I’m interested in the way poems sit on the page, and what cues a reader can take from the layout and the white space around the words. It’s a big subject, and we looked at it in our class in Newbury last term. I suppose it reaches its apotheosis in the “concrete poem”, where the poem takes the shape of its own subject. I took as examples, Philip Gross’s “Amphora” (the only version I could find on line was mistakenly left-aligned, so for the full effect you would have to download and centre-align it) and Edward Mackay’s “The Size of Wales” (not on line). Not only are they visually interesting, but also excellent poems in themselves.

Encouraging the class to have a try at this form, I decided to join in. Looking at Glass’s “Amphora”, I thought a symmetrical object might be the easiest way to tackle this. And this became a poem about something I’m going to miss when we move house. It’s dedicated to the Nettlebed bellringers.

St Bartholomew’s Bells.


on Sundays
for holy communion

or sunny Saturdays in June
to ring in the bride and groom

and not just Christmas Eve after
drunken carollers lurch for home

or Easter Sunday when solemn Lent
is done and Spring is coming ringing in;

I like to hear them chime on Wednesday
evenings with the windows open in my room

just for the fun of it and for the practice, the Old Golden
& the treble-bob, saying all’s well in the village. What could