Sunday, 16 October 2016

A Visit to Wells Festival of Literature 2016

After two weeks of intense poetry rehearsing, reading and listening at the glorious Bristol Poetry Festival, we were off to Wells today for more of the same at the Wells Festival of Literature. 

It's never a hardship to go there, especially at this time of year. The light is golden on golden stone, the interplay with the trees astounding, even when you've seen it before.

And how can you not love England's smallest city, with this view on one side ... 
... and this on the other? 
We were headed for the poetry judging at the Bishop's Palace, as my poem 'Mr Cowper's Hares' was slugging it out with the other shortlisted poems for one of the prizes on offer. 
I've a soft spot for the Wells Festival of Literature poetry competition because back in 2010, my poem 'Coleridge Changes his Library Books' took first prize. It was this that prompted me to stick my head above the parapet and start going to open mics and entering more competitions - which in turn led to a publishing deal for my poems and my novel, and the making of so many friends in the poetry community.
As it is, 'Mr Cowper's Hares' put up a good fight and came away with the Hilly Cansdale prize for local poets in their paws.   
William Cowper was an 18th century poet and hymn writer, born a generation or two before Blake, Coleridge, Clare and Keats, and like them, posthumously diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Of course, we can never really know what caused the mental illness of any of them; in any event, what's more interesting about Cowper is the fact he kept three orphaned hares as pets and found some comfort in caring for them. 

Mr Cooper’s Hares

And so he sits without moving
holds them in his lap

not so tightly they’ll take fright
leap through the window, scream up the lane
outstripping every attempt to catch them
hurling themselves from rock to moss to wild supposition
till they’ve gone beyond all returning
no longer know they have a home

and not so softly they’ll take fright
bolt down the passage, out through the door
dodging the grasp of passers-by
plunging almost suicidal into tan pits
brought back half-drowned in a sack
caked with lime

and so he holds them without moving
pent between his hands
sees his reflection in their mad
amber eyes

©Deborah Harvey 2016


  1. So thrilled with your lovely poem's success. Hilly Cansdale was a dear friend of mine and she would have loved this poem. Sorry we didn't get to talk - you were too much in demand! x Ama

    1. Oh I'm so sorry I missed you, Ama - C has just told me that you were there and waiting to chat; I have to concentrate very hard when I socialise as it's not the easiest thing for me to do, but I would have fallen on you - metaphorically! - as a safe person if I'd known you were there.

      Thanks for your kind words, and saying that Hilly would have liked the poem. It means a lot more to have an inkling of who she was and what touched her. xx