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Roaming Readers: Ella Jolly spreads revolution in Glasgow

Written by jen, 23rd October 2008

Over the summer I was thrilled to meet all the lovely people in the Scottish Poetry Library (SPL) who work tirelessly to spread the message of reading revolution across Scotland. So when Juliet Rees, the Education Officer for the SPL, proposed a joint venture, I eagerly agreed to Bibby Line Group’s involvement. With funding from the Scottish Arts Council and Glasgow City Council, this year the SPL organised poets’ workshops in schools and workplaces across Glasgow to celebrate National Poetry Day 2008 and its theme of ‘work’. On Wednesday 8th October, Bibby Financial Services Glasgow hosted one of these workshops.

The idea that everyone should down tools all in the name of poetry is quite an unusual concept. I’ve found that it can be difficult to get people into poems even when they’re away from their desks. Consequently, I was ever so apprehensive about the challenge of engaging people whilst they remained in front of computer screens, and next to buzzing phones.

And yet, last Wednesday, six employees in the Glasgow office warmly welcomed the Glaswegian poet Gerry Cambridge for the afternoon. We chatted about different poems we loved – and hated – by writers as diverse as Robert Graves, Philip Larkin and Robbie Burns. Gerry then exhibited some of his nature photographs and explained that for him, a poem, much like a photograph, can do a great job of providing new or unfamiliar ways of looking at seemingly common subjects. Gerry read a selection of his poems to us, some of which are written in dialectical Scottish. Field Days is particularly memorable and is reproduced here with Gerry’s kind permission:


Field Days


Old Davie still did much farm work by hand.

Tae thin neeps, ye gae up an doon thae rowse.

Leave jist yin each six inches, sae it growse.

The thought of lunch was a breeze-fanned island,

What is the time? our common famous question.

The shrinking patch of field still to be weeded

was joy and thought we'd be no longer needed.

He'd blow through his lips: Gerad, ye're the best yin

O thae young uns that come here!

                                                   Or biggest fool

I sometimes thought, those languid days

After the last exams, when I skipped school.

But no jam pieces nor hot tea's tasted more

Significant than that field's, and strongest praise

The two green pounds each day's end, my limbs sore.


During Gerry’s reading of this poem, the office phones rang, rang and rang again. Focusing on the poetry was difficult, to say the least.  Then a member of the sales term abruptly answered the persistent caller, responding with a curt ‘No, I’m in an important meeting’.

For me, these six words were revolutionary. Poetry had been recognised as ‘important’! And (dare I say it?) more important than work, perhaps?

Posted by Ella Jolly

Read more from Ella at booksatbibby

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