WHAT ANNOYS – DELIGHTS – AND IS OFTEN UNEXPLAINED.
What is ANNOYING me this week?
The speed my grass grows – I might have to cut it once more this year!
What is DELIGHTING me this week?
Talking to one of my Lost Poets.
Apollo – Atmospheres – Brian Eno
SOME OF MY DOINGS:
It was National Poetry Day last Thursday, a day that has seen over the last 10 or so years the appointment of local Poets Laureate, many of whom hold their honorary posts for the coming 12 months.
Thursday saw the wonderful Jan Watts take over from the inspiring Roy McFarlane as Birmingham Poet Laureate – I have not heard who was crowned the new Laureate for Warwickshire, taking over the mantle from Olga Dermott-Bond. Past Warwick poets laureate have included Polesworth Poets Trail poets, Helen Yendall and Jane Holland.
Worcester crowned its 1st laureate, Theo Theobald, earlier in the year from a fine shortlist that included the marvellous poets, Heather Wastie, Fergus McGonagal and Sarah James.
It is worth noting that each of these events was linked to a literary festival. Birmingham Book Festival, Warwick Words and the Worcester Literary Festival.
There are laureates for both Derbyshire and Cheshire, these have in the past been two year posts and have included Cathy Grindrod, River Walton, Harry Owen and Jo Bell as their holders. Matt Black was named as the new Derbyshire Poet Laureate last week.
Hereford has two Young Poets Laureate with Ben Ray and Harriet Husbands.
So there are murmours at poetry events, where is Staffordshire’s Poet Laureate? – Most of the surrounding counties have poets laureate so where is ours? Anyone would think that Staffordshire was a poetic wasteland but this is most definitely not the case.
Stafford the town and county that raised the current British Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, does not have such a post, yet there are many fine poets who are active in promoting poetry in Tamworth, Lichfield, Burton-upon-Trent, Stafford, Newcastle Under Lyme, Stone, Stoke-On-Trent and many of the other places in the region.
Local laureates do a lot of work in education, youth and health care projects as well as promoting poetry as an art-form, an art-form that I know a lot of people follow and practice, often privately but never-the-less there is a great interest. Most of the other counties include the post of the Young Laureate, giving a teenager their first major role as a poet.
These posts are honorary, there is no payment made to the poets as such, they can of course be commissioned to write pieces, run workshops and hold residencies for which payment should be made.
Because they are not paid for holding the title does not mean there is no value in having a Poet Laureate and indeed I would go further and say that there is a loss to the community in not having a figure head who can promote the poetic arts within the region.
A local poet laureate is a cultural ambassador for the region they represent; They can promote the region’s other delights, as poets can write about anything, from tourist attractions, events, the arts, to legends to local produce, be that food or manufactured goods. They help preserve the dialects and identity of the region.
Staffordshire is not just about pottery, but also about breweries, mining, league and non-league football, soon the FA academy will be here, it is also about Reliant Robins, JCB’s, ancient cathedrals, castles, the capital of a Mercia, gold hoards, battles, sieges, skirmishes, manifestos, Roman, to Saxon to Viking. Then there is the diversity of today’s multicultural environment.
It is a place of nature, woodlands, moors, the chase, grit-stone crags and deep scars that became hidden churches. The Peak District also has part of its home here in Staffordshire.
There is whole range of culinary classics that have had a home in Staffordshire. Beer, Oatcakes, Marmite and its cousin Bovril, Branston Pickle was first made here; there is cheese, toffee, Packington Pork, Tamworth Pigs to name just a few.
Then there are the communities, the villages, the market towns and the people whose unique dialect goes back to ancient poems such as Gawain and the Green Knight.
Plenty for a Poet Laureate to write about and then there are the unknown, hidden gems that only a poet can seek out and bring into the national consciousness. Local poets laureate leave a legacy of the time they hold the post and pass on the tradition to the next generation of poets.
I would also offer this further case. – Three Staffordshire locations were used as part of the Great West Midlands Poetry Relay held on 23rd July this year – A cultural Olympic event – Stoke-on-Trent railway station which was the starting point, then Burton Library – then following a route through Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire the final leg ended at the Pie and Ale house in Stafford.
Staffordshire provided the most locations, the other counties on the route, mostly providing two locations – but I was the only Staffordshire based poet on the relay and my starting point was in Warwickshire. We need to raise the profile of poetry and the poets in Staffordshire; a Staffordshire Poet Laureate can provide this focus and at the same time promote the delights of the county.
So here is a call to Staffordshire poets do we want a Poet Laureate for the county? – Should we engage with the County Council and local district councils to explore how the post could be developed for mutual benefit?
Email me at email@example.com with your thoughts.
I need to make a correction. In my blog last week I referred to the new sculpture at Pooley Country Park with the title Burnt Sunlight, which was a mistake on my part as this had been a working title for the piece and is now a secondary title. The correct title is GOLD LEAF, so I apologise if I caused any confusion.
That sorted out, I was delighted with the response that I received to the blog post, as blog comments, emails and on Facebook. The piece has certainly captured people’s imaginations and become a positive talking point and long may this continue as the piece changes from THE NEW to THE FAMILIAR and with this familiarity that it continues to inspire.
Congratulations to Helen Calcutt for organising the 100,000 poets for Change event at Bloxwich Library Theatre on Saturday evening. A wonderful evening of poetry, which included some great readings from Sarah James, David Calcutt, Jacqui Rowe, Roy McFarlane, Antony Owen, Gary Longden, Janet Smith, Heather Wastie and Ruth Stacy plus readings from the floor. A very inspiring night with variations on each of the poets views on change.
Friday 14th October sees SPOKEN WORLDS – the monthly reading event at the Old Cottage Tavern in Burton on Trent. The MC, Gary Carr will introduce some of the best poets in the region in the usual three halves plus some sketches and short stories. It starts as 7:30pm – Free Entry and Real Ale – not to be missed.
There have been only two living poets of the twenty lost poets that I have discussed in this blog so far. One of them is a recluse and will never contact me, however I was delighted last week when the other, Marcio Andre did contact me to thank me for promoting his work through the blog, which resulted in a prolonged Portuguese/English email conversation about the evening at the Tin Angel in Coventry, when he filled the room with sound that left a lasting impression on me and many others. If you missed the piece on Marcio Andre then your can read it on my blog post See Blog 8th July 2011
MY LOST POET for this week is ANN MOSS – (1818 – 1895).
Ann Moss was a poet who lived for most of the latter half of the 19th century in Saltaire just outside Bradford in Yorkshire. Saltaire is the village built by the local mill owner Sir Titus Salt for his workers and my own family lived and worked there at the time Ann Moss was her writing poetry.
Ann was a remarkable woman, who was profoundly deaf and found her self in diminished circumstances following the death of her husband, she was left to raise three children and selling her poetry was her only form of income. Despite all of this hardship, Sir Titus Salt recognised the quality of her work.
The mill dominates the landscape of Saltaire, once the spinning and weaving sheds that produced alpaca woollen cloth were a busy, noisy manufactory. Today they are used for the production of satellite dishes, along with Café, bookshops and gallery featuring the work of another of Bradford’s sons, David Hockney.
The streets that surround the mill with their neat terraces are all named after members of Salt’s family. Larger houses nearer to the mill for the over-lookers and managers, the smaller houses all were providing a comfortable living for the workers. Saltaire also has its own Institute, where Salt encouraged learning, a church and a park over the other side of the canal that provided a place for leisure. There is no pub, which is a feature of many villages that grew up around manufacturing, such as Bourneville in Birmingham which was built for its workers by the Cadbury Family.
Ann’s poetry was a social comment on her times living in this community, sharing tragedy, romance and humour through the single broadsheets she produced and sold for pennies to provide support for her family.
Her accounts of Salt’s Mill and Saltaire bring to life the place as it was and in appearance has changed very little it being a World Heritage Site. Her words resonate around the iron columns that stand in line to hold up the vaulted ceilings and the machine floors of the mill. You can hear the echoes of her voice in the ginnels and yards behind the houses.
Ann’s poems can be found the book Ann Moss, Saltaire Poet by Roger Clarke (details below), There are family poems such as Recollections of childhood, My Father, In Memorium My Beloved Mother. Her son John in John Aged 20 and another John Aged 50.
Her poems on Saltaire, such as Methley Fete and Shipley Glen. Poems on the social condition Lines to Low Moor and the Ripley Chimney Disaster. Then her lighter poems, Woman and Spotty to her cat.
All these verses reflect the lives and worries of ordinary spinners and weavers, many of whom I can claim in my own ancestry.
My own family had also seen the loss of a family member in Salt’s Mill, Jimmy Dewhirst who was my Great Great Grandfather died in an accident in 1860 the details of which are on the Saltaire website provided by my cousin Pat Holland.
By the time my Grandfather, Ernest was born in 1888, the family had moved to nearby Shipley, but there were still members of my extended family living in Saltaire into the 1920’s and I would like to think they engaged with poetry and purchased the single broadsheets that Ann Moss produced.
Ann’s life story and poetry has been told in ANN MOSS – SALTAIRE POET by Roger Clarke
Ann Moss is also one of the featured poets in the GRAFT project along with Alfred Williams and Tommy Armstrong.
SOME OF MY COMING SOON DOINGS
14th Oct – Spoken Worlds Burton.
24th Oct – Shindig, Leicester.– I will be guest poet at this event.
The next Fizz is on THURSDAY 3rd November at the TYTHE BARN in Polesworth when we will have as our guest poets Afric McGlinchey, Colm Scully and Jennifer Matthews from CORK in Ireland.
Please note that this is a change of day and location from the normal Fizz events.