Friday, 30 May 2008

Leamophants: a commissioned poem

Photograph appears courtesy of Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, Warwick District Council

Exotic, thick-lashed, they arrive
with their entourage
of flap-eared uncles and wrinkled aunts.

As promised, here is the poem commissioned to commemorate the recent re-siting of the elegant 'Elephant Circle' seat by Nicholas Dimbleby in Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa, which you can see pictured above - with one of my own sons taking an impromptu elephant ride.

I hope you all enjoy it!


(in memoriam Sam & George Lockhart, elephant trainers)

Exotic, thick-lashed, they arrive
with their entourage
of flap-eared uncles and wrinkled aunts.

Flirtatious, on elegant display,
they sashay
the white length of the Parade

and people stare as they pass,
bold debutantes
overwintering at the Spa.

Like heroines from a Regency romance,
come here to acquire
‘a little town bronze’,

they admire themselves in shop fronts,
twirling Oriental silk parasols
in their dusty trunks.

One hundred years on, you can
almost see them
in the park each dusk, walking

single file in the cold,
taking themselves down to the river
to bathe; daisy-chaining,

trunk-to-tail, their vast
delicate feet
like scallop-edged drums

thumping the concrete,
always just missing the civic pinks
and marigolds.


Thursday, 22 May 2008

Commissioned poem for Leamington Spa Railway Station: official reading Friday 23rd May

Leamington Spa Station,
"Official Opening"

12pm at Friday 23 May 2008

After months of hard work, the newly refurbished Leamington Spa station is ready for its official reopening.

The Railway Heritage Trust, The Friends of Leamington Station and Chiltern Railways have all invested in the future of Leamington Spa station to restore the station’s Art Deco features. The refurbishment includes the booking hall and subway area.

Adrian Shooter, Chairman of Chiltern Railways will be unveiling the plaque, followed by Jane Holland, Poet Laureate who will read a specially commissioned poem about the station.

Pete Waterman, Chairman of the Friends of Leamington Spa, Sir William McAlpine, Chairman of the Railway Heritage Trust and the Mayor of Royal Leamington Spa, Kailash Chander will also be attending the event.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Circus Elephants in Leamington Spa: this Saturday, May 24th 2008

Some months ago, I mentioned that I had been commissioned to write a poem on the history of circus elephants in Leamington Spa. The poem has been written and will be read aloud to the public this coming Saturday in Leamington's Jephson Gardens to celebrate the new site of the 'Elephant Circle' seat, as follows:

The Official Unveiling Of ‘Elephant Circle’ in Leamington Spa

Saturday 24 May, 12noon – 3pm

On Saturday 24 May at 12noon the seat sculpture, ‘Elephant Circle’ by Nicholas Dimbleby will be officially unveiled by Councillor Chris White at its new location in Jephson Gardens. The sculpture has been relocated from its former position outside the northern entrance to the Royal Priors shopping complex in Leamington Spa where it was first installed in 1988 and will include a newly recast bronze elephant made by the artist.

The unveiling will be celebrated with a series of events and activities for all ages:

* At 12noon in Jephson Gardens Councillor Chris White will officially unveil ‘Elephant Circle’.

* From 12noon to 2pm events in Jephson Gardens will include a poetry reading by the Warwick Poet Laureate, Jane Holland, readings from a written anthology by local writers which celebrates Leamington Spa’s connection with circus elephants and photography workshops lead by Anand Chhabra, Spencer Yard Artist in Residence.

* From 2 – 4pm at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum in the Royal Pump Rooms there will be elephant mask making workshops for families, and from 2 – 3pm outside the Royal Pump Rooms children can meet ‘Snowdrop’ the life size mechanical elephant who will offer rides around the Royal Pump Rooms Gardens.

All activities are free, just drop in and join in! All children must be accompanied by an adult. For further information about the events please call Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum on 01926 742700.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Punjabi Poetry Recital by Amarjit Chandan and Daljit Nagra

Herbert Gallery, Coventry
15 May 2008

£2.00 on the door
Suitable for all, children are welcome at this event but must be accompanied by an adult. Indian buffet provided.

Amarjit Chandan’s poetry collections and essays have been published globally, he has edited and translated 30 anthologies of world literature, and brought the work of Brecht, Neruda, Ritsos, Hikmet, Cardenal, Martin Carter and John Berger into Punjabi. He has received lifetime achievement awards from the Punjab Government’s Language Department (2004) and from the All-Party Parliamentary Group ‘Panjabis in Britain’ (2006).

Daljit Nagra’s 2007 ‘Look We Have Coming to Dover!’ has been the most acclaimed poetry debut published in recent years, as well as one of the most relevant and accessible. Nagra, whose own parents came to England from the Punjab in the 1950s, draws on both English and Indian-English traditions to tell stories of alienation, assimilation, aspiration and love, from a stowaway’s first footprint on Dover Beach to the disenchantment of subsequent generations.

Canal Boat Creative Writing Workshop: Bank Holiday Monday

Birmingham Book Festival – Year Round Programme

Canal Boat Creative Writing Workshop
Workshop Leader: Jo Bell
Venue: Gas Street Basin, off Broad Street, Birmingham
2pm – 4.30pm, Bank Holiday Monday 26th May, 2008

Poet Jo Bell ( was Cheshire Poet Laureate 2007, is Co-ordinator of National Poetry Day and the author of new collection Navigation. She lives on a boat and often uses the canals as a source for her writing. Join her on the historic working boat Saltaire for a short trip on Birmingham's waterways and an intensive writing workshop. We will show you the city from a different angle and help you to write about your own urban landscape, drawing on watery memories or unfamiliar language. Bring paper, pencil and an open mind!

NB: you will need warm clothing as you will be in the hold of the boat. We regret that due to the design of the boat (an old coal carrying narrow-boat) this event does not have full disabled access.

With thanks to Peter Baldwin, Skipper of the Saltaire

Tickets: £17 (£14 concession) – to book please call 0121 246 2770 or e-mail

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Literary Quiz and Fish Supper with reading by Jane Holland

I'm pleased to say I'll be doing a reading next Friday in the town of Warwick itself, as Poet Laureate, and getting a few answers wrong in the literary quiz. If you live in the area and fancy a fun night out, with delicious fish and chip supper, grab yourself a few tickets and get down to ye olde Lord Leycester Hospital.

Literary Quiz in association with Warwick Words
We have a fundraiser events for Warwick Words next Friday, May 9th, at the superb 'Lord Leycester Hospital' in Warwick.

Test your knowledge of all things literary! A fun evening including a fish and chip supper, prizes and a guest appearance by the Warwick Poet Laureate, Jane Holland.

Enter a team of up to 6 people. Book individually or as a couple and we will add you to a team if required.

Licensed bar.

All proceeds got towards Warwick Words 2008

Friday May 9th
Lord Leycester Hospital
High Street, Warwick

Tickets: £12.50 each
(£10 for Festival Friends & Volunteers)

Tickets available from:
Warwick Books
Warwick Library
Warwick Words on 01926 427056