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Friday, 1 August 2014

Bell Foundry at Villedieu les Poeles, Normandy

This is the gate to the bell foundry at Villedieu les Poeles, part of it rather, it's a pretty big gate! I thought this man pouring hot metal was delightful.

Our guide could have entered for Britain's Got Talent, except he was French - he was a real entertainer, leaping about joyously from one item to another and regaling us with stories. We learned that this is one of only 2 bell foundries in France and of course most of the bells made will become part of a carillon, or will simply be tolled: I think it is mainly the British who exercise the skill of ringing changes.
In the courtyard there were plenty of bells available to try out: a friend and I landed a  rather heavy-handed clout  with the hammer on one very large bell and frightened all the waiting tourists with the vast booming swell of sound that shook the area (it frightened us too!).

Thursday, 31 July 2014


I did forget someone - Phil Williams, winner of last year's Cheshire Prize for Poetry - how could I?
Phil's poetry is bright, sometimes odd, and certainly powerful.  And he runs so many events in Alsager...

Monday, 28 July 2014


I have been running Zest!, Chester's Open Floor Poetry night for over 7 years now. When I say I, I mean myself and my team: Judy Ugonna, Leih Steggall and Angela Topping. I have been responsible chiefly for setting up the dates, liaising with Alexander's, our chosen venue, organising the guest poets and compering. I have really loved doing it but now I feel it's time to hand over to someone else and there is someone in the wings.. more anon.

But I would like to say that we have had some wonderful guests: Matt Meritt who, like me, started off as a Happenstance poet, and now has 2 excellent full collections out plus he is one of the editors of  Under the Radar; Mandy Pannett who has several full collections out plus a novel, Pat Borthwick who has won several major prizes including the Basil Bunting and the Keats-Shelley; Joan Poulson who has produced so many collections of marvellous poetry for children; Andrew Rudd, John Lindley, Harry Owen, all previous Cheshire Poet Laureates; Mandy Coe, author of 'Clay' and 'Can you see Laughter', plus her poet friends Sarah Maclennan and Colin Watts who run Dead Good Poets in Liverpool (Colin is published by Headland); Roy McFarlane, former Poet Laureate of Birmingham and a great performer; Chris Kinsey, BBC Wildlife Poet of the Year 2008 and author of three full collections of poetry; Katrina Naomi, widely-known poet;and recently Chrys Salt, who was awarded an MBE in the Birthday Honours list. Congratulations to Chrys, ( it had nothing to do with Zest! alas!) and congratulations to all the above for what they have gone on to achieve. I only hope they remember their performances at Zest! with some affection...

I know I've missed some people out: Jake Campbell who now co-edits Butcher's Dog magazine and has a pamphlet out; Maggie Norton, former Poet Laureate of S.Cumbria; Liverpool's quirky 'poet from kent' David Bateman -  and if I've forgotten anyone please forgive me. (It's the heat!)

It won't be the end of my public life in poetry though: I am still running the Poem Shed, and the Golden Pear poetry reading group, and Poem Catchers' workshops, the latter with Judy Ugonna.. And I want more time to catch up wth my own writing. Organising anything, small or big, takes a lot of energy...

So I imagine Zest! will undergo some changes in the future, changes no doubt for the better, I'm sure.

I am very grateful to all those wonderful people who have come to Zest! nights just to listen. And there have been many of these

Sunday, 22 June 2014


There was a sign on the bottom of the tree saying Boot Sale!

Thursday, 19 June 2014


Sometimes it's good to stop and consider what you've achieved so far/ recently/ this year/ last year/etc.

I remember saying once to the young poet Jake Campbell   "If you think it's good enough then keep it in the post." This year I have followed my own advice, with some really heartening results: poems have been taken for Envoi, the Rialto, the Frogmore Papers, the Journal, Acumen, the Interpreter's House, Antiphon, ink sweat and tears, 'And other Poems', and The Shot Glass Journal (the latter 4 are all on-line poetry magazines.)
Also I am one of 6 poets to be featured in Prole's forthcoming anthology "Caboodle" .

I simply decided to use up whatever I thought was 'good enough' of the poems which have languished in files for some time, plus new work. And it brought success. But like many poets I find the effort of submission tiring - all those SAEs, letters, newly printed-out bits of paper etc. So possibly that will be it for a while, a long rest is called for maybe before the next round? On the other hand, unless it's a question of e-mail submissions, it's good to help keep the Post Office in business. Not that this counts as big stuff, it isn't; to borrow a title from the above list, it's only 'ink sweat and tears' on my part!

Although this year, more smiles than tears.YES!

Friday, 9 May 2014


 5W5W (Five Writers, Five Workshops)

Here we are, from left to right: Sarah Maclennan, Mandy Coe, Colin Watts, myself and, in front, Janine Pinion, on the occasion of Sarah's birthday.

And also on the occasion when we decided to look at poetry in translation, choosing Pasternak, Neruda, Montale,  and Antonio Olinto.
We sat out in Sarah's exquisite Liverpool garden and considered the difficulties of tranlsating poetry. We reached no firm conclusions but agreed more or less that it was fairest to keep fairly close to the original if possible, including the format, again if possible. (Funny how forms don't always pass easily from one language to another). And agreed that even a poor translation is better than no translation evn though it does no great service to the original poetry. But just to know what speakers of other tongues are thinking and writing about.....

We tweeted one of the poets, Miguel Huazo Mixco, whose poem "Si la Muerte" had us almost in tears. Within seconds he had retweeted it and favourited it - this is when you really marvel at the digital age, it shrinks time and space to so little.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Flat Roof, drip drip

For a couple of weeks now my flat roof, a large area of same over kitchen and small "sun-room" (where is the sun?) has been leaking. Finally found a splendid roofer and his son who have now sheeted the whole roof and secured it against leaks until the sun returns and they can finish the job of renewing it. R S Roofing, in case anyone wants to know!   Feel much more relaxed each time I leave the house. It's raining heavily this morning and I have to go out tonight to be a guest writer for Janine Pinion's Creative Writing class in B'head. It will be so pleasant not to worry about drip, drip, drip!!

I look forward to meeting them all. I'll read some of my work to them, talk briefly about my writing life and set them a short exercise to do with doors. We don't think much about doors, do we, but how many times a day do we walk through them? As Charles Tomlinson wrote:" too little/ has been said/of our coming and leaving by them."

I find doors really interesting; some invite, some repel. Church doors for instance- occasionally you have to use so much muscle to get one open you think it's not surprising the numbers at church services are falling off....There's a door into Hawarden Park in Hawarden that's really Alice in Wonderland: it's a  massive studded gate with a little pedestrian door set into it. I always expect to enter another world when I go through it!