Interned at the Food Factory – still serving!

Now that my book’s been ‘out there’ for nine months, I thought it was a good time to review how it’s been getting on ‘in the world’.  So I updated my Facebook page for ‘Interned at the Food Factory’ (Indigo Dreams Publishing, January 2019) https://www.facebook.com/InternedatTheFoodFactory/
and thought it was time for another update here on my blog.

First, to recap, the poems in this book deal with eating disorders of various kinds, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, early years abuse, bullying and neglect, body dysmorphia and appetite confusion; food production and especially factory-processed food; gourmets and gourmands; predatoriness and predation in various guises  …  and the search for healing/possibility of recovery from food-related conditions. But there’s quite a lot of humour and fun in the book too!

Thank you to Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling of Indigo Dreams Publishing for being such positive and supportive editors and publishers of a book touching on what are ‘tender’ areas for so many people.

Reception – update

There are several mini-reviews in my previous blog post (see below), and quotes from longer reviews. Now I can add a few more: including a recent review from Rosemary Muncie in South Magazine (October 2019):

“There is no evasion in these well wrought poems.”
“Only a true poet would stand apart from themselves to observe this process and report back with such intriguing detail.”
“A cool and sensitive final poem”.

Supplementing their previous comments, included in my previous blogpost, Brett Evans and Dee Russel-Thomas have added:

“A cracking collection of poems” – Brett Evans, poetry editor, Prole magazine.

‘Anyone who has any kind of love/hate relationship with food will relate to this gem of a book. It unravels a myriad of feelings and yet manages to find humour in the depths of despair. Privilege to have read it!’ –Dee Russell-Thomas

Thanks, again, to Rosemary, Brett and Dee for this encouraging feedback.

Readings – update

I’ve had the pleasure of giving readings from the book in a number of places including:

• The Poetry Cafe in London with IDP stablemates Brett Evans, Holly Magilll and Marie Lightman, on 25 September.

• Silver St in Bristol thanks to Deborah Harvey;

• Fountain Poets in Wells thanks to Ama Bolton;

• Verbatim in Welshpool thanks to Pat Edwards;

* a joint launch event with Belinda Rimmer at Suffolk Anthology in Cheltenham thanks to Helen Hewett, and

* a reading leading up to Evesham Festival of Words, thanks to Sue Johnson and Sue Ablett …

… and on Corinium Radio, Cirencester thanks to Rona Laycock. Here’s a link to the programme which was recorded for The Writer’s Room, hosted by Rona: https://www.mixcloud.com/coriniumradio/the-writers-room-12-aug-2019/

Forthcoming readings (with other poets) include:

• Gloucester Poetry Festival on Saturday 26 October with Sarah Leavesley, David Ashbee, Roger Turner and Derek Dohren thanks to Ziggy Dicks

• Writers at The Goods Shed in Tetbury next spring with Belinda Rimmer thanks to Phil Kirby and

• Buzzwords, again with Belinda Rimmer, next summer, thanks to Angela France.

I’d be thrilled to give more readings, especially at places within 90 minutes of Cheltenham, so please get in touch if you organise events within that radius. I’m very happy to do joint readings with another poet or poets. Please just ask!

I avoid including – in public readings – any of the more triggering poems, concentrating instead on the hopeful, humorous and healing aspects of the book. I’ll include more recent work in readings too … from a wide variety of other topics, which could include ecological-environmental themes, the natural world/countryside, Wales, relationships, dystopia, eschatology and more!

Thank you to everyone who has bought and read Interned at the Food Factory so far. Further copies are available from me (signed if you like, just comment below) for £6 plus p&p … or from my author’s page on the Indigo Dreams website: https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/sharon-larkin/4594486683

Photographs below are from the Indigo Dreams Showcase at The Poetry Cafe in London on 25 September with Brett Evans, Holly Magill and Marie Lightman:

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Reading at The Poetry Cafe, London

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Sharon Larkin, Marie Lightman, Holly Magill and Brett Evans at The Poetry Cafe, London

Finally, while in London, I found ‘Interned at the Food Factory’ at The Poetry Library on the South Bank … at the end of the copious shelf of Philip Larkin books (no relation!) …

Interned at the Food Factory

My pamphlet, Interned at the Food Factory, was published by Indigo Dreams on 7 January 2019. The poems are dedicated to anyone who might describe their relationship with food as ‘complicated’.

Reception of the poems, prior to and following publication, has been pleasing. Observations received have so far included the following:

From Brett Evans, poet and editor of Prole magazine:

“… gets better with each read, and the initial read knocked me for six. …”
“By turns vulnerable and sassy, heartbreaking and funny, consistently insightful and readable, the food in these poems is no spread for some twee picnic.  In an age of increasingly innocuous poetry, Sharon Larkin is to be applauded for the rawness included here and for an exceptional instinct for the emotional weight and balance of her poems”.
 
 
From poet Kate Noakes:
 
“In these poems Sharon Larkin weaponises the language of food; sometimes witty, always moving. Watch out. This is a place where you must check whether ‘the knife drawer [is] closed.’

From Dawn Bauling, Indigo Dreams Publishing:

“Full of wit and cheeky humour but a nonetheless serious intent. This collection has a real glisten to it – that makes you want to read on and on…”

From Poet Deborah Harvey:

“So much that resonates … What I really like about it, though, is the exuberance that offsets the sadness; that was unexpected. I found it very funny and very earthy.”

From poet Belinda Rimmer:

“A sense of menace runs throughout the book. Food comes to fill in gaps of many shapes and sizes, to compensate for lack? There are lighter tones too – food is treated playfully and lovingly, as well as with disgust. This is a place where self-denial and overindulgence collide. Everyday language is used in surprising ways….Wonderful and painful poetry.”

From poet Dee Russell-Thomas:

“ I very much enjoyed reading this…food for plenty of thought and a most apt dedication. Well done on a perceptive collection of painful poetry.

From Anna Saunders, poet and founder-director of Cheltenham Poetry Festival:

“… an excellent collection … Vivid and sparky and original. Beautifully written”.

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Thank you to all the above poets for taking time to read the poems with perception and understanding. Your kind comments are much appreciated.

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Food Factory on Tour

The following readings from Interned at The Food Factory are coming up this year. (Open to further invitations; please contact me to arrange).

