Recent poetry events
Not to be deterred by lockdown, Wordsley Library reading group has continued to meet online. Recently they had a visit from Emma Purshouse, and they enjoyed the poetry so much that they asked for another poet. Stece Pottinger joined them on Zoom, and you can see the resulting Christmas poem below:
Wordsley Library Group’s recipe for the perfect Xmas
Take one large helping of family,
one too large helping of family.
Dilute with one, two, three glasses of gin
and repeat as necessary.
Mix together with long walk
on a crisp, sunny day,
sprinkle with carols,
soak in Bucks Fizz
and leave to settle.
Add large slice of peace and quiet
then marinade with board games
and too much food.
Stuff with mince pies
and further infusion of gin, to taste.
Walking and writing
What can you see on a walk round Brierley Hill? On 14th September, Emma Purshouse led a grooup on a walking writing workshop - and this is what they came up with:
Walking the Streets on Heritage Day
So what did we see?
Empty shops, waste ground.
Here’s the glint of copper hand bells
being rung in St Michael’s church,
the weird and wonderful
Here are stories told in sculptures
and stained glass windows.
Here’s a waddling dog in a red neckerchief,
The Plough rusted with trees,
standing stones on a traffic island,
and painted ladies in the buddleia,
Here in Brierley Hill
are all the wonders of this world.
Group poem created as part of the ‘Poetry On Loan’ Walking/Writing Workshop led by poet Emma Purshouse. Lines were contributed by Betty, Lesley, Deborah, James, Jane and Wendy.
14th September 2019
And here's a piece written by Deborah Cox, after the walk:
History past meeting the future to come. Brierley Hill is calling you.
Old dwellings rubbing shoulders with the new, history is everywhere.
Its stories told in sculptures, statues and stained glass windows.
History is all around.
History is seen in nature. Old trees
guarding churchyard secrets and tales of struggle, hardship and hope.
Nature rewriting history, transforming abandoned, unwanted and unloved buildings.
New stories unfolding every day.
History is all around.
People all around, old and young moving through time.
In busy markets and shops along the road, they tread their daily paths.
Buses transporting us into the future, the 15 and 6,
taking us along well travelled routes.
History is all around, waiting to be discovered and told.
‘Speak to us’, it says ‘for I am here’! Here now, then
and in the future to come, all written in the tales of the decades.
Let your eyes and ears take it all in, let your thoughts drift through time.
Past, present and future – history is all around.
The bucket list
On 18th May, Dudley Libraries invited poet Emma Purshouse back, this time to run a poetry workshop to tie in with Dying Matters Awareness Week (13th-19th May), with the aim of getting people to talk more openly about death and dying.
Seventeen people came along to Stourbridge library for the workshop, and this is the poem they came up with, with Emma's help:
Before I die – a wish list
I’ll go back to China
renovate my Morris Minor
take a cruise on an ocean liner
I’ll clear out the loft
stop being so bloody soft
find all the things I’ve ever lost
I’ll get married on the Gower
mend my broken shower
discover my hidden super power
I’ll make people happy
or become less snappy
hold a frog
find true love
walk Offa’s Dyke
ride a bike
be honest and not care
Or I might...
climb Ben Nevis
(and not fall down a crevice)
visit Maine, meet Stephen King
join a choir and learn to sing
go on safari
wear a sari
find the rugby player who broke my nose
dance a passionate tango with a rose
between my teeth
I can do it all
before my final curtain call
if I make the time before I die
Poetry for Carers' Week
In June 2018, local poet Emma Purshouse worked with a group of carers in Dudley Library. This is what Cara Evans, a librarian in Dudley, said about it all:
The session was really successful! Some participants had experience of writing previously but others had never written, yet Emma Purshouse got everyone working together in a really supportive and collaborative way to write a poem that examined how it feels to be a carer. Everyone said how proud they were of the finished poem, which will be displayed at the Carers Hub in Dudley. Participants said that the session enabled them to express some feelings that they had not been able to and that they had found it therapeutic. The session was brilliantly rounded off with poetry from Emma that had everyone laughing, an excellent session with great feedback received.
And here's the poem written by the carers, with Emma's help:
I am a carer
I try to have a heart
to show sympathy to my loved ones
to stop things falling apart
I am a carer
some days I’m overwhelmed, emotional
some days I’m frustrated, isolated
some days I’ve no time alone
some days I’m in a negative zone
I am a carer.
I’m trying to be dedicated
I’m trying to be selfless
I’m trying to be ‘person centred’
I’m trying to find the right:-
I’m trying to be perfect.
So why am I a carer? Why?
to see a sudden smile
to see a glimmer of recognition
to see a rare spark show
to keep the hope
to keep the love alive
Life is all about these moments
And that’s why I
am a carer
Group poem created by Debbie, Lydia, Joanne, Jo, Ann, and Cara. The workshop session was funded by Poetry On Loan and led by performance poet Emma Purshouse in Dudley Library on 12th June 2018.
One of the PoL recommended books this year is The Nailmakers' Daughters, by Emma Purshouse, Marion Cockin and Iris Rhodes. All three of the "Daughters" were at Kingswinford Library on 6th October, with an audience of about 30 people. Anne Wood, Dudley librarian, says, "The evening was well received by the audience. It was an excellent performance and with the poets being from the Black Country it gave greater resonance relating to events and local culture."
Poetry for the DYEye
On 12th March, Dudley's wonderful new tourist attraction was opened - a big wheel, a bit like the London Eye. The Mayor and lots of other people were around to see the grand opening. One of the first riders on thw wheel was Poetry on Loan's Fergus McGonigal, who was there to talk to people and write a poem on behalf of Dudley and its residents for the big event.
Librarian Luke Fowler said, "Fergus was a great addition to the launch event for the town’s observation wheel. He was very confident and personable – within minutes he was engaging the wheel goers and having his photograph taken with the Mayor and his wife, all of which went on social media! He was very active in talking to organisers and attendees and has made a great poem for us to use in wider promotion of the wheel."
And here's the poem:
The Dudley Eye
Come see the Ferris wheel in Stone Street Square,
A hundred feet and more up in the air!
A showpiece for this market town,
To take you up and round and round.
Providing views of simply everywhere.
Come see the Ferris wheel in Stone Street Square!
Then ride this whirling wheel, this DY Eye,
Whose machinations elevate on high,
To see such things as we admire,
Look there: Top Church’s iron spire!
You’ll catch the whole of Dudley moving by,
When riding on this giant DY Eye.
You’ll notice, from the comfort of your seat:
The pattern of each medieval street,
The Library, a Georgian square,
Freemason’s Arms, the Town Hall there!
This Dudley Eye’s a memorable treat,
Where history and modernism meet.
Black Country dreams of revolutions past,
But this wheel’s revolutions don’t move fast,
Her pace of quiet dynamo,
Will let you turn three times each go,
So get here soon – a month is all she’ll last:
The DY Eye, a Dudley bostin’ blast!
Poetry at the Crystal Gateway
Mandy Ross recently worked with some people at the Crystal Gateway, as part of an intergenerational event also involving pupils from a local school. Mandy read some remembered poems to the group, and they all contributed to a poem, and even made some visual aids (see photo). Below are: first, the poem written at Crystal Gateway, and second, one of the poems written by Emma Jukes, a pupil, in response.
I remember, I remember, the house where I was born…
Glimpses, glances of childhood homes.
A nice big garden with chickens and hens,
and vegetables. My job was to pull the green weeds up.
I was born near Buckingham Palace. My father was in the Grenadiers.
It was a small house. People waved you on your way to school.
And a garden with a round seat.
We remember, we remember, Santa with a big red bag,
A red stocking. What’s in it?
A green leaf… dry and smooth. Does it smell? No.
Attached to…a clementine. Yes, a clementine at Christmas.
First fruits from far away, so expensive, a rare treat.
The American soldiers had so much,
you’d see half-eaten fruits chucked under the hedge!
Snippets, scraps and fragments.
Mmmm, that lavender smells lovely.
And a shiny silver coin. What is it? 5p? Looks like a sixpence.
And chocolate in your stocking.
Trevor remembers, he remembers a jamjar of water,
and a green pea floating on the water,
till it sprouted roots and leaves.
I’d look at it every day.
We remember, we remember,
marbles, marlies we called them, green and red, and a glass eye.
The big ones were bulls’ eyes, kingies, bullies, dobbers.
Shiny, sparkly. The skill it took to make them!
We’d play in the garden, up the path, by the chicken pen,
dots and traces.
They make a lovely sound, like water over pebbles on the beach.
We remember, we remember, rhymes and rhythms,
an owl and a pussycat, and a beautiful pea-green boat.
Folding paper? Yes, I’ll make one,
Look, it’s a hat. A boat? A galleon or quinquireme?
Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke-stack?
Or a little paper pea-green boat,
and down at the beach there was a man with puppets,
he’d make them dance and sing.
I must go down to the sea again.
The glorious smells of the meadow,
As I roll down the steep hill,
The risk of being caught was exhilarating
Nothing was stopping us.
My friends and I enjoying the break,
From the cruel teachers at school.
Horse riding through the fields,
Jumping fences and pacing the garden.
We were all good but I was the best!
Feeding the horses and
Milking the cows,
The chores didn’t seem so bad
When we were all together.
The now distant sound of birds
As I sit in the home,
Drinking my tea and biscuits.
Grasping the memories
Of the good old days.
Poetry from Coseley Library
A dementia group worked with Jean Atkin in Coseley Library in September. The group were looking at a picture of a piano in some woods, and this is their reaction:
Nothing Lovelier Than Woods
You’d put a piano in the woods because it would sound lovely.
There’s nothing lovelier than woods, especially in spring.
And in winter lovely too. In the snow.
There are such different sounds.
It’s another world.
In spring the birds, and in winter the trees are new shapes without
their leaves on. Then daffodils, then bluebells in May.
I always went into Henley Woods, love,
it was quite a little walk from our house
but we collected conkers.
We put a string in them. I liked to play conkers! We’d soak them
in vinegar to make them harder. Conkers reminds me
of scrumping for apples. Oh very naughty,
hiding them up your jumper!
Crab apples were so sour!
Doreen, Florrie, Ella, Brenda, Iris, Marge; Karen, Annette, Brian (carers)
Poetry for Black History month
Roy McFarlane, Ita Gooden and Marcia Calame were all at Dudley library on 15th October, with a collection of poems designed to celebrate Black History month. The dark and rainy weather may have put some people off attending, but those who made it were given a real treat. As they said:
I enjoyed it very much and will be informing people of how good it is.
Excellent, excellent, cultural, professional, warm atmosphere, friendly performers + attendees
Immensely enjoyable, thoroughly worthwhile
Chance to hear poetry spoken, related to my cultural heritage & voice, humour, physical delivery of the poetry
A lot of fun, love poetry.
Love live poetry and storytelling.
It brought back so many “home” memories. Very enjoyable.
Humorous. Full of fun.
Liz Berry at Lye and Gornal libraries
Liz Berry has been a real poetry success story in 2014. Not only did her collection Black Country win the prestigious Forward Prize for best first collection, it was also chosen as a Poetry Book of the Year in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Big Issue and The Morning Star! This came as no surprise to Poetry on Loan audiences in Dudley. In October, as part of the National poetry Day celebrations, Liz read some of her poems at Lye and Gornal libraries, and took part in lively discussions with the audiences. As a librarian said:
"Liz Berry did a combination of poetry readings followed by an informal discussion with the audience on poetry, the Black Country , dialect, reminiscing & more. Liz performed her poems beautifully and had a fantastic rapport with the audience – she has a very natural way of engaging with the audience and this is reflected in the feedback. Both events were successful in terms of celebrating National Poetry day and the clear delight of an audience hearing live poetry."
And here is some of that feedback:
Love poetry and mixed with such a great subject I knew it would be good. To have such an amazing poet is a real treat
Beautiful poems, beautifully delivered
Always special to hear a poet read their own work and place it in context
Not only was the poetry excellent but the discussion was interesting and humorous
It was wonderful to hear a poet read her poetry with such joy. Wonderful
More pop-up poetry
As part of Dudley Libraries' WW1 events, Jonny Fluffypunk visited Dudley Library on 2nd August, dressed in a World War 1 uniform. He spoke to people about their experiences and understanding of war; of course, most memories were of World War 2, Jonny produced a stunning series of poems based on what he was told. One is on the front page of the website, and all of them are here:
We weren't allowed in the Red Sea.
Too dangerous, they said, Sharks
But we had a cinema, so we'd go to that.
Open air, it was. Four walls, no roof,
little round windows to let in a breeze
& that evening there was all us kids,
four teachers, too. It was Bambi.
I'd forgotten my drink, see? So I legged it home,
just a hundred yards. That's when it hit.
I remember running back; I remember the
thick black smoke pouring out the windows,
flooding out over the walls. I remember the sergeant
running towards me with his face like a ghost
You're the sergeant-majors boy, ain't ya?
Just go back home son. Just GO HOME.
