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Saturday 13 October 2012

Celebration of Poetry

Our ‘Celebration of Poetry’, as promised in our publicity, was a wonderfully varied evening of poetry supplemented by music and storytelling with both local and published poets performing their work. More photos of the event can be seen by clicking here.

To set the scene, and before reading a selection of my own poems, I quoted from Malcolm Guite's Faith, Hope and Poetry:

“Shakespeare set poetry the comparatively modest task of ‘holding a mirror up to nature’, that is, helping us to see our society and ourselves more clearly, reflecting our known realities back to us. But sometimes (and very often in the works of Shakespeare), the mirror of poetry does more than reflect what we have already seen. Sometimes that mirror becomes a window, a window into the mystery which is both in and beyond nature, a ‘casement opening on perilous seas’. From that window sometimes shines a more than earthly light that suddenly transforms, transfigures all the earthly things it falls upon. Through that window, when it is opened for us by the poet’s art, we catch a glimpse of that ‘Beauty always ancient always new’, who made and kindled our imagination in the beginning and whose love draws us beyond the world.”

Jane Grell gave us Caribbean poetry, storytelling, Moses poems and a Hopi Indian prayer/poem. Jane was born and grew up on the island of Dominica in the Eastern Caribbean.  She started her teaching career in an all boys Comprehensive in Hackney, teaching French, before switching to teaching English to bilingual students in Waltham Forest. It was as a teacher of bilingual students that she discovered the power of storytelling. For her storytelling, Jane draws heavily from the African-Caribbean Oral Tradition of her childhood.  She has worked extensively as a poet and storyteller in teacher training establishments as well as primary and secondary schools in BritainShe was a teacher-secondee to BBC School Radio as an adviser on the multicultural content of its output.  While at the BBC, she also wrote and presented stories for schools' programmes. Jane has publications in Hawthorn Press, Scholastic and many poetry anthologies.

Malcolm Guite read work including 'My poetry is jamming your machine' and two of his O antiphons, before singing 'The Green Man' and 'Angels Unawares'. He ended with his recent iOde for his iPhone. Malcolm is a poet, a singer-songwriter, a priest, a chaplain, a teacher and an author. He plays in Cambridge rock band Mystery Train, and lectures widely in England and USA on poetry and theology. His collection of sonnets for the church year, Sounding the Seasons, is due to be published this December by Canterbury Press. Luci Shaw has said of him, ‘I recommend the work of Malcolm Guite, an English poet and Anglican priest who plumbs the depths of poetry and religious faith like a true metaphysical.’

Alan Hitching showed images of two pottery creations and shared the poems linked to these pieces. Alan is a poet, potter and priest. He says that poetry and pottery are like two languages for him. Words he has used all his life in poetry to express feelings and faith, the other language of clay he has only over the last 15 years since he was challenged to learn. Joy has come when the two languages speak on the same topic at the same time, expressing together his thoughts and feelings on subjects. 

Jenny Houghton gave us poems for each season. Jenny has been writing poetry since her teenage years, initially personal pieces. Then in response to an article in her church’s magazine in 1999, she submitted a short poem to a Christian publishing house, and was surprised but pleased when it was accepted for publication. Further submissions were regularly included in their poetry anthologies. Writing in a range of styles including verses, traditional rhyme and more abstract narrative, her work often includes wordplay and structural patterns. These occur instinctively as she has had no formal instruction in poetry composition. Her poems often reflect her Christian faith and she believes her ability is a true gift. Jenny first read one of her poems in public at a Good Friday service in 2011 but was initially concerned about sharing her work in this way. However her experience of performing in choirs, drama, dance, and creating craft work reminded her that no art form is truly complete without an audience to appreciate it!

Tim Cunningham gave us a selection of his poems, primarily drawn from his third collection entitled Kyrie. These are characterised by gentle humour and acute observation. Tim was born in Limerick in 1942 and has had a varied life history having worked for a brewery, in local government, with the National Coal Board and in education plus having lived in Limerick, Tipperary, Dublin, Trowbridge, London, Newark (Delaware), and, presently, Billericay. He has had four collections of his poetry published: Don Marcelino's Daughter (2001), Unequal Thirds (2006), Kyrie (2008), and most recently Seige, published to coincide with his 70th birthday and consisting of a selection of visceral, roots poems taken from his three previous selections with a sprinkling of new work. Adrian Mitchell has written that, 'Tim Cunningham's poems are as various and fascinating as the animals in Noah's Ark. He has a most musical ear, a keen eye and an open heart. His aim is true. He writes beautiful poems.'

Thanks from Kathryn Robinson and I, as organisers, to all those who took part and to St Paul's Woodford Bridge for hosting us. 


Van Morrison - Rave On John Donne.

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