Letting poems take their place in the world

When it comes to poems inspired by a certain area or landscape, that have a story to tell about that spot, being able to connect the poem to its place adds an extra, vital dimension.  I often go on walks with a site-specific poem in my pocket. I’ve taken U A Fanthorpe’s ‘Stanton Drew’ to the eponymous stone circles south of Bristol, and, as she urges, listened to the past’s long pulse. I’ve sat on Ted Hughes’ memorial stone near Taw Head on Dartmoor to recover from all the tussock-jumping required to get there and read aloud his wonderful litany, ‘Rain-Charm for the Duchy’. I’ve wept over Eliot’s Four Quartets in East Coker churchyard.

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Stanton Drew stone circles

Then there are the poems we write ourselves. It has be be said that going around sellotaping poems to lamp posts and telegraph poles isn’t practical. But now you can pin them to an online map of England and Wales, which is another, less polluting way of letting them take their place in the world.

Places of Poetry is led by poet Paul Farley and Professor Andrew McRae. The project is open to readers and writers of all ages and backgrounds, with the aim of prompting reflection on national and cultural identities in England and Wales through creative writing. Writers are invited to pin their poems to places on the map from 31st May to 4th October 2019, after which date it will be closed to new poems but remain available for readers. 

The site will also contain news about events and activities to promote the project and generate new writing. You can also follow Places of Poetry via social media (@placesofpoetry).

Places of Poetry is based at Lancaster and Exeter Universities, and funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England.

Ted

Ted the border collie at Ted Hughes’ memorial stone, Dartmoor

 

The new venue for Silver Street Poetry

With just ten days to go before the first meeting of Silver Street Poetry in its new home, it feels timely to share our photos of our visit there today and remind our poets of its location.

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We parked in the Galleries – although Trenchard Street car park is nearer, of course – and took the scenic route to get there, via Christmas Steps. (Other, less precipitous approaches – for instance, walking up Colston Street from the Centre – are available.)

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Hours is at 10 Colston Yard, which is reached from Colston Street. What fascinates me about it is that although the entrance is at ground level and therefore fully accessible, it is built into the side of the hill, and the views are amazing. I’d only been there in the dark before, so I was quite excited to get a new perspective on a familiar area.

We checked and it’s fine for poets to bring their own refreshments from nearby cafes, of which there are many.

We returned to Broadmead via Johnny Ball Lane, which passes below Hours and the other buildings of Colson Yard. Here they are, perched atop this magnificent Victorian wall.

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Just time for a quick coffee in Revive Cafe at the top of Corn Street.

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See you on Friday 7th June at our original time of midday and at our new venue of Hours, for hours – well, an hour and a half – of poems shared with friends.

 

For the Silent – a poetry anthology in aid of the League against Cruel Sports

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Here at the Leaping Word, we love wildlife enough to have a hare as our logo. What’s more, it’s not some terrified creature, hunted to the point of exhaustion and then killed in the name of ‘sport’ – no, it’s a confident, poetic beast.

Yes, foxes can be a pest on farms, and sometimes their numbers need to be controlled, but we’ve never been able to imagine our way into the mindset of someone who supports the hunt.

Nor can publishers, Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling of Indigo Dreams, and to spread the word (literally), they have produced this beautiful anthology of poems, For the Silent, proceeds from the sale of which go to the League Against Cruel Sports.

Our Deborah is delighted to have a poem in it, rubbing its humble shoulders with poems by Mary Oliver, Simon Armitage, Thomas Hardy, Margaret Atwood, Pascale Petit, Liz Berry, Seamus Heaney, Alison Brackenbury, Siegfried Sassoon, John Clare, Ted Hughes and many more.

If you have a heart and a soul, this book is for you. It costs £10 + p&p and is available from the Indigo Dreams website. (Buying directly from Ronnie and Dawn will maximise funds for the League.)

Silver Street is on the move

SILVER STREET POETRY

Big changes down Silver Street this month, with the news that we are on the move!

Unfortunately the dance studio we’ve been using at the Station is no longer available, so from next month, Friday 7th June, we’ll be holding our popular open mic in the attractive, modern space that is Hours, situated in Colston Yard, off Colston Street. The room we are using is on the ground floor and fully accessible, as is the WC.

The full address is 10 Colston Yard, Bristol, BS1 5BD, and the nearest affordable car parks are at Trenchard Street (0.2 miles) and the Galleries in Broadmead (0.5 miles). It is 0.4 miles from the bus station.

Please note also that we are reverting to our original, earlier time of 12 to 1.30pm.

Hours

If you aren’t sure of the exact location of Colston’s Yard is, fear not: here is a map.

Hours space map

The entrance to the Yard is pictured below.

Colston Yard

June’s guest poet at Hours will be Ross Cogan, the Creative Director of Cheltenham Poetry Festival, whose third collection, Bragr, is published by Seren. Don’t forget to bring a poem of your own or someone else’s to share. Entry fee is £3.

 

What you don’t see

Someone in our Friday morning group recently wrote a poem about going on an expedition to see long-eared owls on a common outside Blackpool.  The poem was a journey in itself, and engaged the reader so successfully that it really felt as if we were with her, tramping across scrubby ground at twilight, prey to group dynamics, shifting cloud cover and flights of fancy.  However, when we got to the final stanza and encountered the birds, it was almost an anti-climax. Although their appearance was captured precisely and well, the poem seemed to have peaked at the slightly earlier moment of is-that-them-or-not.

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Searching for something, with all its attendant hope, dashed or otherwise, its triumphs and frustrations, is a playground for the imagination. I’ve spent several mornings this spring with an hour or so to kill in an old and fairly neglected part of the city, and I’ve been wandering along wooded river banks to a park with a former boating lake, all within a stone’s throw of the motorway. There have been lots of things I haven’t seen.

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In particular, the number of times I’ve nearly spotted a kingfisher have far outnumbered actual sightings.

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It strikes me that the poet has to be like the hunter – or rather, wildlife watcher. Idle yet alert. Focused yet open to imaginative possibility. And with the added requirement of knowing when to step back and let the reader make that final capture.

Here’s a sonogram from my 2014 collection, Map Reading for Beginners.

 

Listening For Nightingales

 

dusk

a cobweb

taut

 

our heads

tilted to hear strands

snap

 

the sky

dark as the bark of a dog-fox

over the valley

 

guided

by whitethorn

the infant river trickles rumour

in our ears

 

this is

dishevelled willows murmur

a perfect place for

nightingales

 

somewhere

a robin declares itself,

a weary song thrush pegs clean notes out

on a tree

 

knee-deep

in dandelions and vetch

we lean upon a gate and hold our

breath

 

Postscript:   I heard a nightingale singing last night (Saturday 11th May 2019) at Bushey Coombe in Glastonbury, and it was beautiful. And I’m not planning to write a poem about it.

 

listening for nightingales

Photo © Dru Marland, 2012