& behind him I remember
all that thick black smoke
& the Red Sea glittering,
calm in the evening sun.
Cemetery Visit, Western Front #1
Row upon row of white stones,
each standing sentry over their man.
One grave has five stones huddled together
A machine gun crew.
Five men that worked as one-
lugging, feeding, cooling, firing
Working close. So close
that when the shell hits
there's only enough left
to fill one grave.
with five huddled stones.
Five men working close
even in death.
Cemetery Visit, Western Front #2
One of the kids pointed at four stones
in a corner of the cemetery.
Four blank stones.
No names. No ranks.
He asked his teacher who they were.
Those are the ones who got shot at dawn. We don't like to talk about them.
Why are the stones blank, sir?
We don't like them to talk, either.
Cemetery Visit, Western Front #3
I remember one kid;
he just couldn't get his head round the number.
30,000 dead in one day.
Man U fan, he was. So I said, think of Old Trafford.
That holds 60,000. So think of that.
Then think of half of that, gone.
Half of Old Trafford on a Saturday
silenced under cold white stones.
No cheering. No chanting. No whistles. No shouts.
Just 30,000 cold white stones like so many teeth
grinning helpless at the damp, indifferent sky.
In Dudley Library
There's a line from a Bulgarian poet, she says
'A dead enemy is no enemy'
Not that anyone thinks enemies any more,
but, as she says, Bulgaria was on the other side
so yes, it does feel slightly strange,
doing this all so far from home-
Making the Thought Wall,
stitching the banners
that hang from the gallery;
stumbling back from battle
& she's thinking of great-grandfather
succumbing to typhoid
in some distant Turkish trench
as she folds another Sainsbury's bag
into a home-made poppy,
smooths it in with all the others.
Great-Uncle (for Anita)
He was such a kind man; we loved to visit.
Him always sat in the same chair,
except the once his wife, so patient,
struggled him outside for a photograph
& I'm sure he'd want to ask us stuff; how we're
doing at school, about mum and dad, the usual things
but every time he tried to talk, you see
the hacking cough of gas-ripped lungs stopped
each conversation dead.
Sixty years since those hellfire trenches
yet out in Wales, where they'd moved him
for the air, the war still quietly rattled on;
the cough as relentless as shellfire,
his wife the eternal sentry.
These Days Kids Can Barely Get Themselves Out Of Bed
You know, we only found out when we took him to get his pension.
-Come back in two years, mate
See, he'd lived it so long he'd even fooled himself
But that was what it was like;
He'd wanted to go,
He'd wanted to serve
So he'd lied
& they didn't ask questions.
They just signed him up
& off he went
& he was only sixteen.
& he saw all that stuff
All that terrible stuff
He was only sixteen
& he'd never even kissed a girl...
As part of the National Library Day celebrations, Emma Purshouse spent the morning at Stourbridge Library inviting passing library users to contribute to ideas for a poem about Stourbridge. Ideas came in the form of what Stourbridge is and what Stourbridge was to individuals. Some people enjoyed reminiscing about Stourbridge and talking about some of the old shops, cinemas etc.. no longer around - we had lots of interesting and varied contributions. Besides writing poems for 9 individuals, Emma added lines of poetry throughout the morning to one big poem - and here it is:
Webb Corbett, Ruskin,
the Red House Cone,
canals like Venice.
the library were we get our books,
a trip to Tescos and the shops,
meeting friends in French Connection.
whiskey tasting in damp cellars,
marble tables in Pizza Express,
old architecture and Mary Stevens park.
going to school at Peters Hill,
a swim, soft play, gymnastics, trampolining
at the Crystal Leisure Centre. Boing!
fishing the arm and feeding ducks,
cycle routes, the Bonded Warehouse,
glorious countryside not too far away
Peppa Pig and tiger stories,
Bananas in Pyjamas live on stage,
a Bon Jovi tribute at The River Rooms
a working life in shoe shops,
Blunts, Hiltons, Englands,
a manager’s job at the Town Hall.
memories of the cinema on Saturday night,
the Danilo, Odeon, Savoy,
sneaking in to see John Wayne.
a market stall in Crown Centre,
remembering Field Terrace, Mamble Road,
a village town.
family (nine of us still here),
where I met my husband,
where our kids grew up.
A touch of glass….a great place to be.
