Tag Archives: Claire Coleman

A Homeric gathering in Bath

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READERS AND PERFORMERS include Verona Bass, Ama Bolton, Sue Boyle, Sue Chadd, Claire Coleman, Sarah Gregory, Margaret Heath, Rosie Jackson, Miranda Pender’s virtual self, Ann Preston, Linda Saunders, Conor Whelan, Roger Whelan, Jude Wisdom and Shirley Wright.

We are building our Journey theme around EMILY WILSON’S acclaimed new translation the THE ODYSSEY. 

To read a translation is like looking at a photo of a sculpture: It shows the thing, but not from every angle. Like every translator, Wilson brings out some features more clearly than others. But altogether it’s as good an “Odyssey” as one could hope for.

– GREGORY HAYS, associate professor of Classics at the University of Virginia, and translator of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. (Review in NY Times 5 Dec 2017)

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Visible despite the light

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Our guest poet at the delightful Loaf Bakehouse in Wells on 7th May was Conor Whelan,  a talented young writer and performer from Bath. He describes himself as “writing about wild places, and being optimistic despite the evidence”. Conor grouped his poems into three themes: nature, love and hope. My title comes from his first poem, and the theme of light ran through all three sections, along with a sensitivity to landscape and history and a thoughtful, often playful attitude to human relationships; the ‘love’ section included a love-poem to a Leeds bakery! Conor finished his set with a confident performance, from memory, of a longer poem. The addition of a gilded Venetian mask heightened the drama, The effect was electrifying.

After refreshments and conversation in the interval we heard poems from Mark, Wendy, Ewan, Michelle (you can read two of her poems here), Jinny, Rachael, Lydia, Claire, Ewa, Morag and Ama, ending with a bonus poem from Conor. It was an uplifting evening, and the cakes were spectacularly good! Thanks to Danny at Loaf for being so welcoming.

There will be no meeting on the first Monday in June; instead we’ll be having a joint meeting with East Coker Poetry Group and Fire River Poets in Langport on Thursday 21st June from 11am to 4pm. Numbers are limited to 30, so please contact me soon if you would like to come. amabolton(at)hotmail(dot)com. More details here.

The July meeting will be on Monday 2nd at Jinny’s house in Glastonbury (Cordis Mundi, Bove Town) and the guest poet will be Melanie Branton.

If prose is a house, poetry is a man on fire running quite fast through it.
–Anne Carson

Turn the world upside-down for love

What we do when we read aloud is to give the poem a new life off the page. If we do this well, either alone in a room or for an audience, we can make the poem memorable. Last Monday our guest was Claire Coleman, who is a fine writer and an excellent reader. She treated us to a feast of fourteen highly nourishing poems. Many of them concerned food – growing it, preparing it, and the effects of not having it. “Ellipsis” is a tender, poignant poem of memory-loss that was short-listed for the National Memory Day competition  recently. My title is taken from “Two-person High”, published in the anthology The Listening Walk. I first heard this wonderful love-poem some years ago. Claire brought it to life and and it has stayed with me. Claire finished her set with the uplifting “One Way” from The Book of Love and Loss, which also includes work by some of the biggest names on the contemporary writing scene.

The second half was chaired by Ewa, who told us that May is the most-loved month in Poland. We heard seasonal poems from Mark, Sara, Wendy, Ewa and Ama, and from Ewan a reflection on what poetry is for. Rosalie read a poem addressed to Marcel Proust, Jo read one from her forthcoming pamphlet, and we heard new work from Rachael and Jinny.

Appreciation of spoken poetry does depend on being able to hear it! Just Ales has become a deservedly popular pub, but the noise level is a problem for us. Next month we shall be meeting in the Cocktail Bar at the back of the Rose and Crown, St John Street, Wells (BA5 1SW) on Monday June 5th, 7.45 for 8pm start. The featured poet on this occasion will be Gram Joel Davies.

Gram lives in Somerset and reads with Juncture 25 Poets. His collection  Bolt Down This Earth has recently been published by V. Press  and has already been nominated for the Forward Prize.

There are things your eyes will miss that your ears will not.
– Kate Tempest (on Radio 4 this week), on the importance of reading poetry aloud.

Coming to the end of April

… which for some is National Poetry Writing Month. And Reading too, of course.

You have to read good poetry to write good poetry. Every single writer I know whose work is loved or respected will tell you the same thing. – Jo Bell

If you haven’t been following Jo Bell’s blog this month, I do recommend catching up with it here.

And don’t forget that tomorrow is the first Monday in May, and we’ll be meeting in the usual place to hear the lovely Claire Coleman and to share our own poems on and off the topic of Beltane.

April moon

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

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

Fountain stars!

Congratulations to Fountain poets Claire Coleman and Jinny Fisher. Claire has six poems in Sarasvati #42, published by Indigo Dreams, and Jinny has two prose-poems in The Poetry Shed.

Ewan MacPherson and Jane Williams performed at the spoken word event “Write out, Speak out” during Wells Litfest. Jane’s verbal fireworks proved to be the evening’s stand-out performance.

Zanna Beswick and Ama Bolton were at the Torbay Poetry Festival yesterday, reading their  Commended and Highly Commended poems at the Torbay Poetry competition prizegiving event.

Next meeting in Wells: Monday 7th November. Guest poet will be the wonderful David Cloke from East Coker. Will he read his unforgettable Morse Code poem? I do hope so!