Poet Residency - The Blue Teapot Vegetarian Cafe, Mytholmroyd

I am privileged to have been appointed Poet-in-Residence at Kirstie Fagan's The Blue Teapot vegetarian café, which is found just off the Burnely Road, on Grange Dene, Mytholmroyd (HX7 5LL).  This residency involves reading and displaying poetry at the café, celebrating The Blue Teapot in verse and at poetry and other events, and inviting guest poets to entertain and delight us with their poems at a series of readings and performances, aimed at a variety of ages.   The first of these was on the 23rd May 2016, and featured the talents of Nuala Fagan - whose collection Not All Birdsong was published by Caterpillar Poetry last November - and Bob Horne, whose Knowing My Place  was published by Caterpillar Poetry that July. 

I am thrilled to be able to support The Blue Teapot, and it is very exciting to be able to do so through the medium of poetry.  The café has proved such a happy and creative place for me, and I hope that others will be inspired to enjoy its ambience, the poetry evenings which I hope will offer something for all poetic tastes, and of course its wonderful vegetarian food!  The local area has a rich poetic heritage and I want to explore and celebrate this, as well as shining a light on the contemporary poets of our valley, sharing with you my own poetic offerings.  I hope everyone enjoys Poetry at The Blue Teapot!


Caterpillar Poetry events at The Blue Teapot:



26th February 2017 - Celebrating Leonard Cohen

This event had been suggested to me late last year, by poet Jessica Lawrence, known for her work as a scholar of Sylvia Plath's poetry, and included poetry readings, interviews and live music.  I read from Leonard Cohen's poetry and interviewed Jessica and her friend Razz - a most talented man whom I had been privileged to meet that weekend when he and Jessica were staying at the beautiful 16th Century Stag Cottage, a stone's throw from Plath's grave in Heptonstall, but who mysteriously insists on being known only by this singularly unusual first name (he can, though be found on facebook under the similarly enigmatic moniker of Razz Poet!)

Jess (pictured below, taking her seat) spoke about how she embraced the songs of Leonard Cohen growing up in New York, and how she had gone on Kibbutz  in 1973 only to find that the work of Cohen, who was also in Israel at that time to support the troops during the Yom Kippur War, played a part in changing her perspective on life - as detailed in the poems that she read from her collection Dreams of Flight  http://www.lulu.com/shop/jessica-a-lawrence/dreams-of-flight/paperback/product-4311983.html  

Jessica also read her poem Refugee Trees, from the same collection, comparing the destruction of trees in her London neighbourhood to the plight of those fleeing from contemporary conflicts.  She selected various songs of Leonard Cohen's to illuminate her narrative, performed for us with gusto by the ever-modest Razz:

Razz also read his own moving elegy to Cohen - celebrating the "fragile stars" of his music and writing, and Cohen's evocations of "befuddled Shangri-La."
We were joined by Hebden Bridge based poet Atar Hadari - whose essay on Leonard Cohen's Who By Fire I have quoted on this website, and which he quoted from in his exploration of the theme, beautifully comparing the song's religious roots as a Jewish prayer with Cohen's latter day reflections.  Atar read from his own work also, using the 1973 desert meeting between Cohen and Ariel Sharon as a base for an imagined conversation, with the poet quoting Buddhist scripture to the general.  Cohen, whose Lover, Lover Lover started life as a prayer for soldiers on both sides of the '73 conflict and which he later dedicated to all who have died in conflicts, and whose intended 2008 concert in Ramallah was only cancelled due to serious security concerns, had nonetheless arrived in the country to defend the Jewish homeland, attempted to volunteer to fly a jet, and performed for Sharon's soldiers out of a deeply rooted sense of duty - but Atar's fictional repartee, like the Biblical duologues peppering his debut collection Rembrandt's Bible (Indigo Dreams 2013) with barbed and spiky comedy, framed the encounter in a dry, laconic arch of theatrical humour and believability.

Turner Cockcroft, budding poet from Ripponden, was my third guest, and entertained us with a serving of typically understated poetic vignettes, in the form of both Leonard Cohen's poetry and his own tribute to the man. 

Turner explains, "we understand people to be what they say and do and by our assessment of their sincerity and motives. However, we are not mind readers. Only a person really knows themselves, when looking inward, and the inner self looks back. I believe what a person expresses is a reflection of what they are trying to reach out to in their thinking, even if the reality sometimes falls short because we are only human. Nevertheless, good things can come out of trying and therefore be of benefit to others, despite our human weaknesses."  Have a listen to his offerings here to sample the delights:

The event was an intimate, reverential, at times funny and wholly enjoyable gathering, a fitting tribute to a great man and, in Turner's words,  a beautiful expression of sheer humanity.


31st October 2016 - Launch of Steve Nash's The Calder Valley Codex poetry collection, an eclectic, innovative book drawing on Calder Valley folklore, history and horrors.
Hosted by the Calder Valley's Goddess of Goth, Genevieve Walsh - who was also one of the supporting readers along with myself.

With its beautiful cover art by York artist Nicole Sky, the Codex proved popular and its folklore-flavoured fantasias of dragons, elegies, and epics were memorably shared with a 23-strong audience (a record attendance and one which saw the café fair bursting at the seams), as were many other of Steve's poems, including a hidden gem about a childhood pet bunny which was given a rare performance as an encore.  The launch was introduced and compered brilliantly by the frighteningly talented Genevieve L Walsh, who shook us to our bones with her fantastic odes to Todmorden, Hooch-veined teens and love songs to the rain. Watch out for Gen's collection in 2017, due to be published by Flapjack Press.  I shared the joys of the Octolune, reminisced about Halloween masks and warned the assembled about the dangers of psychopathic trains (the type which slither onto platforms and gobble cars alive), and we were joined by the multi-talented Alan Wrigley - composer, songwriter, photographer, and all in between - who delivered a magnificent recital of a little-known poem by Branwell Bronte.  Alan explained how the poem in question illuminates Branwell in a different light to the ways in which history has generally painted him, and told us how he has found himself becoming interested in researching Branwell as we approach the bicentenary of that misunderstood figure.  The night was hosted and catered as fabulously as ever by Blue Teapot owner Kirstie Fagan, and proved a fitting launch for Steve's magnificent collection.

     Lined up and ready to go -The Calder Valley Codex:

Its author, Steve Nash:

A full house at the Teapot:

Genevieve entertains the troops:

Steve Nash, Troubador:

In BB King mode:


Reading from Steve's Codex:

L-R - Photographer Alan Wrigley, SZ, Steve, Genevieve:

With thanks to all at The Blue Teapot


26th September 2016 - Celebrating the Poetic Legacies and Sylvia Plath in the Calder Valley.  Poetry by and about Hughes and Plath, with specific reference to their Calder Valley legacies, delivered by Freda Davis, Mark Hinchliffe, Jessica Lawrence and Ayelet McKenzie; also featuring a visual presentation.  Introduced by SZ

Gun-powder tea, a vegetarian menu, and the collected poems of Sylvia Plath - ideal ingredients for an evening of poetry!

Anthony Costello and Mark Hinchcliffe:


23rd May 2016 - Poetry with Nuala Fagan, Bob Horne and Simon Zonenblick, 7pm (free, but booking advised: please email caterpillarpoetry@gmail.com or hello@blue-teapot.com)

The debut event was a great success and surpassed our expectations.  Nuala Fagan and Bob Horne gave superb readings, and several of our books were sold, while Kirstie's wonderful cafe proved a splendid location, with her fabulous vegan cakes the toast of the evening!

It was a pleasure and a privilege to introduce the event, and in a moment I shall share photographs and reports of the wonderful offerings from guest poets Nuala Fagan and Bob Horne.  But the evening also gave me chance to share my inaugural Residency poem - the first piece I have written in the cafe: a rather short little piece whose brevity belies a certain un-challenging simplicity! I named the poem Caterpillar Poetry, leaving little to the imagination in terms of what is was about!

Neon slinker,
stone and soil your element

but like a squiggle of chlorophyll
you go curling through
a leafy evening.

The poem went down surprisingly well, though it is safe to say that my reading of Sylvia Plath's Mushrooms was somewhat more intellectually stimulating!

Reading Sylvia Plath. Audience members: Poets Nat Reece, Bob Horne, Ross Kightly, photographer Ian Parker.

Guest poet Nuala Fagan delighted us with poems from her recent collection Not All Birdsong (Caterpillar Poetry 2015) as well as old favourites from her earlier book Cimmerian Garden (Wellhouse Publications 2010)

Nuala's poetry captivated the audience, who remarked on its powerful, quietly emotive qualities and acute depiction of personal loss and resilience.  Photographer Alan Wrigley felt her writing style reminded him of the music of Sibelius!  
She entered the room
looking like a dirty dishcloth
that had hidden
behind a flowerpot on the worktop,
when the local priest dropped by
(from Dishcloth)

Hungry for tittle tattle
you were a tin opener,
I a can of fruit cocktail.
You tapped and stabbed
prized and slid
around the edges of my mind
easing out the smallest morsels first.
(from Secret

She found he was a house
made of bricks and iron shutters.

If only he was a house made of grass,
she would pull apart the shutters
and plead with her open palm.

She would place a jar of honey on her palm
for the tiger inside of him.
(from Finding Him

Nuala was supported by Calder Valley Poetry's Bob Horne, who entertained us with his own fantastic poetry of place identity and history, displaying that apparently effortless interpretation of the Yorkshire landscape(s), the suppressed power of unspoken feelings, as well as his love of cycling and cricket, all presented with Bob's customarily fluent and at times very witty delivery.  Much more will be written of these pages about Bob's poetry soon, including some exciting news - but for now here he is, impressing, moving, and amusing the assembled:

Alan Wrigley provided his photographic expertise, and I will display more pictures of our memorable opening night of Poetry At The Blue Teapot below - the poorer quality ones were taken by me.

Little Creatures and Not All Birdsong

Bob Horne, listening to Nuala Fagan's poetry.

Kirstie Fagan, proprietor of The Blue Teapot.

Talking poetry with Nuala Fagan.

Busy times and book signings - poet Anthony Costello, whose poetry (and jumpers) are always an inspiration!

Bob Horne, Kirsty Fagan, Nuala Fagan, Simon Zonenblick

Profound thanks to all who came, and to Kirsty Fagan and all at The Blue Teapot!

24th May 2016


  1. What a wonderful idea to have a poet in residence in a cafe. Well done to Kirstie Fagan.

  2. I was simply amazed at the architecture of this absolutely beautiful venue!! The environment at LA venues was unbelievable. I was fortunate enough to visit a place like this, we found awesome things one after another after another.