Monday, 6 November 2017

Poetry in Aldeburgh, 2017... and 'Herrings', the Festival Anthology


'I hear those voices that will not be drowned...' (from 'Peter Grimes', Britten) on The Scallop (Hambling)

Poetry in Aldeburgh took place this last weekend, with The Poetry School as the festival's headline partner. There were poetry workshops on the Friday afternoon, followed over the weekend by readings, presentations and collaborations of various kinds. There were walks along the beach, gatherings of friends, books to buy, swarming gulls and, of course, the essential whiff of fish and chips along the Crag Path.

A year ago I was sitting in the Aldeburgh Beach Lookout during the previous festival, enjoying Anne-Marie Fyfe's excellent workshop about the sea, when she told us that there would be a Poetry in Aldeburgh anthology called Herrings, and that we could submit our festival poems.

Fast forward twelve months, and Herrings has not only taken shape as an ocean-blue hardback, thanks to Nancy Warburg Astor and Andrew Hewish, but has now been launched. It has been produced and published by Blue Door Press; and contains 100+ poems, each written by a different poet as a snapshot, not only of Aldeburgh in 2016, but also of the festival itself. 

Internationally renowned and novice poets alike are represented in the volume. It is lovely to have my poem, 'Treasure Hulk', in such diverse company; and thanks are due to all those who created the book and organised the festival. The contributions to Herrings reflect festival visits to, and visions of, this seaside town that owes so much not only to the ocean and its bounty, but also to the influences of artists of various kinds such as Crabbe, Britten, Pears and Hambling.

My haul, Poetry in Aldeburgh, 2017

Herrings, the anthology

The Aldeburgh Beach Lookout

Dusk descends

Looking north

Illuminations

Publicity

Essential sustenance...

Monday, 30 October 2017

Winning Poem in Disability Arts Cymru 2016 iBook

More than just... 'A Drop in the Ocean'

The staff at Disability Arts Cymru have produced an iBook of poems that rose to the top in their 2016 competition. Many of us selected a piece of artwork from the organisation's art contest as inspiration, though we were also offered the theme of austerity/extravagance.

My poem, 'A Drop in the Ocean', which was awarded First Prize, was inspired by 'Shoreline Symphonies' by Eileen Harrisson. You will see Eileen's picture if you download the pdf.


Friday, 13 October 2017

'Penwith Finger Stone' and the Milestones-WriteOutLoud Poetry Competition Anthology

Milestones: the Poetry Anthology

Thanks are due to Steve Pottinger who read my poem, 'Penwith Finger Stone', on my behalf at the prize-giving event in Long Compton on 7 October 2017 (see Greg Freeman's report here). I was sorry not to be there, but I am delighted with the competition anthology which arrived today.

My poem took Third Place in the Milestones Competition (adult section), run by Write Out Loud on behalf of the Milestone Society and judged by Brian Patten (whose anthology, 'The Mersey Sound', co-authored with Roger McGough and Adrian Henri has just marked its 50th anniversary). 

Greg writes that 'the poetry competition was part of a Milestone Society project called Finding The Way', an enterprise concerned with the route of the 1730 Stratford to Long Compton Turnpike. 

Saturday, 30 September 2017

¡Cornucopia! ... The Alde Valley Festival, with Workshop and Readings by Rebecca Goss



A group of Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex poets were treated to a workshop and readings by Rebecca Goss this afternoon on the subject of 'making' and 'making with words'.

Rebecca laid out a selection of items on the table, and it was fascinating to hear the fledgling poems at the end because, despite a shared starting point, the new pieces had all found fresh paths or creative processes of their own.


Members of Suffolk Poetry Society were also invited to read short sets on the 'making' theme: here is David (Gill) sharing his poem about my ancestor, a Scottish stone mason from the Cairngorms.

The afternoon included mugs of tea and generous slices of chocolate cake, and we enjoyed visiting the tile-maker, the felt-maker, the stained-glass artist and other 'crafty' practitioners, who were on site as part of the ¡Cornucopia! Alde Valley Festival.

My thanks to all who made this such a rewarding and enjoyable day.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

National Poetry Day, 2017


Wishing everyone 
an inspirational 
National Poetry Day 2017...



The photo above shows members of Suffolk Poetry Society and friends at the Lookout on the beach at Aldeburgh a year ago on National Poetry Day 2016. I wonder how many poems were declaimed from those steps...

Thanks to the generosity of Caroline Wiseman, members of Suffolk Poetry Society will once again be sharing their pieces as I type. The theme this year is 'freedom' and the weather here is set fair. I can't be there this year, but others will be gathering on the foreshore, enjoying the words, the fun, the sea, the fresh air and, of course, the fish and chips... There is always next year. 

If, like me, you enjoy poetry from Aldeburgh, you might be interested in this beautiful book, called  Lookout: Poetry from Aldeburgh Beach, edited by Tamar Yoseloff and produced by Lookout Editions (ISBN 978 0 9956250 0 6). I bought a copy at Snape Maltings a few days ago, and have been lulled and rocked by its waves. The photography is bold, beautiful and in keeping with the collection.

Happy Poetry Day to all!

Here are a few links...

Friday, 22 September 2017

From India to the Fens: Poetry, Prose... and Cuckoos

Lantern Tower, Ely Cathedral, UK
The latest annual edition of Metverse Muse, edited by Dr. H. Tulsi, has just arrived from India. It contains a small selection of my poems, including one about a Cornish mining valley and one set in the very different landscape of the Fens. 

Ship of the Fens rising from the Isle of Ely

I am currently reading a splendid book about the Cuckoos who breed on Wicken Fen. Years ago we lived in a village poised between the edge of Cambridge (on the one hand) and the edge of the Cambridgeshire fens (on the other). Wicken Fen, in the care of the National Trust, was always a favourite haunt, and indeed remains one of our top destinations for a day out, despite the fact we have a bit further to travel these days.

Cuckoo by Nick Davies (Bloomsbury) bears the subtitle 'Cheating by Nature'. It is, in effect, a fascinating detective story, revealing how the Common Cuckoos at Wicken Fen 'cheat' on their Reed Warbler hosts, ensuring that the Cuckoo egg is given the best chance of survival. Nick Davies is Professor of Behavioural Ecology at Cambridge, and what I particularly appreciate about the book is the clarity with which Davies writes, enabling those of us without backgrounds in science to journey with him in his discoveries. His enthusiasm is infectious, and although I knew little about Cuckoos at the outset, my eyes are steadily being opened to their strange place in our ecosystem. This is an exquisite book of lucid and compelling prose. The field drawings by James McCallum are a delight. 

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Celebrations Afoot at Orizont Literar Contemporan (Romania)


With Professor Donald Riggs in Philadelphia, 2011

I was delighted to receive this link today, taking me through to a summary of what has been a truly international rollercoaster of a decade for Daniel Dragomirescu and his colleagues who work tirelessly across languages and genres to produce Orizont Literar Contemporan, the self-styled 'world in a journal'.

This literary magazine, celebrating its 60th issue, has now been in production for ten years, and you have only to read the summary of its history to see how it has evolved, expanded and diversified during this time. There is a huge library of multicultural books and now a Dictionary of writers' biographies.

Thanks to Daniel, Katherine Gallagher and others, I have been associated with the journal for much of its existence. It has been a pleasure to introduce a number of poet friends from Wales and elsewhere through my early Dialoguri interviews, and friends from Suffolk and beyond through other ventures. It has been a wonderful way of making new literary friends, too, from a range of countries.

I am grateful to the teams of translators (see this post by Anne Stewart) who work so hard behind the scenes, ensuring that a poem, for example, can appear in up to three languages, most frequently Romanian, Spanish and English.

Many happy returns to Daniel and his A Team! Here's to the next decade and the next 60+ issues...

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Spirit of The Stour Festival - A Poetry Recital


Readers at the Poetry Recital (photo: James Clarke)

Here we all are at the foot of the elegant staircase in the Munnings Museum after the Poetry Recital on the theme of the 'natural world', hosted last night by the museum staff in conjunction with the museum's Poet-in-Residence, Tim Gardiner. 

Poets who took part...
Front row: Matt Annis, Alex Davis, Tim Gardiner (Master of Ceremonies for the evening), Sue Wallace-Shaddad, Alex Toms, Caroline Gill
Middle row: Emily Hasler and Ian Griffiths
Back row: Gerry Donlon, Rebecca Goss, Judith Wolton and David Gill.

Tim introduced each poet who proceeded to read a set lasting about ten minutes. It was a most enjoyable evening. I would like to thank Museum Director, Jenny Hand, and her team for their hospitality and Tim for all the work he put into organising the poetry side of things.   


David Gill taking us to the Inner Hebrides...

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Third Prize in Milestones Competition judged by Brian Patten

The Milestones Competition, organised by WriteOutLoud on behalf of the Milestone Society, was judged by Brian Patten. The results have just been announced, and I am delighted to say that my entry, 'Penwith Finger Stone' gained me Third Prize from a field of over 500 entries. Huge congratulations to my fellow poets who took First and Second Prize, and to the winner of the Under 16s section: their names are listed on the web and you can follow the 'results' link above.

My poem can be found here, together with bio-details etc.

Thank you to Brian Patten, Steve Pottinger, Greg Freeman and all who have been involved with the competition in one way or anther. Thank you, too, to Paul McGrane at The Poetry Society for this press release.

At Zennor Quoit in the 1980s

The milestone I wrote about stands in Penwith, near the coastal village of Zennor, with its 'mermaid chair' in the church and other notable features. The poem, 'Zennor', by Anne Ridler is discussed here, and is among my favourites.

Sadly I do not have a photo of the stone, so I am posting a few of my photos of this magnificent and rugged area between Land's End and St Ives in which it lies. 

At Zennor Church on a rather grey day, about 2001

The legendary Zennor Mermaid with her mirror

A plaque in Zennor Churchyard in recognition of John Davey, speaker of the Cornish language
1737 sundial, Zennor

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