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Serving up the words at the Poetry Takeaway

October 14, 2012

Yesterday I took a break from being a prose writer to moonlight for the day as a poetry chef at The Poetry Takeaway.

The Poetry Takeaway is a burger van that serves as the world’s first mobile poetry emporium, staffed by poets who serve up free bespoke poems on any subject to members of the public in 15 minutes or so. It’s run by super talented poetry powerhouse Head Poetry Chef Tim Clare, who came up with the idea. The Takeaway marked the start of the 2012 Chester Literature Festival which runs from 14 to 28 of October.

I was writing alongside Tim and also Catherine Marseille (who runs Cellar Door poetry night and also drew the manga in Art from Wonderland), Dan Murgatroyd and Gareth Glyn Roberts. The time I spent in the Takeaway pretty much went past in a blur – I wrote 10 poems in two and a half hours, which is more than I’ve written in the past year! I won’t say they were up to my usual standard, considering the speed at which they were written, but I will say that it was a nervewracking, stressful and entirely inspiring and affirming experience. The people I wrote for seemed to really appreciate their poems – I guess it’s receiving that personal touch. A lot of people commented ‘that’s the first time I’ve ever had a poem written for me’. I wrote on subjects as diverse as children, grandchildren and pets, the moon, rainy days and dementia. Some of it was quite personal, so I won’t post those here, but I think my most bizarre request was for a poem about ‘a pirate with no thumbs; something jaunty but with an undertone of regret’ and I’m sure its owner won’t mind me sharing it!

The No-Thumbed  Pirate Captain

A captain has no need for thumbs!
My scurvy crew can man the guns
and swab the deck
and open doors
for me; that’s what a crew is for!

I lost my digits in a fight
off Foo-Chow-Foo. Such is my might
I took on a ship of opium smugglers
single-handed – oh, they had trouble!

They lost their lives
I lost my ability
to haul the ropes
(well, that’s hardly a tragedy)

I’m still fierce as any rabble-rouser
I just wish I could fasten my own trousers.



Dan, Gareth, Catherine and me in the Poetry Takeaway

L-R: Dan, Gareth, Catherine, Die and Tim hard at work in the Poetry Takeaway

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