Home is…Helen of Troy!

After years of feeling slightly displaced, beginning to read The Odyssey, a story of one man’s arduous journey home from war, has made me seriously contemplate where ‘home’ actually is. Whilst leaving Sheffield, my adopted home of ten years, to return to Wakefield, the city I grew up in, left me in mourning for the end of a glorious period in my life, it didn’t catalyse the crisis I thought it would. In fact, I’m actually enjoying the change! If, like Dorothy, I clicked my red shoes together and professed a profound desire to go home, however, would Wakefield be the place of my heart?

Dorothy Pics - CopyWhat I’ve started to realise is that, despite my love of each, neither Wakefield or Sheffield is actually the physical place I’d visualise in my hypothetical Dorothy moment. Instead, I’d think of somewhere bigger and altogether more diverse; a land encompassing rugged landscapes, charming coastlines, and (in my very biased opinion) the friendliest people you could meet…yes, I’d think of Yorkshire.

It’s been a fantastic couple of years for Yorkshire, with our epic Olympic successes and recent ranking as the third best place to visit in the world by Lonely Planet guide not only putting us on the international stage, but consolidating what locals have always known: Yorkshire’s chuffin’ wonderful! With more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other place (outside of London) in Britain; some of the most critically acclaimed art galleries, museums and theatres in the entire country; and a beautifully rich historical heritage, Yorkshire is the jewel of our nation.

Harewood - Copy York Minster

What I really love about Yorkshire, however, is the sheer beauty of the outdoor world. Whether I’m in Scarborough or Saltaire, the dramatic vivacity of the landscape always threatens to overwhelm me in a way that nowhere else in the world quite can. There’s nothing like walking over the windy wilds of the moors in Haworth (imagining you’re Emily Bronte) or the Yorkshire Dales to make you feel truly invigorated. Yorkshire is so alive with natural wonder that it’s impossible not to be swept off your feet by it…sometimes literally if you happen to go walking in a hilly area on a particularly windy day!

Hebden Bridge - CopyWhitby

It’s difficult to encapsulate the spirit of Yorkshire for those who have never visited; I don’t think it’s possible to express the magic of the place verbally or visually. Both natives and visitors alike often comment on its enduring magnetism and spirit, and the way in which it seems to cast an enchantment over you from the moment you step inside its borders.

If I had to compare it to something however, I’d probably liken it to a fictional character: Helen of Troy, of ‘Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?’ fame. Beautiful enough for all men to be in love with it, inspiring jealousy in the hearts of others, Yorkshire is a place that stirs the emotions; a place people would fight for. Perhaps that analogy makes me sound a little dramatic, but, by ‘eck, as someone who has finally decided where home truly is, I’m allowed to be!

Leeds Corn Exchange - CopyWaterfall - Copy

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The Reluctant Poet

Although I’ve been writing since my teenage years, I’ve never described myself as a poet, preferring to say “I write poetry” instead. Perhaps my reluctance to define myself as one has stemmed from an inability to recognise myself as a poet; an unwillingness to commit myself fully to the poetic world; or an innate fear of failure.

Poet pic

…Is this what a poet looks like?!

Melancholy

Does this make me a poet?

Whatever the psychology behind it, I have now reached a point where I feel comfortable applying the term ‘poet’ to myself. Recently, at the risk of sounding a bit pretentious (that was probably a factor in my reluctance too), I’ve started to introduce myself as a poet in social situations with new people, and have been pleased to discover that it doesn’t cause anyone to mumble an excuse and leg it. In reality, it actually has the opposite effect- people seem to love it!

The only downside to this, especially when talking to the opposite sex, is that many people instantly want you to stand on a table and recite poetry for their own entertainment. What these people fail to realise is that a) I’m not a performing seal, b)  I don’t create poetry on command (unless it’s a commission, which is a different matter entirely!), and c) this request becomes incredibly boring and predictable really quickly. As lovely as it is for people to show an interest in my passion, I don’t necessarily want to showcase my poetry in the middle of a party…and not just because my level of inebriation has caused me to forget everything I’ve ever written.

Coming out of the poet closet/garret has, however, reinforced the notion that we all have a unique selling point; something that differentiates us from the next person, making us alluring to friends and strangers alike. Sometimes we may have to look a little further or search a little deeper to discover it, but I truly believe that everyone is interesting in their own way- whatever their passion. Of course there will alway be people that we don’t get along with; that’s just human nature. Yet, even if they’re not likeable, in my mind, there’s still at least one element of each person that is interesting- whether they’re a poet or a philistine!

In celebration of this, my admission that I am actually a poet, and the fact that another one of my poems has just been accepted for publication, I thought I’d share one of my previously published poems, which I wrote when I was at university. It’s not related whatsoever to anything I’ve just been waffling on about (though it does consolidate my point about not wanting to spout poetry in social situations; it would kill a party atmosphere completely!), yet I’d like to share it anyway. Hope you enjoy!

Superstition

In the cupped palm of your hand,

your love line creases into a smile

that’s not for me.

An omen in itself,

and still my tulip buds

in extravagant yearning,

straining for the sun,

searching, searching.

Over my shoulder, apple peel

curves into an initial that can

never begin to spell your name.

A euphemism,

but still I sense

its implicit meaning,

superstition overwritten,

fading, fading.

Inside of me, a flower

defies nature, inverts itself,

becomes nothing.

A loss within myself.

And the peel writhes

into a curious ball of misery,

widowed of a name,

grieving, grieving.