Saturday, 5 December 2009

Pools of Gold

John Barton Watson, a poet from the Yorkshire Dales, has made several visits to Stockton Library's Books and Banter sessions.

I first listened to him early in 2008 when he explained the stories behind the poems in his collection 'Pools of Gold.' The poems in his book are illustrated by the water-colour paintings of the Wensleydale artist Walter Parker. The paintings bring the poems to life.

From High Tees, Stockton's Oxbridge School, Coverdale to Scarborough John's poems touched on areas well known to his audience. The collection ends with The Border Reivers and takes its title from this poem's last verse:

'Come on the wind when the days are long
And the sky's a saffron glow
Reflections dark in pools of gold
The ghosts of riders show.'

In September last year, John came back to read and explain the stories behind his favourite poems.

He linked the ghostly connections between Walter de la Mare's Someone ('Some one came knocking') with Nicholas Nye (the old donkey standing alone 'would brood like a ghost') and the Listeners ('Is there anybody there? said the Traveller').

From Betjeman John chose A Portrait of A Deaf Man (Betjeman's father was stone deaf), Felixstowe or The Last of Her Order (The nun left on her own after the death of the other nuns)and Slough ('Come friendly bombs, and fall on Slough'.

Everyone in the audience laughed during Jenny Joseph's Warning('When I am old woman I shall wear purple')but were more subdued listening to Wilfred Owen's Dulce et Decorum Est.

John Watson finished his reading with Robert Burns. I never knew that the clipper, Cutty Sark, had a figurehead of a witch's hand holding a horse's tail. This is derived from Burn's Tam O' Shanter where Tam is chased by a witch wearing a short shirt (cutty sark). Witches cannot cross running water and as Tam rode over the Brig o' Doon the witch pulled off the horse's tail and was left with it in her hand as Tam and his horse Meg escaped.

This poetry session was one of the most popular of the year and a very entertaining hour and a half.

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