"Stories of moonlight and wildlife in the strange, small wildernesses of the South West." (Ink, Sweat & Tears). "Beautifully crafted poems...that sing in the dark of darkness" (Canto Reviews)
Wednesday, 24 May 2023
Thursday, 23 March 2023
Upcoming readings and gigs
Spring is here and with it a return to performing.
I’m very much looking forward to getting out, reading some work and meeting a few people, so if you can make it along to any of these, it would be lovely to see you.
More information on individual events can usually be found on the web or you can message me for details.
March 23rd, 7.30pm - Andy Brown and I will be launching our new collaboration Grace Notes at Plymouth Proprietary Library.
March 31st to April 2nd - I’ll be hosting and MCing at Teignmouth Poetry Festival.
April 23rd to 29th - writing residency in Brittany, France.
May 3rd, Exeter University - final details tbc
May 8th, 8pm - Andy Brown and I will be launching our new collaboration Grace Notes at Poets and Pints, The Barrelhouse, Totnes.
May 13th 7pm - musical gig at The BK Lounge, Budleigh Salterton.
June 2nd 2.30pm - The Great Estate Festival, Scorrier, Cornwall.
June 24th - running an all day workshop for Moor Poets with Professor Andy Brown.
July 7th - The Quaker Meeting House, Exeter
Sept. 22nd - Budleigh Literary Festival
Thursday, 23 February 2023
NEW BOOK! Grace Notes and Other Poems
I’m really delighted to have a new collection published this month (February 2023) by Sea Crow Press.
This is my second collaboration with Andy Brown, well-known poet and professor of creative writing at Exeter university, who, like me, is also a musician.
Grace Notes is a collection of music related poems and draws on our musical experiences and influences - from artists we love and gigs we’ve enjoyed to more philosophical considerations of the nature and role of music in human life.
The wonderful cover painting is by Jenn Zed.
Now available from all good book shops, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones and as an e-book.
"From the intimacy of a pub singalong or an epiphany in a guitar shop, to virtuosic frenzy or the majesty of a symphony, Grace Notes is endlessly inventive, clever and heartfelt. What I love about this book is that it’s so friendly and inviting you hardly notice it playing your heartstrings or lighting up your brain like a mixing desk, and before you know it you’re part of its score. Touched and ruined by genius or calloused from a punishing practice regimen, its players are hard-bitten, ecstatic and singular. But like music, it’s for everyone: study and intuition; you can just tap your foot, or you can dedicate your whole mind and soul to it.” - LUKE KENNARD
Friday, 16 December 2022
The Marco Radio Show
Yay! I’m now scheduling and presenting an hour long poetry and music show on the internet via Sandcastle Radio, who aim to be ‘America’s hottest online music and variety show!’
It’s a very pleasant challenge, I get to share some poems I love by various authors as well as a few of my own pieces, and play some of my favourite music.
I’ll even be asking listeners to send me some of their own work along the lines of a theme set each week.
We’ll see how it goes but I’m pretty excited about the project - we’re three shows in already and getting great responses!
So please join me for my live show on Saturdays at 6pm in the UK (1pm EST in the US).
And if you miss it the show gets repeated at 6pm on Sundays and 6pm on Wednesdays.
Friday, 4 November 2022
Review in Acumen Literary Journal 9/22
Very pleased to see this review in Acumen’s September issue:
Acumen - Poetry Comment - September 2022
Shaking the Persimmon Tree is an attractively produced collection of poems by Devon poet Marc Woodward published by Cape Cod publisher Sea Crow Press. Those who know the poet will catch the poignancy of the title – it is taken from his poem ‘The Boar’, one of several in the book which reference the poet’s early onset of Parkinson’s Disease. In context, ‘The Boar’ is a very moving poem. Here are its final stanzas:That shape though: the bulk of a boar,
of a high and hump-backed hill,
of a stoop-shouldered sky,
awful in its absence and presence –
that shape is waiting for me,
aware one day I’ll have no choice
but to push into the shadows
and find the beast shaking
at a persimmon tree
knowing the fruit must surely fall.
In similar vein, ‘The Ribbon’ expresses the poet’s thoughts on discovering in a box a small purple silk sports ribbon. He wonders what he won the ribbon for:
But perhaps it was the three legged race?
Maybe I was hobbled and tethered
to another, a stronger person
who pulled me to the finishing tape?
I place the stuff back in the box –
not ready to burn it quite yet –
as my wife, steady handed as always,
crosses the line with two mugs of tea.
