Last Thursday, I gave another poetry reading at Walthew House in Stockport – my third. They have asked me back for a fourth visit. One chap (he’s a chap because he’s from the older generation; if he was my age, he’d be a man; Spud’s age, he’d be a lad. Isn’t language funny?) told me that they had talked about me long after I left last time; then hastened to assure me he meant, ‘in a good way.’ Hmm.
It wasn’t me so much, but the poetry. They are a wonderful, lively group called Talking Heads, and that’s what they do: talk. A lot. The poems I read caused much debate. The group leader had asked for poems on the theme of ‘spring’ so I had prepared about forty poems (I was due to read for an hour), including some of my own. The topics of mine varied from cleaning to seduction to dog poo, but all mentioned spring.
They enjoyed one poem so much – six lines on World War One military equipment – they asked for the name of the poet…which was me. I was delighted to send two people home with copies of the poem – the first time that’s ever happened.
The chap who asked, Vincent, told us it reminded him of a poem he had written when his son was serving in Iraq during the Second Gulf War. He wondered if he could read it to us, but the memory of his emotion at the time – the absolute fear from having a child in a war zone – choked him up so much, it was fifteen minutes before he composed himself enough to read it. It was worth the wait: lovely; touching and heartfelt.
After some talk of Thomas Hardy (none of whose poems I had read, but that will show you the meandering nature of the discussions), Vincent mentioned that his son’s best friend had sent him a collection of Hardy’s poems, underlining The Darkling Thrush in the Contents as his favourite poem. A couple of days after receiving the book Vincent, unable to stay in the house and listen to war news on the radio, had taken an evening walk and came across a lone thrush, singing a solo symphony in the evening air. Vincent was entranced.
Returning home, there was a phone call around 11:30 that night. Shaking, he answered. It was his son: Dad, I’m home! He didn’t have time to talk because there were several people he had to call with the news, but his Dad had been first on the list.
Next evening, Vincent took another walk and came across the same thrush, singing in celebration, it seemed. Vincent said he yelled at it: You knew he was safe last night, didn’t you? You could have told me! Neither Vincent nor the thrush took any notice of the people staring at the barmy man yelling at a bird in the tree.
What a wonderful story, provoked by a poem. And that’s why I love poetry.