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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
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?