HWS December Report – Special Guest Joan McGavin

Poetry can be found everywhere. Something Joan McGavin made quite clear in her presentation at this month’s Hampshire Writers’ Society meeting.

An assignment for the Creative Writing PHD, centring on the study of Phrenology, had her trawling through a rather large collection of death masks! The masks are the property of the Hampshire Cultural Trust and it is believed were owned by the surgeon at HM Winchester Prison whose father was Giles King Lyford; Jane Austen’s doctor during her final illness.

Pre-dating photography, some of these masks are the only remaining evidence of what the person looked like. They led Joan to question our everyday issues and, when borrowing one, to witness and note the effects it had on passers-by. The death masks often look so strange because the subjects have had their heads shaved so as to show the shape of the skull more clearly.

“With no hair, they tend to look even odder!” Joan says.

Still, when discussing poetry, we like to pigeonhole it.

Two of the masks inspired particular poems – the subjects both executed for murder. The first was used in an exhibition of the subject in Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum. The Second featured on a ‘poster presentation’ at an archaeology and anatomical sciences-run conference at the University of Southampton this year, called “Skeletons, Stories and Social Bodies”.

Enjoy and just before you go; a note from Joan: “Don’t have nightmares!”

Baby Face Death Masks
Even his name’s too cute,
too childish –
John Amy Bird Bell –
to suggest a murderer.
And here’s his death mask:
complete with eyelashes
and almost dimples,
especially on his right cheek;
the skull shaven
for the phrenologist’s hands.
I read somewhere
about “flaxen curls”.
He was fourteen years old.

It’s said he was brass-necked
throughout the trial,
admitted he’d stabbed
the boy a year younger
in woods near Rochester,
for the three half-crowns,
a shilling and sixpence
he was carrying home to his father.
John’s brother was look-out,
got the shilling and sixpence
as his share of the loot.

Even his name’s too
Looking hard at this
cherubic face,
the lips not quite beyond
a baby’s pouting,
the eyelids closed as if
in needed sleep,
I’m convinced that all
I would have wanted to do,
were he alive,
is give him a hug,
some bread and scrape
or a toy diabolo.

To see it you must cradle it up
and out of its bubble-wrap swaddling
into the room’s light

where you’ll compare the marks left
by damp or age to plaster become skin
broken out in a rash,
to lichen flowering over rocks

and wonder at the detail in the moulding:
eyelashes, facial hair,  evidence of how death
was met – the rope-mark that collars the neck.

Posed on its smooth, round plinth
where a name once was but now
a lighter-coloured patch marks the place,
the face remains anonymous.

You catch yourself glancing past,
see the person in the background
doing perfectly ordinary things

or you’ll start talking to it,
carry it round in your arms,
gash crimson onto its lips and line with kohl
its closed, blank eyes,

smear some life into it.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Poets and Their Poetry

Maura Dooley has published several collections of poetry, most recently Life Under MauraDooleyLifeUnderWaterWater and edited verse and essays including The Honey Gatherers: Love Poems and How Novelists Work.

Maggie Sawkins won the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2013 with Zones of Avoidance. Her two poetry collections are Charcot’s Pet and The Zig Zag Woman.MaggieSawkinsZigZag

Special Guests: Isabel Rogers, Hampshire Poet 2016 and Hugh Greasley, local poet and ceramicist.

Mingle and meet poets amongst many other writers on Tuesday 11 October 2016. The evening will incorporate a short AGM which will start at 7.15pm

P&G Wells Book Stall with books available for sale

Wine, soft drinks available for purchase from 7.00pm

Members and students free; guests £5

An Evening of Novels, Inspiration and Other Tales with Santa Montefiore


Report by David Eadsforth. 

Barbara Large welcomed everyone to the first talk of the new HWS season and said how pleased she was with the numbers of people who had turned up; and that we had a super night ahead.  Barbara welcomed Joan McGavin, the Hampshire poet, and Santa Montefiore, the novelist.

Joan spoke about the Winchester Poetry Festival, which is to take place between the 12th and the 14th of September.  Friday begins an exciting and varied programme that will feature Slam Dunk Hants, a student showcase, Hogwords, Hampshire poets now, and the main reading comprising Imtiaz Dharker, Matt Harvey, and Brian Patten.