Poetry workshops and performance
On November 20th,the first of two poetry workshops was held in Dudley's shiny new archives building. Everyone who attended wrote two poems about Dudley as it is now - a few of them are included below. The secondworkshop, on 4th December, focused on Dudley's past, and included a short session to prepare the poets for reading their pieces at an event on 15th January to celebrate the opening of the new building. "I was really impressed with the poetry!" said Brenda Read-Brown, who led the workshops.
A rather small audience was there for the performances, but those who didn't come missed a real treat, with excellent poetry from Roger, Su, Sue, and Cherry. Here are two of Cherry's poems:
My name is Dudley
My name is Dudley.
I’m in an upturned bucket.
Rainwater, mud and autumn leaves reside.
I am in the grounds of the ancient castle.
We are so old ,
our bones creak,
like percussion instruments in an orchestra.
The damp sticks to us like glue,
festering our troubles
and unravelling winding paths from the knots of life.
From my bucket I can see the spires of top church.
I can feel sighs and tears of the past millennium.
I can see the black crows as they perch on the roof of the old Hippodrome,
as it silently rots in its own footings.
I can hear the monkeys screech in the zoo;
I can see the seals and penguins splash in freezing waters.
I have a string of shops lining what’s left of my centre,
and a cluster of market stalls,
with jubilant multicultural owners shouting ‘BUY ME ‘.
A library with thousands of books
and museums that ache with the weight of artefacts.
We unravel like cleverly constructed tapestry
or richly woven cloth of multicolour.
I am Dudley.
I sit in an upturned bucket with riches wrapped in rubbish,
and litter scattered like jewels.
We live and breathe as one.
We are Dudley .
The decaying factory sat at the foot of a hill,
like someone had dumped it there in a fit of momentary madness.
Its smoke-dusted encrusted windows peeped between the dying bindweed,
like sleepy sty-ridden eyes.
Who was the man smoking the walnut pipe,
wearing an old grey overcoat still dripping from yesterday’s rainstorm?
He’s sitting on what’s left of a bench, under an oak tree.
It has a brass plate bearing someone’s name,
but the name has faded and the name is forgotten like yesterday’s news.
The silence, from the desolate factory, hollered in the early morning light,
like a friend you know you’ve seen but can’t place.
We know it’s autumn, because old gold leaves still hang on threads of cobwebs
dancing in the wind, on the old oak tree,
and raindrops glisten on the man’s auburn hair;
but with all this going on it’s not clear what century we are in.
It could be now; it could be then .
A roar breaks the calm
of night time Dudley.
From a high point within
the Zoo, I stand; stare
at the Castle’s profile;
a silhouette; satanic, black.
Fifty five years on, in Black Country pubs,
they still speak his name. Strapping; brave; quiet;
a leader by example, successor to Billy Wright.
A future captain, number six in the white shirt;
three lions at his breast. Bold in defence; fierce in the tackle,
but fair, honest; a law abider.
A Busby babe, with a fine future, many years before him.
Destroyed by German snow, fog; a fatal decision;
pressure of the weekend’s coming game. A Manager’s attack;
a pilot’s defence; no referee to whistle.
His statue, pride of place in Dudley’s market,
a reminder. Not needed by Mrs. Edwards, or her man.
Their loss, a constant memory.
The steel factory first,
Dudley Council next,
But always work, work, work
Office environment first,
Social work next,
But always work, work, work
Until I get a rest.
Dudley the posh council first,
Following Rowley Regis,
But always they were the top
Until I moved there!
A site where man and nature come together,
Where dogs and lovers walk and stroll
And ramblers boots adorned stride through.
History shows his arches, nooks and cranies
And Mother Nature parades her trees and lawns
Beneath the scudding clouds and part-time sun.
A places where brides can hoard memories
Showing cut lawns; and pose against
Stone walls and trees resplendent with their bridal gowns.
Preserved and kept neat, ancient but not forgotten.
Kingswinford Library had a welcome visit on 9th October from Deb Alma, the emergency poet, complete with vintage ambulance. Deb prescribed poems for 22 people to help them on their way. As one of them said, Relaxed environment and Debbie was very in touch with her poetry and made fantastic recommendations.
Funny Women poets Emma Purshouse, Jane Seabourne and Win Saha delighted an enthusiastic audience of around 40 at Long Lane Library in autumn 2012.
The evening was also the culmination of a poetry competition we ran with our reading groups when we asked them to write a poem about why they enjoyed being in a reading group.
We had a wonderful response - all the poems were displayed and the winners, judged by Brenda Read-Brown, were announced at the event.