The collection contains four fishing poems, presenting what could be seen as four compass points of the poet’s mind. In ‘Fishing with Olivia’, the poet hooks a spring trout and contrasts himself ‘like an old fish’ with young Olivia ‘budding towards your perfect days of June’. In the grim but resigned ‘Fishing for Mahseer’ on ‘the greedy Ganges’, a friend casts ‘a pink flesh fly’ into the froth surrounding a floating corpse and fishes for ‘fish which fed upon the dead’. In ‘Faiths’, seagulls, ‘slaves to faith’, are snagged on baited hooks, ‘cruelty ... laid along the sea wall’, and a note of real anger has set in. Finally, in ‘The Thread’, a female figure casts her line out beyond the breakers only to hook ‘the seam where ocean and sky / are stitched lazily together’. The line snags; she ‘reels and reels and reels’, ‘until she’s gone with the sea and / the land and the great cloudy sky / following down into this hole / of her own persistence’. Her whole world has unravelled around her.
Knowing the poet’s physical condition, one goes looking for telling symbols and metaphors. Rain, for example, appears in a number of poems. ‘May the Fifth, 2020’ begins ‘There is no melancholy without rain.’ In ‘Inheritance’, ‘The roof is leaking’ and ‘The rain sings on the iron roof / above the animal shed. / It runs between the crinkles, / down the gutter to the trough.’ In the fine poem ‘Carpe Diem’ written for his parents, ‘rain [was] always around / the corner of the sky, / when we went to clear / out their cottage, / sorting, remembering, / facing their pasts, / and closer, our own.’
As well as a poet, Woodward is an accomplished musician. His poetry is correspondingly neat, practised, highly lyrical. The poems are singing, in a predominantly minor key, but they are a joy to listen to.
The persimmon tree in the east signifies longevity and good luck; we wish both for Marc Woodward.
Thursday, 15 September 2022
Budleigh Literary Festival, Quay Words, and Maureen
I’m honoured to have a poem from my forthcoming collection Grace Notes included in this anthology from Quay Words (in conjunction with Literature South West). It’s an excellent selection of poems and short stories with work from a number of esteemed writers. This evening I attended its launch at the lovely Old Custom House on Exeter quay.
Yesterday evening saw the start of Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival and I was pleased to read a few poems at one of the opening events. It’s always hard to choose what to read - usually I try to find something topical or seasonal. Nevertheless I often go along with a selection in mind only to change it at the last moment in response to something I’ve just heard. Speaking with other poets I know I’m not alone in doing this. Last night’s event was in a lovely cafe - the Brook Kitchen - which sparked the last minute inclusion of Maureen And The Redeemer from my book Hide Songs. It wasn’t a dreary day in November, no one was ironing, I wasn’t thinking of Rio - but I was in a cafe and I guess that was all I needed.
Monday, 8 August 2022
House concert in Marazion
I’ve had a few book launch readings recently (if you’re interested in knowing about readings please see my social media), including a fabulous house concert in Marazion, Cornwall. My host is a superb harpsichord player so we combined a poetry reading with a harpsichord recital!
Here are a couple of photos and a video of me reciting The Thread - a poem about our generational responsibility for the environment.
Monday, 18 July 2022
Review in Tears In The Fence literary journal
Delighted with this review - despite the typo in the publisher’s name (!) and a couple of errors eg; it should be ‘Ophelia’s cape/ billowing in the gravel and the cress’; The Thread is about our responsibility for climate change; and Swimming With A Charm Of Vincent is a literal title!
Shaking The Persimmon Tree by Marc Woodward (Sea Cow Press)
Marc Woodward’s poetry is pretty traditional in form, including sonnets and a villanelle and hints towards the poetry of Hardy, Edward Thomas and even Louis MacNeice at times. His material shifts between celebration, of the countryside, of friendship and of travel but there’s a dark side underlying most of his work and even on occasion something slightly surreal, as in ‘The Thread’ which combines an interest in angling with a skewed comment on mortality which suggests a much longer time-scale:
…..every fish bird, mammal,
was attached to the same thread
she’d been pulling since she was born,
like all our generations dead,
careless for the unravelling.
