Meetup Report Saturday 24th March

Enthusiastic messages are already flying in about the Bath Writers & Artists inaugural afternoon meetup in the Duncan Room. ( I have reported on the Morning Workshop on this separate linked Page. ) Our special guests, Chair of Bath and North East Somerset Council, Councillor Cherry  Beath, and Betty Suchar, Chair of Management of the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution arrived with admirable precision exactly on 2pm to the already packed Duncan Room and from that moment, we were non-stop energy and activity until 5.15pm. This photograph by Keynsham photographer Matt Prosser shows Chair of Bath and North East Somerset Council, Councillor Cherry Beath, with Taunton writer and director, Graeme Ryan who lead the group performance of Building the Kelston Barn.Chair Cherry Beath & Director Graeme Ryan

 

After the Book Table readings, which will be a regular feature of the meetups this year, Tessa Strickland, William Heath and Matt Prosser gave a compelling overview of the iconic local arts space Kelston Barn.  Matt’s presentation of his printed Passport-Tessa-Stricklandphotographs, individual slides and very atmospheric slideshow, as well as being so compelling in themselves,  really brought home to us the possibilities of being able to meet in a building which offers us these technical facilities.  Matt’s links are on this blog, and his Kelston photographs will be appearing in later posts once I have explored his Dropbox link.  It is a blessing for those of us who need occasional publicity photographs to have met and spent time with such a congenial and relaxed photographer.    Matt was also on hand to photograph the Chair of the Council for us, which will be warmly welcomed by Bath and North East Somerset Council who are already such kindly supporters of our new group.

Me

Matt Prosser who took the March 24th photographs on this post

Having expanded our official title to include photography, we next saw it expand again, to embrace the vocal talents of Andrew Lawrence and Phil Shepherd, who had mastered Patrick Kavanagh’s Raglan Road at very short notice to bring melody into our afternoon. Time confined their performance to two verses, but I am hoping to persuade them to return on one of the afternoons when singer/songwriter  Miranda Pender is up from Sherborne, so that song can play a larger part in that particular afternoon.  Andrew Lawrence has been offering his many skills and talents to the World War One programmes for several years.  It was a great addition to our meetup that he was willing to share them so generously with our new group.

‘Building the Kelston Barn’, the collaborative poem which arose from last September’s Bathscape workshop, became, under Taunton poet Graeme Ryan’s confident direction, an extraordinary performance experience involving the whole room. I hope some of the people who shared this truly remarkable event will write something of their own in the comments box below this post.

These two photographs by Keynsham photographer Matt Prosser show the Bath Writers & Artists working with director Graeme Ryan on the first ever group performance of Building the Kelston Barn.

 

Building the Kelston Barn 1Building the Kelston Barn 2

 Sue, Chris and Dave Sims’ moving tribute to Dr Mark Sims closed our afternoon.  As with the Kelston Barn presentation

Scan copy it was wonderful to have the facilities to follow Mark’s story through photographs and film. His was an inspiring life and we were all deeply moved that the family shared so much of their journey and so many of their memories and were able to bring us so closely into their circle of love, and grief, and loss.

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Chair Cherry Beath & Writer Rosie JacksonAs well as the morning workshop participants, and the people mentioned above, it was a great pleasure to share this afternoon with  Sara Butler, Claire Coleman, Beverley Ferguson, Brian Goodsell, Dawn Gorman, Margaret Heath, Caroline Heaton, Rosie Jackson, Michael Loveday, Ruth Marden, Phil Shepherd, Conor Whelan, Jude and Florrie Wisdom, and all the other friends of our new project who came to join us for this inaugural meeting in the Duncan Room.        This photograph by Keynsham photographer shows Councillor Cherry Beath with Frome writer Rosie Jackson who was one of the original contributors to Building the Kelston Barn.

 

 

First Meetup of the Year

The new Bath Writers & Artists Group is now fully subscribed with its full 2018 schedule of meetings booked at the Bath Literary and Scientific Institution in Queen Square, Bath.

The afternoon events are FREE  and OPEN TO ALL.  We will be delighted to welcome the many writers who have shared Writing Days with us in the past, but equally pleased to welcome new writers and artists to our afternoon audience.

SATURDAY 24TH MARCH 1.45pm – 5pm

(Find fuller details by clicking here to the linked page….)

We are very honoured that our inaugural meeting will be attended by the Chair of Bath and North East Somerset Council, Councillor Cherry Beath.  The afternoon will include readings by Verona Bass, Sue Boyle, Claire Dyer, Linda Saunders, Harry Thurston and Shirley Wright.

We are also very fortunate that William Heath and Tessa Strickland will be presenting a special sequence of photographs to capture the magic of William Heath’s Kelston Barn, where 26 of us worked together last autumn to produce the collaborative performance piece, Building the Kelston Barn.

Experienced stage director Graeme Ryan from Taunton is going to lead us in a  performance ‘from scratch’ of this remarkable and moving piece.

The last part of the afternoon is dedicated to Doctor Mark Sims, whose memoir P.S. I have Cancer launches in Bath with us.  This remarkable book, described by author Danny Wallace as “brave and sobering, funny and inspiring” holds a very special place in our affections.  Mark’s mother, poet Sue Sims, is a long-standing member of the Bath Cafe Writing Days group, and Mark himself was able to join us to hear Sue’s powerful reading during Other Lives, Readings from the Chairman’s Writing Days which Sara-Jane Arbury,  Heidi Beck, Stephanie Boxall,  Claire Coleman,  Annie Fisher,  Ray Fussell,  Rick Rycroft & Shirley Wright presented in the Elwin Room on 7th March 2015.

 

 

 

 

Craft or sullen art?

ways with words in the city of Wells

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The word “sea” is small and easily uttered.
They utter it lightly who know least about it.
A vast ancient terror is locked in the name
like energy in an atom.
– George Mackay Brown, The Sea.

In spite of lashings of wind and rain, we met last night, 6th January, with Sara in the chair. As at previous January meetings, most people brought poems by other people. It was a lively and interesting evening.

Where I could find them, I have added links to the particular poems. Seamus Heaney, Dylan Thomas  and John Betjeman are reading their own poems, and the Billy Collins link is to a particularly charming animation. Each one is well worth reading/listening to, if you have the time!

Wales was represented by R.S. Thomas, Dylan Thomas and Gillian Clarke,  Ireland by Greg Delanty and Seamus Heaney, Scotland by Robert Burns, W.S. Graham

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The Many Joys of May

MAY 20th : Claire Coleman , Claire Dyer, Sarah Gregory, John Richardson, Graeme Ryan, Ama Bolton, Michael Loveday,Ruth Sharman, Morag Kiziewicz, Conor Whelan

The meetup on Saturday 20th May was particularly rich in talent and in variety.  It showcased outstanding work by many of the Day’s participants and lead us all into deep and dark places where – given the sense of trust and community which has developed this year among the meetup writers – we all felt safe to go.  An extraordinary Day, even by the standards of the already remarkable Project 2017 year.

Arnold Böcklin’s iconic painting, The Isle of the Dead helped to define a working ‘space’ for the morning where many disparate pieces of writing, and many different approaches to writing came together in fruitful synthesis.  We were very fortunate that Straid prizewinner Ruth Sharman was willing to speak at length about her marvellous collection, Scarlet Tiger, which Ama Bolton had reviewed.  Ruth’s poem inspired by the Böcklin painting also gave us a springboard into the topic of ekphrastic poetry, which Michael Loveday had already written about very usefully on his personal Page on the blog. Michael had referred us to a piece in which Martyn Crucefix explored the poems in the recent Holburne Museum anthology, From Palette to Pen.  We looked carefully at Martyn’s suggested list of approaches to writing about works of art and tried to relate them to some of the individual poems we were sharing through the Day.  The result of this enquiry seemed very interesting: few of the project writers’ poems actually  ‘fitted’ the categories on the list, but the list provided a wonderful set of starting points for attempting new ekphrastic work.

There was strong resistance among the meetup writers to becoming ‘trapped’ in the dark heart of Böcklin’s piece.  This came over in our first writing exercise, and even more strongly when we considered two further powerfully  life-affirming poems –one  by John Richardson of Brokenborough Poets and the other by  Graeme Ryan from Taunton – whose movement in both cases was out of darkness into light and hope. The diptych pieces written in response to this morning session seem likely to emerge soon as an unusually powerful record of an unusually powerful writing day.

We spent part of the afternoon , under Claire Dyer’s generous and lucid guidance, exploring more ideas which Claire is working on as part of the project she is sharing with the group.  Claire helped us to consider  two contrasting but linked ideas, both outlined on her personal Page on this blog, both experimenting with using  incomplete utterance to suggest meanings without committing ( and therefore perhaps without limiting ) them to the words printed on the page.  The exercise based on the alarming term aposiopesis produced some fascinating work.  A companion exercise I suggested to discover what could be created by deliberately rendering an utterance incomplete – how new meanings could be created by omissions from a text – was much less interesting than Claire’s  idea of actual redaction that had given rise to it. It seemed afterwards that the technique of redaction was necessarily one of shifting a poem into a graphic object.  It was therefore essential to see the redacted space, and perhaps even to see the ghostly residue of what had been blotted out. Merely abstracting parts of a piece of writing was not enough.

The final long session of the Day was devoted to a long poem by Graeme Ryan which brought to the surface a challenging series of questions: what level of difficulty an audience can cope with in a longer piece of writing; the nature and importance of narrative ‘thread’; the use of literary allusion; the desirability or otherwise of devising a new formal structure to suit an extended piece; and the problem of creating  work dealing with political/social issues without the piece being misread by people who have a pre-existing perspective on the subject the writer wants to treat.  Graeme’s poem was a meditation on a nuclear power station, about which there were  different strongly held and well-argued opinions in the room.  It was a brave and  ambitious poem and a remarkable testament to the Day that we were still able to grapple with such issues six hours after our working Day began.

This post is only a thin and inadequate record of an outstanding Day.  Thank you so much to everyone who took part and  who contributed so much.  Poems are already coming in to me from some of the writers who shared the Day.  Now this post is away, I can look forward with great excitement and joy to reading them.  The rest of you, I suspect, will have to wait until they find their much deserved way into ‘proper’ print.

If you were part of the May Meetup, please add your comments below this post.

Moving Into Spring

Although Saturday 25th February was actually the second meetup of the year, it had a special inaugural quality of its own…..

During January, the PROJECT 2017  blog had filled up with so much inspiring  and challenging material that for the first time we were able to structure the whole meetup day around the ongoing projects of the writers in the room. We are hoping to maintain this pattern for the remaining meetups of the year.

First up was the rich compendium of project writers’ thoughts about deciding which of their poems were most likely to achieve  competition success.  The list was compiled from group work in January and gave the February writers plenty of opportunity for discussion and food for thought.

We were able to apply these ideas to AMA BOLTON’S excellent poem, Fig, which had been highly commended last October in Torbay.  Groups considered Fig as a successful competition entry and took the role of judges explaining the reasons for their choice. One of Fig’s most striking qualities was the poet’s fierce and forensic attention to her word choices.  A piece of writing can only be as good as its weakest word is one of the main themes of this year’s meetups.  Fig, in the judge’s and February group’s opinion, simply had no weak words.

CLAIRE DYER’S project is exploring the ways that words carry meanings below their literal surfaces and the ways in which meanings can come up from the deeps of the mind and heart.  The conscious brain can sometimes be deaf to these subterranean messages so Claire introduced us to an anagram technique to free us from too much attention to the literal.  The music and patterning of her poem Owls was a very effective example of allowing the words to lead a poem’s ‘meaning’ rather than the intended ‘meaning’ putting a  straitjacket on a poem’s words.  Owls appears on Claire’s Page on this blog.

It is only a short step from the idea that words can give us doorways into deeper meanings to SARAH GREGORY’S exploration of the effect of bringing words and images together on one page, giving neither one priority.  Sarah brought seven specially made posters, each based on the same poem, but each combining the poem with a graphic image in a slightly different way.  Sarah has written about the usefulness of the ensuing discussion on her Page.

MICHAEL LOVEDAY had already raised questions about the problems of truth-telling in autobiography.  During the afternoon, we shared poems by several of the meetup writers for whom this was an issue and began to explore the boundaries between fact and fiction, straightforward personal narrative and revelation of the deeper self.

All the themes we explored in February  will play an important part in the April meetup, when LESLEY SAUNDERS will be bringing us into the magical space of her work as a translator and sharing with us some of the detailed decisions a translator has to make.  This close editing is crucial for every writer so we will all be both inspired and (probably) daunted by the experience of sharing Lesley’s work.  There is a recent entry about this on Lesley’s Page on the blog.

Other excellent recent blog contributions to explore….

  • new progress reports from Janet McClean, Marilyn Francis, Verona Bass, Ama Bolton and Ann Preston
  • the new Page from Sara-Jane Arbury outlining her project to create a collection around her neurological condition, with 2 fantastic poems by Norman Macaig
  • the new Page from singer/songwriter Miranda Pender
  • our first musical Page from Graeme Ryan
  • the new Page from writer/artist Paul Michael Browne who will be adding to our Words & Images exploration by introducing us to some of his work with film when we meet up in the BRLSI in June
  • a new Page on successful Pamphlet Submissions first published by the Poetry Business
  • 2 Max Ernst images to trigger experiments with Words & Images (on the Ekphrastic Page )

And, as RSThomas said, “That was only on one island”

We are still hoping to see personal Pages filling up with more project writers’ monthly Progress Reports, and more entries coming in for the Magazine Successes and Competition Placings, and for the upcoming Readings Page. 

It will also be very good to have more Almanac entries month on month, in the manner perhaps of the January contribution from North Devon poet MARK HAWORTH-BOOTH.  I have just added a new Page to the header list –ALMANAC  – to which you are all invited to contribute a brief but brilliant seasonal piece of writing every month.

The April meetup is under construction at the moment.  As well as Lesley Saunders’ translation project mentioned above, ROBIN THOMAS will be sharing his recent Eyewear pamphlet, A Fury of Yellow, which has already been reviewed by AMA BOLTON and SUE SIMS.   We will also ( hopefully) be sharing off piste outcomes from the February meetup with some new ‘anagram’ pieces, some explorations with Words & Images, and pieces inspired by the Böcklin painting, Isle of the Dead, which RUTH SHARMAN posted for us on our Ekphrastic Page.

Happy Writing, Everyone!

Truly Hot Off the Press!

Before many of us got home after today’s meetup, Janet McClean had already posted this poem for the blog!  What a wonderful gift from such an amazing day…. Thank you so much, Janet, and thank you also to everyone who brought such energy, grace of spirit and talent to the Pulteney Room today. 

Door 6516 into Project 17

And so to start

Sitting in this room full of writers

Listening to jewels echoing in the ear

Our lioness urges the pride

To strive for

Truth and excellence

Excellence in Truth

Kindness but no false flattery here

I scribble in pencil

A Papermate with rubber attached

For ease

To erase any clumsy word smudges

And so to start