Monday, 14 August 2017

'Spirit of the Stour' Festival Reading at The Munnings Museum, Dedham

Constable Country: The Stour, between Dedham and Flatford Mill

David (Gill) and I are looking forward to reading our poems alongside ten other poets at The Munnings Museum in Dedham in Essex on Friday 8 September 2017. The evening recital of poetry of the theme of the natural world is being organised by the museum's 2017 Poet-in-Residence, Dr Tim Gardiner.

Online tickets for the event are on sale here. Do come and support the event if you can!

Further details can be found here

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Parson Hawker of Morwenstow Poem

My Parson Hawker of Morwenstow poem features in the current edition of Reach Poetry, #225, Indigo Dreams Publishing. Morwenstow is a favourite haunt on the North Cornish coast, with its wild scenery. Hawker's Hut is a fascinating shack, almost built into the cliff.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Suffolk Poetry Society's 4th Festival of Suffolk Poetry, 27 May 2017

SPS Chair Florence Cox

I took these photos on Saturday 27 May 2017 at the 4th Festival of Suffolk Poetry. It was a riveting day, with poetry workshops (thank you, Gregory Warren Wilson, for the one I attended on music and poetry), mini-workshops provided by the students at Suffolk ONE - not forgetting readings from our special guests and presentations from representatives of the Suffolk Poetry Cafes. David and I each read a poem in the Open Mic slot (photo here). It was a privilege to hear Lord Phillips interviewing Terry Waite CBE about his new book, Out of the Silence.

Huge thanks are due to all and particularly to Colin Whyles, Festival Director, 
and the SPS Committee members, who masterminded the day. 

Guest reader, Dr Elizabeth Cook, reading from Bowl and from her St Edmund poem

Festival Director, Colin, announces Lord Phillips and Terry Waite CBE

Sue Wallace-Shaddad reading for Arlington's Poetry Cafe

Elizabeth Bracken takes the stage

Elizabeth Bracken

Beth Soule at the microphone

Caroline Gay Way

Terry Waite CBE in the wings

Nancy Mattson at the reading desk

Gregory Warren Wilson reading in his guest slot

Florence offering a vote of thanks to all

Concluding words from James Knox Whittet, our SPS President

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Immagine e Poesia: the 2017 Anthology of Poetry and Art Pairings can now be downloaded

Zennor mermaid chair (dating from 1400-1500) in St Senara's Church

One of the joys of poetry is the opportunity to experiment and create collaboratively either with other poets or with practitioners in another art form. For the last few years I have submitted a poem to the annual eBook produced by Immagine e Poesia, based in Italy. Aeronwy Thomas, Dylan and Caitlin's daughter, became Patron of the Immagine e Poesia movement in 2007.   

The annual eBook contains pairings of poems and visual art from across the globe. My poem in this year's anthology was written in response to an artwork entitled 'Voice of the Sea' by South Korean artist, Jongo Park. There have, of course, been many takes on the mermaid-meets-mortal story, but this Zennor mermaid was uppermost in my mind. Zennor is one of my favourite villages in Britain. It lies on the Cornish coast in West Penwith, between Land's End and St Ives. The village has many literary connections, including 'Zennor', a favourite poem of mine by Anne Ridler (which was once played at my request on BBC Poetry Please).

This year's anthology, containing contributions from visual and word artists from 35 countries, has been produced by Huguette Bertrand and Lidia Chiarelli.

You are invited to download a copy - here.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Cookham Festival Launch of 'Stanley Spencer Poems: An Anthology' (Two Rivers Press)

me (left), Jan Dean (middle) Alwyn Marriage (right, with red bag)

We have just returned from a wonderful launch and reading event at the Cookham Festival in Cookham Dean, Berkshire. A big thank you to all who organised the evening.

The launch with readings took place in the Village Hall at Cookham Dean, which is opposite Cookham Moor, a large area of grass (like a village green) in the care of the National Trust. 

We arrived very early, not wanting to be late on account of the Friday rush hour in Maidenhead, which gave us the chance to visit the churchyard and Church of John the Baptist.

There were several Red Kites overhead, but they were a bit fast for my camera!

This is the evocative view of the churchyard, with the Berkshire countryside rolling out into the distance.

We felt there were a lot of excellent poems read out during the evening. Congratulations to those whose work has been shortlisted for the three Stanley Spencer Competition prizes, which will be awarded on Friday 19 May. Eleven out of the 79 poems in the anthology made the shortlist. 79 out of over 200 entries made the anthology.

I read my poem, which was inspired by Spencer's painting, 'The harbour, St Ives' (1937).

St Ives - rather an old photo as I haven't been there for rather a long time!

  • The anthology costs £9.99, and can be bought from Two Rivers Press - here

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Poetry and Pinhole Photography at Arlington's Poetry Cafe

Jaywick Martello Tower

This Martello tower...
solid, strong and undefeated

from 'The Rifleman's Ghost' by Judith Wolton

I attended the April gathering of the Ipswich Poetry Cafe last night. Essex poet, Judith Wolton, and photographer, Alan Hockett, treated us to a presentation of poetry and pinhole-photography from the Essex coast. I am always fascinated by the extra spark of creativity that is invariably produced when two dedicated practitioners collaborate on a project.

The shared work had resulted in a book, Words from the edge and other Drosscapes (Estuarine Press, 2016), in which Judith's evocative poems complement Alan's striking pinhole photographs.

Judith's poems, springboarded into being by Alan's images, feature mythology, topography, local culture, birds, barges, batteries and narratives of the imagination. I love the way in which old buildings like the Playdrome have been given personalities. In 'This old show girl' we find the 'old dame' of a building with...

her lipstick smudged,
her wrinkles showing

It was fascinating to learn a little about Alan's practice as a pinhole photographer. Some of the swirling effects were achieved by shaking the chemicals during the development stage. Apparently the photograph failure rate is quite high, but for every few failures, an experienced pinhole photographer like Alan can achieve a couple of stunning and unique images. I came away still not quite sure whether his recycling bin was actually as full of old bean cans as he would have us believe! If you click this link you will see how to make a camera from a Coke can. There are secrets that can be (and indeed were) shared, but it is surely a good thing in art when the viewer feels that some dots have been left unjoined. The photographs themselves have a misty, ethereal quality about them, somewhat reminiscent of the paintings of John Atkinson Grimshaw or perhaps works in Whistler's series of Nocturnes. 

I was struck by how different, how very different, the chosen places were to the leafy inland areas of Suffolk and Essex that comprise Constable Country, especially when you realise that Manningtree (which features in the book) and Flatford are near neighbours on the map. Essex has a wild and windswept coastline, haunted by pirates (and at this point Baring-Gould's Gothic novel, Mehalah, comes to mind), ghost boats and rusting bolts of iron.

Appearances can be deceptive to the traveller, but those with local knowledge and an artist's eye are less easily fooled into believing that the drosscapes presented in the volume have had their day. Piers and cranes may have become bare skeletons, but the tide is constantly re-shaping, recreating, the coastline – a process mirrored in the work of Judith and Alan. These artists have given a sense of new life to some of the forgotten stretches of shore along the county's zigzagging sweep of 350 miles.

Essex Coast