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