7 February As Box Office Manager, I feel bound to tell the Truth about this year’s festival — it’s programme is wonderful, inclusive, truthful, life-affirming, and of course poetic in many ways. Have you worked out the theme yet?
Here’s a list of all the programme, with links.

World Cancer Day

4 February 2019 Today I’m reading a poem when BBC Radio Gloucestershire visits Maggies in Cheltenham:

Maggies Cancer Support Centre
I don’t exactly celebrate World Cancer Day.
I nod in recognition, head for Maggie’s,
Read more here

Brexit end game?

Below are some of my responses to Theresa May’s proposed deal on Brexit

Yes/no votes are opinions not plans

A referendum on “Should May’s government leave office?” could again have 60 per cent voting yes. Voters gave that verdict in 2017 when cancelling a Conservative majority in Parliament. . . More
10 January 2019

Democracy in the shadows?
What’s the fuss on the Brexit debate?
A clear vote of no confidence
in Theresa May’s government.
was passed last year by voters
Slices of Brexit

Glaciers meet the democratic sea

10 December 2018

GWN honours Gloucestershire Writers at Cheltenham Literature Festival

8 October 2018 For any writer it is an honour and privilege to read her or his own creation in the prestigious programme of Cheltenham Literature Festival. That opportunity is provided for a group of outstanding local writers through an annual event by the talented volunteers of Gloucestershire Writers’ Network.

For me, the 2018 event on 7 October provided an excellent and high quality evening’s event. I was proud spouse of one of the seven writers who earned a chance to read after success in a competition which attracted more than 160 entries. I admit a hint of envy, too, as an also-wrote who was honouring the high standard of writing by all the readers on stage.

Sunday’s event started with presentations of prizes to the winner and three runners up of each of two contests – one for short stories, and one for poetry. Then came the readings, extremely varied interpretations of the Literature Festival theme of East meets West.

First up was the winning poet, David Hale from Horsley. His Cranes Flying is an interesting and thoughtful physical discovery of far-eastern culture by a presumably western archaeologist.

The winning prose writer was Emma Kernahan from Stroud. Her story The Locals hilariously contrasts fantasy-driven emails of a woman’s former London commuting with her new, mundane west-country life.

Derek Healy from Lower Swell was first runner-up to read. His poem Love’s Convergence with skilful geographical imagery, shows lovers ‘paralleled two poles . . . apart’ finally embracing each other’s mind.

The Shawl a story by Lynda Fowke from Gloucester, imaginatively features a garment as a refugee. It makes a land and sea journey as a woman’s baggage, a man’s bandage, and finally clothes for toys.

From Tewkesbury, Catherine Baker wrote Waiting for the Boat a poem on old refugee women. ‘Like pinks they can nod’ typifies the imaginative, engaging imagery and music Catherine produces with simple words.

Call me Shadi, Muna, Nasima . . . is an intriguing story by Iris Anne Lewis from Kempsford. After using false names as armour, a young refugee woman finally reveals her real name to a therapist.

Marilyn Timms from Cheltenham was runner-up in both poetry and prose. Her poem Public School – Private Hell starts a train journey in school day dreams, and ends it building the Burma railway as a prisoner of war. With another good final surprise, the story Bride Price shows a Japanese businessman. A widower, he buys a new, western wife, then loses her as ransom for his teenage daughter.

Finally, the two competition judges read some of their own work. Award-winning novelist Dr. Kim Fleet, the judge for stories, read two engaging and suspenseful excerpts from her novels. Then poetry judge Anna Saunders, founder and CEO of Cheltenham Poetry Festival, read thought-provoking and contrasting poems from her latest book Ghosting for Beginners.

After 40 years of earning a reasonable living from writing and editing non-fiction, I admire and respect all of the above writers. The art of creative writing requires more hard work, determination, and talent than reportage or factual reference. I think all of us competitors, and the winners and runners up, owe a great debt of gratitude to the successful creative writers who also find the time and energy to organize GWN.

Howard Timms

Poetry creation in Cheltenham

8 September 2018. Cheltenham offers lots of opportunities for writers to develop their poetic art, and the beginning of this week showed that brilliantly. Saturday brought a fruitful workshop with distinguished poet Anna Saunders, Executive Director of Cheltenham Poetry Festival. Her theme in poetry about fearful or disturbing events on the world stage linked through images to everyday life. My poem ‘Absolute Balderdash Rules’ sprang from that session.

Next day came Buzzwords, which for 12 years has provided a monthly combination of workshop and open microphone, led by top-class visiting poets. As usual, Angela France, founder and presenter, introduced the guest poets.
Ross Cogan, Creative Director of Cheltenham Poetry Festival, introduced a interesting workshop which focussed on using myths, ancient or modern, as writing inspiration. During the readings which followed, he read from his latest book Bragr.
A reinterpretation of Norse mythology, Bragr shows the world and beyond from a sophisticated twenty-first century viewpoint. It exbibits an environmental awareness that melds mythology about nature and human origin with science. Its wealth of imagary fully justifies the back-cover description: ‘As precise and beautiful as an illustrated manuscript. . .’  An example is ‘Bees swarming’:

‘. . . This is older,
cruder, moved by the same power
that fires planets in a star’s kiln.
A galaxy is being spun. . .
. . . This is.
the whirlwind that conceals Zeus. . .’

Sounding off logo

Ross shared his two reading time with Alison Brackenbury who introduced her latest book, Aunt Margaret’s Pudding. I readily identify with the book, as my grandmother was a wonderful cook and inspiring presence as was Dot, Alison’s grandmother. Dot’s recipes inspired the book, which includes some of them with Alison’s updating where appropriate for the twenty-first century. These are interleaved with poems which form an intriguing time machine bringing alive Alison’s memories of her grandparents and her Lincolnshire early life.

Here is a good podcast of Alison reading her poetry, recorded in February 2018: DIVERSIFLY podcast #4: Alison Brackenbury.