Thursday 25 June 2009

Poetic People (16): Siegried Sassoon

You can read the story here.

Media Mix (2): Poetry in the news...

I am grateful to Matt Merritt of Polyolbion for alerting me to a recent (if downbeat) article in The Times (30 May 2009) by Giles Coren. I suppose it just goes to show that there are always two sides to a coin.

On a more positive note, today's Guardian features Elizabeth Burns, winner of the £5000 inaugural Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet award.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Wonderful Words (7): Ouroboros

I came across the word 'ouroboros' ( or in Greek, Ουροβόρος) on Nic Sebastian's Very Like a Whale blog - see Question 5 - and was immediately intrigued, particularly when I discovered that it was linked to a poetry form.

Thank you, Nicolette Bethel, editor of tongues of the ocean for the introduction to the ourobotic poem by , editor of The Caribbean Review of Books.

Those who know me will know that I am always on the look out for new forms in poetry. I have enjoyed writing about the following ones (with the help of their respective creators):
  • The 'Fib' form - after Fibonacci - created by Gregory K. Pincus of Gottabook.
If you would like to read about these in Wendy Webb's eTIPS magazine, I suggest you leave a comment here or visit Wendy's blog. My third piece on (short) forms in this occasional series is due to appear later this year.

Incidentally, the latest edition of Wendy's TIPS for Writers (72) is out, and as usual, contains a feast of poems, competitions and news. Many congratulations to Tina Negus on winning the Margaret Munro Gibson Prize. This TIPS competition was judged by Alison Chisholm.

My thanks to Mand for the link to The Ouroboros Review. (See Mand's comment below).

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Monday 22 June 2009

Carnival Time (1): Mug Monday (his and hers, left-handers unite!)

AcornMoon and Weaver of Grass are hosting Mug Monday today. It is a chance to write about our favourite mugs. Happy Mug Monday to you all!

Caroline's Mug

This mug belongs to me. It is bone china, which according to some, makes the tea taster better. I like to enjoy a mug of Earl Grey, made from a pinch of loose leaves. I allow these to infuse in boiling water, and then I like to drink it while it's hot. If I am out, I will often ask for a slice of lemon in my tea; but I do not usually have this luxury at home, unless of course, we have a slice left after a meal of fish and chips. (Those who know me will know that chips are 'my one weakness' ... along with cake, curry and chocolate!).

The scene on the mug relates to the Last Invasion of Britain in 1797. The women of Fishguard made a wonderful Bayeau-style tapestry to mark the 1997 Bicentenary of the Invasion, and the mug depicts a part of their work. I particularly like the spotty dog who is careering out of the picture. The cat is rather fun, too.

The Last Invasion was staged under General Lazare Hoche, who planned to invade Ireland. 15000 men were raised to ensure that British reinforcements did not reach the area. Two mainland invasions were proposed to add to the mayhem. The first was planned for the north of England and the second was planned for the west of the UK. Ships were sent out under Commodore Castagnier. Jemima Nicholas helped to rally the Fishguard women against the attackers. She became a local heroine.

These are the words of the Vicar of St Mary's, Fishguard, written on Jemima's burial record of 1832:

'This woman was called Jemima Fawr or Jemima the Great from her heroine acts ... and being of such personal powers as to be able to overcome most men in a fight. I recollect her well. She followed the trade of a shoemaker and made me, when a little boy, several pairs of shoes."

David's Mug

This mug belongs to David. Strangely we are both left-handed. It is a brilliant mug, and usually causes a wry smile in the eye of the beholder. Sadly the left-handed shop in Bath is no longer there. Perhaps I shall have to start making my own from Fimo.

It must be time to boil the kettle, but first, why not take a look at...

Saturday 20 June 2009

Poetic People (14): Peter Thabit Jones, Kristine Doll, August Bover

I went to a wonderful workshop at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea this morning. It was chaired by Swansea poet, Peter Thabit Jones, editor of The Seventh Quarry. Kristine Doll from the USA, and August Bover from Catalonia led us through the fascinating process of writing Haiku 俳句 and Tanka 短歌 about animals. We were introduced to Concrete Poetry and to poetry in which the shape on the page and the sound of the words fused in a kind of melodic unity.

I am still working on my pieces, but the subjects of my poems were:
  • frogs (Basho would have approved, I think)
  • dolphins
  • cats
It was fascinating to learn a little about Spanish poetry, and perhaps particularly to listen to the musicality of the language. It was also good to have the chance to think about syllables, rhyme (or no rhyme), the place and power of emotion, adjectives (or few adjectives), Open Field poetry and many other items in the poet's kit-bag.

We touched on the work of a number of poets including Vicente Huidobro (from Chile), Les Murray (from Australia), Gavin Ewart, Helen Vendler and Charles Olson (from USA).

Thank you to David Woolley of the Dylan Thomas Centre, to Peter, Kristine and August for a thought-provoking, stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable morning.

Beautiful Birds (11): How many swifts make a summer?

The RSPB is conducting a survey on swift numbers in the UK. To take part, please follow the link here.

Friday 19 June 2009

Archeological Avenues (3): Palmyra, Petra ... and the Parthenon

The Parthenon

I was delighted to find that my sonnet, Palmyra, had been selected for inclusion in the first edition of Chapter & Verse, the electronic in-house student magazine for The Writers' Bureau. You can read my poem about another archaeological site, Petra, on Wendy Webb's TIPS for Writers blog. My profile listing has now appeared no the Poetry Society site (you may need to scroll up a bit).
  • Blog post on Palmyra (part of the Carnival of the Arid).
  • Speaking of things archaeological, the new Acropolis Museum will be officially opened tomorrow.

News Stories (2): a place for poetry?

I felt that this article by Harry Eyres from (of all unusual sources) the Financial Times raised some thought-provoking issues. Is there a place for poetry? What is poetry for? What does poetry do? ... questions that confront us all the time in our writing life.

Thursday 18 June 2009

Poetry Events (1): The Seventh Quarry

Mumbles Pier, Swansea, Wales, UK

THE SEVENTH QUARRY Swansea Poetry Magazine,

edited by Swansea poet Peter Thabit Jones,

presents a


with America's Kristine Doll and Catalonia's August Bover

at the Dylan Thomas Centre

Saturday, 20th June, 2009

10 a.m. to 12 noon

Fee: £10 on the door.

I would like to commend this event to anyone within reach of the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea. Check out other events organised by The Seventh Quarry at this link to MySpace.

Poetry Submission (1): poems translated into Romanian

My first poems translated into another language (in this case Romanian) are to appear in Contemporary & Literary Horizon (C&LH), edited by Daniel Dragomirescu and translated by Professor Lidia Vianu and students at the University of Bucharest.

Professor Vianu is Director of CTITC (CENTRE FOR THE TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETATION OF THE CONTEMPORARY TEXT) at Bucharest University, Professor of Contemporary British Literature at the English Department and a Member of the Writers’ Union, Romania.

Writers' Realms (1): Scotland and its literary heritage

I came across this BBC web page of Scottish writers, and was particularly pleased to find Edwin Muir and John Buchan on the list. You can read about George Mackay Brown (featured on the recent TV series, 'A Poet's Guide to Britain' presented by Owen Sheers).

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Wonderful Words (6): Photoetry

I always enjoy keeping up with the Poetry Book Society recommendations, and I was particularly interested to read the word 'photoetry' in the latest edition (PBS Bulletin, Summer 09).

Paul Muldoon's book, Plan B, is described as 'photoetry' on account of the fact that the poems are complemented (and perhaps enhanced?) by the images of Scottish photographer, Norman McBeath. The PBS reviewer points out that, in this instance, the cover image alone serves as an illustration in the conventional sense of the word. The photographs sit alongside (or run parallel to) the poems and create an environment in which 'poems and images are in conversation'.

I enjoy ekphrastic poetry of all kinds, despite the fact that poems about artworks abound in profusion. By the sound of it, Plan B does not quite fall into the usual category. To date, I have only read about it. There are times - many times - of course, when a poem speaks entirely for itself, and any images it conjures up remain in the eye of the writer and of the reader. That can be very special. There are other times when external images play a key role, times when an electrifying symbiotic relationship develops on the page between text and image.

