Tag Archives: Ivor Gurney

The Golden Room

Contributors to The Golden Room gather on the steps of the Stroud Subscription Rooms, 26 July 2014 by Ray Cranham

Contributors to The Golden Room gather on the steps of the Stroud Subscription Rooms, 26 July 2014 by Ray Cranham

On the 24th June, 1914, two days before the birth of Laurie Lee, a famous literary gathering took place in Gloucestershire. Just outside the village of Dymock, a group of friends met at The Old Nail Shop – the home of Wilfrid Gibson and his wife. Also present were fellow writers Lascelles Abercrombie, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, and Robert Frost. There they shared their poetry, their words, their wit and wisdom and dreams. They went on to inspire each other to write some of the best-loved poems in the English language (‘Adlestrop’, ‘The Road Not Taken’, ‘The Soldier’ among others), many of which first saw light in their self-published anthology, New Numbers. They became known, years later, as The Dymock Poets. That first night was immortalised by Gibson in his poem ‘The Golden Room’ and on Saturday modern writers (many of them from Stroud and Gloucestershire) gathered in the Subscription Rooms to celebrate their legacy.

The day was co-organised by Stroud-based poets Kevan Manwaring and Jay Ramsay, with the former arranging the daytime programme of speakers and presentations, and the latter, the evening showcase of poetry and music.

The day started with a keynote speech from Chair of the Friends of the Dymock Poets, Jeff Cooper, who had come all the way down from his native Lancashire to introduce the Dymocks. As he is the grandson of their founder, Lascelles Abercrombie, this was especially resonant.

Next we had Anglophile American Linda Harte (a long-term resident of Malvern), the author of Once They Lived in Gloucestershire, to give a more detailed survey of the Dymocks, focusing on her fellow compatriot Robert Frost. She brought with her rare editions of Georgian Poetry (the movement-defining anthology of the era) and a complete set of New Numbers.

After the break we had the first of two short films by Scott Anthony and Geoff Poole – evocative interpretations of the works of Edward Thomas in music and image, and a welcome break to overheating left-brains.

There followed an engaging presentation on editor and critic Edward Garnett by Anthony Nanson, related to Garnett through his grandmother Barbara Newstead-Garnett. This once key figure, who mentored major literary figures of the early Twentieth Century (DH Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, HE Bates, WH Hudson, and Edward Thomas among others) was justly brought into the limelight at last. Nanson emphasised not only Garnett’s perspicacity as a critic, but also his conviction that literary worth should be the chief criteria for publication, not commercial potential. This, and his championing of writing with environmental sensibilities, makes him an avant-garde and topical figure.

After lunch we were shown a film about composer and First World War poet, Ivor Gurney, entitled ‘Severn and Somme’, named after his iconic collection. This was made by Bristol-based film-maker Diana Taylor, who showed up just in time to answer questions about her self-funded, and moving portrait of the impact and tragedy of war.

Richard Carder, a composer and poet from Bath (Chair of the English Song and Poetry Society) followed this up with a presentation on Gurney and his music, giving several examples of his pieces – settings of the works of Thomas, himself and others – some of which Carder himself plays on in the recordings selected. Musicality and awareness of musical genres (folk, classical, music hall) run through much of the Dymocks’ work so this was a welcome addition to the day.

The final paper of the day was by Kirsty Hartsiotis, Curator of Decorative arts and Designated Collections at the Wilson Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum. She talked to us about ‘Cotswold Characters’ – focusing on Dymock poet John Drinkwater and his connection with the Arts and Crafts Movement in the Cotswolds in a fascinating and well-illustrated presentation which unearthed many treasures – some of which can be found in the Wilson!

The daytime programme concluded with a plenary discussion about the themes of the day. Creative fellowship is the main thread that underpins not only the Dymock Poets story, but also the very special Stroud scene, which this was largely the fruit of (and which the evening showcase especially illustrated). An environmental sensiblity (what Nanson, Manwaring, Hartsiotis & Metcalfe term ‘ecobardic’) and a strong anti-war sentiment were also perennial themes that the works of the Dymock poets convey to us across the century, making their legacy more relevant than ever.

The evening showcase, hosted gracefully by Jay Ramsay, kicked off with the hypnotic sound of the HangHang Duo – Barry Mason and Lina Lotto playing the Swiss hang drum. There followed an exemplary succession of strong Stroud voices: Adam Horovitz, Marion Fawlk, Steve Morris, Gabriel Millar, Jay himself, followed after the break by Rick Vick, Jehanne Mehta, Karen Eberhardt-Shelton, Polly Howell, and Anna Saunders (from Cheltenham Poetry Festival). Each poet took at least one of the poems of the Dymocks and responded to it in their own way – conducting a conversation across a hundred years. These creative responses critically brought the focus of the event into the present day – for these are (some of) the Gloucestershire writers living and working in the county today, and, each in their way, carry on the work of the Dymock Poets, especially through the spirit of creative fellowship which pervades in this remarkable town.

This long, hot day of poetry and colloquy celebrated a special gathering and in doing so created its own ‘golden room’ – and whenever kindred spirits and creative souls gather together and share their awen, that golden room lives on.

Soundbites:

For Kevan Manwaring, co-writer (with Terence James) of the Dymock Poets screenplay, The Road Not Taken, this event was the culmination of several years’ interest. His ‘Dymock fever’ brought him to the county and he hopes that he and his fellow contributors managed to pass it on to the audience by the end of the day!

 
‘I feel inspired by the ethos and imaginative vision of the night and feel Stroud has a lot to teach Cheltenham. I’ve written two new poems since the event and feel that many of the poems I heard, have now influenced my own aesthetics.’ Anna Saunders, Director, Cheltenham Poetry Festival

Walking with Words

Sign for Laurie Lee Wood, opened this June by his widow, Kathy.

Sign for Laurie Lee Wood, opened this June by his widow, Kathy.

I have a series of literary rambles coming up – Walking with Words – as part of the Cotswold Word Centre programme which I’ve devised in conjunction with Hawkwood College. WWW combines two of my favourite things – literature and walking. Last week I walked each of the routes, and had an enjoyable time reading out poems in situ on Crickley Hill with my friend Anthony.

Anthony Nanson reads out some Ivor Gurney on Crickley Hill, KM

Anthony Nanson reads out some Ivor Gurney on Crickley Hill, KM

Here’s a poem I penned on Swift’s Hill in Slad Valley – made famous by Gloucestershire’s most famous writer, Laurie Lee.

ON SWIFT’S HILL

On Swift’s Hill I learn to be still.

A walk in silence

fills my head with murmorous voices.

I venture down the meandering backlines

and bywords of Laurie’s valley,

where a walk is a sentence as long as the day.

This strange familiar land

steeped in his words

like a rat in cider.

Long lost ghosts come alive

at the touch of his pen,

at the turn of a page.

The shadows lengthen,

the bramble bushes ripen,

black handgrenades of juice

waiting to ambush your tongue.

The trees are heavy with summer,

like cows slowly coming home,

In this wild heaven

the day takes as long

as it wants.

The busy world

is elsewhere.

The Severn is a silver slither

on the horizon.

Dark Wales, a frowning brow.

The golden Cotswold massif,

a broken off slab of toffee.

The barrowed hills of peace

where the dead keep mum.

Somewhere below,

my worries await,

but for now they can cool their heels.

I’m walking with Laurie

and there’s always time for a slow half

in the Woolpack’s hallowed snug.

 

Kevan Manwaring

2nd September 2013

On Swift's Hill, Slad Valley, KM

On Swift’s Hill, Slad Valley, KM

Check out this lovely programme about Laurie Lee’s Slad Valley – Laurie Lee Land on Radio 4’s Open Country –

featuring Stroud’s very own poetical son, Adam Horovitz, of the famous dynasty of verse (Michael & Frances Horovitz).

 

 

WALKING WITH WORDS

Kevan Sapperton walk with Jay 17 Feb '13
Throughout Autumn/Winter 2013-14 Kevan will be leading a series of literary rambles around Gloucestershire – in the footsteps of some of the great writers who have lived here: Laurie Lee, Edward Thomas, Ivor Gurney, WH Davies and John Drinkwater. Each walk will be 2-3 hours long, moderate, approx. 5 miles, and will include plenty of time to ‘stand and stare’, (or sit and write). A lovely Sunday roast lunch will be provided by Hawkwood College. Transport can arranged.

Sunday 22nd September

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF LAURIE LEE (part of ‘Walking With Words’)

On the eve of Laurie Lee’s centenary year, walk in the footsteps of the great Gloucestershire writer through his beloved Slad Valley – finding inspiration en route for your own writing. There will be plenty of opportunities to ‘stand and stare’ on this gentle bardic amble. We’ll visit the orchard Laurie Lee saved, donated by his family to the Wildlife Trust. After paying our respects at his grave, a drink in his local, The Woolpack, (be it Rosie cider or a cup of coffee) will slake your thirst before returning to Hawkwood College for lunch. Led by local writer and keen walker Kevan Manwaring.

email: info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk

or telephone: 01453 759034

Sunday 29th September

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF WH DAVIES (part of ‘Walking With Words’@ Hawkwood College)

WH Davies (Author of ‘Autobiography of a Supertramp’) died in Nailsworth on 26th September, 1940. He is best remembered for his much-loved poem, ‘Leisure’. In this walk we visit the cottage Davies resided in, and explore his old stomping ground, finding inspiration along the way. Lifts to be arranged from Hawkwood College, where we’ll return for a delicious lunch.
Booking: info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk

or telephone: 01453 759034

 

Sunday 6th October

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF EDWARD THOMAS & ROBERT FROST (part of ‘Walking With Words’)

On the 100th Anniversary of the first meeting between poets Edward Thomas and Robert Frost we follow in the footsteps of one of their famous ‘walks-talking’ bardic rambles, up May Hill where Thomas wrote ‘Words’. Lifts to be arranged from Hawkwood College, where we’ll return for a delicious lunch.

email: info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk

or telephone: 01453 759034


Sunday 3rd November

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF IVOR GURNEY (part of ‘Walking With Words’)

On Remembrance Sunday we remember the First World War Poet, Ivor Gurney, who loved Gloucestershire. We’ll visit the Beak at Birdlip and read his work as we go, finding inspiration for our own writing along the way. Lifts to be arranged from Hawkwood College, where we’ll return for a delicious lunch. (‘Strange the large difference of up-Cotswold ways;/Birdlip climbs bold and treeless to a bend,
Portway to dim wood-lengths without end,/And Crickley goes to cliffs that are the crown of days.’ Cotswold Ways, Ivor Gurney)

email: info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk

or telephone: 01453 759034
Sunday 6th April

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JOHN DRINKWATER (part of ‘Walking With Words’)

On this walk we follow in the footsteps of Dymock Poet, John Drinkwater, who memorably wrote of ‘Cotswold Love’ in April (‘When April comes to Amberley/With skies of April blue/And Cotswold girls are briding/With slyly tilted shoe.). We’ll travel up to Rodborough Common and walk to the Black Horse in Amberley – writing and reciting as we go. Lifts to be arranged from Hawkwood College, where we’ll return for a delicious lunch.

email: info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk

or telephone: 01453 759034