Saturday, 14 October 2017

Poetry stuff

It was a fairly busy year for my poetry. I was in contact with The Poetry School and decided to enrol on a course in London with Myra Schneider, who I knew because of our mutual friendship with Elizabeth Burns. She also introduced me to the Second Light network for women poets
( ) where I attended inspiring workshops and met interesting poets. Moreover, I had some tutoring sessions with Clare Pollard at the Poetry School in London, which were hugely helpful. I think I have understood a bit more about my poetry and about writing in general.

The workshops I attended were led by excellent poets, like Penelope Shuttle, Hannah Lowe, Katherine Gallagher, Myra Schneider and Sarah Westcott; they were all engrossing and stimulating. I wrote a lot of new poems, some of them are promising pieces that may become finished works I will probably send to magazines and competitions. And actually, one of my poems, Pajarita, was accepted in South 56! I read it at the launch of the review on 10th October at Newbury. The evening was inspiring with poems by Patrick Osada, Andrew Curtis, Peter Keeble, Jean Watkins, Sharon Larkin and many more.

I attended other readings as well; the open mic Write Out Loud at the New Inn in Send ( ), organized by Greg Freeman and Rodney Wood, two poets I met at the Woking Stanza group and at the Woking Writers Circle. The Stanza group is a poetry society group, but you don’t need to be a member of the poetry society to join it. We meet every first Wednesday of the month at the Phoenix cultural centre in Woking
( ). Our prep, Jonathan Pressey, is keen to attract more people so  we are coming up with ideas like having more readings, organizing presentations of poets and poetry workshops. What we do at the moment is discussing our own poems, giving feedback and suggestions on how to improve them. I must say I received very good suggestions from my friends at the Stanza and could refine some of my pieces with their help.

Walking to The Poetry School venue in Lambeth from Waterloo station I came across some wonderful works by William Blake, who lived for ten years in Lambeth. They are displayed  in a passageway, Centaur street, under the railway bridge and are reproduced in beautiful  mosaic panels, spots of light glimmering in the darkness of the tunnel. They create an appropriate contrast against the blackened damp walls of the underpass and highlight the apparent simplicity and visionary qualities of Blake’s work.

In September I took part in two events at the Poetry Cafe in London. One was the launch of two poetry pamphlets, Dante called you Beatrice by Rodney Wood and Seal Wife by Kitty Coles; the other one was the reading of the Wayleave poets.

Rodney and Kitty are two poets I met at Woking Stanza group and whose poems I often heard at the open mic in Send.

Dante called you Beatrice are love poems, as the title suggests, but with a twist. The subject of the book refers to the book by Paul Potts with the same title (the author has nothing to do with the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot) published in 1960, which is a memoir of unrequited love. In a way Rodney’s poems remind of Paul Potts’ ironic scorn and mocking understatements. They are love poems, of course, not on unrequited love though, but marital love I guess, nothing transgressive. The tone is often self-ironic and there are frequent repetitions that wittily play with sense and meanings, showing the simplicity of an everyday passion renewed in ‘100% cotton sheet’ and ‘winceyette pyjamas’. I loved reading Rodney’s poems; they are tender and made me smile from the first to the last page.

Seal Wife won the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet prize 2016. Kitty’s poems are very different from Rodney’s; this created an interesting contrast pleasantly diversifying the evening. In her poetry we experience a world of myth and fairy tales where uncanny situations loom. Some beautiful images stroke me, like ‘the air is stiff with stars’ (The Huntsman’s wife), ‘dapples of light’ (The Doe-Girl), ‘the legs of the chair to obliterate’ (A Soul), or ‘my ears against the silence of your breath’ (Widow). And there is a depth in some of her lines I won’t forget. I must say: a brilliant start.

The same night I also picked up Trainspotters by Greg Freeman, an Indigo Pamphlet as well, published in 2015. Trains, train tracks and train journeys are the thread that links all the poems, a travel that brings the reader from England to Thailand, Italy and Zimbabwe. They are memories of past experiences with some literary references (Betjeman and the Brownings) mixed with recollections of his father’s job in the railways and, as a prisoner of war, in Thailand. All routes seem to lead him back to England eventually. A nostalgic tone pervades the poems, a longing for old lost railway tracks (and times) but with a sense of humour, a wish to carry on and a curiosity to know more. And this brings all the dreams and fancies back to normal.

It was a pleasure to meet the Wayleave poets again. I used to see them regularly at poetry gatherings in Lancaster when I lived in the north west and I read most of the books published by Wayleave Press ( ). Many of the poets published by Wayleave are poets from the north west; their poetry is always well crafted and distinctive.

The evening was fantastic. The fourth Friday of every month there is an open mic night at the Poetry Cafe in Betterton street featuring outstanding poets as well. Mike Barlow, founder of Wayleave Press, Pauline Keith, Ron Scowcroft and Marc Carson read their poems after a diversified open mic with ‘voices from the floor’ dealing with love, death, revolution, farting, sheep and meeting your children (‘meet me anywhere’, said the poet). The music was from The National Interest with songs by Sidney Carter, Leon Rosselon, Woodie Gurthrie and Ewan McColl.

All different voices, all interesting,  all important.

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