Archives for posts with tag: Stevie Smith

My earliest poetic loves are what I now know to be comic and so-called nonsense verse. Examples include Edward Lear, Spike Milligan, most nursery rhymes plus Pam Ayres, Stevie Smith and Ivor Cutler.

stevie smith

I say “so-called nonsense verse” because I now know these poems give the reader (and listener) much more than a wry smile. I believe comic and nonsense poetry makes social comments and political statements, helps heal broken hearts and soothes grieving souls.

I’m itching to give you examples of other poets but I’m saving myself for Tuesday night when I’m running a creative writing workshop in Whitley Bay.

The workshop is called Talking Nonsense: in praise of of comic and nonsense poetry. The two hour workshop will look at comic and nonsense version and I’ll be inviting participants to have a go at writing their own verse.

The workshop takes place on Tuesday 11th October 7pm – 9pm at the Happy Planet Studio & Gallery,  Ilfracombe Gardens, Whitley Bay, complete with tuition and refreshments for £20. Booking is essential, so please secure your place with a deposit of £10 here online.



I woke up this morning cursing Sir Cliff Richard. Again. It’s the fifth morning in a row I’ve woken up with his 1961 song Theme for a Dream in my head.

At Tuesday evening’s Poetry with Friends session, one of the gang, The Legendary Ken Creen mentioned Sir Cliff’s 55 year old song and it started the ludicrously catchy tune playing in my head. I’d heard Theme for a Dream for the very first time earlier that day. Now I can’t get the rotten song out of my head. Thanks, Ken.

stevie smith

The Poetry with Friends session was fun, uplifting and filled with reassuringly bad behaviour. We’re old enough to know better but we don’t care. We managed to share some poems by Stevie Smith, Julia Darling, Ted Hughes, Ruth Pitter, Philip Larkin and Maureen Oliphant’s fantastic Mrs O’Malley from her Irish Poems pamphlet. Several of us read our own work too.


Poetry with Friends is run by Happy Planet Creative Arts CIC. Our new shop opened on Friday on Ilfracombe Gardens in Whitley Bay. It’s open every day apart from Mondays. I’ll be running creative writing workshops there in October, November and December. Please come and visit!



Man, I  get so much out of co-running Poetry with Friends. Thursday’s session in Whitley Bay library was meant to be about Love and its opposite but we went all over the place with Ogden Nash, Roger McGough, John Cooper Clarke, Thomas Hardy, Christina Rossetti, John Masefield, Barrie Horn, Stevie Smith, Seamus Heaney & Dylan Thomas.

cooper clarke

We also talked about Hawaiian drug dealing, being mistaken for a terrorist and a murderer, cycling, running, the joys of retirement, New Year resolutions and homelessness.

Gail and I are asking our Happy Planet gang to send us their top five poems of all time so we can compile a list. I worked out mine during Thursday’s session. Just sent it to Gail now. I’m happy with my choices.

Two weeks tonight Death at Dawn will take to the stage at Wallsend’s Memorial Hall. I’m involved with the promotion of this award-winning play’s revival. If you want to know more about the play and the man who inspired it, William Hunter who died 100 years ago then visit

138-3956 Death at Dawn poster

Poetry with Friends at Whitley Bay Library on Thursday just gone, April 2nd. Classic session. Regulars plus one newcomer contributed to amazing conversation and shared A grade poems.


  • Leisure by W H Davies
  • Tell me, Sarah Jane by Charles Causley
  • The Voice by Thomas Hardy
  • High Flight (An Airman’s Ecstasy) by John Gillespie Magee


  • The Mermaids by Leslie Mountain
  • Easter 1916 by W B Yeats
  • The Old Familiar Face by Charles Lamb
  • The Shout by Simon Armitage
  • April’s Fool Day by Kenn Nesbit
  • Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith

stevie smith

  • Two Cures for Love by Wendy Cope
  • Lustre by Leslie Mountain
  • To Iron-Founders and Others by Gordon Bottomley
  • Come to the Edge by Christopher Logue
  • Ballad of the Bread Man by Charles Causley
  • By the Sea by William Wordsworth
  • The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth

We decided Leisure should be “our” poem:

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Between poems we discussed families, education, careers, politics, Poldark, seahorses and noted the subtle links between our poetic choices.

