Have you ever read a poem or a piece of non-fiction and think: ‘hey it’s almost like I can see it’ ? And then realize that thanks to the magic of internet, you actually can.
I was reading a poem by our favourite poet, teacher and rebel- Michael Roberts.
Pale grey. her guns hooded, decks clear of all impediment,
Easily, between the swart tugs, she glides in the pale October sunshine;
It is Saturday afternoon, and the men are at football,
The wharves and the cobbled streets are silent by the slow river
Smoothly, rounding the long bend, she glides to her place in history,
Past the grimed windows cracked and broken,
Past Swan Hunter’s, Hawthorn Leslie’s, Armstrong’s
Down to the North Sea, and trails and her first commission.
Here is grace; and job well done; build only for one end.
Women watch from the narrow doorways and give no sign,
Children stop playing by the wall and stare in silence
At gulls wheeling above the Tyne, or the ship passing.
And there she is, HMS Hero herself:
Can’t you just imagine her, passing a coastal town, still so new and unscarred by the battles? I can.
Poetry can cross boundaries of many disciplines. Sometimes the effect of this can be terrible (*cough* Fugitive Pieces *cough*), but sometimes it is nothing short of awesome. I had a pleasure to witness such a crossing when the archives had a group of poets visiting on the 6th of October. The group of poets, led by Paul Tobin, came over to share their poems. The presentation of the poems was titled ‘Reading the Archives’ and the poems were drawing the inspiration from the many materials that the archive has to offer. The presentation, or rather the performance because the readings by the poets themselves were of a high quality, was a delight. What I witnessed was the history being transformed from science to art, from dry fact to juicy narrative. I’ve heard stories created from one look, one gesture of a person long dead, but captured in a sepia-toned picture. I watched how a sentence taken out of a block of text could be turned a meaningful poem, sometimes funny, sometimes thoughtful or sad. I saw a cheap piece of old journalism turning into a commentary on inequality. It was amazing.
I wish that more of the Creative Writing students turned up. They could learn a lot from Paul Tobin and his group as they are just so damn good.