Archive for March, 2012


What is ANNOYING me this week?

Hot Taps.

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

New poems on the Poets Trail.


The Wall – Pink Floyd.


It is THE FIZZ at Polesworth on Tuesday 27th with guest poet Barry Patterson plus open mic. At Polesworth Abbey, High St, Polesworth where I will be your host. This is a free event and all are welcome.

Last week was a remarkable week which saw me working on every evening either attending readings, meetings or running workshops.

Whilst this was hectic there were some wonderful outcomes.

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of running a workshop with the Tamworth Writers Group in the Old Town hall, a wonderful building that was built by Christopher Wren and sees a statue of Sir Robert Peel watching over the town from his plinth at the end of the old market vault.

The workshop was part of the project to produce a performance of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, which I have mentioned previously on this blog.

The workshop focussed on the song Comfortably Numb, which we discussed as a poem and then listened to it as a song and discussed it further. The writers group then wrote single line responses to the lines from the song.

There was one surreal moment when the room was silent as the writers crafted their lines, when drifting in from the outside came the busking sound of the same very song – The busker in the Market Vault giving us his version, I could not have planned this and it seemed to reaffirm what we are doing as if the busker was offering his support to this wonderful project.

The lines that were produced were numerous and different in context and style. When they were read out I could see some concerned looks as to how these lines would be put together to make a group poem as a response to the song.

I have seen these concerned looks many times before, in fact every time I do this exercise with groups, but I have never had this fail, when we start to consider the lines and group them together then the poem suddenly comes to life as the structure, themes and voices begin to meld into a story.

We did not have time to complete the poem and the group will continue with the exercise at their next meeting with a view to submitting it for consideration as part of the show.

Friday saw me attend a meeting at Pooley Country Park to discuss the installation of new poems on the Poets Trail. I arrived to find eight of the poems standing in line in the visitor’s centre, proud representatives of the poetic art patiently waiting to be given their permanent place.

A proud regiment of poems.

Four of the finished poems are to be installed along the canal, this involves wider consultation which is near completion but we are not quite there and as such we will be installing these in April.

The other four are to be installed in the country park which we can progress with; in fact the park rangers were just waiting for me to say where they should go.

I had already thought this through as you would expect, I am not making this up as I go along. However the site has changed significantly over the last 12 months, finding me face with a new car parking layout which meant that my original ideas would have seen the poems place in precarious positions with the risk of readers being mixed in with the passage of traffic entering and leaving the site.

This meant some rethinking but as we walked the site things fell into place and the four locations were identified and marked with a peg.

The four poems will be installed over a couple of days starting on Wednesday 28th March by the Parks team.

The poems to be installed this week are:

Barry Patterson’s – Advice to a Geordie Miner Lad in Pooley
– This will be located near to the capped pit head.
Margaret Torr’s – Pooley Pit Ponies
– Which will be located close to the path by the wind turbine.
Gina Coates’ Living Echoes
– To be placed where the new paths from the car park to the Heritage centre meet.
Bernadette O’Dwyer’s – Jutt
– Which will be placed on the bank at the back of the heritage centre on the opposite side to the playground.

I will post some photographs of them in situ on my blog next week.

So by Friday evening I was already in the euphoric realms of delight as I headed to Spoken Worlds in Burton, for which I was a few minutes late having taken some time to notify the poets of the news from the trail.

Spoken Worlds was one of those special nights when there are several outstanding performances and pieces that are marked out as genius.

On Friday there were several great pieces of note, including; Gary Longden’s poem inspired by the quotes of footballers, which was sharp and funny and captured the nonsense that footballers quote in interviews on the TV and football programmes, this poem needs to be heard time and again and should be requested when ever Gary reads it is a signature piece.

A new voice to Spoken Worlds was Dwane Reads from Derby whose poem of the moment about the hopes for 2012 were mapped out as if we had got to October and they had really happened. The poem as Dwane agreed was very much of the moment, on that this time next year would no longer be relevant. It would however be interesting to see him write the after the event version.

Margaret Torr’s delivery of a Vikram Seth poem from memory brought out her expertise as a story teller, engaging the audience with her eyes and movement. Margaret is guest poet at the Fizz in May and I look forward to seeing her perform a full set.

