With the Hay Writers at Hay Festival 2019

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Hay Festival 2019 

Hay Writers’ Circle, of which I have been a member for 8 glorious years, have been blessed with another fantastic Hay Festival. Official photo’s in the Green Room, a larger, high-spec venue, (beautifully managed by a wonderful festival team), and an absolutely terrific, attentive, sell-out crowd!

The audience were delighted by a wide variety of poetry, short stories and excerpts from novels.  Thoughtful, humorous and descriptive pieces easily gelled alongside fictional landscapes and characters, some pieces even celebrating our 40th year – there was literally something for everyone to enjoy.

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Photo by Merv Newton 2019

I have to say,  these wondrous words by Peter instilled a huge amount of honour and pride in each writer, and acted like a rousing call-to-(literary)-arms. I don’t think we ever performed as well as a group on that day and on that amazing Hay Festival stage.We were also extremely privileged to have an introduction by Hay Festival Director, Peter Florence. Describing, in his address how Hay-on-Wye is known the world over as “the town of books, but increasingly over the last 35 to 40 years, a town of writers as well.”  How our community, rich in so many things is “richest in it’s story telling (which) is incredibly important and dear”; and that enhancing a love of “language and stories is important to who we are.”

If you’d like to hear the audio recording of the 2019 event or other Hay Festival events, why not subscribe to the Hay Player.

CLICK HERE  (My readings start at 15.40 mins)

The Hay Player contains thousands of audio and video recordings from Hay Festivals from 1995 to the present day. An annual subscription of £10.00 allows you to play as much audio and video as you like.

A huge thank you to Peter Florence and the whole team at Hay Festival for their unceasing support of the Hay Writers.

Finally, thank you to our audience who dodged the wind and rain for an hour and applauded in all the right places and to Merv Newton who snapped a photo of me performing. Well done!

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And the winner is ….

Happy!!!! 🤩 Thank you to Paul Henry who placed my poem joint first – describing it as “self assured…Controlled, vivid, spare and perfectly paced”.

*QUOTE – Hay Writers’ article 20/05/2019*

Winners of the 2019 Hay Writers Poetry Competition

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Congratulations to all the entrants to this years Poetry Competition. Our thanks also to our esteemed judge, Paul Henry  remarking that he enjoyed reading the poems which displayed both a keen eye and a keen ear.

(All the winning poems, along with a selection of short stories will be performed at our FREE event 233 at Hay Festival 2019 – Wednesday 29th May, 5.30pm in the Cube – for more information please go to our EVENTS page.

The results and judge’s comments are as follows:

Joint-first:  ‘Apple Moon’  by Emma van Woerkom  &  ‘Red Coat’ by Ange Grunsell

Second:      ‘Private Earthquake’ by Jean O’Donoghue

Third:         ‘Afternoon’ by Helen Wright

“Most works concerned themselves with natural landscapes and were tenderly observed. Some were reminiscent of the Imagist School which was at the forefront of Modernist poetry in the last century.

This Imagist influence was especially evident in ‘Apple Moon’, perhaps the most self-assured of all the poems here. Controlled, vivid, spare and perfectly paced, it reminds us of the enduring modernity of that movement. (Double-spacing of lines in a poem suggests a stanza-break, the convention being to single-space verse-lines. However, I read the poem’s form to be two, distinct stanzas).

The very different ‘Red Coat’ finds the universal in the personal. The detail of love and loss, especially in the prosaic first stanza, is striking and brought back to a lyrical base by the second verse’s refrain. The phrasing of the penultimate stanza is the poem’s only weakness and is forgiven by the startling closing line. ‘Red Coat’ wears its matter-of-fact stoicism lightly but the grief its first person conveys is heavy and resonant.

‘Private Earthquake’ was similarly striking, in the energy and pace of its anguish. It took risks, both in its metaphor and its diction. Stanzas two and three were particularly strong. I was less convinced by the broadcaster’s intrusion which felt forced, though it did inform the poem’s narrative. Really enjoyed this poem.

‘Afternoon’ was tonally even and sensual, its subject-matter closely observed. It was the purest poem of the thirteen, capturing a moment in time, in the tradition of lyric poetry. That “only he” (the third-person chaffinch in stanza 3) could see “the hawk hunting the hedgerows” I found less persuasive; but I could hear and smell and see the poem’s heady scene.

Other poems I recall liking were ‘How the land lies’, ‘Bridge’ and ‘Sunrise Vietnam Sea’. I may well have chosen differently, and from others not mentioned here, at a different time. Competitions come and go. Poems last. There is only the poem.”

                                                                                                 Paul Henry – April, 2019

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Poems from the Borders – Seren Books

Poems from The Borders.

Delighted and thankful to have 2 poems in this beautiful new pamphlet from Seren Books edited by the luminous Amy Wack and dedicated to that special ‘place’ – the Welsh borders / Marches. This is one in a series of geographically zoned pamphlets from Seren celebrating the various individual localities which make up our unique Wales. It’s wonderful and very humbling to be alongside so many incredible poems and poets.

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Jonathon Edwards, Owen Sheers, Fiona Sampson, Christopher Meredith, Paul Deaton, Gareth Writer-Davies, Philip Gross, Paul Henry, Rhiannon Hooson plus so many others, all whose work I have so long admired. 

The pamphlet comes with a large envelope and 2 postcards of my home town of Hay-on-Wye so it can be posted to a friend as a gift (if you can be parted from it!)
Poems from The Borders is available at £5.00 each from www.serenbooks.com or order your copy today from any good bookshop or Poetry Bookshop!

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Poems from the Borders pictured here at the incredible Poetry Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye.

 

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Weston-super-Mare Literary Festival 2019

A huge thank you for everyone who came to my events at Weston-super-Mare Literary Festival this year. It’s been a thrilling and exciting experience.

My week began with a short radio interview on BBC Radio Bristol with Steve Yabsley. Being as it was my first radio foray, I was quite nervous, but I was extremely fortunate that Steve had plenty of questions to keep me busily chatting and the time simply flew by.

My first event, the Past Presence creative writing workshop at the Weston Museum proved very popular with some travelling from Bristol. Through extensive writing exercises we explored, imagined and gave voices to a wide variety of historical items. Sherry and Matt from the museum were very helpful in welcoming attendees to the event and assisting me with the prior selection of artefacts from nearly every era imaginable.

At the end of the session it was heartening to read the anonymous feedback as it was clear that everyone had enjoyed the workshop and best of all, had written reams.

Weston museum has undergone an extensive refurbishment program in recent years and it was wonderful to use it’s glorious new facilities for both my Festival events.

In the evening I was absolutely delighted to read along side the incredible poetical talent that is Rhiannon Hooson. It seemed the audience leaned forward and hung on every word. There bloomed an intimate, fine rapport, which spilled over into the question time and book signing at the end of the performance. Rhiannon read some incredible new pieces which I cannot wait to read again when they are published in her next collection.

To end, I’d like to thank the tireless Zoe Scott who organised the festival and liaised with everyone to make the week such a success. Thank you to Weston-super-Mare Town Council and the Museum for hosting such a brilliant week of literary events. Although the festival is only in it’s second year, it already seems to be gathering pace and the breadth of writer’s on their books is steadily growing. Thank you for including me.weston literary festival

 

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Merry Christmas from me

Merry-Christmas-from-LearnDashWishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

Here’s a bit of seasonal fun to welcome in the festivities.

 

Deck the Halls
by Emma van Woerkom

Just one day until Christmas
And the hours are whizzing by
While all about perfection
Glistens smugly on the eye.

Real trees dusted with frosting.
Crystal baubles, golden-round.
Posh shops hire Santa’s reindeer
To leave footprints on the ground.

The epic main attraction?
‘St. Nick’s grotto’, Lapland style.
A pricey Finnish import –
(Flat-packed dens – so versatile!)

Bright strings of things, flakes flashing,
Sets defying gravity –
I’m not so sure my home décor
Competes on an Argos tree.

My ‘Norway Spruce’ is nine years worn,
Tripod based, resting on two –
Shedding strange fake plastic needles,
Standing up-right, if askew.

I fight great nests of knotted lights
Which momentarily amuse –
Until that failing flicker
And I’m off to score a fuse.

Or it’s just a single  light bulb
That’s given up the Yuletide ghost.
Systematically I test them
Turning my retinas to toast.

Threadbare is also my tinsel –
The prey of a senseless crime,
For some reason, last season, I hacked it,
Something to do with mulled wine …

Broke ornaments, I’ve got hundreds.
Bought, stolen, re-gifted and begged
Even a nose-flashing Rudolph –
Like the tree he’s missing a leg.

I don’t skimp on handmade extras
Weird glittery bells, stars and balls –
Glued in grim, sweatshop-like classrooms
When Ofsted make unannounced calls.

Then sat as proud as a peacock
From her lofty station on top
My hand-me-down one eyed old fairy
With a wand that resembles a mop.

Holly, mistletoe are like gold dust
christmas tree deck the hallsThey’re sourced through an underground hub
A-friend-of-a-friend who’s a farmer,
Check your boot, 8pm, at the pub.

By Midnight mass, most presents wrapped –

Gift tape drives us all round the bend
Bet Good King Wenslas ground his teeth
When he lost the cellotape end!

But carols sung, cheered trek for home
Tree lights wave at me through the glass,
My winking one-eyed fairy beams
That Christmas has come at last.

So I’ll sit with a sigh for a moment
And forget all the rush that it’s been
My list’s all done, it’s been quite fun
Plus for weeks I won’t have to clean!

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Flocking To A Good Cause – Watch The Birdie Anthology Published

Watch The Birdie : Poems with something to squawk about.
For The 67 Birds On The R.S.P.B. Red List.

 

For those of you, like me, who have been gripped by the BBC Wildlife series Dynasties, it’s very difficult to ignore our species’ impact upon the natural world, even here in the UK.

Back in July the ever talented Rhiannon Hooson introduced me to an exciting poetry project from Beautiful Dragons Press; a new anthology highlighting the 67 birds on the R.S.P.B.’s red (endangered) list, the sale of which would raise funds to support the charity.

 

Not familiar with the Red List’s contents I googled it, expecting to find a peppering of rare-plumed wonders like merlins or corncrakes. But the reality made for some very uncomfortable reading. Birds from my childhood; sparrows, curlews, starlings, even herring gulls all highlighted in red ink, their numbers plummeting by more than 50% in the last 25 years. I couldn’t believe my ignorance.

My moment of reprieve appeared in the guise of an Artic Skua – the bird I was to write my poem about. Combating my nescience I sort information, discovering an exceptional bird possessing an array of unique,but not always the most pleasant of avian attributes.

Dark Morph Arctic Skua, Scousburgh Sands, Shetland

Arctic Skua, Scousburgh Sands, Shetland.

Also known as the Parasitic Jaeger (from the German meaning hunter) the Arctic Skua was once thought to eat the squirted in-flight excrement of other birds. Even their genus name,   Stercorarius is latin for “of dung”. We now know it as a Kleptoparasite.  It forces, by way of high pitched vocals and physically close wing-on-wing harassment, birds, usually terns to regurgitate the food they carry in their crop.

Had I seen one? Scanning back through my catalogue of Shetland photographs I came across an image of a dark bird which I’d seen in falcon-like flight skillfully pursuing arctic terns on Scousburgh Sands/Spiggie Beach. It wasn’t the archetypal example of an Arctic Skua, but something even more fascinating – an adult Artic Skua in the rare dark morph plumage. I remember it now – moving like a slim shadow over the waves, creeping up on where the terns were fishing. I’d spotted it, but the terns hadn’t, not until it was too late. Magnificent. A pirate in all but name!

I am sure the other 66 poets who’ve added their emotive words to this extraordinary anthology have their own stories to tell. Like me, I imagine they’ve discovered a new found regard for their endangered subjects and the tireless work conservation groups like the R.S.P.B. do.

 

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Two weeks after the launch of the Watch The Birdie anthology Beautiful Dragons Press are already considering a reprint due to high sales! Well done Rebecca and all the team.

To order your copy you can buy via PayPal or email beautifuldragons@icloud.com

Watch the Birdie –– £9.99 for one copy, £18.50 for two, £25 for three.
P&P £4 for 1 -3 copies £8 for 4-6.
Please pay via PayPal address beautifuldragons@icloud.com

 

 

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Autumn and Creative Countryside

Autumn Bears Fruit.

Well, we’ve hit that perfect time of year when Autumn looks more burnished and bright than ever.

Today the sun is suddenly clear and warm, the wind has slightly eased, and all those abundant turning leaves shimmer and wave from their tree-top homes. By next week the weather and wind will have changed, angrily shaking them down in tumbling cascades, but today all is most glorious and golden!

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I am delighted to share that my poem “Apple Moon” has been published in the latest issue of Creative Countryside.

My poem appears next to a stunning illustration by Lisa Holden – Lisa has also sent me a print of the original, which is already framed and gracing the mantelpiece.

A huge thank you to Poetry Editor, Rhiannon Hooson for its inclusion and to Editor in Chief, Eleanor Cheetham for paring my piece with such a perfect illustrator – it looks magical and I am utterly delighted.

If you haven’t heard of Creative Countryside, here’s a little synopsis, but you really need to get this magazine in your life – it’s filled with joy, nature and inspiration.

Countryside Creative:  “A quarterly magazine, seasonal gatherings and a membership community for wild and wholehearted folk. ”

For more details and to order your copy CLICK HERE

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Enjoy the day what ever season you are in. Emma xxx

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