Enjoying poetry can come in many forms. Sometimes it may be in a good book, on other occasions it may be listening to others at a poetry event, or performing oneself, to the converted. But it can also be about a challenge. Several weeks ago at Polesworth Poets I was chatting to Rach Goth who told me about plans for the above event, but confided that she was short of professional help. By chance I had spoken to Slam Colossus Mark Niel a few days previously who had told me that he was looking for festival work – I was happy to play matchmaker, and was delighted to learn that he was available and had accepted a role.
The combination of Mark’s formidable presentational skills, Mal Dewhirst’s organisational talents and local knowledge augured well for the day, and so it proved. Mal conceived the excellent idea of creating a collaborative poem using words supplied to him from as far afield as possible. This type of initiative appeals to me . So I went about contacting some established friends in South Africa, Ohio and France, and made some speculative approaches to people in New Zealand and Alaska. The response was heart-warming, making a modest contribution to the impressive result:
In a single Moment
Collaborative poem from the world to Nuneaton Summer Poetry Day.
The ambidextrous clap themselves
for single handedly building steam powered computers,
whilst the Levellers emphasise the popular need for purple
and black in these gothic times.
Free spirits shift their shapes into places and make homes,
saying “welcome we are Kami”.
The splendiferous can not decide on their monikers
and so make up words, bemuddled.
Tourists marvel at the Roman, Medieval and modern
as they sit together upon the seven hills.
South Africans, greet us with “Dumula”
and put fresh ribs on the Braai saying “come and eat”.
Whilst in Ottawa there is a conundrum,
should the girl from Cork, go to lectures
or the market to eat beaver tails with hazelnut and chocolate.
The seeds of ice, rooted to the bedrock,
take away the tundra weeds on Alaskan winds,
as the Washington set, hunt for conch and cinder among the dunes
and declare the blabby days as times for family picnics,
as they ascend the Eastsound dock.
The English pagans wash their floors with lant liquids
to cleanse the mind,body and Kami,
Californian crows caw-caw as their sharp scalpel wings
drive through the flesh air at sunset,
where on its rise in the North island,
little Scotland, the tartan gumboots
stir the slow curmudgeonly ceilidh
until reaching the efflorescence of the reel,
melliflous to some, but to others a prelude to serendipity,
mere foibles of the passage,
in Burton, the breweries pour another pint,
malcontent with lesser brews,
in Droitwich, a poet polishes brass buttons
with all the gusto of a circus troupe
whilst in Birmingham, once city of thousand trades,
inchoate poets are making poetry that bites,
as Langland’s sleepy mountains dream
in the blue of lapis lazuli,
and in Nuneaton, Warwickshire,
the poets slam their own sixty seconds
and then head to the Crown to drink in these words.
Mal Dewhirst in collaboration with the poets on the Word list.
(c) 2011 All Rights Reserved.
The day itself was a combination of readings in Waterstones, an evening open mic in a pub, a poet-tree , open air readings and the world’s first 60 second open air slam. I was under no illusions as to what was required, a poem which would grab the attention of the audience from the first phrase, and retain it thereafter. At 11am I scoured the Wikipedia entry for Nuneaton , and by 11.15 it was job done. On the stump, the forensic detective skills of Mark Niel subsequently outed my source material and exposed the absurdity of Jordan’s amorous designs on me but fortunately this did not count against me as I fortuitously won the Slam title against competition modest in number, but determined in intent.
A warm summers day in George Eliot country was the perfect backdrop to a successful event made so by the sheer will, determination and enthusiasm of all involved. And that is something that I am proud , and passionate, about. Taking words and poetry out and about, from quiet corners into the hurly burly of everyday life and making it live.
Nuneaton Poetry Day at the Fountain
Nuneaton I salute you on a lovely summer day!
Would I rather be anywhere else ? No chance, no way!
Is there anywhere else for which I could reasonably hanker
Than on the banks of the beautiful River Anker
Your name came when the nuns stopped at Eaton for a rest
And decided that for this fair town chastity was best
Nowhere else would think of piling a hill so very high with mud
And then deciding to call it simply Mount Judd
For leisure you sought the finest retail inventor
Who proceeded to deliver you the famous Rope Walk Shopping centre
The names of the illustrious who have lived here resound for evermore
Like the wonderful Larry Grayson, and his pleas to “shut that door”
He entertained us regally, till we had reached our fill
How strangely inappropriate that he should have come from Camp Hill
It was George Elliot’s Milby too, of writing fame and splendour
Who by ambiguous use of first names became the very first gender bender
You are twinned with Guadalajara in Spain, and Cottbus in Germany
But there is only one place that Nuneaton should be twinned with- and that is Hungary.