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.

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