A Homeric gathering in Bath

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READERS AND PERFORMERS include Verona Bass, Ama Bolton, Sue Boyle, Sue Chadd, Claire Coleman, Sarah Gregory, Margaret Heath, Rosie Jackson, Miranda Pender’s virtual self, Ann Preston, Linda Saunders, Conor Whelan, Roger Whelan, Jude Wisdom and Shirley Wright.

We are building our Journey theme around EMILY WILSON’S acclaimed new translation the THE ODYSSEY. 

To read a translation is like looking at a photo of a sculpture: It shows the thing, but not from every angle. Like every translator, Wilson brings out some features more clearly than others. But altogether it’s as good an “Odyssey” as one could hope for.

– GREGORY HAYS, associate professor of Classics at the University of Virginia, and translator of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. (Review in NY Times 5 Dec 2017)

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Much like crime, poetry doesn’t pay

Melanie B

Our guest this month was Melanie Branton from Bristol.
She was wonderful: tender, honest, funny, incisive and alert to the subtle layers of potential in everyday words and phrases. She emerged onto the performance poetry scene only a few years ago but already has a pamphlet published last year by Oversteps, with a second coming out later this year. If you missed her, you can find her on You-tube

You can read a short bio and a poem that illustrates her characteristically inventive use of simile here. Melanie’s legs are really much longer than they look in the accompanying photo.

In the second half we heard poems from Izzy, Sara, Diana (who read one by the sorely-missed Irene Benson), Chris (recently back from teaching in Hungary), Michelle, Rachael, Morag, Andy, Ama and Jinny, who read her poem “The Pattern”, which was commended in a recent competition.

Melanie finished the evening with “Manifesto”, of which this post’s title is the first line.

Latest news: congratulations to Rachael, who has a Food-bank Poem in The Poetry Shed.
And Ama will be performing her sequence “Warp” at BRLSI as part of an Odyssey-themed afternoon on Saturday 28th July. The readings start at 2pm. Free admission. Full programme here.

We shall be meeting again after the summer break. To know when and where, keep an eye on the “Who, what, where, when” page, or join the mailing list by emailing Ama at amabolton(at)hotmail(dot)com.

When I was fourteen I had a conversation at a Boy Scout meeting with a fellow who seemed ancient to me; he was sixteen. I was bragging and told him that I had written a poem during study hall at high school that day. He asked—I can see him standing there—You write poems? and I said, Yes, do you? and he said, in the most solemn voice imaginable, It is my profession. He had just quit high school to devote himself to writing poetry full time! I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. It was like that scene in Bonnie and Clyde where Clyde says, We rob banks. Poetry is like robbing banks. 
– Donald Hall (died 23 June 2018)

The Langport Moot

Members of the East Coker Poetry Group, the Fountain Poets and Fire River Poets met on a bright and breezy midsummer’s morning at Great Bow Wharf in Langport for a day of walking, writing and reading. And in one case, sketching. Rachael Clyne introduced the concept of the Dérive and the Coker Cartographer handed out maps. Flags were flying, and they had nothing to do with football. Swallows swooped low over the river and bees bumbled in blossoms.  Pamphlets were bought, sold and swapped. There were picnics by the river, visits to All Saints church and the Hanging Chapel, conversations in cafes and charity shops, and a solo hike to Muchelney Abbey and back. We returned after lunch to Great Bow Wharf with some promising jottings and first drafts of poems to share round the table. We also shared poems we’d brought, our own or other people’s, including, memorably, Mary Oliver’s Am I not among the Early Risers? and Adrian Mitchell’s This be the Worst.

All agreed that it had been a successful and enjoyable day; big thanks to David Cloke of East Coker for dreaming it up and seeing it through! We hope there will be another Moot another year!

 

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Here is one of Ama’s jottings.

fresh-picked flowers
under this willow

of nineteen trunks

who drowned here
where leaves trail in the water
below the foot-bridge

 

And click here to see a video-poem/visual haiku filmed on the day by Andrew Henon.

Summer Solstice

When I was fourteen I had a conversation at a Boy Scout meeting with a fellow who seemed ancient to me; he was sixteen. I was bragging and told him that I had written a poem during study hall at high school that day. He asked—I can see him standing there—You write poems? and I said, Yes, do you? and he said, in the most solemn voice imaginable, It is my profession. He had just quit high school to devote himself to writing poetry full time! I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. It was like that scene in Bonnie and Clyde where Clyde says, We rob banks. Poetry is like robbing banks. 
– Donald Hall (died 23 June 2018)

Visible despite the light

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Our guest poet at the delightful Loaf Bakehouse in Wells on 7th May was Conor Whelan,  a talented young writer and performer from Bath. He describes himself as “writing about wild places, and being optimistic despite the evidence”. Conor grouped his poems into three themes: nature, love and hope. My title comes from his first poem, and the theme of light ran through all three sections, along with a sensitivity to landscape and history and a thoughtful, often playful attitude to human relationships; the ‘love’ section included a love-poem to a Leeds bakery! Conor finished his set with a confident performance, from memory, of a longer poem. The addition of a gilded Venetian mask heightened the drama, The effect was electrifying.

