Stunning Poetry in a Magical Setting – Michael Longley and Frank Ormsby

Tuesday 26 May, Hellens Manor at Much Marcle, Doors open at 7pm for 8pm start (bar available)

 Michael Longley, a towering figure in Irish poetry, has been acknowledged as one of our greatest living poets: Seamus Heaney has described him as ‘a keeper of the artistic estate, a custodian of griefs and wonders’ and John Burnside as ‘one of the finest lyric poets of our century’. He has won the top literary prizes, including the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, the Wilfred Owen Medal, the Whitbread Prize, and the TS Eliot Prize. The 75-year-old received a CBE from the Queen in 2010. His most recent collection is The Stairwell.

Frank Ormsby launches Goat’s Milk, a comprehensive retrospective of his work. Goat’s Milk is introduced by Michael Longley who describes Ormsby as ‘a poet of the truest measure… A plain-speaking, down-to-earth utterance may be the norm, but it teeters on the verge of taking flight, and sometimes gives way to an exquisitely refined lyricism.’

 Hellens Manor, Much Marcle, Nr Ledbury, HR82LY

Tickets are £9

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Or telephone 0845 458 1743

Longley Michael (c) Bobbie Hanvey 2014

New title and cover design for my book


My editor and his team decided that a different title and cover design would appeal more to readers browsing in a book shop. It’s a strange thing letting go of your title, as I spent a long time deciding what the collection should be called, but I do like the one they selected. It comes from the Anne of Denmark poem:


I didn’t choose Anne Boleyn for the cover but it feels inevitable, as if it had to be her! I have been interested in Anne Boleyn since I read about her at school and then devoured every history book I could find about Henry VIII and his six wives. That soon extended into all other periods of history. If I went to anyone’s house I would seek out their


 bookcases and find any history books they owned, then slink off to the sofa to read them. But my first love was Tudor and Stuart history. Watching historical movies like A Man for All Seasons and Anne of the Thousand Days with my mother after she had taped it on VHS off the TV for me. My Aunt took me to London, aged about 12, and I was allowed to pick any itinerary and I selected all Tudor themed things. Tower of London, Hampton Court and the National Portrait Gallery so I could stare at the Boleyn portrait for a long time. And now she is on the cover of my book.

Workshops at Wenlock and Cheltenham


Strange maypole dancing picture at Much Wenlock art gallery (wish I had written down who painted it – I think it’s brilliant..please contact me if you know the artist, although I did notice the price was too high for me to buy it!)

On Saturday I went to Much Wenlock to attend a ‘Page to Performance’ workshop run by Hollie McNish. I had met Hollie at the Writing and Motherhood event that I chaired last summer at Ledbury Poetry Festival and I had been very impressed by her poems and the way she performed them. Witty, clever and emotional words combined with an almost gentle, conversational and embracing way of reading them. Hollie draws the audience in and they hang off every line.

The workshop was equally as good. There was emphasis on finding the mundane and everyday details to place within the poetic/descriptive language, to anchor it to something authentic. In pairs we studied the other person’s face in detail. Uncomfortable at first, yet it became a very freeing exercise and ultimately emotional as we listened to each others poems. At the end we exchanged the poems we had written so they became a gift to the other.



The workshop today was part of Cheltenham Poetry Festival. It was in the basement room of a pub and it was a gloomy venue, yet it made it atmospheric as we sat around a dark wooden table. Rosie Jackson wrote one of my very favourite pamphlets titled ‘What the Ground Holds’ so I was very keen to meet her in real life. You can read my review of Rosie’s pamphlet at Sabotage Reviews. The workshop had caught my eye in the programme because it was focused on creating poems from works of art. I studied art at college and like to paint and draw. I write poems and illustrate them and my poems often feel like paintings in my mind; as I describe the images I want them to be vivid in their colour, light and shadows. It was an excellent workshop and the final writing exercise came from us looking at two paintings from a large choice. We just picked two up without any thought and then had half an hour to write. My poem came out in a rush, it was a joy to write. Although it was full of animal/human shape-shifting…again.

postcardsHare image: Sitting by Sophie Ryder 2009

Does anyone know who painted the horse picture please?

With You in Mind

The Poetry Shed

with you in mind title bigger

May 11 – 17 poet and editor Sarah James will be running the ‘With You In Mind’ online project in support of Mental Health Awareness Week 2015, culminating in an online anthology. Sarah will be giving her blog at over to other poets’ poems on the mind, mental illness and mindfulness (this year’s MHAW theme). She says she “will be sharing poems on the theme of the mind, mental health and from a range of talented and generous poets. It is far from an exhaustive list of talented poets or poems on this subject-matter. It is a selection of poems from poets whose work I admire, whom I thought from their past work, comments or work might be happy to support this blog project and whom, all honesty here, I was also brave enough to ask for this”.

There are poems from Deb Alma (the Emergency Poet), Markie Burnhope…

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A Look at Some Anglo-Saxon Queens

Medieval Girl

Today’s blog post is a guest article by The Freelance History Writer Susan Abernethy. Check out Susan’s blog:  Also check out Susan’s Facebook Pages:  and 

I’ve been doing quite a lot of research on the Anglo-Saxon period of British history which roughly spans the time from the exodus of the Romans to the Norman Conquest.  For the most part, the chroniclers of this era tell us about the men who ruled and fought.  But occasionally, a woman comes to light in the records.  Some of these women had a distinct impact on history.

Britain under the Anglo-Saxons was divided into various kingdoms.  In the north there was Northumbria and the Danelaw.  In the midsection was a kingdom called Mercia.  Further south, in the east was Anglia, Essex and Kent and in the west there was Sussex and Wessex.  Each of these kingdoms had their own kings.


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