All Good Things



Last night was the last night – of my poetry teaching in Newbury, which is a splendid town, and I wish I’d got to know it better. (Hi to the lovely staff at Costa Coffee, next to the Kennet & Avon!). I’m getting ready for our house move to the north – not quite sure yet whether we will be living at the very top of North Yorkshire or just over the border into Country Durham – but I couldn’t commit to another term, in case we had to up sticks halfway through.  I’ve loved it. The course, called, rather tongue-in-cheekily “Poetry for the Petrified” was intended for those who hadn’t thought much about poetry since school days but wanted to re-engage with contemporary poetry and express themselves in their own writing. Every one of my regular customers got something out of the sessions, judging by the way their writing morphed, and grew in confidence. Every one of them had a story to tell in poetry about their own lives, loves and experiences. I know I am leaving them in good hands, as the Corn Exchange Theatre has asked the amazing Ben Parker to continue teaching after Easter.

We looked at rhyme, rhythm, metre, the white space on the page, the sound of words, alliteration, imagery, writing in persona, ekphrastic poems, poems about memories, families and dangerous weather, with the help of Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Philip Gross, Carol-Ann Duffy, Wilfred Owen, Ann Sexton, W.H. Auden, Roddy Lumsden, Alice Oswald, Philip Larkin, Wendy Cope, Jo Bell, Jacob Polley, Claire Trevien, Stevie Smith, Edward Mackay, Ian Duhig, and a few others.

I’ve really enjoyed it – it was my first chance to teach and I learned as I went along, but have already found it very rewarding to share some of the joy of poetry with other people. I really believe it’s both therapeutic and transformative, it helps us sort out what we think of the world. All poets are special people, because, by definition, they are living “the examined life” as they think about what they need to write.

And above, there’s a picture of a wonderful surprise – a cushion made by my student Jenny Saady, who is a talented quilter, depicting the thriving creative hub that is the Corn Exchange Theatre. A unique souvenir of a wonderful time and place and lovely people. There, I’m tearing up now.

This is not my poem…

…it’s a “Found Poem” based on the tweets of Anthony Wilson (@awilsonpoet), a wonderful poet from Devon whose blog is here. This set of tweets, from the “Writing Research Across Borders 2014” conference in Paris, made me laugh. I tweeted back to Anthony that they should become a poem. He said, go ahead if you want to. So I put all the relevant tweets together for him, and here they are.

Poet Anthony Wilson presents a poster at #WRAB2014.

A man is speaking at #wrab14. Someone has graffitied ROFL on the wall behind him.

The other poetry poster at #wrab14 has not materialised. To quote Woody Allen, we need to show up

Very interesting and beautiful poster about yarn bombing as an act of protest

A man stops at my poster for a second, moving on when he fails to recognise my photograph

A man in a beret and orange jeans is looking at the What Happens in Class? poster

A woman looks at my poster and moves on, frowning

Update: the man in orange jeans also has blue glasses and a pink scarf. He does not look at my poster

A man just stopped at my poster for longer than two seconds. Getting known

No one has stopped at Yarn Bombing either

I return the man his glasses case but he does not look at my poster

The man in the beret has gone round five times. But he has not stopped to look at the poetry

A woman with an iPad photographs my poster

The woman who said she would look at my poster did not look at my poster

At the yarn bombing poster I say to the woman looking at it with me ‘Isn’t this great?’ ‘It’s mine,’ she tells me

The husband of the yarn bombing academic is really nice. We converse about Bermuda shorts, gaming theory and Kenneth Koch

The grammarian who overran this morning does not want talk to me about my poster

A professor stops at my poster. She points at my photo, then at me. ‘You are Anthony Wilson!’ she says

Three people stop at my poster at once

A man asks me about my poster. We end up discussing stationery shops

Outside is a statue of a giant thumb. It is not a metaphor. It is a thumb.