Recently there seems to have been a stirring in the woods and lanes, in the city streets and by the sea. I cycled to the bike-shop in the centre of Leeds yesterday along the canal towpath, time for an annual service for a bike that has gone through mud and wind and rain, like most of us in the last year or two. The world is in a precarious state, but Spring is coming in with a rush, the wood pigeons in our street seem even more focused on procreation than usual and blackthorn and early blossom are on some trees and bushes. In an unexpected boost to my mood the camellia on the wall a metre away from our front door has put out flower buds for the first time in at least fifteen years. It may have been sulking.
Other things are coming back to life. I have been working in local primary schools in the last few weeks, with more to come. Nobody can replicate the enthusiasm of an eight year. On subjects as diverse as Rain Forests and Wild Weather [Outer Space next week] they have produced and performed some wonderful poetry.
With various adult writing groups I have used the two watercolour portraits from 1945 [pictured] as a stimulus for creative writing, enabling the members to write a poem, short story or memoir piece with ideas sparked off by the pictures.
Also enormously enjoyable was my taking part in the Leeds Literature Festival 2022, hosting five ‘in conversation’ events from art historian Catherine McCormack to political activist Peter Hain. I love this kind of work, getting to the heart of people’s writing and appearing in front of a live audience. This was followed by the launch of ‘Offcumdens’ a very beautiful book of poetry and images from Bob Hamilton, photographer and Emma Storr, poet, also at The Leeds Library.
Sometimes for the writer there are moments of pure joy when some writing completed some months before sees the light of day. It’s not been forgotten, just tucked away until the publication day arrives, and that also feel like spring. I was asked to write a poem about a statue of Henry Hallam in St Pauls as part of a much larger project. I chose to write in the first person as Henry and explore his life and his much-tested religious faith in the face of extraordinary loss. Here is the result: