Poem of the Month

Vivid memories of a family holiday inspired this month’s poem ‘Boat trip’ by Clare Roberts. Clare said: ‘In 2020, we planned a holiday to honour my Mum’s 80th birthday, which falls just after Christmas. Covid put paid to that, and she was alone on both occasions, in the far north of England.

‘To compensate (in small measure), I wrote a series of poems celebrating our relationship, from holiday memories and shopping trips to the warmth of home and the conversations that enlivened our walks together.

‘Every year when I was a child, we had a family holiday to Mallorca. A favourite treat was a boat trip. We would dive for sea urchin shells before the exhilarating return, flying back across the bay, sitting precariously on the front deck.

‘I printed each poem on a sheet of coloured paper, wrapped them like scrolls and placed them in a decorated box.

‘She loved them. In return, she created a beautiful piece of table art with images and quotes from my poems, in embellished silks quilted and mixed with regular fabrics, with the added texture of ruffled flowers and sparkling Angelina fibres.’

To read Clare’s poem click here

Byzantium

Many congratulations to Frank McMahon whose poem ‘Saving Byzantium’ has just been published in the award-winning literary magazine Acumen.

The poem references The Triumph of Orthodoxy, an icon created in Constantinople around 1370 CE when the Byzantine Empire was under mortal threat from Turkish, Islamic armies.

The Empire stood alone and the icon was created to show the people what the Empire would look like when God protected it.

It is based on a much earlier icon, Hodgeteria, created in 843 on the orders of Empress Theodosia to show that it was permissible to have images that showed the godhead.

There had been major disputes as to whether this was acceptable.

More information can be found in The History of the World in 100 objects and by looking on-line for pictures of both icons.

The poem, published in Acumen 104 can be read below.

.

SAVING BYZANTIUM

Every time he asks

is this allowed?

They do not paint God’s face,

our enemies. They are

ocean, plague, unanswered swords,

surely God must love them more?

*

They tell him: this is a settled question

and this is your commission,

The Triumph of Orthodoxy.

Only God and Faith can save this city now.

So pray, forgive your enemies,

paint as if God is with you in this room.

*

The monk takes wood and tempera

creates within the icon

a copy of a second, ancient and revered.

Hodegetria.

*

Child and Virgin veiled in damson blue,

the frame red like ripening mulberry,

held by saints against a wall of gold.

Martyrs, Emperor and Patriarch,

Byzantium summoning the past

to stand against the future.

Author Presentation

One of the joys of the writing group is sharing the books and authors we love. This week Frank McMahon spoke about FREE by Lea Ypi, an autobiography about her childhood in Albania between 1988 and 1997.

Frank said: ‘She tries ( and in my view succeeds ) to capture her voice and her inner world in writing about her extended family with its “ biographies”, the neighbourhood, and her school, in the period when Enver Hoxha was the leader of a rigidly socialist state.

‘Her grandmother to whom the book is dedicated is lovingly described and comes over as a significant role model for Lea.

‘And after 1989 when the Berlin Wall falls and when Albania moves towards an uncertain democracy, she discovers the coded language of her parents and other adults to find a way of speaking freely and safely. So this is, in part, a book about the loss of certainties and the questions that adolescents in any society pose about their parents and the world.

‘The book is also a meditation on the nature of freedom in a totalitarian state and in an open society.’

Lea Ypi is a Professor of Political Theory at the LSE and has never returned to Albania.

Thank you, Waterstones!

The Cirencester branch of Waterstones is now displaying both collections of poems by Somewhere Else member Frank McMahon.

The titles, At the Storm’s Edge and A Different Land, published by Palewell Press, are now prominently on shown with accompanying publicity material, in the store’s poetry section.

Frank said: “I approached the store and floated the idea to the manager, John Weeks. He has been enthusiastic and very supportive and I am really grateful to him. Local bookstores can help local writers to promote their work in their hometowns and this is a great example.

” This a great follow-on from the successful launch of A Different Land in July.”

Rites of Passage

This month’s poem by Iris Anne Lewis is titled ‘I make myself a skirt of fish skin’. It was first published this summer in Seaborne Magazine. Iris said: ‘It’s difficult to know where the inspiration for a poem comes from. In this case, the phrase ‘I make myself a skirt of fish skin’ popped into my mind and the rest of the poem flowed from that. Since childhood, I have been fascinated by fairy tales and legends and so it was natural for the poem to evolve into a tale of a mermaid, a chimaeric figure found in folklore about the sea. Many cultures have traditionally held rites of passage from childhood into maturity. In the poem, a girl is encouraged by family and the wider community to embrace the transition from adolescence into womanhood.’

You can read Iris’s poem by clicking here.

Patinage

This month’s poem is by Linda Dyson, and it is called ‘Patinage’.

Linda said:’ The poem was inspired by watching many outstanding ice dance performances on TV. My love of skating goes back to Torvill and Dean’s landmark performance to the music of Ravel’s Bolero at the 1984 Winter Olympics. This took place while my father was dying – a fact that made it particularly uplifting for me. I was finally able to see them perform it live a few years ago.

‘These days, the extremely complicated and daring routines we see executed by modern skaters often defy belief and the performers seem to be transformed into superhuman beings when they step out onto the ice. This fact led to the images in the poem which I gave a French title because it seems more elegant and magical than the Anglo-Saxon term skating.

‘At the end of the day, of course, the skaters are human beings just like us, a fact made all too apparent when they step back onto ‘dry land’ and have to walk in an ungainly fashion to their seats. Can we be transformed for a moment when we consider these magical routines? Perhaps only in our dreams….’

To read Linda’s poem click here

Seaborne Success

I make myself a skirt of fish skin, a poem by Iris Anne Lewis has just been published in Seaborne Magazine, Issue 3. Editor Adriana Ciontea said of the poem, it’s ’so atmospheric and full of unique imagery, it’s a delight to get lost in it’.

Seaborne Magazine is a literary publication with an aim to celebrate the sea and support organisations that help to protect the sea and marine wildlife. Issue 3 is available in both digital and print formats. Beautifully illustrated by Caroline Scamell, the magazine is full of poetry, stories, and creative non-fiction inspired by the sea. For every copy sold, £1 will be donated to Sea Shepherd to support their marine conservation efforts.

To purchase the magazine or for further details please click the link here.

Prize-Winning Voices

More good news with the announcement that Frank McMahon’s poem The War Against Speech has won the poetry section of the Gloucestershire Writers Network annual competition.

The theme this year was Voices and the judges were Kate Frost and Adam Horovitz.

You will be able to hear our winners and runners-up reading their work at The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival on Sunday 9th October from 7. 00 – 8.15 pm in the Regency Suite, Queens Hotel.

The other prize-winning pieces are:

Winning Prose Piece In Captivity by Philip Douch 
Prose Runners-upBind Us Together by Rebecca KlassenExposed by Marilyn TimmsPlease Leave a Message by Christine Griffin 
Prose Highly CommendedDid you Cut Your Fringe Yourself?  by Sallie AndersonSmoosh by Geoffrey MeadA Cacophony of Sound by Mrs Julie WiltshireWarrior by Cindy Moss
  
Winning PoemThe War against Speech by Frank McMahon
Poetry Runners-up The Displaced Child by Kathryn AldermanSt Olaves by Jean Cooper MoranThe Conversation of Difficult Birds by Rose Lennard 
Poetry Highly CommendedLimassol by Sophie LooseMiss Bailey Sits  by Christine GriffinPhantom Tongue  by Bethan ManleyRussian Dolls by Marilyn Timms