Wednesday 22 December 2010

Seasonal Splash (5): Deck the Halls . . .

Christmas preparations: mince pie-making, 2009

Sadly the scene above is one from last year!

I wonder if you have read 'A Child's Christmas in Wales' by Dylan Thomas. I love the illustrations by Edward Ardizzone in my copy. The descriptions are extraordinary: Dylan speaks of 'slap-dashing home' through the 'gravy smell of the dinners of others', with 'the pudding and the mince, coiling up' to his nostrils!

P.S. Steven of The Golden Fish posted a wonderful James Joyce description last year of the rich and regimented fare of Christmas Past: do take a look, and keep an eye open for the seasonal painting at the end of the post while you are there. Enjoy!

... Oh, and in case you are wondering why there is no holly here (after my title), please click this link

You might also like:

Thursday 9 December 2010

Publications (4): Poem of the Month - and others

A dram, used in the coalfields of South Wales
I was surprised and delighted last night to receive an email, informing me that my poem, 'Elegy for Idris Davies', has been voted Poem of the Month by Anne Stewart on the SecondLightLive web page. This poem was published by Peter Thabit Jones in The Seventh Quarry. You can read it here.

More locally, three of my poems have just appeared in our Poetry Group's Christmas anthology, 'Tuesday Poetry', produced by Jean Salkilld. My poems are about (1) Christmas, (2) the rose-red city of Petra and (3) winter at the Westonbirt Arboretum.

Further reading

Thursday 25 November 2010

Publications (3): Winter Warmers

The Mumbles Lighthouse: Swansea in the Snow, a year ago
I'm sitting here on a fine sunny afternoon, but there have been hard frosts in our neck of the woods. On an equally chilly note, I have just received the Winter Edition of Wendy Webb's 'TIPS for Writers', issue 80. The magnificent cats on the cover, painted by Kay Weeks, have the right idea and are curled up inside on their best cushions.

The city dogs in my poem, 'Ice Floe', are not so fortunate. My other poem in this number is also on a snowbound theme; 'Ötzi the Iceman', whose death has sparked so much archaeological controversy since his body was discovered. My light-hearted poem about Santa's unruly reindeer has been accepted for the Christmas edition of the online Writelink magazine, Writelinkers, edited by Maureen Vincent-Northam, David Robinson and Trevor Belshaw. My time as Writelink 'Writer of the Month' is drawing to a close - and as the snowy season is definitely not too far away, you might enjoy a peep at the Fenwick's Christmas window, in Newcastle, where I lived and studied many years ago ... 

... Meanwhile, a very Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends in the USA!

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Window on Wildlife (14): Red Kite

David (Gill) took this photo of a Red Kite at the weekend. I thought I was posting it on my wildlife blog, 'Wild and Wonderful', but since it ended up here, it seemed a shame to remove!                                 
I have posted a close-up of the Kite here.

Monday 8 November 2010

Anthology Alert (6): Writelink and my Puffin poem, 'A Chink in the Sky'

Puffins: the Clowns of the Sea
I wonder whether other poets find it increasingly rare to be sent a proof these days. I am always pleased to be given the opportunity to check my work once it has been prepared for publication. I am grateful to Sue at Writelink for allowing the contributors to do this for the anthology arising out of the Spring Fever competition. We hope the collection will be out in time for Christmas orders. 

Friday 5 November 2010

Seasonal Splash (4): Bonfire Wordle

A corner of our Bonfire Night WORDLE
I have made a 5th November Wordle, thanks to word contributions from fellow writers on the Writelink site. I have posted a corner above, but thought you might prefer to see the whole thing here ...

You can find out more about this strange date in our UK calendar if you follow this link

Animals and fireworks do not go together. Please follow the safety code suggested by organisations like the RSPCA.

Monday 1 November 2010

Going Green (1): Writing Workshop on Climate Change

I have been continuing to enjoy the annual Dylan Thomas Festival in the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea.

I spent Saturday afternoon at an enjoyable, informative and highly stimulating workshop on the topical theme of 'Climate Change'. The afternoon was organised by Emily Hinshelwood and led by eco-poet, Susan Richardson (and here). It proved a very popular event, and a good time was had by all. We balanced a spell of organic writing with a time set aside for a more structured approach, in which each participant began to create a poem in response to various prompts around the given theme.

