Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Happy New Year!

Since October I have met so many people – librarians, local government officers, museum curators, and lots of other enthusiastic poets too. Here are a couple of pictures from the workshop in Queen's Park.
My first task as laureate, was to spend hours interrupting people over their lunch in the cafeteria in County Hall, Smedley Street. I’m pleased to say that nobody minded, and they were very happy to answer questions about their work, their personal heroines and heroes. Based on their responses, I wrote this poem John Smedley visits County Hall.

October 8th 2009
John Smedley Visits County Hall

and he is pleased to find his Hydro stands,
though changed - there’s much to recognise.
You tell him it’s a power-house, a castle,
fortress, maze, and then (becoming lyrical)
set in Elysium’s Fields, majestic still.

He nods, looks out across a busy town,
the hills beyond, the same bright wash of light
through stained glass windows in the drawing room.
Listen - staircase, washrooms, greenhouse, lawns
and halls – the swish of long silk skirts, murmur
of water-flow, the crack of mallet on croquet balls.

He asks what happens here these days,
what work you do. You say you are a cog
that turns the bigger wheel, without you there’d be
no bus stops, social care, no books, chaos on the roads;
that you’re a bridge between the action and its need,
you speak for those who otherwise would not be heard.

And if you had a super-power you’d see
into the future, work with super-speed, and fly,
be good as Ghandi and Mandela - you’d be a Beckham
or Joanna Lumley - be Wonder-Woman, possess
a micro-chip that stores all passwords, the latest
smart technology........but here John Smedley
starts to lose your drift, is fading back into his history,
his faith in water cures, his old philanthropy.

And now that grim snow-bound January is over, planning for this year’s projects is well under way. I look forward to meeting some of Derbyshire’s elite young sportspeople: River Wolton and I will be working with them and groups of children to write poems about sport which will be printed onto postcards in time for Derbyshire's Literature Festival in the summer.

But before then I'm off to Mamelodi, Pretoria with a team of other artists, to do some work with students and schools there for the Mamelodi Trust. I'm looking forward to this immensely, and will report back in May.

I'll be reading in Belper Library on February 17th.

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