Saturday 22 December 2012

Seasonal Splash: Christmas Greetings

For our friends in Wales and everywhere! (Feature here)

Friday 14 December 2012

Seasonal Splash: My Photo and Christmas Music

I have just received copies of the above CD, which features my photograph of Mumbles in the snow. It was taken from my study window during our time in the city.

The CD features music by the Dunvant Male Choir. The CD cover was produced by students (under Paul Hazel) at Swansea Metropolitan University.

If you fancy some Christmas music from Wales and would like to buy a copy, purchasing details can be found here.

And, incidentally, you can see another of my snowy scenes of Mumbles here on the Golau Cancer Foundation homepage. 

Thursday 13 December 2012

Media Matters: 'The Holy Place' in Writing Magazine

Launch of The Holy Place, Dylan Thomas Birthplace, Swansea

I opened the current (January 2013!) edition of Writing Magazine today to find that my submission for the Members' News section had been accepted for publication. It consists of half a column on my poetry chapbook, shared with John Dotson (above left), and published by Peter Thabit Jones (above centre), editor of The Seventh Quarry, in conjunction with Stanley H. Barkan of Cross-Cultural Communications, New York.

The piece is on p.16 in the Members' News section.

If you would like to buy a copy of the chapbook, perhaps as a stocking filler or gift for a poetry lover, the cost is £3.50 including UK p&p. More details can be found on my website here, and you can contact me either via the red 'contact' button on the site or via the Comments section just under this post.

The Holy Place chapbook
5 Cwmdonkin Drive

Saturday 8 December 2012

Poet Interview: Carol Hamilton

Carol Hamilton

I am very privileged to be hosting Carol Hamilton's *unofficial* answers, which correspond to those in The Next Big Thing.

Carol is a former former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma, and resides in Midwest City, Oklahoma, U.S.A.

What is the title of your new book?

Master of Theater: Peter the Great

How did you choose the title?

One of the book's poems, "The Humility of Peter the Great," begins,
"A master of theater,
 as are all great men...." 
The line seemed a good title for the book, which reflected Peter's dramatic and erratic personality. He valued and enhanced the drama of his presence to draw his people to him.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I read the book PETER THE GREAT by Robert K. Massey. When I become completely captivated with a subject or a personality, I cannot keep myself from writing of what fascinates me and stirs my imagination. One of my chapbooks is called SHOTS ON and is on early women photographers of the American West, and another, CONTRAPUNTAL, is on the love of Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms. All three of these books were published by the same press in Kentucky, Finishing Line Press. Peter was an amazing character. I could not resist!

What genre does your book fall under?


What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

For Peter, since he was tall and thin, I think it would have to be Peter O'Toole.

Will your book be self published or published by an agency?

The book was published in July, 2011 by Finishing Line Press, P. O. Box 1626, Georgetown, Kentucky 40324. It is available at or at

What other books would you compare ‘MASTER OF THEATER’ to within the genre?

One of those who wrote a blurb for the book, Editor Michael Hathaway of Chiron Press, compared it to the poetic portrayals of Robert Peters and the wonderful historical poems of Robert Cooperman.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Most of my poetry books are themed, such a peace poems, poetry on food, poetry on words and language, on art and artists. These books are usually compilations of works I've written over the years that happen to fall into the same category. The books published by Finishing Line Press were all written at one time until there was enough, or too many, for a chapbook. It is very interesting to become so involved in one subject and in the lives of those who have been remarkable in their dedication to and brilliance in their life work.

What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest?

One thing I personally enjoy about these books is that they are intended to be read from the beginning to the end, more of a story than a series of poems on a theme.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

This book follows the life of Peter the Great from his childhood through his world travels to bring the Western world to Russia and his wild manner of forcing these changes on his people with great impetuosity.

Thank you, Carol, so much: it is a privilege to host your answers! Thank you, too, to Dr. Geraldine Green for introducing me to Carol. 

