Thursday 31 March 2011

Magazine Moment (21) : Orizont Literar Contemporan, Romania

Annul IV - Nr.1 (21) Ian. - Febr. 2011 ~ 64 pagini
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The latest issue of Orizont Literar Contemporan is brimming with material from diverse corners of the globe, including Spain, France, USA, UK, Patagonia, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Italy, Russia, Kenya, Germany ... and, of course, Romania. 

Editor-in-chief, Daniel Dragomirescu, has once again succeeded in blending a rich and potent concoction of international culture and literature. The final (fictional) contribution in this number is an excerpt from Daniel's novel-in-progress, 'Un Om Printre Oameni' | 'A Man Among Men'. It concerns a country with an 'existential climate' that is healthy 'for all Romanians'. By the same token, the magazine itself surely reflects a 'healthy' and dynamic global community of (largely literary) artists who long to exchange and share cultural ideas and enterprises.

Take Juana Castillo Escobar, for example. She pens an engaging and personal portrait of 'The Literary Life in Madrid', describing the city as 'a crucible of culture', which supports three tiers of literary activity. On the other side of the Atlantic we find Professor Donald Riggs teaching Creative Writing in universities in Philadelphia, USA. The format he describes for a writing workshop is very similar to the monthly gatherings of the Tuesday Poetry group I attend here in Swansea, the home town of Dylan Thomas. I was fascinated to discover that Riggs, who has 'nothing against free verse', prescribes the writing of at least '250 haiku over the course of the 10-week term' in addition to the writing of other formal poetry, by way of counter-balancing the current trends. The poetic sound dimension (perhaps what Professor Lewis Turco would call 'The Sonic Level') is of paramount importance for Riggs, who advocates the reading aloud of work in a workshop. 

And so to the poems themselves. Lunar subjects seem to be on the ascndancy this time. Canadian poet, Carole St-Aubin, takes as her subject, 'La Lune et moi'. I am immediately drawn to another succinct poem, 'The Moon', by Peggy Landsman from USA. This poem is perhaps more like a tiny star, and yet within its compact frame, we find the moon in the guise of 'white whale'. There is something charming and almost playful about this piece. I, for one, am particularly drawn to its imagery. The following passage from Anthony Trollope's Barchester Chronicles comes to mind:

"How indeed!" said Bertie. "Why shouldn't there be a race of salamanders in Venus? And even if there be nothing but fish in Jupiter, why shouldn't the fish there be as wide awake as the men and women here?"

I have barely scratched the surface, but I hope I may have whetted your appetite a little. Do consider taking up a subscription or paying for a sample copy (please contact Daniel via the link above). In these days of global uncertainty, it is a great joy and privilege to experience aspects of the literary life from diverse and often unusual perspectives. Thank you, Daniel and friends, not forgetting the University of Bucharest translation team at MTTLC.  

 Past contributors, with a presence on the web ...

Monday 21 March 2011

Anthology Alert (9): Memories ~ a Host of Golden Daffodils

The cover

Local writers, Ann Cooke and Dr Ruth Jenkins, have produced a sparkling new prose anthology on the subject of 'Memories'. The collection costs £5 (plus, I imagine, an additional charge for p&p) and profits will go to St James' Church in the Uplands, Swansea, Wales, UK. Please leave a comment here (or send me an email) if you would like to buy a copy, and I will put you in touch with the editors.

The volume was launched in the Parish Hall at St James' last Saturday evening. It was a wonderful occasion of prose and poetry. Byron Beynon gave a fascinating paper on Idris Davies and the subject of memories. He touched on key themes from the anthology, weaving these into a narrative on the Faber poet from Rhymney, whose work continues to excite a wide readership today.

After a magnificent buffet, we were treated to three pieces from the new collection. One was about the evocative and transformative power of music, a second on the ever-popular subject of the Mumbles Train (which is sadly no more) and finally, a lively account of a carol-singing expedition in Llanelli by the Reverend Dr Duncan Walker.

Congratulations to Ann and Ruth and to all my fellow contributors. Subjects covered range from a lively and colourful selection of 'memories of 1960s Swansea' (by Paulette Luise Pelosi) to biographical sketches (e.g. a grandmother, a grandfather - and my pen portrait of my godfather). There are recollections of happy times and of darker days.

Why not support a worthy cause and buy a copy of this hot-off-the-press booklet. You will then be able to enjoy some of the 'Ohhh and Ahhh-moments' (in the words of contributor, Torsten Herbst) for yourself.    

  • Idris Davies biography online here
  • You can read my Idris Davies poem here

Friday 18 March 2011

International Echoes (13): 俳句 in Response to the Earthquake

Cherry Trees in Cwmdonkin Park, Swansea, Wales, UK (where the young Dylan Thomas played)

We continue to reel at the events of the past few days and at the prospect of what is still to come. Our hearts go out to those who have been affected.

You might like to read some Haiku (俳句), written by members of our global community in solidarity with our friends in Japan, New Zealand and elsewhere.

Ban'ya Natsuishi has been preparing a blog post of these sentiments. If you click the link and scroll down far enough, you will see that I have sent a Haiku from Wales.

Saturday 12 March 2011

Poetry Matters (17): Bloodaxe Launches in Swansea

The Church Clock at Haworth, by the Brontë Parsonage

We have enjoyed a very literary weekend here in Swansea, with the launch at the Dylan Thomas Centre of 'Being Human', the new Bloodaxe anthology edited by Neil Astley. This book follows on from its highly popular predecessors, 'Staying Alive' and 'Being Alive'. Neil gave a reading with Penelope Shuttle, followed by questions, an interval, and then the Swansea launch of Penelope's stunning new Bloodaxe collection of poems based around the subject of time, 'Sandgrain and Hourglass'. I was privileged to return to the DTC on Saturday morning for a stimulating and enjoyable workshop with Penelope.

P.S. The clock tower is in Yorkshire ... I liked the idea of a time piece with literary connections!

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Calendar Corner (11): Shrove Tuesday Pancakes

These are a couple I ate earlier ...

I hope some of you will have been enjoying your Shrove Tuesday pancakes. I came across this blog devoted to pancakes. I see the folk in Glendale, CA, got in early on 1 March, but most of us have been enjoying our pancakes today, before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent tomorrow. I also note that the NY CityCoach team have been running a Pancake Haiku contest. My favourite pancake poem, however, must be 'The Solitary Spatuloon' by Jack Prelutsky. You can read it here (you will need to scroll down once you have clicked the link).

On a more serious Lenten note, Bishop James Jones has been advocating a scheme called the 'Carbon Fast'. He was promoting it on BBC 'Songs of Praise', and you can find out more here.

Thursday 3 March 2011

Book Corner (3): The Book of Forms ~ forthcoming

What better way to celebrate World Book Day than to receive an update of news about the forthcoming publication of one of my all-time favourite poetry publications, 'The Book of Forms: a Handbook of Poetics' (fourth edition), by Professor Lewis Turco?

  • Meanwhile, the current edition is available on Amazon.
  • Closer to home, you can read about World Book Night at no.5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea, childhood home of Dylan Thomas. This event takes place on 5 March ~ details here.