Are we having fun yet?

Testing the camera's 'smile detector'

Spring time. We celebrate by putting the clocks forward. The natural world celebrates by shagging itself silly. The jolly

All aboard...

sound of duck rape fills the air by my boat: the countryside heaves with evidence of reproduction, as I saw during a little walk in Cheshire. Any good the walk did me was undone at a debriefing dinner with the Fourpenny Circus crowd. We ate copiously, congratulated ourselves on the tour and casually avoided the subject of whether we should do another show.

Fantastic news on Wednesday, when I heard that National Poetry Day has been successful in a bid for funding to help us in 2010/11. The recession and other factors have had an immense impact on funding applications. Many worthy and established projects have had grants declined: it was a huge relief that this one, at least, has made it through. The theme this year will be HOME – which covers ideas like identity, place and family. So get planning for October 7th.

Matt Windle and Charlie, post-show

After that walking-on-air moment, it became a week of loveliness and inspiring, productive meetings with creative folk. In Birmingham there was a meeting about the Arvon Foundation, and I went on from it to MC Charlie Jordan’s showcase performance at West Brom Words. Not only Charlie but Matt Man Windle, Dan ‘Babyface’ Cullen and Byron Vincent gave stonking performances. All our Brum chums were in the audience and you could, as they say, feel the love. You couldn’t have thrown a faggot and peas without hitting a Birmingham Poet Laureate. Read a review here.

A civilised meeting with Leila and David

I was back in Brum at the weekend with Leila Rasheed and David Calcutt for another Writing Squad. There were energising and lively conversations with them and with Jonathan Davidson – what a well of good ideas he is – then straight up to Kendal for a brief appearance at Kendal’s Brewery Arts Centre. Marvin Cheeseman was the main reader and he was brilliant. On the way back to Macc I called in at Preston for a planning meeting with Jenn Ashworth, to firm up plans for our new show Too Much Information which oddly enough, opens at the Brewery in a fortnight.

This week’s new discovery is Fourteen magazine, a dinky little journal devoted to 14-line poems. I’ve also joined Second Light because despite my reservations about single-gender groups, the quality of the writing is wonderful.

Brace yourselves, because in a week or two I’m going to have you writing renga. It won’t hurt a bit and you’ll be helping me with a big national project…. For now, however, your mission is to write a piece inspired by myth, legend or fairy tale. Try not to do a Carol Ann Duffy and produce a ‘Mrs Santa’ etc – but give me a fresh take on an old story, and post it in Comments before next Sunday. Fab!

Published by Jo Bell

Poet, boater, archaeologist and former director of the UK's National Poetry Day. One third of @OnThisDayShe. Erstwhile UK Canal Laureate.

10 thoughts on “Are we having fun yet?

  1. Hi Jo,
    I’ve not posted a poem yet. (Not enough time to perfect my feeble efforts!) But I wanted to say that I’ve been reading your blog with interest and having a go at your weekly poem prompts, which I’ve found inspirational!
    Thank you.
    🙂 Sarah
    PS Looking forward to this year’s National Poetry Day!

    1. Thanks Sarah. So long as they are piquing your interest it doesn’t much matter if you are posting finished pieces! Also you are very welcome to post a belated result, if an earlier exercise produces something interesting. Keep reading!

  2. Hag

    Most unlike to look on those ladies were
    For if the one was winsome, then withered was the other.
    Gawain and the Green Knight

    It used to be me
    having the fun round here.
    It used to be my
    bonny green girdle embroidered with gold
    we snared them with:
    before teeth blackened,
    and hair turned ash,
    before eyes shrunk and warts fattened,
    before skin coarsened to bark,
    I would sit on the knights’ beds,
    slip between silk sheets…
    She’s too prim with her mimsy ways,
    likes her precious lord too much –
    that rascal son of mine.
    She’d rather fine silver and gold chains
    than lie in a man’s arms till dawn.
    Why can’t they stand aside,
    let me wear my magic to become
    once more how I still feel inside?
    How else can I stare out the horror
    in his eyes – my own reflected face?

    Angela Topping


    (Born Frampton-on-Severn, Glos. )

    Rosamund Clifford’s figure and face
    took a king’s eye and a queen’s place
    in a royal bed. Beautiful doe,
    out of her depth in the ebb and flow
    of regal intrigue and imbroglio,
    swept away by the undertow.

    Dagger or bowl. Dagger or bowl.
    Either way, I will never grow old.
    Majesty visits, majesty stays
    in the bawdy house of his private maze.
    I’m the courtesan of a potent man,
    but in this brothel, the woman pays.

    Cooped-up lovebird, condemned to dust
    by feminine hatred and masculine lust.
    From the sally-port of her fortalice,
    the Queen of England, the Queen of malice,
    bears a honed blade and a poisoned chalice
    to her enemy at Woodstock palace.

    Dagger or bowl. Dagger or bowl.
    Either way, you will never grow old.
    My husband’s mistress, my life’s bane,
    pay the price of a wife’s pain.
    Take your pick. Tipple or prick.
    Says Eleanor of Aquitaine.

    Metal’s kiss or venom’s bite.
    Which lover takes my body tonight?

    Dagger or bowl. Dagger or bowl.
    Either way, I will never grow old.

