Saturday 22 December 2018

Winter Update, 2018

This picture seemed to me to have a wintry feel despite the fact the photograph was taken in summer! It depicts the Skye Bridge and the small island of Eilean Bàn. I have posted it to accompany a link (here) to my Skye poem, The Ceilidh House, about winter in the Inner Hebrides in times gone by. My thanks to Sharmagne and her editorial assistants for publishing my poem in the December issue of Quill and Parchment.

Special thanks, too, to Matthew Stewart for including this blog in his Rogue Strands 2018 list of poetry blogs. I feel very honoured to receive another mention. Thank you, Matthew.

A summary of my 2018 poetry activities can be found here

Wednesday 7 November 2018

'Remembrance 100' and 'With Remembrance in MIND'

I have been running and judging a poetry competition in and for my local community as part of the programme of 'Remembrance 100' events in our church to mark the centenary of Armistice Day. The image above forms part of the cover of our competition pamphlet of poems. I have added a blue border to this screen image as, not surprisingly, white failed to show up on white!

The winners have been announced, and I am greatly looking forward to our Prize-giving Reading later this month.  

I shall be at a different church tomorrow evening, reading my Christmas Truce poem from Towards the light (Kapaju Books, 2018) ...

Monday 5 November 2018

Poetry in Aldeburgh, 2018

I can hardly believe how quickly Poetry in Aldeburgh has come and gone this year. The weather was largely bright and fresh, and I'm guessing more poets braced the icy waters of the North Sea than on previous years, though I only actually saw one swimmer emerging over the shingle bank as I savoured my chips. 

I attended two workshops. They were both excellent, but very different from one another. My Friday workshop was led by Helena Nelson of HappenStance Press, and concerned the 'Ps' of having poetry published. My Saturday one, led by Pascale Petit, encouraged us to venture out of our comfort zones into the world of 'wild' and 'dangerous' writing.

So what did I buy during the weekend? Well, I was fairly restrained this year, having made a number of poetry purchases recently; but two volumes I could not resist were Mama Amazonica by Pascale Petit (having attended her 'wild' workshop) and a secondhand copy of The Trumpet and Other Poems by Edward Thomas. I added Kathleen Jamie's Collected Poems to my wishlist, perhaps with Christmas in mind, though I doubt I will feel I want to wait that long...

There is always a buzz in Aldeburgh during the days of the Festival, and it is always good to meet up with friends and to make new ones. The task now is to return to my notebook and attempt to tidy up those workshop drafts...

Wednesday 31 October 2018

Poetry 'with Remembrance in MIND'

I shall be reading my (acrostic) First World War poem from Towards the light (Kapaju Press, 2018) at this Remembrance concert in aid of the charity, Suffolk MIND. Details of the evening are on the flyer above. Do come and support this worthy cause.

Monday 22 October 2018

Judging a Remembrance Poetry Competition

My task for today (well, for this week, but I must make an immediate start) is to judge a local poetry competition linked to the centenary of the end of the First World War.

I knew from a fairly early age that the relatives of close family friends and indeed members of my own family had served in the conflict, but somehow the days around Remembrance Sunday were strange ones for my teenage self. They were evidently days that made people I knew well 'feel' something that I sensed was still beyond my grasp and strangely beyond my reach.

I studied the Peloponnesian and Persian wars at university in a detached historical way. I took courses on Homeric warfare in which we tried to link archaeological artefacts with passages in the text, thereby building up a rounded picture of the ancient world from the range of primary sources available. I loved the challenges presented by this approach, but war itself remained an enigma. Perhaps war is always an enigma.

Some years later I had the chance to study work by the war poets; and seeing, well, almost experiencing, conflict and service through their eyes lifted a veil from my own. The poems that spoke most directly to me about the aspiration for peace (something I felt deeply) and the reality of 20th century hostilities (something I almost wished to avoid) were those that tackled the subject from a slightly oblique angle. 'The Owl' by Edward Thomas would be a case in point.

I have returned to that poem many times. In four brief quatrains, the speaker presents a world of war that is vividly evoked but barely described. As I have mentioned above, I live with aspirations of peace, but at a moment when I was finally receptive to the exploration of modern notions of conflict (with the aim of increasing my understanding), it only took a handful of well-chosen words to extend my appreciation of human loyalty and sacrifice in the face of battle. The poet's employment of a double entendre, or play, on the word 'barred' is, to my way of thinking, a stroke of genius - and ironically it was one of the words in this poem that became a personal key, unlocking empathy and gratitude for those caught up directly or indirectly in the atrocities of the First World War.

