Friday, June 2, 2017

I Wish I'd Written This

This is the Place
– by Tony Walsh ('Longfella')





This is what I first wanted to post for you last week after the Manchester bombing, but Tony didn't answer my request via facebook messenger. I realised he was far too busy (a) dealing with shock and grief like all others in that city, and (b) fulfilling follow-up requests for the poem to be used again. He hasn't read my message yet, but the poem has now become very public indeed, with his full cooperation, so I feel sure it's OK to post it here. I don't have the written text but that's undoubtedly a good thing – this electrifying reading, recorded by the BBC shortly after the bombing, is so inspirational. 

Although I have never even been to Manchester, much less lived there, I'd love to have penned such a powerful, affirmative piece. And although it has come about through a terrible, criminal tragedy, we can at least take heart, as poets, to note that poetry is far from irrelevant in this day and age. This poem is helping to heal and inspire a whole city, and far beyond that even. Indeed, you may well have encountered it already, but if anything bears re-engaging with, this is surely it.

The poem was written earlier, but has been seized on now to express the indomitable spirit of Manchester. If you Google 'Tony Walsh poet' at this point, you'll find a lot of media coverage, including interviews. Posts on his facebook page tell us that someone has set the poem to music already, and a young child was inspired to write a defiantly positive poem of her own addressed to terrorists. 

I am also taking the liberty of adding what Tony said recently on facebook:

Huge thanks for all your comments and thumbs up, folks. Particular thanks to those who have sent DMs, private emails etc etc. When I stop I'm beyond knackered but your messages are the wind beneath my wotsits.
It's only when they all go mad at once that you realise how many channels you're trying to cover. Landline, phone, voicemail, text, 2 facebook accounts, each with Messenger, that unseen part of Messenger from non-followers, twitter, Twitter DMs, Linked In, PayPal, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, YouTube... each has had dozens, hundreds and thousands of messages this last 10 days. I cannot physically get my Twitter feed to zero, night and day. Apologies, I'll get back to you asap. It's not going to get any quieter for a good few days yet, that's for sure. I'm having to mute each thread and get back to them when I can but it's still completely bind-moggling.
I've got 2 paid jobs of work on today, only jobs 2 and 3 since the terrible events of the 22nd. A workshop with a lovely group of people in recovery from hard times, and session 1 of the Building Bridges project in which we'll attempt to run a writing workshop with 80 people. All the places were snapped up in 24 hours. Both are here in Manchester and both will be very emotional, I'm sure. Joyous, I'm hoping, with a chance of meatballs.
After today, I need to catch up on some sleep - I keep waking up, my head spinning - and focus on Sunday. After that, it's pretty uncharted territory for a poet. I'm not worried about the gig itself, it's not as scary as doing my 5th session of the day in front of 150 Year 9s, it's in the whole circus around it, the media and social media, where the pressure lies.
What's very pleasing for me, amongst so many swirling horrors and positives, is the focus that this all seems to be putting on poetry. So many people re-evaluating their eperience with poetry and being much more prepared to give it a chance. Let's see if we can take that forward together in the coming weeks and months. Look out! The Poets Are Coming! Building on the progress of the giants upon whose shoulders we stand.
Post Office for me this morning, Aldi, hand-delivering some book orders to local addresses, planning 2 workshops and talking to Ariana's people about mics and soundchecks and wristbands. A poem to memorize. A week to remember. And so many things to never forget. Tx

He also says, regarding the mention of Sunday (this coming Sunday as this goes to post): 

So, er, yeah. Blimey.
Such a gracious invitation from a superstar and her team to a tiny, independent artist - to perform my poem This Is The Place at the huge remembrance concert that Ariana Grande has arranged in Manchester this Sunday. 50,000 in the stadium, live on BBC tv and radio and around the world. Global news coverage to follow too, I imagine.
Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Katy Perry, Take That, Tony Walsh, Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Pharell, etc etc.
Gonna have to step up for this one, folks. Hoping to make my city proud. Wish me luck. Tx

And, finally, he says:

I'm donating all proceeds from my This Is The Place poem to raise funds for the bereaved families and other Manchester causes through all sorts of exciting, arty projects. This one is particularly exciting with iconic local designers and artists amongst 61 top creatives each interpreting a line for a forthcoming book. Early names include Peter Saville of Factory Records (and so much more) worldwide fame and Malcolm Garrett (Buzzcocks, Magazine, Duran Duran, Peter Gabriel Simple MInds et al.)
Pre-sales open soon and further info can be found at http://www.thisistheplacebook.com/ and there's a little promo film on Twitter @thisplacemcr. It's all being co-ordinated by James @ DoodleDoMotion
Do please spread this far and wide and look out for further updates. There'll be news of other authorised artworks, recordings, prints, posters, tshirts etc soon. Tx

Sounds like an exciting book to own, and in such a good cause!

Tony Walsh is one of the poets I met and came to admire in the old MySpace days, and I had always planned to feature him here in due course, though not quite like this.

His Wikipedia entry details early job choices which indicate a strong social conscience and involvement in community. It goes on to say: 

He has worked as a freelance writer and performance poet since 2004, and full time since 2011. ... Walsh has performed widely around the UK and Europe, at festivals and workshops, and for the British Council. He has led workshops in a wide variety of educational institutions, including schools, colleges, universities, prisons and care units. In 2011, he was Poet in Residence at the Glastonbury Festival. His writings have also featured in many magazines. His first collection of verse, Sex & Love & Rock&Roll, was published in 2015. 

You can find that book in paperback on Amazon.

I remember him on MySpace joining the 'Haiku on Friday' group and confiding that he composed haiku over his morning coffee as a way of getting himself started on the day's writing. 

Altogether a dedicated poet and an inspiration to us all, who richly deserves his present acclaim and demonstrates the value of a strong response to terror.

(I have now sent him a message about this post, but I wouldn't hold out too much hope that he will have time to see it or comment just at present! And that's a good thing, considering what IS occupying his time.)


Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

13 comments:

  1. Oh Rosemary, what a beautiful poet he is. I love his self-deprecating humour, so much! I love how he brought the power of poetry into the mainstream conversation, and how he helped people channel their grief through channeling his own. Poetry is wonderful like that. I love his poem, and how he presents it. Absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much!

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  2. Wow, Rosemary!! What a beautiful and moving feature this week. What a poet and what a city! Thank you.

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  3. Wow, what an outstanding feature! Thank you for sharing this poem, Rosemary. It's relevant, moving and consoling. And the poet, himself, is an inspiration.

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  4. I've just listened to it myself again for about the fourth time (so far). What a magnificent reader as well as writer he is!

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  5. Yes, I too had heard it before on Television the opther day. It has the same rigid determination that was around during WW2 with many inspiring speeches.

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  6. Thank you for sharing this, Rosemary. It seems times of great evil draw good people together ... a reassurance that there is much good out there in this world. Prayers for the people of Manchester!

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  7. A fantastic post, Rosemary - the poem is so stirring and life-affirming ... it brought a tear. Tony Walsh is not only a brilliant poet, he is a gifted orator. Thanks for posting this!

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  8. Sadly the terror doesn't end as there are more attacks in Britain. However the fight must go on and Tony Walsh's poetry is truly inspiring.

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  9. This is brilliant, thanks for sharing Rosemary

    much love...

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  10. I don't know how it happened that I watched this before, but I am happy to hear the poem and poet again in the personal/critical context you always provide. Marvelous. "This is the place..."

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