Sarah James

the possibilities of poetry…

Browsing Posts in Writing

My life has never been very still, much though I enjoy brief moments of peace when I meditate. The past few months, like the past few years and much of my life has been filled with both low points and highlights. I’m going to focus on the highlights because the disappointments have already had more of time and energy than I’d like! Plus I also have lots of gratitude and thanks to the editors, festival and event organisers who have made all the fabulous things below happen!!!

October started with the National Poetry Day launch of the Poetry on Loan poetry postcards, including my poem ‘And counting…’ The picture below features some of the poetry postcard poems on display in poster-form at Hereford Library for the launch reading.

Poetry on Loan pom postcards 2019 DSC110

My next publication excitement was ‘Stopping for a Coffee on Drury Lane at Dusk’ (poem) published in Domestic Cherry 7. The launch was at The Big Poetry Weekend, Swindon – big thanks to Hilda Sheehan and all for a fun, characterful and memorable evening! I also had a festival reading and publishing panel event. All three were great fun, as was the whole of my time at the festival. The atmosphere and setting (at Richard Jeffries Museum) were magical, friendly and warming. I also got to meet, hear, chat with and pick up pamphlets from some amazing poets, including Julia Webb, Olivia Tuck, Fiona Benson, Michelle Diaz, Alison Brackenbury, Claire Crowther (my fellow reader and panelist) and more! Hats off to all involved, especially Carrie Etter and Helen Dewberry. I’d really recommend these poets and the festival – I came back feeling re-energised and inspired!

20191026_191823 Sarah at Gloucester Poetry Festival 2019
 

On the festival front, I was really pleased to be a Guest Poet with David Ashbee, Sharon Larkin, Roger Turner and Derek Dohrenat for The Gloucester Poetry Festival’s Echoes event this weekend. My family on my father’s side hail from the Gloucestershire-Wales border and Forest of Dean areas, so it was great to read some of my Gloucestershire poems. The evening was wonderfully wide-ranging and I’ve come home with some fabulous books to read. Big thanks to Ziggy Dicks and all involved in organising the event and festival. (The festival runs until this Thursday, so do check out The Gloucestershire Poetry Society on Facebook for more events!)

I’m also delighted to have had a haibun ‘The last red phone box’ published in Ripening Cherries (Offa’s Press) and my poem ‘The First Secret’ published in Confessions, an anonymous prize anthology judged and edited by Worcestershire Poet Laureate Charley Barnes. I’ve a short poetry sequence ‘Speaking with flowers’ and ‘Pressed Beauty’ forthcoming in the Black Pear Press Pressed Flowers anthology commissioned by Charley Barnes and Polly Stretton. This is being launched at one of my favourite poetry venues, Park’s Cafe in Droitwich, on Wednesday, November 13 – 6.30pm for a 7pm start. I’m looking forward both to reading and catching up with friends I’ve not seen in a while – do join us if you can!

I’ve also have a poem ‘the glass impressionist’ accepted for the next issue of London Grip New Poetry, in December.

On the art and photography front, I was delighted to find my photo ‘Knowledge Decay’ was in the Top Five of the Borderlines Carlisle Book Festival photography competition 2019 for images with a theme of change. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it up to Carlisle in person to see it on display in Tullie House, but the festival team kindly took a picture for me.

Bordelines book festival top 5 photo credit Borderlines Carlisle Book Festival - Copy

Seasonal Adjustment Order‘ (flash fiction) published on Words for the Wild in September.

The Dream Dresser‘ (flash fiction) published on Literally Stories in September.

I’ve also had my micro ‘In the Days of Automata’ accepted for Ellipsis Zine 6: 2119, which is due out soon. Meanwhile, I’m really happy and grateful to have another micro fiction, ‘Summer Joyrides’, taken for the next Flash Fiction Festival anthology.

While I’m writing about this, I also have to give a shout to Kathy Fish for her fabulous fast flash fiction course. I’ve literally just finished this and found the ten day online couse simultaneously challenging, intensive and totally AMAZING!!! To put this in a more concrete context – I’ve more flash fiction drafts from this course than I’d normally manage in 6 months to a year! (The next step for me, of course, is revising, redrafting and then submitting some of the pieces. But I’ve already had one micro-fiction started on the course, ‘A Cacophony of Lovers’, accepted for Bending Genres issue 12, out in December.)

This leads me into another piece of news. I love running V. Press but it inevitably takes a lot of my time and energy, meaning my personal output, submissions and publications often takes second place to press demands. I do need to create myself though, and in particular to write and find new creative challenges, in order to rebuild the energy needed to do everything else. I’m not just an editor or publisher, and one of the things that I’ve realised over the past year in particular is that I do need to be able to make and maintain some kind of space for me as a writer. As part of this, I will be taking a month away from V. Press at the end of next year, for a residency by the Baltic Sea in Latvia. Although that’s still a while off, I’m excited already – and knowing I have that lined up is also revitalising in itself!

OTHER EVENT REMINDERS

I will be judging this year’s Against The Grain Poetry Press poetry competition. You can check out the rules and enter here. (And my Against The Grain Poetry Press chapbook How to Grow Matches is available from the press here. Or drop me an email on lifeislikeacherrytree@yahoo.com if you’d like a signed copy posting out.)

Disappointing Alice cover

In my latest interview for In the Booklight, I talk to Rachel Piercey about her poetry pamphlet Disappointing Alice (HappenStance)…

 

“Alice was a disappointer
of people she loved and who loved her.”
(‘Deep in the Desert’)

Your pamphlet is called ‘Disappointing Alice’ – a wonderfully evocative yet enigmatic title that immediately makes me want to read the pamphlet. Why Alice? And how do elements of this apply to, or make themselves felt across, these poems?

Thank you! The pamphlet had a few possible titles but now I can’t imagine it being called anything else. Alice in the poem is a kind of nexus for many of the pamphlet’s explorations. She’s caught up in people’s expectations – but then some of those expectations are reasonable. She’s looking for and losing connections. She herself wants more from people than, probably, they can give. She feels abstractly harried; she is anxious. She uses drama and hyperbole to get her point across. Her problems are no doubt amplified by technology, but they are also eternal human concerns, so I enjoyed using a variety of registers to express them.

The name ‘Alice’ can never be free of the associations of Wonderland and I like that. Wonderland Alice has a kind of eternal, fluid symbolism, attached to and detached from the context of the actual book. She exists in so many versions, she is used to sell so many things, but she never quite loses her charm. She’s brave and inquisitive and has very human reactions to events. My Alice benefits from the symbolism of Carroll’s Alice – just by using her name, especially in combination with a disconcerting adventure – even as her sense of self crumbles apart. Maybe there’s also a hint that this could be a new manifestation of Carroll’s Alice, tumbling down an unfamiliar modern rabbit hole.

But equally important was that the name worked, sonically. I had the word ‘arid’ early on, it was exactly the word I wanted to describe being emotionally exhausted, and the name ‘Alice’ chimed so beautifully.

I am interested in role models – the ones we choose and the ones we are given. Alice is failing to find or be someone admirable, but I hope she is relatable, which in turn might make her a funny kind of comforting example. Many of the characters in my poems are at some point in the process of defining themselves against or within a set of symbols and expectations, for better or worse.

