiocy far and wide.

This year, as a thank you gift, I offered to send Beccy on a retreat- I'll let Beccy take over the story from here. Over to you, Beccy Golding!

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Beccy Golding

As you can probably imagine, there are many fab things about having Holly Stoppit as your Clown-Boss-Lady. Clear honest communication; trust and respect; meetings that include flip charts, felt tips, decision-making with pendulums and taking very bad selfies; being part of a joyous, ridiculous, accepting tribe of idiots, fools and clowns; and learning learning learning all the time.

Holly is also a great role model for self-care – I admire her commitment to a daily mindfulness practice, regular body movement, and how she whisks herself away to a retreat from time to time.

As part of my clown-admin CPD, this year Holly offered to pay for me to go on a retreat. Perks of the job, eh?

I’ve written all my life – from creating word-books for spellings when I was little, to diaries documenting every teenage first, to co-writing pantomimes and plays (which I also co-directed), to being a jobbing journalist and reviewer, to newsletters and social media – it’s all about the words.

To support & nurture my creative writing this year I’ve been going to courses and workshops with the amazing writer, facilitator and performer Anita MacCallum*. In the spring I attended a poetry weekend with her. I found it life-changing. “A-ha – this is the thing I’m meant to be doing right now!” an inner voice told me.

So when Holly offered me a retreat I thought “Oh, poetry at Arvon!” The Arvon Foundation offers writing retreats at beautiful locations across the UK. Arvon has always been an aspiration for me, but always felt unattainable. 

Holly agreed I should go. I booked a spot for a week of new inspirations for poetry, at Lumb Bank in Yorkshire, in December. Like the best things for learning, this was scary, ridiculous, anxiety-inducing. They told me to bring examples of my work, I felt I didn’t have anything, I felt like an imposter.

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Beccy Golding

Lumb Bank is a brooding handsome house at the bottom of a treacherously steep path, in a wooded valley near Hebden Bridge. Ted Hughes lived there; his namesake, Ted the cat, visits whenever he likes. Sylvia Plath is buried in the nearby village. The weather was moody; we spent our evenings cosy round an open fire, drinking red wine and talking poetry.

Two professional poets were our tutors and hosts for the week – Clare Pollard and Anthony Dunn delivered workshops in the mornings, tutorials in the afternoons and readings in the evenings.

I was challenged, I was inspired. I wrote, I napped, I walked a bit, I learnt. I woke before dawn and wrote morning pages. I wrote poems. I became a poet.

On the last night we sat in the big barn, with the fairy lights, in the super comfy sofas. We stood at the front and read our poems for each other. Here are three of mine, written during the week. The first one is best read out loud I think.

*  Anita MacCallum has another 6-week writing course starting on 16 January. There’s another poetry weekend with Anita on January 18 & 19 – both highly recommended.

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Beccy Golding

After History by Tomaz Salamun

Beccy Golding is a monster.
The world does not revolve around the sun
The world revolves around her infinite brain.
She shines like Jupiter
Her gravity pulls you to her.
Babies, kittens, seminaries, judiciaries and allotments
Are pulled into her orbit by her magnetism.
Beccy Golding flicks the magnetised objects off her skin, like ticks.

Maybe it was that moment when Beccy Golding was born
That things changed for the better
Religion collapsed
Capitalism was ingested
War and the Bay City Rollers and anoraks were all disbanded.

Maybe it was that day she took her first steps
That roses evolved
And buttercups first shone yellow under our chins.
Maybe that was when dogs stopped biting
And small pox was cured.

Beccy Golding nurtures sleeping babies in her elbows
Her lullabies calm the waves
She is a shining beacon for humanity.
Beccy Golding grows forests with her brain
Brews plankton with her ears.
Finger nail clippings feed the five thousand -
Take that, messiah.

Next year Beccy Golding will not worry about the bills
Next year the clocks reset
The universe re-aligns
Like a chess clock button pounded
All the horses and all the men will start again.
Beccy Golding will brew utopia in her teacup
And the environment will be cured.

In the meantime Beccy Golding will enjoy a pleasant Christmas with her friends and family
Vote labour in the election to ensure that Bristol South remains a safe labour seat
She will endeavour to practice writing down words in the form of poetry.
She will go to Boxercise
And see her friends
And hug her boy and hug her man
And sleep in her own bed.

Beccy Golding has a universe inside her brain.
And everyone else has one too.

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Beccy Golding

Lumb Bank
After Crime of Passion by Polly Clark

There is the rusted track.
Autumn mist in the beech trees and the peeling birch.
Turned leaves settle, soften in the rustling woods.

Below the walls of the ha-ha
A pheasant truts along the path, duck-like.
Legs pick up, pause and place, pick up and pause.

Robin with russet chest like autumn apples
Ticks at you and disappears
Into the straight red shrub.

A zig-zag of grey tits jangle past,
Crew of teenage ruffians
Gang of yobbish adolescence.

Squirrels bound across high reaches
Half-friendly, half-sharp; furry-trousered,
Little hands will stab you soon as glance.

These cows could crush you in their fields
Death squad bovines in disguise.
You take our milk we’ll fuck you up –
Damage you against rustic gateways into ancient woods.

Whilst they squeezed death into you
You’d watch the grey tits mooning their downy bellies –
Mob mentalists – then sod off to the woods.

The squirrels would leap away with their blades,
Loner robin preen his armpit
Pheasant pluck his own chest, avoiding your gaze.

You put out a hand
To catch a falling leaf
As it glides to the ground.
Complicated nature.
It’s good luck to catch a leaf
As you slip away.

Holly Stoppit
Image credit: Beccy Golding

After Chus Pato & Erin Moure

Girl-fawn chick
Peck-pick skip-flit
Play shop, pretend I am big.
Feathers bud
Head tilts to eye up the sky
My bed-nest is made, stretched tight
Tucked in, my Lullaby-Nana sings me thunder.

We bleed.
Jumping like chickens into branches, we birth
We mother, we launder, take the apple
Wax our wings
Soar kites for the babies.
Tired, in the eve, we crumple.

Darkness thick-heavy is the end of the blood –
It’s not a pause but a re-sounding voice
Time folds
Crone in the moonlight I play
Invisible but burning, I dance
Wild on the edge with a foot out to danger
Matriarch weaver, I gather my kin
Rage power, rise majestic, slough off my skin.

Bend my knees
Spring back hard my feet
Split open the skin of my back
Unwrench, unfurl

Owl goddess takes flight.

And soars.

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