Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Cellar Bards 2017


At the start of 2017 I was pleased to become a co-organiser of The Cellar Bards, the popular live literature event held regularly in Cardigan's Cellar Bar (where else would you find Cellar Bards!).

We meet on the last Friday of each month (not August or December) and often have a special guest as well as open mic slots for our very talented local writers.

I do all the organising – booking guests, make funding applications, publicity; while Dave Urwin is our compere.

The video above was very helpfully put together for us by David Powell and shows a few highlights of the February 2017 event, which was a pure open mic night. Good to see a couple of musicians bringing a song or two into the mix.

We have some great plans for the rest of 2017. Already on the scheduled are:

Maggie Harris, who will be reading from her stunning new short story collection, Writing on Water (Seren) on March 31.

Martin Locock will be with us at the end of April with his latest collection.

Roger Garfitt is our guest in May with his poetry and the new jazz CD composed by Nikki Iles – In all my holy mountain,  a celebration in poetry and jazz of the life and work of Mary Webb.

June 30th will be our fifth birthday and we’ll be celebrating with the wonderful Natalie Ann Holborow, whose first collection was published by Parthian last month.

Our meet at the end of July will be a pure open mic night, giving a chance for all our talented local writers to share their work

In the autumn we’ll have the totally fabulous Sophie McKeand, and the wonderful Mark Blayney as our guests, plus others soon to be announced. More details and more links will be posted later, in the meantime to keep up with our events check into our Facebook page:
That page is not only about our event, we also share news in there that may be of interest to writers and performers everywhere.

Our thanks to Literature Wales and Parthian Books for their generous sponsorship, and always to The Cellar Bar for the fantastic venue.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Alternative facts in a post-truth fake news world

In one of our poetry groups we challenged each other  to write a sestina. I had to have a go. I found it very hard to keep to the pattern of using the same repeated words at the end of each line, in a strict order for each stanza. However, the current talk about ‘fake news’, ‘post-truth’ and ‘alternative facts.’ gave me an idea for a subject that may work. Here’s the result, a first-attempt sestina in the (imagined) voice of George Orwell.

Alternative facts in a post-truth fake news world

“The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.”  George Orwell, in his novel, 1984.
Do you think ‘alternative facts’ are new?
I invented them at the Ministry of Truth.
That was how the Party turned its lies
and our beautiful language into Newspeak,
created thoughtcrime and doublethink,
among other words. It was an easy language to learn

but there were many things people had to unlearn
too, as the old language made way for the new.
It was all that world war two propaganda that made me think
there was always a different way to make the truth
mean something else, new ways to speak
to make the stories seem true, even though they were lies.

I told you back then how they made their lies,
how people worked to change facts, to rewrite, unlearn,
to destroy words, to make ways to use doublespeak
that ruled out the possibility of imagining anything new,
so there was only one way to see the truth
so that truth itself becomes irrelevant. Think,

think, what is happening today. Don’t you think
your own leaders have found the way to turn their lies
into a new kind of 21st century post-truth?
They give you all those new words to learn
and you take on all the views in their fake news,
in this novel way of talking, this all-new way to speak.

And the powers will notice the way you speak,
thought police will see what you are thinking,
and you won’t even know that your language is new.
That it’s full of alternative facts, yes, lies –
fabulous new so-called truths for you to learn --
and none of it has any relation to the actual truth.

If you repeat it enough, everyone will believe it’s true:
War is peace, freedom is slavery, it’s just doublespeak.
Ignorance is strength. It’s so easy to learn.
They will tell you 2plus2 is five and you’ll think
it is true.  You will believe this and all their lies.
They will destroy your words, so you can’t imagine anything new.

Alternative facts, fake news, you can’t think
how to speak to burn all their lies.
It’s superdoubleungood --  now there’s a new word  you can learn.


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Being watched

Image by Manon Bellet
Pleased to have this poem pubished recently by the lovely ekphrastic anthology Visual Verse (see links at bottom of this post)

Being watched

her chemise
lands in a whisper
        of silk on slate

clear shadows slant on the wall
where afternoon sun finds
       gaps in blinds

       she knows he watches
       so she spins

turns in a whirl
       of sun and shadows

dust motes drift
        her skirts swirl
              and fall

her hands snake in a rhythm
only she can feel

heat pricks her neck
       the blush of her knowing
       shows in her face

and sweat cools
       making a dampness
               on her back

The quickening

I love this time of year – when the darkest time is behind us and the days get lighter and longer.
At the end of January/beginning of February we are at the halfway point between the darkest days of the year and the spring equinox. This time is known as the quickening. February 1st is also Brighed’s day and the first day of the Celtic spring. Brighed  is the Celtic patron of poets, bards, healers, creativity and fire. In this poem I mention some of the traditions associated with her and with this time of year.

The quickening

Hang sprigs of rowan
from the quickening tree,
decorate the doors;
bring branches of willow
to signal this time of change –
and of dreaming.

Collect leaves of blackberry to
attract prosperity and healing;
coltsfoot to move us
toward love and peace;
ginger to raise the fire within
and guide the serpent.

Snowdrops are her first gift of spring,
the lambs’ cry the first sound.
As blackthorn blooms
and the owl’s call fades,
now comes the quickening.
Welcome returning light,

this feast of torches.
Light the flames,
set every lamp, raise all the candles.
Brighed stands at the halfway.
Cloaked in white and silver
she shimmers like a flame on the bridge –

at the precise point between
the darkest day and equal night.
Patron of poets and Bards,
she brings the fire of creativity
and stirs the serpent’s energy.
Let her dismiss the darkness.