Three top poems were announced at our Arts & Eats event by the river Waveney this month.
On a grey and blustery day, poets, artists and writers gathered to hear the three short-listed River Dweller poems announced by our judge, Dr Jos Smith, from the University of East Anglia.
At the culmination of our 2018 river themed programme, and over a warming bowl of soup at the Waveney Inn, our three short-listed poets, Sue Mobbs, Jan Farmery and Mike Bannister read aloud their inspiring poems.
Jos introduced ideas about nature writing and its role in grass roots conservation. UEA now holds the archives of two local nature writers – Roger Deakin and Mark Cocker – and we are invited to access these resources.
“Creative work” Jos explained, “is about being inhabited by the world but inhabiting it at the same time.” Rivers are an immersive idea but our attitude to rivers, and being immersed in them, has changed over time. Only a few centuries ago swimming was seen as bestial and brought us too close to being animal. Rivers themselves, their slippery nature, their otherness, make them things of uncertainty and therefore good subjects for poetry.
In judging the River Dwellers poetry competition, Jos was looking for poems that had that quality of immersion. In some of the entries, poets embraced the river for its flow, but others shared a meticulous careful watching of the river and its life.
The three short-listed poems stood out as immersive in one of these two ways and Jos congratulated our three poets, each of whom was presented with a pamphlet of river writings from the Stour Festival.
The final winner was announced as Sue Mobbs, with her poem Swan and Stars. Artist Kate Batchelor presented Sue with a black and white print Otter with Fish, kindly donated by Ferini Art Gallery at whose summer exhibition the print had been displayed.
Very many thanks to our judge, Jos Smith, for his time and thoughtfulness in judging our poetry competition this year.
Here are the poems and poets:
First – Sue Mobbs: Swan and Stars
Second – Jan Farmery: Reedbeds-Winter
Third – Mike Bannister: Watersnake – St Olaves
Swan and Stars by Sue Mobbs
Wings rise, fall, to wash the estuary
brushing blue grey, grey blue fluently
Her form a strong and perfect beauty,
of direct outstretching symmetry.
At night that same long stretch, so lovely,
mirrored in bright stars, north westerly.
Complete stillness on the ragged nest
flawless feathers mold a soft caress.
A brittle wind streaks through jagged grass
ice creaking on the darkening marsh.
She is warm as by her own hearth fire,
While silver Vega plucks the Lyre.
REEDBEDS – WINTER by Jan Farmery
Chill air pinches my face,
reeds murmur in my ears,
their slender stalks jostle,
bothered by a skittish breeze
into hushed song-sharing.
It is an old song
sucked from the wetlands,
oozing up from deep pools
to be trilled by these quivering fronds.
In dark, hidden places
lurk the fathered, the slithery, the bubble-blowers
turning the same tales
to the skies – the open spaces.
Early morning sun slides wintery fingers into the dankness.
of beady eye,
alarmed into flight,
the tiny bird
into moist sedge.
The reeds chatter me
into their old tales.
their sighing song
a part of mine.
their closeness an embrace
WATERSNAKE – ST. OLAVES by Mike Bannister
First, two motes of diamond dust
shimmying down river, just clear
of the meniscus, then a languorous
whiplash, near a metre of it, winding
cosine curves; a small thrusting thing,
strangely fearful, whose presence there
somehow entitles him. Is it envy stirs
me, or some deeper primal loathing?
Sensing ambush, between boat
and river pilings, he gathers urgency
writhes in a frantic wash-dance, this bright
olive braid, keen, water beaded; zig-zag
his burred belly-scales work the soft moss,
he levitates, enough to post his gold-flecked
serpent head between the boards and with
two less hurried heaves he vanishes, deep
into the wet clay caverns of the rhond.
Past the place now, yet still prickling
I hold the thought of that chance meeting;
the miles of labyrinthine dumb green sedge
and sediment, that quiet kingdom of things
other, unknown, unnameable, enduring,
and him, the wild green master of it all.
Thank you to all those who entered our 2018 poetry competition and many congratulations to Sue, Jan and Mike for their winning entries.
Sincere thanks to Dr Jos Smith for his perceptive analysis of rivers in creativity and for his thoughtfulness in selecting our finalists. For more about the nature writing Archives see here: https://portal.uea.ac.uk/library/archives/bacw/nature-writing
Thank you to the Ferini Art Gallery, Pakefield for donating the Otter print as our first prize and for curating the River Dwellers’ exhibition for us. https://www.pakefieldartgallery.com/
Thank you to Kate Batchelor for joining us at Arts & Eats to present her Otter print to our winner. For more about Kate and a picture of her Otter print see here: http://www.kate-batchelor.co.uk/
Thank you to Beth Soule of Suffolk Poetry Society for running the poetry workshop based at the River Dwellers art exhibition. https://suffolkpoetrysociety.org.uk/
Thank you to the Stour Festival organisers for waiving the postage fees to supply copies of Stour for our short-listed three. Copies are still available to purchase. https://www.riverstourfestival.com/stour-book/
Thank you to the Waveney Inn for hosting our Arts & Eats meal. http://www.waveneyinn.co.uk/
This brings to an end our river themed activities for 2018. We are busy making plans for 2019 so keep reading and do join us to stay connected.