Friday, 19 October 2012

A Poet's Shrewsbury

A poetry reading in 2007 took me to Shrewsbury where I engaged with a lovely audience in a local bookshop. I did not get around to including my poem in a collection until this year and have to say I feel more than a shade self-conscious about posting a poem of mine alongside mention of such a fine poet as Wilfred Owen.

Wilfred Owen (1883-1918)

Owen, a homosexual (the word ‘gay’ was not used in this context in those days) is probably one of the best known of the World War 1 poets. His name appears on the Great War Memorial tablet inside Shrewsbury Abbey.

Photo: Shrewsbury Abbey

‘Symmetry’ in the grounds of the abbey is sculpture, by Paul de Monchaux commissioned by the Wilfred Owen Association (Owen went to school in Shrewsbury) to commemorate the poet’s life and work; it was unveiled in June 1993. The line "I am the enemy you killed" engraved on one side is from Owen’s poem, ‘Strange Meeting’ The design is meant to convey the symmetries in Owen’s poem as well as the trenches of 1917 and the Sambre-Oise canal in 1918.

Photo: ‘Symmetry’

On 4th November 1918, the British 32nd Division crossed the Sambre-Oise canal at Ors, in the face of strong opposition. Wilfred Owen was killed on the towpath on this side of the canal about one kilometre to the north of the bridge.

Photo: Western Front Association plaque for Wilfred Owen by the Sambre Canal, Ors, France. 

Regarding my poem, I should mention that Laura's Tower is a folly built on the summit of Shrewsbury Castle motte around 1790 by Thomas Telford for Laura, the daughter of Sir William Pulteney, as a summerhouse. It is of an octagonal design in red sandstone with conical copper roof. The river Severn flows by

Photo: Laura’s Tower

Mount House, birthplace of Charles Darwin


Follow the market trader’s cry
across old Shrewsbury town
where the fickle Severn flows by

Discern in history’s cloudy eye
scenes of Parliament v Crown;
follow the market trader’s cry

At Laura’s tower, dare lift high
the hem of Nature’s gown
where the fickle Severn flows by

Swans over the English Bridge fly
with dive-bombing precision,
follow the market trader’s cry

See sunset’s flames lick at the sky
as if the grand abbey burning down
where the fickle Severn flows by

Ponder a war poet casting the die,
Darwin giving heaven cause to frown;
follow the market trader’s cry
where the fickle Severn flows by

[Shrewsbury, August 2007]

[From: Tracking the Torchbearer by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2012]

[Please Note: My collections are only on sale in the UK but anyone can order (signed) copies from me at a generous blogger discount. For details, contact with ‘Blog reader’ or Poetry collection’ in the subject field.]

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