Thanks to Lydia Needle and the chance to participate in the 2018 50 Bees project, I'm now on the lookout for 'my' bee, Bombus Hypnorum or the Tree Bumblebee. None so far here in italy, but today I spent a happy half hour watching these beauties - I think they are Bombus Terrestris, the Buff-tailed Bumblebee, often the earliest bees to emerge on warm February days. Even so I was amazed to see that these ones weren't put off by yesterday's snowstorm! They love purple flowers, and there's plenty of rosemary here for a quick winter merenda. I'll be watching and writing about tree bumblebees as the spring starts to arrive...hoping that some bumblebee poems will start stirring too. Hmmm...
....after-life of trees, celandines, the sadness of thrushes, sphagnum moss and other wonders in the beautiful
Reliquiae Supplement 2017
(online from Corbel Stone press - click on the link above to download). I'm so pleased to have two poems there, alongside words from Gerard Manley Hopkins:Blunt buds of the ash. Pencil buds of the beech. Lobes of the trees. Cups of the eyes. Gathering back the lightly hinged eyelids. Bows
of the eyelids. Pencil of eyelashes. Juices of the eyeball. Eyelids like leaves, petals, caps, tufted hats, handkerchiefs, sleeves, gloves.
and many others. Reading through this morning sent me to a place of watchful waiting, good to visit just before the turn of the year.
A trip through wintery East London by train and bus to wonderful Paekakariki Press in Walthamstow has woken me up! Letterpress printing, an endangered method, is alive and well at this Walthamstow workshop, where the machinery is as beautiful as the poetry books they publish there. (Among others, I've been enjoying Chrissie Gittins' delightful collection 'Professor Hegel's' Daughter', and 'Patrick Bond's 'Signals on the Railway Land', poems celebrating a Sussex nature reserve.
This hulking beast is the Heidelberg KS Cylinder, brought from Coventry and now lovingly restored to good working order.
I spent an hour lost in the joys of 'The Printers Vocabulary' helpfully provided by Paekakariki: from 'Asses' (a term for compositors used by pressmen, in return for being called 'pigs' by the compositors), to the dreaded 'Balaaam box' (into which were thrown rejected manuscripts) and on to 'Xylonite' (nothing to do with the planet Xylon, it turns out) and Zincos (blocks used in producing engravings on zinc). Before I knew it, it was way past lunchtime and already getting dark. Back to hibernation then.
Watch this space for my new chapbook, 'White Roads', due out with Paekakariki in 2018.
After a dry, dry summer here in Montalcino, the drought continues. Beautiful turning leaves in orchards and vineyards, but still hardly any rain.
This mornng I'm at my desk, writing a review for London Grip of this lovely poetry pamphlet by Maria M McCarthy: 'There are Boats on the Orchard'. It's bringing the vanishing orchards of Kent into this Italian room, and i love it that it is also quietly promoting the work of the Kent Orchards for Everyone project to save and restore orchards in Kent and farther afield. Another small book to celebrate, with its subtle ironies and delicate line drawings by Sara Fletcher. Well worth seeking it out, I think; available at Cultured llama.
Not really! I got on the number 13 and went to the last two days of wonderful Swindon Poetry Festival. And wished I'd been there for more. I loved the Battered Moons prize-winning poems - stand-outs for me were the first prize poem 'If I Say, Flower' by Louise Grieg and Rachel Davies' irresistible commended woodlouse tribute, 'Chiggy Pig' (I've always been a huge woodlouse fan). I mean a very big fan, not a fan of huge woodlice. Although now I think of it... You can go to the linked site to read these two and other great winning poems.
This is me enjoying my first-ever festival performance, encouraged by the warm and responsive Swindon audience. Thanks to Cinnamon Press, I now have a cinnamon-red book to flick through with seeming nonchalance and read from in proper professional poet style. It was great going first in the set, so I could relax, calm down my blood-pressure, and listen properly to the amazing, brave and beautiful lines that came next from Daniel Sluman, followed by Julia Webb's darkly magical Bird Sisters.
Swindon's a very special place to perform your poems. Most of it happens inside the now-legendary Tent Palace of the Delicious Air. In addition to the starry night you can see here, the tent stretches back into an area with the audience lolling on cushions, Arabian desert-tent-style, or seated on chairs between walls with mandala-like panels, making it feel both intimate and limitless. And then there's Richard Jefferies, the Swindon naturalist who is celebrated at the museum where all this happens (he's the attentive little figure under the reading stand). I hope he liked my tree poems!
There were so many good people and great poems, it seems unfair to single any out. But look out for a show in development called Mad and Glow, from Jacqueline Saphra and Tania Hershman. I think it will be appearing at other events throughout the year. Be warned, both jam and Marmite are involved!
Altogether, Swindon was transformed for me during this weekend, thanks to the inimitable Hilda Sheehan and all who work so hard to make every aspect of the festival (including the late-night toast guzzling sessions!) so delicious.
Walking from the number 8 bus stop to Conway Hall, I made myself a promise: this time I won't buy more books than I can hope to read in the next few months. Some hope!
But still, it was hard to choose... however, these are books I picked up from some of my favourites among the vibrant crowd of poetry presses at this year's fair, including my own publisher, sparky Cinnamon Press from Wales. I looked for poets I like or have read good things about and have been meaning to read, then found myself drawn to books with an interesting format, a well-chosen or spacious typeface, or even a pleasing shape. These are from: Rack Press, Paekakariki, Nine Arches, Emma Press, Cinnamon, and Herules Editions.
It's an event I look forward to, with free talks and readings (I happened upon a wonderfully entertaining set from Amy Deakin, Nick Eisen, George Harris, Rick Dove and Susan Evans, of William Cornelius Harris Publishing), and plenty more besides. Where else could you walk into a free day full of poetry people, poetry news, poetry books, workshops, and readings next to the Café on the Green in the little park nearby? OK, I admit there was no candyfloss, but they did provide a sublime veggie wrap and a great cup of coffee too. Now all I have to do it to get down to some careful reading as autumn sets in.
Looking forward to it this Thursday, when I'll be reading with fellow Cinnamon Press poets at West Greenwich library. We'll make it a really special evening; I hope that some of my readers will be able to be there. Docklands Light Railway provides a lovely trip over to Greenwich for anyone coming from the North!
Kew Gardens - what a great poetry venue! On Wednesday evening some of us from the Mixed Borders garden residencies shared garden poems with a London Parks and Gardens Trust audience. The reading was held in the Sir Joseph Banks building, not as I'd imagined under banana leaves in the Palm House or surrounded by lotus blossoms in the Waterlily House. Still, it was lovely to hear more of the beautiful poems that came out of our garden residencies. An online 'flicky-book' is currently in production and will be available via The Poetry School, poetryschool.com.
In Italy the heatwave continues. It's made it hard to find the energy to write, so that anything I've produced in the past month has emerged very slowly, and I'd like to say thoughtfully. But mainly just slowly.