Saturday, 3 August 2019

Metverse Muse, India




My poem, 'Two Shepherds in Tam-O'-Shanters', has been awarded First Place (Category A) in the Fixed Form Terza Rima Contest for the Metverse Muse, 54th to 56th Triple Issue, ed. Dr. H. Tulsi, India.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

The Lost Words - Forget-Me-Not Exhibition


We spent a wet afternoon enjoying this fascinating exhibition, installed in the gallery at the Lettering Arts Centre Trust, part of the Snape Maltings complex. Robert Macfarlane's book, The Lost Words, illustrated with superb art by Jackie Morris, has taken the nation by storm, finding its way into schools, libraries, concert halls, festivals, homes and hearts across the land.

Most will know by now that the book was prompted by the sad fact that a significant number of key nature words - acorn, bluebell, conker, to name but three - were replaced (or superseded) by ones deemed more valuable in the current age, like words to do with technology, in the last edition of The Oxford Junior Dictionary.

This situation has prompted many responses involving music and the other arts. Those who were engaging with aspects of the book for this particular exhibition had used stone-carving techniques to present a number of the lost nature words, such as 'otter', 'fern' and 'newt', in fresh and meaningful ways.

How, I wondered, would these letter-cutter artists prepare a significant piece when each had just one word to interpret in, on or through the medium of stone? I find artistic process fascinating, and I particularly enjoy the creative sparks that fly when one artistic form confronts another in an ekphrastic way.

I know little about stone carving, though I have been interested in the properties of stone for many years. As a child I had a stone polishing machine (in days before we knew it was best to leave stones on the beach). We made jewellery from polished stones at my church youth group for a while when I was a young teenager. Holidays in Cornwall introduced me to serpentine and soapstone - and to sea urchin spines in the sand which I mistook for strontianite!

So I approached the exhibition with curiosity, and was richly rewarded. The exhibition was curated by Lynne Alexander and the exquisite and informative exhibition catalogue, The Lost Words - forget-me not, was edited by Suzy Powling and Lynne Alexander. Not surprisingly the book opens with Forewords from Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane. There is a third Foreword, from Matt Gaw, of Suffolk Wildlife Trust (whose Nature Summit I am about to attend have now attended).

Each of the exhibits has a spacious entry in the catalogue, with an image of the stone artwork of the  Lost Word on each recto side, and prose about the piece opposite, with name, definition, origin and text. Each Lost Word now tells a story in stone: Fiona Flack, who created the artwork for FERN tells how a fossilised fern was her inspiration. Annet Stirling's NEWT caught our eye because she has demonstrated the creature's amphibious 'under water - over water' lifestyle and its precarious existence (presumably as a word and as a creature) by splitting the word horizontally through the middle. Iain Cotton's arresting rendering of OTTER caught my attention because the otters and stone base blend so perfectly. I was not surprised therefore to find that this word was carved on a slate beach pebble from Islay, where otters can sometimes be seen. The pairing of pebble and Lost Word in this instance seemed to be in particular(ly poignant) harmony. I'll end by mentioning Jo Sweeting and a part of her inspiration for her lithe rendering of LARK:


'larks building spires above spires into the sky'

The South Country  
by Edward Thomas


  • My previous posts about the nature words are here and here.


Monday, 20 May 2019

2019 Immagine & Poesia E Book, a 100th Birthday Tribute to Lawrence Ferlinghetti

January 2012, New York

The 2019 Immagine & Poesia E Book of international poems (some in French, some in English) and artworks has been launched. It is a 'Special Edition for Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 100th Birthday' and can be downloaded and viewed online.

I am delighted to have a poem included, a piece inspired by my visit to The Guggenheim in New York, and written in some ways as a response to Ferlinghetti's intriguing poem, 'Spring About To Happen'.

The E Book can be found by clicking the links below.
Poets and artists in the volume come from many different countries, including Italy, France, USA, Canada, UK, South Korea, Mongolia, India, Argentina, Israel, Egypt and Iran. Do take a look.

Thank you so much, Lidia Chiarelli and Huguette Bertrand, for producing this colourful and wide-ranging birthday edition.

Immagine e Poesia was founded in Torino in 2007 under the patronage of the late Aeronwy Thomas, daughter of Dylan Thomas. You can read more about the movement here.

Monday, 13 May 2019

6th Festival of Suffolk Poetry




We had a terrific day last Saturday at the 6th Festival of Suffolk Poetry.

I heard lots of poetry, read a couple of poems (one was my Milestones Competition Penwith Finger Stone poem here) and attended a stimulating workshop on 'The Music of Place' led by Grevel Lindop.

HUGE THANKS to Festival Director, Colin (in photo above), the SPS Committee, our guest readers and all who helped to make it such a wonderful occasion.


Arriving early: outside the John Peel Centre, Stowmarket
Felixstowe Poetry Cafe embraced the theme of 'Earth and Space Matters': my poems were more 'earth' than 'space', touching on landscape and language. 

We welcomed Kate Foley as our new President and heard a wonderful song cycle of poems by our outgoing President, James Knox Whittet, set to music by Colin and sung by Lynne Nesbit.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Of Poems and Puffins


Puffins have been in the media recently, featuring in Adam Nicolson's BBC4 series, The Last Seabird Summer? There has also been some delightful footage on Wales, Land of the Wild (also BBC) of Puffins breeding on Skomer, a small island off the Pembrokeshire coast.

I had a Puffin poem published recently in #186 of Orbis (and was delighted to find it had received an Honourable mention in editor Carole Baldock's Readers' Awards). My poem, with an epigraph from The Birds by Aristophanes, a comedy about the original Cloudcuckooland, was prompted by a session I attended at the Norfolk Festival of Nature back in 2015, at which Mark Cocker and Margaret Atwood shared with the audience their concern over the nature words that had been dropped from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. My poem does not follow these words, or indeed the ones that feature in The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane, but I wanted to explore the plight of our threatened sea-birds.

Those who live within reach of Snape Maltings in Suffolk may be interested to know that there is an exhibition, 'The Lost Words - Forget me not', at The Lettering Arts Centre until 26th May.

And, speaking of Suffolk, do buy a ticket and come and enjoy the 6th Festival of Suffolk Poetry in Stowmarket on Saturday 11th May.  

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

When is a Book not a Book?

Marble memorial

This post may be just a little off-topic, but I have just learned a new word...

B L O O K.

There is even a book about blooks and you can buy it here

According to its author, Mindell Dubansky, blooks are 'books that aren't', and the reason for this is that they are frequently, but by no means exculsively, made of stone like the ones in the memorial above, which adorn the church of St John the Evangelist in Oxborough, Norfolk. 

My interest in blooks stems from a piece about a small marble book I co-authored in 2010 with my husband, David Gill. It was published in OUP's Notes & Queries, volume 57. Little did I realise at that point that a stone book was, or would come to be known as, a blook. 

Earlier this evening I came across an article entitled Carved in Stone: American Stone Books by Ian Berke in the Maine Antique Digest (2015). The author had also written a guest post on Mindell Dubansky's blog, About Books - discovering the book as object.  

For more information ...

Was this delicious 'book cake' a 'blook'?

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Winter Update, 2018


This picture seemed to me to have a wintry feel despite the fact the photograph was taken in summer! It depicts the Skye Bridge and the small island of Eilean Bàn. I have posted it to accompany a link (here) to my Skye poem, The Ceilidh House, about winter in the Inner Hebrides in times gone by. My thanks to Sharmagne and her editorial assistants for publishing my poem in the December issue of Quill and Parchment.

Special thanks, too, to Matthew Stewart for including this blog in his Rogue Strands 2018 list of poetry blogs. I feel very honoured to receive another mention. Thank you, Matthew.

A summary of my 2018 poetry activities can be found here