Thursday, 27 June 2013

My Selkie poem set to music, St Magnus Festival, 2013

Stephanie Green and Marisa Sharon Hartanto at the St Magnus Festival, Orkney, 2013

Back from the Orkney Writers' course: one of the most exciting experiences was hearing the verse of one of my poems, 'The Child of Breckon Sands'  set to music by a talented, young composer, Indonesian-born, Marisa Sharon Hartanto on the Composers' course.  It was sung  by the mezzo soprano Alison Wells in the Peedie Church, Kirkwall as part of a poet and composer masterclass at the St Magnus Festival where we also heard comments from the Director, Alisdair Nicholson.

Marisa's music was hauntingly beautiful and very evocative of what I was trying to achieve in my poem. I was thrilled with it, and also delighted to meet the charming Marisa. (I give her website below.)

 'The Child of Breckon Sands' is inspired by a selkie folktale from the Isle of Yell, Shetland.  Here is an extract:

My peerie boy, the only voices you hear haunting the dunes
are the shalder shaking loose its cry
and the rain-throated rain-goose:

                     a' wet, wet, wet,
                                waur wadder, waur wadder.

Notes on Shetlandic:
peerie - little
shalder - oyster-catcher
rain-goose:  red-throated diver, whose cry is said to presage rain.
waur wadder:  worse weather

The full poem will appear in my forthcoming pamphlet to be published by HappenStance in 2015.

Marisa Sharon Hartanto:    
also you can hear some of her other music on

Marisa's next production will be the music for an Indonesian (Wayang Golek) Puppet Show  by Mathew Cohen at the Clore, South Bank, London on 6th July, 2013.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Orkney Writers at the St Magnus Festival, 2013

Exciting news is that I'm one of the 8 poets selected on the Orkney Writers' Course and will get to  perform with the other participants at the St. Magnus Festival, Kirkwall, June, 2013.

St. Magnus Festival,  Orkney
Sunday 23rd June, 2013
'Poems with Tunes, Tea and Cake'

Orkney Writers accompanied by classical guitarist, James Boyd 
 at 16.30-17.50
at the Stromness Hotel, Stromness.

So a change from my usual summer trip to Shetland, but I am not being totally disloyal as Jen Hadfield who tutored me on courses in Shetland will also, with  Pam Beasant be the tutor on the Orkney course. So it will be great to meet up in a new setting.
Christopher Reid, the Festival Poet in Residence, will give us a Master Class and we get an opportunity to collaborate with the musicians on the Orkney Composers' course.  Evenings at the St Magnus Festival events - can't wait to hear the acoustics in the cathedral.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Venice, Byron, Browning, Ruskin, Singer Sargent etc

After our week by the Italian lake Orta, the Hub and I, abandoning our hire car, travelled to Venice by train - just as I was getting used to driving on the right (wrong) side of the road, controls on the right (wrong) and hair pin bends etc but obviously one does not need a car in La Serenissima.

Friends met at Orta GS had recommended we get a week's season ticket on the vaporetti - 'It feels like you're travelling for free,' they said. And it saved us a fortune. Great to ride up and down the Grand Canal as many times as we wished, or hop on and off at various places - even all the way out to the Lido (to sit on the veranda of the Hotel des Bains where Visconti filmed 'Death in Venice' where a tiramisu cup and coffee cost more than a 6-7 course meal elsewhere and where service took so long the Hub declared he now knew what the chap (name? played by Dirk Bogarde) died of: obviously it was starvation.

Ca'Rezzonico chose to go to as owned by Browning. (Not the poet, tho he died there, I later discovered, but his son, Pen Barret Browning). The visit a homage to 'My Last Duchess' being the first poem that hit me with such dramatic force that I am still reeling, and opened my eyes to poetry. Probably the reason why I chose to read English at university and not try for art school and why I write so many dramatic monologues myself -the most influential poem in my entire career. As callow 14-15 year olds we were introduced to it by our wonderful English teacher, Mrs. Bainbridge (not Beryl but Ivy) who also introduced us to Tennyson (The Lady of Shalot) - not so shattering, Keats (St. Agnes' Eve)- also influential.

Also I read the biography of Elizabeth Barret Browning some time ago - (As school girls we had also acted a one-act play in our school's House drama competition about her lying on a sofa being tyrannized by her father, and her salvation and freedom when Browning took her away) but the biography left me with a rather more depressive impression of her continued drug addiction (laudenam - sp?), her 'little girl' mannerisms she never grew out of and general Black Cloud of negativity. So a few illusions fostered by the play were shattered. Ca'Rezzonico was also very dark and gloomy - like so many of these palaces which keep their shades down to preserve the art work (and also necessary in the summer heat). The vast ball-room was stupenduous - don't know if the Brownings owned this, or only an upper floor flat. (The Mezzanine is dedicated to Browning.)If so poets, earned a bit more than they do now. (Tho it was Pen's, the son's). So some research to do.

If you're interested, I have written about the art I saw in my art blog 'Wandering round Art Galleries..'
Yes, we did spot the palazzo Byron wrote Don Juan in (and kept his monkeys,dogs and foxes. No mention of the giraffe?), learnt that Singer Sergeant had also stayed at Ca'Rezzonico, noted the one Henry James wrote 'The Aspern Papers' in, and not sure, but think I spotted which one was the Mosca family's (of Francesco/BBC 4 documentary about Venice fame); went to the Pensione Calcina, a restaurant on a pier opposite house where Ruskin ( he of the art must 'burn like a clear, bright flame') stayed on the Zattere, Dorsoduro. Wonderful to sit above the expanse of darkening waters and see the lights on the Guidecca on the far side, and port and starboard lights of passing ships. There are few places to sit by the water on the Grand Canal (apart from the over-priced, overcrowded Rialto) so the Zattere was a find.
We did not discover where Vivaldi's orphanage was - a reason to return - but you can hear 'The Four Seasons' almost every other night at various churches. No thanks, much as I love it but know far too well. I do hope the Venetians have a more varied concert diet to get them through the winter.

Some Venetian poems may result - I hope. Plenty of notes taken - and thousands of photos. I actually got photoed out. It is too tempting not to look with one's eyes, or scribble notes for possible poems, with those digital thingies. I was leaning on Ca'd'Oro's first floor balustrade over the Grand Canal when a vaporetto went by. As it came level, the boat exploded into silver fireworks -the flashes of everyone's camera going off. And I am one of the worst. Made resolution then to put camera away, and get notebook out.

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