Monday, 26 October 2009

Seasonal Splash (1): Autumn Surprise at the National Botanic Garden of Wales

Autumn Acers

Lakeside scene

Looking up to the Great Glass House
Autumn Light
- or is it more like Winter?

Above and Below:
a splash of colour

A surprise visitor in the Great Glass House...

Looking down on the Tardis

I was inspired by Steven's terrific display of autumn 'fireworks' at The Golden Fish, and decided that I should post a few autumn photos of my own.

I was not expecting to see the Tardis on this visit to the botanic garden, although it has a habit of popping up in unexpected corners in our neck of the woods, as much of 'Doctor Who' is filmed in or from Cardiff.

The photograph below shows a previous appearance in the Millennium Centre in Cardiff. The wonderful lettering behind it is the back of the huge poem by Gwyneth Lewis that adorns the outside of the building.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Coastcard Crafts (1): Bookmarks

Puffin bookmark

I have been making bookmarks for my Coastcard online shop. I use my own designs, which I print on photographic paper. I trim and laminate the bookmark, adding a tassel and beads. I am experimenting, and at the moment I thread one home-made bead between two spacer (bought) beads. I mould my beads from Polymer clay, which I then bake and varnish.

Some bookmarks will have short poems on them. I am making a few Christmas designs, and hope to put some of the bookmarks on my online shop site soon.

I designed the puffin picture from photographs taken at the Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve last Easter.

Work in progress: a selection of Coastcard bookmark designs
(Please click on image to enlarge)

Below: some of my beads...

P.S. Speaking of feathered friends (but not the Puffins, of course, who have left our shores), you might like to read about the RSPB Feed the Birds day on my Land&Lit blog here.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Poetic People (25): Joanna Lumley and Richard Bonfield

Joanna Lumley is taking part in Words for You, a project promoting a 'record' (according to The Daily Telegraph, 8 October 2009) for a charity, I CAN, that is set to take 'Shakespeare and Wordsworth to the top of the charts'. Lumley reads Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, and Honor Blackman represents Wordsworth with 'I wandered lonely as a cloud'. They are joined by 25 other readers. The album has a classical backing track.

Lumley is the Founder Patron of the Born Free Foundation. You can visit the Born Free site here, and read about Richard Bonfield, the new Poet-in Residence. Many of us know and love Richard's eco-poetry work (mentioned in The Independent here) from his appearances over many years in magazines like Reach Poetry, published by Indigo Dreams Press (ed. Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling).

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Fiesta Time (1): Dylan Thomas Festival 2009

The Dylan Thomas Centre,
Swansea, Wales

The 12th Dylan Thomas Festival (26 October - 9 November 2009) is about to begin in the Dylan Thomas Centre, with supporting events taking place around the city.

You can read about it on my Land&Lit blog, here.
  • Forthcoming events at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive

Anthology Alert (2): 'Empty Shoes'

I have just heard from the editor, Patrick T. Randolph, that Empty Shoes, the new anthology in aid of shelters for those who are hungry and homeless in the USA (which includes my poem, 'Stranger'), hit number 4 yesterday on the Hot New Release List. At the time of writing it is in at number 7 in the category marked as 'Inspirational & Religious' literature.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Creature Feature (10): Mercedes the Polar Bear moves North

Ruins of Ruthven Barracks near Kingussie
(sorry - no Polar Bear pics!)

Mercedes, the only UK's Polar Bear, has just moved from Edinburgh Zoo to a The Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie (home of some of my ancestors!) in Scotland. You can read about Mercedes here. Soldiers from 75 Engineer Regiment and the Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers volunteered to build the enclosure with its viewing platform, road and its car park, reducing the cost from an estimated £300,000 to £75,000.
Postscript: you might like to read Gillian Clarke's poignant 'breath and growl' poem, 'Polar', on p.10 of Roundyhouse 28.

Magazine Moment (5): Wendy Webb's TIPS for Writers

Dylan's Writing Shed, Laugharne, Wales, UK

The Dylan Thomas Boat House, Laugharne

The estuary

Laugharne Castle

My copy of the winter edition of TIPS for Writers (ed. Wendy Webb) arrived last week. I am delighted to mention that the magazine has received an award for 'best UK poetry magazine' from the Writers' Grand Circle Awards 2009. Congratulations to Wendy!

The latest issue of TIPS (issue 73, Winter 2009) is dedicated to the memory of Dylan's daughter, the poet Aeronwy Thomas Ellis. The cover sports an image of Aeronwy's last book, 'Shadows and Shades: Selected Poems', which is available from Poetry Monthly Press (ed. Martin Holroyd).

