Date(s) - 03/01/2021 - 24/01/2021
Suffolk Poetry Society will be sharing work from their membership with us over the coming weeks with a new poem being added at fortnightly intervals. www.suffolkpoetrysociety.org
Born in Essex, Fran Reader has lived in Suffolk since 1990. After retiring from a career in gynaecology she reinvented herself through her love of poetry by gaining an MA in Poetry with the Open University (2019). Since Autumn 2017 Fran has been Editor of Suffolk Poetry Society’s Twelve Rivers magazine. The following poem was commended in the Crabbe Poetry Competition 2020.
Working fresh weft over old warp
I saved a tapestry from moth destruction the way one saves a soul
Louise Bourgeois, diary entry, November 2 1995
Warp – strange name.
I’ll make it my word-of-the-day
to please Maman.
She’ll give me a linen backdrop of taut threads
exposed by greedy moths
with no thought for beauty –
a free-for-all in dust-making decay –
a lost face, a missing fleur-de-lis.
For her I’ll restore the missing weft with woollen threads –
tannin fixed, to madder-red, weld-yellow and woad-blue.
Over-and-over I’ll let the soft threads
stroke my fingers – colour retell the story.
When I’ve finished I’ll sing – if sound will come –
a song for the warp I’ve buried.
Copyright. Fran Reader
I have been writing and performing poetry since the turn of the century, starting with the poetry/visual arts collective Inprint. I won the Fish International Poetry Prize in 2007. I live in Norwich but am linked mainly to the Seagull Theatre group in Lowestoft and the Halesworth Swan poets.
‘Young Birds’ by Tim Lenton which was highly commended in the Crabbe Poetry Competition 2020.
Light flashes in the hedge
as young birds
free from the fields
taste the edges of their new world
then come to feed from our fingers:
sunlight pierces their wings
and the puzzle of leaves and branches
as we watch,
the holy dove
and the flames of light
that settled on him, filled his house
full of love and secrets,
consuming the dry, tender land.
Copyright © Tim Lenton
Jane Henderson has lived in a Suffolk village for 22 years, where she is a gardener and sculptor. Often her ideas hatch whilst gardening and some develop into poems. Her work has been published in magazines and anthologies. ‘Frank’s World’ was placed second in the 2020 Crabbe Poetry Prize.
Frank was a knitted boy: plain and purl,
with a spare hand that attached
a harmonica to the slot of his mouth
which he then assumed like a silver grin,
harping through it a language of his own.
His face was pure purl, the curve of ear,
the tilt of brow, the prow of lips kiss-pursed.
Frank’s mother had cast him off the row
like unwanted stitches, and Frank had felt
himself so cast, falling with weight yet silently
with the gravity of a tightly spun ball of,
for example, Aran, there being a slight
bounce and a degree of unravelling.
Frank then grew independently, breeding
his own ideas like stick insects and wheeling
them around on the velvet nap of caterpillars.
Frank was sweater and shorts, scratchy
grey above stocking-stitch knees, long
frayed from forays into the hedge where
the thrush nested. Frank’s spare hand
had plumbed the thrush’s nest, fingered its
rough weft, felt the yarn in its rotundity.
Otherwise he stood with his toes curled
around stones in the soft silt of the river bed,
the cloudy water knee high and dough warm,
tightening his toe grip on the stones,
and all the time sliding the mouth harp.
He wanted to banish the frightful images
of cauliflower that kept creeping into his head,
the vegetable having been served to him
once for school dinner. He had fled down
the lane away from school, back to his bed
at Granddaddy’s house. In his dreams
the heavily textured white curd pulsed
like a huge brain, then broke in half,
exuding a glaucous substance from its parts.
All Frank wanted to taste was the wood,
the metal of the harmonica, he blowing
and sucking at the honeycomb grid of it,
meting out his vernacular of stickleback,
blackbird’s egg and Granddaddy’s pipesmoke.
Granddaddy was braces and clay-smeared spade,
drawing long-necked tear-inducing leeks
from the sod of his allotment.
Somehow Frank had a notion that blind, black
men played blues on harmonicas, so Frank
shut his eyes when he struck up his mouth harp
and focussed on the hue of the blackbird’s egg.
Copyright © Jane Henderson 2020
Chair of Swan Poets Halesworth. Fascinated by Humanity, Literature, Landscape and History, Mike sees Poetry (Language, Time, Imagery and Metaphor) as a way of sharing a sense of Heritage and Community. Publications: Greenstreet Fragments 2003, Pocahontas in Ludgate 2007, Orinsay Poems 2012, Late Poems 2017 Nine Days 2019.
Mike won third prize in the Crabbe poetry competition 2020 with this poem;
Lament for a Lewis Crofter-Man
(i.m. Kenny Kennedy of Orasaigh 1943-2016)
Further… as far as… back of the north wind
we hanker after recollection’s warp,
where the last crags tumble, chill dark
and terrible to the underworld.
Prince, whale-man and weaver, lone voyager,
we came to re-discover you.
Malin to Fair Isle: twelve windless days,
all mute, no shout carries, no echo tells;
the sharp steel barb of that, salt rust and sore
Unrippling, at Orasaigh waves gleam
green and silver, mirror those mornings
we’d put out on the ebb tide, trusting
the flood to bring us home, lines coiled, fish box full.
You taught us the sea; hidden skerries
lee shore, whistling squalls, a cable parted,
a readiness for danger.
Lifelog of a crofter-man: Handsome youth
quits the Long Isle, earns his spurs
where the whale-fish blow, about the Weddell Sea;
then he’s a tanker-hand
Thames Humber Tyne and Forth.
In the high woods of Moray, he finds his own
pearl beyond price, brings her home,
builds a small Ithaca, clear spring, rough land
dry boat, iron loom; they work, weave tweed,
raise a constellation of four lambent stars.
Restless, down all the seasons and the years,
our quiet Odysseus, is busy at the brim
of the sea, a godly man, each repeated
labour a ritual in itself, a prayer almost;
fish of the tide, cloth of the loom
peat of the moor, stag from the hill.
Sage thoughts, uttered in the old tongue,
soft and slow; he would provide.
Boatman, friend, hero and hunter, sleep sound
in your dark school among the stones
of Gravir, place of kings.
Copyright © Mike Bannister 2020
Sue was born and brought up in Suffolk and returned to live in the county 15 years ago after many years abroad with the British Council. She retired in 2014 and is now Secretary of Suffolk Poetry Society. Sue has had poems published by The Dawntreader, Ink, Sweat and Tears and in several anthologies.
In the video Sue reads three poems from her new collection, A City Waking Up. This video also appears in the IAA Arts in Celebration event.
Elizabeth Cook was the winner of the Crabbe Poetry Prize 2020 with her poem ‘Memory House’.
Elizabeth Cook lived in Suffolk until earlier this year and hopes to return. She writes fiction (Achilles, Lux) and poetry. Her second full poetry collection, When I Kiss the Sky will be published by Worple next year.
When nouns – proper and common –
began to go, she remembered
his memory theatres
by means of which an orator
might recall the propositions
of a speech, and place sentences
in key positions such as a pediment,
architrave or column within
an imagined theatre.
She would use
her childhood home
which she could not shake off
and adorn it with entities
of greater fragility –
fireplace, kitchen sink, flagstones
in the larder; coal cellar,
woodshed, the kitchen
window where the cat
came in. The bookcase
on the upstairs landing –
she would tie what she wanted
to remember to these solid
locations as some tie prayers
and wishes to a tree, making the
fastening firm with a double bow.
There. The name of a long ago lover
tied to the mantelpiece, and there
the town in Sardinia where someone
– was it she? – fell over and grazed
her knee as a child might do
and the woman from the cake shop
ran out with a chair and a slice
of a tart made with apricots
like roof tiles.
Copyright © Elizabeth Cook 2020
Photo: Peter Everard Smith
Born and brought up in the Waveney Valley, Elizabeth studied English at
Lancaster University. She is actively involved in Suffolk poetry cafes and
workshops and has won a couple of local prizes. Elizabeth has published
two collections, Unhurried Voices (2012) and Appreciating the Place (2017).
HIS HEAD DON’T ACHE ANY MORE
– the chap who hammered this in,
my father gasped
drawing the nail, thick with rust,
clinched to sound wood
in the back of the barn
where cobwebs drooped with dust.
He does not know the smell of sun on corn.
His tongue no longer tastes the rasp of beer
nor do his ears resound to climbing larks.
No hands find warm round flesh beneath coarse cloth,
nor eyes make out the running of a hare.
Gone, with the hum of privies,
raw hands in frost, sour bread,
a child”s sob of pain,
and the sight of a small rough box
carted through the churchyard gate – again.
James Knox Whittet
James Knox Whittet was born and brought up in the Hebridean island of Islay. He has published poetry collections and won awards from the Arts Council of England, Highland Arts and the Society of Authors. He is a Hawthornden Fellow and was President of the Suffolk Poetry Society
Languages of Babyle
It is always in autumn that I glimpse you,
walking hand in hand with Donalda
along the esplanade in Oban, past the cathedral
with its organ notes made discordant by sea winds.
Across the bay, the spaced lights of Kerrera
burn more brightly with the deepening dusk;
as you slowly walk, you listen to the gulls’
strangely human cries of exile and longing.
Images of autumn flooded your mind like
the high tides of Babyle where your languages
were confused by humans and not by God:
that unbending figure in whom you could never believe.
Here where your mother’s footsteps crushed the frail
daffodils each spring when she followed the narrow path
to the moor, with a creel strapped her back, where cairns
of peat were shot through with scattered pellets of sunlight.
Those leaping salmon psalms she sung in the Free Kirk
each Sunday resounded in your ears long after
her shrill voice had gone and, despite your loathing,
were echoed in the sonorous cadences of your verse.
Not far from your home in Taynuilt, the granite statue
of Duncan Ban MacIntyre stands still, gazing stalker- like
down across Loch Awe where the deer move out
in isolated air and wet rowans shake their bowed
heads in a breeze, letting fall their berries like droplets
of claret on goose-fleshed water. Those threatening,
scheming voices that whispered in your tortured mind
have all been lulled to silence now and cattle cough
ghostlike through the mists of autumn beyond
the cemetery walls of Muckairn where you lie with one
ear strained to hear the wailing choirs of the distant ocean
that will forever call you home to wind-bent grasses.
Here now is the stubborn place of which you wrote
where the bewildering metaphors by which you
lived no longer swarm like midges around this blunt fact
but, as a fellow traveler through verbal mazes wrote:
the facts of this world are not the end of the matter.*
Iain Crichton Smith grew up in the crofting township of Babyle in the Isle of Lewis. Although Gaelic was his native language, he was taught entirely in English and he felt divided between two languages all his life.
* Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Anne was born on a farm in Suffolk. After studying German in Munich she worked as translator, interpreter and language teacher. She now lives in Essex, observing and writing about the landscape and natural world around her, as well as translating German poetry for pleasure. Anne won second prize in the Crabbe poetry competition in 2018 with this poem ‘A Poet Showed Me Round his Violin’.
A POET SHOWED ME ROUND HIS VIOLIN
for Gregory Warren Wilson
A poet showed me round his violin.
He held it with a reverence all his own.
His teacher left it to him in her will.
The fingerboard is smoothest ebony.
A poet showed me round his violin.
Two types of wood, he said. The front is pine,
the back is spruce, from the Dolomites.
This maker always sought some minor flaw
in the grain he used. But it must not be weak.
Two types of wood, he said. The front is pine.
He does not spell it out, but it’s implied:
we hear a breeze within, the breath of trees
felled on a mountain side under full moon;
the gale that broke the branch and caused the flaw.
He does not spell it out, but it’s implied.
I wanted him to play but did not ask.
I had called on him to talk of poetry
and he prefers to keep to the task in hand.
He put the violin back into its case.
I wanted him to play but didn’t ask.
But then he let me hold his precious bow.
Look at the mother-of-pearl, the band of gold
here at the base – but please don’t touch the hair!
I felt the balance of it in my hand,
because he let me hold his precious bow.
A poet showed me round his violin.
Two types of wood, he said, the front is pine.
We didn’t spell it out but it was implied,
I wanted him to play, but didn’t ask.
Instead, he let me hold his precious bow.
Pam Job helped run Poetry Wivenhoe for 10 years. Her work is published in anthologies and in magazines. In 2018 she won the Cornwall Contemporary Poetry competition. She has won The Crabbe Competition twice. Her poem, ‘The Parcel’, was included in the oratorio The Affirming Flame, premiered at Snape Maltings in 2019.
Orford Ness: the almost island
This place manufactures winds, angles them
to meet the sea then shreds them on iron tripes
of ruins above soft green mouldings of grass.
Winds are filed in levels of ferocity
in vertical drawers in a library of elements.
Open a cupboard out fly sea-mists, yellow fogs.
Pipes try to run away – gas boys gas – through rusted
ducts, open mouths still shouting we know about death
and yes those could be meat hooks in the ceiling.
Poppies, bloody breath of the dead blown against
barbed wire, and all else we have left is geometry
in this barracks for owls where struts are roofed with rooks
at its end, an instrument made of sand to hold the sea.
There’s a muted luminosity in this fractal landscape
now light pales and all the day’s sequins are stripped away.
This Suffolk site was used for the secret development and testing of radar and armaments including nuclear weapons from WW1 until 1973.
Patricia Peters lives close to a beautiful beach in Pakefield, Suffolk which has a thriving creative community.
Having attended several inspirational online poetry courses, she is preparing to publish a a pamphlet entitled ‘Tears. It will include ‘And Sing Like Alan’.
And Sing Like Alan
Alan got onto the stage
round, flat face, small eyes and nose
wanted to sing in his own language
no words, just a range of sounds
unchartered notes and unchecked volume
his own music bellowed in earnest
his tongue popping out between notes.
To the audience it was
wailing, howling, caterwauling
we were stunned, alarmed, some frightened
hands went over ears
an embarrassment of giggles
tinges of anger
spoiling our afternoon.
Who let him onto the stage?
It shouldn’t be allowed!
Someone should do something.
But no one knew what to do
I didn’t know what to do, then
my dad joined Alan on stage
stood next to him,
put his arm around his shoulder
sung silently with him,
a spontaneous duet
a harmony so beautiful
that I cry remembering.
Stating my purpose, my mission
words diminish this example
not even poetry.
I want to be a woman like my father
and sing like Alan.
Caroline Gilfillan is the author of five poetry collections, one of which,Â Yes, won the East Anglian Book Award for the best poetry collection in 2010. Her work has appeared in many anthologies, and in 2019 she won the Yeovil Prize for Poetry. She also writes fiction and songs. Though no longer resident in East Anglia, she retains strong links with Norfolk and Suffolk and is a frequent visitor. Â www.carolinegilfillan.co.uk
Things he loved
Her transparency; the clear breath
that ran through her; her nose –
the tidy fold of it, like paper; her innocence:
here was a woman who knew nothing
of ripe figs dripping juice, nothing
of sway-backed donkeys and Herodotus.
Not that she was stupid: she’d grown herself
from her own seeds, like a child raising
mustard and cress on blotting paper.
Like him, she’d been given nothing
and had made something of it.
He liked her will: she’d not buckle
or bend. And he loved the centre of her voice:
sherbet in the lemon. Her eyes, too: blue-sky
blue, limpid with chalky loss, a foil
for his, the colour of peat. Most of all
he loved her fastidious ways and words.
Those harridans in black habits had tied her
up in a parcel of plain brown paper
and string he wanted slowly to undo.
Caroline Price is a violinist and teacher by profession but writing has always played a significant part in her life. Her poems have appeared widely in literary magazines and anthologies, and she has published four collections, most recently ‘Picnic on the rocks, with frog’ (Shoestring Press 2017).
This poem won First Prize – 2018 Crabbe Memorial Competition.
Castle Grant, 1766
They lie back replete
in their padded seats, bibs spotted
from dismantling the birds they shot earlier
and prepare for the magic he’s promised, their host
tiny at the acanthus-swagged mahogany,
his hands as they dance
between octaves and stops
shaking the hall with a fanfare
engulfed moments later by thunder, followed as abruptly
by the eerie floating of a single flute
while on the far side of the wall and braced against it
his servant pumps the handle
without pause, gasping
as he gives the instrument breath,
his grunts and sweat-streaked face
as invisible, impossible to imagine
as the deer grazing in the dusk
or the soft chuck chuck
of a roosting pheasant, an answering grouse.
David Healey was born in 1944 and brought up in Cornwall. He qualified as a doctor at Guy’s Hospital and subsequently worked in Papua New Guinea before returning to become a GP in Suffolk. He’s been involved in wildlife conservation and helping to look after his grandson, Archie, who has cerebral palsy. He’s published two collections: of poetry: Slowing the Afternoon Down and Sleeping Among Yaks. A Wild Swan Feed At Welney won first prize in the Crabbe Poetry Competition in 2014.
A Wild Swan Feed At Welney
After the kerfuffle of reaching
the viewing chamber, making sure
the children with additional needs
don’t get lost or left behind
the swans fly towards us,
strung out like a wavering horizon,
glide down and carve Vs of curved
spray as they water ski to a stop.
The children laugh and cry, call
across to each other, answer back.
Soon as grain is thrown
from a barrow the swans converge
snatch and swallow what they can,
near enough for us to see
each adult bird has a wedge
of yellow on its bill.
There’s bugling and honking
on the lagoon. Most are Whoopers
though the warden in his spiel
informs us Bewick swans
are seen better from East Hide.
It’s a rumpus when they take off:
smack smack against water
as they struggle to get airborne.
Archie, my grandson, can’t stand
without splints and hand rails
but flapping his arms like wings
he gives me the lift I need just now.
Pools of sunlight and cloud shadow
sweep across The Ouse Washes.
When I hold him at the window
he laughs at where he is in the sky.
Phil Baker is of mixed European heritage – German, English, French, Polish. He lives in a barn near the Suffolk hamlet of Edwardstone and reads regularly at Arlingtons poetry cafÃ© in Ipswich. His poetry has been published in anthologies and in the New European.
Mia and the ant– Commended, George Crabbe Poetry Competition 2019. Published in the Suffolk Poetry Society Anthology.
Mia and the ant
As if she’s been charging her batteries for the whole
of her three years
she seizes the day by both shoulders
looks it in the eye and says play!
Runs everywhere. Walking
she’s in danger of leaving herself behind
so she runs to keep up – slowing only when stalking
Fearless she attacks every climb, every crawl
the playground can offer, with squeals of pure joy
the excitement of putting her all
into meeting each challenge
At times, gaze elsewhere, she’s on auto-pilot
Her feet are left to their own devices
and she staggers, inadvertently almost splicing
her legs, grabs for balance, mutters -That was close
A rope bridge a foot above the ground
is negotiated with the same skill, not looking down
as I imagine her – fifty feet up and inching
not flinching for a moment – just the hint of a frown
above spuming white foam, a rock-strewn torrent
Ropes treacherous, slippery with humidity and slime
somewhere in the wilds of twenty years’ time
Re-crossing a tree trunk
she previously took in her eager stride
she encounters an ant. And stops. Looks.
Rooted to the spot – interrogates it
Nothing can persuade her to cross now
Whether fear of trampling it into the bark
– care for a tiny life easily lost
to restless feet with lives of their own
Or perhaps a more primitive fear
– of an alien creature. With too many legs.
No power of speech, yet the freedom to decide where it wants to go
without any apparent parental control
Earlier she’d asserted with unshakeable certainty
that she hadn’t come out of her Mummy’s tummy
Where from then? She’d laughed as she ran away
calling over her shoulder – I just came from yesterday
Now, faced with tomorrow with six legs, she’s stumped
But only briefly. Shelving the question, to avoid the congestion
on the tree-trunk route, she jumps off
feet first into today
After a working life in local government John attended an evening class on creative writing in 2003. He fell in love with poetry, attended all the adult education classes he could and then obtained a degree from The Norwich Art School. He has published three pamphlets.
Watch His Lips
Faced with a choice of the ventriloquist or his dummy,
I like the dummy. His eyes are brightly alive whereas
the ventriloquist seems self absorbed. I say seem
because he doesn’t say much. Besides, the dummy has
the gift of the gab and smiles. The ventriloquist cuts
only a flinty grin. It is as if he is still struggling
to remember his lines. Meanwhile the dummy works
the audience, tells jokes and shares anecdotes.
With him we are at ease.
It doesn’t matter that he isn’t politically correct,
often direct, and says things as he finds them.
Sometimes he insults us, calls us names and swears.
We feel we can trust him. And when he speaks to us
in confidence he winks, deliberately lowers his voice
to keep the ventriloquist from hearing anything
he shouldn’t. We can’t help but think if he would drop
the man altogether and stand for Parliament, then
we could vote for him.
Colin lives in a no-man’s land between Dunwich and Walberswick on the Suffolk coast, where he garners most of his poetry ideas from birds and sand and sea and gorsey heath, and his increasingly elusive memories. He has published in various magazines, including The Rialto, South, Magma and Southlight, among others.
For the Birds
spill onto pastures and pavements
in threes and fives and nines
like loony toons, or comic hooligoons,
yacking their consonant cackle
ragpie, slagpie, snagpie, shagpie,
hagpie, bagpie, lagpie, nagpie
glossy mag grackles,
who recklessly presage
woe or wealth, birth or bliss,
with numerical prank predictions
bawled in black and white
pumped-up politicos, platform foppets
in rented tails and tuxedos,
who strut over mud to blot their copy,
beak-tweak their undies in public
and thieve our bauble beliefs
with their crack-pot promises
put paid to you, plaguepies!
II Spanish Sparrows
scram, cheap cheep
you cavalier café crowd,
bitchy boyband bohemians,
and panhandling pimpsters –
be done, belief-beggared busybodies
tale-telling townies –
scoot, you natty zapatistas,
puffed up pesetas,
with hussy cousins
and tatty tanned sisters –
clap! the prattle-pack scatters,