Sheila introduced Dr Nasser Hussain and invited him to give his adjudication of the 2017 Poetry Competition. Nasser began by talking about his own work, producing copies of his first published poetry collection and reading samples therefrom. His second collection is to be published in 2018. These later poems have moved on from his first collection as he has become more interested in the process of writing rather than the finished product. In his latest pieces of work he is testing what can be done by twisting language to do things it doesn’t normally do. He is asking himself, ‘Can I communicate in a new way?’
After talking about his work Nasser turned to the competition entries. His intention as an adjudicator, he said, was to help rather than to appear harsh; his critique is the beginning of a discussion rather than the last word. He had looked at the poems with five criteria in mind:
use of language
strength of concept
As he talked about specific poems he made the following general points.
• Avoid sentences of a single word
• The subject matter has to work literally as well as figuratively.
• Allow your reader’s imagination some freedom by being slightly ambiguous
• Plain/direct/clear speech is preferable to ‘fancy’
• Beware of using clichés or easy images
• Use contemporary language and forms for contemporary subjects (‘the writer must speak to their moment)
• Might the writer need to pay more attention to form?
• Is that form appropriate to the poem?
• It is good to create a disjunct between reality and imagination/fantasy
• Does the page need to be filled? Shortness, simplicity and truth can be just as effective. Don’t be afraid to cut.
• It is important to be aware of the audience when writing pieces ‘to’ people
• Is the concept suitable for poetry?
Having commented on the individual poems Nasser announced the winners as follows:
• 3rd place – Ian Gouge with ‘The Light of our Lives’, a poem about a fragment from outer space that had once glowed to light up the lives of the couple who had found it but had now lost its glow
• 2nd Place – Elizabeth Spearman with ‘Summer Visitor’, a poem about a summer visitor arriving in her garden
• 1st Place – Susan Perkins with ‘Gerunds’, a poetic reflection on communication.
Due to an oversight the trophy was not available for presentation, but Nasser was photographed congratulating Susan on her win. The winning entries were then read. Susan prefaced her reading with an explanation of how the poem came to be written. In Elizabeth’s absence, Nasser read on her behalf.
Susan thanked Nasser for his adjudication.
In a departure from previous years, our main festive celebration was held after Christmas. The Deanery provided a delicious lunch, there was plenty of time to relax and enjoy chat and laughter.
Everyone attempted the Chairman’s Challenge, which was a Shakespeare quiz in honour of the date. Susan Perkins won a small prize for the highest score.
Phil, Peter H and Sheila gave us their ‘party piece’, a famous Shakespearean speech brought up to date.
Everyone said they had enjoyed themselves. Considering that we all met just after 12.30 and didn’t start leaving until 3.30, that was probably true!
Click on the photos below to see them full size. Lack of clarity is due to less than ideal lighting conditions.
Quite an achievement! Ripon Writers’ Group owes its long existence to the inspiration of founder member Daphne Peters, seen here cutting the anniversary cake. Daphne described how the group had grown out of a Further Education class that she had run which, although doing well, had been axed after two and a bit years. She had been asked to continue running the class privately but did not want to. Starting a Group was the alternative suggested by one of the class members and made possible when another offered the use of her house for meetings. After building up cash reserves from subscriptions, meetings moved to hired venues two years later although there were always cost problems.
Fifteen current members attended the celebration and six sent apologies. Those who had known the Group over a long period of time shared their reminiscences and everyone was invited to contribute a personal vision of ‘the next 35 years’.
The splendid anniversary cake was baked by Ella Benigno and iced by current Chair Sheila Whitfield. In addition, Kathleen Atkinson provided an iced sponge.
Unable to be present at the adjudication of the 2017 Mini-Saga adjudication (see below), Maggie was delighted to receive the trophy from Phil this evening.
Now the first Ripon Poetry Festival is coming to a close, it’s time to reflect on how well it went for Ripon Writers’ Group.
First, a big thank you to everyone who contributed to our ‘showcase’ event this afternoon, especially to those members who were free to come and read out all our pieces. The wide range and differing styles of our poetic efforts seemed to go down well with the audience, as there really was something for everyone to enjoy – and they appeared to do so.
Last night some of us saw Elizabeth Spearman and David McAndrew in their guise of judges in the festival poetry competition. What an amazing range of work for us to listen to. The evening was full of happy, smiling faces, so well done with your choices, Elizabeth and David!
Today we saw David again alongside Ian Gouge, who along with Andy Croft were reading from their latest publications. It felt to me that the audience were responsive to the depths and nuances in David’s and Ian’s work, and hopefully would purchase some in order to study and reflect on it later, as it deserved.
Last but definitely not least, Anna’s talk about how she had compiled her ‘Rural Voices’ stories from Nidderdale was a delightful hour of dialects, old photographs and Dales characters reminiscing. Anna quoted something to us during her talk- ‘stories connect us, they build bridges’. With her oral history compilation, she has undoubtedly provided us with a bridge that will take us back in time, so that ‘times past’ will not be ‘times forgotten’.
Thank you all for your efforts over this weekend. I feel very proud to be your Chair!
Five writers, five voices and five stories!
Amongst those taking part in this evening’s launch at the Ripon Spa Hotel were our very own Anna Greenwood and David McAndrew. Anna’s Engrained is a series of tales from different centuries, the common link being an ancient oak. David’s Men at Work was inspired by his recollections of a small engineering firm in 1950s Tyneside.
The five stories, described by Gill Edwards of the Little Ripon Bookshop as ‘A lively collection of fascinating characters and locations’, sprang from a creative writing class run by Andy Croft. All proceeds will go to the Ripon City of Sanctuary Group.
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