Saturday, 21 February 2015

Please note that we now have a new blog at Preston Poets' Society We'll leave the old one up as well in case you want to re-visit the poems and newsletters.

Thursday, 19 June 2014


To the many many people who have helped me so much over the last few years I just wanted to say thank you. Including Chris Forde at Preston College, the LWH, the critique group especially Alan Whelan, John Rutter, Heather Carey, and Tim Gavell. Chorley and District Writers with Dea and
David, Preston Poets (all of you), Penwortham Live, the New Continental and everyone who helped make the two Word events so successful.
I'm heading back down to Portsmouth so I just wanted to make sure I said something in case I don't get a chance to see you in person before I go. If I haven't mentioned you by name, but you have had the dubious pleasure of my company, I apologise.
Once again, my huge thanks to all those who have made my writing experience here in Preston, you cannot believe how much you have all helped me, both in skill (I hope) and confidence.
Here is my final offer to you, may you find favourable winds (and a half decent publisher!)


Avast! Me hearties, I’m windbound no more,
  My trunks are packed and I have a full store,
Primage is paid, the snotties have boarded,
  My course is laid in, the path recorded.
High tide has turned, and my sails have been set,
  The anchors lashed tight against the cathead,
A black moggy stalks, to protect our souls,
  The pilot’s aboard, to slip past the shoals.
So as Preston’s waters slip out of sight,
  And I travel southward into the night,
A tear fills my eye as I think of those,
  Who took time with me and my salty prose.
To the poets, pirates, and roguish crew,
  Who’ve critiqued, and survived, my fulsome spew,
Thank you for the work you’ve put into me,
  May our paths cross again, at land or sea.

Thank you so much everyone.

Monday, 2 June 2014

BBC News - Is it possible to be a millionaire poet?

Last week, an amateur poet won more than $1m on a TV talent show in the United Arab Emirates. But what does an injection of cold hard cash on this scale do to a poet's creative impulses?
As poetry readings go, the setting was unique. The Al Raha Beach Theatre in Abu Dhabi boasted light-up floors, backdrop projections and a light show of a kind that would be familiar to fans of Pop Idol, X Factor or America's Got Talent.
Since February, global audiences of up to 70 million have tuned in to watch Million's Poet, in which men (there were no female contestants this year) in traditional dress take turns to deliver self-penned verses of a type of colloquial Arabic poetry called Nabati. A panel of judges delivers feedback, the Emirati royal family puts in an occasional appearance, and the contestants are gradually whittled down.
If this format seems alien to the business of poetry, described by Wordsworth as "emotion recollected in tranquillity", then the prize money may also give us pause for thought. When 27-year-old Saif al-Mansuri won the sixth season of the show last week, he took home five million UAE Dirhams - that's $1.3m or £800,000. As literary prizes go, the only thing that comes close is the Nobel Prize for Literature, which stands at eight million Swedish kronor ($1.2m or £700,000).
 Al-Mansuri's winning poem was called Golden Papers, and it was about his experience on Million's Poet
All this raises questions about poetry and our preconceptions of poets. As Robert Graves put it, "There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either."

"I think it's the idea that truth is where sadness is, where poverty is, where the booze is. And not where the money is.”
Tsead Bruinja Poet
"Ordinarily, poetry does seem to be the opposite of show business, and we probably just prefer our poets not to be celebrities in that particular way," says Don Share, Chicago-based editor of Poetry magazine and a poet himself. "It doesn't sit well with us, and it's very hard to explain that. Money is felt to be contaminating and to be antithetical to the values that we expect from poetry and literature and art."
But, he says, it's very unfair to resent poets and novelists who become rich, since pop stars, movie stars and even politicians are much wealthier. It's a good thing, in his view, if Million's Poet is providing counter-examples to the "stereotype of the starving artist, the poet in the garret".
That impression, he says, was fixed by the large number of great poets in history who happened to be very poor.
In the mid-19th Century, visitors flocked to the cottage of John Clare, to stare at the "peasant poet" who lived and worked in grinding poverty. There was bohemian poverty too, the type where a poet's last pennies were spent on absinthe or opium rather than bread. Charles Baudelaire was born to a wealthy family but squandered his inheritance and sank into debt. He said: "Any healthy man can go without food for two days - but not without poetry." Arthur Rimbaud, living a scandalous life with his lover Paul Verlaine in London in 1872, passed his time in the Reading Room of the British Museum, to use their free heating and ink.
The associations between poverty and poetry did not disappear in the 20th Century. "Like many of my fellow poets, we grew up reading the Beat generation - Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac," says the Friesian poet Tsead Bruinja. "And they were into the hobos, and all that train-hopping stuff. I think it's the idea that truth is where sadness is, where poverty is, where the booze is. And not where the money is."

