Monday, 10 January 2000

Host

Sarah Hymas’s confident language and vivid imagery gives an unusual vitality to this collection. In Bedrock four generations speak of their lives in a sequence that pays homage to the institution of the family. A clear eye for period detail and an ear for the inner voice bring the characters to life, their particular fears and pleasures, conflicts and tensions.
Mike Barlow


The voices, the stories, the detail and the imagery are powerful, superbly-crafted and original.
Bernardine Evaristo


These poems are written as though several generations of the same family are still speaking, as the dead and living indeed do in all families.

The poet’s land speaks as an ancestral character, but strangely. A feast of defamiliarisation and significant foregrounding, a nourishing image of lives and landscapes.
Herbert Lomas

There is more information about the Bedrock sequence below the film and other poems on this page of my site

It's published by Waterloo Press if you want to tell them how wonderful it all is, or simply to buy a copy. Or you could get one by emailing me

And if you're undecided, then watch some of these ...










Like, I suspect, many people, I became interested in my family's past after one of my parent's died. In my case, my dad. Ironically, too late to ask direct questions, I was left digging up facts and stories from photographs, property deeds and old newspaper reports.

I did have one advantage. I was born, and grew up, in the house my paternal great grandfather had built for my grandfather and his family (including my dad). The family firm (that transformed from quarriers to builders to hauliers between 1898 to 2008) was based in a yard just up the road from the house. So, plenty of documents to riffle through.

Photographs of my ancestors had always been present, both in the yard office and in the house. They were referred to by first name, as if still alive, their characteristics upheld as aspirational. It was understood we owed them our place in the world.

On reflection, I think my initial research and writing about these family members, and my childhood with them, was an act of grief, an attempt to keep hold of Dad.

But then the bug caught. These people, their beliefs, social restrictions and business dealings, were fascinating, vaguely familiar, with moral codes that chimed with ones from my childhood. My imagination was fuelling facts. My interest in social history was fanned. I started to write poems to fill the narrative. I wanted to trace back and write the lineage that ended with my leaving home: what had fed my understanding of who I was in the world. How were my foundations built?

I have written for years, publishing poems and stories in collections and anthologies. This felt suited to poetry because of my imaginative response to historical fact, for the crystallisation of the voices and for the best use of the piecemeal information I found.

The story, Bedrock, is limited, episodic, like family mythologies are. There are seven players: each giving their version of events from 1898 to 2008. The poems that follow are from the beginning of that narrative and are from Harold, the quarrier, his wife Hannah and their son, John. My great grandfather, great grandmother and grandfather respectfully.

Harold followed the gold rush to Canada at the end of the 19th century, returned unsuccessful and yet with a determination to make good. I visited the site of this quarry a few years back. It is mainly overgrown with pine trees, but traces of the pit are still evident. It is 10 miles to the north of Harrogate in Yorkshire, England:

Klondike, 1898

I name this quarry, this earthen altar,
after the hope of thousands of men
I met halfway to Alaska.
Their hearts bridled to a gilt god.
Turning home, I saw the fortune in Yorkshire grit.
These pillars of fissures and folds,
my bones. With water-soaked wedges

I’ll prise open seams
deepened by the disappearance of my mother
and darkened by the coroner’s report
that found gunpowder in my father’s mouth.
I’ll cleave blocks for lintels and doorstops.
If I unearth only rubble, I’ll pitch for hard core.
This rock grows taller as the soil sinks.
Let the dead bury their dead.

Harold


I don't know if at this point he had met his future wife, but she, like him, was a member of the Plymouth Brethren, an offshoot of the Methodists. A faith that pervaded their lives, mainly to the good, providing structure, love and support; although throughout his career, Harold's ambition challenged the Brethren's line. Hannah always stood by him. They married in 1899:


Harrogate Bedrock, 1899

What I love about you
I have yet to quarry.

Your worn granite face
holds the promise of mica

and buttoned sandstone,
a cladding for our home.

As limestone is local diamond,
your bones must glitter.

The magnesia found here
springs a brilliant cure

the rich flock to taste.
They wince on its sulphur.

I do not wish to drink,
just to mix with mortar.

Hannah



Oddly for those times, they only had one child, a son, John. In their way, they doted on him:


A Very Hearty Welcome, 1900

Son, you have been born into a beautiful world,
and were it not for sin and its awful effects
you might desire no better existence.

You may be earth-born but you belong to heaven
and your heavenly Father has made it possible for you
to reach his home unharmed by sin. I pray
the shield of Christ’s atonement be thrown
around your tender years
and from a consecrated childhood, you grow
into a good and useful manhood.

Goodness is true greatness. Make haste,
my boy; grow tall, strong and good,
then your father will buy you a wheelbarrow
for you to lead the righteous.

Harold


I've already referred to Harold's ambition. This poem is my take (from the perspective of Hannah) on a job he undertook for Harrogate Corporation that so infuriated local people a protest song was written and printed in the paper a week or so after the event:


Suffrage, 1910

My heart sank like a badly baked curd tart
when Mr Baxter of Knapping Mount phoned.

All ready for tomorrow, Kibby?
Two men to each tree and a six o’clock start.

We all heard the voice hammer down the wire.
He who invented the knapping-motion-stone-breaker

met little resistance to his desires.
Harold’s sweat speckled resin-bright on his forehead.

One job closer to the steam wagon to haul
his stone and sand through town.

Our John, jittery with the peculiarity
of work talk at five o’clock on a Sunday,

choked on his oatcakes and eggs as I told him,
for once, he would not be helping his father,

would have no hand in felling the candled chestnuts,
flat as the pleats in a bodice, down the new Kings Road.

Hannah


With the first world war, John was pulled out of school to work for the family firm, in the place of the men who'd gone to fight. This loss of education was to affect him for the rest of his life:


The Boss’s Son, 1919

I carted bricks with Tom Spence from the works
to building sites before school,
walked when the cart was loaded, rode it empty.
In winter he gave me his overcoat to curl inside.

The mason, Jock Kitchen, had Betty
his pet sparrow perched on the stone he dressed.
Jock could prise more shards off with his clog
than others could with their chisels.

When it was cold, Boxer Williams warmed gelignite
in a frying pan, the detonator tucked in his pocket.
He and Fred Shinger drilled holes in solid rock
when we laid a sewer down Follifoot High Street.

For the war’s last year, I was one of the 8th Hussars.
The junior in an eight-man bicycle-mounted
machine-gun unit, I carried half the ammo.
Bullets swinging no further than Norwich.

Back home, we had a Scott — open-framed, water-cooled,
twin two-stroke. Well-tuned, it took corners, nimble
as a bumble bee, deserving no rider but me.
Then I knew: these men were my employees.

John


The story continues with John's marriage, against his parent's wishes; Harold's death, and John's less than successful managing of the business; the social change in the 50s and 60s in the role of women and the church; the grip of the work ethic in the 70s and 80s; and the diminishing power of the family over its fourth generation.

While I know some do not see it as a celebration and tribute to my Dad's family. That is my intention. I haven't pulled all the family skeletons out of the closet. I'm perhaps not brave enough to confront them all, but I hope I have told this arm of the story with an emotional truth and integrity that honours the institution of family. After all, we each stand at different positions to every event.



Saturday, 1 January 2000

Coaching

I offer a confidential professional development service, either face to face or over the phone.

From a one-off session to a series, my coaching sessions offer the participant an opportunity for analysis, reflection and action on their work and career. The aim being you get to where you want to be.

Each session will clarify ambitions and unpack skills and experiences, enabling you to achieve your potential. They also include practical goal setting: defining exciting and achievable targets for your professional life.

I have experience of working with many different groups of people and individuals, in settings as diverse as prisons, mental health day-care, schools, adult education, undergraduates and community settings.

I offer this work on a sliding scale, from £25-£60 per hour, depending on your circumstances and am happy to discuss this further. Get in touch by email

Closet Collection



"We seem fascinated by the macabre - and there's plenty of it in this collection by Sarah Hymas. These stories are outstanding for their originality and their ability to grip the reader."

If you'd like to read these stories, then contact me.

A Selection of Poems


Wonder Child


My friend’s Aunty Margaret

knew a little boy who

was that curious

he could spend

all day long

in a bucket.



Your ears send me delirious


They’re as foreign as a bat’s radar.

Trumpet like lilies

and remind me of the elves I loved

(who lived in a hollow oak tree).


You say they’re angel wings.


I want to lick one

pup to cowpat

and there is no one to shout, Stop That

or pull on my lead.


I’m not falling for you at all,

I leap. Hey diddle diddle.



Last Night

I was an adolescent with Fat Freddy hair.

Two thick socks for a cock

nobbed down my jeans,

three quarters the length of my thigh.


