WHAT ANNOYS – DELIGHTS – AND IS OFTEN UNEXPLAINED.
What is ANNOYING me this week?
My internet connection keeps dropping out.
What is DELIGHTING me this week?
A country walk on Sunday afternoon.
The new tracks from Hydranoid Musia.
SOME OF MY DOINGS:
There has been quite a few responses on the debate I started last week with regard to whether Staffordshire should have its own poet laureate.
The responses are all from poets, most of whom would be eligible to apply for the post, if it comes to fruition. It was also great to get the views of a poet from outside of Staffordshire, who whilst recognising they would not be able to apply felt that they could add to the discussion on the role of a local laureate in general terms.
The idea has been met with a great deal of enthusiasm for the role and what part a laureate can play in promoting Poetry, Literacy, Heritage and the County.
In general terms the discussion is around what qualities and experience should the Poet Laureate have and should this differ from year to year to ensure the whole spectra of poetry is aired.
Is it a page poet or Is it someone who win slams? Or someone that’s an all round good performance poet?
Is it important that they can/want to go into schools to promote poetry to young people?
Should they have a wider poetry knowledge/understanding of e.g. metre, past poets and be happy and able to promote page poetry as well as performance poetry?
Should the poet be a good poetry audience member, listening and encouraging, mentoring and supporting.
My view is that different poets will bring a different focus to the role; all are valid and should be celebrated for their style. But what ever the specific poetic style the poets use, they should be able to demonstrate a good understanding of its roots and development and have ideas as how if can developed and how collaborations with other poetic styles and art-forms could be pursued.
It has also been suggested that consideration should be given to whether there is an expectation for the Poet Laureate to actively promote poetry. Different regions have differing ideas on this; Worcester gave no expectation beyond a performance in the Cathedral, where as Birmingham has a contractual expectation that the poet will achieve agreed criteria during the year that they hold the post. This is part of the entry criteria with poets having to specify what they would want to do and where and who they would encourage to participate.
The more specific points that have been raised relating to Staffordshire include linking the post to Library Service, which seems eminently sensible, as the libraries across the county can promote and run events and also to a certain extent have their hands on the pulse of the local communities. This also offers an opportunity for the poet to be in residence at libraries and even touring the districts on the Library bus, encouraging local people to bring their poems for impromptu readings and to gather the poems for a potential anthology.
There are many ideas on what a poet could do and what role they could play in Staffordshire from the poets, it will be interesting to see what the local authorities views would be for such a role.
This leads me on to the issues that may or may not exist but never-the-less they are perceived as existing. These issues relate to the specifics of location and whether poets from the North of the County see themselves as being different to those in the South.
The Lichfield Literary Festival would seem to be an obvious choice to appoint a laureate with readings in the Cathedral. It is an internationally recognised festival, which draws in major writers and poets, including the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. But would poets from Stoke, Leek, Newcastle feel they can relate to the City in the South of the County, That should they be appointed laureate that they would like a town or city in the North of the county to be the place where they should be crowned.
How would the County town of Stafford feel about the central focus of the event being in Lichfield?
As I said these are all perceptions, as no one to my knowledge has asked these questions before or even looked at a joined up collaborative thinking with regards to Literature in the county. It therefore maybe the case that people would welcome this as a means of working together rather than in the parochial groups that they find themselves in with no initiatives to take things wider.
It would be down to the conditions of the laureateship that ensured that the poet’s role was inclusive of the whole of Staffordshire and not seen as the Lichfield Poet Laureate.
I will leave it for another week to see if there are any further responses and then will take it forward with those who have shown an interest in forming a formal approach to the appropriate authorities. So far these are all from the south of the county and come from Poetry Groups, Spoken Word event organisers and reviewers and broadcasters. All of who are active on the local poetry scene. It would be good to get the views of the poets in the North of the county. Please pass this on to anyone who might have a view that they would like to share.
Last Friday saw the monthly Spoken Worlds evening at the Old Cottage Tavern in Burton on Trent. The usual host and organiser, Gary Carr was laid up due to illness and I was asked if I would take over the role of MC for the evening. Never one to turn down a chance to get behind the microphone I gladly stepped into the breach. I hope Gary is feeling better soon and normal service will be resumed at the next Spoken Worlds on the 25th November when the guest poet is Ash Dickinson.
On Friday however, I had decided on the night to give my new tailcoat its first outing – I bought it at a Vintage clothing market in Worcester about 3 weeks ago. It is a Moss Bros, Covent Garden coat from the 1920’s/30’s and is in excellent condition, with just a fix to the lining required. It fits me perfectly and only cost £30. With my white granddad shirt, black trousers and very pointed grey, buckled shoes, I was compared to a waiter or a wedding guest, but I preferred being described as wearing my “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know outfit”. You can judge for yourself in the photo below.
Gary Longden did his normal sterling job of writing a review of the evening which can be found at Behind the Arras.
My lost poet for this week is GEORGE HEATH (1844-1869)
As my main theme for the last couple of weeks has been about Poetry and Staffordshire, it seems appropriate that my lost poet should be one of Staffordshire’s great poets. The Moorland Poet, George Heath.
George Heath was born in Gratton near Leek in the Staffordshire Moorlands, following his education in the village school he worked on his Father’s Farm and later was apprenticed as a builder. It was around this time that he decided to become a poet with his early verses being written in 1863. It was whilst he was working on the church in the next village of Horton that he caught a chill which developed into consumption.
His illness prevented him from working and so he turned his mind to his studies and writing. His first collection, a slim volume of poems was published in 1865 entitled Simple Poems, this was followed a year later with his second volume Heart Strains. His condition deteriorated and he suffered an early death in 1869 age 25; he was buried in Horton Churchyard, the place where he had first caught the chill that brought on his early death.
Memorial collections were published following his death. Including his poem to Rudyard – the lake that became a place of leisure for the Victorians.
His life as a poet had lasted six short years, his poems mostly written through his illness, his words the expression of a dying man. Filled with failed ambition and loss. The themes expressed his obsession with death and his frustrations that he would not live long enough to complete his poetic journey, that his works would be forgotten and he along with them.
His poem – Inscription on a Rude Stone, reflects his melancholy – lines of which were etched on his gravestone.
INSCRIPTION ON A RUDE STONE
A quiet youth in the valleys grew,
And thought o’er his being a mantle threw,
And dawned on his spirit a meaning new,
And he dreamed of a mission great and true;
But God, in His infinite wisdom, drew
A severing finger his projects through.
His life is a fragment—a broken clue—
His harp had a musical string or two,
The tension was great, and they sprang and flew,
And a few brief strains—a scattered few—
Are all that remain to mortal view
Of the marvellous song the young man knew.
O, ye who have feeling! a tear from you!
Rest, saddest of singers, in peace—adieu!
Links to pages for George Heath and his poetry.
SOME OF MY COMING SOON DOINGS:
24th Oct – Shindig, Leicester.– I will be a guest poet at this event.
November Readings and Workshops
1st Nov – Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s House Coventry – Guests The Cork Poets
3rd Nov – The Fizz – Tithe Barn Polesworth. Guests The Cork Poets
25th Nov – Spoken Worlds – Burton – Guest Ash Dickinson
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.
Words for Peace
Coventry Central Library, Smithford Way, Coventry CV1 1FY
An afternoon of poetry workshops run by local poets Antony Owen and Mal Dewhirst. Coventry schoolchildren will use war poems from Owen’s “Dreaded Boy” and selected famous war poetry to explore the themes of peace and reconciliation today. Influenced by what they have read and discussed the young people will create a collaborative poem as well as their own individual poems on what peace and reconciliation means to them. The poems will then the subject of an exhibition throughout the rest of 2011 in the Central Library. It is hoped that this exhibition will go on to show at other venues at a later date. Time: 12noon – 4.00pm – This event is by invitation only through local Coventry Schools.