Saturday, 7 April 2018

Magma launch at Europe House, Westminster

Great to have a poem, 'Hanmar's Agate' in the European edition of Magma magazine, Issue 70.  Paul Stephenson and Sarah Hart, the editors, had cannily managed to get Europe House, the HQ of the governmental European commission in Westminster as our venue.  Top security etc.  Near to Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey - what with Brexit looming, sadly this venue may soon be no longer in use.

Europe House, Westminster.

Anne Ballard, me, D.L. Prince (Davina) and Eleanor Livingstone (Artistic Director of StAnza.)
A great excuse to hotfoot it down to London, as did quite a few poets (or whom I know from StAnza) from Scotland also there.

Sir Thomas Hanmer as a young man with beribboned lovelock.
  There was not too much bewailing of Brexit in the poetry (though much during the social chats). Many of the poems celebrated Europe - some holiday or other trips commemorated but others celebrating the various cultural debts we have to Europe, as did my own, specifically the introduction of tulips, by way of France, not as you would suppose, from the Netherlands.

Sir Thomas Hanmer (17th c), a Royalist was exiled to France during the English Civil War, and at the end of the war, returned with tulip bulbs, and one which he developed and came to be  known as 'Hanmer's Agate'.  The story that struck me was that Hanmer was in correspondence with many other 'tulip fanciers' including Cromwell's second-in-command, Major-General Lambert.  Hanmer sent Lambert the gift of his Agate, specifically the 'mother-root' so that Lambert could grow more.  An example of how to transcend political differences after a Civil War and something that has echoes in our time, though thankfully, we have not resorted to war.

Extract from 'Hanmer's Agate':

Hanmer’s Agate: Experiments of a Tulip Fancier,
Sir Thomas Hanmer  (1612-1678)

Returned from exile, he stands in a muddy field,
once his garden of formal parterres; 
the trees are war-torn, storm-slashed;  fireweed
rages through the grounds and the unhinged door

into the great hall;  mice rampage,
bird shit weeps on the lace and lovelock
of his portrait as a young man;  dung in the chapel
requisitioned for Parliamentarian horses.

Far from the Commonwealth’s courts, Sir Thomas
tends his garden, remembering the promise packed
in papery brown bulbs brought back from France
in the ship’s hold, his first wife left behind in her grave......

For full poem, read Magma Issue 70.

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