Ground Verse Poetry Trail

Lichfield Mysteries Community Arts created ‘Ground Verse’, a Pop-Up Poetry Trail to celebrate Lichfield’s Heritage Weekend, 23rd/24th September 2017.

Mal Dewhirst, Staffordshire’s first Poet Laureate, was our Poet in Residence for the day. Throughout the day, Mal collected people’s words and then used his poetical magic to create a community poems about Lichfield’s heritage.

The poems were displayed around the city centre creating a ‘pop-up’  poetry trail, which could be followed on foot or on social media. Many thanks to all of the lovely people who contributed words and to CaffèNero for allowing us to make their coffee shop our base for the day.

Here are the poems for you to enjoy:

Caffè Nero

Roasting beans, grinding, steaming milk

Pouring cortados into glasses

Like the ones we used to have at school

Taken dreams that are strong and bitter

Tuning this into poetry

Like minds gather, making verse,

Writing love poems to float on milk

Like fragile leaves upon an autumn tree

The day is done with this a final poem

As I turn to leave I notice

Caffè Nero is spelt with two ‘f’s’, who knew?

Mal Dewhirst.    Words from the people of Lichfield

Darwin House

When Darwin House had huge holes in the floorboards,

it was rumoured that children would disappear into other worlds

of science and magic, dissection and invention breaking and breaking bread,

hiding along the Chinese bridge, minds full of wonderment of all things,

they watched over Lunar Society meetings replayed on catch-up.

Then they reappeared again

wise for their age,

knowing more than their parents thought they ought to know.

Mal Dewhirst.    Words from the people of Lichfield

Dr. Johnson’s Lament

The twangling minstrel

plucking his lute

with all the aplomb of a thief on the run

beneath the window,

where Dr. Johnson gives him earrent

as he packs words into little paper bags,

A penny a bag for big words favoured by the bellygods,

hapenny for the smaller appetite,

he mutters under his breath,

glances left and right,

looking at his dilemma.

The wordsmith laments

the passing trade keeps passing

on to the supermarket

and the tins of alphabetti spaghetti.

Mal Dewhirst.    Words by the people of Lichfield

Garrick’s House

Where there is a will

there are actors

all playing their parts,

pretending sorrow,

‘To be or not to be’

a weeping mass of lost sympathy.

The solicitor executing,

the family all counting losses and gains,

not so sorry tears, hold heavy wallets,

all staging a poor play in the rain.

But then, there was David Garrick.

Mal Dewhirst.     Words from the people of Lichfield


Order in court

let the proceedings begin,

bring in the clowns

the judge’s, all the King’s men,

bring forth the quivering wrecks

let them shake with fear in the cells

before we make them Australian souls,

ghosts that float above Stowe Pool and the field of the dead.

Sound the alarm

let the heroes awake,

bring out the tenders

the hoses, the firemen,

break down the doors,

drown down the flames,

damp down the ashes,

ghosts that float as smoke and send messages on the air.

Bring up the lights,

strike up the band,

bring in the dancers,

the singers, the rockers,

rent out your ears,

widen your eyes,

you are the ghosts of the carnival

in the festival of faces.

Courtship, brinkmanship, the gilded, the golden.

Mal Dewhirst   Words by the people of Lichfield

Outside St. Mary’s

Looking up at the bright blue sky on the Market Square,

what did I see?

A pair of knickers on Boswell’s head where his hat should be.

Down to the Market

selling vegetables, fidget spinners, sausage links,

second hand books whilst Johnson thinks.

They’re making mad Georgian wigs

out of paper, colouring them in with felt tip pen.

The metal fence around the church

holds back the crowds,

heritage in development,

because it doesn’t just happen,

it has to get there slowly

or that’s how it used to be.

Now they get the contractors in,

re-imagine it on computer screens,

put a library in the choir space,

a museum in the vaults,

another coffee shop next to the font.

It will still be vibrant, picturesque, special,

still hold memories, still be a church,

looking up and down, outwards and inwards

but only looking backwards to give thanks

and count your blessings.

Mal Dewhirst.       Words from the people of Lichfield

Overheard at Speakers’ Corner

Always listen to your Mother.

Remember, a watched computer never reconfigures.

It’s political correctness gone mad.

Make verse not war.

Fund our arts and heritage.

Peregrine Falcons are making homes on the Cathedral

There are swarms of flying panages.

There are too many potholes.

Find your inner force to fight off the dark side.

There is no such thing as a dark side, in fact it’s all dark.

You need to be leading by stepping back.

But if you built it would they come?

There are too many fresco’s, too little time.

We would love your feedback.

We’ve been putting up with this for far too long.

You’ve never had it so good.

Now vote for me to be your dictator.

Mal Dewhirst.    Words from the people of Lichfield

The Scales

Nestling among the purveyors of fine wares

are a thousand fine pubs,

the gin and real ale trail,

the watering holes

where plans are plotted,

Regiments raised

and sorrows turned to smiles in the bottom of glasses.

In the Scales they party,

they write their own poetry

to the bustling vibrant vibes of retro pop,

singing the Market Street blues

at an evening’s end,

when they plait their legs home.

Mal Dewhirst.    Words from the people of Lichfield

The Swan

The Swan of Lichfield

said Minster Pool should be modelled on the Serpentine,

where she would swim her words

so that others might catch them in their nets,

elergies for our ancestry,

sonnets for old lovers.

At the coaching inn

Ashmole, Johnson and Boswell

gather for a pint or two

among the chamfered beams,

the words they netted

are disassembled to find new meanings

so that the masses

Can write elegies and sonnets for themselves.

Mal Dewhirst.    Words from the people of Lichfield