Archive for September, 2011


What is ANNOYING me this week?


What is DELIGHTING me this week?

Feeding the ducks.


Still listening to the Hydranoid Musia – September set, absolutely wonderful.


The Fizz last week was a very special evening with guest poet Antony Owen. It was special because it demonstrated my point of last week on synergy. Antony’s poems are without doubt pieces that stand alone in their brilliance and insight; he truly is the modern war poetic voice. His performance on Tuesday saw him use a musical backdrop to his reading, his carefully crafted words delivered to a mix of sounds that brought Sangin, Rwanda and the plight of the Dreaded Boy in to the room with a resonance that left the listener feeling that the heat of battle, the crush of tyranny and the death of so many innocent people was being enacted here in a small North Warwickshire village.

The poetry and the music as a combined force, a force that brought an outer silence, but an inner echo as thoughts crafted emotions into a new understanding.

A truly rare and wonderful evening.

You can see Bernadette O’Dwyer’s review at Beyond the Arras.

A few weeks ago I mentioned The Pitman Poets who will be appearing at the Century Theatre at Snibston Discovery Park, near Coalville in Leicestershire next Saturday 1st October. They will be singing the songs of one of my Lost Poets Tommy Armstrong the pitman poet from the North East coalfields; Tommy is also one of the three poets whose life and work is the inspiration for the GRAFT project. – See Blog 17th May 2011

I spoke to the box office this morning and there are still a few tickets available for what promises to be a fantastic evening of songs from the coalfields. Grafting songs of toil, sweat, danger and hardship that created a tough unbreakable spirit of identity and comradeship. Words that were echoed in the thoughts of the Pooley Miners who shared their experiences in the Polesworth Poets Trail workshops earlier in the year.

I have my tickets so I hope to see you there.

Tickets are available from




The Box Office
Snibston Century Theatre.
Ashby Road

Tel: (01530) 278444
Web: http://www.centurytheatre.co.uk/diary/show/the-pitmen-poets

As promised I am returning to my search for LOST POETS this week with a poet who lived in the times of the Polesworth Poets, the late 16th and first half of the 17th centuries. He was not as well known as Drayton, Jonson, Donne et al and to some extent he was a very minor poet in comparison, indeed he has been described as more a wit than a poet. He can also be described as one of the GRAFT poets; perhaps the earliest of the poets who grafted for a living and wrote poetry in any spare time, having no patrons or family wealth in which to sustain him as a full time writer.

These two factors of being a contemporary of Drayton and a Graft poet are enough for me to spark my interest in including him as a lost poet. It was confirmed when I read a reference in a 1902 Encyclopaedia that finished with “he wrote nothing worthy of remembrance”. This to me sounded like academic snobbery, leaving me with an inclination to reassess his work. My research left me in no doubt that he if anyone does, really does belong on the list of lost poets.

My Lost Poet for this week is John Taylor – The Water Poet (1578-1653)

John Taylor - The Water Poet.

John Taylor was born in Gloucester in 1578, it is uncertain as to who is parents were or what their occupations were, but they do appear to have a level of affluence to be able to educate their son. John received his education until he felt he could no longer master the intricacies of Latin Grammar and so abandoned his education and went to London in the 1590’s. He had however the ability to read and write and was articulate despite his choice of not pursuing an academic life.

Taylor was an apprentice waterman, one of the many boatman who ferried passengers across the Thames, as London at that time only had one bridge. His passengers were often well educated and were seeking the entertainments to be found on the South Bank of the river, with the theatres and drinking houses including Shakespeare’s Globe. Taylor was able to engage with his passengers with far more conversation than is more rough hewn counterparts. He was noted for his knowledge and also his politeness.

He soon began to put is education to use and began writing poetry and social commentary. He became a great self publicist and published pamphlets of his poems. He would often poke comments at other writers of his day and was embroiled in a pamphlet war with the established poet Thomas Coryate who was on the receiving end of Taylor’s wit, in his first collection of 1612, The Sculler.

These controversies boded well for Taylor who saw his literary career take off, almost treating his work as a brand, he was one for challenges that saw him stood up by the writer William Fennor in a highly publicised “Trial of Wit” in 1614 and rival petitions to the King which saw his pamphlets burned by the chief hangman. All of this kept his name in the minds of the public and was to offer him a literary career for next 50 year. His performances, readings of his poems were received to great acclaim.

He continued as a waterman, styling himself as ‘The Water Poet’, his verbal abilities saw him representing the Watermen at Court during the Watermen’s disputes in 1641/2, when there were moves to bring the theatres from the south bank over to the north, thus removing the need for people to cross the river and so greatly impacting the livelihoods of the watermen, his protestations were to no avail and so the theatres moved.

He was by all accounts a great traveller, often embarking on great journeys through Britain and Europe, often travelling without money, relying on acquaintances to provide him with food and lodgings. He wrote of these travels, making comment of what he saw and who he met, perhaps one of the first travel writers, which are so popular today on the bookshelves of the retail bookshops.

One journey saw him rowing 40 miles of the inland waterways in wherry made of varnished brown paper kept afloat by eight bullock’s bladders and powered by oars made from dried fish and canes. This was documented in his poem, The Praise of Hempseed.

By the end of his life he was running a pub in Phoenix Alley, Longacre near to Covent Garden, calling it the Crown at a time when the Crown had just lost his head. His loyalty to Royalty did not go down well and when he referred to the pub as the Mourning Crown he found the protest too much to bear and so renamed the pub The Poet’s Head. With declining incomes and failing health, he died in relative poverty in December 1653.

So the question remains did he leave anything of real worth?

There is a pub in Spitalfields called The Water Poet in his memory; of his own ale house The Poet’s Head, the site is now Banbury Court off Long Acre, down the alleyway next to the H&M store.

Of his writings and out the 63 published works there must be something that is worthy of mention.

His writings are of great value to Social Historians, his commentary on daily working lives and his travels give a real insight to the thoughts and conditions of working people of the time.

He is also credited with creating some 75 slang terms that were used in his poetry some of which is still in common parlance today, such as “blind” as in drunk.

He writes one of the first recorded palindromes “Lewd I live & evil I Dwel”.

He also is the first recorded writer to write about the death of Shakespeare, writing this in 1620 some four years after Shakespeare’s death.

In paper, many a poet now survives
Or else their lines had perish’d with their lives.
Old Chaucer, Gower, and Sir Thomas More,
Sir Philip Sidney, who the laurel wore,
Spenser, and Shakespeare did in art excell,
Sir Edward Dyer, Greene, Nash, Daniel.
Sylvester, Beaumont, Sir John Harrington,
Forgetfulness their works would over run
But that in paper they immortally
Do live in spite of death, and cannot die.

This may not be a lot in terms of other writers of the time, but as I said at the beginning of this piece he was a very minor poet. He was certainly a great character and showman. He understood how to manipulate the media of the day for his benefit. NO NEWS IS BAD NEWS – I can almost hear him say it. This mantra of the celebrity culture that says it does not matter what people are saying as long as they are saying it about you.

Finally, if there is any small grain of truth in the forthcoming film on Shakespeare, Anonymous, (and we do know how Hollywood likes to rewrite history, Enigma as an example). But if there is any truth in the film, then Shakespeare, the great showman, the great self promoter, could have learnt something from Taylor, because John Taylor not only had the showmanship capabilities, but John Taylor was also a writer.

The Water Poet Pub in Spitalfields.

John Taylor as a hero of Slang.

Poem – The Praise of Hempseed.


September Readings

30th Sept – Launch of Sculpture on the Mound at Pooley Country Park.

Some advanced dates for October

4th Oct Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s House Coventry.
Guest Poets Janet Smith and David Calcutt.
8th Oct – 100000 Poets for Change – Bloxwich Library Theatre.
14th Oct – Spoken Worlds Burton.

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What is ANNOYING me this week?

The woman who tried to park her car in the boot of my car, this morning – too fast – too close.

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

The FIZZ on Tuesday.


HydranoidMusia – Sept 2011 Releases.


Last weeks blog was a consolidating experience that enabled me to get my thoughts on the Polesworth Abbey dig clear and as such ended the walking the subject process. Having written the blog I went on to produce five poems on the dig theme, which were critiqued at the Mad Hatters Writers on Wednesday and the Runaway Writers on Thursday – with a few minor tweaks they were read at Spoken Worlds on Friday.

The themes of the poems explored the context of the past being opened up in the present, which is the purpose of an Archaeological dig. The first Elegy takes the view point of the spirit of skeletal remains of the old nun as she tries to make sense of the 21st century world that she finds herself awoken too.

