Simple magic for dark times

“We happy few” enjoyed a high-quality set from Tom Sastry last night. I’m hoping he will come again so that those suffering in the current flu epidemic (get well soon!) or with prior engagements will have a chance to hear him. He’s delightful, he’s approachable, and his work is just as engaging live as on the page. Tom’s first poem provides this post’s title (and, for me at least, a gospel or guidebook for the present time). You can find it, under a different title, here.

In the second half we had poems from Ewan, Jinny, Caroline, Wendy, Jo, Ama, and a bonus track from Tom.

Our next meeting will be at the same place (Just Ales, Market Street) and time (7.45 for 8) on Monday 3rd April, when the guest poet will be the wonderful Rosie Jackson.

You are part of every poem that you read except when the poem excludes you. Sometimes the poem is so polished and so beautiful it won’t let you in. It wants you to admire it.
– Beau Beausoleil

Edward Thomas tribute in Taunton tomorrow

I have received this message from Lionel Ward.

On April 4th at Brendon Books in Taunton, Graham Fawcett will talk about and perform the works of Edward Thomas, usually associated with I Remember Adlestrop. Thomas’s range of subject matter was eclectic (nature, travel, war) and his talent fostered and praised by Robert Frost. Time 7pm-8.30pm, cost £10. We hope you can join us.Please call to reserve/purchase tickets on 01823 337742.

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.

Everything has its secret grammar

Eight of us met at Just Ales on 2nd January, when we very much enjoyed our once-yearly sharing  of other people’s poems. Where possible I’ve provided links to the poems. They are well worth reading again.

Gillian read from Alden Nowlan‘s Selected Poems: (“…explicitly honest, direct, and insightful poetry. One of Canada’s most influential poets, he left a rich legacy of poetry that is accessible yet profound, and that speaks to people’s lives with wry observation and keen insight.”) The poems Gill chose to read were Warren Pryor, The Execution and Hens. This last is a short and punchy poem and I can’t find it on-line but I do recommend buying or borrowing the book.

Jo read Alice Oswald‘s Aside and two poems from the collection Dream Work by Mary Oliver, Orion and The Swimmer. A longer version of The Swimmer can be seen here , with beautiful images and music.

Rachael read Pauline’s Knickers, a poem by Jane Burn, of The Fat Damsel. She also read The Last Words of my English Grandmother by William Carlos Williams, The Office by Tom Sastry (who will be our guest poet on 6th March) and, at my request, her own poem Miriam. This post’s title is a line from The Office.

Claire, also at my request, read her poems Extracting Sunbeams and Translations, from the current issue of Sarasvati.

Mark read The Seven Dreams of a Suburban Dreamer by David Sollars, To Alice on her 18th Birthday by Richard Devereux, and Do You Remember by Sheila Egar. Unfortunately I have not been able to find these poets or their work.

Caroline read an extract from T.S.Eliot’s Four Quartets, This Lunar Beauty by W.H.Auden, and Ogden Nash’s The Octopus.

Jinny read Before the Match and The Dancers on Graves, both by Geraldine Clarkson, and Daniel Sluman’s The Terrible, from the book of the same name. This poet will be reading at Words and Ears in Bradford-on-Avon next month, on the 23rd of February.

I (Ama) read Matt Haw’s A Vision for the Topographical Future of East Anglia, David Harsent’s Icefield, The Germ by Ogden Nash and my own poem After the Comet which has just been awarded a minor prize in the Cafe Writers’ competition. The results are on the Cafe Writers website.

Next month our guest poet will be Linda Saunders from Bath.
February 6th at Just Ales, 7.45 for 8pm.
I hope Andy will still be serving his excellent mulled Wilkins Cider!

“In the act of writing the poem, I am obedient, and submissive. Insofar as one can, I put aside ego and vanity, and even intention. I listen. What I hear is almost a voice, almost a language. It is a second ocean, rising, singing into one’s ear, or deep inside the ears, whispering in the recesses where one is less oneself than a part of some single indivisible community. Blake spoke of taking dictation. I am no Blake, yet I know the nature of what he meant. Every poet knows it. One learns the craft, and then casts off. One hopes for gifts. One hopes for direction. It is both physical, and spooky. It is intimate, and inapprehensible. Perhaps it is for this reason that the act of first-writing, for me, involves nothing more complicated than paper and pencil. The abilities of a typewriter or computer would not help in this act of slow and deep listening.”
– Mary Oliver