Mycelium spins its own solutions

Our featured poet at the February meeting was Rachael Clyne, who started writing poetry in London in the 1980s with a community-based performance group called Angels of Fire, founded by Jay Ramsay. Though she published her first collection, She who Walks with Stones and Sings, in 2005 (“too soon”), she says that it was not until 2012, when she took an on-line course with Roselle Angwin, that she began to take her poetry seriously. Her second book of poems. Singing at the Bone Tree, won the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize in 2013 and is published by Indigo Dreams.

Singing at thr Bone Tree

Rachael’s set began with six poems from her first collection, followed by six from her pamphlet (including Conserving, from which my title is taken), followed by six from a work-in-progress. A strong autobiographical thread connects these latest poems, which are noticeably leaner and more confident, and trust the reader to take the necessary leaps of understanding.

Rachael set the optional theme of “the non-human world”, for contributions in the second half, and this was interpreted very widely, from marmalade to mycelium, from a cat’s ghost to computer-code, from sea-birds to bags for life. Other poems took us to Singapore and Rotterdam, Kurdish folk-tale and genetic forecasting. It was a rewarding evening and we were glad to welcome  newcomers, Diana and Izzy.

Unfortunately we have had to cancel the March 5th meeting due to bad weather. Conor Whelan has been booked for May instead. In April we shall be meeting again at Jinny’s house in Glastonbury on April 8th, when the guest poet will be Deborah Harvey from Bristol. No theme this time for the second half.

And on March 8th some of us will be reading at this event in Glastonbury:


Some books seem like the key to the unfamiliar rooms in ones own castle.


Old and New Poems for a New Year

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the meeting on 8th January in Glastonbury, but these were the readers and the poems:

Rachael: Rita Dove, ‘After Reading ‘Mickey in the Night Kitchen’ for the Third Time    Before Bed’, and the title poem from Em Strang’s collection ‘Bird-woman’.

Michelle: Rhian Edwards ‘The Unkindness’ from Clueless Dogs, and Rachel Curzon ‘Ultrasound’ from her collection Faber new Poets No. 16.

Sara: Bernard O’Donoghue ‘On Being Late’ and ‘And Spoil the Child’

Andy: from Robert McFarlane’s ‘The Gifts of Reading’, and Sven Berlin from ‘The Dark Monarch’.

David: Wordsworth, from third book of ‘The Prelude’, and Larkin, ‘I Remember, I Remember’.

Jinny: Matthew Sweeney ‘The Old Xmas Tree’ and Hilda Sheehan ‘Something Sad and Funny’ from ‘The God Baby’.

Jo: Joelle Taylor, Two from ‘Songs my Enemy Taught Me’: ‘Bone Ghosts’ and ‘The Mother of All Bombs’

Mo: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, and Sylvia Plath, from ‘Winter Trees’.

Ewa: Wislava Szymborska, ‘Thank You Note’, and ‘On Death Without Exaggeration’ (Both in Polish and English)

 Lydine: Kate Tempest, ‘And Now it’s Sunrise’, and her own poem, ‘I Got Lost in a Lotus Blossom One Day’.

Izzy: Gary Snyder, ‘As For Poets’, from ‘Turtle island’, and Larkin, ‘The Trees’.

Rachael has poems soon to be published in Tears in the Fence, Acumen, The Interpreter’s House and New European. Michelle and Jinny will both have work included in an anthology on theme of mental health, fundraising for Mind: “Please Hear What I’m Not Saying”. Morag has a column in the next issue of Tears in the Fence.

Jinny and Rachael thoroughly enjoyed attending the TS Eliot readings in London. It’s a bit like the Poet’s Oscar Night. The Royal Festival Hall was packed with poets of every hue and age. The readings were excellent for the most part especially Jacqueline Saphra and the winner Ocean Vuong (who Rachael thought breathtaking).

Next month we shall be meeting at The Cheese Yard Cafe, West Horrington, BA5 3EB on Monday February 5th, 7.45 for 8pm start. Just north of Wells on the B3139. Turn left opposite Horrington School and then turn right into the Cheese Yard. The cafe is on your left with plenty of parking.

