‘Trees are like people’ … That was the opening to the brief sent to me by Oliver Mantell, organiser of the Urban Forest poetry project which will coincide with Sheffield’s Folk Forest/ Tramlines festival this year (23rd -24th July). The project will involve a dozen commissioned poems which respond to the trees in Endcliffe Park in various ways. The poems will be used in a promenade performance on Sunday 24th July at 3.00pm. A pamphlet is also in the pipeline.
This is the image I’ve been using as a stimulus, although I took a number of photographs (some are included below) which were also of interest to me. However, this one linked in my mind to the story of Samuel Crookes, who worked at the grinding shed at Shepherd’s Wheel when it was still operating, and drowned nearby. I don’t normally write formal poetry, and I’m not claiming this as a brilliant example, but it seemed like the writing needed to have some constraints imposed upon it if it was to work at all. So, here’s the poem. I’m looking forward to the performance and to hearing what I know will be an amazing range of poetic voices all inspired by the park and its stunning trees.
For Samuel Crookes
Give us the man with the face of this tree,
a knife grinder, thirty nine, drowned not far
from this place, in water four inches deep
where Porter Brook runs the colour of swarf.
The liverwort he gathered to cure his chest
still grows wild near the allotments. Dormer
windows on Hangingwater Road reflect
the same sun, though now it’s weaker, older.
Downstream his hat. No marks of violence.
The pearls of his eyes soon turned to bark. Feel
midges prove the air, our minute’s silence.
What pours from the pentrough of Shepherd Wheel
sounds like the heart beat of a living man.
As his memorial, let this tree stand.