Thirty three people shared the Odyssey-inspired meetup in the Bath on Saturday 28th July.
Here are the messages THIRTEEN of them sent in afterwards….. we would all love to hear more of other people’s thoughts … I am also posting up a few of the slides from the afternoon to underscore some of the comments made.
I am adding new pieces to the top as they come in, for those of you who revisit this post when you are told that there is new material to read.
Rachael Clyne ( read Comments to see this )
I’ve just read with great interest all the comments so far from last Saturday. What I can say is that having heard the background to Odysseus Elytis’s “Ena to Helidoni” which Verona and I read I did wonder if I would be able to hold myself together to be able to read it, I was so moved by what you told us. The whole afternoon was extraordinary and I echo all the well thought out comments I have read with such interest on the blog.
Claire Coleman, Radstock
Saturday afternoon was a haunting, a voyage, many voyages, across both Greek and Scottish waters and others of the imagination only. Inland voyages too: on the African continent and back in time in Verona Bass’s evocation of her childhood and into the surreal landscape conjured by Ann Preston’s artist-cousin where a brilliant white egg-shell is also a floating moon, its broken edges mirroring jagged mountain ridges, a strangeness she explored in her signature poem. Accompanied by exquisite paintings – Malcolm Ashman’s English landscapes in lemon and blue washes – and extraordinary photographic images, we were transported from our mundane selves, a sea-change, to contemplate the meaning of journey, which is also the meaning of home. Ama Bolton’s Warp, both beautiful and caustic, reminded us that there is more than one way of journeying and even the stayers-at-home, the peace-weavers, are changed, journeying through time, as we all are. A strange wind rose in the afternoon, stray doors crashed shut and sea-gulls keened outside the building, as if orchestrated: who can forget the haunting Greek music which accompanied the words of Odysseus Elytis’ poem? – a cry of grief and defiance in the face of oppression and a reminder of the griefs and demands of our own troubled era …
I consider poetry a source of innocence full of revolutionary forces. It is my mission to direct these forces against a world my conscience cannot accept, precisely so as to bring that world through continual metamorphoses more in harmony with my dreams.
posted by Caroline Heaton
The programme of readings based on a Homeric theme made for an enthralling afternoon. The extracts were extremely varied, ranging from old favourites to contemporary classics and from translations of Homer to a short reading in the original ancient Greek. The readings were skilfully arranged into thought-provoking sets and accompanied by rare and striking images including a series of landscape paintings by Royal West of England academician, MALCOLM ASHMAN. One of the highlights, and there were many, was a reading by AMA BOLTON of her sequence of poems entitled Warp inspired by a performance of Odysseus Unwound. Ama’s poems are refreshingly irreverent and written from a distinctly distaff perspective. Penelope wonders whether her wandering husband will be able to shut the hell up about Troy or settle down to an honest life in peacetime. But the most hauntingly original part of Warp is Penelope’s chant packed tightly with the technical vocabulary of spinning and weaving as she unpicks her day’s work ready to start all over again. Ama’s plaintive, ethereal song was as irresistible as the Sirens’.
Ann Preston, Bath
The morning workshop was a discussion of a varied set of poems (brought by Sue), each drawing upon images of birds of prey – poems by Ted Hughes, Thom Gunn, Robert Penn Warren, Yeats, George Mackay Brown. A rich and thought-provoking session.The afternoon was miraculous – tying together ideas of journey, sea and The Odyssey, into something startlingly profound. The room was stilled by the second half in particular, which situated Homer’s myth in the context of modern Greek history and the fight against Fascism. Unforgettable images and words and some excellent performances. A privilege to be in the audience. Thanks and congratulations to everyone involved.
Michael Loveday, Bath
A triumph! How well everybody reads now and what a breadth of poetry, with those lovely slides to give variety. Emily Wilson’s translation of the Odyssey, a treat if ever there was one, inspired an afternoon of poetry and art celebrating journeys, the contributions including writers from our group reading their own poems. AMA BOLTON, whose idea the event was, brought the house down with her reading of her 2006 sequence Warp, written with insight and humour about characters in the Odyssey . SUE BOYLE’s reading of her poem on those who perished in a submarine nearly had me in tears. All the readers did well and it was a delight to listen to the variety of approaches to the subject, with emphasis on the journey not the arrival. The slides added visual enjoyment and the display of MALCOLM ASHMAN’s pictures introduced variety. There were laughs in plenty but Sue led us to consider, more seriously, the influence of Homer on politics in Greece in the C20th. His work covers the great themes and understandably continues to thrill and influence. The life journeys of the 33 who attended were surely enhanced by the afternoon. I am so grateful to be included in the wider circle of the Bath Writers & Artists group.