The Archaeological Strata of Polesworth Abbey is a poem that uses a form developed by Hench-4 for the Pooley country park site. The form lays down poems to reflect geological strata, each one sitting in top of the other.

My poem is designed with more archaeological features and sees words butt up against each other like walls built a different periods of time. The poem also has no obvious starting point, which reflects the archaeologist’s dilemma as to where to put the trench.

It is meant to be read from the page where the reader digs their trench into the poem and then makes an interpretation of the meaning based upon the words that are found in the trench. The layers of words and half-words sit like walls, tiles and broken pots providing several differing poetic offerings as to what is happening or where the meaning lies.

The content of my poem is very specific to the Polesworth Abbey site, as it should be for this small collection, I think other sites would offer further opportunities to develop the use and structure of this form. It is a very interesting poetically and needs to be explored further, which is something that I will do in the future.

My further three shorter poems explore the dig in context of the mound in the churchyard, with a concrete poem, Dispelling Mound Myths.

The extraction of sand and gravel which was highlighted by of all things, clay Pipes, with Clay Pipe Dreams and finally the development and use of utilitarian pottery, with Midland Purple.

Overall, I am pleased with the results and I am considering putting together a small anthology with these poems and others that I know are being considered and written by other poets. If anyone has any poems that reflect the Polesworth dig and they want to be considered for inclusion into a potential anthology then please do contact me.

As I said earlier it was Spoken Worlds in Burton on Friday, the monthly evening at the Old Cottage Inn, run so expertly by Gary Carr. There is a review of the evening by Gary Longdon at Behind-The-Arras.

The next Spoken Worlds will be on Friday 14th October with its normal three halves with a real mix of poetic and dramatic voices, as there is not just poetry, but also short plays and sketches and the occasional short story. It is well worth attending and a good space for new readers to gain confidence or for experienced readers to try new material.

In November, Spoken Worlds will have a guest poet with a performance from the fantastic Ash Dickenson, who is currently on a tour of Canada. Ash’s performance at Spoken Worlds is not one to be missed.

Gary Longdon’s review can be found at:

Saturday saw a trip to the cinema to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which is not a film for everyone but I thoroughly enjoyed. It is the thinking person’s spy movie, so if you like your spies to be like James Bond then this might not be for you; I suspect that this film is more realistic in its portrayal of the world on spies in the Cold War.

It is has some excellent performances from a highly respected cast. Gary Oldman making the role his own, despite it already being defined by the wonderful performance of Alec Guinness in the TV series.

It stays true to the plot of John Le Carre’s book and only diverts in two aspects as far as I could tell, once with location at the beginning of the film, the book is set in Czechoslovakia and the film Hungary and secondly at the end, the book only hints at who performs the final shooting where as the film makes it clear.

An excellent couple of hours of tension, with prolonged shots on the characters faces that makes you want to get inside their heads to see what they are thinking, to see how Smiley is piecing together the intelligence to flush out the spy in the Circus.

I remember the TV series stretched out over seven hour long episodes, with the long silences, shabby rooms and characters who to all intents and purposes are respectable, whose passage through the street would appear uninteresting to most but in reality they are playing a bigger game. The game that sees scrutiny, analysis, thought and the nature of intelligence gathering with its precarious dangers and the uncertain blurred boundaries between loyalty and treason, friendship and foe. The film does not disappoint.

A friend of mine, Kirstie Brooks suggested on Facebook that you should sit close to back of the theatre for this film – if only to see everyone jump and the same time. – I thought it was just me.

This is well worth going to see, it is cinema at its best in my opinion and I do hope we see follow ups of Le Carre’s other Smiley novels The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley’s People.

Antony Owen will be reading at the Fizz tomorrow night and will be performing his poems from his latest collection the Dreaded Boy to an accompaniment of music. To facilitate this I got together with my son Jimi, yesterday to work through the sound set up for the evening. Whilst my garage won’t have the same ambience and acoustics of the refectory at the Abbey, we were able to work out the base settings for the music and the mic which we can tweak when we are there.

As I have mentioned before Jimi runs HydranoidMusia which produces Audio Vista’s, he does not refer to it as music as any sound has a potential to be included in the tracks that he produces and the result may not be what is understood by listeners to be music.

HydranoidMusia uses the tag line “Creating Audio Vistas from the DNA of Sound” and Jimi along with the producer Mike Six who also produces for them want to develop tracks that are not just seen as stand alone pieces but something that enhances another art form, such as film. They see Sound as Art – not just audio pleasantries designed to entertain and make a profit.

Jimi takes the view that there is so much sound in our lives that we filter out, some of which has been tagged as Noise Pollution. Jimi sees there only being sound or noise, some of it pleasant or relevant to the listener, some of it less so. If there is such a thing as pollution as noise, then his view is we should recycle it. The result should be not necessarily something that is nice but something that triggers an emotion, which makes you think; that stirs the right action.

We got talking about its use in poetry performance, which I have seen becoming more widely used in the last 12 months. I have seen many poets use standard musical forms, from Jazz to Ambient music to augment their poetry readings. Sometimes it works well, but sometimes you get the impression that the music is masking weak poetry or performance.

I hasten to add that Antony is not included in this category as his set works really well with the frank, unapologetic words of the reality of war and its effects on soldiers and civilians gives an enhanced resonance when performed with the musical backdrop.

There is however a risk that poetic arts become song writing exercises and that the music creates the magic and not the words, (I think I have said before that there are very few lyric writers who I would consider a poet.) That performance becomes a poor Karaoke.

Jimi’s view is that the sound vista has to be developed as a response to (or vice versa) or in conjunction with the poem, that although they can each sit as individual pieces, the result of putting them together enhances the audience experience of both, such that there is a greater artistic result.

I am very much in agreement with these views and that true collaboration between cross-art forms means that artists have to step out of their world thinking and into the world of their collaborators. It is only then that the true enhancements of the art forms deliver the potential greatness of the piece. It is 2+2=5 where the result of the collaboration is greater than the sum of the individual collaborators. The buzz word in corporate worlds used to be “Synergy”.

Both Jimi and I are keen to explore this further with poets, so if you are interested adding sound vistas to your performance then by all means contact us.

I will return with a LOST POETS next week.


September Readings

20th Sept – THE FIZZ at Polesworth – Guest Poet Antony Owen.
24th Sept – 100000 Poets for Change – venue TBA
30th Sept – Launch of Sculpture on the Mound at Pooley Country Park.
(I will be reading Bernadette O’Dwyer’s Poem Jutt)

Some advanced dates for October

4th Oct Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s House Coventry.
Guest Poets Janet Smith and David Calcutt.
8th Oct – 100000 Poets for Change – Birmingham
14th Oct – Spoken Worlds Burton.

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What is ANNOYING me this week?

The shortness of weekends!

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

The run up to the FIZZ next week with guest poet – Antony Owen.


In the Shadow of Leaves – Mike Six


Last Friday saw me attend the daily meeting at the Polesworth Abbey Dig, this was one of the last meetings for this digging season as the trenches will be being closed down at I write. They will however be back next year for another summer dig at which I hope to get my hands dirty with a little bit of digging as part of the volunteer team.

The Trench in the Garden

Having attended only three of these sessions, this is my view and impressions on what was found and how it was interpreted; the official view will no doubt be published in due course.

Tim Upson-Smith, the community Archaeologist on the project has done a fantastic job of leading the daily briefing sessions which saw forty people turn up on Friday to hear how the dig had gone.

Starting in Fr Philip’s garden where a T shaped trench has been cut into the lawn. Looking for the Abbey Cloister which following the traditional layouts of Medieval Abbey’s was expected in this area in relation to the church. Despite a disappointing start as they dug through layers of demolition rubble from the post medieval period, when the Abbey was demolished and the better stone works were robbed out to create houses and garden walls in Polesworth. There was also the classic post hole which showed all the signs of being part of some ancient timber structure, for which Fr Philip produced the original post from within the shrubbery and explained that it was in fact the result of a totem pole which was part of a Native American festival, some twelve years ago.

Floor level with the layer of slag on the left

There was also a black slag layer, which was explained as being levelling material from the 1930’s when the vicar of the day was partial to a game of tennis and had the lawn levelled to make a tennis court. The slag most likely came from the local mining works.

