At 8.30 Shelley and Yeats walked over to me, introduced by their friend Ivor. Then Spike Milligan read ‘String’ and I read ‘Adelstrop’ to a Polish actor. Later Catherine read ‘Adlestrop’ to me. I got ‘Tiddly Pom’ from a personal trainer and Judith recounted how Longfellow had led to a winning bet in the Grand National. Carol and the kids knew a few lines from ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’. Jeannie uplifted me and herself with Shakespeare’s sonnet No 5. In the afternoon, Flick was to recite from memory another moving Shakespeare sonnet. An elderly Jewish man who was off to pick plums in the cemetery said “Poets are the indicators of language” by which I took him to mean the guardians of culture.
In my midday session I met a nanny with a buggy, Janet chose our friend Tobias Hill, and Mark chose Sylvia Plath on Parliament Hill Fields.
The evening began with Flick, who started talking fifty yards away and left after twenty minutes – it was pure pleasure. Julian from Hampstead said he found the occasion beautiful. Ann Marie from memory brought forth ‘The Lorelei’ and Ann did likewise with Burns and his mouse. Nicolette went radical with Miklós Radnóti, and Gerald was himself with his favourites Peter Porter and Belloc and Betjeman. Finally Brenda and Catherine and Eugene arrived together so there was a crowd for Tobias Hill again and the summer of Adelstrop.
I went home very happy. Behind me, a man didn’t want a poem but he did want to know why a tree had been chopped down.
My final memory was of the mother and daughter who paused in their walk round the Green for a talk and a poem. They had been doing the same walk for forty years.
So that was the end of my year as Poet in Residence. Fortune Green isn’t Oxford University but then no one opposed my election and no one sent letters to the press about my sex life.
Paul McCartney once said “If you ask me to make an album then I don’t know where to start, but if you say make an album of train songs then I’m away”. So I had my Silvine exercise book (99p), my subject and an audience I felt I knew. The exercise book and I sat on the Green at different times and different seasons, the ideas came easily. In all, I turned out seven poems, held two poetry evenings, wrote the Jester Tester Quiz and did my day on the park bench for Love Parks Week.
To neighbours, friends and complete strangers and the Friends of Fortune Green, thank you. And thank you to Gerald for choosing the bottle of claret, which was my payment for the year. Drinking it with a cream omelette really was the final poetic act.
- Ted Booth, Poet in Residence 2013 - 2014 (Guest Blogger)
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