Sunday, 24 January 2016

An artist date

I'd decided I wasn't going to try to emulate Sarah Salway who will be doing weekly artist's dates during 2016 but her most recent blog post had planted a seed in my subconscious about having more fun in 2016. During January the irrepressible Amy Souza has organised another art/poetry postcard exchange as happened last January so I have vaguely been collecting arty crafty bits and pieces. Then there was the blog post from Leo Babauta at Zen Habits about getting out of his comfort zone by spending a weekend learning self defence and making art is definitely something I'm not at ease with.

So unexpectedly on Saturday night I found myself sitting down for my first artist's date in a long time with the aim of creating some 'art' postcards. This involved cutting, glue, more cutting, some sewing, lots of recycling (or do I mean upcycling?), anyway much re-using of catalogues and old shirt buttons.

And voila bythe end of the evening I had made four collage postcards, with a fifth of a button heart just wanting to be finished. The one which was the most fun was the paper weaving card in pinks and purples which turned out to be much nicer than I expected, using the covers of two plant catalogues - thank you Sarah Raven and Unwins. I cut the strips by hand as hunting for a ruler would have slowed things down and the key to the success of the evening was keeping going. The irregular appearance of  the strips added to the effect, I feel.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Ready for the T.S Eliot Prize

The first of the year's poetry higlights is fast approaching with the T.S.Eliot Prize Reading on Sunday at the Royal Festival hall.

There are, as always, ten books on the shortlist and I'm more agog than usual about this year's choices. So much so that I've managed to read three of them.

The weekend will begin on Saturday with the annual session organised by Katy Evans-Bush. I have been going to this for several years as Katy will have read and analysed all of the books so the day is a chance to read a selection of poems from each book as a group and to discuss the merits and otherwise of the short-listed titles. I've found it means you attend the reading on the Sunday in a much more informed state of mind. Last year I think we may have come up with an alternative winner to that of the official judges but that is all part of the fun.

I was enthusing about the weekend ahead to an academic colleague at work who smiled and said 'so you're off to be a poetry geek then'.  Guilty as charged.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Now All Roads lead to France

I have been taking advantage of the holiday to catch up on my reading. 'Now All Roads Lead to France by Matthew Hollis is about the last five years of Edward Thomas' life and the time in which he wrote all his poetry. 

It is perfect reading material for the quiet time between Christmas and the New Year as Thomas grapples with depression, indecision about whether to enlist or to go to America with Robert Frost and which road he should take...

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Remembering Louis Doffman 29th September 1918 and Percy Honeybill 2nd September 1918

Two of the poems from my forthcoming collection, Voices from Stone and Bronze, have been published on London Grip for the winter.
The first poem, What Louis Doffman knows, is in memory of a young man, Louis, who fought under an assumed name. I was introduced to his story by Jeremy Banning  who took me and a group of writers to Pigeon Ravine where Louis was killed in September 1918 with most of his company. I don't know about his family but he will have had a life before then.

The other poem, One of the Honeybills is about a distant cousin and member of the Honeybill family. Thanks to his grandson, Peter, who shared details about his grandfather more is known about Percy. He left behind a wife and three daughters and must have been hoping he would be able to return to his normal life.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Reading list - Robin Houghton, Charles Bennett and Liz Lefroy

These are a few of the books I bought earlier this autumn at Free Verse and the Cinnamon tenth birthday celebrations. I'm following the example set by Robin Houghton on her blog of reading from first poem to last poem so it seemed appropriate to start with her pamphlet The Great Vowel Shift published by Telltale Press

This is a slim pamphlet of thirteen poems, which is beautifuly made with a wrap around dust jacket and collage cover illustration by Hannah Clare. It is Robin Houghton's debut poetry pamphlet. She has also written guides on how to blog. These are poems about loss – ‘The Last’, Ellipsis, and Fermata- and moments of epiphany. These poems were so good it reminded me of how difficult it can be to get a full collection published.

Favourite poem 'The Last' because you have to read it all the way through before you realise what the poem is about and then you have the pleasure of reading it again.

