Tag Archives: Linda Saunders

Tone down the strangeness

Our very first, and long-postponed, Festival Fringe event was a huge success. Our featured poets Michelle Diaz and Graeme Ryan gave dazzling and moving performances.

Michelle is a long-standing member of the Fountain Poets. Earlier this year she was elected the Chaired Bard of Glastonbury, a role she has embraced with gusto. There is both suffering and joy in Michelle’s 2019 pamphlet from Against the Grain, The Dancing Boy, which ‘combines painful honesty with a sense of hopefulness’. Above all, these are poems of love, understanding and acceptance. They tell painful stories but never bear grudges. They reveal a generous spirit and a lively sense of humour. Michelle had come hot-foot from her role that afternoon as a short-list selector for the Wells Young Poets Competition.

Graeme’s full collection, Valley of the Kings, was published earlier this year by Coverstory Books. It is an excavation of family history and of contemporary life, revealing the voices and worlds always present under this one, more real. It is a blend of scholarship, close observation, devotion to the natural world and breathtaking imagination. It is an inexhaustible treasure-house. Every poem reveals more on a second, third or fourth reading.

The meeting was well-attended and there were some very strong readers during the open-mic session, with a handful of particularly hard-hitting social-comment poems. I read out Linda Saunders’s prizewinning poem Two Wood Pigeons (Highly Commended AND People’s Choice) from the aftenoon Wells Festival prizegiving. This poem would still be a joy if it were nothing more than a meticulous observation of the birds preening themselves. But it’s more than that; there’s gentle humour and the poem opens out into a reflection on the work of a poet. I think all of us went home feeling energised and inspired. This post’s title comes from a poem read by Tristram Fane Saunders, judge of the Wells Festival Open Poetry Competition. He has a new book coming out next summer and has expressed interest in coming to us as a guest reader.

We next meet at 7pm on Monday 7th November, upstairs at The King’s Head in Wells High Street, conveniently close to the Union Street Car Park. No guest poet; plenty of open-mic opportunities.

“How do you know if what you’re revising out of a piece isn’t the very thing that made the piece interesting to someone else? What is the difference between thinking about “the reader” and pandering to “the reader”? How do you know if you’re thinking too much about “the reader” or not enough? What if you never think about “the reader”? Do you risk writing poems that are just you mumbling to yourself? What if there is no “reader”? Ever? Is the thing you made still a poem?” This is from a recent blog-post by Marilyn McCabe. The whole is well worth reading here.

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Dancing with the lights out

I thought it was an inspiring and moving night altogether and your guest poet Beth was wonderful. Such talent so young; where will she end up?

Pretty close to the top, is my guess! Beth Calverley performed most of her poems from memory and performed them well, with candour and warmth. She radiated hope: no small feat in these dark times. It was a remarkable evening in many ways, with an outstanding guest and some deeply-felt contributions in the second half, including one from Beth’s mum, Sally. Some poems made us laugh, some made us sigh or even cry, one was sung with a chorus we could sing along with and one featured a shockingly close encounter with sudden death. What more could you ask from a small-town (ok, small city) poetry reading?

Next meeting: Monday December 3rd at Loaf, 38 Market Street, Wells BA5 2DS: very close to the bus station and car park. Featured poet Rachael Clyne will read from her new collection Girl Golem. And of course there will be the usual open-mic. And Danny’s remarkable cakes.

Congratulations to Rosie Jackson, who won three prizes in the Wells Poetry Competition: First Prize, Hilly Cansdale Prize and the People’s Vote! Rosie also won second prize in the Torbay Festival competition, and was highly commended in the Winchester Festival competition. And to Linda Saunders, who won Third prize at Wells, and Deborah Harvey, who was short-listed.

Michelle Diaz shared a reading at the Poetry cafe in London with Jane Lovell, Alison Brackenbury and Graham Clifford on October 19th.

Morag Kiziewicz has been long-listed for The Bridport Prize, and Ama Bolton was joint winner of the 2018 East Coker Poetry Competition. She has a poem in the current issue of Magma and will be reading at the London launch later this month. A found poem is on-line at Unlost.

Claire Coleman had a poem published in each of South 57 and South 58 this year, and read at the launch in Bournemouth of South 58. She also had a poem (“Erasing the Future”, one of the strongest offerings in last night’s open-mic) commended in this year’s Poetry Space competition, and has been facilitating poetry sessions for Literature Works/ Alzheimer’s Society Memory Cafes; the most recent was on National Poetry Day for Literature Works and Gloucester Library’s Share a Poem group.

Finally, I’m delighted to hear that Tom Sastry, who has read to us twice in recent years, has a collection coming out next year from Nine Arches Press.

Whatever you accomplish, make it look as if it happened on its own.
Dave Bonta

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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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