Katy and I had a brilliant day at the Free Verse Poetry book fair. Imagine you are a stamp collector and you went to a stamp collecting convention. A room full of people that share your peculiar passion. Well, that is what the book fair was for us. Hundreds of people who spend all their time wrangling words into the correct place. Pondering for hours about an adjective or a comma. Poetry geeks. It was heaven. Being able to screech in delight at a particular table that had an array of beautiful books was so much fun. Or chat to a friend who you usually only get to speak to online; finally meeting in real life was very satisfying. The whole room was full of enthusiastic, delighted people. Poetry is an unusual addiction, so it is good to be with like-minded people.
We read from our collaborative pamphlet, Inheritance, published by Mother’s Milk Books. I enjoyed writing with another poet; it created an excellent dialogue. I liked the tiny threads we picked up from each poem and the way that was woven into our own work. The garden cafe was a relaxed place to read and we had some great conversations after with members of the audience who enjoyed the poems.
I also enjoyed hearing V.Press poets Stephen Daniels and Nina Lewis (albeit briefly) reading in the garden and Silhouette Press poets, Jamie Thrasivoulou and Andrea Mbarushimana reading earlier in the day.
Illustration: Ruth Stacey, oil pastels and pencil.
“History holds such a wealth of material for any writer – but especially so for poets. And yet, so few poets find themselves looking to such inspiration. Of all the poets I know, of all the (contemporary) poets I’ve read, I’ve never quite found someone who interprets history through poetry like Ruth Stacey. I’m not talking of using poetry to illustrate history. I’m not talking of political ballads or of waxing poetics. I’m talking of recreating history, provoking ghosts, resurrecting the dead. I have many friends who are history interpreters, working or volunteering at historical sites. They dress in costumes, don weaponry, and wield the mannerisms and speech of the people who were there. Ruth Stacey interprets history in just this way. I was once told, of a poem I wrote of an American Civil War widow, “If they taught history like that in school, I might have paid attention!” Pay attention, dear readers. You will love Stacey’s Queens.”
Eve Brackenbury, Poet and owner of Inklings’ Books & Coffee Shoppe.
Queen, Jewel, Mistress is a collection of poems that journeys from Anglo-Saxon times to the present day. Every famous queen and many forgotten ones get a moment to speak with the reader. In the back of the book is a brief history of all the queens. To win an illustrated copy of my book just comment on this post and share with your history loving friends.
The queens in the sketches are Anne Boleyn and Ælfthryth, wife of King Edgar. Plus, a songbird for Eleanor of Provence…you will have to read the poem to know why!
I will choose a winner on 30th April. Good luck!
Pressure. To write a poem every day for a whole month. Will it force me to focus and help my current period of writer’s block? Will the daily deadline just create an accumulation of mini failures as I don’t hit my target? Will it be fun?
I did it a few years back, using Carrie Etter’s prompts, and got a good number of drafts that became published poems. Jo Bell’s 52 project was also very useful. However, this year I am feeling quite flat and uninspired, even with prompts.
I have written a couple so far and it’s day 10 so I am way behind. Instead of trying to force something, I have been writing observations in careful detail. Describing people, conversations, scenes. It’s taken the pressure off and it is fun again. Like sketching instead of painting the final portrait in oils.
‘THERE was once a poor widow who lived in a lonely cottage. In front of the cottage was a garden wherein stood two rose-trees, one of which bore white and the other red roses. She had two children who were like the two rose-trees, and one was called Snow-white and the other Rose-red. They were as good and happy, as busy and cheerful, as ever two children in the world were, only Snow-white was more quiet and gentle than Rose-red. Rose-red liked better to run about in the meadows and fields seeking flowers and catching butterflies; but Snow-white sat at home with her mother, and helped her with her house-work, or read to her when there was nothing to do.’
Illustrator: Arthur Rackham 1867 – 1939
‘Then they knew his voice and waited, and when he came up to them suddenly his bearskin fell off, and he stood there a handsome man.’
Illustrator: Gordon Laite (1925-1978)
In the postbox a new book…a burning, blazing, radiant book by Melissa Lee-Houghton. Read it if you can handle the direct heat , the flare and simmer. I will not shield my eyes but strip off and bask in the sun.
I will be visiting Sudeley Castle on Sunday 4th September. I will be reading poems in St Mary’s Church which houses the tomb of Katherine Parr. The whole day at the castle is a celebration of Katherine Parr. I wrote the poem about her whilst I was staying at The Hurst during my Arvon week. I can remember walking through the ice shrouded woods, snow on the horizon, thinking about the lines that became the poem. I can’t wait to read it at Sudeley and other poems from Queen, Jewel, Mistress that also link to the history of the castle.
Sudeley Castle Website
attributed to Master John, oil on panel, circa 1545
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Reading ‘Actions Speak’ at the launch of Hwaet! at Ledbury. It was a brilliant evening of poetry and I felt grateful to Ledbury Poetry Festival (especially Chloe Garner) for including me and for always supporting me as a writer. Watch it HERE
“Mark Fisher was delighted to be asked to open the first Ledbury Poetry Festival in 1997 as Labour arts minister, and has maintained his support for the festival as an active Patron over many years. His anthology Hwaet! brings together 200 new poems by a wide range of poets who have delighted audiences at Ledbury Poetry Festival over 20 years as well as poems by some unforgettable visitors no longer with us who will always be remembered in Ledbury. Scattered between the poems are anecdotes contributed by poets and others offering a sense of the diverse flavour of an international poetry festival which is possibly unusual in being created, nurtured and loved by the community in which it is based. “
The poets saying ‘Hwaet!’ include writers from all parts of Britain and Ireland, from North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. They include writers who’ve been poet-in-residence or worked on popular community and schools projects in Ledbury along with winners of the Ledbury Poetry Competition.”
You can purchase the anthology HERE.
I’ve been running after my own invisible tail (long, with feathers, spaniel style) for the last few months. It resulted in becoming very tired and forgetting things. I was asked to read at Hellens Garden Festival. I was looking forward to it, had it fixed in my head it was on the Sunday. Then I arrived, early, feeling quietly proud that I wasn’t late and slowly realised I had come on the wrong day. I should have read on Saturday. Imagine my distress. I had let people down and been an all round hopeless poet. Yet, Adam Horovitz generously gave me space before his own reading so I could read some poems. Everyone was so kind. I felt wrapped in the supportive space created by poets. I enjoyed Adam’s reading very much, not only were the poems rich with detail and the languid weight of the landscapes within them…but he also had one of those voices, compelling and calm. In the beautiful setting of Hellens Manor, Much Marcle, the sun warming us through the odd shower, it was a perfect afternoon. This is why I love poetry.
The school where I work had booked Spoz to do a poetry slam and he had Rich Grant with him to take one set of kids. Rich, known as Dreadlockalien, was a poet I knew about but had never met before. It was right in the middle of me feeling very tired out and stressed so a day off normal tasks and watching Rich do his stuff was going to be a joy. Dynamic, fun, witty, charismatic and a brilliant poet…he had every kid in his group focused and producing great lines of poetry. More importantly, he made poetry not suck, which is important with kids who despise poetry! In the break we got talking about life, motivating the kids who don’t usually get to shine. I told Rich about my son who had recently been bullied for the first time about his skin colour and how devastating he had found it. Rich was keen to send my son a message to lift his spirits and give him words to remember, words to keep about his space in the human race. Rich took the time to record this message for me on my phone, completely ad-libbed, so I could take it home to my sons. Build them up. Such generosity. This is why I love poetry.