Losing Touch

Last month I posted about the Holmfirth Arts Festival next weekend, and included a poem from the anthology, Escape, that Holmfirth Writers’ Group will be launching on Sunday (Holmfirth Tech, 3-5pm). I thought it would be good to share another piece from Escape, and my good friend (and fellow HWG member) Sue Clark has very kindly agreed to let me borrow this lovely poem.

Losing Touch

To lose touch would be a sort of death:
we would plant in earth we could not feel, 
nature reduced to a painted set
with sound effects.
Smooth grass, rough bark of tree,
cool current in the stream would be unknown
through loss of tangibility.

Unsung, the power of touch
which feather brushes those we love,
lingering on the melting softness of
the newborn's skin,
fingering the rasping stubble of
a lover's chin.
Another's hand felt within one's own
tells the heart it too is feeling. 


Escape: writing out of lockdown is available at Read bookshop in Holmfirth, and at the launch event on 19 Sept (at the reduced price of £5). Tickets are available here. 


Two for your Diary

I’m very much looking forward to the Holmfirth Arts Festival next month (17-19 Sept). Last year it was mostly online, though that was a lot better than not happening at all (see https://timwordsblog.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/festival-time/. This year, however, it is going ahead in all its glory as a real, not virtual event.

I’m particularly excited about two events that I’ll be involved in along with other members of Holmfirth Writers’ Group. On Saturday 18 Sept, 12-4pm, we will be in the Story Shed, where members of the public will be able to come and give us requests or ideas and receive a finished poem or story an hour later.

Then, on Sunday 19 Sept 3-5pm, at Holmfirth Tech, the group will be launching our anthology, Escape: writing from lockdown. During the Covid lockdown, writing was a lifeline for us, and a way of creating something positive out of that difficult time. Some of our work was a reaction to the experience of lockdown itself – other pieces deal with human life and the places we inhabit. I’ll end by sharing one of two poems I’m proud to have in the anthology:

The Squirrel

I stood on our familiar bridge,
arriving early to rehearse 
the things I had to say.
Beneath, the river roared your anger
drowning my thoughts
and on its branch a squirrel stopped 
to stare at this strange static form: 
neither a hunter nor a tree. 

You did not come: 
Your absence swept 
three years of reminiscence
from that bridge, into the water
to be washed away.

I once loved that place
but I have not gone back.
All I keep of it
is the lack of you
and a squirrel’s curiosity,
fortuitously stamped
upon the final frame
of someone else’s story. 



You can find out more about the festival here: https://www.holmfirthartsfestival.co.uk/

James Henry on James Henry

I’m pleased to host today a short piece by James Henry, a fellow member of Poetry I-D, on the life, times, and works of his namesake: James Henry, Irish poet (1798 – 1876.)

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James Henry was a minor poet whose works were given a boost by the discovery of manuscripts and other materials in a Cambridge college, by the journalist Christopher Ricks, sometime around the second Millennium, and about 150 years after Henry’s death.  The research done by Ricks led to the publication of Selected Poems of James Henry (2002.)  He was born in Dublin just after the French Revolution, son of a woollen draper.  Not much is known about his childhood and schooling, but he went up to Trinity College, Dublin, and won the Gold Medal for Classics.  Henry became a doctor by profession, only giving up his practice when an inheritance enabled him to study and write full time.

Henry was married and had three children, only one survived into adulthood, a daughter.  She pre-deceased him by four years.  His wife died whilst on one of their numerous crossings of the Alps – on foot – in search of sources about Virgil’s Aeneid.  They were a long way from Ireland, so he had her remains cremated in a tile oven, and subsequently kept in an urn.

None of Henry’s output was widely published in his lifetime; there are no contemporary critical reviews, and none of his work has appeared in national anthologies.  His books were printed in Germany, on a wide range of subjects: education; the Irish protests against English domination; four volumes on the Aeneida (sic); the police force of Canton; and poetry.

At best, his poetry could be described as Keatsian; at worst, similar to the Scottish McGonegal.  For me, there are three that stand out:  My Stearine Candles, eulogising the benefits of the new technology in extending the day’s activities into night; Clever People, a rant against humanity; and the protest poem against the capitalism of the 1860s, when a coal mine disaster in Northumberland led to the deaths of 218 miners.  In Henry’s view, the absence of a second shaft for rescue and air purposes was the cause of their deaths, blaming the mine owner for scrimping on infrastructure to keep the coal cheap.

Some extracts:-

//……./ He that enabled me to sit, the long / Midwinter nights, in study, by a light / Which neither flickers nor offends the nostrils, / ……… / But steady, cleanly, bright and inodorous, / …….. / Gives me just what I want, and asks back nothing.//  My Stearine Candles

//Clever people are disagreeable, always taking advantage of you; / Stupid people are disagreeable, you can never knock anything into their heads; / …….   Clever People

Two hundred men and eighteen killed / For want of a second door! / Ay, for with two doors, each ton coal / Had cost one penny more / ……. / And should it occur [again*] – which God forbid!- / And stifle every soul / Remember well, good Christians all, / Not one whit worse the coal. // 

* my insertion.

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The author

James Henry (1956-) is the nom-de-plume of a poet, a member of the Luton Poetry Society.  Having used my middle names for the authorship of educational articles and letters whilst a serving teacher, I discovered it was also the name of a Luton Town footballer – and a relatively unknown Irish poet.  The above article was prepared as a talk for a Luton Irish Forum cultural evening.  As a semi-retired teacher, I spend my time on reading, writing and cultural activities, interspersed with seasonal work.

The Book

Ricks, C. (2002)  Selected Poems of James Henry.  Dublin:  The Lilliput Press.  ISBN 1 84351 011 1

Beachcomber

Today I’m delighted to host a poem by my good friend Anne Steward, from her second poetry collection, The Colour of Light, recently published by Maytree Press.

Beachcomber

Stone made pebble, made grit, made sand, 
ground by pulsing, tidal force. 
Each beach a match, red, black, white, grey, gold 
for many-hued clays become bone-hard crust, 
worn away under water’s weight 
while deep within, rocks melt and roil 
like syrup brought to a rolling boil, 
moving plated-slabs to grind and rise, 
lifting mountains, folding land, 
so slowly we rarely feel 
Earth’s turbulent dance. 
Till there’s a shift, a sudden thrill 
to shake from us our dream of kings 
to pebbles rolling on the beach 
helpless in the drifting surf 
awaiting a beachcomber 
who never comes.

Anne Steward 

My family is at my core. I was a teacher, bookseller, and volunteered overseas. I have a love for the natural world, travel and capturing what I see and feel in poetry, prose and photography. 

My first collection, Casting for Words, was published by CMP as a result of a NAWG competition. My second book, The Colour of Light, has been published by Maytree Press. Beachcomber is from this collection. The lovely cover image is by Claire Jefferson. It chimes with my theme to perfection. 

The books are available from me (email casualwriter@hotmail.com), the Holmfirth bookshop, Read, and the Fairtrader shop, also in Holmfirth. The Colour of Light can also be bought from Amazon.

James Nash, a noted poet wrote, to my surprised delight: 
Anne Steward’s poetry is a miracle of observation. Her photographer’s eye and philosophical mindset gives us writing to feed both the senses and the soul.

Carnedd y Filiast

Time for a poem. This one recently won the Creative Writing Ink poetry competition for May. And almost every word of it is true (I may have embellished a bit about the weather gods!).

Carnedd y Filiast 

It seemed a perfect day, a perfect walk:
the clouds so well-behaved, the path 
so broad and clear, firm underfoot.
It coiled aross the moor like ribbon,
gift wrapped the mountain for us – 
so we thought, joking we’d be up and down
by lunchtime. 
                               But the weather gods 
had heard: behind us as we climbed
those clouds grew black with righteous anger.
Half way up we felt the first soft blows; 
they soon came harder, faster,
stinging our faces, pummeling our limbs.
We pressed on – we had not come this far
to be defeated – fought for each step 
as that gentle hill became an ogre.

There was a stream: it should have been
a trickle that would no more than 
wet our soles. But those spiteful clouds
had made of it a flood that blocked our path.
We stared at it, and at each other:
it could not be crossed. 
			                    Back at the car
we changed our sodden clothes and poured
the water from our boots. We might as well
have swum across that stream. 
We’ll come back, we said to cheer ourselves,
complete the walk another day.

For my father it was not to be
but forty-five years on, I found myself
beneath that mountain, walking 
that same wide, winding track. 
The clouds still glowered, but this time
the gods were merciful: they let me pass.
I crossed the stream, completed the ascent 
begun three quarters of my life ago. 

Guest Feature – Tim Taylor

I’m visititing Patricia M Osborne’s blog today to talk about writing poetry (and share a poem).

Patricia M Osborne

My guest today is novelist and poet, Tim Taylor, who has come along today to talk about poetry. So without further ado, it’s over to Tim.

Talking Poetry

Tim Taylor

Thank you very much for hosting me today, Patricia. Like you, I write both fiction and poetry. I find the process of writing very different between the two forms. For me, writing a novel is a bit like making a sculpture out of clay – you have an idea of what you’re after and you build towards it steadily, piece by piece, sometimes surprising yourself along the way. There’s a lot of shaping and editing to be done, of course, but what results from it will be a recognisable descendant of the original vision.

Writing poetry is much more haphazard. There is no certainty about what, if anything, will emerge – or when. I can often come up with…

View original post 527 more words

Buildings

Today I’m delighted to host a poem from John Gohorry, author of fourteen poetry collections and fellow member of Poetry-ID. This piece is from his latest book, A Coventry Crucible, co-written with John Lane. You can hear more of John’s work – and mine – at the online launch of the Poetry-ID anthology Beyond the Walls on Thursday 1 July at 7.30 pm. E-mail me at tim.e.taylor@talk21.com if you’d like to come along.

Buildings 					

(Remembering McAlpine, Gale, Higgs and Hill, 1961 -1969)

				That summer, one labourer sang
				We all lived in a yellow submarine
				as concrete poured into the footings, hoists rose,
				and a stage at a time one small part
				of the blitzed centre became a department store.
				From the third floor, across town, you could see
				the spire of the new cathedral
				and in the street below the décolleté of girls,
				as Murphy said, All the way down to their breakfast. 
				Scarface and Lumpy were sent into sewers
				to fetch out the rats but every Friday
				the gangerman emptied the honeybucket
				and my shovel burst into sweet song
				as I mixed three and one, my paypacket
				bulging with big notes a welcome burden. 
				Taking five for a smoke, Murphy said
				You know Rome wasn’t built in a day, then added
				That’s because they didn’t give us the contract,
				a quip I came over many summers to learn
				was a standard part of the craic, and shared
				once myself, at McAlpine’s, with a young lad
				on a brownfield site, just before losing time. 

				Love’s house, once loud with children, fills now
				with reflective music. Calendars track dates
				of their visits, of grandchildren’s birthdays,
				where talk scaffolds what have long since become
				the ripest of friendships, and laughter, late
				into the night, sets the roof ringing.
				They come and go in the great Metropolis
				of Work, from which we are at last pensioned,
				its schools, offices, cost centres, virtual
				learning resources the flawed construction
                                of a failing plutocracy within which
				amazingly, on the best days, discourse
				is craic, and learning’s foundation is love. 	
				Through all this, the labour of versing. The light push
				of a thought opens the door everything is
				onto space where, a course at a time, the word
				building which is my observatory inches
				its way upwards.  Its walls echo with music,
				philosophy, mirth, conversation of friends. 
				There’s time left. The building’s not finished. 

John Gohorry

was born Donald Smith in Coventry in 1943 and lived there until going to UCL in 1961. Since 1970 he has lived in North Hertfordshire, where since retirement he has been Poet in Residence at David’s Bookshop, Letchworth Garden City. He still returns regularly to Coventry. So far he has published fourteen collections of poetry, details of which can be found on his website at www.johngohorry.co.uk 

Together with his old friend John Lane he has compiled a collection of poems and prose pieces celebrating the continuing influence of Coventry on their lives and imaginations over the years. Their book, A Coventry Crucible, from which Buildings is taken, is a contribution to Coventry’s role as 2021 UK City of Culture. 

A Coventry Crucible is published price £10.00 by Lapwing Publications, Belfast. You can buy copies for £8.00 (UK post free) direct from John Gohorry via his mobile  – text or call 07900 645357 to sort details.

pic: Anselm Schüler 2020. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

News and a Poem

A couple of pieces of news for you today. Firstly, I’m delighted to have four poems in this fine anthology, Beyond the Walls, published by Poetry-ID, the North Hertfordshire stanza of the Poetry Society. If you’re interested, copies are available at £5 plus £1.50 p&p from David Smith (djsapt@gmail.com).

