Posts Tagged ‘Warwickshire’


What is ANNOYING me this week?


What is DELIGHTING me this week?

A poetic journey.


Tangerine Dream – Phaedra


The view from the bus

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.

Live on Touch FM

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.

Rohit joins the bus.

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.

Adrian Johnson and Deborah Alma

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.

A sheep named Ann Jackson - apparently!

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.

The Pigeons are released, their race begins.

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.

Adrian and his harmonica.

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.

Sara Beadle captures the ten poets.

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.

Monty Funk

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!


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.


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What is ANNOYING me this week?

People who moan about the same old things but never do anything about them.

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

A wooden, elastic band powered car.


Various versions of One Bourbon, One scotch, One beer.

My favourite is the John Lee Hooker version followed by the George Thorogood version.

I can’t think what the Glee version is like – maybe I’ll give that one a miss.


I am inspired by the Secret Writer’s, April Fools list of 40 things that she has never done before and wants to do before she reaches 41, you can see her progress on her blogspot.


My list is to find 50 lost poets. Poets who were either popular once but have gone out of favour, or had a modicum of success in their day and have been somewhat under appreciated.

The first poet on my list is Michael Drayton (1563-1631) who is often eclipsed by his contemporaries, William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and John Donne. If these four had been the Beatles then Michael Drayton would have been George Harrison. A very talented writer, who was overshadowed by the extra-ordinary talents of those around him. Though having said that, I would not want to say which of the other three would be Ringo Starr.

Drayton was born in Hartshill, Warwickshire, to a farming family, who were tenants of Sir Henry Goodere of Polesworth. It was Sir Henry who brought young Michael to Polesworth as a page and provided him with an education in the school room above the Abbey Gatehouse. Drayton developed his poetic skills in the company of thePolesworth Circle, which included Jonson and Donne, along with the architect Inigo Jones.

Drayton wrote his Ideas Mirror, a set of sonnets that declared his love for an unknown lady, who we now know to be his patron’s daughter Anne Goodere, his love was unrequited and Anne went on to marry another, but she remained friends with Michael and the other poets and they were often guests at her marital home in Clifford Chambers. See http://www.bartleby.com/214/1004.html for more details.

Ideas Mirror contains one of the poems that we have included on the Poets Trail, To the River Ancor, where Drayton confides in the river of his love for Anne and how she inspires him along with the forest Arden which he alludes to the Greek poets comparing it to the valley of Tempe and the river itself, which he considers his Helicon.

Another poem in the series is perhaps his best known “Since there is no help let us kiss and part”. The full collection can be read at http://www.luminarium.org/editions/idea.htm

Perhaps his other best known work is PolyOlbion, his description of the landscape ofEngland, which to me as poet who explores landscapes is a treasure of descriptive, historical verses that allow us to compare the landscape four hundred years ago with our landscape today. PolyOlbion, Many Albions or Many Englands is a concept that still hold true today with the many diverse cultures and traditions that make up our country. Along with the development of the land, through the industrial revolution and now the industry has waned, the re-generation of the natural environment as we have seen at Pooley. I wonder how much of the landscape Drayton would recognise if he were to wander around Polesworth today.

PolyOlbion was written using Dr Philemon Holland’s translation ofCamden’s Britannia, as it clearly follows the same structure asCamden’s work.  Dr Holland lived and practiced inCoventryand it is most likely that Drayton had access to his translation. More recently Paul Farley revisited PolyOlbion with his Electric PolyOlbion for the BBC.

A reprint of Polyolbion in three parts is available from Amazon


The Leicester poet Matt Merritt is also a promoter of all things Draytonian and has his PolyOlbion blogspot at http://polyolbion.blogspot.com/

Matt will be the guest poet at the Fizz in July.

The classroom where Drayton was taught is now part of the development of the holiday lets at Polesworth Abbey Gatehouse.


I admire Drayton, most of all for following his own path, writing on subjects that interested him, his language and style maybe of his day, but it is never-the-less engaging. The cottage where he was born is no longer there and his classroom is now a lounge come dining room. However the fireplace in front of which he wrote Idea’s mirror is still there and this is now our Tempe as poets place their hands upon it before reading at the Fizz.

My list of lost poets is included after my Coming Soon Doings, watch it as it grows.

Last week saw me reading through the submitted poems and making my selections, which will be discussed with the other judges before the final selection is made. This has been a particularly hard task as there are so many great poems.

I am meeting over Easter with the other main judge to decide our final selections to be presented to the group for confirmation. Then the work can begin with the interpretations into the installations, in time for them to be installed in early July.

It was good to see some sunshine this weekend, let’s hope it lasts. After Easter I will be working with two poets to make films of their poems, one a suspense filled montage that will be filmed at night, the other retracing a walk to meet a love, with a twist at the end.

Tonight sees me at the Shindig in Leicester and Thursday at a meeting to discuss Nuneaton’s Summer Day of Poetry – followed by Spoken Worlds at its new location The Old Cottage Inn –Burton-upon-Trent. 


Just a couple of readings in April.

