Tag Archives: Wendy Nicholson

we all become islanders

Lewis by Dave

Lewis, Outer Hebrides. Photo by David Robinson.

What a splendid evening we had on Monday, seventeen of us crammed into the cocktail bar! Had so many of the regular attenders not been on holiday we might have been sitting on one another’s laps.

It was a privilege to hear Jo Waterworth’s heartfelt performance of some of the poems in her latest pamphlet, “Paper Islands”. Islands on and off the map, legendary islands and islands of the imagination: Jo took us on a cruise round this whole archipelago. My title is taken from Jo’s poem Compass. It was lovely to have Jane with us and to hear her riotous new poem for “Write up! Speak up!” at Wells Litfest next month. And it was a pleasure to welcome newcomers David, Izzy, Ann and Caroline (who contributed a song as well as a poem), and to see Dearbhaile after a long absence.

After some discussion in the interval we agreed to take up Jinny’s kind offer to meet on Monday October 2nd at her house in Glastonbury. If you would like to come, and are not on the e-mailing list, ask for directions from amabolton at hotmail dot com. The guest poet in October will be Tom Sastry Laureate’s Choice 2016. Tom will be reading a different and complementary set at Tea and Chi in Glastonbury on Thursday 28th September, starting at 6.45. We look forward to both readings. At Caroline’s suggestion, the optional theme for contributions to the 2nd October meeting is Stars.

What have our members been up to over the summer? Congratulations to Rachael, who has a poem in the latest issue of “Obsessed with Pipework” and has been short-listed for the Wells Festival poetry prize. Wendy (who contributed not one but two triolets on Monday) has a poem on Poetry24, Jinny’s poem Retro-focus (one of two prose-poems she read on Monday evening) is in the latest issue of “Tears in the Fence”, and Rosalie Challis has a poem in the Poetry Space Autumn Showcase. Ama has a poem in the newest anthology from Cinnamon Press and has been short-listed for the Bradford-on-Avon poetry prize. Her long poem “Between two Moons” in her hand-made book commissioned for Amazing Space II can be seen during Somerset Art Weeks (23 Sept-8 Oct) at Dove Studios, Venue 21, page 16 in the guide. Photos of the book are here. Apologies to anyone whose achievements have been omitted from this list. Please send me your news so that we can celebrate with you here!

Poetry is an island that breaks away from the main.
– Derek Walcott

Sanday 2008

Sanday, Orkney. Photo by Ama Bolton.

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Spelunking the Worldwide Web

,

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 September 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

Simple magic for dark times

“We happy few” enjoyed a high-quality set from Tom Sastry last night. I’m hoping he will come again so that those suffering in the current flu epidemic (get well soon!) or with prior engagements will have a chance to hear him. He’s delightful, he’s approachable, and his work is just as engaging live as on the page. Tom’s first poem provides this post’s title (and, for me at least, a gospel or guidebook for the present time). You can find it, under a different title, here.

In the second half we had poems from Ewan, Jinny, Caroline, Wendy, Jo, Ama, and a bonus track from Tom.

Our next meeting will be at the same place (Just Ales, Market Street) and time (7.45 for 8) on Monday 3rd April, when the guest poet will be the wonderful Rosie Jackson.

You are part of every poem that you read except when the poem excludes you. Sometimes the poem is so polished and so beautiful it won’t let you in. It wants you to admire it.
– Beau Beausoleil

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

Candle and snow

snow-candle

Our meeting at Just Ales last night featured the sequence “Second Skin”, poems focusing on clothing, written and performed by Jo Waterworth, Rachael Clyne, Sara Butler, Mo Kiziewicz, Jinny Fisher and Ama Bolton. Andy’s excellent mulled Wilkins cider and Rachael’s generous provision of teacake biscuits cheered us in body and spirit. In the interval many of us bought Wendy’s lovely wildlife cards, printed from her own watercolours and sold in aid of wildlife charities.

After the interval we heard topical poems from Ewan and Paul, and Andrew read Swim-lanes, a long poem resulting from an interesting interdisciplinary collaborative project.

Andrew has sent me a link to his recent collaboration “The Art of Memory” with David Caddy at Hauser and Wirth, and a link to Jinny’s collaboration with Amanda Barnes, performed in Bath, the fourth event in what was a groundbreaking collaborative poetry initiative across South West England.

Caroline made us laugh with a poem about losing her keys. We’ve all done it! Wendy gave us a hymn of praise to the Christmas Pudding and a beautiful new poem resulting from her attempt to write about clothes, or a lack of them: Eve’s thoughts about life after Eden.

Ewa read two recent poems in both her languages – first a short and touching piece about an old perfume-bottle, and secondly a longer poem about an unusual form of communication: banging on the pipes – we’ve all heard of it but few have done it.

It was a pleasure to welcome Rosie Jackson back after a long absence. My title is taken from one of the poems she read from her recently published collection “The Light Box” from Cultured Llama. Rosie will be our guest poet at the April meeting next year. Her writing is well-crafted and often deeply moving.

Here are all the dates, until the summer break, for your diary. You can read about the poets here.

Jan 2    Once again at Just Ales  (BA5 2DS) 7.45 for 8pm start. The featured poets on this occasion will be … any published poet you care to bring along! We have a tradition of using the January meeting to share some published poems we particularly admire. If you prefer to read your own work, that is fine too. At this meeting there will be no charge.

Feb 6   Linda Saunders

Mar 6  Tom Sastry

April 3 Rosie Jackson

May 1  Claire Coleman

June 5  Gram Joel Davies

July 3  Annie Fisher

You might like to have a look at this light-hearted poem, which I mentioned at the meeting: 100 Differences Between Poetry and Prose.

Finally … a photo from our October meeting, our first time at Just Ales, when Jane was our featured poet.

jane-at-just-ales

Photo courtesy of Morag Kiziewicz.

Maybe all poetry, insofar as it moves us and connects, is a revealing of something that the writer doesn’t actually want to say but desperately needs to communicate, to be delivered of.  Perhaps it’s the need to keep it hidden that makes it poetic – makes it poetry.  The writer daren’t actually put it into words, so it leaks out obliquely, smuggled through analogies…we’re actually saying something we desperately need to share.  The real mystery is this strange need.  Why can’t we just hide it and shut up? Why do we have to blab? Why do human beings need to confess? Maybe if you don’t have that secret confession, you don’t have a poem – don’t even have a story.

Ted Hughes interviewed for the Paris Review (Spring 1995)