LOOK, LISTEN AND CHOOSE
Each month the website will feature a different poem both printed and recorded. If you have a favourite poem that you'd like to share with others please get in touch via the website and we'll add it to the list.
The Mitcheldean Festival 2015 Poetry Recital Page - containing poems from participating poets. This can be accessed from the drop down menu from the Local Info Button above or directly
This is a list of the poems on this page - click on the one you want to read and we'll take you there:-
Four Seasons in the Forest
By Dave Harvey
In early Spring the snowdrops peep
From laying in the ground fast asleep.
The daffodils next will show their heads
Turning parts of the Forest into bright yellow beds.
These are the signs that Spring is here,
Young green shoots to feed baby deer.
The babbling brook still runs deep
After Winter snow, rain and sleet.
All kinds of birds, with robins red breast,
Are gathering together to build their nests.
The blackbird sings his song on high,
Because another Winter has passed by.
In early May, when the weather gets warm,
The honey bees they tend to swarm.
The Forest turns to all shades of green,
The most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen.
After long hot days of visiting sites,
The nightingale sings into the night.
You may spot a doe and a baby fawn
As another day begins to dawn.
From August on, take a long crook stick,
For there’s lots of blackberries to be picked.
There are signs of Summer coming to an end
For Autumn weather is just round the bend.
Autumn comes with colours so bold,
Of yellow and reds and browns and golds.
These ochre colours all can be seen
All through the woods in the Forest of Dean.
Hazel and chestnuts on the floor
For nature’s pets to fill their store.
The Autumn leaves fall on the ground,
Leaves a soft carpet all around.
Then the first slight frosts appear
To show that Winter’s drawing near.
When nature’s animals seek to doze,
Hibernate for Winter! I suppose.
The snow turns the Forest to a blanket of white,
The frost all day that glistens at night.
The sound of the fox on the cold night air,
For a long night’s hunt away from his lair.
At the end of December
A new year is found.
For nature’s world,
It goes round and round.
©Vicky Hampton, 2015
There are quarries where men flaked history.
Three centuries and more they split, knapped
and nailed the country’s hardcore over their heads,
bedded stone down on rafters for their new-weds
and children to play under, their old to die.
There are streets hatted in the finery of that labour.
It’s lichened now, the colour of April catkins, and
sags badly with the weight. Where it falls
sifting yellow Caterpillars turn to light of day
the cobwebbed prayers and ghosted I love yous.
There are places where the dismantled are left,
counted, classified, bleak; where wind shrieks
through black eyes punched in old tiles
leaning against each other like mourners, scrubbed
and gone that asphyxiated grey of the lost.
There are faces on those stones which are inscrutable.
By day they are tired exiles, in line for transportation.
Beneath a moon, they are dragon scales -
pewter runes to roof time itself -
awaiting reclamation by the ancient ones.
Originally from Wales, Vicky Hampton has lived in and around Ruardean for twenty years. She is a qualified Writing For Wellbeing facilitator. “I’ve written poetry pretty much most of my life,” she says, “Wherever a landscape tells its stories to me.” Vicky is a member of poetry-writing groups in Cheltenham and Monmouth, and regularly reads her poems and short stories at The Queens Head (Monmouth) Writers Showcase. Some of her poems, written soon after moving to Gloucestershire, are anthologised in ‘Forest Poets of Today’. Her poem, ‘Reclamation’, inspired by the stone roof tiles typical to the Cotswolds and her native Wales, won in the 2015 Chipping Sodbury poetry competition.
Dick Brice, was brought up at Harrow Hill and now lives with his wife Di just outside the forest boundary some four miles from Ross on Wye. From the mid-sixties to early eighties he and Di sang with ‘The Farriers’ an award-winning Birmingham based folk group; but once back in the forest, the history, characters and dialect have provided material for an astonishing range of poem and song, which goes all the way from lamenting the lost world of the mines (as here in ‘A Culture Built on Coal’), to celebrating the forest heritage –a gift to be treasured and passed on to future generations (See ‘This Forest Land’ on the Poetry Recital page).
Culture Built on Coal
The pithead hooter’s silent now; the winding gear is still.
What was a grey-blue heap of slag is now a fern-green hill.
For the old men draw their pensions and the young men draw the dole,
And I’ve lived to see the dying of a culture built on coal.
The husband on the night-shift won’t trudge off down the lane,
And leave his wife to worry he won’t make it home again.
No more we’ll hear the banter in our proud old forest tongue
Or the old man in the corner coughing poison from his lung.
No more will weary miners bring home faces grimed with dirt,
Or a woman old before her time scrub coal-dust from a shirt.
No more will anxious fam’lies gather at the hooter’s sound
Or stand weeping at the broken bodies brought from underground.
But neither will we feel the bond between a band of men,
Who trust each other’s skills upon which all their lives depend.
In a time of peace and plenty it’s impossible to find
The comradeship that’s known to those, who laboured down the mine.
But now our world is setting out to write another page
Without the sighing of the winding wheel, the rattle of the cage.
And those of us with memories will live to count the cost
Of what the forest gained from progress and just how much has been lost.
For the pithead hooter’s silent now; the winding gear is gone.
But in this generation still the mem’ries linger on.
There’s a melancholy emptiness deep, deep within the soul
That we’ve lived to see the dying of a culture built on coal.
‘Another Shift Done’
Monday morning go to the mine,
Up early in the morning to get there on time.
Into the baths to clean lockers first
Fill up your can for the later-on thirst.
Up to the tally-man to pick up your check;
Tighten the muffler that hangs round your neck.
Down to the blacksmith - a sharp blade for your pick;
The hooter’s blown: go up to the pit.
Into the cage; the gates close with a clang.
Someone comes out with some old forest slang.
Lift off the dogs, then downward we go
To the depths of the mine far down below.
The cage seems to bounce as the brakes are applied,
Secret thoughts – for another safe ride.
Down to the coal-face, there’s work to be done
Deep down in the ground, away from the sun.
There’s Don, Fred and Ken, Mike Burns and myself
Colliers on a face in the Coleford High Delf
A slight fall of roof, it scrapes off the skin
I wash it clean with some drink from my tin.
We work on the face in boots, trousers and vest.
It’s good to have bread and a well-earned short rest.
Then back to the coal face: we must get it clear.
Look forward to the darts and a cold pint of beer.
It’s quarter past one – to the trolleys we stroll:
Another shift over from this dark grimy hole.
Into pit bottom, we wait for a while
For the afternoon shift there’s always a smile.
Onto the cage, up into the sun
What a joy for us all – another shift done.
Dave Harvey, who knows the forest past and present like few others, from personal experience here recalls life down the mines. Another painful memory, of a tragedy that nearly cost him his life, can be found in the poem ‘Big Phil Bennet’ on the poetry recital page.
A Tribute to the Forest of Dean Miner
Black harvest gleaned from the belly of earth,
For thee we seek.
That sweat we offer - a mark of thy worth,
Yet we are weak.
Rude hands that claw at your dark rugged walls,
Dim eyes that peer through the dust of your falls,
That craving for comfort how strongly it calls,
Of thee we speak.
Gone are the days of our fathers before,
For thee they sought.
Small though their yields yet sufficient the more
Thy face they wrought.
Simple their methods and basic their need,
Unspoilt by demand of others' base greed,
From the fruit of their knowledge they planted the seed,
From which we're taught.
But with the coming of machine and its power,
An age had gone.
What they won by week was now gathered by hour,
But their light shone.
But when that new era was profit no more,
And all that were left were the tiny and poor,
With nought but the skills of those days of yore,
You still go on.
Keith Morgan was born in Coleford in 1942, has lived in the forest all his life and was encouraged to write by the late Harry Beddington, one of the best writers of the forest dialect. Keith’s love of the Forest of Dean, its people, culture, humour and heritage is reflected in his work – in poems such as ‘Coal Mining’ included here and his dialect poem ‘Varest Ship’ on the poetry recital page.
Brenda Read-Brown is the current Gloucestershire Poet Laureate. Brenda has won many slams, and performed everywhere from Texas to the local pub. A selection of her poems can be found in ‘Arbitrary edges’ published in 2013, which includes, she says ‘poems I am proud of, the ones I like, and the ones other people like'. Two of Brenda’s poems are included here – on the poetry recital page the beautiful ‘When A Butterfly Lands’ and here ‘Justified’.
Just today I just noticed that I use the word just just about all the time, instead of only which makes me feel lonely, and indecently often in place of recently, and sometimes when I really mean merely, or dearly, or, queerly, even really itself; or, more matter-of-factly, when I should put exactly; and it certainly isn't prudery that avoids the hint of rudery in setting down, squarely, barely. I've never denied despite my pride that I can be idle, and don't always take the trouble to decide the precise word for my meaning, but sidle round with this vague evasion; but it's annoying and demeaning that the occasions are strangely rare that I use just to signify fair; where, in fact, it would be truly justified.
The Poets of Gloucestershire
by Helen Hail
with the poets of Gloucestershire
at Twigworth and Minsterworth
and on May Hill.
Far from asylums, prison camps
and the guns of France,
I find them in my county’s churchyards
and among trees on the high hills.
Hedgerows bursting with spring
the bubbling water
sings them in summer,
Autumn’s vibrancy resurrects them
and frost sparks their words again,
for the poets of Gloucestershire
still walk these ways.
Helen Hail is a poet who is inspired by May Hill and the woods around it and is known locally as ‘The Poet of May Hill’. Her first collection "Fire and Ice" was published by Bluechrome in 2004.
by Frank Penning
This autumn time when day is done,
there sinks the early setting sun.
The air is cool, the wind blows keen,
and trees are losing their verdant green.
The plants have done their very best
to flower and seed but soon will rest,
as autumn heralds their winter test.
The fires are lit when daylight's gone,
we have lost the warmth of the setting sun.
And chill creeps in on misty waves,
that condensates on grass and graves
and outhouses, doors and window staves.
At dawn the dew hangs on the grass
in droplets like crystal glass,
cobwebs are spread across the lawn,
with watery pendants, that should be worn.
These diamond necklaces of crystal bright
are lit up by the morning light,
but soon will fade and disappear,
as the sun warms up the air.
This time of mists and watery sun,
where the shadows lengthen as the days do run.
Are just a reminder that the year is near done.
After a battle
On near and far horizons
the blackened upturned trees
like Nature's crucifixion
remain for all to see.
A ghostly, sad reminder
a tally of the cost
A lasting valediction
For all that we have lost
© IJH. Aug.2014
Please see the 'World War 1 Page' of the website
Sharon Haines author of 'Honey'
"My poetry shares my innermost feelings of what it was like growing up in the countryside around Cliffords Mesne & Mayhill, my main inspiration being my ponies. You can see and experience so much more of the countryside whilst out riding, including seeing the seasons as they change."
Reflections of a Pond
There is in woodland by a lane,
a Pond, a Lake, that’s made by rain.
This little lake it doesn’t stay,
it grows with rain, then flows away.
Down through a drain they call the spout.
Under Spout lane, then gushes out.
Into a stream and then another,
till volumes of the water gather.
Past long and old forgotten Mills,
into the Severn, where it spills.
It’s never ever really dry,
On clement days there is close by.
St Anthony’s Well, that flows so clear,
In fresh cool water all the year,
That cascades into woodland steep
And trickles down to where it seeps.
High on May Hill is a simple celebration of our valley and it's hill.
High on May Hill
A beacon on the Forest’s northern flank,
Outstanding yet within its loose embrace,
May Hill’s high grassy slopes are Longhope’s crown,
The copse within it’s summit earthwork banks
Its jewel. A Sunday walk (whose country pace
Includes a detour for the friends from town -
Refuelling at the cider house) soon turns uphill
High on the cusp where pasture turns to heath,
The gorse and bracken dominant until
The famous scots pine grove. Spread out beneath:
The giant pylons, rushing arrow straight,
Criss-cross the contours where the railway line
To Ross once ran its level route, sedate
And certain (now its sad remaining signs:
A sheep collecting pen, abandoned bridges,
Disconnected footpaths and a fenced off
Lorry park). Beyond, the woods of Ruardean,
Breakheart and all the piney ridges
Drop down to the snaking River’s swollen trough.
Up Blaisdon’s valley, lost in shades of green,
(The pastel froth of blossom long since blown)
Plum orchards, potent with their autumn fruit,
Play host to grazing sheep (their lambs now grown
And gone for Sunday lunch). High summer suits
These hills: bright sunshine lends a Tuscan glow
To stone and whitewashed cottages and farms
Spread thinly on the slopes (in rain they show
A dullness that’s best known as Celtic charm).
Now high on the summit, in the wood, drawn
Deep in shades of charcoal quiet as the night
(Though tricks from May Day’s jingle jangle dawn
stay resonant) the trees are split by sunlight
Slanting through the diamond coloured canopy,
One hundred Scots Pines planted, so we’re told,
To celebrate Victoria’s Jubilee.
From wide across the Vale the trees bold
Standing gives May Hill a singularity
That lifts it from a simple grassy dome,
Endows a landmark popularity,
Provides, from the far Scarp, a welcome home.
"When I was sixteen I came to live in Mitcheldean with my aunt and uncle Felix and Betty Wright who were the landlord and landlady of the White Horse pub in Mitcheldean.
I started work at the BAF on a milling machine, my boss was Jock Currie.BAF then became Rank Xerox where I covered Hacker radios and Selmer Speakers. Then I got married and had three children, lived in Platts Row, and this is the story of my youngest little daughter who planted this acorn."
THE LABYRINTH OF LIFE
Each day I struggle through life’s maze
Surrounded by the smog and haze
I battle on, but more delay
Another dead end bars my way
And yet You love me
My baggage carries so much hurt
My life weighed down with guilt and dirt
Bitter, twisted from my pain
Tortured thoughts and troubled brain
And still You love me
Lord, give me peace to calm the storm
Although my life did not conform
Unveil my eyes that I might see
The sacrifice You made for me
Because You love me
Please take my hand and don’t let go
It’s You I want and need to know
So when I’m all alone and lost
I’ll think of Jesus on that cross
And know You love me
Jennifer Smith (See also ‘Autumn’ on the Poetry Recital page) has loved writing all her life but turned to poetry following a creative writing course in Gloucester. Of this poem she says: ‘Something called ‘Labyrinth’ was coming to our church – a symbolic and sometimes disturbing spiritual journey in which the traveller is taken out of their comfort zone and encouraged to unwind and think – about themselves, their relationships, the planet and their God. This was my response’
We're looking for poets and writers
Of verses and ditties and rhyme
Please send all your thoughts to the website
We'll put them on here next to mine.
There's a type of person we're looking for
A person whose got lots of thoughts
We'd like to see what you're writing,
To give you a theatre of sorts
Share your thoughts and ideas
Through the website
It's really quite easy to do
Use this link, press the button,
Go on - if you dare
Write down those thoughts
That you're happy to share
We'll put them right here
No problem at all
If you don't want to email
Then just take a stroll
Go down to the library
They're friendly in there
Explain that you have, something to share
They'll give it to me
I'll put it on here
It's really that easy to use this stage
Of the Mitcheldean Library website page.
Once I took my kids there
Played football, scored a try,
Now I pay to park at speech house
And I really don’t know why
Too late to close the stable door
Once the horse has gone
And the swansong of the forest
You feel it won’t be long
They’re putting up a hotel
Five star I hear them say
But the bats and newts and lizards
Wont even stay a day
Too late to close the stable door
Once the horse has gone
And the swansong of the forest
You're sure it won’t be long
And what of Forest’s future
I’ll give you all a clue
Burger King among the trees
And you just know its true
And when the Center Parc arrives
And we can’t afford to stay
The signs will be up everywhere
Private , Keep Away !
Too late to close the stable door
Once the horse has gone
And the swansong of the forest
You know it won’t be long
The Phantom Poet
All thoughts and ideas, follow the link to: email@example.com