New Year’s Honours 2012
Knighthood to Geoffrey Hill, elected by alumni as Oxford’s professor of poetry.
CBE to Dr Dannie Abse for ‘services to poetry and literature.
T S Eliot, East Coker and planned new town
More than 3500 houses are planned over an area that would stretch from East Coker to the nearby town of Yeovil. Opponents believe such a massive change to the landscape would alter irrevocably the nature, and consequently, the spirit of East Coker. Read more in an article from Australia: Preserving a writer’s home
Australia & poetry
“She is the last of lands, the emptiest/A woman beyond her change of life, a breast/Still tender but within the womb is dry.” Read about the latest work of Australian John Tranter – Starlight: 150 poems – in The Sydney Morning Herald – Tranter answered the quoted lines of A D Hope.
Bright and beautiful
A mansion at one of the two possible locations said to have inspired Mrs Cecil F Alexander (nee Fanny Humphreys) to have written the children’s hymn ‘ All things bright and beautiful’ is up for sale. This is in the Usk Valley, South Wales – the other location is Dunster, Somerset. It certainly gives the Mail Online a reason to publish photos of the stunning Usk Valley along with the hymn – which can be seen in full with notes on the prolific Irish poetess here on Wikipedia.
Nature Poetry Competition 2012
This is a joint effort by the RSPB – that’s the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds – in conjunction with The Rialto poetry magazine. There’s a £1,000 first prize. Closing date April 30th 2012. Addresses for details: www.rspb.org.uk & www.therialto.co.uk
Poetry in Store Shoppers in a US supermarket did a double-take when local students wandered around the store reciting poetry out loud. Good publicity for similar street events in the town’s Festival of the Words. They call it Drive-by Poetry. More on the Grand Coteau, Louisiana, events – and thanks for the photo – in the Daily World.
Sacred World: The Poems of Cold Stone, White Lily by Anne Markham Bailey. Published by the Friends of Julian, Norwich, UK September 2011. Long before the feminist movement, some women followed their sacred longing. In Cold Stone, White Lily, we hear the voice of Anne Wyngfield, an imagined 14th century Englishwoman who at middle age chooses to become an anchoress, a spiritual recluse devoted to the journey of embodying the sacred. Link to publisher’s full press release.
New Poetries V
New Poetries V edited by Michael Schmidt and Eleanor Crawforth – review by Nicholas Lezard in The Guardian.
The Dylan Thomas Festival
Click for festival website. 27 Oct – 9 Nov 2011 in Swansea.
Forward prize explained
William Sieghart explains why he set up the Forward prize for poetry. See The Guardian and Observer article. [9.10.11]
Poet receives Nobel Prize
Tomas Transtromer (b.1931), a Swedish poet who writes surrealistic works about the mysteries of the human mind, is the winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature. The Swedish Academy said it recognized the 80-year-old poet, “Because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.” In 1990, Transtromer suffered a stroke, which left him half-paralyzed and unable to speak, but he continued to write and published a collection of poems — “The Great Enigma” — in 2004.
“Waking up is a parachute jump from dreams. Free of the suffocating turbulence the traveller sinks toward the green zone of morning… From the viewpoint of the quivering lark he is aware of the huge root systems of the trees, their swaying underground lamps. But above ground there’s greenery — a tropical flood of it — with lifted arms, listening to the beat of an invisible pump.”
Sufficient funds have been raised locally to justify grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Devon AONB to pay for 68 stones bearing the words of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. East Devon District Council has agreed on their long-term maintenance.
Playing with Poetry
Rachel from Foyles starts with a variety of anthologies to whet your appetitie.
Lessons learned from Poetry Society
Article by Wendy Jones in The Guardian on lessons for trustees regarding charities.
The £10,000 Forward Prize for Best Collection for his book Black Cat Bone has gone to 56-year-old Scottish poet John Burnside – the fourth time he has been shortlisted for the award. The chairman of judges, past Poet Laureate Andrew Motion said, “There’s no doubting its big themes – of mortality, transience and various kinds of catastrophe – but they are handled in a way that rightly allows their menace to seem insidious as well as brutal. This makes the book one to linger over, as well as one to enjoy at first reading. It is a distinguished winner of the Forward Prize.” As well as poetry, John Burnside has written short stories, novels and two volumes of memoirs. He is a former Writer in Residence at Dundee University and now teaches at the University of St Andrews.
First a poet and then a translator, Dr Shihab Ghanem, unlike many other translators, is very selective about the work he translates from English to Arabic and vice versa. It is the nature of poetry that makes him this selective. “I have been writing poetry for more than 50 years now. Poetry by nature is not easy to understand. So what touches my heart deeply and I understand thoroughly is what I translate.” See far more in Muscat Daily.
UK Poetry Society’s new Board members
The new Board members, elected at the Poetry Society’s Annual General Meeting on 14 September, are: Shanta Acharya, Martin Alexander, Polly Clark, Robert Hutchison, Sir Stephen Irwin, Edward Mackay, Kona Macphee, Heather Neill, Paul Ranford, Michael Schmidt, Laurie Smith, Dr Stephen Wilson. In total there were 341 voters: 211 appointed a proxy to vote on their behalf, and 130 voted in person at the AGM.
New Zealand’s 102-year-old rugby poems
A 102-year-old book of rugby poetry has been reprinted in Greytown, New Zealand, as a limited edition book by Cobblestones printer Tony King. The poems are by Ernest L Eyres, who was born in 1889 in Dunedin, and was one of a few wandering minstrels who travelled around the country in the early 1900s promoting their verse in newspapers. More in Wairarapa Times-Age.
Herbert Lomas dies
“Chimpanzees are blameless creatures… it’s only if they’re frightened / that they’ll tear your cheek off.” Herbert ‘Bertie’ Lomas, soldier, academic, translator (of Finish), poet and son of an Army trumpeter turned publican, died on 9th Sept aged 87. President of the Suffolk Poetry Society. Constant references to his preference for sex as opposed to violence. Married 3 times. Telegraph obituary.
Coleridge Cottage: major restoration completed
A soot-blackened fireplace that is believed to feature in one of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s most famous poems has been uncovered during a huge restoration project. The Romantic poet wrote Frost at Midnight, which includes the description of a “thin blue flame” on “my low-burnt fire”, while living at his cottage at Nether Stowey in Somerset. See complete Guardian story here. Illustration: from one of Gustave Dore’s engravings illustrating The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. ‘The Weddding-Guest sat on a stone/He cannot chose but hear…’
European poetry translated into Scots
The Chigall Winnocks: Wi Ither Scots Poem and Ballants O Europe is the result of 20 years research by Dr Tom Hubbard. See story here
Blood, sword and suffering are the heartbeat of Fatima Bhutto’s literary soul. And it was fear that propelled her poetry, says the heir to Pakistan’s tragedy-scarred Bhutto family. An accomplished poet, Fatima, 29, captures love, loss and the solitude of her circumstances in her verses. See full article in The Times of India
Let England Shake
Guardian article on P J Harvey’s award winning album, a very non-sentimental view of England and its wars. Let England Shake
Prisoners’ literary tastes
One of the most popular genres among inmates is love poetry. “They often want to write to their partners and they want to use a bit of poetry.” Barbara Austin, librarian at Aukland Regional Prison. See complete article on prisoners’ literary tastes, from DIY to Harry Potter.
Male Poets Pose in Coleridge’s Study for The Naked Muse Calendar
Harriet Staff writes in a blog via: http://www.poetryfoundation.org
How about this one for a fundraiser? “14 nude male poets, 13 female photographers, 14 poems contributed by UK female poets. Creating together for a cure to diabetes type one.” The Guardian points us to the new project, dreamed up by Wild Women Press co-founder and poet Victoria Bennett, who is turning over graves in the Lake District:
“We were looking at things we could do to raise money and awareness of type one diabetes. I run Wild Women Press and my focus has always been trying to promote and give a platform to women’s writing. Late one night I came up with the idea of a poetry calendar – I wanted to explore the idea of the male muse, as opposed to the female muse,” said Bennett. “I decided I didn’t want it to be just poets getting their clothes off, which, let’s face it, is a niche market. So I started to approach women poets, from the very well known to the just coming up, and they’ve all contributed poems [for interpretation].”
The male poets range from early 20s to late 60s, and include Eric Gregory and Newdigate award winner Antony Dunn, Alan Buckley, Graham Eccles, Alexander Hutchison and Max Wallis, while the photographers are both established and less so, from Annabel Williams to Tamara Peel.
The calendar shoot took place in the Lake District this weekend, with Greta Hall, home to Southey and Coleridge, one of the locations. “We shot on the ledge where Coleridge used to write, on the opium bed in his study, by Southey’s desk,” said Bennett. “We figured Coleridge would have approved. Once upon a time Wordsworth, Byron and others used to gather there. Now we have a different group.”
She admitted that “right before the shoot, people were nervous”, but said that the group “talked a lot about it … the relationship between the vulnerability of the body with diabetes, that hidden vulnerability, and the actual vulnerability of nakedness, being photographed nude and the psychological experience of that”.
The Edwin Morgan prize
The winners of the fourth Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition were announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last night. Jane McKie took the first prize of £5000 for her poem Leper Window, St Mary the Virgin, beating more than 1200 others from around the world.