“I would scream until my voice
smashed […]”
(‘Glass Slipper’)

This is one of many striking lines that really caught my attention. Could you talk about fairytales and the potential ideals or role models that appear and/or are subverted in this pamphlet?

I like the ‘and/or’! I want to probe these pervasive and harmful ideals – which often relate to the concept of a woman’s proper conduct and therefore ‘marriageability’ – but it’s important to me to honestly represent how seductive I find them, as well. Cinderella has very little agency, like most fairytale ‘heroines’, and I think she’s a terrible role model for young girls, but oh the world she lives in is gorgeous: soft, glittery, romantic. I can’t dismiss that appeal and, for me, any interrogation must acknowledge it. Likewise with the age of chivalry. The women are so passive – but that whole aesthetic, and the idea of courtly love, knights and maidens, tugs on some gold-brocaded part of my imagination. (I can’t be the only one, look at Game of Thrones.) I want to be upfront about my ambivalence.

I also want to be upfront when I am sure of my role models! The pamphlet features two of my heroines, Kate Bush and Amelia Earheart, as well as a poem in praise of some of my favourite women from The Archers, and poems where Eve, Miranda from The Tempest and Anne from Famous Five turn away decisively from the suffocating elements of their lives. Some literary / pop cultural / societal ‘types’ are oppressive, but some are fun to engage and play with. One of the many reasons I adore Kate Bush is that she tries on so many roles (lover, mother, child, witch, ghost, pilot, rocket, soldier…) making them her own and then springing gracefully on to the next.

The cultural allusions in these poems are wide-ranging and always intriguing. Be it Enid Blyton, the Bible or ‘The Archers’, park gardens, the sea or aviation history, each poem takes a striking and unusual ‘slant’ on its subject matter. What are your main sources of inspiration and influences, in this pamphlet, and more generally?

I would find it hard to pinpoint any main sources of inspiration, outside of reading as widely as possible. I was lucky enough to study Latin at A Level, which encouraged my interest in classical literature and etymology, and then my degree was in English Literature – three glorious years of reading a thousand years’ worth of prose and poetry. I find the sheer breadth of contemporary poetry giddily inspiring. There’s a sense of freedom at the moment – I don’t feel bound to write in any particular style, or on any particular theme. The poets I have always gone back to and back to are Mary Oliver, Philip Larkin, Alice Oswald, Kathryn Maris. Recently, I’ve been deeply struck by Tara Bergin, Dorothy Molloy, Melissa Range… Oh, it’s hard to narrow it down. I’m loving Deaf Republic (Ilya Kaminsky) and Flèche (Mary Jean Chan) right now. Reading any collection and watching that poet leap again and again into the mystery is the most inspiring thing of all.

I’ve always got my ears and eyes open – when a concept and a feeling come together and shimmer a bit, I know I’ve got something to work with. Misreadings and mishearings can be productive. That’s how I started ‘Complaint’ – I thought I heard someone say something about gardens writing letters to each other. It was actually nothing of the sort, but I loved the idea, and I’ve always been interested in Georgian era design. I wrote ‘The Sea of Marriageability’ after a stargazing event with some friends – they showed me a map of the moon, and I noticed the Mare Nubium. My Latin is a little hazy now, and my brain went to ‘nubile’ and ‘nuptials’, though the actual meaning is ‘The Sea of Clouds’. I wondered what a ‘Sea of Marriageability’ might look like and wrote to find out. Though now I’m looking up the etymology, it turns out ‘nuptials’ and ‘nubile’ originate from the word ‘clouds’, as in ‘to cover or veil oneself for a bridegroom’. Another poem?!

In another life, I would have liked to study biology, and be working in some way with woodland. I love trees – I made a conscious effort to learn to identify them a few years ago, which has been very rewarding. There is something powerful and connecting about being able to name something. But that raises interesting questions too – why do I find it so important to be able to name something wild and natural? Is it respectful or is it a kind of human imposition or insertion? I am really interested in the interaction between humans and nature: how we conceive of it, adore it, use it up. Thinking about this is more urgent, now, than ever.

Rachel Piercey

Given the title ‘Disappointing Alice’, I want to ask what you feel are the hardest types of disappointment to deal with, in life and in poetry? Also, about the possibilities of disappointing (expectations, demands, impositions…) as a potentially positive and active form of defiance?

Disappointment is a funny one. The word itself is almost fussy, bureaucratic. It means ‘to deprive of a position’ and in a way, when it’s focused outwards, it’s the language of complaint letters. You are disappointed that your train was delayed, or your favourite lipstick is discontinued. But it’s a gut-wrenching emotion when it’s focused inwards, when you’ve disappointed yourself, or someone else being disappointing feels personally directed. Then it’s a polite word for something very painful. I wanted to play with both levels in the Alice poem.

Disappointment in poetry… well, rejections are an obvious one! Sometimes they really get you. But in the sense of day-to-day writing, I get disappointed with my practice when I know I’ve got a good idea but I’m in a hurry to get the poem finished, and so I skim over or allude to the heart of the issue, rather than digging deep and submitting myself to multiple redrafts. I’m trying to work on that.

I think several of the characters in my pamphlet embrace their ability to disappoint tired and damaging stereotypes: Miranda, Eve, Anne from Famous Five, the speaker inspired by Kate Bush to reject the tropes of ‘chaste’, ‘whore’ and ‘witch’. I am proud of the fire in these poems. But then other poems just try to lay disappointment and anxiety bare, without offering solutions – I find reading poems that do this comforting, and I like the idea of offering that perspective to another reader.

At the same time, I’m interested in how certain expectations and responsibilities can anchor and connect us to other people. My poems about pilots and the idiosyncratically supportive women of The Archers probably speak most to that idea. The daily predictability of Susan, Lynda and Kate creates a rounded and reassuring radio world; they are like reliable friends, which I enjoy testing out in an extreme hypothetical situation in the poem. So I hope that Disappointing Alice comes at the notion of disappointment from multiple perspectives.

What haven’t I asked that the pamphlet would absolutely insist that I should question? And what is the answer?

I want to tell you about the peacock in ‘Love’! I really admire the Australian painter Sidney Nolan and I went to an exhibition of his work a few years ago, which included his Ned Kelly series. There was one painting of a policeman being scared off by a peacock – apparently people used to use peacocks as watchdogs, because they could see for up to two miles. I just loved this fact. The Ned Kelly element fell away, but for me this poem exists in the queasily saturated, frenzied world of those paintings. I heartily recommend taking a look.

Disappointing Alice cover

Where can people get hold of a copy of ‘Disappointing Alice’?

If you’d like to buy a copy – and thank you very much! – please visit the HappenStance website: https://www.happenstancepress.com/ As well as a webshop full of exquisite publications, the website also contains an inspiring and extremely useful blog and a link to the unique One Point of Interest review site. Nell is a wonderful editor and HappenStance is a wonderful press – do consider becoming a supporter, you will receive all sorts of generous goodies in return.

Thank you, Sarah, for your careful readings and insightful questions.

Thank you, Rachel, for these wonderful insights into ‘Disappointing Alice’, your role models, influences and inspiration.

To read more In the Booklight interviews with authors, please click on this link.
My OPOI (One Point of Interest) review of Disappointing Alice can be found on Sphinx here. And my second, complementary, micro-review here.