Evesham Library – 10 May 
(thanks to Sue Johnson and Susan Ablett) 

Cirencester – 20 June 
Corinium Radio Writers’ Room programme 
(thanks to Rona Laycock) 

Wells, The Fountain – 1 July
(Thanks to Ama Bolton)

Welshpool, Verbatim – 29 July
(thanks to Pat Edwards) 

Poetry Café London – 25 September, with Brett Evans, Holly Magill and Marie Lightman. (With thanks to The Poetry Society)

Gloucester Poetry Festival with Sarah Leavesley, David Ashbee, Roger Turner and David Dohren at The Folk Museum, Gloucester – 26 October, 
(thanks to Ziggy Dicks)

Fine Lines

A review of Stella Wulf’s After Eden (4Word Press, 2018)

 

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In the words “Fine lines between truth and distortion” from Stella Wulf’s poem Drawing from Life we find keys to the book as a whole. All thirty poems are indeed fine, superbly crafted by a poet with a keen ear for the musicality and playfulness of words, and with the added advantage of an artist’s eye. In her work, Stella Wulf explores the contrasts and paradoxes of life. She excels in the art of ambiguity, many phrases working overtime, and with multiple meanings, wordplay, and homophones employed to invite the reader to consider more than one version of ‘truth’. We are welcomed to experience life in Wales and France, also travelling figuratively, to the moon and back, to meet a range of characters – highly credible or playfully imagined – in various relationships. These figures act out the major themes in the book, encompassing attraction and seduction, commitment and domesticity, reproduction, nurturing and motherhood, genuine love and affection … and potential exploitation. The moon, its association with the feminine, and its pull on the earth, is a significant presence in the book, as are various male figures including suitor, lover, husband, artist, miner, gardener and minister of religion. Creatures in the world of nature are also presented, memorably swifts, fox, crow, peacock and heron. My favourite poems in this fine array are Sweet Dreams, Painting with Swifts, A Light Proposal, In the Light of Yesterday, Drawing from Life, Boreas, Vixen and the poems set in France, featuring Monsieur and Madame Dubois … but all the poems in the book are fine poems, with countless fine lines. There are no makeweights.

In Sweet Dreams a young woman, impatient with the familiarity of home, is eager to take off on an adventure. Right from the first line, we experience Stella Wulf’s gift for delighting the ear with assonance and alliteration. Sonic interest propels the reader through the poem as the young heroine jettisons the pedestrian and predictable, with their “jam-on-Sunday-stale-bread-pace”. She can’t wait to leave the “land-locked-and-keyed lubbers”. These ingenious wordstrings create multiple layers of imagery and meaning. The reader smiles at the wordplay (“in cahoots … with owls”) and admires the beauty of “plunders bliss from the nightjar’s chirr”.

In Painting with Swifts, the poet-artist captures birds and movement in both words and pigment: “a cobalt stroke … a slake of grey … a lick of buttercup yellow”. The poem is an audio-visual treat, with repeated hard consonants and long vowels contrasting with short vowels and soft ‘sw’ alliteration. The fourth stanza, summer, brings more long ā sounds (“hay-days … away”), with a play on heydays understood. The last stanza softens and blurs: “a feather-edge of owl smudges” … ”the essence of mouse”. There are countless examples, such as these, of fine word-painting by Stella Wulf throughout After Eden.

Drawing from Life changes medium and mood. The poet’s mastery of ambiguity, conveyed by words doing double duty, is again obvious here. Sex is in the air, but the charged language (“scribes”, “neat incision”) hints at exploitation and the potential for violence. There is a detached and calculating coldness in the draughtsman’s rendering of the “arc of her face” as his strokes “contour hollows, accentuate planes; for now he has her measure”. He dominates his subject (“like an emperor”) and there is more than a chill in the way the artist “thumbs her body / divides her’. This is just one example of the many masterly line breaks in After Eden, here inviting imaginations to do their worst. The male’s actions leave her in pieces (“abstract parts”) and the strong hints of abuse break out again with “the scythe of light that slices her back / carves … flesh” and the “plunge of shadow that etches her spine” which “draws a sickle moon beneath her buttock’s rise”. This is one of many occasions in this book that the moon, emblematic of woman, makes an appearance.

In Fabric the poet’s exploitation of texture reminds us that interior design is another of Stella Wulf’s accomplishments. The poem charts a progression from early attraction, consummation, drudgery, infidelity, withdrawal, trying again, starting over … ingeniously achieved through the weave and warp of extended ‘material’ metaphors, brilliantly layered … one on top of another. The wordplay here is masterly, as the fabric of life moves from static-laden nylon, to seductive satin to serviceable cotton and linen (“worn cast-off … tied to the iron … hard-pressed”). Meanwhile, infidelity is signalled as the “nylon lover … flirts with Georgette”. Small wonder that the moon invites the main character to “make a run for the sea of tranquillity” with the hope to “sparkle again” in a “clean sheet”. In Boreas sex makes its presence felt again, big-time. Here there is no courtship, no nonsense, no foreplay. This man is a “wham-bammer, a tequila slammer / whisking up skirts before the chat-up line”. With an echo back to Fabric we learn, unsurprisingly, that “the delicates” are suffering, and there is a “tangled mess” to be ironed out. However, this poem has a delightfully unexpected ending, unambiguously complicit!

Whether in Wales or France, the sense of place is convincingly portrayed via gradations of dark and light, monochrome and colour, cold and warmth, hard graft and rich pickings. In Mudlark, a young beachcomber (surely on a Welsh beach) finds broken pieces of pottery – small prizes, especially a piece of Ming china, evidence of foreign travel. (How brave and self-mocking of the poet to use ‘shard’ in a poem!) Another find, the sheep’s jawbone, conjures up the shadow of R S Thomas and there is a hint of cynghanedd about “lip of plate, a clay pipe”, In the light of yesterday opens up the gloomy caverns of Welsh mines, personified: “The black face of the pit / the swallow and spit of its shovelling mouth”. After a heart-wrenching reference to Aberfan “extinguished / beneath a spew of slack”, we migrate to the north Welsh mining areas where “houses hunker under a pitiless drab / like consonants pitched against hard-pushed cenllysg, glaw, mining the light to its core”. The spirit of RST broods again over the last two lines: “and always the spectre of harrowed men / hacking, and picking at the bowels” which surely reminds us of the last lines of Thomas’s A Welsh Landscape. Another poem set in Wales, Mr Morgan’s Fall, features that familiar figure – the minister of religion who loses the confidence of his flock. Morgan is associated with trees, birds, river, land, hills, brook, rook and ewe and – significantly ­– a “heathen’s tractor humming along”, this latter reminding us of R S Thomas’s Iago Prytherch and his tractor.

In France, we move on from the chaos of Boreas’ washing line and the hint of a whirlwind dalliance. Now an “upstart breeze” playfully puffs over Monsieur Dubois’ potager and “licks, ruffles, chicanes … to blow at raspberries”. We are painted an intoxicating picture of Gascony: its gardens, its crops, how heat defeats the breeze, how hay is baled, how cows whisk flies from their eyes, and graze beneath oaks, accompanied by croaking frogs. This fourth stanza is particularly fine sonically and presents a heady contrast with the monochrome hardship and cold of Wales in the previous poems. Here, Monsieur Dubois, sweating in his work clothes, “pulls radish, plucks string beans, turns beetroot” … examples of Stella Wulf’s enjoyable wordplay accompany us throughout this poem. The wife of Monsieur Dubois offers us superior preserves to the mundane British bread and jam we encountered in Sweet Dreams. Her husband rises early to pick “for his wife, a petit déjeuner / plump figs ripened by a fine promise”. In three playful lines of end-rhyme, we learn that “Madame Dubois … likes to pluck from her husband’s tree” and with this image still suggestively hanging in the air, we learn “She craves the flesh of his Mirabelles, devours his juicy Bergerons, until she’s overcome with the yield”. This poem is warm, sumptuously saucy, deliciously brimming with good things.

