Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition Lunch 2014

It was lovely to join with members of the Suffolk Poetry Society and the 2014 Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition prize-winners for a celebratory lunch at the Wentworth Hotel in Aldeburgh. 

The judge was Gregory Warren Wilson (second from the left in the above photo) and the winning poem by David Healey (fourth from the left) was about a particular swan feed at WWT Welney, a place I know well.

Swans at WWT Welney


Saturday, 11 October 2014

Poetry Workshop at Writers' Centre Norwich

I have just returned from an excellent afternoon at Writers' Centre Norwich. The poetry workshop was the first of two, with one session on the coast (today), led by Rebecca Goss, and the other on the land, which will be led by Esther Morgan

I have come back with the beginnings of three poems, and am looking forward to taking these further. Writers' Centre Norwich is a wonderful resource, and we were amused to find that the packets of biscuits on offer bore the name of Brontë!

On my return, David mentioned that Sir Andrew Motion had released his 10 Tips for 'being a successful poet'. You can read them here

Thursday, 2 October 2014

National Poetry Day - in Suffolk

Ian Griffiths, Florence Cox and Sue Wallace-Shaddad

We had a great time marking National Poetry Day here in Suffolk. Ian Griffiths (Chairman of the Suffolk Poetry Society), Sue Wallace-Shaddad (Secretary), Florence Cox and I teamed up to read poems in Waterstone's, Ipswich. The next Pop-Up poetry performances took place in two venues in Woodbridge, namely the library and Browsers' Bookshop. Ian and Florence continued on to the coast, where their last poetry stop was in Aldeburgh.     

The theme was 'remember', which afforded plenty of scope. My thanks to Florence for her 'pop-up' car cafe, which offered elevenses in the form of lemon torte to hungry poets on the move.

Ian, Florence and me

Friday, 26 September 2014

Metverse Muse, India - Joint Second Place

My triple-issue copy of the international journal, Metverse Muse, edited by Dr. H. Tulsi in Visakhapatnam, India, arrived today. A glance at page 20 revealed that my two contest poems, a Petrarchan Sonnet (about pandas) and a Shakespearean Sonnet (about Pylos), had won me Joint Second Place with fellow UK poet, Pamela Trudie Hodge, in the Fixed Form 'A' category of the 2013 competition.

Many congratulations to Catherine Lee for taking First Place.

Reconstruction in Nestor's Palace, Homer's 'sandy Pylos', Peloponnese

Friday, 19 September 2014

Writing Poetry at NT Wicken Fen with Dr Charles Bennett

We spent a wonderful afternoon at NT Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, gathering inspiration for the set task in a stimulating poetry workshop, led by Dr Charles Bennett, the Writer in Residence

What could be better on a late summer afternoon than the chance to be immersed in nature and poetry beneath the wide fenland skies? We shared our draft poems at the end before adjourning to the adjacent tea room for a National Trust cream tea.

There were still good numbers of Common Lizards and Emperor dragonflies about. We reflected on a number of sample poems before sharing our own drafts. The two hours passed rapidly and it was soon time to adjourn to the tea room for Earl Grey and a National Trust cream tea. 

Watery reflections: Southern Hawker on the lode

Monday, 15 September 2014

Anthology Launch at the Winchester Poetry Festival 2014

I heard some months ago that my Edward Thomas tribute poem, 'Literally, for this', had been selected for inclusion in an anthology to mark the centenary of the First World War. The book, so too have the doves flown, was edited by Stephen Boyce, Pam Job and Judith Wolton and published by Jardine Press. The poems were largely written by poets residing in Essex and Suffolk.

I initially came across the name, Edward Thomas, many years ago through the poet's most widely known poem, 'Adlestrop'. Since then I have visited the site of the small village station that fell victim to the Beeching cuts and I have also visited Dymock.

Prior to fighting in France, Thomas spent the last years of his life in the small Hampshire village of Steep. I knew the village through two other tribute poems, 'All day it has rained' and 'To Edward Thomas' by Alun Lewis, but had never had the chance to visit.  

so too have the doves flown was being launched at the Winchester Poetry Festival - and with Steep only twenty miles from the venue, the opportunity finally presented itself.