After refreshments and conversation in the interval we heard poems from Mark, Wendy, Ewan, Michelle (you can read two of her poems here), Jinny, Rachael, Lydia, Claire, Ewa, Morag and Ama, ending with a bonus poem from Conor. It was an uplifting evening, and the cakes were spectacularly good! Thanks to Danny at Loaf for being so welcoming.

There will be no meeting on the first Monday in June; instead we’ll be having a joint meeting with East Coker Poetry Group and Fire River Poets in Langport on Thursday 21st June from 11am to 4pm. Numbers are limited to 30, so please contact me soon if you would like to come. amabolton(at)hotmail(dot)com. More details here.

The July meeting will be on Monday 2nd at Jinny’s house in Glastonbury (Cordis Mundi, Bove Town) and the guest poet will be Melanie Branton.

If prose is a house, poetry is a man on fire running quite fast through it.
–Anne Carson

Worm made flesh

Deborah Harvey gave us a magnificent reading at our last meeting, in Jinny’s lovely salon in Glastonbury.  Her work expresses the humour and pathos of life, and shows an observant eye for nature and landscape and a keen sense of history. In addition, she has great technical skill.

This post’s title is taken from Deborah’s first poem, ‘Old Moulder’s Almanac’, which she described as “a mad astrological calendar”. She ended her first set with a breathtaking and very moving wreath of sonnets written since the recent death of her father.

Her wide-ranging second set took us from Bristol, the Quantocks, Chew Valley Lake and Dartmoor to Leningrad and Chernobyl by way of High Wycombe. 

Poems from the floor included three from the new issue of Tears in the Fence, from Andrew, Rosie and Morag. Other readers were Rachael, Ama, Izzy, Ewa, Michelle, Wendy (a Creative Writing prizewinner in the recent Mid-Somerset Festival) and Sara.
Our next meeting will be on Bank Holiday Monday 7th May, 7.45 to 9.45 pm at Loaf Bakehouse, 38 Market Street Wells BA5 2DS. Please arrive in time to order your drinks before we start at 8pm. The guest will be the young poet, playwright and actor Conor Whelan from Bath.
Other Poetry News
Friday 13 July at 11pm (past my bed-time!) at The Globe in Priest Row: The first ever Wells Theatre Festival Poetry Slam, being run by the Hip Yak Poetry Shack. A quick-fire knock-out incredibly cuddly poetry competition, featuring up to 8 slammers. Prepare for fun, friendly and exhilarating poetry for both audience and poets, hosted by national spoken word stars Jonny Fluffypunk, Chris Hammond and Liv Torc. Poets will be competing for a feature slot at Sunday’s Hip Yak Poetry Session plus the admiration of their friends.  Everyone welcome, new and old. The judges will also be performing feature slots before and after the slam.
Wells Litfest: time to think about your competition entry! The deadline for all four competitions is 30June, and the festival itself takes place in October.
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Next meeting

Deborah

On April 9  our guest poet will be Deborah Harvey from Bristol, and we shall be meeting at 7.45 for a prompt start at 8pm at Cordis Mundi, Bove Town, Glastonbury.
Deborah has  three collections of poetry, Communion (2011), Map Reading For Beginners (2014), and Breadcrumbs (2016), all published by Indigo Dreams.  Her novel, Dart, about life on Dartmoor during the Black Death, was published under their Tamar Books imprint in 2013.  All are available from the Indigo Dreams websiteAmazon and good independent bookshops.

‘These are important poems. They carry us through despair and hope, through myths and imaginings, through violence and insight to deliver us to a place where we are not only enriched but wiser … Witty, surreal and above all redemptive, this book uncovers truth after truth and, like stars, sets them shining.’ – Alyson Hallet

#MeToo in Glastonbury

On International Women’s Day we held a reading in Jinny’s house. In the first half we heard poems from the just-published #MeToo anthology. From harrowing to laugh-out-loud, and everything in between. The book is beautifully designed, with a selection of powerful poems chosen by the editor, Deborah Alma (The Emergency Poet), and was produced in record time, though you would never guess. We sold all the copies we had, and were able to send £70 to the Women’s Aid charity. It was a joyful and uplifting event.

#MeToo Anthology is available from bookshops or direct from the publisher:
https://fairacrepress.co.uk/shop/metoo-rallying-against-sexual-assault-and-harassment-a-womens-poetry-anthology/

Editor & Publisher have donated their time, to allow maximum donations to Women’s Aid per book.

Donations to Women’s Aid UK can be sent via
https://getinvolved.everydayhero.com/uk/metoopoems

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Ama Bolton, Rachael Clyne and Rachel Buchanan. Photo by Rosie Jackson.

Cat joins the line-up

Photo by Jinny Fisher, whose cat wanted some of the lime-light!

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L-R: Jinny Fisher, Dawn Gorman, Sara Butler and Rosie Jackson. Other participating poets were Morag Kiziewicz and Michelle Diaz. Photo by Rachael Clyne.

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And music from Julie Patchouli. Photo by Rachael Clyne.