Tag Archives: William Catcott

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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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