Tag Archives: Swarf

A Sense of Place -Oriel Davies Writing Competition



‘A Sense of Place’ Writing Competition 2014, Oriel Davies, Newtown, Powys, Wales.

The Oriel Davies writing competition returns between 17 May – 25 October 2014 with the theme A Sense of Place, convened and judged by Chris Kinsey.

Writers are invited to submit pieces throughout the competition period that focus on ‘A Sense of Place’. Entries should be poems of up to 50 lines each; or prose pieces of up to 1000 words each. The winning entry will be featured on the gallery website and social media, and be read to an audience at an event in late autumn. Shortlisted writers will also be invited to participate in the readings.



Amanda Farr, director of Oriel Davies writes:

A Sense of Place’ is our theme for this year’s writing competition. We are really excited to be presenting this competition in particular from our rural context in Mid Wales, known widely for its distinctive sense of place, landscape, language and culture. We are also pleased to welcome Chris Kinsey, a fantastic locally-based poet and our writer in residence 2011 – 2013 as the competition convenor and judge. We look forward to reading the entries…


This year’s writing competition will be judged by Chris Kinsey who was Oriel Davies’ Writer-in-Residence 2011-13. She is the author of 3 poetry collections: Kung Fu Lullabies and Cure for a Crooked Smile published by Ragged Raven Press and Swarf by Smokestack Books. Chris was BBC Wildlife Poet of the year in 2008. She also writes a regular Nature Diary for Cambria and won Natur Cymru’s last prose competition, ‘Inspired by Nature’.

For full competition entry guidelines download the competition flyer: http://www.orieldavies.org/sites/default/files/Sense%20of%20Place%20flyer_Layout%201.pdf


In the republic of poetry (5) a debutante and a book launch



Photograph of Rosie Bailey, Chris Kinsey and Kaite O’Reilly by Liz Hinkley.


It’s been an extraordinarily creative week. To Newtown in Wales on Thursday for the book launch of Chris Kinsey’s new collection of poetry, Swarf at Oriel Davies. It was my debut at a poetry reading/spoken word event and I was in terrific company with R V Bailey, Andy Croft and Jane Dards reading work, alongside the indomitable Chris Kinsey.

What impressed me with the evening Chris curated was the mixture of voices and styles from the guest readers, structured around themes explored in her collection: observations of the natural and human world, the immigrant experience, Traumatic Brain Injury… The collection is rich and varied, dense with wisdom and thoughtful provocations.

One of the greatest pleasures was to appear on the same platform as R V Bailey, who I have admired from a distance for some time – and admire even more now, close-up.

‘So, you’re a debutante’ she announced later, over a glass or two of the hard stuff. It may have been my first poetry reading, but I have a feeling it won’t be the last.


In the republic of poetry (3). Borders and trespass

After my previous post, querying labels and form, poetry and playwriting, I received a wonderful email from writer Martin Pursey:
“Perhaps as a winner of a poetry prize you should not think of yourself as a trespasser at all; I would offer you as comfort the image of a colonial map of territories. A demarcation-line drawn through desert, plain and forest is cheerfully ignored by the tribespeople who live across and all round it; so there you are, taking your goods to market, and you don’t even know you’ve crossed a border, it simply doesn’t matter for your purpose, and you are just as authentic a maker on either side or both!”
As to my comments on the comfort of poetry, in troubling or bereaved times, Martin continues, in parenthesis:
“(Long ago, when I played soldiers a little, I was greeted by the colour-sergeant, after a slow and disbelieving look up-&-down, with “So you are the Queen’s latest bad bargain, come to burden this Regiment and trouble my declining years?” — poetic, I thought at the time. He later astonished us, at a slightly dangerous time, by interspersing his commands and activities with ammunition and so on, with a wistful and heartfelt recital from ‘Fern Hill’:  “As I was young and easy Under the apple boughs about the lilting house And happy as the grass was green…”  -and he was a Regular!)”
As I was delighting in this interaction with Martin Pursey, I got an email from Chris Kinsey  in response to my musings  about characters and narratives, poetry and playwriting. She has allowed me to reproduce several poems from her new collection, Swarf .
“What about this one about words and inspiration?” She asks:


Rain animates the world beyond the glass.

Bare twigs sprout a crop of the fattest drops

water can hold, silvery as spoons

lining up on the draining-board.

Bullfinches ripen the empty apple trees.

Boundary yews shrug in seclusion,

shrubs huddle all borders. My thoughts too,

are screened, trained to a tenant’s need.

At home my gazing’s different.

The garden’s a runway to buzzard spirals,

vapour-trail ciphers. At doves’ ovations

I wait for word-specks to form.


Or this one which is a poem monologue rather than a dramatic one she writes:


It came on suddenly

this blindness thing

like walking into the barn

on a Summer day –

split shafts, shadows,


Thought he was mucking about

Hide ‘n’ seeking me.

