Here are some of the poems from our session on 24th January.
We kick off with Geoff Sutton, the master of the boondoogle.
BLUE DAY AT SETTLEMENT | Geoff Sutton
the limestone ridge lies frozen in the sun
on Pit Lane the heifer shippon stands empty
a place for sheep
the rumps of the ewes are saffron and turquoise
where the ram has trodden them
Gallowber Lane crosses an arena in the hills
where paths meet from Spital Sealford and Kilnerfoot
is this where they lived
with a spring to water their terraces
where they raised clints into an oval
from where they could see and be seen
the map says only settlement
this place has lost its name
Next up, an appropriate poem on a pub theme from Steve Savage.
LEOPARD PRINT CARPETS | Steve Savage
Leopard print carpets
Leopard print carpets
I know he said it was an
But leopard print carpets
Covered in sepia tinted photos
Vinyl benches in the bar
Velvet in the snug
With a new-fangled sloping
Stainless steel piss pan
With blocks in it to aim at
In the grate that must have
Been cleared and re-set daily
Logs and coals from local men
Served by a man and woman that
Have served it for over forty year
We’ll think about your ‘jukebox’ idea
They’ll take the piss out of you
For the first ten years
Don’t sit there, that’s Franks
Two poems from Jenny Hammond
They lived in County Clare,
cocooned in the cottage
perched by the ocean,
battered by storms.
His vibrant painting
reflected his strength;
she frail as gossamer,
delicate as garden flowers.
Loud and soft opposites,
cemented by passion.
Until time crazed
the porcelain of their love.
Cracks became rifts
enlarging to chasms
where each stood alone,
separated beyond repair.
His painting changed, became austere,
colours dark, shapes distorted,
his moods erratic,
reality blurring to fantasy.
So she withdrew, enclosing herself
until the day she broke free,
joined the sea
and left him his insanity.
NEEDING SIGNS | Jenny Hammond
Noah saw a rainbow — took it as a sign.
So, when a shower joins the sun
to shape an arc across the sky,
I wonder if you’re there.
Or when geese gather, ready to depart,
and gossip in formation,
as they fly back home
I sense your nearness.
I must be mad!
I need to cling to signs,
still grieving after thirty years,
still asking questions.
I hear you in my head.
You tell me to “have faith”,
reminding me that I am part of you
and you are part of me.
Like prayer wheels in Tibet
the wind chimes stir,
I smell your perfume —
Lily of the Valley.
One from Phil Williams in memory of a school-teacher, rugby ace and Olympian. This poem will appear on the Sports Books website.
RELAY | Phil Williams
i.m. Ken Jones (1921 – 2006)
We never saw you run,
were too young to cheer
you sprint or watch you dash
across the grass to score another try.
We felt the wind of it alright,
our fathers and our uncles told us,
until the boldest – or the cheekiest –
came out and asked you straight:
‘Sir, are you famous?’
You would speak of it then,
never to boast but only to underline
a point, conjure an image in our minds
pertinent to the passage in hand.
Ken Jones, runner, winger, Olympian,
medallist, columnist, all-round athlete –
now ‘Third-Year English’ on a wet afternoon.
You took us in your stride, stood no nonsense,
stopped us in our tracks whenever
we went too far. You must have known
how we found your voice, rich and resonant,
ripe for mimicry, that we’d take turns
each break to ‘do Ken Jones’, echo
your rising cadence, deep Blaenavon tones.
Could you have known
how the quietest among us read
your sports reports each Sunday
after match-day, admiring felt them catch
the spirit and the rhythm of each game?
How we heard hidden treasures in the verse
you read us and realised its value?
We broke no records,
never breasted tape, scored no tries
to speak of – but we ran, Ken,
ran although you never saw us run.
I expect you barely even felt us
take the baton from your hand.
We’re running with it yet, Ken,
and will keep on running
until it’s time for us to pass it on.
One from Leopard and Keele/Silverdale Writers’ regular, Bert Molsom
BACK WHERE I STARTED | Bert Molsom
I can hear voices, and my thoughts,
whispering, shouting, then silent.
They crowd around me, continually
pushing me here, pushing me there,
until I find peace in an empty room.
The voices return, with my thoughts,
when I exit the room, alone.
The faces of the crowd seem familiar,
their looks imply that I know them
but why are they here, now, outside my room?
I try to find an empty room,
each one is now looking the same,
the contents reduced each time I enter.
I think I recall what was there
but perhaps the room was empty before.
When I first found my room portraits
were familiar, like the crowd.
Now a few remind me of who was mine,
or was I theirs. Don’t keep moving,
then removing, whispering and shouting.
There are so many rooms without
corridors, no signposts, all moved,
with no time to discover who was there
or who is there now. They’re all gone,
the walls now covered by a blank canvas.
And two poems from Peter Branson.
PUB FOLK | Peter Branson
The Greyhound, Newcastle
Not in it for the wealth or fame, don’t crave
an audience, beyond each other, in
the moment, dancing fingertips a blur.
Small talk is jigs and airs, sour-sweet grace notes,
same tune on fiddle, banjo, mandolin
and flute. Brother and sisterhood, streetwise,
apprentices and artisans, maestros,
they play for pleasure, raise themselves above
the everyday. Their instruments are wild
things, reeling, bucking broncos, bulls with blood-
shot eyes. Each sense alive, at stretch to stay
onside, they seed each other’s gaze with smiles.
This is subversive, dangerous, black art;
pure energy, communion of parts.
SPIN | Peter Branson
You’re live at dawn: highlight the dove, wide screen,
the curtains drawn; snow-white, incongruent
against the sward. He’s let them out again,
nine houses up the lane, to pinch the seed
you laid down yesterday. Just when you’re set
to raise the roof in angry semaphore,
the picture’s razor-sliced from left to right.
Tired synapses kick in, surprise attack:
the sparrow hawk, punching above his weight
this time, turns sideways on to take short shrift,
where feathers harboured vital pulsing flesh
split second back. No space at all, your patch
re-civilised, you watch the thrush, cock-eyed,
as if it’s ear-wigging, hair-trigger primed.
Orkney | Mark Davenport
Between wind and sea, these scraps of land
Rising from cold waves, gale withered, treeless
Riven with stone, north bitten circles stand
A beginning of procession, bringing a portal to transition
Ebbing down to south