On 23 October, in collaboration with Off The Shelf Festival of Words and other partners, we held poetry events in Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley to celebrate the local live literature scene. We asked all attendees and people online to contribute tweets about where they’re from to form a collective poem about South Yorkshire. We had over 100 people contribute poetry to the project. Unfortunately we didn’t have room for them all, but we’ve collated some of our favourites into the poem below. Big thanks to everyone who contributed to the poem or attended, but special thanks in particular to the Doncaster Speak Up event, run by Michael Jenkinson, and Rotherham’s leading poetry night, ROMP, as well our performers, Helen Mort and Thick Richard.
South Yorkshire Song
Mine’s a pint-sized city.
It basks in Moonshine, never asks for Absolution;
Shrugs off trouble like an Easy Rider.
I am from a place that requires work,
but amongst people who wish to do it.
Here because of a Grandad from mayo who came to sink a pit
and one from Hexham who worked in it.
As I grow older my town renews itself
yet I still see the ghosts of happy times gone by
The pits have gone, the clubs have gone, but the morris men still go strong – however for how long?
The city’s aflame with tongues of fire,
we heat the air; no music but still a choir.
My tarn sticks in my throat with the accent I speak
and bookmarks my heart
with a home I can never leave.
I’m from the poets who speak not because they can
but because they must.
Number 5 Park Road.
My mother brought me newborn here sixty-five years ago.
Now I bring her back – a ripple in her dementia.
Chips in gravy lass me, Yorkshire pudding,
Yorkshire born, Yorkshire bred.
Strong in t’arm and cracking in bed.
I’m from that secret recipe for pancakes my grandad forgot
before the end, which still lives on my lips.
Solid as Three Tuns, soft as the Bottom Wellie,
open as the Closed Shop. It’s all uphill from here.
Voices pitter patter against the cabs outside,
the pubs spill light out of half-opened blinds.
I am from the earth, a wild woman of Walkley.
I prowl the streets late into the night,
me and my dog claiming this city suburb.
Swans flapping magnificently among the debris of last night’s debacle,
nature always finds a way.
I am fingers grazing along Guernsey granite towards the sea,
learning to grasp with the power of industrial steel.
Roman generals built this town. The racetrack made its name.
Railways made it great.
King Coal had its day; it’s a proud town.
Owls and foxes sing their stories to City Road gravestones
and the glittering lives down the hill in the distance
I am from the cracks in the crags,
the ice bright burns tumbling through heathered valleys
and landing in harsh city shouts.
I’m from the scattered bronze in Endcliffe Park,
that part of the year that can’t last.