Saturday 24 March 2012

Poetry Matters (19): Route to a First Collection Workshop with Heidi Williamson

Heidi Williamson (photo courtesy of Heidi)

Have you ever wondered exactly what it takes to prepare a first full-length poetry collection?

I went on a brilliant workshop today led by Bloodaxe poet, Heidi Williamson. The pieces in Heidi's first collection, 'Electric Shadow', which I couldn't resist buying, have been described by Poetry Book Society selectors, Moniza Alvi and Paul Farley, as ...

‘Poems which display an incisive mind, 
a powerful imagination 
and an equally impressive purchase on language.’

I very much look forward to reading these at leisure. 
Heidi, a prize-winning poet, held a two year residency at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre in London. She is currently serving as Poet-in-Residence at the John Jarrold Printing Museum in Norwich. These opportunities have afforded her the opportunity to move out of her comfort zone (as I believe she said), and to embark on a series of explorations into the multi-faceted worlds of science and technology, worlds that are not often associated with our perhaps limited perception of those 'traditional spheres' of poetry. 
I first met Heidi some weeks ago when she travelled to Ipswich to join the Café Poets at Arlingtons. There was little chance to talk then, but I was excited when I heard that she was running a course, and was thankful that our house move didn't quite overlap with the day in question!
So what did we do in the workshop? Well, we were encouraged to attempt exercises that helped us to focus and think more incisively about the nature of our embryonic future collections. We were also given step-by-step guidelines to follow. We were made aware not only of helpful tips but also of common pitfalls to avoid along what can be for some - if not for many - an uncertain route towards publication. 
I won't go into more explicit details because it is possible that you may choose to take the opportunity of attending one of Heidi's future workshops for yourself. Suffice to say that Heidi took a very comprehensive approach to her topic, providing her participants with an extremely enjoyable and valuable way of spending a Saturday. I have come home with much to think about and a wad of practical handouts to read and digest. I look forward to following through some of the books that were recommended - and I feel far more equipped for the next leg of my own exciting and doubtless unique journey into the world of poetry and its publication.
Thank you, Heidi, for an inspiring and challenging day!

Monday 12 March 2012

Poetry Matters (18): Passion for Poetry Event, Bury St Edmunds

Spring is in the air - and you might like to support the Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury, in the 'Passion for Poetry' event, by selecting and sponsoring a poem. Details can be found here - and there is still just time to return a completed form by post.

Postscript, 2 April 2012: it was good to join others at the Opening of the ECAT (Edmund Centre for Arts and Theology) Centre on Saturday. David and I heard that our sponsored poems had been read in the Cathedral Centre at Bury St Edmunds as part of the Dean's 24 hour poetry reading. We were able to meet Dr Elizabeth Cook, who will become Writer-in-Residence.  

Thursday 8 March 2012

Media Matters (3) David Gill on Air

David at Nestor's Palace, close to Homer's 'sandy Pylos'

David was a 'sofa guest' on Radio Suffolk this afternoon. You can find the programme on this link - and by pushing the slide-bar along until you get to '2.30', about three quarters of the way along the line. We found it took some seconds before the sound kicked in.

The programme was billed with these words:

'on the sofa Professor David Gill who has been described as Indiana Jones in reverse because he likes to return antiquities to their original homes.'

The chat show covers various aspects of David's 'relationship' with archaeology, from his first find as a boy to his 2012 Award from the Archaeological Institute of America (which is when the Swansea media came up with the 'Indie' nickname). David mentions his poetry, and recites his poem, 'From Syracuse to Manhattan'.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Poetry Matters (17): Spring Selection of Books on Form and Structure

Spring Selection of Books on Form and Structure

Every so often I come across a recommendation for a book on the craft of poetry. I thought I would list one or two of these publications in case they are also of interest to other writers – and in the hope that readers of this post may care to share the title of recommended or favourite poetic craft books in the Comments section for us all to see.

Michael Theune's distinction between Poetic Form and Poetic Structure (and here) may be of interest to those who engage in the practice of making poetry.

I own a copy of the first book on my list below, and have just ordered a copy of the fourth book. I have read about the other books, and am listing them here as a personal prompt - and in the hope that they may also strike a chord with you.

