As part of the Teignmouth Poetry Festival 2019, I attended a reading by three poets brought together by their appreciation of the natural world and its connection to the human one – Julie-ann Rowell, Veronica Aaronson, and Paul Deaton.
Their words took us on a journey both physically and emotionally. Their words transported us to the Orkney Islands to Iona to Bristol; their words expressed the beauty of the birds flying in the morning, of difficult parent relationships, of human rights abuses. They each had their own authentic style, their poetry a mirror of their lives.
Julie-ann Rowell is a poet who writes about human rights abuses, the natural world and life on Orkney. Her latest book Voices in the Garden celebrates the life of Joan of Arc and redefines the word saint, “performer of miracles, good and honest stock, pious, mentor, muse, enigma, inspiration, motivator, agitator, ballbreaker” (from review).
Julie-ann read her poems about Orkney, as for her they are a “tender lullaby.” She read a devastating poem called “The Westray Storm Witch” that had me thinking about Intan and Syd’s talk – the murdering of women for being strong, different, or powerful.
Here’s a few lines from “The Westray Storm Witch”. Read the whole poem on The American Aesthetic.
girl with a hook for a smile, and took a club
to that fair brow and minced her out, to see if she’d
raise darkness on me“The Westray Storm Witch” by Julie-ann Rowell
Veronica Aaronson is a poet as well as community organizer; she is the co-founder of the Teignmouth Poetry Festival and organizes the local a quarterly open mic that publishes the Pzazz anthology of poems from those events. She is a retired psychotherapist who is interested in how people’s histories colour their perception, the use of the metaphor, and how poetry can support therapy.
Veronica read poems about her time on the Island of Iona – the place that “touched her soul” – and her human experience with nature. She read a beautiful poem that her debut collection is named after called, “Nothing about the Birds is Ordinary this Morning”. Oh how the poem took me there to Iona to that moment, the most perfect last lines.
Here’s a few lines from “Nothing about the Birds is Ordinary this Morning.” Read the whole poem on Indigo Dreams.
a swarm of starlings fly low –
crown me with iridescence,
land on a nearby fence
and even though the rhythm
of my footsteps is out of tune
with their tiny heartbeats“Nothing about the Birds is Ordinary this Morning” by Veronica Aaronson
Paul Deaton is a poet who writes about family relationships, nature, and contemplations on the “unstoppable force of time and mortality”. He is also a counsellor in addictions working for the NHS and a marathon runner. He came out of the poetry closet at the age of 40 from this need to be seen as an individual, “otherwise what is it to be seen?”
Paul read poems about his relationship with his father, his experience visiting a Homes for Heroes council estate in Bristol, and nature. He didn’t read this poem, but as I’ve been traveling around the UK – the daffodils have kept me company on my march. His poem “Daffodils” captures perfectly the relationship that we have.
Here’s a few lines from his poem “Daffodils.” Read the whole poem on The Spectator.
these shattering yellows hold sway,
say something we cannot,
or have forgotten,“Daffodils” by Paul Deaton
Read more about Julie-ann Rowell’s work.
Read more about Veronica Aaronson.
Read more about Paul Deaton.
Read more about my time at Teignmouth Poetry Festival.