Tag Archives: Ewan MacPherson

Bollard, dear boy

Annie Fisher

Our guest this month was Annie Fisher – warm, witty and wise. She delighted us all with a reading from her Happenstance pamphlet Infinite in all Perfections. She warmed up with a couple of limericks, followed by Bollard. The highlight of the evening was Annie’s singing of Tom Tafferty went Dancing, which I’d heard before without knowing that Tom is Annie’s grandson. The Welsh, she told us, have a saying that true love comes with the first grandchild. Her song illustrates the truth of this!

Annie Fisher is a story-teller, with a background in primary education. Her debut poetry pamphlet draws on memories of a Catholic upbringing, as well as work in schools.

She knows about loss of faith, and loss of face, knows from the inside how confidence gets lost—and reasserted.

This is a poet with an eye for mischief, an ear for rhythm and form, delicious deftness of touch, and incorrigible joy in the process of creation.

– Helena Nelson

Annie book
Many copies of Annie’s pamphlet were bought and signed during the interval, after which we had the usual “open-mouth” session. Ewan, whose book is now on sale in the Cathedral shop, read, among others, a fine new poem The Sea.

It was good to have Gill back with us. She read her startling new poem Wake-up Call. Phil, who is new to our group (welcome. Phil!) read a couple of well-crafted pieces, and he was followed by Rachael with two new poems, one an affectionate tribute to Dylan Thomas in the centenary of his birth. Then Michelle read two poems, one of which had appeared on Amaryllis that very morning.

Paul’s first poem told a shocking true story, and his second was a wry look at HR, The Devil’s Department. Diana read Portrait of a Poet and the second Triolet of the evening, the first being Annie’s So Much. This is such a compact and interesting form that I’m going to suggest we give it a try during the summer break, and bring one to the September meeting. As islands will feature prominently in Jo’s reading, a triolet about an island would be just perfect!

Jo read two of her compositions for NaPoWriMo – one deliciously surreal, the other a clever and topical piece of irony. Ama then read  a poem that drew parallels between one set of her grandparents and the Odysseus/Penelope story. Her Dreams in Upper Silesia appears in the latest issue of Right Hand Pointing. Have a look at their rather entertaining short video about the kind of submissions they are – and are not – looking for.

Annie rounded off the session with her tender poem Fledgling and the laugh-out-loud Multiple-choice Holiday Postcard – a fitting end to the evening and to the current season.

We’ll be taking a break in August and meet again on Monday September 4th, when the featured poet will be our own Jo Waterworth.

Ama will have some mini-pamphlets and a micro-pamphlet on sale at “A Book in the Hand”, an exhibition of handmade books/artists’ books at ACEarts in Somerton – see flyer below.
AceArtsLogo

My advice for a young poet would be read everything and then do what you want.
– Charles Simic, in interview with Peter Mishler.

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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.

