Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Reading list - Robin Houghton, Charles Bennett and Liz Lefroy

These are a few of the books I bought earlier this autumn at Free Verse and the Cinnamon tenth birthday celebrations. I'm following the example set by Robin Houghton on her blog of reading from first poem to last poem so it seemed appropriate to start with her pamphlet The Great Vowel Shift published by Telltale Press

This is a slim pamphlet of thirteen poems, which is beautifuly made with a wrap around dust jacket and collage cover illustration by Hannah Clare. It is Robin Houghton's debut poetry pamphlet. She has also written guides on how to blog. These are poems about loss – ‘The Last’, Ellipsis, and Fermata- and moments of epiphany. These poems were so good it reminded me of how difficult it can be to get a full collection published.

Favourite poem 'The Last' because you have to read it all the way through before you realise what the poem is about and then you have the pleasure of reading it again.

365 Apples by Charles Bennett

The title of this pamphlet can set you off down the wrong track as it is not about 365 varieties of apple but 12 months (or 365 days) from January to December. Charles Bennett spent a year visiting Dragon Orchard In Putley, Herefordshire and responding to the orchard in poems. The poems are a delight, a celebration of the trees, the people who grow them, the bees who visit the flowers, the passing of the seasons and the natural order of things. Bennett explains in the foreword about spending a few days each month in the orchard (lucky man) and says

“My time in the orchard … consisted of walking and being attentive, of looking and listening and letting my senses and imagination be opened and operated upon by the orchard. You might say that in a sense the orchard walked through me.”

And through the poems you can walk with him and the orchard. My favourite poem is April, which ends with the lines

the bees who snuff and fumble,

until the orchard throbs and every bee

is making an apple from a kiss.

Mending the Ordinary  by Liz Lefroy

I heard Liz Lefroy read at the Cinnamon Press celebrations in Northampton and wanted to read her poems again. These are poems about her family and what might be ordinary moments but for the extra-ordinary attention which she gives them.
Favourite poem Solving Insomnia

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Tenth Birthday Celebrations

I spent yesterday in Northampton in the company of fellow writers and readers for the tenth Birthday celebrations for Cinnamon Press which was founded by the industrious and inspiring Jan Fortune in 2005. In her usual generous spirit the weekend's events were shared with other independent presses Fair Acre Press, Grey Hen Press and local organisations, Creative Writers @the Museum and Northampton University Creative Writing Department.

So it was a day fulled to the brim with abundance, highlights for me included the opening workshop on writing success led by Hazel Manuel - do follow her on twitter for writing tips and ideas, the  reading by Charles Bennett who was the first Director of the Ledbury poetry festival and now teaches creative writing at the University of Northampton. I particularly loved his poems about Dragon Orchard in Herefordshire. If he brings the same level of energy and enthusiasm to his teaching then Northampton is clearly a good place to study creative writing. Then Susan Richardson entranced the audience with her poems based on Inuit myth and legend. And if you haven't come across Liz Lefroy's Mending the Ordinary then you are missing out on some remarkable work.

I was able to share the poems in Convoy and later in the day met someone whose father had been on one of the Royal Navy ships protecting the convoys. I will write another blog post about how to find out more about the convoys.

It was a chance to catch up with fellow Cinnamon authors and to hear new work from authors I hadn't previously met. Frances Spurrier spent the day organising pop-up readings in the cafe and led the way iwth her own poems from The Pilgrim's Way.

And there was cake of many sorts in the cafe and wonderful home-made Asparagus soup with sourdough bread for folk like me who prefer savoury treats.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Not lost in translation – a handkerchief kiss

One of the highlights of the Free Verse fair in London was the chance to take part in a translation workshop led by Karen Leeder of New College, Oxford. I did study French, German and Russian at school and Welsh with the Open University so this workshop looked interesting, even if my language skills are considerably rusty. I’m conscious that I don’t do enough to read poetry other than English and American poets apart from occasional forays into other languages. I am however fascinated by the possibilities offered by translation and being able to access poetry written in languages other than English.

The workshop offered a chance to discover a contemporary German poet, Ulrike Almut Sandig Karen Leeder gave us copies of her poems in the original German with various versions in translation. We discussed the role of the translator and whether she should aim to be invisible, simply providing a gateway to another language or whether the translator could or should bring their own voice to bear. The members of the workshop came from a variety of linguistic backgrounds from the essentially mono-lingual with a schoolgirl smattering of another language (me), to a native German speaker, a recent graduate in German, Italian and Polish speakers and an English speaker who translates poems across Turkish, Welsh and English. One member of the group said she had come to translation because of wanting to share wonderful poetry written in her native tongue and the only way to do that was through translation. We had a go at translating one of Ulrike’s poems.

 fest steht, alles wird immer much da sein

I confess that in grappling with Ulrike’s poem I was relying heavily on the literal word for word translation provided. Once I decided not to worry about whether I was translating the German ‘correctly’ it became fun and quite unlike those language lessons at school in which there always seemed to be a right or a wrong answer. I also felt a sense of responsibility to the poem and to making my version intelligible.

It was illuminating to hear other people’s translations and to see the choices they had made.  And the workshop made me want to read more German poetry (in translation). Here is Karen Leeder's version as the second poem down and this is Anton Viesel's version prepared for an earlier workshop