Judge Kona Macphee said: “Leper Window epitomises everything I love about poetry. It revels in the musicality of language and is magnificently concise, evoking a whole lost world in a dozen elegantly understated lines.” The ceremony was held just before the first anniversary of the death of Professor Edwin Morgan, who held the post of Scotland’s first Makar, or national poet. It is one of the biggest poetry prizes in the UK, with awards totalling £6600. (Story from The Scotsman, 18 Aug)
One poet’s statement seeking election as a Trustee of the Poetry Society.
Judith Palmer reinstated to post of Director of the Poetry Society
Judith Palmer who felt forced to resign from her post due to the Board’s handling of employment and organisational matters has now been reinstated – following the emergency general meeting petitioned for by members of the Society and a petition requesting her reinstatement.
The Board has apologised “for any of its decisions, statements or actions that may have contributed to the current difficulties.”
During the two and a half years Judith led the Society, membership reached its highest ever levels, turnover increased by 23%, and participation in adult and young people’s competitions doubled. The Board acknowledge, “She built a terrific staff team, forged links with new partners nationally and internationally, and attracted many new funders and supporters to the organisation.
Amanda Smethurst, Acting Director, will stay with the Poetry Society until November. From Monday, when Judith returns to the office, Amanda will work in the role of Assistant Director.
Society updates here
Reading to children
A beautifully simple article by Ben Bova from a US newspaper. Highly recommended. ‘Being a parent is a heavy responsibility, and parents need all the help they can get — even if it’s just some illustrated book you read to them, or a song about a dragon.’ Read here.
‘Relating To Michael’ by Mary Maher
A new novel by a Devon author. Published by Chipmunka, a leading Mental Health publisher, with Arts Council funding.
Mary Maher’s first novel, ‘Relating To Michael’ is published by Chipmunka Publishing. Michael is an autistic boy and the novel concerns his family’s struggles as it journeys towards a different understanding.
Mary, who feels that, “difference is part of a broader normality” has lived in Devon for 30 years and currently lives in Bradninch. She has had four collections of poetry published, won a SW Arts Award for short fiction and her poems have appeared in the first Forward Anthology, on TV and have been used by The Hospice Care Trust, the UCLA Writing Programme and Exeter Health Care Arts. She was also one of the W H Smith Poets in Schools. She enjoys editing as well and recently edited two art books.
Yorkshire born to a family of miners, Mary felt ‘at home’ working in Special Education where there was a lot of honesty, a lack of social inhibition and where life was vivid, never humdrum, on a daily basis.
In the novel Michael’s parents strongly disagree about how they should treat their son. The continuity of the family as embodied in the image ‘Coopers and Son’, the family antique business, is very important to his father, but Michael offers him no real acknowledgement. Nursery rhymes, playing one note, D flat, on the piano, and running water are Michael’s obsessions. Tamsin, Michael’s mother, who has problems with dependence, longs for acceptance and normality.
When she is not writing Mary loves to tutor the OUT OF HOURS writing group in the surgery café at The Integrated Centre for Health in Cullompton. On a recent visit by Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall spoke at length to Mary and her group. The Duchess spoke of how she loved to read and how her son gathered a pile of books for her to take on her and the Prince’s holiday in the summer.
“RELATING TO MICHAEL” by Mary Maher is available as an ebook or paperback from the Poems Please Shop or www.chipmunkapublishing.co.uk and all good bookshops.
UK’s Arts Council suspends Poetry Society funding
26 July. The suspension of funding is pending a solution to the numerous Board and staff resignations and following the Emergency General Meeting held following a members’ petiton and an overwhelmeing vote of no confidence in the Board of trustees.
This appears to have all centre on the “dysfunctional relationship” between the now resigned director, Judith Palmer, and the editor of Poetry Review, Fiona Sampson.
The Trustees asked Fiona Sampson to report directly to them, instead of Judith Palmer – who then resigned in protest, and subsequently with finance director Paul Ranford, president Jo Shapcott, vice-president Gwyneth Lewis, trustee Robyn Bolam and chairman Peter Carpenter.
The board of trustees will be replaced in September. Meanwhile the Society will have to use its fairly meagre cash reserves and possible look for overdraft facilities.
Prizewinning poet Philip Gross interviewed by students about children and writing
“I sometimes think that poetry should be banned in schools…” After winning the TS Eliot Prize and Wales Book of the Year, poet Philip Gross has landed a Campaign for Literacy in Primary Education award for his latest children’s book, Off Road To Everywhere. Here, some of the University of Glamorgan professor’s students quiz him on his work:Philip Gross in Wales Online
Blood-letting & ‘no confidence’ vote for UK’s Poetry Society
Full report from The Guardian on emergency general meeting and account of dysfunctional top staff relations and numerous resignations by staff and trustees.
