Elisabeth Sennitt-Clough 3.12. 2018Elisabeth’s fluid poem (‘Unmarried’) set the evening. To begin with, we might almost have been in Overy.‘It was summer: fishing boats in the distance,boardwalk planks underfoot, gulls in the car.’From its title, the reader is aware it might not be a simple summer idyll. Stanza 3 realises a memory, a grief that anticipates the final one.‘Now I’m a jumble of threads:the rough fabric no one wants to fall asleep in.’As one of Saltmarsh’s participants wrote to me later, it was partly Elisabeth’s honesty about herself that made her poetry riveting.She read from four collections, (two published, one soon to be released and one in process), the first couple made up largely of poems about family and childhood.‘The Time has come’ borrowed a Lewis Carol’s Alice title for a poem that again suggested skeletons in the cupboards. Reluctance to discuss important issues that left a child endlessly trying to piece things together. Disruption might be played out in the Fen landscape she grew up in, or simply a Cowrie shell.The first reading ended with the lyrically titled ‘Lantern Men’, another imprint of childhood trauma. ***Seascape was a theme vibrantly endorsed in Pol’s ‘Staithe Fever’ (after Masefield). Its second stanza ran:I must go down to the Staithe again, For the call of the ice-cream vanis a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied,And all I ask is a sunny day with the grey clouds hidden,And the melting cream, and the licking sweet as the choc flake’s bitten.‘Sea Watch’ was a good title for Sally H’s twitcher poem. A ‘day that / Counts’. I liked the immediacy of her ‘ticks’.Sound infiltrated Sally L’s poetically-titled ‘The Bells of Bormes Les Mimosas’. Bells rang into corners of village life seen witha painter’s eye. Houses like ‘A random dolly mixture’; the Grand Hotel ‘Like a vast mahogany wardrobe’.Maureen’s ‘Sea and Shore at Hunstanton’ in rhymed quatrains belied its first line ‘This is such a sensible town’ with the introduction of one of its more eccentric inhabitants. There was sea again both in Pippa’s rhymed sonnet,’Cley’ written 40 years ago, and ‘Summer sailing’, written 20 years ago. This suggested the poet has followed her ‘gold grey hooligan’ with words.Alice’s villanelle commented simultaneously on some sea-citing hymns and climate change.‘But we must strive alone, despite our pleasTo stop this fearsome change, this existential war.In years to come where will our shoreline be?’ Hilda’s poem (5th December 2013) also linked two unrelated events ‘leaving heartbreak, disbelief’. In this case, Mandela’s death and our great flood.John gave us a grisly true story about a fisherman who threw in his lot with bears. His end was predictable. Keith kept us on tenterhooks with an even more grisly tale. A bloodthirsty poem about splitting a minor’s throat in some west Irish coastal setting, all in rhyming couplets with a dark trochaic beat. The first, well-known stanza of Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’ was a prelude, Mike H-S said, to much gloomier tones. Everything comes and goes, the honeymoon message ran – the sea, human misery, and faith. Introduced to the poem as a teenager, I probably enjoyed the gloom as well as the beat. ‘Listen! You hear the grating roar…’Carrie Fountain’s deceptively spare New Yorker contribution, brought along by Carla, (‘To White Noise’) was almost a prayer, a meditation or thanksgiving that flipped back to family. You feel it’s power even before you’ve worked out what it means. Unsurprisingly, the poet, still young, already has two books in Penguin. Evelyn and Carla brought a tableful of goodies to eat. And Evelyn read ‘The coastal path’ by Clive Wakes-Miller. ***Elisabeth’s second reading began with a long skilfully-patterned poem, ‘Jagged Lullaby’. Four couplets introduced with ’Goda nott’ from a popular Icelandic song were commented on by words that could also be read as a separate poem, down the right-hand side. ‘Just look around you / see how many girls there are / like me’Each fifth couplet was both a pertinent comment, and a refrain: ‘I left you under the alder tree,oh come, come away with me.The couplet has a tremendous sense of yearning, both for its music and for its literal terms; the alder being a great survivor. We were back where we began, in a child’s world. Nothing was explained, so the child searched people’s faces for meaning.