Friday, 5 December 2014

Pushcart Nomination 2014

Sharmagne Leland-St. John and her team at Quill and Parchment (USA) have selected my poem, 'Elegy for Idris Davies', for a 2014 Pushcart Prize nomination.

The poem concerns the miner-turned-poet, Idris Davies, from the Rhymney Valley in South Wales.

A dram for transporting pieces of coal

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

ZSL 2014 Poetry Competition Win

I have just been sent a link to the Results Page of the 2014 ZSL Poetry Competition on 'Conservation' ...

Rule 15. The competition will be judged by members of ZSL Discovery & Learning department, ZSL Resident poet Ahren Warner and Poet and ZSL council member Ruth Padel.

Overall winner: Caroline Gill - Raft Race

My poem is about the plight of the Fen Raft Spider. 

One of the few locations in Suffolk where the Red Listed Fen Raft Spider still resides

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

11 November - Laurence Binyon and the British Museum

David in the British Museum

'They shall grow not old ...'
from 'For the Fallen' by Laurence Binyon

Many will have seen the poppy installation at the Tower of London. David and I attended a fascinating event in honour of (Robert) Laurence Binyon (1869–1943) at the British Museum on 11 November 2014. Binyon's granddaughter, Sophie Gray, assisted a member of staff from Prints and Drawings with the delivery of a presentation about the War Poet's life and work. 
Binyon, who was immensely interested in art from Europe, China and Japan, was invited to head up the new Department of Oriental Prints and Drawings in the British Museum in 1913, just before the outbreak of war. His career at the British Museum spanned 44 years.
Binyon was too old to enlist as a soldier in the Great War, but was keen to serve and volunteered with the Red Cross as an Orderly. He became a stretcher bearer. 
Basil Gray, Binyon's son-in-law, took over his British Museum work. The new Department of Oriental Antiquities was created in 1933.
We were able to listen to a recording of Binyon's voice and to see documents in the poet's hand, along with prints and watercolours that he had acquired for the Print Room. Two portraits of Binyon by William Strang were on display.

Monday, 10 November 2014

26th Aldeburgh Poetry Festival


'Aldeburgh is the UK’s pre-eminent annual celebration 
of national and international contemporary poetry'

A sweep of unpromising grey cloud dissipated around noon and the sky brightened over Snape and Aldeburgh. The 26th Aldeburgh Poetry Festival took off in Suffolk sunshine to the delight of those who had come from far and wide to take part, to be informed or entertained and simply to imbibe poetry of all sorts and descriptions.

I made my way to the front at Aldeburgh to sniff the sea and to take my festival photograph near the iconic Scallop on the beach. It was soon time to head off to The Red House for a workshop led by Karen McCarthy Woolf. What an experience to write in such a distinguished and musical venue! Karen kept us on our toes, as urban, coastal and rural horizons began to dance before our eyes. We tried to capture something special in our writing as we cast our nets widely. Most of us came away with pages of material and poems in draft. Thank you, Karen, for such a stimulating, eye-opening and wide-ranging session.

Snape Maltings

The Aldeburgh Poetry Festival is largely based around the complex of Snape Maltings, with its boardwalk at the edge of the reeds and its wide skies that provide wonderful starling murmurations on autumn evenings. I attended the Open Workshop on Saturday in the Oyster Bar, led by Michael Laskey, founder of the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, and Jeni Smith, and once again found every poetic muscle in my body (or brain?) being contorted in new and occasionally uncomfortable ways!

Sadly the event with Jen Hadfield was cancelled due to bad weather up north, but it was great to catch up with a good number of friends and to meet new ones. By the time I headed for home my book bag was bulging with a mix of shiny and secondhand volumes and pamphlets by Edward Thomas, Tony Harrison, Karen McCarthy Woolf*, Chrissie Williams, Jen Hadfield and Kevin Crossley-Holland ...

Me ... with feather bag ...
and copies of An Aviary of Small Birds (Carcanet, 2014) by Karen McCarthy Woolf
Photo credit: © Karen McCarthy Woolf (used with permission)


Monday, 3 November 2014

Valentine Haiku in Bilingual Anthology from Romania

This 'eye-catching' international anthology arrived through my letterbox this morning from Romania. The book is bilingual, beginning at one end with pieces and translations in Romanian and at the other with texts in English.

The English title is The Light Singing, with lyrical mosaic as a subtitle. The editors are Olimpia Iacob and Jim Kacian. The cover image is entitled 'Floating Eyes' and is by Italian artist, Gianpiero Actis. The book has been published by Emia in Romania.

Peter Thabit Jones, editor of The Seventh Quarry, has written the dedication to Aeronwy Thomas (1943-2009), and the anthology begins with three Haiku by Aeronwy, written in response to the cover artwork.

The anthology contains my Valentine Day Haiku, which appears in English (one end of the book) and in Romanian (the other), thanks to the work of Olimpia Iacob. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Dylan Thomas - Centenary Celebrations

Dylan Thomas would have been

 100 today

 Monday 27 October 2014

Dylan Thomas outside the Dylan Thomas Theatre, Swansea

I lived in Swansea for nearly twenty years and was able to visit the heron-priested shore at Laugharne on numerous occasions. I had the privilege of meeting Dylan's daughter, Aeronwy Thomas Ellis, a few times. I attended one of her poetry workshops at the Laugharne Festival.

Dylan's 100th Birthday has been the cause of worldwide celebrations, and it seems a fitting tribute to throw links to a number of these ...



Number 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea, birthplace home of Dylan Thomas

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Poetry and Pilgrimage ~ an ECAT Writers' Day at the Cathedral

The St Edmundsbury Cathedral tower through the ruins

I have just returned from the cathedral at Bury St Edmunds, where I attended the latest in a series of ECAT (Edmund Centre for Arts and Theology) days.

Our Diocese has been celebrating its centenary this year, and a number of events have been planned under the title 'Pilgrims in Time'.

The Dean, the Very Reverend Frances Ward, presented a number of poems with a pilgrimage or journey theme before handing over to Sarah Friswell, the Cathedral PR and Media Officer. Sarah led us round the Cathedral, pointing out the significance of a number of features such as the font and tower. We were given the chance to think about Bunyan and Pilgrim's Progress. We began to discuss and attempt to formulate the difference between a 'guided tour' and a 'pilgrimage tour' in the session before lunch.

Dr Elizabeth Cook, the first Writer-in-Residence at the Cathedral, led a wonderful poetry workshop in the afternoon. Once again we had the opportunity to look at some journey and pilgrimage texts. Matters such as the place of community chatter (as in The Canterbury Tales) and the role of silence were considered. It was soon time to put pen to paper, and I think all the participants will have gone home with new material and a number of poems in draft.

This is the third ECAT day I have attended, and each one has offered a fascinating insight into the relationship between art (in the broadest sense) and theology. My thanks to all who make these days so rewarding, enjoyable and worthwhile.

  • An account of a previous ECAT poetry day from Elaine Ewart's FlightFeather blog.

I did a little personal reading in advance of today's workshop and soon began to realise that the notion of 'Christian pilgrimage' has many applications in the church. An outward journey (for example to the Holy Land) usually runs along parallel lines with an internal journey of faith. Some Christians, however, would adhere to the view that the only journey of significance is one through time (as opposed to a physical journey) as lives are lived on earth with hearts set on what Bunyan's character, Pilgrim, called 'the Celestial City'. I was surprised (in a positive way) to discover that the eighteenth century Puritan theologian, Jonathan Edwards, preached a sermon entitled 'The Christian Pilgrim'.