OTHER PEOPLES’ FLOWERS

OTHER PEOPLE’S FLOWERS: Monsieur D’Atouffe, Tortoise of Taste – words by Sylvia Selzer, illustrations by Evie Chapman

SYLVIA SELZER I wrote part one of Monsieur D’Aouffe more than forty-five years ago to entertain my nine year old daughter Sarah on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Many years later, a friend working for a well known childrens’ publisher, advised that, extended, and illustrated by a colleague, it would stand a very good chance of being published. I wrote part two and completed the piece. Sadly, the publisher reduced staff and projects at this time and D’Atouffe was abandoned.

This year, while researching material for OTHER PEOPLE’S FLOWERS, David rediscovered the forgotten file and suggested that our granddaughter, eleven year old Evie, would be the perfect illustrator – and my interest in the piece was rekindled.

On the writing of Monsieur D’Atouffe, I have absolutely no idea where the story came from. I have spent my professional life in education as a teacher, head teacher and university lecturer. During that time, I wrote plays for and with young people. I also was an active board member and in-house photographer of Action Transport Theatre where I had the opportunity to have a short play professionally produced. I have also written a full length screenplay. All this time I have been surrounded with children and young people and their enthusiasms.  

Monsieur D’Atouffe is my first poem…

 

 

EVIE CHAPMAN I have been interested in art for as long as I can remember. I mainly enjoy doing drawings, though I am still interested in doing other forms of art such as painting or online artwork. However, even as I do enjoy most types of art, I do not have a specific art role-model to look up to. I see different artworks that to me are anonymous and I get my inspiration from them.

I have enjoyed working on Monsieur D’Atouffe firstly because it has been my first ever time illustrating for a book, and secondly I have no other experiences to compare it to. Nevertheless, I know in the future it will always be an experience that stands out to me.

In my illustrations of Monsieur D’Atouffe the materials I used were various watercolours, pencil (for the sketches), graphic markers for the line art and a gold pen.

 

 

SYLVIA SELZER
PHOTOGRAPHER STORYTELLER
www.sylviaselzer.com

 

©Evie Chapman 2021

©Sylvia Selzer 2021

OTHER PEOPLE’S FLOWERS Tricia Durdey: Writer

By Posted on 3 Comments4min read439 views

I first met David and Sylvia Selzer – www.sylviaselzer.com – many years ago when, as a child, I would go to watch my parents rehearsing plays at Chester Little Theatre. At first I saw them as newcomers (if younger) joining a group of eccentric and opaque would-be-actors, producers, and set designers, who were also surrogate aunties and uncles to my sister and me. Gradually, as I grew up, I became more aware of their vitality, curiosity and creative urgency, and I no longer thought of them merely as two in a crowd, but as my own special friends. I loved to spend time with them in Hoole, a suburb of Chester. (I still think of their house as the perfect place to be – where I feel deeply rested and at the same time awake to all that’s good in life). I wanted to be a dancer, and a writer, and I would take David’s collection of poetry Elsewhere from my bookshelf, and read with awe and wonder. It spoke to me of a world beyond the narrow existence of my life so far.  Maybe one day I would have my own work published?

I left Chester for London when I was 18 to study on a new Performance Arts degree course, based at Trent Park – the home of the poet Siegfried Sassoon. It was a wonderfully free and creative time and I loved being near London, travelling to see shows every weekend and attending dance classes during the week. From London I went to Amsterdam to attend the State Theater School for a year, inspired a performance I’d seen at Riverside Studios by the Dutch dancer Pauline de Groot. I lived for six months in an 18c Dutch merchant’s house round the corner from Anne Frank’s secret annexe, where my bedroom window looked over the same tree and church tower that Anne wrote about in her diary. It made me aware of how recent German Occupation had been, and how different it felt in the Netherlands from home.

On returning to England, I formed a small dance company in the East Midlands, touring dance theatre in schools, arts centres and theatres, but I didn’t forget my time in Amsterdam. In many ways that year formed a foundation of experience from which I could teach, choreograph, perform – and, years later, write.

I began writing fiction twenty years ago, during a hiatus in my dance career. Over a period of ten years I was published by Chester University Press, Mslexia, Cinnamon Press, Shoestring Press and Radio 3 website, for The Verb.

In 2013 I graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with an MA Distinction in Writing, and won the Blackfriars Open Submission in 2015. You can read more about my dance, and writing life, on my website www.movingthemind.co.uk

For many years I lost touch with David and Sylvia, until one summer day, when I was in Chester looking after my aging parents, Sylvia turned up with another old friend to visit my mother. It was a joyful reunion. I had the biggest smile on my face, and years of memoires flooded back. I went round to visit the next day, and it was as if we’d never lost contact.

