Thursday, 17 October 2013

T'ta from Matt, Ay up from me

I'm sitting down to write this behind a small window in Hathersage, with a whippet snoring loudly in the corner and a fire-coloured garden on the other side of the glass: my neighbour's rowan tree all off-gold leaves and red berries. Somewhere behind this immediate view, another one unfolds to north and south: Stanage Edge, where my hands remember gritstone holds; the road snaking out to Bamford and Castleton; the woods that flank the river, dark at this time of year; the other road, the one that stretches to Calver and then, eventually, to Chesterfield, my hometown, where the houses crowd closer together and the shop windows are lit till late. All these markers make the landscape I adore.

My name's Helen, I'm the new Derbyshire Poet Laureate and, as you can probably tell, I'm just a little bit excited about exploring the county through words. For the next two years, it's going to be my honour and privilege to work with libraries, schools, community groups and other organisations around Derbyshire to share my love of poetry and place. Following in the footsteps of previous laureates Cathy Grindrod, River Wolton, Ann Atkinson and Matt Black is going to be a daunting challenge.

I was born in Sheffield and grew up in Chesterfield, a town I'm proud to call home (even if it sometimes gets called other names as well). Ever since I was a kid, I've loved hill walking and fell running and used to go out to the Peak District regularly with my dad. As I got older, I learned to rock climb as well and that became my obsession - most weekends, I can be found at a local crag, hanging on for dear life (or suggesting we pack up early and go to the pub). I've lived in other places around the country (in Cambridge for a few years and then in Grasmere, where I was Poet in Residence at The Wordsworth Trust) but a few years ago something carried me back to Chesterfield, and ever since then I've been glad to be home. I now live a stone's throw from Stanage Edge (please don't chuck rocks off the top at me) and spend a lot of time in Sheffield, where I'm in the final year of studying for a PhD.

I mainly write poetry - my first collection 'Division Street' was published by Chatto & Windus this year - but I'm interested in literature of all kinds both on and off the page: I run a regular open mike night in Chesterfield, 'Spire Writes', which takes place on the first Wednesday of every month at The White Swan.

What does the laureateship have in store....? It's too early to tell, but amongst other things, you can expect football poems, projects involving maps, performances in unusual venues, poems that climb...and a lot of surprises. In fact, I hope most of it is going to be a surprise to me. I'll share some of my experiences as a laureate diary here on the blog and I hope to be in touch with as many of you as possible along the way!

My first event as laureate is on October 28th in Wirksworth Library as part of Derwent Discovery Days 2013.

I've got a lot to learn about Derbyshire. And I can't wait.


Timothy said...

Ah, a blog post I can understand. Congratulations on getting the Derbyshire poet laureate position. I'm sure you'll be fine.

Anonymous said...

My second try at leaving a comment on your blog. Of course a big congratulations for getting the post. I really hope you can 'big up' poetry in Derbyshire. By the way I like the book 'Division Street' I think 'Coffin Path' is my favourite so far.