Saturday, 26 May 2018

5th Festival of Suffolk Poetry

Colin Whyles, Festival Director on stage at the John Peel Centre, Stowmarket

We are just back from an eleven hour day at the 5th Festival of Suffolk Poetry. The day began for me with a workshop led by Rebecca Watts in which we were encouraged to make poetry collisions by bringing unlikely situations or characters together. If I say that one of my drafts began with Darwin, Lowry, the Great Fire of London and a horse, you will begin to get the picture...

The Suffolk Poetry Cafes took to the stage in the afternoon along with Creative Writing students from the sixth form college, One.

David and I both read in the Open Mic this year: my poem was inspired by a train ride we made from Philadelphia to New York back in 2012.

Philadelphia, Penn's Landing
The evening included readings by John Vaughan, Beth Soule, Susan Utting, Blake Morrison and Rebecca Watts. Having read Morrison's collection Shingle Street, named after the Suffolk coastal village of the same name some time ago, it was good to hear the poems read in the poet's voice.

Seal at Shingle Street

David watching seals at Shingle Street

Huge thanks to Colin, our Festival Director, and to all the Suffolk Poetry Society committee for their hard work. It was much appreciated by all of us.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Review of 'Towards The Light' in The London Grip

There is a detailed review by Thomas Ovans of Towards the Light over on The London Grip site today. As Ovans mentions, my poem, 'Et in terra pax', concerns the 1914 Christmas Truce. It was inspired in part by the stained glass window in the Chapel at Loretto School. 

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Border Crossings II: Suffolk Poetry Society and Poetrywivenhoe

David (Gill) and I were both taking part in the Border Crossings II poetry evening last night with Suffolk Poetry Society (SPS) and Poetrywivenhoe. Last year's theme of 'the natural world' played more to my strengths, but I found I was able to produce a set on 'conflict and resolution' (Homer, the Great War and Edward Thomas ...), so all was well.

David welcomed the gathered company to the University of Suffolk. SPS Chair, Florence Cox, and her colleagues on the committee presented the poets and the poetry.

We always enjoy meeting up with the team from Poetrywivenhoe, and the chance to renew friendships and to hear different voices. Not surprisingly, a number of us from both poetry societies read poems from Towards the Light, the new anthology on 'reconciliation'. My poem in this publication grew out of my response to a stained glass window representing the Christmas Truce of 1914.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Going Global on World Poetry Day, 2018

Happy World Poetry Day, 2018

The image above shows a previous package from India, but a similar one (practically identical but with different stamps) arrived yesterday, containing a contributor's copy of the Golden Jubilee issue of Metverse Muse, an international poetry journal edited by Dr. H. Tulsi. It is always a joy to read poems from different parts of the world and to feel connected in this way. Most issues have offered a Fixed Form challenge: the last one was for a Burns Stanza, a form of Scottish origin, and the new challenge is for a Terza Rima, a form that developed in Italy. 
And this, for me, is one of the joys of poetry, that there are countless influences, methods, techniques and forms (see here for example: I contributed three poems to this Handbook from Lewis Putnam Turco in the USA), spanning not only the centuries but also the globe. 
There is much talk in the present climate about letting down the proverbial portcullis, but poetry enables us to see new vistas through the eyes of another. It encourages us to lower the drawbridge instead, allowing literary influences to flow and circulate. I feel this is particularly important at the present time.
Back in the days when the internet was considered a fledgling phenomenon, I remember starting out one year with a fresh goal. I wanted to have a poem published in an international journal. Since then I have had the privilege of collaborating, albeit mostly in small ways, with poets and editors in Romania, Australia, the Netherlands, USA, Italy and Slovenia, to name but a selection of countries. Most collaborations or communications have been via the internet, but occasionally I have had the privilege of enjoying a face-to-face meeting. 
One such occasion was the launch of the chapbook I co-authored with North American poet, John Dotson. It was arranged by our publisher, Peter Thabit Jones of The Seventh Quarry, at the Dylan Thomas Birthplace, 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, in Swansea. John was over from the USA, and we were able to read our poems together. 

Publisher: The Seventh Quarry (Wales) with Cross-Cultural Communications (New York) 

Another of my multicultural forays in the name of poetry occurred when I was invited to conduct an interview in Philadelphia with Donald Riggs, Teaching Professor of English from Drexel University for Orizont Literar Contemporan, Daniel Dragomirescu's international literary journal from Romania. While I was in Philadelphia, I was also able to spend a day with fellow poet, Kay Weeks. We have collaborated on one or two poetry and art projects, including a charity one, Blossoms of Hope.

with Don Riggs in Philadelphia

A year ago Jongo Park, a visual artist from Seoul, South Korea, supplied a painting of a mermaid as a poetry prompt for me. The paired picture and poem were published in an eBook anthology produced by Italian poet, Lidia Chiarelli of Immagine&Poesia, alongside 94 other contributions from 5 continents and 35 countries. You can download this free eBook (Volume 4) from this site
In these uncertain times, it seems particularly important to celebrate our global community of poets and the immense joie de vivre that this ancient art can bring to the modern world.
And if you are wondering why the top photo is not of the actual parcel that arrived yesterday, well, in my haste to preserve the Indian stamps for the work of TLM (The Leprosy Mission), I made rather a mess of the packaging!

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

'Towards the light', a new poetry anthology on 'reconciliation'

There are a number of artistic projects commemorating the end of the First World War, and this book, Towards the light, represents one that is particularly close to my heart.

Pam Job and Judith Wolton embarked on a poetry enterprise that would lead to the production of two anthologies, one on conflict (so too have the doves gone) at the beginning of the commemorative period, and now this one on reconciliation to mark the end of the hostilities.

Sadly the snow meant that a number of us had to miss the launch at the Essex Book Festival, but there will be other events as the year goes by.

Poets who had been involved in the initial anthology project were invited to submit work for the second. Editor, Vivien Whelpton, selected my acrostic poem, 'Et in terra pax', about the surreal yet hopeful time when strains of 'Adeste fidelis' rang out across No Man's Land.

The new anthology, published by Kapaju Books (2018), sports a cover design by Karen Dennison. It includes a Preface by the editor, who writes that...

'Vivid metaphors bring home to us both the pain and difficulty of reconciliation and the joy it brings...'

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Nadia Kingsley's 'Diversifly' Project

I wrote a piece on wild birds in an urban environment some months ago for Nadia Kingsley's Fair Acre site, with her DIVERSIFLY project in mind.

I have just found my piece on Nadia's 15th DIVERSIFLY blog post, and while it was actually uploaded back in August, my discovery this week that it is up there coincides with the publication on 8 February 2018 of Nadia's latest publication,  

DIVERSIFLY – Poetry and Art on Britain’s Urban Birds 
A Poetry and Art Anthology ISBN 978-1-911048-26-8 
Available here on the Fair Acre website.

Sadly I failed to complete the poem I hoped to submit (my holiday departure date caught up with me...), but I much look forward to seeing the work sent in by the 83 contributors whose submissions were selected. 

I would highly recommend Nadia's DIVERSIFLY interview podcast with David Morley, whose compelling collection, The Gypsy and the Poet, sent me off in search of John Clare's Helpston home.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Suffolk Flora Preservation Trust Poetry Competition Event

I am just back from the Suffolk Flora Preservation Trust Poetry Competition (SFPT). Many congratulations to Tim Gardiner for winning the £50 adult prize in the SFPT Poetry Competition on the theme of the aquatic life in the Fromus Valley Nature Reserve. Lord Cranbrook hosted the event at Kelsale Village Hall this afternoon.

Tim's poem, along with three other commended entries including my own (about the Wandering Snail, Lymnaea peregra aka Radix peregra), will feature in the Suffolk Flora Preservation Trust's 2018 Adult Education volume on the reserves at Simpson's Fromus Valley and Orchid Glade. The judges were Kaaren Whitney, Poet-in-Residence for the reserves, and Suffolk Poetry Society Chair, Florence Cox. Sue Wallace-Shaddad and Sue Nobbs also read their poems to the enthusiastic audience. It was a real pleasure, too, to hear the winning and commended poems written by those who had entered the young people's section of the competition.