1] The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics Including Odd and Invented Forms (4th Edition, UPNE) by Lewis Putnam Turco. This book includes three of my sample poems. You can read my post about the book here.

2] A Poet's Craft: a Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry by Annie Finch

3] Structure and Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns by Michael Theune

4] You Only Guide Me by Surprise”: Poetry and the Dolphin’s Turn by Peter Sacks

and one that is as yet available for pre-order ...

5] Adventures in Form: A Compendium of Poetic Forms, Rules and Constraints by Paul Muldoon

and finally a brand new Creative Writing book that looks most exciting ...

6] The Cambridge Companion to Creative Writing by David Morley (available to buy from CUP). The volume includes a chapter on Poetry and Poetics by Bronwyn Lea.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Magazine Moment (31): The Seventh Quarry

The Seventh Quarry (against a blue background for contrast)

Issue 15 of The Seventh Quarry poetry magazine contains submissions from most corners of the British Isles in addition to contributions from Italy, Germany, Korea, USA and Guatemala. The magazine is edited by Peter Thabit Jones from Swansea. Wales is represented by eight writers in this issue.

My eye was immediately drawn to 'Gales at Rhossili' by Jean Salkilld, who runs the Swansea Tuesday Poetry group. I can visualise those Gower gales as

White horses break the misted greyness of
the sea circus ...

This issue contains a fascinating interview with Chicano poet and Boston University professor, Tino Villanueva, who came to Swansea in 2010 to read in the Dylan Thomas Birthplace. Tino, author of six books, defines the term Chicano as 'an American of Mexican descent, whether native-born or naturalized citizen.' Villanueva describes Dylan Thomas as the poet whose 'language most seduced' him. However, there are other powerful influences, too. Tino explains that he has spent the last ten years working on a poem sequence revolving around Penelope, the faithful Homeric wife of Odysseus. I sense the significance of  'ten years' as a unit of time since not only did the Trojan War drag on for a decade, but it then took Odysseus a further ten years to return to his island home of Ithaca.

Sultan Catto is the poet in profile in this edition. He is professor of Theoretical Physics at the CUNY Graduate Center and at the Rockefeller University in New York. He writes poetry in Turkish and English. I was intrigued by Sultan's poem, 'Sunday Afternoon' (the more so having just viewed a study for Seurat's Pointillist work, 'Sunday Afternoon at the island of La Grande Jatte' in the New York Met). The poem contains compelling juxtapositions of images - we find 'starfish on sands' alongside 'flights of songs'.

'The Seventh Quarry' is not only international in flavour, representing an ever-expanding global community of poets and artists, but is also refreshingly eclectic in terms of style and form. There are short pithy poems like 'Lost Song in Swansea' by John Edwin Cohen and long ones that flow across the page, such as 'Remembering Fengdu' by Nancy E. Wright. 'Visiting the Lady Chapel at Llandaff in April' by Penelope Duckworth is a modern sonnet and '45 Grave on the Nostalgia Circuit' by Simon Hunt is a rhyming sonnet.

John Brantingham holds the stage for the Grand Finale with his masterful '30 Poets, 1 Violinist, 1 Cameraman in Wales', a tribute poem to Swansea's First International Poetry Festival, which took place last summer. The poem is set in Laugharne, at the Dylan Thomas Boat House, and I am left with the lingering image of a violinist playing his music in Wales under a white umbrella in the rain.

  • Details of The Seventh Quarry (subscriptions, submissions ...) can be found here.

Saturday 3 March 2012

Magazine Moment (28): Shabdaguchha, Reach Poetry and Orizont Literar Contemporan

Shabdaguchha is under the editorship of Bangladesh-born, New York-based poet, novelist, critic and translator, Hassanal Abdullah. You can reads a feature about him here

Issue 53/54 includes a section prepared by Peter Thabit Jones (editor of The Seventh Quarry magazine) and dedicated to the work in English of 'Welsh Poets'. It is always a pleasure (though a rare one) to find that David (Gill) and I have poetry in the same volume! Our first joint appearance in the poetry press was, I believe, in the Pairs Issue of Purple Patch, edited by Geoff Stevens, whose recent death (see below) brought shockwaves of sadness to the poetry fraternity. Our paired poems on that occasion were - not surprisingly - on the archaeology and topography of Greece. Our Shabdaguchha pieces have been published alongside poems by Peter Thabit Jones, Aeronwy Thomas (d.2009), Jean Salkilld (leader of Swansea's Tuesday Poetry group) and Lynn Hopkins.

