Autumn at The Leopard

The next Stoke Stanza session at The Leopard pub, Burslem, is on Tuesday 25th November at 7.30pm. All welcome. Bring up to 15 copies or a poem to share and discuss – you’ll find the feedback and the company as good as you’ll find anywhere …

If you can’t wait that long then there’s a music, poetry and craft event – Poppies, Poems and Peace – at Salt Line Studio, Crewe Road, Alsager on Armistice Day, Tuesday November 11th at 7pm for 7.30pm. All welcome – but please notify Phil Williams on 01270 882060 if you intend to come – it’s a small venue and we need to take numbers into account.

On a WW1 theme, Malcolm McMinn presented this fine pantoum at the Leopard on 14th October.

From fields where blood red poppies bloom
Came siren calls of shell and gun;
Men summoned to their certain doom,
Both Tommy and the grey clad Hun.

Came siren calls of shell and gun;
For cruel death all were made fit,
Both Tommy and the grey clad Hun,
Regardless whether Smith or Schmidt.

For cruel death all were made fit,
Unrecognized, no hint of fame.
Regardless whether Smith or Schmidt
The widow’s grief is just the same.

Unrecognized, no hint of fame,
Men summoned to their certain doom,
The widow’s grief is just the same
From fields where blood red poppies bloom.

Geoff Sutton brought two poems:

The Death of the Estonian

semi-detached neighbour
high forehead broad smiling face
at first you seemed Hungarian or Finnish
you didn’t cut your tidy lawn the English way
no straight lines
you scythed about with your electric mower

on the wall in your hall
charcoal sketches shadowy curves
turned out to be Deborah
whose real name was Doreen

our best time was when
you sat beside me on the sofa
the oatmeal fabric matched your hair
as we watched Hurst the local boy
score three goals to win the World Cup

Schulz played centre half
a gauleiter of that name you said
once outlined for you your future role
second-class citizen of the Third Reich
land grubber out of the windy steppes
in what used to be Russia

no Slav a true Balt
you escaped to Dagenham
to Lisa and Karen Ann
playmates of our sons and daughters

till we moved to another part of the island
where one day a letter came from Deborah

‘my darling Juhan is dead
we were in bed together
it was a heart attack.’

Geoff also brought an experimental piece where he set himself the task of writing a poem consisting of words of just two letters – with no word repeated.

OI MA PA

yo lo ox
fo eh fi

it is so
he or we go to do

up on an or
if me at us

hi no no
OK ta
yo of ko

Phil at Ty Newydd with David Morgan, Gillian Clarke's husband. He remembers Phil's brother reciting 'The War Song of Dinas Fawr' at Llantarnam School. Phil's not reciting that now, mind - it's one of his own poems isn't it?

Phil at Ty Newydd with David Morgan, Gillian Clarke’s husband. He remembers Phil’s brother reciting ‘The War Song of Dinas Fawr’ at Llantarnam School. Phil’s not reciting that now, mind – it’s one of his own poems isn’t it?

Phil Williams, a Leopard regular, was unable to attend the October session as he was at Ty Newydd, the wonderful writers’ centre near Cricieth for a week’s Master Class with Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker and some excellent participants. Phil’ will undoubtedly bring drafts of some of the poems he wrote or started there to future Stanza sessions.

Phil also won second prize in the Nantwich Words & Music Festival this month. His poem is based on the memories of a friend of his brother’s who was pre-school age and at home with his parents on the morning of 21st October 1966 when the slag-heaps gave way above the village of Aberfan.

SIXTY SIX

Words spill from the radio to pool
on the hearth mat. The slow, backward
grate of the chair legs speak for his father –
sitting with them before a later shift –
as he leaves mug and plate, lifts
the latch on the cwtch to fetch his cap,
boots, spade. They watch him join
the fist of men already clenching
in the street, glance as if to fix
them in the door-frame then turn to trudge.
There are clumps and knots of neighbours
climbing. It is then he feels his mother’s fingers
press into his flesh with a painful love,
as though for those others, scrabbling
with only their nails into spoil and slurry
before his father joins them, delves
with his shovel deeper into the dark.

You can read the other winning poems here.

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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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One Response to Autumn at The Leopard

  1. Heart-stopping poem, Phil – and tragedy.

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