Reckless Paper Birds won this year’s Hawthornden prize for literature, awarded for overall best UK book of the year.
On March 16, our Zoom guest is John McCullough. His poems have appeared in Poetry Review, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Poetry London and Best British Poetry. John’s first collection, The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011), won the Polari First Book Prize. It was a Book of the Year for The Independent and The Poetry School, and a summer read for The Observer. His second collection, Spacecraft (Penned in the Margins, 2016), was named one of The Guardian’s Best Books for Summer 2016, and was shortlisted for the Ledbury-Forte prize. Reckless Paper Birds was published with Penned in the Margins in May 2019. It was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award.
When he is not writing, John teaches creative writing courses at the University of Brighton, the Arvon Foundation and New Writing South. He grew up in Watford but now lives in Hove with his partner Morgan Case and their cats.
The evening will begin with a short Open Mic, followed by John’s reading. What better way could you spend an evening? Join us for an 8 o’clock start for more poetry!
This poem by Sonia Lawrence was selected for and published in our Folio #74, in 2020
Triumphant in success leaving a warm brown egg on the turn of the stair clucking her joke and hopping six one-by-one steps down with flapping wings squawking past the startled woman and out through the back door into the farmyard still noisily trumpeting her achievement until with a soft shoe shuffle she scratches soil pecks a morsel as hens always do. My mother twinkle in her eye cheeks everso slightly rosy puts a box of eggs and the weighed apples and carrots into the woman’s basket takes the money and thanks her warmly but offers no other word.
This poem, by Society member Paul Hodges, appeared in Folio #74 in 2020.
A Child in Spring
A child in spring, radicalised by the ferocity of flowers and driven to something like God, by a broken bird, folded and put away in the long grass, kept for later. That same child, waking among houses, discarded like debris, shaping bombs like birds, a detonation of starlings in a head full of the memories of the ferocity of flowers. That child wakes late and lazy, turns over, itching, cannot go back to sleep, balances God like sunlight on his face, on his tongue, Shapes words, rests hands like a gun on his gut. This morning, urgent with love there is work to be done.
On February 16th. 2021 we are fortunate to be hosting the extraordinary Ruth Padel, the award-winning British poet. She was at first a classicist, studying Ancient Greek and spending much of her life in Greece.
She now lives in London and has published twelve poetry collections, seven non-fiction works and a novel.
Ruth is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and Professor of Poetry at King’s College London where she hosts a popular series of Poetry And events, combining poetry with other areas of life and learning.
This poem by Society member Clive Eastwood was selected for our Folio #74 in 2020.
Eye to Eye
There have been many things for which I didn’t weep, but latterly all it takes is a stiff east breeze, a few degrees of frost and tears flow – down one cheek at least
for only the left eye cries: half is sad or overjoyed whilst the rest mooches on. Age perhaps, though is that anything to cry about? As if, going for a paper, I’m weeping for the pigeons, the grubby
redness of the pillar box or the puddle I have to step over. I dab at the eye with a glove so the young woman in the shop won’t feel obliged – though of course
she’ll smile the same perfunctory Hi! whichever side I present. Walking back the watery eye still waters whilst the right, reminded of the woman’s untouchable auburn hair, now too begins to grow moist.
A few days ago, our treasurer Phil Vernon was invited onto BBC Kent’s Dominic King Show, to talk about our Open Poetry Competition, about the Society, and about the role of poetry during these strange COVID times. If you’d like to listen, the segment is from 2 hours 11 minutes, to 2 hours 24 minutes in the BBC Sounds clip here.
This poem by Mary Gurr was commended in our members’ competition in 2020, and published in Folio #74.
Still Life with Peaches and Avocado
In memoriam Maurice Weidman
Cross-hatching their ripeness, dimpling the rugged pear rising like an island, a hardened hill of lava ominous and black amid the peachy lush. Remembering Mr Weidman, eyes sharp for the structure of a curve, the countless still moments that make up a line. I drew him once, engrossed in someone’s apple, picked out the light reflected on his arm and on his brow against the dark white studio wall in shadow, and his face, eyes fixed forward, hand raised in full engagement with the fruit, in his element, harvesting.