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A treasure in my inbox

November 1, 2019

“The poem, in a sense, is no more or less than a little machine for remembering itself … Poetry is therefore primarily a commemorative act.”

Don Paterson

Sometimes I come across a piece of writing – often a blog-post – that I want to remember. An erasure poem is the “little machine” I often use. Underneath my text (words or parts of words in the same order as in the original) is the source text with a different story. It’s not original writing – the words are not my own – but I think it is a creative activity. Here’s one I made today. I do recommend reading the source: fine writing with gorgeous photos. I won’t forget it now!

carve the name
(erasure derived from )

across the world
the shoreline gave lessons
in the ocean

came a hand on the sand
early and late
face to face

at sunrise
charmed light
the magic dawn

the sea making marks
the slanting light
embellished with stars

beautiful final hours
all the letters
just being names for air

and fire rising golden
early and late
for light and shadows

and water
the dance advancing
filling and erasing

and earth
walked on by people
careless of art

a dervish to carve every name
and the sun sank
still dancing


Posted by Ama Bolton

Poetry in Bristol and Winchester

October 16, 2019

Deborah and Colin at The Leaping Word kindly invited me to be their guest poet at Silver Street Poets’ monthly meeting in October. This is a gathering of interesting and friendly poets in a super venue – close to the centre of Bristol, just the right size, good natural light and good acoustics. Book-sales were encouraging, too. The bus journeys there and back gave me useful time for thinking, observing, writing and knitting!


I’ll go again for some high-quality live poetry whenever I’m free on the first Friday of the month. November’s guest is Chaucer Cameron, whose latest work, Wild Whispers, is an international poetry film project working with collaborators from ten countries. Chaucer co-edits the online poetry film journal, Poetry Film Live, well worth a visit.

I was thrilled to learn that I was on the long-list for the Winchester Poetry Prize. I very much enjoyed the day-trip by train to Winchester last Saturday. On the absurdly overcrowded Virgin train from Basingstoke we were sardine-packed next to the first-class loo with Mark Totterdell and Jane. Such a pleasure to meet them. Later we did a book-swap. Mapping is a great collection, well-observed, intelligent and witty, beautifully written without being at all showy.

Winchester is gorgeous. We’ll go there again.

The long list

One advantage of being tall is that I get to stand at the back of group photos, with just my best feature showing!

Winning poems

Congratulations to the four winners, Peter Iveson, Maria Isakova-Bennett, Lewis Buxton and Ellora Sutton (Hampshire Prize).


This was written during the Arvon five-day poetry challenge in June this year. Jen Hadfield’s daily emails were full of intriguing ideas and good advice. As it turned out, this free online course helped me through a challenging week that included a three-day trip to Marseille at short notice to visit a seriously ill friend I’d known since we were both students at Keele in the 1960s.

Poets performing in prison

October 6, 2019

October 3rd, the twenty-fifth National Poetry Day, was celebrated in the former prison in Shepton Mallet with a powerful reading in B-wing by eighteen poets. This performance was mistress-minded by Rosie Jackson, who also led an excellent and astonishingly productive writing workshop in the morning. It is an extraordinary venue, oppressive and chilling, with a long history.

Some of the poems, printed on large sheets of translucent paper, were displayed in the cells on the top floor. Here is one of mine.

Home in prison small

And here is a group photo of all of us: Geoff Dunlop, Michelle Diaz, Rachael Clyne, Ama Bolton, Morag Kiziewicz, Mike Grenville, Dominic Fisher, B Anne Adriaens, Dawn Gorman, Deborah Harvey, Rose Flint, Pat Simmons, Rosie Jackson, Claire Crowther, Jo Waterworth, Stephen Boyce and Kate Semple. Not necessarily in that order! I loved taking part in this wonderful event with so many great poets. We had enough of an audience to make it all worthwhile.

Poets in B-Wing small

Posted by Ama Bolton. Photos courtesy of Rosie Jackson.

A Conference of Trees

October 6, 2019


Saturday 28th September was clear and sunny at the Dove until we started to rehearse at 5pm. Then the rain started, gently at first.


The musicians retreated, with their instruments, to the dry spot under the Tree-house Library. Some of the readers were missing. Parts were reassigned. The rain increased. We stood under whatever protection we could find: umbrellas, hoods, trees. A random child – to my horror – climbed over the tree-house balustrade and down a wet slippery branch. Scripts became soggy and illegible as the light faded. Glasses needed constant wiping. We struggled through the rehearsal and then the Conference. The surprisingly large audience who had turned up in spite of the rain were appreciative. The musicians, Maya and Bron, had produced a thrilling performance in very difficult conditions, and the readers, too, coped magnificently, led by Di as Weeping Ash, the convener of the Conference.

Oh if we trees could speak
in this time of crisis
what might we say?

Someone asked (about the script) “Can other people use it?” and I realised that my script, the end result of months of work, has been widely circulated without even my name being on it. My youngest child has gone out to make her own way in the world, and I didn’t  kiss her goodbye.

I said, “Yes, but I’d like to know about it.” I was cold and wet and weary.

I am cheered by the memory of two lovely visitors from Watchet earlier that day. They insisted on walking round the Circle of Trees with me, taking turns to read each part of the script as we came to the relevant tree. That in itself was a beautiful and sufficient ceremony.

ELDER: If only folk knew
all the hurts we can heal
they would honour the Elder.

CHORUS: They think they’re Lords of Earth
but they’re outnumbered millions to one
by little things that run the world
and will not miss them when they’re gone.

See Bron’s post for the rest of the story.

Posted by Ama Bolton. Photo by Deb Weinreb via Facebook.

SAW Festival ’19 at Dove Studios 1) On the meadow

September 26, 2019

Amazing Space

‘Start by not knowing’, the Dove Arts artists’ residency in June, turned into ‘SixUnravel’ for the presentation of our work. Here is some of it.

SixUnravel 6 for blogSixUnravel 1 for blog

Bird Masks by Sophie Willoughby and modelled by the public

SixUnravel 2 for blogSixUnravel 4 for blog

Shannon Leah Watson’s workshop ‘Can you teach me how to knit’ – dishcloths made from torn up charity shop pillowcases (Sue Palmer’s video on the screen)

SixUnravel 3 for blog

Kathryn John’s signpost, which bemuses the dog walkers that come through on the footpath,

Wigwork for blogSixUnravel 5 for blog

Fiona Hingston’s ‘Wigwork’; on the left as featured in Sue Palmer’s video, and right, modeled by one of the knitters….

SixUnravel 9 for blog

Sue Palmer’s video ‘Who is this, who is coming?’

Tree Guardian for blog

and Bron Bradshaw’s Tree Guardian.

Also on the meadow: the extraordinary Treehouse Library, finished in the nick of time,  with its display of specially commissioned books

Treehouse for blog 1Treehouse 2 for blogTreehouse 3 for blogTreehouse 4 for blog

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When stone talks

September 22, 2019

… what does it say?


she walks barefoot on rainwet grass
clockwise from stone to stone


a banner is billowing
we follow
walking into silence

silence is a crow’s cry
a plane high overhead
a dog barking far away

mountain corrie lake

in the top of this stone
there’s a landscape
a mountain
a corrie
and a lake

stone cup

on my knees in wet grass I dip my head
to sip from the stone’s cup
rainwater soft on the lips
cold on the tongue

tilt my face to the sun
midway between midsummer
and midwinter

let something go
it’s done
it’s gone
move on


KIN says the flag
we are kin to these stones
these encircling trees
these lichens this grass this breeze

Lichens 2

what can we give
to undo the damage

to undamage our doings

she hands me a flag
and I tilt with the tilt of the turning earth
whose bones are stone


between a squat stone
and a squat stone tower
a towering cloud
and stones like sheep asleep

slow and deep
the stones are speaking

she’s a receiver
tuned to their frequency

Stone cloud tower

when all the flags are untied

all the words
flutter round this field of stones


books to buy
fresh-baked cakes
and cider to savour

book and cider

“If only all shopping could be like this!”


Posted by Ama Bolton on 22 September 2019

Poetry in Bath this Saturday

September 19, 2019


There will be music! And pictures! There will be tea and cakes! And it’s free! Do come!