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

Saturday, 1 April 2017

A Poem in Reach Poetry

David striding out...

I was delighted to open the April edition of Reach Poetry (Indigo Dreams Publishing) and find that my 'Lost' poem had been published. It begins in Kent on the expanse known as Romney Marsh, where there is a shepherd's hut* in the form of the small brick structure in the photo above, known as the Looker's (or Lookers') Hut. These lookers were responsible for the sheep. You can read more about them here.

* For a couple of shepherds' huts on wheels, this time in Suffolk, you can click here to see one of my Christmas posts...

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Natural World - a Poetry Event for UNESCO World Poetry Day 2017

Fin whale jaw at Clachtoll in Assynt, Scotland

We marked UNESCO World Poetry Day last night with a reading event at the University of Suffolk, attended by students and local (and not-so-local) poets. Suffolk Poetry Society hosted the evening, and our guest readers were members of Poetrywivenhoe. Huge thanks are due to those who organised the event, providing refreshments, amplification and so much more.

Our theme, 'the natural world', produced poems on edgelands, coastlines (including a magical depiction of the essence of low tide from Pam Job) - and wildlife along railway tracks. There were seasonal references and a few slant-allusions to climate change and conservation initiatives. Subjects ranged from a female eel-catcher (Alex Toms) to a view from the train of the iconic swans at Manningtree (David).

I bought a copy of Ornith-ology from the book table. This beautiful anthology of birds in poetry and art was edited by Tim Cunningham for Poetrywivenhoe and the Mosaic stanza. M.W. Bewick, one of the Wivenhoe readers, brought copies of three Dunlin Press books, including his striking poetry collection, Scarecrow, which has just been launched.  

I read a couple of my poems, 'Moonshine', about the appearance of a Snowy Owl in Cornwall in 2009, and 'Notes from a Netting Station' about the fin whale bone in the photo above that lies, rotting, in the north of Scotland, near the old salmon netting station at Clachtoll in Assynt.

Poetry gatherings often find their own organic themes when no theme is proffered, but I felt the subject last night provided a sufficiently wide canvas to allow plenty of scope for interpretation, while, at the same time, making us feel we were travelling together on a journey of discovery.

'Nature is ever at work...' John Muir

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Celebrating UNESCO World Poetry Day

'we share in Basil Brown's suspense...'
words from: Shepherd’s Hut, Sutton Hoo (C.G.)

Our friends at NT Sutton Hoo, guarding the mounds

...and here in Suffolk we are celebrating with an event at the university. Writers from Poetry Wivenhoe will be joining us and presenting their poems on 'the natural world' in the first half. David will be giving a welcome at the start. Do come and join us if you are within range.

The East Anglian Daily Times/Eastern Daily Press ran a poetry supplement on Saturday to mark this auspicious day. My Sutton Hoo sonnet was included alongside poems about Norfolk and Suffolk by poets 'old' (Wordsworth, Crabbe...) and 'new'.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Poet Profile: The Seventh Quarry Poetry magazine

Leaving Ellis Island and Liberty Island, New York, 2013
Issue Twenty-Five of The Seventh Quarry has just been published.

It hardly seems possible that this poetry magazine from Swansea has reached its quarter-century of issues already. Editor Peter Thabit Jones has worked with tireless enthusiasm to make the magazine the eclectic and international publication it is today. Thanks are also due to Stanley H. Barkan of Cross-Cultural Communications in New York, who has collaborated with Peter from the outset, and to Vince Clemente, the magazine's Consultant Editor in America.

The current issue contains contributions from America, Wales, Israel and Czechoslovakia, to name but half the places mentioned on the back cover.

I feature in the Poet Profile slot in this issue, along with four of my poems - including one about Ellis Island, hence the picture above from my visit to this unusual destination in 2013.

The issue includes the poem, 'Oasis', by Jean Salkilld. This poem about Syria is particularly poignant at the present time. Jean has just brought out her first full collection with The Seventh Quarry Press - The Familiar Road, which I am reading which much enjoyment.

If you would like to take out a subscription to The Seventh Quarry, details can be found on Peter's website here

And finally... back in 2012 Peter published my Poet to Poet chapbook, The Holy Place, co-authored with John Dotson: I am posting a picture of the cover.

The Holy Place

Friday, 3 February 2017

In the Footsteps of Dylan Thomas...

Swansea ~ Abertawe (my photo)

Swansea ~ Abertawe (my digital artwork of the scene)

My Dylan Thomas tribute poem, 'Salubrious Passage', has been published in Reach Poetry #221, Indigo Dreams Publishing. 

You can just make out the exit to the left of the 'angels' sign in my photo. I wish I had a picture of the Wind Street entrance to this hidden yet iconic thoroughfare, but you can see one here

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

2017 - New Year News

 Happy New Year 

The Tawny Owl in the photo above is known as Mabel. She is well known to those of us who live in the Ipswich area as she frequents the town's Christchurch Park and has for many years returned to the hollow branch of the tree in the picture. 

I was delighted to begin the year with a cheque representing the fact that my Barn Owl poem had been voted 'Second' in the readers' votes for the December issue of Reach Poetry, one of three flagship magazines from Indigo Dreams Publishing. 

I heard today that my entry for the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Competition had gained a 'Commended'. More good news, but of a kind that leaves little room for complacency as it would be good to see the poems published as a batch. Unlike Mabel, I intend to keep my eyes wide open.

As for specific 2017 writing goals, well, I have an 'illumination of ideas' but am still at the formulating stage. I wonder what goals you have in mind?