Tag Archives: John Clare

Whitby Folk Week Summers

The first time I ever went to Whitby Folk Week, in 2003, the very first artist I ever heard perform was Gordon Tyrrall, in the 3pm concert at the Metropole Ballroom. I was very excited to hear he had set John Clare poems to music. And then he sang this, entitled Song, by Clare, but known by its opening line, Sweet the Pleasures I do Find. The song is to be found in A Midsummer Cushion. It remains one of my favourite songs ever.

Last year I wrote this poem using some of the phrases from it as hooks. Whitby is now a regular feature on my calendar, and I now run the poetry workshops (and have for about 8 years). Being a very small thread in such a rich festival feels wonderful. Already looking forward to seeing the friends I’ve made and welcoming people to my writing poetry sessions. And of course, hearing Gordon Tyrrall again. I wrote a book about John Clare, which is available from Greenwich Exchange publishers.

 

Whitby Folk Week Summers

after John Clare

Sweet the pleasures

Turkish delight ice-cream

Gin and tonic on the balcony

Scented pink roses in damp gardens

 

When every green is fresh with flowers

                        Spice of earth after summer rain

Cut grass on evening air

Walking back from concerts

 

And linnets sing to cheer me

                        Seagulls screaming

Sailing ships in the bay

Fish and chips in Royal Fisheries

 

Heaven to be near thee

                        First sight of the sea from the moor road

Golden hours with special friends

The heather song on the closing night

 

Banished to some barren isle

                        Warm afternoons of sea swimming

The last sweet notes of every concert

Bunch of heather drying on the window sill

 

 

Angela Topping

 

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Marshall’s Arm Poetry Walk – the texts

Marshall's Arm 012

I’ve had a request to share the texts I chose for my poetry walk last weekend, through Marshall’s Arm Nature Reserve in my village. So here they are. As well as those listed in full, I also read John Clare poems taken from The Wood is Sweet (John Clare Society edited by David Powell): The Woodland Style, extract from Summer Images, Meet Me in the Green Glen, Hedge Sparrow.

Tall Nettles

TALL nettles cover up, as they have done
These many springs, the rusty harrow, the plough
Long worn out, and the roller made of stone:
Only the elm butt tops the nettles now.

This corner of the farmyard I like most:
As well as any bloom upon a flower
I like the dust on the nettles, never lost
Except to prove the sweetness of a shower.

Edward Thomas

 

Trees

They

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost

 Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins

 

GLORY be to God for dappled things—

  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

        5

    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

        10

                  Praise him.

From Hamlet

There is a willow grows aslant a brook

That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.

Duke’s Clough

Leaving the copse, walking back to bikes,

feet snag on ruts. Glancing back

from here, it’s nothing much,

just trees, battered by the motorway.

‘Come on’, says dad, it’s time to go.’

back to the fusty house for Sunday tea.

Brambles snatch our slacks, fruitless hooks

fragmenting the track as we climb.

Armfuls of bluebells powder the air,

cool and woody, intoxicating as whispered words.

Thrushes threaten their neighbours in syllabics.

Crass cars tune up through engines’ scales.

As the bike’s pedals respond to weight and time

the clough is lost to us, a closed fist, a shut eye.

Angela Topping

Sparrow

Passer, deliciae meae puellae – Catullus

 

When wind and earth joined together

to make the sparrow, they set

its toy heart flickering,

its small feet clicking. The breast

was made from speckled foam,

the wings painted with colours

left over from other creations:

burnt sienna, cafe latte, sludge.

Although the bird’s beauty

was doubtful, it could weave in

and out of hedges, eaves and thatch.

The voice was nothing special:

a chirrup like a giggle fastened

in its throat like a comedy brooch.

Wind and earth baptised their child.

The first fairy godmother named it passer,

the second gave it joy, the third

the greatest gift of all: to be convivial.

The sparrow was a great success,

beloved of a poet’s paramour, able to

hop into human habitations unafraid.

Angela Topping

Bee! I’m expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know
That you were due —

The Frogs got Home last Week —
Are settled, and at work —
Birds, mostly back —
The Clover warm and thick —

You’ll get my Letter by
The seventeenth; Reply
Or better, be with me —
Yours, Fly.

Emily Dickinson


 

12.00

 

NATURE NOTES: DANDELIONS

Incorrigible, brash,
They brightened the cinder path of my childhood.
Unsubtle, the opposite of primroses,
But, unlike primroses, capable
Of growing anywhere, railway track, pierhead,
Like our extrovert friends who never
Make us fall in love, yet fill
The primroseless roseless gaps.

~ Louis MacNeice (1907-1963), Irish poet

Image

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‘The Next Big Thing’ Blog Tour

The Next Big Thing, for those who don’t yet know, is a way to network with fellow writers and to find out a bit more about what they’re working on. The idea is fairly simple. The writer answers a set of questions on his or her blog one week, and then invites five other authors to answer the same questions the following week. They in turn invite five more.

I was invited by Geraldine Green

What is the title of your new book?

Paper Patterns

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How did you choose the title?

I spent a long time deliberating this and then went back to my original idea. One of the poems is called Paper Patterns, and it came out of collaborating with a textile artist, Maria Walker. There are a few poems in the book which she has used on in her art work, and one of the sequences was written for a joint exhibition with her, all based on some family letters she had bought in a junk shop before she met me. After collaborating for a few months we met up, when we made the astonishing discovery that these letters she’d found so inspiring had been written by my father’s family. So the title reflects the work I had done with Maria.

The cover art is actually a piece of her work on which she embroidered words from the poem, Paper Patterns. I love that picture and she kindly gave me permission to have it as cover art. (Actually ALL my books have cover art by friends apart from my Salt books and my Rack Press pamphlet, because those publishers have a certain style and took charge of the covers for me.)

Also, the title resonates, because poems themselves are patterns on paper.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

As a poet, I tend to write the poems as I go along, and when I am putting a collection together, I think about which poems I want to include. Because this is a full length collection, it has several different themes and moods. It’s important to cut in some variety in poetry books. Although I know most readers will dip in and out, I have carefully arranged the poems so they speak to each other and take the reader on a journey throughout the book. For instance, the last few poems are about regrets and ageing, whereas near the start there are more light-hearted ones. The book also includes several sequences. One is The Lightfoot Letters which includes the poems written for the exhibition, another is Catching On, which brings together ten poems from the Rack Press pamphlet with 6 poems from my Salt collection I Sing of Bricks, about my friendship with poet Matt Simpson. There is also a new coda to that sequence, which charts the stages in our friendship and also the stages of coming to terms with his death. The third sequence is a small one of miniature poems in which wild plants speak their story.

Some of the poems were written on a course with Penelope Shuttle in France, and one was written after attending an inspirational reading by Pascale Petit. There are also some poems about birds, one of which was in Poetry Review, and several poems about fruit, written at a workshop by Jan Dean. Some were even written at my own workshops, where I tend to write as a way of timing the exercises and seeing whether they are good to work from. It’s not for me to track themes – I will leave that to the critics, who can be very perceptive.

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry. It’s not highly experimental. I write poems which are accessible but complex in terms of their layers and resonances. I think every poem is an experiment. I tend to write instinctively and then bring my intellect to bear at the redrafting stage, where I am quite a harsh self-critic. I like poems which both stimulate the intellect but ultimately move the reader, so that’s how I aim to write.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

That scenario is very unlikely in the case of a poetry collection. But sometimes poems are performed by actors. So actors I would most like to perform my work: David Tennant, Miriam Margoyles (who already did a splendid job with one of mine), Patrick Stewart, Frances Barber, Colin Firth, Dervla Kirwan, Sarah Lancashire.

Who has published your book?

My publisher is Lapwing, an independent press owned by Dennis Greig, who is based in Northern Ireland. He expressed an interest in my work when we were discussing, over email, a mutual friend, the late James Simmons. Dennis had published a few friends of mine including Janice Fitzpatrick, Ian Parks and Andrew Oldham. I felt that the house style would suit Maria Taylor’s artwork and Dennis and I very much see eye to eye on the current state of the poetry world, so I decided to send him my collection. I hope to do an Irish tour to promote the book, as soon as I have arrange some free time. I am of Irish descent and very proud of it. I’ve started to explore it more in my work.

What other books would you compare ‘The Other Side of the Bridge’ to, within the genre?

I think this one is best picked up by reviewers too. I hope I write in my own way and not leaning on the shoulders of others. My favourite poets include John Clare, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Edward Thomas, Elizabeth Bishop, Matt Simpson, John Agard, Pablo Neruda, Ian Parks, Martin Figura, so it’s possible that their work and mine has some similarity. Helen Ivory is another poet I admire, as is George Szirtes, but I wouldn’t say this particular collection is similar to their poetry.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think this book is a development from my earlier collections, although family and friends are still inspiring poems. Myth and nature are strong themes and everywhere I go I am writing poetry, so this book includes poems set in Egypt, France, different parts of the UK including London and Scotland, Whitby and the North York Moors. I also wanted to bring the sixteen elegies for Matt Simpson, which appeared in two different publications, together so I could finally call the sequence complete. I have touched on some of the elements that went into the book in my previous replies, also.

What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest?

I love it when people say to me that my poems have helped them work through difficult or meaningful times, like bereavement and childbirth. Readers can emotionally connect with my work; it’s not about me showing off or being clever, but a genuine attempt to communicate with others.
Also, I use a variety of forms, sometimes sonnets and other strict forms do the job, and other poems feel more comfortable in free verse.
The moods of the poems range too, and there is an unfolding narrative if one reads the collection in order.
Although I do write personal poems, I also reach further, for example I explore personae and history, myth and story. I also write for children and sometimes my playful side shows in my work for the general adult reader. I live a fairly ordinary life and celebrate the little things that provide moments of piercing joy.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

The book’s blurb begins: Angela Topping unravels the threads that hold families and friends together, exposing the frailties, joys and tenacity of love, in these strong, spare poems.

I think that just about sums it up.

The following writers are contuining the tour. Do vist their blogs to see their responses to these questions:

Lindsey Holland

Adam Horowitz

Steve Ely

Catherine Edmunds http://catherineedmunds.blogspot.co.uk/

Fiona Sinclair

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John Clare- ‘My Early Home’ NPD#2

My Early Home

Here sparrows build upon the trees,
And stock-dove hides her nest:
The leaves are winnowed by the breeze
Into a calmer rest;
The black-cap’s song was very sweet;
That used the rose to kiss;
It made the paradise complete:
My early home was this.

The redbreast from the sweetbrier bush
Dropt down to pick the worm;
On the horse-chestnut sang the thrush,
O’er the house where I was born.
The moonlight, like a shower of pearls,
Fell o’er this ‘bower of bliss’,
And on the bench sat boys and girls;
My early home was this.

The old house stooped just like a cave,
Thatched o’er with mosses green;
Winter around the walls would rave,
But all was calm within;
The trees are here all green again,
Here bees the flowers still kiss,
But flowers and trees seemed sweeter then;
My early home was this.

John Clare (1793-1864)

I have long loved this poem by John Clare, and it was made sweeter for me when I heard the beautiful setting Gordon Tyrrall made for it. WordPress will not let me post the little movie I made of it, but I do urge everyone to get a copy of Gordon’d Clare CD, A Distance from the Town. It is stunning.

John Clare was very attached to his home in Helpston, and was terribly homesick when he moved three miles away, writing a heartbreaking poem called ‘The Flitting’. I am still working on my John Clare book for Greenwich Exchange.

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