It’s been a lovely summer – sunshine in between the rain, time with my sons, a few breaks away. As usual, the holidays have quickly become a distant memory. For once though, it’s also been a bright start to the autumn, with two big pieces of news.

The first is being one of five poets shortlisted in the Wigtown Poetry Competition 2019 Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize. I’ve been a bit despondent about my own work lately – the demands of time, energy, life – so this is really boosting news!

My second is exciting in a different way – I will be judging this year’s Against The Grain Poetry Press poetry competition. The press published my most recent poetry chapbook, How to Grow Matches, in 2018. I’m very excited to be working with them now as a judge, and to reading all the poems that I know are going to stun, move and leave me spoiled for choice in choosing the winners. You can check out the rules and enter here. (And my chapbook How to Grow Matches is available from the press here. Or drop me an email on lifeislikeacherrytree@yahoo.com if you’d like a signed copy posting out.)

Other news that I’m feeling very grateful for:

‘Love as a prose poem’ (poem) published in Bonnie’s Crew issue 4 (page 44) in August 2019.

‘The Mermaid with a 12m Tail’ (poem) published on The Stare’s Nest in August 2019;

‘Stopping for a Coffee on Drury Lane at Dusk’ (poem) published in Domestic Cherry 7 to be launched at The Big Poetry Weekend, Swindon (see below for link to the festival) on Sunday, 6 October, 7:45pm to late.

My The High Window Resident Artist autumn slot has just been published, with four pieces of photographic art created in response to four poems in The High Window. This was great fun to do and I only wish I could have done it for more of the poems – there are so many stunning poems to enjoy in this and previous issues!

I’m also delighted to have poems ‘No Still Life’ and ‘Salt of the Earth’ accepted for the Offa’s Press Poetry of Worcestershire anthology.

I’m similarly over the moon to get a place on one of Kathy Fish’s fast flash (fiction) courses in October. I love running V. Press but it inevitably takes a lot of my time and energy, meaning my personal output, submissions and publications often takes second place to press demands. I need to create myself though, and in particular to write and find new creative challenges, in order to rebuild the energy needed to do everything else. So this course is a well-needed chance to refocus on my own work – even just thinking about it, I feel re-energised!

REVIEWS/MICROREVIEW

My short OPOI (One Point of Interest) review for Rachel Piercey’s Disappointing Alice on calls for attention can be enjoyed on Sphinx here.

A second OPOI on the counter-side of calls for attention – responding – can be enjoyed below.

Different Kinds of Attention – responding

Rachel Piercey’s Disappointing Alice (HappenStance) reminds me that giving attention has never seemed more urgent. Also, how unrelenting expectations and a need for attention can become.

In ‘Post-Film’, the main character ‘has the pleasant sense of being watched’. But everything is reduced to a filmic focus. Even washing his hands must be interesting. The girls in his life become part of this angle, rather than individuals. Here ‘the rain | on his face will be the applauding of hands’.

Relying on others in expectations or for self-esteem is risky. In ‘Deep in the Desert’, the main character may evoke Lewis Carrol’s Alice. Her call for attention may sound simple if needy:

‘Alice sent a message re. her total dereliction
of spirit and body in a far-off country,
stripped of wallet and phone.’

But the language also recalls contemporary internet scams that hijack people’s email accounts to ask for money to help friends in an emergency. The demands for attention are unsatisfying all round: ‘They all felt terse and arid | about disappointing Alice’.

This is self-conscious or staged attention. But even paying attention to the present moment isn’t straight forward. In ’Spring Cleaning’, distraction results in wonderful imaginative analogies like ‘I would be frightened | to feed a horse with apples | but I feed the hoover dusty hairballs’. Blinking is inevitable. Yet, when attention shifts to garden delights, it leads to:

‘[…] the tangible rattle
up the hose of something substantial,
which might matter, which might be
something I wouldn’t want to lose,
stuck now in a matted shroud.’

Attention is always a choice that prioritises one thing over another. This leads neatly into Piercey’s editing and crafting. Reading Disappointing Alice, I’m never sure what will come next. And it’s not that I need to pay attention, but that I want to pay attention — because each poem has a striking style and interesting approach. Imagery, metaphors and allusions are reinforced by alliteration, rhythm, rhyme. This attention to detail not only makes me want to read on, but also to read again – to enjoy the lines at every level.

EVENTS

Thursday, 3 October 2019 – Reading/Performance – Hereford Library
The new Poetry on Loan postcards National Poetry Day launch will feature readings/performances from Jeff Phelps, Emma Purshouse, Brenda Read-Brown and Sarah – four of the eight poets whose poems feature on this year’s postcards. Sarah will be sharing her anniversary-themed Poetry on Loan postcard poem and other poems including a selection from plenty-fish and How to Grow Matches.
7pm for a 7.30pm start
Venue: Hereford Library, Broad Street, Hereford HR4 9AU

Saturday, 5 October, 2019 – The Big Poetry Weekend, Swindon – Poetry Publishing Panel & Reading

3-4 p.m. Poets & Publishers: Carrie Etter in conversation with Claire Crowther, Deputy Editor of Long Poem Magazine and Sarah Leavesley, Editor of V. Press. £7.

Claire Crowther has published three full collections from Shearsman and five pamphlets, the latest of which, Knithoard from Happenstance, launched in June 2019. Her first collection was shortlisted for the Aldeburgh Prize. Her poetry has been published in many journals including London Review of Books, Poetry Review, Poetry London, PN Review, Poetry Wales, and Times Literary Supplement. She writes reviews, teaches creative writing at Oxford University, and was poet in residence at the Royal Mint.

Sarah Leavesley/Sarah James is an award-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer, featured in the Guardian, Financial Times, on the BBC, and in the Blackpool Illuminations. Her work ranges across nature, place, the environment, family, relationships, disability and more. Her latest books are How to Grow Matches (Against the Grain Press) and plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press), both shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Awards. She also runs V. Press, a poetry and flash fiction imprint.

4:30-5.30 p.m. Reading by Claire Crowther and Sarah Leavesley. £7.
Venue: Tent Palace of the Delicious Air at Richard Jefferies Museum, Marlborough Road (corner of Day House Lane), Coate Water, Swindon, SN3 6AA

Full programme: https://bigpoetryweekend.com/full-programme/
Tickets (including weekend passes, and day passes at £15): https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-big-poetry-weekend-tickets-58628979857

Kate Garrett WoodlandCoverIn my latest interview for In the Booklight, I talk to Kate Garrett about her poetry pamphlet To Feed My Woodland Bones [A Changeling’s Tale] (Animal Heart Press)…

‘To Feed My Woodland Bones [A Changeling’s Tale]’ is simultaneously bewitchingly ‘other world’ and very human. How much does the I narrator of each poem match and/or differ from you as a daughter, woman, mother and talented poet in the 21st century?

Well, I guess to start with the ‘I’ in the poems is supposed to be taken for an actual changeling; she is me but she isn’t me. It was my way of dealing with many experiences and feelings in my life that I almost couldn’t write about in any other way, the issues I faced and moments I’ve lived are there, the other people involved are there as ‘characters’, but the delivery is otherworldly. And the changeling has some supernatural powers I obviously don’t have – they aren’t overdone, but for example she can quite literally summon a storm, music, and ghosts, as in ‘An elf summons’, that poem was pure fantasy about being able to bring about things I love as comfort whenever I need them.

“As I grew into this world, I found the darkness had its uses:” (‘That merry wanderer of the night’). Could you say a little more about both darkness and its uses, not just in this particular poem but across the pamphlet as a whole?

Well to start with, ‘That merry wanderer of the night’ is about how frightened I was of so many things as a child, everything in the wider human world seemed very loud but also completely incomprehensible (looking back, I know this was my autism, which was of course not widely diagnosed in the 1980s…) – but it’s about how some of the things I was afraid of – particularly the ethereal things of horror films and ghost stories, the possibility of what might be in the woods and dark back yards – simultaneously held my interest, so I grew only to love them and see as part of me, the idea of those things doesn’t scare me a bit now (and I do still believe in ghosts!). In my own life, the darkness is where I learn, and find parts of myself I wasn’t aware of, and reach new levels of empathy with others, and so on. So… in this pamphlet the changeling is facing a lot of darkness, opposition she didn’t ask for, tough times… and in battling those things one by one, she realises she’s actually carrying a lot of light (‘a being in a beam’ as in the last poem, ‘Pixie-led’).

‘To Feed My Woodland Bones [A Changeling’s Tale]’ is a beautiful blending of folklore, strong emotions, magical imagery and striking lines. What were your main sources of inspiration, were the poems all written individually or did you have the overarching pamphlet structure in mind before you started and did the poems’ themes lead to the title or vice versa?

The first poem to be written in this collection was ‘Changeling’ and I wrote it back in 2013! Then in the early summer of 2018 I wrote ‘An elf in awe of her human lover’, and around the same time captioned a photo on facebook as ‘An elf in the witch-garden’, which a poetry friend said should be the title of my next book. I thought well, it might not be the title of a book, but I will write that poem. And I did. Then I wrote ‘An elf turns inside out for the dragon’ for a submissions call about bodies, and from there it became… why not… why not make all of these poems about all of these things, through the eyes of a fictional changeling who is actually me. ‘To feed my woodland bones’ is a line from ‘An elf turns inside out for the dragon’, and I felt it summed up the process, the journey from confused, lost, hurt little faery child trying to navigate the world, to someone who maybe hasn’t managed to fit in, but can at least not worry about it anymore. All my life I’ve been doing all I can to feed my woodland bones – to stay strong, to keep a grasp on who I am in spite of things.

Kate Garrett CollageMaker_20190613_111649080I love the way you use white space and punctuation within these poems; it adds to the sense of poetry working as a spell. In a similar, yet different, way, lines like ‘borrowed bodies dreaming the snagged veil whole’ (‘Glamour’) seem to hint at potential healing possibilities, or at very least of pain transformed into beauty through poetry. What do you think are poetry’s main powers and how do they come into play in ‘To Feed My Woodland Bones [A Changeling’s Tale]’?

Ah thank you! I used strange punctuation and white space – slashes, square brackets instead of parentheses, odd movement between lines, etc – for this very reason (to make magic), I’m so happy you noticed!

I think for me the power of poetry is its immediacy, how a good poem hits you square in the solar plexus. And I don’t necessarily mean it will hit you there painfully, though that is one option – sometimes it’s a soothing feeling, a sense of calm, maybe a laugh, maybe a sense of recognition with your own life – whatever, it makes you feel something, and that rolls into making you think about something new. And that is a small transformation in itself. I never know if any of my own poems will do that, but naturally I hope that for someone, they do. On one hand I wanted to leave readers unsettled with this pamphlet, because the life that led to these poems was unsettled. But I also wondered if others might find solace in it. And some readers have read it and nodded along – they completely get that changeling feeling – and some will perhaps read it and see life in a new way, if they don’t have first-hand experience of feeling they are Other.

What question haven’t I asked that I should have asked, and what’s the answer?

Hmm… maybe: “You reference Shakespeare in two of these poems, and thank him and Puck in your acknowledgements – what influence have they had on you and this book?” I always like a chance to talk about Puck. The poem ‘That merry wanderer of the night’ is of course named after him, because if I could be any fictional character it would be Puck, or Robin Goodfellow – and talking of the light and darkness from earlier, he is a mischievous faery, a trickster type, and a trickster perfectly encompasses that balance. He pranks people, but he also helps people – and he enjoys himself either way. I think my changeling has learned a lot – and could still learn much more– from Puck. And as for Shakespeare, in a more general sense, I think he influences everyone in a thousand different ways (sometimes people don’t even realise he’s influencing them), but I decided to openly thank him in this case.

Kate Garrett WoodlandCoverHow can people get hold of a copy of ‘To Feed My Woodland Bones [A Changeling’s Tale]’?

By visiting the good folks at Animal Heart Press – https://www.animalheartpress.net/p/pre-order-to-feed-my-woodland-bones.html or contacting me for a copy directly.

Thank you, Kate, for these thought-provoking glimpses into the work and life behind your pamphlet and the transformative power of a good poem, which I definitely felt reading ‘To Feed My Woodland Bones [A Changeling’s Tale]’!

To read more In the Booklight interviews with authors, please click on this link.

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doubled poppy with gold watch faded with words but no weblink

Ivor Gurney’s ‘After-Glow’

My role as Ledbury Poetry Festival Guest Editor for Versopolis included interviewing Sandeep Parmar about Difficulty, Diversity and Responsibility, and commissioning: ‘The Hills Are Alive‘ an eco-poetry piece by Ledbury Poetry Festival Troubadour of the Hills for Ledbury Poetry Festival Jean Atkin; a review by Ledbury Emerging Poetry Critic Jade Cuttle; and ‘Memories, Moments & Mingled Space‘ by Margaret Adkins. My editorial ‘Community, Conflict and Compassion – with a few confessions!’ can be read here.

I’m also delighted to have my poem ‘The Disappearing River, Stream, Trickle’ (with an audio recording too) published at the end of the beautiful Streams strand on Words for the Wild in July 2019.

‘Wet Weekend’ published in The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society (Maytree Press) in August 2019, copies available here.

‘Love like glass’ (syllabic sonnet) published in Cupid’s Arrow (Hedgehog Poetry Press Stickleback) in July 2019.

Other news includes ‘The Mermaid with a 12m Tail’ (poem) to be published on The Stare’s Nest tomorrow (Aug 12), a flash ‘The Dream Dresser’ accepted for Literally Stories in September, a haibun taken for the Offa’s Press ‘Japanese’ anthology to be published in October, five pieces from my photographic sequence ‘chambers of the heart’ accepted for Bonnie’s Crew issue 6 in December, ‘Still the Apple’ for the ‘fruit’ themed strand on Words for the Wild in December.

REVIEWS

I’m delighted to have a review of Sophie Essex’s Some Pink Star up on The Poetry Shed here.

My review of Jane Lovell’s This Tilting Earth (Seren Books) is also forthcoming on The High Window.

If you scroll down to my previous blogpost, there’s my In the Booklight interview with Sue Burge about her collection In the Kingdom of Shadows, which also includes some micro-review of the poems.

Later this month (Aug 23), I also have an In the Booklight interview and micro-review piece with Kate Garrett about her chapbook To Feed My Woodland Bones.

In the Kingdom of Shadows coverIn my latest interview for In the Booklight, I talk to Sue Burge about her poetry collection In the Kingdom of Shadows (Live Canon)…

“It all starts here,
among the gravestones,
names like promises…”
(‘The Storyteller’s Journey’)

‘In the Kingdom of Shadows’ flows beautifully from poem to poem, from start to end, with linkings through words and ideas. It also has a sequence (‘A Short History of Birds’) spread across the whole book, and is laid out in four sections. Some of the poems too explicitly reference journeys and trails, such as the beautiful lines, “She breathes a vapour trail of longing | onto each cold, dark pane”(‘Windowgazer’) and “shining a path back | to the wombneck of the harbour” (‘after Alfred Wallis…’). How did the collection start and how did you arrive at this carefully crafted structure and flow across it?

The collection was initially called “Moments of Sleeping and Waking” which is the title of the poem I wrote about staying in Asta Nielsen’s house (she was a famous silent movie star) in Berlin. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of liminality, the spaces between experiences where we wait, sleep, travel. The collection initially had four sections – Bones, Dolls, Stories, Sleeping and Waking. Thanks to my two brilliant mentors, Heidi Williamson and Maura Dooley, it gradually transformed into the current format so it has kept the basic themes of the four sections but they are less rigid so the poems are able to have a more fluid dialogue with each other, calling up the ideas I’m interested in poetically – conjuring liminal spaces, cinematic space, what lies beneath in terms of psycho-geography and past lives, women’s voices, marginalised art, loss, storytelling, the Gothic etc

As the collection title might imply, death is a recurring theme and a beautiful, moving, haunting presence across the collection – as in life. Animals and children also play important roles in many of the poems, which include a taxidermist’s apprentice, dead sheep, broken eggs and the graveyard as:

“We are part
of an underground bestiary,
where worms unfurl,
where earwigs uncurl,
to feast on our untold tales.”
(‘The Storyteller’s Journey’)

What lead you to choose these themes, or did they choose you?

Probably a bit of both! I’m very interested in what shapes us and how childhood events and traumas create an adult but with a child hidden inside (or not so hidden!). I think many of my poems reference this. I walk a great deal and am always struck by the number of dead animals and evidence of predation one sees on country walks. I guess we constantly walk with death, but often don’t acknowledge it. I am fascinated by early, silent films and the idea that everyone on screen in these films is dead, we are seeing living ghosts, shades on screen. I teach a course on Gothic cinema where often the boundaries between life and death are blurred and that has been a big influence. Back in 2016/2017 I was involved in a project with the Poetry School and the Cinema Museum where ten poets wrote responses to the documentary film “Battle of the Somme” which was shot on location in 1916, a quite extraordinary film. It was a huge hit in 1916 as many audience members went to see if they could spot their sons, brothers, lovers, husbands etc for the last time… I find this such a profound and moving thought. I’m honestly not a miserable, doom-ridden person but that kind of experience stays with me and informs my work.

My earlier quotes and questions lead me into thinking about narrative and the use of history and story both explicitly and implicitly in ‘In the Kingdom of Shadows’. Poem titles include ‘A Short History of Birds’, ‘Legends of Suffolk’, ‘Hansel goes to Disneyworld’, ‘The Truth About Happily Ever After’… and elements of personal narrative, witnessing events and stepping into the shoes of historical figures thread through and across the collection. How interconnected are ‘history’ and ‘story’ for you?

Oh very connected! I did an MA at the University of East Anglia called Studies in Fiction and became fascinated with how narratives unfold and how they repeat themselves constantly, there are no new plots under the sun after all. I very much enjoy stepping into the shoes of historical figures and enjoy how poetry allows one to be speculative and imaginative without getting too bogged down in historical fact/accuracy although that should, of course, also inform the work. I did a wonderful workshop at the Foundling Museum with Tammy Yoseloff which led to the poem “Rock-a-bye-baby”. I wrote a sequence (not in the collection) called “What Became of the Prostitute’s Hair” inspired by a Grayson Perry exhibition which had Victorian tapestries sewn with human hair. I’ve also written a poem about Fanny Burney’s mastectomy in the nineteenth century (without anaesthetic). I find it really easy to step into historical shoes, everything they experienced we still experience today. The emotions are the same whichever historical period you choose and I guess that’s where my personal experience and feeling of witnessing comes through and into my characters. I was a town guide in King’s Lynn for many years and, although the buildings were wonderful, what I enjoyed most of all was uncovering the personal stories behind the town, the social history. And fairytales, well, aren’t they just our psychological fears and concerns transformed into stories?

Sue Burge author photoFollowing from the earlier questions, what are your sources of inspiration and influences, both for this particular collection and also in your poetry in general?

Apart from my interest in film, history and narratives such as folk tales and fairytales, I suppose another major source of inspiration would be exhibitions. I devour them! The sequence “A Short History of Birds” in the collection was inspired by a fascinating exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum on birds in art. There were a lot of stuffed birds throughout the displays and I started to look at the idea of taxidermy more closely. It’s yet another example of transformation and the history of taxidermy is bizarre, to say the least! The poem in the collection about the Ibeji dolls of the Yoruba came from my time as a guide at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich which has a strong focus on world art. Travel is another big influence. I don’t do much long-haul travel now but I’ve written a lot about the countries I’ve visited. “Day of the Dead” was inspired by the markets I visited on frequent work trips to Mexico. I’m currently working on my second collection and have a sequence on Carmen (the Bizet opera heroine) – a previous visit to Seville really helped me to capture a sense of heat, street culture and eroticism (I hope!). Probably the biggest influence is reading other poets. I bore all my students with J K Rowling’s three tips to aspiring writers – read, read, read… I think it’s so important to immerse yourself in the genre you write in and beyond. Reading sparks my imagination, makes me look at the world differently, helps me to see how other writers craft their words and how they use structure and form. I also attend as many poetry workshops and courses as I can. They are always so stimulating and it’s great to meet fellow poets and bounce ideas around a community of like-minded people. I love the Poetry School’s on-line courses, particularly now I’m based in North Norfolk. They really help me to stay in touch with new ideas and provide contact with a wide range of poets.

You’re a film lecturer and there’s a filmic quality to many of these poems – they’re very visual and the details included, like film cuts perhaps, feel very carefully crafted, precise, important and sharply focused. The gloves in ‘Marigold’ is just one example. ‘Gothic’ also explicitly evokes film in its striking closing stanza:

“And me, caught in the projector’s dancing beam,
lips parted, wanting it
dark, dark, dark.”

What do you feel are the similarities and differences between poetry and film, both in how they work and the effects and experiences that they can create?

This is a question I’ve been thinking about more and more as I’ve been teaching some poetry courses called “Inspired by Film” where I’ve been using film clips to help participants generate new work.

One big similarity between film and poetry is its careful, deliberate structure. Sometimes a poem can even look like a strip of film on the page with its neat stanzas and stanza breaks. Deciding where to break a stanza or a line, how to create flow between different stanzas or aspects of the poem, where to put cuts so it’s more precise and dramatic – all these are considerations for film-makers too, particularly at the editing stage. I suppose when I say “film” in this context I mean arthouse, independent films which tend to be more challenging and thought-provoking whereas commercial films tend to be more for entertainment, a bit more surface, a bit more Hallmark card in terms of poetry?!

Film uses close ups, long shots, establishing shots and poetry does this very well too – going from the general to the specific and focusing down in almost painful extreme close-ups at times. Poetry is a lens through which we see the world. Christopher Isherwood famously said his way of viewing the world made him like a camera. Poets are close observers and can take you into a self-contained and believable world in just one short poem. I believe reading a poem should be like coming out of a good film, stepping from the dark into the light – not quite believing you aren’t still in that created world, but also with the feeling that there will be an interesting aftertaste for a long time to come and that the viewer/reader would like to see/read the film/poem again and again to discover more layers.

Style is another aspect of film which often comes into poetry. There’s a film called “Russian Ark” which is all in one take, and I’ve noticed recently quite a few poems are being written in just one sentence which is a lovely parallel of the long take, absorbing experience in one elongated in-breath… I’m very interested in experimental film. It’s often fragmented, non-chronological and subverts traditional techniques. For example, David Lynch’s films will often disconnect from the viewer in surprising ways, playing with time, transforming character, inserting another genre. It seems to me to be the poetic equivalent of deciding how to push the boundaries of the page, how to stretch language, break the mould of conventional meaning. The sonnet form is often used by contemporary poets in very experimental ways, broken apart and reconstructed.

Poetry also has a visual, narrative quality which is often very cinematic and can evoke atmosphere well with a few chosen words and images. I hope I evoke the Gothic with my choice of words in “In the Kingdom of Shadows”, and also expressionism with my focus on light and shade. Film noir is a great one to play with, I love creating poetry which has a rainy, gritty, urban feel!

I think film probably has a stronger focus on character and narrative arc than poetry does, poetry evokes the essence of things, conveys emotion, mood and perhaps makes the reader work a little harder than the viewer at times. Overall, both film and poetry are trying to convey something important to the viewer/reader, to communicate meaning in fresh and innovative ways.

“Now I practise daily.
At the local pool I swim
drowsy, dreamy lengths
until the ends of my hair
start to turn green.”

“One morning as I brush my hair
with long, slow, strokes,
Tangled in the greeny gold
are tiny shells, a seagull feather,
a wisp of salty seaweed.”

The two stanzas above from different places in your poem ‘Sirens’ make me think about transformation. This can also be found in other poems in ‘In the Kingdom of Shadows’, from the poem ‘Bonemeal’ to the lighter ‘The Chandelier Competition’. Could you talk about the role and importance of transformation in poems in the collection? And also your thoughts about the transformative nature and powers of poetry itself?

I suppose I’ve always been interested in transformation. I love fairytales and how the hero or heroine is often unaware of their true identity or power. I like the idea that we can all become something else, and indeed we do transform throughout our lives, constantly taking on new roles. But I equally like the idea that we can dream ourselves into something completely other, exploring hidden selves, psychological selves, alternative selves. In poetry we can adopt alter egos and go exploring. Poetry transforms experience, it makes the ordinary extraordinary, makes the reader see something familiar from a fresh perspective. I think poets are alchemists, using words to create a series of transformative moments. Good poetry has the power to transport the reader into different worlds and often has a triggering quality – as we read, we make associations and understand ourselves more deeply. Often if I’m stuck when writing, I’ll read a few poems by other poets from my neverending stack of poetry books. This often sends my mind in different directions and the subconscious triggers mean that I can often juxtapose two ideas I wouldn’t have thought of putting together. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not plagiarism, more like having a discussion with a poetic friend and coming out the other side with fresh eyes.

What question haven’t I asked that I should have asked, and what’s the answer?

Maybe whether The Kingdom of Shadows is typical of my poetry? It is and it isn’t. I quite often try really hard and really consciously not to write in a cinematic way, not to constantly reference films in my head. Of course, that never works! My debut pamphlet, Lumière (Hedgehog Poetry Press), is a celebration of Paris’s cinematic legacy as well as my personal relationship with the city. My new collection focuses on different themes (dance and the AIDS crisis) and a new pamphlet, due out soon, looks at my relationship with the sea and also explores illness. The way I’m tackling these subjects, however, is still very much in my particular voice with undercurrents of my abiding interests, although I think I’m pushing the page more and writing less often in neat stanzas now. For some reason Russian film keeps sneaking into my poems at the moment!

In the Kingdom of Shadows coverHow can people get hold of a copy of ‘In the Kingdom of Shadows’?

You can contact me through my website www.sueburge.uk if you would like a signed copy or you can buy direct from the publishers (Live Canon) at http://www.livecanon.co.uk/publications.

I’d love to hear what people think of the collection!

 

Thank you, Sue, for these wonderful insights into ‘In the Kingdom of Shadows’ and the inspirations and influences, filmic qualities and transformations in your work.

To read more In the Booklight interviews with authors, please click on this link.

Looking up image 7 - tree lens scaled down for The High WindowI’ve been wondering and wandering a lot lately – on trees, nature, health, writing and many other interests and influences that shape both my life and how I feel about my life. I’ve not yet transcribed these thoughts to paper/screen, and possibly never well. Not all that is thought needs recording – in fact, given the state of my musings sometimes, heaven forbid!

Whether I like it or not though, what I think, believe and care about does tend to make itself felt in my work, even some things I believe I’ve consciously filtered out. Is this the nature of life in general as well as writing? I suspect so. I am my thoughts and actions, though the full picture of me may not be captured by just those things. As a writer, that inevitably means I am in everything I write.

For what glimpses it may give, and what those glimpses may or may not be worth, the past few months has seen me celebrating the following:

Looking Up to the Sky, Trees as inspiration, resource, lifeline article/essay with poems and photos published on The High Window in June 2019.

‘Woodland Walk’, ‘Bark’ and ‘Wearing Real Mist’ (poems) published in The High Window, issue 14, summer 2019 in June 2019.

‘A Countryside Town’ and ‘The Lamppost’ (poems) published in Scintilla 22 in May 2019 – available on
Amazon UK, Amazon USA, Amazon Germany, Amazon Japan.

A revised handout/series of tension-themed prompts following my workshop for Trinity Arts week at Trinity College, Oxford, can be found here.

I was also commissioned to write an anniversary-themed poem for Poetry on Loan, and then heard that this poem is one of a number chosen for use on a Poetry on Loan postcard, with various library spoken word events to follow – I’m so delighted, watch this space for more news soon!

Other good news includes a poem shortlisted in the Welshpool Poetry Festival Poetry Competition and a poem accepted for The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society anthology to be launched at Marsden Walking Festival in September. (The event takes place on Saturday 21 September between 6pm and 7.30pm at Marsden Library, Peel Street, Marsden, West Yorkshire – Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/463105951190049/.)

And I’ve had a poem accepted for Words for the Wild next month and a flash for publication in September.

Meanwhile on the art front, I’ve two pieces from a sequence (Us too – among the lost hearts and Us too – lost hearts, swarming) in the latest issue of Bonnie’s Crew.

Snake Girl‘ (flash) and ‘Freewheeling‘ (flash) published on CafeLit in June 2019.

V. Press at the Flash Fiction Festival

Sunday, 30 June 2019 – Publishing with an Indie Press, Flash Fiction Festival
Trinity College Bristol, Stoke Hill, Stoke Bishop, 2.45-3.45pm. This event is part of the weekend festival – full details on booking can be found on the festival website at https://www.flashfictionfestival.com/.