Terri Jolland read a very new piece where she looked back at her time working in an area of Leicester, that she returned too the previous Saturday when she went along to the State of Independence, which I discussed in my blog last week. Terri’s piece was full of memory and comparison, brought about by the surprise of revisiting the area where she had once worked and had now changed so much with the development of De Montfort University. A day that provided her with a gateway to memories and new poetry.

Terri and her husband Ray also delivered a comic sketch, which has become a trademark for them; Spoken Worlds has grown to expect such a piece. This month they delivered a comic triumph that saw William Shakespeare trying to compare Anne Hathaway to a summer’s day only to be interrupted by Anne with her musings that had this happened then he would never have completed his famous sonnet. It was full of fresh quips and whimsy and delivered to perfect comic timing, a wonderful piece.

The whole evening was full of some great poetry with other notable performances from Steph Knipe who gave us some of her poetry as song, Janet Jenkins who mused on Sparrows, Tom Wyre reading poems he rarely reads from his excellent collection Soliloquy, Ian Ward in the Borderlands, where he called Polesworth a city, that would not go down well at The Fizz where the locals still consider the town as a village. Rob Stevens from Buxton gave us song and poetry along with limericks in tribute to Edward Lear, which is part of a project to cover the Buxton Dome with new limericks.

The host Gary Carr made this magical evening flow with his eloquent introductions and before we knew it, it was 10:30 and time to head home.


Finally Yesterday afternoon saw me attend the penultimate rehearsal for a charity show that is taking place on Friday at the Progressive Club in Tamworth to raise funds for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.

The show is a wonderful mix of dance, song, magic and comedy and few poems from me. It has been organised and produced by members of my extended family. This is the first rehearsal that I have been able to attend, but as my set is self contained this has not halted the progress of what promises to be a gem of a show.

There is so much laughter and enjoyment from all those involved it was a delight to be part of it, I only wish I had had more time to see it develop.

This should not mask the amount of time and effort that has gone into organising it, with performances to be choreographed, props and costumes to be made, comic sets to be written and rehearsed, songs to be learnt. I felt humbled by my small contribution, trucking up at the last minute to deliver some already written poetry. I will be reading some of my more comic poems but am working on my introductions and engagement with the audience as there is so much professionalism among the laughter of this show that I would not want to let them down.

Those who know me will also know that dancing is not something you would associate with me and my awkward out of step gyrations that make even “Dad Dancing” look good. So you will be pleased to know that I have even been convinced to dance in the finale. It took little coaxing, the spirit of those involved was so welcoming and fun that there was never any consideration that I would not do it.

There is a final rehearsal on Wednesday I am so much looking forward to it.

Congratulations to all of the Smith Family especially Emma, Clare, Dee, Chris, Ryan, Rachel and Mick and all of their friends for staging this show and bringing so much untapped talent to the stage.

The show is at 7:30pm at The Progressive Club, Halford St, Tamworth, Tickets are £4:00 and will be available on the door – all proceeds go to the charity.

There may be some photos next week, watch this space.

For more information on Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.


Don’t forget you can hear my lost poets on Radio Wildfire – Banjo Patterson is now on the loop.

I am still researching a very interesting Chinese poet at the moment and will post another piece in the next couple of weeks.


Readings in March.

March 27th – The Fizz – Polesworth – Guest Poet Barry Patterson.
March 30th – Leukaemia Research Fund Raiser – Progressive Club – Tamworth.


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What is ANNOYING me this week?


What is DELIGHTING me this week?

Plenty of new poetry to read.


Some music that might appear in some films.


Last Saturday saw States of Independence book fair at De Montfort University in Leicester. This annual fair is a wonderful opportunity to meet with independent publishers. I always come away with a lot of books and poetry pamphlets and this year was no exception with many new collections of excellence. A harvest all carefully gathered in.

I have listed my highlights below, they are in the order that I spoke to them, so please don’t read any preferences into the order, they are all excellent and well worth checking out, their websites are all listed and you can buy books from them directly or at the events that they run, some of which I have also highlighted where I am aware of them.

Nine Arches Press.

At this years fair I met up with Jane Comane and Matt Nunn of Nine Arches Press who have been busy promoting their latest collections, including Moses Footprints the last collection from the late Milorad Krystanovich. It was launch in March and is fitting tribute to this great poet.

Also from Nine Arches is the debut collection from Phil Brown – Il Avilit which charges its way through the clamour and chaos of the prevailing world.

I also bought the intriguingly titled Mytton… Dyer… Billy Sweet Gibson… by Deborah Tyler-Bennett which dissects three lives with personal poetic portraits that bring to mind the focussed, unruly, unconventional and occasionally madness.

Other titles from Nine Arches that I also found to be an interesting, often amusing and always engaging are Planet Shaped Horse by Luke Kennard which is one of the best selling pamphlets in the Nine Arches catalogue. Also look out for All the rooms of Uncle’s Head by Tony Williams, the excellent Matt Merritt’s hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica, Shod by Mark Goodwin, Matt Nunn’s Sounds in the Grass and Simon Turner’s Difficult Second Album, all I would recommend.

Not to forget Nine Arches magazine Under the Radar – the latest edition of February 2012 is also available.

http://www.ninearchespress.com/index.html  and also check out their blog http://ninearchespress.blogspot.co.uk/

Crystal Clear Creators.

I had a chat with Jonathan Taylor from Crystal Clear Creators who did a wonderful offer on six of their pamphlets which I was more than happy to take up having heard readings from a couple of the poets in the run up to the launch of these excellent collections. The covers of Crystal Clear Creators pamphlets are full of imagery that has nature theme reminiscent of Chinese artistry.

Gopagilla by Roy Marshall takes its name from a made up word from his son, this easy flowing lyrical collection breathes birdsong into an inherited presence. A pleasure to read.

Bleeds from American poet Charles G Lauder Jr, explores humanity through body parts, a story teller whose imagery and sharp interpretations are a carnival of emotions and relationships. Another excellent read.

The other pamphlets as yet un-read are Citizen Kaned by Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves, Lost Lands by Aly Stoneman, Someone Else’s Photograph by Jessica Meyhew and a collection of short stories, Without Makeup and other stories by Hannah Stephens. All of which will no doubt prove to me as excellent as the two I already knew.


Nine Arches Press and Crystal Clear Creators jointly host the Shindig at the Western pub the next one being tonight, which may be too late a notice, but keep an eye on their websites and blogs for the next one, it is always an excellent evening of poetry in Leicester.

Flarestack Poets.

Jacqui Rowe and Meredith Andrea were promoting the Flarestack Poets, all of whom they are immensely proud and so they should be they have some excellent poets in their fold. They were really pleased to be promoting their latest collection Instinct by Joel Lane, which is a selection of erotic poems that has been twenty five years in the writing from Joel whose novels and short stories already make this journalist from Birmingham a fairly well known name this latest collection of poetry can only raise his profile as a writer of excellence even further.

Other collections from Flarestack poets include Wake by Cliff Forshaw, Selima Hills Advice on wearing Animal prints, Herb Robert by Laura Seymour and Incense by Claire Crowther.


Jacqui hosts Poetry Bites at The Kitchen Garden Café in Kings Heath, Birmingham the next being Tuesday 27th, this is a well established poetry event, which as those of you who have run events like this, know, they only survive on their reputation for delivering excellence.

Templar Poetry.

At the Templar poetry, I met Paul Maddern whose collection The Beachcomber’s Report was published last year. Paul is an Irish poet who created the Seamus Heaney Digital Archive an online resource for poets. Paul was guest poet at O’Bheal in Cork City last year a couple of weeks before I had the honour of being invited along as the guest poet. I bought Paul’s collection and he signed it for me.


Shearsman Books.

I also picked up a copy of interviews through time with Roy Fisher on the Shearsman books stall which I will read with interest.

Shearsman also have an interesting book on the work of the poet George Oppen – Speaking the Estranged by Michael Heller is a collection essays written over twenty five years. Might be worth a look for the lost poets’ series.


It was great to see Matt Merritt who like me was seeking out the latest poetic titles. I also met Tony Gutteridge from the Grace Dieu Writers where we discussed organising some more joint meetings between the writers groups. It was also good to see members of Leicester’s Writers Club whom the Runaway Writers’ met in the final of the Write off a couple of years ago.

Mal’s Miscellany.

Last week also saw me add to Mal’s Miscellany 2012 – last year I published my highlights of the year as the last post for December – I did however decide to do this at the time and therefore had not made a note throughout the year of things that I might include. This year I am noting the readings that most impress me, the books I find, the places I visit as the events occur. This will not only make the post a cut and paste job over the Christmas period, but will also mean I don’t miss giving credit where credit is due.