Since that day I see both David and Sylvia as key – with their openness and positivity – in supporting the development of my writing. They were also with me during the difficult months leading up to my father’s death, which I’ve written about in my memoir Upside Down in a Hoop (to be published by Cinnamon Press – https://cinnamonpress.com/ – in 2022)

Shortly before my father’s death in 2016 my first novel The Green Table https://cinnamonpress.com/the-green-table/ – was published. It was inspired both by my time in Amsterdam and by the true story of the choreographer Kurt Jooss’ fleeing Germany with the rise to power of the Nazi Party and Hitler. My second novel The Dancer at World’s Endhttps://cinnamonpress.com/the-dancer-at-worlds-end/, published in May 2021, is, in part, a sequel to The Green Table. It continues my preoccupation with Germany, the war and post-war period, through the eyes and voice of my main protagonist, Gregor von Loeben, the son of a high-ranking Nazi.

I write at a desk in Haarlem Arts Space in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, alongside three other writers, often gazing from the window at the calves frolicking on the hillside. We share the Arts Space with many visual artists, and several dogs who come along with their artist owners. I leave my own dog at home as he has a habit of visiting everyone’s wastepaper bin.

To earn a living I teach movement and ballet, mainly for older people. As a challenge I’m learning aerial arts at Circus School in Sheffield and Derby, and I hope to create a performance involving text, dance and aerial work, as a development from my memoir Upside Down in a Hoop.

Thank you to David for offering this platform for sharing the opening section of my second novel The Dancer at World’s End, and memoir Upside Down in a Hoop.

Click to open .pdf in new window:

©Tricia Durdey 2021

OTHER PEOPLE’S FLOWERS Mary Clark: Writer

By Posted on 3 Comments3min read327 views

David kindly asked me to contribute to ‘Other People’s Flowers‘.  I’ve enjoyed his poetry for more than half a decade now, having linked up on LinkedIn. His encouragement while I was writing one of my more complex books, Community, was invaluable. Community is a political memoir, tinged with urban scenes and community activism. For David, though, I included several excursions into the art world, including a brief description of a book signing and reading at New York University’s student center in 1986. In it, Germaine Bree and actress Irene Worth read portions of Marguerite Duras’ work.

During the pandemic I began writing memoirs of my insignificant life. I hoped to convey the tenor and the ethos of the times in each book. Tally: An Intuitive Life harkens back to the idealistic and sexual-political revolutionary 1920s, quiet by comparison to the 1960s and more vibrant than the 1980s when the aging, impoverished Bohemian artist looks back critically at his life.

Into The Fire: A Poet’s Journey through Hell’s Kitchen is the story of my years at the New York Poetry Festival at St. Clement’s, a midtown Manhattan west side church. The program was founded in the late 1970s when the “anything goes” 1960s and early 1970s were fading and the arts becoming less grassroots and more corporate run. I came to the program in 1978. Many poets, both well-known and less established, read or had their work performed there until the Festival’s end in 1983. Changes in the church and my transition into the community outside its doors led to the next phase of my life.

Chapter 2, Culture Review, of Into the Fire…, includes a description of the church sanctuary and theater space, bits of my poetry, and some of the characters rolling through town, as well as two recommended poems and references to others

Chapter 2, Culture Review – view here

The book I’m currently working on also revolves around art and artists, the inner and outer drama of our lives, and the perceptive and honest analysis that drives us forward, if we have the courage. It doesn’t have a title yet, but it is the most intensely personal of my memoirs. It takes place in the mid-1970s amid moral and ethical unmooring, a lost world in more than one sense. The attached section is one among the several points of view or ways of telling stories juxtaposed within the text.

Whether I – view here

©Mary Clark 2021

 

OTHER PEOPLE’S FLOWERS: ‘Twelve Poems’ by Clive Watkins

David Selzer and I first got to know each other in 1965 through the University of Liverpool Poetry Society. Under David’s energetic leadership, in 1966 the Society brought a young Seamus Heaney and a young Michael Longley from Northern Ireland to read to us. This was some months before Seamus Heaney’s first collection, Death of a Naturalist, appeared from Faber, and at this point Michael Longley had published no more than a single pamphlet. Neither had read outside Northern Ireland. The third of the notable young Northern Irish poets to emerge during those years, Derek Mahon, was at that time teaching in Canada, but it was through Heaney and Longley that I discovered him, too. For me these readings were cardinal events. I have followed the work of all three with admiring attention ever since.