TIPS 73 contains the text of an interview with Aeronwy, shortly before her death. The original TIPS TOP 20 questions were devised by Norman Bissett, and I adapted them for Aeronwy. You will not be surprised to learn that Aeronwy's 'Laugharne years' - 1946-1953 - are mentioned.

Congratulations not only to Wendy, but to Peter Davies, Norman Bissett and Bernard Jackson, who shared the readers' vote for their poems in TIPS 72. Many congratulations to James Knox Whittet for his clean sweep in the Pamphlet Competition.

It is good to have the chance to re-read Part I of 'Surface Trilogy', a Folding Mirror poem by the creator of the form, Dr Marc Latham. It is a very visual poem, packed with possums, blossoms, sharks, damselflies, coral and vipers!

I am particularly interested to find details of Wendy's new Brentor Sonnet form, with its split lines [6/7 and 13/14] 'for visual and sound effect'. Brentor, 'a hill transfigured in the mist' on the edge of Dartmoor has a chapel perched on the top of it, and was a favourite haunt of some of my Tavistock-based relations in the early 1900s.

Geoff Stevens (ed. of Purple Patch) is due to adjudicate the current Norfolk Poets and Writers' TIPS Pamphlet Competition. The closing date is 31 October 2009. The specified styles are (a) blank verse, (b) max. 2 verses of tetractys poems - and (c) simple rhyming quatrains. Further details of the competition and all TIPS activities and opportunities can be sought from Wendy via the email on her TIPS for Writers blog - here.

P.S. I have just been reading the Anniversary Issue of The Pages online magazine, which also mentions Wendy's competition and Marc's Folding Mirror Poetry. Do have a look at this enterprise from Wales: the link is here.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Magazine Moment (5): Cerise Press

I have been sent the url for a brand new online international literary review, based in the USA and France, Cerise Press. Do take a look.

The editors are Fiona Sze-Lorrain (Greta Aart) Sally Molini and Karen Rigby. The magazine is packed with literature and art. I particularly enjoyed the feature entitled 'A Life in Poetry: Ted Kooser' by Sally Molini and Ted Kooser.

The editors write,

'contributors (poetry) for this issue include Tess Gallagher, Eleanor Wilner, Robert Kelly, Ray Gonzalez, Laura Kasischke, Patricia Fargnoli, Natasha Sajé, James Harms, Karen An-Hwei Lee, Diane Gilliam, Forrest Ganders, Ted Kooser, Thomas Lux, etc.

Translations include works by Akhmatova, Madelshtam, Pasternak, Tsvetaeva, Apollinare, Hai Zi, Abdelwahab Meddeb and Pura Lopez-Colomé. We also feature photography, art, essays, reviews and fiction.

Please feel free to spread the word to fellow friends, writers, photographers and artists.

Our 2nd issue will feature on 1st November. We are currently reading for Spring 2010 issue.'

I think I was sent the details because my poem, 'Stranger', appears in the same anthology, Empty Shoes (ed. Patrick T. Randolph, Popcorn Press 2009), as Greta's poem, 'Petit Déjeuner'.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Poetry Events (2): The Seventh Quarry

I went to an excellent international evening of poetry and music at the Dylan Thomas Centre last night, under the auspices of The Seventh Quarry magazine. You can read about it here.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Creative Corner (7): Poetic Postcard Swap

Click to enlarge
(or visit Rachel's site here for a better view)

Blend in with the trees
Make use of their breadth
Think wild...

from Save the trees (or else) - by Rachel Fox

Fellow poet, Rachel Fox, and I have been swapping our poetic/photographic/poetic greetings cards.

Rachel sent me a set of her ten poetic postcards in exchange for a (rather eclectic) selection of my Coastcard items. It was Rachel's idea, and we both felt that it would be an interesting and experimental venture. Who knows where it may lead...

I promised to mention the swap on my blog. Rachel's cards can be purchased from her website: Let me give a few more details:
  • A set of ten costs £3.50 via PayPal (I assume for UK sales)
  • The cards can (sometimes) be bought from the following outlets, though Rachel suggests that it may be best to buy direct from if you would like to have 'all the set'. Outlets as follows:
  • Loch Croispol Cafe, Bookshop and Gallery, Durness, Sutherland
    Oathlaw Pottery and Gallery, by Forfar, Angus
    Scottish Poetry Library, 5 Crichton's Close, Edinburgh
    Tarts and Crafts, Balmedie, Aberdeenshire
    The Forest Bookstore, 26 Market Place, Selkirk
    The Windsor Gallery, 61 Perth Road, Dundee
    Unique Arts, South Square, Thornton, Bradford, West Yorkshire
    Wisecraft, 10 Lower Mill Street, Blairgowrie, Perthshire
    Word Power Books, 43 West Nicholson Street, Edinburgh
  • Rachel's cards are (in non-metric measure) approx. 6"x4"
  • I really like the fact that they are made on recycled card, and printed in Rachel's home locality.
  • You will find Rachel's email on her site, if you have any queries.
  • All cards (image, design and poetry) are the copyright of Rachel Fox.
The postcard set comprises ten poems. Most of them are in an American Typewriter-style font.
  • The sisters said it best - on 'estuary sand-coloured background'
  • Crowded out - on indigo/grey, with a lighthouse
  • Save the trees (or else) - green background of birch trees
  • Free at last - sand-coloured, with a balloon
  • And so it goes - interesting and unusual shot of a car on mottled jade background
  • Pluses and minuses - this witty and pithy poem is hand written for maximum impact
  • Happy new hope - pink background, with handprint overlay
  • Significant other deceased - pearl grey 'sky' background
  • Diving - set against calm blue waters
and my personal favourite,
  • Auchmithie road - muted brown background, with the words superimposed on a cliff edge scene. This poem has a liminal 'feel' to it. It was the one that particularly resonated with me, living as I do, high up in the clouds on the edge of Swansea Bay. Rachel's poem refers to Auchmithie near Arbroath on the Scottish coast.
Rachel's poems use rhyming quatrains and couplets. Most poems are not 'end-stopped', which gives them an open feel, and perhaps encourages the reader to add his or her own interpretation and ending.

Would I enjoy sending these poem cards to friends? Yes, indeed I would - and I have already done so. I feel they are good value - barely more (for a pack of ten) than one would pay for a single cup of quality filter coffee in town. They would make an unusual and welcome Christmas gift.
We look forward to your feedback!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Creative Corner (8): Postscript to Poetic Postcards Swap

Poetic Postcards by Rachel Fox

As a postscript to yesterday's post (link here) about the poetic card swap that fellow poet Rachel Fox and I have been doing...

... you might like to read about a paper swap enterprise at Lawendula's Woven Letters blog, and on the subject of creative initiatives, be sure to check out Seth Apter's blog, The Altered Page.

Calendar Corner (7): The Seventh Quarry - Event

Swansea Poetry Magazine

edited by Swansea poet Peter Thabit Jones

introduced by Peter Thabit Jones

at the Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea, on Friday, 16th October 2009

7 P.M. Free entry

A collaboration between THE SEVENTH QUARRY

- organised by Peter Thabit Jones –

Monday, 12 October 2009

Calendar Corner (8): The Seventh Quarry - a Second Event


Dylan Thomas in Wales is a 12-week literary seminar offered by Knox College (Illinois, America),
in cooperation with the Carl Sandburg Birthplace (America), The Seventh Quarry Swansea Poetry Magazine (Wales), Cross-Cultural Communications (New York), and in association with the Welsh Assembly Government in New York. At Knox College, students will study the life and literary works of Dylan Thomas;
in Wales, they will study the impact of Wales’s natural history and cultural dynamics on Thomas’s work.

To launch this new and exciting Project
American poet Robin Metz and Swansea poet Peter Thabit Jones
will give readings of their poetry and talk about the Project.

Plus songs about Dylan Thomas
by Swansea’s singer-songwriter Terry Clarke

at the Dylan Thomas Centre

7 p.m., Friday 4th December, 2009


Various events will take place at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea, and there will be cultural and educational visits to places connected with Dylan Thomas, such as The Boathouse in Laugharne and the newly renovated Dylan Thomas Birthplace at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea.

Robin Metz Peter Thabit Jones

Robin Metz has received the Rainer Maria Rilke International Poetry Prize for his book Unbidden Angel (Cross-Cultural Communications), the Literal Latté International Poetry Prize (NYC), the Marshall Frankel American Fiction Prize (Other Voices), and 14 additional international awards. His play Anung’s First American Christmas received four “Top Ten” citations for its 2009 world premier (Theatre Building Chicago). His poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in numerous national and international journals, including Paris Review, Epoch, International Poetry Review, Rosebud, Fourth River, Oberon, Writers’ Forum, Abiko Quarterly (Japan), New Welsh Review (Wales), The Wolf (UK), Van Gogh’s Ear (France), NewFront (Nepal), The Seventh Quarry (Wales). He has presented his work in more than 70 US cities and in 23 nations (most recently Kosovo, Cuba, India, Wales, Nepal). He is co-founder of Chicago’s acclaimed Vitalist Theatre company and Director of Creative Writing, Knox College, whose literary magazine, Catch, has won nine national and international awards.

Peter Thabit Jones is the author of nine books of poetry and one book of stories. His first American book, The Lizard Catchers, was published by Cross-Cultural Communications, New York. Whispers of the Soul (a bilingual English/Romanian book with New York’s Vince Clemente) was published in Romania in summer 2009. His new verse drama, The Boy and the Lion’s Head, has just been published by another Romanian publisher. The editor and founder of The Seventh Quarry Swansea Poetry Magazine, he co-authored (with Aeronwy Thomas, Dylan Thomas’s daughter) the first-ever Walking Guide of Dylan Thomas’s Greenwich Village, New York, 2008. A dvd, based on the Guide and filmed in New York, will be available in 2010. He and Aeronwy toured America in 2008. The tour, organised by his New York publisher Stanley H. Barkan, saw them give readings and talks from New York to California. Peter returned to America twice in 2009. His poetry has been translated into twenty languages. He will visit Catalonia, Chile and America in 2010.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Creature Feature (10): Seal Saturday, 10 October 2009

Intimate moment: we watched his mother seal with her pup
on the Pembrokeshire coast
I hope the pup is just shedding his thick white baby fur. He did not appear to be injured.

The seal pup feeding...

The mother goes off for a swim, leaving the pup in a sheltered spot.
She turns round to check that all is well.

The mother patrols the mouth of her cove,
ensuring that no predators come near her young.

Another furry seal pup a bit further round the coast.

You can watch our Seal Saturday video clip here...
... or here:

We went on to St David's Cathedral,
and had tea in the cloister in warm sunshine.
I can recommend the walnut cake, if you are in the area!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Calendar Corner (6): National Poetry Day, UK, 2009

Footprints on Laugharne's 'heron-priested shore' *

The Boat House, Laugharne

Happy National Poetry Day!

I have been longing for the revelation of the Poetry Society's surprise knitted poem. The knitting was carried out 1000 heroic members of the Poetry Society as part of the centenary celebrations. It seems to me that this poem is not only a suitable poem for writers everywhere, but it is also a fitting tribute to the poet, Aeronwy, daughter of Dylan Thomas, who died earlier this year. The unveiling took place outside the British Library yesterday, and the poem was presented to the Royal Festival Hall today.

Did you take part in the BBC poll of favourite poets? You can read the results here, and I feel there are one or two surprises. You can discover the favourite poet of a number of celebrities here.

I hope you have all been celebrating in style.

* Do let me know if you can identify the footprints in the sand. You might also like to identify the feathers on Crafty Green Poet's blog here and on Weaver's blog here.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Puffin Quest 3: OAPS (Old Age Puffins)

Coastcard Puffin Design
© Caroline Gill 2009

Puffins at the RSPB Reserve,
Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire, UK

Those who follow my blog will know that puffins are probably my favourite bird. They float around in 'rafts' on the sea, looking like small jewels or beads in a necklace. They are often referred to as the 'clowns of the air' because they look so comical when they fly. I took a number of photographs, trying to capture their different poses: I hesitate to say their 'expressions' because this is a word I associate with humans. I hope you like the result!

Puffins seem to have been in the news a bit these past few months. I blogged about the rare sighting of the Tufted Puffin a couple of weeks ago.

[Ed.- you will find a link to that post from this one! You might also like to see my puffin bookmarks in this post].

I have now been given an unidentified newspaper clip about 'the oldest known puffin in Europe'. The bird was ringed back in 1975. Another puffin found in the same vicinity of Rough Island, part of the Shiant Isles, off Scotland had first been ringed in 1977.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Poetic People (24): Donald McAulay, Hebridean poet

It is always interesting on holiday to learn about the local poetry scene. We came back from the misty Hebridean isle of Skye a couple of weeks ago.

The photograph above shows a sculpture by Liondsaidh Mairi Chaimbeul of the 'Seobhrach as a' Chlaich' or 'Primrose from the Stone', which is itself the Gaelic title of Donald McAulay's poetry collection of 1967. McAulay has been described as a 'Gaelic modernist par excellence'. McAulay spent his childhood on the island of Lewis, which we saw several times in the distance as waves of light mist came and passed over. The marble on the sculpture comes from Skye and the poem in question is about the possibilities of the rebirth of beauty in - or out of - unfavourable circumstances.

The sculpture graces the path up to Armadale Castle in Sleat.