Saturday, 23 May 2015

Red Kite: Dunkirk

Red Kite: Dunkirk: Dunkirk veterans James Baynes, (94, right), Arthur Taylor, (94), and Michael Bentall, (94, left), walk along a beach in Dunkirk. Credit: G...

Monday, 18 May 2015

Magical short stories


In Margate by Lunchtime
by Maggie Harris

(Cultured Llama Publishing

I don’t often do book reviews on here, but this one had such an impact on me that I wanted to write something about it.

A strong sense of place, mixed with the dreamlike, a good dash of realism and more than a touch of the surreal work together to create a magical whole  in the new short story collection by Maggie Harris, In Margate by Lunchtime, just published by Cultured Llama -

Born and brought up in Guyana in the Caribbean, Maggie arrived in the UK when she was 18.This collection is set entirely on the Isle of Thanet, where she settled, married, raised her own family and developed her career as a poet, story writer and tutor.

She gives us a series of colourful images of the towns of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs, from some unusual points of view. Sometimes the stories are firmly rooted in a time past, sometimes they are magical or whimsical – but they are always poetic and always take you under the skin of the characters of this place before you realise quite where you are, or how you got there (it could have been on a Vespa driven by a mermaid!).

At the beginning there is a conversation with a parakeet. “We are the ones chosen to light up these drab skies of yours, provide a flash of effervescence,” it says. Yes, that’s what this writer does, she brings light to the animation of the place, the vibrancy of all its levels, from the arrival of the flamingos, to Benjamin Zephaniah, to Turner and TS Eliot. Towards the end we have some words from The Wasteland:  “I can connect/Nothing with nothing.” But straightaway the narrative is decisive and tells us: “I think not.”
Many connections are made in this book, between the characters in the various narratives and the reader. In a direct statement toward the end of the collection, the narrative tells us to “think of this as a pointillist painting, these impressions of ordinary lives in a corner of England…” They are all connected and intertwined and they have an impact beyond that created by a group of impressions. It’s a hallmark of a great story collection that the individual stories stand alone, and stand out, yet the whole taken together has a depth of meaning that is greater than the sum of the parts.

This book had me turning pages, eager for the next story, the next chapter, the next new character, much as an exciting novel would. It creates images, feelings for a place and for people in a way that only the poetic imagination can. 

Maggie has won awards for her stories before – she won the Guyana prize for Literature in 2000, and was the Caribbean winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story prize. This collection should be an award winner. I would expect to see it on some prize list in the next year or so.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Still dancin'

This poem was written a while ago, about the feeling of moving into my new house after a few years of bad stuff and negative energy. I am posting it again, because it's four years today, and I still feel the same!

Kitchen dance

feet on cold slate
in the heat of day,
she dances
in the space
she shaped with her joy;
released to move
as she pleases
in her universe
she circles with the music
like she will never stop
opening her breath
to the whispers
the energy
the choice
the abundance;
stepping, turning
embracing the core,
the centre place,
feeling the space.


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Wool gathering


She’s on the road by dawn,
walking the woollen paths,
stooping and stretching
through the miles of day
picking wool from blackthorn,
white against dark spikes;
fragments of fleece from banks,
scraps of spindrift in the grass.


Fallen animals offer rich harvest,
she pulls wool off many dead backs.
While women walk the drovers’ roads
working all day to fill their sacks,
heaving home their haul
they talk of family, children,
the farm, old friends, the past.
Gathering stories as they pick their wool.


She spins her yarns
while women tell their tales,
sitting around the winter table,
weaving stories, pulling together –
the wool gatherers, gwlana.

(*Gwlana - Welsh for 'wool gathering)

This poem was written during a visit to the Welsh Wool Museum,

It was recently published in Roundyhouse Magazine.


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Red Kite: ' Open Season' for peripatetic people

Red Kite: ' Open Season' for peripatetic people: The loss of hundreds of lives off the Libyan Coast has hit the headlines at last. No one seems to know what to do. I'm not clever enoug...

Monday, 13 April 2015

Red Kite: Ekphrasis ~

Red Kite: Ekphrasis ~: Further news about the Hot Pot Project on going at Aberystwyth University.   Well, we've had our Easter Hols and now there's to ...

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Recipe for a poem

The work of Michael Cardew is central to the HotPots project.

Taking part in the HotPot writing project at the Ceramics Gallery in Aberystwyth University with tutor Katherine Stansfield is proving to be a very productive experience.

We are writing about pots on show, and about food and cooking and about anything really, wherever the pots lead us. One prompt we have been given is to write in the form of a recipe - for anything at all.

Here's one of mine (a little tongue in cheek!) 

Recipe for a poem

a varied selection of words
a little rhythm
some rhymes (optional)
a caesura or two
add an enjambement
metaphor and simile
some punctuation (optional)

First, discover the emotion you want to write about. Think about where it comes from and how it feels. What does this feeling remind you of? Do you associate it with a place, a building, a person, a sound, a painting or a piece of pottery? For example, could a pot be a metaphor for your feeling? Would that help you say what you want to say – its shape, colour, the sound it makes, how it feels,  what it is used for? Think about the characteristics of the place, person or pot, will these characteristics help you?
Make some notes. Think about the words you put in, are there better ones? Can you think of synonyms?
Rough out your idea. Look for things you can cut – definite articles for example. Are there any words that aren’t working for you?
Now you need a pinch of magic. Stir well, but not too well. Mix lightly is a better term.
Type it up. Edit it a bit, move things around until you are happy with the sound and look of your poem. Save it. Put it in a dark drawer for a day or two and leave it alone. Then have another look and fiddle about with it again.
Save it. And back up your file. You can print it at this stage, but you may want to let it rest again and come back and do some more work on it first. Now you can take it to a spoken word event with an open mic session  and read it to others. Or take it to a workshop to let other writers fiddle about with it.

There are many possibilities,
but try starting the poem at Stanza2.
You could cut the last two lines.

More info on the HotPot project here: