A fruitful meetup in the Elwin Room on the hottest day in June

Thank you so much to subscriber/performers  ALI BACON, VERONA BASS, AMA BOLTON, CLAIRE COLEMAN, EILEEN CAMERON, ANN CULLIS, ANN PRESTON, PETER REASON and GRAEME RYAN, to PAUL BROWNE of the BRLSI for doing our set-up,  and to all our lovely guests.

If only we could spend more time working so happily together, as nine of us did yesterday morning, on ways to improve our performance of our work. Using a set of short ‘audition’ pieces sent in by the group – most of them due to be presented in the afternoon – we were able to work first on the basic essentials of any performance  – audibility and use of the microphone – and then move into the range of more subjective questions which can only arise when an audience can actually hear what a reader has to say.

  • What kind of piece reads well? 
  • Is there a too rich density of detail,  or a too speedy turnover  of shifting ideas and images which will ask too much of an audience unfamiliar with the written text? 
  • Do some  pieces of writing need to be shortened for performance to prevent audience overload and fatigue? 
  • The speed of a reading mustn’t make the audience ‘switch off’ with the effort of comprehension, but is there such a thing as a reading that is too slow? 
  • Are authors the best readers of their own work? 
  • Are ambitious typographical devices (  irregular indentation of lines, for example) helpful in performance, or should they really be kept back for the printed page? 
  • How and how far should a reader honour the line breaks when performing someone else’s work?

Some of  the morning pieces simply sang themselves off the page. These tended to be pieces with a strong and straightforward trajectory –  ‘narrative’ in the sense of working their way clearly through their subject, starting with an arresting moment, maintaining their energy, then closing well.  Pieces whose development was episodic and unpredictable,  pieces whose centre of interest was ill-defined, pieces whose core of energy waxed and waned tended, in performance, to work less well.

The same of course was true of the outstanding sets we heard from some of our subscribers in the afternoon.  The fifteen minute performance ‘window’ is both a huge privilege, and, of course, a trap.   A privilege because so few of us get many opportunities to present our work at this length.    A trap, because longer sets need such tight intelligent structuring and such an unflagging  sense of conviction to hold an audience’s interest throughout.

If only Bath Writers & Artists could find a rehearsal/performance space we could more easily and more frequently  afford!  Those of us lucky enough to be in  the Elwin Room yesterday will look back on this meetup, I think as one of our golden days.

Another amazing day!

ADVENTURES AND EXPERIMENTS WITH WORDS AND IMAGES
for full programme, please see the meetup page

linked here 

Bath Writers & Artists chose their own topics for the forthcoming meetup on Saturday 1st June.  If you take a look at the poster below , you will see why someone outside the group asked whether this was actually the publicity for a year long Bath Writers & Artists’ creative writing course?

We wanted to celebrate the diversity of the group, and the courage of the way members seem to branch out so fearlessly into (for them) untried and untested things.  By focussing on the idea of GENRE, we have all been able to propose almost anything which has appealed to us …… which is how the day turned into the utterly extraordinary event which is postered and previewed here.

Saturday 1st June
Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution
Queen Square
BATH BA1 2HN

Untitled 5

The morning space is too small for visitors, but we will have room in the Lonsdale in the afternoon, for friends who would like to enjoy the presentations, share our tea table,  and contribute to the fascinating and illuminating discussions which are certain to take place.

VISITORS WILL BE VERY WELCOME FROM 1.45pm to 4.30pm
ADMISSION FREE

 

 

What a way to end our year!

There were fifty people in the Elwin Room when we counted at 3pm – FIFTY people on the day Bath Christmas Markets opened, on the day of the Artisan Fair outside the window in Queen Square, on a day when most sensible people –  unless they wanted to go Christmas shopping – might well have avoided Bath.  We had a marvellously engaged and responsive audience, made specially lively by the colourful contingent who came to hear Larkhall star, artist JUDE WISDOM answer questions about her work.  This followed a powerpoint presentation of selected pieces to accompany ANN PRESTON’S eloquent Appreciation, which we might be permitted later to include in the blog.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 14.36.03

One of Jude Wisdom’s artworks included in the show

The Realms of Gold concert was also mesmerising with some of our finest readers and most admired poets delivering a powerful programme of prose and poetry.  We all love drama, except perhaps an organiser waiting at 1.55pm for the arrival of  the always reliable CONOR WHELAN who had promised to open at 2.00pm with a recital of Kubla Khan from memory.  The piece really mattered to establishing the meetup theme.  Only the wonderful talent and good temper of STEPHANIE BOXALL saved us from listening vainly to the silence of the void.  Hers was a marvellously sensitive and compelling reading and it gave our afternoon a flying  (albeit for this organiser a nailbiting)  start.

The shared tea was unusually spectacular.  Many thanks to VERONA BASS for taking charge of managing the tables, to all the generous providers, and especially to FLORY WISDOM who had been baking for us for days. FLORY will be presenting her poems for the first time on March 23rd next year, our youngest contributor so far and also definitely one of our culinary stars.  It was quite difficult to coax the audience away from the food and each other’s company and back to their seats for The Letters from Mexico .  

Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 16.38.25

One of the slides for The Letters from Mexico with grateful thanks to Frederick Lord Leighton and Henri ‘Le Douanier’ Rousseau

This must surely have been one of the most delightful launches, for an author, that anyone could have had. Other than the little pieces of linking narrative, all I had to do was listen, enchanted, as friend after friend delivered my sonnets better than the author could have done, while PETE SMITH serenely showed the slides.  The Letters from Mexico has now, under GRAEME RYAN’S excellent direction in Taunton,  been a costumed play; had a formal launch at the excellent Teignmouth Festival of Poetry; an outing to the Beaufort Bookshop with audience spilling out on to the pavement and the glorious accompaniment of an overhead thunderstorm; and now presented itself in Queen Square, to a wonderful audience who had travelled, among other places, from Dublin, Exeter, Reading and Appledore.

Many thanks to all the writers and artists who played a part in this excellent afternoon: VERONA BASS, CHRISSY BANKS, AMA BOLTON, STEPHANIE BOXALL, CLAIRE COLEMAN, CLAIRE DYER, NIKKI KENNA, ANDREW LAWRENCE, MIRANDA PENDER, ANN PRESTON, GRAEME RYAN, LINDA SAUNDERS, SUE SIMS, PETE SMITH, CONOR WHELAN ( much better late than never ) and SHIRLEY WRIGHT

Many thanks, too, to the people who provided such a wonderfully supportive audience, among whom were CAROLE CATLING, B&NES Senior Arts Development Officer ANN CULLIS, poet MARILYN FRANCIS , botanical artist CAROLINE FRANCES-KING, Walcot State Choir’s BRIAN GOODSELL, singer CAROLINE KAY-MOUAT, poet MERETTA HART, Secure Broadcast CEO HELEN LENNON, SIMON LENNON, writer and teacher MICHAEL LOVEDAY, poet PAT MILLNER, artist MARK PENDER, author PETER REASON, writer and publisher TESSA STRICKLAND, JILL SWALE, writer JUNE WENTLAND, DAISY WISDOM and  LUTHER WISDOM, all of whose presence was such a pleasure and such a joy.

The next scheduled appearance of The Letters from Mexico will be at The Swan Hotel in Bradford-on-Avon on Thursday 26th September 2019.

The next fully programmed meeting of Bath Writers & Artists group will be in the BRLSI on Saturday 23rd March 2019.  The day is already rich in themes and interest. Please visit the programme Page to see the details if you would like to play a part in this.

 

sue boyle / organiser bath writers & artists group

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Messages about the meetup 28th July

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.

Verona Bass
Ama Bolton
Rachael Clyne ( read Comments to see this )
Claire Coleman
Sarah Gregory
Margaret Heath
Caroline Heaton
Rosie Jackson
Michael Loveday
Ann Preston
Linda Saunders
Conor Whelan
Shirley Wright
Slide for Warp

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.
Odysseus Elytis

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

Swastika:Acropolis 1941

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

Greece:Freedom 1941-1944

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

Sackville West: The Rescue

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

 

Henry Moore:The Rescue

 

 

 

 

We are about to embark for Ithaca

Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, Queen Square, Bath

On Saturday 28th July, the Bath Writers & Artists will be embarking on an adventurousGreek warrior & flag 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.

Scan 6

Phemius and Telemachus: Henry Moore lithograph from ‘The Rescue’ by Edward Sackville-West, with music by Benjamin Britten, first broadcast during the German occupation of Greece, November 1943.

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.
email: sueboyle2@gmail.com

DOORS OPEN AT 1.45pm

Feasting with the Gods

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.

IMG_7247

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. 

IMG_7230

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. 

IMG_7256

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. 

Sue Boyle

Monday 16th July 2018

A Homeric Afternoon

Saturday 14th July 2018

Homeric Afternoon in Sarah Gregory’s Garden with Verona Bass, Sue Boyle, Sarah Gregory and Shirley Wright. ( Bookings taken as on 3rd June)

A Homeric Afternoon

We shall be reading together from  Emily Wilson’s acclaimed new translation of The Odyssey in preparation for our Bath meetup on 28th July.  There is a list of other possible readings for 28th July on the Page on our Header Menu.

PLEASE NOTE that this is closed event for existing members of the Bath Writers & Artists Group and existing Friends & Associates.