Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Magma Poetry Awards Night

Me and a Magma
London was freezing cold, Bloomsbury at its sharpest.  Like any good provincial I was distracted by the window displays but was securely borne along by my London-based friend so that we arrived at the RADA Studios almost without my noticing.

Inside, all was warm and friendly.  We were briefed about the running order and given our free copy of Magma, before swigging some wine.

Short poems first, with winners reading both their own and a favourite written by someone else.  This was often a perfect sidestep from where they'd started from, very good to listen to.   Paul Stephenson, the winner, was really, really good, reading 'The Pull', a poem of 10 short lines, that began: 'Moon is a dare:// a raid on a haystack,/a stock of silver,/a salver of harvest...'

Then we had the specially commissioned poems from Moniza Alvi, Simon Barraclough, Tom Chivers and Claire Crowther: varied, surprising, skillful.

Paul Stephenson 1st Prize short poem
Gillian Clarke read from 'Ice'.  I willed her to read 'Polar', the poem about the polar bear rug - and she did.
'I'm dreaming on the white bear's shoulder,/paddling the slow hours, my fingers in his fur'.

She was a smiling, generous judge, who although she said she wouldn't comment on individual poems then suddenly changed her mind and did so.
Which did make us all very happy.  I read my shortlisted poem John Henderson Walks, happy to think of it under Gillian's stone on her piano, having  made it to her 'Maybe' pile.

I thought the top 3 poems Gillian chose were all exceptional.  Amali Rodrigo (who had come all the way from Mumbai!) read Glacier Lagoon, with its attenuated, perfect, inevitable metaphors - 'learning a new language// unable to shake off the foot-fall/ of an old tongue, floes drift, hang//back at the river-mouth, shape-shifting/...
Gillian Clarke

In Lucy Ingrams' poem Snow Tide, the 2nd prize winner, we were again breathing cold air, in a poem so understated you are halfway through before it makes its meaning simply, terribly clear: 'She starts, "You are my... my...?"/We laugh and answer, "...daughters!"/It takes no hold, she starts/again, stirs salt into our tea.// I trace the valley's freeze...'

Third prize winner Rosemary Hudis took me instantly and simply back to the house I grew up in with 'The Women of my Childhood' ...'who, as I came out of the fog/of my own play in a brick-quiet/yard, back through a kitchen door/were always bending/away into another act//their hands vanishing into bowls'

Thank you Magma for such a well planned, warmly executed evening.  It was a treat to meet Rebecca Bilkau after we'd collaborated on the Solstice poems project last midsummer.   And also Laurie Smith, Rosie Shepperd, Anja Konig, Simon Barraclough and Anne-Marie Fyfe.  And finally, thank you Shona, who looked after me for two days.  Long ago, we ran off to France by bicycle for a whole year, in the interests of avoiding Thatcher's Britain.  But this week, as well as getting me safely to the Magma Awards, she took me to the Schwitters in Britain exhibition (which is another story, a good one), the John Soane Museum (weird corridors of the mind) and very much more.
Amali Rodrigo 1st prize winner

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

'Not Lost Since Last Time' is published!

So excited to have copies of my full first collection from Oversteps Books actually sitting in a humble cardboard box on the floor of my cubby hole.

Should you want one, I have some copies to sell therefore. However, I cannot currently fathom what PayPal has done with my account and my 'Button' on this blog.  (I log into PayPal, and all is deserted like no Button ever existed... though I get the impression they work for my other pamphlets.)
While I'm locked in an unsatisfactory email exchange with them, do please just email me on jean at if you'd like a copy of Not Lost.  £8.50 inc P&P, and my grateful thanks.

Friday, 8 February 2013

A Poetry Party! Weekend for Ludlow

I'm really enjoying working with Deb Alma (that's the Emergency Poet, she of the white coat and the vintage ambulance, bringing joy to the verse-starved) as we develop a weekend of poetry for Ludlow Fringe.

Ludlow Fringe will take place from 21st to 30th June, and the first weekend will be A Poetry Party!  (The exclamation mark in this case being part of the title).  Wholly in keeping with the zeitgeist, there is no budget but nonetheless we have had so many excellent poets offering to come at their own expense to read/perform/lead workshops/add to the general gaiety.  And of course we are trying to raise some dosh as well.

So far, we have a headliner reading from Helen Ivory and Brian Johnstone; and Helen will be judging the Ludlow Fringe Poetry Competition.  Brian will take a Masterclass, to which you can submit poems, he will provide a crit, which is discussed with the poets and with the involvement of an audience.  It's a fascinating process and we're so lucky to be able to offer this.

Work by Jean Johnstone in collaboration with Jane Hirshfield
And then - we'll have readings from Liz Lefroy, David Calcutt, John Killick and Angela Topping... Angela will also be judging our Young People's Poetry Competition, and running a workshop.  Artist Jean Johnstone will give a presentation and discussion of her beautiful work making artists books in collaboration with poets (she has recently worked with Jane Hirshfield, also with John Burnside and Kathleen Jamie).  Writing West Midlands will be there to run a writers' information and networking session.

There will be poetry mummers performing in the town, and the Emergency Poet can be consulted in her ambulance in Castle Square.

Dizzy yet?  All weekend there will be a room given over to the wild - in the shape of POETRY IS PANTS! We invite you (and that's poets of any age) to write your own poem on the subject of pants.....could be smarty pants, royal pants, pants for cold weather, magic pants, furry pants, animals’ pants, favourite pants, spy pants, pirate pants, witch pants, bank robber pants, dangerous pants......(or knickers!)

……or you could write a poem about socks...

We provide the templates, and you write your poem on a pair of pants (or socks), decorate according to taste (or no taste) and we'll peg it on the washing line outside the Ludlow Mascall Centre on Lower Galdeford in beautiful Ludlow.

(Big thanks also to the excellent Ludlow Mascall Centre, who are providing their very fine venue for nothing, and there will be a lovely cafe open, and a sundrenched, stone-flagged garden).

More and better will appear on the Ludlow Fringe website as we go along. Look out for info on those competitions, we promise prizes...