How to Look at Bluebells

Today I am pleased to host this lovely poem from fellow Holme Valley Poet Vic Slade.


You need a slope not
Too pronounced, then
A levelling off.
Trees help, as useful
Frames, or as woodland
Flavour. Old beeches
With their sandy, mottled boles
Breathe antique distinction, 

Their leaves managing
The sun, to dapple
The light and dissolve
The dark. Now bend a knee
Not too reverentially,
Raise the eyes and
Like a flat shore-pebble
Skimmed across a sea
Enter, slower and slower,
Into its embrace:
An Aegean Sea of
Empyrean blue
And emerald green.
A gentle breeze, if
You can conjure one,
Will send the surface
Sighing like breath.
No quinqueremes of Nineveh
But cargoes of delight.
Beauty is Truth as
The poet said, and, in truth
It may overwhelm us.
Luckily, wrecked on this sea
We, survivors, will make it home
Like Odysseus to his Penelope.

Vic was born in Plympton Saint Mary, near Plymouth, more or less a year before WW2 was declared. Having survived the Blitz, he was one of the first beneficiaries of the 1944 Education Act, becoming a ‘scholarship boy’. He went on to study at the Universities of Edinburgh, Durham, and Leeds, and became a lifelong student, reader, and teacher of literature, language and theatre. He has written the libretti for two operas for schools, both of which have been performed. It is only recently that he has started to write poetry.

pic: Bluebells in Pryor’s Wood, Stevenage by Colin – licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Festival Time

In a time when so much of life has been curtailed by Covid, it’s been a great consolation that at least technology has given us new ways of doing things that otherwise would have been impossible.

During September, I have been able to attend two festivals which a few months ago I wouldn’t have expected even to take place. The first weekend of the month saw the National Association of Writers’ Groups (NAWG) Festival of Writing. This is a festival I’ve always meant to go to but never previously got round to, partly because it has previously been residential, which requires quite a commitment of time and money. This time it was all online, using Zoom, and I suspect I was not the only one attending for the first time. There was a remarkable variety of workshops and other events, which seem to have been well attended. I went to a talk on rights, an open mic, an award ceremony (for the NAWG competitions) and the closing discussion. Sadly, my story ‘Cold Callers’ was only runner-up in the Ghost Story competition!

Last weekend it was the turn of Holmfirth Arts Festival. I have a particular soft spot for this one, as I was once on the Festival Committee, and Holmfirth Writers’ Group has a long history of involvement, so it was great to see that they were able to go ahead despite all the difficulties of the present situation. It must have been a huge challenge to convert a varied programme of what would normally be live events into video content for Facebook and YouTube, but they managed to do it very well. The videos are still available on the Festival website, if you’re interested. As in the past, Holmfirth Writers made a contribution, in the form of three short videos of poems inspired by the local area, and other pieces posted on the Festival website: There was also some great ‘non-virtual’ content – including some amazing ‘living sculptures’ (see below).

Finally, in other news, I am delighted to have a poem, Degrees of Separation, in the current issue of Acumen.

Lot’s Wife

Today I’m delighted to host a poem by my good friend Sue Clark, fellow Holme Valley poet and a frequent judge of poetry competitions for the National Association of Writers’ Groups.

Lot’s Wife
My crime? To turn back towards Gomorrah,
to ensure my daughters were behind me
and were safe. And then - I saw the horror.
I saw our town laid flat beneath a sky
of burnt and blackened blood; rocks of fire
red raining on the plain, arrowing
through smoke that choked the world’s breath.
Salt tears pained my eyes; my brother
and his lover, both gentle men,
to be entombed by hissing molten stones,
My neighbour and her baby twins - ash dead.
And with my heart and head I hated God.
All slain -
the innocent and bad, the wise, the mad,
the ancient matriarch cutting the cord
of her daughter’s infant child, just newly born.
Salt tears coursed down, as I stood stunned, transfixed.
No carnal laxity could justify
this terrible obscenity: God’s sin.
Blinded by the firestorm I could see - far
into a future in which rage would  fall
indiscriminate from above, wrath unleashed,
on small children playing under cherry trees
in a distant city clad in summer leaf.
I’d seen and understood. Inconvenient
witness to God’s truth. Salt gets in my eyes;
I am my tears; and what I know is clear
as crystal.