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Celebrating Crystal Clear

Last night saw the launch of Crystal Voices, an anthology of poems and stories celebrating ten years of the arts organisation and publisher based in the East Midlands. You can check out the list of writers in the anthology and order a very reasonably priced copy here.  

The launch took place at the Western pub spoken word night, Shindig! and followed readings by Jo Bell and Jonathan Davidson, whose new books, Jo’s ‘Kith’ and Jonathan’s ‘Humfrey Coninngsby’ I can highly recommend.

Shindig! is a regular open mike  with guest readers,  an event jointly run by Crystal Clear and the wonderful Nine Arches Press, and over the years the list of visiting readers has begun to look like a who’s who of contemporary poetry.

One of the most valuable aspects of these readings is the sense of community that has built up among the attending writers and readers over the years, with familiar and new faces gathering at the bi-monthly events to chat and enjoy and support each other’s work.  The event is well run but relaxed, and there is a respectful and democratic atmosphere in which everyone’s voice is given an equal chance to be aired and shared.

Crystal Voices

The Crystal Voices anthology, edited by poet and co founder  (with award winning writer Jonathan Taylor)  of the organisation Maria Taylor, contains work by writers who have been involved with the organisation in some way, either via publication in CCC’S magazine Hearing Voices or through attending and reading at events over the years.

True to the spirit of CCC, newer writers are included beside more established poets published by presses like Carcanet, Bloodaxe  and Smiths Doorstop, and the anthology gives some idea of the varied range of writing and the numerous writers that have all benefited in some way from their association with this ambitious and well run organisation.

I first encountered Crystal Clear via their pamphlet competition. I was persuaded by my friend Tracy Twell to enter, and my pamphlet ‘Gopagilla’ was published and launched in 2012, alongside other winning writers Ally Stoneman, Jess Mayhew (recently nominated for the Melita Hume Prize), Charles Lauder, Andrew Graves and Hannah Stevens.

Apart from some magazine publications and one or two in competition anthologies, ‘Gopagilla’ was the first time I’d had my work brought together between covers. I was delighted with the artwork and quality of the publication and with the promotion and support I received. I had, and still have, a great relationship with the organisation.

One outcome of the publication of Gopagilla (forgive me if you’ve heard this before) was that John Lucas, esteemed writer and publisher of Shoestring press, wrote to tell me how much he had enjoyed the pamphlet and asked “have you got anymore as I’d like to publish a full collection.”

CCC is a not-for-profit arts organisation devoted to developing, producing, publishing and promoting new writing.  Such organisations are the life blood of writing in this country, allowing new writers a platform to share and develop their work, to gain exposure, experience  and confidence.

The scope of CCC’s activities and involvement in supporting grass-roots creative writing of all kinds in and around the East Midlands over the past ten years is too great to list here. If you’d like to find out more you could visit their website. Whatever the dynamic partnership behind Crystal Clear decides to do next, you can rest assured that it will be done with care and sensitivity and will be motivated by a selfless desire to support the writers and writing in the region. Here’s to the next ten years!

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A Spring poem

While sorting searching my bookshelves last night I came across a copy of Gopagilla,my 2012 pamphlet published by Crystal Clear. 

Gopagilla_COVER

Flicking through I found several poems which had not gone into The Sun Bathers, not because I didn’t like them or because I didn’t think them good enough, but because I didn’t want too much repetition. I wanted to have a balance of new poems and poems from the pamphlet in the full collection.

It was strange to see the work I’d left out of the book. Although it’s only two years since publication of the pamphlet it seems longer, and since I generally read new poems or poems from last year’s book, I had almost forgotten the poem that I’ve written out below.

As well as this poem being in Gopagilla, I had at some point given it the title of ‘Prelude’ and used it as the opening in a sequence devoted to Wilfred Owen. The sequence was of pamphlet length and called Witness. For various reasons I  abandoned that project, and the only published poems from it are ‘Last Letter’ which you can read on the ‘Poems’ page of this site and in The Sun Bathers’ and this poem which I’m sharing here under its original title.

 Wessex Wood

 A perfect diversion, to leave the lane and step
under this canopy, to follow the stream
and find bluebells, scroll-headed ferns,
yellow primrose at the mossy roots of trees;

then a sudden stench, and here, a Fox
some days dead, coat slackened, eye sockets
picked clean; death has come to steal a breath
from the mouth of spring.