By the final week of the dig all these diversions had been sorted out and the Archaeologists had dug down to the in-situ walls that formed the Cloister, which revealed that the Cloister was rectangular rather than a normal square – this was only by a few feet but nevertheless it was unusual. There was also evidence of the original floor of the Cloister with a single tile being found sitting at the correct level.

Under the floor level there was a burial, which had been disturbed in the past as the bones were collected together and lay next to the inner wall of the Cloister. It is thought that the De-Somerville family claimed this, the third most desirable spot to be buried. The Marmions having claimed the second near to the Chapter House and the first spot near to the Altar in the Abbey church being reserved for Holy worthies.

The bones were probably disturbed when the grave digger was lifting the floor for a subsequent burial and so gathered the bones and reburied them as a group rather than them being laid out in a traditional burial position.

We then moved into the next field where the archaeologists were looking for the Chapter House. The field which runs down to the river Anker was subject to open cast mining up until the 1960’s, especially down nearest to the river but the top of the field had been untouched by this and so there were two trenches cut into this that revealed walls of the possible Chapter house and also the infirmary, outside of this there were two burials one of a woman and the other a man, the latter of which only the legs were revealed.

The woman was laid out with her arms across her chest, as was tradition in a Christian most probably Catholic burial of the day. Her teeth are very well worn and show that she was of some great age when she died. Her diet would have included a large amount of grit that had the effect of grinding down the teeth. This was most likely the result of grinding flour, grit remnants were ever present in the bread used as part of the staple diet of the medieval times.

In the Chapter House trench there were the walls found, but there was also evidence that the site had been dugout to extract sand and gravel in the 17th Century, this was dated through clay pipes that were found in the backfill.

Archaeologists date things based upon the latest datable object that is found in the layers of the trenches. This is often difficult with objects such as coins, as these can be in circulation for a very long time. I remember that in the pre-decimalisation days of the late 1960’s that there will still Victorian pennies in circulation perhaps one hundred years after they were first minted. So Tim was delighted with clay pipes as they were very much of the time that they were made and used, like today’s cigarettes they were bought, smoked and then thrown away with in a matter of days or weeks.

Clay pipes can be dated from the size of the bowl; smaller ones are earlier as tobacco was expensive. These were also one of the first products to be given a makers mark and records of these makers and when they were making pipes can be checked. The pipes found indicated that the area where the sand and gravel were extracted was dug at around 1690.

We next moved out into the churchyard and the exploration of the mound. The mound in the churchyard was subject to Garrie Fletcher’s Poets Trail poem “God’s Dance within us”. Garrie’s poem explored the local myth that the Devil lived on top of the mound watching for the souls he could capture.

Further legends were voiced during the daily tours throughout the dig, with locals offering up thoughts as to what the mound was, these included: A Bronze Age burial site, a Saxon burial site. The last resting place of Boudicca – she was buried here because of the Abbey, (despite her death preceding the founding of an Abbey on the site by some 800 years.)

More practical ideas were that when the grave diggers dug the graves there was always a couple of barrow’s full of earth that would not go back into the grave, so these were dumped on the mound and over time this is how it grew. There is some evidence that this happened later, but if it was the complete story, would we not find these types of mounds in all churchyards?

Many locals were in two minds as to whether the mound should be explored as it would potentially destroy all the myths and legends and prove that the mound was in fact a rubble heap from the original Abbey.

Myths often grow around the feature in its current position in the landscape. Not that the mound has moved but the use of landscape around it has changed over time. It is first recorded on an 18th Century map and is in the garden of the manor house and not the churchyard. So it would not have started out as dumping ground for surplus grave soil.

The dig revealed that it was built up of stone rubble overlaid with earth and was most likely originally built as a vista point with a gazebo on the top from which the Lord and his guests could view and admire the layout of the formal gardens.

The Mound a Garden Feature

There is a fine preserved example of this type of mound with a gazebo, known as The Mount, at Boscobel House near Wolverhampton.

Link to the English Heritage site for Boscobel House.

Back in Polesworth, 19th Century documents show that the church purchasing the land around the mound to provide much needed ground for the extension of the churchyard, in the mid 1800’s around the time the current vicarage was built.

So there it is a garden feature built of earth and rubble, but that does not mean that the Devil does not live on the top, if you want to believe such things.

Myths and legends are after all, the archaeology of ancestral minds.

The final area of the tour was on the other side of the church near to the old stables. Here the team led by Mark had more walls than he could shake a stick at and I saw him try.

