Thursday, 23 January 2014

New year, new poem for Chesterfield

At the T.S. Eliot prize with my editor and former editor.
Photo © Adrian Pope
Happy new year to everyone in Derbyshire!

It's been an eventful and uncharacteristically glamorous start to 2014 for your local laureate. In early January, I travelled down to London to attend the T.S. Eliot awards after my first collection 'Division Street' was shortlisted for the prize. Reading at the Royal Festival Hall to a packed house was an honour and privilege, especially sharing the stage with poets I've admired for years, including Dannie Abse and Sinead Morrissey, whose collection 'Parallax' went on to win the main prize. You can hear me reading one of my own poems 'Scab' here. Above all, I was touched by how much support and encouragement I got from everyone back home throughout the shortlisting process and the ceremony. Standing behind the mic in London, I felt proud to be representing a small corner of the world in a very small way. Thank you for helping me up to the stage.

It's always exciting to go to the capital, but, quite honestly, it's even more exciting when the train sighs back into Sheffield station. And it's better yet when the drive home twists past Fox House, then Surprise View (still surprising after all these years), then the slow drop past Lawrencefield and Millstone and all the other places I climb and, last of all, the houses at Hathersage, huddling for warmth under another morning cloud inversion. I know I'm properly home when I see the chalk board outside the Little John pub, the cottages with old Christmas trees still left out back, savouring the January rain after weeks kept inside houses they never asked to be in. But when I stumble through the door of mine, I'm always disappointed to find that Charlie Whippet still hasn't learned to put the kettle on...

The coming months will be packed with schools visits (including working with local historians in Eckington) and readings, and I also hope to be back at more Chesterfield FC matches soon too, after penning my first poem for them at the end of 2013, with help from Ben Wilkinson, who knows far more about football than I can ever hope to. The poem is called 'Talk of the Town' and was published in the Boxing Day match programme, so I can now share it with you here on the blog too.

Talk of the Town

We’re in possession, we’ve got the ball,
Spireites passing back and forth.
This is our chance, or we could let it go:
we run with all that we don’t know,
the front row rising from their seats
and more than ground beneath our feet –

we’re in possession, we’ve got the ball,
we’ve got Queen’s Park and the wide town hall.
Black and white shop fronts, brickwork like fire,
we’ve got The Shambles, we’ve got the Spire.
Tudor-faced pubs where the night unreels,
we’ve got the stage at the Winding Wheel,

the market’s blue and white-striped lots.
No list can keep the things we’ve got:
town’s held here, proud on the terraces,
this cheering crowd of Spireite faces.
We’re in possession, we’re coming through.
Look out. Look back. We’re passing to you.
* * *

Happy new year and happy writing!

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