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Poetry Works A collection of poems from the WEA Course: How Poetry Works – 2011/12

The Workers’ Educational Association is a charity registered in England and Wales, number 1112775, and in Scotland, number SC039239, and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, number 2806910.


Contents Preface .............................................................................. 3 A Day Out .......................................................................... 4 A New Country for Old Men .............................................. 5 FIND THE ARTIST ............................................................ 7 MOBILIOUS ...................................................................... 8 Pill Boxes .......................................................................... 9 Sex on a Sunday in Notting Hill....................................... 10 THE HIGH ROAD AND THE LOW ROAD ...................... 11 FAREWELL ..................................................................... 12

The Workers’ Educational Association is a charity registered in England and Wales, number 1112775, and in Scotland, number SC039239, and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, number 2806910.


Preface This collection of poems was produced during the 2011/12 WEA course ‘Approaches to Literature: How Poetry Works’ which was held at the Compass Theatre in Ickenham and organised by the Ruislip Branch of WEA London region.

Under the tutelage of Helena Bassil-Morozow, the course looked at the purpose and techniques of poetry, examined different poetic styles and analysed literary genres. During the course learners also had an opportunity to explore the lives and contexts of various authors.

One of the course aims was to provide an all-encompassing and enjoyable course for those that were interested in knowing how, and why, poems ‘work’. As you will see in the following pages all of the learners have produced some excellent work.

Helena has taught literature, drama and film in various further education institutions and in private practice for over six years. She is the author of Tim Burton: the Monster and the Crowd (Routledge, 2010) and The Trickster in Contemporary Film (Routledge, 2011).

The Workers’ Educational Association is a charity registered in England and Wales, number 1112775, and in Scotland, number SC039239, and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, number 2806910.


A Day Out The lady at the gate says yes This train will call at Stratford and At several towns and hamlets on the way. Two gentlemen sit opposite Their silver screens ablaze with work But we sit back to contemplate the day. Review my life? Now there’s a thought. A comedy of errors? Well, perhaps, but That’s what any honest man would say. A tempest? Sure, at times it felt Like one, but survived the storms and Lived to fight another day. Loves labours lost? I won’t agree Near sixty years of marriage must attest Companionship without decay. To be or not to be? That is the question. But we old folk live cheerful lives by Living day to day. Stratford. We are approaching Stratford says the sign The Bard of Avon beckons us to lunch And late to his play

Roland Pearson

The Workers’ Educational Association is a charity registered in England and Wales, number 1112775, and in Scotland, number SC039239, and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, number 2806910.


A New Country for Old Men The Hamstrings tighten, the belly slackens, The twitches quicken in the lower back, The breath shortens – Is it all downhill for the final run-in?

Recently, I have found Pilates: I am getting to know my pelvic clock, My glutes and how to squeeze them. My bent knee fall-outs fall out quite well And my obliques get modified in every way. I like the sphinx and the spinal twist But the saw is a bugger on the back. I always thought the ronde de jambe Was for toning ladies legs But it is still quite good for my old pegs. Curl-ups, criss crosses, cobras and clams Certainly challenge the constitution But breathing deep is the real solution. The old veins bulge and the ankles swell But the calf stretch helps the blood flow well, And though the tummy may be slack and fat I think I have mastered the reverse cat.

I have never finished War and Peace And other greats will lie unread –

The Workers’ Educational Association is a charity registered in England and Wales, number 1112775, and in Scotland, number SC039239, and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, number 2806910.


I turn to poetry instead: Short bursts of Heaney and Hopkins Keep musculature intact. I see angels in my garden after Blake, A verse ladder to heave in Thomas (RS), And “fizzin’ wi’ fire” from MacDiarmid’s pen I linger in Donne’s dark grace awhile Till Causley’s verse brings out the smile. Sharp-sighted Hardy, hawk-eyed Hughes Teach me how to look and see The outer landscape wild and free. O’Donoghue calms my emigrant soul, I need Montague to bring me home. While Shakespeare arches over all I hear, each day, the psalmist’s call.

No worries about broadband speeds, Extra channels or fancy phones: I grow fitter growing old – Poetry and Pilates in joints-hold. Frank Park

The Workers’ Educational Association is a charity registered in England and Wales, number 1112775, and in Scotland, number SC039239, and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, number 2806910.


FIND THE ARTIST At school my daughters Had Mr. Spencer for Art. Mr. Spencer was good teacher, There was a lot of creativity in his class.

Mr. Spencer believed that everybody can do Art. That everyone is an artist. “Don’t bother about the detail” he would say. “Relax – just let it flow.”

Poetry of course is different. Poets have to be troubled, agonised, Poetry has to be squeezed out of them by pain, They want us to suffer with them on the rack. Or – does Mr. Spencer’s dictum apply? Is there buried inside each one of us Under the rubble of inhibitions and preoccupations A poet – singing away unheard? Alfred Moon

The Workers’ Educational Association is a charity registered in England and Wales, number 1112775, and in Scotland, number SC039239, and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, number 2806910.