Emily Hinshelwood and Susan Richardson
The workshop was delivered under the auspices of Awel Aman Tawe. This organisation is running a poetry competition to encourage people to write their own 'Climate Change' poems. Gillian Clarke, the National Poet of Wales, and Menna Elfyn, award winning poet have agreed to act as judges. The closing date is 30 November 2010. There are categories for adults and children, with prizes of £200, £50 and £25 (adults) and £20, £10 and £5 (children). Further information is available from the Awel Aman Tawe website, if you tap 'competition' into the search box. It's time to formulate those ideas.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Fiesta Time (1): Andrew Motion at the Dylan Thomas Festival 2010

I have just come in after a wonderful evening at the Dylan Thomas Centre. The annual Dylan Thomas Festival is in full swing, and the theme for 2010 concerns the three Thomases; Dylan, Edward and R.S.
Andrew Motion was speaking on (perhaps) my favourite of the three, Edward. 

Sir Andrew Motion has written extensively on Edward Thomas, and it was good to listen to some of the poems again. 

Many of you will know 'Adlestrop', but did you realise that Edward's father spent some time working for the railways? I must find out more ... 

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Seals and Cetaceans (3): The Writing Process

I feel honoured to have been nominated
'Writer of the Month' 
on the Writelink site. 

I was asked to write a short piece about the writing process, and in particular about how I came to write 'The Wishing Woman of Seal Bay'. You can read my thoughts here in the Writelink Forum if you are interested.

Monday 25 October 2010

Poetry Submission (2): 'Invisible Breath' by Indigo Dreams

Ice Edge?
I am delighted that my poem, Weddell Seal at the Ice Edge, has been taken by Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling for the IDP winter 2010 collection, Invisible Breath.

Monday 18 October 2010

Poetry Matters (16): Post-National Poetry Day WORDLE 2010

I thought you might like to see my National Poetry Day Wordle, posted on my Writelink blog here.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Magazine Moment (18): Cultural Horizon Magazine, Romania

The magazine arrives from Bucharest!

 Those who follow this blog will know by now that I have conducted several interviews with writers in Wales for Contemporan Orizont Literar | Cultural Horizon Magazine in Bucharest, Romania. The writers to date are:

I was delighted today when editor-in-chief, Daniel Dragomirescu sent the following links to a YouTube video interview from Mexico and two Suite 101 articles in Spanish about this wide-ranging multicultual magazine. 

Sadly I am not a Spanish speaker, but with my knowledge of other European languages and the help of Google Translate, I was able to get a pretty good idea of the texts in the links below.

The poet, Marina Centeno, takes a seat in 'El sillón de la lectura'...

Marina's blog can be found is you follow this link.

The two Suite 101 articles by María Eugenia Mendoza Arrubarrena can be found here and here.

Photographs of members of the 'team' appear here, here and here.

Do take a look at the magazine site here. New subscribers are always welcome.

  • MAGAZINE PRICE: 12 EUROS | 15 DOLLARS PER COPY (SHIPPING INCLUDED). PayPal details to the right of the magazine page if you click here. The latest issue is now available!

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Competition Corner (7): Writelink Poetry - Seal Bay

Mother and Pup
I have just heard that my poem, 'The Wishing Woman of Seal Bay' (a Lilibonelle) has been awarded First Prize in the Writelink 'Grape and Grain' Poetry Competition. 

The judge was Jenny Moore, (Winner of the Divine Poetry Competition 2006, runner-up in Mslexia Poetry Competition 2007, Winner of Best Devon Poem in 2009 Plough Prize).

My thanks to all who voted or left comments on the Writelink site. 

Monday 11 October 2010

Magazine Moment (17) : Wendy Webb's TIPS for Writers, issue 79

Based on the Mermaid Stall in Zennor Church, Cornwall
I have been greatly enjoying Wendy Webb's 79th edition of TIPS for Writers (and here). The attractive technicolour cover shows Wendy, quill in hand, at Coleridge's desk in Nether Stowey. The back cover (and as a left hander, I usually begin at the back) shows the artwork covers by Kay Weeks and Dee Sunshine of more of Wendy's publications .

The issue begins with a tribute to poet, Simon Wood, whose fine poems I have enjoyed and admired over a number of years. Simon's contribution to the small press world of poetry will be missed.

Bernard Jackson's Rondelet for Autumn sets a seasonal tone, with its 'sunlit groves' and 'jewelled cobwebs'.

We are transported on through a landscape of alliteration (e.g. 'Mordor on a moody moonlit midnight') to the Sagarmatha Himalayas by Dr Marc Latham, creator of the Folding Mirror Poetry form.

