Wednesday 27 August 2008

Brain Fungus?

I took this photograph in a bowl in the Preseli landscape some days ago, when we were having a picnic by a stream. I have tried to identify the orange mass, and it seems to me that it may be tremella mesenterica or yellow brain fungus. If you feel you want a closer look, click on the image to enlarge! If you can confirm the identification, I would be interested to hear.

Kelly Chadwick is in the latter stages of editing a poetry anthology on fungi, called Decomposition. The aim of this intriguing anthology is to examine 'elements of what it means to be human through fungi-related poetry.'

Blogspotting (1)

I came across Professor David Morley's blog today. Having taken part in a recent outdoor community arts project, I was fascinated to read about Professor Morley's open-air poetry commissions. I was particularly interested in his Strid Wood and Bard Box project.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Winners in Wales

The results of the Welsh Poetry Competition 2008 are out. You can read th winning poems if you follow the link.

Saturday 23 August 2008


We visited the Crannog on Llangorse Lake. You may remember it from the Time Team programme. You can watch a clip about the site on S4C.

Wednesday 20 August 2008


The site, Poets wear Prada, is inviting submissions (and will be, on 'through October') on the theme of bugs. You can also join the Poets wear Prada Facebook group.

Give it some welly!

Time for a nap

Farmers' Weekly is holding a poetry competition to celebrate National Welly Week, 11-18 October. The closing date for your 'Ode to a Welly' is 1 October 2008. I am advised that there is no fee to enter. The competition is run in conjunction with RABI (the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution).

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Costa competitors

It seems that we live in a world in which characters like Noddy triumph over Othello and Hamlet. The poll at the Costa Book Awards has raised some eyebrows, but one is left wondering whether the results for the nation's favourite authors would have been totally different if a larger section of the population had been asked to cast a vote.

Monday 18 August 2008

Blue is the colour

On our way back from a few days in Berea, Pembrokeshire, we decided to drive across the Preseli landscape to see the bluestones in their natural environment.

In the course of our meanderings in the hill country, we came across this plaque (left), nailed to a stone memorial in Mynachlogddu. The plaque was on the far side of the stone pillar in the lower photograph. Waldo Williams was a Welsh language Romantic poet.

We were particularly interested in the view from the memorial of Carn Menyn or 'The Cairn of Butter' (Carnmenyn on OS map) and Carn Meini (SA66 7RY).

This is real Stonehenge bluestone territory. Current Archaeology published what some may view as a controversial article, Message in the Stones, about the purpose of Stonehenge.

The air was very pure, and there were many interesting and unusual lichens on the stones. We watched a kestrel as we sat beside a stream (or series of mini-rapids, thanks to the exceptional August rainfall). It was a most evocative place.

Poetry: a panacea?

Some days ago I blogged about The Island by Victoria Hislop, and mentioned the fact that the story revolves around leprosy. I highlighted the plight of those affected by the disease, and mentioned the special shoes supplied by The Leprosy Mission (TLM) for those with ulcerated feet.

As someone who regularly requires the services of UK NHS hospital orthotists (and as someone who enjoys poetry), I was very moved by a report in the Worthing Herald about the father of a wounded son in Zimbabwe, an orthotist in the UK, and a poem that crossed continents by telephone.

Cacoethes scribendi

This seems a site to keep in mind. There is a forum and poetry competition. I have not been able to trace its (geographical) origin, but one of the links was to Carole Baldock's kudos site.

Saturday 16 August 2008

Creative Carers, our unsung heroes

Earlier today I came across a call for poems by carers about their role for an anthology. In a strange serendipitous way, I have just read this heart-warming story from Harrow.

Saturday 9 August 2008

Home of the modern Olympics

In two recent postings, I mentioned Olympia and the ancient Olympic Games. The September 2008 issue of House & Garden has a feature by Celia Fox entitled Cultural Marathon, about the new Acropolis Museum in Athens, the 'last - and first' city (or should that be polis?) of the modern games. Pieces of original sculpture sit alongside casts of the Elgin Marbles.

Poetry: the art and craft of writing

Right: the Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage on the tiny island of Eilean Bàn, under the Skye Bridge, where Gavin Maxwell lived and wrote.

Like Sylvia Bardell, I enjoy poems about poetry, but I also recognize that with such masterpieces in mind as In my craft or sullen art by Dylan Thomas, it can be hard to write on this subject with an original and authoritative voice.

It would be interesting to know whether most of us love these 'poetry poems' or whether we would pass over them for others. Is it, perhaps, all down to which individual poems happen to speak to us, regardless of subject? I know Mary Biddinger, for one, is not keen on poems about poems.

I love to visit places associated with writers, and to see their desks and pens. Many modern writers scribble notes on till receipts; but how many of us still prefer to write our drafts in long-hand, thereby allowing our thoughts to flow from brain to arm to hand to paper - without interruption? I use notebooks (and till receipts) and a tiny dictaphone; but when it comes to writing a first draft, I love to sit at my computer. I may not watch for mermaids (which is what the Reverend R.S. Hawker of Morwenstow reputedly did on occasions when there were no shipwrecks); but I love to peer over my screen and to know that the sea is 'out there', with rhythms of its own.

Incidentally and in connection with Eilean Bàn, we remember Maxwell as a prose writer; but his title, Ring of Bright Water originated as a string of words in a poem, The Marriage of Psyche, by Kathleen Raine.

P.S. On the subject of writers' rooms (see comment by Susan Richardson below), how about a poem about a writer's drawer?

Friday 8 August 2008

Global Poetry Prompt Appreciation Day

It's official: thanks to the folk at the word cage, we can all join in with their prompts and festivities.

The poem to the left is a first draft, taken from one of the prompts given by Mary Biddinger. The given words were: rubric, furrow, torch, balm and orchid.

The text will enlarge if you click on it.

P.S. August 15: I have just left a link to this poem on the 'Pen-me-a-poem' site for the Olympic games prompt.

Thursday 7 August 2008

Norfolk Poets & Writers: Anthology 2008

Left: Poet and Publisher, Wendy Webb
Right: Caroline Gill, 'summer' 2008

Wendy Webb's latest anthology has a colour photograph of the Suffolk village of Lavenham on the cover. The first poem inside is an ekphrastic one, 'Old Sailor's Tale' by Pamela Trudie Hodge, who drew her inspiration from 'The Depths of the Sea' (1886) by Edward Burne-Jones.

The anthology contains more well known names from the small press scene: Bernard Jackson, Norman Bissett, Joan Sheridan Smith, Claire Knight and Brigid Simpson, to name but a few.

There are also a number of poems from invited guests, including Alison Chisholm, Sophie Hannah and Geoff Stevens.

Wendy (and members of her family) met me for coffee at the Dylan Thomas Centre some days ago. In view of our chosen rendez-vous, it seems appropriate to mention the poem, 'Fadeless Light', chosen by Wendy for the anthology as a tribute to Margaret Munro Gibson. This poem (by MMG) was originally published in an earlier edition of Wendy's TIPS: it pays homage to Dylan's villanelle, 'Do not go gentle into that good night'.

I have subscribed to TIPS for some years now. The venture began as a writers' group for those who found it easier, for whatever reason, to belong to a postal group. Wendy still offers the chance to belong to a community of writers. She runs competitions and has devised several successful poetry forms including Magi poems, Echotains and Davidians.

Of bowls and bats

The May/June 2008 issue of Archaeology ran a fascinating feature on a 'Townsend's long-eared bat' bowl (c.1050-1150 AD) in its Artifact column. The bowl was found in the Cameron Creek area of New Mexico in the Mimbres River basin.

Bats feature in literature (Shakespeare ...) and art (Goya ...), but it would be interesting to discover other bat representations on ancient pottery.

(aka Thomas Aleto),
Professor of Anthropology at St. Louis, Missouri has posted a fine Mayan bat plate on flickr, and also a Zapotec bat bowl from the Saint Louis Art Museum.

The clay face of a bat was found at Taíno, a pre-Columbian ceremonial site in Puerto Rico. Source: an article by Mike Toner in Archaeology, Volume 61 Number 2, March/April 2008.

The Met has a pair of gold bat-nosed pendants. Read more about bat representations in the Met timeline (& here for bat representations in the Panama region c.700).

I have already mentioned on my Bookshelf (bottom right) how much I like the poetry anthology On a Bat's Wing, edited by Michael Rosen and published by Five Leaves Poetry.

Ekphrasis - in reverse

I made an earlier post about ekphrasis, thinking in terms of poems inspired by art. Tim Murdoch has posted an interesting piece on his blog, The Truth about Lies, on art arising out of poems. I particularly like the definition of painting and poetry by Simonides of Kos.

  • Another take on ekphrasis: I came across an intriguing site Photo Link Love, which matches photographs with poetry.

From David Thomas
Caroline. Hi. Thanks for stopping by. You all have got me thinking. All the poetry I have written comes from photos I have taken. But the notion of maybe writing poems or even some short fantasy prose work based on a famous work of art.. Hmm. That might be an interesting exercise. [Davidnotes].

National Poetry Prompt Appreciation Day: tomorrow!

See The Word Cage. How do you plan to celebrate the day?

It seems to me that there is no reason why poets in Olin Hall should have all the fun. The ripples have already reached Wales, UK - so perhaps this can be the Global PPAD!

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Jeremy Fisher or Toad of Toad Hall?

This fabulous frog (for I think it is a frog and not a toad) hopped up on to our backdoor step in a teeming shower of rain at 1pm. I told my husband that the amphibian was rather like a gherkin with a yellow stripe down its back. Imagine our excitement for a split second when Google seemed to come up with the ID of Natterjack Toad!

If anybody can help us to name this frog (i.e. to tell us what sort of frog is gracing our garden), we would be thrilled. He was about the size of an adult hand, if you think of the body as the palm and the legs as - pretty long - fingers! We do not have a pond, and our garden is high up and about 3 km from the coast. The photographs should enlarge if you click on them.

Dragonfly Nymph at Dinefwr

I had been admiring Bev Wigney's submission on the qaartsiluni 'Transformation' pages when I came across this creature on a bulrush stem. I may be biased (in terms of my narrow perception of good looks), but I have to say that Bev's creature would get my vote every time in a beauty contest!

'My' creature is a dragonfly nymph (I think, since dragonflies bypass the pupa stage, but please feel free to correct me - or to identify the species). It does not have wings yet, and will have crawled out of the pond, and up the stem in preparation for the time when it will burst out of its 'buttons' and become a fully fledged - and beautiful - dragonfly.

Read about dragonflies on

Of twites and twitchers

Taken at Rhossili on the Gower Peninsula

I am hoping that my friend, Mistlethrush, will cast her eye over this photo at some point (no rush!). The defintion is not good, but it would be great to know whether these birds are stonechats or linnets. One looks like a female stonechat and the other like a female linnet to me, and yet I think they are a male and female pair of 'something'. The photo should enlarge a bit if you click on it.

Lark Rise to ... Carnglas

Local residents in Swansea have been living through their own Lark Rise to Candleford experience since the announcement some months ago that the Carnglas Road Post Office was on the list of local branches that could be closed.

There is a spirit of great rejoicing today, as news has filtered through on the BBC that - thanks to the representations of local people - the Carnglas Road Post Office has been saved.

The tragedy is that 44 other branches in South and West Wales have not been spared.

The Island of Spinalonga

Left: Thalatta, thalatta

I do not watch much television, but I have been enjoying Francesco da Mosto's voyage through the Mediterranean, aboard the beautiful Black Swan. David Bellamy's surprise appearance added a great sense of je ne sais quoi to the programme on Corfu, and helped to bring us closer to the spirit of that other naturalist and conservationist, Gerald Durrell.

I am, however, particularly looking forward to the episode of Francesco's Mediterranean Voyage on BBC2 tomorrow night at 8pm, in which the intrepid Venetian visits the little island of Spinalonga, once a colony for those with leprosy.

I am about a third of the way through The Island by Victoria Hislop, and have formed 'my' picture of Spinalonga (from her narrative); so it will be interesting to see whether the 'real' island matches the one in my mind. As someone who writes poetry, I am always fascinated by the reception of art. The viewer or the reader brings so much to the painting or the poem.

I have enormous respect for the work of The Leprosy Mission. It is amazing to think that leprosy can be cured with modern medication. It is awful, though, to think that there are still many with the disease who lose sensation - and the vital warning signal of pain - in their lower limbs, and consequently develop ulcerous and infected wounds from accidents. The Leprosy Mission has developed special footwear to help these patients.

Postscript: I have just come across the ILEP site ('working for a world without leprosy'), which is well worth visiting. It comprises 14 non-governmental 'donor agencies', including TLM.

Monday 4 August 2008

Olympian Poetry?

Olympia, Greece: a Judas tree in the Palaestra, 1978
(I remember
what fun it was, all those years ago on my school trip,
crouching on the starting line in the stadium)

The Times investigates whether there would be a place for poetry in the modern Olympic Games. The Greeks included poetry and rhetoric: how could we (& should we) find a modern blend of word and action?

Friday 1 August 2008

Which poem will leap FORWARD?

The Forward Prize shortlist has been published in The Guardian.