Part of me can’t believe I’m announcing this. It’s probably the most foolhardy project I’ve embarked on. By writing this down, I’m committing to it. I have no idea if it will triumph, or dissolve into an embarrassing fiasco.
To be honest, it could do both.
The thing is, friends – I need your help.
As I get older, I’ve been thinking about death a lot. What it means, how we should relate to it. Also about what I do for a living. I spend time away from home, telling poems to strangers. We only have this one, short life on this planet, and I choose to spend a lot of it being a poet. And other people give up little chunks of their finite mortality that one day will just vanish, to listen.
What does it mean to choose the poetic path? Who are the men and women that walked it before us? And, perhaps most importantly of all… can we bring any of them back?
On Sunday 6th October, I, along with the hugely talented Mark Grist and MC Mixy, am setting off on a countrywide pilgrimage of poets’ graves. We’re going to be driving across the length and breadth of England and Wales, visiting the sites where poets’ corpses and ashes and hearts are buried, learning about our predecessors, writing new material, coming to terms with our own mortality, and hopefully flogging a shedload of merch.
But we – desperately – need your help! We’re not going to do gigs at the actual graves – that would be disrespectful and weird. We want to perform in each region, in local pubs and theatres and barns and even people’s front rooms. We’d like a mix of strange and warm and big and small gigs, and – ideally – some way of scabbing enough loose change to pay our colossal petrol bill.
Below is our loose itinerary, by date and region. Do you live near any of these places? Can you help us set up a gig, draw a crowd? Could we come perform vaguely-entertaining poetry at your workplace, your school, your poetry night, your restaurant, your bar, your house? Could you put us up for the night? Do you just live in the area and want to come see us, wherever we end up performing? Could you just tweet or FB post a link to this blog post, to help spread the word?
We are basically up for anything. This is a journey of discovery, though I fear our main discovery will be that three guys forced to sleep in their car in a layby really stink the next morning. I am sending out emails as we speak, trying to line up gigs, and I will update my ‘Gigs’ tab with dates as, when… and, most crucially of all, if, they appear.
Maybe it will be terrible and we will end up welcoming death’s frigid embrace! Maybe we will have some magical adventures and end up in places we never expected. Personally, I like a little risk. When I have trusted in luck and asked people for help, I’ve rarely been disappointed.
Here are the regions we are visiting, along with the dates. Do you live anywhere near any of these places? Can you help us in any way, put us in touch with someone useful? Or could you just come out and see us do a show that night? You can get in touch with me via the ‘Contact Me’ tab to the right, or drop a comment in the box below. We’re flexible with gig locations, so if you’re in the vague region mentioned, do let us know. We’ll try to make it fit.
7th Oct, Monday – CORNWALL/DEVON
Sir John Betjemen – St Enodoc Church, Trebetherick, North Cornwall
Charles Causley – St Thomas Churchyard, Launceston, Cornwall
Ted Hughes – ashes scattered by River Taw, Dartmoor
Robert Herrick – unmarked grave, Dean Prior Church, Devon
8th Oct, Tuesday – SOMERSET/DORSET
TS Eliot – Parish Church of St. Michael, East Coker, Somerset
Cecil Day-Lewis, Thomas Hardy – St. Michael’s Churchyard, Stinsford, Dorset
William Barnes – St. Peter’s Churchyard, Winterborne Came, Dorset
Percy Bysshe Shelley – (heart only) St Peter’s Churchyard, Bournemouth, Dorset
9th Oct, Wednesday – SOMERSET/WILTSHIRE/ISLE OF WIGHT
Siegfried Sassoon – St Andrew’s Churchyard, Mells, Somerset
George Crabbe – St. James’s Church, Trowbridge, Wiltshire
George Herbert – St Andrew’s Church, Bemerton, Wiltshire
Algernon Charles Swinburne – Bonchurch, Isle of Wight
10th Oct, Thursday – LONDON
Geoffrey Chaucer, Robert Browning, John Dryden, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Johnson, John Masefield, Rudyard Kipling, Edmund Spenser, Alfred Tennyson… the motherlode, basically – Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey
Samuel Taylor Coleridge – St. Michael’s Church, Highgate
William Blake – Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, City Road, Finsbury
Alexander Pope – St Mary’s Church, Twickenham
Christopher Marlowe – St. Nicholas’s Church, Deptford
11th Oct, Friday – SUFFOLK/NORFOLK/CAMBRIDGESHIRE
Edward Fitzgerald – St Michael & All Angels, Boulge, Suffolk
William Cowper – St. Nicholas Church, East Dereham, Norfolk
John Clare – St. Botolph’s churchyard, Helpston, Cambridgeshire
12th Oct, Saturday – NOTTINGHAMSHIRE/WARWICKSHIRE
Lord Byron – St. Mary Magdalene Church, Hucknall Torkard, Nottinghamshire
William Shakespeare – Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire
13th Oct, Sunday – SHROPSHIRE/SOUTH WALES
A E Housman – St. Lawrence’s Church, Ludlow, Shropshire
Henry Vaughn – St Bridget’s Church, Llansantffraed, Powys
Dylan Thomas – St. Martin’s Church, Laugharne, Dyfed
14th Oct, Monday – YORKSHIRE/HULL
Sylvia Plath – St.Thomas’ Churchyard, Heptonstall, West Yorkshire
Emily Brontë – St. Michael and All Angels’ Church, Haworth, Yorkshire
Philip Larkin – Cottingham Municipal Cemetery, Eppleworth Road, Cottingham, Hull
15th Oct, Tuesday – CUMBRIA
Basil Bunting – Quaker graveyard at Brigflatts, Cumbria
William Wordsworth – St. Oswald’s Churchyard, Grasmere, Cumbria
Robert Southey – St Kentigern’s Churchyard, Crosthwaite, Keswick, Cumbria
(probably) 16th Oct, Wednesday – DUMFRIES
Robert Burns – St. Michael’s Churchyard, Dumfries