‘Publishing with an Indie Press’
Diane Simmons, whose debut flash fiction collection Finding A Way was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in February 2019, Damhnait Monaghan, whose debut flash fiction chapbook The Neverlands was published in April 2019 by V.Press, and Susmita Bhattacharya published by Dahlia Press will talk about their journeys to publication and what has happened in the few months since, with publishers Jude Higgins from Ad Hoc Fiction, Sarah Leavesley from V Press and Farhana Shaikh from Dahlia Press. Diane, Damhnait and Susmita will read samples from their collections and there will be Q and A.

V. Press at Ledbury Poetry Festival – Sunday, 14 July 

This year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival includes three V. Press poets, Margaret Adkins, John Lawrence and Brenda Read-Brown, giving FREE 20-minute readings on Sunday, July 14.

Photo by Leah Adkins

20 Minutes with… Margaret Adkins
12:20 pm – 12:40 pm

Margaret Adkins will read from her debut pamphlet, Mingled Space. It won the inaugural V. Press Poetry Prize in association with the University of Worcester, and was launched in May. These poems inhabit real and imagined everyday spaces. Other work features in recent issues of Under the Radar and Prole magazines.

20 Minutes with… John Lawrence
3:20 pm – 3:40 pm

John Lawrence will read from his V. Press debut collection The boy who couldn’t say his name. His poems are packed with heart, humour, and a unique slant on everyday life. The Poetry Book Society Spring Bulletin reviewed The boy who couldn’t say his name as ‘… a thoroughly enjoyable debut collection. Running the full gamut of the comic and the tragic…’

Photo by Andy Smith

20 Minutes with… Brenda Read-Brown
5:20 pm – 5:40 pm

A look at the sharper edges of life, love and laughter, performance poet Brenda Read-Brown has turned to the page with her new collection, Like love (V Press). “The poems in Like love are uncluttered. They are simple, profound, and immensely touching…” Brian Patten. “These poems remind me of the tingles. I’m so happy to feel them. This collection makes me want to run outside, kiss, fall in leaves and then write.” Hollie McNish

Romalyn Ante is also a Nine Arches/Poetry School Primers:Volume Three poet reading on Saturday, July 13. (You can find details of her V. Press pamphlet Rice & Rain which won the Saboteur Awards 2018 Best Poetry Pamphlet here.)

(Thanks to Herefordshire Libraries who are supporting these readings.) The festival runs from Friday, July 5 to Sunday, July 14 and you can check out the full festival programme here.

In April 2019, I was delighted to be invited to run two workshops with the wonderful Creative Group at St Paul’s Hostel in Worcester.

The theme was light (and darkness), taking inspiration from and responding to the group’s own photos of Worcester Cathedral on the theme of ‘Finding Light’, which will be the title of the group’s next booklet.

I’m delighted to be able to share some of the beautiful poems created during these workshops!

(NB Just to note that the photos in these blogposts are my own. The group’s photography workshops were delivered by Neil Styles, tutor with Libraries and Learning, Adult Learning Worcestershire, over a period of 5 months. These photographs will be on display along with other people`s work in and around the Council Chamber at County Hall from 1-24 June and the exhibition then moves on to Worcester Cathedral in the last week of June.)

P1100091 st paul's hostel blog 2 title

Tempus Fugit: Carpe Diem

by Gerry Lowman

Time is flying: Seize the Day!
Whatever your circumstances find a way
To nurture yourself with inner reflection
And forwards onto outward action!
Listen to your thoughts and hear what others say
Live in this precious moment!
But do not dwell or overstay
Allowing inertia or anxiety to outplay
All the good urgently needed today.
Tempus fugit: Carpe diem!

The light on the sundial casts its shadow
Proof of the fact that we all must follow
That winged chariot taking us to the morrow.
Precious light from the life giving sun
The overriding goal that now must be won
Is to save our planet from our careless destruction
So leaving it safe for millennia to come
And make the future secure for the incoming generation.
Time is flying: Seize the Day!

Youth of today have taken up the banner
Stirring our consciences with their energy and fervour
Capture this moment, bring us all together
And acting as ONE save our precious earth forever!

Tempus Fugit: Carpe Diem!
Time is flying: Seize the Day!

IMG_7212

A Guiding Light

by Paul Manley

A light distinguishing a path
On right and wrong
I would like to be
The Decider of the Path
Of men
On right or wrong

This is Easter

by Gerry Lowman

Enliven the usual scene of pomp and ceremony
With love and joy and amazing energy
For this is Easter, the Christ has risen
Raise your voices to the rafters
In praise and thanks and joyful laughter.
Turn to your neighbour and share the moment
This is the time to give voice to your emotions
What joy, what love is all around
Look down dear Jesus as we stand
On this holy ground.

cathedral inside pix july 2010 002

Bright Light

by Gerry Lowman

Through the windows pours the bright light
Casting kaleidoscopic colours upon surrounding arches
And contrasting the stark outline of the statue so white
So that its presence reaches out from the darkness
And our curiosity gained, with wonder, our sight
Follows where the statue is pointing, trying to gain our awareness
Of the hidden tales of glory and might
And myriad happenings down through the centuries
Revealed to us in ancient inscriptions, bathed in the light

Old steps of marble and shining metal

by Claire, the Poet with Passion

Old steps of marble and shining metal
Don`t glow in the darkest hours after midnight
They no longer entice your eyes
With twinkling light bursts of delight
They simply fade and die
Just like you and I.

cathedral inside pix july 2010 029

In the presence of an Angel

by Gerry Lowman

The warmth of the lighted Angel`s shadow
Upon the cold, austere grey stones
Brings comfort, unnoticed, by the crowds below
As it keeps guard over the cherished bones
Of the anointed King whose head rests on a stone pillow.
But in the darkness of the still night the Angel comes
Resplendent in shining purity and, now fully on show,
It graces this space with an eternal glow.
So stand still awhile and take time to allow
Yourself to feel the wondrous touch of
An Angel`s presence!

Light at the end of the dark arch tunnel

by Charley Gittings

There is light at the end of the dark arch tunnel
Weaving through the darkness to get to the bright bit of light at the end
Twirling the bits of brickwork together
Into a little blend
When you mend
The walls
Transfixing them to the dark dark arches together
Into a dark dark little room of the crypt

In her own low shadow

by Claire Cariad Morgana

She stands in the crypt below
In her own low shadow.
Sadly, for her, without her own day glow window.
She looks forlorn, lonely, sad and hollow
Without any life-giving marrow.
Been made by a chiselled stonemason fellow.
Centuries on from her army`s weapons of a bow and arrow
I would suggest that her thoughts are somewhat narrow.
She stands for all eternity, longing for sleep and a restful warm pillow.
She never ever gets to see that flying sparrow.

Made of Plantation Cotton

by Claire, the Poet with Passion

The flag, those ancient flags
Some made of plantation cotton
Enforced slavery
A plantation manager, so very rotten.
Centuries later
Post the Windrush begotten
The British white purist
Fascists have forgotten
That this material
This soft clean cotton
Made those men very rich
And maybe the flags helped
With the rotten leave Brexit pitch.

