Can't believe that I was writing about growing vegetables recently; it's been so cold that even I am shrinking! And Time seems to have shrunk too, in that I never seem to have any.
There are two reasons for this (well, possibly three). The first reason is that The Poem Shed, a workshop group I run, have given a reading of our work and a mini-workshop at Little Sutton library this week: the lavish and warm hospitality we received from Kate Mason and her team of library staff has left me too overcome to even think about writing anything on this blog! Our thanks to them all and also, with congratulations, to the brave group of participants who had an enthusiastic go at celebrating themselves, as in the poem "Who is Who" by Tomaz Salamun, which begins bluntly: "Tomaz Salamun, you are a genius" - we all need a bit more positive thinking about ourselves.
Then Chester Performs, a wonderful group charged with responsiblity for drama and arts events in Chester, organised a film festival called Screen Deva, showing some excellent films in different venues in Chester. I simply had to go to Oddfellows to see "Some Like it Hot" and feel partly embarassed and partly proud to admit that I have seen this film about 18-19 times now, and still love it. I could not go to see "Manhattan", another film I adore, because I'm not a young mum with a baby in a pushchair and this was a Baby Deva event! But I did get to see "La Vita e Bella", held in Olio and Farina's restaurant-cum-Italian deli, and treated a friend and myself to a meal beforehand, the best lasagna we've ever eaten. Another great film to add to my 'see-again' list. And why not? We're only here once - so make the most of everything.
Well , after all this excitement it was time to calm down on Saturday morning and get myself to Bebington library to the Liverpool Dead Good Poets Society reading group and deliver a session on Sylvia Plath whose poetry I have always found so powerful and striking. I sincerely wish the quality of her work was not so much dogged by her life story and the various misconceptions of her famous marriage to Ted Hughes. I much prefer to look at her work for its own sake; I think it's the least any reader can do for a writer. When you think that at the time she was writing, mid-1950's to 60's, women poets did not get much of a look-in, then her writing is even more astonishing.
And now I am going off on a kind of second writers' retreat, at the Oak Barn in Shropshire, which can be found on the net under Oak Barn Workshops. I have written so many of my poems here; it has just that kind of peace a writer needs as if peace were painted or breathed lovingly into the walls. I thoroughly enjoy writing here and am going to spend the time considering how to shape my next book "The Plucking Shed" which is due for publication in 2010. That may seem a long way off but in view of how time seems to have contracted lately I really feel I'd better crack on! Time might shrink again....
Monday, 4 May 2009
Nantwich is one of the loveliest Cheshire towns, and is genuinely old black and white timbered buildings since it suffered a major fire and was rebuilt largely through the generosity of Queen Elisabeth 1st. Its black and white buildings are worth going to see for themselves alone, especially the bookshop which has settled in towards its middle so severely it looks like it has a bad case of rickets. Knock-kneed and yet very beautiful! There are many things worth seeing in Nantwich but I go there for two things particularly: one is this wonderful furniture shop that looks like an amazing ship that has sailed up the River Weaver by mistake and been stranded in the town.
The other is the very special Harry Clarke window in the church. The Clarke family were a Dublin firm of stained glass makers; much of their work is in churches and convents in Ireland but this window was done for a family that Harry knew very well and it is as if he pulled out all the stops when making it: the colours in it are the richest example of art nouveau stained glass I have ever seen and if you can get to Nantwich in late February or March, around midday so that you might be lucky enough to get the low winter sun pouring in behind the window, you will be dazzled by the intensity and sheer beauty of colour. I have tried to photograph it, but you would need special lighting to convey the stunning colours in it, and the postcard sold by the church shop sadly comes nowhere near the mark.
I was once fortunate to see it in perfect light conditions; I was with a friend and just as we arrived in Nantwich the sun came out. We looked at each other and said "Quick, let's go and see the Harry Clarke window!" and we got there at the precise moment that the sun lit it up fully: glowing greens, purples and blues as in peacock feathers, a thrilling brilliant rose pink and the bright willow green of new leaves in spring, and golds and yellows and fierce oranges. Harry used a great many metals in obtaining his rich colours and so it is no surprise perhaps to learn that he died quite young, at 42, of lung problems. This is the only window in this country as far as I know that he personally supervised the installation of.