Inspired by Music

A new anthology from Cheltenham Poetry Society and Gloucestershire Stanza, was published November 2021 by Eithon Bridge Publications, edited by Sharon Larkin and Roger Turner, featuring 57 poems by 17 poets, with 25 carefully selected images to accompany the words.

Back in August, poets Michael Newman and Sharon had the idea for the new anthology, and Cheltenham Poetry Society’s Chairman Roger Turner welcomed the suggestion, agreeing to support the project and to co-edit the book with Sharon. They all recognised that it would be a splendid opportunity to bring poets together – virtually, at least – compensating, to some degree, for the disappointment of having to postpone the CPS Awayday writing retreat, for a third time, because of the pandemic. The call quickly went out to poets who had originally signed up for the retreat, as well as stalwarts of Poetry Cafe Refreshed, which had had to stop meeting in February 2020. Poets supporting the local ‘Stanza’ (affiliated to The Poetry Society in London) were also invited to contribute to the book. The opportunity to submit poems for the anthology had instant appeal, uniting poets around a shared venture while they were waiting for regular meetings to start up again.

Most poets are music-lovers, and the affinity between music and poetry is well recognised, reaching back to the oral tradition, with words memorised and recited down the generations,  developing into chants and songs. With such a heritage, and the contemporary blending of ‘spoken word’ and song, an anthology celebrating words and music seemed well overdue. The poems selected for inclusion span the genres, from opera, orchestral, sacred music, film music, folk, rock and pop. The poets share their experiences of concerts and gigs, listening to music on the move through headphones or in the car, or enjoying music at home – on radio, vinyl, CD or Spotify. Many of the poems relate to memories of people and places; others reveal emotions aroused by music, or moods and atmospheres created by specific songs or pieces. Further poems draw on memories from childhood, when learning to play, sing or dance. A surprising number of birds also feature in the poems.

The poets in the book are: Kathryn Alderman, David Ashbee, Catherine Baker, Annie Ellis, David Gale, Gill Garrett, Robin Gilbert, Chris Hemingway, Sharon Larkin, Iris Anne Lewis, Michael Newman, Stuart Nunn, Gillian Ridley-Wells, Belinda Rimmer, Sheila Spence, Roger Turner, Judith van Dijkhuizen

In December a group of the poets gathered, socially distanced, in front of Pittville Pump Room in Cheltenham, to mark the publication of their new anthology.

Left to right: Gilly Ridley-Wells, Judith van Dijkhuizen, Michael Newman, Iris Anne Lewis, Chris Hemingway, Sharon Larkin, Sheila Spence, Annie Ellis, Roger Turner, Kathryn Alderman.

Cover endorsements were kindly provided by Oz Hardwick, Poet and Professor of English at Leeds Trent University and Mark Connors, Poet and Managing Editor of Yaffle Press. Further endorsement was received from Mark Blayney, Poet and Royal Literary Fellow.

The following short presentation summarises their positive endorsement of the book:

Inspired by Music can be purchased from https://eithonbridge.com/anthologies along with previous CPS anthologies, including Cheltenham 300 (2016) and Poetry from Gloucestershire (2020).

Cheltenham 300 Poetry Reading #1

Cheltenham Poetry Festival performed a selection of poems from the Cheltenham 300 Anthology at Cheltenham Poetry Festival in May.  The anthology of photographs and poems came out of the Society’s summer retreat – the Annual Awayday – in May 2016 – and we were thrilled to be able to showcase poems and projected photographs from the book at this event.  Thanks to Anna Saunders for the invitation, and to St Andrew’s Hall in Cheltenham for the venue.  Poets reading were Sheila Spence, Roger Turner, Michael Newman, Robin Gilbert, Belinda Rimmer, Marilyn Timms, Howard Timms, Annie Ellis, Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe, Alice Ross and me.  Photographs in the book, also shown on the day, were taken by Roger Turner and me.  Thanks to Howard Timms and Mr L for their part in facilitating their projection.  Thanks also to The Gloucestershire Echo for taking group photographs in Montpellier Gardens after the event and for a short report on the event in the newspaper.

In June we were thrilled to receive an invitation to perform in October’s prestigious Cheltenham Literature Festival, reading another selection of poems from the book, which we hope will again be illustrated with projected photographs.  We are also pleased that David Ashbee and Stuart Nunn, unable to join us in May, will be available for the Literature Festival reading which is part of the Locally Sourced programme featuring writers local to Gloucestershire.

Meanwhile, Here’s a photographic record of the event in May’s Poetry Festival which I had the great pleasure of introducing – as well as reading one of my own poems from the book:

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Sharon Larkin

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Sheila Spence

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Robin Gilbert

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Belinda Rimmer

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Roger Turner

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Alice Ross

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Howard Timms

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Marilyn Timms

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Michael Newman

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Annie Ellis

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Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe