Anticipating ‘Fontanelle’ by Helen Sheppard

We’re delighted that another Leaping Word poet, Helen Sheppard, is about to deliver ‘Fontanelle’, her debut collection of poems.

Helen is well-known in the Bristol poetry community and always keen to champion the work of others, which is why the prospect of reading a book of her poems is such a pleasure.

And what a book. You often hear people call poetry collections ‘important’ when they aren’t particularly, whatever other value they might have. However, ‘Fontanelle’, which compares and contrasts Helen’s experiences as a midwife working in the NHS during the 1980s and 90s, with that of her Aunt Doreen, who delivered babies in an earlier, more perilous yet less impersonal era, fully deserves this epithet.

‘Fontanelle’, which is published by Burning Eye Books, will be welcomed into the world this 23rd September, and its launch is taking place at Waterstones in Bristol the following day, Friday 24th September at 7pm.

The Shadow Factory

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The arrival and ritual opening of a box of newly published books is always an exciting moment. And this time we were especially pleased to see that the printers had padded the cargo with paper rather than bubble wrap.

The Shadow Factory is our Deb’s fourth poetry collection from Indigo Dreams Publishing, and its evocative title is straight out of her childhood in 1960s Bristol. ‘As a young girl I was fascinated by the rollsign of the 98 bus that gave its destination as The Shadow Factory,’ she explains, ‘but as the stop we had to get off at came before the terminus, I never got to see it, and an intimation of certain disappointment prevented me from asking what was made there. As a result, The Shadow Factory became a warehouse of wishes and unrealised dreams, a metaphor for life and death, and eventually this collection of poems that explore childhood, memory and the twilight of those household gods we call parents.’

Other poets have had complimentary things to say about our new addition.

Pascale Petit, who awarded the poem Oystercatchers 1st prize in the 2018 Plough Prize Short Poem competition says: Every word is weighted. Although nothing is explicit, something important is being enacted, and the epigraph by Camus adds an anchor, so that we guess his are the words being taken to the sea and released from the heart. I kept coming back to this and getting more from it.’

And in her sensitive review, poetry film maker and novelist Lucy English says ‘The desire to find a place which is ‘not a leisurely stroll from the ice cream van,’ is a strong theme in this collection. [Harvey] comments on the natural world as if this, and not human life is the greater force … Landscape, animals and birds have an intrinsic beauty which she describes with care.’

To read a selection of the poems from The Shadow Factory, please click here.

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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.

 

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