Monthly Archives: March 2015

Ode to an Oggie

The venerable oggie

The venerable oggie

And so at last to Keats.

I have been told that a number of poems have been written about Keats. Already I have posted the tributes from Charles Causley and Wilfred Owen. In the following selection I have tried to include those which also refer to Teignmouth or the time that he spent here.

This first poem may be a little tongue-in-cheek but then expect some more serious stuff! It comes from an article in the Torquay Herald Express from 2010. The columnist apparently had been called 15 years earlier by the landlord of the Ferry Boat Inn in Shaldon. The story was that the landlord had discovered in the beer cellar of the Inn a previously unknown poem by John Keats entitled simply ‘Ode to an Oggie’ and yer tis.

Ode to an Oggie
(attributed to John Keats)

Thou still unravished triumph of kitchen art,
Foster child of Appetite and oven skill,
Gourmet crafted who canst thus impart
A flavoursome tingle to the fast food thrill.
What warm-wreathed phantoms haunt thy shape
Of meat and potatoes, or both,
In cafe or high class bakery?
What food for gods are these?
What weight watchers loth?
What trad pursuit? What chances to escape
Big Mac and Dunkin Do-nut tyranny?
Fish and chips are great but Devon pasties
Are greater; therefore, ye good cooks, bake on,
Not for clowns engrossed in video nasties,
But for redsoil locals that take on
The mantle of yesterday’s oggie elite.
Thy aroma is Devon to the core,
Bold dispenser of tastebud bliss,
All the fragrance of the morning street.
I could wish for nothing more
Than thy shortcrust or flaky kiss.

To see the original article go to:

Torquay Herald Express …..

Matt Harvey, the Kipper and the Kenning in the style of Matt Harvey, the Kipper and the Kenning ….. almost ….. or as close as I can

Wow! Teignmouth’s second Poetry Festival has just finished. It has been fantastic; congratulations to Ian, Ronnie, Jenny, Graham, Virginia for organising such an inspiring event.

Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey

The Festival opened with the Totnes-based performance poet, Matt Harvey. Matt’s way with words has taken him from Totnes to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships via Saturday Live, the Edinburgh Festival and the Work section of the Guardian. He has been described by the Scotsman as “One of the country’s finest performance poets”, by the Independent as “Very funny…” and by the Guardian as “…not only funny, but tender and true”.

After last year’s Festival I wrote a poem about the event called “The Poet Clan”. I thought I’d do the same this year and used Matt Harvey’s opening performance as the basis for this. Perhaps this is the start of a tradition!

It’s about Matt, a poem he recited which had some resonance for me – “Kippers for Life, and a word he introduced which I hadn’t heard before – “Kenning”.

Here it is:

Matt Harvey, the Kipper and the Kenning in the style of Matt Harvey, the Kipper and the Kenning ….. almost ….. or as close as I can
(Keat’s Ghost)

Matt Harvey was first to be
at Teignmouth Poetry,
the best of all festivals down by the sea.

His rhyming appealed to me,
his timing revealed to me
what once was concealed from me –
why to speak …..
….. pausingly …..
when holding the floor.

He rhymed with alacrity,
some might say spectacularly,
at times quite vernacularly …..
Would you like to hear more? …..

Perhaps jabberwockily,
or quite Dr Spockily,
occasionally mockingly
and mildly shockingly
but ever energetically,
compelling frenetically
in cadence splenetically.
Could it be genetically
produced I deduced
from the timing of rhyme
that seemed to come easily,
teasing the myth of life,
squeezing the pith of life,
breathing the kith of life
into each word so meaningfully.

I remember his kipper,
a slip of a fish
that tastes quite delish …..-
….. (that’s short for ‘deliciously’) …..,
relished for breakfast
or embellished in kedgeree.
But when my kipper’s served gloriously
– “three golden ladies”, dressed on my plate,
too late, too late, too late comes my plea
as I try words placatory;
for I wish that the whiff would be
less challenged odorously –
it drives my wife nuts you see,
no ifs nor buts for me,
my each passing pleasantry
is greeted unpleasantly
as the smell of smoked herring
lingers unerringly,
by no means unsparingly,
clinging unfailingly
to each word that’s flaying me
that questions my sanity …..
the sanity, the fate
of all who eat kippers,
one, two or three
golden ladies dressed on a plate.

no mistake here …..,
Matt Harvey was first to be
at Teignmouth poetry,
the best of all festivals …..
….. down by the sea.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Matt Harvey …..
Teignmouth Poetry Festival …..

