Saggar Makers, Online Dating and Boarding Passes

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
Joan Hewitt

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.

ONLINE DATING
Kate Roberts

I paint a picture of myself
for you to believe in
I paint it with words
carefully chosen phrases
bright touches
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)
Mary King

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.

BOARDING PASS
John Williams

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.

WAR GRAVES
Malcolm McMinn

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.

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A Warm Welcome to Stephen Seabridge

There’ll be a warm Potteries welcome for Stoke on Trent’s first Poet Laureate at The Leopard Hotel, Burslem at 7.30pm on Wednesday 21st July 2019. All welcome! The Leopard, 21 Market Place, Burslem, Stoke on Trent ST6 3AA.

Stephen currently studying a PhD in Creative Writing at Keele University, specialising in contemporary poetics. His most recent publication credits include work in the Verve Eighty-Four Anthology, raising awareness for male suicide rates, and in Bonnie’s Crew. Stephen can be found on Twitter at @S_Seabridge.

You can read some of Stephen’s poetry here.

Better still, you can meet him in person upstairs in The Leopard. Come and listen, bring some poems to discuss and enjoy some of the most insightful discussions and feedback available north of the Trent – or anywhere else for that matter.

Here’s a flavour of what to expect from some of the regulars.

Leopard blog editor, Phil Williams sadly lost his wife to cancer in December 2018. Earlier this year a friend gave him a copy of Elegies by Douglas Dunn containing the sonnet France which Phil remembered from the 1980s when the collection was published. The lost sonnet found him when he needed it. Here’s Dunn’s poem and Phil’s response in a sonnet of his own.

FRANCE
By Douglas Dunn

A dozen sparrows scuttled on the frost.
We watched them play. We stood at the window,
And, if you saw us, then you saw a ghost
In duplicate. I tied her nightgown’s bow.
She watched and recognised the passers-by.
Had they looked up, they’d know that she was ill –
“Please, do not draw the curtains when I die” –
From all the flowers on the windowsill.

“It’s such a shame,” she said. “Too ill, too quick.”
“I would have liked us to have gone away.”
We closed our eyes together, dreaming France,
Its meadows, rivers, woods and jouissance.
I counted summers, our love’s arithmetic.
“Some other day, my love. Some other day.”

From Elegies, by Douglas Dunn, London 1985.
In memory of Lesley Balfour Dunn (1944-1981)

On Re-reading France by Douglas Dunn
Phil Williams

A lost sonnet finds me when time is right,
Remembered from a supplement perhaps,
It murmurs down like spindrift in the night,
Returning as our shared loss overlaps.
I turn a well thumbed page, well loved, well meant,
A gift a friend presents me in my grief,
And find again that early spring lament
After thirty summer’s fleeting bud and leaf.

I’m sure it touched us both when we were young,
We wavered, settled, cast our lots to stay,
Grafting shared buds of destiny and chance,
Merged memories through Italy and France.
Its measures echo back to me alone,
Another window, yes, another day.

Phil’s not been writing much poetry recently, but here’s one from October last year.

OCTOBER
Phil Williams

And that’s all there is to it.
Three nights in Copenhagen
while the chemo keeps things stable,
your mother sinking slowly
into dementia, the garden into autumn
and its winter sleep. Together we collapse
the bean-poles and the sweet-pea stalks.
It’s my job to stir the compost, to raise
its thick mulch from beneath and watch
the worms and wood-lice grind it down.
There’s a dampness that deepens
into richness. The nights draw in and we draw
closer, holding for another spring.

And one from some years back recalling Phil’ and Pen’s October wedding and autumn honeymoon in Cumbria’s Eden Valley.

AUTUMN ANNIVERSARY
Eden Valley, Cumbria

Whenever the October wind
sifts spent leaves from the branch,
the stuttered clock is stopped
then nudged a black hour backwards into night,
I recall the speeches, waves and smiles,
the cake inlaid with autumn fruits,
our drive to Eden through the dark,
the morning window fill with light.

Those who know Phil – and those who don’t – may be interested to hear that he’s taking over the running of the Keele Poets at Silverdale Library group from the very talented Caroline Hawkridge in September. Caroline has run this lively creative writing group in Silverdale Library for 10 years now but is handing it on in order to concentrate on her PR work for no less a luminary than Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate.

Many congratulations to Caroline. She’s done a grand job with the Keele Poets and Phil hopes to do her justice as he takes it on.

Sessions run from 10am to 12 noon on Thursday mornings from 26th September to 5th December (half term break October 31st) with a second term planned for the New Year. There’ll be writing exercises, feedback and a focus on a different poet or poetic form each week. The cost is £90 for 10 weeks.

Anyone interested can contact Phil through the Leopard blog or through the Leopard Poetry Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Geoff Sutton has been busy experimenting:

one more time
welcome you re welcome
aboard the ship of fools wait
no you re not get off

off we go still here
the helmsman sets the course
south west by south north

back south round the horn
batten down hoist storm cones you
seasick you will be

EAST THEN no not east
the east is red went there before
anywhere but east

shiver me timbers
HANG ON THIS SHIP IS STEEL oak
hearts of bloody oak

westward the sky lours
suddenly the swell rises
spray blinds the helmsman

splice the mainbrace
AR ROG ANCE AND IG NO RANCE
ha ha ha ha ha

england overboard
who can save us from ourselves
ulster scotland wales


rant in the limes

surely humans cannot bear very much
clamorous incessant rook reality
squatting in the lime trees they make such
a mess now they are trashing the whole locality

they litter the patio drop twigs and worse
since they moved in last year
with their many squabs all black as a curse
every day a new nest seems to appear

swaying in the wind guarded by a sentry
which shows there is a limit to the number of nests
soon there will have to be restricted entry
because latecomers are turning into pests

transforming what should be a desirable dwelling
into a nightmare with their nonstop storytelling

We’ll end with another sonnet, this time from Malcolm McMinn with a contemporary take on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130.

THE LOVING SCOLD
Malcolm McMinn

You are a nag, a scold, ill-tempered mistress
Whose moods would try the patience of a Job.
Could any man endure so to exist?
There can’t be many such upon this globe!
Your tongue is sharp as any barber’s blade;
When I’ve been battered by your latest storm
I am bowled over by your next tirade.
This constant discord seems to be the norm,
But I don’t mind. I don’t find this distressing.
Each uproar brings a chance I would not miss,
Fury accepted gladly as a blessing,
A reason to make up with tender kisses.
Throughout the day I will consent to fight
If we can be true lovers through the night.

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Love and Word Play

The next Stoke Stanza session at The Leopard Hotel, Burslem, will be on Wednesday 24th April at 7.30pm. All welcome. Please bring up to 15 copies of a poem or short prose piece to discuss or just sit back and enjoy the feedback. We’re the Stoke Stanza of The Poetry Society but you don’t have to belong to the Society to join in.

We hope to see you soon. Meanwhile, here are some poems shared at the Stanza session on 20th March.

THAT LOVE
by Stephen Pennell

I’m searching for the Holy Grail
The mother-lode of fairy-tale
A unicorn of fable fame
I’m looking for my love

In that place called Shangri La
Might I find her in Neverland
Or Narnia’s fair land
That love I’m looking for

I’ll gladly slay St George’s Dragon
Or fight a Minotaur
Take on Samson hand to hand
For the love I’m looking for

I’m not looking for a Queen of Sheba
A Disney princess or movie star
Not even Adam’s Eve
But that mythical thing called love

That’s right, it’s YOU I’m looking for


Stephen wrote the next poem after a heart attack a few years ago.

NO ONE LIVES FOREVER
by Stephen Pennell

My clock has been removed, my invincibility laid bare.
My life clock is in overdrive, is this my time to breath my last fresh air?
Let heaven wait an angel and hell a stoker’s mate.

My plan is to rest in peace and hope not too many weep.
My eyes will miss the sunsets, my heart its beating in my breast.
My cloak has been removed, my invincibility laid bare.

