Welcome to birmingham.gov.uk

Welcome to birmingham.gov.uk

Birmingham Poet Laureate and National Poetry Day 2011

Birmingham Poet Laureate 2011/2012

The position and role of Birmingham Poet Laureate is a coveted one and receives a lot of attention from poets and poetry lovers alike. The applicants for Birmingham Poet Laureate 2011/2012 were very diverse and the judges selected 6 poets to longlist and interview. These were Marcia Calame, Penny Hewlett, Gary Longden, Jo Skelt, Heather Wastie and Jan Watts. Further down this page you can read their 'Games' themed poem which celebrates National Poetry Day 2011.

National Poetry Day 2011

National Poetry Day 2011 - help us select Birmingham's next Poet Laureate

From our 6 longlisted candidates, 4 have been invited to the next stage of the selection process. To spice up the selection process for Birmingham Poet Laureate 2011/2012, we are taking our 4 shortlisted poets (Marcia Calame, Gary Longden, Jo Skelt and Jan Watts) on tour around the city centre on Thursday 6 October.

Join the judges, Roy McFarlane and the 4 shortlisted poets from 2pm at:

2pm: Ikon Gallery, Oozells Sq

2.30pm: Festival Bookshop, Central Library

3pm: Café Blend, Navigation St

3.30pm: Pop up Poetry Place, Zellig Gallery, Custard Factory

These are free events and you do not need to book. Meet Roy and the shortlisted poets at the Ikon gallery from 2pm and join us on this exciting tour!

Birmingham Book Festival - and the announcement of the city's new Poet Laureate

Join us at Cafe Yumm at 6pm to celebrate National Poetry Day with poets Roy McFarlane and Matt Harvey and also hear who has been selected to become Birmingham Poet Laureate 2011/2012. This will be a truly exciting event as this news will be hot off the press. Our four shortlisted poets will all be present and it will be a nail biting end to National Poetry Day. Please see the Birmingham Book Festival website for details of how to book your free tickets for this event.

For more details about Birmingham Poet Laureate and the National Poetry Day tour, please contact Nikki Bi - nikki.bi@birmingham.gov.uk (0121 303 2895)

Poems on the theme of 'Games'

On your marks by Marcia Calame

The pistol is the clock‐

The trigger, in which the finger rests,

Is the second hand on its face.

That vital finger, which holds the future,

to this nation race.

Every one behind the white line,

are watching the pistol time,

as their heart beats the ticking sound,

anticipation is counting down.

‘On your mark!’

The cuckoo man announced,

bobbing from the pistol clock

then bounces back in again.

‘Get set!’

Adrenalin, sweating, pulse racing,

Itching to go, but not yet.

All the world’s countries, with numbers pinned to their lands,

hoping that their flag will fly.

Bang goes the pistol clock.

A forest of legs scrambles, towards the finish line.

All to claim that medal of freedom,

In a humanity race against time.

Marcia Calame ©

The application by Penny Hewlett

So, let us play now.

Let's you and I pretend

my words are not bent like supplicants

before you, seeking an audience.

Let's say they fall from cupped hands

like water underneath a thirsty sun,

like fingers pointing out the way

to a tired traveller.

Let's see how wild, untrammelled, words can be -

how they may fly out to bite and score,

scratch at your memories, resurrect

old loss from your lips.

Let's see if they may make you catch your breath,

caressed as if by a lover's hand, as if

words rise and sing, as if they bear truth

like perfume as a costly offering.

Let us lift words like glasses filled with wine

to celebrate the day, to ease the night,

to throw them back and forth until

they bring both sound and light.

Now, let us play

at meanings which have been let out,

surging from the paper like a shout.

Let us play now.

Penny Hewlett ©

Fading Fun by Gary Longden

Mary Mack, Jumping Jack

Not too rough Blind Man’s Bluff

Ball Tag Fracture the Flag

Hide and Seek every week

Hide your face for Kiss Chase

Hopscotch fun for everyone

I Spy with my little eye

The playground echoes to cries and call

Resounding sounds of Paddle Ball

Make them up, do what you are able

Splayed fingers rocking the Cat’s Cradle

Chinese Whispers, friend’s eldest sisters

Laughing, cheating, ever bolder

Essential skills for when we are older

Oh, the games we play

Gary Longden ©

Urban Games by Jo Skelt

Please open the attachment to see the poem properly displayed.

Urban Games by Jo Skelt

 PDF (Size: 14.1 Kb Type: pdf )

From Sparkhill to Solihull

rips of sunlight race

from bumper to wheel trim, spin

then die in diamond flashes

echoing an ancient swordplay,

as we race and weave our way

over the din on din of stereos

past the stop, start, beep, screech, amber

the ‘TO LET’ signs, past the colossal superstores

-selling beds and dreams, and the showrooms

which begin to glitter as the city unravels,

and, at the back of our traffic-tired eyes, a torch,

a flame urging us on, sharing the one goal

of moving forward.

Fifteen minutes later, the gym,

running, rowing, plugged into MP3s, SKY news,

reality TV shows, children squealing

in the café below, everything echoing

over loud speakers which pour out Heart FM

as we stare at the swimming pool

where, twenty minutes later,

the shock of turquoise brings us closer

to something higher, that Olympian blue,

of Gods swimming...

Maybe it is this that drive us on

back through the stop, start, beep, screech, amber

to our living rooms, sofas, to Wimbledon

on wide screen, or Villa Park, gymnastics

and, again, that higher blue

threading us into other cities, lands,

supporters glued to makeshift screens

in Kamayama, Adabraka or Eileen Road

where the window cleaner on the ladder,

headphones on, is tuned to England at Edgbaston

he, too, bearing a torch.

Jo Skelt ©

Risk by Heather Wastie

(Risk is a strategic game based on a board depicting a political map of the earth. Players use tokens denoting armies. The primary object of the game is ‘world domination’.




I hated Risk

can think of

better strategies

for achieving

a successful relationship.

You were always so

territorial, piling your

bike parts and WD40

across the kitchen.

A man’s game,

and a woman whose

only strategy

was to back off.

No negotiation,

just confrontation,

girly fists

then impasse.

Tactics and logistics,

strategy, diplomacy,

a player needs to master all three

to succeed consistently.

Tactics and logistics.

I manoeuvre your stuff

into the smallest possible space

and call on all my resources

to protect the frontlines

of my empire.


(moral or immoral)

Didn’t often get me

what I wanted so I


I fell down on Strategy,

having no overall plan,

often making the mistake

of expanding too rapidly.

You and whose army?

You’re a one-man territory

and I played innocent,

appearing to be incompetent,

unaware of my invisible power.

Risk taught me names -




spiky place names to enjoy

spitting out

but I haven't a clue

where they are.

Heather Wastie ©

Games by Jan Watts

Please open the attachment to see the poem properly displayed.

Games by Jan Watts

 PDF (Size: 28.1 Kb Type: pdf )




On your marks,

get set,


Round One.

Starter's pistol

javelined the discus.

Scrabble the noughts

and cross

to slide the snake and

step up to the ladders.

Tennis the love

and polo the pony.

Splash in the pool.

Monopolise the draughts

to domino the knight and

bishop the pawns.

Hockey-ed the defence to

Rugby by Soccer.

Dive and drive

Formula One around

the track to the thorough bred

archery-ed now and

boxed clever.

Marathon hurdled

and huddled on the blocks.

Ludo the Cluedo and

Snap the Poker.

Single, double, team.

You're in for the high jump,


hop skip and

cricket the willow

and out!

Breathless from effort.

And the winner is?