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18th Sep, 2021

Poets add a little imagination to the Shakespeare Line

Laura Kearns 10th Jun, 2021

RAIL passengers in the region will have a little extra inspiration when travelling on the Shakespeare Line.

Some 18 local poets have been commissioned to write a poem about each station from Birmingham Moor Street to Stratford.

Passengers can download the poems using the Overhear app on their mobile phones to listen to while on board the train, at the station or when they get home.

The project is called ‘Poetry on the Shakespeare Line’ and is the brainchild of the Black Country performance poetry group ‘Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists’

Group spokesman Steve Pottinger said: “These are poems of wit and humour, history and hope. Whatever your taste there will be something for you and we hope passengers will see the Shakespeare Line through fresh eyes once they have heard them.

“Some poems highlight the role of industry, the pleasure of travel, the spirit-lifting green spaces along the route and above all the importance of the Shakespeare Line in connecting people and communities.”

The poems represent the diversity and vibrancy of the West Midlands, and the poets have worked closely with ‘Friends’ of the stations – the volunteers who give their time freely to work on the landscaping and upgrade of their local stations.

“Betty Castle, Queen of the Flower Beds” by Matt Black from Henley in Arden.

Kneels with spade, ready to plant, reserved face,

plain suit, looks like wool, warm and practical but not

the height of fashion, the photo shows a woman

busy gardening, with get-on-with-it post-war determination,

the station mistress, doing sterling work for this proud station.

But the mystery remains, why our Betty Castle came

to spend her days creating lovely Edens, painting

rocks, like seaside scenes, her prize-winning garden,

where dozing eyes will wander, rest and wonder

as the Shakespeare Express puff-puff-puffs in to Henley-in-Arden.

Maybe Betty paced Platform 2b or not 2b,

jittery with joy, feverish for her young RSC Valentino

on the clouds-of-steam 12.03 to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Maybe his lean face never showed. Betty never recovered.

From that day on smiling flowerbeds were her lovers.

Maybe Betty was always shy, at school, at home,

always the mysterious loner, for no discernible reason.

Maybe her Dad never took her to Weston-Super-Mare,

or Mother was unkind, so she shut down, spent a life

building yearned-for seasides in her mind.

“How do we get here?” The station asks.

“To being us.” But no one knows. Maybe Betty did

kick her heels, let her hair down at the Black Swan.

But Betty’s pride guards the soft stuff inside,

hides the story behind her serious expression.

These rocks, this wild garden, such profusion.

Daffodils, pansies, geraniums, reds, yellows, greens.

You look up at us, Betty, and your quiet eyes sing,

Here is love, here is spring, and for you, and you, and you

I spend my days on platforms planting dreams.

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