Latest from The Leopard

Jeffrey Wainwright

Jeffrey Wainwright

The next Stoke Stanza at The Leopard, Burslem takes place on Tuesday 11th June at 7.30pm. We’ll be welcoming Jeffrey Wainwright, one of Stoke-on-Trent’s leading poetic sons. Jeffrey will read some of his acclaimed verse and there will be opportunity to share your own poems.

Don’t miss it, all welcome, admission free!

Meanwhile, here is a selection of poetry from the Stanza session on 21st May.

First up, Paul Fox with a witty ditty which contains, he tells us, his first Latin, Spoonerised pun. See if you can spot it.

HERMAPHRODITTY | Paul Fox

Paul FoxI’ve foraged through foliage, for fear that I’d fail,
To find the elusive, irrational snail.
The snail is a hermaphrodite pulmonate
His movements are measured; his motion sedate –
Such ponderous wanderers thus seem to know
Just what they should do and just how they should go.
Their ruminant movement – considered not lazy
Could well hide the fact that the snail had gone crazy.
And thus I fell into a slough of despond –
Till I found one dead, in my back-garden pond.
Now some little creatures go rushing around
They slip into water – and promptly – they’re drowned –
But a snail would go gently – you’d think he might note
His own lack of gills, or his lack of a boat;
And as his small head slowly went under water
He’d have time to ponder imponding self-slaughter.
Yet he failed to perceive the disaster to come –
Irrational – I think so; most certainly dumb!
He wasn’t alone; there were several others:
His auntie*, his cousin, his gran and two brothers.
No logical cause could account for this act –
A maladroit, molluscine, suicide pact.
Whatever the cause, this was not the best way
To carry out communal snailo de fe.**
The problem of course, was how to self-harm
When bereft of a hand or a leg or an arm?
Did such an existence – both ghastly and odd
Unite them in horror, aghast-ero-pod?
And did they, rejecting, their lowly-born state,
Have reason to wade to this watery fate?

* Please note that this auntie was also his uncle and so on.
** Da-da! Here is Paul’s first Latin, Spoonerised pun. Why not use the comment box and tell us what you think of it?

MASK | Karen Schofield

Before you enter I check my mask,
tie it tight so it won’t fall,
composed and cool I look the part;
but this is no Venetian ball

The audience is afraid to hear
and I don’t want to tell,
though a practiced speech is easy
and I’ve learnt my lines so well

I worry that my mask will stick
so I can’t undo the ties;
you’ll never know my wish to feel,
to comfort and to empathise

When all alone I start to weep
and rail against my calling;
but the mirror shows a rictus smile
and the tears no chance of falling

BACKSTROKE | Bo Crowder

Bo Crowder pop art style

Pop Art Bo

To swim in a slate grey sea ribbed with cold undulation
Backstroke always was my choice
Better to shoulder aside the tide
With steady strokes and easy breaths
The one disadvantage, where am I going?
Though that has never been a problem
I can stop, tread water, look around.

When it comes for me, a hoary squall
Of the south-west, wind on its tail,
I shove for the shore
Barely do my feet touch bottom as the first wave
Lifts me up and lets me down, dragged
Towards bladderwracked rocks
As the second scrapes my toes through sharp razor shells
And as the third throws me at the barnacled groyne
Closer, come closer sings the swell …
I shout, arms outstretched,
I push ankles deep into the sand
And your hand grasps mine and I am safe

Pulled up onto the beach you walk me along
To where I began, best to get straight in again
And the storm passes and I wade out
And the sea calms, as seas do, wide and wonderful and blue.

Bo Normal

Bo Normal

– In this poem Bo describes a stroke he suffered in 2008. He tells us it was a ‘terrifying’ experience and literally felt like being swept out to sea. ‘Best to get straight in again’ was the medical advice he received on his recovery. We’re glad, Bo, that you did.

PLAYGROUND VOICES | Jenny Hammond

Jenny HammondChangeless over centuries,
a strident sound greets
four-wheel drives at half past three
when modern mothers meet the future.

This village school exhales history.
Florence Nightingale with flickering lamp,
Gallipoli defeated,
rat-runned trenches.

Emmeline Pankhurst railing-chained.
A Homburg hat, a smoking cigar.
Normandy Beaches.
The Holocaust.

All this while playground voices shrilled,
girls in pinafores jumped skipping ropes,
boys in breeches measured up to box,
kicked balls, played conkers.

Then back to blackboard,
and strict Headmaster Cross
who lived his name.
Inflicted the cane

on truants who gathered acorns,
gleaned for the pennies
to pay the rent
and stave starvation.

Today the nearby churchyard
marks familiar family names
on lichen-covered stones —
coffin makers, blacksmiths,

farmers, servants to the Squire —
once the children who
sobbed, shrieked, giggled.
The ghosts of playground voices.

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About theleopard66

I am a member of the Stoke Stanza of The Poetry Society and run a bi-monthly Poems & Pints event in Alsager.
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