Pedalling Poetry II

My next mission on bike and train for #APF 2015 was Bury St Edmunds, in particular a writer’s group set up in St Nicholas Hospice there. At 42 miles (three and a half hours) it’s a bit far to bike, so I took the train, changing at Ipswich, then cycled the remaining two and a half miles. I nearly got lost, till I hit upon the rather grim trick of following ambulances. I made it in time for lunch, and met the group there.

It was a wonderful session – and a rather wonderful place. They have a garden there with a small wood, lawns and scented flowers, and a memorial tree set up by the widow of a patient, a beautiful metal sculpture on which silver or copper leaves commemorating loved ones can be hung. Many of the group are bereaved, and some are patients. Having been through family deaths myself, either at home or in hospital, I was very impressed with the atmosphere of the hospice, which was calm, pretty, respectful and welcoming. Very necessary to patients and their families at such a time. Also nice for visitors – I was reminded of my summers in Donegal as various grandmotherly ladies fed me cake!

The group was very advanced – one lady, who has a brain tumour, was incredible sharp about poetic forms, and has written some fantastic haiku for their anthology. We did an exercise on the five senses, using the garden, as well as Ursula Le Guin’s ‘Being Gorgeous’ exercise and a session inspired by Valérie Rouzeau‘s ‘Thirty-Two Teeth‘ poem. I even managed to get a poem out of it myself, just in time for my own writer’s group.

Best of all, they all want to come to the Festival! We are laying on a special bus thanks to Suffolk Coastal District Council and Suffolk Artlink, and the wheelchair-accessible venues at Aldeburgh Music‘s Snape Maltings will mean that the group can take part in many events. Their vote? Jack Rooke’s ‘Good Grief’, the main daytime reading on the Saturday, with Jane Duran, Peter Sirr and Dorothea Smartt, and the Open Workshop, which is free and open to all. We’d be very pleased to welcome more groups to our gorgeous poetry retreat – get in touch with me at the Poetry Trust or go straight to the box office at Aldeburgh Music: https://tickets.aldeburgh.co.uk/Online/2015_poetry_festival

On the way back I was very proud to be on the cycle commuter special – 7 bikes on one carriage – two of them schoolkids! We organised ourselves politely in order of stop.

Now for the next challenge – how to get 40 road signs out onto verges the length of Suffolk on a bike? I may have to beg a lift for this one – and some strong arms! Any volunteers?

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About Pedalling Poetry

Writer Ellen McAteer is founder of Tell It Slant poetry bookshop in Glasgow, and a visiting lecturer at the Glasgow School of Art. She was a mentee of the Clydebuilt Verse Apprenticeship Scheme, under Alexander Hutchison, and a singer with the band Stone Tape, as well as a solo singer who won a BBC Radio competition with her song Blue Valentine. She was Director of the Poetry Trust, which ran the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, a director of the Scottish Writers’ Centre, a visiting lecturer at Oxford University's MSt in creative writing, and a member of the core group of performers at the Hammer and Tongue spoken word collective in Oxford. She is a qualified Librarian.
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