Thursday 26 February 2009

A Mix of Media (2): Puffins [don't] Twitter

Puffins on Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire
There has been much in the news recently about Twitter and how postings can be regulated. A representative of Penguin Books has said, according to The Guardian, that there are no current plans to advertise Puffin Books (for young readers) on Twitter.

Creative Corner (2): Small is Beautiful?

An early honey bee at the National Botanic Garden of Wales
February 2009

Yes, small can be beautiful according to Schumacher, but was he the first to coin this phrase and why did it catch on? Poets have long been known for their sweeping epics and their pithy epigrams. At the end of the day, the main challenge is not about quantity (or lack of it) but quality in all its rainbow manifestations. For Edward Thomas, no subject was too small for a poem: it was the large topics, he felt, that could pose problems. These days we are bombarded with the soundbite and with the tweet of Twitter. I went to a class yesterday and began to appreciate just how much material (in terms of what was shown, heard and hinted at) could be fitted in to a two-minute digital story.

Bylines and straplines are part of our zeitgeist; and although we live in an age that does not often lean towards formal poetry, short forms like the haiku and the tanka remain popular. Just a Minute on BBC Radio 4 has always had its followers, and there are blogs offering short writing memes. If the thought of drafting a complete poem a day is a bridge too far, just think how many ideas we might amass in our poetic honey pots if we set aside a minute every twenty-four hours for organic writing. Time check: the moment has come to stop blogging and set the timer ... Why not join me in one of the exercises below? Let me know how you get on!
  • Minute Memes Video Project on copyright
  • Meme Trackers: How to Start a Meme (I was pleased to see that one of the writers, Dane Morgan, was keen to use memes that were going to 'contribute to a growing education or increasing awareness of a subject').

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Literary Landmarks (1): The Real Robinson Crusoe

Scientists think that they have more evidence to support a theory that there once was a real Robinson Crusoe.

Monday 23 February 2009

Creative Corner (1): Creative Spaces, a museum inititative

I have just come across a website on the Creative Spaces museum project, thanks to the British Museum Twitter feed. I have not checked it our fully yet, but it looks as though it has interesting potential.

Poetry Matters (5): The Acid Test

Simon Armitage (on the Poetry Book Society site) has come up with a check list for helping new poets to assess their own work. Can we think of any other yardsticks we bring to bear on our poems? You might also care to read George Szirtes article in Poetry (magazine) on Formal Wear: Notes on Rhyme, Meter, Stanza & Pattern.

Once you are happy with your poem, be sure to choose a suitable outlet for it. There are many well-run journals and competitions, but there are others that you will want to avoid. You might find this list helpful.

Literary Landmarks (Taster): Looe island

Dusk on Looe Estuary

If you are interested in the links between literature and landscape, you might like to join me as I post my electronic postcards on my Land&Lit blog.

I have not ventured out to the small island off the coast of the Cornish harbour resort of Looe; but I can vouch for the quality of the fish and chips in the town, which we ate by the ice silo as darkness descended. The island is famed for the smuggling exploits that were undertaken by the Hooper family in the late 18th and early 19th century. Island life has changed considerably since then and most of the residents today have four legs or a pair of wings.

A hoard of Roman coins has come to light on Looe Island. Members of Time Team are due to appear in a programme filmed on the island later this year (I believe 1 March is the scheduled date). If you go to my aNobii bookshelf - lower right on this blog - you will find details of a small book, We bought an Island, about two intrepid sisters who gave up their suburban jobs and lives to move to Cornwall with a view to owning the island and starting a pottery. They showed remarkable commitment to their project, encountering storms, boat troubles ... and rats!

Competition Corner (1): Save the frogs and don't forget the local ladybirds

Here is an unusual poetry competition to highlight the plight of the frog. The deadline is 4 May 2009. There is also an art contest, too. For those of you who prefer ladybirds, there are some amazing photographs from all over Australia on the Catalyst Survey Gallery. Sadly our local ladybirds are under threat. The invading Harlequin has been sighted in Wales. The Telegraph reports that Britain's rarest spider, the ladybird spider, is alive and well; but this is no cause for complacency.

Poetic Places (1): Atlantis mapped by Google Earth

I was intrigued to read on The Right Perspective site that Atlantis has finally shown up (or so some believe) on Google Earth. A convincing town grid of street-like lines can be seen underwater some 600 miles off the Canary Islands. In the past Atlantis has often been associated with the Greek island of Santorini, known in ancient times as Thera.

