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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.