My Series of Author and Poet Interviews. at the Narberth Book Fair.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting interviews with the authors and poets who will be taking part in our Book Fair:  http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/.

There are forty of us so, obviously, there are many genres for both adults and children. There will be talks an writing and books, creative writing workshops for adults and fun workshops for children, activities for the children and a fun book trail through Narberth, the gorgeous little market town in Pembrokeshire.   

All free!!

And, of course, there will be the chance to chat with all the authors and to pick their brains on all aspects of writing. Even to buy their books and have them personally signed.

And, as usual, there will also be the writing competition: this year is a poetry competition: Submit a poem, in any form, of 20 lines or less, on the subject of : –

BOOKS AND READING.

Having outgrown our previous venue we have been lucky to hire the Queens Hall: https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/ who have been very generous in their support of the event.

Although, five years ago,  I started organising the book fairs on my own I was soon joined by Alex Martin: http://amzn.to/2hZCgt2  and Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/2rc5qyA. Unfortunately Alex has moved on to pastures new  (although is still a great supporter), so Thorne and I have been joined by Elizabeth Sleight. Elizabeth is involved in the charity we are supporting through our raffle; The Harriet Davis Seaside Holiday Trust For Disabled Children: http://bit.ly/2sNyeKQ . 

Today I’m really pleased to be chatting with the first of our poets, Helen Williams.

 

Helen Williams

May I start, Helen, by asking you why you write?

To write is to believe there is hope that people can communicate and comprehend one another. To write is to pick up and weave one slim thread in the warp and woof of literature.

What is the ultimate goal you hope to achieve with your writing?

For it all to sound as if it came effortlessly and for it to make sense to at least one other person.

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

Probably Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born. I first read it when my eldest son was 10 months old, when being a female head of household, sole earner, provider and mother was relatively new to me.

Who is your favourite author?

Depends on the day of the week, the time of day, and my mood at the time. Could be Ezra Pound or H.D., Willa Cather or Colm Tóibín, Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson, Allen Ginsberg or Adrienne Rich, Louise Erdrich or Toni Morrison, Diane Glancy or Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy or Baudelaire, Robert Browning or Elizabeth Barrett-Browning — I could go on!

How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

Two monographs and more articles and contributions to conference proceedings etc. than I can remember. I guess I’d have to say Native American Literature: Towards a Spatialized Reading was my favourite, because it marked a departure from anything else I’d done before. It was exciting to move into this area which is fraught with cultural sensitivities and to explore so many excellent authors who are barely know in this country. But I have a soft spot for two essays on Adrienne Rich that book-ended my academic career. The first one arose directly from my experiences in a feminist consciousness-raising group in the early Eighties: “Adrienne Rich: Consciousness Raising as Poetic Method” in Contemporary Poetry Meets Modern Theory, and the second was a chance to write a retrospective account of my life-long admiration of the US radical feminist poet: “Adrienne Rich: Introducing the Selected.” in Selected Poems: From Modernism to Now. I have very happy memories of the conference at Caen where I delivered the paper the essay was based on, and also gave a reading of my poems about Southport beach.

Now I write predominantly poetry, I’m really enthusiastic about my chapbook, The Princess of Vix; I feel I’ve managed to include lots of my thinking about myth and history and combine it with my deepest feelings about motherhood and mother/daughter relationships.

What genre do you consider your books? Have you considered writing in another genre?

Mostly, I’ve published academic writing. In addition to monographs, essay collections, journals and things like the Cambridge Introduction series, I’ve published a lot of lectures and materials online because I wanted to share as much knowledge and understanding as I could. But I’ve always written poetry and published it in little magazines, etc. Now I’m writing, performing and publishing poetry more than any other genre. But I have also edited my mother’s memoir and I am currently writing a novel. I’ve also written a few plays and what might be a Sci-Fi children’s book. So, I’ve explored most of the traditional literary genres.

Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?

princess of vix

The Celtic Princess of Vix, whose burial chamber was discovered at Vix, a small village close to Châtillon-sur-Seine in Burgundy, was crippled due to injuries sustained in child-birth. This sequence dramatizes poetic identification with the female, Iron Age shaman, whose distorted, pained figure marked her out as different. I delve into the strong emotions associated with motherhood, evoking a series of feminine archetypes associated with Greek, Etruscan and Celtic culture. The Vix Princess officiates at an autumn ritual that synthesizes elements of Greek, Etruscan and Celtic culture. Her daughter, the Kore, is at the heart of the ceremony, which thus becomes a rite of passage. The third major figure in this drama is an Etruscan foot soldier, who has migrated to Vix, without having yet had experience of battle. And the fourth major figure is the Hecate or Hag; thus, completing the triple aspect of the Goddess and of women’s lives, from Virgin to mother to old woman, who has seen and experienced it all before and is now a spectator of the continuing, female drama. I would say it is a must read for anyone who wants to think about what it is to be a daughter, a mother, or a grandmother. And it’s not just for women; anyone who is fascinated by Greek and Celtic myth will find a new perspective on some fundamental myths here.

What was the inspiration behind The Princess of Vix?

Complex, varied and deeply personal.

How long did it take you to write The Princess of Vix?

I wrote the first draft of the sequence over an autumn and winter. Each time I completed one poem, the next one would start to emerge. The drama gradually unfolded for me, as it does for the reader.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

I wrote and directed my first play when I was eight years old. Does that count?

Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

I taught in Higher Education for 33 years (39 if you count the first six as a sessional tutor); so, I guess most of my talents have been on very public display most days of my working life. You’d have to ask all the people I taught what talents I have; I know that many of them had incredible talents and I felt humbled and grateful to be their tutor and mentor.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Modernism and post-modernism had a strong influence on me from an early age, so my writing probably displays traces of US and French modernist styles. But it’s usually easier for the objective reader to see these things than the author herself. And besides bits of Romanticism probably creep in when I’m not looking.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read; tend my garden; spend time with my family, cook, walk, knit, read, watch French films without English subtitles, travel in Europe, read some more.

What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you? Not particularly to do with your writing.

I got bladder cancer, whose main cause is smoking even though I was a virulent anti-smoker all my life.

Give us a random fact about yourself.

I’m left handed.

Helen’s Bio:

Helen May Williams is a poet and author, living in West Wales. She has written extensively on twentieth-century poetry and formerly taught at the University of Warwick, where she was a founder member of the Warwick Writing Programme Advisory Board. She runs the Poetry Society’s Carmarthen-based Stanza group and is an active member of Penfro Poets.  She recently completed a translation of Michel Onfray’s “Before Silence” (“Avant le Silence”), a volume of 21st century haiku.  Her poems have appeared in numerous poetry journals and anthologies. 

Helen’s Links:

‘Bath’ by Alan A Roberts

I’ve shown Alan Robert’s writing before. As one of my students he’s produced some hilarious accounts of the things that happen to him.However this one is different. I asked the students to read a prose poem and to compose their own, using the poem they found for inspiration.

 I imagined a former collier sitting alone to read Amy Lowell’s prose poem, entitled ‘Bath’:

The day is fresh washed and fair, and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus in the air.

The sunshine pours in at the bath-room window and bores through the water in the bath-tub in lathes and planes of greenish-white. It cleaves the water into flaws like a jewel, and cracks it to bright light.

Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger sets them whirring, reeling.  I move a foot and the planes of light in the water jar.  I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water, the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me.

The day is almost too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright day.  I will lie here awhile and play with the water and the sun spots.  The sky is blue and high.  A crow flaps by the window, and there is a whiff of tulips and narcissus in the air.

 coal

 

He closes the page and his mind drifts back to his life in the colliery and he writes his response:

‘I sit in the twilight and set aside her memory for mine.  A memory of a time spent below, hewing the pitch-black gold grasped so tightly in Mother Earth’s clutches and Her moaning its loss through the slatted steel roof above our heads and in the pitch-pine props on which our very lives depended.  The smell was not of tulips and narcissus but dank mildewed neglect, of lives lost, chewing gobs and fear; that familiar friend to us all. 

‘I see the stilted, shadow figures to-ing and fro-ing along the cutting lines; their fitful movements reminding me of choreographed fantoccini.  From the working guts we rush for our place within the Gorgon’s mouth to be finally spewed from that Hades hellhole into the warm comfort of the steam filled, polished white tile, pit-head bath. 

‘There sunshine squeezed through the misted bath-room window in an attempt to penetrate the discarded black dust.  Its refraction bent in near defeat until a myriad of droplets caught in its falling rays are forced to dance, and dance; our worn-out reflections pirouetted across the greenish-white, peeling ceiling.  I hear the crescendo of hands pummelling alabaster skin with its blue/black medals worn for all to see.  Soiled soap suds scatter across the cracked, crimsoned tiles until their sun-flawed transparent bubbles rock and reel out of sight.          

‘Outside the sunlight is almost too bright to bear, the stench of carbolic stalks the path home.  We had no time to play in the harvest fields but to run home and await another day of turmoil.  That day the sky was blue and high.  A kestrel hovered overhead, and there was a whiff of summer bluebells in the air.’

© ‘Bath’ by Alan A Roberts       –           February 2017

Christmas Spirit by Maggie Himsworth #Humour #Christmas #MondayBlogs

This is a festive poem from Maggie Himsworth, one of my adult students.  You’ve read some of her work before… slightly different  and fascinating. See: Fascinating slants on Shakespeare’s minor characters.  The Maid’s Account:  http://bit.ly/1NOYbSJ.  Of course you’ll know the play … won’t you!And  The Eunoch’s Voice http://bit.ly/2hfEKUl  in Antony and Cleopatra. Mardian, the head eunuch. is given a voice.

But now for something completely different…

owl

 Christmas Spirit

‘Twas the night before Christmas

And all through the house

It was totally bedlam,

Thanks to the mouse.

Rat, Mouse, Cheese, Animal, Mammal

He’d nibbled the chocolate

And eaten the cheese

So at midnight that night

I was down on my knees

Praying for Santa

To put it all right,

To give us a Christmas

Not totally shite.

The fairy was frowning,

Well, it can’t be much fun

With Christmas tree needles

Stuck up your bum.

Angel, Angel Doll, Angel With Wings

But hark, who is this

Who creeps in the dark?

A shepherd or two

Out for a lark?

Or a king bearing gifts

Gold, incense or myrrh?

Not bloody likely,

It’s something with fur.

Clipart, Fox, Drawing, Design, Artwork

A fox in the garden

Dragging at bins

Pulling out rubbish

Rattling the tins.

That’s all I need

Where’s my Christmas cheer?

I look to the sky

Where are those reindeer?

Binoculars, Search, See, To Find, Watch

And that’s when I see them

Dusted lightly with snow

Rudolf the leader

His nose all aglow.

Christmas, Reindeer, Rudolph, Snowflakes

They land in my garden

The fox dashes off

I say ‘Hello Santa’

He looks quite a toff.

Christmas, Santa, Santa Claus

`He puts his arm round me

Hmm, things are improving

But then he says

‘Sorry, got to keep moving.

I know it’s been tough

I know it’s been rotten

You’ve had a bad year

And maybe you’ve gotten

Woman, Blonde, Sad, Miserable

A little bit bitter

And very upset

But think of it this way

How bad can it get?

A lot worse than this

I’ve got to say

So for God’s sake cheer up

It’s now Christmas Day.

Christmas, Merry Christmas, Dad

And with that he was off

All in a flurry

Less incense and myrrh

More a slight smell of curry.

Christmas, Comic Characters, Father

I went back inside

To hell with the fox

And that’s when I saw it

A bloody great box.

Gift, Christmas, Xmas, Present, Birthday

Things for the kids

And something for me

I took them all out

To put under the tree.

Christmas, Map, Christmas Tree, Green

©.Maggie Himsworth 2016

The Tenby Book Fair is moving and Being Renamed…The Narberth Book Fair. Ta dah!!

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Welcome to the first post of the Narberth Book Fair.

Just to let you know that we have decided we have outgrown the Church House in Tenby.  Having searched around for a suitable place we have found the perfect venue. So the Tenby Book Fair will no longer be held in Tenby. In fact it will no longer be the Tenby Book Fair but the Narberth Book Fair. We are quite excited  to be having a new challenge and I’m sure we will be bigger and better… just in a different hall. In a different town.

From now on the Book Fair will be held at the Queens Hall there. Check out their website    https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/. As you can see it’s a vibrant and busy venue in a bustling little town full of interesting shops, antique places, cafes and restaurants. And there is a large nearby car park. But, sorry… no beach.

The date will be Saturday, the 23rd September. 10.00am to 4.oopm.

I’ve been to a few craft fairs at the Queens Hall with my books and always there is plenty of footfall.

A little information on Narberth; the former capital of Pembrokeshire boasts one of the best high-streets in the county. It’s a gorgeous little market town in the east of Pembrokeshire. Multi coloured Edwardian and Georgian buildings line the high street which has developed quite a reputation as a shopper’s heaven. many of the cafes, pubs and restaurants are award winners..

Transport:  Narberth has a railway station about a mile outside of town. And there are quite a few taxi firms based around and in Narberth. And, I’m sure, one or two of the authors who would be willing to pop there to meet stranded fellow authors 

Accommodation: Check out this website: http://bit.ly/2grbFXY. But I’m sure there are more dotted around

The History of Narberth:

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The town has grown around the walls of its stone castle, but the name is older than the castle. Narberth is derived from ‘Arberth’, the pre-Norman name for the district (or commote). This Celtic heritage is also represented in the myth and legend of the Mabinogion – ancient Welsh folk tales that were written down in the 14th century, originating from an earlier tradition of oral storytelling. Two branches of the Mabinogi in particular are centred on ‘Arberth’, which was reputedly the court of Pwyll, Prince of Dfydd.

So.. we have already had many of our usual authors wanting to take part in our inaugural book fair in Narberth. But we’re always thrilled to welcome new authors. Those interested in taking part please contact me: judithbarrow77@gmail.com 

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What Did Come Next

For those of you good enough to read and comment on my last post about my mother: http://www.judithbarrow.co.uk/memories-and-what-comes-next/, I’d liked to let you know what did come next.

We found a lovely care home for her.

 

mum

From the moment we opened the doors to Stoneleigh House in Springhead near Oldhan, we knew this would be her next home. The manager and staff were so welcoming:. we watched how they looked after the residents, we were allowed, even encouraged, to wander where we liked (and we’d called unannounced, probably at the worst time – lunchtime!), we saw the room she could sleep in.

Stoneleigh House was one of many that we visited. It’s an old ex-mill owners home. We felt it fitting that  Mum should live here; my mother was a winder in a cotton mill, in Oldham and, after the second world war, lived in Springhead.

When she worked in a mill in Saddleworth, and well before the days of Health and Safety, I would go to wait for her to finish work on my way home from school. I remember the muffled boom and then the sudden clatter of so many different machines as I stepped through the small door, the sound of women singing and shouting above the noise, the colours of the threads and cloth – so bright and intricate. Above all I remember the smell: of oil, grease – and in the storage area – the lovely smell of the new material stored in bales.

mum2

 

 

We went for a visit this week. A  ten hour round trip for three hours – but so worth it.

Mum is walking; something she hasn’t done without help for the last two years, And she chatted to us; rather than the  monosyllabic answers we used to get. Best of all she is enjoying the company of the people around her  (we  ignored the rude comments – at least she’s recovered her sense of humour – and at ninety three she’s allowed  a bit of rudeness).

 

 

 

I’d gathered together as many photographs as i could and made a collage of her life. Right at the left hand side at the bottom is a baby photograph of Mum and her sister Olive. Love the ‘pudding basin’ haircuts! In the middle is Mum as a young woman and next to her my father who died some twenty years ago.

mum stoneleigh2

Auntie Olive lived with us as part of the family for many years, here in Pembrokeshire.  After she was diagnosed with dementia at the age of eighty, and it all became obvious she needed better care than we could give, she went into a lovely care home, nearby; first for respite care, and then permanently.

I sat with Auntie Olive many times; both when she could carry out a conversation, and later, when she couldn’t, we sat together holding hands and watching what was going on around us. The poem below was one I wrote then after a particular incident – you’ll soon see why. ( Obviously it’s mostly a collection of snippets over many visits. And I wrote it from a first person point of view for empathy.)

Waiting for Alf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ask her – ‘what time is Alf coming?’

She answers, ‘soon, Alice, soon.’

 

I try to stand, to check my hair in the mirror – but fail.

My frailness surprises me – but holds no terror.

Across the table Lily’s still picking her nose.  ‘Your face’ll cave in,’ I tell her.

Then see that the new feller has pissed himself. Again!

I shout for the woman. ‘When are you going to see to this one?

And what time will Alf get here?’

 

She ignores me.

 

Olga’s crying: not really a cry – a drone; a painful keening under her breath;

Mourning death; her own?

 

Gets on my nerves!

 

She’s serving tea.

I grab her arm. ‘What time is Alf coming?’

‘Soon, Alice, soon.’

I snort – she’s lying, you know: she thinks I’m daft,

But if I say his name he’s still here and the shaft of pain is easier to bear – just.

 

I must stand up!

 

Ivy’s muttering,

Sylvia sings; brings memories to life.

The new chap, now dry, nods and snores.

 

The noise!

 

‘Time to move.’ I shove back the chair – push on the table,

Wait until I’m stable.

Then, poised, look down: my slippers are tight –  are they on the wrong feet?

I shout for the woman – she says, ‘no, they’re right’,

 

I ask again, ‘when will Alf arrive?’

 

She doesn’t answer, so I pinch her. ‘When will he arrive?’

And she replies, ‘soon, Alice, soon.’

 

Silly cow!

 I should say that as the lady in this particular incident said the last two words of this poem, she winked at me and laughed. ‘Who’s the daft one here, then?’ she said.