Category Archives: poetry

Something Fishy

We enjoyed plenty of variety in an evening of open-mic poetry upstairs at the King’s Head in Wells High Street on November 7th. From laugh-out-loud to wipe-away-a-tear! Both Andrew and Beth read rather fishy poems …
And it was good to welcome back David Cloke from East Coker Poetry. Their next meeting will be on Tuesday November 29th, with Annie Fisher and Anthony Watts, both of them excellent performers from Fire River Poets.

Our next meeting will be on Monday December 5th in the same venue. We’ll start at 7pm, but do come early if you’d like to join us for supper at 6.30. The menu is here.
Our featured poet in December will be Isabel White, director of Alarms and Excursions. Isabel founded Alarms & Excursions in 2009, and has been director of the company ever since, involved with every project of the Collective, which is her real passion. Isabel is a prize winning, published poet, and leads on the artistic agenda of the company, spearheading the majority of projects. Performing across the UK, in Paris and Rotterdam, Isabel has worked with a host of performance poets, actors and musicians, including John Hegley, Michael Horowitz, Elvis McGonagall, Daljit Nagra, Benjamin Till… She hosted Wash House Poets in the City of London, and curated the poetry for the hugely successful Up The Line remembrance events between 2009 and 2013. Isabel was a finalist in the 2013 and 2017 BBC Radio 3 Proms competitions, Adlestrop and Guernsey International Competitions, Pendle War Poem competition (3rd place), was twice commended for the Elmbridge Literary Prize, shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2016) and Vernal Equinox (2018) Competition. She has served six years on the Governing Council of the Poetry Society and founded and ran its Chichester Stanza for 3 years. Her work is much anthologised and she has three full collections and a pamphlet published to date. Her next collection is due about now.

Other news: Literally Shepton is a celebration of words on 18-19 November. There’s a Found Poetry workshop on the 19th. All events are free but do need to be booked. Check out the website here. And Mark reminded us that there is a poetry meeting in Glastonbury every Monday morning at 10.45 in St John’s Church.

Poetry is a sort of homecoming – Paul Celan.


Tone down the strangeness

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.

Silver Street Poets to meet again!

Deborah Harvey writes:

We shall be gathering on Friday 30th September, from 12.30 – 2.00pm, at St Stephen’s Church, 21 St Stephen’s St, Bristol BS1 1EQ, when our sacrificial guest reader will be Deborah, reading from her most recent collection, Learning Finity, and dipping her toe in the waters of Silver Street viability. There will also be two open mic sessions, at which attendees are invited to share one poem (no longer than one side of A4). This can be either their own work, or by a poet they admire. 

A contribution of £4 is suggested, or whatever you can afford, to cover room hire costs and the guest poet’s expenses. 

A sleepiness of weather

We started last Monday’s meeting with half an hour of open-mic. Beth was first. “I’m going to read some short poems about weather,” she said, and immediately a thunderstorm began!
Morag read from the first chapter of her newly-published memoir, which begins with these memorable words: I was born on a fault line.
Andrew’s poem put into words what many of us are feeling about the political situation.
Paul sang his new version of a sea shanty (to the tune of The Leaving of Liverpool) all about the problems of finding a place to park in Bristol!
Isabel performed her poem about the Hindenberg and Steve read his narrative poem about Jan van Klamm from Rotterdam.

Then our guest Annie Fisher entertained us with a selection of poems on subjects ranging from our new PM’s attempts to revive the entente cordiale, to Pablo Picasso and his pet owl. We even sang a two-part round in praise of a song-thrush. This post’s title is taken from her poem Naming this Place.

After the break we had poems from Martin, David, Judy and me (Ama), before Annie’s very enjoyable second set.

Our next meeting on Monday 3rd October will be an open-mic, chaired in my absence by David Niven. Same place (The King’s Head in Wells High Street) same time (7pm).

One day while studying a Yeats poem I decided to write poetry the rest of my life … I recognised that a single short poem has room for history, music, psychology, religious thought, mood, occult speculation, character, and events of ones life. I still feel surprised that such various substances can find shelter and nourishment in a poem. – Robert Bly

Other news:

Thursday 6th October – Phantastic Ekphrastic. Isabel White is putting on a free evening of poetry with illustrations, from her latest collection, Scallywag. It’s at The Clevedon Distillery, 23 Old Street, at 7pm.

