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A sick kitty, Arvon, podcasting and MA latest

Bobby with cone

Help! I’m just emerging from a fraught couple of weeks. Two weeks ago our cat Bobby suddenly developed a life-threatening condition. He’d only been officially ‘ours’ for less than a fortnight. He’s on the mend now, but I think the shock of it all (including not being insured, plus a week or so of cleaning up after an incontinent cat, lack of sleep, worry etc) took its toll on me! While all this was going on I was on an Arvon-at-Home course. At least I was at home, not away for the week leaving my dear husband on his own with poor Bobs. More about that in a mo. So, a bit of a rundown on what I’ve been up to…

Planet Poetry podcast

This week Peter Kenny and I got our 16th episode of Planet Poetry up and out … yesterday in fact… it would have been Thursday but I hadn’t finished editing it plus had a schoolpals meetup that afternoon then a Needlewriters event in the evening to co-host. This week the interviewee is Helen Ivory – a fine poet and a wonderful guest, fascinating, fun and generous. Do have a listen. Peter and I also chat about what we’ve been reading lately: Tomas Transtromer (me) and Robert Hamberger (Peter), then we get a tiny bit grumpy about this and that, as per usual!

Planet Poetry Ep 16 with Helen Ivory

There’s been so much to learn about podcasting and we’re still very much learning. Something we’re planning to have is an actual website sometime. We’ve got the domain, we’ve got the hosting and we’ve got the know-how. Just a bit more time required. Peter and I are a tad busier than when we started it last October! What we both agree on though is how it has opened us up to so much poetry that’s new to us and so many interesting poets and editors. It’s also super to get the occasional nice feedback, because when we’re recording it we do sometimes wonder if anyone’s going to be listening!

tomas transtromer selected


Re the aforementioned course: this was my first Arvon experience, and despite being held via Zoom, I enjoyed the sessions. The tutors (Carrie Etter and Sasha Dugdale) were the main draw for me, and also the fact that it was focused on putting together a collection. Although it finished a week ago I haven’t had a chance to organise & read though my notes. BUT as soon as I’ve finished this post it’s first on my list. I was a bit worried beforehand that we might be given some general writing exercises, and I wasn’t really there for that. As it happened, Carrie and Sasha had prepared some excellent sessions and what writing exercises there were were relevant and interesting. My fellow students were pretty much all at a similar stage to me (verging on a full collection) or beyond, which I also liked. A first for me was an attempt at a translation of a Marina Tsvetaeva poem from the Russian, which Sasha guided us through. I really enjoyed that. Basically, although I was tired most of the time and probably not quite myself, I came away from the week with plenty of great advice, ideas and motivation.

Poetry & Poetics MA latest

My course at York feels like it happened ages ago now, since there was nothing to do in the Summer term. I submitted my Spring term essay and got the equivalent of a B+, pretty much the same as my Autumn 2020 essay mark. I have to admit although I’ve enjoyed the reading, the research and the essay writing very much, getting my head around the literary theory and adapting my writing style to what’s required has been harder than I expected. In the past I’ve always got good grades in academic work so a B+ is disappointing. I’ve also been reassessing my priorities, given how financially punishing the last 15 months have been. So, although I still have another year to go if I want to complete the MA, I’m hoping to take a leave of absence and review it this time next year. In the meantime, I have a ton of books still to read, detailed reading lists and access to the University resources, so I’m well set up for self-directed study.

dante essay file

Are we all Zoomed out yet?

I don’t know about you but the Zoom tolerance is wearing thin now. In the early days I used to think hard about where I was sitting, or what was my hair like, the lighting etc. Now, unless I’m actually reading, I just schlepp up and hope there are no food bits between my teeth.

I’d like to offer my grateful thanks, though, to the organisers of some of the lovely poetry events that I’ve enjoyed via Zoom over the last few months:

Helen Eastman and all at Live Canon for their Friday lunchtime series, still going strong although I haven’t been able to make the last few…

Jeremy Page, The Frogmore Press and the Sussex Festival of Ideas for the Poetry South East readings…

Jo Clement and guest editor Ian Humphreys at Butcher’s Dog for a wonderful afternoon of readings for the launch of Issue 15…

All at South magazine for their launch event featuring my good friend and excellent poet Miriam Patrick

Until we meet again!

Published inAngstBlogCoursesEventsMags & BlogsPodcastYork MA


  1. Jennifer Page Jennifer Page

    Actually a B+ mark is very good. , I got marked down considerably for a comma by an OU tutor who did not approve of it – and journalism was my profession. Ask the reason. I did.

  2. The course sounds very good. And poor Bob – yep, we also les animal de companie (online French classes).
    Zoom – yes, I do find this a difficult medium. Online learning: is it just me, or do others constantly fret about energy use, electric/phone bills all the time in attendance?

    Huge congratulations, all round.

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thank you Michael… I’m not sure I worry too much about the electricity/ energy used on Zoom meetings, as my broadband & computer is on all day anyway. But the emotional/mental toll is another thing; I always feel exhausted after a two hour session, and I’m happy that Zoom poetry readings tend to be no more than an hour! On the other hand I guess not travelling as much is also a plus for the environment.

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