Sunday, 30 March 2014

Poems, poems and more poems ......


Hardly time to breathe between events! On Friday evening I was Event Manager for "The Quiet Compere" and her readers at Copa - a very interesting programme on "A Matter Of Life, Death and Poetry". I was especially impressed by Sarah Maxwell, Sam Gugliani and Rosie Garland - a microbiologist, an oncologist and an expert patient in other existences but fantastic poets in this context. I really enjoyed their contributions.

Yesterday was my "Dylan Thomas day". A lifelong fan, I was very much looking forward to the lecture by Professor John Goodby of Swansea University and was not disappointed. He gave a fascinating talk, concentrating very much on the substance of the poetry rather than the man (although I doubt if it's actually feasible to seperate them completely) and looking at why it has been out of academic favour for some time. In the evening Peter Read performed his very moving one man play "Dylan's Last Journey" at the Everyman - what a shame there wasn't a larger audience to share such a well-researched and written piece of theatre.

And today saw "Myth, Memory and Music" with Jennie Farley, David Clarke and Chris Hemmingway - such an enjoyable event, with poems recalling everything from the glamour and romance of the 1930s ballroom to the pop songs of the 80s and "Elvis Presley's Other Daughter"! A great way to spend a Sunday lunchtime.

David Clarke, Jennie Farley and Chris Hemmingway at Oxfam

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Writing and Researching

An interesting day. This afternoon Somewhere Else, my writing group, was invited to spend some time with the author Judith Cranswick who talked us through her experience of independent publishing. It's an avenue that several of us are planning to pursue and it was very useful to hear of tried and tested approaches, the pitfalls to avoid and sources of help with the practicalities.

"Whose hair I wear I loved most dear" - mourning jewellry
I'm also much enjoying my Exeter University course "Writing Memoirs and Family History". Quite apart from the course material and the input from our tutor, Cherry Gilchrist, it's so useful to read and consider the contributions of the other students and to learn from them. At present I'm working on some research into the life of my great grandmother, Elizabeth Morgan. For a variety of reasons, she's proving a difficult customer - disappearing from the records for years on end - but I do know the colour of her hair! In fact, I have a plaited lock of it, incorporated in the reverse of this brooch, which her daughter, my grandmother, left motherless at the age of five, wore faithfully every day of her life. Researching such Victorian mourning jewellry has been fascinating; there's a large display of it at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford that's well worth visiting..

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Overdosing on poetry

Can you overdose on poetry?! Not if it means a lot to you. But the next fortnight certainly sees a hefty slice in Cheltenham, with a Festival packed day after day with poetry and poets of every flavour you could wish for. The last couple of days have given a preview of what's to come and I've felt really privileged to take part.

On Wednesday evening I was reading at Francis Close Hall at the University of Gloucestershire in "The Ides Of March"; for me, something completely different! My first time performing against a background of improvised music and film. At one stage I was reading from a lectern at the head of the aisle in the university chapel when a stream of multi-coloured ping-pong balls bounced down the chancel steps and appeared around my feet! A whole new experience ....

Then yesterday saw our Picaresque debut at the Festival, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. We had a  wonderfully receptive audience in the intimate setting of Tailors Pub in Cambray Place and were delighted to be so well received.

When the Festival proper gets underway on Friday I shall be helping out as event manager for some of the gigs. Whilst I'm really looking forward to those, I'm especially pleased to be running poetry appreciation sessions in elderly care facilities - Cleeve Hill Nursing Home, Springbank Day Centre, Bay Tree Court independent living apartments and Nazareth House; I did an early one last week at Charlton Kings Luncheon Club. The Poetry Festival is for the whole community and it's great to think that we can take poetry to people who simply couldn't get to the formal events and to make them feel part of it. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Cheltenham Poetry Festival - here we come!

This week sees some preview gigs for the Cheltenham Poetry Festival which runs between March 28th and April 6th. This Saturday, March 22nd, our Picaresque troupe will be presenting a programme described as "both edgy and lyrical, each poet with her own distinctive voice". The place to be is Tailors Pub in Cambray Place from 2 -3 pm - it promises to be a great afternoon and we would love to share it with lots of people! Tickets (£5/£4) can be bought from Cheltenham Town Hall or the Tickets Hotline (0844 576 2210).

Les Picaresques!

I shall also be reading on Wednesday evening (March 19th) at "The Ides of March", a collaboration between four poets and Cheltenham Improvisers Orchestra - an evening of experimental music, poetry and film. The venue is the Chapel at Francis Close Hall at the University, which has amazing acoustics. Another one at which lots of support would be appreciated! Tickets are available for this gig from the same outlets as for Picaresque. Do hope to see you there.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

International Women's Day

I have just been sent this by a friend and pass it on to friends worldwide!

"An English professor wrote the words
'a woman without her man is nothing'
and asked students to punctuate them correctly.
All the males in the class wrote
'A woman, without her man, is nothing'.
All the females in the class wrote
'A woman: without her, man is nothing'."

Happy International Women's Day!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Waiting expectantly

The odd day of lovely sunshine, then back to the cold and damp of recent weeks! How halting spring's arrival can sometimes be. It certainly was twenty-seven years ago as I awaited my son's birth; we were anxious that his arrival might be as accelerated as the early spring of that year, with consequent difficulties. Fortunately, in the event, those were minimal.

Southmead Hospital, 1987

A mild month fools the shoots,
precipitates premature birthing of buds and blossom,
too-soon deliveries from that dark winter warmth
that incubates nature's new arrivals;
late frosts may sever
the tenuous hold of fragile flowers
unwisely crowning in deceptive sun.

Swaddled safe against such fickle weather,
delay your debut until spring has truly come.

(copyright Gill Garrett 2014)