WHAT ANNOYS – DELIGHTS – AND IS OFTEN UNEXPLAINED.
What is ANNOYING me this week?
What is DELIGHTING me this week?
A poetic journey.
Tangerine Dream – Phaedra
SOME OF MY DOINGS:
Saturday saw me take part in the maddest thing Writing West Midlands have ever done, their words not mine. The Great West Midlands Poetry Relay, which saw 10 poets write 10 poems about 10 places which were then released to be carried by 10 racing pigeons. When explaining it at the various readings that I attended last week, everyone agreed it was mad, but thought it got surreal when the pigeons were mentioned.
My day started at Polesworth where I had written a poem, which incorporated the themes of alternative Olympic events in context of the place. This being a Cultural Olympic event in the run up to the London 2012 Olympics which will start in 12 months time from the weekend of events.
My poem the Polesworth Word Triathlon – used the theme of words coming to Polesworth, with the two poets who preceded me. These words were compared with words that had raced to Polesworth before, such as the words of Thomas Cromwell, which saw the dissolution of the Abbey. The new words however were brought here to compete and were seen to swim in the river Anker and then complete an obstacle course on the Poetry Trail and the events that were going on in Abbey Green Park for the Love Parks day, the final event was flying off into the airways – through Touch FM who broadcast the Polesworth leg of the relay and also thinking about the pigeons who were to carry the poems across the skies later in the day.
I had tried to write a comic poem but it just did not work and so I stuck with what I know and used my normal style creating a Free Verse Sonnet (homage to Michael Drayton), but in terms of a sonnet it had 14 lines and a turn part way through, there were no rhymes, couplets or metre – purists may argue therefore that it is not a sonnet.
Dressed in tracksuit trousers, trainers and a rugby shirt, the style of the true athlete – I arrived early, to ensure that the team at Touch FM were OK with what was going on and to sort out how we would do the readings across the Abbey Green Park site, where stall holders were setting up for the day and also live on the radio. This sorted, I then went and waited for the bus to arrive with the team from Writing West Midlands, along with the recording team of Peter and Laura from Monty Funk and the first two poets on the relay – Emma Purshouse who had started at Stoke on Trent Railway station at 8:00 am and Philip Monks who was collected at Burton on Trent Library.
At just after 10:15 the bus arrived, I was given my tee-shirt and number, Poet 3 and my race was on.
After a brief interview with Jonathan Davidson on Touch FM, Emma launched into her poem, which was inspired by the Olympic event, The 10 Metre Platform Dive, which she skilfully turned into an event for Network Rail as passengers competed to dive on to trains from the platform. The event being won by Derrick Johnson in his dry cleaned suit, where he not only got GOLD but Stoke also beat Crewe. Emma also picked up the rhythm of a train, reminiscent of Auden’s poem Night Mail.
This was followed by Philip Monk’s poem of rolling home from the pub, an Olympic event at which many of us would excel. Comparing the rolling of the Beer Dray wagons with that of the drinker finding the longest way home. Philip used the word jocund in his poem, an interesting word that is rarely used in modern parlance.
And then it was me, live on the radio, live across the the park – I read the Polesworth Word Triathlon for the first time.
No time for bows or applause – it was on to the bus to the next stop at Hatton Country world, where we were to meet another Polesworth Poets Trail Poet and former Warwickshire Poet Laureate, Helen Yendall. The journey was bumpy as we caught the speed bumps on the road to Dorden, which was whilst I was interviewed on my life in Poetry, which was little off putting and I found myself rushing to say what I want to say between the bumps.
Despite a slight detour we arrived at the Hatton Toffee shop to find we had been beaten by the clown performing in the Children’s tent who had taken our audience, alas it is the case that slapstick comedy will always attract the audience away from poetry.
Following the reading of Emma, Philip and my poems, Helen picked up the baton with a poem for Hatton – with a series on new heptathlon events, including licking ice cream, shopping and making and throwing mud pies.
Then back into the bus to head for Worcester. The journey for me so far had mainly been motorways and the trip to Worcester continued this way, back up the M40 onto the M42 and then picking up the M5. The road rolling underneath our wheels, the miles rushed along.
At Worcester we met with Rohit Ballal and performed our first of two indoor performances at the Café Bliss, a venue that sees musical performance but at this time of day was sedate with a few customers including Lisa Ventura, the driving force behind the Worcester Literature Festival, who is was great to meet for the first time, despite us communicating through Facebook many times.
Rohit’s poem followed the four previous poems, as he wrote about a Stain Glass making Olympic event picking up on Worcester Cathedral’s need for a new east window.
We had a chance to rest a while here and to grab a much needed drink before heading onto the bus to head for the car park at the British Camp in the Malvern Hills. Motorways were left behind for the roads that crossed the battlefield of Worcester, from which Charles II fled to hide in an oak tree, on into Malvern town itself, with is array of shops and Georgian houses and its famous gas lamps and then to the car park at the base of the Herefordshire Beacon.
Here we met Adrian Johnson, who had travelled by train having encountered a Jamaican street festival, four zombies and had walked three miles, overcoming his bovine fears in the process. Adrian’s poem which followed the first five, was entitled Pump and Circumstance, and reflected on Bicycles and Elgar and saw the introduction of poets bobbing in the last night of the proms tradition, as Adrian read his poem wearing a cycle helmet and gloves, whilst waving a bicycle pump at the audience that had gathered around the snack cabin. Always a good tip when doing an impromptu poetry reading – find a queue and read to them.