The anthology will be launched at a Zoom event on Thursday 1 July at 7.30pm. Please e-mail me on tim.e.taylor@talk21.com if you would like to come along. There will also be at least one live launch event later in the year – details still tba.

Here's a short poem from the collection to whet your appetite:

Symbiosis

As I am in this place
so it is within me. 
Its mountains are my bones
their streams flow through my veins
these trees pump air into my lungs.

So easy to forget, this symbiosis,
its whispered song drowned out
by modern life’s cacophony.
Return unpacks, folds out the spirit
reconnects me with myself.

This place, so strong, yet fragile: 
when the trees turn brown,
the streams are poisoned, every death 
of some small corner of this place
will kill a piece of me.  

Secondly, another date for your diary. On Friday 2 July at 7pm my good friend Anne Steward will be holding an online launch for her second poetry collection, The Colour of Light, published by Maytree Press. The event is free, but you need to register by emailing maytreepress@gmail.com with the work LIGHT in the title field. I’m honoured to have been invited to read some of my own work at the event. Looking forward to it!

Numbland

Today I’m delighted to host a pantoum poem by Vincent Johnson, a fellow member of Holmfirth Writers Group.

Numbland  (pronounced Numland)

England is dead, long live Numbland the New
where folk now live their virtual lives
devolving the sum of all that they knew
to vast and inaccessible archives

where folk now live their virtual lives
consigning their essence, at terrible cost,
to vast and inaccessible archives
where context and meaning  are all but lost

consigning their essence at terrible cost
with smartphones and tablets now in control
so context and meaning  are all but lost
dumbing their culture, and numbing their souls

with smartphones and tablets now in control
of all that they think of and all that they do
dumbing their culture, and numbing their souls
and shrinking from things they knew to be true

of all that they think of and all that they do
devolving the sum of all that they knew
and shrinking from things they knew to be true.
England is dead, long live Numbland the New.

Here, Vincent discusses the origin of the poem:

I just listened to Radio 3 play called ‘Folk’ by Nell Leyshon set in 1903 in Somerset, about Cecil Sharpe’s song-collecting, and the provenance of the oral tradition. One of the most moving plays I have ever listened to https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000vwq2.

I was sad to be reminded of the disappearing England of my childhood, crowded with memories of pastures, hedgerows and lanes, and we children innocently playing games in carless streets. There were no computers, no smartphones, and somehow it seemed we were happily more connected to the here and the now…I know that life changes and moves on, and it’s perhaps morbid to hang on to the past, but, without being blind to the many advantages of technology, it feels like we have lost so much and are in danger of losing more.

In response, I wrote this Lament as a Pantoum (a poem where the 2nd and 4th lines of the 1st verse become the 1st and 3rd lines of the second stanza, and finally the first lines are repeated as a conclusion), in (more or less) iambic pentameter. It begins with a proclamation adapted from “The king is dead, long live the king!” usually made following the accession of a new monarch. The epanalepsis (paradoxical repetition) subliminally invokes the spirit of the pantoum.

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Vincent is a well-travelled agronomist, and science writer/editor supporting international agricultural research for a food-secure future. Aside from performing and singing with early music ensembles, and getting his fingers dirty in the garden, he nurtures a passion for sharing philosophical perspectives through poetry, but is still searching for his contemporary voice that can provoke and amuse. He lives in the Troubadour cradle, near Montpellier in the Languedoc, South France.

Come and Visit

From time to time I like to host short pieces on this blog from other writers. I thought it was time to put out one of my occasional invitations to anyone out there who would be interested in sharing something here.

I’d welcome poems, flash fiction or extracts of longer pieces (including books). Up to 500 words, please – plus a few words about yourself and if you wish, a few about any book or event you would like to mention, and any links you’d like included (up to 150 additional words). It would be good to send a picture to go with the piece as well, if possible.

I’m happy to host up to two of these a month. It’ll be first come, first served, so there may be a short waiting list.

I look forward to hearing from you. You can e-mail your pieces to me on tim.e.taylor@talk21.com.