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Helen Mort Off the Shelf

I was asked to interview Sheffield based author and poet Helen Mort for the Off the Shelf festival. It is my second year working for the literary festival and was an honour to speak to an award winning writer. Helen’s latest book is called Never Leave the dog behind and is an exploration of our love of dogs and of mountains.

The event was at the Crucible in Sheffield, a world renowned theatre that I have visited all my life in the audience. So it was such a thrill to be able to be on stage. Due to the pandemic, there were only a few tickets allowed to be sold though there were many more watching online at home.

Sam Cleasby and Helen Mort on stage at the crucible for the off the shelf literary festival in Sheffield

Helen’s book is a beautiful mix of poetry, personal stories and the history of the relationship between human and dog in the setting of nature. She read a section of the book talking about her first ‘dog companion’ Bell. In a room of dog lovers, you could feel the passion, joy and heartfelt reactions as we all could understand the special relationships we have with our dogs.

We had a chat about everything from the loss of a dog through to the way becoming a parent changes our interaction with adventure and nature. There were some great questions from the audience especially one asking about how Donald Trump is the first American president in over 100 years to not be a dog owner and what that said about him.

The evening ended with Helen reading a poem from her book, called The Dogs.

Some mornings, waking up between the sandy whippet

and the black – their breathing as slow as mine,

their eyes more sorrowful – I remind myself I’m not a dog.

It’s not acceptable to taste the grass or roll in moss until

I’m musked with it. There are deer in the woods I’ll never see.

My thirst discriminates. It does not have me bend

my grateful head to puddles, gutters, hollows

in the rock. I don’t track rabbits in my sleep.

I’ll not know love like theirs, observed in mute proximity

and if I sometimes sit bolt upright after dark, sensing

a movement in the yard, it’s only that I’ve learned

a little of their vigilance. I’m not like them:

one night I’ll set off past the meadow, down

behind the beck, beyond the blunt profile of Silver Howe

and nobody will call me back.

Helen Mort – The Dogs
Sam Cleasby and Helen Mort on stage at the Crucible for off the shelf festival

Helen’s book Never leave the dog behind is available to buy from Blackwells (along with some of her other books). You can find out more about Off the Shelf festival here.

If you would like to work with me for your event, you can use my contact page here. I have done live interviews at events, presented a Saturday morning show on BBC Radio Sheffield, taken part as a participant in radio and TV shows and done public speaking at events all over the UK and Europe. To discuss your requirements, please do get in touch.

Photography by Timm Cleasby Photography

Peace and love

Sam xx

Susie Dent – Off the Shelf festival

It is my second year of working with the Off the Shelf festival. Last year I interviewed Charley Cox about her poetry book Validate Me and Dr Clive Wynne about his book Dog is Love.

This year I am thrilled to be interviewing Susie Dent of Countdown fame and Sheffield poet Helen Mort about her book Never Leave the dog behind.

Susie Dent is Britain’s favourite word expert. She has recently celebrated 25 years as the resident lexicographer in dictionary corner on Channel 4’s Countdown. Her latest book Word Perfect is a linguistic almanac offering a word or phrase for every day of the year. It is described by Jo Brand as “a golden vaulted cave of fascinating and funny hidden gems.

It was a virtual chat with Susie about her newest book Word Perfect. And it was an absolute joy to talk to her about her book and her life so far.

The video of the talk is still online on the Off the Shelf website. Though I don’t know how long it will be online for so check it out sooner rather than later!

Thanks for all the kind messages I have already received, it means the world!

Peace and love

Sam xx