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



sally said...

Glad to see your exuberant poem Matt. We were there on Saturday and I bought 2 poetry books for £3.50. It's our favourite bookshop.

D P L said...

Sally, many thanks, much appreciated. And hope food and poem went together well. Here's to Scarthin's.

Charlotte said...

I love the giant pencil and I love Scarthin books! Looking forward to seeing Gavin's documentary

D P L said...

Charlotte, yes, giant pencils rule! available from b and q, or better still from an independent woodyard - or even wood - near you. Take care, Matt