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
‘..star 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!