Brenda Read Brown from Poetry on Loan asked if I’d like to be an Instant Poet in John Lewis in Birmingham on the Monday before Christmas. I wouldn’t be alone, there would be the experienced and inspirational Jonny Fluffypunk and Steve Callow from Birmingham libraries. I said yes before I had chance to change my mind. So there I was on the Monday before Christmas with my little case of pens and pencils, glitter and glue still wondering if I could actually do this. The idea is that Jonny and I would be writing poems for people on demand as they were doing their Christmas shopping. It takes me years sometimes to write anything I’d like to show anyone else.
There was a poetry table and chairs ready, waiting for us between the escalators on the third floor. Being John Lewis, all the chairs matched and there was not only a red cloth on the table but also a miniature Christmas tree. All we needed was people to come and sit at the table to have poems written to order.
A quiet start: I’m not sure if I would have taken the offer of a free poem. but by the time we finished our shift at 1.45, 19 people had tarried at the table.
I wouldn’t think any of our poems would stand up to too much scrutiny but they felt fresh and immediate and free and no-one else would have a poem quite like it.
Watching Jonny at work was a revelation. I enjoyed writing poems for the vicar with a sparkly coat who was having a day off before Christmas, and the little girl who wanted a poem for her ticklish daddy and the man who liked dancing with his wife and the woman who wanted to give thanks for three grandchildren born this year. I hope they liked their poems…