Sep 14 Joan McGavin_1570Sunday will feature a city walking tour with sites of special interest, The Wilfred Owen International Poetry competition, and “Poets from Hampshire”, Edward Thomas.  Also, “Things being Various”, Christopher Reid on the poets craft.  There is a Commemorative Reading in Winchester College War Cloister, and the Main Reading will be Ros Barber and Jackie Kay.  There are also a number of workshops and competitions. Saturday will feature Young Voices; Zena Edwards and friends, “The Singing of the Scythe”, the best of World Poetry, “So Too Have The Doves Gone”, the poetry of conflict, and “Telling Tales, Patience Agbabi. There will also be “New Voices”, Liz Berry, Olivia McCannon, and Jacqueline Saphra, and “Those Timeless Things”, the poetry of John Arlott.  The main reading comprising David Constantine, Julia Copus, and Michael Longley.

Joan encouraged us all to try writing poetry, and offered a tip: if you are getting “poet’s block”, try writing some prose.  If getting “writer’s block”, try writing some poetry!

David Eadsforth then introduced Santa Montefiore:

Santa was born in Winchester and grew up in Dummer, Hampshire.  Due to her mother being Anglo-Argentinian, she was able to teach English in Argentina for a year before taking a degree in Spanish and Italian at Exeter University.  She went back to work in Buenos Aires for some years before returning to Britain and marrying historian Simon Sebag-Montefiore.  Her first novels were set in Argentina and Chile, but many other countries have now provided the settings for her books.

Sep 14 Santa Montefiore_1571Santa started by wishing everyone good evening and saying how delighted she was to see so many people.  She was not going to deliver a lecture about how to write, but would like to recount what had inspired her writing over the years.  Santa said that locations and settings were very important in her books. She found the greatest inspiration from the places she had visited.  Smells can be very evocative; Buenos Aires has wonderful scents from the flowers, and caramel from the sweet stalls – and diesel fumes from the buses.  Santa has visited everywhere she has written about, apart from Polperro, which was the one bit of Cornwall she couldn’t make, but she was able to construct a satisfactory picture from the internet and other references in the end.  (This was our secret, and we were not to let on…)

Santa started writing at school, where she created stories for her schoolmates. These were romantic, but were not drawn from life as the only specimens to hand were spotty schoolboys; not a very suitable model.  Later, however, she did manage to include one character from real life from her school, a schoolmaster who was Scottish but who affected an Italian accent.  One day, he invited Santa and a couple of her friends to his home for afternoon tea (unlikely to be allowed these days…), and on a tour of the house threw open the bathroom door to reveal the bidet, where, he announced proudly, he liked to “boil his botty”.  He did become a character in one of her books!  Another teacher, who was a very large lady, actually wanted to become a character in one of her books.  Santa obliged, and then worried about what the teacher’s reaction would be.  The teacher loved her fictional character so much that Santa wondered if she had actually recognised which she was.

Then there was Bernie, the family Saint Bernard, who would be let loose at the end of a garden party to herd the last of the visitors away.  On one occasion, a lady appeared to be indulging Bernie by letting him press his sticky jowls on her suede trousers.  However, when Bernie followed his “new found friend” around a corner he got a kicking for his pains.  A lesson for Santa; people who like animals are generally nicer than people who do not.  That lady turned up in a book as well, as did an early Argentinian boyfriend of Santa’s.  Argentinian men are supposed to be darkly good-looking and courteous, but this one was not.  A very controlling person, he would even check that Santa had used the soap after having visited the bathroom; the “soap-checker” also went into a book.

Sep 14 Santa Montefiore_1572The great thing about putting nasty people in books is that they think that they are so perfect that they never recognise themselves.  Santa has noted that people who have been scarred by life’s experiences will quite often have an unattractive persona, and it can take some effort to find a more likeable nature beneath.  Santa also liked older people, and the slightly eccentric views they often hold.  She hoped that such eccentricities were not dying out but might be constantly maintained by people who, as they age, grow less inhibited and less likely to continue to follow convention.  Santa said that her novels do, of course, introduce the views of her characters, which may or may not reflect her own views.  However, many people believe that a view expressed in a novel must reflect the view of the author, so care must be taken.