I have particularly enjoyed two recent collections of photoetry (as I can now refer to them!):
  • Recollections (Flambard Press) by Maureen Almond. This volume of poetry developed out of Maureen's time as poet-in-residence at the Museum of Antiquities (now part of the Great North Museum), Newcastle upon Tyne. Her poems were partnered by the photographs of the museum's Audio-Visual Officer, Glyn Goodrick. The collection as a whole celebrates the work and collections of the museum and explores (in my opinion very successfully) the interaction between the Romans and the modern museum visitor.
  • Batu-Angas (Seren, ISBN: 9781854114648) by Anne Cluysenaar is subtitled 'Envisioning Nature with Alfred Russel Wallace'. The poetry constitutes an exploration of the life of Wallace, whose independent discovery of natural selection in 1858 led to Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species. The enhancing illustrations and photographs represent some of the specimens collected by Wallace during his journeys. Cluysenaar runs the Henry Vaughan Society and edits their magazine Scintilla. She lives in Vaughan's hometown of Usk in Wales.
What photoetry editions have you encountered - and enjoyed? Do let me know.

I cannot, I cannot, I think, quite count this next volume as photoetry, but it definitely deserves a mention in this post:
  • The Terracotta Army by Gary Geddes (Peterloo 2007). This book is beautifully produced. Each poem appears opposite a page containing a calligraphic Chinese character by Shuai Lizhi. I imagine (at least I am guessing) that each character represents the title of the facing poem. Each poem (in English) bears the title of one of the warriors: you will encounter the spy, the harness-maker, the military historian and the chaplain - to name but four.
Since we are speaking of definitions, how does photoetry differ from an anthology with illustrations in the traditional sense (think children's books, perhaps)? I believe that there is a distinction based around those words 'in conversation', but it is not easy to define with precision.

Monday 15 June 2009

Poetic People (13): Chris Kinsey at the Dylan Thomas Centre

We had a terrific evening at the Dylan Thomas Centre last week, when BBC Wildlife Poet of the Year and 'Greyhound Laureate', Chris Kinsey, read from her sparkling collection, Kung Fu Lullabies, published by Ragged Raven Press and praised by UA Fanthorpe. You can read a review on the NHI site. All proceeds from the evening were sent to Greyhound Rescue Wales and the Gower Bird Hospital.

Chris also read from an anthology published by Pont called Poems of Love and Longing. I bought a copy of the book, and was delighted to find that it also contained a sequence of poems (about the north) by fellow poet and blogger, Susan Richardson. Other contributors include Gillian Clarke, Owen Sheers and Christine Evans. I am looking forward to a good read!

Beautiful Birds (10): Query: Black Guillemot - but it isn't!

?Black Guillemot off the Welsh Coast

I would love to have an identification confirmed for this pigeon-sized bird which I saw on the Cardiganshire coast cliffs last Saturday. The red feet and white side suggest a black guillemot (in summer plumage) to me; but I am puzzled by the red around the bill, unless the bird had its bill open when I clicked the shutter. Any thoughts gratefully received!

P.S. My thanks to Richard for the identification of an Oystercatcher! The bird has its bill tucked in its wing, apparently, which is why I was thrown off course in my attempts at making an identification.

Look at the Link (1): s e m a p h o r e: Cave Painting

s e m a p h o r e: Cave Painting

Saturday 13 June 2009

Creature Feature (6): Seals around Cardigan Island

Holy Cross Church, Mwnt, Cardiganshire, Wales
(The white belfry of the church can be seen in the top photo,
taken from the Cardigan Island area)

Cardigan Island is off to the left.

The video clip was taken by David this afternoon and shows the seals enjoying life around Cardigan Island. You might also like to take a look at the seal photo on the Guardian feature on British walks.

Creature Feature (7): Seals near Cardigan Island

This photo of Cardigan Island (the island at the back of the bottom photo) was taken from Mwnt this afternoon. All the seal photographs were taken from the cliffs around the Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park.

Creature Feature (8): Mwnt, Cardigan Bay

Burnet Moth Caterpillar on the cliff at Mwnt

Holy Cross Church, Mwnt

Our first view of the Bottlenose Dolphins from the headland
(while we ate our picnic)

Dolphins again in Cardgian Bay

Painted Lady butterfly, who had flown in from Morocco!

Friday 12 June 2009

Curio Corner (1): Plate Friday (well, almost)

Bone china trinket box from Tintern Abbey, Wales

When I read last night that Weaver was encouraging us to follow in the footsteps of Elizabeth (and her blog, About New York) by marking today as Plate Friday, I thought I should have a go at posting something. I don't collect plates, but I hope this small item of bone china will serve as an acceptable substitute.

