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.
Today’s book is a compilation of poems by Paul Tobin. Paul was one of Marjon’s students and nowadays he still works here. We have his Flash Words in our collection, and needless to say that the book is destined to grace our future display. He writes his poems on a wide range of subjects, touching the essence of the human condition. A special place in the book is dedicated to ‘Majon Cycle’, that represents his feelings and thoughts concerning Marjon itself. And it is here that’s where Paul’s words strike the truest, conveying what Marjon means to me, especially the no. 10 of the cycle. Let me show it to you:
10. The first real day of spring.
I shed my thick green coat
make small talk in the coffee queue
curse my forgotten travel cup
realise I am engaged with the now
rather than the chime of overlaid memories
perhaps I belong here.
Do you know this shiver in your spine, where the words of another person say exactly what you feel? That is the flash of finding a connection between two strangers as well as the silent prayer of every author; to understand and to be understood. Go and read Paul Tobin’s poetry, maybe you’d find it too.
Filed under books, people
I have written before about Marjon in fiction and had a closer look at former Marjon students that wrote fiction. But the truth is I have just scratched the surface with the books that were penned by people involved with us. And since there is going to be a new display with books of our people I thought I’ll return to the subject.
The main thing about our authors and their books is that they are so varied: different subjects, different genres, some fiction, some non-fiction, poetry and prose. You’d think that for a place with teacher’s training so deeply in its tradition, that the books produced by its students would be mostly about education or on methods of teaching. So in the upcoming weeks I will talk about the titles that can be found in our collection. I am in for a treat!:-)
Poetry is hard. Especially if you want to be serious about it. Luckily, it is not always a necessity. Today I have a recipe for a poem that is about as serious as a clown with a pie on his face. It was first published in the ‘Ladle’- a students’ humorous periodical. The writer is only credited as Sporus, so if you happen to know that person-let me know. So, let’s see how to write poetry- Marjon style:
If you’ve nothing to do for a minute or two
(Though you haven’t a clue in your head)
And you’d like the acclaim of the writers of fame
Whether living or mentally dead
Don’t try to write plays that would run for two days
Or pantomimes, all by yourself,
Or books of the kind that you constantly find
On the threepence of sixpenny shelf
Just think of a phrase, such as *crime never pays*
Or *dinner at seven in hall*
And write it down neatly, in part or completely
With no punctuation at all.
Now add a few more, such as *please shut the door*
Or *dresses in velvet or satin*
Repeat one or two (it’s the right thing to do)
Or write them down backwards, in Latin
Without an apology, take an anthology
Copy the list of first lines.
Leave marks exclamation of interrogation;
Omit the more usual signs.
Now give it a heading like *Grace Kelly’s Wedding*
(Or something that’s equally heady)
Make sure, by inspection, it bears no connection
With what you have written already.
You have now produced verse, modernistic and terse,
The M*rj*n will print it, no doubt.
But please never fret us with capital letters
it’s so much more cultured without.
Late Marjons return.& very helpful ‘bobbies.
A car for breakfast- students’ prank at its finest.
A pirate collects charity into a chamber pot- you can’t make that up:-)
They say that everyone has at least one story to tell, but one guy has a bagful of them and he is willing to share. I have a pleasure of telling you about Mike Ford another great Marjon graduate.
We have three of his books in the archives, written and also illustrated by Mike himself. He also published them as he created a publishing house (Chwarae Teg Publications) just to tell his stories. Wow!
There is ‘Mike’s Odd Odes’; Reading this one can only be compared to reading Vogon poetry if Vogons illustrated their works- that makes the ‘Odes’ a mixture of bizarre and awesome, you can’t go wrong with that. ‘The 1930’s + 1940’s Revisited’ is a book of stories from his childhood in Penarth. A good read for anyone that prefers ‘common man history’ to the official history books.
But the one that is the most interesting for me was ‘A Stewed Ant in London, Paris and Cardiff (Ha! I didn’t get that one until I said it aloud.:-)’. Those are the mostly the stories from his time as a Marjon student 1955-57- the good, the bad and the weird. And those include: A pirate working for charity, a secret marriage and ‘bobbies’ helpful beyond their duties. My favourite though is the story about an especially strict teacher that finds a car on his table instead of expected breakfast. This one made me regret that I never witnessed anything like the pranks of old. On the other hand- today’s student has little authority to rebel against and I’m happier for it.
His work reminds me of Billy Hopkins and his books. I have written about him before. I think that Mike deserves as much recognition as Billy. Or maybe more than him, because he is hilarious and his anecdotes mademe laugh out loud (No, I’m not abbreviating that!;)