I’m very honoured to have been asked to run a Poetry Workshop for next year’s Suffolk Poetry Society Festival, as below. The link to the SPS is as on my website.
Elemental Fire: Landscape into Inspiration.
As poets, what is it that connects us to the world we inhabit, both our internal and external landscapes? Everything from the sublime beauty of geese flighting by moonlight to the gritty reality of a sunset over an industrial town is all grist to the mill – a source of inspiration and imagery which is infinitely rich. Here too is the ‘ancient language’ of the living Earth which for the Romantic poets was the touchstone of their poetry. We are of the Earth, and our connections are profound.
In this workshop we will explore landscapes of memory and moment; our connection with the elements which gives us that fire of inspiration. Landscape is a major theme in my workshops, from my annual Writing Retreat on Iona, now in its 14th year, to my Lakeland Writing Retreats in the Lake District, and workshops in the mysterious country of Finistere, beside giant standing stones. Growing up in Suffolk, my first inspiration was my childhood spent on the River Orwell, and in the marshes of Essex in an old wooden boat. Landscape is the fire which is driven my poetry from the beginning, and I seek to share this passion with other writers. In this workshop, through exercises, guided visualisations and connections with landscape through memory, I hope to open new doors of perception. You will be welcomed whether you are new to writing poetry, or a poet with much experience. I am delighted to return to the SPS to lead this workshop, so many years after I began my association with the Suffolk Poetry Society as a young poet.
It was lovely to be beside the sea at Aldeburgh two years ago for the annual Crabbe Memorial Competition, with the Suffolk Poetry Society. The sun was shining, the sea was flat as a blue pancake (is there such a thing?) – we were on the East Coast! My old alma mater. I grew up in Suffolk and lived there, apart from going away to study, until I was in my early 20s. I was adopted early on by SPS as their protégé and given enormous encouragement – the only encouragement I got as a writer for many years. My father didn’t approve, for a start, and thought I should have a respectable profession, so I eventually trained as a teacher, while still editing the college magazine, writing jazz poetry, and later working part-time as a journalist. Ipswich High School GPDST, my school, was not always as enlightened in those days as it is now, and although I had a splendid education there, for which I’ll be forever grateful, they were not always very keen on my rather experimental poetry. However, the then Head of English (rather terrifying) descended upon me one day in the Sixth Form corridor (I can still smell the polish) to pronounce that if the Suffolk Poetry Society, a venerable institution even in those days, has taken me under their wing, she supposed she would have to put me in the school magazine. After all, I was a bit of a rebel, and my first poems were probably something of a shock!
Anyway, one of the poems which had won a prize that year at the SPS Crabbe Poetry Competition was Green Jell-O, was also previously long-listed for the Bridport Prize and is still up there on their website. The poem is actually about the East Coast, and was written during a workshop which Grevel Lindop www.grevel.co.uk and I were doing together, prompted by memories of rowing with my father in the pram dinghy up the Orwell River, the subject of, and inspiration for, so much of my writing. Despite the privations of the sleeping in a damp fo’c’stle, under rough army blankets, and with Kilner jars of stew for dinner, I loved every minute of it.
Moon moon moon , the other prize-winning poem, which received a Highly Commended, was inspired by my grandson Joe, who especially loved the moon when he was small and would stand looking out the French Windows repeating moon moon moon- almost his first words. Now, like any healthy seven year old he is keener on football, rugby and Barcelona!
You can view my Suffolk Poetry Society profile here.