Category Archives: Shortlands Poetry Circle

November and December Meetings 2020

Meeting of November 10th.

Attendance 16 + 1 guest. Topic: War Poets Ivor Gurney and Siegfried Sassoon

Even though we had probably studied the War poets during our schooldays, the raw power of their testament to the horrors of the First World War still leaves its mark. We could have looked at a number of poets who wrote during this period e.g. Wilfred Owen or Rupert Brooke but it was good to focus on just two. Both poets as it happened, were equally represented in our reading.

Meeting of November 24th.

Attendance 17. Topic: poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Today all three poets were equally represented in our readings. As usual, Lesley McLetchie contributed poems although she was not able to make an appearance on the Zoom app. We wish her better health in the future and hope she will be among us again.

It is becoming hard to imagine us all sitting together in the airy room at Ripley Arts Centre where we usually have our meetings and chatting over a cup of tea afterwards. Luckily there is still room for chat as we make time for it before the Zoom meeting starts.

Meeting of December 8th.

Attendance 17 Topic: High Jinks and the Fun Side

An excuse for high spirits with plenty of Edward Lear, Wendy Cope and also Anon. We look forward to returning on January 12th. with a session of ‘Open Choice’ which will give us a chance to look through our poetry collections or find poets whose work we have yet to enjoy.

Meeting of Oct. 27th. The Weather

Meeting of Oct. 27th. 2020 The Weather

Attendance 16 + 1 guest.

Given our climate, it was not surprising that out of the thirty poems read, eight were about rain. ‘The Banality of Rain’ by Wendy Klein, ‘Durham After the Rain’ by Rachel Burns and ‘London Rain’ by Louis Macneice were a fair sample.

Only two poems were specifically about sun and one of these was by the Australian poet Les Murray. The title of one poem by Peter Crowther was, ‘Don’t Mention The Weather’ highlighting the very English trait of starting a conversation with a comment about the weather.

Meeting of October 13th 2020 With Future Dates

This was our annual ‘Writers’ Portfolio Meeting,’ where the poets among us have an opportunity to share their work. This is published annually in a booklet compiled by Nola Turner. Members who also write poetry but do not belong the Writers’ Group are also encouraged to read a poem of their own. In memory of Jennie Milnes who belonged to the Writers’ Group, two of her poems were read by Jean Ellis. Members can buy a collection of Jennie’s poems entitled ‘Coming home,’ which Jean has put together in an attractive volume

Speaking of publication, we congratulate Anne Stewart who has a poem published in
‘Reflected Lights’ an anthology produced by Joy Howard’s Grey Hen Press.

Ruth Smith has had two poems published in ‘The North’ magazine.

Future dates for this term are :-

27th. October The Weather

10th. November Poems by Ivor Gurney and Siegfried Sassoon

24th. November Poems by Emily Dickinson, Edna St.

Vincent Millay and Elizabeth Bishop

8th. December High Jinks and The Fun Side

Meeting of September 22nd 2020

This was another Zoom meeting with a declared count of sixteen. We are getting used to this way of meeting now and allow ourselves half an hour’s chat and time to deal with any technical issues.

In this meeting we read poems by pre-Raphaelite poets from the nineteenth century with poems by Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Algernon Swinburne.

These were all well represented in our readings and although we knew some of their work there was scope for exploration. I don’t think anyone knew that Swinburne had written a poem about his cat or maybe remembered that it was Dante Gabriel Rossetti who wrote, ‘Who has seen the wind?

Meeting of September 8th. Open Choice (Zoom Meeting)

Seventeen members were present at this meeting and Lesley McLetchie sent a poem called ‘Otherwise’ by Jane Kenyon to be read as her contribution. Poems by well-known poets were read. ‘The Wild Swans at Coole,’ by W. B Yeats, Robert Graves’ ‘Warning To Children,’ and the Wife of Bath’s Prologue from Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales.’

There were also poems by, among others, Leontia Flynn, Ann Grey, Kath Walker and one by our own Christine Pope whose recently published book, ‘Smelling the Sea from Bromley,’ has been read and enjoyed for its freshness and sheer joy of life

Meeting of 28th. July hosted by Jan Ottley

This had the rather timely theme of ‘Moving On’ which must be on all our minds at the moment.

The meeting was attended by twelve people and Ann Barlow sent in two poems to read.

Sometimes the moving on seemed to be about rites of passage e.g. ‘Children Leaving Home’ by C. Day Lewis, though there’s the suggestion of death in ‘Stopping Through Woods on a Snowy Evening’ by Robert Frost and actual death as in ‘Mr. and Mrs. Scotland Are Dead’ by Kathleen Jamie so maybe we didn’t cheer ourselves up as much as we thought we would. ‘Laertes’ by Michael Longley was about the tragedy of lost time but ‘Don’t Quit’ by John Greenleaf Whittier was rousing and ‘Sometimes It Happens’ by Brian Patten works round to accepting moving on.

Shortlands Poetry Circle Using Zoom

We have now, perforce, become thoroughly accustomed to having virtual meetings of the Shortlands Poetry Circle using Zoom. A link is sent by email prior to the meeting and when the time comes we search for it and with one click the procedure begins whereby we join the meeting. It is always a relief to see familiar faces on the screen and there have been no major hiccups though our technically accomplished President, Anne Stewart, is ready to deal with any problems.

This is why meetings now begin at 2pm for 2.30 because, apart from giving us time to chat, any technical difficulties can be sorted out. While this no replacement for face to face contact it has its advantages in that members who have moved to other areas can take part. One participant lives in Dorset and another in a village near Barnsley so you could say we are nationwide. Members who might find it difficult attending a virtual meeting send poems in advance to be read. It has certainly enabled more people to take part.

We normally only have one meeting during the summer hosted by a member in their own home but this year we have enjoyed three, hosted by willing volunteers on a chosen theme. Apart from missing our tea and biscuits this has worked very well.

Meeting of July 14th. 2020

Topic: Poems by Penelope Shuttle, Vicki Feaver and Jean Sprackland.

Seventeen people were present at this virtual meeting of Shortlands Poetry Circle during which twelve poems by Penelope Shuttle were read, nine by Vicki Feaver and four by Jean Sprackland.

Penelope Shuttle

Penelope Shuttle

Vicki Feaver

Vicki Feaver






A few people chose other poets, possibly because they were unable to find poems by the poets mentioned. New discoveries were made and it is often the case that more poems may be read in future by the named poets.

Jean Sprackland

Jean Sprackland

Summer Celebration June 23rd . 2020

Like so many other events this year, our Summer Celebration had to be held online as a consequence of the current Covid -19 pandemic. There was, this time, no assembled audience in the Music Room at Ripley Arts Centre. Instead, members and associates sat in their own homes, using Zoom to watch and listen to two invited poets — also on Zoom. The famous buffet was sadly unavailable but the feast was there.

Our President, Anne Stewart, welcomed everyone to the virtual meeting which was attended by 23 people, including, Maggie Hoyle who now lives in Dorset and Kathleen Mustoe who recently moved to Amersham. Zoom is a great enabler in this respect. Also present were Ron Hoyle and Christopher Town, Chair of Bromley Arts Council

After the general welcome, Ruth Smith introduced the two poets – Jane Kirwan and Stephen Elves, starting with Jane:-

Jane Kirwan

Jane Kirwan’s poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies in both the UK and the Czech Republic where she lives half the year. She has read poems on Czech television.

Jane’s three collections are all published by the Rockingham Press, the last written with Ales Macháček. In 2002 she won an Arts Council Writers’ Award for ‘The Man Who Sold Mirrors.’

She has won prizes in various competitions including the National and has read at poetry festivals here and abroad. With Wendy French she wrote ‘Born in the NHS’ a poetry, prose memoir sparked by a conversation about threats to the NHS.

Stephen Elves

During his earlier life Stephen worked as a journalist for both The Times and The Independent.

Since then he has earned success as a poet, his work having been widely published in magazines. Stephen was been placed as runner-up in both the Yorkshire and Torriano Poetry Competitions.

In 2012 he completed an M Phil in Writing from the University of South Wales and is a member of the Torriano Poetry group in Kentish Town.

Stephen says his poems deal with a lifetime of serious illness and finding solace in nature, especially birds. He also writes about the experience of growing up in a dysfunctional family.

The Readings

Stephen read for the first 15 minutes of the event and shared eight poems beginning with the political ‘Gross Moral Trumpitude’ giving the subject a visionary twist and beginning every statement with ‘I saw’ — using, as an extra touch, the biblical ‘verily.’

There were, as might be expected, poems about the natural world, especially birds; a sparrow — a heron with its ‘ lazy flapping clap of wings.’ Stephen explained that he now lives in Faversham, Kent reading poems that celebrate its local waterway ‘Faversham Creek’ and the nearby Oare Marshes — so rich in birdlife. To end this first session, Stephen read a poem about smoking and the progression from his schoolboy ‘five a day’ to adult smoke-induced illness — a cautionary tale of how one thing leads to another.

Jane read poems from her latest collection, ‘The Goose Woman’ which is set in the village of Slabce where she and her Czech partner Ales ‘bought a ruin’ and set about repairing it. She began with a poem in the voice of Slabce, ‘I am Slabce and I have 730 inhabitants/ who all go to Croatia in August or stay in their gardens/ and eat cucumber —’ There are poems, often displaying Jane’s wry humour, about how to get rid of moles , about the hitchhiker Vladimir who turns up every year to work and drink slivovic.

In the second half of their readings, both poets read about visits to grandparents, Jane to her grandmother in Ireland, steeped in local gossip and Stephen to his grandparents in Hackney where conditions were somewhat austere, as described in his poem, ‘ Washing in the Sink with Lifebuoy.’

Stephen read a poem about his favourite stargazer lilies while Jane read a a poem about imminently becoming a grandmother and what her ‘user name’ would be. Because of the Zoom format it was possible to see and hear people’s reactions to the poems and both poets received their share of umms and ‘wonderful’ ‘marvellous’ ‘aaah’ which indicated how successful both had been in holding our attention and often delighting us.

Meeting of 9th. June. Topic -Travel

Topic -Travel

This would normally be a time when travel and arrangements for travel were uppermost in our minds. In the present circumstances it is something to be longed for but deferred till we don’t know when.

But we travelled anyway through the writings of poets. California, Greenland and Australia were the inspiration for poems by Walt Whitman, Lucy Diamond and Claire Pollard respectively.

Thomas Hardy was represented in his poems ‘Beany Cliff’ and ‘Midnight on the Great Western’.

Some of us recollected our schooldays when an extract from Browning’s ‘How They Brought The Good News from Ghent to Aix’ was read and we all rejoiced in Auden’s ’The Night Mail’ and reminisced about the film produced by the Post Office which features the poem.