OK, I’ll admit it – National Poetry Day isn’t a date that usually figures large on my agenda. But today it’s a real pleasure to be able to celebrate it, by launching the blog tour for the rather lovely poetry booklet from Claire Baldry, Simply Modern Life, published on 28th August by Matador Books, and available in paperback and as an ebook.
Claire was my guest here on Being Anne on publication day, explaining how a crisis at home was the trigger for her transition from Headteacher to Performance Poet… you can view her post again here, so appropriately called Retiring with Rhyme.
Let’s take a look at one of the poems from the collection… and I think it might be one of my favourites!
Peace on the Train
We are heading up to London on the fifteen thirty-four,
Our coats are on the rack above, our cases on the floor,
We read our books in silence, ‘til an irritating tone,
Rings out from three seats further back,
and Julie’s on the phone
“Hello there, yes it’s Julie!”
“Is she deaf?” asks my friend, Jane,
“Yes, I’m on my way to London,”
(Damn, she’s staying on the train)
“No, I’ve lots of time to natter,
We can chat ‘til Clapham Junction”
And we hope her battery fades,
So that her phone will cease to function
“Did you buy that bright red sofa?
Mine’s a lovely shade of pink,
Will it match new purple curtains,
or bright orange, what d’you think?
I’m going to buy a bedspread for my uncle’s Spanish villa”
Jane turns to me and whispers,
“Would they notice if I kill her?”
“Hang on, Sarah, there’s a tunnel.
For a moment I’ll be quiet”
“Just as well,” I mumble softly,
“Or the passengers will riot”
“Yes, I’m back now, did you miss me?
Oh, you’ve gone, that is a shame”
But we all sigh with relief, that we no longer hear her name
We sit noiselessly to Gatwick,
Watch the signs for Croydon pass,
Smile with sympathy in tolerance
At the teacher with his class
Then a young man joins at Clapham,
Rhythm pounding from his ears.
Jane hands over several tissues
To mop up my desperate tears.
I meet my Aunt in London,
As I leave the railway line.
Auntie asks, “How was your journey?”
I say “Absolutely fine”
When Claire asked if I’d like to review her collection, the idea of it frightened me a little – and I was immediately taken back to my O-level English days, having to analyse poems by the “greats”, and to my days as an English Lit undergraduate, still analysing, still trying to find clever and original things to say about John Donne and William Blake. But this lovely collection made me realise that poetry really doesn’t have to be something to be frightened of – it can also fill you with joy, make you smile and laugh, and capture quite perfectly some of those recognisable moments within life’s rich pattern.
So no analysis, but I will pick out a few more poems from the collection that I particularly enjoyed. The Good Old Days is a wonderfully wry look at the perceived negatives in the modern world, No Room at the Inn a gentle condemnation of NIMBY culture, Mobility Rap a joyous celebration of restored mobility in later life (and the accompanying illustration is wonderful!) – and I just loved Ladies Who Sing! My Telephone Week will certainly chime with anyone who spends their days at home, and there are a few poems that sum up beautifully the ups and downs of life with the internet. And there are a few, simply expressed, that touch you to the heart – take a look at Side by Side, the last poem in the collection, and I defy you not to have some grit in your eye.
The pencil illustrations by Amber Gee are the perfect punctuation and accompaniment – intricately drawn, picking up small details from each poem and always making you smile. Should poetry be something that frightens you a little too, this is a perfect reminder that it can be accessible to all, explore issues, and be joyful, sad and funny. This is a really lovely collection – and maybe a perfect one for someone’s Christmas stocking?
About the author
Claire Baldry retired from her career as a Headteacher and English Advisor in 2008. She is now an established writer, blogger, performance poet and public speaker in her home county of East Sussex. Find out more at www.clairebaldry.co.uk: you can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.