Margaret Heath, Bath
Yes, it was a wonderful event that wove a spell on us all: beautiful poetry, new and old, delivered in languages both new and old, with everything held together by the theme of journeying and The Odyssey never far from our thoughts. I found many of the readings surprisingly moving and, as usual with Bath Writers and Artists, I learnt a great deal. It was a pleasure to be part of the afternoon. Many thanks to you for masterminding the occasion and linking the various parts into such a harmonious whole. I look forward to our next gathering.
Shirley Wright, Bristol
I hadn’t expected the afternoon to be so rich and illuminating. Such wonderful poetry, different voices, but most of all bringing in that political slant at the end was sheer genius. I learnt so much and am hungry to learn more now about Greece etc. Thanks for making such a great and inclusive atmosphere and for inviting me.
Rosie Jackson, Frome
What struck me about the afternoon was how the acoustic power of poetry created such vivid and recurrent images. The ones that stuck with me were: going down into the dark of caves and coming back to the light; the death and rebirth of the vegetal world each year; sea and shore; home and journey. The images acted on different levels: as relating to or translating our everyday experiences (aren’t we all seduced by the words of one sorceress or another? Or gotten distracted from our task somehow?); as political (such as Sackville-West relating the suitors to the Nazi Occupation of Greece); as personal (do we all long for a lost home? Do we all long for an inner Spring?). The evocation of these images invoked some big presences that seemed to haunt the room, especially with the pictures of past poets on the slides. All this will lead on well to The Hero’s Journey in future, for as Robert MacFarlane puts it, to journey out is to journey in.
Conor Whelan, Bath
Yesterday was the end of the heatwave. The City of Bath was assaulted by tempests of Homeric ferocity. The trees in Queen Square seemed about to be torn from their roots. And we fortunate people (eleven for a challenging and rewarding morning session with Sue Boyle, 33 and a delightful dog for the afternoon performances) were safe and dry indoors in the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute. The afternoon started with a selection of readings germane to the Homeric theme. These included James Elroy Flecker’s The old Ships – an old favourite of mine – read by father-and-son Roger and Conor Whelan, and a selection from a much more recent favourite, Andrew Greig’s pamphlet Found at Sea, read by SUE CHADD. VERONA BASS and ANN PRESTON introduced their new pamphlets, Verona’s being the second of a proposed trilogy on her childhood in rural South Africa and Ann’s being a collection of poems inspired by paintings. Both were beautifully read.A sequence of slides showing paintings by MALCOLM ASHMAN RWA led into ROSIE JACKSON’s introduction to some readings from our 2013 anthology The Listening Walk, for which Malcolm donated an image for the cover. Readers from the anthology included LINDA SAUNDERS and CLAIRE COLEMAN. After the break for tea and talk, I read my 2006 mini-pamphlet Warp. Among the other readers were SHIRLEY WRIGHT (Carol-Ann Duffy’s poem Circe), MARGARET HEATH (George Mackay Brown’s That Night at Troy). and ROSIE JACKSON (Cavafy’s Ithaka). ANDREW LAWRENCE and I read from Homer’s Odyssey Book 5, he from the little-known Ted Hughes version and I from the original Greek. We then switched to much more recent but equally turbulent Greek history, with a reading from the fascinating 1943 radio-play The Rescue by Edward Sackville-West, a copy of which (with lithographs by Henry Moore) SUE BOYLE chanced upon in a charity shop, and a reading of the much-loved Ena to Helidoni, by Odysseus Elytis. These last readings were accompanied by historical slides, including a chilling view of a Nazi flag on the Acropolis at Athens during WW2. We ended with a group reading by volunteers from the audience of Theo Durgan’s poem Ithaca for Leonard Cohen – unrehearsed but perfect!
