Minutes of the meeting at La Rosa Hotel on Thursday 6 February 2020.
Topic: Members’ work-in-progress.
Ian — read the first half of Volchin, a short-story about a boy brought up by wolves in mediaeval Russia. He apologised for it not strictly being a “work-in-progress”, having been published twice already, but justified that by saying he had plans to develop it as a full-length novel.
Sue — read a draft radio play: a parody of the BBC’s Gardeners’ Question Time, being broadcast from the village of Ellerby. Questions covered the issue of elf-dung and what it was good for, the occurrence of “bairn-drop” and what to do with the surplus babies found under gooseberry bushes, plus the celebration of fertility rites in the open air, and how to fence-in (or wall-in) the allotment for the purpose.
Jonathan — read: Umhara the Medicine Man. Warned by his dead father in a dream, Umhara calls a meeting of local medicine men to resist the incursion of pink-faced invaders meaning to convert the country to Christianity.
Pip — had brought nothing to read, but opted to use her spot to appeal to the group for help in crafting a proposal to accompany her manuscript when sent out to publishers and agents. Adele authoritatively presented a librarian’s view of what publishers were currently on the lookout for (basically: something they felt they could sell). Ian pointed out a paradox: that whereas memoirs form a large proportion of published books, publishers ought to be drawn to a manuscript like this, which was by no means “run-of-the-mill”. And yet a commissioning editor would need to justify her choice of Pip’s manuscript to her colleagues, which inevitably meant comparison with well-known forerunners simply to convey its flavour to someone who was not able to find the time to read it themselves. He set “homework” for those of us who had heard Pip reading her entertaining book in the past: next time bring a list of other books like it, be they memoirs, novels or travelogues – or at least books which could be used to describe it, if only to say how they differed.
Adele – read a poem: Sturm und Drang (“Storm and Stress”) which nicely evoked the style of the eponymous German literature of the 19th century. The poet presents a clifftop scene in which the onset of a tempest mirrors the internal tumult she is currently experiencing. Members praised the elemental energy of the poem and its choice of metaphor, but some were confused by the first verse as to where exactly the narrator was located – clifftop, house or ship – and was the storm taking place in her dream. Adele promised to work on it and read the revised poem at the next meeting.
Lesley – read a riveting and accomplished poem-cycle: Thoughts from Belfast, 1972:
Autumn in the Park: a tranquil scene is shattered by the deadly crack of a sniper’s rifle.
Through the Eyes of a Child: a boy born during the Troubles uncritically accepts the prevailing hatreds and sectarianism as part of everyday life.
The Soldier: a young man standing guard pales at the thought that death is closer than home.
Members were full of praise for the three poems, noting particularly that the message of the second one was timeless and universal, in view of the wars to blight children’s lives that had since taken place. Some debate centred on whether its reference to “St Mary” detracted from its universality. Some wanted the reference anonymised or else widened to include other gods, others saw it as valid and pertinent to Northern Ireland in the 1970s, particularly if the poem was to be accompanied by the other two.
The meeting closed at 13:10.