MEET UPS : January, February
PROJECT PROPOSAL 1: More than a decade ago, I began an affair with a hedgerow preacher on the roads of Kentucky. It was a virtual and entirely incorporeal affair. My partner-in-fiction was a man of strong imagination, who initiated our adventure over a shared love of bluegrass music. He proved faint-hearted in the end, but not before we’d spawned four children ( an immaculate, electronic conception, gestating over several weeks) and moved to Oklahoma to make moonshine and dig a living out of the exhausted soil. He and his alter ego ran off in the night to embark on a lucrative career fleecing the gullible. I returned to a day job that bored me rigid and to writing poems about (mostly) real stuff. But last October, whilst driving across the parched plains of Central France, the Dustbowl Chronicles came back to me. I retrieved the memory stick of poems and began to put them in some kind of order. The story covers several decades, from the plains of Oklahoma to the jungles of Vietnam. Is it worth knocking into shape?
Quote: ‘The longer and more carefully we look at a funny story, the sadder it becomes.’ Nikolai Gogol
PROJECT PROPOSAL 2 :Twenty years ago our family took possession of a dilapidated French farmhouse. With it came a few rumours and clues about the previous inhabitant, Clementine, who was born there at the dawn of the twentieth century and only left it to die in the Maison de Retraite, in the century’s closing years. She left little behind – sabots, a few bits of crockery, some Nazi coins, preserved fruit buried in the cellar; on the walls, the smoky outlines of her furniture, which resisted painting over. But from this and from the largely disparaging remarks of an elderly neighbour ( she burned green wood, a woman of no taste) a picture of Clementine has been emerging in my mind. Over a number of years I have built a fictional biography for her, in the form of twenty or so poems. Last year I began to experiment with incorporating these into a radio play, interweaving her story with that of the fictionalised family restoring the house. My life’s motto seems to be I’ve started so I won’t finish, but I now feel an urgency to complete this project. We reluctantly accepted an offer on the house this month, and expect to move out by March. I’m afraid that without the stimulus of Clementine’s ‘presence’ around me, she will cease to live in my head.
Quote: ‘It does not seem to me…that we completely understand the laws governing the return of the past’ Austerlitz, W G Sebald
PROGRESS REPORT :
From the Judge’s Report Torbay Festival Poetry Competition 2016
FIRST PRIZE : LOUISE GREEN A Glosa for Adlestrop
In my opinion, the poem which won the First Prize in this year’s Torbay Festival Competition ought now to be included in every anthology which features Adlestrop. Louise Green chose to write a glosa, an intricate Spanish form which is so difficult to achieve that the poem could easily have revealed itself as mere technical exercise. But this winning poem is a vibrant and compelling piece in its own right. The rhythms and rhymes are used to masterly effect. The poem tells a startlingly unexpected story. And the interweaving of the Thomas’ original with this parallel text is so subtle, so well controlled that the two pieces of writing almost fuse into one. I can’t remember when I began to suspect that this poem might come near the top of the competition – but I do remember that it was when I began to read all the serious contenders aloud, several times, that A Glosa for Adlestrop really soared away.