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Two poems by Susan Utting

Two poems by Susan Utting, both inspired by workshops at Reading Museum, led by Adrian Blamires and Lesley Saunders, the first at the “Oscar Wilde As Critic” exhibition, and the second a workshop looking at medieval artworks in the Museum, in this case the Bayeux Tapestry.

The Value of Nothing

“Society often forgives the criminal; it never forgives the dreamer”

Oscar Wilde: The Critic as Artist

 

The girl who stares into space is on detention, again,

for insubordination.

For insubordination read

daydreaming, that other world reached quietly by

means of dust-mote moving staircases, by way of

silences.

For silences read dumb ignorance, read

indolence, read downright insolence; by means of helter-

skelter slides through city-dirt-encrusted windows, across

playground tarmac, over regulation iron railings, over

pavements, along gutters,

(for gutters read star-gazers’ resting places)

down alleyways and entries, down muddy lanes to tree places,

up tree trunks, through the scratch of branches, slap of rain-

bedraggled leaves, up-up-away and through to where they know

the value of the nothing in her head:

that painted place that zigzags,

coils and skitters her to other lands, to anywhere she fancies,

where they know the priceless,

fiery possibilities of indolence.

 

 

The Ladies of the Leek Embroidery Society Copy the Bayeux Tapestry

 

Miss Edith Wardle, Miss Frost of Derby, Mrs C Gwynne, Miss Gater

 

Our fingertips bear witness to our labour, our thimble

fingers wither, pale beneath their metal caps. Poor, dear

Elizabeth has grown quite thin, round-backed from stooping

for The Ride to Bosham, and Phoebe’s wrists grew stiff when

Harold Sailed the Sea – the tedium of all those waves,

stem-stitchery in scalloped flourish after flourish!

 

Miss Gillett of Garfield, Miss F Pattinson, Mrs Watson, Miss Parker

 

We envied Mary Edith, though it was a stretch, as she

worked her magic on the comet, that miracle in the sky

for which her long back pained her for weeks beyond

the final knot and bitten yarn. Emily’s huddled witnesses

stared up amazed at what she’d made. Day after long day

we embroidered on, couch stitch, stem stitch, myth and men,

 

Miss Turnock, Miss Bentley, Mrs Worthington, Mrs Charles Smith

 

horse and great ship, cock and raven, hawk and bow and arrow,

broidered canopy, broad shield, legend, history. We have sewn

ourselves into the woof and warp of cloth, thread by thread

picked up precisely till, spellbound by our own crafting,

our needlepoints have made a chain, a sisterhood that holds us

here: read our names, these are our stories. Read us here.

 

Miss Clowes, Miss Lunn, Miss Garside, Miss A Allen, Mrs Iliffe …

SUSAN UTTING was born in South London, moved twenty times in forty years, then settled, after a fashion, in Berkshire. Her collections of poetry include Half the Human Race, Striptease, Houses Without Walls and Fair’s Fair.

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The Arborealists: The Art of Trees

The Arborealists and Guests: The Art of Trees
14-24 June, daily 10am-6pm
The Turbine House Gallery, Gas Works Road (just by the Prudential Building).

We are delighted to contribute to this exhibition, organised and hosted by the Reading Tree Wardens, with a poetry reading on Sunday 23rd June at 2pm. Hear Susan Utting, Jean Watkins, Ian House and Gill Learner read poems – some of their own, some written by others – inspired by their love of trees. Wine and nibbles will be provided and our books available for sale. Open to all but places MUST be booked as the venue is small. Please book by emailing rtwn2011@gmail.com.

The Arborealists are a group of professional artists whose special topic is the tree and whose inaugural exhibition at The Royal Academy, Bristol, was nationally acclaimed.