  4. 1 of 2


    A capricious time-warp,
    A fusion of phenomena,
    A concertina of centuries

    Propels Alice and Rosamund
    Back to the towpath at Godstow,
    Watching a Wyvern.

    Alice in seer old age, a whole
    Wonderland of wrinkles
    Away from the looking-glass.

    Rosamund immature, the face
    And figure which captivated
    A king, as yet undeveloped.

    Hand in hand in the sunshine,
    The nunnery ruins behind them,
    Facing their familiar river,

    A dean’s daughter, released
    From the ludicrous shackles
    Of perpetual childhood.

    The consummate Clifford,
    Not yet exposed to the hazards
    Of hobnobbing with royalty.

    And the Wyvern, most obscure
    Creation of the bestiaries,
    Enjoying unlooked-for attention,

    2 of 2
    Responds with a rousing display
    Of aerobatics – chandelles,
    Inversions, Immelmann rolls.

    An old lady, smiling. A child,
    Clapping her hands in delight.
    Something fabulous, in show-off mode,

    Not attracting the attention
    Of moorhens, single scullers,
    Diners on the Trout terrace,

    Or distant, cud-chewing cattle,
    Thinking deep collegiate thoughts
    All along the flood meadows.

    The tableau registered only
    By a manic, moustachioed artist,
    Brushes careering across canvas

    In desperate haste to record
    Another hand-painted dream-scape,
    While the best of the light holds.

    Is that enough mythology, myth?

  5. For a Taste of Green

    I can’t help the hunger
    it fires in me. Even the thought
    of it sets my nerves aflame,
    spins me to shatter
    the glass line between want
    and need, brings to me
    the indignity of desperation.
    He could have been stronger,
    my husband,
    he should have kept us safe,
    should have said no, should
    have stopped that woman
    taking my baby.
    She’s gone and he’s vanished
    into silence, turned to granite
    that my tears wash over
    without effect.
    More than ever now I ache
    for a taste of green, the jolt
    of freshness, the sweet relief
    of rampion.

  6. Lancelot

    It was night when I came.
    Always, dreaming or no, I see it like this:
    Night swoons in the arms of the trees.
    Each star hiding her face.
    Only the moon is bold,
    her round eye sweeping the night, unfazed.
    The tower is huge.
    Its spired top scrapes the neck of the sky.
    A white owl circles it twice
    and skims overhead, like a sigh.
    What choice do I have?
    I have rescued her many times:
    from the dragon, the pyre,
    the rack and the wheel and the lash,
    from her husband’s cold hands,
    scaling her body like crabs.
    I climb.
    The heavens look on, unamazed.
    My courage, no matter how fierce, astonishes not:
    there is no heart that is not made a hero by love.
    The bars on her window
    bite my hands and draw blood.
    She blooms from the dark,
    like the sky giving birth to the sun.
    Her body is fluid, a song, a river of light:
    I fall to my knees at her feet
    and weep like a child.
    All night, I live in her depths like a fish in the sea.
    She whispers my name,
    rowing her body over me.
    Salt-stunned, I rock like a wreck
    in the sea of her hair.
    But, like a ghost, I am cursed to love only by night:
    the coming of day calls me away from her side,
    and back to the wood.
    Had I known we had loved our last night,
    I’d have murdered us both.
    As it was, I turned my face to the sun
    and I rode.
    What happened next
    is a story I heard on the way.
    In the morning, they came.
    The nurse fell down in a swoon:
    the maid screamed.
    The portly butler looped himself with a cross
    and muttered a prayer.
    She lay on her side
    on the bed over which we had sailed.
    Against the red of the sheets,
    her limbs were as pale
    as a morning in Winter.
    Her fingers were crimson.
    Her mouth was a plush, deep red.
    The pearls of her breasts had blushed,
    become rubies, glowed.
    I had written my name on her skin
    with the ink of my blood.
    The truth of my love was indelible,
    Always, dreaming or no,
    I see it like this:
    the morning ablaze,
    the tower adance
    with the tremble of hurrying feet,
    her husband in tears,
    bellowing his rage like a child.
    And her like a morning at sea
    in the wake of a storm,
    salt-stunned, brilliant, calm,
    the red sun gilding the bed of our love ‘til it burns.

    Holly Green

  7. I’m going to be posting one entitled The Melancholy of Medusa – it’s kinda rhythmic though so is there any way in which I might be also allowed to link you to a recital version of it too? I will upload the MP3 to this website and if you want to click on it then please do!


    People wonder why she stares, glares,
    no one cares, the motives that make her take
    the lives of others.

    No, no one wonders if she’s ever loved
    or if she’s even been fucked, got licked, got sucked.
    Even a kiss people seem to miss about her.

    No, no one thinks about her feelings, do they?
    Like if she was sad, happy or funny? If she had a bit of a wit
    Took her stick, no! it’s just how quick does it take her to kill ye.

    Who wouldn’t be angry with snakes for hair?
    Who wouldn’t care, wouldn’t stare, who wouldn’t glare
    With snakes for hair—

    And not just up there, but everywhere
    under her arms between her legs
    little green snakes with their little green heads.

    she’d have to keep her eyes closed during sex!
    Just in case she turned out t’be shaggin’ a statue
    Have you?


    No one cares, no one cares
    about how a girl would be hurt
    with snakes for her hair.

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