If you want to escape from the football on Thursday Greenwich Poetry Workshop will be holding a poetry reading in the Treehouse, the cosy, leather sofa-ed attic room at the Greenwich Tavern. It starts at 7.00pm. Suzanna Fitzpatrick, poet and former publicity officer and lambing volunteer at Woodlands Farm, wrote with the details:
All are welcome at an evening of poetry as members of the Greenwich Poetry Workshop present their work in the cosy setting of the Treehouse on the top floor of The Greenwich Tavern. Pamphlets of the poems will be on sale, and attendees are welcome to put their name down for the open mic on arrival and read some of their own poems.
Greenwich Poetry Workshop presents: Poetry at the Treehouse
Thursday 19 June 2014
7pm for 7.30pm
The Treehouse (top floor)
The Greenwich Tavern
1 King William Walk
0208 858 8791
Nearest stations: Cutty Sark DLR or Greenwich DLR/mainline
FREE ENTRY, no booking required.
“Slowly, Moore punting along on his stick, pausing to point out the cottage where Wordsworth stayed, we made the ascent of the old coaching road of Shooters Hill.”: an intriguing aside in a Diary meditation on the Olympics by Iain Sinclair set me off on another quest. Where did the Lake Poet William Wordsworth stay in Shooters Hill, and what other poets have hilly associations? Google didn’t reveal very much – just a non-committal mention in Chapter 10 of the Survey of London explaining the name of a block of flats near Woolwich Common. Neither did a scan through several biographies of Wordsworth in the British Library provide any illumination.
In the Woolwich Library W.T. Vincent gave me an answer in a chapter entitled Genius in his Records of the Woolwich District:
William Wordsworth the poet dwelt for a while in Nightingale Vale, Woolwich, just by the boundary line which divides Woolwich and Plumstead. The house in which he resided is now No 3, Nightingale Place, and stands facing Brook Hill Road looking north. The adjoining houses, opposite the Lord Clyde, have been rebuilt but this remains undisturbed, the easternmost of the old buildings.
The snippet from Alan Godfrey Maps‘ reprint of the 1866 Ordnance Survey map of Woolwich below shows the Lord Clyde and the row of cottages opposite – you may need to click to enlarge the map to see them. I assume the easternmost of the row of cottages in the centre of the red circle is the one Vincent was referring to: unfortunately it has since been replaced by a block of flats. The map also shows Brookhill Park, just across the road from No 3, Nightingale Place, behind the Lord Clyde – also now covered with housing.
So many Nightingales: and far and near
In wood and thicket over the wide grove
They answer and provoke each other’s songs –
With skirmish and capricious passagings,
And murmurs musical and swift jug jug
And one low piping sound more sweet than all –
Stirring the air with such an harmony,
That should you close your eyes, you might almost
Forget it was not day!
However it seems a little unlikely that Wordsworth’s poem was inspired by our local Nightingales: “The Nightingale” was written in 1798 and Vincent’s source Sir Edward Perrott says he met Wordsworth in Nightingale Place in 1835.
W.T. Vincent’s article about Genius also mentions Woolwich-born cavalier poet Richard Lovelace from the 17th century and Robert Bloomfield who married a Woolwich girl and Vincent says lived near Nightingale Vale. Lovelace’s best known poem, “To Althea, from Prison” was written when he was held in Gatehouse Prison in 1641 for presenting a pro-royalist petition to the House of Commons, and includes the famous lines “:
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.
To Althea, from Prison was set to a delicate melody by Dave Swarbrick and appeared on Fairport Convention’s 1973 album “Nine”. It provides the soundtrack to the YouTube video below.
I haven’t been able to confirm that Robert Bloomfield lived in the vicinity of Nightingale vale, but he was clearly very familiar with Shooters Hill , which was the title of one of his poems. It includes this verse about Sevendroog Castle:
This far-seen monumental tower
Records th’ achievements of the brave,
And Angria’s subjugated power,
Who plunder’d on the eastern wave.
I would not that such turrets rise
To point out where my bones are laid;
Save that some wandering bard might prize
The comforts of its broad cool shade.
Angria, also known as Tology Angrier, was the name of the cruel pirate king that Sir William James defeated at Suvarnadurg.
But my favourite current poem related to Shooters Hill is Suzanna Fitzpatrick’s intimately observed and vividly expressed poem Lamb 001 inspired by her lambing experience at Woodlands Farm. Lamb 001 was commended in the Poetry LondonPoetry Competition 2012.
It’s time. Nudged by some internal clock
the first ewe shifts, distracted suddenly;
eyes on the middle distance, focussing
on something coming nearer. She avoids
the others, huddles up against a wall,
paws at the straw to make herself a nest
but can’t get comfortable; lies down, gets up,
lies down again. She lifts her nose
as if the sky has just occurred to her;
top lip curling in an effortful sneer,
stargazing. Below her tail, a globe
of amber liquid grows like a balloon
with life’s imperative: two hooves, a head,
eyes tightly sealed against the rapid slide
from womb to straw. Her birth trance snapped, she turns
and licks him; murmuring, oblivious
of the flock, which gathers as if magnetised
into a semicircle; each head bowed
in concentration, waiting for that first
uncertain, commanding bleat.
Crow is the third Handspring Puppet Company production that I’ve seen, and it’s very different to the other two. In War Horse it was easy to forget the people operating the horse puppets, and marvel at their subtle rendering of small details of horse behaviour that made it possible to suspend disbelief. In Or you Could Kiss Me the puppeteers were harder to overlook as there were three for each three-quarter life sized man puppet and they sometimes seemed to be part of the play, like a medical crash team around a dying man. But sometimes their use of puppets put a spotlight on an aspect of reality such as the frailness and creakiness of old age.
In Crow the different crow puppets highlight different aspects of Ted Hughes poetic vision of the Crow, from a frail, skeletal creature struggling to be born to a nightmarish priapic wingless man-bird engaged in aggressive sexual pursuit. The word puppet just doesn’t do justice to these creations. In Crow the puppeteers are completely engaged in the action- dancing and reciting the poems as well as manipulating the Crow creations.
It would be impossible to present the whole of Ted Hughes long and multifaceted mythic masterpiece in just over an hour, but I think Handspring have created a congruent synthesis of poetry, music, movement and setting that captures its essence. The set is bleak and monochrome, post-apocalyptic, with a central hill composed of a kind of metamorphic material that might have been melted in a nuclear holocaust and re-solidified. Ben Duke’s choreography is not graceful, but is danced with hugh energy and commitment, complementing Hughes’ poems. During Crow’s birth it reminded me of tribal dancing seen on a holiday in India, and there was a hint of deep didgeridoo tones in Leafcutter John‘s sparse music which added to the ancient primitive feel. Later a courageous, dangerous leaping embrace at the top of the hill was the perfect match to Lovesong‘s story of obsessive, competitive, dangerous love.
The lyrical (and poetic) content of Georgie, which were pasted and posted yesterday, gives something of a tenuous link to today’s story, the event of a local (well Greenwich) free Poetry performance, which is, in a roundabout way related to this area via a local contributor who sent this in.
Poetry by the Park
The fortunate side-effect of posting this event is that it inspired a web search that revealed a bit of Shooters Hill Poetry: the romantic musings of Byron’s Don Juan as he approaches London:
So said the Florentine: ye monarchs, hearken
To your instructor. Juan now was borne,
Just as the day began to wane and darken,
O'er the high hill, which looks with pride or scorn
Toward the great city.—Ye who have a spark in
Your veins of Cockney spirit, smile or mourn
According as you take things well or ill;—
Bold Britons, we are now on Shooter's Hill!
Don Juan had got out on Shooter's Hill;
Sunset the time, the place the same declivity
Which looks along that vale of good and ill
Where London streets ferment in full activity;
While every thing around was calm and still,
Except the creak of wheels, which on their pivot he
Heard,—and that bee-like, bubbling, busy hum
Of cities, that boil over with their scum:—
This is another slightly tenously linked Shooters Hill story, but I’ve been collecting local poems for a while, and so am hoping that this will aid me in my search. An selondon poetry magazine called South Bank Poetry is staging a new open competition, and are reaching to all who might be interested in joining in, so please read on if you are feeling poetic.
In the meantime I’d also like to share a nice photo/poem combination about the Walled garden at Jackwood entitled Into the Secret Garden by Stu Mayhew
Into the Secret Garden
She’ll lead you down a path
There’ll be tenderness in the air
She’ll let you come just far enough
So you know she’s really there
She’ll look at you and smile
And her eyes will say
She’s got a secret garden
Where everything you want
Where everything you need
Will always stay
A million miles away
South Bank Poetry Magazine – Open Competition
Closing Date: 9th May, 2011
Niall O’Sullivan (who will read every entry). Poems up to 50 lines with a London focus or context. The full rules are published in South Bank Poetry Magazine. The judge’s decision is final. Prize-winning and commended poets will be listed on the Poetry Book Society website by mid-June 2011.
First Prize: One year’s Charter Membership of The Poetry Book Society. Winner receives 20 new poetry books which are PBS Choices and Recommendations, plus other benefits. Second Prize: £200. Third Prize: £150. Fourth Prize: A pair of tickets for the 2012 T.S. Eliot Award readings and a two-year subscription to South Bank Poetry magazine. Fifth Prize: A pair of tickets for the 2012 T.S. Eliot Award readings and a one-year subscription to South Bank Poetry. Five commended poets will receive a one-year subscription to SBP magazine.
1st poem £3.50, 2nd poem £2.50, 3rd poem £2.00, 4th poem £1.50; or 5 for £10 and £1 for each additional poem.
Current subscribers to South Bank Poetry magazine are entitled to the following discounts: 1st poem £3.00, 2nd poem free, 3rd £1.50, 4th £1.00; or five poems for £6 and £1 for each additional poem.
Contact: UK cheques or postal orders crossed, payable to Peter Ebsworth. No entry form required, send two copies of each poem, one anonymous, the other with contact details, to: Peter Ebsworth, South Bank Poetry, 74 Sylvan Road, London SE19 2RZ.
New subscribers may enter poems at the reduced rate if they add £9 (for a three issue subscription inc. P&P) to their total payment. All entries will be simultaneously considered for publication in South Bank Poetry magazine if a contact e-mail address is included.
Launch of South Bank Poetry issue 9
Friday 8 April, 8pm at the Poetry Café, 22 Betterton Street, WC2H 9BX.
Entry is free to subscribers, or £4/£3 concessions, which includes a copy of the magazine