Mark with more walls than he can shake a stick at - but he is trying.

There are several walls but two down the middle of the site are the most striking. One is an older well made wall which has been cut into at an odd angle by a later less well made wall, which it is suggested is the foundation of later timber framed building. There is also a drainage system, which may have been part of the original building and was reused as part of the later timber built construction.

This, with a day and half to go, was still a mystery and it was felt that more exploration was needed during next summer’s dig, to get a better interpretation as to what activities have been the focus of this area of the site.

The Finds


It is here that I can use the word “Shards” without my fellow poets screaming cliché. Shards, the overused word that is mostly used by poets in the wrong context.

There was a mass of pottery shards from across the site covering many periods, styles and uses.

Finds included some pottery that was possibly from the Polesworth Pottery that once stood in Potters Lane. There was also some Nuneaton green glazed ware, most probably from the Kilns at Chilvers Coton.

Nuneaton Green Glaze - Probably made at Chilvers Coton

Midland Purple, a common hard fired pottery produced widely and in many forms from about 1450 to 1600 was also found on the site.

More information on Green glaze and Midland Purple ware can be found at the University of Leicester Archaeological Services website: http://www.le.ac.uk/ulas/services/ceramic_analysis.html

Other ceramic items included roof tiles and Tudor bricks – distinctive by their long, narrow profile.


Beer and wine stoneware bottles from Germany, known as Bartmann Jugs or Bellarmine Jugs. These jugs were etched with a face of a bearded man (hence Bartmann) and sometimes a seal or coat of arms. They were produced in mainland Europe in particular around Cologne, showing that Polesworth in the 17th Century had wider outlook than we would have perhaps presumed.


Bones were another feature and not the human kind. Remains of animals including pigs, cattle and chickens, which were most likely the remnants of the many dinners and feasts that the Abbey was to host in the times of the Gooderes and later the Nethersoles.

There was also almost the full remains of a horses leg – which was given the name Shergar (I bet archaeologists all over Britain call equine remains, Shergar), although where the rest of it is, remains to be found. I must add that there was no suggestion that the horse was consumed as part of a feast, indeed horses are still very much part of the Polesworth site, in the fields next to the Abbey.


And to Tim’s animated delight – Clay pipes in abundance, many datable. The pipes most likely came from Broseley in Shropshire (at the heart of the birth of industry), where pipes were made as far back as 1590 and as recently as 1957.
See Tim talking about them here:

Clay pipes

I hasten to add that my interest in the paraphernalia of tobacco smoking is not in anyway an endorsement of such practices.


Further links.

Polesworth Abbey Website for the Dig

Dig the Abbey YouTube Channel links:
You can see the video footage by Peter Rally of this seasons dig at:

Plus some animations of how the Abbey may have looked

Photos from the Dig:



September Readings

16th Sept – SPOKEN WORLDS – Burton on Trent.
20th Sept – THE FIZZ at Polesworth
24th Sept – 100000 Poets for Change – venue TBA
30th Sept – Launch of Sculpture on the Mound at Pooley Country Park.
(I will be reading Bernadette O’Dwyer’s Poem Jutt)

Some advance dates for October

4th October Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s House Coventry.
Guest Poets Janet Smith and David Calcutt.

Read Full Post »


What is ANNOYING me this week?

My new spectacles are worse than my old ones.

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

My son’s birthday.


Radio 4


Last weekend saw me doing a spot more of DIY, which did not take as long as I anticipated which is unusual as most DIY jobs I do nearly always take longer as I underestimate the task in hand. This weekend however saw me change the design and so cut out a vast amount of work. This was mainly due to what I thought would look pretty naff actually turned out to be a fine minimalist expression. Less is More as they say.

Sunday saw a trip to Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire – the home of the Vernon family, whose experience of owning the Hall was varied and the wonder stuff of costume dramas. I have been a member of the National Trust and English Heritage for many years and in the past have not used my membership of both these organisations as custodians of our heritage, to good effect. This year however I feel I have at least covered my costs with visits during the summer.

My interests lie in the people as the Ancestors of the place, quite often the exhibits on show are of the period and not original pieces that these ancestors actually chose, purchased and used in their daily lives. So they do not resonate with me in the same way that the space and the way they used the space does.

