Full report to follow!
Sofia is a city of dramatic contrasts, history and geography under pressure from all quarters. It is sometimes confounding, sometimes beguiling. Now I’m back here after my time away on the coast, it’s strange to see how much it feels like ‘home’.
‘A city called Wisdom should float on clouds…
…Reality is never clear. It’s never final. You can always change it or see it in a different way.’
From ‘Solo’ by Rana Dasgupta
It all came together beautifully for last night’s launch of the new Northern Poetry Library anthology. There were readings and food and flowers and some exciting dramatic pieces inspired by poems, and music too…
Wendy Breach from Transition Tynedale spoke about Edible Hexham, the fantastic project that led to us reading and writing poems about food for six months…
A G M
For Transition Tynedale – bold enough to put poetry (and gardening!) on the agenda
Poetry is not on the agenda.
Return to sender.
Though saving the planet is important,
it’s still the elephant
in the room – no one tabling what matters,
only what flatters.
Imagine Akhmatova, Neruda,
fool enough to ask what happened to joy?
Wonder? Words that cloy
because there’s no cash attached, no profit
to be gained from it.
Just the beat of the body from the heart,
a hunger for art,
bread we’ll bring to the fire and break together,
whatever the weather.
I asked folk to record their thoughts throughout the evening in a kind of low-tech twittery sort of a way…Here are just three of the cards I found posted in the collection box. The night seemed to involve a lot of tables – entirely natural and entirely unplanned – celebrating a different sort of wood and water…
Many thanks to Wendy Scott at Active Northumberland for making it all possible.
Not exactly ‘Lunch Poems’ but there is a seriously foodie element…
Poetry readings! Drama! Books!
Hexham Apple Pressing Day Renga!
As well as readings from the new anthology – ‘Among Woods and Water’ – and the Northern Poetry Library project more generally, the event in Hexham Library on Thursday night will be enlivened by some short presentations by a Drama Group who meet in the Queen’s Hall, led by TSF’s Sarah Kemp. They will be performing specially created interpretations of some of the poems written and read by the Library Workshop Group, who will also be reading from their own work, alongside Poet in Residence, yours truly.
There will be a rare opportunity to hear (and buy) the splendidly fructiferous Hexham Apple Pressing Day Renga, created by 52 visitors to Transition Tynedale’s Apple Pressing Stall at Hexham Farmer’s Market last October.
All are invited to come along to what promises to be a convivial evening celebrating community, culture and creativity – where no hares will be harmed in any way.
Thursday 19th May
7 – 8.30pm
The event is free but places can be booked by ringing 01670 624525.
Just returned home from a wonderful trip to Glasgow where there seemed to be flowers everywhere we went…
at the Tramway’s beautiful hidden gardens
and the lovely Botanics
in Kibble Palace
to this – my new collection! Hooray! Spring is here!
‘the wild and the manured Teasel – two different species’
there is a fmall Moth about twice the size of the Euonymella, fpeckled with black, which finds its way into this formidable plant, and makes a comfortable and fecure domicilium of its fpinous head
Flora Londiniensis, Vol II 1796
Today’s flurry of snow settling round what few flowers are out in the garden also brings a couple of trailers for my new collection.
You can read an ‘In Conversation’ piece I did with Paris Morel on the Arc website here. Apparently the cover’s still work-in-progress but you can see the beautiful photo of an Eryngium taken by Karen Melvin in her garden. Out of shot, I am the one holding the piece of white card behind the plant.
One of the poems from Reading the Flowers (due in the Spring – with a launch reading at Hexham Book Festival) is in the new edition of the Australian Plumwood Mountain Journal, guest edited by Tricia Dearborn. You can read it – ‘Self Portrait as a Case of Stick Insects’, and another newer poem – ‘Watching the Perseids with Sue’, here.
Other people’s books on the subjects one is writing about oneself are annoying sometimes, because if one has read them one must avoid saying the same things, and if one has not read them and say the same things readers think one has copied, and when one’s own book comes first, the books that come after it have either copied from it or not copied from it, and when they have copied they get the credit, as readers have forgotten who wrote it first, and when they have not copied they seem to be despising it and to be saying the opposite. It would be better if only one writer at a time wrote on each subject, but this cannot be, and when the subject is a country it would be unfair, as people rely on writing to get them about abroad and let them take money to spend there.
At the present time, a great many writers are interested in seeing Turkey, and on account of this many of them are writing books about it, and this has to be put up with. Aunt Dot’s Turkey book, which I was illustrating and in which I was putting bits, would not be like anyone else’s really, as it would be mostly about the misfortunes of Moslem women…But my bits would be about the scenery and churches and castles and ruins and towns, and these had already been so well done lately that I should have to be very careful. The trouble with countries is that, once people begin travelling in them, and people have always been travelling in Turkey, they are apt to get over-written, as Greece has, and all the better countries in Europe, such as Italy and France and Spain. England has not been over-written, at least not by foreigners, on account of it’s not being very attractive, what with the weather and the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel and the North Sea and the industrial towns and not having many antique ruins, but above all the weather, for no one from abroad can stand this for long, and actually we can’t stand it for long ourselves, but we have to.
From ‘The Towers of Trebizond’ by Rose Macaulay (1956)
Back in 1995 when I fell off a horse called Pandora and broke my back, I spent a long time in hospital and then recovering at home. Julia Darling, no stranger to illness and hospitals herself, wrote me a poem about the art of convalescence, later illustrated by Birtley Aris. It’s one of my favourite mementoes of our long friendship.
Poetry is one of the best medicines – for all manner of predicaments – especially when all else fails. Ten years after Julia’s death, there are currently lots of opportunities to celebrate her life and remember her fantastic energy and unique contribution to writing in the North East, and beyond.
On Friday evening (29th May), there will be a reading at the Great North Museum to commemorate The Poetry Cure, an anthology of health-related poems Julia edited with Cynthia Fuller. The wonderful image on the cover is a painting by one of Julia’s collaborators, Emma Holliday. Some new poems have been commissioned in the spirit of that book and a selection of Julia’s own work will also be read. The event’s sold out but it’s being live streamed (6 – 8pm BST). You can find the link here.
Various other exciting events are taking place and updates are available at a beautiful new website, designed specially for the occasion.
For some reason the rabbits seem to be letting my spring bulbs alone this year. I’d planted everything in pots for easy removal if necessary but, touch wood, no sign of damage so far. It’s very heartening to see some colour up here after our long subdued winter. And the sunshine these past few days has softened the blow of returning from Rome and missing its irrepressible light and crumbling grandeur – an unequivocal primavera.
Some bright new things to let you know about – a couple of readings and a new digital publication.
On Thursday 30th April at 1pm I will be reading from another wild at the Robinson Gay Gallery in Hexham for the Book Festival. My collaborator, the artist Birtley Aris, will be there and Sue Dunne will be playing the Northumbrian pipes. The Gallery will be showing some of Birtley’s original drawings for the book.
At Burnlaw Centre in Whitfield, near Allendale, on Friday 1st May, three of us will be reading from and talking about our new books connected with the land – Malcolm Green, Peter Please and myself. It starts at 7.30pm and it is rumoured there will be copious quantities of tea and cake.
Mslexia magazine have just launched the first in a new series of e-books. Poetic Forms is a revised and extended collection of a sequence of articles on the crafting of fixed forms commissioned back when the magazine started in the late 1990s. A lot of people have told me how useful they’ve found these pieces and I have continued to use them in workshops and tutorials so I’d definitely recommend you download a copy if you’re at all interested. A second e-book based on my First Principles series will be available next month. You can find out more here.