In A Light Proposal there are further generous helpings of the alliteration and assonance we’ve come to expect from Stella Wulf: “I’ve seen you leap on a knife-edge keen as a laser, / slide down the, blade of a cleaver. // I’ve watched you play in ladles, loom in scoops / of spoons. Now you beam at my moon face / in the kettle, give me back to myself in parody”. Stella’s vocabulary and imagery depict light as a beguiling lover. The rhyming couplet at the end of the poem is utterly captivating: “you dazzle me with wit, light me up / then balance a diamond on the rim of my cup”.

Vixen is a poem pregnant with death and sorrow but inspiring in its fortitude, determination and conviction that life goes on. The opening stanza is arresting in rhyme, metaphor and atmosphere: “She lies low, watches the last crow /fletch the bloodshot sky /straight as a quarrel home to roost”. The sonic interest of the poem is again a delight: “A tatter of bats whisk like rags mopping up dusk. / Night pitches in, its skin nicked by a sickle moon. / Stars break out in a bristling rash”. Clearly the dog fox has been killed and his mate must provide for herself and the cubs she is carrying. Poignantly “She hugs the shadow of his scent, rootles / the empty space of him /stalks his wake, / tomorrow lurching inside her. // Tonight she’ll shake new life out of the dead”. The end of the poem echoes its opening – with feathers. Vixen is my personal favourite in the book; it is loaded with sombre colour, arresting sounds, astonishing imagery, compellingly portraying death and new life, male and female, the natural world and the world of man.

The two myth poems, Mermaid and Grandma are full of purposeful ambiguity. In the first, a male/female, pursuit/pursued poem is again played out. It ends badly, the woman returning to her mother, freed from a toxic relationship, but like Penelope or the French Lieutenant’s Woman, still gazing at the horizon, waiting “for the billow of sail, the cut and well of prow”. In Grandma, a twist on the Red Riding Hood story depicts a benevolent grandma nevertheless capable of turning wolf. (We are compelled to ask ourselves whether there might be a wink and a nod to the poet’s surname in this poem!) Caring and protective, and having sniffed out neglect (real or imagined), Grandma feeds her granddaughter up, knits her a cape and rounds on the child’s mother for not providing adequately for her. The poet as needlewoman is much in evidence, especially when Grandma prowls the flea market for “off-cuts of calico, dimity, chintz, / rickrack, ribbon and gimp / for her Sawtooth patchwork quilt”.

After Eden, the penultimate poem – and the title of the book – sums up many of the themes, and specifically the lot and fate of woman: “bred / for domesticity, conditioned / to home … builder of nests”. She is a “daughter of Eve” with a lofty purpose but simultaneously a “slavish attraction / to earthiness”. There is so much to savour in this poem, and throughout the book as a whole, in the interleaving of serious intent and playfulness. There are astonishing contrasts in the multiple layers of meaning and purposeful ambiguities, whether portraying the urgency of seduction or the ferocity of a mother’s love. This book richly rewards a reader who enjoys close analysis. Light and shade, heat and chill, sun and moon, male and female, Wales and France are all held in close focus by a highly gifted, sensitive and humane poet who, like the warm and provident Madame Dubois, is “touched by … tenderness” preserving “sweetness to spread over winter’s long denials”.

After Eden is published by 4Word Press and May be purchased here: 4Word

Sharon Larkin, January 2019

Poetry Cafe Refreshed with Guest Poet Sarah Leavesley

 

 

 

Poetry Café Refreshed

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We had a fantastic Poetry Café Refreshed at Smokey Joe’s in Cheltenham on 17 October,  with guest poet Sarah Leavesley aka Sarah James, whose superbly read poems were a masterclass in making every word count and earn its place. We were treated to a rich variety of multilayered poems which spoke (in my interpretation) of disarming dress, listening to the landscape, remaining relevant across generations, net etiquette, art, love, myth, lessons from home and heritage … and, one of our British obsession, the weather. So much depth and so much to enjoy in terms of imagery, wordplay … and warm humanity.

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The open mic was of a high standard with super contributions from:

David Clarke, Jennie Farley, Cliff Yates, Chris Hemingway, Belinda Rimmer, Ross Turner, Gill Wyatt, Michael Newman, Annie Ellis, David Gale, the host of Refreshed, Roger Turner.  I also read a couple.

IMG_6683 Sarah with Refreshed’s hosts, Sharon…

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Review: Sloth and the Art of Self-Deprecation – by Brett Evans

Pamphlet, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018

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Sloth: an arboreal mammal with a very low metabolism, slow and deliberate in its movements, sloth being related to the word slow. (Adapted from Wikipedia)

 

On picking up this pamphlet, the reader quickly realizes that Sloth is both animal and philosopher … and that double meanings, clever wordplay and a jazz/blues soundtrack will course through the poems.

First contact is with Sloth on the rocks, linking the hero/anti-hero to the Martini in his three-clawed paw on book’s cover; the cocktail will be a recurrent metaphor in the book. Or perhaps the rocks hint that Sloth might at times feel imperilled, stranded on a diminishing outcrop while a foaming sea rages about him. Perhaps they foreshadow Sloth’s apparent affinity with the Icarus narrative – the rise, only to risk the catastrophic fall (one of the themes of the poem Bull).

The poet’s deployment of words with multiple meanings, startling images, occasional shock, and layered metaphors ensures that our experience of this slim pamphlet will be so much greater than the sum of its twenty five poems. Ambivalence about fame and success, a justifiable disinclination to reach up or reach out for fear of falling, can be discerned as major themes in this pamphlet, but what is diffidence if not an honest symptom of the daily struggle ­to survive, against the odds?

Most comfortable at home in his familiar habitat, you will most likely find philosopher-Sloth in a dressing gown or shirt, stained with some body fluid or other, or still abed in skid-marked sheets towards noon, no friend of the dawn chorus or the cold caller … and certainly not a willing entertainer of knockers with evangelical intent. Sloth is often encountered revelling in his mammalian glory – a belly-hauling, ball-scratching, farting, shitting, pissing organism par excellence. He laps and guzzles, and is not good at exercising restraint. Even as a sloth-child, he experienced “excesses driven beyond volition” (Philosophies and Maladies).

