Quicksilver rain, slow sheep

Sherston

We had a really enjoyable informal session at the Sherston Inn’s skittle alley on Monday night. A few of us met beforehand for supper, which was good, freshly-cooked and good value.

Rachael’s scheme for arranging the seating did make the space feel more comfortable.

Chris Scully was back from a summer spent on Flat Holm Island, bearing a copy of a limited-edition book of the poems he wrote during his stay, bound and illustrated with dramatic screen-prints by Otto Dettmer. There is a link on Chris’s page.

The January meeting is traditionally the one when we are encouraged to read published poems by other people. Sara read, very beautifully, three by Raymond Carver: A Haircut, Grief and Late Fragment. Chris read Pam Ayres’ The Dolly on the Dustcart. Jinny performed two of Pascale Petit’s searing poems from “The Zoo Father”: The Ant Glove and My Father’s Books, as well as the exuberantly cynical Spare us by Dennis O’driscoll.

Wendy contributed two poems by A.E.Housman, Oh, When I was in Love with you and When I was One-and-twenty. In the second half, she treated us to Jabberwocky and Wynken, Blynken and Nod – familiar to all, but when did we last read them? Joan read George Herbert’s Love bade me Welcome, and her 12-year-old grand-daughter Beth’s colourful poem Dawn. Beth will go far, I think! Richard gave us three 8th-century poems; an anonymous Anglo-Saxon meditation on the ruins of Bath, a very moving short Chinese poem in Arthur Waley’s translation, Watching the Reapers by Po Chu-i, and Riddle 30 from The Exeter Book.

Pamela performed, in the authentic dialect, two of Charles Benham’s Essex Ballads: Miss Julia the Parson’s Daughter and These New Fangled Ways, the second of which can be heard here in a recording the author made in 1895. Caroline had us chuckling with appreciation of Billy Collins’s Forgetfulness, read here by the author. Later she read Handbag by Ruth Fainlight and Apologia by Connie Bensley. Neil, a welcome newcomer to our group, read two of his own poems: Burning the Onions (with a lovely sting in the tail) and Ghosts. We look forward to hearing more of his work.

Ewan read two new poems: Paris, a reflection on recent events, and Mary’s Poem, from which I have taken this post’s title. Mark shared Kipling’s Alnaschar and the Oxen and Masefield’s London Town. Ama read, from the Fountain Poets’ 2013 anthology, Rayburn by Irene Benson, who died in September last year and is sadly missed. After the interval Ama read two poems that have appeared recently on The Stare’s Nest, Laura Kaminski’s tender meditation Babysitting the Next Dalai Lama and Marc Woodward’s savagely funny An Unexpected Change.

When I checked my e-mails later that evening I found a Bridport Prize newsletter and learnt that “our” Jinny Fisher was on the short-list! Congratulations, Jinny!

Next month we shall be meeting in the skittle alley on Monday 9 February. Paul will be in the chair and his choice of subject (for those who may find one useful) is “Speed”. Thereafter we shall meet on the second Monday of each month until the summer break after the June meeting.

 Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
-Anton Chekhov

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