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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.

touchontheremote-300-9781905208340

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