Wednesday’s wise woman … Susan Utting
I heard Susan read her poetry at a Poetry Reading at Reading on Saturday. I have not listened to poetry since I was a child. As read by my mother or a teacher it was ot always a pleasing experience. Not because the poem was wrong or the reading poor – it was just not exciting -dull.
Having said that I remember later in the 1960s enjoying the storytellers such as Margaret Rutherford and Bernard Cribbins on the TV. Each evening actors would read a story on a programme on the BBC called Jackanory – designed to stimulate reading. The story-teller would transport me on an adventure or make a social comment to trigger thoughts, hopes, reactions – some small others life changing.
So when I heard Susan reading her few I was taken in a similar – I was wrapped in her word, as wannabe poet I was amazed when she read:-
Picture of my mother as a young woman
from Fair’s fair by Susan Utting
Look at her flirt in her flash-vivid bolero,
lash-flutter, hair-flick and kiss-me-soft smile:
she’s wearing the sequins and satin, gold thread
embroidery, pleated-sleeved, edge-to-edge moire
coate, that was bargained- for, haggled and smuggled,
swaddled in khaki, shouldered by kitbag through
mud-field and cart-track, held river-high, ocean-dry,
sky-dropped and army-truck-juddered away from
the home-fire promisers, gunfire and bonhomie.
Look at her, girlish as romance, done up
to kill in the glitter-bright bolero, sweet-hearted,
rescued and true as a love-token, trophy and spoil.
She made it seem so easy. Like an artist she created a picture of colour, texture, shape and emotion not with paints or crayon but with words – sounds … How did she do that?
I wrote this feeble attempt to express my wonder, not just for Susan but the other poets I have celebrated in the last few weeks.
A cup of tea
How did she do that?
The sound of the cup, the kettle, the sip,
the reverberation would have reached my tongue
had she rushed
with her subtle metaphor to India.
Did I feel the warmth of sun on my back?
Or squint against its jagged rays to pluck the tender Camellia sinesis plant?
Now to China,
they claim the right to tea in Suchuan,
the ceremoniously fashionable whipped and green.
With discerning similes and knowing quotes she drew me into her picture
of my cup of tea.
As the dried blackened fermented leaves unfurled
in water freshly pulled boiled poured
golden nectar to sip.
No time to savour, Susan transports me
from the Himalayas to Burma and Assam.
Gracefully in smuggler’s galleons
to the Cornish coast to the Black market.
Daring to enter the political affray
the Boston tea party and tea tax.
Wisely, no longer just a cup of tea
a work of art a moral accord
no less than Hogarth or James Gillray.