Ama Bolton, Wells
An Afternoon of Odyssey that left one longing for an extension of the journey. Unwilling to admit that the afternoon had come to an end, we listened to music composed by Mikis Theodorakis, the cadences being soothing and yet unsettling because we had learned just beforehand that the impetus for the song was the iconic poem by Odysseus Elytis used as a touchstone work in liberation politics. I felt it a privilege to be given the opportunity to read Ena to Helidoni in tandem with CLAIRE COLEMAN. All the poems delivered in the course of the afternoon were aptly in service of the theme, and the over-riding awareness was of Homer’s account of the Odyssey, and the many travails of those journeys. I was particularly impressed by the succinct nature of the poems in AMA BOLTON’s work Warp, and the way that she delivered them in a measured tone. The book she designed is a work of art. I feel immensely privileged to have a copy. The careful choreography of the entire afternoon demonstrated how exemplary the progression of readings and images were, and needed to be, for it to hold together. It’s another work of art.
Verona Bass, Bath
Yesterday worked beautifully. The morning was as interesting as the others have been. I liked finding common ground with Linda and sitting opposite June who so bravely stood outside our positive response to‘ The Second Coming’. Also discovering new poems and poets is always a delight . The surprise of the morning for me was Robert Penn Warren’s ‘Evening Hawk’ found by Sue when surfing the net for poems about falcons: a poem that just opens out, and out taking the reader on its flight. I thought in some ways the afternoon was the best yet. I especially enjoyed Sue’s slides ( they introduce a whole new dimension) and the focus towards the end on the heart rending Greek experience. Here the surprise was ‘The Rescue’ by Edward Sackville-West coupled with its powerful illustrations by Henry Moore. Ama’s contributions were both moving: her vivid succinct poems from ‘ Warp’ and the gift of lines from ‘ The Odyssey’ read in Greek. I also enjoyed the two book launches from Verona and Ann: the titles of both books including ‘light’ and their poems shining ‘light on their subjects. In sum, I noticed that there is a lovely hum developing in those events among this group of people.
Sarah Gregory, Bradford on Avon
It was a thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating day (it took a long time for my overactive brain to pipe down and let me sleep last night). although the morning session made demands on energy and thought, I was kept alert and interested enough not to ‘drift’ in the afternoon.The variety of poems and presentations was most helpful in this respect, but though these were indeed various and surprising, the recurring main sea and Odyssey theme running through it all gave a real narrative and sense of development to the journey/voyage. Although it made sense chronologically and in other ways to end with that harrowing period of Greek history in recent times, it was a dark place to find myself right at the end of the afternoon, in spite to the group recital at the finish. I’d liked perhaps to be taken out of it by, say a quiet sequence of Malolm’s wonderful paintings – just a thought, while appreciating the time issue. I was so please to see these images, and this marvellous reminder that Artists are of important significance in this group. More ‘presentations’ please of work by those of us who are making art as well as poems.
Linda Saunders, Bath
Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, Queen Square, Bath
On Saturday 28th July, the Bath Writers & Artists will be embarking on an adventurous afternoon of readings and images inspired by the wanderings of Odysseus. Wells poet AMA BOLTON, who provided the impetus for the July programme, is giving a solo reading of Warp, her imaginative personal journey through Homer’s Odyssey. We will also be celebrating the continuing delight of the Bath Poetry Cafe anthology, The Listening Walk, five of whose original eight editors will be with us in the room. Frome poet and author ROSIE JACKSON will introduce readings by some of the original contributors to her set, As If the Sea and we will have a slide presentation of the work of MALCOLM ASHMAN RWA, RBA, ROI who provided the much loved cover image for the anthology and is now a member of the Bath Writers & Artists group. Fourteen readers from Wells, Bristol, Bradford on Avon, Radstock and Bath will be presenting Homeric pieces by major Russian, Greek, North American, Scottish and Irish writers and we will also be sharing thoughts about the terrible political events which engulfed Greece in the middle years of the twentieth century.
There will be new pamphlets – from VERONA BASS and ANN PRESTON – and the usual delicious tea.
THIS IS A FREE EVENT TO WHICH ALL ARE WELCOME.
DOORS OPEN AT 1.45pm
With that, the owl-eyed goddess
Flew away like a bird, up through the smoke.
Odyssey Book 1, line 319 translated by Emily Wilson
Last Saturday, in one of the most beautiful secret gardens in Wiltshire, you would have found eleven members of the Bath Writers & Artists group arguing happily in the shade of a yew tree whether these lines mean that the bright-eyed shape-shifting goddess actually turned herself into an owl at this point, whether she flew up still in the shape of Mentes, the Taphian leader, Telemachus’ guest-friend or whether she simply flew up as smoke. ( Thanks to Conor Whelan for reminding me of this additional possibility. ) We had gathered to share Emily Wilson’s wonderful new translation of the Odyssey which became for one long sun-soaked afternoon the centre of our world.
Reading in the round, we shared three of the twenty four books – titled in Emily Wilson’s version A Boy and a Goddess, in which Athena teaches Telemachus how to grow into his destiny, A Princess and Her Laundry in which Nausicaa washes her family’s fine clothes in the river and Odysseus covers his salt-caked manly parts with a leafy branch, and A Pirate in a Shepherd’s Cave in which Odysseus and his companions take out Polyphemus’ eye with a sharpened stake of fire-tempered olive wood. Then in proper Homeric fashion we removed ourselves from horror and set out our round-tabled feast, though there was an unexplained shortage of slave girls to bathe us, rub us with olive oil and wrap us in fine wool mantles as happened to Odysseus before he feasted with the Phaeacians in Scheria.
We need seven more afternoons fully to explore the Odyssey. More than one of us seemed to have a glimmer of that resolution in our eyes as we scattered home. Huge thanks to our marvellously generous host and to everyone who travelled from the shires to the magical garden to create this blissful afternoon.
A deferential slave brought bread and laid
a wide array of food, a generous spread.
The carver set beside them plates of meat
of every kind, and gave them golden cups.
The cup boy kept on topping up the wine.
The suitors sauntered in and sat on chairs
observing proper order, and the slaves
poured water on their hands. The house girls brought
baskets of bread and heaped it up beside them.
Once they were satisfied with food and drink,
the suitors turned their minds to other things……
Odyssey Book 1, line 139 translated by Emily Wilson
with VERONA BASS, STEPHANIE BOXALL, SUE BOYLE, CLAIRE COLEMAN, SARAH GREGORY, ANN PRESTON, PETE SMITH, TESSA STRICKLAND, CONOR WHELAN, ROGER WHELAN and SHIRLEY WRIGHT.
Monday 16th July 2018
PLEASE NOTE that this is closed event for existing members of the Bath Writers & Artists Group and existing Friends & Associates.
Am always resolving to keep posts down to a minimum, but this month is proving so fruitful and exciting for Bath Writers & Artists that I have decided to slip in an extra post ahead of time. We are looking forward to such an exciting meetup at the end of July. And while we wait, so many other good things are rolling in…..
Our ‘Odyssey’ sequence on 28th July already has a very compelling line up which includes CONOR & ROGER WHELAN reading together ( a father and son first ), SHIRLEY WRIGHT with blood curdling accounts of Circe the sorceress, SUE CHADD presenting the work of Scottish poet Andrew Greig, and further contributions from AMA BOLTON, CLAIRE COLEMAN, LINDA SAUNDERS, SARAH GREGORY and MARGARET HEATH.
We also have two new pamphleteers ready to do their shared launch readings. Huge congratulations to VERONA BASS and ANN PRESTON who have both worked phenomenally hard to meet self-imposed early summer deadlines which I wrongly thought impossible.
Frome writer ROSIE JACKSON is joining us, to read in our Odyssey sequence and also to introduce poems from our Amazon anthology, The Listening Walk which she and other Poetry Café members edited so brilliantly several years ago. We will be lucky enough to have three of ‘Rosie’s poets’ with us on the 28th, reading the poems she selected and introduced so eloquently for her section, As If the Sea.
I will have the privilege of prefacing Rosie’s presentation with a short introduction to the work of MALCOLM ASHMAN RWA who provided the cover image for The Listening Walk and is now a member of the Bath Writers & Artists Group. Bath poet LINDA SAUNDERS, whose poem provided our anthology title, will read her poem of the same title as part of that.
Bath artist/illustrator JUDE WISDOM, whose solo show has just opened in Chapel Arts, has volunteered to do our first artist’s Q&A session, showing slides of her paintings and drawings on the theme of Journeys and answering questions about her work.
Sherborne singer/songwriter MIRANDA PENDER is appearing as our first virtual contributor, having sent in a stunning voice file to make up for not being able to join us on the day.
We also have news of two exciting new contributors to our growing group. Bath artist/poet PETE SMITH is preparing a special presentation for November on the wisdom and healing potential to be found in myth, and in particular in the myth of the heroic journey, which will link beautifully with our July 28th Odyssey afternoon.
And we are looking forward with great pleasure to welcoming artist NIENKE VAN WIJK from the Royal College of Art as soon as she has settled into her new life in ‘the rolling hills of Somerset’.
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