Celebrating Cliff Yates

At Cliff’s Workshop

He teaches us to savour silences
let words breathe and flow
before we pour sounds on to paper
give them voice.

His silences can frighten some
energise others to cut through
unnecessary interference
edge words
into better shape
ease them
into new possibilities.

Sue Dymoke

I was delighted to contribute very recently to a Festschrift website celebrating the work of Cliff Yates with the poem above.

Cliff’s poetry writing workshops have always been fantastic experiences for me. I first met him back in the late 1980s at a Poetry Business writing day run by Janet Fisher and Peter Sansom in the days when it was based in Huddersfield. Cliff was leading one of the writing activities. His whole approach was so patient, measured and calm that I found it really conducive to writing. What struck me then, and in many subsequent meetings, is how important silence is for Cliff in the way he creates space for ideas and responses to develop both in conversations and in writing.

Since that first encounter I have regularly recommended his own poems and his writing about writing poetry to many students and teachers in training. Jumpstart: Poetry in the Secondary School published by The Poetry Society remains one of my top recommendations for ways into writing with young people and integrating poetry into the heart of any classroom. To get a flavour of Cliff’s poetry, his spare style and how his words can take you by surprise listen to this extract from this Guitar Bar reading in Nottingham.

Thanks to Leafe Press, Alan Baker and Andrew Taylor for compiling the tribute to Cliff.

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