He flashed fishnet calves, virginally slender.

His double D tits strained his surplice,

nipples permanently erect

acting as tent poles for his wimple.


We danced, combating between

thrust and allure, skirting

the fringes of each other.

Sweat peppered my top lip.


When he suggested his breasts

I needed no second request to grab.

Those nips were something else, each swollen

hard as a dildo’s tip.


I butted my groin, urgent.

Quick to press his palm firm

against my woolly penis,

little finger to thumb, he spanned it all.


Caught, we stopped

as still as this phantom limb,

this g-spot, as if we’d stumbled

upon the ghost of another life.




Neither Up Nor Down



We wait for a bus, not knowing its arrival time;

nor its destination, beyond Up.


After half an hour, we walk

along a road that turns into track


that climbs to a vast green falling away of all noise

except the amplification of water,


the thin call of cirrus

and us.


We turn round before bagging the summit;

fail to feel failure, and settle near a solitary picnicker.


You make lamb tegine; I unpick the latest Cronenberg;

we compare shampoo.


We scuffle, take photos of our gurning,

looking bald and ill. We laugh because we’re not —


we’re only halfway through.


Videos and Audios

Incorruptible Aura
   


Harrogate Bedrock

A film by Jonathan Bean/Litfest 2008  A Sunder A Hymas&Lewis track, recorded at The Green Room, Manchester 2007     What's a choice to do nothing? A Hymas&Lewis track, recorded at Lost Voices, Liverpool, 2008 Audio only Neither Up Nor Down (from Host) Your ears send me delirious A Hymas&Lewis track audio only  Reading is Believing This was the commissioned collaborative project when I was poet in residence at Calderdale Libraries, in 2005. A beautiful cloth-bound book was made for the libraries, with my poetry, painting from John Lyons and photography by Hafsah Naib .

Coaching

I've been coaching since 2007, predominantly working with writers, but also with other creative practitioners. I was accredited (PCT) in 2008, having trained with Deb Barnard and Carol Wilson on a Cultural Leadership Programme.

I am the in-house coach for Litfest, working with writers published by Flax and others who come to us independently.

I see it essential to my practice that I have regular supervision.

When I decided to make the move from employment to writing full time, accessing Litfest's mentoring services for coaching, one on one help and specialist professional advice was a logical step for me. I'm not finished with the process yet, but in the few months I've been mentored/coached by Sarah Hymas I've learned more about my own writing self, processes, quirks and method than I thought possible and have brain-stormed strategies to get the best out of myself as a writer. The process has fed me both creatively and professionally and empowered me to embark confidently on what can be a very lonely career without a well-trodden path to follow. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this service to any writer who wants to get serious about what he or she is doing. JA

A Selection of Poems

Poems from Host, published 2010

From "Bedrock" A sequence of monologues


From Mud, Two Wedding Presents, 1927

Your father is right, of course,
clay makes for durable walls,

but there’s more to a marriage
than its house. More to mud:

porcelain, glazed for pleasure,
cool and foreign as a geisha.

I did not sculpt my present
as your father built his,

but with one son, each parent
must claim their own ground.

Hold this vase with fingers like petals.
Place it well. Listen.

As a shell speaks of the sea,
hear what this silk voice can teach.



Witness the Potato, 1934

Blind. Accepting dirt
as nourishment.

Seeds one into a dozen
nuggets of gospel

white. Eventually it will
out. A quiet servant.

I dig for this fist
wash it in my mouth.

Some are turned to drink.
My spirit bakes them.



A Fool Keeping Silence is Reckoned Wise, 1973
pvbs 17:28

They could not hurt anyone
in the way of sticks and stones,
yet like thieves and murderers
our tongues needed guarding.
Actions spoke for us.

If we could improve on the silence,
best to be a straight-talker.
Boasting, uncouth as bra-straps.
Whispering, akin to wearing yellow at a funeral.
Worst are the liars. They eat their own lips



Kitchen AGM, 1992

8pm. Present: Husband
and Wife (Co Sec)

All persons entitled to Notice
agreed to accept short notice.

The Minutes of the 30th AGM
read, approved and signed.

Wife retired by rotation
re-elected to the board.

Accounts for year ending
presented. Adopted.

Signed Husband, Chair.


More information about the story behind 'Bedrock' is at the bottom of this page of the site.


Poems from 'Landfall', the second section in the book: opening a window in a claustrophobic house ...


