Sue Stewart is a freelance writer and Literature Officer for East Midlands arts. Her work has appeared in many poetry magazines and anthologies; her collection of poems, Inventing the Fishes (Anvil Press, 1993) won the 1994 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize for Best First Collection. She has read on national radio and television, including Radio 4's 'Kaleidoscope', TVS's 'This Way Out', and Radio Scotland.
The purpose of this residency was two-fold. Staff development - Broadcast journalists often find themselves using the same words and phrases repeatedly and by rote, due to the nature of their jobs. The poet's work with staff encouraged them to explore fresh ways of communication information, choosing different words to tell the same story. Listener project - involving a number of local listeners to join the workshops with the staff, and to produce a piece of their own work, as a group or as individuals, for broadcast.
Sue Stewart reports below, and poems from the project follow.
I worked with the staff at BBC Radio Nottingham, as well as with listeners to the radio station, creative writing group members, and individual poets. Age and experience varied, giving testament to the power of lifelong learning - two of the students recently joined a local creative writing group in their middle years, having finally decided, as they put it, "we had something to say and we were going to say it". Some of them were closet writers, others had already had their work published in some of the regional literary magazines. At the other end of the age range, one of the younger students in the group has recently completed the MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.
Already one interesting spin-off is developing from the work of the group. Two of the students are establishing a literary magazine for Nottingham, and are meeting the County's Literature Development Officer to talk about their first steps towards this.
I have met some very talented writers throughout the residency, and had a great time reading their work, hearing about their favourite poets, and sharing my own favourites with them. My only proviso for the latter was that all poets had to be contemporary, which stumped some people but not for long.
This pamphlet is a celebration of their hard work and commitment and good humour throughout this wintry and creative month. The staff workshops were great, but they didn't want their work aired publicly. But they were an entertaining group, and we had a lot of fun, as well as work.
- Sue Stewart
January was skeletons, a clasp of bone
found by the iron blade of February
who called over the hills to March;
its sudden breath lifted the wings of birds.
April undid itself, unscrolled a hand
and May secreted hormones.
Musk stain and blossom made blood
for June, July's heart beating in a rose.
August, hot and dry as a kiln
itched for change until September
blew its warmth from the door
like a cobweb. October was clear
with a mind for the planets,
chiselling perfection from the moon.
November wept for what could only ever
be shadow and December stone.
The Months of the Year
January like a homeless kitten cowers in half-light,
February, bolder, emerges from hibernation for the afternoon.
March glistens on celandines ruffling green and yellow,
April shakes catkin pollen on excited lambs.
Traitor May calls up late frosts.
That stain the newly opened buds of June.
July, the cuckoo's last monotony
Is sharpened into August's beach-play shouts.
September spreads warm colour gainst the mist
That screens October's pheasant plump and loud.
November's sodden carpet teems with life
December's deeper chill annihilates.
January ran round the sales for bargains
which fell apart when February arrived.
March's garden mould started stirring
and then April proliferated.
May wasn't merry but moderately cold
and next flaming June fizzled out.
July thankfully locked the school gates
and August almost forgot to pack the suntan lotion.
Gorgeous September celebrated her birthday
and there were oddments left over for October.
Grey-haired November went through a dull patch
but brightened up again when December's baby was born.
On heavy things, I linger
with sometimes green and water.
Scented with back alleys,
northern facing stumps,
tasting of coughs and colds,
and almost wanting the sun.