It’s Here First Collection!

My first collection, Auscultation, will be available from Monday 21st June from Seren. https://www.serenbooks.com/productdisplay/auscultation

It’s a collection of poems written over the last 8 or 9 years but I suppose really a record of 30 years experience as a veterinary surgeon, stepmother and mother.

Auscultation means listening and specifically, in medicine, listening to sounds that come from the body’s internal organs. I have spent 30 years listening to animals and their inner sounds but also the concerns of owners and the stories of how animals play a central role in many of their lives. I’ve heard stories of cruelty and horror but also of such love and empathy I have been moved to tears. The consulting room really is a privileged place and the role of a veterinary surgeon can feel like a balance between healer, confessor and counselor at times.

The language of animals; how to restrain, coax and understand them is a skill learnt over a lifetime and I am still learning. I am constantly in awe of animals, their ability to adapt to situations and interpret them, their stubbornness, playfulness and honesty and in the case of horses and farm animals, their sheer bulk and majesty too. There are also poems about euthanasia and ending an animal’s life, the part of the job that all vets dread. These are the animals that wake you in the dark hours and make you question what you do. It’s a sad fact that the veterinary profession has the highest rate of suicide of any of the professions and this is explored in a few of the poems.

Other poems in the book are about my childhood and my experiences of being a stepmother and mother and the rollercoaster ride that parenthood takes you on. Here, listening and being listened to are central themes too, how the voice of a child can be ignored and the damage that can do and how we interpret motherhood according to our own experiences. The last section in the book is about being a step mother, the joy and heartache that brought and how, in fairy stories, stepmothers are always portrayed as the evil ones. These poems are deeply personal and a record from my point of view and of course the situation for all blended families is different and highly nuanced.

There will be a launch reading on Zoom on 13th July. Do get in touch if you’d like to be sent an invitation.

What Matters To You Most?

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We’ve all had our lives reduced in some way over the last year. Whether it’s a reduction in activity, work, or social life, a reduction in outlook or expectations, or a reduction by loss of someone we’ve known or loved. We’ve all got our stories to tell. How do you process it all? If you’re lucky you’ve got friends, family or animals, the latter have become even more important to us in the last year. I know of someone where taking the dog for a walk was actually a life saver. For me, of course, a major way has been trying to make sense of it through poetry. It brought home to me even more, how poetry isn’t a separate thing, it isn’t something that’s confined to that section of the bookshop you never go, or that part of your English lesson you used to think had no relevance to you. Poetry is all around us, part of everyday life; there are poems on buses and trains, there’s poetry in football chants, you can even make a poem from a shopping list. Poems are unique in the way they capture so much in a few lines. They can contain emotions, situations, history. Poems help us to make sense of things.

Many of my poems over the last year have inevitably been pandemic related. They’ve been reflections on what was lost and how life became unlike anything we’d ever experienced before. As restrictions start to ease, I find myself thinking about stepping back into the world again and how some things are going to feel strange at first. Monday is a real milestone because I’ll be able to openly do one of the things I have missed the most.

May 17th 2021

Prepare yourself for the possibility of unexpected touch,

this may occur in a variety of situations;

care homes, hospices, living rooms, pub gardens, the street.

Wear sensible footwear, there is a possibility you will feel off balance.

Be prepared for unexpected reactions;

laughter, held breath, sobbing.

Word exchanges are permitted,

these may take the form of endearments, expressions of longing,

whispered secrets.

Repeat as appropriate.

Repeat until your arms ache

until your face is wet with tears

until your empty arms are refilled and can hold no more.

Sidmouth Folk Festival Crowdfunder

One of the biggest disappointments of the whole Covid pandemic has been the cancellation of all the summer folk festivals. One of the longest running and best folk festivals in the world is Sidmouth Folk Festival. In the first week of August every year, a little seaside town on the South coast of Britain explodes in a jubilation of traditional song, dance and music. People from all over the world come back year after year to participate in an astounding variety of workshops, concerts, dances and sessions. I am lucky enough to lead the poetry events at the festival with a series of workshops and other events. The festival had already incurred costs this year before it had to be cancelled and they have just launched a crowdfunding event to ensure the viability of the festival next year. There are some amazing rewards, so please check out the site and consider donating. There is also a 1 to 1 poetry mentoring workshop with me and you don’t have to come to the festival to make use of this. It can be done online. More details here

Breaking the Line

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What makes a poem a poem? So many things that books have been written in answer to to the question! What is interesting me at the moment is the use of white space on the page. As Glyn Maxwell famously wrote in On Poetry ‘Poets work with two materials, one’s black, one’s white’ and it’s the interaction of the two that not only frames a poem but allows it to breathe. Even more than that, the white space has been likened to a musical score, giving instructions to the eye on how to read and the ear on how to receive.
Line breaks are an integral part of these instructions, the emphasis they bring to the word at the end of the line or the word at the beginning of the next is central to the construction and interpretation of a poem.
Holly Pester used a great example in her article in Poetry News Vol 109:2 Looking at ‘The other plum poem’ by William Carlos Williams

To a Poor Old Woman

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

In four short lines, moving the line breaks has created a pattern of different meanings and emphasis and intensified the sensation within the poem. Wow, powerful things these line breaks!
Here’s one of mine, the title poem from the pamphlet and one where line breaks play a significant part in the reading and meaning of the poem.