We take a break for Easter and return to Whitley Bay library on April 30th. No theme but but please pre-book, so we know how many people to expect. You can book via email to

Previously… the intriguing theme for this morning’s Poetry with Friends session at Whitley Bay Library.

We talked about cricket, caring for relatives, travel, politics and stars above Moroccan fields.

We shared and enjoyed the following:

In My Life by Lennon and McCartney

Haiku by Jemmy Farmer

Cricket (a parody of R.W. Emmerson) by Andrew Lang

The Traditionalist by Wendy Cope

wendy cope two

The Radical by Wendy Cope

Into the Hour by Elizabeth Jennings

You’re Not Allowed by Wendy Cope

Relic by Ted Hughes

Stars by Wendy Cope

Be Off! by Stevie Smith

Snow by Louis MacNeice

Special Needs by Wendy Cope

Surfer by Robert Minhinnick

Our final Poetry with Friends session of the year at Whitley Bay library will take place on Thursday 11th December. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own or favourite poems by others.

If you want to attend please pre-book via


I celebrated National Poetry Day by chairing a brand new Poetry with Friends meeting in Whitley Bay library.  The session, run by Happy Planet Creative Arts CIC was fun. I enjoyed it very much.

We kicked off with one of my poems, Souvenir of Tynemouth. The poem was written earlier this year as part of my ongoing collaboration with the artist Anne Proctor.

We also shared poems by Seamus Heaney, George Charlton, W.H Auden, William Wordsworth, Edward Lear, Issac Rosenberg, Jane Kenyon and Naomi Shihab Nye.

edward lear

naomi shihab nye

Ellen Phethean popped up again (one of her poems was shared at the last Poetry with Friends in North Shields) and there were two poems each by Ted Hughes, Keats, Yeats, Stevie Smith  and Dylan Thomas.

Poetry with Friends @ Whitley Bay Library will run every other Thursday from 11am to 1pm. The next session is on October 16th and the twin themes for the session are Humour and The Mind.

Our Tuesday night Poetry with Friends @ The Mission in North Shields runs every other Tuesday evening from 7pm to 9pm.  Our next session is on  October 7th and the theme is Black History Month.

Poetry with Friends costs £3 and includes as much tea, coffee or water as you want. Biccies are usually available too. Please pre book your place by emailing



The Poetry Exchange: nominate a poem that has been a friend to you

The Poetry Exchange celebrates the idea of poems as friends. Producer Bridget Floyer explains: ‘Through live events, recordings and the development of an online catalogue, we capture the insights of readers and share them. We work with readers, poets and actors to explore poems and what they mean to us and take the catalogue out to new audiences, inviting them to become part of the exchange.’

Ahead of their event at Durham Book Festival next month, The Poetry Exchange has an opportunity for people to have a poem recorded especially for them. On 2 October, National Poetry Day, three winners will be selected to receive a bespoke recording of their chosen poem. Nominate online at

stevie smith

Just back from another poetry appreciation evening in The Mission, North Shields. We listened to each other read and then discussed poems by writers including A.P Herbert, Edwin Morgan, Stevie Smith & John Clare.

Here’s a picture of the multi-talented, prolific A.P. Herbert.


Conversation flowed from sushi squashed on public transport, toilets, the Edinburgh Fringe festival, systematic map theft, war and being mistaken for an IRA terrorist. The stories shared between the stanzas took us from North Shields to London, New York, Paris, Ostend, Amsterdam and Edinburgh.

Mr Kipling cakes and homemade biscuits were enjoyed alongside tea and coffee.

We are taking a short summer break from our Tuesday gatherings but will be back on Tuesday 29th July when the theme will be journey/travel.

Booking is essential via Happy Planet Creative Arts CiC. Please visit their website

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