An exciting new element has been added to the ‘Heroism & Heartbreak’ Project – a Poet in Residence.
This new section of the website will feature a number of pieces of work from local poet and performer Kirsten Luckins, (www.kirstenluckins.wordpress.com), who has very kindly agreed to be our voluntary Poet in Residence for the duration of the project.
In 2014 Kirsten’s first solo show, The Moon Cannot Be Stolen, came second in the Saboteur Awards for Best Spoken Word Show. She has been a finalist in the BBC National Slam, twice longlisted for the York Literature Prize, and shortlisted for the Wenlock International Poetry Prize 2015.
Kirsten has been published in many poetry magazines, and her first full collection will be published by Burning Eye in 2016. She is also the north-east programme co-ordinator for performance poetry organisation Apples and Snakes.
Please note that some of Kirsten's poetry contains adult content.
To hear dad tell it, him and Uncle Ernie
spent the sixties slicing albumen paper
for the creaking matrons of Hartlepool
to present to one another when calling.
Ernie would pick farthings out the noses
or ears of their buttoned-up children,
puddings in sailor suits on the ton-heavy chair,
until the smell of hypo and mag flash
sent him running to the Cambridge halls.
The Great Ernesto. Roar of the greasepaint.
In the end he had to open a studio,
do a nice line in ladies’ cartes de visite,
though the restless twitch never left.
He once pawned the four-lens Disdéri
for a double-bass, and the lord alone knows
what his poor daughters lived on, says mum,
knowing fine well they’re music teachers.
I’d snap it if I could, this endless blue,
but the Gazette would never take it, blue
not really showing well in half-tone grey.
Open water? Where’s the story? none to see.
What you need’s a squaddie carrying his mate
like a bag of flour on his shoulders,
face clear and bright in the Dardanelles sun,
or a treacherous Serb writhing away
from the blurry hands of his armed guard.
The dramas of this war look good
when they’re shown in black and white,
if I had a thing to shoot I could show you.
I know when to lift the print out the bath,
since nine I’ve been getting the drape right
on the velvet curtain behind that chair,
and now dad’s on about this Autochrome.
He says in the future everything will be in colour.
Ernest Clennett was listed on various censuses as a photographer, magician and musician. Two of his daughters were listed as music teachers.
Disdéri was a French photographer who patented a way of making eight calling cards on one sheet of paper using a camera with four lenses.
Local and national papers sometimes paid for amateur snaps taken by servicemen on the newly-invented portable Kodak camera.
The famous image of heroism in Gallipoli was in fact staged by the photographer Ernest Brooks.
One of the first live-action reportage photographs ever taken was of the arrest of Gavrilo Princip, the Black Hand member who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
Autochrome was a colour photography process first marketed by the Lumiere brothers in 1907. I have imagined it getting to Hartlepool a little later than Paris!
Arthur Clennett Junior died aged 17, before he could take over the family photography business.More detail »
This is one of a series of 'Munitionette' poems written by Kirsten Luckins for the 'Heroism & Heartbreak' Project:
Steady now, Gracie
easy with the bogie
those precise hands
tendons raised and fanned
remember our mam
when she still silver-served
six plates up each ballerina arm
glide like a swan
that’s how it’s done
Perch there, Gracie
canary on a high stool
in this giant’s great hall!
lay your eggs, Gracie
lay your long brass eggs
sleeping in their cradle
pack them, firm but gentle
like you’re tucking in a much-loved
This is one of a series of 'Munitionette' poems written by Kirsten Luckins for the 'Heroism & Heartbreak' Project:
Grace is a thing of muscle,
gluteus, soleus, glorious
collusion of sinew – grace
is a ball passed girl to girl,
pool to pool down a cascade,
private joke, secret shared.
Have you ever played? She has
begun to live for this, a path
to the goal like a break in clouds,
defenders as much use as mist,
every beat of her heart a direct hit,
feet alert as searchlights,
when she strikes, it’s the kiss
of a drillbit on an eight inch casing,
crowd screaming louder than lathes –
but its not for this that she plays
Hoods Haggies or the slips from Vickers,
or takes the fight to Wallsend Slipway;
it’s not for dutiful funds raised,
minesweepers’ orphans mean nothing
when the leather thuds – afterwards
they can count the shillings out
for the Sailors’ Flower Day or
Welcome Home for the lucky men
for whom she will retire. But now
Grace is a thing of muscle,
gluteus, soleus, glorious
explosion, Grace is a thing of fire.More detail »
This poem is a collective work, edited by Kirsten Luckins, from the work of the pupils of Class 10, Barnard Grove Primary School, Hartlepool, at a Workshop held on board the paddle steamship Wingfield Castle, as part of the 'Heorism & Heartbrerak' Project:
Paddles, heavy as a million rocks,
Heavy as ten thousand mountains,
Pushed her through the sea.
In the engine room,
Dirty as mud in a flooded field,
The sailors’ skin and clothes turned grubby as mud.
How old is the engine room?
As old as the Titanic, as old as the Stone Age?
It is as dusty as a path that has lain one hundred years.
The engine inside is dangerous,
As vicious as an active volcano,
Eating up coal as black as your worst nightmare.
From the furnace a light shines through the boiler room,
As bright as the searching sun on a stunning sunny day.
Outside, the lifeboat ring as rough as a splintered branch,
The deck as dusty as an abandoned mantelpiece –
But in the sun, everything is bright as a multi-coloured rainbow.
Smoke once billowed out of the chimney,
Tall as Big Ben striking midnight,
Standing proudly, viewing its admirers,
Taller, tall as a giant, taller than a skyscraper!
Inside, the old saloon is a café now,
Quiet as the countryside on a summer Sunday,
Posh as a delicate teapot,
Shiny as a silver house, polished,
Glistening like the sea covered in glitter, reflecting the sun.
It is a beautiful as a rose with no rust.
Nothing there is cold, except the old brass bell,
That is as cold as ice on a winter morning,
And as loud as a thousand screams.
Mrs. R. Stephenson: Class 10
Ellie Burgon, Adam Deer, Ellen McDonough, Amy Salvin, Evie Taylor, Jay Weatherill, Sophie Healey, Demi Fielding, Reece Delaney, Ben Robinson, Teighan Stuart, Jack Teal, Jessica Donnelly, Amy Ferguson, Toby Deer, Jay Salmons, Adam Mincher, Annabelle Kaid, Erin Roberts, Megan Blades, Ellie Mason, Paige Holland, Brodie Purcifer.
“Elsewhere, hardly another generation will see the shell-holes mortared up, the trenches smoothed out, the streets laughing with the good cheer of honest labour”. From ‘Under German Fire’,
When it’s all over, things will be
in rightful places. In the sidings
the strewn shreds, light as tobacco flakes
will re-wind into waggonloads of rope.
At The Willows, the wrought iron gates
will re-fuse their ornate tracery behind
the six-foot sleeper as it retracts
its oaken bulk back across Hartlepool Road.
As far away as Trimdon or Pudding Poke,
the soft fields will relinquish ordinance
they had tucked intact in their cleavage,
so it may be ruled ‘Property of the Kaiser’,
waggishly offered for collection in person.
The Baptist organ will fall dormant,
that one beautiful shell-struck chord
will re-coil into the smashed façade,
bricks darning the aperture.
Melodies will lie docile in the throats of pipes
waiting for instructions, like women
who have returned from factories to sit
beside the lit home fires, watching
for the demobbed in their former clothes.
Sons will be home by Christmas, fathers
sit once more in the carver, limbs
will re-attach to Belgian trees, barbaric Huns
will remain inside re-drawn lines,
medals will pinpoint all the right chests.
The black crude of Persia will flow
into our coffers, all coffins eventually
will be re-ordered into respectful avenues.
Trestle tables will take to our streets,
vindication will sweeten our cups of tea.More detail »
Kirsten writes: "This piece was originally written as part of the Heugh Battery project in 2014, to commemorate the centenary of the WW1 bombardment. It was not published in the resulting anthology To Cross the Wine Dark Sea, so I am delighted to find it a home here. It's form is inspired by Homers Iliad, which is an epic poem describing the attack on Troy from the sea – the parallels with the bombardment are clear. I use a hexametric (or six-beat) line, which is loosely Homeric, and also use long 'epic similes'. The story is told from the point of view of the German stokers, and I had intended it to show how much the men on both sides had in common, which to me makes the whole idea of the war so much more tragic."
