Monday 2 June 2014

Personal Highlights from the 1st Suffolk Poetry Festival

Suffolk Poetry Society Chairman, Ian Griffiths

Huge thanks and congratulations are due to the committee members of the Suffolk Poetry Society for their gargantuan labours in presenting the First Suffolk Poetry Festival at the John Peel Centre in Stowmarket last Saturday. Thanks are also due to The Limbourne Trust for their sponsorship. The festival day proved to be an eclectic and inclusive mix of homegrown poetry from Suffolk - and judging by the applause and the enthusiastic conversations, it was a great success.  

Festival Organiser, Colin Whyles

I attended one of the workshops in the morning. It was on the Sonnet, and was led by Suffolk Poetry Society President, James Knox Whittet. James led us through a number of sample Sonnets, proffering tips to follow and pitfalls to avoid, before encouraging us to create a Shakespearean Sonnet of our own. My attempt certainly needs more polish, but I hope a finished poem may emerge from my scribblings once I have had a chance to add some final touches.

Colin Whyles preparing the microphone for the Festival launch of 'so too have the doves gone'

Café Green provided vegetarian snacks and meals all through the day. It was good to have the chance (albeit briefly) to chat with fellow poets and to look at the bookstall over lunch. I treated myself to a copy of Orinsay Poems (Orphean Press 2012) by Mike Bannister on the subject of 'happy times and adventures in and around Orinsay on the Isle of Lewis'. The afternoon was given over to presentations from the Poetry Cafés that are such a feature of the Suffolk poetry scene. Each cafe had been allocated a 30 minute slot, and the offerings ranged from a group Renga to the demonstration of the Sestina form to the presentation of Peter Hood's songs about the east coast.

There were presentations from ...
In addition to these planned presentations there were also short open mic slots between the scheduled events in the programme. It was good to hear poems from Tim Gardiner (you can read about his insect poems here) and others.

Chairman, Ian Griffiths, representing the Woodbridge Poetry Cafe

Given the rich wildlife of the county, it is not surprising that birds featured in a number of poems. Ian Griffiths narrated a poem that featured not only the imagery of a Robin and a Blackbird, but also included a whole host of other feathered companions. 

Yours truly at the mic!

I planned some days ago to read my poem about the Woolly Bear Caterpillar. You can imagine my amazement when I noticed a British cousin of this species walking across a presenter's hand (Chris Packham's, I seem to remember) on BBC Springwatch from RSPB Minsmere earlier in the week. My poem is published in my 2012 chapbook, The Holy Place, co-authored with John Dotson and published by Peter Thabit Jones of The Seventh Quarry and Stanley H. Barkan of Cross-Cultural Communications in New York.

David Gill, reading his poem and introducing the UCS slot

A University Campus Suffolk slot was included in the reading programme. David read his Edward Thomas tribute poem, 'Gloucestershire in the Negev', alongside excellent poems from two UCS students.

There was just time for a welcome cup of tea and large slice of chocolate cake before the evening session. This began with the launch of so too have the doves gone, an anthology of poems largely from Suffolk and Essex to mark the centenary of the Great War. Judith Wolton led the way. This time it was my turn to read an Edward Thomas tribute poem. This new 2014 anthology was edited by Stephen Boyce and initiated by Pam Job and Judith Wolton. It was published by Jardine Press Ltd.

Florence Cox was next up on the programme and we enjoyed her witty and meticulously observed poems on the foibles of human nature. Florence was followed by 2012 Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition winner, Caroline Gilfillan who gave a presentation of her Pepys poems. The final performers of the evening were Kate Foley and Luke Wright.  

My thanks to all who made the day such an enjoyable one for so many. May it be the first of many!