Tag Archives: Lydia Harley-Tomlinson

No Methodist need apply

Local journalist, editor and archivist Clare Blackmore came to our March meeting  with treasures she has painstakingly unearthed in the archives of local papers and in private collections: about 150 poems by the unschooled but by no means uneducated Victorian poet William Catcott. William was a working man, by turns wool-comber, miner, farm labourer and baker. An observant and thoughtful man, he wrote of rural life and work, love, friendship and local events. Some of his work shows  a passion for justice, standing up for the poor and oppressed — including animals — and criticising the careless and greedy oppressors, the unsoiled drowsy drones. “John Cross” is a passionate defence of a Dorset labourer who kept his family on fourteen pence a day and was sent to prison for stealing firewood. “No Methodist need apply” chides a local bigot who advertised anonymously for a maid-of-all-work. Many of the poems take joy in the beauty of nature. This reading of a dozen poems was a fascinating introduction to the remarkable work of a local man who could so easily have been forgotten by posterity. I do recommend this book, “William Catcott: The Complete Works”.

Complete Works

During the open-mic section we enjoyed poems from Tom Sastry, Wendy Nicholson, David Cloke, Diana Hill, Paul Watkin, Lydia Harley-Tomlinson, Mervyn Lickfold, Michelle Diaz, Jinny Fisher, Rachael Clyne and Ama Bolton.

Jinny, Michelle and Rachael will be reading from their recently-published books at the Avalon Room, 2-4 High Street, Glastonbury BA6 9DU, next Friday, 29th March, 7.30-9.30. Do support them if you can.

Our guest at the 1st April meeting will be Ben Banyard from Portishead. His poems have appeared in Popshot, The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Broadsheet, Sarasvati, The Dawntreader, London Grip, The Open Mouse and many others.

His debut pamphlet Communing and a full  collection, We Are All Lucky, are published by Indigo Dreams. Ben also edits Clear Poetry, a blog publishing accessible contemporary work by newcomers and old hands alike.

We’ll be meeting once again upstairs at The Venue in South Street, 7.45 for 8pm.

I would recommend the cultivation of extreme indifference to both praise and blame because praise will lead you to vanity, and blame will lead you to self-pity, and both are bad for writers. – John Berryman

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“A ringing bell at sea”

Out of the drizzly darkness last night, twelve poets gathered in Jinny’s warm and welcoming Salon des Arts. We have a tradition of reading – and sometimes discussing -other people’s poems at the first meeting of the year.

This time, though, we started with members who’d had work published, in print or on-line, since the December meeting.

Michelle read her Christmas poem Jesus is Pink, published recently at The Poetry Shed, Jinny read Boxing Day Party from Algebra of Owls, and Finding Home from Riggwelter. Rachael read She had never been good at reversing, forthcoming at Litworld, and Ama read January, which appeared in the last-ever print issue of Far-off Places.

Jo read two from The New Poetry, a hugely influential anthology published in 1962: George MacBeth’s eerily prophetic Bedtime Story, and Peter Redgrove’s The Archaeologist. David’s two readings came from The Beat Book, an anthology of writings from the Beat generation. His choices were Poem in Praise of my Husband by Diane Di Prima, and an entertaining extract from Joanne Kyger’s journal.

Andrew read The Bell, by Jay Ramsay, who sadly died just over a week ago. Many of us have fond memories of him. Andrew’s second reading was from Out of the Wreckage, by George Monbiot. In this context, Rachael reminded us of an XR funeral procession to take place on Saturday 12th January at 12 noon in Glastonbury High Street.

peace bell

Jinny’s choices were School Run, by Katherine Maris, and Dear Mr Gove, by Kim Moore. Beth read Grumpy Day from The Dog at the End of the World by Helen Harvey, and Scything, from Blood Earth and Medicine by Somerset poet James Crowden.

Rachael read Wedding Night from Blow This by Anna-May Laugher,  The Ward by Louisa Campbell, and Flood as Redemption from Clare Shaw’s collection Flood.

