Tag Archives: Paul Watkin

The Dancing Boy

“What a powerful punch of  heart-felt magic was created. My head is still buzzing but more importantly I feel my emotions were rattled for the better.”

“I am very glad indeed – as so many others must be – that her Mum did go to Kilburn.”

Dancing Boy

Here it is! Michelle’s wonderful pamphlet, from which she read at our meeting last Monday.

The Dancing Boy takes us on a magical mystery tour through Michelle’s life, beginning at the beginning with the benefit of rueful hindsight in “Do not go to Kilburn”: a troubled mother is addressed with tenderness and understanding. Other family members are remembered with great compassion. “A Birth Journey in Nine Movements” navigates the highs and lows of pregnancy and birth and the emptiness afterwards: I will never again know such intimacy. Michelle’s heart is big enough to take in a traumatised mother/ an alcoholic father/ a child without an off-button, and she has mastered the art of writing without sentimentality about deeply emotional subjects. “When I rehearse my deathbed scene” is a glorious celebration: all prayers are offered in dance, all tears in song … there is a ban on taking umbrage. Michelle ended the evening with a wonderfully positive, affirmative short poem “Trust your life”.

I’ve recently read a first pamphlet by a skilled poet who relied, I think, rather heavily on writing-exercises. The poems are technically good but many of them lack soul. The poet’s second pamphlet is full of fire and bite and black humour, a thrilling read. I mention this because every poem in The Dancing Boy burns with authenticity and originality. Michelle has no need to go looking for subjects to write about. She trusted her own life and imagination to provide all that was needed to write this most remarkable first pamphlet.

It was my unhappy duty to report the death of Paul Rogers, who until recently was a regular at our meetings, a fine poet and an even better short-story writer. He will be sadly missed. I read his story “A Feast of Memory” from our latest anthology, “Feast”. I plan to give the last unsold copy to his family.

The open-mic spots included nightingale poems from Morag and Ama, memories of childhood from Rachael, Jinny and Sara, playful double-dactyls from Wendy, a new sonnet from Mervyn, laugh-out-loud poems from David K and Paul, and well-crafted thoughtful work from Andrew and Steve.

We welcomed David G back after a long absence. We hope he’ll bring poems next time he joins us!

Poetry Competitions

Wells: (Judged by Simon Armitage) – see website

A Poem for Europe: (Judged by Gillian Clarke and Vanessa Kisuule) – see website

Mere Festival: (Judged by Rosie Jackson) – see website

Are there enough gaps in your poem for the reader to get in?

– Jane Commane

 On Friday 26th April Radio 3’s The Verb concentrated on gaps. Ama’s climate-change poem from Magma #72 was beautifully read by Fiona Moore. You can hear it here. Or read it here.

Next month we’ll be meeting on Monday 3rd June at the usual time at The Venue in South Street, and the guest poet will be David Caddy, editor of Tears in the Fence and author of several volumes of poetry.

It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things.
Stéphane Mallarme

Posted by Ama Bolton 19 May 2019

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Something in common

A lovely lively evening with lots of fun … really took to Ben Banyard … enchanting style with warmth and wit that come from the heart. 

ben banyard

Thanks to one of our regulars for summing up our April meeting so well. It is a help when I don’t have to write this alone!

Ben was a star. I think we all felt we had “something in common” with him. Many of those present identified with his fish-out-of-water experience at a posh school, which was the dubious benefit of passing the 11-plus. The parents among us felt for him as the first-time father of twins. His work is accessible and full of human warmth, and shows technical skill. Look at his poems’ last lines. He knows how to end a poem with just the phrase to startle or charm its way into the listener’s memory.

During the open mic sessions we heard some remarkable work from Mervyn, Rachael, Claire, Wendy, Ita, Paul W, David K, Andrew, Morag, Michelle, Jo, Ama and two very welcome newcomers, Sarah and Steve. It was an evening of happy juxtapositions and coincidences; time and again one poem chimed with another.

Our next meeting will be on May 13th at LOAF Bakehouse, 38 Market St, Wells BA5 2DS, 7.45 for 8pm. Fountain poet Michelle Diaz, winner of a recent poetry competition marking 70 years of the NHS, will be reading from her debut pamphlet The Dancing Boy.

NB This meeting will be on the second, not the first Monday of the month.

Whatever you think you might write, write.
– Michael Rosen on “My Teenage Diary”
, BBC Radio 4, 9th April 2019

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

They’re felling forests while you sleep

Hostile Environment

I’ll begin with some unsolicited feedback! (Thanks for writing.)

Really lovely meeting, thank you.
Such an engaged audience … such a pleasure to hear some highly accomplished poems.
Just to say what an excellent evening it was … Loved the poems – so much talent all round –  I love the diversity … Also took to Nigel Kent and Sarah Thomson – really fascinating idea – was sceptical at first when read about it but, as so often happens, was won over completely on seeing how it is done.
It was a real pleasure and I loved hearing all of the poetic contributions – there is so much talent in your group.

Our last meeting, on February 4th, was at The Venue in South Street. There was a record turn-out (21) in spite of the recent wintry weather, which had caused a breakdown of the Venue’s central heating. We wrapped ourselves in blankets and kept reasonably warm.

