Blossom with Gail (from Devizes)

Phone memory bursting with text messages from Gail Foster the day I did my fundraising milk round in my Spiderman onesie. A keen photographer as well as accomplished local poet, Gail had cycled to the summit of Monument Hill and sat awaiting to capture the moment I returned triumphant.

I confess, I underestimated my ETA massively due to the media attention, Carmela and family arriving, and passers by stopping me to donate. I was also irritable and smelly by that point, but those are occupational hazards at the best of times, doubly so in a onesie in the sweltering August climate. Gail, though, was as dedicated as paparazzi to getting the snap she wanted, got me smiling just to see her there, and it’s the same commitment she shows through her expressions in poetry. Her shiny new book, Blossom is a prime example.

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Images by Gail Foster herself!

Perhaps its very title coveys Gail’s grouping of photography and poetry, natural elements crucial to her snaps, but her books bestow only the written word. We’ve reviewed Gail’s books in the past, never an easy task. Poetry not my bag, usually, so I cannot liken to similar creative outpourings. There’s also the fear that my own penmanship doesn’t compare and will not do justice to her creative writing. Poems are hard, something about bacon. Yet it is down to befriending Gail which has re-sparked an interest in poetry in me, and deflected my juvenile fear of a Ted Hughes book facing me on a school desk. That’s how universally appealing her words are.

While subjects chronologically stream from one poem to another, expect also, sudden changes in Gail’s train of thought. Blossom kicks off with a memorial forward and dark subjects follow, of wintery funerals and melancholic seasons. One may expect this, the platitude of poems often reveals a shadowy side of the poet. But, just a few poems in and though we’re still on the seasonal theme, winter cries a warning to Gail, to keep her knickers on.

Here is precisely why Gail got me into in poetry, a feat I never cared to assume would happen. The wittiness of the absurd, surreal, Pythoneske can crop up, without warning and provide actual laugh-out-loud observations. There’s a feeling of daring in Gail’s words, while acute and proficiently executed, nothing is off limits. Gail projects drollness, jocularity and just about every other emotion of the human psyche, in manner which though reflects poets of yore, breathes a fresh and unique approach to boot.

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In this, her new book Blossom doesn’t necessarily take us anywhere new in comparison to her previous collections, there’s even a pigeon reference, a running subject in Gail’s words, yet an improvement in skill and wordplay is clearly evident. Gail strives to advance and progress in her wordsmanship, dealing words like a croupier deals cards, snappy and expertly.

The introduction enlightens us to Gail’s motivation and reason for writing, “I write poems for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes an occasion demands it, in which case I stare at a sonnet on a screen for three days; at other times a poem might tickle me in my sleep, wake me up laughing.” Blossom then conveniently divides into sections, poems covering Seasons, poetry itself, “Binky Liked to Bitch a Bit,” Politics, Characters, Sorrow, Love and Prose, even local thoughts in a section titled, “a bit of old Devizes.”

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There are verses dedicated to friends, themes of celebrities, naughty royals and both Greta and Trump, odes to patronising old men, nosey neighbours, political sway, Brexit, current affairs and Nigel Farage depicted as a meerkat. As we pass through an era Gail documents them uniquely. There are unapologetic words of the sweary kind, bitterness at times, jollity in others; bugger, it’s tricky to nail this poet down; what does she want from me, trying to review a book so vastly sweeping with subject matter and prose?! I’m giving up, you have to read it yourself. You can bless your Kindle with one, or Gail favours that you nip to Devizes Books for a paperback, and I tend to agree. Devizes Books brilliantly supports local authors.

In this time of lockdown, you might need a good read, so too does the artists need some revenue. The advantage of holding Gail’s poems in your hand is that you can freely pursue them at your own leisure. We did once review a spoken word CD which Gail recorded, I like this approach and unsure if she will do it again.

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Proof it’s in Devizes Books, here’s owner Jo holding a copy!

I could, but don’t, motivate myself to attend local poetry slams and readings, in fear those poets I know, Gail, our own writer Andy, and Ian too, might encourage me to get up. Yeah right, “here’s one I wrote called ermm, ermm, and ermm!” Yet, I do love to hear Gail actually reading her poems herself, it’s a Jackanory thing, to hear the creator express their words is far more effective for a slow reader like me. But you, clever lot, will love Blossom.


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REVIEW –Devizes Arts Festival Fringe – Josephine Corcoran – 16th June @ The Vaults, Devizes

Penultimate Parade of Poetry

 

 Written by Andy Fawthrop

Images by Gail Foster (except the one of Gail Foster)

 

Another gig on the final day of Devizes Arts Festival, and something a bit different for the penultimate performance of the Free Fringe – a nice portion of poetry.

Down into the dungeons of The Vaults for this one – a perfect venue for a spoken-word event (The Vaults doesn’t have a music licence). After availing myself of an appropriate libation from the wide range of craft keg and cask beers/ lagers/ ciders in the upstairs bar (where the staff were still recovering from the shock of actually getting to see and serve our esteemed leader Darren the day before [They were delighted Andy, didn’t even take my cash- Ed],) I descended into the cellar to meet the very charming Josephine Corcoran. Josephine is not only a poet, but also a playwright (having had two plays performed on BBC Radio). She also runs a regular poetry group in nearby Trowbridge.

A goodly-sized audience (including a few poetry virgins) had assembled and enjoyed two sets of poetry. In each set Josephine read both from her latest publication (“What Are You After?”) as well as some newer unpublished poems, followed by half a dozen or so local contributors in an “open mic” slot. Josephine’s contributions were thoughtful, personal and close to home, as we learned from her careful introductions to each piece. The efforts from the floor varied in style and tone (including Gail Foster’s fine villanelle regarding the passage of time and of people), comic reflections on luxury toilets and on sex, together with more personal and reflective pieces on topics such as loss of loved ones, memory, separation and even anger. Standard stuff for a Sunday afternoon down the Vaults really. But, seriously, a hugely enjoyable and well-attended event. Hopefully we can do something similar next year too.

Josephine’s latest book is called “What Are You After?” (published 2018 by Nine Arches Press) and you can find out more about her, and her poetry, at www.josephinecorcoran.org

The Vaults’ Poetry Group meets monthly at 7pm on various dates TBA. Next meeting is on Wednesday 26th June. Each month a theme is set as a prompt to inspire new work. You can come with your own work, bring poetry by someone you admire, or just come for a listen. This month, a topic suggested by the latest guest at our table is “Addiction”. Who knows where that one will go? It’s sure to be deep, with a smattering of the light-hearted and supportive conversation that is the hallmark of this poetry group. Work, screens, exercise, love – the scope for addiction is as diverse as the waves on the sea, but is there a thread that links them all? Bring along your work and let’s explore together.

And well done (yet again) to Devizes Arts Festival for putting this on as a Free Fringe event.

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