Recent poetry events
Things have been busy in Walsall...
The Ramblers Poem –Brenda Read-Brown met up with the Walsall Ramblers in the summer for an narrow boat excursion in July 2015 and composition of ‘one liners’ to sum up their perception of walkers. In no time she had created a number of inspiring poems, one of which left the ramblers overwhelmed as they listened to a homage to an old friend, which will be cherished forever.
Spoz delivered a poetry session to the Chapters Reading Group at Willenhall Library September 2016. This group is aimed at adults with learning difficulties. Due to the nature of the group, there were many interruptions but Spoz went with the flow and always brought the conversation back. He used a selection of hats as a starting point for discussion. At the beginning one group member said- ‘I don’t like poetry’, but at the end he said ‘I really liked that’, another wasn’t sure what to expect, but thought it was fantastic.
A friend of one of our Walsall Librarians is Hilda Sheehan who came to visit Streetly Library’s poetry group. To quote the Huffington Post –‘ Hilda Sheehan is deft and quirky in equal measure. She runs the Swindon Festival of Poetry, inhabits a range of alter egos, and generally makes poetry fun. That she has fun in her work is also evident, and infectious, tilting the spirit level on readers at every possible turn. The mundane is never ordinary beneath her pen’. What wonderful poems! She was a terrific personality for this sort of event. The enthusiasm, originality and friendliness of the poet made this such an entertaining event. The poetry reading was very descriptive and in very good humour.
These events show the variety of the poetry experiences which have been explored by people using Walsall Libraries over the last two years.
Walsall readers' day
In early November 2015, 72 eager readers in Walsall got together for a day talking about books and listening to authors. In the morning, poet Brenda Read-Brown gave a short talk about the writing she does with prisoners, GP surgery patients, and cancer patients and carers. Her main task, though, was to create a jigsaw poem, made from contributions from all present. Everyone wrote one line of poetry in response to one of four questions, and each table assembled their lines into a poem. Over lunch, Brenda mixed the lines up again and put them all together into an epic. This poem, called The gift, was read out by Brenda in the afternoon, before she entertained everyone with a performance of her own poetry.
The gift was well received by the readers, all of whom could recognise their own lines. And here it is:
To the newborn child:
I reveal the secrets of the bookcase.
Your eyes seek answers.
Take this key and open up
A never-ending box of delights.
Fill the blank canvas of your mind
With the wonders of the world
And the minds of others;
Build the house of your life
On rock, not sand.
To my grandson:
Enrich your world!
You can abandon your smart phone;
Climb onto a magic carpet,
Discover a new land.
To my daughter and son,
Both of my flesh,
This special gift –
An escape to a world of wonder,
To take you to places you may never visit –
A big posh world,
A magical place;
To transport you through a window
To a land of fantasy and dreams,
Even while safely snuggled in your beds.
Escape to solitude and quietness;
Excitement at what is to come;
An obsession satisfied by books –
Bought, borrowed, given as Sunday School prizes –
New books, new words, new ideas.
The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
To my sisters, and to my husband John:
Discover this treasure trove,
And bask in the warmth of its glow;
Warm sunshine spreading its rays in all directions,
And washing your troubles away.
The day’s problems disappear.
Words caress your mind.
Apply this to your world
And be gently led into sleep and dreams.
Or escape, with a good novel –
Better than TV,
More enjoyable than cakes (which I love).
It’s a journey into someone else,
Away from the train and into the sky –
Blue sky and dappled sunshine:
Other people’s lives and travel;
Exotic places, away from the routine;
Faraway places, away from the humdrum –
New adventures! Be you, and no-one else.
To me, when I am older:
Never alone, with a friend in print,
A companion and joy in isolation,
Like a bottle of wine to enjoy and share –
As good as chocolate!
An escape from loneliness and boredom,
It will be a reminder, a reliving of youth,
And take you away from the ravages of age
To a magical world of imagination,
When your feet can no longer carry you;
To memories that you can no longer visit;
A feeling of life through the lives of others;
A window on the world.
It will not confine your paths,
But be your shining light,
A pleasure to your soul,
Your best friend,
Sharing smiles and tears and laughter;
Your comfort and your hope.
There are those, born in a ghetto
With no hope of a future.
Refugees; children crying, cold and ill.
Children in a dark place, needing warmth and light;
Children who need to move from dark to light,
The light that reading brings –
Youth, freedom, joy,
Part of something bigger than self.
I can’t imagine a life without reading,
So why should they?
Let’s not throw this gift away.
Walsall Readers’ Day, November 2015
Compiled by Brenda Read-Brown
Mandy Ross at Butcroft House
In August, poet Mandy Ross worked with residents at Butcroft House, in Darlaston, and they wrote a terrific poem. If you know Darlaston you might recognise some of this! Here it is:
Darlaston, here, now,
Darlaston, here, now,
girdled by grey M6 tarmac and the Black Country Red Route,
circled by the dirty green flowing Tame
(ain’t as bad as it used to be)
and still waters and courting places of the Walsall Canal
(I used to meet up with the boys down on the bonk).
We called it the Cut, fishing with a cane and nylons, catching tiddlers and tadpoles.
They’ve dredged it now, gravelled green footpaths.
The Cut leads on to other cuts,
out beyond the grey green circle, to the Severn and the sea.
From Belfast and Bloxwich to Darlaston, here, now,
our ringed heart of the Black Country.
Beyond the grey green circle,
at Goscote they’ve demolished the Poets, who went to rack and ruin
(though Byron and Shelley are still standing,
and they’re redeveloping Shakespeare).
We step out to Tipton or Walsall or Wednesbury,
fishing at Fishley,
and sometimes to Brum.
We’re gooin’ um to our ass in Darlaston, here,
now, inside the grey green circle,
friendly for a cup of tay and a chat.
Shut the dooer and put your feet up, our wench
(ooh! In Cardiff you calling her a lady of the night?)
We’ve a garden for tatting,
bingo and cat mats woven on a Welsh peg loom.
We’ve mobile phones and the mobile library,
clear blue waters of the new swimming pool,
(built on top of the old one),
Asda and a new market soon, they’ve promised, with 29 stalls,
at Darlaston, here, now, where the Black Country heart is.
By residents at Butcroft House with Mandy Ross
As if that wasn't enough, they repeated their triumph in Mandy's sesond session with them, with this early morning poem:
Up high here, quiet before dawn, looking out
over Darlaston lying still,
Ray’s out for a smoke, early, early,
the very houses seem asleep.
The blackbirds ’m the first up, the pigeons cooing.
Watching out for that rat. Haven’t seen him lately.
See the lights come on in the windows, one by one,
the witch in the glass at the witch’s house.
Lads open the door, haversacks on their backs,
onto their bikes,
cars down the road, off to work.
Looking out for steam from the vents,
tells us they’re up and doing.
Jump out of bed, telly on first, kettle on to make the tea –
that’s John’s job –
open the blinds, look out to see Ray out there,
looking out for us.
Then we know we’re still here.
By residents at Butcroft House with Mandy Ross
The over-50s group at Pleck library like to be entertained, but they like some stimulation too. A postcard poets performance last October from Roz Goddard, Fergus McGonigal and Brenda Read-Brown led to a lot of laughs and a great deal of discussion. As the librarian said,
The activity was incredibly successful. Not only did all the audience members get a lot of enjoyment out of the poetry that was performed but one lady was inspired to write her own poem as a way of talking about a traumatic event she had suffered. A lot of discussion was provoked after the event about poetry and people’s likes and dislikes.I would definitely ask all three poets to visit again.
Love in the morning
Love in the afternoon
Despite the fierce weather, some people in Pelsall and Walsall were so full of love on Valentine's Day that they went to their local libraries to join in a celebration of love poetry with poet Philip Monks. Philip read love poems - popular ones and those less well-known - and encouraged everyone to read their own poems. Love was overflowing...
Poetry on the road
You might not expect to find a performance poet on a mobile library, but If Walsall’s experience is anything to go by, you’ll enjoy it if you do. Poet Jonny Fluffypunk travelled on the mobile for the morning of National Poetry Day, reciting poems and encouraging people to add lines to a poem about their area. He finished up at King Charles Primary school, where he got the kids all fired up about writing poems themselves. They wrote their own poem, and Jonny left them wanting more...
Here are the poems:
You are a dream yet to be realised
Here in the heart of Humpshire
Men bent double in unforgiving coal-pits
Chock full of Yam-yams ,
With the voice of Slade and Sigue Sigue Sputnik
& the taste of pork scratchings
& the best fish and chips in the Midlands
& the smell of leather and working horses
& the clank of chains forged at Wheways
That hold back dogs and held back ships
& the grind of keys & locks
Where once you hid a king, Walsall
Now stands a humble cairn
A meeting place for lovers
& a notorious dog poo toilet...
- A pub in Walsall is known locally as the 'Humpshire Arms' because of the men who drank there with permanent deformities due to working in the local mines.
- Walsall people are known as 'Yam-yams' because of the way they pronounce the words 'I am'
- Slade's singer Noddy Holder and Sigue Sigue Sputnik's singer Martin Degville are both local boys and still visit relatives regularly.
- Walsall is home to a noted pork scratchings factory, apparently.
- Walsall's main trade used to be saddlery- the saddles and leatherwork for the Queen's horses are still made there.
- Wheways, based in Walsall, is one of Britain's premier chain manufacturere, making everything from dog leads to the ship's anchor chains, including those for the Titanic.
- Yale, the lock manufacturers, were based in Willenhall, a suburb of Walsall.
- King Charles II hid from parlimentary soldiers at Walsall in 1651.
Walsall Children's Poem
You are Walsall, not very colossal
Your litter destroys my town
You are my Saturday shopping and my living soul
You are the path to my family
You are my crazy house
You are my dinner
My super Sunday dinner
Walsall, you are my love
Today and tomorrow
Poets at Streetly
The Streetly group often has visiting poets who come to perform. Matt Harvey (from Radio 4) went down a storm, and Olympic poet Ita Gooden (from Birmingham) was a performer for Jamaica’s 50th (Black History Month) last year. Jackie Kay came to give a reading too - both her poems and chat were very entertaining
We also had the delightful Fred D’Aguiar at Walsall Central Library.