18th April – Shindig Leicester – The Western, Western Ave, Leicester. – 7:30pm

22nd April – Spoken Worlds – The Old Cottage Inn – Burton-on-Trent. – 7:30pm

List of Lost Poets.

1. Michael Drayton – See Blog 18th April 2011.

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What is ANNOYING me this week?

Water pumps that don’t pump.

What is DELIGHTING me this week?

My favourite Cola based drink – Can’s 4 for £1 instead of 60p each elsewhere.


Argus – Wishbone Ash


It is World Book Day on March 3rd,when hundreds of copies of books will be given away by volunteers who have a passion for books and want to get more people reading, or a least reading something that they would not normally read.

To mark this occasion and to ensure a wide range of people (some might not be in town on Thursday) can receive free books, Rach Flowers in Nuneaton, Warwickshire is presenting World Book Night on March 5th. She informs me that she and a friend are performing a double act and want to have fun as well as enthuse people to love books and reading as much as they do. This event is in conjunction with Waterstones and Nuneaton Town management who are supporting the event.

Rach will be giving away about one hundred copies of Seamus Heaney’s New selected Poems and asked if I have any information cards about the Polesworth Poets Trail, which I am only to glad to provide as she will give them out with every copy of the book.

used under a creative commons licence

Seamus Heaney - Photo Copyright Sean O'Connor

Seamus Heaney’s New Selected poems – was originally published by Faber and Faber in 1990 and covers his work from 1966 to 1987, including selections from the first seven collections of his poetry, which features the Whitbread prize wining The Haw Lantern (1987). This collection demonstrates Heaney’s word plays and use of adjectives to explore the world, ourselves and our emotions “Close up”. His poetry has the richness and bountiful dimension that comes from a poet who lives life. John Carey said of Heaney. ‘More than any other poet since Wordsworth he can make us understand that the outside world is not outside, but what we are made of.’ He has also been described as the most important Irish poet since W.B Yeats.

John Carey is literary critic and writer who has written books on John Donne, so there is always a link back to Polesworth.

Are we seeing a trend here, when it comes to Poetry, All roads lead back to Polesworth.

Rach has set up a Facebook group Double Booked, where she hopes the creative talent of North Warwickshire will join up to talk literature and poetry.

I wish Rach and her friend all the best with this promotion and if you are in the area of Waterstone’s in Nuneaton on the 5th March then do go and say hello and pick up a copy of Seamus Heaney’s book and details on how to visit the poetry trail. Maybe you will be enticed to come and read at the Fizz – poetry and spoken word evenings.

This is one of many Book Giveaway events that are taking place as part of World Book Day – so look out for one near you.

You can link to Rach’s Facebook Group through the following link

Double Booked

And the next Fizz at Polesworth Abbey is on the 22nd March when the guests will be the Lichfield Poets.

The Fizz 6

Due to a prior commitment, which I would not have wanted to miss, I was unable to attend Gary Carr’s splendid Spoken Worlds last Friday, however all is not lost for those who missed it as Gary Longden was there and has written a great review at behind-the-arras.

Behind the Arras

By the sound of it I will struggle to get back into the next one as the popularity of this evening ever increases, it looked like a good night with a great crowd. It is good to see Gary Carr’s hard work is paying off and I look forward to the next one on the 18th March.

Recently, I have not had much time for thinking about anything other than the Poets Trail workshops which start on Saturday. However my thoughts are now drifting towards, what I should do next, next being when the Poets Trail is finished for this phase and the new poetry films are in the can.

I still have a collection of poems that I am putting together, which are in the main formed around a theme and there maybe a few poems to be written to complete the theme. There will be the editing to do as I am sure they can all be improved.

But what beyond that – should I complete the novel of which I have the first 18,000 unedited words or should I explore some more poetic themes.

Should I give up the day job and make films, run workshops, attend readings.

I really need a sponsor who will support me through the creative life that I live in my head.

The life that sees me rising a 6:00 and writing until 10:00 then correspondence till lunch.

Lunch at the pub, a ploughman’s lunch with a soft drink! Then walking the hills and dales in the afternoon, turning over ideas, looking for answers, grabbing at hooks, building up plots, then returning home in time for tea.

Evenings spent reading on the porch or by the fire, or performing or just in the pub with a pint or two and honest conversation.

Then there will be days when I am filming, rising to catch the dawn light, scouting for landscapes, settings and camera angles. Then sitting at the editing desk creating geographies that only exist on film.

Working with Jimi on the music and sound effects, working with poets on dialogue and verse.

It all happens in my head, it’s not a virtual world, it’s real to me, if only I had a sponsor.

My main hope for a sponsor keeps saying no, despite me asking every week, I still end up throwing away my non-winning lottery ticket on Sunday morning.


Workshop #1

This takes place next Saturday when we will explore the poetic styles and devices that poets use, looking at the first ten poems on the trail and looking at how the styles where used to good effect.

Following this we will look at the characters that make up a landscape and how we can give them a voice.

Finally we will introduce the ten themes around which the new poems will be developed.

I am really looking forward to working with the twenty poets who have signed up for the workshops and seeing the new poems written through a true understanding of the spirit of the place.

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