Swindon is a very poetic place. Unless you live thereabouts you might not be aware of this. But it always has been and it still is for Blue Gate Poets has its current home in the Richard Jefferies’ Museum beside Coate Water, on the outskirts.
… and outside the blue gate
In case you don’t know about him, Richard Jefferies was a prolific writer and is probably known best for his nature writing but he also wrote vivid portraits of people and was also a social commentator of the times. I’ll write in more detail about him another time because he deserves all the attention he can get. His museum at Coate is a treasure trove not guarded by dragons but byBlue Gate Poets (among an RJ Society as well) who run regular workshops with Carrie Etter and Hilda Sheehan (more about her fantabulous writing next time, hold your breath!)
Blue Gate also hold their monthly poetry evenings there too. Last week I was thrilled, very privileged and was indeed extremely fortunate to be a guest poet along with Maurice Spillane …. who is the new Featured Writer. If you ever get a chance to hear Maurice read you need to go, as his poetry is heartfelt and beautiful (the sort of poetry you wish you had written) and he is also a brilliant raconteur leading up to each poem. We laughed a lot and then could’ve wept.
Here is a flavour for you:
It’s too late to get up early,
So I’ll lie awhile,
Foetal in this English bed,
And assume the position
Of my daughter’s child
Tucked in an Irish womb.
I can’t quite get used to grandfather
Or, God forbid, show preference to its sex –
There’s that awkward word again.
And why should it be awkward
This begetter of a life?
My child is carrying a child.
I lie back on my hands and compute the years.
This child could see the next century,
Might even read these words at the century’s turning,
Might even chuckle with grandchildren
About the black-sheep grandfather,
Might even fondly recall the dead.
It doesn’t seem so bad that this coming
Will be an advent of our going.
This is also my milestone
My joy beneath this Egyptian cotton sheet
That I have a child who’ll have a child,
A continuance beyond our brief.
Among the open-micers (who had braved fog as thick as a wall) were many fantastic poets and we heard Michael Scott read a Ted Hughes’ Crow poem to kick the evening off, then poems from the gathered poets about Wayland Smithy, grandchildren, reading Shakespeare, ancient and modern war and History told by Thames’ rats among others. My friend Wendy Klein intrepidly drove through the fog to read and because Maurice also read a poem about Cuba she chose to read her Cuba poems too and there was a wonderful syncopation to the evening.
Here is one of Wendy’s poems from her first collection, Cuba in the Blood, Cinnamon Press
She’s an old whore, ripe with experience
dragging her soiled petticoats,
through the moist dark.
The leather seats of her taxis are cracked
by old trysts, the fenders dented
by bodies from another time.
She side-steps around young girls
in stilettos, out late looking for work
finding it, their tawny legs
the thighs of men who were
weary just minutes ago,
but no longer, as their flies are
fingered, their grizzled pates stroked by
warm hands, their backs pressed tight
against rusty wrought-iron gates,
leaving a filigree imprint that
will remind them tomorrow
of rumba in Havana.
The red light of her cigarillo moves,
and with each inhalation,
flashes a tight Morse code: the sting
of the smoke, the flare of her nostrils,
more sensed than seen. She’s a lady dragon
and she’ll take them inside her hot tunnel mouth,
sear their flesh with her cinnamon tongue,
musky and wise with nicotine;
brown with the last smoke of evening,
before lying down, and the first smoke of morning,
before lying down again.
Smoke, she hums, gets in your eyes, and
sly as the rising breeze brushing bare flesh,
the palm leaves will croon the chorus.
In October, Blue Gate Poets are running their incredibly inspiring annual Poetry Festival. The line-up sounds irresistible including Don Share and Cliff Yates. Honestly, everyone wants to be seen at Swindon! You won’t want to miss it. (And even if you aren’t a poet at all you will still love it. You might well feel poetry creeping up from your toes.)