Mid October diary by Sue Wallace-Shaddad
My blog earlier in October focused on coastlines and place and ‘Unpacking a sense of place’ is the topic of a workshop I am running in Aldeburgh on 4th November for Poetry in Aldeburgh. I am also involved in organising Suffolk Poetry Society’s launch of its 70th anniversary anthology later that day (which will also be livestreamed) and will be reading some poems from the anthology along with other poets. So, at the moment I am very busy preparing for both of those events. Luke Wright, a patron of Suffolk Poetry Society, is doing a reading at the John Peel Centre, Stowmarket, on 22nd October. It should be a great night, billed as the Society’s Big Birthday Bash, open to the public and members.
I have just come back from a weekend in Cornwall and was very lucky with the weather. It is so relaxing to look out to sea and hear the waves. I was staying with family at St Agnes on the north coast and visited nearby beaches and several National Trust gardens. On the way back to Suffolk, I stopped in Launceston to have a look round. I walked down the narrow lane to Charles Causley’s house, ‘Cyprus Well’ and admired the view he would have had.
This week I went down to London to hear a reading by four poets at the Vagina Museum, not a museum I have visited before. I thought it would be a good chance to network as one of my pamphlet manuscripts is on the subject of hysterectomy, a topic I feel is not written about, unlike cancer. Joanna Ingham who organised the event, has written about treatment for an ovarian cyst (Ovarium, Emma Press, 2022).
One of the matters I am turning over in my mind is the need to use a more varied range of poetic forms so as to develop and show the mastery of technical skill. I tend to write free verse in regular stanzas, although I have also written specula (mirror poems), the odd sonnet, ghazal and villanelle. These poems do take me longer to write so I will have to set aside more time. I attended a thought-provoking session with Glyn Maxwell where we analysed different poems and challenged decisions about choices of form. The use of white space has also always been fascinating and I could be more adventurous. I enjoyed Zoom readings this week by Sarah Doyle and Sarah Wescott for the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, which included great examples of poems embracing white space.
I will end this diary with an extract from ‘At the Witchcraft Museum’, a new poem by Helen Ivory, who recently went on a research trip to Cornwall, including a visit to the museum in Bocastle:
Folk tarry round the poppets,
the pin-jabbed wax unfortunates –
receptacles for ill-wishing
who’ve carried grief inside
their tallow bodies
for perhaps a hundred years.
Helen’s next collection ‘How to Construct a Witch’ is due out with Bloodaxe Books in 2024.
Happy preparations for Halloween! Here is a rather spooky photo I took in the churchyard in St Agnes.
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