I went through a phase as a young teenager of collecting cheap china - well, largely china - milk or cream jugs from bric-a-brac stalls, church bazaars etc. I think my interest was aroused initially by a small china urn full of honey. We were studying ancient Mediterranean cultures at school, and the shape of the urn (a miniature honeypot, I suppose) reminded me of the amphorae and pithoi from ancient Greece and of the exquisite bee earring made of gold from Minoan Crete.

The sad truth is that I no longer collect jugs (or stamps or coins), although I can never resist an interesting postcard. These days, I tend to be lured in to secondhand bookshops, but just occasionally an item other than a book will catch my eye. The little trinket box above was one such item.

I bought it at Tintern Abbey, and as you can just about see, it sits on our mantelpiece above the fireplace at home. Tintern is a couple of hours away, but it makes an excellent destination for a day out, particularly in the spring when the banks of the Wye are awash with snowdrops. Thoughts of Wordsworth are never far from my mind, and I have to think quite hard to imagine what the area must have been like BEFORE the poet penned his famous Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798.

'Wreaths of smoke' occasionally waft up from cottage chimneys to this day, but I doubt they emanate from the cave of a hermit, deep in the woods. With the advent of photography and the popularity of the snapshot, we began to think in terms of a moment or split-second captured in time or caught on film. These days we are becoming more accustomed to taking moving images. I find it fascinating that Wordsworth's heart did not stop beating (as in a snapshot moment), but that he recorded 'sensations sweet, / Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart'. Life pulsed through his poetic veins in tune with the rushing waters of the Wye. Wordsworth wrote his poem in blank verse, and it is (in my opinion) the iambic pentameters that imbue the piece with vitality - and become the vessels for the poet's wide-ranging thoughts and moods. Memory plays a key part in this piece and should never be underestimated.

Incidentally, I believe that the acorn in the photo is from the species, Turkey oak or Quercus cerris.

Plate Friday posts: Elizabeth at About New York is hosting this mini-carnival. You can find all the links at her blog. Do take a look. I wonder how many corners of the globe are represented.

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Calendar Corner (5): World Ocean Day, 8 June 2009

Sea Scenes
World Ocean Day 2009

First of all, my apologies that this post is somewhat late; but when it comes to something like this, it must be a case of better late than never. You will find an informative blog post on the day here from Angela Recada. You might also like to read Crafty Green Poet's helpful post for the day here.

I hope you enjoy my assortment of sea scenes:
On the subject of the Bempton Cliffs area (and south to the Humber), I have just found an article about events and activities in that region 'that won't leave you penniless'. I shall store these ideas away!

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Seasonal Spotlight on Aberglasney (1): POSTSCRIPT - Eels

P.S. Those who read my previous post will have read about the eels at Aberglasney: this is one we saw in the pool.

P.P.S. Speaking of eels (think: Sargasso Sea), Crafty Green Poet has reminded me that it is World Oceans Day. Do take a look at the links on her blog.

Seasonal Spotlight on Aberglasney (1): June 2009

June at Aberglasney, the garden lost in time
and home of the poet, John Dyer,
Carmarthenshire, Wales, UK

'Hear the thrush, while all is still,
Within the groves of Grongar Hill'
John Dyer (d.1757)

I hope to post occasional seasonal photographs of these views of the garden:
  • The House at Aberglasney (partly open to the public, often with exhibitions)
  • The view from Aberglasney to Grongar Hill (the view from my favourite seat)
  • The Upper Walled Garden (with Celtic design flowerbeds)
  • The stream in Pigeon House Wood
  • The Cloister Garden
  • The stream in Bishop Rudd's Walk
Invertebrate Life
  • Insect life on the edge of the pond in The Pool Garden (we have seen newts and an eel here: my photo of an eel at Aberglasney is here)
Bird life:
Garden Plants
  • Poppy
  • Old fashioned rose (ah, the scent!)
  • Iris
Wild flowers
  • Orange Hawksbit (aka Fox and Cubs)
  • Ox-eye Daisy
  • Ragged Robin
  • Buttercup
... and finally...
And finally, for Aberglasney's literary links (Wordsworth, Gillian Clarke...), you may like to click here. I hope you have enjoyed your virtual visit to the garden.

Friday 5 June 2009

Beautiful Birds (9): More Puffins for Pembrokeshire

These puffins were on Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire (April 2009)
(Bempton gets a mention in the Mirror's best beach guide - under Filey)

Those who have read this blog before will know that I have a soft spot for puffins. I was delighted to discover that the folk who care for Ramsey Island off the Pembrokeshire coast report the arrival of 150 new birds.

This is a somewhat misleading statement on my part, for the new arrivals are plastic puffin decoys, positioned in a bid to lure 'proper' puffins to breed on the island. What a lovely idea!

Guest Blogger (1): Crafty Green Poet

My thanks to Crafty Green Poet for the following post and for drawing our attention to Refugee Week Scotland:

'From film festivals to football tournaments, comedy nights to carnivals, exhibitions, workshops, parties and much, much more, Refugee Week Scotland (15-21 June 2009) is an exciting programme of events happening across the country to celebrate diversity and raise awareness of refugee issues. This year the theme of Refugee Week is HOME. For many refugees and asylum seekers, a new home in Scotland means safety from persecution and a life without fear. But what does home mean to you?

For me a large part of what home means to me relates to the natural environment. When I was a child, our garden was as important a part of what home meant as was our house. Now I've moved to a different city, the landscape and wildlife in and around Edinburgh mean home to me. When I lived in Malawi for a couple of years, the birds and the lake were as much a vital part of being there as were the students I taught, the friends I made and the colleagues I worked with. When I returned to the UK, I was returning home to the greenery and the familiar birds as much as to friends and family.'

Crafty Green Poet asked me for thoughts on the subject of 'home'. I know from my year abroad that it is sometimes the small things that leave a void - our relatively efficient postal service, the sound of familiar voices, the scent of mown grass or homemade bread...

The words below come from an unfinished poem which I began many years ago:

(an extract)

... she pined for distant parents
and the warmth of happy families:
no one seemed to own her,
though her friends were very kind.
They would bring her tapes of music,
sit and listen to her feelings,
simply help her to unwind ...


Beautiful Books (1): Aboard the Logos Hope

Logos Hope,
The Operation Mobilisation (OM) ship,
incorporating the world's largest floating book fair,
Cardiff Bay, June 2009

It was an unusually balmy evening on Tuesday 2 June 2009 as we clambered up the gangplank of the Logos Hope in Cardiff Bay. The ship's mooring was barely a stone's throw from the Senedd, the Norwegian Sailors' Church and the Millennium Centre. Logos Hope belongs to the missionary organization, Operation Mobilisation (OM): it is a ship that will sail around many parts of the world. The warm weather had brought everybody on to the streets, and there was an atmosphere of excitement in the air: people were keen to come aboard to explore the ship and to enjoy a snack in the international café. We were joined by the Mayor of Cardiff. UK supporters had travelled from England and wide-ranging parts of Wales to be there.

The ship's motto is 'Bringing knowledge, Help and Hope', and during the course of our evening on board, we enjoyed a presentation about aspects of this unique ministry. One of the main thrusts of the work comprises the 'world's largest floating book fair', which carries an incredible 6000 titles. We had a most enjoyable browse. There were Bibles in many languages, commentaries (including an Archaeologist's Guide to the Bible!), familiar names like C.S. Lewis and Tolkien - and a huge selection of children's books, Christian and secular titles including hymn books, hobby books and cookery books. You could also buy CDs, diaries, notebooks, travel journals, polo shirts and all manner of items. It was a good opportunity to purchase some early Christmas presents.

The 400+ crew members, representing 50 nationalities, seek to promote 'education and international understanding through relief work, the floating book fair and cultural exchange programmes.' The Logos Hope had its 'Official Opening' in Denmark. Since then it has sailed to Cardiff from Edinburgh via Belfast. It will soon be departing for London and then for Saint Vincent in the Caribbean.

The ship is 'open' from 12.30 to 20.30 pm on Tuesdays to Fridays and from 10.00 to 22.00 pm on Saturdays. If you are in Cardiff Bay tomorrow (Saturday 6 June), do climb aboard to see this remarkable project for yourself. The ship will not be open on Sunday 7 June. It sails for London after the weekend.