More Leopard Dates

Here are the dates of the Stoke Stanza sessions at The Leopard until November 2016. All at 7.30pm upstairs at The Leopard Hotel, 21 Market Street, Burslem, Stoke on Trent ST6 3DS.

Next meeting: Tuesday, July 19th. Bring a poem to share and discuss (15 copies please).

August 23rd with Mary King as guest poet, winner of the Smith/Doorstop pamphlet competition.

September 20th with Angela Topping as our guest poet.

October 18th with Peter Branson as guest poet.

November 22nd with Oliver Leech as our guest poet.

In the new year we look forward to the launch of Bo Crowder’s first collection, Euphony published by the Offa Press.

Meanwhile, here is a recent poem by a Leopard regular.

The Abyss | Malcolm McMinn

Much darker than the blackest night,
As cold and silent as the tomb,
This world that never sees the light
Of day, a place of stygian gloom:
But not a place devoid of life.
Here multitudes abound and thrive,
All locked in never ending strife,
In constant fight to stay alive.
What great leviathans patrol
Abysmal plains and seabed peak,
Each one fulfilling Nature’s role
Where strength prevails upon the weak?
So many things yet to discover,
Unseen in this pelagic deep,
So much that man is waiting to uncover,
Perhaps to rouse the kraken from its sleep!

Mary King  won the Smith Doorstop pamphlet prize this year with her collection Homing. You can hear Mary as our guest poet on August 23rd.

Mary King  is relatively new to writing poems seriously.   She was brought up in Tower Hill and was a Science teacher there and in Hackney. With no time for what had been her favourite subject at school she took her students to the theatre and on school trips to Italy. She is married with children and grandchildren. Mary joined a writing class when paid work finished and this spurred her on to begin to learn the craft and to write more regularly.  She lives in Staffordshire and is involved with the Stanza group at the Leopard in Burslem and Keele Poets at Silverdale.

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Prowling through summer

The Leopard’s on the prowl again, stalking poetry from The Potteries and the surrounding area.

The next Stoke Stanza session is at The Leopard Hotel, 21 Market Place, Burslem (ST6 3DS for those of you who rely on Sat-Nav to find your way round) will be at 7.30pm on Tuesday 21st June. All welcome. Please bring 15 copies of a poem to share and discuss or feel free to enjoy the company and listen.

To give you a flavour of what to expect, here’re some poems from the last session.

First up, our genial host, John Williams with a wry poem about the ubiquitous ball-point pen.

BLACK BIC FINE

I fiddle with the cap, chew the end
and wait for words to come.
Its plastic body gleams
held at that angle where thought begins.
An inky blot gathers on the nib,
a thin trickle of the next big line.
The smell of leaky biro, fingertips,
a murky black line pushed out
from another world to enter ours
made from a twist of smoke,
the Faustus fire that forced his writing flow.
My nails turn white at pressure points.
I give a hasty twitch, restore the blood,
call someone from the Fates to give me words:
love advice, lonely hearts, a hook-up page.

Malcolm McMinn is both topical and alliterative (Black Bic … / Brexit) with a piece about the forthcoming Referendum.

BREXIT
It’s in or out; the voters must decide.
The arguments are problematical
And solving them may make us hollow-eyed
As passions rise, become hysterical.

Our politicians wax quite lyrical;
For and against the arguments divide
The parties something diabolical.
It’s in or out; the voters must decide.

Disastrous consequences are implied,
Or a new economic miracle;
Whatever solid reasons are applied
The arguments are problematical

The simple facts may be chimerical,
Men with self interests try hard to misguide.
The questions seem to us illogical
And solving them may make us hollow-eyed.

The great debate is raging nationwide,
With MPs ranting, evangelical,
Views polarize and cannot coincide.
As passions rise, become hysterical,
It’s in or out.

 

Whichever way you vote, we hope to see you at a Stanza Session soon.

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Congratulations to Karen!

Leopard poets win prizes. We offer hearty congratulations to Karen Schofield who won third prize in the NHS category in the prestigious Hippocrates Prize competition for poetry on medical themes.

Here’s Karen’s winning entry:

COMMUNITY MEDICINE 1974

A cage deep into the earth, a truck
to the coal face where he turned off the light;
a trick he’d played before to impress. We were
out of place, strangers sent to forecast his fate.

