Tag Archives: Neil Bowen

Mind the Gap

Mind the gap
(Photo by Dave Bonta, from his blog)

I don’t quite know what was different. Maybe it was the tall candles on the table. Maybe it was the TV in the adjoining bar turned down low enough not to be intrusive. Whatever it was, it made for an unusually good atmosphere at the Sherston on Monday evening, and some especially good poems were read rather well! We welcomed a newcomer, Terry, and hope to hear more of his work in the future.

Ewan was in the chair and the theme was “Our home in Somerset”. Some poems embraced the theme. From Rachael, Terry, David, Ama, Ewan, Morag, Andrew, Ewa, Wendy and Karin we heard about the view from a house on a hill,  about Porlock, about traffic in Yeovil, about bus journeys across the Levels, about the Romans on Mendip, about one particular shed in Wells, about a difficult day at work in Somerset, about Somerset as a surrogate home and about homesickness and the loss of a homeland.

My title is taken from David’s English national anthem, an inspired collage of phrases from the shipping forecast, the football results and elsewhere.

Neil’s two poems were, as we have come to expect, witty and well-crafted. Jo wrote touchingly about articles of clothing, and we had some hard-hitting topical poems from Wendy and Paul. Jinny’s poems are always surprising, and deeper than they seem on the surface.

Ewa, who was not at the last meeting, read a “Desert Island” poem that she found on the back of a door in a health visitor’s office in Taunton – Please Touch Me, by Phyllis K Davis.

Congratulations to Rachael, who has had a poem accepted for inclusion in an anthology to be published in the United States.

Next month we shall meet at the same place on 7th March. The meeting will be chaired by Ewa and the theme will be “Spring is coming” – but don’t expect it to be all lambs and apple-blossom …

“I rarely think of poetry as something I make happen – it is more accurate to say that it happens to me. Like a summer storm, a house afire, or the coincidence of both on the same day. Like a car wreck, only with more illuminating results. I’ve overheard poems, virtually complete, in elevators and restaurants where I was minding my own business. When a poem does arrive, I gasp as if an apple had fallen into my hand, and give thanks for the luck involved. Poems are everywhere, but easy to miss.” – Barbara Kingsolver

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The clock is ticking

Fog and illness made for a smaller-than-usual group of poets last evening at the Sherston Inn, with Jo in the chair, sharing poems on and off the theme of “Clocks”. Nevertheless we welcomed two new listeners who we hope will come again. There were some memorable contributions. Neil was inspired by a cold to write two clever pastiches – (“O nose thou art thick …”), Ewan left his comfort-zone and explored the wilder shores of haiku, Jo read two wonderfully witty poems on the clock topic, Mark performed a villanelle from which this post’s title is taken, and a topical poem about the extra hour in bed. Clare too contributed a short and sweet poem on the changing of the clocks, read in her absence by Ama.

Paul never knowingly writes on-topic; from him we had one poem in praise of his poetic collaborator (a muse that mews) and one about the Severn Bridge, both in his distinctive style. We have learned to expect to be disturbed by Jinny’s work. She did not disappoint. Wendy read two poignant and well-crafted poems – one of them a prize-winning sonnet – on the theme of time. Pamela delighted us with a handful of tiny poems. From Richard we had two fine sonnets, from Rachael a pair of short, skilfully-written poems, and from Ama “Time Travel”, her Bridport 3rd-prize-winning poem from 2008, and a very recent pastoral invitation to abandon the use of clocks.

Our next meeting will be on Monday December 7th, when Ewa will be in the chair. The theme she has chosen is “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness” – a proverb that can also be taken literally during the short winter days.

Other news:
Congratulations to Rosie Jackson, who won the Hilly Cansdale prize in the Wells competition.
There is a new poetry open-mic venue in Glastonbury, “Tea and Chi” in Benedict Street at 7pm on the last Thursday of the month.
On November 10th in Bath there will be a free slide-show-illustrated sequence of readings from poems written in 1915 – details below.

