Online Exhibition 2021

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Stuart Cooper
Tony Roberts
Susan Waters

Three members of the FPAA’s poetry group have submitted examples of their work – with each contributing books or poems they have written within the last year

Stuart Cooper

Since taking early retirement in 2017, I have devoted myself to art, music composition, and writing. I am an Artistic Advisor to the Brixworth Music Festival, where my music has been performed.

The poem ‘The Brixworth Relic – 1’ (revised in 2021) is part of a five-poem cycle exploring the concept of the relic (in this case of St Boniface), and what it says about our place in the universe.

My poetry collection Stardust & Mud (available on Amazon) is written under the pseudonym Henry Stewart, and is a reflection on the human condition covering millennia from the seventh century AD to the 21st century.

The Brixworth Relic - 1

A now lost Brixworth long ago,
Was known by Celts as Clofesho.

Where stood a house of mighty God,
Built clear on ancient clay and sod.

Blessed by Heaven, cast asunder,
Ritual claims the frightening thunder.

So now is lost the cloven heights,
Unseen now are the sacred rites.

Now in between the church and hill,
Lies Brixworth standing proudly still.

Not certain now what to possess,
Still quite unsure of what to bless.

Or what it might still just obtain,
In church, it tries so hard to gain,

Just what the relic now so feint,
Still tells us of the ancient saint.

King Offa? Just a guess perhaps?
Of what lies now there under apse?

That veneration long since felt,
For by and through that ancient Celt.

Saint Boniface here now still lies,
Safe under modern Brixworth skies.

The bone that some say makes this place,
The heart of that Saint Boniface,

Seem more that just cold mossy stone,
Much more than merely brittle bone.

It’s now not possible to say,
Where lies old Boniface is today.

We pass from ancient priest to priest,
From famine, fast, and then to feast.

The bone that is kept locked inside,
We venerate in prayer and pride,

To feed the stars so still and bright,
With what is always hopeful light.

We eat our humble story true,
And sup on endless glory, few

Are kneeling at the altar rail,
We find their strength is now too frail.

Those nerves of steel, now steal away,
Each pilgrimage of yesterday.

For on all journeys we will face,
The frailties of the human race.

We bleed as we all cry and curse,
The boundary-bending universe.

We all cry out at light’s last gasp,
To face the void so black and vast.

Expanding into starlit sky,
On board is ‘you’ that now is ‘I’.

And then we’ll see the white light glow,
In final luminescent show.

It was that which just brought us here,
To leave behind our earthly fear.

And from the altar’s human bone,
We once caressed and now atone,

For all that we have said and done,
All matter will in time be one.

The dark means more to stars than light,
Fathomless firmament our sight.

We think we stand on firmer ground,
Though seas engulf us all around.

Think it’s gravity holds us down?
Empty tunnels in fabric’s crown.

We slip on through these holes unseen,
We think we’ve landed, but we’ve been,

Let through a gap in time and space,
Matter all in quickening pace.

And from church and ancient relic,
Human body, human cleric.

We understand the ‘what’ and ‘why?’
That those we love will never die.

Tony Roberts

The poem ‘I Wonder’ is a sonnet in Shakespearean style. My second poem ‘… For They Know Not What They Do’ is based on a newspaper account I read, many years ago. Fortunately, times have changed: in this country. ‘With eyes severe’ is from The Seven Ages of Man. ‘The laws of God, the laws of man…’ is from the poem by A E Housman, and clearly deals with the same issue.

I Wonder

I wonder why you come to me in dreams
As if there is some business left undone?
You want to speak to me – or so it seems –
And know that if you call me, I will come.
I wonder whether you will ever know
How much, across the years, I’ve thought of you
At light of dawn, or sunset’s afterglow,
By starlit nights, or early morning dew.
Perhaps beyond the shadows of the cave,
In some Platonic realm we really live
Transfigured, new; perhaps beyond the grave
We’ll know the pain we caused, and both forgive.
But then, I cast aside philosophy
And wonder: do you ever dream of me?

…For They Know Not What They Do

The magistrate
With eyes severe
In the name of God,
To stamp out homosexuality,
Without mercy,
Whatever the cost.

The solicitor
His face was ashen
“My client is unable to be present;
Last night he chose to appear before a Higher Court”


Sixty years on
We stand in Trafalgar Square
Celebrating London Pride.

At noon, the Red Arrows fly over
Trailing rainbow colours
Healing, joyous.

Perhaps this is the time
To remember
Those who came before us
For whom
The laws of God, the laws of man
Were too heavy a burden to bear
The bough broke
And they chose not to be.

Perhaps this is the time
To stand,
And with heads bowed,
Offer a minute’s silence,

Lest we forget.

Susan Waters

The Three Haikus in Lockdown are an experiment in form, describing three images in the pandemic: rainbows in windows, zoom calls, and wearing masks.

Chichele College is a medieval ruin in Higham Ferrers, where I am a volunteer gardener. The poem ‘The Visitors, Chichele College Garden’ was inspired by a visitor who found solace there when her husband was in hospital.

Three Haikus in Lockdown

Rainbows, Spring 2020
Lit windows prism
Messages of hope, colours
Kissing through the glass

Electric Choir
Orderly in rows
Moons in boxes sound and reach
Touching without flesh

Requesting Light
Breathing behind masks
Steams seeing; grant us clean vision,
A thread through the maze

The visitors, Chichele College garden

Stepping down from the bus
near hollyhock corner,
gravel path
prism border,
On past the porch
(where the Green Man lives)
to an unlocked gate.

She leans into shade
feet flexing cool grass,
in the nest of her hands, a mask,
laid like an offering.
Sensing the presence,

murmurings from the day:
children hopping the once-was wall
a dinosaur spine nipping toes,
gardeners kneel with trugs
unthreading wild strawberries;

Madonna lilies halo vined trellis,
Medlar plum and mandrake
tucked in teeming beds.

Across the singing stones
footfalls from long memory.
A deeper stillness.

She cries, moved by beauty
spiritus sancti

the soft lulling bees

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