Poems written by workshop participants
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my Poet in the Park residency at Bradgate has been running workshops for the public. I’ve met some talented writers from the area, and I’ve enjoyed seeing how they respond to the prompts. They have been good-humoured about my habit of coming up with daft names at the start of each workshop, and have written with imagination every time. In this blog post, I’m delighted to share with you some poems by the participants, based on the workshops so far. As you’ll see, each poet has a different take on the Park – although some themes and images crop up quite a few times. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have.
We start with Sally Wilson’s poem, which combines personal memory with the figure that hangs over the place forever. I love the idea that Lady Jane Grey is trapped forever, trying to send Morse code messages to us….
The memory wood
Of cycling visits
Long ago past streams
In deer land’s leap
Over a child’s rainbow
The colours still shine
amidst fine woodland scenery.
Lady Jane Grey
Memories of you
Tapped in Morse code
Down the ages
Through the wires
Trapped, convicted of treason
Finished at an early age
Deione Hanson has written several poems, all very different. In this first one, we see the combination of wildlife and human activity. I love the carefully-observed detail about the bracken that ends the poem.
Dark Stag Stands Alert
Dark stag stands alert
Someone passes with a straining black leash of black alarm.
Heads turn about and about as fear changes direction,
Uneasy stretch to trot to neat lope,
Close by, mounds of stone and earth spring antlers and take flight
Lines of unease weaving along their slotted path.
Behind, the crumpled bracken slowly lifts.
This untitled poem manages to capture one moment brilliantly: the location, the birds, the weather…. I like some of the imagery here: ‘crazed boughs’ is perfect for the jackdaws, and the appearance of the mole is another great detail:
Jackdaws shrill from crazed boughs on high
Pinging their spring intent
Falls the drizzle like a sigh,
Damping the spirits with its descent.
A pheasant’s high pitched bark
Sounds his territory, calls a thrill
Echoes through the oak trees stark
Standing clear against the hill.
Huddled figures briskly stroll
Their hooded colours brightly seep
Past grass, short, muddied by the mole
Earth moving, black tips out its heap.
Damp fallow start at pheasant’s call
New turned soil gathers drizzle fall.
This poem captures the timeless atmosphere of the park, as seen by ravens, the bringers of death. Although the past is ‘long-gone murdered’, the ravens still observe human activity, as random movement over the unchanging landscape.
We are back, we are back, we see
The land of our long-gone murdered past.
The rocks and crags slide beneath our ink black wings
Unchanged but strangely dotted by bright points of colour
Travelling without aim along new scars.
Finally from Deione, this poem that puns bore (carried) and bore (not interested) to give voice to Old John:
Now I am bored.
My favourite days, I bore the Lord
And watched his horses race around
My hill and cheered the thunder on the ground.
In one of the workshops, we experimented with a form loosely based on the sonnet. In this poem Angela Reddaway considers the change of the seasons, and compares the bare branches and the cafe customers, both with chilled “skeletal frames”. I also like the playful use of ‘elders’ – beings that are older than you, but also of course elder trees, in Elder Plantation.
Bare branches reaching expectantly
towards the place the sun should be
Stilled by searching winds
that chill their skeletal frame
Cafe customers sit outside determinedly
Thawing frozen fingers around mugs of steaming tea
Perceptions of how the month should be
not equalling the reality of icy, muffled day
The noisy protest of a solitary bird
hovering above the slime of last year’s leaves
disturbs the running deer bidden to bewildered stop
The purpose of their flight now forgotten
Time now for young saplings to emulate their elders
Soon enough will winter’s front take it’s turn again
Whilst doing some research for this project, I came across a catalogue describing lands and properties for sale in the Bradgate Park area. The sale took place in 1921, and the original catalogue is kept in the Wigston Record Office. In the Spring workshop, I challenged the poets to include phrases from the catalogue descriptions in a poem – Angela has risen to the challenge brilliantly with this ‘found’ poem:
March 27th 2018
Should you for your leisure choose
To wander forth to Bradgate Park
Approach it from the north direction
Where a charming and elevated situation
Reveals fine beds of rock, stone and granite
No guarantee is given or implied
But a brisk walk to Old John
Commanding delightful views
Holds promise of a beautiful character
When beheld in it’s entirety
We end this selection with a poem by Angela Yates, which picks up on one of the dominant themes in any writing about the Park: Lady Jane Grey and her story. I like the way that this poem, by mentioning specific places in the Park, makes it clear that Jane’s presence is everywhere. There is also a clever combination of past and present as Jane’s ghost disturbs geologists -whose job, of course, is to make sense of the Park’s distant past:
When nights are dark in Bradgate Park, the ghost of Lady Jane
From Hallgates through to Swithland Woods, goes haunting through the lanes
Behind the War Memorial she lies in wait at night
When lovers pass, their hands she grasps – the poor souls flee in fright
In Bradgate House, where peacocks screech among the ruined walls
She paces, face translucent, pale, along the ancient hall
‘I never wanted to be Queen’, she cries, ‘the truth must now be said
My parents’ aspirations made me lose my pretty head.’
‘Oh pity me,’ she cries in grief, ‘for my pathetic life
Eight days I was a “Majesty”, eight months I was a wife.’
The fallow deer that roam the park, on well-worn lanes and banks
Are fearful every night that she will mount their trembling flanks
Then off she’ll ride to see Old John, another wraith-like ghost
And spectral tales will they exchange, to frighten each the most
Geologists and Scientists, when carrying out their checks
Feel bony, icy fingers touch their unsuspecting necks
And rangers who investigate the oak, the ash the birch
Occasionally glimpse poor Jane, as she makes her fruitless search
To find her head has quite become a miserable obsession
Jane knows that she has every right to take back her possession
The moral of this story is to take your walks by day
And don’t end your days a victim – like her Ladyship, Jane Grey
Thank you to all the contributors to this post, and to all the workshop participants. I look forward to the fourth workshop, in the autumn. The next posts, over the next couple of weeks, will feature Richard Thomas, who leads the archaeological fieldschool, and Peter Tyldesley, the Director of the Bradgate Park Trust. I hope you’re enjoying the Park in the summer weather – be inspired!