Richard Fleming and Jane Mosse

Have just seen Richard and Jane for the second time in a short visit to the island (which co-incided with my birthday). We met for coffee in the afternoon as we seem to drink lots of wine when we meet up. In fact one of our first meetings, which with three poets (and my mother) in the room, was so liquid that Richard broke a couple of ribs lurching about in his bedroom afterwards.

Both Richard and Jane fit into the Discovered Islands section of the Anthology of Guernsey, and both have agreed to let me use some of their poetry on the site. Jane’s career as a poet is burgeoning lately with an excellent international competition result, while Richard and I have been reading each other’s work off and on for years.

They are both very supportive of the project. Jane is sending me some work soon, but in the meantime here is a lovely poem of Richard’s.

FUNERAL AT TORTEVAL

The heart beats now a mourning drum
behind the coffin held aloft.
Head bowed, you step, back ramrod-straight,
blue light, through stained-glass, falling soft,
from the black car beyond the gate
into the congregation’s hum.

Grief carves a beauty in your face
or highlights what was there before,
unrecognised: you seem to shine,
to have become not less but more,
while others’ faces, at this shrine
to gracefulness, lack any grace.

The hedgerow birds, today, seem dumb
as one by one the black cars leave:
you by your crumpled father’s side,
comforting him, holding his sleeve,
so full of elegance, dry-eyed,
with redefined years still to come.

Copyright Richard Fleming 2008

Meeting Guernsey Arts Commission

Went to Guernsey in June and had a meeting with the Guernsey Arts Commission, about creating an Anthology of Guernsey writing. Liked the Chairman Tony Gallienne right off the bat. The meeting was inconclusive, but they were encouraging.

I spent a couple of hours in the Priaulx Library where I met Amanda Bennett, the Chief Librarian, who took time to show me an extensive collection of books, all of which have some tenuous connection to Guernsey.

She told me a few things right away I didn’t know, such as PG Wodehouse went to school here, and that Samuel Coleridge-Taylor the composer had performed on the island. And that Edmund Keane the nineteenth century Shakespearean was pelted with vegetables in St Peter Port. Spent a happy couple of hours with my nose in dusty tomes. A venerable place, busy with people tracking down old stories from the Guernsey Press, and tracing their ancestors.

Then to the Guernsey Museum, which is a matter of a few yards away. Here I met Guernsey’s switched on Museums Director Jason Monaghan. Interesting chat with him. He also gave me a signed copy of a self-published book written under his nom de plume Jason Foss called Islands that never were. After a brief look at The Three Garnsey Women Martyred by the Papists {Anno 1556}. Jason has let me know subsequently of a Dr Who novelisation set in Guernsey too.There is rich ground to be covered.

Already receiving a good deal of help and advice from the excellent Catriona Stares of the Commission, and Richard Fleming and Jane Mosse, notable poets resident on the island.

Creating an anthology for Guernsey

So to catch up on recent activity. I returned from a short trip to my former home of Guernsey recently where I presented to the Arts Commission, who were interested in the project.

So I am shortly about to kick the project off, and have bought AnthologyofGuernsey.com for a song.

While I was over, I spent a couple of hours in the Priaulx Library where I met Amanda Bennett, the Chief Librarian, who took time to show me an extensive collection of books, all of which have some tenuous connection to Guernsey.

She told me a few things right away I didn’t know, such as PG Wodehouse went to school here, and that Samuel Coleridge-Taylor the composer had performed on the island. And that Edmund Keane the nineteenth century Shakespearean was pelted with vegetables in St Peter Port. Spent a happy couple of hours with my nose in dusty tomes. A venerable place, busy with people tracking down old stories from the Guernsey Press, and tracing their ancestors.

Then to the Guernsey Museum, which is a matter of a few yards away. Here I met Guernsey’s switched on Museums Director Jason Monaghan. Interesting chat with him. He also gave me a signed copy of a self-published book written under his nom de plume Jason Foss called Islands that never were. After a brief look at The Three Garnsey Women Martyred by the Papists {Anno 1556}. Jason has let me know subsequently of a Dr Who novelisation set in Guernsey too.

There is rich ground to be covered. Already receiving a good deal of help and advice from the excellent Catriona Stares of the Commission, and Richard Fleming and Jane Mosse, notable poets resident on the island.

Poems on the Buses, Guernsey

I lived in Guernsey as a child. It is my spiritual home which I still visit at least once a year.

Recently there has been a mini artistic revolution. Last year local writers have been encouraged to come out into the light, and have their work published in an initiative called Pens & Lens. This activity, much of which has been driven by Catriona Stares and local poets like Richard Fleming has lately resulted in poems on the buses.

It is so heartening to see this for all kinds of reasons. I published an inflammatory article about arts on the island about fifteen years ago (text here) challenging local people to be more proud about their culture. This was an item I deliberately designed to be galling.

These latest initiatives are nothing to do with me, of course, but I am really pleased to see them.

They have used several of my poems over the year. The one below is on the bus, and was written when I was 22. It is nice that a love letter I wrote to the island a long time ago has had this brief afterlife.

Below a poem on a bus. Click to enlarge.