Some (good) news at last

Hello again. I hope you’re well, and writing.

A few Wells Fountain Poets (Andrew Henon, Mo Kiziewicz, Rachael Clyne, David Niven, David Ketelby and me, Ama Bolton) have been invited to contribute to next month’s Bridgwater Quayside virtual Festival (17-19 July). Another of our members, storyteller Beth Webb, will be contributing separately. Here is a preview of Andrew’s timely and powerful video-poem. Andrew is also participating in the Somerset Film project Hello World, and I urge you to watch the interview and two of his short video-poems on their website.

We have had to cancel our April, May and June meetings and will not be meeting in July or August, but I hope to be able to re-book all the cancelled guest poets next year.

Just a quick reminder of some competitions closing soon: Wells Litfest competition closes 30th June, Penfro Festival Competition closes 1st July, Ledbury Festival competition closes 16th July and Winchester Poetry Prize closes 31st July. Many more on the Poetry Kit website.

“It is the task of a lifetime. You can never know enough, never work enough, never use the infinitives and participles oddly enough, never impede the movement harshly enough, never leave the mind quickly enough.” – Anne Carson on writing poetry



Locked down

I need hardly say that we shall not be meeting again until we see what the post-pandemic world looks like. Then (if I’m spared, as my grandmother used to say) I’ll do my best to re-book all the guest poets we’ll have missed. NB use of future-perfect tense. Trying to maintain some standards here.
Meanwhile there is no shortage of opportunities to engage with online writing initiatives, and of course to send your work to magazines and competitions.
I have been asked by Ali Lewis to pass this on:
I was wondering if you might be able to share the details of our 2020 Poetry London competition with members of Wells Fountain Stanza?
First prize is £5,000, second prize is £2,000 and third prize is £1,000, and this year, the competition’s being judged by Ilya Kaminsky.
It’d be great to see some entries from Wells Fountain poets. The deadline is 1 May, and you can see details of how to enter here.

Some others that popped into my inbox:
Paper Swans single poem competition – max 24 lines, closing date 24 April

Rialto Nature & Place  competition  – max 40 lines – closes on 1 May

Live Canon single poem competition – poems of any length – deadline 13 May
Winchester Poetry Prize, max 40 lines, deadline 31 July (if you follow the link you may be able to spot me in the back row of the photo) 
Cannon Sonnet or Not  competition for 14-line poems closes on 31 October.

I’ll end by wishing you well, whether you are working your socks off in the service of the public or going for long contemplative walks and looking forward to yet another meal of mashed potato because potatoes are all you have in the larder and you must eat them up before they demand to be planted.

Man and Fire Move House


Wells Fountain Poets metaphorically moved house this month, to The Globe Inn, where our first visitor was Tom Sastry. Tom has been to us, in different venues, twice before. He just gets better! Carol Ann Duffy knew what she was doing when she chose him as one of the 2016 Laureate’s Choice poets. He is a very fine reader of his own work, and his audience was totally engaged. His new collection A Man’s House Catches Fire is well-crafted and relevant, with a balance of the humorous and the deadly serious, the surreal and the down-to-earth, the bleak and the joyful, always with close attention to word-choices and an instinct for the right metaphor.

We had a record number of poets around the table, and a wide range of styles and subjects were on offer during the open-mic.

At the Free Verse Poetry Fair on 22nd February, Jinny will be reading from her V-press pamphlet The Escapologist at 1.40pm.

In the Lyra Poetry Festival, Tom will be performing on 14th March with David Turner and Shauna Robertson at Hours in Colston Yard, Bristol at 2pm, and on 15th March at 5pm Fountain poet Rachael Clyne will be one of six poets responding to the climate crisis at Storysmith Bookshop.

Please note that in future, most meetings (but not all) will be on Tuesdays, due to the room being already booked most Mondays. Please check this page for dates.

Next meeting: Tuesday 3rd March 2020, upstairs at The Globe Inn, 18-20 Priest Row, Wells BA5 2PY. We proudly present Fountain poet Jinny Fisher!

And another date for your diary: for the first time, we will have a day of poetry, The Fringe Poetry Binge, on Saturday 17th October, during Wells Litfest.

Say the words you are writing aloud and let your ear decide what word comes next. [Read them as though you’re a movie star, or at least as though you’re reading someone whose work you absolutely love.]
– Charles Simic, with comment by Lauren Camp

January meeting at Jinny’s

Thirteen of us gathered in Jinny’s Salon des Arts in the first week of the year to share poems that mean something special to us. We welcomed two poets new to the group, and one who came back to us after a long absence.

We heard a wonderful mixture of poems ancient and modern, English and translated: Tennyson’s The Brook read from a vintage tiny-pocket-size edition, two poems from Somnia by Maria Stadnicka, two by Elma Mitchell, two by Jo Shapcott, two by Paul Deaton, and poems by Robert Waller, A.E Housman, Emily Berry, Henry Reed, Krzysztof Jaworski, Ama Codjoe, John Freeman, Marriott Edgar (The Lion and Albert), Matthew Dickman, John Yau, Stan Frith, David Bowie and Ilya Kaminsky, as well as work of their own by David N and Sandra. It was a lovely and varied evening. All these links are well worth following , if you have the time. OK, I know you don’t have the time!

Mitchell-Elma Elma Mitchell, 1919-2000, who spent the second half of her life in Somerset.

Our next meeting will be on Monday February 3rd, 7.45 for 8pm
at The Globe Inn, 18-20 Priest Row, Wells BA5 2PY. The Bus Station car park is a short walk. Guest poet will be Tom Sastry with his new collection “A Man’s House Catches Fire“. I’m looking forward to this!

Being rejected is part of the deal as a poet. It’s doesn’t always make it better to know that, but it’s true. You will be rejected more than you are accepted. You will celebrate an acceptance then sadly weep into morning coffee over a rejection that rolls in the next day. — Kelli Russell Agodon

I love my rejection slips. They show me I try. –Sylvia Plath

This month’s post was written by Ama Bolton.

Something like a man

John Dust by John Duffin
At our meeting last month, Louise Warren read to us, mostly from her impressive pamphlet John Dust: part memoir, part folklore, part fiction, inspired by the history and mystery of Somerset, where she grew up.
John Dust, she told us, came to her when her physical connection with Somerset ceased. He is a trickster, a demon lover, a spirit of the Levels, a lord of misrule – unpredictable, subversive and elusive as Jack O’Lantern or Jumping Jack Flash – but he is human, too, “face like a neighbour.”
This is a powerful body of work, rich in the subtle music of rhythm and repetition, and is aptly illustrated by John Duffin. Louise is an excellent performer, reciting many of her poems from memory. Her voice comes back to me as I read them from the page.
We had some super poems during the open-mic too, and welcomed four newcomers to the group. Martin read Nude descending a staircase #2 from The Interpreter’s House, Rachael read Nameless, which appeared recently in The Beach Hut. I read Small Talk from a recent anthology of writing and photos, Planet in Peril, from Fly on the Wall Press.
At our next meeting, on Monday 6th January, you are invited to bring a couple of poems (not your own) that you enjoy, and to tell us something about them. We’ll be meeting at Jinny’s house, off Bove Town in Glastonbury. If you haven’t been there before, please ask me for directions (amabolton at hotmail dot com.)
Jinny was interviewed recently on Radio Somerset, and Rachael was interviewed on Glastonbury FM.
Jinny and I were on Allan Trinder’s Glastonbury FM community Show on Thurs 19 December, 4-5pm, starting about 19m 15s. The programme is available for a week on the website:
This post was written by Ama Bolton.

Obsession is the key that unlocks treasures. – Pascale Petit on Twitter

Sometimes all you need to do is ask

Great evening, as always … a good vibe.

Our guest poet in November was Chrissy Banks, who grew up on the Isle of Man and now lives in Exeter. The poems she read from her latest collection, The Uninvited (Indigo Dreams) were a warm invitation to read more. The poems span a lifetime, from a Manx childhood (her first poem described a crystal-clear memory, still raw, of watching President Kennedy’s assassination on TV while her mother cooked) to dancing with a fractious baby grandson, with excursions to consider the fascinating sex-life of inanimate objects and to take a wistful look at a “Missing” poster. The poem that stays with me is How do you know it’s an emergency?  which moves in eleven short urgent  stanzas from the personal to the national to the global and back with a sense of rising panic. My title is taken from a little gem of a holiday poem in which expectations are first dashed and then gloriously fulfilled.

“Skilled and articulate, raw but never straining for effect, empathetic but never sentimental …” – Sue Boyle


During the open-mic sessions we heard poems on subjects ranging from air-raids in Aleppo to a grandchild’s first steps, and from the absurdity of safety instructions to the surreal life of a corkscrew. It was a thoroughly entertaining evening.

Our next meeting will be at The Venue on Monday 2nd December, starting promptly at 8pm. The heating is minimal, so please dress warmly! Hot food and drinks are available.

Our guest will be Louise Warren.

Louise Warren

Born in Dorset, now living in London, Louise Warren is a poet and playwright. She won the 2011 Cinnamon First Collection Prize; her debut poetry book A Child’s Last Picture Book of the Zoo was published in May 2012. Her poems have appeared in magazines including Agenda, Envoi, Fuselit, The Interpreters House, Obsessed with Pipework, Poetry Wales, The Rialto, Seam and Stand. She has also appeared in a number of anthologies including Postcards from Leather Lane (edited by Aoife Mannix and Eva Lewin) and Genius Floored- A Shadow on the Wall (edited by Ruth O’Callaghan).

In 2011 she was shortlisted for both the Bridport and Wenlock Poetry Prize, and in 2008 she had a poem in The Ver Poetry Prize Anthology.

Her plays include productions at The Little Angel Theatre, Lyric Studio, and touring venues including Theatres, Art Venues, Museums and schools. She is currently working on fusing her poetry with visual imagery and performance.

Her latest collection is “John Dust”.

… this mythic figure … this spectre, John Dust, part man, part ghost, part atmosphere, darts between poems … – Charlotte Gann

John Dust by John DuffinIllustration from John Dust, by John Duffin

Remember, a poem is a time machine you are constructing, a vehicle that will allow someone to travel in their own mind, so don’t be surprised if it takes a while to get all its engine parts properly working. – Charles Simic

Time’s mouth is hungry

Dawn Gorman

Our guest poet on October 7th was Dawn Gorman, winner of the Brian Dempsey Memorial Prize 2019, with a wonderful reading, mostly  from her third pamphlet Instead, Let us Say. The poems were concerned with time and memory and forgetting. With being in the moment, observing, and making deep connections. To read and reread this collection is richly rewarding.

Instead Let us Say

Poems in the open-mic included Andrew Henon’s Care Plan, published in Tears in the Fence, and Ama’s The Bad-news Bird, published in the Winchester Prize anthology. We heard some very striking poems from newcomer Lindsey, from Jinny, Michelle, Rachael, Claire, Morag, Wendy and Steve. There were poems from the performance in B-wing that some of us took part in on National Poetry Day, Oct 3rd. You might recognise some faces here!

Poets in B-Wing small

Grief (personal, social, political and environmental) seemed to emerge as a dominant theme, but humour and empathy were present too.

Coming up on the first weekend of November, the Festival of Death and Dying, with, among many other events, a writing workshop in St Cuthbert’s Church, Wells on the Saturday morning, and spoken word and song with Rachael, Jinny and others in the Shepton Art Bank on Saturday evening.

Coming up on 20th November, Beth Webb reads The Death of Arthur:

Death of Arthur

News of members’ and friends’ successes – probably not complete!

Congratulations to Wendy Nicholson, who won first prize for the children’s book competition and Deborah Harvey who was short-listed for the poetry prize at Wells Litfest. A huge cheer for David Ketelby who was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. In the Winchester Poetry Prize, Tom Sastry was highly commended and Ama Bolton was commended. Ama also had an “honourable mention” in the Poem for Europe competition.

I have been asked to mention the Snowdrop Festival CompetitionCelebrate snowdrops and the world of The Snowdrop King! 2020 Judge: Jane Draycott, Theme: Snowdrops, the James Allen story and Monochrome & Green. Line Limit: 30 lines. Three age categories: 11 & Under, 12 to 17, 18 & Over. Prizes for each category. Entry fees: free to under 18s, £4 per entry 18 & over.
Closes 31st December 2019, 11pm.

And of course don’t forget the National Poetry Competition, deadline 31 October. Poetry Society members get a second entry free.

Our next meeting will be on November 4th at The Venue, 42 South Street, Wells BA5 1SL, at the usual time of 7.45 for 8pm. Our guest poet is Chrissy Banks from Exeter, introducing her new collection  The Uninvited, from Indigo Dreams.


Poetry begins where language starts: in the shadows and accidents of one person’s life.
Eavan Boland


The trick that gravity pulls

Our guest poet at the September meeting was Pam Zinnemann-Hope, who read from her lovely collection Foothold. These poems are rooted in the West Dorset landscape in which she lives. Some  are attentive hymns to birds, trees, weather, local people past or present, insects, animals, music. Some are more personal, a well-observed moment of intimacy becoming a meditation on ageing, illness, love or death. There is an accuracy, a deftness with words, a lightness of touch, a knowing how much is enough, that makes these quiet poems such a pleasure to hear and to read.
This post’s title is a line from The Stone-balancer’s Secret.

A good mix of poems from the rest of us included Rachael’s It was meant to be a Joke, published in The New European.

Our next meeting will be on Monday 7 October at The Venue in South Street, 7.45 for 8pm, when Dawn Gorman will be reading from her dazzling third pamphlet “Instead, Let Us Say”.

On National Poetry Day, Thursday October 3rd at 2-4pm, five of the Fountain Poets will be taking part in a reading in Shepton Mallet (former) Prison. Poems old and new, some written specially for the occasion, in an extraordinary venue. This is during Somerset Art Weeks, and there are site-specific art installations: Rosie Jackson has a cell of her own … and she will be leading a writing workshop in the morning (free but must be booked in advance.)

B wing

Home in prison


September news!

This coming Monday:

PZH poster

Reminder: The Stanza Poetry Competition is open to Poetry Society members (if you’re not a member you can join here) who are also members of a Poetry Society Stanza. The highly topical theme for the 2019 competition is LIES – however you wish to interpret it. Send up to two poems, either online, or by email, or by post, max 40 lines per poem. Free entry. Closing date is Monday 9 September 2019 and the winners will be announced on National Poetry Day, Thursday 3 October 2019.

Talking of which, on National Poetry Day (Oct 3rd), several of us Fountain Poets will be taking part in an afternoon reading in an extraordinary environment, Shepton Mallet (former) Prison, and in the morning Rosie will be leading a free poetry workshop:
B wing

Thanks for reading!