Thursday, 15 December 2011

Yule Blog: Tigers, Ted Hughes and Crazy Santas

TIGER - we read the word, and we see a tiger, but we all see a different tiger. This still amazes me, the creative transformation that takes place between the word and the picture in the mind, and the unique way we each do this. I've tried this out in numerous classrooms and groups, asking for what each person saw, and the detail and differences are amazing. Why am I talking about this? Well, mostly because I don't have an obvious photo to put up, so I thought Why not put up a wordphoto? That's this week's wordphoto then - TIGER.
     Other bits of Laureating news are mostly research bits towards commissions that are starting to move along. I spent a lovely afternoon and evening with Roger Wood, historian at West Hallam, (thanks Roger, and thanks Ann and Tim, for lovely pub tea too), learning lots about John Scargill, the benefactor of 4 local schools , and a 17th century educational reformer well ahead of his time. There will be events celebrating his 350th anniversary all next year so if you are interested in knowing any more just contact me and I can forward details.
     Also this week I came across the wonderfulness of Yain Tain Eddero, very old counting in the Derbyshire dialect, of which the Yorkshire variation has been made into a folk song by Jake Thackeray - Yam Tam Tether. But the Ancient Celtic dialect from Derbyshire, from the Brythunic Celtic languages, is equally a found poem - here's the counting up to 20 -
yain tain eddero
peddero pitts tater
later overoo coveroo
yaindix taindix
edderodix pederodix
Isn't that wonderful? And of course playing with those rhythms and how it could be set out is a next stage, and a fun morning talking out loud in ancient Celtic.
     What else? For anyone that missed it, the radio documentary about Ted Hughes, commemorating his work and his stone in Westminster Abbey, is still on iPlayer at And as if to counterbalance this in tone, you could then go to a fabulous poem on Youtube called "Crazy Santas Occupy The World", by the American poet David Lee Morgan, set to music by the wonderful Michael Harding, a musician and laptop DJ based in Sheffield who does lots of work creating soundscapes and music to go with poems -
      Finally, staying with the musical theme, I think I'll put up the draft version of a recent poem from the Assembly Rooms in Derbyshire - this hasn't yet been to the workshop I go to, so if anyone has any comments they would be most welcome, and I would feed these in to the next stage of redrafting. Here it is, and have a great Xmas - all best, Matt

Assembly, 2011

Plastic lagers and packed,
black curtains, dry ice, Derby folk night,
gig frocks and ponytails. Ade Edmondson,
loud one from the Young Ones,
is playing folk versions of punk anthems,
God Save the Queen, a fascist regime,
post Arab Spring, Occupy everything.

The fiddler rocks out reels,
I can smell Silk Cut King Size, and grass,
Sex Pistols at Cleopatra’s, 1976,
and the uilleann pipes grieve and weave
dark watery wailings, out through walls
to Derbyshire fields, and mills, and chimneys,
where the first factory rises, your future dream
is a shopping scheme, I am an anarchist.

This is Bad Sheperds stirring their flocks
as markets (Buxton, Ashbourne, Wall Street) tumble
‘cross Peaks and Dales, take me to the river,
folk-punk, England’s old dissenters,
soft-angry angels fly again the hills.
That young guy I told about this gig
just laughed at me wanting to go – why?

This is middle-aged shout-out,
White Riot – I wanna riot of my own,
London calling to the faraway towns,
Clash, King’s Hall, because who is talking
about Derby in the 1970s?

Where fists once punched the air
mobile phones glimmer.
Ade has a bad toe, is wearing slippers,
yet they’re still rocking it, Anger Is An Energy,
but almost noone’s moving -
except us, a few at-the-back, die-hard,
joy-monster how-can-you-resist Anarchists,
shouting loud and jumping to combine
Irish jig and pogo.

And you may ask yourself
how did I get here?
listening to thrash mandolin
near the home of the Pentrich Rebellion,
200 years ago, wanting to wipe the National Debt,
needing to protest, not knowing what,
same as it ever was,
same as it ever was;

and tomorrow, we’ll take the old road
from the Red Lion, walk past the church,
head from Litton up the gentle slope
towards a future, ten minutes later,
in Tideswell, where we’ll buy the paper.

We’ll look to that brow of hill,
and beyond, Derbyshire, the sky,
the whole wide world.
May the road rise with you.


Monday, 5 December 2011

Scarthin's and the giant pencil

Here's one or two photos from Scarthin's - Britain's most enjoyable bookshop - in Cromford where we had a very enjoyable time yesterday (Sunday, that is) mini-launching a poem that I have written for them (I've put the poem below). As I arrived David Mitchell (pictured left) Scarthin's lovely, eccentric and book-enthusiast owner, was stalwartly and enthusiastically, in a bitter wind, working on new shelves that were leaning on the fence overlooking the pond. The poem was read to a largely unsuspecting - and largely trapped - cafe audience, who joined in joyfully with the 2nd poem that I read, which was about the diets that teachers are always talking about in staffrooms. Many thanks to them for both listening over their salads and houmitty pies, and for joining in.
 Gavin is making a documentary about Scarthin's, which is going to include myself reading the poem amongst the books on the ground floor. The poem has been mounted onto a giant pencil - Scarthin's being so full of surprises that it seemed only right to give them the poem in a way that seemed surprising itself.

Myself with Gavin, who's making a documentary about Scarthin's -

Other news
I really enjoyed the Tennyson poem  " Ring out Wild Bells", that is read - interestingly - in Sweden every year as part of New Year's Eve celebrations, and was on the Poem a Month blog this month. If you don't know Poem a Month then just have a look at and join it if you want a very enjoyable surprise poem every month - and they always do seem to be a real surprise too. For the amazing experience of hearing Tennyson reading his poems, go to As much as his stentorian tones booming across the waxy crackling airwaves, I love the sensation of listening to something live, as it were, from the 19th century, which often feels so remote, so far off, so part of history, I love this sense of the 19th century feeling alive, and in the room.


House of Arabian nights, and warm cake,
paper-promise freedom-church of childhood,
this rural chic winding tower, of wild stories,
surprises as fast as Reeves and Mortimer,
treasures winking inside their own chapters.

Leave the car, forget the clocks, enter
under a tumbling flock of flying Chinese books,
turn off text-machine, and step over
into browsing world, slow down, take time,
look around, this dream-palace where people wander

over scuffed carpet, worn bare and polished
by thirty-eight years of shuffling bookworms.
Stop. Look up, like a child again, wonder
at the cliffs, Penguins, Puffins, Bodley Head,
want to dive inside these seas of print,

be entranced by spines, The Great Gatsby,
The Color Purple, How To Be Happy,
signs in careful pen – Terrorism, Fishing,
Poetry, Goats; books in boxes, crates, on sills,
ledges, shelves of pine, ply, anything will do -

Extraordinary Facts About Derbyshire.
Keen books at attention, tired books leaning,
retired books asleep on their sides in corners,
upstairs to sprawls, and piles, and walls.
Layers everywhere, like Whitehurst strata

that hinted at the truth of evolution.
The café: Beatles print, Police Report on Byron,
antlers, Aga, a swirling exhibition,
if I wrote all this I’d be here all my life,
an unravelling conversation about scones,

Texas car-plates, old menus, Psychic News.
Conversation every day, but every month,
round the long table and avoiding the vine,
a topic, “Schools”, “Holidays”, “Violence In The Streets”,
gentle urbane chatter through the greenhouse quiet.

One more floor, cloud of sweet talc, and Doctor Johnson
in from Lichfield asking Guy for information.
A heat map of the Peak District, like a painting.
Canals, Philosophy, Weather, Music,
My Life with Frank Zappa, by Pauline Butcher.

It all seems such a long way from a riot.
Like this Tuscan chickpea soup, not Tunisian,
and pre-loved fiction, alive with earlier readers,
and no 3 for 2, each 1 being a full meal,
such a long way from the fast food of Google,

in the house of long memory, big story,
each book with a thousand thousand children
in Australia, Africa, Iran.
In the event of a fire, assembly point,
Wooden seats on the promenade overlooking the pond.

# over and out for now, ciao, Matt


Monday, 28 November 2011

Aston Cockaine, Derbyshire's Austin Powers: and other stuff

    I've been doing bits of research into ballads, which have taken me to the wonderful 19th century collection of Derbyshire ballads This includes a ballad about  Henry V, to whom the King of France sent, not the tribute that was due to him in gold, but 10 tons of tennis balls instead. Likewise references to the wonderfully named poet from Ashbourne, Aston Cockaine (yes, surely he is the seventeenth century Austin Powers), an aristocrat with a fondness for gambling, connections to Izaak Walton, and writers such as Massinger, Lovelace, and John Donne. In these days of poetry collections with a fondness for themes, or themed sections, here's a glass to celebrate his "Small Poems of Divers Sorts" - as someone who loves variety, and surprises, a collection that has divers sorts of poems is still, to me, the kind I am readiest to jump into. Or maybe it's just the  pleasure of random dipping that is so fresh and freedom-flying.

    I'm going to be reading next Sunday at Scarthin's bookshop in Cromford - a very informal sort of reading - stay and listen - or drop in while you're shopping. Starting at about 1.00pm, and for just 20 minutes or maybe half an hour at the most. Free, and all are welcome, and the soups, cakes and other cafe treats are of course delicious.  This is to "launch" (hmmm, much more informal actually) a new poem for the bookshop that I've written. Do hope you can come along.
    To just get a flavour of the wonder that is Scarthin's, if you don't know it, start by visiting  It calls itself the most enjoyable bookshop in England, and it's not wrong!

Friday, 18 November 2011

What's that Laureate been doing then? a month later...

A good month, days out, balmy late summer drives to West Hallam, Buxton, Alfreton, Wirksworth, Chesterfield, planning meetings, exciting projects getting ready for the New Year, and writing time too. Quite a lot of time spent on limericks - my tribute to Edward Lear, whose bicentenary it is next year, is a book of nonsense verse and prose called The Nonsense Olympics -  time that was often joyous, with laughter ringing the rafters, and other moments of scansion madness - does it scan? does it? does it? Hopefully it's to print in the next few days, and I'll post more about it soon, doubtless.
                 from Animal Olympics no. 3 - "dodo pogo"        
On which theme, 2 things that may be of interest - firstly, the Derbyshire Lit Festival is running a nonsense poetry and flash fiction competition, and if you're interested just go to And for a great site on Lear in general, there's the very dedicated and wonderful Blog of Bosh He called himself Lord High Bosh and nonsense producer, though he also called himself "Mr Abebika kratoponoko Prizzikalo Kattefello Ablegorabalus Ableborinto phashyph" and sometimes "Chakonoton the Cozovex Dossi Fossi Sini Tomentilla Coronilla Polentilla Battledore & Shuttlecock Derry down Derry Dumps".
         Other good news for me was having a poem published in this month's The Rialto ( I've been much better at sending poems out this year - I forget about it sometimes for a year or two, when I just get too busy with other stuff.
        Going to finish for now with a five-minute haiku -

6 music playing
friday night be bop hip hop -
frog music leaping

ciao for now,  Matt (woops, seem to have lost photo of self on homepage, should remedy or maybe write photo in words...)

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Being Launched as Laureate

Hello there. This is my first blog entry as Laureate, and follows being launched last Thursday, on National Poetry Day, and I just wanted to say big thanks to everyone who came and welcomed me into this Laureateship-sailing-ahead, and I hope you enjoyed the launching, which I thought had a lovely and warm feel. Friends, writers, councillors, library staff, previous laureates (even m' Da showed up in his best jeans!) - so, many thanks for braving a dreek and stormy night in Alfreton to listen to some poems and say hello to each other.
How does it feel? Exciting, very much like the start of a journey, with a magical ticket to wander and explore, as well as some clear places to go to, and I have lots of ideas that I'd like to see happen over the next 2 years. I hope to do plenty of readings, in all sorts of places (invitations welcome!) and commissions, and have various other strange and wonderful ideas which I'm just beginning to develop, and shall keep this blog posted with. For now, I'm going to have to go - as I'm about to run a Dead Poets Slam, and have 16 dead (and dead-famous) poets turning up in a couple of hours to compete in a poetry Slam - and I've just worked out what the winner is going to get - which will be a copy of what I think is definitely one of the best contemporary poetry anthologies of recent years - "Staying Alive" from Bloodaxe. And such a good title for the winner of a Dead Poets Slam too! More soon, I'm sure.... Matt (Black)

Friday, 30 September 2011

Handing over the laureate baton ...

Ann has handed over the laureate baton to Matt Black who officially takes over as the new Derbyshire Poet Laureate on National Poetry Day, Thursday 6th October 2011.

We're delighted to welcome Matt to the role and look forward to working with him over the next 2 years.

Matt's launch event is on Thursday 6th October 2011, 7.30-8.45pm at Alfreton Library.
He'll be reading a selection of poems, including poems inspired by Games, which is the theme for this year’s National Poetry Day. Matt will also be launching the Derbyshire Literature Festival 2012 Nonsense Poetry and Prose writing competition.
The event is free and if you'd like to come along and meet Matt please book tickets with the Arts Team on 01773 831385 or email

Unofficially Matt has already started as laureate and will be popping in to various events during the Chatsworth Road Festival in Chesterfield which takes place 1st to 8th October. So if you're out shopping on Chatsworth Road over the next week you may bump into him.

Ali Betteridge
Literature Development Officer

From Matlock to Mamelodi

Ann's tenure as Derbyshire Poet Laureate has just finished and I can't believe another two years of the laureateship has gone so quickly. Last week we launched From Matlock to Mamelodi: 5000 miles of poetry with the Derbyshire Poet Laureate Ann Atkinson, a collection which brings together poems written by Ann during her time as laureate. It also features a selection of poems written by young people and adults who took part in poetry workshops led by Ann. Many thanks to everyone who came along to the launch it was a wonderful evening which reflected Ann's warmth, enthusiasm and love of poetry.

Over the last 2 years Ann has taken part in over 50 events, written 28 new poems inspired by Derbyshire and engaged with over 1300 audience members and participants. She has taken part in a cultural exchange to Mamelodi in South Africa; written poems about cricket legends, young Derbyshire sports people, the Enlightenment and Derbyshire's industrial heritage; and she has encouraged people to write their own poetry be it inspired by where they live or the paintings of Joseph Wright.

Ann has been fantastic to work with and a huge thank you to her for everything she has done to promote poetry over the last 2 years.

Ali Betteridge
Literature Development Officer