The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

Ensnared by Melons (again)

The summer is here! Even in Macclesfield the rain settled for a few days at Level 0 – ‘Warmth. Big Shiny Thing appears in sky. People smile and start to take clothes off.’ It’s been the sort of week that makes me feel, with Andrew Marvell who wrote the melons line, ‘what wondrous life is this I lead.’ Hence the long, turgid blog….


You don’t want to know about all the hard work I’m doing for National Poetry Day – although, if you are within striking distance of Liverpool, you certainly DO want to book tickets for our main event on October 9th. What you really want is to hear how my experience as poet in residence at the RSPB conference went. Up in Lancaster, where I worked in the Archaeology Unit for several years, the birdy poems went down well – but blimey, these birders drink like archaeologists. I regretted it when getting into a taxi at 6.00 the next morning – but they can have me back any time they like!


Lancaster is lovely, but Liverpool is lush. After a hard day’s work on the Fourpenny Circus script we did an event called A Lorra Lorra Laureates, hosted by the Dead Good Poets. The Liverpudlian poetry audience is the best and friendliest in the country. They made me and my fellow Cheshire Laureates ever so welcome and even bought a couple of books, which is always endearing.


A relaxed stopover with friends Clare and Bym allowed me to visit the market in Ludlow and buy foodstuffs for the next stop: a mini-festival at dear friend Kirsty’s chapel in Gloucestershire. Lots of people came, quietly trudging up the sunny path laden with cakes and cheese and bread and wine…

Preaching to the converted...

Preaching to the converted...

We had a reading in the sunny graveyard, a laughter-filled workshop in the chapel, and then choirmaster Monica got us singing harmonies. We finished with a late-night screening of a Kurosawa film, watched from the pews with an assortment of duvet-wrapped friends, ended the day, but not before I snuck off for a walk with Jerry, Ruth and Bella the whippet. We stood on a nearby hill, looking down on the wide Severn. It’s a big, bad river that reminds me of Stevie Smith’s River God




I may be smelly and I may be old….

But I can drown the fools

Who bathe too close to the river, contrary to rules.


Kirsty has finished mourning her little boat, which (to cut a long, salty story short) sank. On Sunday we launched its successor, a little yellow craft named Nelly after the chapel’s ex-cat of honoured memory.  After watching Kirsty float in six inches of water to test Nelly’s water-tightness, I spent a charming half hour bobbing and talking in another boat with her friend Gordon, a mature gentleman in both senses of both words.


What a shame that had to end, I thought as I battled up the M6 in horrid traffic. What I shame I forgot my computer, I thought as I battled back down the following afternoon. But as you see, I got my computer back and even the bad brings the good… a meeting with Kirsty at a pub called the Fleet, by the Avon – a blushing fairy of a river by comparison with the hairy-arsed Severn. Marvell would have liked it and as a lesser poet said, there’s nothing finer than a pub by water.


The Great British Poetry Audience (II)

The Great British Poetry Audience (II)


This entry was posted on September 22, 2008 by in Writing exercises.
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