MINUTES OF WOKING WRITERS CIRCLE MEETING AT ST MARY’S CHURCH HALL, HORSELL ON 23 MAY 2019
Present: Peter Morley, Amanda, Alan, Liz, Simon, Greg, Carla, Tricia, Hilary, Heather
Apologies: Sarah DD, Cathy, Dan
Greg reported that the Woking literary festival open-mic poetry event at The Lightbox on Saturday 27 April had been well supported with lots of participants, including Amanda and Heather. The regular monthly open-mic meeting will now take place on the last Thursday of the month at 8pm in the cafe at the Lightbox.
Greg also circulated a flyer advertising the next SADS production, Neighbourhood Watch, by Alan Ayckbourn. Performances will run from 6-8 June, starting at 7.30pm. Box office number: 07542 107815, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alan has had another article published in ‘Yesterday Remembered’ and a promise of publication for another. He has received confirmation that his novel will be published on 28 June by Austin Macauley Publishers. Everybody congratulated Alan on this considerable achievement.
Carla had reviewed poetry books and also an exhibition at the Lightbox. She will be a visiting student at the University of Calgary in June and July, when she will be undertaking research.
Liz reported that the book group had enjoyed the last book, Bel Canto, although some members felt that the ending was rather weak. Nevertheless, the book achieved a mark of eight and a half out of ten and the group had advised the library accordingly. The next meeting will be at The Crown, on 16 July 2019.
Carla’s evocative and memorable exposition about the significance of cherry blossom and haiku in Japanese culture at the April meeting was responsible for a veritable orchard of offerings on the homework subject, ‘Cherry Blossom’.
Tricia had written two versions of a poem, ‘Cherry Blossom/Broken Hearts’. Both versions comprised four haiku plus a final couplet. These were both greatly enjoyed and it was felt that the links between the ephemeral blossom and the falling warriors were poignantly drawn. The phrase ‘mono no aware’ – a sensitivity to ephemera – featured appropriately in both versions.
Simon paid homage to Philip Larkin with his poem ‘Cathedral Going’, with its pronounced echoes of Larkin’s ‘Church Going’. Simon had also employed nine-line stanzas to great effect. While his poem reflected Larkin’s thoughts, such as ‘a hunger in himself to be more serious’ in the context of questioning why we visit churches when we have no religious beliefs, the poem had its own power and freshness.
Greg’s poem, ‘Cherry Blossom’, had some cross-overs with Tricia’s poems, evoking the same tragic comparisons between the blossoms and the fate of the soldiers. There were slanting references to Cherry Blossom shoe polish in the shining boots of the Japanese soldiers and the rough leather of the GIs’ boots, to which the Americans attributed their lack of success at impressing Japanese girls. The reference to the deadly bomb in the form of the bright cloud in the final verse was effective and deeply memorable.
Carla read her ‘found poems’, which related to exhibits in the Manchester Museum and the V&A Museum. Each short verse related to one exhibit. Everyone enjoyed the variety of the exhibits described and the humour at the end of the Buddha verse, ‘relax your cheeks’. It was felt that it would have been helpful to include the word ‘museum’ in the title – possibly ‘Museum Collage’. This would help the reader to get into the poem more quickly.
Heather had written two poems relating to the cherry blossom theme. The first, ‘Cherry Blossom’, sought to capture a fleeting memory of Heather’s mother sitting under cherry trees. The second poem, ‘The Virgin of El Panecillo’, told the sorry tale of tourists visiting the huge aluminium statue above Quito and being disenchanted. The statue was upstaged by a man polishing shoes – you’ve guessed – with Cherry Blossom polish!
Hilary read an extract from her novel about Samantha. She promised that this would be much lighter than the other excerpts, but listeners found plenty of tension and mystery about Sam’s new husband and about their relationship. Her husband’s secretiveness could have had foundation in his romantic nature or in something very much darker.
Liz had embraced the homework topic and used an intriguing approach, writing individual lines of a poem, ‘Sakura for Carla’, on separate strips of paper. These were handed out and put together in different configurations by those present. Each line contained a complete thought, so each poem ‘worked’. Liz had put together her own version which was greatly enjoyed.
Alan’s short story, ‘Signed Off’, also featured cherry trees and a couple under threat from bailiffs. The couple’s beloved cherry trees would be sacrificed to Fructigro and the advance of ‘progress’ in the form of GM cherries. As always, Alan’s story held every listener’s attention and nobody foresaw the ending. There was humour, of course, but also sadness in this story.
Amanda had resisted the attraction of the blossom and presented a stunning poem, ‘Peacocks’, which painted a vivid and utterly convincing portrait of the appearance and behaviour of this lofty bird. Just one line, ‘Buckingham Palace dour in comparison’ didn’t feel quite right and there was discussion about other possibilities including the Taj Mahal.
Peter read two pieces, neither of which succumbed to the lure of the pink stuff. The first, ‘The Road to Yesterday’, was full of atmosphere about a journey on the A30 heading towards Storm Hannah. With its lyrical use of place names and references to the energy of the storm, this was an immensely enjoyable piece, but Peter lost half a point for being unable to resist a reference to the height of Salisbury Cathedral’s spire. ‘Brief Encounter’ was also much appreciated with its vivid but tranquil images of rowers and mature skinny dippers. The incorporation of technical terms in an unforced and easily understood manner was much admired.
Next meeting: Thursday, 20 June 2019 at 7.30pm
Minutes: Peter Morley
Milk and biscuits: Amanda
Homework: Song lyrics/song titles
Note 1: Greg will put the Cherry Blossom contributions on the WWC website, subject to each author’s agreement.
Note 2: Please note that parking spaces are available in adjacent side streets. The school car park opposite the Church will only be opened by arrangement.