All posts filed under: Inspiration

Sky above Clouds by Georgia O'Keeffe

Both sides now

A smooth drive to London yesterday for Anne-Marie Fyfe’s newest workshop, on the theme of clouds.  As in ‘I wandered lonely as…’, or ‘from both sides now..’ And yes, Joni Mitchell did make an appearance, as did Debussy, Django Reinhardt, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson, John Lennon, The Wizard of Oz and a range of Surrealist art, amongst others. I’ve said this before, but I really do think these workshops are the best I’ve experienced. With so much stimulation – verbal, visual, musical – the sheer pace of it (although it never feels hurried), and the continuous nature of the exercises, you have no time to lose focus. It doesn’t matter if something doesn’t ‘click’ because there’s another question or exercise coming right up. Nothing seems to distract, not even the relentless traffic and sirens of the Old Brompton Road. You are immersed, coming up for air after two hours and wondering where the time went. Anne-Marie plans these workshops well in advance. Not only are there plenty of materials and handouts but it’s obvious that a …

Coffee-House Poetry at the Troubadour

Getting to and from London from the south coast is ten times harder than it used to be these days, as the rail company (which has a monopoly) has been running an unsatisfactory service for the last however many months – actually it could be a year or more. Two-day strikes pop up every three weeks or so, and that’s on top of the already reduced timetable. Trains are regularly cancelled at the last minute, even halfway through journeys. As a result, every time the train you’re on actually leaves a station you breathe a sigh of relief that it hasn’t terminated there. Factor in the cold and dark of night, and the prospect of going anywhere by train is rather stressful. And I have a choice at least – the situation for those millions of people who have to travel by Southern Rail every day for work must be unbearable. So it was a joy to actually make it to the Troubadour last night for Coffee-House Poetry. The second half was ‘What we should have said’, a …

Seven Questions for Poets #7 – Louise Ordish

A name you’ll have come across often in the poetry magazines is Louise Ordish. She is a talented poet who has had a number of high profile successes, including a shortlisting for the Poetry School/Nine Arches Press Primers Vol 1, and a poem nominated for the Forward Prize. I hope we’ll be seeing a lot more of her work. Louise was more than happy to take the Seven Question challenge… 1 – What was the last poetry book you read, that you would recommend? I’ve just been reading Paper Aeroplane, Simon Armitage’s selected works 1989-2014. When I first started writing poetry properly about 5 years ago, his ‘Book of Matches’ was the first e-book I had. I remember how reading his poetry felt just magical, a discovery of something that I hadn’t known possible. 2 – What would be your ideal place for a writing retreat? Anywhere where there is no WIFI but there is a kettle, a bed, a view… either isolated or city centre… must be a coffee shop or bar. That gives me quite a …

Seven Questions for Poets #6 – Claire Dyer

Claire Dyer is a fine poet and novelist who I first met at a launch reading for The Interpreter’s House. She seems to be one of those people who quietly produce one good book after another, without any of the kind of angsty fuss some of us like to indulge in. If you get a chance to hear her read, do so, she has a relaxed but commanding style. Here’s how she responded to ‘Seven Questions’… 1 – What was the last poetry book you read, that you would recommend? Slant Light by Sarah Westcott (Liverpool University Press, 2016) 2 – What would be your ideal place for a writing retreat? Somewhere quiet and near the sea. 3 – Do you enter poetry competitions? Yes. 4 – If someone has never read any poetry, where would you suggest they start? I’d suggest they read ‘Ode to Autumn’ by John Keats and The Mersey Sound by McGough, Henri and Patten. 5 – You’re asked to give a reading at the Royal Festival Hall, to thousands of people. What goes …

Robin & Jess at South Downs Poetry Festival

At the South Downs Poetry Festival

When Tim Dawes came to Lewes just a few months ago to talk about his plans for a South Downs Poetry Festival, I admit I was sceptical about whether it could be done in such a short timeframe. But hats off to him, the event happened and from what I can tell, it was a super success. After a poetry bike ride taking in the length of the South Downs, plus numerous readings and workshops throughout the area, things culminated in a day-long event in Petersfield on Saturday, which I was very pleased to be a part of. I was there with fellow Telltale Poet Jess Mookherjee, flying the Telltale flag, socialising with fellow publishers/poets and taking in readings and workshops where possible. Being a new festival, it was on a small scale – which made it actually all the more fun. With smallness comes intimacy – everyone was relaxed, poets and organisers accessible, and there was time and space to really talk to people. And we brought cookies – free edibles are always a …

lift off

Thank you, Dr Upadhayay

I was one of those lucky people who enjoyed school, and whose English teachers (and I will name them, by way of a belated thank you – Dr Upadhayay and Mr Jennings) believed I had some writing ability and encouraged it. But I couldn’t see what they saw and thought it was utterly ridiculous to have any kind of creative writing ambition. Looking back on this in my forties I was ashamed of how I’d refused their encouragement, and (perhaps by way of atonement) decided I would try to find out if I did have any talent for poetry. So I set myself a deadline – get a poem published in a ‘serious’ poetry journal before my fiftieth birthday, or … or what? Stop writing? Stop submitting? Keep writing ‘for pleasure’ and always wonder if any of it was any good? Get to my old age and feel bitter for not having really tested myself? I don’t know – but I made the deadline (just!) so I never had to find out. If it had …

Lynne Hjelmgaard book launch

[…] Outside each propelling constellation but inside that feeling of boat. It demands and bruises, cuts pride, hardens stomachs. […] (‘That Feeling of Boat’) It was such a pleasure to be at the launch of Lynne Hjelmgaard’s new collection A Boat Called Annalise last night. Hosted by publisher Seren Books, it was a warm occasion, well attended and with an open bar (slightly dangerous when there are poets around, but Lynne assured me there was a cap!) The upstairs room at the Yorkshire Grey in Camberwell was a good venue – there seem to be a number of pubs in that area where poetry events happen, usually while a completely different set of patrons drink downstairs, unaware of the poetry doo-dads happening above. I’ve known Lynne for a few years now, and apart from being a truly generous and gentle soul, she has a rare and quiet wisdom from which I’ve drawn great support.  I admire her work, her attitude and her honesty and I’m fortunate to count her as a friend. Clearly many people feel the same way …

When David Heard

Music and words, what alchemy

I am singing for a funeral next week, in a quartet –  and although these are sad occasions, it is wonderful to be able to sing some beautiful music, and of course in such a charged setting. While re-acquainting myself with Byrd’s Ave Verum I found myself listening to the CD our group made in 2013, and I was reminded of the power of words plus music. I know, why would I need reminding? Nevertheless I feel moved to post a link to the recording, at least of this track – a piece by Thomas Weelkes, an interesting character who was organist and director of music at Chichester Cathedral back in the day (the early 16th century), a troubled soul and not a ‘star name’ perhaps, but a composer of some wonderful music. I sang on this recording but now I listen to it, it has its own life, and it strikes me yet again how the combination of music and words is so, so powerful. I can’t listen to the bass entry at 2.10 without …

I'm nobody, who are you?

The Reading List, winding up

First: general ‘how I’m feeling’ stuff, feel free to skip down if you’re short of time Apologies for the silence these last few days. The usual self-employed person’s dilemma of feeling like rubbish and simultaneously wanting to stay on top of work and not let people down. Yesterday I had to leave early from John McCullough’s poetry workshop at New Writing South, for fear of irritating everyone with my endless coughing. Once home, I went to bed for two hours. And being a fast day was good, especially the no-alcohol bit. So the upshot is that I’m feeling much improved today (but not well enough to go to choir rehearsal tonight.) The Reading List My mini-review series ‘The Reading List’ has come to an end. It was just SO 2015! There are plenty of excellent other blogs featuring reviews, and looking at the stats for this site I could see that the initial interest in mine had levelled out. However, I’d like to assure you I’m still reading, and now and then I may well be moved to blog about individual poetry …