Arvon – Ian Duhig and Amanda Dalton – Dec 2010 – A fantastic poetry writing course. What a delight, a whole week of poetry. Ian Duhig and Amanda Dalton, the tutors are so informative and generous with their time and both fantastic poets in their own right.

We had five tutorials each,  which I know from experience at Arvon is well beyond the call of duty. I did my first Arvon at Totleigh Barton about fifteen years ago and wrote a picture book that I later tried to get published. It ended up as a picture poem. (on youtube)

The minute one enters any of the Arvon houses one is regarded as a writer/poet/author and treated accordingly, whether a beginner, established,  published or not. This course took place in Ted Hughes house, a magical setting, full of atmosphere and set high on a hill overlooking the beautiful valley.

Each morning the tutors take turns to give a presentation,  then there are exercises, discussion and assignments. In the afternoon we all disperse to find a quiet place to write. Later in the afternoon we share our writing,  or save it for one of the tutorials. Evenings are often given over to readings,  except on Thursday nights when a specially invited guest comes along.

The evening meals are great and we simply take turns in groups to cook them. This means we all cook just once a week.  All the shopping is done for us, recipes provided and additional help on hand from one of  the live in ‘wardens’ who are often established writers too.  The bonding in the kitchen is often helped along with a couple of glasses of wine.

On Friday night we share everything we have attempted to write during the week. This time I managed to complete three poems and start several others,  one of which was a sonnet. I know I will carry on tweaking it, but it is well on the way to completion.

On the way home a fellow poet gave me a lift to the church where Sylvia Plath is buried, a tiny unkempt grave. It was quite a shock and I broke my best 6B pencil trying to dislodge the dandelions, the only sharp thing I had with me.

There is talk of a more fitting memorial but when I looked at other graves she seemed in good company. Nearby someone had served in Burma and others may well have slaved in the mills below Lumb Bank producing black silk for widows.

As an apprentice poet I was fearful that I would be completely out of my depth, but I wasn’t there were both experienced poets and novices.

An eventful journey home followed, on Leeds Station my bag spilt. It was not until fellow passengers came running after me with polo mints, a bracelet, a poetry book, a toothbrush and a spare pants, I realised what had happened! Whoops!  Ann.

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