The featured poet will be Rachael Clyne. a long-standing member of the group.
Rachael’s work work appears in various magazines and online, also in anthologies: The Very Best of 52, Book of Love and Loss, Poems for a Liminal Age. Her prizewinning collection, Singing at the Bone Tree concerns our relationship with the wild.  For more click here. Rachael suggested The non-human world as a prompt, should anyone desire one.

East Coker Poetry Group meets on the last Tuesday of the month at 7,30 in the Helyar Arms. For more details please see the website.

Finally, news of a mini-pamphlet competition from the publisher of the very lovely journal Coast to Coast to Coast.
C2C2C pamphlet

Perfect for persistent abrasion

We started our last meeting with a short but illuminating Q&A session with the featured poet, Jinny Fisher. She started writing poetry ten years ago in response to the death of a friend, and since then she has had many poems published in both print and on-line journals. As always, it was good to hear a set of poems by one writer. Jinny’s are highly-evolved, polished and sparkling with a rather dark humour. Preoccupations that her work reveals include control and escape, boundaries, therapy, loss, science, photography and woodwork.

My title is taken from Jinny’s first published poem, Deep Cleaning, which appeared in The Interpreter’s House in 2015. She finished her set with a topical, political poem.

After the interval we heard poems from Paul W (with visual aid – a brand-new pair of high-tech running shoes), Michelle, Rachael, Morag, Andrew, Karin, David C, Mark, Wendy, David K and Ama, with a final bonus track from Jinny

News: Morag has a regular column, “Electric Blue” in Tears in the Fence, Michelle has a poem in Prole, Rachael has poems forthcoming in Tears in the Fence, Unpsychology and Prole, and has the distinction of being short-listed for a pamphlet with Valley Press.

Next month we’ll be meeting at Jinny’s house in Glastonbury on Monday 8th January, 7’45 for 8pm. If you are not on the mailing-list, please contact Ama (amabolton at for directions. It has become a tradition that in January we share published poems by other people, as a change from the usual format. Do bring at least two.

I began writing this post two weeks ago, but have been caught in the headlights of you-know-what rushing toward me like a runaway ten-ton truck. The last card was posted today and I’m back at my post, so to speak. Happy you-know-what, everyone! See you next year!

By the end of a poem, the reader should be in a different place from where he started. I would like him to be slightly disoriented at the end, like I drove him outside of town at night and dropped him off in a cornfield.
—– Billy Collins

Love’s Exuberance

The Light Box

Rosie Jackson writes about love like no-one else does. She writes about other things too but it seems to me that love is the foundation on which her poems are built. She writes with warmth and honesty, intelligence and humour, and it was a treat to hear her reading as guest poet on 6th November at the lovely Cheeseyard Cafe near Wells.

In the second half we had some strong readings from Andrew Henon (his poem appears in Tears in the Fence #67), Sara Butler, Paul Rogers, David Cloke, Michelle Diaz, Rachael Clyne, Ama Bolton, Morag Kiziewicz and Paul Watkin, a very welcome visitor who used to be a regular in the old days of the Cafe Piano! He read this poem.

Thanks to those who came just to listen, we had a good-sized audience. Ten copies of our nourishing new anthology “Feast” are still available at only £4 each, or two for £4 if you are a contributor.

Next month we shall be meeting in the skittle-alley at The Sherston Inn Priory Road, Wells BA5 1SU, 7.45 for 8pm. The featured poet will be Jinny Fisher.

On 30th November, Words & Ears in Bradford-on-Avon will be featuring readings by  Tania Hershman and Pam Zinnermann-Hope.

‘One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment.’ –Hart Crane

“Feast” at the Food Festival

The weather was perfect, there was gin-tasting, cheese-tasting, cider-tasting, good food, good company, and good music from the band-stand.

Feast at the Food Fest

Andrew, Morag, Ama and Jo with the Poetry Picnic hamper.