Iran’s supreme leader supresses books
Iran’s former culture minister, Ataollah Mohajerani, has criticised the country’s supreme leader for restricting access to literature after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (photo) publicly attacked “harmful books” and likened them to “poisonous” drugs. In a meeting with librarians and officials from Iran’s book industry on Wednesday, Khamenei spoke out against books “with a cultural appearance but with specific political hidden motives.” See full Guardian article.
98-year-old Spitfire veteran poet
Flight Lieutenant William Walker, 97, who survived after being shot down over the Channel in August, 1940, was among those who attended the annual memorial flyover at Capel-le-Ferne, Folkestone, last Sunday.
The memorial site is already home to a replica Spitfire and Hurricane as well as an engraved list of all those who took part in the Battle of Britain, and there are now plans to build a learning centre known as The Wing there too.
Flt Lt Walker said: “I write poems for pleasure and as a mental stimulant and had never envisaged that a day might come when they might be used to help a cause so close to my heart.
“When the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust decided to print a book of my verses, I immediately realised it was an opportunity to repay, in some measure, a great debt of gratitude for many wonderful years of kindness and help.
“By donating the copyright of all my verses to the trust I hope it will prove to be helpful in raising revenue towards the important learning centre project, and for maintaining our memorial site.” Full Kent News story here.
Guardian Poetry Reviews
See three book reviews – William, Auden, Monk – from The Guardian here
Britain’s Sean O’Brien is among those shortlisted for this year’s Forward Prize for Poetry, an award he has won on three previous occasions. His work November will compete in the best collection category, as will Night by David Harsent – another previous recipient of the £10,000 prize. John Burnside, Geoffrey Hill, Michael Longley and D Nurkse are also cited. This year’s winner will be announced at Somerset House, London on 5 October, on the eve of National Poetry Day. See BBC story.
Jailed & tortured Bahrain poet released after international protest
The 20-year-old Bahraini poet Ayat al-Gormezi, jailed and tortured for reading a poem critical of the government at a pro-democracy rally, has been suddenly released – though her sentence has not been revoked.
Full story in The Independent.
Article on Ted Hughes – and Daily Telegraph ticket offer – at this link.
Book from Ledbury Festival’s Poet-in-residence Ian Duhig. Pandorama is a slim volume with just 36 poems from a poet who, says Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy is ‘the most original poet of his generation’.
“I started writing poetry when I was working with homeless people and, never having much time, poetry was the natural thing to do,” he explains. “Poetry is literature in its most condensed form. In poetry you can cover ground more quickly, and, like cinema, it has a dream logic. You’re straight in to it and then straight out again. It’s been said that where prose is like wine, poetry is brandy – distilled.”
Poetry provided the backdrop to Ian’s childhood as well as being a major element of his adult life: “Because my mother went to school at a time when children were made to memorise poems by heart, she’d always be reciting them from memory.”
The great joy of poetry, says Ian, is that it’s the most portable of works of art. “It’s the only art form you can carry complete in your head, it’s better even than a piece of music because you can have the whole thing completely in your mind, and as a writer, if you haven’t got time to sit down and write, you can do quite a lot of work in your head without paper or pen. More at Hereford Times.
From The Guardian (6 July): Disgruntled poets channelled William Carlos Williams yesterday when they delivered a red wheelbarrow carrying members’ signatures to the Poetry Society, demanding its board of trustees explain what lies behind a recent spate of high-level departures.
Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy is just one of 423 members to have added their names to a campaign for the Poetry Society to explain itself after its chair, director, finance manager and president all resigned. More at: Petition in wheelbarrow
Tsunami poetry anthology
The Japanese title translates as “I’ll never hold a grudge against the sea…”. The book is written by a young woman living at a care home, 33-year-old Keiko Sato. “Never hold a grudge against the sea. The spirits of the people who have been swept away have turned into the clear eyes of the sea and watch over us.” Proceeds from the book will be donated to disaster relief.
Poetry Society politics again
A Guardian report on Poetry Society’s political squabbles.
‘Within the Glade’ book
Astronomer Patrick Moore has published his first book of poetry for children “of all ages”. See Guardian report here. It is available from the Poems Please Me Shop.
Object designer & poetry
Poetry in the form of embossed letters or scratched into the glaze in the sgraffito style feature in the work of Rupert Spira – one of many artists represented in the exhibition ‘Sitting and Looking’ at Somerset House, London, until 4th Sept 2011. See one review here.
The desert antelope has a special place in Arab poetry and mythology — along with the cheetah, the falcon and the galloping horse. The oryx’s curved horns, seen from a certain side angle, appear to be a single horn, perhaps giving rise to the myth of the unicorn. Full story on species conservation – at time of posting – in Los Angeles Times and separate story in Oman Daily Observer