Saturday 21st May, my first visit to Rainham Hall, where I'll be POET IN RESIDENCE for the next month, with open days on 18th and 19th June, as part of Open Garden Squares weekend . Rattly train from Fenchurch Street past Stratford, Barking, Dagenham Dock, timber yards, steel yards, tips, a plastic playground, a rainbow park bench. Then, a few steps from Rainham station and the marshland that leads down to the Thames, this Georgian sea captain's house, now managed by the National Trust, with the most unexpectedly lovely garden. I arrived just as Jesse (the community gardener) and a group of local kids had finished making a new insect mansion! Almost as impressive as Rainham Hall itself. What a welcoming place - and not just for earwigs! The garden's lovely - a great combination of careful planting, community involvement, and creative wilderness. I'll let the pictures do the talking... I came away with ideas buzzing in my head, and a lot of exisitng love and garden ideas to live up to. Might need to build another mansion to house them all.
oMy poem about the herb rosemary was displayed on the Ledbury Poetry Festival site, as part of Poetica Botanica, a collection of poems inspired by the Physic Garden at Hellen's Manor. The poem is about the herb, but the anziane (elderly women) who live in our street in Italy, and are such lovely neighbours, have somehow crept into it too...
Update! The poems from Poetica Botanica have now been published as a lovely anthology, 'The Physic Garden', edited by Adam Horowitz. You can buy a copy of the anthology here.
Packing my books, getting ready to leave Italy and head back to London tomorrow, I was waylaid once more by Mel Pryor's amazing collection Small Nuclear Family (recently reviewed in the TLS). These poems are clever but never glib, bang up-to-date but full of lasting insight and humanity. Order a copy from Eyewear Publishing, (interesting indie publisher) before they sell out!
1st - 6th May 2016
Six London poets and friends on retreat at beautiful Il Rigo, near San Quirico in Tuscany.
We walked, talked, explored local historic sites, were pilgrims for a few hours on the Via Francigena, bathed with the naiads in the hot springs at Bagno Vignoni, visited Annibale Parisi, artist and wine-maker and his family at Nostra Vita, and had loads of time to think, read, write and redraft.
It was such a productive week - definitely on offer again next year!
I like what Franz Kafka said: