Friday, 25 April 2008

A Word from Amy, Derbyshire Pet Laureate

After much thought, and with the help of FKO, I've put paw to paper. I am available for mousings, purrshops and laps.

It's an art being Pet Laureat,

Curled up, looking like a fur hat.

Am I having a snooze

Or consulting my Muse?

You'll just never know about that.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Ilkeston Readers' Group

Yesterday I was in Ilkeston at the invitation of the Readers' Group: a most enjoyable afternoon discussing poetry. I read a sequence about my father as well as some 'laureate' poems, and interspersed them with 'companion' poems by other writers, including Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden.

Thanks to all the members for thought-provoking questions, and for sharing insights and experiences.
Photo: Ilkeston Library (where the Readers' Group usually meets) from The Ilkeston Local History Society

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

My Family and Other Things

This Friday 18th April I'll be at Buxton Museum to run a workshop for children 8+ and their relatives, based on the exhibition 'Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire'. We'll do a (very easy) quiz about the objects and pictures on display, and write about our own favourite things, pets and families. It's FREE but please book a place by contacting the museum: 01298 24658 or

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Bolsover & Poetry

I'm working on three Laureate commissions: a light-hearted number for the Derbyshire launch of the National Year of Reading and another for the new HeadSpace young reader's area in Buxton Library. The most ambitious is for the re-opening of Bolsover Library; a 'historical pageant' was requested and I've taken them at their word. The poem is 200+ lines and still growing. The Bolsover area is so unique that I can't find a way to write about it sparingly.

As well as researching the medieval town, the Jacobean castle and the profound legacies of coal-mining, I've discovered several poetry connections. The poet and playwright Ben Jonson (Shakespeare's contemporary) was commissioned by William Cavendish to write Love's Welcome at Bolsover for King Charles I's visit in 1634. William's second wife Margaret Cavendish was a poet and prolific writer of drama, philosophy, science fiction and prose fiction, one of the first women to be a professional author and be published under her own name.

On another note, I've also had the good fortune to meet the vicar of Bolsover Trevor Hicks, who turns out to be not only a poet, but the Canon Poet of Derby Cathedral.

And imagine my surprise when the poem sent by Poetry Daily for April 1 (not an April fool!) was this one, astonishingly prescient, and written in 1668, when microscopes had barely been invented:

Of Many Worlds in This World
by Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673)

Just like as in a nest of boxes round,
Degrees of sizes in each box are found:
So, in this world, may many others be
Thinner and less, and less still by degree:
Although they are not subject to our sense,
A world may be no bigger than two-pence.
Nature is curious, and such works may shape,
Which our dull senses easily escape:
For creatures, small as atoms, may there be,
If every one a creature's figure bear.
At their return, up the high strand,
If atoms four, a world can make, then see
What several worlds might in an ear-ring be:
For, millions of those atoms may be in
The head of one small, little, single pin.
And if thus small, then ladies may well wear
A world of worlds, as pendents in each ear.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Amnesty International Poetry Competition

April 18th is the closing date for a national school's poetry competition inspired by the experiences of Irina Ratushinskaya in the former Soviet Union, Jack Mapanje in Malawia, and a number of detainees at the infamous American-run prison camp Guantánamo Bay - all of whom produced moving poetry, despite being banned from using pen and paper. Instead they used everyday objects such as toilet paper or disposable cups from their dinner trays to etch their words.

To reflect this, pupils are being asked to compose their poems on 'unusual' objects such as paper plates, toilet paper and clothes. What would you write on?