* * *

Incidentally, you will find Geraldine's answers for The Next Big Thing here ... and my answers can be found here

Other writer participants in this blog meme include ... 
  • Juliet Wilson aka Crafty Green Poet, whose answers can be found here.
  • Dr Marc Latham (creator of the Folding Mirror Poetry form), whose answers can be found here.
  • Alison Lock (poet, short story writer ...), whose answers can be found here.

Friday 7 December 2012

Poetry Publications: Pre-Raphaelite Poems

This is actually Sandymouth in Cornwall (rather than the Kent coast), but I like the theme of sheep on the sea cliffs ...

Congratulations to Deborah Harvey for winning the Pre-Raphaelite Society Poetry Competition!

I heard last night that my entry will be included in the new competition anthology. My poem is an ekphrastic one inspired by the 1852 Holman Hunt painting, 'Our English Coasts' (aka 'Strayed Sheep').

Last year's anthology can be bought (and previewed) here

The 'Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde' Exhibition is on at Tate Modern in London until 13 January 2013.

Thursday 29 November 2012

The Writing Life: Save our (Newcastle) Libraries

The View over the Tyne from Newcastle (to The Sage)

Do take a moment to read about the projected cuts in Newcastle upon Tyne, that vibrant city where I was initially a university student, and then later on a resident, attending weekly Creative Writing classes for adults under the auspices (a) of the The People's Centre in North Shields and (b) the WEA (under the tutelage of Margaret Wilkinson).

There are pleas from authors in the Newcastle Chronicle: they feel it would be a tragic move to close so many library resources across the city.

As a student I was a frequent visitor to the Newcastle University Library. I remember many a happy morning in the old City Library during the time I attended the Creative Writing classes. I still recall looking up facts about the eating habits of raccoons - and about Cortes, cocoa and the New World.

David Gill outside Newcastle University

A group of writers in Newcastle have set up a WordPress site to show the support of 'Writers for Libraries', through poetry and prose contributions. Poetry Scotland editor, Sally Evans, has written vividly about the Newcastle University library 'Stacks': I remember these so well. Her prose piece, 'Her faith in Libraries', can be found here.

You will find my contribution here. It is a poem called 'Ode to Our Treasure Keepers'. 

West Jesmond from the Metro

Newcastle's elegant Northumberland Street

The Tyne Bridge by day

Wednesday 28 November 2012

The Next Big Thing ~ Dr. Geraldine Green

Dr. Geraldine Green has asked me to host her answers to the following questions for The Next Big Thing.

The Next Big Thing, for those who don't yet know, is a way to network with fellow writers and to find out a bit more about what they're working on. The idea is fairly simple. The writer answers a set of questions on his or her blog one week, and then invites five other authors to answer the same questions the following week. They in turn invite five more.


What is the title of your new book?

How did you choose the title?

The idea gradually evolved as I wrote the collection, realizing that the poems formed an unconscious journey from my childhood self, to working at Vickers Shipyard as a young woman, to the yearning to escape office life and travel across the sea, across time and space to connect with times and places, other people and cultures…

The title is both real – it’s the Jubilee Bridge that connects Barrow Island with Walney Island in Cumbria – and metaphorical – it’s an imaginary bridge that spans the Irish Sea and Atlantic Ocean, connecting the west coast of Britain with the eastern seaboard of North America, following in my ancestor’s footsteps who emigrated from Ireland to America during the Great Famine.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I write poetry on a regular basis and this, my latest collection, evolved once I began my Practice-based PhD in creative writing poetry. Brief explanation of a Practice-based PhD: the original body of work, i.e. the raw material upon which one reflects in the thesis, is a new body of creative work; in my case, a new poetry collection. During my MA it emerged that my poetry addressed certain issues, such as time and place, placement and displacement, inner and outer landscapes, dreams and myth. I wanted to explore these issues further and that’s how come I undertook a PhD.

When I write poetry I don’t consciously think OK, I’ll write a poem in response to, say, displacement, rather I write a poem in response to an image, rhythm, idea, dream, travel, people I meet, a memory, myth or place  – and often a poem is an amalgamation of all of these. So, when I discussed this with my PhD supervisor Prof. Graham Mort, we agreed that I’d write my poems organically and then, when I began to amass a substantial body of poetry, I’d begin to reflect upon issues that arose out of them.

What genre does your book fall under?


What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Hmm! Too many characters in my poems to begin to answer this one!

Will your book be self published or published by an agency?

It was published in July 2012 by Indigo Dreams, editor Ronnie Goodyear.

What other books would you compare ‘The Other Side of the Bridge’ to, within the genre?

I think that’s best left for readers to answer.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Places and people I’ve met, or dreamed up, or read in myth, or imagined; poets such as John Burnside, George Wallace, Joy Harjo, Louise Erdrich. Celtic mythology, indigenous people’s stories and myth,; the land, especially Cumbria and my family, particularly my Mum and maternal Grandad.

What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest?

The fact that the poems are ‘world poems’ not confined to one country, culture, time or place; they’re poems of connections and I hope that there’s something in the collection that readers and audiences can relate to.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Poetry that reaches out beyond boundaries of time and space, that attempts to connect and re-connect with humans and non-humans, animate and inanimate ‘others’, with whom we share our earth-home.

Geraldine tells me she has invited the following writers to carry on 'The Next Big Thing'  ... 

  • Mankh (Walter E Harris III) 
Meanwhile, do take a look at Alison Lock's answers and those given by Dr Marc Latham in The Next Big Thing ... here (Alison) and here (Marc). 

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Anthology Alert: Tuesday Poetry ~ People and Places

Cover design: Richard Salkilld

I am delighted to receive copies of this volume from the Tuesday Poets in Swansea. The anthology has been produced by Jean Salkilld, and features work by Ann Cooke, Gillian Drake, Margaret Duguid, Caroline Gill, Brett Hayes, Ruth Jenkins, Ll. Hugh Nicholas, Carole Pearson, Carolina Rosati-Jones and Jean Salkilld.

Tuesday Poets arose out of creative writing courses under the auspices of the Department of Adult and Continuing Education at Swansea University. This is the third anthology in the series. The first had a seasonal focus, the second (2011) was based on the theme of 'colour'. The 2012 theme is 'people and places'.

My poems in the volume are ekphrastic ones, namely 'Harmony in Fragmentation' ('Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte' by Seurat) and 'Turner's Loch Coruisk, Skye'.

Monday 26 November 2012

Media Matters: Radio Feebs

Josue Febles, pictured above, is running a new radio station, Radio Feebs, from Belgium. I came across Josue on LinkedIn; and since he is keen to mix poetry with the music he plays, I thought it would be interesting to learn a bit more about him.  

1] Tell me, please, Josue, a little about the creation of (or idea behind) Radio Feebs

Our idea is to have a place where musicians who are working hard and struggling to be heard can get exposure, sharing their music. The success of the radio would depend on whether all the musicians involved, as well as their fans, spread the word around, since the sum of all these audiences would become universal, the largest audience of all.

And since we want our radio to be the most eclectic one on the internet, why not include poetry and short stories, since they are another kind of music?.. That would give our radio another color too.

2] How would you describe your own artistic background - do you sing? play an instrument? compose? write novels or poetry?

I've been a musician and composer for over 40 years. I've played a very wide variety of styles with very different artists. I've also composed music for contemporary dance and films.

3] For those writers who may read my post, what kind of poems you might be seeking . . . formal? modern? radical? lyrical? comical?

We're particularly interested in non-rhyming, non-descriptive or non-formal poetry. We're looking for modern poetry, the kind that reflects on the struggle inherent to human nature. The whys and hows. The joys and pains of being a human being. With or without a sense of humour...

My thanks to Josue for answering these questions! Artists (musicians, poets, short story writers ...) who would like to have work considered by Josue for Radio Feebs will find a Contact link here.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Publication Pointer: The Next Big Thing

Some days ago, Juliet Wilson, known to most of us as Crafty Green Poet, invited me to take part in a blog meme called The Next Big Thing.

Juliet asked me if I would answer some set questions about an upcoming or recent publication. She also asked me to tag five more writers, the idea being that each of these would provide their answers to the same questions by the following week. They would also recommend five more writers themselves. Consequently The Next Big Thing would continue to grow and evolve.

Before I proceed to write about my chapbook, The Holy Place, I would like to add what a huge influence Juliet has been to me, as she has to so many others on the Blogosphere. Her poetry in Unthinkable Skies (Calder Wood Press) is both beautiful and challenging. Her blog posts on ethical and environmental issues continue to broaden my horizons on subjects as diverse as Scotland, light bulbs, recycling, and animals in captivity. I always enjoy reading about Juliet's bird-watching excursions and about her craft-making activities. Juliet's Haiku are plentiful and exquisite. And all this in addition to the part played by her long-eared friends, the rabbits, who will star in her forthcoming novel. Do take a moment to read Juliet's answers for The Next Big Thing: you will find them here.

And now for the questions Juliet has posed for me ...

* What is the title of your new book?
My new publication, co-authored with John Dotson from the USA, is called 'The Holy Place' after John's opening poem.

* Where did the idea for the book come from?
I was beginning to think about chapbook or pamphlet publication when Peter Thabit Jones, publisher of The Seventh Quarry Press in Swansea, invited me to share a chapbook with John in the Poet to Poet series. I had had about 100 poems published in small press magazines by that time. I had also won a few poetry prizes and had greatly enjoyed attending creative writing classes.
* What genre does your book fall under?
 The Holy Place is a poetry collection.
* What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? 
Now, this is a tricky question on two counts ...
  • Firstly, because I am not a great movie person or film buff, and consequently I have very few favourite movie stars to call upon. 
  • Secondly, because the chapbook is made up of individual poems on different topics. 
However, I have often visualised the characters in my poems in the landscapes (real, conjectured or imagined) in which I have placed them. I remember my husband, David, going to see Lloyd Webber's 'Cats' on Broadway many years ago. He came back and told me all about the experience. I can just about imagine a short feline movie sequence relating to my poem, 'Monte Testaccio: Mound of Potsherds', in which my (imaginary) cats, Antony and Cleopatra, jump out of the page and on to a stage-set in Rome. I would certainly enjoy designing the pyramid backdrop. If it was to be a live show, I suppose I might consider creating an authentic aroma of Roman fish sauce. But then again, this might not be such a good idea! I wonder whether members of the feral cat colony around Monte Testaccio would come forward for audition ...

* Will your book be self published or published by an agency?
The Holy Place was published in 2012 by Peter Thabit Jones of The Seventh Quarry Press (Swansea), in conjunction with Stanley H. Barkan of Cross-Cultural Communications (New York). I had always hoped (or dreamed) that my first collection would not be a self-published volume. I felt that I needed the endorsement of a publisher as I took this initial step into the world of poetry collections. I should add, of course, that I knew Peter Thabit Jones from his excellent classes. I did not have the opportunity of meeting Stanley until Swansea's First International Poetry Festival in 2011.
* How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
My poems had already been written by the time Peter approached me after a reading by Tino Villenueva in 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, the Dylan Thomas Birth Place in Swansea. Most of these had been published either here in the UK or in Romania or in the USA. However, it took me a surprisingly long time to select the right poems for my half of the chapbook. Gradually a sequence began to emerge, and I became pretty sure that most of my choices seemed to fit and complement the whole of my half. John and I worked pretty independently, although we were in communication by email. I met John for the first time at the 2011 festival mentioned above.

