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The Fringe Binge

Our next meeting is on 17th October starting at 5.30  in the Kings Head, Wells High Street (after the Wells Litfest Poetry Competition prizegiving and readings 2-5pm in Cedars Hall) we’ll have Its the long-postponed Festival Fringe Binge, with open-mic followed by 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.

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The airy distance

Our guest poet at the February meeting was Linda Saunders, who captivated us with work from her latest collection A Touch on the Remote, and a few new poems including one from Project 2017, a Bath-based series of workshops that several of us have signed up for. My title is taken from Linda’s first poem, Thin Air, one of many on the theme of distance and remoteness. These are thoughtful, intelligent, well-crafted poems and I wholeheartedly recommend the collection.

Contributors to the “open-mouth” part of the evening (we have no microphone) included Ewan, Andrew, Morag, Claire, Sara, Rachael, Paul R, David C, Caroline, Wendy, Ama and Jane, our founder. Jo read two from her “Islands” series, Gillian performed a reedbed conversation between starlings, and Ewa read (a month late) a poem by Wislawa Szymborska Some people like poetry – (two per thousand, apparently!) Some of the poems we read this time commented on recent events across the pond.

Our next meeting will be at the same place (Just Ales in Market Street) and time (7.45 for 8) on Monday March 6th, when our guest will be the Bristol-based Laureate’s Choice poet Tom Sastry. Not to be missed! Come early to be sure of a seat.

A piece of writing can only be as good as its weakest word.
– Sue Boyle

Reminder!

Linda Saunders from Bath will be the guest poet at Just Ales (BA5 2DS) on Monday 6th February, 7.45 for 8pm. After the interval there will be time for everyone to read if they wish.

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Linda’s first full-length collection, Ways of Returning (Arrowhead Press), was short-listed for the Jerwood Aldeburgh prize: ‘[She] applies words to subtle experiences as a painter might use paint, for their texture, balance and tone, with attention to each brush stroke’ – Philip Gross. A second collection, The Watchers, was also published by Arrowhead: ‘These poems are beautifully structured, evocative and tender, with such a strong feel for the brilliance of each minute inside passing time’ – Helen Dunmore. Her most recent collection is A Touch on the Remote (Worple Press): ‘In these skilful, lyrical, often quiet poems, Saunders shows the world cherished by our watchfulness, life lived in rapt attention’ – Carrie Etter.

Poetry at Wells Litfest

In addition to the wonderful Lemn Sissay on 18 October (£10), there’s an afternoon poetry reading and competition prizegiving event with Greta Stoddart in the Bishop’s Palace on  16 October (free admission). Later on the same day there’s a participatory event (£5) fronted by performance poet Liv Torc. Our own Ewan Macpherson – brave man! -will be taking part.

For details and booking, see the programme.

Mind the Gap

Mind the gap
(Photo by Dave Bonta, from his blog)

I don’t quite know what was different. Maybe it was the tall candles on the table. Maybe it was the TV in the adjoining bar turned down low enough not to be intrusive. Whatever it was, it made for an unusually good atmosphere at the Sherston on Monday evening, and some especially good poems were read rather well! We welcomed a newcomer, Terry, and hope to hear more of his work in the future.

Ewan was in the chair and the theme was “Our home in Somerset”. Some poems embraced the theme. From Rachael, Terry, David, Ama, Ewan, Morag, Andrew, Ewa, Wendy and Karin we heard about the view from a house on a hill,  about Porlock, about traffic in Yeovil, about bus journeys across the Levels, about the Romans on Mendip, about one particular shed in Wells, about a difficult day at work in Somerset, about Somerset as a surrogate home and about homesickness and the loss of a homeland.

My title is taken from David’s English national anthem, an inspired collage of phrases from the shipping forecast, the football results and elsewhere.

Neil’s two poems were, as we have come to expect, witty and well-crafted. Jo wrote touchingly about articles of clothing, and we had some hard-hitting topical poems from Wendy and Paul. Jinny’s poems are always surprising, and deeper than they seem on the surface.

Ewa, who was not at the last meeting, read a “Desert Island” poem that she found on the back of a door in a health visitor’s office in Taunton – Please Touch Me, by Phyllis K Davis.

Congratulations to Rachael, who has had a poem accepted for inclusion in an anthology to be published in the United States.

Next month we shall meet at the same place on 7th March. The meeting will be chaired by Ewa and the theme will be “Spring is coming” – but don’t expect it to be all lambs and apple-blossom …

“I rarely think of poetry as something I make happen – it is more accurate to say that it happens to me. Like a summer storm, a house afire, or the coincidence of both on the same day. Like a car wreck, only with more illuminating results. I’ve overheard poems, virtually complete, in elevators and restaurants where I was minding my own business. When a poem does arrive, I gasp as if an apple had fallen into my hand, and give thanks for the luck involved. Poems are everywhere, but easy to miss.” – Barbara Kingsolver

Light a candle: celebrate standing in the dark

Counter Current News

Twelve poets met at the Sherston on December 7th to share recent work on and off the topic of lighting candles rather than cursing the dark. There were poems from David and Ama about floating candles in paper boats, and a candle poem from Chris. We heard dark poems from Chris, Andy  and Sara. Sara has the distinction of having been commended this year in the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize, which was won in 2013 by Rachael. This post’s title is from Rachael’s “Solstice”, due to be published in the January issue of Raceme, a new literary magazine for Bristol and the South-west. Mark read two of his characteristic observations on human nature and from Richard we heard two sonnets inspired by precious stones.

Jo read “From Life” which is published in the Poetry Space Winter Showcase. Ewan read “Desert Wisdom” and a poem on the anniversary of his mother’s death. Ama’s second poem was a celebration of being in the dark. Ama had eleven poems in the last issue of Obsessed with Pipework and one in the December Mslexia. Some of Chris’s poetry has been carved as part of the Shapwich Heath Sculpture Trail.

Karin read two interestingly different versions of a new poem. Paul, a welcome newcomer to the group, contributed two poems.

Next month we’ll be meeting in the same place on January 4th with Rachael in the chair. By tradition we read any other poet’s published work at the January meeting. Rachael has suggested that this time we consider which eight poems we’d take with us to the BBC’s desert island – read two of them and list the other six. This will be quite a challenge, and should make for interesting listening.

Best wishes to all for a happy Christmas/Solstice/Saturnalia and an inspiring New Year.

Poetry is a sort of homecoming. – Paul Celan