Light of Day, published in April, 2010, is the first anthology devoted to members' current work. See "Member's Poems" for some content.
Complimentary copies are available to members. Copies may also be purchased from Richard Hancock by contacting 01234 211047.
To mark the 25th anniversary of the foundation of Toddington Poetry Society (TPS), a book entitled EUREKA! was published (with the help of an “Awards for All” lottery grant).
The book (64 pages) draws on work by members of the Society from its beginnings, some of whom are now well-known names in modern English poetry. It features a great variety of poems - 61 in all- and a number of interesting articles on TPS’s background, interests and activities. It is illustrated with photographs and many pen and ink drawings. The cover is appropriately silver to mark the 25th anniversary and features a drawing of a surprised and delighted Archimedes.
Copies of the book are still available from Ann Biddle
Tel: 01582 735669
The TPS contribution to the forWORD festival, entitled Diverse Verse, was performed at the hat Factory on the afternoon of Nov. 12, 2005. Over 30 took part, presenting their own work with music and computerised imagery accompaniment, to an appreciative and supportive audience.
In 2001, The Society mounted an Exhibition in Luton Central Library, which ran for a fortnight. The six panels featured poems and photographs by past and present members, all on the theme of the exhibition (“Holes”), and described the activities of TPS.
In 2000, TPS ran a second successful “Poetry on the Buses” children’s Competition for the Luton area in conjunction with Arriva buses. The prizes were presented by John Mole who has published many collections of poetry, including several for children and who has won an award for his contribution to children's literature. He talked to the young poets about writing and read some of his own poems. A representative from Arriva gave the children framed copies of their poems which appeared on local Arriva buses.Back to top
Early examples included writing to a drum (an interesting exercise in rhythm), a sculpture workshop (a lot of hammering), and a launch of a new book about Rilke.
A workshop exploring links between MUSIC and POETRY was led by “The Duo with the Big Sound” (Doog and Pamela Moody).
We all enjoyed listening to their renderings of a miscellany of songs, including many of their own compositions. The latter were mainly love songs with deceptively simple lyrics that carried direct feeling without sentimentality. Pam’s superb voice and Doog’s unusual interpretations inspired us to consider writing lyrical verse suited to musical accompaniment. Some members brought along poems with a musical theme, including one by the Australian poet, John Kinsella, and one by Brian Biddle about Schumann’s life, which centred on five notes in a strange key. Doog rose impressively to the challenge of producing something musical from these.
A Workshop entitled PERFORMANCE POETRY featured Paul Rafferty. This poet, stand-up comic and man of many parts has performed on radio and TV and his poetry workshops and open-mike sessions have been very popular.
After warming us up with a number of performance tapes and his own witty version of the married life of “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat”, he persuaded an initially reticent audience to brave the microphone, to warm up and perform. And this they did under his encouraging guidance. Members “performed” their own writing or chosen poems assuming the voices of, for example, St George, the princess and the dragon, and cockney Granny Watkins at the zoo. Poems which might have been simply read were given an added dimension and by the end of the evening we were jostling for a place on the platform.
It was an evening in which much latent talent was revealed and in which any barrier between narrowly defined “performance poetry” and poetry in general was removed.
Peter Stileman led a workshop on POETIC FORM.
Here is Martha Ault’s write-up of the evening:
Question: What can rhyme contribute to poetry? Answer: a musical quality; memorability; emphasis; coherence, clarity; it can point up juxtaposition of ideas and convey a humourous effect. Yet not all poets are in favour of rhyme. Milton (1608-1674) saw it as "but the invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame metre." Conversely, Johnson (1709-1784) argued: "Poetry may subsist without rhyme, but (without it) English poetry will not often please."
These were Peter Stileman's starting points for a discussion of 'Poetic Form'. He took us from Milton to T.E. Hulme (1883-1917) by way of Johnson, Donne, Pope, Gray, Cowper and Wordsworth and focused our attention of the idea that poetry must involve a "unification of sensibility - a fusion of mind or body". Donne's Holy Sonnet XVIII gave evidence that such a fusion was possible for rhymed verse, although Peter drew our attention to Johnson's opinion of it: "the most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together." The idea of religion as the spouse of Christ was yoked together with ideas of Knights and their extra-marital courtly love. Observations from the group drew on the historical background of the sonnet and the intensity of questioning, at that time, about which followed the true religion: the Protestant or Catholic church.
No one is better than Peter at persuading a group to look closely at a poem and, in John Thynne's words, to "peel back layer after layer of meaning" until we begin to glimpse its riches. Before this meeting, Alexander Pope seemed to me too artificial to be interesting. Peter conceded some artificiality but argued even so, Pope was the greatest writer of rhyming poetry. Look again, he persuaded us. "Every line is a jewel; every word is selected with exquisite care." As evidence of this , he had printed on our handouts, below cantos from The Rape of the Lock, these lines from Pope's Essay on Man, Epistle 1:
"The spider's touch, how exquisitely fine Feels at each thread, and lives along the line.
This catches the essence of the spider, said Peter, and so it obeyed T.E. Hulme's later dictum that poetry should capture "the very curve of the thing itself".
Next we turned to Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes, which Peter described as "an intellectual exercise" using and "over-educated vocabulary". And, before we took a break, we paused, briefly, with two stanzas from Thomas Gray's Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College. Gray, Peter considered on the borderline between the high flown diction of much eighteenth century verse and the Romanticism of the nineteenth century poets.
We returned after the break to another poet who presaged the Romantic Movement: Cowper and his melancholy. Fortunately we were fortified with drinks and sandwiches, as Cowper's poem, The Castaway, is a powerful expression of man's powerlessness and isolation. In the convivial atmosphere of The Shannon, we withstood two readings of this bleak work, going round the group reading a stanza each. Afterwards, as Brian Biddle pointed out, we spent longer discussing this work than any of the previous poems. Cowper, like Pope, is a poet I must look at again. Despite his local significance as a resident of Olney, I've found him remote and difficult to appreciate. Apparently, he wrote The Castaway when he was suffering deep depression after the death of his companion, Mrs. Unwin. His last lines convey this despair:
"But I beneath a rougher sea Am whelmed in deeper gulphs than he."
After this, we looked at Wordsworth and his Lucy poems, weighing them against his boast from the Preface to The Lyrical Ballads: "My purpose was to imitate, as far as possible, the very language of men."
The Lucy poems bore out this claim except, we noted, in the two stanzas beginning: "A slumber did my spirit steal..." not many people would remark on the "earth's diurnal course."
Finally, we came to "the very curve of the thing itself" - T.E. Hulme's succinct and telling manifesto for poetry rhymed and unrhymed.
Your mind is buzzing with ideas after an evening like this. It may mean a bit less sleep than usual but that's a bargain price to pay for an expanded understanding of so many poems. Peter Stileman is famous - among TPS members and beyond - for the extent of his knowledge of literature and the sensitivity of his insights – qualities which both feed into and draw from his skill as a poet. If he had known Peter and an evening like this, even poor William Cowper might have felt cheerful.