The dogs that chase bicycle wheels

stare out of windows,
checking the boundaries

checking the boundaries.

They have territories to protect,

circling

from the backs of sofas

to front doors,

to kitchens,
whole worlds held in their flat eyes.

Postmen breach defences,
dropping offerings
to be bitten, ripped and pissed on.

Straining to a point always
just in front of their noses,
the click

clicking of bicycle wheels

tricking them into the frenzy of a chase
for the white scut of a rabbit.

Unceasingly they scout crowded horizons
for what is not there,

will never be there.

Poetry is a beautiful thing

We all know that poems can be beautiful things, powerful things. A poem can make you laugh, cry, all the cliches but occasionally poems are presented in a beautiful way too; one of these is in Maria Isakova Bennett’s glorious stitched journals, Coast to Coast to Coast. I was lucky enough to be included in the summer edition and was so excited to open the envelope when my copy came. As you can see, a thing of beauty.

Coast to Coast to Coast

Maria is also a poet in residence at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival and is producing a special Aldeburgh edition of the journal. The brief was to spend an hour in a chosen location on a coast or by a river or lakeside and using as inspiration a favourite poem that links sea, coast, river or lakes and/or lines from excerpts of poems that Maria gave;  write your own poem. The place I chose was Stickle tarn in the Lake District, just as the sun was going down one summer evening…

The journal is being launched at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival on November 8th. Aldeburgh is a unique festival, a high quality series of workshops and readings set against a soundscape of the waves breaking on the pebbly Suffolk beach, not to be missed.

More information on Maria and Coast to Coast to Coast and Poetry in Aldeburgh can be found here;

https://www.mariaisakova.com/coast-to-coast-to-coast

https://www.poetryinaldeburgh.org/

Poetry Workshops at Sidmouth Folk Festival

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Not long to go now,  the week long folk extravaganza that is Sidmouth Folk Festival is only a couple of weeks away! Music, dance, singing, storytelling and now poetry are all on the programme.  In the elegant and relaxed atmosphere of the Drawing room of the Royal Glen Hotel from 11.30- 1pm Sunday to Thursday, we’ll be using a variety of prompts and devices to stimulate our poetry brains.  No previous writing experience is necessary, the workshops are suitable for novices as well as more experienced writers. They are stand alone but the more you come to, the more fun you’ll have! The subjects for this year’s workshops include ‘poetry of sound and silence’, ‘how to write a ballad’ and ‘poetry games’. If you’ve never experienced ‘Poetry Countdown’ or ‘Poetry what’s in the Bag?’ come along and find out! There’s also a chance to perform in the poetry slot in the Friday Morning Showcase concert.

New for this year is also Sidmouth’s first Poetry Open Mic. It will be held at The Woodlands Hotel on Tuesday 6th August from 5-7pm. Sign up on the door to read for up to four minutes, either your own work or bring along a favourite poem or two you’d like to share. Experienced writers or new poets welcome, or if you don’t want to read, the Woodlands is a perfect place to relax for a couple of hours and just listen to poetry. There will also be a chance to hear me read, I can always guarantee some poems about animals but also watch out for one or two about Morris dancing! I will be joined by a local poet, the amazing Jan Dean, whose work as a Poet-in-Schools has inspired new generations. She also writes ‘Poetry for grown-ups’ and her reading style and unique take on life are guaranteed to have you entertained and enthralled.

Contact me on ilse.pedler@zen.co.uk for more information.

 

Climate Catastrophe: Poets Speak Out

What can we do in the face of  the challenges that we are presented with either on a personal or global level but use what skills we have in any way we can?  For this reason and because I believe passionately about the  responsibility we have to care for our environment,  I will be joining fellow poets to read at an evening of poetry in support of the XR and Fridays for Future Movements at the Waterside Cafe in Kendal on Sunday 23rd June 7-9pm. Hosted by Grey  Hen Press it will feature readers from Dove Cottage Poets, The Brewery Poets and others from Cumbria and Beyond. There is a £5 donation on the door and all proceeds will go to the UK Youth Climate Coalition.

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Well that was fun!

The poetry workshops at Sidmouth Folk Week  were so much fun. We wrote poems about Great Grandfather’s violins, dragon mountains, Brexit, the inventor of the shopping mall and of course the seagulls The quick and hungry Gods of the Church of the Webbed Feet.  It was such a great experience to lead the sessions with people of all ages and backgrounds and they worked so hard and with such energy and enthusiasm, despite some of them being up to the early hours singing and dancing and maybe having a little drink or two. The performance on the main stage of the Ham marque was amazing and a several of the participants joined me in reading our collaborative Sidmouth poem which had people laughing out loud as well as bringing a lump to the throat as someone in the audience told me later.

So thank you to all of the people that came to the workshops over the week, to the Folk Week organisers who took a chance and incorporated poetry writing into the festival line up and to all the kind comments from people who came up to me afterwards and said how much they’d enjoyed the poem. Special thanks to Jan Dean a very special local poet and friend who came to some of the workshops and contributed the line in the collaborative poem which sums up the joy and feeling of Folk Week – Folk Week is Sidmouth with it’s corsets off!

And the best thing?   They’ve invited me back next year, so we can do it all over again!