In addition to the Welsh poetry, the current magazine includes sections in Bengali and English. A poem called 'No Cats on the Yangtze' by Stanley H. Barkan, editor of Cross-Cultural Communications in New York, particularly caught my eye. My thanks to Hassanal Abdullah - and many congratulations on the 14th anniversary of the magazine. 

Details of how to purchase a hard copy of the magazine can be found by clicking here. Issue 53/54 Vol. 14, no.1-2, July-Dec 2011 of Shabdaguchha contains the following poems by the Gills ...

  • Elegy for Idris Davies
  • Preseli Blue
  • Swansong
  • Standing Alone
  • From Syracuse to Manhattan
  • Gloucestershire in the Negev
* * *


I was delighted to receive my copy of the March edition of Reach Poetry (162) yesterday. The beautiful cover shows a pony (perhaps a grey mare?) at sunset. Editor, Ronnie Goodyer, has included a fitting tribute to small press poet-publisher extraordinaire, Geoff Stevens. Geoff will be much missed.

My poem, 'Harmony in Fragmentation', inspired by Seurat's Pointillist work, 'A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte', took Second Place in the readers' votes for February, so thank you to all who voted.  

* * *


And finally, I have just noticed that the new edition of the Romanian literary magazine, Orizont Literar Contemporan, will be coming out soon, thanks to editor-in-chief, Daniel Dragomirescu from Bucharest. You might just recognise a certain person on the cover . . .

Thursday 1 March 2012

Publication Pointer (4): Orizont Literar Contemporan - Antologia (2)

The new Antologia


Daniel Dragomirescu and his editorial assistants in Bucharest have produced the second Antologia Revistei Orizont Literar Contemporan / Contemporary Literary Horizon Anthology. It is 82 pages long and packed with lively literary material from most corners of the globe. The four sections are as follows:
  1. Orizonturi Contemporane - including, for example, Peggy Landsman's stroke of sheer brilliance in the form of 'Daniel's Cosmic Suitcase' and Professor Donald Riggs' commentary of the poetry of Marius Ştefan Aldea.
  2. Dialoguri Mulitculturale - including Alina-Olimpia Miron in conversation with the editor-in-chief, Daniel Dragomirescu, on the subject of whether 'A Good Book is One in Which Most Readers Recognize Themselves'.
  3. Orizonturi Poetice - this section features the work of 21 contemporary poets - often in more than one language, largely thanks to the stalwart translation work of the Romanian students linked to Professor Lidia Vianu's MTTLC in Bucharest.
  4. Orizontul Prozei - Alex Kudera from the USA heads up the final section with a touching extract from 'The Book of Jay', a memoir about the author's father, the poet Jay Roberts. Magazine Director, Mihai Canuniari's contribution, 'Ocarina De Lut' / 'The Clay Ocarina', is an excerpt about his 'musical evolution' from the second volume of the cycle, 'Man as Grass'.  
Those who know me will know that international poetry is something that I particularly enjoy. I am grateful to the translators for enabling us to appreciate poems in Spanish ('Caracol de Sueno Sobre una Cosa Que Mata' by Luis Benitez from Argentina), in Romanian ('Rigoletto' by Tatiana Rădulescu), and in other languages besides, like French and Italian - and not forgetting English! Three of my poems, 'A Flicker, A Flash', 'On Emily's Moor', and 'Afternoon with Alfred Wallis in St Ives' have been included. My thanks to Iulian Daniel Trandafir and Teodora Gheorghe of MTTLC, Universitatea din Bucureti for their translations into Romanian. My poems appear in Romanian as 'O Licarire, O Fulgerare', 'In Ţinutul lui Emily', and 'O După Amiază Cu Alfred Wallis in St Ives'.   

If you are interested in taking out a subscription to the magazine or would like to buy a copy of the Antologia, you might like to contact Daniel Dragomirescu or leave a comment here on my blog or on the Contemporary Literary Horizon site here. We would love to hear from you!