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Christmas Anthology

It may be a bit soon to be mentioning the 'C' word while we are still in October, but members of the Association of Christian Writers have just brought out this anthology of stories, poems and reflections about the true meaning of Christmas. I am delighted to have a poem in the volume. 

Thursday 4 October 2018

National Poetry Day, 2018

While fellow Suffolk poets were out in the balmy sunshine at Aldeburgh, declaiming their poems from these iconic steps, I was stuck in Ipswich, missing their company, their poems, the sea and, of course, the fish and chips that are such an essential part of this particular National Poetry Day gathering. There's always next year...

The portion in the photo above is actually from Whitby, a good way further up the east coast, but since I wasn't on the beach today, I wasn't able to post an up-to-date photo. But the thought of chips by the sea is already whetting my appetite for the forthcoming Poetry in Aldeburgh Festival in November.

Speaking of November, I spent part of the afternoon asking local shop managers and assistants if they would display a poster for me, advertising our local poetry competition on the theme of '100 Years of Remembrance'. I enjoyed some lively conversations, and am very grateful to all who took a poster (or several) to advertise the following categories...

I came home to the cheering news that my own competition entry in the Indigo Dreams Publishing First Collection Competition, one of 34 Long-listed collections at the start of today, had reached the Shortlist of nine. Hearty congratulations to the two winners, Ben Gwalchmai and Zoe Mitchell, whose collections will be published.

Twitter, in particular, has been alive with poetry-related soundbites. One tweet (I wish I could remember the tweeter) expressed the view that National Poetry Day was like Christmas, but just for poets. Leaving Christmas aside for a moment, this set me thinking about those who read and listen to the poems we produce and share: it seems to me that while there would, of course, be no poetry without the poets, there would actually be little point to poetry if it failed to reach beyond the people who penned/typed/texted and declaimed it. Thank you, therefore, to all who publish poetry, to all those loyal readers who purchase it and to all those who come along to listen with the brooding expectation of one with a seashell to the ear.

Wednesday 19 September 2018

News from India

My copy of the latest edition of Metverse Muse (Triple issue: #51-53, ed. Dr. H. Tulsi) arrived from India yesterday. The contents reveal that my poem on The Allegory of Painting (Artist in his Studio) (1665-67) by Vermeer was awarded First Prize by the jury in the Fixed Form (Category A) class of the journal's competition for an Ottava Rima poem.

I saw the painting in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna some years ago, and was intrigued by its composition and iconography. It was a work that posed questions in my mind about the nature of what we try to attempt in our creative endeavours.

The painting also intrigued and inspired Salvador Dalí, who proceeded to paint The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used as a Table. I find it interesting that Gentileschi's work, Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura), dates from c.1638-9.

Friday 7 September 2018

'100 Years of Remembrance' - A Local Poetry Competition

St Andrew's, Rushmere

I am posting the guidelines for the '100 Years of Remembrance' Poetry Competition. 

Please enter if you are eligible to do so!
And please read the flyer carefully as this is a local competition.
Thank you. 

Friday 31 August 2018

Avocet Poem in Reach Poetry Magazine

The many supporters of Reach Poetry magazine, edited by Ronnie Goodyer of Indigo Dreams Publishing, are celebrating the arrival of the 240th issue of this well-loved monthly journal. You may like to click back to a previous post, written in 2013 for the 15th anniversary (and 180th issue) of the publication.

My poem about the iconic Avocets at RSPB Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve in North Norfolk has been included in the 240th issue for September 2018. Despite the fact that my teenage years were spent in Norfolk, it was only when we returned to East Anglia some years ago that I was able to see these stylish birds for the first time at Minsmere, Snape, Cley and Titchwell.

David on the reserve

I took the photograph above on our first visit to Titchwell, soon after our arrival, when we were surveying the scene and getting a feel for the place. With conservation and a breeding programme in mind, an island was created for the birds in 2010. Remarkably it was soon filled with 80 Avocet nests.

Thursday 30 August 2018

'Towards the Light' Poetry Anthology - Readings Update

Forthcoming events at which I hope to be reading my Christmas Truce poem from this anthology ...
  1. Thursday 8th November, evening - Quay Place (Ipswich)
  2. Saturday 10th November 2018 at 2.30 pm - The Minories Gallery (Colchester). This is part of an exhibition exploring aspects of the War and the Home Front in Colchester. On at the same time is an exhibition at Firstsite entitled 'Not Yet at Ease', depicting the history of psychological disorders resulting from conflict and the stigma attached to them.
On the subject of Remembrance, I am due to judge a poetry competition for those who live or attend educational establishments in the (ecclesiastical and civil) parish in which I live.

Saturday 26 May 2018

5th Festival of Suffolk Poetry

Colin Whyles, Festival Director on stage at the John Peel Centre, Stowmarket

We are just back from an eleven hour day at the 5th Festival of Suffolk Poetry. The day began for me with a workshop led by Rebecca Watts in which we were encouraged to make poetry collisions by bringing unlikely situations or characters together. If I say that one of my drafts began with Darwin, Lowry, the Great Fire of London and a horse, you will begin to get the picture...

The Suffolk Poetry Cafes took to the stage in the afternoon along with Creative Writing students from the sixth form college, One.

David and I both read in the Open Mic this year: my poem was inspired by a train ride we made from Philadelphia to New York back in 2012.

Philadelphia, Penn's Landing
The evening included readings by John Vaughan, Beth Soule, Susan Utting, Blake Morrison and Rebecca Watts. Having read Morrison's collection Shingle Street, named after the Suffolk coastal village of the same name some time ago, it was good to hear the poems read in the poet's voice.

Seal at Shingle Street

David watching seals at Shingle Street

Huge thanks to Colin, our Festival Director, and to all the Suffolk Poetry Society committee for their hard work. It was much appreciated by all of us.

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Review of 'Towards The Light' in The London Grip

There is a detailed review by Thomas Ovans of Towards the Light over on The London Grip site today. As Ovans mentions, my poem, 'Et in terra pax', concerns the 1914 Christmas Truce. It was inspired in part by the stained glass window in the Chapel at Loretto School. 

Thursday 26 April 2018

Border Crossings II: Suffolk Poetry Society and Poetrywivenhoe

David (Gill) and I were both taking part in the Border Crossings II poetry evening last night with Suffolk Poetry Society (SPS) and Poetrywivenhoe. Last year's theme of 'the natural world' played more to my strengths, but I found I was able to produce a set on 'conflict and resolution' (Homer, the Great War and Edward Thomas ...), so all was well.

David welcomed the gathered company to the University of Suffolk. SPS Chair, Florence Cox, and her colleagues on the committee presented the poets and the poetry.

We always enjoy meeting up with the team from Poetrywivenhoe, and the chance to renew friendships and to hear different voices. Not surprisingly, a number of us from both poetry societies read poems from Towards the Light, the new anthology on 'reconciliation'. My poem in this publication grew out of my response to a stained glass window representing the Christmas Truce of 1914.

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Going Global on World Poetry Day, 2018

Happy World Poetry Day, 2018

The image above shows a previous package from India, but a similar one (practically identical but with different stamps) arrived yesterday, containing a contributor's copy of the Golden Jubilee issue of Metverse Muse, an international poetry journal edited by Dr. H. Tulsi. It is always a joy to read poems from different parts of the world and to feel connected in this way. Most issues have offered a Fixed Form challenge: the last one was for a Burns Stanza, a form of Scottish origin, and the new challenge is for a Terza Rima, a form that developed in Italy. 
And this, for me, is one of the joys of poetry, that there are countless influences, methods, techniques and forms (see here for example: I contributed three poems to this Handbook from Lewis Putnam Turco in the USA), spanning not only the centuries but also the globe. 
There is much talk in the present climate about letting down the proverbial portcullis, but poetry enables us to see new vistas through the eyes of another. It encourages us to lower the drawbridge instead, allowing literary influences to flow and circulate. I feel this is particularly important at the present time.
Back in the days when the internet was considered a fledgling phenomenon, I remember starting out one year with a fresh goal. I wanted to have a poem published in an international journal. Since then I have had the privilege of collaborating, albeit mostly in small ways, with poets and editors in Romania, Australia, the Netherlands, USA, Italy and Slovenia, to name but a selection of countries. Most collaborations or communications have been via the internet, but occasionally I have had the privilege of enjoying a face-to-face meeting. 
One such occasion was the launch of the chapbook I co-authored with North American poet, John Dotson. It was arranged by our publisher, Peter Thabit Jones of The Seventh Quarry, at the Dylan Thomas Birthplace, 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, in Swansea. John was over from the USA, and we were able to read our poems together. 