We welcomed guest poets Nigel Kent and Sarah Thomson, from Evesham and Bristol, whose collaborative pamphlet A Hostile Environment was published in January by the Hedgehog Press.

In the summer of 2018 the story broke of the mistreatment of members of the Windrush generation. As a consequence of the government’s attempts to reduce immigration, it transpired that British subjects had been wrongly deported and detained, lost their jobs and homes, and were denied benefits and medical treatment. This story precipitated a poetry conversation.

The result was a mini-pamphlet that punches well above its weight. In just six poems it moves from bureaucratic oppression to the suppression of weeds, to deforestation and extinction,  to the abuse of the democratic process, to a parable of insects.

In the second half, Sarah and Nigel read a second group of poems that evolved in a similar way – but beginning this time with Quantum theory! There followed a lively discussion of the process.

It was a treat to have Rosie Jackson and Dawn Gorman with us. They contributed some truly remarkable poems to the open-mic part of the evening. Ita, Maggie, Ting and Steve were valued newcomers whom I hope we’ll hear more from. Rachael and Jinny have work in the latest issue of Lighthouse, Rachael read a poem published in Riggwelter and Ama read her prizewinning poem from the Cannon Sonnet or Not Competition.

Other readers were Mervyn, Beth, Michelle, Ewa, Paul, Mark and Diana. It’s always a pleasure to hear their work.

A note from Tom Sastry: Bristol Poetry Festival 2019 starts Friday 22nd March. Details will be posted here: https://www.facebook.com/lyrabristol/

And some rather exciting news: Wells Fountain Poets are now a Poetry Society Stanza.

The next meeting, at The Venue once again, will feature local journalist Clare Blackmore, who has recently published a book of the complete works of William Catcott, the Baker Bard of Wells. She writes:

William was born in West Horrington but lived and worked as a baker in Tor Street in Wells. As he worked and pushed his bread cart around the streets of Wells and surrounding villages to sell his bread he wrote poetry based on the nature, people and social conditions that he saw in Mid Victorian Wells. I have found over 120 of his beautiful poems.

“When you feel you’ve got a line that’s pulling a lot of emotional freight with it, then you know you’ve probably started a poem.” – Harvey Shapiro

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

Perfect for persistent abrasion

We started our last meeting with a short but illuminating Q&A session with the featured poet, Jinny Fisher. She started writing poetry ten years ago in response to the death of a friend, and since then she has had many poems published in both print and on-line journals. As always, it was good to hear a set of poems by one writer. Jinny’s are highly-evolved, polished and sparkling with a rather dark humour. Preoccupations that her work reveals include control and escape, boundaries, therapy, loss, science, photography and woodwork.

My title is taken from Jinny’s first published poem, Deep Cleaning, which appeared in The Interpreter’s House in 2015. She finished her set with a topical, political poem.

After the interval we heard poems from Paul W (with visual aid – a brand-new pair of high-tech running shoes), Michelle, Rachael, Morag, Andrew, Karin, David C, Mark, Wendy, David K and Ama, with a final bonus track from Jinny

News: Morag has a regular column, “Electric Blue” in Tears in the Fence, Michelle has a poem in Prole, Rachael has poems forthcoming in Tears in the Fence, Unpsychology and Prole, and has the distinction of being short-listed for a pamphlet with Valley Press.

Next month we’ll be meeting at Jinny’s house in Glastonbury on Monday 8th January, 7’45 for 8pm. If you are not on the mailing-list, please contact Ama (amabolton at hotmail.com) for directions. It has become a tradition that in January we share published poems by other people, as a change from the usual format. Do bring at least two.

I began writing this post two weeks ago, but have been caught in the headlights of you-know-what rushing toward me like a runaway ten-ton truck. The last card was posted today and I’m back at my post, so to speak. Happy you-know-what, everyone! See you next year!

By the end of a poem, the reader should be in a different place from where he started. I would like him to be slightly disoriented at the end, like I drove him outside of town at night and dropped him off in a cornfield.
—– Billy Collins

Love’s Exuberance

The Light Box

Rosie Jackson writes about love like no-one else does. She writes about other things too but it seems to me that love is the foundation on which her poems are built. She writes with warmth and honesty, intelligence and humour, and it was a treat to hear her reading as guest poet on 6th November at the lovely Cheeseyard Cafe near Wells.

In the second half we had some strong readings from Andrew Henon (his poem appears in Tears in the Fence #67), Sara Butler, Paul Rogers, David Cloke, Michelle Diaz, Rachael Clyne, Ama Bolton, Morag Kiziewicz and Paul Watkin, a very welcome visitor who used to be a regular in the old days of the Cafe Piano! He read this poem.

Thanks to those who came just to listen, we had a good-sized audience. Ten copies of our nourishing new anthology “Feast” are still available at only £4 each, or two for £4 if you are a contributor.

Next month we shall be meeting in the skittle-alley at The Sherston Inn Priory Road, Wells BA5 1SU, 7.45 for 8pm. The featured poet will be Jinny Fisher.

On 30th November, Words & Ears in Bradford-on-Avon will be featuring readings by  Tania Hershman and Pam Zinnermann-Hope.

‘One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment.’ –Hart Crane