What a weekend I’ve just had!
Stockport Writers Do It In Church
On Saturday, it was my church’s Fun Day. We invite local community groups to come and share their info with the local community. It’s free and always popular. I represented Stockport Writers.
You may recall that last year I offered free poetry workshops and not one person came. This year, I offered to write poems for people. I asked for their name, age and five random facts, and then wrote something in the style of the birthday poems I have written for you, my readers.
For the first takers I said, Come back in ten minutes. More people signed up; I told them to come back at the end of the day to collect their poem. Eventually it was, I’ll email it to you tomorrow. And finally, You’ll have it by the end of next week, I promise.
Photo © Pam Robinson
Forty people wanted poems about themselves! I’m still busy typing them up and emailing them out.
At the same time as writing the poems, I invited people – at my friend Pam’s suggestion – to write a community poem: the theme for the day was joy, so I asked people to name three things that brought them happiness; and why. Roughly forty people (not the same forty people) completed that form, resulting in a poem three pages long, in fifteen five-line stanzas. I’ll post it at the bottom, in case you’re interested.
I cut out the answers and sorted them into themes and voilà! One community poem! It was a fun activity and easy enough to coordinate; you should try it.
Photo © Pam Robinson
Sunday, I chaired the monthly meeting of Stockport Writers at the Hatworks.
Spud & Mum Do World War One
On Monday night, Spud and I read poems for an hour, to an audience of nineteen. Not a bad turn out for a Monday night poetry reading. It was a commemorative event for the start of the war. I had intended to read poems written only in 1914, but there aren’t that many; I suppose because the war was only a couple of months old in that year.
I chose poems written about the period, and ordered them roughly chronologically in terms of event. I began with an Andrew Motion poem about Archduke Ferdinand between assassination attempts; moved on to jingoistic poems and songs intended to encourage enlistment; followed by first time events e.g. going over the top; and concluded with poems about the effects of the war. I used War Poets, modern poets, and female poets. Spud complained that to listen to poetry for too long was tedious, so I introduced each poem with pertinent information, which also helped the chronological flow. It seemed to go down well.
Spud and I read for thirty minutes and then there was a break for tea – very English. In the second half, we read three of my own poems, to prove to the audience I am a poet (I hope); and then he read poems by Wilfred Owen and I read poems by Siegfried Sassoon, taking turns. We finished with Spud reading two in succession: Anthem For Doomed Youth (my favourite) and Dulce Et Decorum Est (Spud’s favourite). I wanted to close with the war still ongoing, as it was, 100 years ago to the date we read.
Spud was good. When he shouts, Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! it sends shivers down your spine. When his voice breaks on we were young at the end of Houseman’s Here Dead We Lie, you get a lump in your throat. His plaintive Why don’t they come? at the end of Owen’s Disabled is pathetic in the best sense of the word. To paraphrase I’ll Make A Man Of You, it makes me oh so proud to be a mother.
Almost a quarter of the audience was made up of Spud’s friends, and I was under strict instructions not to say anything embarrassing. That’s usually a forlorn hope – at the award ceremony when he won the Drama prize, I managed to confuse his First Year tutor with a rugby player we know, asked about his wife (he’s not married), and compounded the problem by explaining my confusion was because he had ‘a rugby face’ i.e. broken nose.
This time, however, I was good; though he did tell me off for roping two of the girls into Stockport Writers and suggesting they friend me on Facebook.
I think Spud’s poetry performance was helped by appearing in The Tree of War. You may recall that he was amazing in that. Not that I’m biased or anything, but his a cappella singing of Pack Up Your Troubles was a moment when, according to X Factor thinking, he made the song his own. Not bad for a song that’s a century old. He played drunk pretty good, too; and I fervently hope that’s not based on experience. But it was the moment he was huddled at the bottom of the trench, terrified, crying, that made me realise he had something special.
Thinking about his character Bert, he imagined what it would be like at eighteen – his age now – to go blithely off to war; and then to learn of its horrors and sacrifices. Some of that informed his poetry reading. For someone who dislikes poetry, he did an incredible job; although not according to one critic, who told him, ‘You murdered that Ivor Gurney poem, didn’t you?’
Those who can’t, critique those who can, is my motherly response.
Spud and I dressed in vaguely period costume to enhance the mood; and I wondered how women managed on summer evenings in long skirts and hats. The church was warm and I felt a hot flush come on. I thought I was going to faint at one point, particularly when the poetry folder on the music stand in front of me began to recede. Then I realised that it wasn’t the menopause so much as a not-screwed-tightly-enough bolt: I was merely glowing but the stand was slowly lowering. I had to bite my lip to stop myself giggling during Spud’s moving rendition of A Dead Boche.
Honestly, I don’t know why he finds me embarrassing.
St Matthew’s Community Poem:
Happiness is a Serious Business
The smile of a child when they find something funny.
Seeing other people smile.
Seeing people smile when I’ve baked them a cake.
Cuddles and tickling.
A good laugh with anybody.
Miles of sandy beaches. The smell of the sea.
Looking out over Kent Estuary and Lakes –
mountains meeting the sea. Going on holiday.
Sunshine, because you can go out with friends.
A sunny day. Sunshine.
Being in the garden.
Growing my own veg in the garden
(shared with many, many slugs).
Being outdoors in the fresh air.
Getting caught in the rain. The seasons.
Bus rides on the top deck of a double-decker.
Going to Cornwall to see Nana.
Spending time with Grace (granddaughter).
Running around after my daughter.
Happy daughters playing together. Daughter.
To see my Sarah smiling and full
of energy all the time –
my greatest gift from the Almighty!
My greatest blessing!
Sons – utter happiness, contentment.
My sisters and my brother make me feel
really warm inside. Children.
My beautiful children. Kids. Family –
people I am close to. Spending time with my family
makes me feel happy because I feel loved.
Auntie Alison! Mummy. Memories about the bond
I shared with my Dad – love for my family.
Seeing my Mum and Dad happy makes me feel
very happy. My two parents make me feel calm
and loving. My family. Smartie the cat; she plays with me.
My two teddies are my only best buddies
and they make me feel less alone inside me.
Sweets, sleepovers and playing with friends.
Seeing my friends. Having good friends.
Big network of lovely friends.
Facebook – you can keep in contact with people
you normally couldn’t. Christmas, when we see everyone.
Church. Reading in church makes me feel I utilise a gift,
a talent God has given me – makes me fruitful.
Having time with my church family.
Jesus – joy, peace, fulfilment.
Four hundred voices singing a song
they really love, in collective worship.
Singing – the joy of it. Singing.
Singing: it puts nice pictures in my head.
Music. Music cheers you up.
Finishing a fantastic book.
Walking the dog. Knitting. Walking –
I like to ‘breathe’ in the hills.
Riding my bike in the sunshine.
Driving – I’m in charge. Painting – I’m good at it.
A day in my sewing room.
Baking cookies…and eating them.
Eating real food (especially love green smoothies!
With avocado, coriander, spinach and berries).
Chinese Buffet in Stockport – I always go for comfort food.
Cricket: it’s fun. Alex Park.
Clouds of pink blossom on cherry trees in Edgeley Park.
Rainbows. Rainbows make me happy:
I love the colours.
New York. The Statue of Liberty.
Minecraft. Chocolate. Football.
Friends. Friends. Friends.
When all around me are settled and content.
Kindness to others.
Sharing. Random acts of kindness.