Monday 17th October at The King’s Head from 5.30pm (immediately after the prizegiving and readings for Wells Litfest) the Fountain Poets’ Fringe Binge, with open-mic and two featured poets – “our” Michelle Diaz, the current Bard of Glastonbury, and Graeme Ryan from Fire River Poets with his fabulous new publication Valley of the Kings.

And finally, two big competitions …

The National Poetry Competition 2022 is now open for entries from all poets worldwide aged 18+, deadline 31 October 2022 – enter here.

The competition is judged by Greta Stoddart, Jason Allen-Paisant and Michael Symmons Roberts. 

troubadour international poetry prize 2022

judged by joshua bennett & victoria kennefick

  • first prize £2,000
  • second prize £1,000
  • third prize £500
  • plus 20 commendeds
  • plus – winners read with judges at 2022 prize-night celebration on mon 5 dec

submit via email by mon 26 sep 2022

(Check out winners, winning poems & judges’ reports, 2021 & prior, on our previous-winners’-poems page.)


  • Victoria Kennefick lives in County Kerry, studied at University College Cork, then at Emory University, & Georgia College & State University as part of a Fulbright Scholarship, co-hosts the Unlaunched Books Podcast & is a Listowel Writers Week committee-member. Her 2021 collection Eat or We Both Starve (Carcanet) was a ‘best poetry book of the year’ in both Telegraph & Irish Times, in addition to being shortlisted for the 2021 TS Eliot Prize.
  • Joshua Bennett has read at the White House at the invitation of President Barack Obama, is Professor of English & Creative Writing at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, & author of Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man (Harvard, 2020) & Spoken Word: A Cultural History (forthcoming from Knopf). His poetry collections are The Sobbing School (2016, a National Poetry Series Selection & NAACP Image Award finalist), Owed (2020) & The Study of Human Life (publ. Sep 2022), all from Penguin.

judges read all poems submitted


  • Poems: Poems may be submitted from any country & must be in English, must each be no longer than 45 lines, must show title & poem only, must not show poet’s name, must be the original work of the entrant (no translations) & must not have been previously published; no text alterations accepted after submission; no limit on number of poems or number of subsequent submissions.
  • Submission: Email only, no postal entries: email your poems as attachments (.doc, .docx, .pdf, .rtf only) to; include in email: Poet’s Name & Address, Phone Number, List of Titles, Number of Poems, Total Fees, & PayPal Receipt Number.
  • Fees: £5/€6/$7 per poem (Sterling/Euro/US-Dollars only); pay online at (PayPal account not required).
  • Timeline: Submit by midnight (your local time) on Mon 26 Sep 2022; prize-winners will be contacted in week commencing Mon 21 Nov 2022.
  • Acknowledgement/Results: Submissions acknowledged within 14 days of receipt; results posted on website after our Mon 5 Dec 2022 prize-night event; judges’ decision is final; no correspondence entered into.
  • Email Address: By including email address you agree to receiving emails regarding annual Troubadour International Poetry Prize.

Annie Fisher on 5th September

Fountain Poets’ next meeting will be on Monday 5th September at 7pm upstairs at the King’s Head in Wells High Street, with the lovely Annie Fisher of Fire River Poets as Guest Poet. Her latest pamphlet is ‘The Deal’ (Happenstance 2020) – “poems of outlandish comedy undercut by profound seriousness.” – Matthew Paul. There will also be open-mic opportunities as usual.

There will be a collection for Annie’s travel expenses. £3 suggested donation.

A Skiff of Gilded Darkness

What an excellent evening of poetry we had on 1st August! It was lovely to welcome back Jo Waterworth and David Ketelby and to meet Rina May and hear her well observed and crafted short poems. My title is borrowed from Martin Porter’s mysterious poem ‘Pacifica Queen Mab’. The photo is from Shetland, about as far from the Pacific as you can go, but it spoke to me of gilded darkness.

Some dates for your diaries:

Fountain Poets’ next meeting will be on Monday 5th September at 7pm upstairs at the King’s Head in Wells High Street, with the lovely Annie Fisher of Fire River Poets as Guest Poet. Her latest pamphlet is ‘The Deal’ (Happenstance 2020) – “poems of outlandish comedy undercut by profound seriousness.” – Matthew Paul. There will also be open-mic opportunities as usual.

We shall be having two meetings in October. David Niven will chair an open-mic meeting on 3rd October, and on 17th October (after the Wells Litfest Poetry Competition prizegiving and readings 2-5pm in Cedars Hall) we’ll have a Festival Fringe Binge, with two guest readers, Fountain poet Michelle Diaz, the Chaired Bard of Glastonbury, and Fire River Poet Graeme Ryan, whose stunning collection ‘Valley of the Kings’ was published earlier this year by Coverstory Books. Both meetings are at the King’s Head at 7pm. There will be open-mic reading opportunities.

Rosie Jackson has sent news of her forthcoming events at Dillington House:
6 October one-day course on poetry writing. ‘How to Write Poems that Matter’.
27 October lunchtime talk/slide show/poetry reading from her Stanley Spencer book. ’Two Girls and a Beehive’ .
4-6 November residential memoir writing course.
All details are on the Dillington House website.

This year’s Tears in the Fence Festival runs from 2nd – 4th September at the Stourpaine Village Hall. The Festival theme is ‘Bewilderment / Be-wildered / Be wild’. There will be readings, talks, discussion, book signings, music, refreshments, and a Festival bookstall. From our group, Mo, Andy and I will be among many others taking part. Details on the festival website.  

Fountain poet Beth Webb will be storytelling in the Bishop’s Palace, Wells on 18th September. Details should soon be on the Palace website.

Before all these events, I (Ama Bolton) shall be one of the readers at Contextual 10 from Coverstory Books on Wednesday 31st August on Zoom. Details here
and on Thursday 1st September at the next Fire River Poets Zoom meeting, when Graeme Ryan (see above) will be the featured poet. See details here.

Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. – Audre Lord.

Bit-players and walk-ons

Eleven of us met at The King’s Head on the eleventh of July! We were treated to some cracking poems. This post has borrowed its title from a poem by Mark.

Come along if you can on Monday, August 1st. at 7pm upstairs in the King’s Head in Wells High Street. Conveniently close to Union Street car park. We finish around 9pm.

You can see “our” Michelle, the Chaired Bard of Glastonbury, performing both words and music at the Bardic Trials on YouTube

Michelle was also featured in the latest issue of Poetry Wales.

Martin Porter writes “I’m not sure of the interest in the group for this sort of thing, but I have a piece published in Remake 4 Remake is an online journal published by John Geraets, based in New Zealand. It offers a forum for contemporary NZ poets (which I appear to be) and works on the format of “Written item – Reflection by writer – Comment by third party”, giving the opportunity for insight in the way a written piece works.”
It’s worth having a look for this remarkable piece of writing by Martin.

Don’t forget to have a look at David’s poetry podcast,  and do think about sending a poem in to him.

A date for your diary: the wonderful Annie Fisher from Fire River Poets will be our guest poet on Monday 5th September, same time, same venue. Plus open-mic.

What we do when we read aloud is to give the poem a new life off the page. If it was worth the time and heartache that went into writing it, surely it is worth taking time to practice reading it aloud. Appreciation of spoken poetry does depend on being able to hear it! It’s not just a matter of reading clearly and not rushing it (though that is a good place to start) but you need to get the meaning across by entering into the spirit of the poem. There’s no need to be afraid. We are all rooting for you. We want to hear what you have to say.
– Bradley Hand

“Embrace the energy of the axe”

We had a wonderful reunion last Monday, seventeen of us in all, including several new faces. Ewan’s daughter Donna was with us and read some of her father’s work. We heard old poems and new, comic poems and political rants, a haiku and a jubilee poem, rhymes and prose-poems: something for everyone.

The next meeting will be at 7pm on Monday 11th July, and thereafter on the first Monday of each month including August (Bank Holiday). All these will be in the upstairs room at the King’s Head in Wells High Street. The back door is in Union Street, convenient for the Union Street car park, which is free in the evening. Meals can be ordered at the bar.

Have you looked through The Bardwindow? Do check out this website and its poetry podcasts. Log in or register to open a free account. Read the poems, post a poem to the website or listen to a podcast.

If you’re going to the Garden Festival in the Bishop’s Palace in Wells next weekend (June 17-19), look out for short, garden-themed poetry performances book-ending the festival at 10am on the Friday (Annie Fisher and Ama Bolton) and on the Sunday at 4.30pm (Tony Watts and Genista Lewes.) I was in the Palace Gardens recently and have never seen them looking so beautiful.

My title is taken from a poem by Claire Coleman, read by her last Monday.

“Most good poems hold some part of their thoughts in invisible ink… Lyric poetry rests on a fulcrum of said and unsaid.” – Jane Hirshfield

Big news!

The Chairing of the Bard of Ynis Witrin

I am thrilled to report that Fountain poet Michelle Diaz is the 15th Bard of Ynis Witrin (Glastonbury). She is a beautiful soul and a brilliant writer who fully deserves this honour.

I am also very happy to report that after a two-and-a-quarter-year interval for you-know-what, the Fountain Poets will be meeting again in person on Monday June 6th at 7pm in the upper room at The King’s Head in Wells High Street (BA5 2AE). Leave a comment below if you would like more information, or to be on the e-mailing list.

Have you looked through The Bardwindow? Do check out this website and its poetry podcasts. Log in or register to open a free account. Read the poems, post a poem to the website or listen to a podcast.

If you’re going to the Garden Festival in the Bishop’s Palace in Wells on the weekend of June 17-19, look out for short, garden-themed poetry performances book-ending the festival at 10am on the Friday (Annie Fisher and Ama Bolton) and on the Sunday at 4.30pm (Tony Watts and Genista Lewes.) I was in the Palace Gardens this week and have never seen them looking so beautiful.

“I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.”
Wisława Szymborska  

Competition news

I have been asked by the organisers to share the following with you.

Closing at midnight this coming Friday, 20th May: Live Canon single poem competition. £1000 first prize. Guest Judge: Rebecca Goss.
Enter here

Closing at midnight on Monday 4th July: Coverstory. Details here  Results announced by the end of August, 2022. Max 60 lines. 

Closing at midnight on Sunday 10th July: The McLellan Poetry Prize is awarded as part of the annual McLellan Arts Festival on the Isle of Arran. With eight prizes including a first prize of £1,300; second prize of £450; third prize of £150 and 5 commended poem prizes of £50 each,  the McLellan Poetry Competition provides a major opportunity for aspiring poets to gain recognition.
This year’s judge, Hollie McNish, will present the prizes in person at a special festival event on Sunday 28th August 2022 on the Isle of Arran, to which all prizewinners will be invited to read. Entries close at midnight on Sunday 10th July 2022. Full details and entry forms can be found at Arran Theatre and Arts Trust | Poetry Competition.

The best advice I can offer is this poem by the incomparable Fleur Adcock.

The prize-winning poem

It will be typed, of course, and not all in capitals: it will use upper
and lower case
in the normal way; and where a space is usual it will have a space.
It will probably be on white paper, or possibly blue, but almost
certainly not pink.
It will not be decorated with ornamental scroll-work in coloured ink,
nor will a photograph of the poet be glued above his or her name,
and still less a snap of the poet’s children frolicking in a jolly game.
The poem will not be about feeling lonely and being fifteen
and unless the occasion of the competition is a royal jubilee it will
not be about the queen.
It will not be the first poem the author has written in his life
and will probably not be about the death of his daughter, son or wife
because although to write such elegies fulfils a therapeutic need
in large numbers they are deeply depressing for the judges to read.
The title will not be ‘Thoughts’ or ‘Life’ or ‘I Wonder Why’
or ‘The Bunny-rabbit’s Birthday Party’ or ‘In Days of Long Gone By’.
‘Tis and ‘twas, o’er and e’er, and such poetical contractions will not be
in the chosen poem. Similarly cliche´s will not abound:
dawn will not herald another bright new day, nor dew sparkle like
diamonds in a dell,
nor trees their arms upstretch. Also the poet will be able to spell.
Large meaningless concepts will not be viewed with favour: myriad is
infinity is becoming suspect; aeons and galaxies are in some doubt.
Archaisms and inversions will not occur; nymphs will not their fate
Apart from this there will be no restrictions upon the style or tone.
What is required is simply the masterpiece we’d all write if we could.
There is only one prescription for it: it’s got to be good.

Source: Adcock, Fleur (1983) Selected Poems, Oxford: Oxford University Press