The bus then meandered through the sleepy sunshine lanes into Herefordshire to the sleepy town of Bromyard, which traces its history back to Norman times and is now a quiet place where not a lot happens and it seems when it does not many people stir themselves to watch; even though the poets wandered around the town trying to entice people.
Here we met with Deborah Alma, whose poem reflected the sleepiness of the town with an Olympic event that involved mainly resting, she stood in a sack, like she was about to enter a sack race, but then revealed that the only hops that they did in Bromyard went into sacks. We did manage to rustle up a small audience of locals, including several children on bikes and a bronze sculpture of a sheep whose name appeared to be Ann Jackson.
We left Bromyard, trying not to make too much noise as we went and headed for Highley in Shropshire, a stop on the Severn Valley Railway. It was here at the leisure centre that we met Kurly McGeachie, whose rapping performance of his poem for Highley featuring coal mining and the Severn Valley Railway, on which he made several puns about freight lifting, encarriagment, training and coaching. – His line about bringing gold back from the Olympics like they did in Britain in Bloom in 2006 was wonderful and made me smile every time I heard it in the subsequent readings.
It was from here that the pigeons were released to give them enough time to get back to the loft in Birmingham before sunset, as they would find an alternative roost after dark and this would upset the idea of the poem’s order being decided by the pigeons.
I have never seen racing pigeons being released before. Ten of them, each carrying a copy of one of the poems. They stepped out of the boxes and took to the air, they circled like a small cloud, following each other, one minute you thought they had gone, then they were overhead again, eventually finding their bearings and heading off towards Birmingham. It was estimated that it would take them 30 minutes to get back to the loft and so we hoped to know which had arrived first by the end of the day. I have since learnt that they did arrive back with the winner being the pigeon carrying Helen Yendall’s poem, my pigeon finished sixth.
Tiredness and fatigue was now getting to those of use who had an early start and so I was happy to listen as Adrian played his harmonica, Kurly fixed the megaphone and to a discussion on which celebrities’ people had met, names included Brian Mckeenan and Jack Dee. It was like being around a moving campfire at the end of a day of driving poems across country to the rhyme ranch.
The drive to the Odeon at Telford was fairly easy from Highley, up to Bridgenorth and then a short hop from there. Here we met the ninth poet Dave Reeves of Radio Wildfire fame, whose poem about long haul queuing was read to the queue for tickets at the Odeon Cinema, Dave came with an array of props all necessary for the competitor in any long haul queuing event, deckchair, snorkel, walking boots, torch, flask, sandwiches and a bin bag.
It was here that Rohit overhead a conversation between a Father and Daughter, who on observing a group of poets wandering into the cinema, had asked what was going on, to which he replied “I don’t know darling, but I am sure there must be some explanation”.
The queue bemused by the happening, soon returned their thoughts to Harry Potter and popcorn as we headed for the bus for one final time, to the Pie and Ale house in Stafford where our final poet, Roz Goddard was waiting along with our final audience.
We arrived just about on time, but by then time was all but forgotten, when we read it was about 8:00pm and it was noted that Emma, who had been on the full trip was reading her Platform poem for the tenth and final time, some 12 hours after it was originally unveiled to the staff and commuters on Stoke Railway station.
Roz’s poem was about pie snorkelling as a dressage and Greco-roman wrestling event and finished the day off wonderfully.
The final photo of the group of ten showed Roz with a pristine number on her shirt and Emma with a crumpled just about hanging in there number on hers, the rest of us were somewhere in between, the state of the numbers pinned to our shirts may have reflected our tiredness but not the sense of achievement, the team spirit, the camaraderie of new friendships and most of all the taking part.
The weather held, the bus didn’t break down, the company was wonderful and the pies were good too.
It was a fantastically mad day, and all credit goes to the team at Writing West Midlands, Jonathan Davidson, Sara Beadle, Lauren Davies and the rest of the team for their organisation and making the journey easy for those of us taking part.
I would also like to thank Lori Harvey and the team at North Warwickshire Borough Council for allowing us to interrupt the preparations for the Love Parks Day at Polesworth to support the Great West Midlands Poetry Relay.
More information and photos can be seen here:
Some other Links
Writing West Midlands
The Birmingham Book Festival.
The Birmingham Pigeon Project.
Helen Yendall’s Blog
Roz Goddard’s homepage
Emma Purshouse’s homepage
Dave Reeves – Radio Wildfire.
Kurly McGeachie’s homepage
Last week saw the Fizz at Polesworth Abbey with Matt Merritt
There is a review on both Matt’s blog and at Behind the Arras.
Also Spoken Worlds at Burton on Trent on Friday has also been reviewed on Behind the Arras.
I will not be covering a lost poet this week as I think you will have read enough!
SOME OF MY COMING SOON DOINGS
26th July – Poetry Bites – Birmingham.
Readings in August.
2nd August – Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s – Coventry.
8th August – O’Bheal – Cork – Ireland. http://www.obheal.ie/blog/?page_id=19#8thAugust
10th August – The Whitehouse – Limerick – Ireland.
19th August – Spoken Worlds – Burton upon Trent.