Poems offer snapshots of life on the way to the frontline
THERE is a story about a poet starting to read in a crowded room and half of the punters walk out after the first poem.
They thought it was a talk on pottery. Poetry is a minority sport and yet it has long been an important part of the cultural landscape in Hull.
As Australian poet Peter Porter made plain: "Hull is the UKs most poetic city"; full of sudden elegancies – as Larkin said.
Of course, there is Andrew Marvell and Philip Larkin but few places can boast a collection as ground-breaking as Douglas Dunn's Terry Street; a poet more respected than Peter Didsbury and in Sean O'Brien the winner of all the major prizes.
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Andrew Motion, the former poet laureate, Tom Paulin, the TV pundit and, the national Poetry institution, Roger McGough, all studied at the university and packed open mic sessions across the city each week are testimony to the new wave of poets that keep the legacy fresh.
This month, I will be releasing a book of poems called Sharp Street, published by Hull's Wrecking Ball Press.
The poems were triggered by a War Memorial located in Sharp Street, Newland Avenue, and trace the story of those who are listed – 140 men from all services, including about 40 from the Hull Pals Battalions.
Pals Battalions were drawn from firms such as Reckitt's; sports teams – Jack Harrison of Hull FC had scored 52 tries in the 1913-14 season; or neighbourhoods like Sharp Street.
They were formed to increase recruitment and replace the Regulars who had lost their lives in the opening exchanges of a war that was expected to be over by Christmas 1914.
It wasn't and by the Armistice 1918 more than 16 million men had died and 22 million were wounded.
The poems are snapshots of the action on the way to and at the front adding a home front perspective with the thoughts of the women who were left behind.
In the poem Mina's Dream, a mother imagines what it must have been like for the ordinary soldier. Other poems bring us right up to date with reflections on the war in Afghanistan.
On Saturday, November 10, a remembrance perfor- mance will be held at Trinity Church in Newland Avenue. I will be reading some of the poems with local poets Norah Hanson and Graham Hamilton; the acclaimed Hillbilly Troupe will sing songs from the era; John Murray will play music hall piano and JJ Tatten and Sharon Darley, of the Goodwin Development Trust, have co-ordinated images from the History Centre and local artist Martin Waters.
Proceeds from the night will be given to the Royal British Legion and the Emmaus Trust. For tickets, call 01482 587550.