Poem a Month – October 2016

Happy National Poetry Day for Thursday 6th October!  There are several poetry events taking place in Derbyshire Libraries over the next week including a celebration of the life and work of Dorothy May Walters-Godfree at Ilkeston Library on Wednesday 5th October. Dorothy was a writer and poet who was born in Ilkeston in 1918 and lived in the town before moving to Bath in 1960.  Dorothy, who passed away last year, continued to write poetry throughout her life with poems such as  In the Care Home written during her later years. – Ali

In  the  Care  Home

I visited the Old
And found them quite bold!
Not easy to walk,
But loving to talk.
And seeking romance,
Given half a chance.
All the same,
It’s a shame,
Their youth will never come back,
The body’s too slack.
But they look out for the post,
And constantly boast,
“I will never give in,
I could have a lottery win,
And then I’d be rich,
And buy my own pitch,
With enough cash to spare
For one-to-one care!”

Dorothy  May Walters


An interpreter of beauty in the world at Ilkeston Library on Wednesday 5th October 2016, 3.30 to 4.30 pm. Join us to celebrate the life and work of Ilkeston born, writer and poet, Dorothy May Walters-Godfree. The event will include readings of poems inspired by Dorothy’s life and work which were created during a poetry workshop led by Cathy Grindrod. Free event, places limited, please book places in advance. Call 01629 533275 for more information

Poetry workshop: Messages with Judy Brown on Thursday 6th October 2016, 2 to 4 pm at Buxton Library. Join poet Judy Brown for this workshop using images and writings from the museum collection to inspire your own poems about local places and people. Free, but advance booking essential. Places can be booked online via Eventbrite. For more information ring 01629 533540.

Poetry Readings with Cora Greenhill and Geraldine Monk on Friday 7th October 2016, 7 to 8.30pm at Chesterfield Library. Join us to celebrate National Poetry Day with highly acclaimed poets Cora Greenhill and Geraldine Monk. Tickets priced at £3.00, £2.00 concessions, available from Chesterfield Library Help Desk or call 01629 533400.

Messages: an evening of poetry on Thursday 13th October 2016, 7 to 8.30pm at
Heanor Library – join Ali and Samantha for an evening of poetry exploring this year’s National Poetry Day theme – ‘Messages’. Bring your favourite poem to share or sit back, relax and listen with tea and cake. Free, please book places at Heanor Library or ring 01629 533795

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Poem a Month – September 2016

As a fellow lover of rummaging in charity shops I really like this poem, The Madonna of Oxfam, by Judy Brown. Her description is so vivid I can see the dress and wish I had found it myself! – Ali

I have a big fascination with wandering round charity shops.  There are some fantastic ones in Derbyshire.  Because of the other lives in them, the clothes you get always feel more like dressing up than anything an ordinary shop could sell, as well as being considerably cheaper.  I love old-fashioned summer dresses. This poem was inspired by a specific dress, although it doesn’t feel quite as potentially haunted as the poem suggests!  Sometimes, after readings, people come up and tell me about good charity shops to go to.  I’m always delighted with such recommendations.Judy Brown

The Madonna of Oxfam

The tangerine dress comes with its own breasts –
higher and bigger and closer together than mine.
I’m not ungrateful: I’ll borrow their secondhand air
in stiffened cones let into the bodice lining.  I like
the hand-embroidered label, the trouble she took,
the specialness cotton dresses once used to have.
Fifty years on the material still feels live, unpapery,
not just an exhibit of how she lived.  For the rest,
the Le Creuset-coloured frock fits like a dream –
not, as things do now, with Lycra’s eager adjustments.
It’s someone’s just-married summer again, as soon
as the splashy pattern lays itself out in pleasure
on my bones.  It comes to mind how the English
took to imported cotton; people said silk underwear
never felt clean.  You think you know what’s what
on days like these, then some other woman steps out
from behind the curtain for trying-things-on,
more than dressed-up, a great deal less than decent.


by Judy Brown

From Crowd Sensations published by Seren, 2016.

Judy Brown lives in Derbyshire and has worked as Writer in Residence at Gladstone’s Library and Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth Trust.  Judy has written two collections of poetry, Loudness, (published by Seren Books, 2011) – shortlisted for the Forward Felix Dennis first collection prize 2011 and the Fenton Aldeburgh prize 2012.  Her second book Crowd Sensations is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Judy works as a freelance tutor and mentor, gives Poetry Surgeries in Derby for the Poetry Society and is a Royal Literary Fund Associate Fellow.

Judy will be running a poetry writing workshop on Thursday 6th October 2016,
2-4 pm at Buxton Library inspired by the National Poetry Day theme Messages.  You’ll have the opportunity to use images, postcards and messages from the Buxton Museum collection to inspire your own poems about local places and people.
Free but advance booking essential.



Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Poem a Month – August 2016

As we celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of 18th century landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown this month’s poem has a gardening theme.  Although there are several poems which have been written about Brown I have chosen Digging by Edward Thomas.  I’m sure a lot of hard work and digging was required to create Brown’s gardens and I like to think that those gardeners employed to bring his plans to fruition would appreciate this poem.  As a keen gardener myself I love the way Thomas uses descriptions of smell, it’s perfect. – Ali


Today I think
Only with scents, – scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot’s seed,
And the square mustard field;

Odours that rise
When the spade wounds the roots of tree,
Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed,
Rhubarb or celery;

The smoke’s smell, too,
Flowing from where a bonfire burns
The dead, the waste, the dangerous,
And all to sweetness turns.

It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth,
While the robin sings over again
Sad songs of Autumn mirth.


by Edward Thomas


Edward Thomas was born in 1878.  He wrote all his poetry between 1914, when he wrote his first poem and 1917, when he was killed on Easter Monday, 1917, on the first day of the Arras Offensive. This poem was written in March – April 1915 shortly before he enlisted in July 2015. The poem is featured in Poems for Gardeners edited by Germaine Greer, published by Virago, 2004. To find out more about Edward Thomas visit the Poetry Archive website.

The Capability Brown Festival is a celebration of the extraordinary life, work and legacy of 18th Century landscape architect Capability Brown. It brings together a huge range of events, openings and exhibitions. Visit the Festival website to find out more.
Events include a major series of more than 40 exhibitions by the Embroiderers’ Guild celebrating the works of Capability Brown and the nation’s landscapes. The series of exhibitions will run throughout 2016 and includes work by members of the Derbyshire Branches of the Guild.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Poem a Month – July 2016

Over the last 12 months young people aged 16-30 have taken part in the
Courage of Conscience project to research the lives of Derbyshire’s World War One conscientious objectors.  Working with River Wolton they have created fictional pieces of creative writing in the ‘imagined voices’ of these individuals, their communities and families.

As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Somme these voices present a different perspective on war, from the point of view of those who resisted conscription.  Conscription came into force in March 1916, the first time there had been compulsory military service in Britain.

Richard Barry (1890-1949) a lace maker from Long Eaton, refused to be conscripted and was imprisoned at Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire in July 1916. Three lines that he wrote on the cell walls inspired the young writers’ poem below. After Richmond he was moved to several other prisons before his eventual release in April 1919. – Ali

Richard Barry

After Richard Barry

It was called ‘the war to end wars’ but –
you might as well dig a hole by chucking dirt in it
stop a fire by shovelling wood on it
get clean by bedding down with swine
stay sober by swigging jugs of wine
black your boots by coating them in mud
stay alive by losing all your blood
learn maths by going for a swim
wrap parcels by cutting up the string
cook your tea by throwing it down pit
clean dishes by smashing them to bits –
and …
you might just as well try to
dry a floor by throwing water on it
as try to end this war by fighting.

by Sara Moon, Katherine Robinson and Matthew Knighton

Courage of Conscience is a project of Pro Peace Chesterfield, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to discover the stories of Derbyshire conscientious objectors. To find out more about the project visit the Courage of Conscience website.  The Courage of Conscience exhibition gives more information about conscientious objectors in Derbyshire, and features some individual stories. The exhibition is currently on display at Chesterfield Library, on the upper level next to the Local Studies section, until 27th July.

The pieces written by the young writers have also been published as an anthology, Courage of Conscience: Imagined Voices of Derbyshire’s WW1 Conscientious Objectors, edited by River Wolton.  The book will soon be available to borrow from Derbyshire Libraries.

Several of the young writers who took part in the project are members of the Chesterfield Write Here group for 16-40 year olds, which meets fortnightly at Chesterfield Library. If you are interested in joining the group visit their website for more information.

Richmond Castle recently received Heritage Lottery funding to preserve the graffiti written by conscientious objectors who were imprisoned there.  Visit their website for further information.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Poem a Month – June 2016

As it’s Priscilla’s last month with us she has chosen a poem about the joy of sharing books and reading.  This poem was written by Matt Black during his time as Derbyshire Poet Laureate . Matt created the poem from all the wonderful entries we received for our Book Chat writing competition when reading groups were asked to tell us what was special to them about their group. – Ali

The poem sums up many of the best experiences I’ve shared with Derbyshire readers over the last 16 years. It reminds me of the importance of reading in my own life and that of countless others. Working with the Derbyshire Poets Laureate has always been a highlight so this poem seems a particularly apt way to say goodbye. – Priscilla

Bookchat Villanelle

We always air our views with real zest.
In sitting-rooms and libraries, readers on the rampage –
wine, cake, conversation, and winter nights are best.

It opens up our minds, and every book’s a quest.
Down dark lanes with Dickens, and tales from every age,
we always air our views with real zest.

Fun, friendship, laughter, though sometimes we’re possessed –
we’ve argued over Shakespeare, IS all the world a stage?
Wine, cake, conversation, and winter nights are best.

It’s like therapy, a life-line, we get things off our chest.
We don’t like them all, we’ve been known to rant and rage –
we always air our views with real zest.

Horizons broadened, soul-food, stories from East and West,
we’re made to step outside our comfort zone, that cage.
Wine, cake, conversation, and winter nights are best.

A good old chat, smiles, open Julie’s next request,
slants of sunlight fall across the page.
If you haven’t read the book, it’s a night out and a rest.
Wine, cake, conversation, and winter nights are best.


by Matt Black
(Derbyshire Poet Laureate, 2011-2013)

A villanelle is a nineteen-line poem with two repeating rhymes and two refrains. If you’d like to find out more visit the Poetry Archive website or the Academy of American Poets website.

If you enjoy talking about books there are a few Book Cafe events coming up over the next few months including a Derbyshire themed discussion at South Normanton Library on Tuesday 7th June at 10.30am. No need to book – all welcome. Visit the Derbyshire Libraries events page for more details or checkout our Facebook page.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Poem a Month – May 2016

This month we’re delighted to be sharing a beautiful poem , Missing My Mum, by Mimi.
Mimi is a refugee from Ethiopia who has lived in the UK since July 2015.
Along with 52 other poets she took part in the Sheffield Poemathon on 2nd April, which raised £14,000 for charities that support refugees and destitute asylum seekers.

Mimi writes: ‘I have been helped myself, and now I feel it is important to give something back. When I was in Ethiopia we would help people who needed clothes, food, shelter. It’s good to help other people and it feels satisfying.’
Mimi is studying English, writing more poems, and hopes to qualify as a nurse.

River is a former Derbyshire Poet Laureate, who volunteers with refugee groups.
She writes: ‘I don’t speak Amharic so relied very much on Mimi patiently explaining and discussing each word and sentence. In Amharic there is a two-word phrase (‘yenafikot engurguro’) which means something like ‘the song that people hum when they are missing someone.’ We rendered it into English as best we could, but the process of translation made me think yet again about the richness, uniqueness and complexity of language, and how this is one of the riches that those seeking sanctuary bring with them to the UK.’

We hope you enjoy the poem and have included a copy of the Amharic version below.
Ali & Priscilla

Missing My Mum

In the garden of my memories, the birds are calling
but I only hear the echo of my mother’s voice.
She sits in the shade of the apple tree
her soft voice crosses the mountains and the seas.

She sits alone, humming the song of loneliness.
All day she sits at home, her children far away.
I miss her too. I don’t want to lose her.

Live a long life Mum, and one day, God willing,
I will see you again.


Translated by River Wolton and MimiAmharic version


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Poem a Month – April 2016

As April 23rd marks both the birth and death of William Shakespeare we thought it fitting to celebrate his work this month. 2016 commemorates the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and there are a host of events taking place nationally to celebrate his legacy.

This lovely poem by John Warren was originally published as a Commendatory poem to the 1640 publication of  Shakespeare’s Sonnets.  With many thanks to Matt Black, former Derbyshire Poet Laureate for suggesting it. We hope you enjoy it and that it inspires you to read, or re-read, some of Shakespeare’s work – Ali & Priscilla

Commendatory poem to 1640 version of the Sonnets

I like to think of Shakespeare, not as when
In our London of the spacious time
He took all amorous hearts with honeyed rhyme;
Or flung his jest at Burbage and at Ben;
Or speared the flying follies with his pen;
Or, in deep hour, made Juliet`s love sublime;
Or from Lear`s kndness and Iago`s crime
Caught tragic hint of heaven`s dark way with men.

These were great memories, but he laid them down.
And when, with brow composed and friendly tread,
He sought the little streets of Stratford town,
That knew his dreams and soon must hold him dead,
I like to think how Shakespeare pruned his rose,
And ate his pippin in his orchard close.

by John Warren

Shakespeare’s Sonnets was first published in 1609.
John Benson, a London publisher of the middle seventeenth century, published the Sonnets and miscellaneous poems of William Shakespeare in 1640, which included the Commendatory poem by John Warren.

Visit the Shakespeare 400 website for more information about events and projects taking place to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The celebrations include The BBC Shakespeare Festival will be led by a new series of The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses –  some of which was filmed on location in Derbyshire.

We’ll also be marking the 400th anniversary in Derbyshire Libraries. Look out for book promotions and displays in Libraries in April and for details of events and activities taking place later in the year.

Working with King’s College London, the Arden Shakespeare and the British Council, the Royal Society of Literature commissioned some of the country’s greatest poets to respond in verse to Shakespeare’s sonnets. An anthology fetauring the poems,  On Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Poets’ Celebration,  has been published by Bloomsbury.

If you’re in Sheffield on Saturday why not pop in to the Sheffield Poem-a-Thon for Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Entry is free and the event takes place on Saturday 2nd April, 10am – 6pm at The Art House, Sheffield. It’s a relay poetry event featuring poets based in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire raising money for refugees and asylum seekers. 48 sponsored poets, including River Wolton, Sally Goldsmith, Matt Black, Helen Mort, Cora Greenhill, Katherine Towers and Linda Goulden to name a few, will each read for 8 minutes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment