The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

We shall write them on the beaches…

Where there’s art, there’s hope

Is it the end of the peer show? Sorry.

Was it only last week that we didn’t know the election result? By Tuesday, when I was in Blackpool for a meeting, I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that the  tea lady at No. 10 had been invited to form a government. It was almost a relief when the conclusion came. The nation’s highest politicians sat around in meeting rooms waving their knobs at each other. I soldiered on, doing my bit for the vital poetry sector.

I was in Blackpool to talk about National Poetry Day with the NW’s librarians. They are running a campaign to get us reading about the past – good news if you’re a poet who was formerly an archaeologist (for instance). Then to Derby to talk about my hospital residency – to Manchester for an evening class and to revisit the glorious John Rylands Library – and finally, to London for workshops. I’ve done 700 miles for the Muse this week – but on the way saw some wonderful public art, like the sculpture above in Blackpool and the always uplifting Great Court at the British Museum. Any time my Northern chippiness gets too powerful, I think of this space and forgive London… most things.

The Great Court. It’s great.

The London workshops were with the Second Light Network; proper bluestockings. Being over 40 and therefore an ‘older woman poet’ (hmmm) I qualify for membership. Naturally they met in Bloomsbury. I still have mixed feelings about single-sex groupings like this. It’s the same with Mslexia – a fantastic writing magazine for women which I subscribe to. Is it a necessary evil, a vibrant specialist community or a ghetto for the faint of heart?

More public poetry – Ann Atkinson’s Companion Stone (above) has joined the others for an exhibition in Edale. In late summer it will be installed at Longshaw, ten minutes’ walk from mine. My eight-word poem looks puny by comparison – but then, sometimes less is more as this war memorial reminds us.

After all these lovely examples, your mission this week is a good one – write a poem for a public monument. It could be a poem for a new monument which speaks about its setting, like our Companion Stones. Or a poem about an actual monument, where you used to meet a girlfriend or put traffic cones on the statue’s head. Or you can write for an imagined monument – built to commemorate housewives, or poets, or pets, or even political expediency. Speaking of which, here’s a print from John Rylands Library which I hope the government will follow…..

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3 comments on “We shall write them on the beaches…

  1. Jo Bell
    May 16, 2010

    By the way folks – the mystery poisoner’s pub was NOT Smily Man’s second home, the Hollybush where the beer flows clean and unsullied.

  2. Heather Wastie
    May 18, 2010

    Your mission reminded me of this poem I wrote about 10 years ago 😉

    Elegy

    Friends, Britons, countrymen, borrow my eyes,
    See how the daughter of Solomon cries:
    Pale as the child he once took on his knee;
    Suddenly grown, hardly younger than he.
    Faint, as the funeral bell stings my ears,
    Striking the days which he numbered in years.

    Britons, a hero lies fresh in his grave,
    Ready for history, loyal and brave.
    Savour his name and the day of his birth,
    Think then of me, not so long for this earth.
    Illness o’ercomes me this terrible Sunday.
    Hear now the daughter of Solomon Grundy.

    © Heather Wastie

  3. Paul Beech
    May 20, 2010

    A rather grisly one, I’m afraid…

    GOOD SAVE!

    This ball, you’ll note, was caught from below
    In the claws of a long-dead crow.

    With a brother aloft, he’d seen off a buzzard,
    Then tumbled to earth with a slug in the gizzard.

    And here he’d lain rotting till along came a tot,
    Who fancied the goal and took a brave shot.

    So remember the crow and his posthumous save,
    And let this clasped ball mark his grave.

    Paul Beech

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