The croggle of a froggle

Once again, big thanks to Just Ales for making us so welcome. Several copies of our collaborative birthday poem were on display!
Rosie Jackson was unfortunately not well yesterday, so we held our April meeting without a guest poet but with many splendid poems from our resident poets.
The evening began with Ama’s  “Legend”, a poem for six voices that was published in Obsessed with Pipework last year. Sara followed with two short poems about poultry from a sequence drawing on her former life as a smallholder in Norfolk. Next up was Wendy, who read a deliciously inventive piece about frogs, from which I have taken the title of this post. Mark read a poignant memory of comfortless schooldays and Morag shared close observations of a snake. Caroline’s first poem was an elegy for a friend, and Ewa’s began “Poetry can happen to you unexpectedly”, with an extempore translation into Polish. Ewan read a memory of childhood blackberrying and a topical war-poem. Paul’s first poem was both a true story and a topical political comment. Michelle read a heart-stopping poem about her father. Jo and Rachael read punchy new work – both of them are writing a poem a day this month for NaPoWriMo 2017. There are some excellent prompts and tips on Jo Bell’s blog.
During the interval, Jenny Smith from Wells Litfest told us about the Wells Poetry Competition which this year is to be judged by Gillian Clarke, former National Poet of Wales. Some of us bought Wendy’s charming Easter cards, painted and printed by her in support of wildlife charities. Beer, cider, tea and hot chocolate were served …
All of us read again in the second half, the most remarkable items being Rachael’s “Diana” about her sister, Pamela’s “Hooray for Henry” read in her absence by Ama, and Wendy’s rap “Tetrahydrocannabinol” a tour de force in what is for her a new genre.
We will have a presence at the Wells Festival of Food on Sunday October 8th. If there are enough suitable submissions this will include a new Fountain Poets Anthology (our third) which will concentrate on food-related topics. There will also be a poetry treasure-trail. Foody poems, ideas and offers of help on the day are very welcome!
Next month’s meeting will be at Just Ales on Monday 1st May, when the guest poet will be Claire Coleman, Ewa will be the chairperson and at Paul’s suggestion the optional topic will be Beltane, which happens also to be the theme of the next-but-one Cinnamon Press mini-competition, deadline 15 May.
I will end by sharing a quotation sent in recently by Pamela.

Poetry is speech made incandescent – Clive James

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The Persisters is a newly established network of feminist poets and artists. We are intersectional and inclusive. We are concerned about the turning tide in the rights of women and all minorities.

We are harnessing collective skills as poets, artists and wordsmiths to create community and combat the erosion of hard-won freedoms fought for and earned over many decades.

We want to celebrate, enjoy and secure those gains, and to support the struggle to extend those rights to all women. We believe in art as dialogue, celebration and resistance. We also believe in getting together for a party.

Join us for an afternoon of feminist poetry, discussion and belly-dancing from some of the West Country’s finest poets and performers, including Annie Freud and Rachael Boast. Entry is a recommended donation of £5, proceeds going to Refugee Women of Bristol (http://www.refugeewomenofbristol.org.uk/).
Sunday 9th April, 3-6pm at Roll for the Soul, 2 Quay St BS1 2JL
List of readers.

Zillah Bowes
Chaucer Cameron
Rachael Clyne
Pey Pey Oh
Jinny Fisher
Dawn Gorman
Hazel Hammond
Deborah Harvey
Rosie Jackson
Morag Kiziewicz
Rowena Knight
Katie Noonan
Ellie O’Connell
Helen Sheppard
Sue Sims
Shirley Wright

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

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

Candle and snow

snow-candle

Our meeting at Just Ales last night featured the sequence “Second Skin”, poems focusing on clothing, written and performed by Jo Waterworth, Rachael Clyne, Sara Butler, Mo Kiziewicz, Jinny Fisher and Ama Bolton. Andy’s excellent mulled Wilkins cider and Rachael’s generous provision of teacake biscuits cheered us in body and spirit. In the interval many of us bought Wendy’s lovely wildlife cards, printed from her own watercolours and sold in aid of wildlife charities.

After the interval we heard topical poems from Ewan and Paul, and Andrew read Swim-lanes, a long poem resulting from an interesting interdisciplinary collaborative project.

Andrew has sent me a link to his recent collaboration “The Art of Memory” with David Caddy at Hauser and Wirth, and a link to Jinny’s collaboration with Amanda Barnes, performed in Bath, the fourth event in what was a groundbreaking collaborative poetry initiative across South West England.

Caroline made us laugh with a poem about losing her keys. We’ve all done it! Wendy gave us a hymn of praise to the Christmas Pudding and a beautiful new poem resulting from her attempt to write about clothes, or a lack of them: Eve’s thoughts about life after Eden.

Ewa read two recent poems in both her languages – first a short and touching piece about an old perfume-bottle, and secondly a longer poem about an unusual form of communication: banging on the pipes – we’ve all heard of it but few have done it.

