Poetry Launch

‘A DIFFERENT LAND’ is the second collection of poems by Frank McMahon. It is published this month by Palewell Press.

Frank said: ‘My Editor thought this was an emotionally charged set of poems and I think that’s right. The inspiration has come from contrasting sources; the natural world, (particularly as experienced during and since lockdowns), social injustice, and our treatment of asylum-seekers.

‘Some of the poems are longer meditations on love, our Imperial history, and its continuing presence in our society.

‘Although some were responses to harrowing stories heard on social media, others capture happy and vivid memories. And one is a tribute to a poet of the 8th Century, Du Fu, considered by many Chinese to be their greatest poet. He wrote amazingly powerful verse whilst trying to find refuge for his family from the bloody civil wars of the time. Does anything sound familiar?

‘The title poem came out of the experience of walking the Wainwright Coast-to-Coast path and the stretch across the Pennine watershed.’

‘A Different Land’ is published by http://www.palewellpress.co.uk; also available from Waterstones. You can read the title poem here

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Green March is finalist

Sophie Livingston’s novel The Green March Hotel was one of 12 finalists in this year’s Mslexia First Novel competition. The judging panel included literary agents and novelist Hilary Mantel, author of the Wolf Hall series about the life of Thomas Cromwell. Sophie said, ‘Sadly, I didn’t win – but it is a fantastic confidence boost to have my book reach the final of this prestigious competition.’ The novel is about attempts by eccentric residents of a run-down hotel to rescue it from ruin and, in the process, make sense of their lives.

Anthology Launch

Ten years of the Somewhere Else Writers Group was celebrated this week with the launch of our anthology ‘Off The Wall’ at Fairford Library. The anthology is the culmination of months of work and includes QR codes linking to recordings of the authors reading their poems and short stories – along with explanations of the inspiration behind them. The 140 pages also include personal profiles of each of the writers explaining what motivates them to write. Profits will go to the RNIB ( Royal National Institute of Blind People).

The launch included live readings of work by six contributors. Iris Anne Lewis, who was the group’s first-ever chair, spoke about its origins, and Selwyn Morgan described the mechanics of creating the anthology. Among the guests was Rona Laycock, at whose creative writing classes the founder members met. The group was also very pleased to welcome members of the Fairford U3A creative writing group and to hear about their anthology plans. ‘Off the Wall’ will feature at the Fairford Literature Festival this Saturday.

Misheard Lyrics

This month’s featured poem, ‘Misheard Lyrics’ by Graham Bruce Fletcher, is an ironic reflection on what birdsong means.

Graham said: ‘Romantic poets like to make a fuss over Spring flora and fauna and imagine that everything in the garden is ‘lovely’, but life wasn’t created to please people (as the swimmer realised when he saw a Great White Shark approaching.) It’s best to be neither an optimist nor a pessimist; to try to be realistic – not deluded by things many people want to believe. Some of the facts of life are so uncomfortable that the easiest way to cope with them is to laugh. Victoria Wood and Pam Ayres were experts at spotting absurdities and lampooning them.

‘This little rhyme steals from Keats, Eleanor Farjeon (who wrote the hymn ‘Morning Has Broken’) and Paul McCartney. It probably helps if the reader can imagine it being spoken by an effete man dressed in a velvet jacket, with lace cuffs and jabot, clutching a wilting flower. Stella Gibbons’ Mr Mybug in her novel ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ would be an appropriate personification, if he were played by an actor with a fear of butterflies.’

You can read Graham’s poem here

Sarasvati

Congratulations to Frank McMahon who has just had five poems featured in the arts magazine Sarasvati 065, published by Indigo Dreams Press. He is delighted to have so much work in one edition of the prestigious journal. You can read ‘Here is a Photograph’, one of the poems chosen, below.

Here is a photograph

I did not take of you.

Strong pliable fingers, hours of interweaving

pliant strands of wicker

to build this vessel. Try to find

a beginning or an end

in the cross-hatched seams

which swayed once and greened,

filleted the sun

and shrouded warblers’ nests.

Here is a photograph I could not take

 of you

and if I had

impossible to share it now:

a Moses basket

absolute silence

save for the heart beating with grief,

a camera lens a sacrilege.

You’re always here, engraved. 

Wild Honey

Watching bees in her garden led this month’s featured writer, Clare Finnimore, on a research trail that took her all the way to Nepal, and a poem that pays tribute to the courage of the men who risked their lives collecting wild mountain honey.

Clare said: ‘I began by thinking about the power of small things and my research took me to an amazing film about the honey hunters.’

Made by the world’s largest honeybees, the mountain honey’s psychotropic properties have made it a traditional medicine in Kulung culture. These days it also fetches high prices in Kathmandu and so there is financial pressure on the hunters to risk their lives. At the same time, possibly due to climate change, the bees are moving higher into the mountains, making the work even more dangerous.

The film that inspired the poem can be find online by searching ‘The Last Honey Hunter’.

In a past life, before acquiring a guide dog, Clare worked as an occupational therapist both for the NHS and local authorities. She has an MA in creative writing from the University of Gloucestershire, and in scriptwriting at Bath Spa University. You can read her poem ‘Wild Honey’ here.

Poetry for Ukraine

A nation’s heritage, as embodied in historic sites and artefacts, is always at risk in times of war. In her poem ‘Hiding Ukraine’s Heritage’ Iris Anne Lewis explores the response of museum staff to the military conflict in Ukraine. The poem is published on the poetry website Wildfire Words, along with other Ukraine-themed poems. You can read and listen to Iris’s poem here.

Highway of Death

This month’s poem, by Selwyn Morgan, is based on his memories of Al-Jahra in Kuwait in the Seventies. In 1991, during the Kuwait War, Al-Jahra Ridge and Highway 80 became famous for their scenes of destruction. 

Selwyn said, ‘I lived in Kuwait City. At weekends, Friday and Saturdays in the Middle East, I would often visit the desert that surrounds the Arabian Gulf. Al-Jahra, west of the city, was one of my favourite places. It sat on Highway 80, leading to the Iraq border. The flat desert plain met a 20m tall ridge, impressive in the otherwise monotonous landscape.

‘Over the millennia, the edge of the ridge was forged into canyons by flash floods caused by the occasional torrential rain. Twice a year, I stood in those canyons so as to be unseen by Steppe Eagles that migrated, north in spring, and south in autumn. I would observe a continuous stream of birds approach the ridge and use the thermals created from it to soar upwards until almost lost to sight. They had gained height so as to glide effortlessly onwards on their chosen path.’    You can read Selwyn’s poem here.