So keep writing and performing and you never know you may end up on my review of the year.

It never stops – but I am loving it.

This week sees me at film meeting in Derby on Tuesday, a workshop for the Wall project in Tamworth and a writer’s group meeting in Atherstone on Wednesday. On Thursday, Team Steampunk meets in Leicestershire to discuss the plans for the Mars on the Rise book launch, followed on Friday with Spoken Worlds in Burton on Trent.

Very Soon Events.

Also this week on Tuesday 20th March there is the Goblin Folk and Poetry club at the Giggling Goblin Café in Ashby, which unfortunately I can’t attend this month. Host – Bryan Langtry always welcomes new singers and poets to this free event.

As I have already mentioned it is Spoken Worlds in Burton on Friday at 7:30pm with Host Gary Carr – Open Mic with the usual 3 halves at this free event held in the Old Cottage Tavern in Bykerley St, Burton on Trent.

And don’t forget the FIZZ at Polesworth on Tuesday 27th with guest poet Barry Patterson plus open mic. At Polesworth Abbey, High St, Polesworth where I will be your host. This is also a free event.


Don’t forget you can hear my lost poets on Radio Wildfire – Michael Drayton is still on the loop and will be replaced in the next few days with my piece on Banjo Patterson.

I am researching a very interesting Chinese poet at the moment and will post another piece in the next couple of weeks.


Readings in March.

March 24th – Spoken Worlds – Burton
March 27th – The Fizz – Polesworth – Guest Poet Barry Patterson.
March 30th – Leukaemia Research Fund Raiser – Progressive Club – Tamworth.

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What is ANNOYING me this week?

The throb in the night.

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

The lengthening days.


St John Passion – J.S.Bach Performed by The English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Britten


I have been busy over the last few weeks and it was beginning to tell with my body giving me excruciating aches especially at night when I tried to sleep. So I was glad I only had a couple of things last week. Night Blue Fruit on Tuesday which saw the wonderful Jan Watts – the Birmingham Poet Laureate venture out to Coventry to read. Wednesday saw two evening meetings, the first to discuss some very interesting ideas on raising the artistic profile of Tamworth, followed by The Mad Hatters’ Writers in Atherstone.

So I think my body was glad to have a break from meetings and events and was more than happy for me to work on the edits to Double Booked. Over the last couple of weeks I have been spending nearly every spare moment reviewing all the available footage to improve the film; with more use of close ups and the different angles that were used in the filming. This has been a step back viewing exercise and not a jumping in and start cutting the film about task. However by Friday I was in a position to start making the changes which I did for the easy edits, following this with an all day session on Sunday starting to make the more difficult cuts and edits to make the film flow more easily.

All adding to my learning, all striving for the best result.

As I was based in my study for most of the time, I was able to reacquaint myself with the Radio. I listen in the car, but this is often dipping in and out between destinations. So with a prolonged period of edits to consider it was great to have plays and discussion on in the background only dipping out to listen to the film audio on the headphones. Sunday saw, the views of a Scottish Fisherman on the articles in the Days papers, The Archers Omnibus, Desert Island Disks and a repeat of Just a minute which completely filled the morning. I must admit that I put on a CD of Bach St John’s Passion in the early afternoon. Not that the radio was beginning to bore me, more that Desert Island Disks was where I first heard a snippet of this great piece and I remembered that I was given the CD as Christmas present and had not listened to it all the way through. So over all Sunday was a very productive day.

This week sees a follow up meeting tomorrow on the arts in Tamworth and a Runaway Writers’ group meeting on Thursday so my body should not moan too much at that and I might even get down to doing some writing.

Monday of last week did see me in stay in to tune into the latest Radio Wildfire broadcast and excellent it was too. With poems and music from all over the world, including some interesting sound poems, all in the safe hands of Dave Reeves and his son Vaughn. I am hoping to publish an interview with Dave on this blog in the near future, where he tells me about the history of Radio Wildfire and his hopes for the future.

You can listen to the loop of last month’s programme including my piece on Michael Drayton and on or around the 20th March this will be updated with last Mondays broadcast with my piece on Banjo Patterson. Follow this link to get to the show www.radiowildfire.com

As part of my study of film making, I have taken some time in my relaxation hours to watching films and television with a more critical eye. Looking not only at the shots and angles that the film and programme makers use to create the cinematic and tele-visual effects, but also at the storylines, plots and outcomes.