* What other books would you compare The Holy Place to within the genre?   
There are two answers to this, and this is the first. The second is incorporated into my answer to the next question.
The Holy Place is the fifth in a series of commissioned poetry chapbooks. Consequently it fits with the others in the sequence. The third chapbook was by Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Aeronwy Thomas (1943-2009), daughter of Dylan. These Poet to Poet chapbooks pair a British poet with one from elsewhere. The aim of the series is 'to promote The Seventh Quarry beyond the magazine and to continue its international focus, supported by Cross-Cultural Communications, New York.'
This is the list to date of Poet to Poet chapbooks to date ...


Poet to Poet #1: Bridging the Waters: Swansea to Sag Harbor
by Vince Clemente and Peter Thabit Jones. Price: £3.50/$10. Published 2008. 

Poet to Poet #2: First and Last Things
by J.C. Evans and Annabelle Moseley. Price: £3.50/$10. Published 2009. 

Poet to Poet #3: Nightwatch
by Aeronwy Thomas and Maria Mazziotti Gillan. Price: £3.50/$10. Published 2010.
Poet to Poet #4: Poems East Coast/West Coast
by Stanley H. Barkan and Carolyn Mary Kleefeld. Price: £3.50/$10. Published 2010.

Poet to Poet #5: The Holy Place
by John Dotson and Caroline Gill. Price: 3.50/$10. Published 2012. Please email me (click here and find email on left) or leave a note in the Comments section below if you would like to buy a copy. £3.50 incl. p&p for UK orders.

Poet to Poet #6
by Sultan Catto and Jean Salkilld - forthcoming

* Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I am really only speaking for my half of the chapbook here, although it is important to point out that John and I share a love for the natural world in all its form, fluidity and diversity.

Perhaps I can address the 'who' first of all, and the first answer here has to be 'my parents'. My father, Timothy Dudley-Smith, inherited a love of poetry from his father, and took delight in sharing that love with his family. My father is well known for his hymn texts, and I feel we share something of a passion for form in its rich tapestry of guises. My mother was an advocate of our local library when we were growing up. Very early on, she took out a child's version of Homer's Odyssey. I was entranced by the story, the imagery, the characters and the adventures. Little could my mother have guessed at that point that I would go on to study and teach Classical Civilisation and Archaeology - or that I would marry an archaeologist, David, who writes the occasional poem!

David at Burgh Castle, Saxon Shore Fort
I have been privileged to have studied under inspiring Creative Writing tutors over the years. It was lovely to meet up with one of these, Peter Read, over a cup of tea at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival this November.

Rona and Peter with Caroline at Snape during the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival
I will turn now to the question of 'what'. I spent much of my pre-teenage childhood in Sevenoaks, where we enjoyed the annual Three Arts Festival, with its poetry competition. Given themes were 'water', 'spring' and 'animals' - and you could say that my work continues, all these years later, to revolve around these themes that relate to aspects of the natural world. I write from the perspective of my Christian faith, and am interested in the interface of landscape and human activity. I lived in Wales for nearly 20 years, where I realised, thanks to Byron Beynon and others, just how integral the soil was to the psyche of the poets I encountered. Poems and sessions by Susan Richardson (my tutor on the Disability Arts Cymru project that resulted in 'Hidden Dragons') and Emily Hinshelwood made me realise how little I knew in terms of specifics about the fragility of the earth. I could not call myself a fully-fledged eco-poet, but perhaps I have leanings in that direction.

* What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest?  
  • Form ... I love to find out about poetry forms. The collection includes my winning Sestina. It also includes Sonnets, a Tercet Ghazal, an Ottava Rima ... 'The Book of Forms' by Lewis Turco was a favourite companion, and you can imagine how delighted I am to have three sample poems included in 'The Book of Forms including Odd and Invented Forms' (Lewis Putnam Turco, University Press of New England, 2012)
  • Perspective ... I write as a person whose perspective is influenced by the challenges of chronic pain and limited mobility. 
  • Launch ... the chapbook was launched in 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, the Dylan Thomas Birth Place, along with John Dotson's full length book, 'Love for Ever Meridian: Finding Dylan Thomas in the 21st Century' (Cross-Cultural Communications and The Seventh Quarry Press, 2012). A second launch of 'The Holy Place' was held here in Ipswich during the monthly Poetry Cafe at Arlington's ...

5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Peter Thabit Jones (centre) with John Dotson and me
 and finally ...
  • On the subject of the Swallowtail Butterfly (in my poem 'Elusive Friend'), I can now claim to have seen eleven Swallowtail caterpillars in Norfolk. I have also seen Swallowtail adults at Messine in the Peloponnese.
Rare Swallowtail caterpillar, Norfolk Broads, 2012
* * *

And it is now time for me to pass on the baton and introduce you to the following writer friends, in alphabetical order of surnames ...
Sadly illness and unexpected circumstances have now prevented my other writers from being able to respond in this time frame ... but I much look forward to the Next Big Thing, on Wednesday 28 November, on the blogs mentioned above.

Friday 16 November 2012

Media Matters: Readings from 'The Holy Place', Ipswich Community Radio

Preseli Bluestone at the National Botanic garden of Wales

My thanks to Mai and Gary who hosted the Friday Breakfast Show on Ipswich Community Radio this morning. It was good to be a guest poet on the show. It was my first live broadcast, and I have learned a few tips in case there is a future occasion ...
  • to conquer the nerves, sit back (well, not too far from the microphone) and enjoy the experience, in the hope that a sense of enthusiasm will transmit across the airwaves! 
  • to visualise the listeners ... 
  • to mention my website!
  • to have a couple of extra pieces up my sleeve in case there is more time than expected.
Mai and I talked mainly about my new chapbook, The Holy Place, co-authored with John Dotson from California. It was published in 2012 by The Seventh Quarry Press in Swansea (editor Peter Thabit Jones) in conjunction with Cross-Cultural Communications in New York (editor Stanley H. Barkan).

The chapbook is the 5th in the commissioned Poet to Poet series. Aeronwy Thomas (1943-2009), Dylan's daughter, was paired with Maria Mazziotti Gillan in Nightwatch (which is listed if you click through and scroll down), the 3rd chapbook in the series.

I read the following poems from The Holy Place:
  • Weddell Seal at the Ice Edge 
  • Lament of a Lewis Chessman
  • Preseli Blue (about the bluestones at Stonehenge) ... this poem is on the Shabdaguchha poetry site, thanks to the editor, Hassanal Abdullah: to find it, click here and scroll down.
  • Isabella Tiger Moth greets the Woolly Bear Caterpillar
Mai and I chatted about early poems, and I read my poem, Koala Bear (not in the chapbook), written in the 1970s at the age of eleven for the Sevenoaks Three Arts Festival poetry competition on the theme of 'animals'. It won me the Grove Poetry Trophy, a silver inkstand. These days I know that the koala is NOT a bear ...

If you have a query or would like to buy a copy of the chapbook (£3.50 inc. p&p in the UK), please leave a note in the comments section below this post, or alternatively you can find an email address for me by clicking here (it is on the left, once you have clicked through). 

Thursday 15 November 2012

Media Matters: The Holy Place on Ipswich Community Radio (2)

Just a quick post to say that I will be reading from my chapbook, The Holy Place, (co-authored with John Dotson) live on Friday Breakfast with Chris and Mai at about 9.20 a.m. tomorrow on Ipswich Community (ICR) 105.7FM. The show will be hosted by Mai Black, and we will be chatting about the writing and reading of poetry.

Do listen in if you can by following this link and clicking on the left side of the page. I found Quicktime (the Q-shaped icon) was the best icon to press when I listened to the show last week.

Writing Workshop: National Short Story Week

Drake's urban cousins?

This is National Short Story Week, so it may come as no surprise to discover that we were presenting our short stories in the Ipswich Writing Group in Gainsborough Community Library this afternoon.

Gainsborough Community Library, Ipswich

Suzi, a group member, had got us writing all kinds of lists last week, as a means of creating our characters - lists of small items, lists of luxury accoutrements, lists of items in a refrigerator (my character had a door key), and so on ...

It was fun hearing the stories. I used to write the occasional short story, but until this last week, had not done so for quite a while. I sometimes write narrative poems, but these are structured in a very different way. We were given a word count (give or take a few) of 400, and my piece came in at 424. The only problem was that this was only the first half of a short story or perhaps the start of something a bit longer! I wondered about re-drafting it to make it fit the mould, but decided to leave it be until the group members had had the chance to express their feelings or make suggestions.

Nic introduced us to a helpful A-Z of points to consider for writing fiction. 'E', for example, stood for the 'empathy' that one needs to have or develop for one's characters if they are to leap of the page. 

We had a go at crafting a second story in the workshop this afternoon. Thirty minutes was barely sufficient time for me to get down my organic ideas. I ended up with characters, setting and a narrative, but there is no plot to date!

I don't see myself emerging as short story writer, but I always enjoy the chance to flex those writing muscles in a new way. My thanks to Mai and Nic, who led a great session today. My aquatic character, Drake, is still poised on the edge of a loch, so I had better go and rescue him before a certain monster rears its head ...

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Poetic People: Wendy Cope at UCS, Ipswich

Waiting our turn at the book table, with Dr Antonella Castelvedere and Dr Paolo Trimarco ...

Wendy Cope with Dr Paola Trimarco

Wendy Cope with Dr Paola Trimarco and David Gill

Book signing ...

... and conversations.

University Campus Suffolk, view from the Waterfront Building

I have just come in from University Campus Suffolk on the Waterfront in Ipswich, where staff and students in the English subject area were hosting an event with Wendy Cope. The reading was open to all who had applied for a ticket, and it was good to be joined by members of my Gainsborough Community Library Writing Workshop and by friends from the monthly Poetry Cafe at Arlington's.

I have heard Wendy Cope once before - some years ago at the Hay Festival in a massive tent. This afternoon's event was a much more intimate occasion. The reading included a selection of Christmas poems, for example 'Cathedral Carol Service', to launch us into the festive season. I was interested to hear the poet introduce one of her poems with the almost thow-away line, 'It's a Sonnet - I think it's much easier if you know.' We also heard a Pantoum, and talked about Villanelles and Triolets in the post-reading question session.

Wendy Cope explained how she had used words from Alain de Botton as an epigraph, words about the artist Edward Hopper and his landscape of transit and threshold spaces 'in which we are aware of a particular kind of alienated poetry.' I found this very resonant with the themes in Edgelands by Michael Symmons Roberts and Paul Farley, a book I have just finished reading.

Wendy Cope listed A.E. Housman and the Russian, Marina Tsvataeva (through the translations by Elaine Feinstein) among her favourite fellow poets. She drew inspiration from their work, but added that it was too soon for critics to say who had been the major influences on her own output. There was plenty of time at the end for questions about form in poetry, about commissions and various aspects of the writing process. 

Wendy Cope came armed with books, including Family Values (Faber 2011), and there was a steady stream of enthusiastic followers at the book table. Thank you to all concerned for a stimulating afternoon - and to Tom Owens for his photographs of the event, which you will find here

Postscript: Wendy Cope mentioned Valerie Eliot, wife of T.S. Eliot, who has just died ...   

Saturday 10 November 2012

Poetry Matters: Cathedral Workshop

Sunset Light: Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds
I am just back from a writing day at the Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds, run under the auspices of the Edmund Centre for Arts and Theology (ECAT). 

Michael Symmons Roberts read from and talked about his poetry collections, including his forthcoming collection, which is currently at the page-proof stage. Since I have just finished reading Edgelands, I was particularly interested to hear more of the thinking behind his ideas.

Elizabeth Cook, the ECAT Writer-in-Residence, gave an excellent paper in response, before we broke for lunch.

Michael led us in a workshop in the afternoon, introducing us to three poems on the theme of the Ascension, before we picked up our pens and began drafting a poem for ourselves.

The day ended with a fascinating paper from Professor Michael Apichella on C.S. Lewis and the Art of Friendship.

Friday 9 November 2012

Media Moment: The Holy Place on Ipswich Community Radio

The (?real) Zennor Mermaid ...

My thanks to Mai Black for reading five of my chapbook poems on Ipswich Community Radio Breakfast Show (ICR, 105.7FM) this morning. The poems in question were ...

  • The Bumblebee Bat
  • Isabella Tiger Moth greets the Wooly Bear Caterpillar
  • Ice Maiden of Zennor
  • The Ocean’s Tears
  • Sea Scribe
These all feature in my chapbook, 'The Holy Place'.

Copies of the chapbook are available at £3.50 (inclusive of UK p&p) ... Drop me an email from here if you would like to buy one.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Launch Event: 'The Holy Place', Arlington's, Ipswich

We had an enjoyable evening at Arlington's in Ipswich last night at the monthly Poetry Cafe, run by Fred Ellis. The theme was November/Remembrance, and it was not surprising that quite a few of the poems had a military feel. There were also poems crackling with bonfire imagery. A good number of home-grown pieces were read out or performed. Matthew from the Poetry Pulse showed us his seasonal poem in a novel decorated scroll. UCS and the Writing Workshop that takes place on Thursdays at 2pm (plug!) in Gainsborough Community Library were both well represented.

I did a fifteen minute reading from my chapbook, 'The Holy Place', choosing five poems dedicated to special people and places in my life. My selection included a Sestina, a Tercet Ghazal and a Sonnet. My thanks to all who came to support me and to those who bought copies of the chapbook.

'The Holy Place' is co-authored with John Dotson, and published by Peter Thabit Jones of The Seventh Quarry Press, in conjunction with Stanley H. Barkan from Cross-Cultural Communications in New York.

You can find out more on my website. I have copies of the chapbook for sale at £3.50, inclusive of UK p&p: please click the red contact button here if you would like to buy one or ask a question etc. 

The Poetry Cafe ... an Impression

Friday 2 November 2012

Fiesta Time: the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival

The Aldeburgh Scallop

I have just returned from a brilliant day at the festival. The weather was chilly, with east coast temperatures, but the bright sun more than made up for the wintry feel.

My congratulations to The Poetry Trust for arranging excellent workshop leaders. I spent the morning in the Aldeburgh Music Room, in Val Bloom's workshop on poetry forms (right up my street!). We drafted poems from word associations and from Imagist ideas. We attempted a Nonet, and considered its inverted form, the Tenon.

There was just time to move the car and have a quick lunch (sadly no time for the famous fish and chips today!) before heading off to the Peter Pears Gallery for a worshop on 'Elsewhere', led by Dr David Wheatley. I have to confess that I just found (or made) time to slip into Reed Books, where I bought a copy of Swithering by Robin Robertson.

David Wheatley introduced us to Larkin's concept of 'elsewhere', and guided us as we explored possibilities of 'mapping out' an elsewhere poem for ourselves. We soon had rough drafts (though some sounded very polished to me), which we read out and offered for group discussion.

I wandered back to my car, passing - or rather, failing to pass - a delicatessan, where I bought a delicious chocolate and walnut brownie. The sunset was stark and beautiful; the sea, crisp and calm.

Roll on tomorrow when we go to Snape for a discussion of short poetry. And if you are heading in that direction, copies of my chapbook, 'The Holy Place' (co-authored with John Dotson) can be bought from the Festival Bookstall.

Speaking of 'The Holy Place', do join us for a launch reading on Tuesday 6 November at 7pm at Arlington's in Ipswich. The reading will take place during the monthly Poetry Cafe. All are welcome, and there is a small fee (about £3) to cover Poetry Cafe costs. Why not bring a bonfire poem to share ...