For those who like to follow in the enchanting footsteps of the Foodleflap, there is A Foodleflap Sonnet by Bernard M. Jackson, in which the compelling creature pursues its quest for currant buns!

My favourite 'serious' poem is almost certainly Santorini by David Norris-Kay. The poet evokes this fascinating island with its 'small twinkling towns' and 'dark cliffs topped white as burnished bone'. 

Some poems concern subjects that are closer to hand, and I was particularly drawn to the examples of the Brentor Sonnet, a form created by Wendy with its split lines [6/7 and 13/14] 'for visual and sound effect'. Brentor is, in Wendy's words, 'a hill transfigured in the mist' on the edge of Dartmoor, with a chapel perched on the top of it. As it happens, it was a favourite haunt of some of my Tavistock-based relations in the early 1900s. One of the latest Brentor Sonnets in this issue is by John N. Brown. It is about a barge on a canal. Another - this time by Peter Davies - concerns the changing faces of the Suffolk landscape. Two more can be found on p.26, Autumn Love by international Haiku prize winner, Claire Knight - and Oh let me tell by Peter Geoffrey Paul Thompson. 

For those who enjoy taking part in poetry competitions, p15 of the latest issue is devoted to these. They form part of the celebrations for the 10th anniversary of the magazine. Entry is open to those who live in the UK and to those who are members of Norfolk Poets and Writers. 

Why not join us all as TIPS celebrates its first golden decade? The current magazine costs £3 (in the UK). eTIPS is a free pdf which is available to all and can be delivered to your inbox several times a year, on request.

You can find Wendy's email here if you would like to receive the monthly ezine or would like to take out a subscription to the full print magazine. There is something for most tastes ... the formal (with many of Wendy's own forms), the informal, the serious, the funny and even, on occasions, the absurd.

And as I mentioned, the Coleridge cover is wonderful, too!

You may be wondering about the mermaid in the photo above. To find out more about Wendy's association with these fascinating creatures, I would encourage you to take out a subscription to TIPS (or eTIPS). You might also take a look on Amazon ... e.g. here.

Thank you, Wendy, for a most enjoyable read.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Poetic People (29): I.M. Vera Rich

I have just heard that Vera Rich, poet, editor of Manifold poetry magazine, linguist, activist and much more besides, died last Christmas (20 December 2009). The link to her obituary in The Times is here.

I learned a great deal from my Manifold subscriptions and particularly enjoyed taking part in the challenges. There were two per issue, one was for a topical or anniversary theme (e.g. Porcelain or Telecommunications) and the other for a poem in a particular form - and often quite an unusual and taxing one at that e.g. the Ukrainian Kolomyika.

Vera would ring me up on occasions. She rang one day to say that she was catching the train to Swansea to come to the Dylan Thomas Centre. We met her at the station, escorted her to the venue, introduced her to some local poet friends and delivered her back at the railway station afterwards. She was intent on catching a late train in order to arrive at the appointed crack-of-dawn opening hour of her favourite local baker.  

As a young poet, I felt privileged to be a part of the Manifold community. I recall a message from Vera, asking if she could read one of my poems on National Poetry Day in a London church venue. I was invited to be on the jury for judging (?challenge) poems on one occasion. I only met Vera Rich once, but her name appeared frequently in our house within the pages of the Times Higher Education Supplement.

Friday 8 October 2010

Poetry Matters (15): National Poetry Day 2010

Susan Richardson, Sarah from Cover to Cover Bookshop, Susie Wild
 We had a stormy evening yesterday, with waves lashing over the road at Mumbles in Swansea. However, we scuttled inside and were treated to some brilliant readings and recitations at the Cake Gallery, an atmospheric venue with fairy lights and paintings. The National Poetry Day event had been arranged by Sarah from Cover to Cover. Thank you to all those who were involved. 

Susan Richardson (and here) read - well, recited the poems by heart - from Creatures of the Intertidal Zone (Cinnamon Press) and from her forthcoming collection. Susie Wild kept us on our toes with a mixture of poems and fiction.

A good time was had by all ... and we enjoyed the olives and other nibbles, too. It was a great evening.

Thursday 7 October 2010

Poetry Matters (14): National Poetry Day 2010

Mumbles Pier, flying the flag for poetry?
A very happy NPD to you all from Swansea, home town of Dylan Thomas!

I'm wondering if the postman will bring anything poetic in his bag this morning.

I hope you may be attending an event to mark the day. I would like to highlight one actual event, a reading by eco-poet, Susan Richardson, and short story writer, Susie Wild, at the Cake Gallery in Mumbles, Swansea (tickets from Cover to Cover ).

I would also like to draw attention to one virtual event, Wendy Webb's Online Poetry Slam on Facebook, which is already underway. I'm not sure whether the FB event is an 'open' one, but I found it via the search box (and yes, I had an invitation. too!).  

Ju Shardlow, writing a plea for old poetry in The Guardian, notices that modern forms - rap, performance, slam, podcast etc. - have pride of place this year. 'Just 10 of the 168 events listed on the National Poetry Day website have any connection with a world pre-Eliot. Ten,' she adds. How do we feel about this?

The web is full of blogposts, newspaper articles ... and celebratory poems. I will post a pick'n'mix selection of links below. Enjoy! 
And finally ...

... many of us who engage with poetry will have our own answers to the following question, but what does poetry mean to you? If I receive enough one-word answers, I will post my favourite ones in a word cloud ... (dream on?).

Does poetry need a special day? But of course. Let's party ...

Friday 24 September 2010

Creature Feature (17): Seal Time

The pup above was actually seen off Skye a year ago, 
but it is breeding time for the seals off the Pembrokeshire coast. 

I have a seal poem in the current Writelink 'Grape and Grain' competition here. If you would like to read it, you can follow the link here

Others are also taking part in the competition, and I speak for us all when I say that any votes or constructive comments would be appreciated. You can leave these once you have followed the link to the site ... The competition closes at the end of the month, when votes will be counted.

Incidentally, participants are encouraged to drum up support from family, friends (on Facebook or otherwise!), blog-followers and message board readers. We are invited to tell everyone we know that we have 'entered the competition' in the hope that folk will 'come and vote!' You can read the rest of the rules here.

Window on Wales (3): Writers' Plaques Online

You may like to check out the exciting new website for Writers' Plaques in Wales ... here.

Oops, I see I have included an apostrophe ...   ;-)

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Media Mix (3): Poetry in the news...What does it 'do'?

Click here for a good article from the Huffington Post. You might also like this.

Monday 6 September 2010

Poetry on Display (2): Victorian txt poems @ the British Library

Did you know that a kind of txt-speak was being used to good effect in the Victorians era?

The British Library has begun to advertise its forthcoming exhibition, Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices, which opens in November. You can read about it here. The exhibition runs from 12 November 2010 – 3 April 2011, and the earliest surviving copy of Beowulf will be on display.

David Crystal (and here) feels that, 'This is a first. No exhibition anywhere has ever been devoted to the entire history and present-day global use of the English language.'

Friday 3 September 2010

Green Moment (1): Organic Fortnight - and the Eden Project

Welcome! | Croeso!

This post is part of
Crafty Green Poet's Blogfest
to mark the Soil Association's
3-17 September 2010

Thank you,
for arranging this enterprise.

"It is poetic that a china clay pit, so Cornish in essence, has been given another life.
It is a constant source of inspiration for me and continues to get better and better.”

Anthony Eyton R.A.
Artist in Residence,
The Eden Project

I wonder when you last had a 'green' moment.

I vividly recall my first visit to the Space Age biomes
of the Eden Project in Cornwall, back in 2002.
The structures alone were impressive.

However, I was particularly struck by the 'recycling work'
that had given the old China Clay pit a new lease of life
as a place in which people could come to enjoy themselves
and learn a great deal about the world around them.

The colours of the plants were vibrant.
The scents were intoxicating.
You could feel droplets of humidity on your skin.
The organic coffee in the café was delicious.
Birdsong resounded through the jungle!

I was so captivated by Eden that I came home and wrote a long (semi-fantasy semi-autobiographical) poem about my visit, under the tutelage of Susan Richardson, as part of a Disability Arts Cymru project. The poem, 'The Cheerful Chocoholic Woman Goes Exploring', was published in Hidden Dragons | Gwir y Grymus (Parthian Books 2004).

The poem revolves around my (imaginary) Biome conversation with a Praying Mantis (and here), who makes me appreciate the qualities of our fragile earth in a new light - as you will see from the following quotation:

He tells her all about the concept of fair trade,
about sustainable forests and water aid.
‘I have seen lots of wonders, but it’s time to depart,’
sighs the chocoholic woman, with a burdensome heart.
‘I envy those Aztecs with their cocoa bean brew,
mixed with spice from the chilli to warm them right through!’

The Chocoholic Woman finally arrives home, flinging 'chocoholic chippings' from her 'chocoholic heels', only to discover with a sense of panic that the 'snowy peaks of chocolate treats' beside her favourite chair are not, in fact, organic...

You may like to read about:
If chocolate is your thing, you may like:
If you enjoy poetry, you may like:
Enjoy Organic Fortnight ...

and don't forget to visit
Crafty Green Poet



the other participating blogs, linked to the site.

And finally ... if you like the thought of a Praying Mantis, you may enjoy Naquillity's post about a Walking Stick here.

Thursday 2 September 2010

Poetry Events (4): Course with Peter Thabit Jones at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive


Dylan Thomas House Literary Courses

“Following in the footsteps….”

Aimed at: Beginners and those with some experience of writing
who wish to explore new avenues

Number on course: 12

Duration: 10 weeks

Times: Thursday morning 10.00 – 12.00

Start date: 23rd September 2010

Cost: Introductory offer for first five to sign up £35 – normal cost £75

This is the first in series of courses which will look at different subjects,
including poetry,
writing for children,
and short story writing.

Opportunity to write in the house where Dylan wrote over 2/3rds of his published work and to experience the local areas that inspired his work, including Cwmdonkin Park and the Uplands.

The course will concentrate on participation
and students will be encouraged to develop their own writing and poetry style.

Course Tutor, Peter Thabit Jones
is a poet and writer with an international reputation
who grew up in the St Thomas area of Swansea.
He is an acknowledged expert on the work of Dylan Thomas,
and has taught poetry and writing courses
at Swansea University and the Arvon Foundation.

In 2008 he and the late Aeronwy Thomas – Dylan’s daughter - developed the Dylan Thomas Walking Tour
of Greenwich Village
on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government in New York.

He is the founder of the international poetry magazine The Seventh Quarry.

Application: Enrol on the course by email to

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Magazine Moment (16): Cultural Horizon Magazine (Romania)

You can enjoy the vibrant 'buzz'

of Van Gogh's famous Sunflowers

I was delighted to receive the current copy of Contemporan Orizont Literar (Annul III - Nr.4 (18) / JULY-AUGUST 2010) through the post from Bucharest. Mihai Cantuniari is Director of this international and largely multi-lingual publishing enterprise, with Daniel Dragomirescu as Editor-in-Chief. The magazine's new Foundation is a media partner of MTTLC, which comes under the guidance of Professor Lidia Vianu at the University of Bucharest.

GOOD NEWS! ... Members of the magazine's editorial and production team have secured a national headquarters in Bucharest. The new Foundation is now on track. Daniel and his colleagues have persevered to ensure that the magazine goes from strength to strength, rising to new heights and inspiring readers (and writers) from all corners of the globe. I am not alone in acknowledging a debt to the editor's cultural foresight.

A package from Romania!

The arresting and penetrating eyes of Van Gogh, in his self portrait 'without beard', adorn the front cover of this issue. I cannot help feeling that the portrait complements the poem on p.16, After Kirchway after Keats by Professor Donald Riggs of Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA. I have no idea whether the painter's depressive and suicidal traits were manifested in a previous generation, but I find myself substituting 'brother' for 'sister'* in Van Gogh's case. The poem poses - as perhaps all good poems should - more questions than it attempts to answer, concerning our genetic and social make-up as individuals. I found myself reconsidering the old chestnut of whether art arises in its most potent form out of suffering - or whether suffering is just one of many valid catalysts for creativity.

This fine poem by Riggs is, of course, not about Van Gogh but about Keats. A picture of the poet lodged itself in my head back in 1985, when I lived in Rome, and paid my first visit to the Protestant Cemetery by Piramide (named after the eye-catching Pyramid of Cestius), to see those paradoxically ethereal and immortal words of epitaph etched in stone. Since then my vision has mutated somewhat, and it would be fair to say that the Keats of Bright Star is probably the dominating picture today - such is the power of story, reconstruction and (perhaps especially) the moving image.

Curiously, this issue has more of Keats on p.50. Swansea poet, Byron Beynon, evokes the interior of the Keats-Shelley House at 26 Piazza di Spagna, in his poem, The Spanish Steps, Rome. The poem includes the chilling line, 'death entered at eleven o'clock'.

Speaking of Wales, you will find my interview with Cardiff eco-poet, Susan Richardson (and here), on p.4 - along with Susan's polar poem, Waiting at the Breathing Hole, about life above and below the ice, in which the speaker waits expectantly for 'the whiskered nose of inspiration'. The poem is from Susan's acclaimed poetry collection, Creatures of the Intertidal Zone, published by Cinnamon Press. Thank you, Susan, for your detailed answers to my snow-shower of questions! Incidentally, you can read about Susan's recent visit to Keats' House in Hampstead, UK here.

This edition contains 60 packed, illustrated and well presented pages of:
  • Articles and Features (e.g Deborah Ann Erdmann, USA on There's No Place Like Home)
  • Poetry (p.8-11, 16-18, 21-22, 25-26, 30-31, 34-36, 43-48, 50-55, 59)
  • Contemporary Perspectives and Horizons (e.g. Peggy Landsman, USA; Iorgu Gălăţeanu, Romania; Maria Eugenia Mendoza Arrubarrena, Mexico)
  • Photographs and Illustrations (throughout)
Thank you once again, Daniel, for the opportunities that have arisen - opportunities to make new friends, to gain fresh perspectives on the multi-faceted world of the Arts, and to learn more about Romania itself.

This edition is truly 'international' in outlook. The following countries are represented by those who have contributed:
  • Romania
  • USA
  • Germany
  • Chile
  • India
  • Bulgaria
  • Nigeria
  • Spain
  • Mexico
... and Wales, including a page of Lyrical Horizon | Orizonturi Lirice poems by Chris Kinsey. I interviewed Chris, BBC Wildlife Poet of the Year 2008, in an earlier edition in my occasional column, Dialoguri Galeze.

Do take a look at the magazine site here. New subscribers are always welcome.
  • MAGAZINE PRICE: 12 EUROS | 15 DOLLARS PER COPY (SHIPPING INCLUDED). PayPal details to the right of the magazine page if you click here.
* A letter from Keats to his sister, Fanny

Saturday 21 August 2010

Poetry Form Challenge (3): Haiku

Alan Summers said... For anyone who might be tempted to enter a haiku competition, we are now open until 21st November 2010.

The With Words International Online Haiku Competition 2010: With Words

all my very best,

With Words

Monday 16 August 2010

Poetry Matters (11): Kyrielle

A couple of kind visitors to my last post left a message asking about the KYRIELLE, so I thought the simplest - and I hope most helpful - answer was to point you in the direction of my Brekekekex blog of poetry forms. The link is here.

Thank you, incidentally, for your comments.

Monday 9 August 2010

Poetry Matters (10): Good News from India

Awaiting a package from India

I have just heard that my Kyrielle, The Winding Way, has taken Joint Second Position in the Metverse Muse Fixed Form Poetry Competition 2010.

Dr H. Tulsi from Visakhatpatnam is the editor of Metverse Muse. The magazine's new book of poetry forms, Muse Clad in Costumes, contains two of my poems. I am looking forward to its arrival from India.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Poems on the Web (8): Poetry Cow reads Charles Simic

Highland Cattle family on Insh Marshes near Kingussie

You might enjoy Poetry Cow reading The White Room, a poem by Charles Simic. If the first link to the Poetry Foundation is not working, you could try this one...

Friday 30 July 2010

Ars Poetica (2): Ekphrasis

Leicestershire: Grace Dieu (above)
and nearby Coleorton (St Mary's Church below)

Wordsworth was influenced artistically
by his patron, Sir George Beaumont,
who played a key role in the founding of the National Gallery in London

and lived at Coleorton Hall

I have had cause on two recent occasions to consider the nature of ekphrastic work, so I thought it might be a useful moment to formulate some (personal) thoughts and air a couple of queries on the subject.

From my undergraduate studies of Classical Greek, I know that ek corresponds to out, and phrasis to speak. We find ek or ec in English words like ectoplasm. We also find it transmuted to ex in words like external. We know phrasis, of course, from words like phrase and phraseology. Ekphrasis, a rhetorical technique, is therefore a combination of these word-parts, which when combined give a meaning of speaking out or proclamation - or to put it another way, of calling 'an inanimate object by name' [Wikipedia - see also a number of definitions garnered by Ryan Welsh at the University of Chicago].

The majority of ekphrastic poems (I believe) shed light on a picture without the two art forms being physically conjoined. They do, however, build an imaginary bridge between the 'verbal' and the 'visual'. Take, for instance, the iconic example of Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn. What is important here is that the poet brings a 'notional' or 'allusive' - rather than an 'actual' - image before our inner eye and makes us question what we visualise. There is no need for us to see the urn (which may or may not be a single artefact) portrayed in a given medium alongside the poem. The words alone do the work, conjuring up the object in our imagination.