Publisher: The Seventh Quarry (Wales) with Cross-Cultural Communications (New York) 

Another of my multicultural forays in the name of poetry occurred when I was invited to conduct an interview in Philadelphia with Donald Riggs, Teaching Professor of English from Drexel University for Orizont Literar Contemporan, Daniel Dragomirescu's international literary journal from Romania. While I was in Philadelphia, I was also able to spend a day with fellow poet, Kay Weeks. We have collaborated on one or two poetry and art projects, including a charity one, Blossoms of Hope.

with Don Riggs in Philadelphia

A year ago Jongo Park, a visual artist from Seoul, South Korea, supplied a painting of a mermaid as a poetry prompt for me. The paired picture and poem were published in an eBook anthology produced by Italian poet, Lidia Chiarelli of Immagine&Poesia, alongside 94 other contributions from 5 continents and 35 countries. You can download this free eBook (Volume 4) from this site
In these uncertain times, it seems particularly important to celebrate our global community of poets and the immense joie de vivre that this ancient art can bring to the modern world.
And if you are wondering why the top photo is not of the actual parcel that arrived yesterday, well, in my haste to preserve the Indian stamps for the work of TLM (The Leprosy Mission), I made rather a mess of the packaging!

Tuesday 20 March 2018

'Towards the light', a new poetry anthology on 'reconciliation'

There are a number of artistic projects commemorating the end of the First World War, and this book, Towards the light, represents one that is particularly close to my heart.

Pam Job and Judith Wolton embarked on a poetry enterprise that would lead to the production of two anthologies, one on conflict (so too have the doves gone) at the beginning of the commemorative period, and now this one on reconciliation to mark the end of the hostilities.

Sadly the snow meant that a number of us had to miss the launch at the Essex Book Festival, but there will be other events as the year goes by.

Poets who had been involved in the initial anthology project were invited to submit work for the second. Editor, Vivien Whelpton, selected my acrostic poem, 'Et in terra pax', about the surreal yet hopeful time when strains of 'Adeste fidelis' rang out across No Man's Land.

The new anthology, published by Kapaju Books (2018), sports a cover design by Karen Dennison. It includes a Preface by the editor, who writes that...

'Vivid metaphors bring home to us both the pain and difficulty of reconciliation and the joy it brings...'

Thursday 8 February 2018

Nadia Kingsley's 'Diversifly' Project

I wrote a piece on wild birds in an urban environment some months ago for Nadia Kingsley's Fair Acre site, with her DIVERSIFLY project in mind.

I have just found my piece on Nadia's 15th DIVERSIFLY blog post, and while it was actually uploaded back in August, my discovery this week that it is up there coincides with the publication on 8 February 2018 of Nadia's latest publication,  

DIVERSIFLY – Poetry and Art on Britain’s Urban Birds 
A Poetry and Art Anthology ISBN 978-1-911048-26-8 
Available here on the Fair Acre website.

Sadly I failed to complete the poem I hoped to submit (my holiday departure date caught up with me...), but I much look forward to seeing the work sent in by the 83 contributors whose submissions were selected. 

I would highly recommend Nadia's DIVERSIFLY interview podcast with David Morley, whose compelling collection, The Gypsy and the Poet, sent me off in search of John Clare's Helpston home.

Saturday 20 January 2018

Suffolk Flora Preservation Trust Poetry Competition Event

I am just back from the Suffolk Flora Preservation Trust Poetry Competition (SFPT). Many congratulations to Tim Gardiner for winning the £50 adult prize in the SFPT Poetry Competition on the theme of the aquatic life in the Fromus Valley Nature Reserve. Lord Cranbrook hosted the event at Kelsale Village Hall this afternoon.

Tim's poem, along with three other commended entries including my own (about the Wandering Snail, Lymnaea peregra aka Radix peregra), will feature in the Suffolk Flora Preservation Trust's 2018 Adult Education volume on the reserves at Simpson's Fromus Valley and Orchid Glade. The judges were Kaaren Whitney, Poet-in-Residence for the reserves, and Suffolk Poetry Society Chair, Florence Cox. Sue Wallace-Shaddad and Sue Nobbs also read their poems to the enthusiastic audience. It was a real pleasure, too, to hear the winning and commended poems written by those who had entered the young people's section of the competition.