Wonder Child

My friend’s Aunty Margaret
knew a little boy who
was that curious
he could spend
all day long
in a bucket.



Neither Up Nor Down

We wait for a bus, not knowing its arrival time;
nor its destination, beyond Up.

After half an hour, we walk
along a road that turns into track

that climbs to a vast green falling away of all noise
except the amplification of water,

the thin call of cirrus
and us.

We turn round before bagging the summit;
fail to feel failure, and settle near a solitary picnicker.

You make lamb tegine; I unpick the latest Cronenberg;
we compare shampoo.

We scuffle, take photos of our gurning,
looking bald and ill. We laugh because we’re not —

we’re only halfway through.



The Lighthouse Doctor

No light circles above his cottage now,
just the channel buoys wink on shifting sands.
Crook Perch. Plover Scar.

He barefoots the corrugated beach,
one eye on the wormholes
one ear open to what they whisper.

Patients include the distant,
the clammed, the bruised,
those pulled by the moon.

He prescribes waltzes
between skears
and kiss-chase with plucky dunlins.

His thumbs, pulsing irregular,
can break habits like bones.
Then reset them.

His fingers thread samphire
through driftwood,
stitching the air we rip as we walk.

Silent, sometimes miles apart,
we cure him, as he cures us,
with each touch.



The Prize

Under the salty grind of sky
everything slows to her pace.
Her toes flick the sand, skitter crab pincers.
Her arms ache, carrying the rock:
heavier than four years of arguments kneaded into a loaf
as round as her world.
Her fingers feather this dinosaur egg.
It rattles with her aunt’s refusal to carry it for her,
chafes her swimming costume.
It’s worth more than a bucketful of stars
or the murmur of light in a moat.
Her aunt follows, arms hanging
like dead deer legs, stalking her shadow.
While she trudges on
with the surety of the continuously loved.

Who the hell am I anyway?

I am a poet and short story writer. Closet Collection (1994) was my debut short story collection. Since then my work has appeared in anthologies, magazines, pamphlets and multimedia exhibits around the UK, including The British Council's New Writing 15, The Rialto, Orbis, Smiths Knoll and Magma. You can read some work from the links on the left. I am a Hawthornden Fellow.

My first poetry collection, Host, is published by Waterloo Press, 2010. My short story collection, Closet Collection, was published in 1995.

I also write scripts. I have written a libretto for an improvised opera, Flocking, for the Lancaster Jazz Festival 2007. I Wish You Love, a conversation between Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf, was produced by Gambolling Arena in summer 2009 and has toured the UK and Europe to nice reviews. Gambolling Arena have also commissioned me to write a play on John Denver to be produced 2011. I collaborate with the musician, Steve Lewis, on live soundscapes. I also write lyrics for some of the songs for his dance band, Orchestre DC Dansette.

Between 1998 and 2003, I collaborated with two other writers. As 3dV, we wrote and performed live literature poetry-tellings around the northwest. I was poet in residence for Calderdale Libraries between 2003-2005, where I worked with library staff, a photographer and painter to promote the benefits of reading. You can see the results of that here.

I perform my work to anyone who'll listen, mainly with Steve, as Hymas&Lewis. Together we create soundscapes to envelope people in our view of place. We have recently collaborated with the filmmaker Richard Davis. My aim is to bring my audience into a newly realised space that opens up both our imaginations in ways we hadn't previously experienced.

Elsewhere, I work for Arc Publications, promoting their new titles and producing UK-wide tours for international poets.

I am one of the co-founders of the Writing Smithy, alongside Jenn Ashworth. Through which I work with poets on their first publications. We are always interested in new projects. So get in touch if you'd like to discuss an idea. I can offer a professional, thorough, committed and sensitive edit on your work, with the aim to ensure what you want to say is said exactly how you want to say it. Some testimonials here.  I was the founding editor of Flax, the publishing imprint of Lancaster's literature festival, which publishes and promotes writing from the North West of England.

When I have the time, energy and opportunity I encourage other people to write in schools, prisons, community settings and luxury French villas.

I became an accredited coach in 2008 (PCT) and worked as a career coach for the Flax writers and still do with other writers. Please get in touch if you'd like to find out more. More testimonials here.

A full CV is here and a short summary of my practice/influences is here

And then, to shake all that out of my head, I go sailing.

Contact Page


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Have a chat. A virtual cuppa.


sehymas (at) gmail (dot) com