This has led to me occasionally watching documentary / reality TV shows. I have recently been watching Time Team, as show that I used to enjoy but over the last few years have not featured in my viewing as other projects took my mind away from the TV.

Many of you know I have a passion for Archaeology from my teenage years as a summer holiday digger on excavations such as the Mucking Hillside in Essex. Time team used to keep that interest burning but the latest episodes of the current season have been disappointing and I suspect it may have run its course as a programme. I read only the other week that Mick Aston has resigned from the programme and that there has been some friction over the presentation.

That, however is not the fuel of my disappointment, what concerns me is the lack of them finding anything. They seem to dig for the three days and not find what they set out to locate. Often finding nothing and so they end up with a lot of conjecture as to the whys and what fors of a site. I realise that you can’t expect to hit gold on every dig but they seem to do it week in and week out, ending up with no further information than was already known from documents and as such could come to their conclusions without actually disturbing the earth. Tony Robinson seems to have to fill in a lot more as the Archaeologists struggle to find anything to tell us. They are better than that and deserve a better programme, like the ones they used to produce.

Time team is not the only programme that fails to deliver. There are several programmes that seek to find properties for people, programmes such as Location, Location, Location, A Place in the Sun or A Place in the Country. All of which are most likely not to find a property that the participants actually end up buying and so you are left with the dissatisfaction of not having a conclusion to the story. Did they ever buy or was it just a speculative time wasting exercise. Again I know Phil and Kirstie can’t win every time but of late they never seem to win.

Having said that about the content of show, I am also disappointed by some of the film making and editing which I as a film maker would not accept in any of my work. Things such as poor camera angles, uninteresting shots of places are always annoying but what is worse for me is jerky pans and shots that are out of focus for a few seconds, all of which are avoidable with good camera work and editing.

It seems to me that the content of some programmes has dumbed down, there is far too much of the reality TV where the public is entertaining the public and not very well. This has led to cheap TV and the production values as such have taken the same line with a slap dash approach in some cases.

Despite all of that I still like the camera work on the opening titles of Time Team!

Next Saturday see States of Independence at De Montfort University in Leicester. This excellent event sees many of the small presses gathered together to sell and promote the works of their poets and authors. This is a free event and a great opportunity to network with the independent writing industry. I shall be going along to meet with some old friends and hopefully make some new. I would also like to get a view of who the new and up and coming voices are, which I will write about on this blog next week.

For more information on this event go to http://www.statesofindependence.co.uk/

A quick reminder that THE FIZZ will take place at Polesworth Abbey on the 27th March at 7:30pm with Special Guest Poet Barry Patterson plus open mic.

Finally for this week – I would like to point you to Bernadette O’Dwyer’s excellent blog post this week at the Secret Writer. Berni, like many writers including myself, holds down a day job whilst she looks for her break that will see her become a full time, established writer. This is not unusual for writers, many of whom have had alternative jobs that in some cases have provided the knowledge they need to enable them to write using themes and methods with some accuracy. They do say write what you know! Berni has listed several famous writers and their previous occupations – some you would expect others are more surprising. To see Berni’s list go to: http://secretwriter1.blogspot.com/2012/03/previous-careers-synopsis-and-waiting.html


Readings in March.

March 17th – The Goblin Poetry and Folk Club – Ashby
March 24th – Spoken Worlds – Burton
March 27th – The Fizz – Polesworth – Guest Poet Barry Patterson.
March 30th – Leukaemia Research Fund Raiser – Progressive Club – Tamworth.

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What is ANNOYING me this week?

The aches have turned into a sniffle.

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

The potential of future projects


Bonn Ist Supreme – Robbie Basho


Last week saw me flitting about a bit, the main event of the week was Poetry Alight at the Spark Café in Lichfield and most of you will have seen on my extra blog last week with my review of this excellent event. For those who missed it you can see it here: https://pollysworda.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/it-takes-just-a-spark-to-set-poetry-alight/

Perhaps I should clarify my use of the word flitting as it sounds a little flippant. I am not referring to the meetings or events which were all purposeful and full of glorious value and potential. Flitting refers to the state of my unsettled mind and is an inner feeling that I may not outwardly express.

So having cleared that up, the Lichfield poetry event was not the only item in my busy diary as I had meetings to set up some workshops for The Wall project, these will take place later in the month, with the Tamworth Writers Group and three community cafes, exploring responses to the lyrics of Pink Floyd.

