Tag Archives: Mark Sayers

Spelunking the Worldwide Web

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It means the exploration of caves. But of course you knew that.

This is the first line of Gram Joel Davies’s poem Earth, from his recently-published and Forward-Prize-nominated first collection.

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Gram was our guest poet last week. What a treat! Boldly adventurous use of language, a rich imagination and a loving and observant eye make for superb writing. Gram read in a way that enhanced our appreciation: unhurriedly, clearly and expressively.

Contributions from the floor in the second half came from Mark. Ama, Jo, Morag, Wendy, Rachael, Michelle, Jinny, Paul, Diana and Jan, and a final bonus-poem from Gram. Loss was the theme of several poignant poems; loss of a child, of the opportunity to be a parent, of a partner through death, divorce or annulment, loss of a friend, loss of trust, loss of habitat. Mark and Jan provided a joyful counterbalance with, respectively, an outpouring of gratitude and a glorious psalm of praise to a bus-route!

Announcements:

Jo's book006
Jo will be launching her latest pamphlet Paper Islands at Ace Gallery in Somerton on 17th June. Jo will be our featured poet at the December meeting.

Rachael will be reading in Bath with Tom Sastry on Wednesday 28th June at St James Wine Vaults.

Jinny had a reading with Ken Beevers at Poetry Island in Torquay last Thursday. Jinny also has a poem forthcoming on the Amaryllis website, and one in print in Tears in the Fence.

Ama has a poem in the current issue of Mslexia, and one forthcoming in the July issue of Right Hand Pointing.

And lastly, please, if you have not already done so, send in your food-themed poems for our newest anthology “Feast”, to be launched at the Wells Food Festival on Sunday 8th October. Anyone who has ever read with our group is eligible, and previously published work is fine. Big thanks to those who have already submitted. To the rest of you – please don’t leave it until the last moment because I am going to be Very Busy with other matters in September! I recommend taking to heart the advice at the bottom of this post.

Our next meeting will be n the Rose and Crown’s cocktail bar on July 3rd, when our guest will be the lovely Annie Fisher, of whom Helens Nelson has written, “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.”

Compression is the desire not for density, but for the words to be spare enough that meaning can occur in emptiness. – Ariana Nadia Nash

 

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

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

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

The sea will always win

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Eleven poets met at The Venue on April 4th, with Ama in the chair, the optional theme being “Sea”. Visual aids were brought – a ship in a bottle, two tiny model boats, a Babushka doll.

By an extraordinary coincidence, two poems in the first half were inspired by ships that were sunk in 1945: David C’s with strongly effective use of repetition  (story here) and Ama’s with a personal perspective (story here). David’s second poem was set on the Cornish coast and Ama’s second on a Maltese beach. This post’s title is taken from Paul R’s poem of dos and don’ts. His second dealt with the profound physiological connection we humans have with the sea. As Annette remarked, we do learn a lot here!

Both of Mark’s poems were located on the Kentish coast, and both of Morag’s were concerned with Scottish islands. Terry read an untitled sea-poem and “Esperance”, set in a town on Western Australia’s southern coast. Ewa took her inspiration from the Somerset coast with two short poems, one witty, one poignant, read in English and in Polish. Annette’s poem “A Pearl” certainly had marine connections …
Caroline was one of several poets not well enough to attend, but she sent a lovely ekphrastic sea-poem which Ama read on her behalf.

Poems on other subjects included a beautifully-constructed poem by Karin in the form of a series of questions to a Babushka doll. Karin also read a devotional poem. Annette’s “To Be” was a delicious flight of imagination, and ‘other’ Paul read two imaginative poems. Andrew read “Dorset Sand” from his 2000 collection “The Canvas Stretcher” and a poem about Sven Berlin.

I have booked the same room at The Venue for next month. We’ll be meeting on Bank Holiday Monday, 2nd May. Chris will be in the chair and his topic is “Travelling home”.

Fountain stars

Warm congratulations to Jinny, who has won second prize in The Interpreter’s House competition with her poem Transition. The judge, Jonathan Edwards, wrote “For much of the judging process this was in first place, and dividing it from the eventual winner was a difficult task indeed. This is a clever, subtle and moving poem which says much more than its fourteen lines. The experience of reading is initially suspense, as one wonders what the list of items in the octave add up to; the revelation in the ending sends us straight back to the start, those same items now invested with an enormous emotional impact. As with the first prize winner, I’m interested in the use of ideas in this poem, the way that the tone of the opening two lines of the sestet are so different to the list of objects in the rest of the poem, adding great weight and significance. This is accessible writing which packs a great punch, engaging the brain, and then the heart.”

Rachael’s Art of Fading will be in Tears in the Fence in Autumn. She also had two poems accepted for Prole, and Power Cut has been accepted by Under the Radar.

Jinny and Rachael were invited to discuss their poetry and read in Hilda’s Lounge, a new blog she’s running in a kistch 70’s setting. See it here.

Jo has another couple of online publications to celebrate: on 9th March in I Am Not a Silent Poet link here ; and  in the Poetry Space Spring showcase find it here – one of her lighter poems.

Wendy, as one of a U3A writing group, entered some poems in the Bath Literary Festival recently, the Mid-Somerset senior section, and won a cup.

Ama, Sara, Morag and Jinny were among the guest poets at a splendid evening in East Coker recently. Many thanks to David C for inviting us. We performed a first draft of our new themed sequence, “Second Skin”, which includes/will include work by Rachael and Jo.

Relaunch at East Coker

Photo by Margaret Hamilton

T S Eliot memorial

T.S. Eliot memorial in East Coker parish church.

Other news

The Wells Festival of Literature writing competitions are now open.
This year there are three prizes for the winners, £500, £200, £100, in all three categories plus the Hilly Cansdale local poetry prize of £100 and the Wyvern local short story prize, also £100.  Entries are open to anyone throughout the world.

For the SHORT STORY COMPETITION, entries may be on any subject and should be between 1,000 and 2,000 words in length. ALISON MOORE will judge the 2016 short story competition and present the prizes.

Entries in the POETRY COMPETITION may be on any subject but may not exceed 40 lines in length. GRETA STODDART will judge the 2016 Poetry Competition and present the prizes

For the STORY FOR CHILDREN COMPETITION they may be on any subject but be suitable for the age range 10-16   We require the first three chapters or 30 pages (whichever is the shortest) plus a synopsis of no more than two sides. JEREMY DE QUIDT will judge this competition and also present the prizes.

DEADLINE FOR ALL ENTRIES IS  30th JUNE 2016

For further details and entry rules http://www.wellsfestivalofliterature.org.uk

 

I’m a bad first-drafter. I don’t know quite what the percentage would be, but … two-thirds of my first drafts have almost nothing to do with the final drafts. 
– C.K.Williams, interviewed in Poetry Review winter 2015.