Monday, 16 May 2022

'The Gloucester Fragments', a Poetry Collection by Neil Leadbeater


I was delighted when Neil Leadbeater asked if he could use my Redwing photograph for the cover of his latest poetry collection, The Gloucester Fragments, recently published by Mervyn Linford of Littoral Press

I first met Neil at Swansea's First International Poetry Festival, organised by Peter Thabit Jones (The Seventh Quarry Press, Wales) and Stanley H. Barkan (Cross-Cultural Communications, New York). 

Polly Stretton in her back-cover blurb decribes The Gloucester Fragments as 'a real treat' and helpfully informs the reader that the new collection includes poems on the themes of 'nature', 'language' and 'myth'. And indeed, I am greatly enjoying poems 'inhabited' by the Shoveler ('Frampton Pools'), poems that 'play' with the building blocks of language to singular effect ('Errata for an English Pangram'), and a clever shape-shifting poem that re-casts the Homeric tale of Odysseus and Circe. 

There is so much more: take, for instance, Neil's clever allusion to nursery rhymes or the way in which he moves deftly from serious subject matter, such as detritus in the Severn, to the magical botanical names of wildflowers like 'periwinkle', 'fumitory' and 'hemp agrimony', which we find sprinkled, or scattered, throughout this vivid and compelling collection. 

Gloucester, and perhaps particularly Gloucestershire, will doubtless evoke different images among Neil's readers. I think especially of Edward Thomas, and am immediately taken in my mind to Adlestrop, which I visited some years ago on a frosty morning when there were certainly no 'haycocks dry' in evidence. Neil's delightful and inventive response to this well-loved poem by Thomas took me by surprise and put a wide smile on my face.

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The Gloucester Fragments costs £8.50. 

Neil's previous collection, Reading Between the Lines (2020), with my puffin photo on the cover, is also available from Littoral Press. I mentioned it here shortly after its publication. 

The publisher, Mervyn Linford, suggests that those wishing to purchase a Littoral Press collection should email him in the first instance.

   

Previous post: #DylanDay 2022 ... here

Saturday, 14 May 2022

14 May 2022 ... #dylanday

 

 

Greetings to all on #dylanday 14 May 2022.

I thought I would post a rather different 'first' picture for Dylan Day this time. It was taken fifteen years ago, and shows me trying to photograph the Writing Shed that perches somewhat precariously on the cliff above the Dylan Thomas Boathouse in Laugharne. 

This is what the Writing Shed looked like from the outside in 2001:

 


... and in 2007:



Dylan Thomas aficionado, Lidia Chiarelli, a Charter Member of the international movement Immagine e Poesia, has prepared a Dylan Day presentation for 2022, featuring art and poetry from many different corners of the globe. You can find my Picture-Poem contribution, Tide Notes, in the section entitled  ...

Haiku - Haiga - Picture-Poems for Dylan Thomas 

... which you can find by (clicking the link immediately above and) scrolling down until you reach what I believe is the seventh tribute. 

* * * 

Love The Words 

eBook Anthology

I have just heard that my poem, 'Blubber, Fin and Tails', has been selected for inclusion in the 2022 #dylanday international eBook prepared by Infinity Books, after a judging process by Hannah Ellis and Mab Jones. There were about 400 entries from which about 50 have been chosen.  

* * *

My 2021 first full collection, Driftwood by Starlight (The Seventh Quarry Press, £6.99/$10 - see here), contains poems set in various places around the UK and beyond. I lived in Swansea, home town of Dylan Thomas for almost twenty years, a fact reflected in my poem, 'Rhossili: Writing The Worm' (p.38).  

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

UCB Radio Interview with Annmarie Miles, host of The Writers' Trail, 28 April 2022

My poetry collection mentioned in my radio interview is shown below:

 


 

The poem I read on air is 'Et in terra pax' from p.13.

The book costs £6.99/$10, and may be purchased here.


Tuesday, 22 February 2022

First Prize (Publication)

 

Sign on the Scottish island of Gigha


After a tricky ten days, it was a real boost to hear that I had won First Prize in the 'Wee Collection' Challenge, set last November by Mark Davidson of the Hedgehog Poetry Press. This means that my sequence of seven interlinked sonnets will be published as a slim pamphlet. 

Watch this space!  

In other news, I very much enjoyed taking part in the ACW-Trellis online poetry day last Saturday. Participating poets came from England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Albania. I read 'Dunwich in Winter' from my 2021 collection, Driftwood by Starlight (The Seventh Quarry Press).   


Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Reviews of 'Driftwood by Starlight' (updated for 2022)

 


The photo above shows me with my first full poetry collection, Driftwood by Starlight (The Seventh Quarry Press, 2021 - see here). 

Reviews of the book and short features have been appearing at intervals, so it seemed an idea to update this page, with links where appropriate.

I am extremely grateful to those who have taken the trouble to read my poems and to write about them. Susan Richardson, who wrote the back cover blurb, was among the first to do this. 

 

Reviews 

  1. Juliet Wilson, August 2021, review on The Crafty Green Poet site - here
  2. Tracey Foster, whose review on Everybody's Reviewing was arranged by Dr Jonathan Taylor, Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Leicester - here 
  3. Neil Leadbeater on the Write Out Loud site - here
  4. Neil Leadbeater in Littoral magazine #8 (ed. Mervyn Linford) - here.  
  5. James Knox Whittet in Twelve Rivers (Vol.12, issue 2, Autumn/Winter2021). Twelve Rivers is the magazine of Suffolk Poetry Society. 
  6. D.A. Prince in Orbis #198, Winter 2021 (Review title, 'Stones, Sea and Sky', p.57)
  7. Richenda Milton-Daws in the ArtServe magazine, Winter 2021. 
  8. Jessica Newport in #35 of The Seventh Quarry magazine, 2022.  

Q and A Interviews

  1. Questions from Maria Lloyd (@mariatlloyd) at the University of Reading about the collection. Links to the Q&As can be found here.
  2. Sue Wallace-Shaddad, Secretary of Suffolk Poetry Society, In Conversation, Twelve Rivers (Vol.12, issue 2, Autumn/Winter2021). Twelve Rivers is the magazine of Suffolk Poetry Society. 
  3. Questions from Janet Emson on From First Page to Last.  
  4. Questions from Annmarie Miles on The Writers' Trail, UCB Radio, Ireland, 28 April 2022. I read out 'Et in Terra Pax'.

 

Online Features

  1. July 2021 - Writers' Online Showcase section, here.  
  2. Creative Writing at Leicester blog, arranged by Dr Jonathan Taylor, Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Leicester - here.  
  3. Poetry Blog Digest on Via Negativa (Dave Bonta) - here. 
  4. 23 November 2021 - Newcastle University News - here. 'Alumna Publishes First Poetry Collection, Driftwood by Starlight.' 

 

Others Mentions and Listings

  1. 31 July 2021 - The Poetry Society, Members' e-bulletin. 
  2. 27 July 2021 - The Poetry School, e-newsletter. 
  3. 12 July 2021 - ACW eNews, bulletin #27
  4. September 2021 - In Touch (Suffolk community magazine). 
  5. Autumn 2021 - Star Tips #143 (with sample poem)  
  6. Autumn 2021 - ARTEMISpoetry #27 
  7. December 2021 - Exeter University: Celebrating our Alumni Authors
  8. May 2022 - GDST magazine

Readings

  1. 3 August 2021 - Online launch and reading, with Peter Thabit Jones of The Seventh Quarry Press and guest readers, Susan Richardson, Jean Salkilld and David Gill reading their own work. 
  2. 7 October 2021 - Suffolk Poetry Society National Poetry Day event in Ipswich Library, Suffolk, UK. Three poems from the collection were included in, and read out on my behalf, as part of an event on the theme of 'Choice'.  
  3. 19 February - ACW Online Poetry Day. I read 'Dunwich in Winter'. 
 

Matthew Stewart's 'Best Poetry Blogs of the Year' 2021 List

  1.  14 December 2021 - I was included in the list on account of my posts about Driftwood by Starlight.

 

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Thoughts on conferences, COP26 ... and birds

 

Puffins, Red on the RSPB UK Conservation List

Those who are already acquainted with my blogs may recognise this puffin photograph, taken some years ago at RSPB Bempton Cliffs. The flutter of these wings inspired 'Puffin's Assembly', one of the poems in my poetry collection, Driftwood by Starlight (The Seventh Quarry Press, 2021). 


The poem, about an imaginary convocation of threatened seabirds, was partially inspired by the avian parliament in The Birds, a comedy by Aristophanes, the play from which we get the term, 'Cloud-cuckoo-land'. In my brief text the birds confront the Climate Crisis, extinction, habitat loss and coastal erosion. 
 
I suspect Chaucer may have been influenced by Aristophanes when he came to write The Parliament of Fowls
 
With COP26 running into extra time as I drafted this post, it seemed appropriate to be thinking about what I might call actual, imaginary or motivational assemblies.
 
The avian crew in The Birds under the direction of the Hoopoe were motivated (rightly or wrongly in this particular case) by the idea of building their own kingdom in the sky. Chaucer's birds gathered for the important business of finding a mate. 
 
As a child, I was captivated by the tale of The Little Grey Men by BB. Melissa Harrison has recently brought out a story in two volumes for children (and adults) which continues the tale in a 21st century setting, taking into account our current environmental concerns. Harrison's books, By Oak, Ash and Thorn and By Rowan and Yew, have been beautifully written - and have been exquisitely produced by Chicken House. I have no wish to spoil the narrative for you, but just wanted to mention the fact that the story includes a convocation of sorts, 'a grand conference', not only for the protagonists who are on a mission, but for 'all the animals' as well. I will refrain from saying more in the hope that you may decide to read the books.  
 
 
As we consider Climate Crisis and other world issues, such as Covid-19, we become acutely aware that it is in many senses only now that we have the opportunity to make things change. The past has happened. Tomorrow is uncharted territory.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

National Poetry Day 2021, Theme of 'Choice'

 

Upper left: Basil Brown's (reconstructed) shepherd's hut at NT Sutton Hoo, Suffolk

Upper right: drystone beehive cell (for a monk) in the grounds of Kilmartin Museum, Scotland

Lower left: reconstruction of a Provençal 'borrie' for oxen (and shepherds, apparently), The Eden Project, Cornwall

Lower right: beach huts on the shore at Southwold, Suffolk

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I have often envied writers who have or have had a 'shed' at their disposal for writing, reading and contemplation, whether the structure has been a driftwood hut, a remote bothy or a garden gazebo. Dylan Thomas and the Reverend R.S. Hawker both had writing huts with coastal views. I would definitely opt for one of these.  

Of course, it isn't only writers who have huts. The photograph below shows a hut on Romney Marsh in Kent, provided for the 'lookers', folk who were asked to care for huge flocks of sheep on behalf of the land owners, who considered the marsh an unhealthy place in which to live. 

Unlike the shepherds, who only minded a single flock, lookers were responsible for sheep belonging to more than one owner. The workers were based at their huts by day, and at lambing times found themselves camping out in them overnight. 

It seems ironic to me that the hut in the photo below, designed for these lookers, seems so devoid of windows. I see there is a stable-style door; I do not remember if there was a window at the back. Perhaps this hut was mainly used for the storage of tools and other equipment. The chimney suggests an internal fire place. 

 

Driftwood by Starlight (The Seventh Quarry Press, June 2021), my poetry collection, includes my poem 'Hawker's Hut' (p.29); Parson Hawker's driftwood structure nestles in the cliff above the sea at Morwenstow in Cornwall. 

'Hawker's Hut' was read out at Ipswich Library today as part of Suffolk Poetry Society's National Poetry Day reading on the theme of 'choice'.

Lookers' huts on Romney Marsh in Kent, like the one in the photograph above, are mentioned in my poem, 'Lost' (p.12). This poem also has an allusion to the poet, Edward Thomas. 


 

Driftwood by Starlight (The Seventh Quarry Press, June 2021) can be purchased online, here. The cost is £6.99/$10.