Woodward has a way with endings, as in ‘I Dreamed of a River’ which has a mildly surreal, reverie sort of feel, lyrical and encompassing both observer and observed, meshed in synaesthesia yet with a darkness as in ‘Ophelia’s cape / billowing in the wind.’ If there’s an overall sense of pastoral easiness to these poems it’s always tempered, by illness, by an increasing sense of mortality and, as in ‘Inheritance’ the violence of an abrupt closing of life in a farming community. The bucolic has its downside and this one certainly creates a shiver down the spine: ‘Quiet in the hay barn, / warm enough out of the wind, / John hangs lifeless from the rafters, waiting, turning, for Fred to find.’
Many of these poems are set in rural Devon or in Italy and mix nostalgia with something more searching and even in an apparently simple poem like ‘The Disappearing Places’ which combines childhood memories and wonderful evocation with a sense of loss we can feel echoes of A Shropshire Lad, something powerful and moving which you can’t quite put your finger on, an inarticulate longing which can nevertheless be suggested in words.
In ‘Fishing for Mahseer’ we are at the Ganges, chasing the enormous, majestic river fish which also has a dark secret, that of feeding on the human bodies, inadvertently released into the river:
As this hellish vision drifted closer
my angling friend reeled in his lure and line,
remade his tackle with a pink ‘flesh fly’
then cast into the froth around the corpse.
I looked away. On the bank women washed,
above the trees a little minaret
shone through the fog framed sun. What can
We fished for fish which fed upon the dead.
With ‘The Bird Scarer’ and ‘The Green Man in Rocombe’ we are in the realm again of farming and country lore, the latter a sort of tongue-in-cheek suggestion of the otherworldly, the former a depiction of the creating of a scarecrow which combines something almost epic and symbolic with down-to -to earth yet beautifully painted images: ‘Then a banger went off, rooks clattered up, / and he left her to flutter in the maize.’
In ‘Swimming with a Charm of Vincent’, set I think in Italy, we have again the evocation of a landscape, a hot place, hinting almost at D.H. Lawrence’s poetry of place, where Vincent, a friend or an imagined presence? also appears to be a reference to Van Gogh (‘Maybe he was troubled / by the lack of sunflowers; / perhaps just pining for France? / He wasn’t much of a talker’) so once again the poem works on two levels, a description of an actual situation with hintings at ‘otherness’, especially given the disappearance by drowning? of the eponymous Vincent. I even had the thought that this might be about Shelley though I admit there is scant evidence for this, just association. The final stanza adds a mythical element and the whole poem manages to combine something almost comic with a more suggestive direction:
The persimmon sun sank down
and all his whirling stars came slowly
out and I thought of Vincent
rolling with the pebbles in the sea.
There are 48 poems in this collection, mainly short pieces, which take in a range of subjects, from climate change and ‘the lockdown,’ to a concern with illness (Parkinson’s disease in particular), the death of parents, the landscape of the South West of England and travels in Italy. My taste in modern poetry is largely for more ‘experimental’ work but I thoroughly enjoyed reading these poems and hope you will too.
Steve Spence 1st July 2022
Tuesday, 7 June 2022
Poem for a fallen tree
The storms last February blew down one of a pair of old pine trees which stood by the river in a communal field. I was asked to write a poem for the tree as the village intended to have a commemorative ceremony and plant a new tree. So here it is:
To a Fallen Pine
‘...trees don’t ache or weep or shout.
And trees are all this poem is about.’
- Two Trees by Don Paterson
Two trees - tall, evergreen and fine -
you and your companion framed
this river, sky, and railway line.
Today the passing water’s calm,
no ripples now recall the named
and brutal February storms,
which snapped in two your back and boughs,
left you horizontal, waiting
for our ministry of chainsaws. Now
teardrop clusters, scaly cones,
are cradled in your fallen limbs,
all asking to be carried home
by saddened kids to plant anew
and so rebirth another tree,
a fir-cone seedling clone of you.
And what to do with all this wood,
sawn from your trunk and canopy?
A rustic arbour might be good,
a sheltered bench to fix the view
which you, so steadfast, gazed upon -
the flood and draw of tides, curlews
with their shiver-song, the sea-pies
banking left and right in unison.
Those piping birds alight beside
your other half who on her own
(like one of all old married pairs)
must now face future storms alone.
To such a memorial seat,
made big enough for two to share,
could be attached a plaque that reads:
You loved this spot, the river view;
grew just as tall as you could do
then fell to earth in twenty-two,
survived by one who mourns for you.
Thursday, 24 March 2022
Shaking The Persimmon Tree reviews
In these searching, songful poems, Marc Woodward reflects on the ricketiness of life; of the body, and on the certainty of earthworms. His imagery elevates the natural world to its rightful place; birds, sky and trees glimmer like new-found things, while his pragmatism puts on its boots, picks up its keys and looks you straight in the eye.'