Philosopher-Sloth also enjoys certain refined pleasures, such as the Martinis, but these are knocked back with a penalty his mother (“the barmaid”) failed to warn him about. The risk of falling/fear of failing – of being similarly knocked back – prove to be companionable, but quite unworthy, drinking partners. It might feel safer, and less of an ordeal, not to stray too far from one’s comfort zone, whether that is “a tree of his own” or “the second-hand wingback chair / with torn upholstery” but, with sociable Sloth, the reader also visits a series of pubs, bars, jazz and blues clubs and boozy streets, in search of other comfortable perches, epitomized by the “well-padded bar stool”.

It soon becomes clear that Sloth is no sluggard or slouch when it comes to erudition. He is well read with a stack of books at one hand, balancing the inevitable Martini at the other. He knows his James Joyce, his F Scott Fitzgerald, his Hemingway; can recognize a Hogarth … and that shipwreck-saviour, the Raft of the Medusa; and he is intimately acquainted with the two-edged xiphoi of the Spartans who cut a dash across the upholstery of his comfy seat.

The sloth-heavy themes of the book are helped along by both humour and the ever-present soundtrack: a procession of mostly American jazz and blues musicians and combos in a variety of haunts. The reader soon becomes infected by foot-tapping, while the blues supply regular infusions of humanity. Sloth’s hallmark is a compassion for the underdog … and the abused. This finds ultimate expression in the final poem: Sloth and the Snake (for the Standing Rock Sioux), telling of the colonized first-nation inhabitants of North/South Dakota, victims of so many broken treaties, whose territory has recently undergone yet another episode of exploitation, imperilling water supplies and thus their very existence. I detect in this poem fellow-feeling for fellow-sufferers.

Having reread and reread this pamphlet since it arrived through my letterbox, I have come to enjoy more and more the consummate wordplay, inspired line-breaks, startling images, rich accumulation of metaphors and calculated shocks. There are even a couple of rhymed poems, cunningly wrought (I’m in awe of any poet with the audacity to rhyme Jew’s with billet doux). I have reached the conclusion that there is a virtuoso performer playing here, and that any diffidence (certainly not sloth) may have in the past dictated more modest ‘venues’ than the ‘arenas’ to which this artist might have aspired. I am glad this work has joined his previous volume (The Devil’s Tattoo, Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2015) ­… with the same worthy publisher.

While weighty questions are raised by this slim body of poetry, the work buzzes with wit and verve, belly laughs sharing space with a rare artistic sensibility, humanity teamed with courage. Solace comes mercifully, in the shape of an odalisque, in the nuzzling of freckled skin, and in a rather special two-course meal. Predictably and unashamedly, my favourite poem in the book is Big Women and Men of Imagination, closely followed by Sloth on Fine Dining both for its absolute filth and as a decent sonnet. Positively Shit Street – Rhyl to Venus deserves a mention for its splendid last line “goggling Venusians wondering what fucking planet we were on.” Other favourite lines from this master of one-liners come from The Martini as Big as the Ritz, (“Enough ice to reassure the polar bear”) and Bull (“The house of unrising bums” ­– hat tip to Eric Burdon).

Sloth notwithstanding, there is no excuse, at all, for the poet to be self-deprecatory about this latest volume. The craft – no, the art – in this pamphlet rises up, rampant, and bursts forth, unashamed and unapologetic.

 

 

Melin Trefin … centenary

… The stone at rest that watches the place
in the thrashing rain and the wind

Two years ago, I wrote about the poet William Williams Crwys, and his much-loved poem Melin Trefin.  See my original article Trefin Mill which was prompted by the visit of fellow poet Chris Hemingway to Trefin in 2016. This May, I had the pleasure of visiting the Pembrokeshire village of Trefin myself … and the mill that inspired the reverend-bard-archdruid Crwys to write the poem … in 1918.  It seemed an even more meaningful occasion, therefore, in this the 100th anniversary year of the poem.

Here is a photographic record of my visit, with excerpts from the poem in Cymraeg, together with my translation:

Nid yw’r Felin heno’n malu
Yn Nhrefin ym min y môr,
Trodd y merlyn olaf adref
Dan ei bwn o drothwy’r ddôr,
Ac mae’r rhod fu gynt yn chwyrnu
Ac yn rhygnu drwy y fro,
Er pan farw’r hen felinydd
Wedi rhoi ei holaf dro.

The mill is not grinding tonight
in Trefin at the edge of the sea.
The last pony, from beneath its burden,
turned from the threshold towards home
and the wheel that used to rumble
and grumble through the area
has, since the old miller died,
made its last turn.

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Trefin Mill on the North Pembrokeshire Coast

 

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‘The mill is not grinding tonight’

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‘at Trefin at the edge of the sea’.

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‘The kindly stream still runs on’

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‘… past the bare forehead of the house’

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May was the perfect month to visit – with sea pinks (thrift), stonecrop, bladder campion, bird’s foot trefoil and kidney vetch, as well as red campion, bluebells and cow parsley adorning the glorious banks and verges of Pembrokeshire

 

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Rhed y ffrwd garedig eto
Gyda thalcen noeth y ty,
Ond ddaw ned i’r fal ai farlys,
A’r hen olwyn fawr ni thry,
Lle doi gwenith gwyn Llanrhiain
Derfyn haf yn llwythi cras,
Ni cheir mwy on tres o wymon
Gydag ambell frwynen las.

The kindly stream still runs on
past the bare forehead of the house
but it no longer comes to mill the barley
and the big old wheel won’t turn again.
Where the wheat of Llanrhiain
lay at summer’s end
now there’s only a trace of seaweed
and a few green reeds.

 

 

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‘Where the wheat of Llanrhiain
lay at summer’s end’

Looking towards the fields of neighbouring Llanrhian parish, from the village of Trefin. Cereal crops grown in the fields will have been harvested and carted from there to Trefin for grinding into flour.  IMG_6097

Segur faen sy’n gwylio’r fangre
Yn y curlaw mawr a’r gwynt,
Di-lythyren garreg goffa
O’r amseroedd difyr gynt,
Ond’ does yma neb yn malu,
Namyn amser swrth a’r hin
Wrthi’n chwalu ac yn malu,
Malu’r felin yn Nhrefin.

The stone at rest that watches the place
in the thrashing rain and the wind
is a letterless memorial
to the jollity of former times.
Nobody is milling here now.
It is a time of dereliction
– the grinding down
of the mill at Trefin.

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Entering the village of Trefin

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Middle section of the tapestry commemorating the famous poem, curated by Val Dubbens and displayed in the chapel for its 175th anniversary (1843 – 2018)

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Inside the Chapel at Trefin, recently restored

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The chapel at Trefin stands on Druid’s Hill, probably named after William Williams Crwys – minister, bard and archdruid (who, thirty years after writing this poem, inducted Princess Elizabeth into the Gorsedd of Bards at the General Eisteddfod held Bridgend in 1948  … well before her coronation as Queen).

 

 

 

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Capel Trefin

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The whole of the fine tapestry, featuring the chapel, mill and lines from the poem. The tapestry was curated by Val Dubbens.