Glory! they boasted, and Duty! and privately whispered Adventure!
Young men, fired up, fire-hardened, from foundries, from forges, from pitshafts
That coffined them daily in darkness to hack at the black band that fed
The dirty great heart of the nation.
Below, there was no way of knowing
The state of the sky, or the river that ran overhead, never pausing,
Bristling with staithes where it stretched out, bunching with factories panting
At the nape of each bend. The works bell pinched off hours of daylight,
And the seam of the river span onwards, a black thread knotted with barges,
Tugboats, indomitable steamers. Industry slept like an ogre,
Restlessly, dreaming of conquest, and grinding its teeth until morning.
Young men, what did they dream of?
The sunny lark of France, and meadows,
Or the brave dream of sea and clean water, clean sky, clear horizon
And the enemy sighted like mallards seen through the scope of a rifle,
A table-top stall at a fairground, a coconut shy of destroyers,
Winning as easy as narrowing one eye, their girl smiling at them.
But some were sent to be stokers. Not for them starch and brass buttons.
Suited for boiler-room labour, they marched single-file through the airlocks
To bend at the waist, as a tree bends in hot winds that blow from a bomb-blast,
To twist from the waist in the pressure, the breath of the greedy furnace.
The coal-faced shovellers fed it, plying the arc from the coal pile,
Twist and lift, twist and lift, sweating in black stripes, skulling for swiftness,
Pulling their ships through water denied to them, blinded by bulkheads.
By their efforts, the convoy came slinking at daybreak, wearing a fog-hide,
Flat on their bellies like stalkers in long grass, creeping on warrens.
Above decks, eager, the gunners eyed up the range and the measure,
Triggered a straddling salvo, straightened and flew to the re-load,
Until shells fell to ground like a hard rain, like a hailstorm out of a clear sky
On a marketplace, that forces shoppers and mongers to rush under awnings,
Inadequate, buckling canvas that tears with the force of the downpour.
Hove to for attack, the stokers hung shovels a heartbeat and listened.
The muffled percussion of foot-clanks, invisible beasts in the stairwells,
And deep in the steel a faint booming. Like thunder claps, heard by a sleeper
Through bed-springs that wake him and set him to counting the beats between flashes,
The stokers sent out all their senses to follow the flow of the battle
And will on the storm to blow over without striking them. Just one torpedo,
Ripping a hole in the right place will scald off their skin in the instant
Brine meets the heat and the pressure in which they are sealed, double-buffered
Silently waiting for orders.
A trembling under their boot soles,
A groan in the bones, an avalanche of rivet-strain spilled through the steel hull,
The floor flung them, bounced them, ball bearings slithering over a drumskin,
And they knew they were hit. Almost running ahead of their orders
They bent to the mouth of the furnace, speeding the arc from the coal pile,
Built up a steam-head and, aching, hauled the ship eastwards to safety,
Its afterdeck severed and headless, burning and bloated with bodies.
Kaiser! they said, and Kultur! But bravado once bitten’s a bad coin.
They pinned silver on them, and patched them, and sent them again after six weeks
The deck listed slowly enough for the men, in formation,
To chorus their national anthem, then walk to the water and enter
The courteous ships of their enemies. All hands, all but the stokers,
Locked in the hotbox and sinking, dumb muscles, forfeit and finished.More detail »
Kirsten writes: "The lighthouse keeper of the title is Robert George Wallace, who worked on the bucket dredger Robert De Brus until an accident severed his leg. He was retained on the payroll of Trinity House as keeper of the Moor lighthouse. In 1912, he enlisted his ten-year old son as an apprentice in the Merchant Navy. The boy served throughout WW1, going down in family folklore for his arrest in France at the age of sixteen for attempting to use dud coins at a brothel."
The Lighthouse Keeper
On heavy days, my lost foot
itches, the one the dredger took.
That paternoster scrape-and-dump
stops for no man’s leg. The stump’s
healed shiny, my trouser’s pinned in half,
the empty air needles when I tap the glass.
Mostly, if I seem fogged in thought
I’m picturing the Boy sailing into port,
squinting into the white noon glare
or else glowing a sundown peach, somewhere
with Tees-built ships, but foreign weather.
Barcelona, perhaps, or Valetta.
Bright at ten, but a handful,
I knew the Navy for a funnel
to pour my raw Boy towards better
chances, sense knocked in, learn him his letters
by eleven. In time, he’d cipher more
than that, reading flags and stars,
clouds and charts, things that seem arcane
to lubbers; the tidal wax and wane,
how the arriving future is seen
in a scumble to starboard, or smelled on a breeze.
Political storms are harder to sense.
He’d be a man in the company of men.
At sixteen, after four years of war
he was caught trying to diddle a whore
in Marseilles with a clutch of fake tokens.
Lucky not to have his nose broken,
he told it as a joke, how she flung him to les flics,
his pidgin frog deserting, her patois algérique
a gush of gutter water, hilarious fury.
Down the Pot House, that was the story
he spun, missed out how he’d laughed
at U-boats, but wept for fear behind bars.
Like his mouth never says what he thinks of me,
tethered to my lantern, the fleet running free.More detail »
fathoms under the storm-side
under the blind lanterns of the mines
unlucky steamer, I lie
cracked, blown bulb on a littered dance-floor
Atlantic drift, draw
the darkness over me
build me a scour,
a long-fingered shadow of sand
in my broken lea
for future rocks a million
million wars from
now, invisible my ions glide
even the noblest metals die brittle stars
small enough to
soft, in my heart
my saloon gives up
the gleam of polish
Who have you lost?
sister ships whisper down
secret channels, from Friendly Isles
to Cape Wrath
How many have you lost?
the Georges, the Edwards,
Christians, Riches, Wills…
Sisters, I am here with all hands
slipped from their skins like evening gloves
they burst to join the sea
two hundred and eighty one skulls bowling lightly
fives hundred and sixty two femurs shuffling
constellate, phalanges dot-dash
as far as crabs can drag
all , oh all my hands
what will happen now
to the cargo we held?
can bagged wheat be sown underwave?
will it grow into a sunken field
nodding ears silverly
as the bells on drowned churches
that chime in folk tales?
And who is left to reap?More detail »
This poem was put together by Kirsten Luckins from collective "eyeball kicks" at a workshop for the Hartlepool Adult Writing Group, held on board the paddle steamship Wingfield Castle, as part of the 'Heroism & Heartbreak' Project:
Twenty-One Gun Salute
Death is a bitter nightfall
a motionless chapel
an ineffective drum
Death is a heavy root
a steady stalk
an abnormal harvest
Death is a backless park
a silent encounter
a recognised daughter
Death is a scolding anchor
a preparatory assault
Death is an interesting premise
an outrageous meditation
an extensive legend
Death is a white embryo
an absolute angel
a mirror of the universe
a foolish commander
Death is perfect for manMore detail »
Kirsten writes: "Unspeakable" was inspired by a conversation I had with the niece of Alexander Sharp, a merchant seaman who died on 13th April 1918 on board the Dreel Castle, a drifter that was torpedoed off the Scilly Isles whilst maintaining submarine nets across harbours. Alex was only nineteen at the time, the middle child of ten. The niece that I spoke to was the daughter of Alex's very youngest sister, the tenth child, who was only two at the time of his loss. Reportedly, their mother never got over it.
Something happened to words.
Just as you were ready to grasp them,
they grew spines.
Watch your mother
fold your baby clothes, hand-me-down
ten times, ten fingers, ten toes
this little piggy
See her face stop.
before she gets
all the way home
Hear your mother
not saying certain words
a boy’s name
a faraway port
the number nineteen
harbour is no longer safe.
nets fill with dread like body parts.
See the drowned weight tug her mouth
out of true.
Watch your mother swallow words
that detonate inside her anyway.
Watch her navigate conversations
as if they were coastlines
fraught with mines.More detail »