365 Apples by Charles Bennett

The title of this pamphlet can set you off down the wrong track as it is not about 365 varieties of apple but 12 months (or 365 days) from January to December. Charles Bennett spent a year visiting Dragon Orchard In Putley, Herefordshire and responding to the orchard in poems. The poems are a delight, a celebration of the trees, the people who grow them, the bees who visit the flowers, the passing of the seasons and the natural order of things. Bennett explains in the foreword about spending a few days each month in the orchard (lucky man) and says

“My time in the orchard … consisted of walking and being attentive, of looking and listening and letting my senses and imagination be opened and operated upon by the orchard. You might say that in a sense the orchard walked through me.”

And through the poems you can walk with him and the orchard. My favourite poem is April, which ends with the lines

the bees who snuff and fumble,

until the orchard throbs and every bee

is making an apple from a kiss.

Mending the Ordinary  by Liz Lefroy

I heard Liz Lefroy read at the Cinnamon Press celebrations in Northampton and wanted to read her poems again. These are poems about her family and what might be ordinary moments but for the extra-ordinary attention which she gives them.
Favourite poem Solving Insomnia

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Tenth Birthday Celebrations

I spent yesterday in Northampton in the company of fellow writers and readers for the tenth Birthday celebrations for Cinnamon Press which was founded by the industrious and inspiring Jan Fortune in 2005. In her usual generous spirit the weekend's events were shared with other independent presses Fair Acre Press, Grey Hen Press and local organisations, Creative Writers @the Museum and Northampton University Creative Writing Department.

So it was a day fulled to the brim with abundance, highlights for me included the opening workshop on writing success led by Hazel Manuel - do follow her on twitter for writing tips and ideas, the  reading by Charles Bennett who was the first Director of the Ledbury poetry festival and now teaches creative writing at the University of Northampton. I particularly loved his poems about Dragon Orchard in Herefordshire. If he brings the same level of energy and enthusiasm to his teaching then Northampton is clearly a good place to study creative writing. Then Susan Richardson entranced the audience with her poems based on Inuit myth and legend. And if you haven't come across Liz Lefroy's Mending the Ordinary then you are missing out on some remarkable work.

I was able to share the poems in Convoy and later in the day met someone whose father had been on one of the Royal Navy ships protecting the convoys. I will write another blog post about how to find out more about the convoys.

It was a chance to catch up with fellow Cinnamon authors and to hear new work from authors I hadn't previously met. Frances Spurrier spent the day organising pop-up readings in the cafe and led the way iwth her own poems from The Pilgrim's Way.

And there was cake of many sorts in the cafe and wonderful home-made Asparagus soup with sourdough bread for folk like me who prefer savoury treats.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Not lost in translation – a handkerchief kiss

One of the highlights of the Free Verse fair in London was the chance to take part in a translation workshop led by Karen Leeder of New College, Oxford. I did study French, German and Russian at school and Welsh with the Open University so this workshop looked interesting, even if my language skills are considerably rusty. I’m conscious that I don’t do enough to read poetry other than English and American poets apart from occasional forays into other languages. I am however fascinated by the possibilities offered by translation and being able to access poetry written in languages other than English.

The workshop offered a chance to discover a contemporary German poet, Ulrike Almut Sandig Karen Leeder gave us copies of her poems in the original German with various versions in translation. We discussed the role of the translator and whether she should aim to be invisible, simply providing a gateway to another language or whether the translator could or should bring their own voice to bear. The members of the workshop came from a variety of linguistic backgrounds from the essentially mono-lingual with a schoolgirl smattering of another language (me), to a native German speaker, a recent graduate in German, Italian and Polish speakers and an English speaker who translates poems across Turkish, Welsh and English. One member of the group said she had come to translation because of wanting to share wonderful poetry written in her native tongue and the only way to do that was through translation. We had a go at translating one of Ulrike’s poems.

 fest steht, alles wird immer much da sein

I confess that in grappling with Ulrike’s poem I was relying heavily on the literal word for word translation provided. Once I decided not to worry about whether I was translating the German ‘correctly’ it became fun and quite unlike those language lessons at school in which there always seemed to be a right or a wrong answer. I also felt a sense of responsibility to the poem and to making my version intelligible.

It was illuminating to hear other people’s translations and to see the choices they had made.  And the workshop made me want to read more German poetry (in translation). Here is Karen Leeder's version as the second poem down and this is Anton Viesel's version prepared for an earlier workshop