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Poet Laurette Carol Ann Duffy toured the country from ‘shore to shore’ along with poets; Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker and Jackie Kay (plus musician John Sampson) as part of a poetry tour.

Bath’s Central United reform church played host to the poets on the second leg of their tour on June 20th. The regular tour poets were also joined by their surprise guest (which changed with each new location). Bath’s local poet was the lovely and sweet R.V. Bailey who was born in Northumberland but has worked in Bristol at UWE (University of West England) as the director of undergraduate courses in humanities.

The first poet to take to the stage was Welsh Laurette Gillian Clarke who spoke about her family and upbringing in Wales and its influence on her work, alongside reciting some of her work.

Gillian also recited an unpublished (but widely available online) poem called ‘Daughter’. The poet dedicated it to the young girl April Jones, and the recently deceased MP Jo Cox (and anyone else who has lost a daughter). A truly emotive poem especially to those who have suffered such a loss (and those who have close mother-daughter bonds like me). The poem is one that will stay with you, with beautifully haunting, water imagery.

“Let her not be lost to the Mothering Sea”

Clarke was then followed by the sweet, older poet, R.V. Bailey. Rosie had a unique array of poetry, including a controversial poem about being Lesbian, published in a time where society had not accepted homosexuality. Adversely she also read a poem about learning to swim in the cold of November, which had a more humorous edge to it.

Between each poet was a musical introduction by John Sampson. Following her musical opening Scottish poet Jackie Kay gained the spotlight from Rosie. A thoroughly amusing poet, she managed to make the audience laugh throughout her set – even making us laugh after dropping her pile of papers on the floor and suggesting you aren’t a true poet until you have done just that. Kay read her poem from the Shore to Shore poetry book ‘Off the Shelf’, all the poems in this collection are about books, libraries etc. and Jackie’s entitled ‘Silver Moon’ would warm the heart of many bookworms. The finishing verse I particularly liked;

“Don’t let them turn the lights out, dears.
Keep them safe, New Beacons, shining stars,
Look how you’ve aged with your beloved books, dear hearts.
Keep coming in, keep the bookshop door ajar.”

A short break then allowed us to buy books from a stall set up and manned by the team from Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. We purchased the tours book ‘Off the Shelf’ as well as Imtiaz Dharker’s latest poetry collection book (having heard a review of it on a radio show a few weeks before).

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After returning to our seats, poet Imtiaz Dharker was serenaded on by John Sampson to begin her set. Imtiaz recited a range of poems; my favourite of which was the last one she read, a love poem with a difference called ‘I Swear’. The poem uses English idioms and sayings (that her husband taught her) to create an amusing but genuinely heartfelt poem full of affection.

“Because I turned up from Bombay
too prissy to be rude
because you arrived via Leeds and Burnley
you thought it would do me good to learn some Language. So
you never just fell, you went arse over tits,
and you were never not bothered
you just couldn’t be arsed, and when
you laughed you laughed like an effing drain
and when there was pain it was a pain
in the arse.”

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Finally following Imtiaz was Poet Laurette, Carol Ann Duffy. Reciting her poems the one that stuck with me the most was Mrs Schofield’s GCSEs, not only because of its clever verses but also because of its back story. The poet explained that before she wrote this particular poem, another of her poems ‘Education for Leisure’ was on the school syllabus. The poem in question featured a student talking about killing and knives; “There is nothing left to kill. I dial the radio and tell the man he’s talking to a superstar”. One particular exam invigilator decided the poem was inappropriate for school children and it was consequently removed from the syllabus. Carol Ann Duffy wrote Mrs Schofield’s GCSEs in response to this:

“You must prepare your bosom for his knife,
said Portia to Antonio in which
of Shakespeare’s Comedies? Who killed his wife,
insane with jealousy? And which Scots witch
knew Something wicked this way comes? Who said
Is this a dagger which I see? Which Tragedy?
Whose blade was drawn which led to Tybalt’s death?
To whom did dying Caesar say Et tu ? And why?
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark – do you
know what this means? Explain how poetry
pursues the human like the smitten moon
above the weeping, laughing earth; how we
make prayers of it. Nothing will come of nothing:
speak again. Said by which King? You may begin.”

As Duffy’s set came to an end all the poets returned to the stage to recite one last poem (a children’s poem) read together, with audience participation. Split into 4 groups; Elvis, Picasso, Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, the audience merely had to say one of the names when a sign was lifted.

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The event ended with a book signing with the four regular ‘shore to shore’ poets and their guest R.V Bailey. Our books in hand we waited patiently in line for each of the poets to sign the books. As we waited, a picador representative came along the line with sticky notes so we could write our names, allowing us to get dedicated inscriptions without the hassle of spelling more difficult names – mine (Catherine) being one of these with varied spellings.

A great evening spent listening to some brilliant poets, it is truly lovely to hear poems spoken out loud the way the writer first imagined them. Now as I read from my own signed copies of ‘Off the Shelf’, Imtiaz Dharker’s ‘Over the Moon’ and Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘The Bees’, in my head for many of the poems I can hear its author reading them to me.

If you’d like to listen to the poetry tour or relive your experience find it here.

Buy the ‘Off the Shelf’poetry book – a celebration of bookshops in verse.

 

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