Galleria dell’Arte

Outdoor gallery, Teignmouth

Outdoor gallery, Teignmouth

So before returning to Keats here’s another piece on poetry and art.

Last summer a community art project was initiated in Teignmouth by local artist Mos Shaw who persuaded the local council to support an outdoors “art gallery”.

The walls of the gallery were an ugly line of boarding surrounding a piece of empty land adjacent to Brunswick Street. Local artists were invited to paint pieces on this boarding, which has now brightened up that area. There should be more of this street art approach. And street art can be accompanied by street poetry. The “Galleria dell’Arte” is a poetic description of all the pieces of art to be found on the ramshackle boarding and also features on the boarding.

Poetry and art also features as part of the Teignmouth Poetry Festival which begins this Thursday and exhibits of art with associated verse can be seen at TAAG.

Galleria Dell’Arte
(Keats’ Ghost)

Roll up my friends and come join the party,
come and admire,
come be inspired,
let your soul catch fire
and imagine ……

….. the Galleria Dell’Arte

art1Be seduced by the Vixen
playing tricks on your eyes,
red rose in her hair, the scare of her cobwebbed brow.
See the Duomo that towers o’er Venetian canals,
but where is the bridge of sighs? Unless …
no surprise, it’s the arch on a Dartmoor stream ……

….. Aaah, il Ponte dei Sospiri

art2For nothing is quite what it seems
to the coil of the brain on these gallery walls,
an outdoor hall where a dragonfly rests
on speckles of blue and a blossom of squares,
where you’ll find a skull on a chequered floor
and a whale on a ball, a Picasso scene ……

…..surreal as Dali

art3Come sail serene on a sailing ship
with a sail so pink you can only think
of Happy Days, time’s delay, idle hours,
of living naively on a beach
or meandering down a Teignmouth street,
bunting and house fronts screeching with flowers ……

….. sweet as pearls of barley

art4The furnace-fire of the friendly sun,
the skin-glow rouge in the bonfire flames
that edge-lap lick their burnished frame
whilst Mayan blocks and pyramids
burst from sands of bloody red ……

….. dead as seas of Kali

art5Water fall meets the sea-front wall,
a shimmering ghost-grey wraith between,
pebble-dashed, scree-spray splashed.
Whilst shoals of shadowy fish slip by
an albatross glides through the curtained sky
and passengers cavort on a ship nearby ……

….. watched by the eye of the sea

art6Compromise comfort …..
Reach for the lowest thoughts you’ll find,
letting your mind stray far away.
Ask “What does she say, that jungle girl
beyond her mask of black and white,
with her piercing eyes of cerulean blue?
Who is the girl at the edge of the frame?” ……

….. peeping through bubbles so coyly?

art7And the naked boy …..
origami folds of a crumpled scrap,
holding crumbs of hope perhaps?
Bowed and begging, a supplicant,
but for what does he pray?
Imagine, admire, be inspired , be fired ……

….. by the Galleria Dell’Arte

Want to know more? Check out:

Mos Shaw …..
TAAG …..
Poetry Festival …..

The Devil’s Footprints

The Devil's Footprints 1855

The Devil’s Footprints 1855

The second quirky piece of verse concludes the myths and legends of Teignmouth – The Devil’s Footprints.

The legend goes back to 1855 when a trail of ‘cloven hoof’ footprints appeared overnight in Teignmouth and extended from the Exe estuary to the river Dart. The trail crossed the rivers, went over roofs, across trees – in fact it just went straight over anything in its path. The story was reported locally and in the Illustrated London News with much speculation on the origin of the footprints but no definite explanation ….. and the mystery remains today.

I have found a few poems about this story. The others may well appear as later posts.

The Devil’s Footprints
(John Parslow)

On one peculiar precipitous night in February eighteen fifty five,
A dense and heavy fall of snow in the south of Devon arrived,
In the towns of Topsham, Lympstone, Exmouth, as everyone asleep,
Teignmouth and Dawlish in a cloak of white were buried very deep.

