Peter Wyton, poet and performer

This month’s Featured Writer is Peter Wyton. I first met Peter face to face (and not just as a face on Facebook) at Cornwall Contemporary Poetry Festival in Falmouth. He had just read his wonderful poem which was among the short-list of 8 in the poetry competition judged by Alison Brackenbury and so, because I liked the poem and knew him from Facebook,  I thought I’d introduce myself  ( even though, um, he didn’t seem to know me but then my profile is an elephant).

Since then, I have discovered he is very often successful in competitions, has several books to his name, gives electrifying readings and that his poems are very humorous and also very sad.
Take this stunner that won the Cheltenham Festival Competition in 2006:


From the sky forge, the hammer sun
Beat down upon the anvil sea.

Our ship was molten to the touch.
My eyes were scorched with keeping watch.

At first I thought the brilliant flecks
I saw ahead were scavengers

Feeding and fighting, as they will,
But neither albatross nor gull

Materialised. White uniforms
Stippled the surface. What grim fate,

Torpedo, mine or air attack
Blew up the troopship had been quick,

For she was nowhere to be seen.
Oil patches were apparent, but

For the most part the residue
Floated face down. A few were crew,

Some soldiers, but the bulk of them
Were nurses, a field hospital

Bound for a different theatre
Than most had trained for. Their attire

Of starched caps and pristine aprons
Clustered together as these girls

Had done in breaks at training schools.
No jokes now. No infectious smiles,

Just a togetherness in death
Which etched into the memories

Of those of us who lined the decks
We had encountered many wrecks,

Witnessed carnage, rescued seamen
Screaming in agony, and thought

We’d seen and done it all before,
But these young women, score on score

Of them, unmanned us. Our skipper
Dared not linger. The threat of subs

Prowling the neighbourhood was real,
Only a slow pass possible,

A futile trawl for signs of life
Amidst that marine cemetery

Before our speed increased. We left
Them bobbing in our wake. Sea salt

Had stiffened the material
Of capes and skirts. As we drew off,

Powerful engines shuddering
Prompted an ashen fluttering

Peter explained, ‘A Sunday magazine featured a series of interviews with the handful of surviving ex-servicemen who experienced both World Wars. This poem is based on the account of one of them, Kenneth Cummins, during WW1, off the coast of Africa.’

I explored a bit further and found these accolades about Peter’s work:

‘Peter’s poems are full of charm and insight, intelligence and humanity’ Jackie Llewelyn-Bowen
‘ So many women’s lives are less than poetic. If Peter Wyton can bring a few verses to our lives and help less fortunate women at the same time, then we’re on to a win-win situation. Sandi Toksvig Journalist
‘..stimulating, sensual, pacy, eclectic, surreal..’ Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum
‘ of the performance poetry world. Ready with irony, riddled with wordplay acute with enquiry..’ Ledbury Poetry Festival instigator

So, there you go! It’s worth introducing yourself sometimes!

About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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6 Responses to Peter Wyton, poet and performer

  1. Peter Wyton says:

    Thank you so much for this splendid feature, Rebecca. I did enjoy myself at Falmouth and would love to attend the next Cornwall Contemporary Poetry festival. Apologies for not identifying you straightaway as a Facebook Friend, but in the immediate aftermath of any sort of performance I am known for passing close relatives without a sign of recognition!

  2. E.E. Nobbs says:

    My gosh – what a story that’s told in “The Lookout” !! And I am also impressed by the breadth of material covered in the three poems of Peter’s on the Featured Writers page on your site here. “THE LADIES OF THE CHARITY SHOP” made me laugh out loud 😀

  3. Marg Roberts says:

    A powerful poem from start to finish. I guess it must have been painful to write.

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