Poetry Please! – Paul Mortimer guests on Talking Books, with Yeats, Keats, Duffy et al

world-poetry-day4Well, no surprises – my most recent Talking Books show on 10Radio was one of my favourites. For a change, I hosted a poetry request show, with Devon poet Paul Mortimer who read his own work and poems that listeners, Facebook and Twitter friends and others asked for. Roger McGough presents a wonderful programme on Radio Four that I wish I could even vaguely emulate, but the pleasure that this show gave me was immense, and I hope you enjoy it too.

Paul read his own work -

Sheep spine

Storm rider

You can read more of his work on his blog at Welshstream. I heartily recommend it. Paul is inspired by landscape, both rural and urban and also uses photography to reflect his work. Wonderful stuff.

The requested poems included :

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by W.B. Yeats (read by Anthony Hopkins)

Words wide night, by Carol Ann Duffy

Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas

Do not stand at my grave and weep – Mary Elizabeth Frye

To Autumn by John Keats (read by Ben Whishaw)

Inversnaid by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The wild swans at Coole – by W. B Yeats

As our bloods separate by David Constantine

You can hear the whole show here (the photo is of Paul…):

Do take a listen. We talk much of landscape and how it can affect our emotions; of Roger Deakin and Robert McFarlane and of our love of poetry in general. Many people say ‘I don’t ‘get’ poetry’ or acknowledge they love just one poem – perhaps because it has been read in a favourite film, or at a wedding or funeral. But there is, genuinely, poetry for everyone – it might just take a little time to find a poet you can relate to.

Keep trying – read some poetry, please!

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The many faces of autumn….

keatsbabe:

How do you feel about autumn? This post from ‘let’s talk’ (the blog of The Terrace Counselling & Complimentary Therapy Centre in Taunton) is a great excuse to listen to gorgeous Ben Wishaw recite some wonderful poetry by John Keats and read one of Edward Thomas’s poems entitled ‘Digging’. How do the seasons affect our mood? Personally, I love autumn, but I know others feel the onset of dark evenings and the dying of the year. What do you think?

Originally posted on let's talk!:

Autumn Leaves, by Millais

On ‘let’s talk’ we occasionally look at the way we sense our feelings are reflected in the work of artists, poets, film-makers and writers. Creativity and mood are very closely linked and many who find no other way to express their feelings find an outlet in creative expression.

The season is now definitely changing. We have temperatures in the late ‘teens, gentle warmth still lingers and any sunlight seems to glow across the landscape in a gentler fashion than in the height of summer. But there is little doubt that dusk is coming earlier and more of us are waking up for work before the sun has risen above the horizon.

Autumn means different things to different people. Many love it – the smell of bonfires, of the earth and the ripe fruit. Others find it lowering, having a sense of things dying and of the coming end of yet…

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What does it mean to dream? On Victorian thoughts & the 21st century soul…

VBODWhilst on holiday in Suffolk a few weeks ago I bought a small book at a second-hand stall at the market in the lovely little town of Framlingham. Called The Victorian Book of Dreams, it is clearly a forerunner of the little books you might have picked up at the till in Past Times as a desperate last moment Christmas present for someone who has everything (other than a book about Edwardian manners or tips for husbands).

The picture on the front cover is magnificent and reading through it has been fun; but it has made me realise that the interpretation of dreams has come a long way in the past one hundred and twenty years or so.

For example, one entry in the book states ‘Bagpipes – to dream of this musical instrument is always unfortunate; it denotes extreme poverty and you will have to labour hard all your life.’ I can’t help feeling there is some stereotyping involved in that meaning. Another suggests that should you be unfortunate enough to dream of a butcher cutting up meat, ‘some of your friends will be hanged and you will experience much misery and poverty’. However, if you dream that you or a friend is being hanged, it means you will become very wealthy. Work that one out.

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John Keats’ death mask inspires an art installation..or does it?

virgilHmm…I have been wondering how to respond to the news from artdaily.org that artist Virgil Marti has opened his exhibition  MATRIX 167 / Ode to a Hippie at Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut. I admit I had never heard of Virgil Marti before I read the piece, but it was first sent to me by wonderful artist Amanda White and then came through on a Google Alert for John Keats. Why? Because Marti was unveiling work  ‘that examines the connections between Romanticism and the hippie culture through the tragic figures of John Keats (1795–1821), an English Romantic poet, and Paul Thek (1933–1988), an American painter, sculptor and installation artist.’

Apparently Marti’s work has been inspired by John Keats’ death mask (see centre image above). The article says Marti ‘discovered’ the mask in the  Wadsworth Atheneum’s collection, although images and reproductions of the mask are easy to find and certainly it is no new ‘discovery’, donated as it was to the museum in 1924.  The mask, according to artdaily.org is  ‘a morose plaster cast of the poet’s lifeless face’. Well I don’t think Keats really needs to apologise for being morose in death, or indeed ‘lifeless’. He had a pretty shocking time in his last weeks after all.

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University as a ‘rite of passage': On becoming an empty-nester

institution_full_545__winchester_CENTRE_hero (1)On Saturday my lovely daughter Evie is starting her first term at the University of Winchester. She only made her mind up to go to Uni at all at the beginning of August, having had a year out to focus on her athletics and train with the GB high jump coach Fuzz Ahmed in Birmingham. Her friends came home after their first years of study, extolling the virtues of the Student Union and her determination to avoid the debt of a student loan went out the window.

Evie & James in 2000

Evie & James in 2000

Both children (and won’t they always be our children?) will now be at University. James lives with his partner is London and all being well is fully fledged and on his way. Now Evie follows – promising to come back in the holidays, but only until she graduates and can find a job ‘anywhere but Taunton’. I don’t blame her, frankly. But I am sorry, and sad. I actually feel, for a little while anyway, that I will be bereft.

Don’t misunderstand me – I am full of pride, along with the usual parental fears about safety and concerns that they both have enough money (because to be honest we haven’t enough to help them much and it is SO expensive). But not only is it a real rite of passage for Evie, it is a significant one for Peter and I too. We are now on our own for the first time in more than 22 years. We can do as we please; we can swing from the chandelier (if our old bones would let us and we had one); we needn’t buy Oreos and Coco Pops any more or smell endless pepperoni pizza on the go. James isn’t here to play World of Warcraft and Evie won’t have ‘Sex and the City’ DVDs on repeat. Neither will now be here to leave towels all over the floor of the bathroom or underwear festering under their beds, at least not in our home. Oh dear….

Winchester student accommodation

Winchester student accommodation

We have never sought to influence either child in their decision, but we are really pleased Evie is following her brother to higher education. I don’t think it is for everyone and I loathe the idea that anyone would value a degree ‘for the sake of it’ over a valuable vocational course. But when you have a son for whom Philosophy is an obsession and a daughter who can jump higher than the top of her mother’s head, the life skills they will learn and opportunities they will have away from home will be invaluable. Winchester Uni has great athletics facilities and a good Law faculty (who would have thought Evie would ever follow my example in anything...)  We have visited the city with her and although I knew it of old, as one of those places forever associated with the poet John Keats and ‘Ode to Autumn’, (there is a wonderful ‘Keats Walk you can do now) I saw it through new eyes – imagining what it would be like to be a student there. Put it this way – I was green with envy and I continue to be so. How different the experience is from ‘my day’. The Polytechnic of Central London was great (it is now the University of Westminster and maybe not so great) but there was no central campus and no ‘student village’.

Lots of parents are packing their offspring off for the first time at the moment. The lists of what to take are so long we know we will forget something. At least we know Evie can cook and do her own washing and is ok-ish with money, but it must be a huge step to take for any young person. The accommodation seems to be lockable rooms in small flats with a shared kitchen – at Winchester all very new and very nice (and apparently compared to Manhattan…) – but surely a challenge if you are shy, have concerns about privacy and personal space or an aversion to washing up. Evie is very gregarious, but is already worried she won’t be ‘clever enough’. She will be, but the workload will be unlike any study she has done before and to be certain you come out with a degree worth its name you can’t just do ‘enough’ any more. You have to stand out. It truly is a stress-filled time, but hugely exciting and full of promise and opportunity. No wonder so many parents ask if they can enrol when they turn up with their offspring to Open Days.

James 2013

James 2013

Evie 2013

Evie 2013

So Saturday will be a day of mixed emotions for us, as for so many other parents this autumn. We have gone through all those ‘first days at nursery’,  ‘first days at primary school’, ‘first days at secondary school’ and would like to encourage all those parents in the blogging community to cling on to those memories and have a thought for those of us who have no more ‘back to school’ shopping trips to negotiate, or assemblies to attend. It will be graduation next – and then they really will be on their way,

Bless them.

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Talking Books talks Broken Dreams & Bottom Lines – Darel Pace on life & writing

BD&BLMost people who know me would not expect me to read a ‘chick-lit’ novel for fun. It has been mentioned to me that if I read light-hearted books I would be less prone to depression, but quite apart from the lack of insight that statement contains I think prolonged exposure to some of the stuff out there on Kindle would have the opposite effect.

So when Somerset author Darel Pace agreed to come on my 10Radio show Talking Books to discuss her book Broken Dreams and Bottom Lines, I was a bit worried that I might not be able to talk to her about her book honestly, in case it was one of those frothy stories where the last chapter is predictable having read the first and the author might as well not have bothered with the intervening 50,000 words. Thankfully, Broken Dreams is not like that at all. In fact it is a joyously sweary, genre-subverting and funny book that Darel has made sure gets as much exposure as possible on Kindle – to the point where it has spent some time in international best-seller lists.

The lead character, Liss Birling, is someone who wants to believe that a woman can have it all, but her life isn’t really turning out that way and circumstances constantly remind her that she is more or less muddling through. Single parenthood; the ‘modern woman'; the test of career, children and happy marriage as all that matters; it is a book that Darel makes sure really doesn’t fit the usual chick-lit template. She wanted to be more ‘real’, more like the truth of life for many young women in modern Britain. A storyteller at heart, it is clear that Darel has fun with her writing, although as you will hear in the interview below – it has been really hard work to get the book ‘out there’. She combines her writing with her job as a teacher and has found her students, their parents and her colleagues supportive (despite the rude words!).

There really isn’t any way I am going to be reading chick-lit by the bookcase load. It really isn’t me. My ‘light’ reading is generally a crime novel – a cosy whodunnit. But if it is something you enjoy, especially if you are a fan of Sex and the City for example, take a look at Broken Dreams and Bottom Lines. Darel was a great guest and I wish her luck should someone buy the film rights. Melissa McCarthy should be waiting for the script….

Broken Dreams and Bottom Lines is available on Amazon Kindle for the special price of 99p for September. Darel also has a successful blog at http://darels-world.blogspot.co.uk/

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Votes for Women! The Bristol Suffragettes on Talking Books

BristolsuffragettesOn last Friday’s Talking Books – my radio show on 10Radio.org -I interviewed writer Lucienne Boyce, who has recently published a wonderful book called The Bristol Suffragettes, the story of the women who took the fight for ‘votes for all ‘ to the streets of Bristol in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Many of us (myself included) have a narrow view of who the suffragettes were, what they stood for and how they took militant and direct action to the top of government. On Friday I learned how women in the South West of England made a real difference to the overall battle and how their determination took them to rallies and marches; how they felt forced to break windows and start fires; of their confidence to heckle politicians and, ultimately, their ability to endure prison (and force feeding) to keep the fight for votes for women at the forefront of the public mind.

Having read Lucienne’s book I am impressed most particularly by three things:

1. The amount of research that has gone into a book that is both comprehensive and immensely readable. It would be a terrific resource for anyone studying the subject at any level. The general reader – especially if they know the Bristol area or are planning a visit – will enjoy the storytelling, the photographs (so well presented on top quality paper) and the guided walk included in the back, offering the opportunity to follow the suffragettes on a walk around the city.

2. The production values. As I say the photos are presented well and the text is clear and easy to read. So many history books don’t get that balance right, having all the photos in one place surrounded by pages of dense text.

3. How grateful we should be to those women prepared to stand up and fight for us all to have a say in how our country is run.  Lucienne has balanced what was, sometimes, criminal activity, with the necessary fight that women had to take to the male establishment. They were also faced with hostility from women who felt that the responsibility was too much to deal with on top of their child rearing and housekeeping responsibilities.

I heartily recommend this book, and when you listen to the broadcast below you will hear how passionate Lucienne is about the topic. I have had some great feedback about the programme: ‘fascinating’ ‘we must have more history programmes on Talking Books‘ ‘I never knew that!’ and most importantly, ‘how can I buy the book?’.

As mentioned on the programme I always suggest ordering it through your local bookshop and even though it is not yet listed you can get it through www.localbookshops.co.uk. If you absolutely must you can get it through Amazon too!

Lucienne Boyce also has her own website which offers more details about the book and her research and also tells you about her fiction writing.  Set in the 18th century, To the Fair Land was published in 2012 to great reviews. Described as a ‘gripping, thrilling’ mystery, Lucienne also talks about the inspiration for the book at the end of Talking Books.

So do take a listen to the show, it was one that I particularly enjoyed. It is a fascinating half hour and ends with a very stirring song….

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