On waking villagers saw thousands of strange foot-tracks on the roof,
Bipedal steps at eight inch gaps all with a convex cloven hoof,
Over five parishes they extended covering an area of one hundred miles,
On tops of houses, high narrow walls with palings – even over styles.

They covered local gardens, enclosed courtyards bounded by walls wide,
Vertically up drainpipes tall, up fences and down the other side,
And trails would suddenly stop as if the creature vanished into thin air,
Right in the middle of open fields as though it landed or took off from there.

The locals were shocked to discover the tracks of an animal so strange,
A mysterious creature endowed with the power of ubiquity and such range,
Approaching and retreating many dwellings but no resting place was found,
Only the cloven-hoof marks on two legs were left as markers on the ground.

Rather than navigate a straighter course possible for any creature to follow,
It steered the most complicated of climbs over every acclivity and hollow,
The greatest excitement was caused among all classes athwart the land,
The superstitious believing they were the marks of Satan or his band.

So what did happen on that night in early February eighteen fifty five?
Some thought it could be Extraterrestrial beings others thought it best to hide,
The eyewitness’s of hundreds was later printed in the Times, so long ago,
As to what the creature was on a spree that night- perhaps we’ll never know …

Want to know more?  Check out:

The Devil’s Footprints …..

A Turrabul ride bee Rayl

Time to leave behind Shaldon and the estuary, for a while at least. My next main series of poems will be about Keats but first a break for a two or three slightly more quirky pieces of verse.

Henry Baird (from "Letters & Poems tu es brither Jan in the Devonshire Dialect by Nathan Hogg")

Henry Baird (from “Letters & Poems tu es brither Jan in the Devonshire Dialect by Nathan Hogg”)

I’m going to start with the first poem in this collection written in a foreign language – at least it may seem foreign to some but is part of a collection of poems in the Devonshire Dialect. This collection was first published in 1866 and was written by Henry Baird under the pseudonym Nathan Hogg. The collection is also interesting in having a dedication to Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte who, in pursuit of his interest in dialects, met with Henry Baird and even commissioned some work from him.

Born in Starcross in 1829 Henry Baird worked for much of his life in Exeter as a lawyer’s clerk. He often travelled the line between Starcross and Exeter and this particular poem is the story of a train journey from Teignmouth to Exeter – called ‘A Turrabul ride bee Rayl’.

If you can decipher the dialect see if you can spot the reference to Captain Peacock’s ‘Swan of the Exe’ sailing up the Estuary beside the railway.  More information about this and Henry Baird in the links at the end of the poem.

A Turrabul ride bee Rayl
(Henry Baird, aka Nathan Hogg)

Yu’ve yer’d a Janny Gulpin’s ride
Vrim Linnin pin a hauss,
An yu’ve a yer’d, I spoze, beside,
Ez hat an wig ha lauss:
Uv cus ha raud moast mort’l quick,
Bit arter aul yu’ll vine,
Howiver vast ha went, thit thic
Thare ride wiz nort ta mine.

Wan day tu Tinmith I’d a bin,
An in tha arternun
Went tu tha Stashin way a rin,
Nat veeling auverzun;
An zo et pruv’d, vur pin me wurd,
Wen jist inside I got,
Tha wissel aw tha trayn I yer’d,
An auff tha bagger zot.

Nat tu be dud, I urn’d acrass
That other zide tha line,
Ha wadd’n gwayn nat auver vast,
Zo up I jump’d behine.
Tha dang’d ole boyler puff’d an blaw’d,
Tha porters aul aw’m skritch’d,
Tha moar they cal’d, I virmer raud,
An legs an vingers clitch’d.

Tha trayn urn’d up beside tha zay,
(A purty zite et waz;)
Agane I yerd tha whissel play,
“Yer com’th tha haul(1) – Im daz!
Iss! Laur a macy! Macy mee!
Yer tis, now uny hark,
Howiver kin a vuller zee
Ta hole aun in tha dark?

Ess shet in dru thic haul, – aw, law! –
Zich noys wiz niver yer’d,
Et zim’d like trav’lin down belaw, –
Iss, did, a pin me wurd!
Tha vapper rish’d up dru ma naws,
An down ma draut, za thick
Thit ef I hadd’n clinch’d ma jaws
I zun shud ha bin zick.

Wul, then tha groun zim’d aul a vi-er –
I tuk’d a virmer hold,
Ez zim’d ez ef thit ess wiz ni-er
Thick pleace thit I’ve a told:
An then ess thort ess zmul’d a zmul,
An zeed a zartin veace –
Tha neame awmin I need’n tul,
Nur vurder steate tha pleace.

Bang arter Bang wiz yer’d around,
I thort thit, iv’y lurch,
Tha imps wiz vi-erin (be tha zoun)
Ta hat ma auf ma purch;
Bit ef thay did zhet wul urn at,
Ef did’n zun com lite,
I veel’d thit, (ef I wadd’n hat,)
I muss val auf way vrite.

Wul owt ess com’d, an in ess went,
An owt agane, an in, –
A winder thit ess did’n vent
Vur want a hare an zin:
“Thank gudniss yer ess be ta lass”
Zeth I “yer’s Dalish close; –
Eet still ha go’th most mort’l vass; –
Thay’m putting aun more foce.!!”

An zo thay waz, vur be tha pleace
Ess jist like litnin rish’d,
Wile pin tha platvorm iv’ry veace
Zim’d like a veace a wish’d.
In vack tha miny things ess pass’d
(Ta think awt now I zheake,)
Zim’d, iv’ry stap ess went za vast,
Ta graw into a strake.

Aun, aun ess went, laur jayly cry!
Till Starcrass pleace ess vetch’d,
Ess did’n stap, ess zim’d ta vly –
Eet zartin wurds ess ketch’d;
I thort a Porter veller cride,
“Look thare that’s Nathan Hogg!”
“Iss tiz, yu blackguard,” I rayplied,
“Twiz yu thit lauss tha dog” (2)

Wul, then ess luk’d owt pin tha zay,
(Zich thing wiz niver yer’d,)
Vur bigger thin a rick a hay
Thare zwim’d a wackin burd; (3)
An, ez ess raud, ha turn’d ez bayk,
Thort I “now hang aun varm,
Vu ref ha com’th an vind’th thur wayk,
Ha’ll ayt thur like a warm,”

Bit zun ess zeed min owt a zite,
An mort’l glad ess veel’d,
Nat carin ta be gobbl’d quite,
Like giants ait’th a cheeld;
A purty mayl thort I, – iss, vay! –
(Vur thicky burd jist pass)
Mee bastid an a zar’d up way
Zom Starcrass mucks vur sass.

Wul aun ess rish’d pass Powderim,
Zeth I “tant vury vur,
I kin hole vast me hole, I zim,
Za var ez Exmistur!”
Bit wen ess com’d ta thicky pleace,
My ivers! Ess zhet vore
Ez ef way zich a dredvul peace
Ess shud’n stap no moar.

Now vaster, iss! An vaster still,
Tha varmint zim’d ta vly
Be hud an wotter; “now I shil
Val auf I veel an die!”
I cud’n spayk, thort I “yer go’th – “
I veel’d thit aul wiz gwayn,
Mee hans an legs wiz lus’nd bothe
An then ——– thay stap’d tha trayn.

I had’n scarcely tich’d tha groun
In vancy ez I val’d,
Wen zidd’nly I yer’d a zoun,
An pin mee veet I scral’d;
“Zin Tommis’s!” I yer’d min zay,
t strik’d mur uv a hayp
Ta vine thit nearly aul tha way
I’d uny bin ta zlayp.

Thic draym, tho’, meade mer in a zwet,
An veelin mortal quare,
I went an got a drap a wet
An zot down in a chare;
I wadd’n wul long arter that,
An veel, in a thicky ride,
That tho’ in boddy I wiz nat,
Ma spurrit raud owtzide.

Mow brither Cowper waz a man,
Like mee, uv girt raynown,
An wen ha’d ort tal in ez haid
Ha tuk’d an vraut et down;
Tha diffirns between hee an mee
I scarcely need ta tul, –
Hee draym’d abowt old Janny G. –
I draym’d about mezul.

(1) The tunnel
(2) Nathan a short time before had lost a favourite dog through the neglect of the stupid Porter who bungles the wires at this great station.
(3) Nathan must have see Capt. Peacock’s beautiful boat in the shape of a bird, – “The swan of the Exe.”

Want to know more?  Check out:

Henry Baird …..
Swan of the Exe …..