Flyer Nov 10

The power of words

 

3D Electric power lines over sunrise

3D Electric power lines over sunrise Photo via

We had a good turn-out last night – twenty four of us round the table at The Sherston Inn. Jinny was in the chair and her topic was Power. Jinny herself read “King-sling baby” and “Forms of Travel” – on reflection I think both touched on the power of gravity. Responses to the topic varied from the power of water (Clare’s “Hydrology”) through the power of visual art (Claire’s “Portrait of an Angel”, Rosalie’s “Pencil Power” and “The Black Poppies”) power within the family (Joan’s “Power”, read in her absence by Morag, Pamela’s “Parent Power”, Ewa’s “Three scenes from a Marriage” – which appears in the Fountain Poets’ most recent anthology – and Sara’s “Winks”), the power of love in its manifold forms (Caroline’s “Power”, Sara’s “Scent”, Karin’s spine-tingling “Doppelganger” and “Red Fox”, Ewa’s “And when you kiss me”), to political power (Andy’s “Polemic Power”, Mark’s “Arbeit macht frei”, Caroline’s “Irish Anger” and Ama’s “Post-election Blues”, which earned an immediate heckle.) Mark’s other poem “When real power enthrals” dealt with power in the workplace – specifically a cough-mixture factory.

Rachael contributed a witty listing of the Twelve Steps of recovery for poets, read in her absence by Ama.

Jo read a family-album of a poem, “Waterworths”, and a compact untitled interweaving of past and present that has been accepted for on-line publication – see note below.

Annette’s two short pithy poems were written for last month’s topic – All About Eyes.

We welcomed a new member, Henrietta Lang, who read two engaging poems, “A Special Day Out” and “Dinner-party Man”. I look forward to hearing more of her work.

Some of us had been to a workshop with Roselle Angwin last week, and it was good to hear Claire’s, Andy’s and Morag’s poems which started there and had been thoroughly worked-on in the last few days! Morag’s poem “Three out of four IVF treatments fail” deserves a special mention for its understated but powerful treatment of three or four topics closely interwoven in a short piece of writing.  Morag’s second poem “July in the Waste Land” began life in response to a suggestion at a workshop with Sue Boyle in Bath last month. Again, it dealt deftly with serious subject matter.

Ewan’s first poem, “Let the Bells Ring” was a memorial to raped and murdered First Nation Canadian women. His second, “I go before you” was a biblical exegesis in verse. Many of us learnt things we didn’t know before!

Both of Paul’s poems were set in the Midlands: “Eternity in Sutton Coldfield” and “The First Caravan of the Season”.

Two elegiac pieces were Clare’s “Afterwards” and Ama’s “Gift”. Neil read his own chilling poem “Quietness” and a sinister mother-in-law poem from “A Crown of Sonnets” by Matthew Curry. Chris’s “Old Mother” was an allegorical incantation crying out to be set to music. Any composers out there? Chris has already collaborated with a printmaker and I suggest this could be his next project.

This month’s Fountain stars:

Richard Field, for the fourth year running, has been elected Fool of Glastonbury.

Jo Waterworth has a new poem in the on-line magazine Hedgerow.

Ama Bolton has two poems in the current issue of Obsessed with Pipework … and more in the pipeline!

Rachael Clyne and Jinny Fisher have poems in The Interpreter’s House. They will be reading  at the launch event at the Albion Bookshop in Oxford, on July 16th.
Poets might want to note that the submission window for Issue 60 is… June!

Jinny will be reading at the Fire River Poets Evening for their Poetry Competition Winners: this will be on Thursday June 4th at the United Reformed Church Hall in Paul Street, Taunton, 8-10pm. Refreshments will be available. Tickets are £5 at the door.

The prize-winning and commended poems (including Jinny’s) can be seen here http://fireriverpoets.org.uk/?page_id=693. The judge  was  Lawrence Sail, who also hopes to attend. Jean Atkin, 1st prize winner will be there. Here she is:http://www.overstepsbooks.com/poets/jean-atkin/

Other news:
Jo will be reading at an afternoon with Poetry Space next Saturday, June 6th, in Bristol.
The line-up also includes Myra Schneider and other well-known writers: details here.

