Poetry Happening Near You

The whole of spring

The whole of spring

Not long after first light today,
I fell in love with the trees
at the top of my garden.
They did not ask it of me,
but when I looked up at their canopy
and noticed that the green of their leaves
had outdone the blue of the sky,
I couldn’t help myself.

And, a little later, when I sat outside with a book –
allowing myself a moment to gaze upon my beloved trees
before I set about the task of reading –
I fell in love with the butterfly
who landed on the gravel in between
two slabs of paving stone just by my feet.
The colours on its fragile wings
seemed like a rebuke to the grey clouds of yesterday.
‘I couldn’t agree more,’ I said to the blues and the reds,
the oranges and the browns.

A lively passage of birdsong interrupted
my reading of a poem about the madding wind,
and I fell in love with these wild melodies,
as I caught them travelling through the air
in unison with the conversation of the trees.
‘But listen,’ said the trees, ‘you have it wrong.
It isn’t us trees, or that butterfly,
or the untamed birdsong which you are in love with,
but the whole of spring.’

I looked about and saw it all – the whole of spring –
here in this small suburban garden
in the south of Brum,
and allowed myself a little peace of mind.

Fergus McGonigal

Fergus McGonigal

About this poem

All libraries in the West Midlands are closed and all the Poetry on Loan events planned for the next month or two have been postponed - we'd rather think of it like this than saying that they've been cancelled. But times such as these are just when we need poetry, so we've commissioned several local poets to write new, topical poems and video themselves performing them.

Our fifth (and probably final) poem is by Fergus McGonigal. Watch Fergus' video here.

Our fourth poem was by Jon Seagrave, also known as Jonny Fluffypunk. Jon made three videos, and I thought it would be interesting for people to know about why he did this, so here's what he told me:

Ok, after much faffing and re-recording and hair-tearing in the downstairs lavatory and uploading and failed uploading and uploading again, here's my poetry film(s). One 'straight', one 'straight' and made to look like it's done on old Super 8, and one an arty thing full of lingering close-ups of the offending shed, again made to look like it's done on old Super 8. They're made to look like Super 8 as that's how I'd film them- I've still got all the kit- but the film stock is exorbitantly expensive these days, so camera phone and effects filters it is.

Ideally I'd use either of these 'Super 8' ones, as they reflect my desired lo-fi aesthetic... I edited out the beginning, but I've deliberately left the final, accidental shot of the toilet roll holder in, as it's a beautiful touch, and again suits the aesthetic I'm after.

The link to the straight video is here. The same film but with the Super-8 effect is here, and the final video ('the arty one') is here. Let Poetry on Loan know which one you like best!

And here's the text:

I built a shed         

I built a shed.
I’ve been meaning to for ages,
but I never had the time and
right now I don’t have much
but I have time, so I built myself a shed.

All this slowing down
has brought the neighbourhood out into their gardens;
we’re blinking in daylight like blitzed cockneys
the morning the bombs stopped falling,
the weight of clocks lifted from our shoulders
We shared the time of day and then, after a bit,
we started sharing surplus building materials
we all had kicking about, and I built a shed.

The wood, I had already;
the 28 sheets of corrugated tin
came from the recluse, living with mother five doors up
in a house that smells of sad wallpaper and Vim;
handed over fences at the regulation social distance
with gloves and masks and chat about the quiet of the street
now Alan’s Land Rover has been grounded.

I built myself a shed, and in so doing
I did myself a succession of minor injuries-
metal cuts, splinters and once from trying to saw whilst educating a six-year-old;
my partner- a nurse- is less sympathetic since my morning angle-grinding
after her nightshift. I have to clap louder on thursdays now.

I built a shed
I can’t escape a pandemic virus
but with a bit of hard graft I can escape my family;
somewhere I can watch the rain fall and await a future
when we can all get back to being how we were in the past.

It’s my tin palace.

Three doors up, I hear the woman say
it looks like something from a Caribbean shanty town-
she’s locked down with loud reggae on all day long
so I’ll take her comment as positive.

Jon Seagrave / Jonny Fluffypunk 2020

The third one was by Brenda Read-Brown. The text is below and you can find the video here.

Cats and dogs

We are all puppies now,
on pause until we get our leads
and take ourselves for a walk –
every step a scent of freedom,
every leaf a new page of delight,
every path an escape.

And then we’re kittens
playing games we haven’t thought of
for a lifetime,
eating whatever we’re given by the freezer,
curling on our rugs
in a doze of daytime TV.

One day we’ll be human again,
but we won’t forget this,
this time when we remembered ourselves
and became puppies and kittens;
this time when grass grew under our feet
in clean, unexpected air;
this time when life and death
went on elsewhere.

Brenda Read-Brown

 

The second one was by Emma Purshouse. The text is below and you can find the video here.

6 feet

Yes, I get that it’s confusing,
that there’s uncertainty and doubt,
but I’ve had ideas, been thinking,
so let’s try and sort this out.

6 feet is 72 inches
if you’re old school just like me,
but if you’ve gone all metric,
then it’s 1 meter 83.

6 feet - three steps…not baby steps,
not pigeon toes, or pussy footing,
imagine strides…great big ones,
like Geoff Capes’ when he’s shot putting.

Imagine John Wayne sunbathing,
stretched out at your feet.
I’d be where his boots are.
You’d be somewhere near his teeth.

Or maybe, for younger folk,
imagine Peter Crouch
spread eagled on the Wembley turf.
A header, the ball went out.

6 feet - it’s half the distance
that one alpaca can spit.
Imagine a person-eating shark
ME…………………………………...YOU,

                        IT

6 feet as in under,
as in below the ground,
the size of the average coffin,
the length of a kangaroo’s bound.

It’s an eighty-sixth of Blackpool Tower,
hundred-and-fortieth of Westminster Bridge.
Imagine here to that lemon balm,
the height of an American’s fridge,

a fifth of what Bob Beaman jumped.
It’s an 11th of a cricket pitch.
It’s where Mr Tickle couldn’t reach
if he had to scratch your itch.

6 feet - it’s where I’m shouting from
so you can hear this poem.
It’s half the height of that there tree,
the one that’s got the crow in.

6 feet, it’s all I have
to show I care and think you’re great,
so shoo, shove off, step back,
keep healthy, please…stay safe.

Emma Purshouse

*all measurements are approximate!

 

The first one was by Steve Pottinger. You can find the video here, and the text is below.

stay safe

the news from here is nothing much
the days drift by like dreams
a never-ending stream of sundays
and rumours of pasta
while mapmakers draw new worlds
where each of us are islands,
always   two    metres    apart,
and there be monsters

I whisper to friends: stay safe, I miss you.

online someone always knows
a bloke from work who has a sister
who’s the neighbour of a friend
who swears martial law is coming
or that all of this will end
on the third Thursday of next month at 3 in the afternoon
because it’s written in the stars
who has seen spaghetti and has a photo to prove it

I’m writing to friends: stay safe, I miss you.

we sleep in silence
and wake to birdsong
from dreams of journeys
a sky bright with the absence of din
last night we laughed so hard
we could barely breathe
this morning I woke with tightness
in my chest and a fear for the future.

I’m texting to friends: stay safe, I miss you.

one day the pubs will throw open their doors again
and the first one won’t touch the sides
I pray I’m there with you, buying the next one
getting on trains, going anywhere everywhere
eating in restaurants, walking home under the stars
asking if life could ever be better
i have never been much good
at wearing a mask

I’m speaking to friends: stay safe, I miss you.

© Steve Pottinger. 15 April 2020