My mortal time is ending, my heart will soon beat its last
And I’m off to rest in peace or may haunt those that laughed.
Let heaven wait an angel or hell a stoker’s mate.

You think you’ll live forever and then sneak and extra day
But in reality any day could be the day that your last breath goes away.
My cloak has been removed, my invincibility laid bare.

You’re born without a penny and tears within your eyes
And leave behind your fortune and then tears in others’ eyes.
Let heaven wait an angel and hell a stoker’s mate.

Let life’s trials have their say and then turn the other cheek
Live your life with love and passion and treasure every day.
My cloak has been removed, my invincibility laid bare
Let heaven wait an angel and hell a stoker’s mate.

Meanwhile, Geoff Sutton has been re-reading Finnegan’s Wake and engaging in some grammatical word-play. As the old joke goes, it’s tense.

SHOWING AND TELLING
by Geoff Sutton

O
SSH
O
SSH
O

two vocatives
in the continuous pluperfect past
had been behaving regularly
under a willow
beside the castrum of Ostorius Scapula
at Salinae
where in the imperfect past
they used to go to search for brine

masculine feminine neuter
two nouns
subjects of one extremely active verb
full stop

but though
even in the future perfect
leaves
will have been turning yellow
will have been falling
falling
still
we

in the continuous present
are living

happily ever after

In creative writing we are often advised to ‘kill our darlings’. Geoff appears to be advocating putting overblown analysis of grammatical forms out of their misery.

a mercy killing he says

the sun has been drying the dew
on the sight lines of the tenses
yesterday will have been
tomorrow is yet to be

the greyhound of intent
may course the hare of meaning
through sestets and octets
in time again of course

sleek datives and ablatives
are creeping from their burrows
and look where an iota subscript
stretches out in the attic sun

it is not every day
you catch sight of a zeugma
creeping down the corridor
to make an apple pie bed
and peace behind a door
that stands ajar

so if you do
give it both barrels

be sure to shut the door behind you

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We’re back at The Leopard

Happy New Year from The Leopard, Poetry from The Potteries!

There’s been something of a hiatus, or a caesura, with this site but all’s back on track for 2019.

The Stoke Stanza is back at The Leopard Hotel, 21 Market Place, Burslem, Stoke on Trent ST6 3AA on one Wednesday evening a month starting Wednesday 23rd January at 7.30pm. All welcome. You don’t have to be a member of The Poetry Society to attend, simply turn up. Admission free. Please feel free to come along and listen or take part by bringing 15 copies of a poem or short story (emphasis on ‘short’) which you would like to discuss. You’ll get some great feedback and meet some smashing people.

We’d like to thank the good folk at The Duke William for their hospitality while we were ‘The Leopard at The Duke William’ as it were. Two great Potteries pubs.

To whet your appetites, here is a poem by Jane Harland read at a Stanza session in October last year.

TELLING

Listen, she said
and I’ll tell you a story;
the one about a Bloody Ploughman
shot and killed whilst eating apples red as blood.
A common thief.

What stories could a Sussex Mother tell?
Tall tales of smuggling, Frenchmen, contraband.
An apple for a garland, for a kissing bough,
an apple wise to flower late, to faze the frost
and apples turned to gold do fortunes make.

Apples
birthed and bred, revered, nurtured:
Carlise Codlin, Woolbrook Pippin,
Opalescent, Violette,
Victoria – an early fruit
and some too poor to hold a tale
named small, strung tags on wire.
But in this rainless season,
a dearth, too little fruit to pick.

So pick and choose your apples wisely,
beware the Ten Commandments.
Emile d’Heyst thrives here,
her leaves in Autumn wane. No sign of fruit.

Take Satisfaction, Laxton,
praise this place,
this timeless garden walled in Cheshire brick,
its gardeners who tend your every need,
who plant your every burgeoning seed.

There is an apple orchard in a book, a Farjeon fantasy
where milk-maids sat the summer long
and ate their fruit
whilst Martin Pippin told to each a tale.

Malcolm McMinn is on form with an old form, the sestina.