Some of the Fountain Poets will be reading at a free day of poetry put on by Tears in the Fence at the  White Horse, Stourpaine, on Saturday July 4th. The Bluegate Poets from Swindon will also be there.

Six Fountain poets will be performing “Waterwoven”, our collage for six voices and rain-stick, at Priddy Folk Fesival on the evening of Friday 10th July.

Next meeting:

Monday July 6th at The Sherston Inn (dining room), starting promptly at 8pm. Andy will be in the chair, and has chosen the topic Belligerent. See you then!

When you write poetry you can’t help but tell the truth.

– Elizabeth Bishop

The ten-thousand-mile stare

eyes

Eighteen poets and two listeners crammed themselves into the small cocktail bar at the Rose and Crown on Monday night to share poems on and off Ewa’s chosen theme “All About Eyes”. Ewa started us off with a poem about being stared at by her mother’s cat. Rachael’s “Still seen” also featured a cat closely observing a human, while Mark’s “If you stare right back” dealt with the experience of being stared at by a child on a bus, and the likely perils of staring back. Wendy read “Night vision” and “Can it be paranoia?”, a poem about being watched.

My title is taken from Andy’s “Reflected back”. Chris’s “Eyes are a gift” and “Eyes of Islington” had some strikingly memorable lines too. Karin’s fragments of memoir “Eyes wide shut” and “Shore-lands” were quietly beautiful pieces of writing.

Poems dealing with blindness, both literal and metaphorical, included Ama’s “The legend of St Odelia”and “Two eyes”, Mark’s “Love is blind”, Richard’s “Flirting with blindness” and Andy’s “Blind to the suffering”. Mo’s poems were “Open eye” and the powerful “Gaza sonata”.

Caroline and Jo contributed haiku. One of Jo’s has just been published in the on-line journal Hedgerow. We heard some erasure poems from Neil and Jinny. Jinny’s other poem “The art of staying dry” suited the weather, and Neil, a master of the sting in the tail, surprised us in the last line of his poem “Better”. Paul read two topical poems, “Redress, or Death by pole-axe” concerning Richard III and “Beltane in Victoria Park”. Ewan read “A kind of peace” and “The stage”.

It was good to welcome Claire Coleman back. She read “Extracting sunbeams” and an untitled poem full of colour and light. Rachael brought an effective surreal prose-poem “Evolution is hard”.

Mo let us know about an offshoot of the Tears in the Fence Festival – a free day of poetry at the White Horse in Stourpaine on Saturday 4th July. Some of our Fountain Poets will be reading on that day.

The six of us who performed at the Bath Litfest will be presenting a second performance of “Waterwoven” at Priddy Folk Festival on the evening of Friday 10th July.

We do like the cocktail bar, but it is clearly too small for our group. The Sherston Inn has re-opened, so we’ll be meeting there (not in the skittle alley but in the dining room) next month, on Monday 1st June, when Jinny will be in the chair and the topic will be “Power”.

Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination.
-Ludwig Wittgenstein

Mind that road!

It was a quiet night at The Sherston Inn last Monday. We were therefore invited to hold our meeting in the dining room instead of out in the skittle alley.

We welcomed a newcomer to the group, Karin Baynes, and look forward to hearing some of her work in future.

Paul was in the chair and had chosen “Speed” as a theme. This post’s title is taken from Sara’s first poem. Other poems on the topic came from Paul, Andy, Mark and (memorably) Neil with “Edwin Morgan at Brand’s Hatch”. Neil’s second poem, “The Art of Marking”  (with more than a nod to Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art“) was a beautifully-constructed and very funny villanelle.

Off-topic, we had poems about mothers from Ewa and Ewan, a couple of tender funny and insightful poems from Annette, a wry look at overheard mobile-phone conversations from Pamela, closely-observed birds from Morag and Pamela, and a memory of a landscape-changing event from Paul, “When the Pipeline came”.