Thursday saw the fortnightly meeting of the Runaway Writers’ with some excellent pieces from the members including the latest from Margaret Torr’s children’s novel where the main character is James, whose adventures in his flying wheelchair are full of delight and enchantment with a cast of characters whose quest is enacted in a world of disrupted time. Margaret is a natural story teller who keeps me hooked – I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Friday saw me flit across to Stafford for a meeting to discuss the potential role of Staffordshire Poet Laureate which has been very well received and although it is not confirmed that this will happen. The County Council are keen to explore how this role can be shaped and how a framework to sustain it can be developed. Something I will be working on in the coming weeks and may well ask for further ideas from local poetry community.

Barry and Chloe Hunt create the right vibe.

On Saturday evening, I was delighted to catch up with one of the Poets Trail Poets, Barry Hunt, The singer /songwriter who was performing with his daughter Chloe at one of the local village pubs. They performed a great set with a mix of modern to traditional songs including their own material that provided something to induce the rock/folk/pop vibes of everyone. Barry is a master guitar player who eased his fingers around the frets to produce a warm vibrant sound to accompany Chloe as she gave us her special blend of confident vocals.

You can catch Barry and Chloe at the Yardbird in Birmingham on 18th March.

Yesterday saw me banish the sniffles to their nasal pit and head into historic workshop of the world, Birmingham to record two more Lost Poets for Radio Wildfire.

So staying with Radio Wildfire – on to this week and the upcoming events.

Radio Wildfire’s live broadcast is tonight at 8:00pm (GMT), which Dave Reeves informs me, includes a great line up of Spoken Word and Music.

Tonight’s broadcast

www.radiowildfire.com – Monday 5th March 8.00-10.00 pm (UK time) + Jan Watts’ Laureate’s Diary from 10.00pm + Gary Longden with Longden’s Listings.

March: in like a lamb but we’ve got a lion of a programme lined up in this month’s Radio Wildfire Live!

Listen in for a poem from Jenny Hope submitted to Radio Wildfire especially for Earth Hour 2012; a memoir from Jonathan Taylor extracted from the poignant story of his father’s struggle with Parkinson’s, Take Me Home published by Granta Books; a variety of production poetry variously using multilayered voices and backing drumming from Stephen Mead, Andrew Barnes, and Zeandrick Oliver & James G. Laws; and a short play from Keith Large called Where Does He Go On A Wednesday? – a mystery drama set around life in a timber company, it’s vibrant and engaging and most definitely not wooden: with all of the above having been uploaded to the Radio Wildfire Submit page.

There’ll also be songs featured from the new cd by David Francis, On A Shingle Near Yapton, a truly exceptional piece of work from the New York singer-songwriter and poet; the latest edition of Mal Dewhirst’s The Lost Poets; and, as if that wasn’t enough, in the studio we’ll have poet Roz Goddard talking about her role as coordinator of the West Midlands Readers’ Network.

Plus we’ll be announcing exciting news about another Radio Wildfire live Outside Broadcast that will celebrate 75 years of the Mass Observation Movement.

The show, as always, is presented by Dave Reeves.

Radio Wildfire Live! is followed at 22:00 by the monthly diary from Birmingham’s poet laureate with Jan Watts’ Irons in the Fire and then Longden’s Listings with Gary Longden, the only complete spoken word events diary being transmitted. Listen in and catch your own events being discussed.
Join us: Monday 5th March from 8.00 pm UK time at www.radiowildfire.com

Radio Wildfire: the purr of the big cat’s whisker.

Talking of Birmingham Poet Laureate, Tuesday 6th sees the Monthly Night Blue Fruit in Coventry with the wonderful Jan Watts as guest poet plus open mic. This event starts at 8:00pm at Taylor John’s House in the Canal Basin in Coventry.

On Wednesday I have a meeting with the local council to discuss creative people and places followed by the Mad Hatter’s Writers Group – then I have a free diary to do some writing, film editing and attend a rehearsal for the Leukaemia Research Fund raiser which is on March 30th. Busy,busy, busy – I love it.

My Lost Poet this week is Matsuo Bashō (1644 – 1694)

I first came across this Japanese Poet through the guitarist Robbie Basho who changed his name to Basho in honour of this master poet who developed the structures of Japanese poetry forms that gave us the Haiku, from the traditional forms of Tanka and the collaborative Haikia no renga.