To reserve your copy of Feast (£4, second copy free to contributors) please email amabolton(at)hotmail(dot)com

Troubador International Poetry Prize

Anne-Marie Fyfe writes:
Just seven days to go, & five good reasons for entering the annual Troubadour International Poetry Prize this year:
  • £3,500 in total for top three prizes (see full details below)plus subscription prizes from high-profile poetry magazine sponsors, plus Troubadour restaurant prizes
  • quickest turnaround – just 5 weeks from deadline (Oct 16th) to contacting winners (Nov 20th, a week before prizegiving), tying up your poems for the shortest possible time
  • fairest judging – our judges read all poems submitted, no sifters, no shortlisters
  • read at the Troubadour – the chance to read alongside Imtiaz Dharker, Michael Symmons Roberts & 2017 prize-winners at our Poetry Prize Celebration (Nov 27th), a gala event with music from classical duo, Aisling & Julie-Anne Manning
  • winning poems are forwarded to prestigious Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2018 (see Forward Prizes
Enter by e-mail or post, full details below & on website, by Mon 16th.


The Mysterious Everyday

On a rather damp Monday evening we met in Jinny’s lovely salon in Glastonbury to hear  the wonderful Tom Sastry:
“After losing the ability not to see things we discover the secret life of the laundrette. We witness death and resurrection on the Bakerloo Line. An old dictator illustrates the principle of uncertainty whilst a country sliding towards tyranny distracts itself by watching Emmerdale and Premiership football. The familiar is continually disrupted by the sudden shock of alienation until we find a home where we are not alien.” That sums it up pretty well!
And after an interesting conversation on poetics and politics in the interval, we shared our poems on and off the topic of “Stars”. David Ketelby and Phil Genoux read with us for the first time and we are hoping to hear more from them. It was one of our best evenings yet, and we look forward to more sessions in this venue. David will be one of the selected performers, along with Jane Williams our founder, at the Wells Litfest event “Write up! Speak up!” on Sunday 15th October at 7pm – tickets available here.

Congratulations to Jinny, who has a poem in The Broadsheet (launched last week in Exeter) and to Morag who was short-listed. Jinny’s poem “The Art of Staying Dry” appeared on Amaryllis on Monday morning. Also to Michelle who is on the short-list for the Mere Prize and Rachael, who is on the short-list for the Wells Prize. The Mere award ceremony will be at 3pm on Sunday 15th October and the Wells reading and prizegiving  will be at the same time on the same day in the Bishop’s Palace. Booklets containing all the short listed poems are now for sale at Waterstones and in the Bishop’s Palace Shop.

Ama was short-listed for the Bradford-on-Avon prize and the Poetry Space competition, and has once again been placed 3rd in Swindon Poetry Festival’s Battered Moons competition.

Tom will be helping to launch “One for the Road”, an anthology from Smith/Doorstop, at a free event in Cheltenham on Saturday 6th October. Also next weekend is Swindon Poetry Festival: look out for Jinny and the Poetry Pram!

Please join us for a Poetry Picnic at Wells Food Festival, Sunday 8th October from 11am onwards in and around the Market Place, beside the Palace moat and in the Recreation Ground/Bishop’s Barn area. There will be a peripatetic Poetry Picnic-hamper full of our new anthology “Feast”!


Next month we shall be meeting at  the Cheeseyard Cafe, West Horrington, Wells BA5 3ED, on Monday November 6th, 7.45 for 8pm start. This is a really delightful place a couple of miles north of Wells on the old Bath road. Coming from Wells, turn left opposite Horrington School and then turn right into the Cheeseyard. There is plenty of parking, and Lindsay will be serving hot and cold drinks and cake. Please make it worth her while by not just asking for a glass of water! There will not be any other customers, just us. The guest poet on this occasion will be Rosie Jackson..

 Rosie’s particular passions are exploring the links between writing and visual arts, and the role of the creative arts in health. Her pamphlet What the Ground Holds was published by Poetry Salzburg in 2014 and her full collection, The Light Box, and a memoir, The Glass Mother, both came out last year. She is a member of Bath’s Knucklebone poets and has performed her work widely. She runs writing workshops both in UK and abroad.
Rosie recently won 1st AND 2nd prizes in the Berkshire Poetry Competition, and has even more recently won first prize in the prestigious Stanley Spencer Poetry Competition.


“A poem, as a manifestation of language and thus essentially dialogue, can be a message in a bottle, sent out in the – not always greatly hopeful – belief that somewhere and sometime it could wash up on land, on heartland perhaps.” –  Paul Celan