But Bruinja says that he no longer has such a narrow conception of his art-form, and thinks verse can be hammered out of all kinds of life experience. "There's poetry everywhere," he says.
As a civilised art, verse has been composed by aristocrats, including Byron and Pushkin, as well as kings and rulers. Japan's Emperor Meiji wrote thousands of 31-syllable waka poems, which are still available in anthologies today. A number of Arab emirs have become masters of the Nabati poetry form featured in Million's Poet, including the late ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, and the first ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Jasim bin Mohammad al-Thani.
 The artists and philosophers of Puccini's La Boheme burn a manuscript by Rudolfo, a poet, to stay warm
There is no reason why rich poets can't feel the hope, love, loss and wonderment they need to create their work, says Judith Palmer, the director of the Poetry Society. "Money solves a lot of problems but it doesn't stop you going through emotional trauma or suffering bereavement - I imagine that feeling is the same."
The American poet Frederick Seidel is perhaps unique among contemporary English-language poets in his willingness to discuss the trappings of wealth, from fine dining to his love of Ducati motorbikes. He was born into a family that had become wealthy in haulage, and has lived a comfortable life - "I live a life of laziness and luxury" he begins one poem. But his poetry hasn't always been well-received, with one critic calling him a name-dropper.

That poor and independent man

A farm labourer
O, how I long to be agen
That poor and independent man,
With labour's lot from morn to night
And books to read at candle light;
That followed labour in the field
From light to dark when toil could yield
Real happiness with little gain,
Rich thoughtless health unknown to pain:
Though, leaning on my spade to rest,
I've thought how richer folks were blest
And knew not quiet was the best.
From Approaching Night, by John Clare
It might also be difficult for poets to adjust to the new rhythms of life that coming into money thrusts upon them. A lot of people find that when they have the time to write they suddenly can't, Palmer says. On the other hand, coming into money may help a poet. Bruinja says the added attention might mean a poet's output changes slightly, but he or she can also buy a nice house and enjoy peace and quiet. Seamus Heaney said that he felt more pressure after winning the Nobel Prize in 1995, but described his cottage in Wicklow, Ireland as a "haven".
Bruinja is one of just a dozen or so poets in Holland who live by their pen, but this involves a lot more than just writing. He covers his mortgage with a hotchpotch of readings, special commissions, sitting on committees, creative writing teaching, writing a column in a newspaper, and a helpful government grant. The income from sales of his poetry books, he says, is negligible - a couple of hundred euros a year.
Don Share says a common experience in the development of a young poet is for someone - a parent or friend, perhaps - to take them aside and warn them that there is no money in what TS Eliot described as the "mug's game" of poetry.
Why is this? Unlike visual artists - who can become very well-off indeed - a poet's product is immaterial, and therefore harder to commodify. Poems can be everywhere at once, and there is a sense in which they belong to anyone that can read, says Share. "What we love about poems is that they become ours. One thing that seems to be very important is for people to feel a poem has a value that is incalculable."
But he also thinks poetry is undervalued because it is not seen as proper work. As the Serbian-American poet Charles Simic once quipped, most poems are too short to be seen as valuable. "They give the impression it took no time to write them. Ten minutes tops. To write a 600-page novel takes years."

A plea for money?

One story relates that a poet, possibly Edmund Spenser, presented this quatrain to Elizabeth I, when he failed to receive a £100 payment he was promised - she got the message and paid him immediately.
I was promis'd on a time
To have a reason for my rhyme:
From that time unto this season,
I receiv'd nor rhyme nor reason.
Share relates a recent conversation amongst his poet friends on Facebook, after one of them was invited by a neighbour to give a workshop in a school. When the poet asked if she would be paid, the neighbour was appalled. "The idea was that she should share her expertise and her work for free, and that it was outrageous to ask for money in return."
One way to look at Million's Poet is to see it as a product of a tradition of patronage. The show was the brainchild the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the contestants' poetry is often, although by no means always, in praise of the Gulf's leaders. Perhaps this kind of poet is more immune to sudden wealth than a poet of the purely romantic kind. After al-Mansuri won Million's Poet he told the audience it was the start of a journey and they would see much more of him in the future.
Patronage of the arts has not disappeared from the West, although it tends to operate on a corporate or civic level, rather than a personal one. An exception to this is the "adopt a poet" scheme operated by the Poetry International Foundation. The foundation's director, Bas Kwakman, laments that it is almost impossible to survive as a poet nowadays, but he doesn't begrudge al-Mansuri his $1.3m prize.

"I wouldn't care if he adopts a rapper's style with beautiful cars and expensive sunglasses, driving by the beach with beautiful girls," he says. "Let him be a bigger rapper star. And afterwards, at night, let him write beautiful poetry."

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Book Launch - 'Increasing the Denominator' by Martin Domleo

The launch of Martin Domleo's new collection, Increasing the Denominator, is to be held at the Korova Arts Cafe, Preston, on Wednesday, 4th June, start time, 7-45pm.
Guest poet is the highly talented Will Daunt; the MC, Terry Quinn. Floor spots will be available.

Map for Korova Charnley Street, Preston, Lancashire PR1 2UR

Friday, 4 April 2014

Venue Change for the April Meeting

This is to confirm we have a venue for our PPS meeting on Thur 17th April.  We’re booked into Committee Room D at County Hall, Fishergate Hill [near the railway station], at no charge.
We need to finish at 9.30pm. The receptionist at the main entrance will direct members to Room D.

See you there around 7.30pm

Postcode: PR1 8XJ

Thursday, 20 March 2014

JRR Tolkien's Beowulf translation to be published

JRR Tolkien's Beowulf translation to be published

JRR Tolkien, in 1968 JRR Tolkien's translation of Beowulf will be published in May

Related Stories

A translation of the Old English poem Beowulf by author JRR Tolkien is to be published for the first time, nearly nine decades after it was completed.
The Lord Of The Rings author's estate has signed a deal with HarperCollins to release it as a book in May.
The new work Beowulf: A Translation And Commentary has been edited by his son Christopher Tolkien.
It is the latest posthumous publication for the author, following his poem The Fall Of Arthur last year.
'Illuminating commentary'
Beowulf is the longest epic poem in Old English, the language spoken in Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest.
It tells the story of a struggle between the hero, Beowulf, and a bloodthirsty monster called Grendel.
Tolkien completed his translation in 1926 - and the new publication will be accompanied by further thoughts on the text, which Tolkien prepared for a series of lectures given at Oxford during his academic career.
The author died in 1973, having seen The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings achieve literary success, but leaving behind many unpublished works.
Christopher Tolkien said: "The translation of Beowulf by JRR Tolkien was an early work, very distinctive in its mode, completed in 1926.
"He returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication.

"This edition is twofold, for there exists an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given at Oxford in the 1930s, and from these lectures a substantial selection has been made, to form also a commentary on the translation in this book."

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

'Lost' novel by war poet FW Harvey 'a jewel of a find'

As we'll be focusing on war poets next year I thought this was interesting on the BBC News website:

'Lost' novel by war poet FW Harvey 'a jewel of a find'
A previously unknown novel by a celebrated World War One poet has been described as a "jewel of a find".

Frederick William Harvey is remembered for his poetry and acts of bravery during the Great War, when he was captured and attempted daring escapes.

Full Article: