Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Roncadora Poets read in The Green Tea House Sat 3 March

I'm looking forward to reading among the talent and bone-dry wit of the Roncadora Poets in what must be one of the most perfect settings for verse - The Green Tea House in Moniaive. We're all published by Dumfries and Galloway’s award-winning Roncadora Press and will endeavour to woo and wow you on Saturday 3 March at 7pm. Tickets are £6, available from 01848 200099.
Here's the infamous team photo (as once captioned by Hugh McMillan: 'Roncadora are a family firm purveying mutton pies, butteries, mince rounds and bread and butter puddings. The present board of directors, photographed here, pride themselves on providing high calorie fare for the most discerning of palates."  Speak for yourself Hugh.).

More truthfully, you, the audience, can expect varied and engaging poetry helpfully complemented by a free glass of wine and canap├ęs created by The Green Tea House. Hot drinks will also be available.

Roncadora Press is owned and managed by Hugh Bryden, renowned artist, teacher, writer – and increasingly well-regarded publisher. Roncadora Press was shortlisted in 2008 for the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award for Pamphlet Poetry with Hugh’s own pamphlet ‘If Ah Could Talk tae the Airtists’; then won the prize in 2009 with well- published poet Hugh McMillan’s ‘Postcards from the Hedge’, and was shortlisted again in 2011 with Jean Atkin’s ‘Lost at Sea’.
Roncadora has also been successful in the prestigious Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet competition, shortlisted in 2010 with ‘Devorgilla’s Bridge’ by Hugh McMillan and again in 2011 with a selection of work by the poets reading at this event.

The reading at the Green Tea House will feature work by Jean Atkin, Hugh Bryden, Andrew Forster, Hugh McMillan and Rab Wilson. We'll read from recently published work, but promise also to provide a taster of new poems on their way to publication, in a conversational evening.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Andrew McNeillie’s Late Night Pheasant

Yesterday we had half a dozen of them still scrounging under the bird feeders.  (The shoots don't get very close to us).  Later in the year we see pairs of males sparring in the garden.  Which means I’ve often seen them up close – not to mention the times you disturb one when walking, and they burst from under your feet with that strange panicky honking, wings whirring.

So I went back to Andrew McNeillie’s poem ‘Pheasant’, published as ‘Plato’s Aviary (Puts Out a Wing) in his 2002 collection ‘Now, Then’ from Oxford Poets.


Comes under the wall where it’s broken, onto the road:
Humble not a word for him, though; nor his gait

In his scaly crocodile party shoes walking
Delicately on his toes like an elderly gent with corns.

But so burnished, Oriental in his princely ornament,
So finely beaten, his dark copperware

Laced like damascene, with the black rim tip
Indent of the craftsman’s hammer mottling

His waistcoat-breast.  How well he has worn the night
Down all these years, a thousand and one years exiled,

Out late and looking for the way home, his majesty
In all his finery, still dressed for the banquet, at dawn.

I enjoy this poem both for its sustained joke and its wonderful observation.  The male pheasant is so exotic, ‘so finely beaten’ that none of this is exaggeration.  Even the self-important strut of the bird is captured so neatly ‘Delicately on his toes like an elderly gent with corns.’

Pheasants have been in Britain since the 10th century, introduced as a game bird.  And are native to Ancient Colchis – now Georgia. So –all dressed up, but lost.  ‘How well he has worn the night’. 

If I’d had this poem before ever I’d seen a male pheasant in the early morning, I’d have recognised him by it.