P1000013

There once was a pink giraffe

by Gerry Lowman

There once was a pink giraffe
Who gave all visitors a laugh
To Worcester Cathedral it came
And here has achieved fame
Let`s give our pink giraffe a name!

In April 2019, I was delighted to be invited to run two workshops with the wonderful Creative Group at St Paul’s Hostel in Worcester.

The theme was light (and darkness), taking inspiration from and responding to the group’s own photos of Worcester Cathedral on the theme of ‘Finding Light’, which will be the title of the group’s next booklet.

I’m delighted to be able to share some of the beautiful poems created during these workshops!

(NB Just to note that the photos in these blogposts are my own. The group’s photography workshops were delivered by Neil Styles, tutor with Libraries and Learning, Adult Learning Worcestershire, over a period of 5 months. These photographs will be on display along with other people`s work in and around the Council Chamber at County Hall from 1-24 June and the exhibition then moves on to Worcester Cathedral in the last week of June.)

P1100091 st apul's hostel pic finished

Sunlight

by Theresa Fisher

Warm and bright reflecting happiness untold
And making things unfold
Like flowers in the park
And lighten up the dark
A yellow daffodil, bright and cheery
Makes the day less dreary

Light

by Paul Manley

Light goes into night
Night goes into day
Day goes into seeking
This is what we portray

In the day

by Charley Gittings

In the day the light reflexes off the arches
With the colours dashing
Around in the midst of the dark places
But when it is dark there is no cascading
Of bright literal colours bouncing
Around
There is just
Black of black
In the pitch of the night

cathedral inside pix july 2010 020 straightened

Bury my past

by Claire, the Poet with Passion

I would hold a party to bury my past
Play only Wagner`s “Flight of the Valkyrie”
Insisting that my past will vanish and die.
I`d bring a huge spade and loads of dirt
And shovel in all the anger, pain and hurt.
I`d dress up in the darkest shade of black
Cast a spell to prevent it from ever coming back.
I`d dance, trance like, with friends and several witches
Bury the painful memories in many ditches
Promising myself that I`d never revisit
A past that I wish had never existed.

Creepy Crawlies

by Paul Manley

Creepy crawlies
Draughty corners
Apprehensive
To the touch
Wondering why
You seek
So much

Light feels like hope when it heals

by Claire, the Poet with Passion

When you stand in the darkness, pausing
Hope is what pulls you towards the daylight
Visible through that open door.
Light gives me hope for a future life
A dream that I will eventually be so much more.
Light allows me to open the door, the drawer, my mind
To such prospects and opportunities that I`ve yet to find.
Fear of failure and mass rejection
Makes me shy away from the light`s reflection.
Yet I know if I am to be successful and persevere
I absolutely must allow light into my life
To remain with me here.

cathedral inside pix july 2010 014 lightened and cropped

Angel shadow

by Ray Morgan

Bright with black and white
Bright is the angel, dark is the night
Whisper of cold, pure delight
Here stops quickly
Either rich or poor
The angel shows you mercy
When she shows you the door

The Door

by Paul Manley

The door is to seek
The door is to forget
What is beyond?
Beyond is to forget
The situation
You go through

There isn`t no brime or grime

by Charley Gittings

There isn`t no brime or grime
There`s just shine and a little bit of slime
It used to be white by sight
And so so bright within the light
But now it`s got to fight the might
By the dark dark night.
The sun shines a shadow from the pillows
Of snow upon the mallows
Shall we follow the glow and grow
To the fellows of the Mellows?

I am the slow burning lamp

by Gerry Lowman

I am the slow burning lamp
Keeping alight the cross in the darkness
I am the ancient light
Using the wick of life
In the clay crucible where we all began.
The ancient light, using God`s gift of oil
Within the smooth cradle of the warm mother earth.

IMG_3276 fire

A camp Fire

by Peter Middleton

I can simmer as an ember, but be the brightest flame
For I see the light and darkness and life is not a game.
I play with fire my every day
But the ash and darkness don`t go away
The darkness is not my desire
Still I need someone to stoke the fire.
The body is weak and old and the fire is at its low
With a little breath of air
I know it can still glow

I`d want to be a flame

by Claire, the Poet with Passion

I`d want to be a flame, an energetic fire
Like the kind who engulfed Notre Dame`s spire
I`d sometimes be safe and comforting and slow
Then often I`d want to set the horizon aglow
I`d be the darkest yellow and the fiercest red
I`d light the pathway to the cemetery`s dead
Sadly there`s not warmth and fire when you`ve passed away
Thus my passion and flame must burn brightly for today.

cathedral inside pix july 2010 010

The next few months I’ll be running round with even more hats than usual, having taken on an exciting new role as Ledbury Poetry Festival Guest Editor for Versopolis Review. Part of the role is commissioning new work for publication on Versopolis Review in the run-up to this year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival at the start of July. As usual the festival is packed with great events – meaning I’m almost too spoiled for choice in choosing what to feature!!!

With a different hat on, this year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival also includes three V. Press poets Margaret Adkins, John Lawrence and Brenda Read-Brown giving free 20-minute readings on Sunday, July 14. (Thanks to Herefordshire Libraries who are supporting these readings.) You can check out the full festival programme here with public booking opening next Saturday (May 18).

On then with the party hat for my own writing. Life has been busy but I’m delighted to have a few personal publications to celebrate, and workshops and readings coming up this week. So…

Extracts From His Wives’ Diaries a photo flash combination sequence (photo flash cartoon strip) published in Riggwelter issue 21, May 2019.
Catch‘gets a ‘special mention’ in Five Aspects of Me Poetry Competition 2018 (theme ‘the spirit of childhood’).

broadstsheldonianblog pictrinitychapel

EVENTS/WORKSHOPS

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 – Trinity Arts Week poetry workshop – Trinity College, Oxford, 3.45pm-5pm

Trinity Arts week presents a poetry workshop with Sarah James and Sophia Thakur. Sarah James is a prolific and award-winning artist, editor of V.press, has been shortlisted for the International Rubery Book Awards, and won the Overton Poetry Prize. Sophia Thakur is a spoken word poet who has performed at Glastonbury, has collaborated with Nike, and recently headlined a sold-out show in London. Expect a range of exercises on the Arts Week theme of ‘Tension’ and don’t forget to bring pen/paper/laptop or whatever you write with. The workshop is free (and open to the public as well as students) but places are limited, so please reserve a place through the tickets/booking link here. Facebook page here.

At: Trinity College, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BH

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 – Trinity Arts Week Jazz and Poetry – Trinity College Chapel, Oxford, 8pm

An evening of Jazz and Poetry in the beautiful and intimate space of Trinity chapel. Poetry readings by Sarah James and Sophia Thakur. Music Line-up TBA. Venue: Trinity College Chapel, Trinity College, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BH. Facebook event page here.

Thursday, 16 May 2019 – Vanguard Readings, Peckham

Vanguard Readings May 19

SHADES OF LIGHT…

Last month, I was delighted to be invited to run two workshops with the wonderful Creative Group at St Paul’s Hostel in Worcester.The theme was light (and darkness), taking inspiration from and responding to the group’s own photos of Worcester Cathedral on the theme of ‘Finding Light’, which will be the title of the group’s next booklet. Towards the end of this month and the start of June, I’m delighted to be able to share some of the beautiful poems created during these workshops. So look out for those – and the group’s exhibition – soon!

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