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.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Scott Polar Research Institute (Cambridge) and The Poetry School online eBook

Some of the poems we wrote earlier this year during the collaborative project between the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, and The Poetry School, are now online. They can be found on The Poetry School Campus site in an eBook entitled Sharpened into Absence, produced by Julia Bird of The Poetry School.

Thank you, Julia, for your hard work in preparing the publication.

Thank you to all who made this unique course not only possible but enjoyable, riveting, challenging and more besides.

I read my two poems, 'Chattermarks' and 'Pepys Island', yesterday evening at our local Poetry Cafe ...

Julia adds a word about viewing the eBook online ...

'To view the book full screen, click the four arrow icon at the right of the grey toolbar at the bottom, and then you can make the print bigger or smaller by moving the slider between the ‘-‘ and ‘+’ magnifying glass icons.'

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!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Monday, 12 May 2014

Museums at Night Festival ~ Coming to a Museum near you?

Who dares to loiter in our lofty halls
while scholars burn their midnight oil at home?

© Caroline Gill 2009
from 'Sleepover at the Museum'

Did you know that the annual  Museums at Night Festival  takes place this week from 15-17 May?

You can read about the organisations behind the festival here and here.  

Back in 2009, The Haddon Library (of Archaeology and Anthropology in the University of Cambridge) arranged a poetry competition to mark its own 70th anniversary in 2006 and the University’s 800th. My poem, 'Sleepover at the Museum', was awarded Third Prize. You can read it here.

Cambridge at Dusk

There are lots of night time museum activities going on, so why not take a look here and see what you can find in your neck of the woods. 

BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz will be hosting a documentary about the initiative on BBC2 this Saturday night, May 17, at 19.00hrs.

Here are some links to a variety of Museums at Night activities ...
 ... and there are many more. Do check the dates and times carefully as the events take place over a three day period. You may need to book in advance for some of the activities. 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Poetry at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge

I can hardly believe that my 'three-month museum residency' as part of a group at the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) in Cambridge, via The Poetry School, is into its final month. It has been an unbelievable experience so far, with input sessions from poets and SPRI researchers alike.

We have studied and handled artefacts. We have looked at documents and charts. We have spent time in the museum and we have flexed our poetry muscles in unexpected ways. It has been exciting to learn a different vocabulary and to meet new people.  
three-month museum residency√
three-month museum residency
three-month museum residency
three-month museum residency
three-month museum residency√
three-month museum residency

Cambridge from the Backs

Back in the 1990s I worked for five terrific years in one of the Cambridge University archives, and I have been aware of a certain sense of 'return'. It is often the case, however, that one fails to appreciate one's surroundings and local resources to the full until it is time to move on!

'Behind the Scenes at the Scott Polar Research Institute' developed out of the Cambridge 'Threshold' residencies that took place in a number of university museums and institutions in 2013. The project was showcased at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas last autumn, and I was very inspired by what I heard at the event.