The legendary kingdom features in numerous literary accounts and has been a source of speculation for centuries. The first mention of Atlantis can be found in Plato's Dialogues. It features in the Catalan poem, L'Atlàntida (1877) by Jacint Verdaguer. Captain Nemo explored the remains of Atlantis with Professor Aronnax in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Uncle Andrew was given a box decorated with symbols of Atlantis in The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis.

What are your views on this latest 'discovery'? Is it just the result of a technical hitch on Google?

Friday 20 February 2009

Poetry People (1): Ruth Padel

The Guardian has announced that Ruth Padel is in the running to become the next Oxford University Professor of Poetry. The poet has allowed her name to be nominated for the post. Andrew Motion has made it clear that he will not be standing. The prestigious post was established in 1708: former post-holders include Matthew Arnold and Seamus Heaney. The post-holder is required to deliver three lectures a year.

John Buchan Stories (1): the way of the world

We are all aware that trends and fashions come and go and often come round again. When I think of the repetitions in history, I immediately think of the memorable, pithy poem on the subject (and on our response to these occurrences) by Steve Turner. It was only this morning that I came across an earlier reference to this particular aspect of the course of history - by John Buchan. My thanks to Mike Parker of Rismedia for mentioning it.

Thursday 19 February 2009

Surprise Subjects (3): Tattoo poetry

I am grateful to fellow blogger, Crafty Green Poet, for alerting me to this new tattoo anthology, Skin Deep. The publisher is Read This Press. Congratulations, CGP, for featuring in it.

Poetry is ... (1): Carl Sandburg

I came across these wonderful definitions. Which is your favourite - or do you have a personal favourite of your own by someone else? Perhaps you have attempted to define poetry in your own words.

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Ancient History Matters (1): Roman Culture

Viroconium: Wroxeter Roman Town
(hypocaust heating in the middle ground)

What does the name Caesar conjure up in your mind? Conquest, perhaps or a leafy salad. Peter Jones has written a book on why the culture of Caesar's day seemed to 'function' more satisfactorily than our own. His novel and amusing book, Vote for Caesar: How The Ancient Greeks & Romans Solved The Problems Of Today, published by Orion, is available from the Guardian Bookshop. Jones takes a wide and lively sweep through Roman culture: encounter Juvenal and his frustration over the crowds in Rome. Explore the cult of celebrity through Roman eyes. John David Lewis of Duke University explores the marriage of ancient and modern themes in this intriguing book for the Brynmawr Classical Review.

John Buchan Stories (1)

Poetry Matters (4)

Monday 16 February 2009

Media Mix (1): The Wye, 'My Mile of the River'

The first of a four-part series by Chris Tally Evans on the River Wye was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 14.45 pm yesterday. The fifteen minute programme is available on iPlayer for the next six days if you would like to catch up before episode 2 (featuring a wheelbarrow championship) comes on air next weekend. Join Chris, Director of the unusual Stage School, as he celebrates the sounds of the river near his home in Rhayader, Mid Wales, and goes in search of a 'yaffle' in the woods. Meet the supporting cast - the presenter's family, his hawk and his dog - who star alongside the river itself as it 'flows through the lives of the people' who live along its banks.

Saturday 14 February 2009

Magazine Moment (1): The Seventh Quarry

Laugharne, South Wales
© David Gill 2009

I was delighted to receive my copy of the winter issue of The Seventh Quarry (9) this last week. As usual it is beautifully produced with a good quality cover and a cornucopia of poems from most corners of the globe (from Wales to America; from China to Catalonia and beyond). The international flavour permeates the pages: there is, for example, an interview with Dr Rita Malhotra, a mathematician (and poet) from the University of Delhi. Poems that particularly caught my eye in this issue include Punta Los Lopos, Carmel Bay, California by Aeronwy Thomas, At our Backyard Birdfeeder by Frane L. Helner and the catchy and witty Sing Along by Jean Salkilld, to name but three.

Peter Thabit Jones (Wales) is the editor and Vince Clemente (America) is the Consultant Editor. The Seventh Quarry casts its net wide in geographical terms and consequently provides the reader with an eclectic and colourful selection of contemporary poetry. Peter's passion for craft shines through the pages. The magazine comes out twice a year and has recently 'become a cooperating partner with Cross-Cultural Communications Publishers, New York'. The magazine is peppered with a carefully chosen selection of advertisements, including one for a recent (and recommended) publication from Rack Press, Cuffs by Byron Beynon. If you are not familiar with The Seventh Quarry, why not forego that cappuccino and treat yourself instead to a sample issue for £3.50/$10 (£7/$20 for a year's subscription).