MOBILIOUS The Mobile Phone came like a wolf to the fold, It bewitched all the young and confused all the old; It distorted the mind and addled the brain, With its “I’m at the station” and “I’m on the train”. We’re stumbling through life with a hand to our ear, “Just say that again, it not terribly clear.” The message comes through with a stammer and stutter; We’re filling the ether with clamour and clutter. If you haven’t got one they think you are nuts; They aren’t even mentioned in government cuts.

There are sudden loud voices you hear in the street; You hear all their secrets – it’s far from discreet. It shames you at concerts, disturbs you in bed; If there is no signal you’re living – but dead. Instead of a rollicking time with your chums Your friends are just buttons your prod with your thumbs.

You can turn up the weather, or check on the score; Now mothers don’t speak to their babies no more, They’re retailing gossip or scandal or worse, So is it a blessing, or is it a curse? What happed to English? You see that I’m vexed: Our beautiful language reduced to a TEXT. It’s more than obsession and worse than a habit, It’s making us stupid and monosyllabic. I’ll leave it at that, or you might think me bitter. I’ve not said a word about Facebook or Twitter.

Alfred Moon

The Workers’ Educational Association is a charity registered in England and Wales, number 1112775, and in Scotland, number SC039239, and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, number 2806910.


Pill Boxes Concrete: hexagonal: Their slits spit death and disablement Into no man’s land In the war to end all wars. My uncle, twenty two, leads his platoon In attack. A grenade is lobbed through one of the slits; Maxim guns are heard no more. Only two Tommies are dead. My uncle, thrice wounded, faints and is carried back To Blighty, his Yorkshire home and DSO.

Cardboard : reticular: Holding the tablets a doctor prescribes For all manner of country ills In Arundel where he lives. This uncle’s a much older man, conscripted to succour the troops He’s out in the wire, and holds a young boy a horrible gash in his side. The lad’s thinking of home: ‘It’s a Blighty one Sir?” “Yes, a Blighty one, son”. No pills help him now. And the sad little fellow dies in his arms. Roland Pearson 2012

The Workers’ Educational Association is a charity registered in England and Wales, number 1112775, and in Scotland, number SC039239, and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, number 2806910.


Sex on a Sunday in Notting Hill 1 The hook-nosed lady with her gigolo Ordered Pizza Romana and wine She’d have settled for white Bordeaux But he insisted on red. This is not an expensive do And he chats and amusing line. Could she expect an equivalent show When they finally climb into bed?

2 At the table next door a different scene; A dad with three teenage boys All wearing casual clothes of the rich; “Sunday access” their reason to meet? Too right! She’d discovered the pretty young Jean; Adulterous joys has ended in noise She took every penny the bitch! “Lads; learn my lesson and be more discrete”.

3 The adjacent table was free until Two blondes arrived. Cynthia and her Mum The girl looked cute in a studentish way Bur Mum really captured my eye. The waiter damn him arrived with the bill What a waste for a paltry sum. “What a waist next door” I didn’t say But I silently wished her goodbye. Roland Pearson 2012

The Workers’ Educational Association is a charity registered in England and Wales, number 1112775, and in Scotland, number SC039239, and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, number 2806910.


THE HIGH ROAD AND THE LOW ROAD I walk along the low road and eat my crust of bread For walking on the low road I can see my way ahead. The runners on the high road are fitter far than me But, running fast, they miss the chance to see The wilderness and the wildness and the fruits upon the tree.

I read what I can read and hope to understand, My little crumb of knowledge will always be to hand. The top grade minds will read their tomes and quickly pass me by, And though I stop and sometimes sigh I really do not envy those who set their sights so high. My friend’s mother asked him why his progress was so slow When Nigel was a Maestro with his fiddle and his bow. But ‘mother, don’t you know – I’m the best in my own class And have medals and medallions under lock and key and glass, And I do not play the fiddle but the organ for the Mass!’

Some men seek out the headlines and always take the lead, Their wives and children faceless – of such glory take no heed. But the dazzle fades in winter and their fame sinks underground, And few remember who they were or what was their renown And their wives and children carry on – for what goes up comes down.

I walk along the low road and eat my crust of bread For walking on the low road I can see the way ahead. The runners on the high road are fitter far than me But, running fast, they miss the chance to see The wilderness and the wildness and the fruits upon the tree. Frank Park 2012

The Workers’ Educational Association is a charity registered in England and Wales, number 1112775, and in Scotland, number SC039239, and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, number 2806910.


FAREWELL The time has come to say farewell To look upon you face so dear, Before the mists of time take you to dwell My time to depart will one day draw near As one day to all it must The wisdom of your words will always be with me, Farewell dear friend it has been a privilege to have known you.

Trevor Rhys Hodges

The Workers’ Educational Association is a charity registered in England and Wales, number 1112775, and in Scotland, number SC039239, and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, number 2806910.

Poetry Works  

A collection of poetry from the WEA Course: How Poetry Works 2011/12