Lemn Sissay’s ‘Landmark Poems’

This week’s poetry highlight:

Lemn Sissay’s lecture, ‘Landmark Poems’  (University of Leicester School of Arts’ 7th annual Creative Writing lecture) last Wednesday evening.

Sissay tempers off-the-cuff hilarity with pauses for thought, rapid fire delivery with white space.  His self-deprecating manner belies an impressive biography.

Here’s a selection of quotes from my notebook:

On poems as landmarks:

A poem on a wall
is a
performance poem.


A landmark [poem]is a landmark only when the community decides it is one.


Poetry should be flying off the page onto the walls of our cities.


Beware the local history poem.

Advice for writers:

Poetry is a revolutionary act of connection, whether for wedding or for war.


What is real? The imagination, or the manifestation of it?


Create a whole world that was not there before.


See your career as a writer, as an orbit rather than a ladder.


Creativity is not the monopoly of artists. Writers are part of the wider community of creatives, not apart from it.

Unfortunately, Lemn Sissay’s Radio 4 documentary, Landmark Poetics, is no longer available on iPlayer.  However, a podcast of his UoL lecture will shortly be available on via the Centre for New Writing page of their website.

And it wouldn’t be a poetry jolly without a little book shopping, would it?



In other news:

The Interpreter’s House competition results have recently been announced, which means that I now have 8 instead of 7 poems for submission…somewhere (positive spin)!

In a Twitter moment, I had a sneak preview of the cover of All a Cat Can Be, a poetry anthology in support of New Start Cat Rescue.  As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, I’ve a poem in there, so I’m looking forward to receiving my contributor’s copy.




Three poetry pamphlets

It’s always a joy to receive a surprise package in the post.

The most recent contained three poetry pamphlets, commissioned by the University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing, and an accompanying letter from Dr Julian North at the School of Arts.


I was pleased to discover that two of the pamphlets (containing, amongst others, my commissioned poem, ‘Slave Bird’) have recently been re-issued:

Friendship’s Scrapbook: a sequence of five poems by Deborah Tyler-Bennett and my own single poem, written in response to archive material comprising a range of anti-slavery pamphlets and hymns, letters and journals produced by Leicester abolitionists, Elizabeth Heyrick and Susanna Watts.

Women’s Writing in the Midlands, 1750-1850: poems arising from a series of Record Office workshops led by Deborah Tyler-Bennett, in response to the original material that inspired Friendship’s Scrapbook.

The newly-published Writing Lives Together is an anthology of poetry and prose written as part of The Centre for New Writing’s ‘Writing and Research Series’ in a series of workshops responding to nineteenth century archive material including journals, confessions, lyric poetry and autobiography by Dorothy and William Wordsworth, Coleridge, Dickens and others.

All three pamphlets were launched at Leicester Shindig on Monday 27th November. Contributors to the anthology (Richard Byrt, Jo Dixon, Aysar Ghassan, Anna Larner and Jonathan Taylor) read their poems, and I  read my ‘Slave Bird’ poem.   I particularly enjoyed the humour of Richard Byrt’s ‘To Asda,’ a sonnet after Coleridge’s ‘To Asra’ and Keats’ ‘Ode to a Nightingale,’ and, by contrast, Anna Larner’s ‘On Reflection’ a sonnet after the same Coleridge poem.


All three pamphlets are available for free by emailing newwriting@le.ac.uk or click here for further details.

In this morning’s post

On my hallway doormat this morning:


This poetry collection is the second publication by University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing in connection with the AHRC-funded project, Women’s Writing in the Midlands, 1750-1850.  

Most of the poems in the collection arose out of a series of workshops run by Deborah Tyler-Bennett as part of the project.  Also included are Deborah’s poem ‘A Walk With Susanna Watts…’, and my poem ‘Singing Bird Box,’ two of several poems commissioned in 2015 and previously published in a pamphlet, Friendship’s Scrapbook – poems written in response to Leics, Leicester & Rutland Records Office archive materials on the lives and work of two Leicester women, Susanna Watts and Elizabeth Heyrick.  Both women held passionate views on the abolition of slavery and animal rights, and were actively involved in women’s anti-slavery societies, publishing their own periodical, The Hummingbird.

A PDF version of the poetry collection, including notes on the archive material which inspired each poem, is available to read here.

Narrate, Curate, Rejuvenate: Sole2Soul project

I’m delighted to be part of this exciting project as a commissioned poet.

Sole2Soul is an Arts Council-funded project commissioned by Leicester City Council to create digital assets for the Falkner Boot and Shoe exhibit at the recently refurbished Harborough Museum in a bid to increase museum visitor numbers and online traffic to the website.

This permanent exhibit is a reconstruction of the workroom at the rear of William Falkner & Son, makers and sellers of boots and shoes in Market Harborough from the 1830s.  The workshop has been painstakingly recreated, from the leather apron hanging on the door and the rows of lasts on the wall, down to the original floorboards.  Some of the wooden lasts for regular customers even show adaptations for the growth of bunions.  The museum is well worth a visit if you’re local or in the area.  (You might wish to check out the Iron Age Hallaton Hoard, also housed here).

Digital assets will take the form of story tweets, flash fiction and poetry which visitors will be able to access via a smartphone app.  Up to thirty writers have been commissioned by University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing.

The project seeks to engage teenagers as ‘future curators’ who will create an web-gallery about the exhibit.  There will also be a creative writing workshop for over-55s with the opportunity of handling some of the artefacts (sadly, there’s an assumption that none of us work, though – it’s on a Monday afternoon).  If you’re interested, click here for a link to the flyer with all the details.

I felt a real connection with the exhibit; family history research shows that the Gills, Wrights and Connellys of my ancestors include at least three shoemakers (or cordwainers, as one distinguished himself) amongst other skilled craftsmen and women.  Here is my poem:


as if these wooden rows of lasts could slip
the wall of nails and find their dancing feet,
skip to the old tunes in their velvet slippers,
grip a Fernie hunter’s flanks in riding boots.

as if time stands still beyond the glass, as if
the burnishers and blacking, pegs and rasps
are overnighting and the apron’s hanging
on the door hook, waiting for the craft

of ghosts. As if I could walk in their shoes –
the journeymen cobblers, cordwainers,
cloth manufacturers, tailors and drapers,
framework knitters, wrights and butchers,
farmers, labourers, factory workers: grafters,
my ancestors, the names that made me.

© Jayne Stanton                   May 2014