Sestina on Old Age

Decrepitude arrives in our old age;
Weak bladder, aching joints and failing mind.
All this lot plus the rest of our complaints
Will get attention from the practice nurse
Who doses you and orders you to bed,
Just like a naughty child some of the time.

But life is good, perhaps, some of the time;
Indeed for some it is a golden age.
Those still mobile, not yet confined to bed
Just carry on and never seem to mind
The constant visits from the blasted nurse.
Let’s face it, she’s the least of our complaints.
Does no one listen to old folk’s complaints?

It seems we grow invisible with time.
With more than aches and pains we have to nurse
We feel there’s nothing quite as cruel as age,
But still you carry on and never seem to mind,
Just drinking Horlicks, then it’s off to bed

To dream of all the girls you tried to bed
….and failed, by far the worst of youth’s complaints.
At times you thought they’d make you lose your mind
Not realizing this would come with time,
One of the dreadful side-effects of age,
Beyond the power of any practice nurse.

She’s back again! That interfering nurse!
There’s no escape when I’m confined to bed.
She is the light and blight of my old age
As I become the source of her complaints,
Ignoring good advice time after time;
A war of attrition, but never mind,

For how we cope is just a state of mind.
Deep down we really don’t resent the nurse
And realize the final enemy is time
Who always wins and puts us in our bed
Of clay, which brings an end to all complaints,
Perhaps the final blessing of old age.

Old age is not for wimps, but never mind.
The nurse will see to medical complaints,
Get you to bed until your time is up.

So, it’ll be, ‘Time gentlemen (and ladies), please,’ at The Leopard on Wednesday 23rd January. We hope to see you there!

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Bert’s Workshops

The Stoke Stanza is always pleased to promote poetry and writing workshops across the region. Here’s some news about some in Newcastle-under-Lyme by former Staffordshire Poet Laureate, Bert Flitcroft.

Bert is running three poetry/creative writing workshops in Newcastle-under-Lyme as part of a residency with Trent Art.

The Gallery is hosting a prestigious exhibition, with The Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), under the title ‘A Road Less Travelled’(Sounds familiar!). The workshops will be ‘Responding to Art’ (eckphrasis, if you’re into that sort of thing) and the groups shall be using works in the exhibition as inspiration.

They will be suitable for all abilities and interests. The cost will be £5, and as numbers are limited please ensure your places by booking promptly in advance with Trent Art by ringing 01782 610588 or e-mail at art@trent-art.co.uk.

The workshops will be : Saturday September 8th – 10.30 -12.30
Wednesday September 12th – 10.30 -12.30
Tuesday September 18th – 10.30 – 12.30

The next Stoke Stanza will be at The Duke William pub, Burslem (please note, not The Leopard Hotel) at 7.30pm on Tuesday 18th September.

PLEASE NOTE: Emily Rose Galvin, the current Staffordshire Poet Laureate will now be joining us on October 16th not September 18th as previously announced.

Emily Rose Galvin Staffordshire Poet Laureate

Emily Rose Galvin

So the next Stoke Stanza session will be our usual read-around and discussion. All welcome. Please bring 15 copies of a poem to share and discuss or feel free to listen and join in with the conversation.

To whet your appetite, here are two poems shared at the last Stoke Stanza by Lyn Leech.

FOUND POEM

Jackson’s Marsh

Blackbird
The waterlogged alder woodland behind you is home
Mellow, flute like and musical
may flowers, mayblobs, mollyblobs
kingcups, meadow routs,
waterbubbles
Upstream the flower marsh is bright
Golden saxifrage,
ragged robin
sings sad reflective phrases
bog bean and southern marsh marigold,
curious mounds of tussock sedge.
Marsh warbler weaves its aural fabric
Among the sweet reed grass.

From a notice board at Jackson’s Coppice put up by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and a website on birdsong here.

SOMETHING TIME

Something always needs doing:
There isn’t time
In a lifetime
For something else
To be done
Unless
You make time.
Some
Things
Are timeless
And
I want some
Time to do them
Sometime or other
Instead of all the things that have to be done
Now.

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New Venue

It’s a case of a new venue for the Stoke Stanza at 7.30pm on Tuesday 18th September.

The meeting will be upstairs in the restaurant area of The Duke William pub – 2 St John’s Square, Stoke-on-Trent ST6 3AJ.

Emily Rose Galvin the Staffordshire Poet Laureate will be with us. All welcome.

The Leopard Hotel no longer opens on Tuesdays, so we’re moving to this friendly and historic pub a 100 yards or so away. New name? New masthead? Watch this space … will we or won’t we?

Whatever the case, we hope to see you at the next Stoke Stanza. All welcome. Please bring up to 15 copies of a poem or short story you would like to discuss or simply enjoy the craic (or The Potteries equivalent).

Meanwhile, here are some poems from the last session on 21st August, again at the Duke William.

We start with two Williamses – unrelated ones. Neither dukes nor relatives. John Williams and Phil Williams set each the task of writing a poem about an incident they observed the previous week: John’s wife Val selling her mother’s bike.

Here’s John’s take.

SELLING GRANDMA’S BIKE

Sold to strangers long ago for shopping trips,
our two-inch bike ad draws a teatime call.
Someone’s coming up. Our words have worked.
Among the ads for digi-clocks and phones,
‘Pink bike. Trad squeaks. Quick sale.’
Our buyer rings our doorbell hard,
and glad we’re in, straight checks the gears.
Aged twenty, he listens to the hub,
feels the chain and offers fifty quid.

The young consign us with a put-down
to the old folks’ home and think we’re out of it.
We want ten more and point to pumped-up tyres,
the flower logo grandma liked
he’ll scrap and exchange for skulls.
We push the bar to sixty and then shake.
He ridss a moment out into the jam,
imagining the Lonely Planet Guide to swift escapes
and swank hotels where helicopters land.

Phil’s version:

SELLING MOTHER’S BIKE

When she wheels it out front,
Val feels the back tyre sag.
She knows she has no time
to pump it proud before
the neighbour comes to check
its provenance against
the price. Cool Ninety Five.
Val pitches high, beyond
all offers, knowing she
will have to brake, apply
the pads and draw up near
the price kerb with a jolt.
Seventy five? Her mother
liked the shopping basket
a figure-head beyond
the bars, the tinkling bell
and the three gears handy
within reach. Handsome bike.
Seventy now perhaps
with the tyre slurping flat
as Val props it by the wall.
He offers fifty. Sixty?
Done.

We aren’t setting up a poll to see whose poem gets most votes but we always like to hear from you. Feel free to comment or get in touch with the ‘comment’ facility. Even better, you’d be more than welcome at the next Stanza on 18th September.

Mary King offers some social comment in traditional ballad form.

BALLAD OF THE BANKER

He stepped from his Mercedes and
His eye was strangely bright,
‘You seem to be a common man,
Please listen to my plight.’
I would have gone away then, but
He had my elbow tight.

‘Now treat me kindly, little man,
I was a city banker.
I thought I’d got away with it,
Till the papers pulled a flanker.

My granddad was a barrow boy
And never sold bad fruit,
My father dealt in fine used cars
Sold everyone to suit.
And they’re revolving in their graves
Since I’ve been such a brute.

Do not condemn me, little man,
I was a city banker,
I loved the institution and
I’m sorry that I sank her.’

Repentant sobs then shook his frame,
His chest began to heave,
He wiped a salty tear away
Upon a cashmere sleeve
And so my heart went out to him,
To see him sorely grieve.

‘Have pity on me, little man,
I was a city banker.
You can’t lay all the blame on me,
The system has a canker.’

But for the grace of God, I thought,
As I heard these soulful sounds.
He said he would resign tout de suite,
He felt there were good grounds,
And let me glimpse his severance cheque
For twenty million pounds.

His chauffeur brought the Merc around –
Sleek, long as an oil tanker –
I heard the sound of champagne corks.
What rhymes with city banker?

Malcolm McMinn was on rhyming form in his response to Ezra Pound.

A SATIRE ON THE CANTOS

My criticism might well be unsound
Of this distinguished man of letters.
Though we are told ‘Respect your betters’
I’m in for a penny, in for a Pound.

It should have been a truly wondrous day
When first I lit upon the Cantos;
The Goods, not like my silly centos,
Penned by the master of the modern way.

But sad to say there was no sense of wonder,
I just felt baffled, quite bemused,
Dispirited and unamused.
I think this work of Pound’s a massive blunder.

A mighty tome of vague philosophy;
Had he not died where would it end,
A work that few can comprehend
But great for fans of lexicography?

His flights of fancy are so swift and nimble;
Cantos march past in their battalions,
But why write two just for Italians?
And can the British read those Chinese symbols?

He uses obscure terms like ‘ell-square pitkin’,
Together with proscribed inversions,
Archaisms and like perversions.
Was his intention simply to outwit

The common man, not like our Hughes or Larkin?
A simple theme proved quite chimeric,
Was ever verse more esoteric?
A genius, yes, but rightly judged as barkin’.

Oliver Leech reminisced about his father’s Staffordshire way with words.

MY DAD

I’d got ten out of ten, scored a hat trick,
made a dovetail joint so smooth
you couldn’t feel the join.
Back home, shirt buttons bursting with pride,
I waited:
‘Not bad,’ he’d say, my dad.
or, just as terse, ‘seen worse.’

I’d mended my sister’s bike,
weeded the rose bed,
built a Spitfire from a kit,
found an orchid so rare,
so delicate, grown men wept.
Back home, chuffed as a champion,
I waited:
‘Not bad,’ he’d say, my dad
or just as terse, ‘seen worse.’

Later I’d bought a house,
brought home a wife
then a grandchild to dandle on his knee
and another and another.
‘Not bad,’ he’d say, my dad
or, just as terse, ‘seen worse.’

If I’d painted the Sistine Chapel,
outsainted Mandela,
outpunched Mohammed Ali,
I’d know just what he’d say.
‘Not bad,’ that’s all, my dad
or, just as terse, ‘seen worse.’

Charmers and smarmers, showbizzers,
even grandmas and teachers who try too hard
call you the tops, say you’re A-star rated.
I prefer my dad: more stark, more understated.

Geoff Sutton, or should it be geoff sutton? brought along an intriguing poem about a harbour in North East Scotland in extended haiku style.

tongue

oh its so nice to
go travellin but its so much
nicer to come home

tongue in sutherland
only a northerner could
call this place the south

a tongue and a tongue
where the long caol of sea licks
the short ard of land

tongue is where the heart
is the only place to be
home in a heat wave

arthur tongue is home
after three months on the rigs
home on the longest

day what time is the
next high tide slitherin in
he s tongue tied in tongue

jenny scrubs floors at
the tongue hotel says to her
english boss NO SWEAT

YOU RE NOT MY PEOPLE
YOU RE THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE WHERE
MY PEOPLE CAME FROM

doesn t talk like them
she s from nova scotia or
east kilbride you can

never tell whom you re
talking to with a ribbon
in her bonnie hair

she waits fro the black
freighter with a skull
at the masthead to enter

skullomie harbour
that’s where arthur s moored his craft
in bladder wrack with

empty fish boxes
oh we knew starvation here
forced passage to

canada from tongue
from slettel and from blandy
even coldbackie

why do you never
see jenny with arthur or
arthur with jenny

one morphs into the
other together they make
tiresias tongue

she foresees pentland
snakes hump power from the firth
comin yet for aw that

from the cosmodrome
at durness arthur predicts
probes spunk past the moon

shining down on six
aluminium pot lids nailed
on pine trunk fence posts
to keep out the rot


It’s nice to go trav’ling Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.

Pirate Jenny (Seeräuber Jenny) Bertolt Brecht. English lyrics by Marc Blitzstein.

We hope you enjoyed these poems. There are many more where they came from. Poetry’s happening right across The Potteries.

Why not come along and find out more? You don’t have to be a member of The Poetry Society to attend a Stanza. You will get free entry though, to The Poetry Society’s latest Stanza poetry competition on the theme of ‘Tradition’. More details here.