We found the Norman church of All Saints in Steep, nestling under Stoner Hill and the Shoulder of Mutton. The door opened and we were able to take a look around.

It did not take long to spot the poet's name. There was also commemorative stained glass by Laurence Whistler. We left the church and drove past Bedales before proceeding on our way up Stoner Hill, under the leafy canopy of Ashford Hangers.

We arrived at the Discovery Centre, venue of the Winchester Poetry Festival, the following morning, in time to have a cup of coffee, buy from the secondhand bookstall, check out the Magma stall, vote for a favourite painting and peruse the Edward Thomas exhibition curated by the Petersfield Museum.

David checking out the exhibition area

We came across Pam Job and Judith Wolton with Stephen Boyce, who is not only editor of so too have the doves gone but also trustee and co-Artistic Director of the Winchester Poetry Festival.

Judith Wolton (with hand on top of board), CG, Pam Job and Stephen Boyce

It was soon time to wander across the road to the Green Room ... 

... before taking our seats back in the Discovery Centre in preparation for the event.

Stephen Boyce gave a welcome and an introduction before Judith and Pam delivered their presentation on the inspiration behind the anthology project.

Reading 'Literally, for this' ... with Pam Job behind the table

It was soon time for the readings.

The poems in the book are very varied and cover different eras and geographical locations, but all address the theme of conflict and our human response to times of war and unrest.

My thanks are due to the editorial team and to Stephen Boyce for inviting us to take part. The 2014 Winchester Poetry Festival 'had three interwoven themes: to commemorate the poetry of the First World War, to celebrate Hampshire’s contribution to our literary heritage and to bring together a fine array of leading contemporary poets.' I hear a rumour that a second festival is planned for 2016 ... 

* * *

I was sorry to miss the Edward Thomas talk by Edna Longley, but I was delighted to sample a small slice of what the festival had on offer. As David's biscuit poem below demonstrates, there was something to suit all tastes ...

A little light relief was provided by the two Poetry Posties, who allowed a certain intruder ...

... to pedal off on their tricycle. I hope he delivered the pile of special poem packets. I, for one, was delighted to receive one of these from the Poetry Posties at The Poetree. I'm hoping the surprise contents will bear fruit in organic ways, both in my garden and at the tip of my pen. 

David riding off on The Poetree Poetry Postie tricycle

 Festival Blog Posts

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Reading my Stonehenge Poem at Walpole Old Chapel

David and I joined other East Anglian poets for the annual Poetry Evening at Walpole Old Chapel. We were wondering whether Hurricane Bertha would prevent us from reaching this lovely and remote corner of Suffolk, but all was well and we were treated to some wonderful poetry, glasses of elderflower cordial and slices of Queen Mother's cake. Our thanks to Mike Bannister and all those who helped to make the evening such a delightful occasion.

In the light of a recent visit to the re-vamped Visitors' Centre at Stonehenge, I read my bluestone poem, 'Preseli Blue', which features in my recent chapbook, The Holy Place. The poem was first published in The Lie of the Land (ed. Jan Fortune, Cinnamon Press).

'Preseli Blue' was read on BBC Poetry Please as part of the programme from the Hay Festival in 2008. It was written in response to the rope-bound Millennium Bluestone on display in the National Botanic Garden of Wales. You can read the text here by scrolling down on the Shabdaguchha site. 

On our recent visit we arrived at Stonehenge too late in the day to contemplate a ride up to the stones themselves, though we much look forward to doing this. There was plenty to see at the Visitors' Centre, including a few 'retro' des-res huts ...

With David Gill

... and this rope-bound (model) stone that you could try to pull!

Needless to say all efforts proved useless!

We enjoyed watching the land-train, but I can't help reminiscing about my early visits to the site in the 1960s when we used to take the dogs and wander at will.

Storm clouds were brewing. It was time to beat a hasty retreat.