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Roadsign next to the chapel, commemorating William Williams Crwys

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Sign outside the chapel

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A stanza from the poem, on information board on the outer wall of the ruined mill

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Illustration from the information board

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English translation from information board

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Information board on the outer wall of the mill

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Gwybodaeth am y felin – yn Gymraeg

                                                                                                                                        

 

2017 Poetry Thanks and Praise

A Bumper Year

2017 was an exceptional year for poetry – in all contexts and at all levels.  Here is a record of my poetry-related activities and achievements during the year. But, much more importantly, here is a record of people I am grateful to, and things I am thankful for in the world of poetry.

The Good Dadhood Project

I began this online project on 1 January 2017, looking to publish a body of poetry celebrating Father’s and Fatherhood. It was to be my way of saying “Thank you” to – and praising – fathers who often don’t receive the appreciation and recognition they deserve.

The project exceeded all my expectations in the number of poems and poets published in the 6 month’s to 17 June (Father’s Day) – the culmination of the project. Thanks to all the contributors to this project which aimed to be as inclusive as possible. It resulted in a fine body of poems in honour of Fatherhood … by a fine body of poets.  https://gooddadhood.com

41 poets contributed. Thank you to each one …
Kathryn Alderman 
David Ashbee 
Carole Bromley 
Kevin Brooke
Sarah J Bryson 
Helen Burke 
Martyn Crucefix 
Stephen Daniels 
Janet Dean Knight 
Annie Ellis 
Jennie Farley 
Angela France 
Chris Hardy 
Angi Holden 
Tamara Jennette
Sue Johnson 
Sharon Larkin 
Sarah Leavesley 
Mandy Macdonald 
Maggie Mackay 
Laura McKee 
Frances March 
Rufus Mufasa
Terry O’Connor
Matthew Paul
Jeff Phelps 
Nicky Phillips 
Mat Riches 
Belinda Rimmer 
Dee Russell-Thomas 
Finola Scott 
Rebecca Sillence
Jayne Stanton
Matthew Stewart 
Carl Tomlinson 
Roger Turner 
Chris Willis
Bob Woodroofe 
Paul Wooldridge
Aaron Wright 
Dorothy Yamamoto

Poems published: 76
Photos: 14
Visitors to Good Dadhood: 1776 (as at mid-June 2017)
Number of views: 3963 (as at mid-June 2017)
Number of countries viewing: 44 (as at mid-June 2017)
Top 10 countries viewing: UK, US, Canada, Spain, Ireland, Australia, India, China, Germany, France (as at mid-June 2017)

The Good Dadhood project received encouraging feedback along the way, for example:

• “I’ve loved Good Dadhood … both being involved and reading the many and varied contributions”.
• ” … lovely project …. So refreshing to read celebrations of fathers and snapshots of their positive influences . An antidote to darker works where the focus is on blame and hurt”.
• “Thank you … for giving voice to love.”
• “… thank you for Good Dadhood … It’s been excellent!”

Thank you to Rebecca Sillence in Cheltenham Library for arranging for a display about the project, to appear in the Children’s Library during the Father’s Day period, and for featuring three of the poems from the project in large-format posters in the Children’s Library, prominently displayed.

Thank you to everyone who provided positive feedback on the project, which proved beyond doubt that it was a project worth pursuing.

Poetry Café – Refreshed, Cheltenham

Poetry Café – Refreshed is now in its third year, offering the opportunity of hearing an excellent poet read, and an open mic. ‘Refreshed’ has gone from strength to strength since it was launched in the summer of 2015.  Thanks are due to Vickie Godding and all the staff at Smokey Joe’s, Bennington St – a unique vintage and retro coffee bar, with an excellent ambience for performing poetry. We appreciate being able to hold Refreshed at Smokey Joe’s and are grateful to the staff for looking after us so well on the third Wednesday (usually) of every month. As the internet-face. ‘booking agent’ and general organiser of Refreshed, I owe a big debt of gratitude to Roger Turner for hosting on the night, controlling the finances, and providing sage guidance and advice about which guest poets to book. Also, a big thank you to everyone who has taken the mic during 2017, either as a guest poet (see list below) or at the open mic.  I’m also grateful to Tony for the scores of photographs and video clips taken at these events that help us to provide a pictorial record for participants.

We’ve been thrilled to welcome the following guest poets during 2017, bringing us quality and variety:

David Calcutt – January 
Stephen Daniels – February 
Jennie Farley – March 
Sam Loveless – April 
Michael W Thomas – May 
Stuart Nunn – June 
David J Costello – July 
Jeff and Dan Phelps – August … with Dan’s wonderful music
Angela Topping – September 
Matthew Stewart – October 
Kate Noakes – November 
Ann Drysdale – December 

Each guest poet brought us a valuable, entertaining and unique contribution, for which the Refreshed crowd are grateful and appreciative.

A personal ‘special mention’ for Ann Drysdale who travelled from Wales to be our guest poet on a dark and cold December night, and who, after returning home, speedily posted me a copy of one of her books because the last one was sold at the event. I am indebted to Ann for her friendship, former mentorship and on-going encouragement in poetry. Thank you too to Angela France for making Ann’s – and Otis’s – overnight stay in Cheltenham possible.

Next year we are looking forward to JPDL (January), Ash Dickinson (February), Gareth Writer Davies (March) and Gillian Allnutt (April) – with further bookings in the process of being confirmed.

Selecting for South Magazine

I was thrilled to be asked to be a co-selector for the poems in issue 56 of South Magazine, along with fellow CPS member, David Ashbee. I can’t express how much I enjoyed that task – and how impressed David and I were at the standard of submissions. Thank you to Patrick Osada and the South Management Team for having me as a selector, and to David for proposing me. It also led to being asked to read a handful of poems at the launch event for Issue 56, with Dave, in Newbury in October. It was wonderful to meet poets I had only been aware of from the Internet/Facebook until then.  I was especially pleased to meet Nicky Phillips at last. Thank you to South Magazine that being a selector also resulted in a poem of mine – End of Season – being included on the South Magazine website.

Competition successes

I was pleased  that both of my entries for the Indigo Dreams pamphlet competition made the longlist – thanks to Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bunting for their (blind) adjudication. I was subsequently delighted that one of these pamphlet entries – ‘Interned at the Food Factory’ – was highly commended in the competition .. (Stop Press January 2018 – I can now share the amazing news that INTERRED AT THE FOOD FACTORY is to be published by Indigo Dreams – a big  thank you to Ronnie and Dawn).
I was thrilled to be a winner in the Amaryllis Christmas/New Year Poetry Competition. Thank you to Stephen Daniels for the lovely surprise and super prize: publication of the poem – Good Things Jar – on the Amaryllis website on New Year’s Day … and three poetry collections of my choice (I chose the latest collections by Pascale Petit, Michael Simmons Roberts, and Martyn Crucefix. They arrived in record time, thanks Stephen!

Thank you to Jan Fortune of Cinnamon Press for running the Debut Collection Competition and for publishing 10 of my poems, as one of the “final five” in the 2016 competition, announced early in 2017. The poems appeared in the Cinnamon Press anthology published in September 2017, alongside 10 poems each by Mick Evans, Liz Hayward and Vivienne Tregenza and individual poems by shortlisted poets. I was thrilled to be invited to read some of our poems from the anthology at a very well attended event with Liz Hayward on Poetry Day, 28 September, in Woburn Sands, Buckinghamshire.  Thank you to Liz for arranging the event, and the warm and generous reception from an appreciative and poetry-friendly audience, evidenced by the discussions over the book-signing. Thank you to Mick Jones and Tony for taking photographs. Thank you to Liz for the superb organisation and outstanding networking skills that made the event so well-attended and successful. Proceeds from anthology sales were donated to a local hospice. A reciprocal event, with Liz coming to read in Cheltenham Library on 10 November, with Cinnamon poet Lesley Ingram also joining us from Ledbury to read from her collection Scumbled,  was not as well attended as the Woburn event, but thank you to those who came – including David Clarke, Jennie Farley, Roger Turner, Michael Harriss and others including Liz’s friends.  And thank you again to Rebecca Sillence and Cheltenham Library for arranging and hosting the event. I was pleased to be able to donate proceeds from anthology sales on this occasion to Cheltenham Library.

A pamphlet entry of mine was also long-listed in the Cinnamon Press Pamphlet Competition, May 2017

Thank you to Brett Evans for running the Prole Pamphlet Competition – and thank you to judge Fiona Pitt-Kiethley for awarding my entry runner-up status, together with some very encouraging feedback. Another near miss!

I was also pleased to be commended in HappenStance Competition 16 (Dream) with Angi Holden & Hilary Robinson. Congratulations to winner Peter Kenny. Thank you to adjudicator J O Morgan and – of course – to Helena Nelson.


Poetry Published in 2017

In print

My poems Reaching for the Remote and Decisive Action were published in Prole 22, in May 2017, and my poem Girl on a Motorcycle, 1967 appeared  in Prole 23 in August 2017.  Thanks to editor Brett Evans

Poems View from the benthos, Under observation, Damsel dancing, Shaggy ink caps, Aquarium, What passes between, Bowerbird, Departure 1st April, Expanding universe and Fireworks were published in the Cinnamon Press anthology published in September 2017. With thanks to Jan Fortune.

My poem Therianthrope appeared in the Clear Poetry anthology 2016, published in January 2017, edited by Ben Banyard.  Thank you Ben for the great work you did with Clear Poetry.

Thank you to Paul Vaughan for publishing my Poem Grave in Algebra of Owls anthology in January 2017

On-line

Thank you to Stephen Daniels for publishing my Poem Lone Wolf  oAmaryllis (February 2017)

I was pleased to have been an early contributor to the newly-minted Atrium magazine with my poem On Seeing Bredon.  Thank you to Claire Walker and Holly Magill for including it.

I was happy to learn that my poem Akin to Déjà Vu in response to a photograph at the Mary Evans Picture Library in London, was to appear in the Words and Pictures feature on the Library’s website in April.  Many thanks to Gill Stoker for including it.

I was thrilled to have a poem. Birds do Mourning Well – and a photograph – in Riggwelter Issue 3. With thanks to editor, Amy Kinsman.

Thanks to Kate Garrett-Nield for publishing my poem 1024 Homage to Incubus in Issue 8 of Picaroon in May.

In February my ‘scary sonnet’ Pandafeche was published on the Fantastic Beasts webpage of Ledbury Poetry Festival, ahead of the 2017 Festival. Thank you to Ledbury Poetry Festival.

Thanks to South Magazine for publishing my poem End of Season on the South Magazine website, as a co-selector for issue 56

I became a fan of Visual Verse in September, and ended the year with four poems – Bandera, Divided by a Common Language, Under Surveillance and Higher Being – published on the site, for September, October, November and December respectively. https://visualverse.org/writers/sharon-larkin/

Forthcoming

Thank you, R K Wallace and Clochoderick Press for accepting one of my poems, A Dim View of Austerity, for the inaugural edition of Laldy, due for publication early in 2018 –  I appreciated the very fast response to my submission.

Thank you again to Claire Walker and Holly Magill at Atrium – for taking my poem Thé avec Imogen et toi for publication early in 2018.

And thank you, again, Stephen Daniels for publishing ‘Good News Jar’ on Amaryllis on 1 January 2018!

I’m more than grateful for the substantial body of published work I have accumulated in recent years, on-line and in print, and can cheerfully be thankful for the small handful of rejections received in 2017. It has, in respect of pamphlets and collections, been a year of ‘near misses’ but I have learnt more about publishers’, selectors’ and editors’ preferences in the process … and have high hopes of 2018!

 

Cheltenham Poetry Society

Kickstart Workshops

In 2016, I was grateful for a year’s respite as Chair of CPS – thankful that Roger Turner took back the role for the year.  With renewed energy, I became Chair again in January 2017 and set about launching a monthly series of Kickstart workshops to encourage people to write regularly and prolifically – following Jo Bell’s book ’52, Write a Poem a Week, Start Now, Keep Going’ published by Nine Arches Press.  The workshops were well attended, especially in the first half of the year …  to the extent that we needed to book a bigger room. https://sharonlarkinjones.com/2017/01/05/a-poetry-kick  I also started a Facebook group for ‘Kickstarters’ to post poems – for feedback by other members of the workshops, in between monthly meetings. By mid-year, competing priorities and illness, had had an impact on attendance, but I am particularly grateful to Gill Wyatt, Annie Ellis and Alice Ross, for sticking with the project until the cold, dark evenings of December.  And thank you too  to Michael Harriss and Claire Thelwell who joined the workshops later in the year; CPS is glad to have them as new members. Thanks also to Marilyn Timms, Howard Timms, Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe, Samantha Pearse, Kathryn Alderman, Frankie March, Penny Haworth, Gill Garrett and Judith van Dijkhuizen who attended the workshops during the year. Thank you to everyone who took a turn to provide refreshments, and … a special thank you to Gill Wyatt for the beautiful tulips I received at the last workshop – a breath of spring in darkest December. Lovely!

Writing Group and Reading Group

Our long-standing Writing Group for experienced poets continued to be the backbone of the Society, and we also continued with our ‘Poets Alive’ series within the Reading Group, holding individual evenings to focus on the work of T S Eliot, W H Auden, Gillian Clarke, D H Lawrence, Seamus Heaney and  W B Yeats. In the intervening months, we considered poems by ‘the great and the good’ on specific themes.

The Annual Awayday and Annual Lecture

Augmenting these three meetings a month were various performance opportunities (see below) and – the highlight of our programme for the past four years – the Annual Awayday writing retreat at Dumbleton Hall on the Glos/Worcs border in May. We are grateful to Dumbleton Hall staff, especially conference organiser, Terry Hall, for all they do to make these retreats a success, and thanks were especially due in 2017 to CPS stalwarts David Ashbee and Stuart Nunn for devising and running the writing exercises (on wood, trees and contemporary landscapes) which provided an inspiring set of prompts for our writing Awayday. https://sharonlarkinjones.com/2017/06/28/cheltenham-poetry-societys-annual-awayday-2017/
The excellent news for 2018 is that we will be holding our fifth Awayday in May at – where else? – the wonderful Dumbleton Hall.

A special thanks to David  Clarke who gave an excellent illustrated talk on Landscape in Post-war German Poetry for the CPS Annual Lecture in March – an enjoyable and informative evening. Thank you also to David, for providing an article on the same subject for Cheltenham Arts Council’s Perspectives magazine.

CPS Performances and Collaborations

Two highlights of CPS’s performance calendar were in May and October 2017 and featured poets who had contributed to the Cheltenham 300 anthology CPS published in November 2016, to commemorate Cheltenham’s tercentenary as a spa town.  I am grateful to Stroud Print for the excellent work they did producing this anthology for us – illustrated with a wealth of photographs (mostly taken by Roger Turner and me), which were projected during the readings in May and October 2017. The first of these was at St Andrews Church in Cheltenham during Cheltenham Poetry Festival and we are grateful to Anna Saunders for including the event on the festival’s programme, and arranging publicity and ticketing. Thank you to Roger Turner, Michael Newman, Robin Gilbert, Sheila Spence, Belinda Rimmer, Annie Ellis, Howard Timms, Marilyn Timms, Alice Ross and Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe for reading with me at this event. https://sharonlarkinjones.com/2017/06/28/cheltenham-300-poetry-reading-1
The event was followed by an excellent talk about Dylan Thomas – and again thanks to Anna Saunders for a great Cheltenham Poetry Festival programme in 2017. I found the Indigo Dreams showcase at the Playhouse, including Anna, Mab Jones and Bethany Pope particularly memorable.

The second Cheltenham 300 illustrated reading of 2017 was during the Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival in October, and I was grateful to Becca Di Francesco, Literature Festival Programme Co-ordinator for making the arrangements for our reading at this prestigious festival, including audio visual technical support, hospitality and generous remuneration.  We are also grateful to George at Waterstones for taking a supply of the Cheltenham 300 anthology for sale at the festival. Thank you to Roger Turner, Michael Newman, David Ashbee, Stuart Nunn, Robin Gilbert, Sheila Spence, Belinda Rimmer, Annie Ellis, Howard Timms, Marilyn Timms, Alice Ross for reading with me at this event and making it such a success. Thank you to Cheltenham Literature Festival also for an outstanding poetry programme this year.  I attended an excellent event featuring Helen Mort on poetry in translation, a celebration of Thom Gunn, the Picador Showcase featuring Don Paterson, Rachael Boast, Ian Duhig, Annie Freud, Jacob Polley and Hollie McNish. and an event featuring outstanding readings by Pascale Petit from her collection Mama Amazonica and from Michael Simmons Roberts from his collection Mancunia.  

Thank you to Peter Keeble of South Magazine for a favourable review of the Cheltenham 300 book in issue 56 of South Magazine, and to Patrick Osada for taking the book for review. Singled out for a mention in the review are poems by Belinda Rimmer and Roger Turner who respectively wrote the reviewer’s favourite poem and favourite line from the book. Sheila Spence and I also received a mention in the context of the poem/photo combinations in the book.

I was also grateful to Gloucester Poetry Society‘s Ziggy Slug and Jason Conway for inviting CPS to read at the inaugural Gloucester Poetry Festival in October.  This included Roger Turner, Michael Newman, David Ashbee and me, reading at Feline Frolics, in the Black Cat Bar at the Dick Whittington in Gloucester.  I was also pleased that Ziggy and Jason offered CPS members performance opportunities at ‘Villanelles’ nights at Waterstones in Cheltenham – and thankful to Rose Chanter of Waterstones for arranging this great venue. I read there in May, August and October – and thank Sarah Snell-Pym, Jason and Kurt Schroeder for photographs taken during these events. Other CPS members who read at Villanelles included Michael Newman, and Belinda Rimmer who was deservedly invited to do a guest slot. Looking ahead, I am grateful to Ziggy and Jason for offering CPS the opportunity to read in Gloucester Library during GPF’s second Festival in October 2018. All in all, CPS is delighted to maintain a cooperative and collaborative relationship with GPS/GPF and I wish them every success in all their activities.

I was also asked by Rebecca Sillence of Cheltenham Library if CPS members would like to read at their monthly lunchtime Poetry Café on a couple of occasions during the year. In May this included Michael Newman, Gill Wyatt, Belinda Rimmer, Jennie Farley, Howard and Marilyn Timms, Frankie March, Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe and me. Thank you to Rebecca and Cheltenham Library for these opportunities. We were also invited by Rebecca to read in October, in collaboration with students studying for degrees in Creative Writing at the  University of Gloucestershire.  We are grateful to Angela France for arranging their participation. CPS participants were Belinda Rimmer, Michael Newman, Roger Turner and me.

I was also pleased that CPS had the opportunity to read at Evesham Festival of Words event in May, along with with Sue Johnson, Bob Woodroofe and CPS members Belinda Rimmer and Annie Ellis and we are grateful to FOW leading lights, Sue Ablett and Sue Johnson for organising this opportunity for us.

CPS Performances also included two readings in February and August at the Whittington House Nursing Home in Cheltenham. I am grateful to Jennie Spencer for inviting us to participate, and to poets Michael Newman, Gill Wyatt, and Alice Ross for reading with me at these events.  The second one also included a fun activity to encourage residents to talk about their ‘favourite things’, and collaboratively to write a poem containing as many of these as possible!

Altogether the year was a successful one for CPS, and I’m pleased to say that I have been reelected Chair for 2018. Two innovations I am keen to implement for the next twelve months are a greater focus on reading contemporary poetry, and fewer writing workshops (5 instead of 12 over the coming year) since there is ample workshop provision in the town. There will be another Awayday – in My 2018.  Thank you to Alice Ross  for the box of chocolates and book – lovely presents to receive at the end of the year.

Finally, thank you to fellow CPS committee members, Roger Turner and Michael Newman, for their continued support, and especially to Roger Turner who will be taking over as Treasurer next year from Gerald O’Shaughnessy who retires after several decades of excellent service to CPS.  This was acknowledged in March at the Cheltenham Arts Council award ceremony, when Gerald received a citation for his long-standing service to poetry.  CPS is also grateful to the Executive Committee of Cheltenham Arts Council, and Cheltenham Borough Council, for its support over the years, for example the grant awarded to Cheltenham Poetry Society for the purchase of microphone and amplication equipment to enable the Society to perform in a wider variety of venues than formerly.

Poetry in Cymru/Wales

Anyone who knows me will know about my passion for Wales and Welsh language, literature and history.  Thanks, therefore, to the following people who gave me a good reason, or excuse, to cross the border in 2017.

I was very pleased to attend the Cinnamon Press residential week in the Conwy Valley in January 2017.  Thanks to Jan Fortune and Adam Craig and other members of the course. 

Thanks to Brett Evans and Phil Robertson, editors of Prole Books, and Kate Garrett Nield editor of Picaroon, for arranging a poetry reading on Llandudno Pier in August 2017.  It was great meeting other poets and making lasting friends there.  A special thank you to Brett, Phil, Kate, Paul Waring, Pat Edwards, Angie HoldenHolly Magill and many others for their continuing (Facebook) friendship and poetry encouragement.

I also had the delight of translating the poem The Mill at Trefin by Crwys in May, thanks to Jennie Way, and Chris Hemingway who became aware of the poem while visiting Trefin in Sir Benfro/Pembrokeshire – and looked in vain for a translation. I was very pleased to respond and thank Chris and Jennie for this opportunity to learn about Crwys and his work.  This led, later in the year, after I had put the translation on this blog, to an unexpected invitation from the village of Trefin to contribute to a booklet being prepared for the 175th anniversary of the chapel there in May 2018 – when Crwys (a minister as well as a poet) will be celebrated.  I am thrilled that my translation will feature in the booklet.  I have also been invited to attend the anniversary weekend and thank the chapel at Trefin for this opportunity to be involved.  This all came about because of the wonders of the Internet and Google search – as a result of which my translation came to the notice of the good people of Trefin! Miraculously, it also let to an approach from a grandson of Crwys himself, currently living in Australia, who was researching his ancestor and looking for information on (other) poems by Crwys. This led to my acquisition – from Abe Books and elsewhere – of pretty much a full set of Crwys’s published works – and an as yet unfulfilled  intention to translate more of his work. Despite the downsides of the Internet, there are wonderful advantages to the global interconnectivity it facilitates!  Thank you, Internet!

I was delighted to be asked to read at a Welsh-flavoured evening of poetry and music at New Bohemians, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham in February – and thank Jennie Farley and Su Billington for this opportunity.

In March, a long weekend in Cardiff included a guided tour round the Millennium Stadium – poetry of a different kind (and as thrilling and metaphor-inspiring as many an anthology out there!)  Diolch o’r galon, Bois!

In June, I was pleased to stay at Penrhyncoch in Ceredigion, principally to visit the Dyfi Osprey Project, but also taking advantage of the fact that  Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym‘s birthplace is in the Penrhyncoch area. I found a memorial stone inscribed to him. In previous years, I’ve been thrilled to visit Ystrad Fflur/Strata Florida, redolent with poets, princes and heroes of the past.

I was delighted  to visit to the First World War poet, Hedd Wynn‘s, home, Yr Ysgwrn, Trawsfynydd, in August (on the way back from the Prole/Picaroon gig in Llandudno).  Thank you to Hedd Wyn’s nephew, farmer Gerallt Williams, for patiently chatting to me in Welsh.  It was an unforgettable visit which was timed almost perfectly with the commemorations of Welsh losses at Passchendaele.

I was pleased to revisit Dylan Thomas’s haunts in Laugharne in August, including the Boat House, Writing Shed, the Castle, Milk Wood and Sir John’s Hill.

I need to thank the hosts at accommodation, hotels and B&Bs in Rowen, Penrhyncoch, Llanrwst, Llandudno, Laugharne, Dinas Mawddwy, Llanyre and Cardiff that gave us some memorable and enjoyable weekends in Wales during 2017!

While on the subject of ‘Wales’, I was delighted to have more than 20 people in two classes (beginners and improvers) I tutored in Ledbury from September – November.  Thanks to Lyn Goswell for arranging the venue for these and for doing all the communication with students and organising of finances. I might do more of this in 2018, poetry commitments permitting.

Cheltenham Arts Council

As a  recently-appointed Chair of Cheltenham Arts Council, I am especially grateful for the support of  President, Edward Gillespie, his predecessor Graham Lockwood and each member of the Executive Committee.  I am also, pro tem I hope,  the Editor of CAC’s New Perspectives on-line magazine – I co-edited the June – Sept edition with the previous editor Hollie  Smith-Charles (thank you!) and edited the October – January edition solo.  Thank you to Chantal Freeman for preparing it for the CAC website.  Listings for CAC associates’ events are included in each issue of the magazine for which I am grateful to Alice Hodsdon.

I am delighted with the insight being New Perspectives Editor gives me into the rich variety of arts activities in Cheltenham.  I was particularly grateful to Chapel Arts for the interview/article for New Perspectives – my first after becoming editor of the new on-line version of the magazine. Thank you to David Elder and Kathryn Alderman who have already given me input for the next issue covering February – May (due to be published by the end of January).

In March 2017, I was delighted to read the citations for awards on-stage at the annual prize giving ceremony at The Playhouse in Cheltenham, attended by the previous President of CAC, Graham Lockwood, and also the Mayor of Cheltenham. This annual event acknowledges outstanding achievements and excellence in music, performing arts, visual arts, literature, language and history in Cheltenham – and this year also recognised the Suffolk Anthology Bookshop, Cheltenham, for its contribution and support to voluntary arts in Cheltenham. A special thanks, therefore, to Helene Hewett whose splendid bookshop hosts so many literary/poetry (and other) events throughout the year. I was also pleased to have been invited to attend the Cheltenham Camera Club prizewinners’ exhibition at Parabola Arts in April.

As CAC Chair, I was also invited to speak at the Cheltenham Christian Arts Festival launch event as Cheltenham in January, attended by the Mayor, and ‘in my own right/write’  I read some of my poems at the Poems and Pints CAF event open mic at Cheltenham’s Frog and Fiddle in February.

Thank you to John Oldham of Radio Winchcombe for the invitation to be interviewed by him on air in April, talking about Cheltenham Arts Council and Poetry Society – the feature subsequently rebroadcast on BBC local radio in the South West i.e. BBC Radio Gloucestershire, Bristol, Wiltshire and Somerset.  I really appreciated this opportunity, so thank you again, John.

I get invited to a variety of things as a result of my involvement wit Cheltenham Arts Council, and was delighted to receive a complimentary ticket for the Fresh Art Fair at Cheltenham Racecourse in May.  A wonderfully inspiring event, offering much temptation to purchase!  I’m looking forward to 2018’s Fair, but my plastic cards might not be!

Finally …

I was grateful to pastors Luke Goodway and Dave Wellington for giving me permission to share my poem Something for Christmas in the Christmas Eve Carol Service at Cheltenham Elim – and I thank Manel for the suggestion.  It was a honour; to God be the Glory.

A huge thank you to Gill Wyatt, Ruth Martin and Fran Bazeley for your much-valued friendship, prayer and mutual support. You are special people.

TYJ