Yesterday afternoon’s meetup went precisely to plan, thanks to the hard work, talent and unfailing good temper of all participants. We even had time in hand for a longer than expected Question and Answer session with the four aspiring novelists – SUE BOYLE, LOUISE GREEN, MIRANDA PENDER and JUNE WENTLAND – and to extend the discussion very happily to embrace the audience. It was a terrific asset to have NIKKI KENNA on hand to manage this.
But like clockwork it was not! For a start, there was such variety of mood and pace in the programme, from the beautifully considered commissioned pieces in Writing Home – from AMA BOLTON, MARGARET HEATH, MICHAEL LOVEDAY, SUE SIMS, CONOR WHELAN and SHIRLEY WRIGHT to the rousing exuberance of Sam Hinton’s Amphioxus Song, so ably lead by our two singers, working together for the first time. ( How nice it would be if this was not their last tandem appearance on our stage. )
We also had four solo songs in the programme, two each from MIRANDA PENDER and ANDREW LAWRENCE, Miranda with her own rivetting compositions, Andrew treating us to powerfully persuasive performances of Britten’s setting of Down by the Salley Gardens and to a second hearing of Patrick Kavanagh’s Raglan Road. There will be another chance to hear Miranda on Saturday 24 November when she will be contributing her own settings of four of the sonnets from The Letters from Mexico. ( Link to invite here. )
MICHAEL LOVEDAY’S launch reading was excellently designed to showcase his book Three Men on the Edge while supporting the two themes of the day – Home and Wilderness – with an arresting presentation of the idea of Edgelands, beautifully illustrated by his own suite of photographic slides. Thanks to Michael, there was a coherence and common energy running through the whole programme which hugely strengthened the impact of the afternoon.
The concert of readings, Writing the Wilderness, was eloquently and professionally performed by the six group members, working together so smoothly it is almost impossible to believe that nothing in meetup presentations has ever been rehearsed. Everything has to happen for the first time – necessarily, when perfomers are gathering from so far afield. Yesterday readers came from Sherborne, Beaminster, Bristol, Corsham, Wells and Stoke St Michael, in addition to those who simply dropped in from Bath. When things work well, this creates a lovely sense of invention and spontaneity which seem now a really important part of the successes of these Queen Square afternoons.
The Writing the Wilderness concert has now been posted on the blog, in full, with pointers to the sources of the readings for people who want to follow up on leads. We are also inviting SUBMISSIONS for a future meetup on the theme of Wild Places, to shape into a new concert for one of the early meetups of 2019. To remain true to yesterday’s meetup, whose title was The Poetry of Prose, all submissions for this should come in as prose, please, though nothing would prevent them appearing elsewhere as poetry. Please read the blog ‘concert’ before you submit. You will see that the pieces need not be fully developed. They can have the characteristics of extracts and should not exceed 200 words, though you can obviously submit more than one.
As well as the concert and the reading list, I have included the three wilderness slides which we shared yesterday, and which may well prompt pieces of writing for this new set.
The Morning Workshop also featured prose. We are all busy now sorting and sifting our thoughts on the sixteen fascinatingly varied submissions. Ama, Sue Sims and I have already posted our personal lists. I will be collating the others as they come in and eventually sharing an overview of workshop members’ thoughts. ( Contributions written by members of the group will be handled VERY tactfully throughout, and not identified nor identifiable unless the author wants to declare themselves.) It would, though, be very good to share the extracts from published novels with the blog. Most of you already have these in Word Docs, so I would be hugely grateful if you would mail them through with title and author when you can find the time.
I will soon preface the Poetry of Prose collection with a few of the ideas about good prose which surfaced yesterday. Here is the slide about how easy it is to write. Which by the way is NOT by Ernest Hemingway. Fake News didn’t start with Donald Trump. ( link to workshop page here)
Many thanks as always to yesterday’s brilliant contributors and to our generous, kindly and responsive audience.
sunday 7 october 2018
The October meetup is fully programmed now and we are looking forward to another excellent afternoon on 6th October with seasoned performers and new friends. The full programme details are now on the 6th October Page. ( Please click link.)
Remarkable to realise that our four 2018 meetups will soon have hosted SIX launch readings – MICHAEL LOVEDAY’S launch on Saturday is following in the dazzling footsteps of books by SUE SIMS’ son, DR MARK SIMS, poet novelists CLAIRE DYER and SHIRLEY WRIGHT and pamphlet poets ANN PRESTON and VERONA BASS.
Spurred on by their examples, perhaps, four hopeful first-time novelists will be appearing on Saturday, talking about their projects and inviting questions from the audience. This will be Bath Writers & Artists’ first Q&A session and I am very grateful to poet-artist NIKKI KENNA for offering to manage it with KINDNESS, FAIRNESS and FEROCITY.
The October meetup is also hosting some remarkable specially written contributions on the theme of home and a powerful concert of readings from major writers on the theme of wilderness, compiled from pieces submitted by members of the group.
I am delighted to be showcasing CAROLINE FRANCES-KING’S forthcoming talk at the BRLSI on the evening before our meetup. (You can read much fuller details on her Page.) I am hoping to persuade Caroline to present some of her work to us in a future meetup – with November in mind because her botanical adventures would team up so eloquently with the presentation of The Letters from Mexico – whose artist, JUDE WISDOM has already agreed to answer questions about her work , following an appreciation generously written for the November afternoon by ANN PRESTON, author of A North East Light.
I am delighted, too, that Bath Writers & Artists may soon have a visit from PETER REASON, who is proposing to help design a hugely important day for us next year inspired by the question from the great poet Mahmoud Darwish. ( For ‘poetry’, of course, we will be also reading ‘art’.)
THIS IS WHAT PETER WRITES ABOUT HIS MOST RECENT BOOK
To recover from ecological disaster, we humans must transform our sense of who we are in relation to the Earth. In Search of Grace is the story of an ecological pilgrimage in my small yacht, Coral, from the south coast of England round the west coast of Ireland to the far north of Scotland. It explores themes of pilgrimage: the overall pattern of separation from the everyday, venturing forth, and returning home. It tells of meeting wildlife, visiting sacred places, confronting danger, expanding and deepening experience of time, of silence, of fragility
AND HERE IS ONE OF THE REVIEWS
In his years at the University of Bath, Peter Reason rose to prominance as a brave pioneer of Action Research–a participative approach to scholarly and whole life inquiry, that refuted narrow reductionism. Now, in this meditatively written and rich interwoven account, he takes his inquiry futher. Sailing his boat around the seas of Celtic lands, he gains insights into these our troubled times, as glimpsed through the cracks of a deeper grace belonging to this planet Earth. Alastair McIntosh, author of Poacher’s Pilgrimage: An Island Journey
A huge welcome to this blog to the members of Moor Poets who came to the Sharing Our Bright Fields workshop in Devon on 14th September and are now allowing me to see some of the marvellous poems they began that day. Such good writers, devoting themselves to such a good topic, with prompts from such masters of the craft…. it is a real privilege to invite them to join our blog and – perhaps – one day, to join us not just in virtual but in ‘real’ reality.
sue boyle 30 september 2018
I hope you have all kept up with the marvellous collective post about the meetup in July. It has contributions now from thirteen people – VERONA BASS, AMA BOLTON, RACHAEL CLYNE, CLAIRE COLEMAN, SARAH GREGORY, MARGARET HEATH, CAROLINE HEATON, ROSIE JACKSON, MICHAEL LOVEDAY, ANN PRESTON, LINDA SAUNDERS, CONOR WHELAN and SHIRLEY WRIGHT – to all of whom, many thanks.
For those of you who were spellbound at the July meetup by the Mikis Theodorakis’ song, Ena to Helidoni, and its place in history, here is a link to his own extraordinary performance at the open air concert on the Rosa Luxembergplatz in East Berlin in front of a huge audience just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. https://youtu.be/QOKBFtKZmOQ
Bath Writers & Artists has been gathering some very interesting new followers and I am looking forward very much to discovering how they choose to develop their personal Pages on this blog. Of the original 20 subscribers, I am abashed that only VERONA BASS and SUE BOYLE have updated their Pages in July. Do check out PETE SMITH‘S new Page. He is busy finishing a project at the moment, but is managing to come to the Bradford Homeric Afternoons and will soon be featuring with us in Queen Square. We have also been promised content by Corsham designer JOHN MAGGS. The second Homeric Afternoon will owe a great deal to CONOR WHELAN’S inspired suggestion that we should look at some of the Odyssey and The Waste Land in one afternoon. Reading great literature followed by great food seems a winning formula. Do get in touch if you feel like hosting something similar to extend the joy.
Plans for the October 6th Programme are well advanced, thanks to the terrific contributions which have already come in from so many of you. There is a Page for the Meetup on the Header Menu which shows the evolving programme for the afternoon, and another, dropped down from that, titled Writing the Wilderness where I am collating the stunning variety of concert pieces which have come in. Do read these as soon as you have a moment, not just for their own sake, but in case you would like to be one of the readers during the meetup afternoon.
There is a Page on the Header Menu for Writing Workshops, which at the moment is looking rather sparse. If you are a member of Bath Writers & Artists and you give open workshops, or workshops to which people can come by special arrangement, please broadcast them here. My workshop, Sharing Our Bright Fields, for Moor Poets in Devon is coming soon. It will be good to have some company on our Page!
I am altering the Header Menu Subscribers Page so that all our Friends, Associates and Followers appear on the same Page with the rest of us. For anyone who doesn’t already know how our regrettably hierarchical system works, it seems a good moment to explain. Bath Writers & Artists has no public funding. We raised enough money to rent space for our bi-monthly workshops and meetups by finding twenty wonderful people willing to split the cost. Those twenty subscribers get a share of the available morning workshops and the privilege of launch readings for their new books. This makes it possible for the afternoon meetups to be free for everyone. Everyone involved in Bath Writers & Artists gives their time for free, even when they are so prestigious that in other circumstances they would rightly expect to be paid to read.
I’ve recently been asked to write about us ( and had the article accepted ) for the Artemis Journal. I will tell you more when I’ve seen us actually in print.http://www.artemisjournal.org
Lastly, for the moment, a little plea to everyone who has a Page on this blog. If you can keep up the habit of monthly updates – inserted at the top – it is so interesting for everyone as well as being a useful little exercise in reflective thought. I have stripped out the preamble about Project 2017 from my Page now, just to give the ongoing text a fresher start. And when you do read Pages, if you enjoy them, please click the ‘Like’ button…..
These are the last lines of a poem by Mary Oliver called Wild Geese ………
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
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