Sunday, 15 October 2017

Bristol Poetry Festival so far and a visit to Wells Festival of Literature 2017

The Bristol Poetry Festival is galloping into its final week. The last seven days have seen fantastic sets from Tara Bergin, Liz Berry, Helen Ivory, Lucy English, and Lois P Jones (the winner of this year's Bristol Poetry Prize), and Martin Figura's stylish and affecting new show about love, loss and poetry, Dr Zeeman's Catastrophe Machine, which I absolutely recommend. Plus a ground-breaking fusion of BSL poetry and poetry film, including translations into sung notation (an indequate way to describe it but the best I can do), with Paul Scott, Helen Dewbury, Chaucer Cameron, Victoria Punch and Kyra Love.  And last night a beautiful, beautiful launch for the anthology of poems by contemporary Georgian women poets, 'The House with No Doors', translated by Natalia Bukia-Peters and Victoria Field, with music from the Borjghali Choir which made me want to dance up and down the aisles of St Stephen's Church. (I desisted but it was a close thing.)  

Then there was Dru Marland's launch of her latest collection, Drawn Chorus, published by Gert Macky, which took place last Monday and which was A Roaring Success. Here are the guest poets!

Today it was off to Wells Festival of Literature for a bit of a change. I'd been asked to get the reception for this year's shortlisted poets in the poetry competition under way by reading my poem 'Mr Cowper's Hares', which won last year's Hilly Cansdale prize for local poets. And since it's always a pleasure to go to Wells, I was happy to oblige. 

And it all went ever so well. 

Here are a few of the City of Wells in Autumn photos such an occasion demands. 

St Cuthbert's

The view from the pub

Stained glass autumn ash with Cathedral backdrop
The ruined Great Hall of the Bishop's Palace

Stained glass from ruined French churches, post Revolution

Tudor fireplace


Not falling into the mediaeval conduit on the way back to the car

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

A Poem for World Mental Health Day 2017

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 their mental illness and it seems rather prurient to conjecture about this aspect of their lives. 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
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

This poem won the Hilly Cansdale Prize for Local Poets at Wells Literature Festival last year, and I'll be reading it at the prize-giving ceremony for this year's shortlisted poets, this Sunday at 3.30pm in the Bishop's Palace. 

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The things we do for poetry ...

Yesterday started with poetting in Weston-Super-Mare. It was a bit blustery down there, especially on the front. 

Then back to Bristol for the first big event of the Poetry Festival, the slam at the Arnolfini. As usual, I had a couple of minutes to while away in the car park before the evening tarif came into operation at 6pm. 

Hanging about is never a hardship on late afternoons like these. 

Slam hosts Claire Williamson and Elvis McGonagall

The standard of poets entered in the slam seems to get better year after year. I'm sure a lot of it is down to performance poetry being taken more seriously on creative writing courses. Anyway, last night's was the best yet. It was won by Shaun Hill, with Melanie Branton a close runner-up.

The Poetry Festival runs until 19th October. Here's a link to the events yet to come

Thursday, 5 October 2017

If you're serious about writing poetry ...

... you'll know that the best way to be a better poet is to read it and listen to it too. Here's some of the extraordinary poetry events Bristol Poetry Festival is hosting over the next few weeks. 

Bristol Poetry Slam
Saturday 7th October

Tara Bergin, Liz Berry, Lois P Jones
The Mackay Theatre
Tuesday 10th October 

Dr Zeeman's Catastrophe Machine - Martin Figura
Helen Ivory and Lucy English
The Mackay Theatre
Wednesday 11th October 
Air Poems in the Key of Voice
The Mackay Theatre
Thursday 12th October

Sarah Howe, Karen McCarthy Woolf and Rishi Dastidar
The Mackay Theatre
Tuesday 17th October 

The Venus Papers
Alma Tavern Theatre
Wednesday 18th October 

The Mackay Theatre
Thursday 19th October

Plus many more fringe events to go/get involved in, including the launch of Dru Marland's new book 'Drawn Chorus', on Monday 9th October at Monty's in Montpelier, at 7.30pm .

For full details of times, prices, and venues, visit the Festival website

And above all, come along, support Poetry Can, marvel ... and be inspired to your own greatness! 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Seven Sisters on the Last Day of September

The annual summons for my daughter's birthday - which retains its importance even unto her 28th year - saw us on the south coast, at Seven Sisters.  

There must be studies on the significance of Seven Sisters in world mythology but I haven't found any. Maybe it comes from the Pleiades originally? In Bristol they are a group of pine trees up on the Downs, and in the eponymous Seven Sisters in north London there are stories of circles of trees through the ages. (The current ones are hornbeams.) 

Here, on the Sussex coast, they are surging white cliffs. 

Seaford Head and Hope Gap

We were at the mouth of the River Cuckmere, where it piles over pebbles into the sea. 

Just above the beach it meanders through chalk flood plains alongside the new cut made in 1846 to relieve flooding upstream.

It's a bleak, immersive landscape. 
Let's have a wander. 

The beach vegetation reminded me of my visit to Pagham Harbour, 50-odd miles to the west, but at the other end of the season. 

It's quite different from my usual landscape. Just look at the thin gruel of chalky Sussex mud obliterating the good red earth of the West Country! 

Glasswort. Probably. Maybe. 

It came on to rain a bit  ... 

... but briefly. 

And anyway, we were nearly back at the pub for a late lunch ... and home. 

Thursday, 28 September 2017

A Poem for National Poetry Day 2017

It's National Poetry Day today and the theme is Freedom. So here's a poem on that subject from my collection Breadcrumbs, which is published by Indigo Dreams. 


for CB

We arrive 
hunched under history

dragging our pasts 
like phantom limbs,

when the land stops

Beyond sorrel, wild madder, gorse
cloud and sea touch,

a blind dissolving 
into nothing,

this last slab of granite 
becoming the first 

Put down your things, 
you say. Catch hold my hand 



©Deborah Harvey 2016

Artwork by Dru Marland

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Samuel Palmer at Chew Valley Lake and Compton Martin

The plan was to drop Son the Actor off on set and - given that I'd only picked him up from there six hours earlier - return home for a nap. But the glimpse of the lake from the causeway with reflections like marbled endpapers looked so beautiful ... 

... that somehow I found myself parked up at Herons Green Bay, watching egrets. Which weren't quite as exciting as the badger and two foxes we'd encountered on our home journey during the night, but pleasing all the same. 

And the sun bursting through cloud wouldn't have disgraced a painting by Samuel Palmer. 

I decided to pop to nearby Compton Martin and see if the village Church, called - possibly slightly confusingly - St Michael and All Angels was open. (Apparently, Martin comes from Robert Fitz Martin, who inherited the Manor from his grandfather during the reign of Henry I.)  

Clearly it was  still too early, which was a shame as it's one of only three surviving Norman churches in Somerset. Nevertheless, there was enough of interest on the outside of the building to ensure I'll be back down to see the inside in the by and by ... 

... like the carved corbels on the clerestory that so reminded me of the (rather more spectacular) ones at Kilpeck in Herefordshire. 

Can't quite make them out?

I'll take some better photos next time.