We watched as he blasted away layers
of carbon locked into scattered seams
that exploded daily into dust; a slow
burning canary full of cold, dark matter.

We learned how coal gets tattooed into scars
in skin, recognised the crackles and wheezes,
the black spit that would never come clean,
the text-book X-ray on the screen.

We saw his lungs displayed like lights
on a butcher’s block. Down a lens, traces
of coal etched round each alveolus;
a fragile shawl of widow’s lace.

He smoked to the end. With all that fuel
sealed in, I wondered if, when he lit up, inhaled,
there’d been a spark and his lungs at last
saw light, flamed bright before the final dark.

Well done, Karen! You can see the full results of the Hippocrates competition here.

Karen read her poem at the Stoke Stanza session with Gill McEvoy. Alongside Gill’s finely crafted poems, a distinctly ‘fishy’ – or fish and chippy – theme emerged.

Here’s Mary Morris:

FISH AND CHIPS

Slippery jumbled flapping on a trawler deck
Netted northerly from a boiling sea
And soil born dusty spuds turned by tractor spikes
Scooped up from boiling oil and cooled
Piles of yellow chips like shoals of gold
On old paper
And salt from an ancient buried Cheshire sea
Sprinkled on the fishes’ wounds.
Not an easy tea.

Geoff Sutton was also in a ‘chippie’ mood, applying his customary haiku style stanzas to a description of his local fish and chip shop.

ANOTHER     DECEMBER  EVENING    IN    ALSAGER

close the chippie door
but that is not so easy
battered  or breaded
 
silly cow thick shakes
twenty varieties   yes
you choose your pois(s)on
 
it’s traditional
you form an orderly queue
counter the banter

dished up by Paul in
his white coat   hygienic hat
skinny he is not

the quality he
has been tasting  I reckon
he remembers you

hello  Santa Claus
what’s in your sack of presents
his mum shakes salt   squirts

vinegar    wrapping
separate  or  together
tartar   or  lemon

not quite six o’clock
the lights still on in Jamie’s
Friday on Crewe Road

a giggle of girls
outside The Mere their scent their
breath hang in the air

eastward  Old Man Mow
rears up   steals light from the stars
and a gibbous moon

Maurice Leyland was sonneteering out in the fresh air:

FRESH AIR FOR BODY AND SOUL

To walk the mountains helps to make me whole,
shakes off the dust of daily work and strain,
invigorates my body and my soul.
My muscles and my sinews learn again
to work, obey demands not made this week
nor many weeks before. My tired eyes
relearn what joys enfold – look and seek
what lies beyond, a new and glittering prize.

Take pride in memories of old, and tell:
the toil to conquer Crinkle Crags and back;
the blinding blizzard on Helvellyn’s hell;
the Snowdon summit reached by grim Pig Track.
Forget what’s past, discover paths anew.
Fulfil the needs of limbs and your heart too.

Appropriately, for a group based in The Potteries, Malcolm McMinn brought us back to the pot-banks.

GLADSTONE POTTERY

At Gladstone Pottery the years roll back.
Just close your eyes and listen to the din
And smell the smoke. What tragic ghosts
Still haunt these blackened walls? Do pretty girls
With blue rimmed gums still paint while thin
Frail boys must toil from dawn ‘til dusk or earn
Their master’s clout? Men face infernal heat
To load and draw the greedy bottles. Old
Men, forty five or less, cough blood, yet struggle on.
Meanwhile, rich ladies sip their tea and eat
Their cake, showing off their fancy ware
With not an inkling of its proper cost.
The workers here knew hardship without measure;
Unknowing, we just see a local treasure.

This poem represents a departure for Malcolm, as he usually writes in rhyme. Here is the original rhyming version for comparison. Perhaps you’d like to comment? Better still, why not come to a Stanza session at The Leopard to listen, read or discus your own or other people’s writing?

Our next session is on Tuesday May 17th at 7.30pm. We meet upstairs at the historic Leopard Hotel, 19 Market Place, Burslem, Stoke on Trent ST7 3DS, just opposite the old town hall. We hope to see you soon, but meanwhile, enjoy Malcolm’s rhyming poem:

THE VICTORIAN POTTER

At Gladstone Pottery the years roll back.
Just close your eyes and listen to the din
And smell the smoke as bone and kaolin
Transform into fine china in hot, black,
Kilns. Pretty girls with blue rimmed gums just sit
And paint as men brave hellish heat to load
Or draw the kiln, while smoke and dust corrode
The lungs of everyone. Some gasp, cough, spit
Blood, yet struggle on. Fine ladies then took
Tea and cake, showing off their costly ware
But its true cost they’d neither know nor care
And give the potters not a second look.
We idly wander round this local treasure
But working here would never be a pleasure.

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Padding softly into spring

March they say ‘comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.’ There’s certainly been some sound – but not necessarily fury – at The Leopard and not ‘signifying nothing’ either. (Or ‘not signifying nothing neither’ if we wanted double negatives)

Gill McEvoy

We’ve had a terrific session with Grevel Lindop and there are promises of further great evenings to come. Don’t miss Gill McEvoy as guest poet on Tuesday April 19th at 7.30pm upstairs in The Leopard Hotel, Burslem – lair of the Poetry Society’s popular Stoke Stanza.

Regulars and those who have been involved for some time, may remember Drew Nuttall who used to attend in the early days. Sadly, Drew has moved from the area and, it seems, taken regular Leopard attender Paul Freeman’s copy of Michael Symonds Roberts’ Corpus with him. Rather than simply asking Paul where to return the volume, Drew’s written him a poem – or rather a ‘poemail’.

Corpus: a poemail by Drew Nuttall

I have uncovered a book, a Corpus
buried in a mound of fellow works.

The shroud reads Michael Symmons Roberts
but I know it to be yours,

Lent, but shamefully unreturned,
even after forty days were up.

I am leaving this town this week,
this less-than-week (this Saturday),

and I have felt in this untombed tome
this same desire for a tomorrow life.

Tell me where this book may find its home
and this Corpus will rise again before Easter.

The Leopard sends best wishes to Drew wherever he has moved and our appreciation for his contributions during our early days.

Leopard regular Maurice Leyland has submitted this poem with an Australian bush theme — with a twist.

NEVER LOOK UP
 
I live on the road, wherever it goes
leading to work and grub and life.
I wear what I’ve got to ride, to sleep
and mend it – not having a wife.
 
My hat’s wide for the sun, the wind and the rain,
keeps off flies and any old weather.
When I come across water it fills my billy –
you can’t beat waterproof leather.
 
My shirt and my pully look after my skin
against flies and dust and whatever.
My trousers are tough for many a mile
and my braces hold me together.
 
When young l could walk but I like my bike
it trebles the load and the miles.
You can’t beat a saddle on a long day
but I’m not saying it’s good for my piles.
 
I try my best for my bum, high on my swag
which does get rather too wide.
When mounting my bike and cocking my leg,
I need post or a rock close beside.
 
Tucker bag at the front as big as you like,
while, at the back – my best friend,
my billy-can, with lantern, all useful things,
with Catty there watching my end.
 
I bake my damper in the campfire ashes
with flour and soda for leaven.
I cover my bread with Cocky’s Joy –
syrup sweet – I’m in swagman’s heaven.
 
The road to the horizon never ends,
wherever it may lead.
You pedal on, one yard at a time;
never look up, is the swaggies’ creed.

We look forward to seeing regular or new attenders on 19th April. There’ll be another opportunity to hear Gill McEvoy at Poems & Pints in Alsager at 8pm on Thursday 12th May upstairs at The Lodge pub on Crewe Road. There will be an open-mic and live-music as well as Gill’s guest slot.

Peter Branson

Peter Branson

Then, at 8pm on Thursday 9th June Peter Branson will be reading from his latest collection at The Lodge, Alsager when there’ll also be an open-mic and support from folk-duo Brennan and Buchanan and singer-songwriter Chris Algar. He’ll also be at Alsager Library from 11am – 12 noon on Tuesday 3rd May and at The New Vic Theatre with folk-band ‘Parish Lantern’ and cellist Sally Walker on Monday 16th May 7pm for 7.30pm.

We look forward to seeing you at The Leopard or at other poetry events around The Potteries and beyond.

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More Poetry from The Leopard

Grevel Lindop poet and literary critic

Grevel Lindop

Just a reminder, folks, that the next Poetry Stanza at the Leopard pub in Burslem will be on Tuesday March 22nd at 7.30pm, when we welcome Grevel Lindop once again. He will read from his most recent collection, Luna Park published last Autumn to great acclaim by the Carcanet Press. Copies will be on sale at the reading (£9.99). Please bring your own poems to share and discuss in the second half of the evening.

