Our very first, and long-postponed, Festival Fringe event was a huge success. Our featured poets Michelle Diaz and Graeme Ryan gave dazzling and moving performances.
Michelle is a long-standing member of the Fountain Poets. Earlier this year she was elected the Chaired Bard of Glastonbury, a role she has embraced with gusto. There is both suffering and joy in Michelle’s 2019 pamphlet from Against the Grain, The Dancing Boy, which ‘combines painful honesty with a sense of hopefulness’. Above all, these are poems of love, understanding and acceptance. They tell painful stories but never bear grudges. They reveal a generous spirit and a lively sense of humour. Michelle had come hot-foot from her role that afternoon as a short-list selector for the Wells Young Poets Competition.
Graeme’s full collection, Valley of the Kings, was published earlier this year by Coverstory Books. It is an excavation of family history and of contemporary life, revealing the voices and worlds always present under this one, more real. It is a blend of scholarship, close observation, devotion to the natural world and breathtaking imagination. It is an inexhaustible treasure-house. Every poem reveals more on a second, third or fourth reading.
The meeting was well-attended and there were some very strong readers during the open-mic session, with a handful of particularly hard-hitting social-comment poems. I read out Linda Saunders’s prizewinning poem Two Wood Pigeons (Highly Commended AND People’s Choice) from the aftenoon Wells Festival prizegiving. This poem would still be a joy if it were nothing more than a meticulous observation of the birds preening themselves. But it’s more than that; there’s gentle humour and the poem opens out into a reflection on the work of a poet. I think all of us went home feeling energised and inspired. This post’s title comes from a poem read by Tristram Fane Saunders, judge of the Wells Festival Open Poetry Competition. He has a new book coming out next summer and has expressed interest in coming to us as a guest reader.
We next meet at 7pm on Monday 7th November, upstairs at The King’s Head in Wells High Street, conveniently close to the Union Street Car Park. No guest poet; plenty of open-mic opportunities.
“How do you know if what you’re revising out of a piece isn’t the very thing that made the piece interesting to someone else? What is the difference between thinking about “the reader” and pandering to “the reader”? How do you know if you’re thinking too much about “the reader” or not enough? What if you never think about “the reader”? Do you risk writing poems that are just you mumbling to yourself? What if there is no “reader”? Ever? Is the thing you made still a poem?” This is from a recent blog-post by Marilyn McCabe. The whole is well worth reading here.