Thought it was my eyes playing tricks

when I found him,

but it wasn’t a feedbag

rocking from the rafters.

His father went to the War

brought back a darkness.

Billy caught it.

Now the dark’s in me.

Bits of me come back sometimes –

I’m going to look for Billy.


All poems (c) Chris Kinsey, from Swarf, published by Smokestack books.

In the republic of poetry (2)

As I am now a poet according to The Poetry Society, Jeanette Winterson and the laureates of England and Wales (and in this company, who am I to disagree?), it is time perhaps for me to go public and brace myself for that first poetry reading.

The opportunity has come from my friend Chris Kinsey, who in so many ways is responsible for repatriating me back into the republic of poetry. Her latest collection, Swarf, will be launched at Oriel Davies in Newtown, where she is poet in residence, on Thursday 15th September 2011, at 7.30pm, and she has invited me to duet with her.

The idea is thrilling but also perplexing. I don’t write poetry per se, so am not quite sure what I’ll be expected to read at this ‘poetry reading’. Ever supportive, Chris gives me some suggestions of speeches from my plays which she feels have resonance with some of her poems in Swarf. This helpfulness merely perplexes me even more. What she has chosen are dialogue from play scripts, speeches written down as prose in the same format as this paragraph you, dear reader, are looking at now. They were not written as poems, but words to suggest a character, create pace, dynamic and rhythm, to push a story along. They aren’t set out in any shape or manner that resembles what I’ve seen published in poetry books – Chris Kinsey’s included.

This relationship between language and form – poetic or otherwise – has puzzled me for many years.

When I was younger, I used to read poetry widely, but somewhere  along the way became nervous and suspicious – not of the poems, but my own capacity to understand them. There were always some poets I still read and engaged with, but I wonder where this self-denigration came from? I’m not the only one feeling this way, or asking this question. In this quarterly’s edition of Mslexia magazine, D J Taylor queries why generations are growing up with a phobia, if not fear, of poetry.

Although I don’t actually write poetry, my version of Persians won the Ted Hughes Award for new works in Poetry earlier this year. As Aeschylus’s original, which I followed closely, was a verse drama, it fits the label. I was honoured to win the award and to have my name linked with two astonishing Poet laureates – Ted Hughes and Carol Ann Duffy, who initiated the award.  So why this trepidation in labelling, this fear of the poetic word? Will I be an imposter, masquerading as something I’m not at Chris’s book launch?

I look up the other readers who will perform that evening, to see if some clues lie there. R V Bailey has published three solo poetry collections, and From you to me – Love Poems, with her partner U A Fanthorpe. Andy Croft is the publisher of Smokestack Books, a widely published poet in his own right, and (a detail which delights me),  the writer of a regular poetry column in The Morning Star. The final reader will be Jane Dards, who has poems published in publications as diverse as Envoi, The Spectator, and The Oldie. Alongside them and the cause for this gathering is the wonderful Madam Kinsey, BBC Wildlife poet of the year, celebrating her third collection….

They are all poets. They all write poetry.

I wonder if I’m being overly literal. I’m not a fan of this segregational attitude I seem to have taken on. ‘Descriptive, not prescriptive’ I often say at workshops – and here I am, probably being blinkered in view and definition, quibbling about form.

But form is so essential. It is the life marrow in the bones that hold my work up.

I go back to the words.

What I seem to write are performance texts or prose which are viewed as poetry by poets, deemed highly lyrical by critics and cultural commentators. Told by the Wind, which I co-created with Jo Shapland and Phillip Zarrilli for The Llanarth group last year ‘..has the astringent purity of a haiku poem..’ Elizabeth Mahoney reviewed in The Guardian.

‘The pleasure in O’Reilly’s play … is in  the easy, generous flow of the writing, with its mixtures of wit and singing lyricism ..’ Lynn Gardner wrote in the same paper of an earlier play, Belonging, for Birmingham Rep’.

At the Saville Club in Mayfair when I was given the Ted Hughes award, I likened it to discovering and being welcomed into a section of the family I never knew existed. I could see the family resemblances, sense the shared DNA – but was also aware of those rogue genes which brought unfamiliar features and essential differences.

Poets… Playwrights….I wonder if I’m being too narrow in my definitions.

When I think about it, many poems I read (not least the Poet Laureate’s The World’s Wife) use words ‘to suggest a character, create pace, dynamic and rhythm, to push a story along’, to quote myself from earlier in this post.

But more importantly, are there others who doubt their own capacities to read and comprehend poetry? If so, where does that come from? What has distanced us from where we began, and what we loved so much as children – and what we turn to in bereaved or troubled times?

Any comments?


For details of the poetry reading and book launch of Swarf by Chris Kinsey at Oriel Davies, Newtown, Wales, click on:                   http://www.orieldavies.org/en/events/book-launch-poetry-night

Andy Croft’s most recent column in The Morning Star: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/108528

For details of the book and the publisher: