I’m not sure whether the bulging postbag this time was due to the blog having more readers since the competition, or if it’s just that lots of poets out there love writing sonnets. Whatever the reason, thank you. I loved reading them and have decided to publish what were for me the strongest 12.
There were a number of good poems which didn’t quite make it and, if yours was one of them, do please try again. I had to leave out all poems which were longer than 14 lines even though some of these longer poems were really lovely. Sorry if my instructions were unclear.
Since my last blog I have been on another Arvon course, this time to Totleigh Barton in Devon and it was magic. The tutors were John Hartley Williams and Jo Shapcott. Both were really inspiring. If you would like to hear Jo Shapcott read, do come along to the Bridlington Poetry Festival which runs from 14-16 June at Sewerby Hall. The programme is packed with goodies, including the likes of Jackie Kay, Ian McMillan and Don Paterson. Check out the events for yourself – I think I was the first to book. I go every year and it’s a real poetic treat.
Winter seems to be reluctantly giving way to spring. Masterchef is over (I love it, especially when they mess it up) and all that’s left is Britain’s Got Talent. It’s hypnotic though you can feel yourself being manipulated, as if someone is pulling your strings. Anyway the best act was from Hungary so they should rename the programme.
Which brings me back to your poems. York certainly has got talent. One or two of these were from further afield which is good and shows we’re widening our readership all the time. Here they are in alphabetical order.
In the first sonnet, Chris Bridge shows that the form lends itself well to humour. I like the up to date language in this and the thought-provoking last line.
Kay Buckley’s fine nature poem is next. Well-handled enjambement and some lovely images here.
I chose one of two sonnets sent in by Richard Carpenter. I like this for its form and its sentiments. Not keen on that repetition of “to now” but I love the final couplet and the place name in the title. Lovely sense of place and of history.
I notice from Daniel Connelly’s email that he lives in Rome which makes his very funny sonnet even more intriguing as it is about someone at work envying people on holiday in the sun. Quite tongue in cheek though and I’m not sure the speaker would really have enjoyed the package trip. Echoes of all kinds of poets in this one (“of drudgery i sing”, “sans teeth sans eyes sans taste sans everything” etc.) It’s actually quite a subtle poem but I chose it because it made me laugh.
Neil Davidson’s poem is very different, though again about escaping to Spain. Neil has good reason to long for “the thermal’s lark-dressed joy” somewhere sunny, having endured months of snow in Glaisdale. I loved the idea of being “Google-Earthed away” and getting some perspective on the lawyer’s world. Great last line.
Susan Elliot’s very well handled sonnet is also concerned with the harsh winter. The rhythm is lovely in this one and I admire the everyday language.
One thing I really like about these is knowing they were written in response to my challenge and I think this makes them fresh and also of the moment. This is particularly true of my next choice (and my personal favourite of all the poems submitted this time) which is by Jacqueline Everett who happened to be in Boston the day before the bombing.
All the details, place names, the briefly flowering magnolias, the very American “Finish Line”, the “hydration tents” ready for the marathon, little details like the precise statues and the Freedom Trail marked in red transport us to the spot in a way that someone basing their poem on a newspaper report could never do. And those falling petals like “waxen tears” are perfect. Lovely poem.
The next poem, by one of our competition shortlisted poets, Cora Greenhill, takes us abroad again (to Greece?) and is so skilfully handled you might not notice immediately that it is a sonnet. I love the voice in this, the everyday language and natural flow of it. Some great images here “A scatter of goat turds/ on the road glow like dark chocolates” and the sacks of firewood “heavy as corpses” and I love the idea of planting century plants you might never see flower.
Kathryn Gee’s sonnet obeys all the rules and is a very good example of what enjambement can do. There is a narrative here. It reads a bit like a detective story and there is something universal about finding out the truth about family myths. I felt rather sorry for this Reggie Perrin grandpa with his double life and sorry, too, for the duped relatives.
Abroad again in the next one, this time on a road trip in Northern California with Jonathan Reid. Jonathan tells me they had stopped in a remote place of great natural beauty and the driver was taking a nap. The Judas Bird is the red-winged blackbird which has a wonderfully liquid, trilling call. So, a poem inspired by sound and one in which sounds are very important. I particularly like “threading the reddened beads” and “swift and liquid silver”.
Rosemarie Rowley sent in six poems, all of them very accomplished, but this was my favourite even though I couldn’t tell you exactly where it’s set and I confess to having double-checked “apparatchik” on Google. I like the fact that it’s about literature and how it can be out of favour with the wrong regime. How lovely that the friend’s poem slips under the wire. Even the image of the torn pieces fluttering out of the window is appealing.
A lovely Valentine’s poem comes next from Sarah Wimbush. Sarah has sent poems in before and one of the nice things about writing this blog is getting to know poets via their writing. I remember publishing a lovely poem by Sarah about coming home in the dark on a bus and commenting on the beauty of its everyday language. The same is true of this one. I bet no one has ever used Ernest Jones in a poem before! The whole thing rings true and the reader is glad that the love is there even if the lover is rubbish at presents.
Many, many thanks for all the poems you sent in. It is lovely to receive them and to know there are readers out there reading the blog and responding to the challenges we set. Please feel free to comment. It is great to feel this is a two-way conversation.
Look out for the next poetry challenge which I will set later this month. Just to whet your appetite it will be to do with childhood so you might like to be doing some reading around that.
Carole Bromley is married with four children and lives in York. Twice a winner in The Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition, she has two pamphlets with Smith/Doorstop (Unscheduled Holt, 2005, and Skylight, 2009) and a collection A Guided Tour of the Ice House. She has won a number of first prizes, including The Bridport and Yorkshire Open, and her poems have appeared in a range of magazines and anthologies. Carole is a graduate of the MPhil in Writing at Glamorgan University and teaches creative writing for York University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning.