Friday, 12 April 2013

Enid Porter

This month’s Fenland poem was originally written for the Walking with Women Tour. The project – organised by Cambridge-based poet Hollie McNish – sought to explore women’s role in the history of Cambridge through art and poetry, as well as through the architecture and history of the city. For more information on the tour, please do check out the Shape East website.

I chose to write about Enid Porter, the curator of the Cambridge and County Folk Museum from 1947 to1976. Enid was a leading authority on Fenland culture, history, customs, stories, and beliefs. She also had a vast knowledge of Cambridgeshire place-names, dialect, folklore, and traditions.

Being a big fan of social history, I feel a huge affinity with Enid Porter. I also find it really inspiring that she gathered so much of the information for her publications and museum exhibitions by speaking directly to local people and collecting their stories. 

She was one of the pioneers of Oral History but she preferred not to record her subjects, either on cassette or via pen and paper. She believed that people were more likely to open up to her if both sides were conducting a conversation, rather than an interview. So she memorised each discussion.

It’s a wonderful thought, and it sparked an idea for a poem.

This is also my first attempt at a poem with palindromic features. It's not a true palindrome, but lines from the first half of the poem are repeated in reverse order in the second half of the poem. Hopefully, the overall effect is a pleasing one.


Enid

I will memorise you.
Tell me your stories –
Fix them tightly in my mind.
Well-worn lives that shine behind your eyes,
That speak of past and future like
Those memories of histories unwritten.
I will listen.
Let nothing go unsaid.
Speak of bombs and barricades. The price of bread.
Talks of trains and talk of ships
Let every flooded fen flow from your lips and
speak to me. I need no pen to write this tale.
I will memorise you.
I need no pen to write this tale. Speak to me.
Let every flooded fen flow from you lips and
Talk of trains and talk of ships.
Speak of bombs and barricades. The price of bread.
Let nothing go unsaid.
I will listen.
Those memories of histories unwritten
That speak of past and future like
Well-worn lives that shine behind your eyes.
Fix them tightly in my mind.
Tell me your stories –
I will memorise you.

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