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MATT BLACK

Matt Black writes poems, and occasionally fiction, for adults and children. He writes for publication, as well as for performance, and lives in Sheffield and Leamington Spa. He was Derbyshire Poet Laureate (2011-2013) and since then he has continued to explore Derbyshire through commissioned work on the Changing Landscapes project, based in Ilkeston; which has inspired poems exploring industrial heritage, particularly of the canals, and the landscapes and people of Erewash. His work delights in finding ways, with seriousness and with humour, of celebrating and reflecting people, issues, and places, that are often overlooked, unsung, unrecognised. His most recent collections areFootsteps and Fuddles: Laureate poems (Derbyshire County Council, 2013), and The Owl and the Pussycat and the Turtles of Fun (Two Rivers Press, 2014). He has won awards and commissions, and has toured in Germany, U.S.A., Ireland, Poland and the Czech Republic.

The story of Matt’s work for First Art

Matt was one of the first artists commissioned for the project. First Art asked him to travel our areas and interpret the landscape and its people. Here is the story of that journey, in his own words...

"These poems are inspired by visits to a wide range of locations in North Nottinghamshire and North East Derbyshire. I walked the countryside, spent time in villages and towns, dived into cafés and pubs, chatted to people, and looked at local history attractions. My aim was to be inspired by landscapes and people, and to reflect the past but equally to look at the present. I was keen to write about the mining landscape and history, still visible in so many ways, but also grew aware that whilst mining is in the DNA of the people and the area, it is not of equal significance to everyone, and there are many other features to be reflected. As well as landscape and history, which are the conventional first-calls of interest, I also wanted to find the telling detail from current lives, how people talk, and how people’s characters are reflected in buildings, shops, leisure activities, occupations, conversations etc.These, for me, are often the treasure troves of real warmth and connection with our loving, struggling and most human selves, and show what is distinctive to the people and the area.

My method for doing this was to take pen and paper, dictaphone and I-Pad on planned wanderings - otherwise known as field research outings! I made notes, some of which were quick writing sketches, which turned into haikus and short poems. Other notes instantly shaped themselves into the beginnings of longer poems, which I developed at home later.

On these travels, I visited the old Viyella mills, met a group of men in a pub who knew the famous England cricketer Harold Larwood, came across Byronic Bingo, snooker halls, Bulgarian plate spinners, and watched Mansfield Town play York City. I talked to dog-walkers, lovers, ex-miners, taxi-drivers, charity shop workers, pub landlords and listened in to conversations. I was struck with how busy lives are, and reminded of how smaller communities have so much culture and activity quietly going on. I was frequently moved by how in these communities, villages and towns, people look out for each other, and look after each other, and warmth, wit and resilience are such strong and distinctive parts of the local character. "

The Work

Clay Cross

Clay Cross folk, second

To none. Two pounds in their pockets,

They’ll give you one

Smedley’s bright bobbins

Still whirr, wind, hum. Galaxies of

Cotton nightshirts spun


Near North Wingfield

Too big for a village, too small for a proper town,

We’re the backbone of England, so please don’t put us down.

We’ve plenty going on, it’s just that you don’t read it

In the papers, so somehow don’t believe it.

With new builds, a Coop and a railway line,

Allotments, two pubs and a closed-down mine,

We’re in commuting distance of bigger towns with jobs.

With quiet lanes, and perfect for walking the dogs

Across shining fields, and under midnight moons,

We’re too busy for sleepy, too small for a Wetherspoon’s.

Not as pretty as a village, or noisy as a proper town,

But we’re the backbone of England, so please don’t put us down.


Teversall Miners Monument

Risen from hundreds of feet below,

To the highest point in the County,

In a stone circle, an ancient hero,

Mud-black, buckled, booted, helmeted,

Snap-tin, tool-tin, knee-pads, athletic.

He wears a bronze shirt, thick and warm.

Against clear blue sky, one knee earthed,

His left hand holds up a miner’s lamp,

Which he looks at with tunnel concentration;

As if through dark, remembering lives, and wives,

How the pit-props collapsed,

And 65 listed Nottinghamshire pits.

He stands on a pile of loose coal;

on a block of stone to weather any storm.


Teversall Ponds

Across the surface, upon these calm ponds,

Where they mined coal, now float swans.