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Quel Fromage

After a short break in another hostelry while The Leopard Hotel was undergoing refurbishment (many thanks to the Duke William for their hospitality on 15th July), the Stoke Stanza returns to its former haunts at 7.30pm on Tuesday 21st August. All welcome. Please bring 15 copies of a poem or short story to share or else simply enjoy a drink and listen.

There are some decidedly non-cheesy poems from The Leopard this month …

First up an ‘hommage’ with some ‘fromage’ to John Ashbery from Stanza regular, Paul Freeman.

SOME FLOWERS SOON / REMEMBERING HIS OWN IMPERFECT MODE OF DRESS
in memory of John Ashbery

Ignoring all the sentences creates
its own restaurant/restroom.
July, the people with voices dissembled
less on the beaches than in the observatories,
we and they addressing northern cousins,
or so we honked.

Coast to coast, toucans play at his game
as scarlet dreambirds flock patternfully,
for a time, long enough to be noticed as such,
disappear into the electric trees disappear.

Let’s pull over to the pull-overs
and see how the dandies dress this fall/winter.
Slacks a little tight around the balls
these days but that shouldn’t stop our appreciation
of them or ourselves.
Still orchestrations of imaginable complications remoan,
even when we hold hands. A particularly pleasant place always seems
so far away and beyond our transportation, but at least
we’re sailing and the weather’s out.

And the wretched president sleeved me aside,
addressing me by half. What – you’ve
resigned from the earth summit?
Just when we’d made a breakthrough
in automated doubt management? Those evening illocution lessons?
You probably don’t mean that,
so neither do I. Hey, Capitan Blasé,
I didn’t mean it first!

Or should we just dangle foot-loose
in the fluvial grooves
or who should do the hand-wringing?

But with the setting on ‘miraculous’
why peck at words that spin like a cockatoo’s mirror, returning our eyes
to our own, oh, friendlier misfortune?
Take what you can
and make we joy with the rest.

Back beside the blacktop,
our hero pants
in his going-away pants.

Over the windowed skyline
wonders the flamboyant rose.
A city streams. Hello, Metro.

And the green man is flashing,
quel fromage.

Malcolm McMinn stretches to Australia and the Dreamtime.

DREAMTIME

The earth and sky create a fiery brew
Created by the setting sun at Uluru,
A massive ochre coloured monolith
So crucial to dreamtime’s creative myth.
At last the blazing disc slips out of sight,
The sun now giving way to moonlit night.
The Milky Way, with countless stars aglow,
Illuminates its own nocturnal show.
As if on cue the flies all disappear;
This is the time for ice cold beer
While taking in the dreamtime atmosphere.
And now across the burning, arid sand
Is heard the deep bass notes and haunting sound
Of didgeridoos, primitive and raw,
The instrument of ancient myth and lore.
It’s clear that here we have a special place,
Beloved and priceless to the native race.
Songlines converge and dreamtime comes alive:
The tribes respect, observe the law, survive.
On walkabout men sing their sacred song,
Record each tree and hill and billabong.
This is a law the native won’t defy:
If not obeyed the land will fade and die.
He knows which life he may not kill nor maim
And to this new born land he lays his claim.
In the beginning was the sacred song
And from the song all lands were then created,
Then from the land sprang all the living things:
The book of Genesis, Australian style.

Geoff Sutton appears to have been in a different pub, The Bullet Makers Arms.

Or was he?

in the bullet makers arms

on a field tent was
near a footpath orange bright
so conspicuous
unoccupied now
no beauty spot too close to
a sheer metal fence
where armed guards patrol

I M OFFICIALLY SECRET
she breathes WE JUST SELL
CLEAN DEATH NO RUSTY
CLUSTER STUFF FINE CORDITE SMELL
NO AMPUTATION
BUY ME ANOTHER
her mouth tastes sweet juniper

next day charred circle
of sick wounded grass
plastic melt billy can black
no orange at all
only scattered pegs
to recycle from the endless
mystery of scorched earth

We hope to see you at a Stanza session soon!

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