I am always looking at the books on the shelves and quite often find that these are the true relics of the family, even if the desks and chairs are not. A library says a lot about its owner and their interests. Books also transcend periods and old leather bound books can be found sitting along side modern paperbacks.

Most libraries in Stately Homes have examples the “must be seen to have” type books, the classics that everyone had but I suspect no one ever read. The Complete Works of Shakespeare appears on most if not all of these types of bookshelves.

Most also have what I call the “vanity books”, the books about the area, that are most likely to have entries that mentions the place itself and its place in the landscape, geology and the flora and fauna.

As a poet I always look for the poetry, as I said Shakespeare always appears, but I am heartened to see the works of Donne, Spenser et al, among the works on display. But in the main the poetry stops at the early 17th Century. The later members of the family seem more interested in hunting and fishing, collecting china and seeking guidance from an annual almanac.

Hanbury was very much the same and sadly did not explore poetry beyond the aforementioned Shakespeare and Spenser and I did not find the unique book that helped define the owners. It was much as would be expected in a cobbled together museum piece, which makes me question whether the Hanbury Library is authentic and not just the custodians view on what would have been on the bookshelves.

Writing has not progressed and my head seems cluttered; Not least by the strain of trying to wear my new spectacles, which I am now convinced are not the right prescription and so have reverted to my old pair whilst I discuss it with my optician.

This unease does not help un-clutter my mind and allow me to focus on some new poems. As I said last week in this blog – I need to be able to walk with my themes and tease out the poems, this is however hard when the mere act of walking needs a constant alertness to ensure that the ground will be under my feet as I take the next step. New glasses always have that effect on me changing the perspective of the landscape such that the ground changes its position in respect to how I perceive my body moving through it.

Readings have slowed down a little since my very busy month in July, it is not that there are no readings to attend, but the time does not allow for me to attend as many as I could.

I will be at Night Blue Fruit in Coventry, this week and will be at Spoken Worlds in Burton on 16th and Of course I will MC at FIZZ on the 20th. These are all regular evenings for me and I am thinking that I need to spread further afield and to try some new venues.

The Fizz 9 with guest poet Antony Owen plus open mic – 20th September at 7:30pm – Polesworth Abbey Refectory.

My Lost Poet is Muriel Stuart (1885 – 1967)

Muriel Stuart

Muriel Stuart is often cited as being one of the best Scottish Poets of her generation, despite being born and living all her life in England. She was considered as a Scottish poet due to her ancestry and her work was often included in anthologies of early 20th century Scottish poetry.

She was born Muriel Stuart Irwin of Scottish parents in Norbury, South London in 1885, her father was a barrister. She had a private education and attended art school before settling into a job in publishing.

She is known for her poetry on sexual politics (e.g. ANDROMEDA UNFETTERED), although her earlier work saw her writing war poetry (e.g. FORGOTTEN DEAD, I SALUTE YOU.)

Her poems are sharp and lively, from a woman’s voice that not only desires the attention of men but also expresses a need for independent freedom. Poems such as IN THE ORCHARD show her experimenting with new forms, the poem consisting entirely of dialogue and would have been quite radical in its day.

MEN AND THEIR MAKERS sees her seeking the roles of mankind in the landscape of the earth, that humans are a whimsical dream of the more solid earth.

Her poem THE SEED SHOP, shows her seeking out the potential in everything as she explores the apparently dead seeds, trickling them through her fingers, she sees meadows and forests held in the palm of her hands.

After a brief first marriage, she married for a second time in 1922. Following the birth of her son and daughter she gave up writing poetry in favour of her love of gardening, THE SEED SHOP perhaps gives hints of this. She wrote a book on gardening in 1938 – The Gardeners Nightcap which is still available for Persephone Books.

Muriel Stuart is poetic voice that has been overlooked in the last seventy years and I believe she is due for reconsideration.


Muriel Stuart poems at Project Gutenberg.

The Gardeners Nightcap at Persephone Books.


September Readings

6th Sept – Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s in Coventry.
16th Sept – SPOKEN WORLDS – Burton on Trent.
20th Sept – THE FIZZ at Polesworth
24th Sept – 100000 Poets for Change – venue TBA
30th Sept – Launch of Sculpture on the Mound at Pooley Country Park.
(I will be reading Bernadette O’Dwyer’s Poem Jutt)

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