2016 to 2019
Well, didn't a lot happen in that period, must have been a lot for me too as I didn't have any time to talk here about it ! . . . moving house, and a lot more. But literary priorities have now resumed - and at all times, art, poetry, and the awareness that leads to them is more needed in our lives than ever. There is a greater tide . . .
Another anthology from Bradford on Avon poetry group
This really is an excellent collection of work, varied and interesting, and of high quality. The title is Another packet of poems, but belies the content, it's not just 'another' of the same - but full of great originality and talent. If you want a copy contact me via email.
Return to Yeats
Been reading some Yeats, after a long break, triggered, like many I expect, by the centenary programs. Still find the poems interesting, often lovely, often strange, and the philosophy and the man behind them positively puzzling. Have read the letters between him and Dorothy Wellesley some years back, but had forgotten one of the more curious points - not sure what to make of a poet who actually dislikes flowers. . .
Vaughan Association / Roger Hubank
Amongst the sadness at the Colloquium this year after the deaths of Anne Cluysenaar and Peter Thomas, some good news. Roger Hubank's brilliant novel Evening Light is back in print, in paperback this time. I'm delighted to see it available again, it is an extremely powerful novel about a (fictional) famous climber and the consequences of his life. You don't have to be a mountaineer to appreciate this one, and it is a brilliant story that triggers powerful emotions and thoughts about the impact of our decisions. Don't miss it.
Jeremy Young launch
No, Jeremy didn't get launched into the water with a bottle of champagne - that would have been entertaining in a different way - but he did bring a pamphlet out from Acumen , entitled 'The Wind's embrace'. I confess this news is a bit late as the pamphlet was actually launched in October, but better now than never. Interesting and rewarding poetry - recommended for a good read. Amongst a lot of interesting and varied poems, including a little humour, my favourite is 'The colours of Alchemy'; there is a lot in that one, so best taken slowly.
We were all completely shocked this week to hear of the death of Anne Cluysenaar, by murder. Such a lovely person, generous and warm, and a great encouragement to others, as well as being a wonderful poet herself. Not least she founded the Vaughan Association, and Scintilla magazine, with Peter Thomas (who died of cancer recently, and is also much missed). The world will be a poorer place without them. Thank you, Anne and Peter, for all you did for us.
- Annual colloquium - Another weekend of great conversation. The highlight for me this year was totally unexpected -
the talk by Noam Reisner on the use of metaphor by Robert Southwell, a poet who had (almost) totally escaped my notice.
Although I personally find his metaphors
rather grotesque and disturbing, the talk proved absolutely
fascinating, and stimulated one of the most interesting discussions I have ever been privileged to hear. It included the
removal of the concept of the transcendent in the sacrament at the Reformation as the beginnings of secularism; how the writing of poetry
as the expression of the ineffable, and religious experience of the ineffable, have now become conflated, although in the 17th century
they would not have been; that at the Reformation the change was not the loss of the transcendent but the loss of the earth as a mediator
for the transcendent - which represents a major break in human consciousness; and how the concepts in the early conversations about
the sacrament reappear in modified form in the 20th century in language studies and semiotics. Quite breathtaking for those who are
not even familiar with all the terminology! Here's a little mine of interest to read up one day, starting from the published version
of the talk in Scintilla, so it is at least something I can put off until next year. But I do look forward to that.
For the association website see Links.
Reading Eva Hoffman's autobiographical account 'Lost in Translation' must surely be essential reading for any translator of literary work;
it is a compelling and powerful memoir of cross-cultural immigration, seen from within, and describes the revealing differences
between the American and Central European consciousness, in her inner journey spanning the two. It would be easy to say it is the difference
between a young culture, as yet only partly formed, and an old one, which it of course it is, but how clearly it delineates
the differences in awareness and priorities in different parts of the world. When we see the difficulties translating between French
and English, how much more profound must be the differences when translating from, for example, an Asian literature, rooted in a wholly
different outlook and culture. I have recently been considering the possibility of getting a haiku translated into Japanese,
which I am expect in literal terms would probably be relatively straightforward (though I am not sure even of that),
but even with a short poem, how much understanding of the background of the culture, (quite apart from the content of the poet's
thoughts and feelings) would be needed for an adequate translation of a poem that has taken 20 years for the poet to get right?
And there is also the question of how I could form any any meaningful judgement on the resulting translation?
Could translation across such cultures take anything less than a good portion of a lifetime, by someone who has lived into both?
P.S. If there are any Japanese poets settled in England - please feel free to get in touch !
December 2013 - February 2014
Whatever happened to this winter? Well a lot of writing, and a new short quartet of poems completed, which for me was a major milestone, and will form an important part of some future collection. However on a more practical note, and of more immediate use to others, I can report that the poetry group in Bath, run by Richard Carder, is alive and very well, to judge from my two recent visits. Recommended as a good night out, though whether every evening can attract the sell-out audience that Philip Gross did, (with good reason), I cannot as yet report. Philip's work is also to be recommended, and his earlier books I still look forward to enjoying when leisure time permits. And well done Richard for keeping the poetic flag flying for so long.
September was a real high point for me this year with the Temenos Academy Conference at St.Hilda's college in Oxford. The conference was titled "Ancient Springs: The Arts, the Imagination, and our World". Time to renew acquaintances with some very special people, and hear many good things said, including a strong and forceful introduction by Prince Charles, and inspiring lectures from Rowan Williams, Roger Scruton on music, and a superb lecture from Joseph Milne on what lawfulness is - a subject I hadn't expected to be exciting, but found absolutely gripping - "The law of nature is the law goverining all things. The human virtue of Justice is a knowledge of action that is in accordance with the law of Nature"; - "One of Plato's definitions of degeneration is where commerce becomes the purpose of society". The thoughts will be remembered for a long time. Great to hear that Stephen Cross has a new book out on Schopenhauer, which based on his previous book I must read, the only worry being how I will find the time! And meeting many others - especially Stephen Overy and his whole family, who worked so hard to make it a success for the rest of us - thank you one and all for a great conference.
Recently reading Rowan Williams book on Thomas Merton, (A silent Action) and Merton's four areas that poetry is not. Interesting ideas, although 'poetry' is such a big word that attempts to define what it is and what it is not are inevitably going to be arguing that other people don't write 'real poetry' (or whatever term you want) although they think they do. Arguments about the meaning of the word 'poetry' can be endless, but arguments about special subdivisions of poetry can be very valuable. However it is Williams' conclusion as to what the resulting poetry is (after discarding Merton's four areas) that is most interesting - the terminology may be more off-putting to some than the content of the idea, but he suggests that this is a possible definition of 'religious poetry'. That is in itself may be to many a redefinition of the word religious (!), but it is nonetheless rich food for thought. I can't go further into his meanings here - if you are interested, do read the book !
Vaughan Association - Annual colloquium - my annual topup of inspired conversation and ideas for reading, studying, and writing. Thanks to everyone, and I think most of us took away the same good feelings as myself. Found the talks on R S Thomas and Wallace Stevens stimulated interest to do more reading - how easy it is to find more areas of interest than you can keep up with. Ready to face the literary year ahead now, seeing what exciting things everyone else has done and how I have to try and catch up ! For the association website see Links.
Poetry Can - for the first time in some years I can get to these meetings in Bristol, and finding both a friendly atmosphere and a good quality of poetry, which is always nice to hear when there is an open mic for everyone. Judging from these two sessions, the guest poets are also well worth hearing.
- Patricia Oxley has just published the fourth essay in my "Approach to poetry" series.
It deals (briefly) with the philosophical background to the alienation of the twentieth century,
its philosophical resolution, and how from that background we can start to develop a poetry of the future.
I think it's exciting stuff, though I am a little biased.
Scintilla - Fiona Owen, poetry editor for the 2013 issue, has published my poem "The traveller". It's an interesting issue, and Joe Sterrett has done a good job on his first outing as editor.
Swindon Artsword - The Artsword team managed to squeeze me in for a short poem in an open mic slot at their Swindon Poetry Festival evening. A very lively audience and a stimulating evening with lots of fun, serious poems, and even drums.
Poetry on the Border - Great night at William Ayot's Poetry on the Border session in Chepstow this month - Anne Cluysenaar and Myra Schneider reading. Enjoyed both poets, but especially Anne, who I have known for some time, but never heard her give a full reading - and hadn't realised just how good she is. Don't miss a chance to hear her. Also a big thank you to William Ayot and Juliet Grayson who are such generous and welcoming hosts. These Chepstow readings are really good, and even for those East of the Severn, well worth the trip.
Ledbury Poetry Festival - heard Esther Morgan - very impressed, and such a nice personality. I've noticed in recent years that some poets improve over time - you can sense a real maturity appearing in their work, a confidence and solidity that is great to hear. I think of Peter Abbs more recent work in this way, also William Oxley. I think that Esther Morgan has similar potential for depth, and that she is also going to produce great mature work. I enjoy what she has to say already, so I really do look forward to hearing her again in years to come.
Usk Valley Vaughan Association - Annual colloquium in Brecon. Always an enjoyable and friendly occasion, with talks on poetry, religious, 17th century historical, and alchemical subjects connected with the work and times of Henry and Thomas, the Vaughan brothers, as well as talks and a reading of contemporary poetry. For the association website see Links.
Bradford on Avon poetry group - Publication of the first anthology of the group - A packet of poems. This really is an excellent collection of work, varied and interesting, and of high quality. There are 3 of my poems in it, but I'm talking about the others. It is dedicated to Jim Tracey, a founder member who sadly died in 2011, and includes some of his work. The anthology has been selling well; if you want a copy move quickly. Bradford on Avon tourist office may have a copy, or contact me via email.