Where they used to dig, delve, plunder,

Silver birches grow, tall and tender.


Huthwaite

Memorials to mining

everywhere we go

the buried half-wheel from the pithead

and what’s missing is below

if we could pull these wheels up

up from earth and see them whole

let these pasts roll into the future

let them rolllet them rolllet them roll


Field near Grassmoor

Go on, cross this field,

It is waiting for your footprints,

Your warm breath,

Like a promise stretching

To the gate in the far corner.

It will hold you safe

For another five minutes

Of your busy, moving life,

And its million insects will whisper

Nothing and everything,

As you cross to the other side,

As the sky tilts to your eye.


Clay Cross

Na then, Bill, where’s

Nearest fishing tackle shop?

Probly Skeggie

Ey up, my darling,

Are you keeping well? Not bad.

Alright sugar. See ya

Dave’s had his knee done.

Can’t drive to work, but he’s reet

For getting rabbits

How is she? Better?

Not bad. Hasn’t been out much.

Tell her to lie low

This pint’s a good ‘un.

Half ten? Think I’ll paint her door

When it gets wermer


A Pair of Lovers in the Pilgrim Oak, Hucknall

We chat and kiss in a booth in Wetherspoon’s

Under pictures of Carnival Queens and Byron’s History.

We’ve met in this spot, with these beers, for centuries

And life’s a crazy, bloody mystery.


Sutton

You might worry, now there’s a Gregg’s in every town you see,

That we’re all eating the same thing, becoming just one style,

But the man at the next table, with his Gregg’s cup of tea,

Has a knowing, crooked, wise and ancient Sutton smile.


Kirkby

Kirkby barber, t-shirt, crew-cut, clean hard jaw,

He looks tough to me, until he says -

Round here? Place I like is Selston,

You can walk your dog, it’s more set in its ways.


Hucknall

This town is proud, quirky, full of characters, independent, piecemeal, untidy, modern Britain, truthful, rundown, resilient, charity-minded, looking out for each other, humourful, a bit ragged, busy, plodding, striving, hopeful, self-deprecating, deep with history, soft, tough, angry, full of love, tired and enduring.


Pleasley

Lost down the hills, three quiet mills,

Where wool and cotton from America

Intertwined, like husband and wife,

In the lost valley of Viyella.

By the Dye House, and the Grease Works,

She used to wait, so tired, for her fella,

But loving and wild as the white garlic

In the lost valley of Viyella.

A different world, where the waters swirled,

Where children toiled for long hours labour,

Berries red as the blood of workers

In the lost valley ofViyella.

Mills tall and grand, built of stone,

Where millstone lives were turned by water,

The tall chimney still rises through the trees

In the lost valley of Viyella.

Where the Meden flows, the ivy grows

On the oak, in all weather,

In the bluebell woods, where the owls fly

In the lost valley of Viyella.


Shirebrook

Cold top of the world,

Wind sharp, flat; old goose-bumps sing

North-east Derbyshire

Grand, wide Market Square,

Lift clouds, blaze sun, and you’re in

Shirebrook, Italia

Café de Linda,

No questions asked, they just put

Sugar in your tea

Old farming ways, cold

Days require gravy, mash, big

Hot steak pie dinner

That fill the gap, duck?

Yes, sure did, if my wee gap

Is size of a barn

Warm humour, pie, chat

Keeps out cold, sharp wind, fights off

Current lack of jobs


SherwoodForest

Old Sherwood Forest -

good Robin Hood, still busy

in local Food Bank.


Byron Bingo in Hucknall

Don JuanNumber One

Little Boy BlueNumber Two

Augusta LeighNumber Three

Number FourDebtors at the Door

Number Five’sWatch out for your Wives

Rhyming TricksNumber Six

Drunk and in HeavenNumber Seven

Number EightShelley’s Mate

Number NineHad a Good Time

Or if you don’t fancy Byron Bingo

You might prefer Lovelace Lotto


Ada Lovelace

Teach her mathematics! Her mother cried,

Scared that Ada might inherit

Byron’s barmpot Romantic condition.

Abandoned by her Dad (too busy

With rhymes, crimes and women,

And being a Russell Brand for revolution),

Aged 12, Ada studied how she might fly,

Observed the method of birds, considered if

Her wings should be feather, oilsilk, paper.

She chose the wings of sums,

Was named the Enchantress of Numbers,

Soared to the summit, scribbled notes

For the software that took us, later,

From one kind of revolution to,

Equally barmpot, another.


First Art Speaks Through A Horse Near Tibshelf Services

No, contrary to human mythology, I am not

A nay-sayer, and I wish to welcome First Art

To my field, and to this whole area

For my nostrils are tired of motorway vibrations

And I firmly believe, from my fetlock to my horseshoes,

That First Art offers a positive and welcome antidote

To the corporate offer, cheap rooms at Days Inn,

Or a frothy cup of dodgy Costa cappuccino,

For I have been harnessed too long to the human condition

And look forward to First Art facilitating me

To run free again, the wind blowing through my mane,

In this wild field of creative expression;

And if you are in doubt about anything

I strongly suggest you might consider leaving

The washing-up behind you, join this party,

Head back fifty thousand years

And try channelling Wild Horse.


Creswell

Creswell Cave, First Art,

Fifty thousand years ago –

Wild horse carved by Ug


Ug’s First Haiku

UzEreMakFirst Art

MudBludSingYipiYo

YuSkyWyMiUg


Skegby Manor House, 1207

No roof, half-walls, trees.

Skegby lives flown to cold sky –

Wild green hellibores.


Grassmoor

In soft October light,

Where the headstock once rose like a helter-skelter,

Where the grass-snake now spirals

Along the Five Pits Trail by Grassmoor,

By carefully combed brown fields,

Sheep bobbing busy-with-grass heads,

Lonely houses, full of untold stories,

Bask nonsensically in the blowsy heat

Of this strange October sun.

Grassmoor Pond, swamp-green,

Still as late summer,

Where invisible fish create ripples, in rings,

Like silent waves of radar,

Like the promise of a prayer.


Sutton Time (a fantasy)

Overheard remark “How can you tell time when it’s raining?”

In Sutton we’ve a splendid sundial,

But since it’s often raining,

We’ve learnt to live without time,

Manyana, not complaining.

We stand and chat at bus-stops

Because Sutton buses are never late,

Like Sutton taxis which just arrive

Since we don’t know what it means to wait.

Sutton pubs don’t need lock-ins

Since Sutton landlords don’t call time,

Every day’s holiday, no school, no work

Since we don’t have Ten Past Nine.

Sutton shops open shortly,

Supper is when hunger calls,

We only die in Sutton when we’re ready,

Not when sundial’s shadow falls.

In Sutton sex never ends,

Though some say it never starts,

But Sutton love is forever,

Never broke, our Sutton hearts.

So bless our sundial, on sunny days,

When time arrives with ice-cream,

And bless her doubly, in sweet rain,

At none o’clock, our timeless dream.


Yellows (Mansfield)

On a cold March Mansfield evening,

High balls rise into the sky.

Quiet as a wood, terraced houses look on

As the Stags play by starlight.

The teams hug each other at corners,

Smart lads, noisy hairdos and gel.

Proud stags strutting, rutting in the park,

Is this Chile versus Brazil?

No, it’s Mansfield Town versus York City

At One Call Stadium – Yellows, Yellows,

And the ref’s a bit of a bounder,

Is almost what the man behind me bellows.

The ball flies and lands in the poplars.

Beer, pies and roars keep us warm tonight.

Goalies outstretched fingers reach for sky

As the Stags play by starlight.


Harold Larwood (Kirkby and Nuncargate)

stands centre stage, Kirkby Market,

chisel jawed, wind-swept hair, leaning back,

one foot on the ground, his other leg lifted high,

as if rising from the pits, where he worked,

his shirt stretched in tight folds, head

thrown back, his free hand high and uncurled,

opened out, as if releasing Kirkby,

his other hand finding the power to unleash

this black circle through the English sky

down the hill to the Cricketer’s Arms, Nuncargate,

where this greatest ever fast bowler learnt his art.

Not tall, but he outplayed them all.

How Bradman ducked and dodged,

refused to play him the second time,

and the old man at the bar, voice defiant with pride -

Worked in the pits first he did. Only five foot ten.

As a young un he played on pitch out back,

made a gap in the hedge so he could get better run-up.

Used to practise by bowling at one stump.

Outside, the cold pitch, still in use,

with three wooden benches for spectators.

No Heritage sign here, but a shiver of greatness

across these open fields where coal was king,

where Larwood bowled with fiercest fire;

under the hill where three old horses graze,

oblivious of mid wicket, or leg before.


The Rainbow (Holmewood and Huthwaite)

Let us not underestimate the hidden,

The industrial estates beside the M1,

Holmewood, Huthwaite (car-park Market Square,

5 takeaways, 1 Post Office, 2 small supermarkets),

These estates of pale blue steel warehouses

With shutter doors, lorry parks, loading bays and logos

Are pitheads of the present, with better health and safety,

Busy centres of what remains of post-industrial industry.

Here you will find motorway favourites,

Norbert Dentressangle, James Irlam, Potto’s of Preston,

On Lorry Fuel Bunkering , tired pitstops and overnights,

And small firms, Galvanising, Utopia Tableware,

Pallets, Mallatite, Advanced Accident Repair,

And suddenly a rainbow appears

Behind Palletised Storage and Northern Lights Lighting Solutions,

An arc of Victorian hope bridging

The M1 and Extratherm Main Gates.


Newstead Abbey

On the shimmering lake the swans are looking good,

Wild, lonely and romantic, that way that all swans should.

The house is Gothic, ghostly, battlements and Byrony,

Tall and serious, before the world was overrun with irony.

Waterfalls and walkways, willows with hanging hair,

Curving paths and peacocks, and love-trysts in the air,

The perfect landscape for a Lord with a Soho tendency,

Bowers, nooks and arbours, and all so rhododendrony.

Politics and passion ruled, but he was drunk, and young,

Mad and bad maybe, but he made a fabulous Don Juan.


Bolsover

Lanterns like cupcakes, ladybirds, rockets,

The Samba band in white suits with headlights,

Daleks, stars , musical notes, Minions,

Fiery castles made out of milk bottles,

Up here is where we celebrate sky,

And a flock of glowing Lantern birds takes flight,

Slowly out of the Castle, the crowds are waiting,

It’s a peace parade, a magical armistice day,

The Town Crier leads, Santa, drummers,

And all the lanterns follow, down the hill,

They spill out of the Cavendish, dancing

Because it’s Lantern Parade day,

In Bolsover town, where the people look up

And the castle looks down,

The birds of prey frown, and the children

Wear long-eared hats down to the ground.


Our Bo’ser

“Hardwick is rich, Welbeck is fine,

Worsope is stately, Bols’er divine.”

Richard Andrews, 17th century

The Normans came and had some hassle

So in Bolsover they built a castle

The Domesday Book came and went away

But Bolsover was here to stay

Castle built by Robert Peveril

He first built one and then built several

From Castle walls the town was planned

Magnesium limestone dressed by hand

William Cavendish was good on a horse

Till Civil War stopped his course

Chorus:We all knows her, that’s our Bo’ser

Tunnels, subsidence all round town,

Another world, underground

Abel Sykes, farmer, but even finer

Enabled the finest housing for the miner

Where pitmen used to dig and hew

Now only sculptures left to view

From Coalite came the toxic smell

Made people’s lives a living hell

Chorus:We all knows her, that’s our Bo’ser

But more recently than Abel Sykes,

Dennis Skinner, the beast who bikes

The beast who’s ageing but not dormant,

He’s the Tories constant torment

From Castle to Church with a spire,

Twice destroyed by disastrous fire

Weddings, christenings of all town members,

All records lost in the embers

Chorus:We all knows her, that’s our Bo’ser

Our Norman town, with Market charter,

Where people used to come and barter

It’s true that Bolsover has lost a lot,

Pit, Plaza, baths, but not the plot

The future of Bolsover now looks bright,

As European funding sets us alight

With markets and festivals in the pipeline

And Bols’er - once more - will be divine.

Written by the Bolsover Poetry Group, May 2014

We meet at Beans Coffee Shop, are a very friendly and welcoming group, and open to new members.


Snooker Club Haikus

Young fresh Steve Davies

Peers, innocent, over bright

Flashing fruit machines

Two wide men carry

Long thin snooker cases, like

Elephants with guns

Plush red seats, flowers,

Fine roast dinners, fast talkers –

Noone speaks in haikus

Always same drinks, food,

You see them, when they park car,

You could write it down


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