50!

A couple of ‘firsts’ and a 50th all in one? Yes! First time back in person at the wonderful West Greenwich Library, first time attempting a hybrid event, with some of the audience on Zoom, and fiftieth in-words event… So, a lot to be excited about. And when the live audience kept growing…and growing… the buzz was terrific.

Debra and Catherine from the Library had been busy rigging up the microphone and amp to my laptop, and taping the considerable number of leads to the carpet, and everything was ready just in time. Very kindly, Gill Stoker (some of you may remember her from two past events involving the Mary Evans Library’s Poems and Pictures Blog, the brainchild of Gill’s), who attended on Zoom, offered to co-host the Zoom side of things, thus making sure everyone on that platform was welcomed (and muted!). In retrospect, I don’t think I could have done it without her.

There was a delightful taster before the programme got underway – a sonnet sent in by Mick Delap, beautifully read by Janet Stott. Mick is the person responsible for setting me on the road that led to the founding of in-words. A good friend and an exceptional poet, who couldn’t take part because away in a corner of Ireland (or even off Ireland!), he thanked me while I thanked him…

In the first set we heard NJ Hynes’ word-perfect verses bringing to life in original and always accessible ways themes ranging from railways to cosmic images; Colin Pink followed, joining the celebratory mood with his poems celebrating poets and poetry, totally meaningful even to the less erudite listeners like me; Jane McLaughlin provided a change in pace and rhythm by reading her award-winning short story inspired by Samuel Palmer’s sketchbook, drawn while walking around the Dulwich area. Alex Josephy brought the first set to a close with her lively verses inspired by London – a kind of odd nostalgia from someone who’s recently moved out of the city! Beautiful and, again, word-perfect. Rosie Johnston should have been part of this set but sadly couldn’t participate because of illness.

This is when we all proceeded to the refreshments and books tables and it was a bit like a party, after two years of not meeting in person in such a large gathering. I hope the Zoomers had their own happy refreshments to go to!

The second set featured Lorraine Mariner, who made us all giggle with her quirky verses, and catch out breaths with her more poignant ones, while Graham High’s gentle and at time surprising haiku from his collection ‘Wave on Wave’ lulled us in the ebb and flow of this particular rhythm. Fiona Moore followed with a new poem inspired by her unexpectedly long sojourn on the Isle of Harris during lockdown, and brought us back to more troubling realities, more political themes, such as the Ukraine. Last in the set was Sarah Westcott, with a mixture of sparkling poems, all taking different shapes, sizes, colours and scents like the flowers and creatures that inspire her.

The purpose of these events is not to make ME happy (to make me learn, yes, to expand my understanding, yes), but they do make me very happy! Especially when I see how happy the audience is – easier to notice when we are in the same room! I couldn’t interact with the Zoom audience as much as I would have liked to, but from their smiles I did deduce that they were happy, too (thanks to Gill again…).

In case you missed them or you wish to go back to them, below are the short biographies of the poets, including Rosie Johnston’s and Mick Delap’s. It’s also a way to find out where to purchase their books from.

With warmest thanks again to Debra Sullivan and Catherine at the Library and to everyone who continues to support the poets and authors who so generously share their words with us.

MICK DELAP is a long time Greenwich resident, with Irish connections. He waited till he had retired from the BBC World Service in 2000 to turn seriously to his writing.  In 2003 Lagan Press (Belfast) published River Turning Tidal.  In June 2015 Arlen House (Dublin) brought out his second collection, Opening Time. 

GRAHAM HIGH’s interest in haiku, and in Japanese literature in general, stems from 1999. He was editor of the British Society of Haiku society’s Journal, Blithe Spirit, before becoming its President. Haiku’s distinctive qualities of being in the moment, experiencing joy in the minutiae of nature, maintaining a philosophical distance from the self and from the turmoil of world events seems to hit a more positive note than the more ‘mainstream’ poems he is writing at present, which are responding to the current turmoil of current affairs and to the individual’s place in the world (which arguably is also a poet’s function).  Graham is also a distinguished painter and sculptor www.grahamhigh.info  www.gallerywhitebox.com  instagram  grahamhigh1

NJ HYNES is a South London based poet who enjoys flamenco, samba, ragtime piano and climbing every hill in Greenwich Park.  Her new pamphlet “Tracking Light, Stacking Time”, responses to astronomical photographs at the National Maritime Museum, will be published by Live Canon later this year.  Live Canon also awarded NJ’s  Department of Emotional Projections first prize in their first collection competition. Since then, she’s been longlisted, shortlisted and commended in numerous competitions, and in 2019 she won the Battered Moons poetry competition. Her work has been published in many magazines and has appeared in train stations as well as art galleries and Soho shop fronts.  In 2019 a poem commissioned for the launch of Maritime Radio Greenwich resulted in an award-winning broadcast. She recently completed a Djerassi art/science residency in California, and two of her poems will be published in the MAGMA physics issue.   leonardo.info/leonardo-at-djerassi/2022. She’s also working on a memoir combining poetry and prose, titled “Learning to be white”; exploring her experiences growing up in mixed-race and racially segregated neighbourhoods in the US and South Africa.  A selection of poems from this series was published last year in Long Poem Magazine. 

ROSIE JOHNSTON‘s four poetry books are published by Lapwing in her native Belfast. Most recent is Six-Count Jive (2019), a description in 17-syllable stanzas of the inner landscape of her post-traumatic stress disorder. Irish reviewer Billy Mills chose it as one of his top three poetry books of 2020 and Fiona Sinclair described it in The Lake magazine as ‘a superbly crafted piece of work whose language is at times sublime’. Rosie’s poems have appeared or featured in many magazines and a prose piece was published last year in American Writers Review (San Fedele Press). Rosie is an inspiring teacher and mentor and has led a writing group in Cambridge since 2011. She hosted Words on Waves in Whitstable’s Harbour Books before the pandemic and has read her work at many festivals in England, Scotland and Ulster.  www.rosiejohnstonwrites.com

ALEX JOSEPHY divides her time between Rye in East Sussex and Italy. Her collection Naked Since Faversham was published by Pindrop Press in 2020. Other work includes Other Blackbirds (Cinnamon Press, 2016), and White Roads (Paekakariki Press, 2018). Her poems have won the McLellan and Battered Moons prizes, and have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the UK, Italy and India. Her Cinnamon Press Award winning pamphlet ‘Again Behold the Stars’ is due out in spring 2023. You can find out more on her website: www.alexjosephy.net

LORRAINE MARINER lives in Greenwich and works at the National Poetry Library, Southbank Centre. She has published two collections with Picador, Furniture (2009) and There Will Be No More Nonsense (2014), and has twice been shortlisted in the Forward Prizes for Best Poem and Best First Collection, and for the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize. Her latest publication is the chapbook Anchorage (2020) with Grey Suit Editions, in which she explores her Greek and Irish heritage.

FIONA MOORE‘s first collection The Distal Point was a Poetry Book Society recommendation and was shortlisted for the TS Eliot and Seamus Heaney prizes.  She is on Magma’s editorial board. Fiona lives in East Greenwich and is active locally with the Greens, Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition and Extinction Rebellion.  In late 2019 she went to the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides to house-sit for a friend for six months, and ended up staying in Harris for nearly two years. Some of her latest poems are inspired by that experience and those landscapes.  

JANE MCLAUGHLIN’s poems and short stories are widely published and have been awarded and placed in national competitions. Her poetry collection Lockdown was published in 2016 by Cinnamon Press (not prophetic, the title poem is about a stabbing incident).  Her short story ‘Trio for Four Voices’ was included in Best British Short Stories 2018, has been made into a short film and was used as an English text on the Danish national curriculum. Her short story ‘Sketchbook’ was included in the Arachne Press Solstice Shorts festival 2020, performed by Patsy Prince. It is available on Youtube and is included in the anthology ‘Tymes Goe By Turnes’. It is based on Samuel Palmer’s sketchbook of 1824 when at the age of 19 he was walking and drawing around Dulwich.  It is told in the voice of the wife of one of the market gardeners who held and worked land there.

COLIN PINK has to his credit several poetry collections: Acrobats of Sound (2016), The Ventriloquist Dummy’s Lament (2019), Typicity (2021) and Wreck of the Jeanne Gougy (2021). Copies can be ordered from the publishers. Colin’s latest manuscript collection called Shimmer has been shortlisted for the Live Canon poetry book prize. His current project is posting a six-line poem on Instagram every day for a year. To see the poems follow him on Instagram @colinpinkpoet 

SARAH WESTCOTT is a poet originally from Devon who now lives in Kent.  Her debut collection Slant Light (Pavilion Poetry), was Highly Commended in the Forward Prize and her pamphlet Inklings was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. Her second collection, Bloom, also with Pavilion, was published last year and long listed in the 2022 The Laurel Prize for ecopoetry. Sarah’s poems have appeared in many magazines, on beermats, billboards and buses, and in anthologies including Best British Poetry, The Forward Book of Poetry and Staying Human. Sarah was a news journalist for twenty years and now teaches poetry at London’s City Lit and elsewhere. She has a lifelong interest in the natural world and is currently working on a collection of fragments inspired by a small, newly-dug garden pond. 

Events

Tuesday March 5 at West Greenwich Library, 7-8.30pm

The Birth of a Book: Shakespeare in an Age of Anxiety plus A Taste of 154 – readings of some of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, and modern responses to them

Local author and scholar Neville Grant will talk about the writing of his new book, Shakespeare in an Age of Anxiety (Greenwich Exchange, 2023), about what inspired him to delve into this well-explored subject and to succeed in finding a plethora of unknown, intriguing (and some amusing) facts about the Bard, and many parallels with goings on in the 21st Century.

154 is a poetry collection published by Live Canon. Each one of 154 modern poets was asked to respond to one of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets (not counting the ones inside his plays). We shall hear some of these inspired pairings, by and with Nick Eisen, Gillie Robic, Lorraine Mariner, NJ Hynes, Rosie Johnston and Doreen Hinchliffe.

Unmissable….

Free as always, with plenty of refreshments – and food for thought!

Neville Grant, best known locally as former editor of the Westcombe News, is a professional author who has published many textbooks on language and literature used in countries around the world. His  latest book, Shakespeare in an Age  of Anxiety (Greenwich Exchange 2023), written for the general reader, celebrates the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio – the collection of his plays published seven years after his death. The book looks at how a grammar school boy made it in London’s theatreland, how he survived Tudor politics, and gives an appreciation of each of his works in the order in which they were written, so one can trace his development as a writer.