Friday 13 February 2009

Poetry Matters (3): Darwin: science 'versus' poetry

I have been planning for some days to write about Darwin and the developing debate along the lines of the intrinsic weightings of science as opposed to poetry. Thankfully I have been pipped to the post by Professor David Morley of the University of Warwick.

There has been much talk about the 250th anniversary of the publication of The Origins of the Species, but far less media coverage (or so it seems to me) concerning the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, 12 February 2009. The latter event has not been completely overshadowed, however: Americans at the University of Arizona marked the scientist's birthday with ... poetry.

Britain also had his celebrations: Ruth Padel, great great granddaughter of Charles Darwin, was taking part in a poetry and science event at Somerset House on 9 February. Her latest book, Darwin: a Life in Poems has just been published. I am grateful to my friend, Mary, for pointing out that Melvyn Bragg has been doing a major radio series on Darwin (In our Time, BBC Radio 4): take a look at the website.

Language & Linguistics (1): Burns Night in Japan

Burns aficionados in Japan are preparing to celebrate a late Burns Night in the traditional manner, thanks to a new translation of the poems in the Japanese language.

Poetry Matters (2): Poetry or Prose?

I am not renowned for my astute political insights (the understatement of 2009), but a column in today's Guardian set me thinking. It hangs on a statement from the former Governor of New York, Mario Cuoma, in relation to the recent inauguration of President Barack Obama. Do we all agree that poetry is the perfect vehicle for a campaign; but that once the campaign has been won, a ruler should revert to prose?

In the make-believe (or sometimes quasi-reality) world of literature, can we think of cultures that adopted poetry as their language of state or power? Homer comes to mind, but do the ring-cycle formularies of the bard have any 'linguistic' bearing on the Mediterranean world he was 'writing' about? Items like the tablets of Linear B are functional and hardly 'poetic' in the sense I have in mind.

Abraham Lincoln scholar, Ronald C. White Jr, believes that there is a connection between US Presidents and poetry: 'Our best speakers have an ear for poetry. Lincoln loved to read Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Shakespeare.' (UCLA Today).

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Posted Poems (1): A Stone Romance

Wendy Webb's new blog for Norfolk Poets and Writers is up and running. My sonnet, A Stone Romance, (first published in Reach Magazine, ed. Ronnie Goodyer) has been posted on the site.

Surprise Subjects (2): Butter Poetry

One of my favourite childhood poems was The King's Breakfast by the creator of Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne. It tells the priceless story of a king who went into a sulk because the sleepy Alderney cow thought (or perhaps hoped) that his Majesty might prefer marmalade instead of butter on his bread. Leslie McGrath, 2004 Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prizewinner for Poetry, has just won the unusual honour of having her poem, Butter Taps, printed on butter wrappers from Cabot Creamery on the East Coast of America.

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Creature Feature (1): Deer in the City

I was sorry to miss a programme shown yesterday on BBC2 about a pair of roe deer who have made their home in a city cemetery in Scotland. I blogged about unicorns a few days ago, and it seems that we now have a unicorn-deer in Italy. Just over a year ago Russian deer herders (click pic.2) were casting votes in a snowbound camp.

Monday 9 February 2009

Poetry Matters (1)

Here is a short round-up of things poetical.

Friday 6 February 2009

Love Nature

The Times slideshow gallery of the Love Nature photographic competition is online. There are some wonderful shots. The winning photograph is by Andrew Wiltshire. The feature has a number of links to the RSPB site, where you can volunteer to help with a fund-raising collection (in aid of wildlife) during the 2009 Love Nature week (30 May-7 June). There is also a list of other fund-raising ideas.

Thursday 5 February 2009

Carnival: 'I and the Bird'

Thank you to Vickie for including my Snow White postcard in the latest I & the Bird Carnival. Do take a look at some of the colourful avian 'floats' from all over the world. The 'A' places include the African Plains, the Amazon, Arizona and Australia ... and that is just the beginning.

Nature Blogs Network

My thanks to Mike and the team for inviting me to join the eco-systems section of the Nature Blogs Network with my Land&Lit blog. I look forward to networking and to learning more about the natural world.

Loku Poetry (Poetic Forms)

... snow white world ...
(c) Caroline Gill 2010

You will have heard of the Haiku, but have you tried your hand at a Loku? You could perhaps be forgiven for thinking that, unlike the Haiku which often celebrates nature or a season, the Loku is the alternative form for a grey day; but this is not necessarily the case. Ronda Miller tells us that Loku poems were developed in the west, in Lawrence, Kansas. Each Loku comprises three one-syllable words; so if you are after a fresh poetic challenge, you might like to try your hand at creating a profound sentiment in just three words. I, for one, am happy to run with Mariska's personal 'artificial language' definition, when she writes that Loku means 'flower'.

Postscript (18 Jan 2011) ... I see this post features on:

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Surprise Subjects (1): Sugar Poetry

I try to keep an eye open for unusual poetry collections. The latest one to catch my eye is The Sugar Poetry Book: images and insights from a sugar era. The book is a poetic response by the Kittisivian and Nevisian islanders to the history and decline of the sugar industry in a part of the world that has seen so much change over the centuries.

I grew up in rural Norfolk, UK, where the view along the river Yare was dominated by the sugar beat factory at Cantley (for our sugar was beat, which can now be used as a bio-fuel). When my family moved to East Anglia in the 1970s, coypu roamed the river banks near our home. I feel a certain wistfulness when I think that these creatures are no longer there, but I know that they did immeasurable damage to the beautiful but fragile waterways and wildlife habitats of Broadland.

Postscript 4 February 2009: a penduline tit was spotted at Strumpshaw near Cantley. Source: Rare Bird Alert.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Seals ...

The February seal card sale has begun!
Visit my Coastcard online store
'Seas barking like seals, 
Blue seas and green ...'
Captain Cat in Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas

There is something very mysterious about seals. I remember keeping an eye open for these fine creatures for many years off the Cornish coast, and failing to see one in the wild. It was always a joy to witness the work of the Gweek Seal Sanctuary. I refer to these holidays in an interview in the February 2009 edition of Wendy Webb's poetry zine, eTips.

As time went by, we began to spot seals around the cliffs in the vicinity of Porthgwarra (link: painting by Richard Tuff), a fascinating cove with rock tunnels. When I worked in Cambridge, we were within striking distance of the wonderful seal colony at Blakeney Point.

We moved to Wales some 17 years ago, and were delighted to find Atlantic grey seals along the coast and especially around Cardigan Island. On one occasion I watched a mother seal teaching her white fluffy pup to swim in one of the Pembrokeshire coves. A disgruntled bull seal appeared from nowhere, and we held our breath while the mother managed magnificently to protect her offspring from the wiles of its would-be attacker.

The ways of the natural world are rarely as 'comfortable' as we would sometimes have them be in our imagination. The seal in the photograph above (spotted north of the Scottish border) exuded a certain sense of benevolent power and idle curiosity. I was particularly taken with the juxtaposition of creature and rock. The seal fitted perfectly into its natural environment; and we felt privileged to join it, albeit for the duration of a brief encounter.
... and finally ...

Monday 2 February 2009

World Wetlands Day 2 February 2009

We had an enjoyable walk around the WWT Centre at Penclacwydd in South Wales over the weekend. You can look at three of my stars in the photographs above. We enjoyed watching a peregrine as it circled overhead. You can also see what other birds I saw out on the estuary and around the Lllanelli area by looking at my Birdstack (right column once you have clicked the livelink). Birdstack is such fun, and I now have my first Birdstack 'friend' (a bit like friends on Facebook).

The beautiful little egrets are so much a part of the Gower scene these days: I remember not long ago feeling that it was a red letter day if we caught a glimpse of one. Earlier today I blogged about Edgar Allan Poe: he was a master of rhyme and rhythm when he chose to be, and as I write this, lines from The Raven keep flitting through my head.

Edgar Allan Poe ...

19 January 2009 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe. It seems a shame to let this pass by without a reference, albeit a late one.I noticed (on a different subject) that we should be celebrating 250 years of the British Museum!

Sunday 1 February 2009

Festival of the Trees (her): Carnival of the Arid (him)

I am delighted to get a mention on the February Festival of the Trees. Thank you, Ashley. We are thrilled, too, that thanks to Chris, David's podcast features in Carnival of the Arid.