Stephen Seabridge, Stoke-on-Trent Poet Laureate was unable to join us for the July Stanza meeting due to illness. We hope to welcome him another time. The next Stoke Stanza session is at The Leopard Hotel, Burslem on Wednesday 21st August at 7.30pm. All welcome.
Please feel free to listen and contribute to the discussions – among the best you’ll find anywhere according to your omniscient blog hosts – or bring 15 copies of your own work to share or a favourite poem.
Here’s a flavour of what to expect with some poems shared at the July session.
First up, Stephanie Sampson joined us from the East Midlands to share a poem written by her grandmother, Joan Hewitt. It could not have more of a Potteries theme.
THE SAGGAR MAKER
My Dad he was a Pottery lad,
So hopeful and so proud,
He said Goodbye to schoolboy days
And followed with the crowd.
Apprenticed to the saggar hole
And there to learn his trade.
He sliced the heaps of saggar marl
And then the frame he’d fill,
He was a bottom-knocker now
And learning fast his skill.
He’d soon a saggar maker be
By working with a will.
In a saggar hole, the saggar hole,
He laboured out his days,
Surrounded by the dust and marl,
He made his saggars, large and small
Nearby the virgin pottery stood
His saggars for to fill.
He laboured on amid the dust,
His soul in anguish cried,
With coughs his body then was rent,
Like many more he died,
The saggar hole had taken toll
And we – his children – cried.
From the grit and grime of the pottery kilns, we move to the virtual world of online dating. Kate Roberts takes us there.
I paint a picture of myself
for you to believe in
I paint it with words
carefully chosen phrases
to show my best side –
I hide beneath layers of light
discernible only to a discriminating eye.
I paint myself in bright colours
to dazzle you
witty words to raise a laugh
funny stories to make you smile
daring truths to shock you.
The dark parts I pass over with broad strokes
subtle shading to soften my hard edges
gloss over the whole
with a wash of palest blue –
a gentle, spiritual hue
so you’ll forgive me.
It’s a picture of me
for you to keep
hang in your heart
with my Photoshopped selfie
and dream of every night.
Mary King tackles issues of etymology – the origins of words.
YUJ (pronounced yug)
How does he know?* The book
talks of fifteen thousand years –
meaning to join, unite, subjugate.
In India now it is yoga.
See how it defines itself
in its own descendants.
Yuj is a yoke and joins two oxen
or a milkmaid’s pails, and is spoken
into the ears of a Greek
with an unfamiliar tongue
who makes zygen. I grew
from a zygote, a conjugation.
Rome adds a nasal fix,
jungere, union, join, junction,
geoc here, as the yeoman and his yokel
are locked to the land.
The etymologist with some poetic hope
speculates, ‘perhaps jonquil?’ I love him for it.
The sounds ease and shift as ideas need nuances.
This yoghurt, in my mouth, is thick and unctuous.
I taste it.
* Eric Partridge, author of Origins.
John Williams is passing through Passport Control. As Stanza regulars know by now, he cannot but bring the classical Pantheon and the origins of Western civilization with him – and all the better for it.
Waking on a sofa in the departure lounge
I’m startled to hear my name’s last call
and step through scanners with my shoes undone.
A laser throws a light, checks for guns and blades,
doors hiss shut and escape’s closed off.
I need revelation, lightness, solar gods
as my buckle shines like Achilles’ on screen.
Picked out for pat-down, zeroed and released
I’m banished with my thriller to the gates
where my name flashes urgent
and sentries check my boarding pass,
visible, invisible, my ancient bones and shield.
Malcolm McMinn has visited the Flanders war cemeteries and carries report.
They marched and wheeled and marched again,
Precision at its best,
Before being sent away to fight
And then laid down to rest.
But no disorder is allowed;
Forever on parade
Carved stones stand ever to attention
In tragic masquerade.
In perfect rank and file they stand,
An army of white stones,
Erect and proud, precisely spaced,
Protecting dead men’s bones.
And their Tuetonic counterparts
Lie straight row after row,
The pride and cream of German youth
Laid out just like their foe.
VCs and Iron Crosses rust,
But men are equal here;
From general to the private soldier
Each one the next man’s peer.
Yet none of them know emnity
Now that they draw no breath,
Just some eternal fellowship
And symmetry of death.
A big thank you to everyone who contributed. Remember the date of the next Stanza, Wednesday 21st August at 7.30pm. It’d be great to see you there.