Monday 23 December 2013

Seasonal Greetings from Suffolk ...

 Happy Christmas!
Shepherd's Hut at Sutton Hoo

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Anthology Alert: Micro Fiction and Poetry

The publications in the photo above have all come out in time for Christmas.


Four Word Stories, edited by Mai Black, is for sale on Amazon at £4. The volume contains a selection of micro-fiction produced by members of Ipswich Writing Group. The stories were written in five minutes during a workshop, with a little time thereafter for editing. Each writer was given four random words from a pile created by participants.
My story is called 'Jupiter  |  basket   | today  | creature' 

Flight, edited by Jean Salkilld, is the latest anthology of poems from the Tuesday Poetry group. I was a member of the group when I lived in Swansea. It contains airborne poems about birds (wild geese), heroes (Superman), bats, fairies and aircraft (air ambulance).
The volume includes two of my poems, 'The Bumblebee Bat' and 'Glossy Ibis near Welney'

Slants of Light, named after a poem by Emily Dickinson, contains the winning, shortlisted and longlisted poems from the 2013 Paragram Poetry Competition. It also contains full adjudication notes from Adrienne Dines, the competition judge. 
The volume includes my shortlisted poem, 'Meteor Shower'

Saturday 7 December 2013

Anthology Alert ~ 'Glass Cases & Curios'

Photo credit: © Karen Harvey 2013, used with permission

We had a great night out in the Cambridge University Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences on 5 December, launching 'Glass Cases & Curios', an anthology of poems and artwork inspired by artefacts in museums in the east of England. The launch was organised by Karen Harvey and Leanne Moden, 2013 Fenland Laureate, with Elaine Ewart, 2012 Fenland Laureate in attendance. 

There is always something rather special about being in a museum after hours!

Photo credit: © Karen Harvey 2013, used with permission

Photo credit: © Karen Harvey 2013, used with permission
 Do email Karen Harvey (email on poster) if you would like to buy a copy of the anthology ... Christmas is coming. It includes my poem about a cat in the Woodbridge Tide Mill ...

Photo credit: © Karen Harvey 2013, used with permission

Photo credit: © Karen Harvey 2013, used with permission
 Above: Pete 'Cardinal' Cox reads his poem.

Photo credit: © Karen Harvey 2013, used with permission
 Above: Elaine Ewart, 2012 Fenland Laureate.

Elaine Ewart, Photo credit: © Karen Harvey 2013, used with permission

Photo credit: © Karen Harvey 2013, used with permission

Elaine Ewart, Photo credit: © Karen Harvey 2013, used with permission

Photo credit: © Karen Harvey 2013, used with permission
 Above: Peterborough Laureate, Peter Irving reads his poem.

Photo credit: © Karen Harvey 2013, used with permission
 Above: J.S. Watts reading.

Leanne Moden, Photo credit: © Karen Harvey 2013, used with permission

The large company we keep!

With Leanne Moden, 2013 Fenland Laureate on left and Karen Harvey on right of photo

Left to right: Leanne Moden, me, Karen Harvey ... and a dinosaur tail!

Friday 22 November 2013

Celebration ~ C.S. Lewis, Westminster Abbey

Narnia-like lamp post with tree reflections ...

There will be a special service today at noon in Westminster Abbey to dedicate a memorial to C.S. Lewis, creator of The Chronicles of Narnia, to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Lewis as scholar, apologist and writer. The preacher will be the Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who is also author of The Lion's World: A Journey into the Heart of Narnia. The Abbey choir will sing a newly commissioned anthem, a setting of Lewis’s poem 'Love’s As Warm As Tears'.

A memorial stone will be unveiled in Poets' Corner.

The Order of Service can be found here

The event forms part of a symposium marking Lewis's achievements and celebrating his career as one of the 20th century's most notable Christian writers and thinkers. 
  • BBC report on the C.S. Lewis anniversary in Northern Ireland
  • BBC report: Professor Alister McGrath on the religious symbolism behind The Chronicles of Narnia
  • BBC pictures: CS Lewis and his world

Westminster Abbey

Friday 15 November 2013

Fiesta Time: Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2013

Snape Maltings

I can hardly believe that nearly a week has gone by since Aldeburgh Poetry Festival.

I attended a translation workshop led by Sasha Dugdale at Aldeburgh on the Friday afternoon. Although I have contributed to the Romanian journal, Orizont Literar Contemporan, in various ways and over a number of years, I have never been a poetry translator. Sasha led us through a Mandelstam poem with great panache; and when it was over to us to try to present our own versions in English, we began to grasp why translation is the closest reading of a poem that can be attempted. Sasha drew our attention to the journal called mpt, which stands for 'modern poetry in translation'. The current issue ends with a fine tribute to Seamus Heaney by David Constantine, who was one of the three poets at this year's Aldeburgh Poetry Prom.  

Then on Saturday afternoon, David (Gill) and I had tickets for a couple of events at Snape Maltings. The first was a presentation on Christopher Logue by Craig Raine, a poet in his own right, and known by many for his time as poetry editor at Faber and Faber.

Raine spoke about Logue's five volume magnus opus known as War Music, which constitutes the poet's contemporary re-working of the Iliad, a work I know from my days as a student and then as a teacher of Classical Studies. War Music is 'crammed with contemporary references' and is not merely a translation. During the short session Raine led us through a number of passages and we began to see how cinematic influences had been brought to bear on the material in a bid to enhance the action. The notes I made on the handout are full of remarks such as 'slapstick', 'cartoon comedy' and 'violence infected with comedy'.   

Our final Aldeburgh event was a brief reading by D. Nurske, sponsored by Ink, Sweat and Tears. Nurske explored the nature of 'beauty' in poetry in his Short Take session. He reminded us of the fact that a century ago readers were keen to present the work of others at readings whereas the current trend is for readers to share their own work. To this end, he chose to redress the balance by introducing short poems by a variety of writers, including some revered household names like Issa and others less universally known like Sylvain Garneau.

Nurske spoke of poetry as 'a voice that comes from nowhere'.  

With Lynn Woollacott

With this thought much in mind, it was time to head for the Trask Cafe for a cup of Earl Grey and a slice of chocolate brownie. One of the pleasures of attending a festival is the chance not only to make new acquaintances in workshops etc. but to meet up with friends. Lynn Woollacott and I have 'known' each other for some years through our poems in Indigo Dreams publications and through online exchanges. We are both Hellenophiles with a soft spot for the threatened Caretta caretta sea turtles (click here and scroll down) that come ashore to breed in a few selective sites on the islands and mainland of Greece.

It was lovely, Lynn, to have the chance to meet you face to face!

Snape Sunset

Postscript: my thanks to Naomi Jaffa and the Festival organisers. The Poetry Paper is as ever crammed with poems and commentary. Issue 10 celebrates twenty-five years of the festival and contains an interview with David Constantine, a double spread on landscape in poetry and, of course, a good number of poems.  

Saturday 9 November 2013

Magazine Moments ~ From Romania to East Anglia

I have been at the 25th Aldeburgh International Poetry Festival at Snape today.

When I got home, I was able to open the double issue of Orizont Literar Contemporan that had arrived. My thanks to Daniel Dragomirescu! 

This issue includes a feature I edited on Two Aspects of the Literary Scene in Norfolk and Suffolk
  • Chris Gribble, Norfolk: Norwich, UNESCO City of Literature
  • Naomi Jaffa, Suffolk: Aldeburgh Poetry Festival

Friday 8 November 2013

Fiesta Time ~ 25 Years of Aldeburgh Poetry Festival

I got back some hours ago from my excursion to Aldeburgh. 

The weather was extraordinarily mild for November, though there were heavy showers at times. I was practically the only soul on the long beach during a dry spell. Has everyone migrated to Snape? 

I took part in Sasha Dugdale's translation workshop. My experience of translating *poetry* from a literal translation (since I do not speak the original Russian of our sample poem) was a near-novel one for me. Of course, those who know the original language can translate a poem with accuracy. But where does that leave the poetry itself? How much should we strive to recreate the poet's original intention with precision? How much should we aim to convey the way in which the poem reveals its magic to us?

I came away with a copy of mpt (modern poetry in translation), edited by Sasha. The issue (no.3 2013) ends with a fitting tribute to Seamus Heaney from David Constantine, in which Constantine reminds us that despite its personal origins, 'a poem is always also for someone else ...'

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Creature Feature ~ Rhino Poem in Reach Poetry

There has been much in the news recently about the plight of the Rhino. Even dead rhinos have not been exempt from the poaching of their horns, a sad fact that is particularly pertinent here in Suffolk. The new issue of Reach Poetry (#182) is just out from Indigo Dreams Publishing Ltd, and contains my rhino poem, 'Letter from the Bush'.

Rhinos on the Web ...

Stop Press ... just today Juliet Wilson (aka Crafty Green Poet) has posted a book review on Rhinoceros Summer by Jamie Thornton. 

Thursday 31 October 2013

Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2013 ~ The Poetry of Things

We were really excited by the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, and particularly glad that we were able to obtain tickets for the 'Poetry of Things' event in the Cast Gallery of the Cambridge University Museum of Classical Archaeology.

The participating Thresholds Project poets were National Poet of Wales Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker, Jo Shapcott and Sean Borodale. The poets were in conversation with Steve Connor, Grace 2 Professor of English in the University of Cambridge, and Isobel Armstrong, Emeritus Professor of English at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Gillian Clarke

Each poet described aspects of his or her residency in an assigned museum - or University Library in the case of Imtiaz Dharker. The poets presented poems that had been written on their residencies and the audience were invited to ask questions about the creative process and about the way in which the poets had responded to their allotted collections.

The Cast Gallery

I am looking forward to another poetry event in Cambridge, this time in December in the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. The Fen Poets and their Young Curators will be launching a new poetry pamphlet on artefacts in museums throughout the eastern region. I am looking forward to reading my contribution. More details to follow ...

Monday 21 October 2013

International Echoes ~ Shabdaguchha at 15!

Happy 15th birthday, Shabdaguchha

This Bengali poetry magazine with an international flavour is edited by Hassanal Abdullah from his home in the USA. I was made aware of this multilingual magazine back in 2011 when I was invited to contribute to a section on poetry from Wales, along with Aeronwy Thomas (1943-2009), Peter Thabit Jones, Jean Salkilld, David (Gill) and Lynn Hopkins.

Fifteen years is a long time in the life of a poetry magazine! Two of the highlights along the way (in my opinion) have been pieces on the Swatantra Sonnet (devised by the editor) and a feature on Cajun poets, presented by Beverly Matherne.

Issue 59/60 contains birthday greetings from Stanley H. Barkan, editor of Cross-Cultural Communications in New York, from Laura Boss, Kristine Doll, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Tino Villenueva and many others. My anniversary tribute can be found on p.16, under the heading 'An International  Celebration of Literary Adventure'. 

Monday 14 October 2013

Collaborative Conversations ~ a meeting with Suzanne of Lemonkitten Design

Ipswich Waterfront ~ a Creative Place

I had a very enjoyable meeting some days ago with Suzanne Franks of Lemonkitten Design. Back in the summer Suzanne mentioned that she might like to work on some poetry illustrations, so we thought we would have a preliminary chat and see whether it could perhaps lead to some sort of collaboration.

I first encountered Suzanne's designs when we moved to Ipswich two years ago. I am particularly drawn to her crisp use of colour, her exciting sense of pattern and her clean lines. Suzanne, it seems to me, draws a fair amount of her inspiration from animal and plant life, so although it is early days and we are keeping an open mind, I am feeling excited about the possibility of combining aspects of our work.

You can find Lemonkitten Design on Facebook ... by clicking here

Monday 7 October 2013

Published Poetry ~ 'Otter Watch' in Reach Poetry magazine

Otter in Assynt, 2013

Thank you to all Reach Poetry readers for your votes on #180, listed in #181. My poem, 'Otter Watch', came second in the October issue of this magazine from Indigo Dreams Publishing. Congratulations to Tina Negus for her poem, 'Billy', which came 'top of the box'.

Monday 23 September 2013

Poetry ~ Paragram Competition

Waterfront by night ...

Congratulations to the Paragram winners, whose poems you can read here.

My sonnet, 'Meteor Shower', made it through to the short list of the Paragram Poetry Competition, judged by Adrienne Dines. The competition theme was 'a certain slant of light', and my poem was written in response to the Perseid meteor shower seen from my home in August.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Anthology Alert ~ Book Launch and Reading at Ystrad Fflur aka the Abbey of Strata Florida

We are just back from Strata Florida, where we attended a  Beirdd a Thywysogion / Poets and Princes Day laid on by CADW in conjunction with the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies.

David peeping through the arch

The ruined abbey nestles in the Cambrian mountains, and is one of our favourite corners of Wales. We were treated to bilingual talks on the 'manuscripts and princes' (Ann Parry Owen) and 'food in medieval Welsh poetry' (Alaw Mai Edwards). Martin Locock led tours of the site, and I was surprised to learn that Bath stone had been used in this remote location for part of the entrance. 

Preparing for action ...

Medieval fayre was available at lunch time, thanks to the Cegin Cartref chefs. A potter and printer were on hand to help with the production of pots and decorative printed pages. I was fascinated by the 'smelting' work of a 'Medieval' metal-worker and by the weaving and cording techniques of the costumed textile artisans. 

Martin Locock launched his new anthology, Poetry from Strata Florida, an Anthology inspired by the Ystrad Fllur Landscape, 1350-2013 (Carreg Ffylfan Press 2013). The anthology includes my poem, '1st May: Red Kite at Strata Florida'. The illustrations in the volume are by Linden Fletcher, with photographs by Scott Waby

Martin Locock, editor of 'Poetry from Strata Florida'

Martin writes, 

"This volume brings together medieval and contemporary poetry inspired by Strata Florida Abbey and the supposed grave of Dafydd ap Gwilym. The landscape of the area has provoked a powerful response in writers, whether from the natural and architectural beauty, sympathy with nature, meditations about the Welsh nation and language, sombre thoughts about mortality, or closeness to God. 

The volume is mainly English language, with those poems originally written in Welsh presented as parallel texts with a translation.  It contains poems by Dafydd ap Gwilym, Hedd Wyn, Harri Webb, Ruth Bidgood, R S Thomas, Gillian Clarke, Gwyneth Lewis and members of Red Heron: Lampeter Writers' Workshop, with an introduction summarising the landscape's heritage.  The volume is illustrated with historical prints and new linocuts and photographs."

Martin introduced the book, before handing over to Professor Dafydd Johnston, Director of the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, Aberystwyth. Dafydd gave an introduction to the Medieval poems about the Abbey. 

Professor Dafydd Johnston introduces the Welsh poets in the anthology

Time for the launch. Anthology illustrator, Linden Fletcher, in light blue rain jacket.
Martin reading his poems

I read my Strata Florida poem from the new anthology, and appropriately we spotted a number of Red Kites gracing the higher slopes of the Cambrian hillside behind the Abbey arch. 

Yours truly ...

I stuck with the theme of poets and their resting places, reading two of my chapbook poems, 'Monte Testaccio: Mound of Potsherds' (about the feral cats who live near the grave of Keats in Rome) and 'Elegy for Idris Davies', the colllier poet from Rhymney. As it happens, Professor Dafydd Johnston is the editor of The Complete Poems of Idris Davies (University of Wales Press, 1994).

Readings from Kathy Miles and Josie Smith followed. In one of her poems, University of Wales Trinity St David Librarian and poet, Kathy Miles, homed in on the exquisite work of illuminated manuscript preparation in the Scriptorium. 

Kathy Miles

Josie Smith's piece, 'A Last Farewell' (from the Lampeter Writers' Workshop anthology, A Star fell from Orion), was inspired by Keats' final journey, and resonated with my Monte Testaccio poem. 

Josie Smith (left)
Martin brought the poetry proceedings to a close with samples of his own work. His poem 'Scribe and Scripture' evokes so much of what this place means to me ... a sunlit cloister and a poised quill. 

The Taliesin Stone (words by Gwyneth Lewis, stone art by Rob Turner) ...

... and a Medieval tile, showing person with mirror

Do consider buying a copy of this anthology. It covers almost all known poetry works about the site, with perhaps the notable exception of 'Lament for a Leg' by John Ormond. Ormond's Strata Florida poem pays tribute to the inscription on a grave containing 'The left leg and part of the thigh of Henry Hughes, Cooper', which 'was cut off and interr'd here, June 18, 1756.' Henry Hughes subsequently crossed the Atlantic, leaving the severed limb behind him . . .

Thank you, Martin and the Strata Florida 'team', for organising a truly inspirational day!