Wednesday 14 October 2015

The Poetry Society Annual Lecture by Rita Dove - and other Poetic Events

It has certainly been a poetic few days!

I was in London last night, listening to Rita Dove as she delivered The Poetry Society Lecture for 2015. Rita served as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995 and as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004 to 2006.

'How does a shadow shine?' ... such an evocative title

Rita Dove preparing to begin at King's College, London, 13 October 2015

Taking questions at the end, helped by Judith Palmer

* * *

Last weekend included a lunch event at The Wentworth Hotel in Aldeburgh to celebrate the 2015 winners of The Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition organised by the Suffolk Poetry Society. Here are the winning poets, with Caroline Gilfillan taking First Prize. Robert Seatter was the judge.

Overall Winner, Caroline Gilfillan with the Rose Bowl; Robert Seatter on the right

In addition to a lovely lunch, we were treated to a reading of the winning poems. Robert Seatter also read us a poem from each of his three collections.

* * * 

Some days ago I attended a stimulating poetry workshop led by Gregory Warren Wilson on the theme of Textiles. I came away with work to polish and at least one poem still to write, though it just might be the beginning of a series.

I took a piece of my Scottish family tartan to the workshop as a prompt. I saw more tartan and other Scottish items yesterday at the current exhibition at the British Museum on the 'Celts - Art and Identity'. I was excited, but not surprised, to find displays relating to the poetry of 'Ossian', linked, of course, to James Macpherson (1736–1796), who came from the same Kingussie area of Scotland as my ancestors. You may well have read in the press about the recent discovery of the Kingussie time capsule, dating from a century later.

The remains of Ruthven Barracks (built from 1719), edge of Kingussie

And finally, working back in time to National Poetry Day, I had a Haiku on the theme of 'Light' in the Paper Swans online presentation, which you can watch and read here.  

Thursday 8 October 2015

Happy National Poetry Day!

I learned this morning that this is also World Octopus or Cephalopod Day, so here is an octopus from a reconstruction of Nestor's Palace in Homer's 'sandy Pylos' in the western Peloponnese. We visited this remarkable site five years ago. Over 1000 Linear B tablets came to light on this place alone.

And now for a little poetry. Alexander Pope may not be in vogue these days, but his rhymed version of The Odyssey gives a flavour of the storyline in the old epic (and it is a version that is out of copyright). What follows (in blue) are three excerpts from Pope, concerning the arrival of Odysseus' son, Telemachus, at Nestor's Palace. Telemachus is anxious for news of his father, who left his island home of Ithaka to fight in the Trojan War. Nestor is making animal sacrifices on the beach when his visitor arrives. 

Reconstruction of Nestor's Palace floor in the Chora Museum - octopus motif

Now on the coast of Pyle the vessel falls,

Before old Neleus’ venerable walls.

There, suppliant to the Monarch of the Flood,

At nine green theatres the Pylians stood.

Each held five hundred (a deputed train),

At each, nine oxen on the sand lay slain ...

Reconstruction of the Megaron floor in Nestor's Palace, Museum at Chora

Full for the port the Ithacensians stand,

And furl their sails, and issue on the land.

Telemachus already press’d the shore . . .

The Throne Room, with a huge central hearth

The youth of Pylos, some on pointed wood,

Transfix’d the fragments, some prepared the food:

In friendly throngs they gather to embrace
Their unknown guests, and at the banquet place.

Pisistratus was first to grasp their hands,

And spread soft hides upon the yellow sands;

Along the shore th’ illustrious pair he led,

Where Nestor sate with youthful Thrasymed.

from Alexander Pope's version of The Odyssey Book III. You can read the whole chapter here

Reconstruction of Nestor's Palace

Nestor's Palace - as it is now

  • If I was suggesting a good modern translation of The Odyssey, it would be the one by Richard Lattimore
  • You might be interested in Adam Nicolson's book, The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters, which I have just started to read.
  • And, of course, the poem, 'Ithaka' by Cavafy is one of my all time favourites. 
  • More octopuses! John Pinsent (1922-1995), a Classical scholar and Reader in Greek at Liverpool University, wrote a study called 'The Iconography of Octopuses: a First Typology' (BICS 25, 1978) about the development of octopus representations in late Mycenaean vase painting. I remember him giving a fascinating lecture on the subject in Newcastle when we were undergraduates. 

Thursday 1 October 2015

Reach Poetry #205, Indigo Dreams Publishing

Bracelet Bay and the Mumbles Lighthouse, Swansea

An A5 package came through the letterbox this morning containing two magazines from Indigo Dreams Publishing, Reach Poetry #205 and The Dawntreader #032.

I have written before (here) about my long association with the press, and am always delighted when the latest copies arrive in my home. I tore open the envelope; and to my surprise, a cheque fluttered to the floor. My small poem about Bracelet Bay had come Second in the September contest of readers' votes. Thank you, Reach Poetry editor, Ronnie Goodyer!

My poem is a take (or perhaps a slight variation, since the key mid-line is split) on the Folding Mirror poetry form, devised by Dr. Marc Latham and included in The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics including Odd and Invented Forms by Lewis Putnam Turco (University Press of New England).

Reach Poetry is a monthly publication. You can subscribe for a year or buy a single copy. The Dawntreader (editor Dawn Bauling) comes out each quarter, and again you can buy a sample issue or an annual subscription.