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Seafarers and Sirens: Bath Writers and Artists’ July meetup

July 29, 2018

Yesterday was the end of the heatwave. The City of Bath was assaulted by tempests of Homeric ferocity. The trees in Queen Square seemed about to be torn from their roots. And we fortunate people (eleven for a challenging and rewarding morning session with Sue Boyle, 33 and a delightful dog for the afternoon performances) were safe and dry indoors in the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute.

john_william_waterhouse_-_ulysses_and_the_sirens_1891
John William Waterhouse: Ulysses and the Sirens, via

The afternoon started with a selection of readings germane to the Homeric theme. These included James Elroy Flecker’s The old Ships – an old favourite of mine – read by father-and-son Roger and Conor Whelan, and a selection from a much more recent favourite, Andrew Greig’s pamphlet Found at Sea, read by Sue Chadd.

Verona Bass and Ann Preston introduced their new pamphlets, Verona’s being the second of a proposed trilogy on her childhood in rural South Africa and Ann’s being a collection of poems inspired by paintings. Both were beautifully read.

A sequence of slides showing paintings by Malcolm Ashman RWA led into Rosie Jackson’s introduction to some readings from our 2013 anthology The Listening Walk, for which Malcolm donated an image for the cover. Readers from the anthology included Linda Saunders and Claire Coleman.

Scan

After the break for tea and talk, I read my 2006 sequence Warp. Among the other readers were Shirley Wright (Carol-Ann Duffy’s poem Circe), Margaret Heath (George Mackay Brown’s That Night at Troy). and Rosie Jackson (Cavafy’s Ithaka). Andrew Lawrence and I read from Homer’s Odyssey Book 5, he from the little-known Ted Hughes version and I from the original Greek. We then switched to much more recent but equally turbulent Greek history, with a reading from the fascinating 1943 radio-play The Rescue by Edward Sackville-West, a copy of which (with lithographs by Henry Moore) Sue Boyle chanced upon in a charity shop, and a reading of the much-loved Ena to Helidoni, by Odysseus Elytis. These last readings were accompanied by historical slides, including a chilling view of a Nazi flag  on the Acropolis at Athens during WW2. We ended with a group reading by volunteers from the audience of Theo Durgan’s poem Ithaca for Leonard Cohen – unrehearsed but perfect! The whole programme was skillfully put together by Sue Boyle.

Page from Warp
A page from Warp. Tenterhooks are used to stretch the weft on a loom.

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