Clare Shaw was chosen by Michelle, too. She read Love Poem from the collection Straight Ahead. Michelle’s other choice was a beautifully dark poem from Fiona Benson’s Vertigo and Ghost. I did make a note of the title, but I can’t decipher it now!

Mervyn read The Way Things Are, by the patron saint of poetry (aka Roger McGough), and Dylan Thomas’s villanelle Do not go Gentle into that Good Night – read here by the poet himself. Lydia chose Auden’s Stop all the clocks, and read it beautifully. In the second half she read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. It’s good to hear again the familiar poems as well as those that are new to us.

Morag was fortunate in receiving Leonard Cohen’s last collection, The Flame, as a Christmas present. She read Never gave Nobody Trouble and What is Coming, a prophetic poem from 2003.

Gillian read two poems by one of Canada’s most influential writers Alden Nowlan: It’s Good to be Here and The Social Worker’s Poem. For Nowlan, poetry was “all about people, and to hell with literature.” He deserves to be better known over here.

And I (Ama) read Dave Bonta’s How to Dance and a delightful little poem by Sarah J Sloate After Finishing an Anthology of World Poetry. You can read it in Right Hand Pointing #102.

Altogether it was a convivial, thoughtful and entertaining evening. Thank you Jinny for hosting the meeting.

Other News

Michelle’s debut pamphlet “The Dancing Boy” (Against the Grain Press) is about to be launched! Firstly at Labyrinth bookshop in Glastonbury High Street on 1st February, also in a joint launch with Rachael and Jinny, in Glastonbury, 29th March, and at the Fountain Poets’ meeting on 13th May.

Jo will be one of the poets reading at the Berkeley Square Poetry Revue in Bristol on 29th January, 8.30 – 10.30pm.

This post is quite long enough! I’ll write soon about our next meeting (Feb 4th at The Venue in Wells, with two Hedgehog Press poets).

Waiting on the Tide

Waiting on the Tide
photo: Ama Bolton

On Monday in the delightful LOAF Bakehouse we had the great pleasure of hearing David Punter read some of his work. My title is taken from his lovely poem A Dream of Ships.

We welcomed newcomer Mervyn and a group from the Wells Writers. There were some excellent poems  during the open-mic parts of the evening, from Mark, Diana, Mervyn, David K, Lydia, Paul W, Rachael, Jinny, Michelle, Andrew and Morag and two tiny snippets from me (Ama). Paul’s hilarious tribute to the menu at LOAF, powerful work from Rachael, Jinny, Michelle and Morag, Wendy’s tandem poem, David’s Mark-downs and Andrew’s heart-wrenching Care Plan deserve special mention, but really it was an evening of good work all round. Afterwards I received several appreciative e-mails:

“a brief note to say how much I enjoyed the meeting together of so many talented and diverse poets. It was a magical evening and how friendly and welcoming you all are.”

” … exudes wisdom steeped in depth of knowledge, compassion and sensitivity to all around him, that makes his poetry reading utterly compelling – mesmeric in fact! – Yes I did like David!”

“a very pleasant evening”

“I liked the format”

Special thanks to the regulars (you know who you are) who arrived early to arrange the furniture and were so supportive on a day when my stitches were particularly painful. They are out now!

The next meeting will be on Monday 5th November, upstairs at Venue, 42 South Street, Wells BA5 1SL, at the usual time of 7.45 for 8pm. Or come early for a pizza or fish and chips. We do not yet have a firm booking for a guest poet. Watch this space. In honour of National Poetry Day (just a month late) the optional theme, for anyone in need of a prompt, is “Change”. No apologies are needed for poems on other topics unless they contain inappropriate use of shard or heft. Now there’s a challenge!

What is the most important thing? First: writing the best poems you can, the poems that (as Larkin said) only you can write. Second: finding a few good readers for them.
Helena Nelson

Visible despite the light

Conor 2 small

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