The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

Jobbing poets

John Siddique: smiling because he got the job

I’ve been up against John Siddique twice this week, and that’s not as much fun as it sounds. The best-dressed poet in the North West (not much competition, admittedly) kept bumping into me in Manchester, as we went to interview for the same jobs.  We called a truce and had lunch at the Cornerhouse.

The Poorly Bears: no-one suggest Pooh, please

The Illuminate festival kicked off this week with a ‘Floratorio’ at the Derby Theatre. We Living Derby folk were there with the Poorly Bears, waiting to be named by small children (the bears, not us).

Dan Boys of Audio Trails looks like a small child, but is apparently old enough to meet me for a pint at the Old Poet’s Corner (no, really) in Ashover and to discuss recorded poetry trails. My mum lives  just around the corner, not that there is anything so urban as a corner in that part of Derbyshire, so I spent a day working from the ancestral home. I gazed out of the window at my mum battling heroically with things in the garden, in hopes that I have inherited her bottom. Alas, I think a bottom such as that has to be earned by a lot of hard gardening and marathon-running.

Wobbly Birmingham


Young actors at ATT

Meanwhile, I’ve been in glorious Birmingham to run another Writing Squad with Leila Rasheed; back in Derby fora reading with Derby Poetry Society; and at Ellesmere Port’s Action Transport Theatre for an instructive day of read-throughs for my short play. I marvel at the young actors there, who offer such generous and mature critiquing of a script. Kevin Dyer, too, who will direct the play at Chester Literature Festival, brought new angles to it and we began to see how it might work on stage.

So – it’s been a week of varied but pleasurable effort. With all these kinds of graft in mind, this week’s prompt for you to write about is work. Give us a poem, ideally about your own workplace and what you do in it. Show us your work environment, the characters or landmarks of the place, the things that infuriate or uplift you. Just make it about work and post it here in Comments before next Sunday…. meanwhile, I will go and have a look at my estate….

The billowing plains of my estate


4 comments on “Jobbing poets

  1. Heather Wastie
    April 11, 2010

    Thanks for the lovely violas, Jo!

    • Jo Bell
      April 11, 2010

      I think it was because of your poem last week that I included them, Heather!

      • Jo Bell
        April 12, 2010

        I keep encouraging you all to send poems, but not doing so myself. Here’s a work-themed poem from my former life as an archaeologist in the NE of England – including the missing verse that for some reason did not make it into my book Navigation!

        South Shields Roman Fort

        We’re turning earth to find the Holy Grail,
        which Richard says is buried in South Shields.
        He’s back from cycling the world,
        an emperor in the site hut, and we owe him this.

        Richard (who carves startling fuck spoons,
        a variation on the Welsh love spoon) is notorious
        for seeing Grails in graveyards, forts and once,
        admittedly whilst pissed, the chip shop in Harbottle.

        Gaines, our own world-famed numismatist
        despairs of this – as of much else, since Mrs Gaines
        was murdered. Fingering the thumbnail coins,
        denarii, decumani; looking at the obverse.

        Grief leaves him with a perfect mind for coins,
        For catalogues, unchallenged certainties.
        Everything is post- or pre-:
        Defined by one event, fixed as a rocking horse.

        The Roman sewers flush with rain, and from the cess
        give up a flattened ring with lovers’ names. It’s not the Grail;
        but something glimmers in the mud for Gaines
        with his unfastened heart, and Richard with his bulbous spoons.

  2. Peter Wyton
    April 16, 2010


    Dawn. Sulky, unserviceable aircraft,
    wrestled with by technicians,
    obscures my view of the town
    where Couer de Lion wedded Berengaria.
    Aircrew, ejected from ailing fuselage,
    dangle flying boots over flood culvert.
    My book is twitched away.
    I meekly await merriment.
    “ Listen in, lads.
    This is what he calls poetry,
    ‘Tweet, tweet, twaddle. Endure,
    detail by detail, cunnilingual law.’
    And what the hell’s mansuetude? “
    Somebody in possession of an airworthy jet
    screams along the runway. Attention diverts,
    shoulders turn on my known perversion.
    What is mansuetude?
    Bunting was in the same Air Force – well,
    not quite the same, but there ought
    to be some point of contact
    in this donnybrook of words
    my comrades kindly have restored to me….
    Why all these brackets?
    Why, in ‘Villon’ is speaks
    entitled to its own line?
    Where is the handhold with which
    to grasp his grasp of things?
    Here’s something that at least
    I can relate to, in Aus dem zweiten reich –
    The Kaiser Wilhelm-Gedachtniskirche.
    Even here, he contrives superiority.
    He saw the soaring, unblemished spire;
    I, the truncated stump.
    “ We’re serviceable! Crew in.
    Kick the tires. Light the fires…
    Oy, poet. Get your mansuetude up the steps….”
    Tweet, tweet. Twaddle.

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