After university, David and I lost touch for over four decades until about ten years ago when we re-encountered one another on the web – indeed, through this very site. By then we were both long-married and had families; both of us had pursued our careers in education, often – as we  were to discover – in surprisingly similar grooves; both of us had continued to write. Though during my early twenties I had placed a few poems in little magazines for many years my professional and family life had taken most of my energies. When I retired, however, I was able to give more time to writing. At last, in November 2019, David and I – and our wives – managed to meet at his lovely old house in Chester – some fifty-three years late, as one might say. Given this history, being invited by David to post these poems here stirs for me a host of charged and poignant memories.

David has asked me to say a little more about myself.

I was born in Sheffield in April 1945. In 1948 my family moved to Liverpool when my father took up a post at a large hospital on the northern fringe of the city. I was educated in Liverpool, and, after a post-graduate year at the University, I went on to teach English in local comprehensive schools, first in Walton and then in Anfield. (In Walton, one of my students was for a time a certain Alexei Sayle: it was already apparent what kind of career he was destined to follow. On the staff as a French Assistant was the future manager of Liverpool Football Club, a youthful Gérard Houllier.) The mid-1970s saw me working as Head of English at a school on the Wirral – as David had, too, though at the time neither of us was aware of this. In 1980, with my wife and three children, we moved to a sub-Pennine village in West Yorkshire, where we have lived ever since. (Think, if you will: Last of the Summer Wine Country.) At my retirement I was the head teacher of a prominent local high school whose origins lay deep in the Middle Ages.

My first collection, Jigsaw, a selection going back to the early 1970s, was published by the Waywiser Press in 2003. Little Blue Man appeared from Sea Biscuit Press in 2013 with photographs by Susan de Sola. Already the Flames (Waywiser Press, 2014) was a Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year. In 2018 I won the Robert Graves Poetry Prize. My latest collection is Pedic’s Dream (Common End Press, 2021). I have read at venues around the U.K. – amongst others, at Grasmere for the Wordsworth Trust and at Oxford University – and at literary festivals in the U.S.A. and Greece. My critical writings encompass poets as diverse as Edward Thomas, Wallace Stevens, Conrad Aiken, Eugenio Montale, E.J. Scovell, Robert Mezey and Michael Longley.

My university days are now a distant memory, but what my acquaintance with David gave me, as I knew even then, was a sense that my odd avocation – the writing of verse – was not an addiction unique to me and indeed that it was “permitted”. Encountering Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and (indirectly) Derek Mahon was a powerful confirmation of that. Of course, in 1966 David knew nothing of this, but I am happy to acknowledge here my gratitude to him for his unwitting and, as it turned out, his life-long gift.

‘Twelve Poems’ by Clive Watkins – read/download here (click to open /  right click > save as):

 

©Clive Watkins 2021

 

OTHER PEOPLE’S FLOWERS: Three Poems by Alan Horne

By Posted on 8 Comments3min read659 views

I read once – perhaps it was a quotation from José Saramago – that the writer’s life is the detritus left behind by the work. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it sounds better than any autobiographical introduction I can think up. I worked years ago in a steelworks, have a very longstanding interest in psychoanalysis and – perhaps it’s a reaction to all those clinics – now spend a lot of time outside. Here are three short poems which bear on these matters. Thanks to David for the chance to put them before you. At age 14 I found that we had a new English teacher called Mr Selzer, a young iconoclast without whose bracing wake-up call none of this would have been written.

 

********************************************************************************************

 

THE ELECTRICAL CELLARS

Someone directs us all down the electrical cellars

beneath the mill.  By switches and hot valves

we duck like drowsy priests avoiding callers,

counsel the machines to help themselves.

Please read the plastic notices.  They mark

the wiry, shirtless dead: Victorians

entombed like broken tools right where they fell,

the gauntlets only passing to their sons.

Not us.  For us, the moment of control:  at worst

the hole in the overall and the small burn;

the alcoholic customs of the blast.

We’re special men just now.  But markets turn

on us, will cut our cellar-space.  We’ll squeeze

like pitmen, skid by on our knees.

 

 

********************************************************************************************

 

WILFRED BION ON A MOONLIT ROAD

As I was taught at the institutes: write it all down straight away.

So.  Someone has a light going; no, it’s the moon in a late guise:

supermoon, blue moon, doo bee doo bee doo moon.  Never the sun,

but a white light on the modern tumps, the subterranean reservoir.

 

And here you are, strolling past the moonlit earthworks

at the borehole, by the warning sign about voids and crawlspaces:

still a little military, still a little medical, politely unco-operative

– those you annoyed might say bloody impossible

still chewing over Freud’s Two Principles of Mental Functioning.

 

And it’s a stranger’s light you walk in, to the junction.

