Exiled Teessider John Powls has written a love letter to the area that still inspires him.

The published poet has penned some evocative new verse inspired by Teesside industrial heart and lush green hinterland and has carefully curated a collection of images from some of the area’s artistic big-hitters to accompany it. It presses a lot of cultural buttons. Let him tell you about it…

My latest book of poetry, ‘North Sea To The East’ is a personal landscape of Teesside and North Yorkshire.

It is my response to my native area from my earliest years to revisiting now as a 67-year-old grandfather.

Beautifully and extensively illustrated, ‘North Sea To The East’ is also a celebration of the work of many visual artists whose work inspired my poems with their rendering of the landscapes and seascapes of our region.

Amongst the more than one hundred images contributed to the book are works by current, internationally renowned Teesside artists – the ever popular, iconic Mackenzie Thorpe and modern master, William Tillyer – as well as more than twenty other excellent painters, printmakers and photographers including Philip Meadows whose work is featured in this article.

Most are based in or hail from Teesside and North Yorkshire though giants of art history like Turner and Lowry, contemporary masters and long time collaborators of mine are also represented.

This collection is a sharing of the heart and a work of time and nature – pastoral, littoral and industrial. Part love letter, part thank you note, it’s about belonging.

‘Smoggies And Proud’ image ©️Philip Meadows

As a Boro fan for over sixty years – the third of five Reds generations – no such collection could fail to feature the MFC landscape and, indeed, the book has a significant Boro section.

I’ve selected here a poem and two of Philip Meadows’ images that focus on the iconic and ritualistic walk to the ground for a night match.

The debates about the religious, astronomical, horological and agricultural purposes of Stonehenge continue – stay with me on this one!

But, any football fan approaching Avebury stone circle, its near neighbour in the Neolithic landscape, from the South-East via its impressive West Kennet Avenue of stones, knows in their heart and guts that it’s an arena.

Night lit by the guttering flames of a thousand brushwood torches and bank-packed with a rowdy, partisan crowd, it would have had quite the atmosphere. It can be felt still. It is step-hurrying special to approach.

So it is with football grounds. They have their own landscape layers of legend and build characters.

The Boro football grounds were and are the beating heart of the town. People walk taller when our team are doing well – and, in thin times and thinner, they never walk alone. And nights under lights are still step-hurrying special…

‘Hurry Up Or We’ll Be Late’ image ©️Philip Meadows

Here’s my take:

For Philip Meadows and Anthony Vickers

Tucked into
Tightly packed terraces
Or sitting spacious,
Middle havened
With flyover, underpass,
Railway and dock;
Pathe News past
HD 4G present;
Giz-a-squeeze gate
Season card swipe;
Bovril or beer;
Nana knitted
Bobble hat or
Baseball cap;
Power Game or
At heart
It’s all the same
It’s in the blood.
Join ever-growing
Gathering flow of
Moist-eyed, radged
Grey gadges,
Families and friends,
Lads and Dads,
‘Me, like’
Wide eyed zealots in
Common cause;
Fellow fans follow
Common causeway
To set apart isle
Of haloed green
Midst cloaking tide
Of midweek dark.
Chummy caustic
Chatter, cliches
Polished to a shine
Nuggets of truth
Unearthed and
Talk turned tribal.
Not ‘fond’ or
‘Touched’, Pet –
Potency of the
Still possible.
Small, signal icons,
Age old habits
And match day
Rituals and routes
Lead to legion
Of legends
Floodlit field
Of hopes and fears
Down all these years.
The home ground
Glow in the sky,
Mirroring many
A mazy run
Of the mind;
Something stirring
In the night air;
Sudden shouts;
Swelling songs
Accents, aromas,
Aptronyms abound;
Long before
Contours of the
Processional ways
Determine to
Allow catch of
First sight of
Gathering place
Wreathed in light
For the faithful
Wrapped in red.
Sky at night.
And always the
Catch of breath.

As well as the Boro, there is inspiration to be taken not just from our towns and industry but also the timeless secrets of our sweeping hinterland and breathtaking coast and alongside the words there are some striking and stirring images.

If you want to see more of the book, ‘North Sea To The East’ is published by Halsgrove’s Halstar imprint (ISBN  978 1 906690 73 1) and is available – postage and packing free – through their website www.halsgrove.com, via Amazon and through good booksellers and selected local outlets as they re-open.

When circumstances allow, I will be putting together book launch events, an exhibition of work from the book and a programme of readings in the region.

Please visit my website www.promiselandpoetry.co.uk for details

For more on Philip Meadows’ art, go to www.philipmeadows.art


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