Dear Birmingham by Jasmine Gardosi

“Look, thanks” he says, “but poetry isn’t really my thing, you know.

The whole sonnets about frolicking in the countryside. It isn’t me”

He slides my flyer back over the bar.

Dear Birmingham,

I’d like to tell you about your poetry scene.

And though it’s not my thing

comparing stanzas to landscapes

I’d like to give it a try.

You might not think it’s poetry otherwise.

Let’s see this metaphor through.

At poetry nights, like in the countryside,

you can put miles between people’s minds as they cram

bum-to-bum in the extra rooms of public Brum.

Where similes stretch the roof as blue as the room outside

and the space around your brain booms with the quiet

of just the right line break. And the hush of the cliff hang

that lands on audience members

when they aren’t too sure if the poem has ended.

I’d like to tell you about your poetry scene,

but see, you might not even hear it

because it’s the quiet people come for.

Who needs the peace of frolicking in fields

when you have that open mic etiquette

that silences mobiles harder

than any poor signal in the wilderness?

Now let’s see how far we can stretch this metaphor.

Poets – bear with me – are like the sheep.

Yeah. From afar they’re all lofty and propped up

in the higher altitudes of Brummie culture, right?

From afar, they’re woolly. They knit inwards.

From afar you can see them flock to tradition.

And sure, we shouldn’t be ashamed

to use the old-fashioned meters and forms,

but maybe these sheep chase the old protocols

for the sake of it.

Strange. Last time I was close-up with a sheep,

it didn’t so much as follow me…

I was stuck in a snow drift in the Peak District.

It was late, and when you lose the path, it’s hard

to walk through snow that plunges up to your thighs.

As I waded through white noise, trying not to panic,

I found these hoof prints cut into the ice like bite marks

as if they knew where to go to find the human path.

I mean what maniac makes those tracks in the first place?

Sheep do.

Yes, please point out the irony.

I know you can make a whole new cliche

out of the fact that I followed the sheep

to the road.

I followed a sheep.

Birmingham, I want to tell you about your poetry scene.

But you think that us poets graze

off the landscape of arts grants and charities

all for an ageing, outdated activity.

How easy is it, right? To put ourselves in the national trust

that our peaks – and our poetry – will be protected from time

by the kindness of conservation.

But trust me. It’s a cold climate out there right now.

That’s why I’ve seen sheep need to cut new tracks

like bite-marks in ice.

Likewise, let me tell you about your poetry scenery.

I’ve seen your centre Hit Words Up into Jam

whilst the outer areas Howl, take Grizzly Poetry Bites

out of the city skyline.

You make your own landscapes.

Come to an event with me and sweat.

See how we have to forge our own footpaths

just to get to the mic stand, those nights

when the overgrowth of beanbags and knees

– fed and watered by urban coffee –

forms a perilous canopy over the lower half of the store.

There is hot life in this open mic-rocosm

an echo system of natural feedback.

But I need to tell you about your scenery

by comparing stanzas to landscapes.

Cause I’m not sure you’ll think it’s poetry otherwise –

in which case, maybe we poets need to make the most

out of the molten state of spoken word

Let’s carve contours into the very dictionary definition of poetry,

swell the YouTube streams that groove gorges into cyberspace.

I mean what maniac makes those tracks in the first place?

Sheep do.

Dear Birmingham, amidst all the din,

do you know what it sounds like

when sheep become leaders?