Rachael was in lyrical mood with “The Veil” and “Paradise Recalled”, David G’s poems included “Contemplating the Tower-clock”, and  Ama wrote about time and distance, which she hoped would somehow produce speed! Jinny’s short poems have a knack of taking us by the hand, leading us into another place and then leaving us with a line that reverberates like a struck bell.

Wendy’s “Dinnahefta” was a very entertaining poem in her native Geordie dialect in the style of Longfellow’s “Hiawatha”. I think there may be requests for a repeat performance! Wendy has produced another book! It’s just as delightful as her previous works.

Wendy001

On Thursday Rachael’s “Redpoll” appeared on the Stanza blog’s Poetry Map of Scotland.

Next month (March 9th) the theme will be “Water” and Sara will be in charge. By then the six Fountain poets who are also Bath Cafe poets will have performed their sound-collage “Waterwoven” at the Bath Litfest on March 7th.

We are here to cultivate the marvellous, to woo the new from ourselves, to commune with otherness. – Dean Young

Quicksilver rain, slow sheep

Sherston

We had a really enjoyable informal session at the Sherston Inn’s skittle alley on Monday night. A few of us met beforehand for supper, which was good, freshly-cooked and good value.

Rachael’s scheme for arranging the seating did make the space feel more comfortable.

Chris Scully was back from a summer spent on Flat Holm Island, bearing a copy of a limited-edition book of the poems he wrote during his stay, bound and illustrated with dramatic screen-prints by Otto Dettmer. There is a link on Chris’s page.

The January meeting is traditionally the one when we are encouraged to read published poems by other people. Sara read, very beautifully, three by Raymond Carver: A Haircut, Grief and Late Fragment. Chris read Pam Ayres’ The Dolly on the Dustcart. Jinny performed two of Pascale Petit’s searing poems from “The Zoo Father”: The Ant Glove and My Father’s Books, as well as the exuberantly cynical Spare us by Dennis O’driscoll.

Wendy contributed two poems by A.E.Housman, Oh, When I was in Love with you and When I was One-and-twenty. In the second half, she treated us to Jabberwocky and Wynken, Blynken and Nod – familiar to all, but when did we last read them? Joan read George Herbert’s Love bade me Welcome, and her 12-year-old grand-daughter Beth’s colourful poem Dawn. Beth will go far, I think! Richard gave us three 8th-century poems; an anonymous Anglo-Saxon meditation on the ruins of Bath, a very moving short Chinese poem in Arthur Waley’s translation, Watching the Reapers by Po Chu-i, and Riddle 30 from The Exeter Book.

Pamela performed, in the authentic dialect, two of Charles Benham’s Essex Ballads: Miss Julia the Parson’s Daughter and These New Fangled Ways, the second of which can be heard here in a recording the author made in 1895. Caroline had us chuckling with appreciation of Billy Collins’s Forgetfulness, read here by the author. Later she read Handbag by Ruth Fainlight and Apologia by Connie Bensley. Neil, a welcome newcomer to our group, read two of his own poems: Burning the Onions (with a lovely sting in the tail) and Ghosts. We look forward to hearing more of his work.

Ewan read two new poems: Paris, a reflection on recent events, and Mary’s Poem, from which I have taken this post’s title. Mark shared Kipling’s Alnaschar and the Oxen and Masefield’s London Town. Ama read, from the Fountain Poets’ 2013 anthology, Rayburn by Irene Benson, who died in September last year and is sadly missed. After the interval Ama read two poems that have appeared recently on The Stare’s Nest, Laura Kaminski’s tender meditation Babysitting the Next Dalai Lama and Marc Woodward’s savagely funny An Unexpected Change.

When I checked my e-mails later that evening I found a Bridport Prize newsletter and learnt that “our” Jinny Fisher was on the short-list! Congratulations, Jinny!

Next month we shall be meeting in the skittle alley on Monday 9 February. Paul will be in the chair and his choice of subject (for those who may find one useful) is “Speed”. Thereafter we shall meet on the second Monday of each month until the summer break after the June meeting.

 Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
-Anton Chekhov