Thursday, 16 October 2014

Brookfield students shine at the Poetry Promenade

I'm very pleased to be able to publish two new poems by Brookfield Community School students Madeline Wort and Emily Wagstaffe here on the blog. Madeline and Emily (pictured with me on the left) took part in some workshops I ran for Cape Farewell at Brookfield earlier this year, thinking about climate change issues and the natural world. Last Friday, they joined me in St Thomas' Cafe for the start of the Chatsworth Road Poetry Promenade and read their poems out. I hope you enjoy them as much as everyone in the cafe did!


by Emily Wagstaffe:

Listen to the tree’s story
As the wind whispers to the leaves
And the bark taps back to the woodpecker.

The branches criss cross and argue
About who goes where

As the leaves express themselves
In their colours

The roots search under the soil
For their voices

Then it falls silent
When it blends in to the
Black night

Twit two

by Madeline Wort:

You’re happy
I’m sad
You make me frown
All you ever do
Is put me down

You’re nasty
You’re cruel
You make me look like a fool
You think it makes you look cool

So why is your final aim
To make me cry
At night I stare at the sky

Wondering why.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Chatsworth Challenge: 10 cafes, 1 road, countless poems

Reading at Blu. Photo by John Pratt
Last weekend saw the end of Chesterfield's vibrant Chatsworth Road Festival and on Friday I took part in a one-off challenge: could I read poems in every café down Chatsworth Road from town to Brampton Manor? It was a bit like doing the Brampton Mile without beer.

We started early in the morning at St Thomas' Church café and ended up back there at 3pm, high on caffeine and short on voice. The journey in between included readings at Café Aroma, Blu, Maison Mes Amis, Meringue, Koo, Nonnas, Brampton Manor and, most dauntingly, Morrisons supermarket café. I admired the food Chesterfield's cafés have on offer (from authentic Italian dishes at Café Aroma to skyscraper cakes at Meringue), drank too many coffees and met some lovely people, many of whom weren't expecting a sonnet to go with their morning cuppa. Everyone stopped what they were doing and had the courtesy and patience to listen.

Special mention is reserved for Northern Tea Merchants, our second calling point on the journey. I've been visiting the place since I was a teenager and used to go in there with my dad, breathing in the rich scent of the ground beans, wondering about the journey the coffee had been on. We were made incredibly welcome there and I had a small surprise for them too - a short poem written specially for Northern Tea Merchants. This is about visiting the shop with my good friend Richard when we were younger and being surprised by something he bought.

Northern Tea Merchants

Me and Rich, hunting
the perfumed shelves
for things to fix the day.

He chose a tea flower -
jasmine, unremarkable,
a sphere bunched in his hand

but back at the flat
with our warm talk
and warm water

it softened, became
an open palm.
Even when the cups

were drained
we knew we wouldn’t
throw the dregs away.

Thank you to Shirley Niblock, Howard Borrell, Ali Betteridge and all the staff and customers in the cafes we visited - it was a great day out.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

National Poetry Day and beyond

National Poetry Day is always a special opportunity for everyone with an interest in the spoken and written word to join forces and celebrate what poems can do. This year it fell on October 2nd and I was lucky enough to be part of not just a day but a whole week of festivities. On Tuesday September 30th, I was in London, judging the Forward Prize for Poetry and it was a wonderful moment seeing winners Kei Miller and Liz Berry collect their prizes on stage at The South Bank. You can find out more about some of these events on this Guardian Books podcast. For National Poetry Day, Forward Arts were encouraging people to 'think of a poem', so myself and fellow judges Vahni Capildeo and Cerys Matthews joined the cause as you can see in this picture....

Back in Derbyshire on Thursday, participants at two library events (in Swadlincote and Shirebrook) were keen to remember poems they'd learned by heart and one woman at Swadlincote had even brought a supply of her own verses. I had an interesting morning and afternoon reading my own poems and talking about how I became a writer.And there was cake! The morning trip to Swadlincote library was my first ever trip to that corner of the county, but everyone made me feel so welcome I'm sure I'll be back.

This week, I was in Chesterfield signing books at Waterstones: when I was a teenager writing poems, I could never have dreamed I'd even have a book on the shelves at Waterstones, let alone be signing copies of it one day. Thanks to all the staff there for making me feel so welcome. In the afternoon, I worked with Moorside Writers and others in Chesterfield library in a creative writing workshop based around objects people had brought with them - every one had an interesting story behind it.

The celebrations aren't quite over yet - this Friday (10th October) I'll be reading poems at different cafes along Chatsworth Road in Chesterfield, part of the Chatsworth Road Festival. I'll be taking my verses for a walk round Brampton between 9.30 am and 3pm, so if you're at a cafe en route you'll have a chance to hear some live literature while you enjoy your tea. Please come and say hello!