It was a pleasure to welcome Rosie Jackson back after a long absence. My title is taken from one of the poems she read from her recently published collection “The Light Box” from Cultured Llama. Rosie will be our guest poet at the April meeting next year. Her writing is well-crafted and often deeply moving.

Here are all the dates, until the summer break, for your diary. You can read about the poets here.

Jan 2    Once again at Just Ales  (BA5 2DS) 7.45 for 8pm start. The featured poets on this occasion will be … any published poet you care to bring along! We have a tradition of using the January meeting to share some published poems we particularly admire. If you prefer to read your own work, that is fine too. At this meeting there will be no charge.

Feb 6   Linda Saunders

Mar 6  Tom Sastry

April 3 Rosie Jackson

May 1  Claire Coleman

June 5  Gram Joel Davies

July 3  Annie Fisher

You might like to have a look at this light-hearted poem, which I mentioned at the meeting: 100 Differences Between Poetry and Prose.

Finally … a photo from our October meeting, our first time at Just Ales, when Jane was our featured poet.

jane-at-just-ales

Photo courtesy of Morag Kiziewicz.

Maybe all poetry, insofar as it moves us and connects, is a revealing of something that the writer doesn’t actually want to say but desperately needs to communicate, to be delivered of.  Perhaps it’s the need to keep it hidden that makes it poetic – makes it poetry.  The writer daren’t actually put it into words, so it leaks out obliquely, smuggled through analogies…we’re actually saying something we desperately need to share.  The real mystery is this strange need.  Why can’t we just hide it and shut up? Why do we have to blab? Why do human beings need to confess? Maybe if you don’t have that secret confession, you don’t have a poem – don’t even have a story.

Ted Hughes interviewed for the Paris Review (Spring 1995)

 

 

Writing-off the cost of the petunias

David Cloke, convener of the East Coker Poetry Group, was our featured poet at Monday night’s well-attended meeting in the congenial setting of Just Ales, the Wells micropub. We always enjoy the wit, originality, intelligence and technical skill of David’s work, and it was a joy to listen to him, and indeed to take part in his campanological poem Bells, which needs nine voices to ring the changes. Oh, and to our great delight he did perform his famous morse-code poem! My title is taken from his first poem, Space.

Jane gave a much-appreciated second performance of her Rap on Growing Old, which went down so well at the spoken word event at Wells Litfest. She also read Supper Dish, placed 3rd in the most recent East Coker Poetry Competition and published in their very attractive anthology.

Jo read Shooting Photons in the Canaries, published on-line on  Monday in Amaryllis, Poetry Swindon’s blog. Her second poem was Wunderkammer, published in print in this year’s Broadsheet, (launched last month at Exeter Poetry Festival) where Jo’s poem sits happily alongside work by such well-known names as Julia Copus and Annie Freud.

Ama read Three ways of looking at a Fig, which recently won a small prize at the Torbay Festival. Caroline read two short but sweet autumnal poems, and we welcomed two new readers, Alison and Michelle. Michelle runs a monthly poetry open-mic in Glastonbury at Tea and Chi in Benedict Street at 6.45 on the last Thursday of the month. The featured poet this month will be The Bristol Sadhu.

We heard new poems from Rachael, Ewan, Mark, Morag and Andrew. Rachael will be running a creative writing course in Glastonbury starting in the new year; see the previous post for details.

We heard two rather poignant poems from Wendy, who has produced a new single-poem pamphlet with her own delightful illustrations, Saving the Earth. It’s a good present for a child, and a bargain at £1.50.

saving-the-earth

The next meeting will be at the same place on Monday December 5th, when the headline act will be the collaborative programme Second Skin from six Fountain Poets. All are invited, but not required, to bring a clothing-related poem!

NB Alice Oswald will be in Bath next Tuesday evening, 15th November.  She performs her work from memory, and to hear her is an unforgettable experience. It looks as if tickets (which include a voucher for the wonderful book Falling Awake) are still available.

“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, Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems