"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
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 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…..