Visit his blogsite: grevel.co.uk/poetry/luna-park-new-poems-2015

Gill McEvoy

On Tuesday April 19th Gill McEvoy will read at the Leopard Stanza. She has recently won the prestigious Michael Marks Award for Poetry Pamphlets for The First Telling (Happenstance). Gill is a former Poetry Society Stanza rep for Cheshire, and her poem Exorcising the Chemotherapy Wig was published in Poetry News in 2007.

Judges’ Comments: “We admired the way this pamphlet deals not just with trauma and its aftermath, but with the difficulty of articulating what has happened, the challenge of finding the right words. Form and content mesh together perfectly in poems that use the power of silence as well as the power of language.”

Looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday, March 22nd.

Meanwhile, to keep you going, here’s a tender Potteries poem from ‘Milton Shaw’.

VICTORY!

Greater than three points earned.
More fun than bawdy terrace chants.
Joy deeper than Charlie’s pin-point pass.
This game of life finally felt alight.
To sit next to you, joke with you delight in Delilah’s choir with you.
I allowed myself to be exactly what I am; for you, your father and you to me, my son.

Bereft of healing by my leave.
Your trust was all but gone.
Lately you returned your belief in me.
Your faith has seen just what I am: for you a father and you to me, my son.

Greater than the three points earned.
More fun than bawdy terrace chants.
At last I know what’s been returned; to you, your father and you to me, my son.

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Roaring into Spring

The Leopard’s roaring its way into the New Year now with a visit from Jeffrey Wainwright in February and Grevel Lindop due to join us on March 22nd.

Jeffrey Wainwright February 2016

Jeffrey Wainwright reading upstairs at The Leopard

Grevel Lindop poet and literary critic

Grevel Lindop

Here are some poems read and discussed during Jeffrey Wainwright’s visit. Firstly, Malcolm McMinn with echoes of a somewhat seasonal Lenten/Passiontide theme.

I WASH MY HANDS

I wash my hands of this man’s blood
But guilt remains, I know, for good.
I’ve had him whipped until his gore
Runs deep and red upon my floor:
It’s well for me he’s not the Lord.

I did as much as any could
But they would nail him to the wood.
To maintain peace and keep the law
I wash my hands.

For evermore my name is mud,
My part in this misunderstood;
The mob outside still rage for more,
Their hatred running deep and raw,
And though some day I must face God,
I wash my hands.

Meanwhile, it’s bin day for John Williams.

BIN DAY

I press for daycare in the condo, bang the door
and stick a notice to the board with pins.
But it’s my week to clink the letterbox
and call the old hip cats, body builder,
and couples no-one sees to bring their bins.
Puzzled at cinders now we’re smokeless,
I wonder whose fire alarm’s defunct.
Our fires are flameproof, ersatz logs,
surge-free plugs and eco-wired.
We give our milk tops for the refugees
and grow porch plants, devoured by shrubs.
We look like Eden coming back
but for the sachets snipped and uncorked wine.
One tug, my steel pins give, the poster falls
and says we’re temp, not perm.
No daycare in the garden and Adam reappears
who chose tragedy, not playtime for his boys.

For more Poetry from The Potteries join us upstairs at The Leopard Hotel, Burslem at 7.30pm on Tuesday 22nd March. Bring 15 copies of your own work to share and discuss or just come to listen and soak up the atmosphere. You’d have to go a long way to find insight and feedback as good as you’ll get here!

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Prowling into 2016

We are delighted to welcome Jeffrey Wainwright back to The Leopard pub for our Stoke Stanza session on Tuesday 16th February. It’ll be upstairs in that historic Burslem pub at 7.30pm.

Jeffrey Wainwright

Jeffrey’s been a great friend of The Leopard and has read and discussed his verse with us before. He’s even submitted a poem for us to comment on and here it is in all its glory, a recent work on a local theme. Jeffrey Wainwright is one of The Potteries’ leading living literary figures and his poem deals with the famous revivalist movement which started on the slopes of Mow Cop.

PRIMITIVE METHODISTS

Here the helpless, hapless, feckless commonage
in congregation on a May week-end at Mow Cop
to hear Hugh Bourne, who, even when speaking to thousands,
could not help but hold a shy hand before his face.