Matsuo Basho was born Matsuo Kinsaku and was also known as Matsuo Chūemon Munafusa he is the most famous poet of the Edo Period of Japanese Literature and Culture. His father was a low ranking Samurai which would have seen Matsuo progress to a life in the military had he chosen a less notable path for his life.

However as child Basho became a servant to Tōdō Yoshitada, who shared Basho’s love of collaborative poetry known as Haikia no renga which saw a poem constructed starting with a Hokku in strict 5-7-5 mora format followed by a 7-7 mora verse from another poetic voice. Basho and Yoshitada developed their voice that saw the first of Basho’s poems published in 1662, they collaborated on several pieces including a one hundred verse Rengu in which they collaborated with several other voices.

It was Yoshitada’s sudden death in 1666 that saw Basho lose the comfort of the role as servant and to resign himself away from a samurai life to become a traveler, he is indecisive as to whether he should become a full time poet and continues to write and be published in anthologies. Renga and Haikia no renga are viewed as low status pastime rather than high artistic form and this may well have influenced his indecision. He does however produce a publication in 1672 entitled the Kai Ōi or the Seashell Game, where he compares the merits of poems produced by him and others.

It is at this time he heads for Edo and ingratiates himself within the fashionable Literary Circles, his poetry is recognized for its natural style and simple form and he is soon initiated into the inner circles that enables him to teach and he is soon the tutor of twenty pupils. Despite this new found appreciation, he feels the need to take himself out of the public eye for a more isolated life and following a series of events such as the death of his mother and his hut burning down his dissatisfaction grows and leads him to embark on the first of four major journeys, two of which I will discuss here..


Travelling throughout the country at this time was considered a dangerous affair and Basho’s initial anticipation was that he would be killed by bandits in some remote location. His mood changes as his journey progresses and he makes friends, his poetry takes in the world around him and reflects his observations rather than the introspective themes of his earlier poetry.

His journey takes him to places such as Mount Fuji and Kyoto where he meets other poets, who seek his advice. In the summer of 1685 he returns to Edo, much refreshed and happily resumes his teaching post. The poetry from his journey is published as Nozarashi kikō Account of Exposure to the fields. Despite his apparent new found contentment in Edo, Basho knows that this will only last through the thought of another journey which he privately plans.

The culmination of the planning leads to him setting out on a journey with his apprentice Kawai Sora in 1689 that saw them explore the Northern Provinces on an epic 2400 kilometer trip. Basho documents the journey in a log, creating poetry as he goes. This was published posthumously as Oku no Hosomichi
The Narrow Road to the Interior.

Basho returns to Edo in 1691 and suffering from illness in his later years, he spends his last days receiving visitors, he died peacefully in 1694 and although he never wrote an official deathbed poem, his last poem has been taken as being a fitting farewell to his life.

tabi ni yande / yume wa kareno wo / kake meguru
falling sick on a journey / my dream goes wandering / over a field of dried grass [1694]

Basho interests me on several levels. His development of the Haiku from the traditional forms not being the least. The Haiku becoming a standalone form of the original Hokku.

I can see the similarities between his life and that of Michael Drayton, both poets went into service of literary patron as children who nurtured their craft as poets. Both head to the cultural capital to enhance their study and careers, both write landscape explorations Basho as described above and Drayton PolyOlbion. The Polesworth Circle also wrote collaborative poems through letters, examples of poems written between John Donne and Sir Henry Goodere still exist for us to study.

Collaborative poetry has also been a feature of some of my work in the last year, with the Kite poem on the Poets trail using the words from the Primary School children and the Word poem developed as part of the Nuneaton Summer poetry day.

Links to further information on Matsuo Bashō

Classical Japanese Database – Has some of Bahso’s Haikus

Simply Haiku has an account of Basho’s last days


Readings in March.

March 5th – Radio Wildfire – Lost Poets. – Broadcast then on the Loop.
March 6th – Night Blue Fruit – Coventry – Guest Poet Jan Watts.
March 17th – The Goblin Poetry and Folk Club – Ashby
March 24th – Spoken Worlds – Burton
March 27th – The Fizz – Polesworth – Guest Poet Barry Patterson.
March 30th – Leukaemia Research Fund Raiser – Progressive Club – Tamworth.

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