Helen Ivory, editor of Ink, Sweat & Tears; Bloodaxe Poet.
In this collection, which contains several prize-winning poems, Woodward seeks inspiration from Italy, Switzerland and India as well as places nearer to home. The collection begins and ends with poems set in Italy. Both poems offer memorable views: one from the great outdoors, the other from a hollow tower. In the former we sense the dissipating heat of a summer’s day, where Woodward paints an atmospheric picture of “the sun’s red arc setting on the ridge, / clocking out its daily labour / in the hot factory of summer” in the latter, we feel a cool down draught of air coming through the slit windows of a bell tower.
Plenty of animals inhabit these poems: there are “stag horn beetles”, “scraggy vixens”, “soft-lowing cows”, “stealthy deer” and badgers “stripe-snouting through [a] dahlia bed” to name but a few. The collection teems with trees, tracks and grasses, waterlogged paddocks, old tyres and rusting farm machinery. The descriptions of nature are lush but there is a dark undercurrent here as well: a farm suicide, a fatal road accident, personal loss and bereavement. ‘Dog in the Afternoon’, with its echo of Hemingway (‘Death in the Afternoon’), is a compassionate poem about the demise of an old grey dog which reminds Woodward of the death of the family’s old Dalmatian when he himself was just 12 years old.
In ‘The Hum’ Woodward sets our imagination running with auto-suggestion. Nothing is explicitly stated and yet everything is signalled as a possibility when it comes to the source of the sound. It is six o’clock in the morning and we are in the heart of winter:
… by the front door I pause key in hand.
I can hear The Hum. Faint, low and constant
in the quiet of the unbroken dawn.
Its direction: everywhere – but distant.
A diesel warming up? Or staying warm
the way idling engines run all night
on northern driveways gripped by permafrost?
High echoes from a transatlantic flight?...
The poem sets us on edge. It conjures up the atmosphere of a Hitchcock film or a piece of science fiction from the sixties.
‘Jump’ is proof enough that Woodward can coax a poem out of the simplest of occurrences and still make it sing. In it, a man is sitting under a café awning when a torrent of rain comes. He knows he has to leave but he does not have his raincoat with him and there is no knowing how long the storm will last. We have all been there, caught out by the unpredictable weather, and so it is something we can readily identify with. But in Woodward’s hands it becomes intense and even more unpredictable:
the glazed river-road, the vulgar torrent,
the beating heart of thunder.
Come back inside…she smiles,
taking your hand, afraid you will jump.
Two poems that particularly caught my attention were ‘Rakinewis – The Capestrano Warrior’ and ‘Swimming with a Charm of Vincent’. In both cases, Woodward brings these characters, (the latter being Vincent van Gogh) back to life, momentarily, and has conversations with them in the present.
These searching poems, with their carefully crafted descriptions of the natural world, go deep. Philosophical, intelligent and compassionate, they offer us insights into life, living and being.
Neil Leadbeater, Reviewer for Write Out Loud
PR shots for the new book
Publisher’s PR flyers
Photos taken by me: whale watching boat off the south coast of Sri Lanka;
wrecked tractor in a Devon timber yard
Sunday, 13 March 2022
Poem for the Ukraine - Maggot
The sickening news, day after day, of senseless destruction - for what?
Even the outcome we think Putin desires (but who can say..?) can never be good for him or Russia.
Moved by last weekend’s news images I wrote this and posted it as ‘an emotional blurt’ on my personal Facebook page from where it’s started to spread.
If we all pile our individual grains of pressure on the man maybe, just maybe, the weight will eventually be too much for him. A naive hope, no doubt, but what else can I do..?
March 7th, 2022
In cute dinosaur socks,
a child dies on a gurney,
his inconsolable mother
buckling at her knees.
The columns and crowds
of displaced and terrified,
pack platforms in stations
which no trains can leave.
A baby’s mitten, a child’s glove,
another, all dropped in the rush,
reach up from the sludge,
as if the Earth is raising its hands.
Hunkered in bitter forests
Russian boys with frozen rifles
make tearful videos on mobile phones.
Uninformed, misled, poorly planned.
The man with polonium eyes,
anti-socially distant and small,
so small, sits in a vast white room
like a maggot in a fridge.
His ridiculous table will never
be long enough to bear all the names
of the bodies in the graves he alone,
with bare hands and buckled knees, should dig.