Sunday, 31 March 2013

Slightly sideways

In my slightly sideways imagination my ‘bucket’ of creative ideas is a large stone jar, the kind my grandmother used for preserving fruit, or more often vegetables.

When I think of a new idea for a poem or story I mentally drop it in the jar, so it doesn’t get lost or forgotten and it is always there when I go back to it.

I have been ensuring that I chuck many new ideas into that jar for the last couple of weeks – ever since I signed up to write a poem a day through April, which is National Poetry Writing Month.

There is so much to write! Running out of ideas will not be a problem. Keeping up with the new ones could be. I may start a poem each day, but almost none of them will be finished this month.

The ones that do get somewhere close to the end of the process, and may get posted here, will be those I pull from the drawer – that’s the place where the first, second, third and, oh, numberless drafts live until they move into the rewriting, cleaning up, cut, cut, cutting phase and maybe finally I will let them go out into the world.

Ideas on the go include some new work on ‘place’. I am not that interested in things to do with time, the present moment is the thing; it is always now, after all. But my work is often rooted in a place. The coast and country of west Wales and Somerset are big ones for me. I have it in mind to add something from Cwm Du during this month, and from Mwnt. They will join Llangrannog, Poppit, Patch, Penbryn (many), Wells, Glastonbury, the Somerset Levels and others in the folder called ‘Places’. They are not directly about those places, of course, rather about the feelings brought to mind while there.

There is some more politics to come too – no shortage of stuff to get angry about is there.

And more ‘painting poetry’ is on the way  -- some responses to art on show in some of our local galleries. If I get stuck in this one, I shall write poetry inspired by some of the paintings in my home.

If I am still stuck I shall look out of the window and write from what I see.

Good luck to all my fellow poets who are taking on this challenge. May this be a wonderful creative time. Let the journey begin.

To see and follow others who have joined, go here:

Friday, 22 March 2013

A poem a day...

One week to go......

I have signed up to write a poem a day throughout April – am I mad?

Possibly, but what a challenge this is going to be!

April is National Poetry Writing Month and other writers who are daft enough to give this a go can check it out here:

It’s all about taking part and many of the participants will be posting their work on their related websites.

In the last couple of days I have been practising and managed to write two poems in two days. They are quite long ones too, so this seems like a good start.

I am thinking about my approach to this challenge in the run-up. Will I stay random and just write what comes into my head each day?

Or will I decide on a theme? I could use the month as a project to concentrate on an area of my poetry writing that needs to develop – like I find it hard to write ‘happy’ stuff. Maybe I need to practice that…

Dreams can be a good source of material and I have never been good at remembering mine. Maybe I could work on that…

And I am not writing as much political poetry as I would like. There is certainly plenty out there to get angry about… So maybe more of that.

And there are gaps in my fledgling collection that I need to fill...

Whatever I decide, by the end of April there should be a load of work in the bucket, ready to edit over the coming months.

I will post updates on here through the month. I hope that I will have some poetry to put up, but sometimes, I may just write (rant?!) about the process and how it is going.

And I’ll be following many of the others who join the journey.

It’s going to be a busy -- and creative -- month.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

How would we know ourselves without our stories and songs?

At Glastonbury Abbey
A new story about Arthur, first King of all Britain, brings news from Wales about the whereabouts of the great King's grave.
‘The Bardic Monk – and the Grave of King Arthur’ is the latest novel from Cardigan-based writer Liz Whittaker.

It takes the reader on a journey through medieval Wales – and to Glastonbury – in search of the final resting place of Arthur.

This is a tale both of the stories and of the storytellers and recorders of 900 years ago, yet it has strong contemporary appeal.
The novel is about journeys – physical, personal and spiritual – and it is has magic and miracles to engage us on the way.

The tale begins with Walter Map, envoy to Henry II of England, who waits impatiently and uncomfortably for the arrival of his King at St Davids.

Map appeared as narrator in Liz’s earlier novel, ‘A Court in Splendour’, in which the comings and goings around Cardigan Castle were brought alive in the story of the first Eisteddfod. It is a pleasure to have him back again in this new work, and happily, he is just as gloriously pompous as he was before.

Henry II is travelling to west Wales to meet with a monk of no name, a small man both in stature and rank, who he hopes can help him to discover the final resting place of his hero ancestor, King Arthur.

The tale grows and develops new layers with the addition of the voice of the young Bardic Monk, who relates the story of Caradog, whose blessings brought miracles to many; and who passed to the little man the secret of the resting place of Arthur and Guinevere.

There is a sense of the fairy tale, but real folk and their chronicles are strongly interwoven into this yarn. The narrative of the importance of the small man in great affairs is given added spice by the conflict we witness between the little monk and Walter Map every time they meet.  Tension is created by the contrast between the self-important Map and the pious little monk and Map’s attempts at humility bring a wonderful irony. This is the art of storytelling at its best

As the herbalist who tends the Lord Rhys and the little monk tells us, we must cherish the Bardic Monks, for: ‘They are the beating heart of our land. How would we know ourselves without our stories and our songs?’ How would we, indeed.

* ‘The Bardic Monk and the Grave of King Arthur’, by Liz Whittaker, published by Llanerch Press Ltd. On sale now at bookshops, £10. also available from:

Monday, 4 March 2013

Morning work, early Spring

early morning at the kennels....

At the top of the hill I stand,

stare at the distant Preseli top,

watch the sun beat the frost into

a retreat of white shadows, while

warm muzzles sniff around my hands,

soft whiskers nuzzle …. tails wag.

I can hear the geese chattering

on the lake in the valley below,

the buzzard calls awake nearby …

fat catkins sway in the sunlight.

Later, when all have been out,

I listen to the last dogs finish their morning meal

while I watch the bullfinch in his majestic coat

preening in a nearby tree.

The robin waits for titbits,

the blackbirds are hunting worms

 .... a thrush sings ....

Dogs are settled for their siesta,
The morning’s work is done.