Writing at the same time as your husband can be problematical if both of you like to write to music.  Santa creates a playlist for each new book as it helps create moods and emotions.   Typically, this would be something wonderfully evocative of the location she is writing about.  At the same, “Ground Control to Major Tom” would be belting out from the next room.  Even though “Major Tom” may now be played through earphones, the problem has not gone away; her husband has started singing along to it – rather badly…

A noisy environment can be dispiriting.  At the time she and her husband lived in a flat, a yuppie couple lived in the one above, and would often put their washing machine on late in the evening.  One night, Santa’s husband decided to tackle them about it, so went out, in pyjamas and dressing gown, only to meet an elderly lady from another flat intent on doing the same.  They knocked on the door together and were confronted by their puzzled neighbour.  They explained that it was really too late to be running a noisy washing machine and Santa’s husband added that the offending machine was “right above their bedroom and they had a baby only one year old”.  Their neighbour’s eyes went from one to the other in growing incredulity…

Santa believes that the writing room should be a beautiful place to work; it should invite and inspire you, and for her this means flowers and candles etc.  Her advice is:  “Make your office your sanctuary – a room you long to get to every day”.  This will help you get on with the writing process.  Following the advice of her husband: “don’t get it right, get it written”, her method of working is to write the book from start to finish before revising; if you go back over what you have written and revise as you go, you will make appallingly slow progress.

Santa happened to meet Joanna Trollope about the time she had finished her first manuscript, at the age of twenty-five, and asked Joanna for advice.  “Put it in a drawer until you have had more experience of life.” was the reply; wise, undoubtedly, but not terribly welcome!  But Santa has indeed found that the older you get, the better you write.

After Santa had been published, a US book tour did not work out quite as planned.  On one occasion, Santa found herself in a bookstore in Chicago, ready to address an audience.  She was quite fired up by the news that Isabelle Allende had pulled a crowd of three hundred there a short while before, but when Santa entered the room there was only one man in a baseball cap, sitting at the back reading a book: and not one of hers.  But with her belief in the “stiff upper lip” she approached the man, quite prepared to devote the session to him.  Unfortunately, he was only there waiting for his family to return from shopping.  However, Santa did manage to have a chat with him long enough to sell him a signed copy of her book.  Lesson: Americans are only interested in big names.  However, this story says a lot about the kind of fortitude everyone needs to become a successful author!

Her book tour experiences are quite different in the Netherlands, where she is very well-liked and draws large audiences, and can almost feel like JK Rowling (if one ignores the difference in royalties…).

Santa then took a few questions.

  1. Does Santa relate to her own characters?

Yes, indeed, but she also writes about characters who she knows she won’t relate to. This is very difficult, but often quite necessary; and a particularly challenging part of writing fiction.

  1. What is her production target?

Santa is happy with writing one book per year.  She has to maintain this schedule to satisfy the publisher, and on completion of a book often wonders if she can write another – but she has always managed to do this so far!  If she ever found that she could not keep up with the demands of writing, then she would probably give up.

When in the early stages, daily progress will be 1-2,000 words.  In the later stages, she will be writing up to 5,000 words per day; once the narrative has begun to progress, the writing comes easier.  Santa has a disciplined writing year.  She only writes in term-time, and hands her completed manuscript to her publisher in July, just as last year’s book is being published in hardback.  She takes the summer off then, in September, she goes through her editor’s notes for her finished book, and makes the necessary changes.  During this time she will begin planning for her next book, which she starts writing in January, the manuscript being ready for the July deadline.

  1. What would Santa liked to have been if she hadn’t become a writer?

A singer: recalling her time in Argentina, she projected herself as singing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” from the balcony of the Shakespeare Room where we were all sitting.  And ultimately . . . a teacher – which was the right thing to say as the questioner was herself a teacher!  Both Santa and her questioner were keen to emphasize how much there is a ‘performance’ element to teaching, and to writing and public speaking as well.

  1. Any advice on how to end a book?

Santa acknowledged that endings are often very difficult.  But, as a rule of thumb, if you find you’re getting bored with the story or book you’re writing it’s best to end things quickly (or even move on to another project).  This discussion of book endings was a natural place at which to bring the Q&A part of the evening to a close. Santa rounded everything off by telling one last story – a rather explicit, but highly amusing, story – about the difficulty of getting some anatomical details right when writing about the opposite sex . . .

To conclude the evening, Barbara thanked everyone for coming and invited them to “keep writing” and to “bring a fellow writer” next time.  In October, we would have Andy McDermott, the thriller writer, so it would be worth coming back.

April Competition Winners 2014

Report by Celia Livesey

‘Write a Maximum of 20 Lines’ – Blank Verse

Brian Evans-Jones works as a full-time lecturer of creative writing, teaching both for Winchester University and the Open University, and has held many writing workshops at the Discovery Centres in Winchester and Gosport.

Brian of course is no stranger to the HWS. He was a guest speaker in April 2012 when he described his work as the Hampshire Poet Laureate for 2012. During his term of office he developed the popular ‘Writing Hampshire’ website, mapping the county through poetry.

Brian’s Adjudication:

Before Brian gave his adjudication, he read aloud Hazel Donnelly’s entry for April as a tribute to a very talented writer who will be greatly missed. Those members and friends who wish to give donations to Asthma UK can find details on this blog page.

The first criterion Brian used to judge the entries was whether they were true blank verse. Blank verse is poetry written in regular metrical but unrhymed lines, almost always iambic pentameters. Unfortunately, most of the entrants didn’t follow the brief. Brian said that he had to put those that did follow the guidelines ahead of the rest.

Clive & Sue
Clive & Sue

1st Prize: Sue Spiers, Wiping the Slate Blank

This poem builds steadily to a really excellent ending – a final stanza that rises and rises in quality to a knock-out image in the last line. The impression left by just that stanza was easily enough to make it a strong contender, but it also does the technical side of blank verse well, and has plenty of memorable lines along the way.

So can you tell me what went through your mind

about the crash that crushed your cranium

at eighty miles per hour into a wall?

What made you risk your life and loss of limb?

A surgeon drilled the holes to make some space

for swollen tissue, limbic gland damage

that makes remembering the time too hard

and leads to rage or disruptive changes.

Medulla responses keep heart and lungs

in rhythm. Motor skills; finger to thumb,

some words to name your wife and basic needs.

The slow recovery of smile and frown

at appropriate times as you discern

correct responses. Wonder how you look

to other patients, do the scars stand out?

The ones you hold inside and can’t recall.

In dreams you grasp what consciousness restrains.

The man who hovers in the corridor;

that want-of-death was stronger than her love,

than frontal lobe perception of her faith.

2nd Prize: Sue Spiers, (pseudonym Lillian White) The Everywhere Woman

Although the iambic metre sometimes wobbles in this poem, the quality of the observation and the images are very good. The experience the woman is sketched out with precision and moving understatement.

She’s seen and unseen, an old crumble-sac

who everyone thinks they know but never

saw before. Her face is familiar

and easily forgotten. The white hair –

a trademark nobody recognises.

More passive to bland into the background

behind the loud and strident women who

demand attention, she sits in her skin,

occasionally smiling and nodding,

listening intently to the voices

rising above her own mouse-beige whisper.

She remains mute for her own amusement,

content not to contend ‘don’t I know you?’

One minute here then gone like a shadow

at midday whose shape you’re sure you recall

but can’t bring to mind, an outline that’s made

of mist. She will never be missed or mourned

for long but thought of as a dear old kind

you often met but can’t remember when;

the everywhere woman without a name.

3rd Prize: Clive Johnson, The Dancing Floor

This was the best entry in terms of getting the blank verse technically right. It presents a nightmare dance with images that are fun to decode.

Before a conflict that would scar me and

Destroy so many lives, I dreamed each year

I entered different rooms until I reached

The last, a fearful place of sacrifice

As yet unknown to me, inside a hall,

A dancing floor where flappers and their beaux,

The damaged of the first war and their friends

Unheedful of the next, tripped to a beat

That might have been a devil’s dance, the make-

Up on the women’s faces devils’ masks

That stirred in some a superstitious awe.

The partnering – a frantic sport to vie

For men among the suitors that were left –

Might be a satyr’s ritual to them.

It would enrage their forebears and provoke

A band of witchfinders to prick our skins.

Instead, a new and heartless creed beset

Us with its notions of normality.

We caught a fever in that long weekend

That spread from age to age to addle us.

Highly Commended: Jenny McRobert, Quill

This poem is a sensitive interpretation of Jane Austen’s craft. Its best images, such as the ‘corseted words’, are surprising at first but then come to feel ‘right’.

Highly Commended: Rebecca Lyon, Fossils

I like the understatement and restraint in this poem. It gives the feeling that beneath the apparently simple statements of each line, something of much greater significance in hidden, like the fossils themselves.


The prizes were copies of Fleur Adcock’s poetry, together with a signed Certificate of Adjudication.

In Conclusion: The competition secretary, Jim Livesey thanked Brian for the splendid job he did in adjudicating the April entries and presented him with a small token of our thanks.

Poets: Fleur Adcock and Julian Stannard

Report by David Easforth.

Barbara Large opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and reminding us that the purpose of the HWS was for all of us to learn to write to ‘industry standard’.  Our membership was growing and now included many people from outside Hampshire, in fact from West Sussex to Dorset.

Barbara welcomed Fleur Adcock and Julian Stannard, the speakers for the evening, and then introduced Dr Stephen Wilson, Trustee of the Poetry Society, and Brian Evans-Jones, who was to be the competition adjudicator for the evening.  Barbara then invited Judith Heneghan to talk for a few moments about the upcoming Writers’ Festival.  Judith outlined the main schedule, which would comprise a series of workshops, talks, and courses over the period of the festival: Friday to Sunday, 20-22 June, 2014.  There would be opportunities for one-to-ones with literary agents and publishers, and Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat, would be the keynote speaker.  Free events would include two book launches on the Friday, and there would be an “Open Mike” session where new work could be introduced.  On the Friday, poet Rhian Edwards would be present, as would Sathnam Sanghera.  There would be many other literary figures attending, including Julian Stannard on the Sunday.  She reminded everyone that full information could be obtained from the festival website: www.writersfestival.co.uk.

Barbara then announced two very sad events, the deaths of Keith Bennett and Hazel Donnelly.

Keith had been a great champion of young writer’s poetry, and had managed the Tesco-sponsored National Poetry Day competition, which had resulted in 850 entries from the three age groups: 6-11, 12-15, and 16-18.  Keith had written comments to the entrants on all 850 entries, which had indicated his enthusiasm and commitment to the event.  Keith, a probation officer by profession, had passed away at his desk.  All contributions will go to the British Heart Foundation.

Hazel had been a great supporter of the HWS and sadly had passed away after suffering an asthma attack.  Hazel had won several of the monthly competitions and, as a tribute, Brian would read her entry for April.

Dr Stephen Boyce then spoke about the Winchester Poetry Festival.  Stephen explained that he came to poetry late in life, but had now edited two collections of poetry which were being published by Arrowhead Press.  The Winchester Poetry Festival had been the brainchild of a group of poetry enthusiasts who had noted that while there were a number of poetry festivals in Britain; St. Andrews, Ledbury, Aldburgh, the “south coast” was not represented.  Thus the Winchester Poetry Festival had been born, and would take place 12-14th September, 2014 at the Discovery Centre.  The group of trustees had raised £40k.  There would be three strands: WWI, Poets with a Hampshire connection, and contemporary poetry.  Stephen gave examples of some of the activities; Patience Agbabi, author of a modern rewrite of the Canterbury Tales would be present on the Friday, and there would be a poetry slam.  On the Sunday there would be a commemorative reading of WWI poetry, with poems from Britain, France, Germany, and Russia.  On the 14th of May, there would be a big preview event at the Discovery Centre, and the band “Epic” would perform three thousand years of poetry in sixty minutes.  The aim is to make the festival a biennial event.  Full details are to be found at www.winchesterpoetryfestival.org.

Fleur and Julian were then introduced, and in turn read a number of their works, which were under the heading of “Travels in Poetry”.  Fleur, bravely continuing despite being afflicted by a bit of a cough, read a number of poems which reflected her personal experiences. “The Saucer” was a poem about sighting a flying saucer which she had started and then returned to some years later. “Alumni Notes” was a poem addressed to a friend, and “Charon” asked where the ferryman was when he was most needed. Fleur took a well-earned break and Julian took over.

Julian Stannard & Fleur Adcock
Julian Stannard & Fleur Adcock

Julian began with a poem to his first father-in-law, Bruno, “Bruno Cuts My Hair In A Place Called Ether” which recalled Bruno’s talent as a barber. “Horizontal” made the remarkable link between the French poet Rimbaud and a green wheelie bin. “September 1939” about the day war broke out, “I’m Homesick for Being Homesick”, about dressing up in an assortment of hand-me-downs before taking the dogs for a walk.  “The Blessing of the Octopus at Lerici” recalled Julian’s time spent on Genoa. There were also poems about lunch: “Lunch with Margot and Tinker”, “Lunch with Alex and Mildred”, and even “Lunch with Fleur”.

Fleur then returned to read “The Royal Visit” about the royal visit to New Zealand she witnessed in 1953, and “Slaters”: an interesting species of arthropod.  At this point, Gary took over to handle questions from the attendees.  There was, naturally, interest in how Fleur started her career in poetry, and she replied that she had always been fascinated by poetry from a young age, and had started writing in earnest by the time she reached adolescence.  The more she read, the more she wrote.  The question was also asked as to what time of day was the most productive for her, to which the answer was early morning or late at night; being half asleep seemed to trigger the creative process.  In answer to the same question, Julian remarked that inspiration always occurred at a time when he was not carrying a notebook.  However, sparks often began to strike when in conversation.

The question came up as to what would poetry be like in two thousand years, to which Fleur replied you could also ask what it would be like in ten years. In answer to the question “Do you follow a theme?” Fleur’s reply was yes; the years her father spent running a farm in New Zealand. This had inspired a recent collection which was now with the publisher. And if Fleur was “inspired by places she had lived in” what did she think of modern Britain? Fleur replied that some thoughts were not publishable! Julian also responded to the question, and said that living in Southampton provided most inspiration; especially Shirley High Street, where gems such as a goat butcher and 1970s pubs were to be found, with the distinct possibility that, at one end, the end of the world was likely to be encountered.  Brian asked Julian if place names meant something just to him or were they also intended to affect the reader.  Julian replied that it was always nice to mention place names; very self-satisfying, and the readers seemed to like it.

Fleur was asked if writing poetry was natural, or did she have to work at it.  Fleur replied that the more she did the more easily it came; one was always thinking and refining.  To finish the session, Julian read Fleur’s “Smokers for Celibacy”, an Ogden Nash’ish appraisal of sex which pretty well brought the house down.

Barbara closed with some comments about the next two meetings; James Wills, literary agent, in May; and would people please email their questions for James in advance so that as much material could be made available for him prior to the event?  Lady Carnarvon would be the speaker in June, where the venue would be Chawton House, and the usual strawberries and cream would be available, as would an area for people to bring their own picnics.  Finally, Brian mentioned that he had a workshop in plan for Saturday the 26th of April, 10.00 to 16.00, for which there were still places.

Funeral of Hazel Sara Donnelly

Family flowers only please, but donations in Hazel’s memory to ‘Asthma UK’ would be gratefully accepted.

Links to a gift aid form and to Asthma UK can be found below:

If donating cash or by cheque, please consider including a Gift Aid form available on this link: http://search2.hmrc.gov.uk/kb5/hmrc/forms/view.page?record=qcUc55GzefQ&formId=734

Alternatively, if you wish to do this online and therefore make the Gift Aid element slightly easier, please visit this link:  http://www.asthma.org.uk/Pages/Appeal/#

November Competition Winners 2013

‘Write a Soliloquy for a Dramatic Character in Blank Verse – up to 20 lines’

We were pleased to welcome our adjudicator Dr Mark Rutter, a lecturer at the University of Winchester. Mark is no stranger to the HWS: founder members might remember him as one of the ‘Three Poets at Work’ at the December 2011 meeting. As well as being a poet he is active as a visual artist and fiction writer, and also a member of the British Haiku Society and the Haiku Society of America.

Mark’s Adjudication:

1st Prize: Celia Livesey (Pseudonym Joanne Ward) Soliloquy of One of the Trolls from The Hobbit

‘I enjoyed the use of an unconventional, “unpoetic” voice in this poem. A lively and original poem.’

I could’ve been anyfink – yes I could,

There’s loads of jobs an’ fings at wot I’m good.

I could’ve been a chef; it’s not my fault

They don’t like stew with slugs and lots of salt.

I could’ve been Pri-minister, but then

I’d ’ave to learn to write and spell – an’ it’s

All very well, but with snot on my chin

My image was wrong – I’m not even thin!

It’s tasty though, snot is, so I don’t care,

But I’ve got a feelin’ that life ain’t fair.

I tried to be an astro-nut, they sent

Me into space, but the helmet gave me

Allergies – an’ bumps all over me face.

I could make it big on telly, but I’ve

Always bin too smelly – but trolls can dream.

Now rooted to the spot, and turned to stone,

Far from the Misty Mountains, far from home,

I curse that Bilbo Baggins, he really

Is to blame, for since the sunshine hit me

I’ve never been the same. An’ that’s a fact!

2nd Prize: Robert Brydges Lines from 1594

‘I liked the way the poem managed to pack in a great deal of literary history and speculation about authorship without sounding like an essay. The rhythm never becomes bogged down and sounds convincingly like a voice.’

Wm. Sh: Blank verse, you say? I’ve had a go. My lines

Plod carthorse-like uphill: ka-PLONK-ka-PLONK.

But Marlowe’s soared! We heard his Tamburlaine,

In High Astounding Terms, defy the gods!

(He went to Cambridge, Kit did – not like me).

He’d had a string of hits, then – odd, this was –

He asked to ghost some Histories in my name.

Of course I see it now: he’d always planned

To ‘die’ and go abroad! Well, can’t complain;

I take the credit, so I keep the cash.

His Muse was killed in Deptford though, and now

He’s mostly doing chick-lit – that and farce.

He’s gone from writing Faustus and The Jew

To The Comedy of Errors and The Shrew!

Love’s Labours Lost! I ask you! Poppycock.

The man has lost his mojo. So perhaps

The brand of ‘Shakespeare’ needs another ghost?

Like Thomas Kyd? Or better still – George Peele!

A butcher’s feast of vengeance, rape and blood;

Say –Titus, for a title? That’ll do.

3rd Prize: Gwen Hobbis Dionysus Ponders the Cuts

‘This just struck me as an original take on the subject of the cuts, both amusing and to the point.’

I would never have believed it. The government’s last decree

on austerity. It applies to us deities too. Cuts all round.

I, Dionysus, God of wine, how can I make cuts? See,

junkets, festivals, civilization, happy eternal youth,

perpetual raving and more. It’s here in my job description.

I scarcely can make merry on vin ordinaire or breakfast tea.

And then there’s Zeus with his mighty thunderous boilings,

and Poseidon too. Must he also curb his awesome rages?

Are their displays to be confined to blustery showers

and volcanoes which erupt in well controlled displays?

Ares, God of manly courage, war and bloodlust,

Will his tumult shrink to mere argument and fracas?

As for Apollo, God of archery and music, I trust he won’t be asked

to cope with only peashooter and maracas.

Pluto, God of this world’s hidden wealth, he should be aware

the underworld of darkness is at risk.

And Hera, Queen of marriage, women, childbirth, must reject

pressure to downsize to hasty assignations or one night stands.

And so Zeus, King of Gods, I hope he’ll tell them ‘Nuts, it’s mere mortals,

the little folk, they are the ones who always get the cuts.’


Highly Commended: Sally Russell Tom’s Turmoil

Highly Commended: Sally Russell Demise of a Family Man


The prizes were signed copies by Ros Barber of The Marlowe Papers, and a Certificate of Adjudication signed by Mark Rutter.


In Conclusion: Our thanks to Mark for his adjudication – very much appreciated by the winners, and to all our contestants, 19 competition entries received in all – a tremendous response.

An Evening with Christopher Reid and Julian Stannard

Report by Carole Hastings

Edward Fennel from the Hyde900 group was the special guest at this, the 8th event in our ten event programme. He invited everyone to join six The Art of Conversation discussion evenings starting on April 17 when visual artist Anna Cady is interviewed by Jenny Cuffe [File on Four – BBC Radio]. For details of programme and other Hyde 900 news.

David Eadsforth introduced our main speakers: Christopher Reid poetry writer and publisher. He won the Costa Best Book of the Year 2009, the only poet to win this prize other than Seamus Heaney, for his anthology, A Scattering, a monument to his late wife Lucinda. Julian Stannard poet and tutor at the University of Winchester shared the platform.

We enjoyed a number of readings. The first from Julian were set in Genoa where he lived for some time and evoked the atmosphere, deftly slicing Italian into the English. They ranged from the birth of his son, walking around Genoa and a poem about a woman he no longer loves, The Parrots of the Villa Gruber Discover Lapis Lazuli, also the name of his anthology. We listened to lunches, walked along the Burlington Arcade and sympathised with his need for a cigarette alone in the mountains with just a dog for company.

Christopher praised Julian for his comic and voluptuous spirit. He said generally his own poems were a versified, rather than a prosaic, response to grief, loss and unhappiness.A Scattering was written in three sections: the first whilst his wife was dying, the second after his wife’s death in a hospice and the final third, a widower’s dozen. He read Songbook, Dream and Afterlife and the audience were moved. He then read from his Nonsense anthology a piece about his character Professor Winterthorn – a man in search of some relief from his grief at a conference with an old student.

Julian started writing poetry as a teenager and “didn’t grow out of it” and Christopher started at eight years old inspired by light verse in The Pick of Punch 1951. Both writers prefer verse and feel that it seizes you with excellence and surprise whilst novels often don’t. Poetry gives you something to hang onto that prose cannot provide.

Christopher edits his poems as he writes and doesn’t revisit at a later date. When building an anthology he uses a yardstick of Ted Hughes [whose letters he has edited & published] which is the book needs to reach resolution and lead you to the last few poems. He does not tailor the poems themselves but uses this to determine what goes in and what order.

Brian Evan-Jones commented that Julian seems to weave humour into his work with ease and asked if he found it easy to do. Christopher thought it was more to do with Julian’s picaresque view of the world. Julian thought it was odd as he described himself as “quite a miserable bugger”!

Both poets found that publishing validated their work and Julian confessed that often he describes himself as a teacher rather than a poet as many people consider the arts as indulgent.

As young writers they were heavily influenced by other poets. Christopher: Thomas, Sitwell, Stephens and Hopkins. Julian: TS Eliot – The Wasteland, Lowell – Life Studies and Hoffman’s Acrimony.

Dr Gary Farnell lead everyone’s appreciation of a magical evening.

December Competition Winners 2011

Competition were Celia Livesey (1st), Lynda Murphy (2nd), Gill Hollands (3rd)

Celia’s winning carol to the tune of We three Kings

A Christmas Nightmare.

I love Christmas – what a mistake!

Too much turkey and too much cake

On line shopping – eyeballs a-popping

Must go and have a break

O Granddad’s scoffed his paper hat

Bloke next door has killed the cat

I’m not joking – Dad’s back smoking

Mum hates that she’s getting fat

Carol singers call at the door

Dim the lights – then dive to the floor

Baby’s crying – no denying – that

We’re not here anymore

O double Eastenders every night

Stars of ‘Strictly’ shining bright

Fill your stocking – nothing shocking

You might give the kids a fright

Nan is sick she’s been on the juice

Sister Susie’s out on the loose

My head’s spinning – think I’m winning – but

Now Granddad’s turning puce

O spent the night at A & E

Boyfriend dumped me after tea

Lost all feeling – head is reeling

Dad’s just torched the Christmas tree.

Three Poets at Work Peter Dixon, Dr.Tom Masters and Mark Rutter

Review of 13th December Meeting of the Hampshire Writers’ Society

Three Poets at Work

Peter Dixon, Dr.Tom Masters and Mark Rutter


HWS member, Celia Livesey has written about the evening:

My husband and I were at the December meeting of the HWS featuring Three Poets at Work and we enjoyed a wonderful evening. In fact each meeting has been amazing and thoroughly enjoyable in a variety of ways.

The first poet to speak was Peter Dixon. He kept everyone enthralled with an energetic performance encouraging us to write.

‘Write about anything,’ he urged. ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s trivia. You don’t have to write about nature or leaves – write about a cupboard or anything, but just write.’

He went on to give a reading of the ‘Booster Boys’, a funny, yet poignant poem evoking memories of a time long past.

Tom Masters was the next up to speak. At first, during his introduction, I didn’t think I was going to be able to follow or keep up with the many ideas and concepts that darted backwards and forwards through his agile mind.

And then he started the reading. I was blown away. His performance was mesmerising. At the end I asked him if he had considered introducing stage performances of his work and he asked me if I knew of any actors. I can only say that I don’t know of any actor, who would be able to do more justice to this work, than the performance given by Tom Masters, himself. I would like to see a CD produced to be sold together with his book ‘Silence’.

Mark Rutter completed the evening with readings from a selection of his poems, some finished and also some work in progress. Again, a wonderful performance using poetry to weave stories about feelings and places.

What struck me most was that each poet appeared poles apart in style, performance and disposition. And yet there was a commonality between them. Each poet captured the poignancy of life and of the soul.

Many thanks to HWS for all the hard work, it really is worth it. We are looking forward to the January meeting with Beverley Birch.
Best wishes,

Celia Livesey.