All too pale, it brightens the lane from the wrong angle.

See how the shadows won’t disperse, but huddle in cracks

in the roadstone, argue back, point out that it’s night really.

 

You liked Freud’s letter to Lou Salomé, about the dim forms

lost in the daily glitter: they could be glimpsed, perhaps,

in a beam of intense darkness.  Or by this light,

aslant and incorrect, which picks out unmarked facets

of the sheds at Pollards Nursery, and calls up ghosts like you.

 

 

Note.  Wilfred Bion (1897-1979) was a tank commander in the First World War who later became a prominent psychoanalyst.  His writings continue to be very influential within the psychoanalytic world.  He wrote a remarkable memoir, The Long Week-End 1897-1919: Part of a Life.

 

********************************************************************************************

 

NEW ENGLAND

Veils of rain dressed the seedheads of high summer grasses

with a load of water, pulling them over

 

into mats that wound a cloche, a twilit subway

a foot off the ground, in whose steaming fosses shieldbugs prospered.

 

Through the burnt colours of gone-over grassland

yellow sparked: the vetch swimming; the hawkweed’s hand.

 

Only where the fields broke was the grass propped upright in the wires

bracing rotten posts like teeth in the jaw of the intake:

 

these of timber; others of a pebbly concrete – army surplus,

back of a trailer – bucked at crazy angles,

 

saving this old vertical: cable halo, flag of twine, spinnaker

plastic bag, it was steadying the line

 

of new barbed wire that scrambled past its comic adjutant,

the buckled straining post. Wires ran in all directions

 

out of the daylight.  Hills over in Wales dispersed like cigarette smoke,

and the track of the uprights parted the kneeling meadow.

 

 

Acknowledgement: ELECTRICAL CELLARS first appeared in the Poynton Poetry Trail, Poynton, Cheshire, in 2017.

 

©Alan Horne 2021

OTHER PEOPLE’S FLOWERS: ‘The Point of Vanishing Stability’ John Huddart

By Posted on 6 Comments3min read439 views

I set out believing I was a reader, a collector of books. It was marvellous that the children I taught could write engagingly – and it would certainly stand them in good stead when they became readers too. Years into teaching, struggling with the burdens of so many unread books, I was plucked from the classroom and deposited in the National Writing Project, because I had been snared by word processing.

The Project had several key principles – one was that teachers of writing should be writers too. How can you expect them to, if you don’t? So I started to write, to record observations, to explore poems as models, and to enjoy technical formality. And in those days, teachers often met and worked with professional writers – today, they simply have to work with the National Curriculum.

And then there is David. Always wise, and always a writer, he has been a continual example and inspiration. If you are reading this, you are one of David’s fans as well, and look forward to his monthly collection.

I too have a poetry website, and publish what I write on it. The url is www.jahuddart.com, and I email my friends with regular updates, though in not so timely a fashion as David.

The Point of Vanishing Stability I wrote after a week’s sailing in very stormy weather off the west coast of Scotland, which explains the context.

Some poems rush into the world, almost fully formed, and find their connections to the wider sinews of life, almost instinctively. This is one of them – would they were all like that!

 

The Point of Vanishing Stability

In a yacht, the point of vanishing stability

is reached when the vessel decides

it has had enough of gales and tumult,

and will overturn. In the boat we are on,

this is a measurable angle, defined

by calculation and testing. We are pleased

to learn it is 120°.

Summoning up our mathematical imagination

we place the mast well below the surface,

with our boat springing back to save us

as we tumble about our ends.

It is a phrase that seizes. Passing

straight from the workshop manual

to the page of possibility. As we charge

the waves, and crash through with

jovial insouciance, the world and

its endless chaos breaks upon the

decks to tumble past in salty streams.

 

And so we trust to all designers

that the keel will hold beneath, that

the mounting pressure on the sails

will spill from the tops like so much

laughter. And so with all the lubberly

uproar from our safety-conscious lands,

with bitter crowds converging

on the monuments they would disown,

with grave ministers of state who

battle with the tide of numbers

competing for our panic or our grief.

 

May the bow split water still,

may whosoever did the sums

and placed us in this sea have got it right.

Through edgy fears and sacrifice

we stand fast to the wheel, and

still keep on tacking home, past tipping

points that howl but never come.

 

 

 

 

©John Huddart 2021

 

 

SPEAKING OF STONES

By Posted on 6 Comments

‘For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive ...

THE GLASS OCARINA

By Posted on 1 Comment

Long before the fall of the House of Habsburg, there were certain ...

KAFKA IN BERLIN

By Posted on 1 Comment

The tubercular Franz Kafka, escaping the domestic confines of Prague, spent most ...