He carts the gospel from place to place, the word
of some god who is not Mammon and who likes the meek.
Who shall inherit.   Inherit what?  This show below?
potbanks, coal-smoke, salt-fogs, pit-heaps, saffrucks, soot?

These ‘dear peculiar people’ are not that daft.
They do not expect owt builded here to go up quick.
All they ask, free and familiar, is how to be
a worthy soul, and that their works shall follow them.

Thus Hon Treas., always in his best on Sundays,
rattles year by year his tin of co-operation.
It will add up, even though only copper, into a benefit,
a grand word and a grand thing: all do give so all may live.

Thus Hon Sec. reads the notices for the week, the rotas
and the tasks of patience.  She knows that ‘e’en the smallest thing
can do some good and comfort bring’ and will keep at it,
entering in the minute-book the measures of their joy.

They gave their mite, these ranting Primitives,
a-shivering and a-shaking (agitating!) all through Sunday night.
Filled from the loving-cup, they descend lit-up into the dark.
May those who mock thee learn the dignity of love.
There will be a prize – a very un-Primitive pint perhaps – for the first person to identify what ‘saffrucks’ are.

Come and hear Jeffrey on 16th February – all welcome, admission free.

JENNY HAMMOND, a Leopard regular, brought the following poem to the Stanza session on 19th January.

BLUE GLASS STONE

A gypsy came to my front door.
She knuckle-knocked, ignored the bell.
Her jet black hair was streaked with white
and “headphone plaits” adorned each ear.
A weathered face with gap-toothed smile,
and “crow’s feet” round each hazel eye,
spoke of a rugged outdoor life.

“Clothes pegs for sale, my deary-oh? “
Her lilting voice bewitched my mind.
And so I picked and paid her for a
home-made handful from her wicker
basket. In return she dug
into the pocket of her coat
and pulled out a polished blue glass stone
which seemed to shimmer in the light.

“This will bring you luck” she said
as she pressed the object in my palm.
Since then the years have multiplied
and still it sits with hagstones, flints,
an old clay pipe, a fossil fin,
an antique ink pot, ammonites,
guarding all my memories.

MALCOLM McMINN brought a well-crafted poem with a regular metrical and rhyme scheme.

BIPOLAR

Of all mankind I am the most well blessed,
With silver spoon and Midas touch: the best!
For me, all things fall into place; the apple
Of loving parents’ eyes, no need to grapple
For my share. Socially, I am the soul
Of charm and wit, always my chosen role;
The golden boy, the man who’s got the lot.
Slight swings of mood are just a minor blot;
When told, it caused me such hilarity,
“You’ve got depressive bipolarity.”
That spell in hospital was just a blip;
My God, depressive types give me the pip!
But that was yesterday. Today my mood
Has changed, and now become much darker hued.
I realize my life is but a sham
And this sad Judas world’s not worth a damn.
Unloved, unwanted, mocked behind my back,
No wonder that my mood is turning black.
My Janus headed friends all gone, I think;
For solace now there’s just the demon drink.
The whisky that I sup is bad enough;
So what? Who cares? I’m done with life, I’ll snuff
It out. Death is the cure for all my ills
So now I’m reaching for the sleeping pills.

Meanwhile, JOHN WILLIAMS is sitting rather uncomfortably …

THE BEST CHAIRS

Tugged out of true until the stitches burst,
the chairs we kept for pub talk:
the Blair wars, our young friends
debunking freedom’s many enemies
that plonked themselves in every argument
like the smell of cracked leather.
We wriggled till the horsehair came adrift,
a fire risk no-one had the heart to dump
but saggy by the time the Wall fell down
and the soul turned out to be DNA.
We found the worst way to acquire our stuff,
inheritance, time’s chromosome.
These chairs, coming down to us for years,
one death, another, room to room,
the smell of fresh paint in the dark,
ecology, novels, Mongolian
overtone chanting, sky mums,
the scuffs and stains that make up memory.
Our son pitched each chair upside down to learn
commando skills, a ski run, a bunker
against the Blast in upholstery foam,
listening for the warning crash, thunderclap
then black. What’s freedom anyway,
but ringing on the door till the bell-wire burns?
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Hope to spot you at a Stanza Session soon!
The Stoke Stanza is affiliated to The Poetry Society and meets once a month at The Leopard Hotel, 21 Market Street, Burslem, Stoke on Trent. All welcome, admission free.
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