I was introduced to poetry during my early schooldays by a ferocious teacher who read William Blake’s ‘The Tiger’ with such power and conviction that I was utterly overwhelmed. Then came ballads, the poetry of Walter de la Mare and ‘A Child’s Garland Of Verses’ by Robert Louis Stevenson.
After this early flush of enthusiasm, poetry became something you had to learn by heart for homework but I loved reading Shakespeare and Wordsworth when I was older.
Many years later, when I retired from my job as an English teacher, I tried to write poetry, tutored by Matthew Sweeney and Maurice Riordan who put up with all my blunders and excesses. There was always a such a gulf between the poem I wanted to write and the one I produced. Things gradually improved, but what a long time it took!
I must have joined the SPC shortly after the Centenary Celebrations and enjoyed ferreting out poems to bring to the meetings and found myself in good company. I never imagined then that I would one day take on the Presidency having always considered myself something of a ‘backroom girl.’
I continue to write – rather slowly – and to read poetry aloud and it is the pleasure of my life.
If there was a problem with this it was being ‘spoilt for choice.’ All the better, so far as the meeting was concerned, because people avoided the obvious and this made for a very interesting and varied bill of fare. Not all of the poems of course were about paintings or sculptures There were at least two about photography and two poems by our own Isabel Bermudez (aka Turvey) were read, reproduced on a calendar illustrated by her artist husband.
Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Standing Female Nude
One member teamed Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Standing Female Nude’ with ‘The Women of Rubens’ by Wislawa Szymborska. Another member reminded us that R. S. Thomas, who is normally associated with religious poetry, had written a poem about Cezanne’s painting of card players. There was a poem about dancing by none other than Ninette de Valois and one of the starting poems was ‘Bohemia’ by Dorothy Parker who cocked a snook at all things artistic.
These were poems we were all eager to share. Art books were brought and displayed and it was a case of seventeen different minds being brought to bear on how poets have responded to the visual arts
It has already been mentioned that Nola won this year’s Ripley Poetry Prize. Here’s the poem.
Where were you?
It came unbidden into homes worldwide
of anyone who happened to be switched on:
the motorcade as it wound its way
down Elm Street by the Book Depository.
In Jesmond it stopped short, a Friday afternoon
at the deflating end of day when
little air was left in the balloon –
enough to cook some supper, fish to fry,
wine to uncork and then sprawl on a sofa
to watch grainy footage of World War 1.
But long before we got to that there was
a scream, a girl, an Aussie cry –
raw as a dingo caught in an iron trap
icing blood in our veins, riveting feet –
howled without words or tears
the purest wail we’d ever heard
and yes, the President was dead.
We were sorry to lose Muriel as a member but happy that she is moving close to her family who own property in Ireland. Doubtless we will hear about the new life she she is so looking forward to.
Muriel on the left.
Muriel has been indefatigable in her organization of the tea rota and has taken an enthusiastic part in readings at care homes and other venues. Last summer she took some of us round Westminster Cathedral where she acted as a guide.
We shall miss Muriel for her cheerfulness and the active part she played at Committee meetings when she was Treasurer. It was owing to Muriel that we had a Poetry Cup to present to the winner of a poetry competition at St. Olaves School.
On leaving Muriel donated a pale blue glass tankard engraved with the Kentish horse, perhaps to be used as a future prize.
Three meetings have been held since the end of February including our AGM on March 14th. This was particularly well attended and conformed to the usual format of Officers’ reports and the election of a committee. As Diane Chorley had come to the end of her three year term as President, Ruth Smith, the former Vice President, was inaugurated to take over that role. Nola Turner became Vice President in her place. Jane Knight took over from Muriel Letman as Treasurer and Isabel Turvey took over from Mavis Robinson as Secretary. The Membership Secretary, Christine Pope, has kept the office and told us that although we have lost members for various reasons we have acquired new ones and our total membership remains the same. We were very pleased to have a full committee and grateful to those who had already served.
Special thanks and a gift was given to Diane Chorley for all her efforts on our behalf with appreciation given for her gift of instantly connecting with people.
After the meeting, Jim Lord from the Avenues Group addressed the Circle. The Avenues assists people with learning disabilities or who have other complex needs. Two of us had already volunteered to help on a short project and one member also offered her services.
Isabel’s first full collection was well and truly launched at a well-attended event on Sat. Oct. 1st at The Blue Anchor, Hammersmith. Several members of the SPC were there to hear Isabel read in an upstairs room with views of the river.
Isabel’s publisher, David Pearman, said a few words. He reminisced about how he had first met Isabel at an event connected with Agenda poetry Magazine, describing her as ‘an interesting woman.’ Isabel subsequently sent him her manuscript which must have impressed him greatly as he had cut down his activities to publish only the work of poets already well known to him. He praised Isabel’s knack of catching the moment and getting to the kernel of things.
Isabel read just a few poems and even before she read people had her book in their hands. Simon ought to be mentioned for his amusing introduction and general bustling around to help things run smoothly. It was a great event and we are very proud of her. Many members have subsequently bought Isabel’s book with extra copies for friends.