Meeting Notes 2024

Social evening

The social evening was well attended with 8 Mole Valley Poets meeting in person and 4 joining in online. There were two rounds of reading favourite poems including work by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Roger McGough, Rebecca Goss, Seamus Heaney, Naomi Shihab Nye and Billy Collins as well as by MVPs. There were images of a blackbird nesting in an upturned palm, a thrush in full-hearted evensong and the coolest of snow angels.

Notes by Helen Overell.

8th January 2024

Whetting the Appetite: Top Tips for Titles. Presented by Rickard Lister

Richard Lister shared a short powerpoint presentation which covered:

Notes by Rickard Lister.

29th January 2024

Getting it Together – Writing Haibun with the Rossettis. Presented by Diana Webb

Diana led an inspiring workshop on writing haibun as though putting an outfit together with mix & match components. These could be season words or images acquired over the years that combine to be subtle or outrageous. The writing could be a tribute to established classical haibun writers like Basho or present day ones like Bob Lucky whose 'Advice to Writers' includes 'It's hard to know what you have to say until you say it.' We were invited to write in response to poems by Christina Rossetti, her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his wife Elizabeth Siddal as well as to artwork.

Notes by Helen Overell.

24th February 2024

Possessing Beauty. Presented by Mark Boor

Based on the thoughts of Alain De Botton and John Ruskin we reflected on 2 questions:

"Beauty is fugitive, it is frequently found in places to which we may never return or else it results from a rare conjunction of season, light and weather." Beauty is ephemeral and deeply personal, it will also reflect how one is feeling at any moment in time.

To possess beauty, one needs to really look at something to understand the elements of what make it beautiful, to be simultaneously perceptive and mindful, both are essential to help poets create what Ruskin called "word paintings".

Notes by Mark Boor.

26th February 2024

Bringing us to our Senses – The Poetry of Gillian Clarke. Presented by Elizabeth Barton

'Poetry is grounded in the earliest experiences, in memory too deep to name, stored in the senses rather than in the filing-system of the conscious mind'.

At the Source, Gillian Clarke

In this talk, we read rich and sensuous poems spanning the many decades of Clarke's illustrious career. These included Catrin, which explores the tender, and, at times, tense relationship between a mother and a daughter, and Polar, a heartbreaking poem about climate crisis. We discussed the incantational nature of Clarke's writing (a quality she shares with other Celtic poets), casting a spell over the listener through sharp imagery, strong rhythms and a powerful evocation of the senses.

Notes by Elizabeth Barton.

25th March 2024

Poets in exile - from Marian Hemar to the present day…. Presented by Tony Earnshaw

We considered the life and works of Marian Hemar, a leading Polish celebrity in the inter war years as a port, songwriter, playwright and more who was unable to return to Poland after the war and lived in exile, continuing to write and broadcast from London and subsequently from our own doorstep in the Mole Valley.

His poems of exile and longing led us to consider the reality of exile and to look at poets currently writing in exile in the UK. These included poets from Tibet, Afghanistan and Iraq and we were introduced to their work and that of the group Exiled Writers Ink.

Notes by Tony Earnshaw.

29th April 2024

Public Event: Sofa Poet. Presented by Alwyn Marriage

It was good to welcome Alwyn Marriage as MVP Sofa Poet for a convivial evening of poetry and writing. There were 11 people altogether of whom 8 were MVPs. The theme was 'In Person' and reference was made to poems where writing about one person enabled us to learn about someone else. Alwyn read from her own work including the poem 'The clue lies in the lady's toe' which was inspired by a Henry Moore sculpture. We then read poems including 'Digging' by Seamus Heaney and 'Warming her pearls' by Carol Ann Duffy and considered the absent presences within the poem. We were invited to take part in writing exercises – these gave rise to innovative and good-humoured responses. Alwyn read further from her work and included a glose or glosa – this form has Spanish origins dating from the 15th century.

Responses included:

"I too really enjoyed the session, one of the best sofa poets I've participated in with Alwyn's deep skill and ability to help us engage and grow."

"It was a brilliant evening! Alwyn is such an inspiration and I was staggered to discover the breadth of her interests and achievements."

"… So I went to the Sofa on the Poet event and do you know what – it was brilliant and did me a power of good!"

"A great evening – one of the best we have had."

Notes by Helen Overell.

3rd June 2024

Amanda Dalton, Poet, Playwright, Tutor. Presented by Denise Bundred

Poetry Publications
How To DisappearBloodaxe Books 1999
StrayBloodaxe Books 2012
30 Poems in Thirty DaysArc Publications 2021
Notes on WaterSmith Doorstop 2022
Fantastic VoyageBloodaxe Books 2024

Amanda Dalton is a poet who also writes for theatre and radio – plays, personal essays and adaptations of novels. She is a tutor too, and I chose to speak about her because I am fascinated by the way she weaves stories through her poetry. I have used some of Amanda's collections to illustrate how she does this.

Her first collection How to Disappear was shortlisted for the Forward Prize – Best First Collection and it contains a long narrative poem – Room of Leaves. This was the first of Amanda's poems that I read on a Poetry Society course in Manchester in 2011 and it introduced me to the possibilities of narrative poetry.

In the sequence, Room of Leaves, the first poem is in the form of an autopsy report from 1994 which I found intriguing. The sequence then goes back to the beginning – in 1959 when Gracie (a pharmacist) in her thirties meets Frank who is infatuated by romantic films. He proposes to Gracie but deserts her at the altar. The sequence tells how she spends the rest of her life living in the garden of her mother's bungalow, waiting for Frank. The sequence is in three voices: Gracie, Frank and a narrator. Amanda adapted this narrative sequence of poems into a radio play – Room of Leaves which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 some years ago.

Notes on Water (2022) is a pamphlet consisting of two long poems. The first started as a poem about water – dreams and floods. While she was writing it, her partner was diagnosed with a terminal illness. The second poem in the third person – more explicitly about the journey through grief and loss but still about water. She combined both poems into a 'fractured narrative' for BBC Radio 3.

Fantastic Voyage (2024) is her most recent collection. It reflects the 1960's science fiction film Fantastic Journey where a group of scientists are shrunken and travel in a tiny capsule through the blood of another scientist who has a clot of blood in vessel in the brain, to try and save him. The collection consists of prose poems, free verse and at its centre, she blends both poems from Notes on Water into a 'fractured narrative'.

I used Amanda's poems to illustrate her wonderful poetry and her skill in characterisation which she employs to tell stories. You can find out more about Amanda Dalton on her website.

Notes by Denise Bundred

24th June 2024

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