Featuring Yorkshire Poet, Paul Brookes: Interview, Poetry Reading, and Writing in Yorkshire Dialect


Map showing Yorkshire highlighted against the historical counties of England excluding the City of London, in 1851 courtesy of Dr Greg, Nilfanion and MRSC.  © Crown copyright and database right 2010 under CC BY-SA 3.0
Indo-European


I don’t remember when I first encountered Paul Brookes (Wombwell Rainbow) and his prodigious work marked by a keen appreciation for art and history and his observations of everyday life salted with irony and humor and his rich Yorkshire Dialect. I think Paul either submitted work to The Poet by Day, Wednesday Writing Prompt or to an issue of The BeZine, maybe both. I do remember I had to look up Wombwell. It seemed to me a rather odd name for a blog. Wombwell (clearly not Paul’s family name) turned out to be the town were Paul currently lives in Northern Yorkshire and “Wombwell” may mean “Womba’s Well” or “well in a hollow.”

What prompted today’s post is that I am able to bring you one of Paul’s poetry readings. I’ve used this as an excuse to also get to know Paul better. Read on: this is an interesting interview. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.  / J.D.

INTERVIEW

JAMIE: Paul, are you the only poet in your family?  How did you come to poetry?

PAUL: The only published one, yes. When I was seven or eight I remember holding my head in my hands at home when my English homework was to write a nonsense poem in the style of Edward Lear or Lewis Carroll. I had brain freeze. Off the cuff Mam wrote one for me about an Elephant with a propeller for a nose. It was very funny, though the elephant died. His propeller was used as his grave stone. Mam was also the youngest editor of NALGO magazine when she worked as a secretary for the hospital board in Harrogate. I don’t know where she got her creativity with words.

JAMIE: Quite frequently you write in Yorkshire dialect, which as a reader I find charming and challenging.  What made you decide to do that?   

PAUL: Dialect is always said to be dying out and being replaced by Received Pronunciation. I remember my late Mam balling at the broadness of my late sister’s dialect when she was chatting with her mates on the telephone. No mobiles then. My Mam encouraged us to have a “telephone” voice so we wouldn’t sound “so common!” Dialect for me provides metaphor, strength, muscularity and gives a sense of place. (Editor’s emphasis.) I know it is challenging but worthwhile. It is often painted as a comic device, used by lowly characters in plays and satirised by Monty Python in the Four Yorkshiremen sketch, however this micky taking has a long history. In the nineteenth century there were locally published Almanacs in which dialect was used for humorous purposes. Yorkshire folk love not taking themselves seriously. Yorkshire dialect is often shoehorned into rhyme. I wanted to use it in unrhymed poetry to hark back to our Norse ancestors.

JAMIE: Pride of place is obviously important to you. You’ve named your blog for the town in which you live.  Is the Yorkshire literary tradition – quite impressive from the Bronte sisters to Ian McMillan – an inspiration?

PAUL: I was dragged up by Yorkshire writers, studying Barry Hines “KES” in school,  Ted Hughes selected poems, Tony Harrison’s selected poems. Ian McMillan is often seen as a “professional” Yorkshireman, bigging up the county. He also has his tongue well and truly in his cheek when doing this, an aspect folk from other parts of the country don’t see. They view it instead as the over earnest promotion of “God’s country.”

I was not born in Wombwell but a small town between Harrogate and Knaresborough called Starbeck. You have to pass through it to get from one to the other. Starbeck is a place between tourist destinations. A “through” town.

From there we moved a lot to Darringto, a place by the side of the A1, close to a notorious black-spot for car accidents, to various places in Barnsley, Wilthorpe, Pogmoor, Ward Green, and the little village of Dodworth.

I love being settled in Wombwell and getting to know familiar customers in the supermarket where I work part-time. I love engrossing myself in the local history and culture, gaining a sense of belonging.

JAMIE: We’re coming close to putting a wrap on 2019.  What’s on your literary agenda for 2020?

PAUL: Hope to have the final part of  A Pagan’s Year finished. It will be called Ghost Holiday and be about pagan festivals and stories from August to December. This is in collaboration with my great Dutch friend and amazing artist Marcel Herms. Also on the agenda for 2020 is Skyfish, poems about delight written in response to the paintings of Iranian artist Hiva Moazed.

POETRY READING

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PAUL BROOKES (Wombwell Rainbow) is a shop assistant. He lives in a cat house full of teddy bears. His chapbooks are The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley (Dearne Community Arts, 1993). First part of four connected books, other three unpublished as yet. Second book is made up of four short stories, already published in Alien Buddha Press’s short story anthologies ). The Headpoke and Firewedding (Alien Buddha Press, 2017.This is the first book of a threesome called “A Pagan’s Year”,and covers June and July) ,A World Where (Speculative poetry) and She Needs That Edge (narrative poetry) with Nixes Mate Press, 2017, 2018) The Spermbot Blues (Sci-Fi poetry with OpPRESS, 2017), Port Of Souls, responses to paintings by Marcel Herms (Alien Buddha Press, 2018),Please Take Change (Cyberwit.net, 2018)

Stubborn Sod, by Marcel Herms (paintings) and I,(poetry) ,(Alien Buddha Press, 2019.This is the second part of “A Pagan’s Year” January to May), As Folk Over Yonder ( ebook with Afterworld Books, 2019).  Forthcoming Skyfish, responses to paintings  by Hiva Moazed and companion book to “Port of Souls” (Alien Buddha Press, 2019)

Editor of Wombwell Rainbow Interviews.


Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

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Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

“On Living” and “Letters from a Man in Solitary,” poems by Nâzım Hikmet

“It’s this way:
being captured is beside the point
the point is not to surrender.
Nâzım Hikmet, Poems of Nazım Hikmet



On Living

Living is no laughing matter:
You must take it seriously.
So much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied
behind your back,
your back to the wall
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people –
even for people whose faces you’ve
never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, most beautiful
thing.
I mean, you must take living so
seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you’ll
plant olive trees –
and not for your children, either,
but because, although you fear death you
don’t believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

Nâzım Hikmet, Poems of Nâzım Hikmet

Letters from a Man In Solitary 

1
I carved your name on my watchband
with my fingernail.
Where I am, you know,
I don’t have a pearl-handled jackknife
(they won’t give me anything sharp)
or a plane tree with its head in the clouds.
Trees may grow in the yard,
but I’m not allowed
to see the sky overhead…
How many others are in this place?
I don’t know.
I’m alone far from them,
they’re all together far from me.
To talk anyone besides myself
is forbidden.
So I talk to myself.
But I find my conversation so boring,
my dear wife, that I sing songs.
And what do you know,
that awful, always off-key voice of mine
touches me so
that my heart breaks.
And just like the barefoot orphan
lost in the snow
in those old sad stories, my heart
— with moist blue eyes
and a little red runny rose —
wants to snuggle up in your arms.
It doesn’t make me blush
that right now
I’m this weak,
this selfish,
this human simply.
No doubt my state can be explained
physiologically, psychologically, etc.
Or maybe it’s
this barred window,
this earthen jug,
these four walls,
which for months have kept me from hearing
another human voice.

It’s five o’clock, my dear.
Outside,
with its dryness,
eerie whispers,
mud roof,
and lame, skinny horse
standing motionless in infinity
— I mean, it’s enough to drive the man inside crazy with grief —
outside, with all its machinery and all its art,
a plains night comes down red on treeless space.

Again today, night will fall in no time.
A light will circle the lame, skinny horse.
And the treeless space, in this hopeless landscape
stretched out before me like the body of a hard man,
will suddenly be filled with stars.
We’ll reach the inevitable end once more,
which is to say the stage is set
again today for an elaborate nostalgia.
Me,
the man inside,
once more I’ll exhibit my customary talent,
and singing an old-fashioned lament
in the reedy voice of my childhood,
once more, by God, it will crush my unhappy heart
to hear you inside my head,
so far
away, as if I were watching you
in a smoky, broken mirror…

2
It’s spring outside, my dear wife, spring.
Outside on the plain, suddenly the smell
of fresh earth, birds singing, etc.
It’s spring, my dear wife,
the plain outside sparkles…
And inside the bed comes alive with bugs,
the water jug no longer freezes,
and in the morning sun floods the concrete…
The sun–
every day till noon now
it comes and goes
from me, flashing off
and on…
And as the day turns to afternoon, shadows climb the walls,
the glass of the barred window catches fire,
and it’s night outside,
a cloudless spring night…
And inside this is spring’s darkest hour.
In short, the demon called freedom,
with its glittering scales and fiery eyes,
possesses the man inside
especially in spring…
I know this from experience, my dear wife,
from experience…

3
Sunday today.
Today they took me out in the sun for the first time.
And I just stood there, struck for the first time in my life
by how far away the sky is,
how blue
and how wide.
Then I respectfully sat down on the earth.
I leaned back against the wall.
For a moment no trap to fall into,
no struggle, no freedom, no wife.
Only earth, sun, and me…
I am happy.

Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993) / Poem Hunter

RELATED:

Nâzım Hikmet

Nâzım Hikmet / courtesy of Bundesarchiv Bild 183-14809-0004, Berlin, Schriftsteller-Besuch.jpg under CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Nâzım Hikmet (1902 – 1963) was a Turkish poet, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, director and memoirist. He was acclaimed for the “lyrical flow of his statements”.  Since he was a revolutionary in his time, he seemed a good poet to present today, the day we celebrate Global 100,000 Poets and Friends for Change and The BeZine Virtual 100TPC. (Join us HERE and share your work. Read that of others.)

Additionally, he has always fascinated me, not only because of his poetry and the way he spent his life, but because he was born in the same time and place as my father, someone I barely knew.  I feel a bit like I get a glimpse at the times and culture into which my father was born when I read Hikmet.

Described as a “romantic communist” and “romantic revolutionary”, he was repeatedly arrested for his political beliefs and spent much of his adult life in prison or in exile. His poetry has been translated into more than fifty languages.

Despite writing his first poems in syllabic meter, Nazım Hikmet distinguished himself from the “syllabic poets” in concept. With the development of his poetic conception, the narrow forms of syllabic verse became too limiting for his style and he set out to seek new forms for his poems.

He was influenced by the young Soviet poets who advocated Futurism. On his return to Turkey, he became the charismatic leader of the Turkish avant-garde, producing streams of innovative poems, plays and film scripts. Breaking the boundaries of syllabic meter, he changed his form and began writing in free verse, which harmonized with the rich vocal properties of the Turkish language.

He has been compared by Turkish and non-Turkish men of letters to such figures as Federico García Lorca, Louis Aragon, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Pablo Neruda. Although Ran’s work bears a resemblance to these poets and owes them occasional debts of form and stylistic device, his literary personality is unique in terms of the synthesis he made of iconoclasm and lyricism, of ideology and poetic diction.[5]:19

Many of his poems have been set to music by the Turkish composer Zülfü Livaneli. A part of his work has been translated into Greek by Yiannis Ritsos, and some of these translations have been arranged by the Greek composers Manos Loizos and Thanos Mikroutsikos.

Because of his political views his works were banned in Turkey from 1938 to 1965.

Nazim Hikmet was awarded the International Peace Prize in 1950.


Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

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Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton