I was exhausted after two consecutive nights poet-ing and a day out on Friday itself; so my last post was brief and, perhaps (“perhaps” again?!) misleading; so today, instead of proper work, here’s an update (displacement activity): I first read in public – as part of the local circle – at Ledbury , three summers ago. (My name is, with other circle poets, in tiny print buried deep in the same Ledbury programme headlined by one of my heroes, Benjamin Zephaniah – one to treasure!) And I’ve read – locally – with the Malvern circle and with Worcs Lit Fest on quite a few occasions; the first time I read for Worcs Lit fest was before it came properly into being; a rebuttal to a piece in the Sunday press slagging off the Midlands by Daisy Waugh [original article not online]. I met a lot of lovely new friends that day – and I had the best audience reaction a poet could hope for when Spoz, (in)famous scatologist, who’d been instructed to be on best, polite, behaviour because the Mayor might be there, gave a gleeful “Woot!” at one line (the rest of us hadn’t been warned to be on best behaviour).
And that could bring us to a discussion of where and when should poets be allowed – or set out – to be offensive; and who is allowed – or sets out to – be offended. But that could be a LONG post. (And offensive?) So another time …
Meanwhile, at the fabulous Friday Lead Poets on Tour gig I was taken with something Angela France mentioned in her introduction to her poems. (I was also extremely taken with her poetry, as always – her new collection comes out next year; I have her pamphlet Lessons in Mallmaroking and love it so here’s a first plug for her new one when it arrives.)
Angela quoted Sheenagh Pugh’s comment that, “…the writers who fascinate me do not have a sense of place so much as a sense of displacement…” We move – or time, inexorably, moves us from our sense of place, sense of belonging. Looking at Sheenagh’s article, there’s also a lovely quote from E M Forster’s A Passage to India: “A perfectly adjusted organism would be silent.” Poetry is an attempt to make sense of our worlds – either physically or temporally displaced from particular feelings. “The past is a foreign country,” as L P Hartley said in The Go-Between. We’re all outsiders, temporary organisims.
Angela is Gloucestershire born and raised and her more personal poetry fiercely and beautifully evokes the landscapes, characters – and past – of that area. There are things she knows –and writes – that no newcomer could express. I suppose if I wrote about Somerset, it would be of the Somerset of my youth colliding with now; remnants still visible but much changed. The small holding where I fox- and badger-watched and learned to hand milk the two Guernsey cows is now an overgrown tangle of hedges forming vast thickets – the farmer’s wife, well into her eighties, still lives deep within, like a sleeping beauty surrounded by thorns; the field where orchids grew is now a green burial site; cowslips bloom on the farmer’s grave.
The Inkberrow gig was before this blog started, so here’s my – very quickly penned – borrowing of Betjeman’s poem, Slough:
Come, friendly poets, fall on Daisy,
Whose knowledge is so very hazy;
Some might even say she’s rather lazy
Not to have checked her hand.
The Midlands is a boring place?
Through suggesting that she’s in disgrace
With those of us who disagree her case
And love the heart of our great land.
So, Daisy, you can fuck-off, dearie,
Back to your London, penthouse eyrie,
Not expecting any queries:
Here, your opinion will not be in demand.
Too many people struggling with floods again here.
Looking from St Anne’s Delight (my children’s name for the shoulder of land just above St Anne’s Well and cafe) we can see the Severn has overflowed. Madresfield church in the fore with floods (Kempsey area?) beyond.
Here, Happy Valley is channelling water to the flow below.