We occasionally encounter ekphrasis in poetry as an actual and symbiotic pairing of word and image. That is to say, for example, that a poem text and piece of corresponding 'visual art' work in tandem to form a fusion or new creation. The one art form elucidates and illuminates the other in some manner - and this is a two-way process. We can all recall our childhood story and poetry books in which the bold and colourful illustrations added so much to each tale or poem. I consider this powerful marriage to be ekphrasis at its most basic (and on occasions at its most potent) level.

In these multi-media days of collaborative enterprises and opportunities, we are familiar with countless instances of art forms impacting on other media. Ekphrastic poetry could be 'illuminated' or 'enhanced' (I hesitate to say 'illustrated') by 'actual' painted work, pen-and-ink drawings or photographs. It may be of interest to note that a union of photography and poetry has appeared in the Poetry Book Society bulletin as Photoetry, but I see this as a form of ekphrasis rather than as something different again.

The questions lingering in my mind are ones of definition and distinction:
  • Are all 'visual' poems ekphrastic?
  • Are all 'illustrated' stories (like those in the children's picture books mentioned above) ekphrastic?
And in each case, if not, then why not?

* * *

Previous Coastcard posts touching on Ekphrasis can be found here and here. My Photoetry entry (with a couple of book recommendations) is here.

You may also like the following:

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Magazine Moment (15): The Seventh Quarry

Swansea Bay from Mumbles,
with the Swansea-Cork ferry

I was delighted when the Summer 2010 edition [issue 12] of The Seventh Quarry arrived today, featuring an international spread of work from Wales, England, Holland, Romania, Italy, Catalonia, Israel, South Africa, Canada and America.

The magazine includes an interview with one of the leading Catalonian poets, Dr August Bover. Dr Kristine Doll poses interesting questions about the 'difficult to understand' label that attaches itself to the art of poetry.* I had the privilege of meeting August at a stimulating and memorable workshop in the Dylan Thomas Centre some months ago. Allan Peterson appears on p.5 as the issue's poet in profile.

The magazine opens with a poetry sequence including a moving piece, A Circle of Meadow, by Vince Clemente, The Seventh Quarry's Consulting Editor for America. A stylish concrete poem, Elephant, by Dave Lewis from Wales is embedded with 'memories' and 'stories' from the watering holes. Gerald England's witty contribution seems to me to combine the lazy dog pangram with a kind of abcedarium. I much enjoyed Gillian Drake's evocative poem, Lost - and am delighted that my poem, The Women of Linear B, has been included on p.11.

In Chapter 1 - Swansea Bay we are treated to an excerpt from a forthcoming Cross-Cultural Communications publication, Love For Ever Meridian; Finding Dylan Thomas in the 21st Century by John Dotson, who enjoyed 'taking in the shore-places of Dylan the boy' on a recent visit to South Wales.

The penultimate page of this issue carries a description of the latest Poet to Poet chapbook, Nightwatch by Aeronwy Thomas and Maria Mazziotti Gillan, in the series published jointly by Cross-Cultural Communications and The Seventh Quarry Press ... of which more perhaps in a future post.

Thank you, Peter, once again for another bumper edition!

* Postscript: On the subject of the meaning of poetry, there is a substantial article entitled by The Virtue of Verse by George Watson, fellow at St John's College, Cambridge in the current Times Higher Education Supplement (29 July-4 Aug 2010) - available online, with livelink highlighted above.


N.B. If you would like to take out a subscription
to The Seventh Quarry poetry magazine,
details can be found here.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Magazine Moment (14): Cultural Horizon Magazine (Romania)

A recent package from Romania!

I was delighted to receive the current copy of Contemporan Orizont Literar (Annul III - Nr.3 (17) / Mai-Junie 2010) through the post from Bucharest. Mihai Cantuniari is Director of this international - and often multi-lingual - publishing enterprise, with Daniel Dragomirescu as Editor-in-Chief. The magazine's new Foundation is a media partner of MTTLC, which comes under the guidance of Professor Lidia Vianu at the University of Bucharest.

This edition contains 60 packed and well presented pages of:
  • articles
  • poetry
  • critical perspectives
  • feedback
  • photographs,
in addition this year's second extra A4 supplement, El Boletin del Autor, representing Orizonturi Literare Spaniole, and featuring Pedro Javier Martin Pedros. Pedros is interviewed by Victor Mrata Cortado on the intriguing subject, 'Poezia este şi va fi mereu necesară' | 'Poetry is and will always be necessary'. Pedros considers those closet writers who 'write like angels', but whose words rarely see the light of day. What is it that makes us write? Why, I wonder, are some writers so reluctant to admit that they have secret scripts hidden away - in a 'celebrity-culture' world in which others are desperate to flaunt their work?

The main body of the magazine begins with 'A Preface to the Passions of Daniel' (editor-in-chief) by the magazine's Director. Cantuniari pays tribute to Daniel Dragomirescu, whose dreams, visions and tenacity of spirit have made the magazine what it is today, by forging ahead and 'co-opting a series of precious translators', under Alina-Olimpia Miron. Daniel has persevered to ensure that CHM has gone from strength to strength, rising to new heights and inspiring readers (and writers) from more and more corners of the globe. I am not alone in acknowledging a debt to the editor's cultural foresight.

Thank you, Daniel, for the opportunities that have arisen - opportunities to make new friends, to gain fresh perspectives on the multi-faceted world of the Arts, and to learn more about Romania itself.

This edition is definitely 'international' in outlook. The following countries are represented by those who have contributed:
  • Romania
  • Spain
  • Estonia
  • Nepal
  • USA
  • Israel
  • Finland
Britain, I am glad to say, is not forgotten - thanks to a section on the Feedback pages by Chris Kinsey. I interviewed Chris, BBC Wildlife Poet of the Year 2008, in an earlier edition in my occasional column, Dialoguri Galeze.

Do take a look at the magazine site here. New subscribers are always welcome - and the next edition including the latest in my interview series from Wales will be available soon!
  • MAGAZINE PRICE: 12 EUROS | 15 DOLLARS PER COPY (SHIPPING INCLUDED). PayPal details to the right of the magazine page if you click here.
  • The next issue is almost out, which will include contributions from Wales, including my interview with Susan Richardson and poetry by Byron Beynon. You can find the details here - and may perhaps like to order a copy for yourself!

Friday 23 July 2010

Poetic Places (5): Out in the Wild

Gannet flying inland from the Achiltibuie area,
north of Ullapool
[please click to enlarge]

I have just mounted a post on my new Wild and Wonderful blog about a Buzzard we saw in the Quiraing region of Skye. I have been thinking a lot about wild places and wilderness since we returned from Scotland, so it was a pleasant surprise to read Professor Morley's post about walking and writing. You can find it here: 'Rebounding Flowerheads'. His piece makes special reference to Scotland and the West Country.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Competition Corner (6): Writelink Poetry

I was thrilled and delighted to gain Second Place in the latest Writelink poetry competition on the theme of 'Rivals'.

My poem is about the creatures on the Burges wallpaper at Knightshayes Court, a National Trust property near Tiverton.

I've been 'bumping along' for days with my dominant [left] arm in a sling following a fall on Skye - so this news really cheered me up. Incidentally, the form I used was the French Quatern. It was not a form I had tried before, but as many of you know, I love to experiment.

Thursday 15 July 2010

Buried Treasure: Puffins!

Seth Apter's...

Welcome | Croeso to my Puffin Post, which I am re-posting as part of Seth Apter's Buried Treasure collaboration, in conjunction with Seth's inspirational art blog, The Altered Page. The brief was to 'excavate' an old post and give it a second life... so here goes. Enjoy!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Puffin Quest 3: OAPS (Old Age Puffins)

Coastcard Puffin Design
© Caroline Gill 2009

Puffins at the RSPB Reserve,
Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire, UK

Those who follow my blog will know that puffins are probably my favourite bird. They float around in 'rafts' on the sea, looking like small jewels or beads in a necklace. They are often referred to as the 'clowns of the air' because they look so comical when they fly. I took a number of photographs, trying to capture their different poses: I hesitate to say their 'expressions' because this is a word I associate with humans. I hope you like the result!

Puffins seem to have been in the news a bit these past few months. I blogged about the rare sighting of the Tufted Puffin a couple of weeks ago.

[Ed.- you will find a link to that post from this one! You might also like to see my puffin bookmarks in this post].

I have now been given an unidentified newspaper clip about 'the oldest known puffin in Europe'. The bird was ringed back in 1975. Another puffin found in the same vicinity of Rough Island, part of the Shiant Isles, off Scotland had first been ringed in 1977.

By the way, if you enjoy exploring the natural world, you might like to hop over to my new 2010 blog, Wild and Wonderful.

Previous Comments:
steven said...

hello caroline - i was astonished at the ages of the puffins!!! i had no idea!! by the way - the puffin card is really lovely!!! they've always been my favourite bird. have a peaceful day. steven

Crafty Green Poet said...

I didn't know puffins lived so long!

Your puffin card is lovely, really captures their character...