True North; two extremes

Poetry at Longsands

Joan Hewitt, award-winning Tynemouth Poet, describes an afternoon by the North Sea and we hear about two extremes: an inept Government and a NHS which shows many different kinds of love  

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Joan Hewitt at Longsands, 26th February 2022
I promised to post some of the poems read at Tynemouth’s Keep Our NHS Public North East event last Saturday.
First up is Harry Gallagher, Boro man in Cullercoats and true poet of the North. His introduction and first poems were really moving- but – as a consummate showman – he saw the shivering crowd needed warming up and got us yelling the word Lies at the end of each verse (cos let us not forget that Johnson must still be held accountable).
For Harry’s latest book, see True North – A Kiss for Your Soul
Boris Just Lies

Pigs live in sties,
Yorkshire puds rise,
wet paint dries,
James Bond spies,
Boris just lies.

Coconuts sit on shies,
rain falls from the skies,
a jobseeker applies,
advisers advise,
Boris just lies.

A town crier cries,
a happy shopper buys,
a beach bum fries,
leaky ships capsize,
Boris just lies.

Fat lads love pies,
an aeroplane flies,
wasps terrorise,
rugby players score tries,
Boris just lies.

I only believe
what I see with my eyes.
His lips are moving?
No surprise – 
because Boris just lies.


Harry Gallagher at Longsands, 26th February 2022

And the second poem from last Saturday’ s Keep Our NHS Public North East event on the beach in Tynemouth;
I read a poem by children’s poet Michael Rosen , who was in a Covid coma for months in an intensive care unit. When he woke, he found the nurses and helpers had kept a daily Patient Diary for him. I also read one of those entries, which helped him piece together that dark time, and which can be found alongside the poems in his book. This and the care shown him during a long recovery left him with enormous gratitude to NHS staff.
Michael : “The NHs is at the very heart of who we are and what we are here for. It is a reminder that we are nothing if we do not care for each other, regardless of how much money we might have, or because of where we are from.”
“It was an intimate time
but I don’t know them.
Lying side by side
hardly wearing a thing
high on morphine,
tubes down our throats
drips in our arms
peeing down pipes
shitting on pads,
our bodies in the hands of others
We were waiting to surviveor die.

The space was arranged for 11,
one nurse for one bed
but there were 24 of us
so the one nurse ran between two beds,
sometimes more.
The PPE that turned up one day
was second hand,
the consultant said,
there was blood on it…”

Michael Rosen.
Click here for details of Michaels book:  Many Different Kinds of Love

Michael Rosen


Finally, the two poems I did not read on Tynemouth’s Longsands last Saturday at the Keep Our NHS Public North East event.
Because I was on almost last, just before the musician James Ince who had waited 1.5 hours for his set; because the wind was biting sharply and the faithful crowd were visibly nithered. Because you can’t praise NHS staff for caring if you as an event organiser don’t take care of your audience.
I omitted them, yes, not because these poems by Martin Figura are anything other than absolutely beautiful, compassionate, deft. They come from conversations with and observations of stressed, over-worked staff in Salisbury hospital where he was poet-in-residence at the height of the pandemic. Buy ‘My Name is Mercy’, Fair Acre Press, £7.50, or buy two and give one to someone you love or admire. Thank you, Martin.

Figura 1

Figura 2a

Figura 3a

KONPNE: for a report and photos of this event, part of the national SOS NHS Day of Action, please click here and scroll to 26th February 2022

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